Welcome back to the Lille Career mode. If you missed the last one, the link is below:
So following our comeback against Toulouse and dealing with Gaitan’s rather strange text requesting more playtime, despite being put on the transfer list, we now had a big game away to Valencia to prepare for. First of all however, I looked to the next couple of weeks as we close out October 2019.
So after our Champions League game vs Valencia we have a league fixture at home on Sunday vs Bordeaux who are 9th in the league, followed by a Coupe de la Ligue match away to Marseille which I’m thinking I’ll use my second team on as it’s early doors in the competition and I don’t have any manager objectives for this competition.
First off we have an upcoming press conference to deal with and we had a text from Soumare requesting a start against Valencia due to his recent good form. I let him know I’d consider his offer, half-knowing that Andre and Xeka wouldn’t be fit enough to start ahead of him anyway.
Valencia CF vs LOSC Lille 22/10/2019 at the Estadio Mestalla
Unfortunately not the ideal starting XI I wanted to field. Maignan had some fatigue and normally that should mean I have to swap him out. I’m trying to use fatigue to force me to rotate my squad that way. However, I know in real life most keepers just play game after game and don’t really feel the fatigue. In the end, I looked at his stamina and it wasn’t turning that shade of yellow that you see as players get tireder so I decided to give him the start. I think with GK’s I’ll use that principle and apply a bit of discretion, this is a Champions League game and Maignan has just signed a critical role contract. I need to give him the vast majority of the games available otherwise he’ll get unhappy and as a GK his stamina won’t affect us that badly. Celik and Bradaric were back out wide, with the reliable captain Fonte supporting the inexperienced Agouzoul in the middle as Gabriel was feeling the stamina drain. Araujo partnered Ikone out wide and Remy got the start following his rest but Osimhen was forced to the bench due to fatigue which gave Weah the start. Andre was shattered from his last game so Soumare was paired with Sanches (a possible future Starting midfielder combo). It’s now when I really wish the CB’s that had already been loaned out at the start of the season were at my disposal. We have some good quality CB’s that would be perfect to rotate between, Soumauro is 77 rated (and French!) and Alonso is 76 rated, these players would be ideal for this. However, they’d just been loaned out and I didn’t have enough reasoning to request the board call them back just as I arrived. They’ll be welcome additions next season.
1st Half Write Up:
A wet night in Spain at the Estadio mestella. A win here would see us reach 7 points in the group and be undefeated after the first round of matches. Another win following that would surely mean we’d reach the next round. We got off to an absolutely crazy start, Remy turning his man and finding an exquisite finish to take us 1-0 in just the second minute; the veteran proving he’s still got that half a yard and a clinical finish. Valencia really didn’t wake up at all during the first 20 minutes it felt. I found interceptions easily, breakaway runs were common. They put some nice passes together and could hold the ball but their defence was lacklustre. We found ourselves with a free-kick on the edge of the box, the nominated taker Ikone stepped up and just slipped it onto the underside of the bar where it bounced over the line and bounced out. VAR ruled it as a goal! 2-0 within 14 minutes. Our third goal came from an interception up the field by Araujo who gave it to Sanches. Sanches paused to compose himself, pulled back looking to dribble then quickly gave a pass which set into motion a training ground routine between Remy & Weah, Remy 1-2’ing with Weah to get past the defence and tuck away his second to make it 3-0. Sanches again was cause for our fourth, taking the ball in our half off a dazed Gomez, he pushed forward and drew the CB Garay towards him allowing him to loft the ball up to Weah who was now free who controlled the ball at pace before smoothly slotting it in the net for four! An unusual half was concluded with an all time unusual goal. Following a fairly poor free kick, I looked up the field to see if I could counter quickly with a kick; or at least maybe end the half soon after too. I did not see Gomez standing right in front of Maignan, took the brunt of the kick to his torso before placing the ball into the open goal right before half time to make it 4-1.
Came out into this half with a three goal cushion and my team talk to the lads was to try and ease the through the game with a controlled and slower play. That way, by Sunday my full team would be back at full stamina to get another result in the league. This meant defensive tactics from early doors, in hindsight I should have waited until 60 minutes again; I’m not sticking to my basic plans… Anyway I tried slow build up play, holding the ball, not being afraid to pass it around. However, this lead to Valencia gaining confidence in their play. It brought on some unnecessary pressure. The ex-Arsenal man Coquelin was really driving their attacks and when I saw his name I’d panic, his passes always lead to something. It was a Coquelin drive that found a pass behind our back line, causing chaos and a ball into the middle to the unmarked head of Guedes to give Valencia more hope and a momentum shift was felt across the stadium. You could hear the crowd roar on every attack. It didn’t take much longer before Coquelin found Soler in space in our third, with a precision pass he found Guedes who took an incredible first time off balance weak foot shot from behind. He found the top corner and Maignan was caught off guard as he wasn’t expecting such a shot from there. From there the crowd was up and at us, more pressure came, shots just off target, again Coquelin finding a pass behind, another cross but this time Celik sprant back and cleared it for a corner. The noise was immense, a 90th minute corner, an equaliser looked likely but a poor delivery and a final few minutes of control left the scoreline at 4-3 to the visitors and me wiping sweat from my brow, what an ending!
*It’s at this point where I started to question the FIFA gods. Should Lille be doing so well in this group? I mean we thrashed Ajax, drew with Chelsea, and then beat Valencia in a 4 goal thriller. With 80 overall, 81, and 81 respectively I’m not so sure we should. I’ve had this theory before in FIFA that the European competition sometimes seems weaker than domestic. It could be that I subconsciously focus more because I know the European games will be more challenging; or that I want to do particularly well in Europe. However, the way that I could just tear apart Ajax 7-0 didn’t seem right. If I hadn’t sat back vs Valencia and encouraged them to build momentum I feel it could have been a similar result. Because I have a cushion I’m tempted to increase the difficulty to Ultimate for the European nights and see just how difficult it is. I haven’t decided on this fully though so I’m open to feedback on it!*
I returned home and saw a text from Soumare thanking him for the game which I reminded him to stay grounded about his current run of form. I didn’t want him getting ahead of himself. Next I looked to the week ahead and began to think about the squads I’d be using for my next two fixtures. I decided to focus on the league and if Marseille wanted to play a 1st team against me in the cup they were welcome to, I’d be putting out my 2nd team. Lyon had beat RC Metz 1-0 and taken third place from me the day before so that meant I needed to win here to take it back. I moved the half length down to 6 minutes from 10 to try and prevent there being as much time in a match to score as many goals as have been scored lately. The number of chances seem higher than average too. If the number of chances was more regular then that would show me it needed either keeper ability increasing or shot error increasing possibly.
Ligue Un Matchday 11:
LOSC Lille vs FC Girondinx de Bordeaux 27/10/2019 at the Stade Pierre Mauroy
So we were back at the Pierre Mauroy after a couple of away games. The team was fully fit and I planned on playing my optimum starting XI with a few changes for anyone in excellent form. Bordeaux are 9th in the league in a very tense battle in the top 8 with eyes on Monaco in 5th who are 5 points ahead. Meanwhile we were holding down third and looking to continue winning ways to keep up with PSG & Marseille at the top. Lyon wouldn’t be happy with Lille taking their spot in the top 3 and were snarling at my heels in fourth place praying I slipped up. Reinildo was in excellent form so he started ahead of Bradaric, I also considered whether I was expecting too much of the 19 year old and thought best until he grew to an 74 to start Reinildo consistently. Weah was in excellent form, however so were the starting strikers and Bamba out wide (another position Weah can play).
So here we were back at home for the first time in a while. Victor Osimhen noted as the man to watch with 5 goals in his last 3 games. However, it wasn’t the most exciting of games; it was a very tactical one. Lots of play in the midfield, and then both teams struggling to break down the opposition’s back line. A few shots attempted from either outside or on the edge of the box and Maignan playing very solidly for us. Overall Bordeaux were using the ball better than we were and I would say they edged the half. Although 0-0 was still a fair scoreline.
*Apologies, forgot to grab a screenshot of halftime match facts
I must have been switched off completely after the first half, I forgot to grab a screenshot of the match facts and then forgot to hit record for the second half! I’m sure it’s just teething problems though. Second half was similar to the first, those edge of box chances, struggling to break down the back lines. It was a real grinding game. What did make the difference was Weah, his pace was very noticeable. Making several breaks past the back-line. In the 89th minute it was Weah again breaking past the defence, being right footed it was always a concern what the option was here. He fake shotted, stopped in the box and lined up to shoot but the ball fell to Osimhen who then volleyed it into the open side of the net to clinch a last minute winner! The game ended 1-0 which I think is a fair result. Either side could have taken it in a similar manner, we just had the rub of the green. It’s now where I’ll admit, Weah’s cross was in fact a shot… An attempted finesse on his weaker foot which was that bad it fell to Osimhen as a cross!
After that game of tactics and suspense I noticed that PSG were due to play second place Marseille. What a clash that will be. I got back home, checked the scores… PSG 1 Marseille 2!! Marseille had beaten the team that was yet to draw or lose and had taken top spot in Ligue Un. We were now just 2 points behind PSG in 2nd only 2 points ahead of Lyon in 4th. Marseille lead the way with 31 points from 11 games, a single draw that stopped the flawless record.
In between this match and the cup match, we had some player training to complete to help our stamina struggling players. Then hopefully Marseille’s 1st XI would be so tired they either wouldn’t play against us in the cup or will be suffering from fatigue!
