Gegenpressing - The best playmaker in world football - Season 1
If you haven't read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series as of yet they outline the basic premise and initial tactical setup that I will use to try to recreate Jurgen Klopp's Gegenpressing style and my initial results using the tactic in pre-season.
The tactical premise is based on the following simple principle:
No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter pressing situation
The idea being, if you win the ball high up the pitch, you are in a better position to create clear cut chances as the other team is caught in transition.
I have chosen to take this challenge on playing as St Pauli in the Bundesliga 2. In this article I will be reviewing my first season using this set up. I will cover the positives, negatives and anything else I deem interesting while looking through the stats.
Beginning with the most important stat of all:
It has been a great season. Honestly I am surprised I have been so successful. We were predicted 11th at the beginning of the year, so to end the season champions was really pleasing.
I didn't create this tactic solely to be successful, (although it is nice) I wanted to recreate the gegenpressing style. So have we achieved it?
Firstly the positives,
Due to the way possession is calculated in FM (outlined brilliantly here by @Cleon81, I was expecting us to be strong in this area. In Layman's terms, possession is calculated based on how long each team has the ball (this is not how Opta do it in real life) so the more you win the ball back from your opponent, the more possession you will have. Almost 58% possession for a side predicted mid-table is really good, and as we saw with the league table, we were able to translate that into results.
We topped the charts in goals too thanks in large part to our main striker Aziz Bouhaddouz, who had a really healthy return of 28 goals from 33 appearances in the league, and Choi Kyoung-Rok, with 14 goals from 28 league games. I had hoped we'd be top by a slightly larger distance, but I can't be disappointed. I had by no means the best attacking players in the league but as the results show we are the joint best attacking unit.
Something I wasn't expecting was having such a strong defence (see Klopp's Liverpool this season) but we have continued the trend of exceeding expectations here. I think the combination of a 'Counter' mentality with playing very narrow and asking my players to be 'more disciplined' has enabled us to keep a solid structure to launch attacks. We averaged 1 goal conceded per game which played a huge part in why we were promoted as champions.
Despite winning the league and finishing 10 places higher than the media had predicted, there were, of course some negatives.
It turns out setting all your team to furiously close down and to tackle hard causes them to give away an enormous number of fouls, who knew? to commit 592 fouls in 34 games is ridiculous but not unexpected. My team's propensity to foul meant we racked up 101 yellow cards over the course of the season, more than 20 more than the next highest. It took careful management and some key substitutions at the right time to ensure that our red cards were kept down to 3. We got away with it this year but against higher quality, faster opposition next season it is something I will have to closely monitor.
Apart from my team's disciplinary record, there weren't really any other negatives. I am honestly surprised and delighted with how the tactic turned out over this season. I really believe that I have faithfully recreated a gegenpressing style (as much as is possible in FM) and not only that, we have been really successful while doing so.
I am going to take a break from this save and return to my Parma adventure, where we are looking to attack Serie B and get Parma back to where they belong. I will be coming back to this save though, in order to put HSV in their place!