When we left off last time, I had just completed the first preseason game scheduled against the Castilla side. Since then, I scheduled a few more friendlies to gauge player comforts levels in their roles as well as to try out a few formations. We had a preseason tour scheduled in the U.S. to get some fitness up and make a few side bucks and upon return a couple gams versus a few nearby small clubs were in line to keep fitness high. As you can see in the schedule below, the highlight was the nine goal explosion against my local Minnesota side in which Chicharito scored five goals. Hopefully he can carry that form into the regular season, though I do think I'll be actively scouring for a talented young striker to take his place once the season ends. Barcelona's Munir has a buyout clause of 16m or so...
I'm think I'm going to stick with the 4-4-2 and the standard 4-2-3-1 with Kroos playing as the deep-lying playmaker this season with a third formation being my experimental one. However, I'm a bit nervous to play Kroos there since there seems to be a gap between the midfield and the front four and he's generally not quick enough to cover those gaps. Luka provides support but as he's playing the roaming playmaker role he has a habit of finding himself far up the pitch and occupying the same space as James so it puts a ton of pressure on Kroos to deputize from the back.
A perfect test of his abilities as a more defensive midfielder came against a random friendly versus Bayern Munich that the game scheduled and honestly, I was genuinely surprised the lads were able to pull off a 3-1 victory on the road. With only a few days rest following the Bayern win, the team took on Sevilla in the European Super Cup and with the thanks of three long distance bombs from James, CR and Carvalho, plus an excellent throughball from Benz to CR, we managed to pull off a pretty comfortable 4-1 victory. I've included an album of screenshots from the two games which can be viewed here.
For the preseason, I'm generally content with what I saw. The 4-2-3-1 is an offensive juggernaut with tons of shots being created, while the 4-4-2 is much more defensively sound but the offense takes a noticeable hit as players remain stagnant and don't move much off the ball. I'm considering trying a straight 4-3-3 with Benz playing a trequartista role deeper in the midfield, but I still worry about too much space being occupied in the center. Otherwise, no injuries to speak of so that's good!
As far as transfers, Sami's contract was running out at the end of the season and I thought I'd offer him to the market to see who'd bite. Several offers came in from the Premier League but it was PSG who offered the most at 38.5m up front and I simply couldn't say no given that my budget was under 30m and I want to overhaul the youth system. Looking to replace Sami with a more defensive-minded young midfielder, William Carvalho of Sporting immediately came to mind and I dropped a cool 19.25m on him. Steep, but he's only 22 and has a world of potential to be my preferred midfield anchor going forward.
Additionally, I also offloaded Arby to PSG as he was getting old and my plan to convert Nacho into a backup RB needed to begin to take place. My second purchase was Jesus Vallejo, a highly rated centerback from Zaragoza for a very affordable 1.1m. I like him because he'll help me fill the homegrown quota while learning from the senior members as he plays the role of fourth CB. He's only 17 and not particularly fast or powerful, but he has excellent anticipation and concentration. Lastly, it's time to think of the keeper of the future and I dropped 8.8m on Genoa's wonderkid and my future sweeper keeper Mattia Perin, who'll be joining us at the end of the season, though I might loan him out for a year or two to develop.
You can see his, Carvalho's and Perin's attributes by clicking here. In the coming couple of weeks leading up to the season, I'll look to strengthen the youth system as I continue to scout the globe for promising youngsters.
When it comes to the gameplay itself, I'm finding that most of my attackers are all in a rush to cut into the middle and fire from distance. Luckily, Madrid have a number of sharpshooters but often the possession is wasted when this happens. Benz drops back to support and fills the space that James occupied, that coupled with the wingers cutting in leads to al logjam in the middle with very little wide play - something I need to address quickly. Also, no matter what I try I can't seem to hold on to the ball for extended periods of time, averaging only around 53 percent possession. I might forego choking the opponent to death a la tiki taka but it's a bit nerve-wracking wondering what will happen when I'm trying to preserve a one goal lead late in tough games.
In the next installment, I'll take on Atleti in the Spanish Super cup, as well play out the first month of the season. I'm still not sold on my tactics so we'll see if they can hold up to the rigors of Liga play. Your thoughts?
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