I upped my half length to 7 minutes for this game. Trying to find the perfect length of match. I find on 6 minutes my stamina drain is crazy and if I don’t monitor how I’m playing carefully I could easily end up with a squad of seriously drained players. Although it was really interesting seeing how much of an impact three substitutes had when they came on late against tired opposition legs, knowing I could just sprint and run to my heart’s content with them.
Coupe Nationale Round 2:
Olymique Marseille vs LOSC Lille at the Orange Velodrome 30/10/2019
So we faced current league leaders Marseille after they just beat PSG 2-1. I was hoping they were going to put out a weakened side as mine was. You can see here the average rating of my starting XI was just 73. Marseille also had Benedetto who was the league’s top scorer who again I prayed wouldn’t be starting! We fielded our entire 2nd team XI. Jardim got his first start as he looked to impress. Pied and the ex starter Bradaric were out wide. The two prospects Agouzoul and Djalo held our back line in the middle (again I’m going to cry about the two CB’s that were put out on loan by ex management!). Familiar bench players peppered the midfield with wide players Araujo and Yazici and central midfielders Xeka and Soumare with the former being captain for the day. Then the two young prospect strikers Weah & Postolachi were our goal threats. At the end of the day if we lost the game, this cup wasn’t an objective so it’s not end of the world and it gives my regular XI players a chance to recover and prepare for the next league match; also against Marseille!
In the build up I saw Marseille’s lineup and thought oh bum. They’d put out a strong starting XI whose average rating was 79. This worried me but also I hoped that they would be tired at the very least for the game ahead. About 8 minutes in Benedetto was mentioned as a player to watch (not mentioned in the build up) and being the league’s top goalscorer I would expect that. The start of the first half I was dominated, couldn’t keep a hold of the ball in their half. Strikers really suffered to work past the defence. Payet was playing so creatively and looking dangerous on every attack. He’d made a break down their left side and knocked it past Soumare, pulled it back to Kamara who gave it to Benedetto who managed to turn and knock it to Payet on the far edge of the box who gave a first time low cross onto Rongier who was unmarked on the far side and the 2nd team GK Jardim had no chance. 1-0 right on the 11th minute. Next was a stroke of genius from Sanson as Payet found him in some space on the edge of the box, he wasn’t closed down quick enough and then struck an incredible shot in the top corner, again Jardim had no chance. 2-0 on the fifteenth minute. Finally we started to wake up around 30 minutes in, but we just lacked the finish or composure. Shots either too close to the keeper or missing the target entirely. We were punished for this and again Payet with a magical ball to put Benedetto through to cross along the ground again to an unmarked Marseille player; this time at the near post. 3-0 before the break, what an embarrassment. Soumare had an absolutely incredible 1 on 1 with the GK and fluffed it and it just summed up our attacking chances.
Second half began and I wondered if I’d messed my tactics up. I wondered if I should have played defensively to tire them out in the first half and then push in this half. However, it’s too late to worry now I just hoped they’d be tired enough to give us chance to push back. The game was different now though, their attacks weren’t as divisive as before, perhaps a sign of fatigue. They took more from range, or my fullbacks would be able to catch up with anyone that threatened to break in behind. But our players didn’t capitalise, chances fell, a particularly nice one for Postalachi but he smashed it into the woodwork. Not much for the highlight reel that’s for sure, they tightened up and my young players couldn’t find a way past. Then at the end, Rongier returned the favour for Payet and found a lovely ball to him as he find acres of space in the middle of the box to blast it past Jardim and make it 4. A shame really I would have liked to see more of the 2nd team GK but his confidence would have been sapped. We were out of the cup. On to the next one.
Overall a sign that if you play a weak team against a strong team you won’t get away with it. I was prepared to lose this though as it didn’t mean much to me or the board. Instead I now hoped that the upcoming match against Marseille would be a completely different tale. Their players would have played 2 competitive games prior to our match whereas my entire starting XI had been rested in the week and would be at full stamina. Following Marseille at the weekend, Valencia would be visiting us in the Champions League after but with that nice cushion we’d developed there I may again look to my second string players to help rest the first XI. This will allow me to push on in the league and solidify a place competing for the top 4.
The next post we will be beginning a new month. We’ll review our next few games on the calendar, where we’re at in the league and who to watch out for. We’ll take a look at the developing youth academy and then see if anyone is growing who is currently a senior team player. My aim in the future will be to try and keep to three matches reviewed on a post such as this where the focus is game time. On the first post of a month I will likely need to review league position and top scorers etc. and so the number of matches might only be one or two. I don’t want to burden any readers with incredibly long articles every week! But similarly don’t want to have too thin a content. Likewise come transfer windows I would imagine the additional focus on buying/selling players may result in fewer games per article.
For next week’s installment please either subscribe to my blog so that you’ll receive a notification on any posts I make, or once it’s posted there will be a link below directly to that page.