How We Nearly Blew the Title: Season 1 Review

FC Nordsjælland and Ghana.

We didn’t lose a game from the first friendly on July the 2nd until April the 2nd in the hotly contested season run-in. We were so far ahead of everyone else we kept getting the message that we would win the league if we won our next match. But we kept losing. It was horrible. And then Kobenhavn nearly caught us up because (of course) they kept winning. It was painful, frustrating, and began to get genuinely scary. The club hadn’t won the league for a decade. The pressure was on. The defence, normally solid and with fullbacks who could assist (7 and 9 for each fullback) became weak and pathetic, regularly averaging between 6.2 and 6.6. They passed it to each other in dangerous ways so that they were immediately tackled resulting in dumb goals against us. They passed it to no one. They were a joke. We still had the potential to score but our top players were inconsistent where before they’d been relentless. Schjelderup went missing in the most important games. At the World Cup break, we were on fire. But things went south right at the end. FC Midtjylland just kept kicking our butts. I hate them. We could do nothing right. Teams we smashed earlier in the season turned into Pep era Barcelona. I considered changing tactics but decided to work on morale (team bonding, praise, contracts) instead and it finally worked against Viborg. We finally beat Viborg to win the league and it just felt like a relief, not triumphant or celebratory – just a blessed relief. It was FC Nordsjælland’s first win in a decade and, apparently, a nice surprise to the board.

How it started.

The Results

Just look at those results in April and May.
A title winning team shouldn’t limp over the line like that.
Final table. We were invincible prospects until that sucker punch in April. Exhaustion seemed to set in and with a few injuries to key players, we were down to fumes and hope.

The Players

FC Nordsjælland has some incredible young talent at the club. During the January transfer window, I had bids for nearly all of my best players. I rejected bids for players; they complained: and morale dropped. The classic cycle. The big clubs gave up or moved on; my players let it go when they realised their chance had gone. For then at least. But there were also some revelations. The biggest was a young striker called Ryste I signed from Odd. He was an able backup to our loanee main striker Wahid Faghir who was already at the club. Faghir scored 22 goals in 28 games so we needed someone who could step up when he was out and Ryste did. Although, during our epic attempt to choke the season, he had a goal drought bad enough that he kept apologising for it publicly. I forgave him. Next year I might make him my main striker as there’s no way we can hold onto Faghir for another year. He has a clause in his loan where I can buy him for 3.9M, but that seems steep. Maybe I can get a loan extension but I have to plan for a replacement and I think Ryste, despite his young age, will be the one.

He became a heroic super sub type of player. I love him.

I might have also done the dumbest thing ever.

Can you see it? Why did I do this? I asked the board if they could try to get a new contract for Schjelderup because he’s a fucking don. 22 assists this year. 16 goals. 18 years old. His development this year has been insane. But, oh, the wage budget. The board did it because I was doing so well (this was just before the big choke attempt) and boy did they do it. But for me, the worst thing they did was the release clause. I reckon I could sell him for way higher than that. It basically means we’ve lost him as soon as the summer transfer window opens. If I was a big club and saw that clause, I’d just activate it on a whim, like, may as well. Bring him on in the cups, like. Or loan him to the Championship.

Here’s what he’s done to my wage structure. He must be lording it over the others at the training ground. 21% of the wage bill. And the clauses in his contract mean that it’ll keep jumping up. God forbid he plays any more games for Norway.

Here’s how he looks at the end of the season. A Golden God. A Norwegian Messi.

The next player I’m worried about is a God. Odin, ‘lord of frenzy’, or ‘leader of the possessed’. I bought this guy early on and had him marked down as a young, hungry sub type of player. Coming on and causing chaos. I already had the three midfield positions blocked out with Diamonde, Bidstrup (a loanee: Odin to step up next year), and Christenson. But Odin kept banging on the door. Coming on as a sub and beasting it. So much so that my Ass Man kept suggesting he start every game. So he did. But his contract has a worrying detail too. I think we’ll lose him soon too.

A release clause I thought didn’t matter at the time. He’s wanted by Inter and Juventus.
‘Lord of frenzy’, ‘leader of the possessed’.

Youth Intake

We didn’t get anyone to write home about despite the reports of it being a Golden Generation. But we did get a Ghanaian goalkeeper of some potential that might help the secondary part of this save – more about that later. I also got a left back that might turn out to be good. But all a bit bland.

As long as we don’t lose any key players, we can challenge again next year. If we do lose Odin and Schjelderup, we’ll have 13M to get replacements. And hopefully, we’ll get some extra funds due to continental cup qualification. Future me will deal with it. One of the most worrying parts of the squad is the aging centre backs. Their pace is dropping off a cliff and I’ll have to make decisions about where to strengthen if we do have sales enforced on us. I’ll need to buy someone who can replace Schjelderup and Odin, but also get a new centre back, and possibly a left back.

Tactical Evolution from Season 1 to Season 2

Season 1. Aggressive, high scoring, but something changed towards the end of the season and we started to be really vulnerable to counter attacks in games.
Season 2. I felt like the AM was becoming a luxury (the shame) so I switched to a DM destroyer to help with counter attacks. I still have a highly attacking formation with an AM that I used to blow teams away if needed. See below.
Can kill an elephant at a hundred paces.

The 2022 World Cup

France beat The United States 1-0 to win it. But for us it was a shocker. For one moment against Portugal it was exciting and had potential. The rest was turgid. Much to do with the national team but I’m starting to find young talent I can bring into the national team setup. Starting at home with Dorgeles. He’s in every squad and gets game time. He’s also the replacement for Bidstrup in the FC Nordsjælland team when his loan ends and he goes back to Brentford.

Results

We did not win the fair play award.

So close to a shock result. I think we still would have gone out though.

So we will rebuild. There is a great core to the side: Salisu, Lamptey, Amartey, Partey, Kudos, and Williams. Just need to keep scouting for players around the world to add to the national pool – and develop players at my own club when possible thanks to the Right To Dream Academy link with FC Nordsjælland. This is a long-term project that will take serious planning. Up next are the AfCon Qualifiers and I’ve picked a squad with young prospects replacing the older players who are out of contention at their club sides. I hope to give them game time from the bench and refresh the side after such a disappointing World Cup Campaign.

In summary

Won the league for the club’s first time in a decade. Nearly choked it.

Nearly went invincible?!

Let the board do a madness with Schjelderup’s contract.

Went out of the World Cup meekly but have started blooding the Ghana squad with younger players.

Post script: Ghana Under-20s achieved third place in the Under-20 World Cup. And the Golden Shoe for Etoo with 16 goals in 7 games.

EDIT: Was fired from the Ghana job after losing 2-1 to Egypt in the AFCON quarter final. Bollocks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: