Football Manager 2016 - Charlton - Meet The Players

Following on from last time out and meeting the staff, it would seem fitting to introduce you to some of the key players in the squad this season. The players will be the ones out there fighting it out on the pitch for Charlton, and although I like to think I have some sort of control over our results it ultimately comes down to the players and how they perform week in week out. 

Of course, these are not the only players in the team, but they form the spine of the team and I feel that they will prove integral to what I am trying to achieve. With this in mind they cover all areas of the squad, attack, midfield, defence and even the goalkeeper. Each one has an important role to play, and if they don’t live up to expectations then we may struggle to reach the board’s mid-table expectation let alone my higher expectations for the team.

Stephen Henderson

First up is the number one at Charlton Athletic. Unfortunately, he starts the season in the physio room with a damaged shoulder and a history of injury problems. While Nick Pope is an able deputy it is Stephen who has proven to be the more reliable keeper over the past season. We need him to return to full fitness and be back at the level he was before the injury bug struck, otherwise there could be a glaring weakness at the back.

Stephen is your typical big shot-stopper. Decent across the board for your standard keeper and not too shabby as a sweeper keeper which I like to use at times if my defensive line is pushed high up. Hopefully, once he shakes off the injuries, he can develop a bit more and really push on for Charlton as he still has many years ahead of him for a goalkeeper.

Chris Solly

Next up is Chris Solly, a long term Charlton favourite, Vice Captain and academy graduate. Chris was linked with a number of Premiership clubs a few years ago but rumours of knee issues and a stint on the sidelines have put those interested parties off to a degree.

What Chris lacks in stature he makes up for in presence and when he is fully fit he is ever present in the Charlton defence. Chris' best role is as an attacking full back or wing back, taking the game to the opposition in support of the winger in front of him. He also starts the season as Charlton's only experienced right back, so it is imperative that he remains fit, at least until an able backup is found. While some of the youth players may be able to step in for a game or two, any long term injuries would be a cause for concern. A lot of teams may underestimate him due to his size, but if he plays to his potential he is a game winner capable of creating chances out of nothing up and down the right wing.

Jordan Cousins

Master of the engine room and another academy graduate and fan favourite, Jordan is the driving force of the midfield. Recent managers have shifted him out to the wing to accommodate a number of central midfielders at the club while also taking advantage of his athleticism. But despite this, Jordan's best position is still in the middle of the park. Jordan may be somewhat limited in the final third but he makes up for this for his very strong defensive capabilities.

Quick off the mark and strong in the tackle, you can expect Jordan to be up among the best when it comes to the amount of ground covered and tackles won. He is the definition of tenacious and versatility, able to play nigh on every position on the field. If he can keep up the high work rate and consistency across the whole season then Charlton will have a very special player on their hands.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson

Iceland's answer to David Beckham, JBG burst onto the scene with Charlton last year with a number of eye catching performances and breathtaking goals. Premier League clubs started to sniff around but a new contract tied him to Charlton for the foreseeable future. JBG brings flair to the Charlton Athletic side and a decent shot to boot.

Most people will expect Johann to be key to any potential success that Charlton have this year and that is understandable. He is likely to be the main creative influence in the team and to also contribute a number of goals as well. Not the fastest winger in the world JBG makes up for it with impeccable technique and the ability to complete a pass in the smallest of windows. If we can get him in the right places he will score goals, so I will be trying everything I can to take advantage of this.

Tony Watt

Starting out at Airdrie United Tony Watt quickly moved to Celtic where he made his first big impression. Unfortunately things didn't work out for him in the green and white and he became a bit of a footballing nomad drifting around Belgium before eventually making his way to Charlton as part of "the network".

The talented 21 year old was quickly taken into the hearts of the Charlton faithful with his boyish enthusiasm and neat tricks winning the fans over. Hard working on the field, but perhaps not so much off it, Tony could prove the key man up front for Charlton this season. If his effort on the field can translate into more goals then he could be the main man up front for the team, if not he could still become a very able support striker creating space for another player to be a goal threat. I expect to see him play a number of games and hopefully develop into the player everyone knows he can be while also finding himself a football home at Charlton.

Well there you have it, 5 players who will prove key to the hopes and dreams of Charlton Athletic this year. Each of them have their strengths and weaknesses but as part of a team I hope that they will build each other up and become the foundation of a very strong Charlton team for years to come. Next up we will look at 5 of the up and coming prospects at Charlton Athletic and see if the future is bright in South East London.

Football Manager 2016 - Charlton - Meet the Staff

I think that Football Manager 2016 is the first time that I have been able to take over my club with an almost entirely clean slate. In real life that is not a good thing, but I am not here to talk about real life, instead I want to focus on the Alternative Reality that is Football Manager 2016 and the seasons ahead.

For those of you like me who have played this game for many years you will know that long term success at a club is reliant on much more than just getting the right players in and letting them run riot. You need tactics, you need to have a way of dealing with press conferences, player chats and team talks, but you also need the right staff. Sometimes it feels like this side of the game can be overlooked, there are tools out there that help you find this or that, and they can alleviate the need for this side of the game, if you want to do that then go for it but I would feel like I was missing out on something if I didn't take in the experience as a whole.

So today I am going to focus on my staff. As I said before I basically have a clean slate to work with at Charlton, the ownership have cleaned house, no assistant manager, our long serving chief scout has gone off to Fulham and we have a skeleton crew in terms of coaching. The club's reputation isn't exactly the best so I won't be able to bring in the premium coaches that I would necessarily want, so instead I am going to focus on up and coming younger staff that have the potential to develop with the club. This will minimise the wages but still let us bring in some decent staff who can make a difference.

The first thing I want to do is replace my Head of Youth Development. Steve Avory has been a great servant to Charlton over the years but for whatever reason he has not been recognised for this in Football Manager, so I need to replace him. In this role there are 4 key attributes that I am looking for:

1. Working with Youngsters
2. Determination
3. Motivating
4. Level of Discipline

Number 1 is obvious, if you are going to be developing the stars of tomorrow then you need to be able to work with them. For 2, 3 and 4 these are key attributes in determining just how effective any coach or staff member is. They also influence any young players that come through your youth system, so as I want a number of high quality youngsters coming through it is important that I get the right person in. Charlton do not have worldwide knowledge when it comes to scouting so my results were a bit limited, and I only found 2 people who fit the bill. My preferred choice was an Italian, but unfortunately he wanted wages that the club could not afford, in a close second was the following man:

Nick Cox

Taken from Sheffield United for a grand total of 40k, Nick is young enough that he can develop in this role but already has some level of skill in the role that I require.

Very good at working with youngsters and judging their potential, the only knock on the "key attributes" highlighted by FM is his ability to judge players current potential, which is only average. This could have a knock on effect with his ability to judge potential but it is a risk I am willing to take.

He is decent at motivating those under his leadership, while maintaining discipline, and he is fairly determined. An added bonus is his adaptability, which will hopefully translate down to the young players coming through. I like to train players in a number of positions to build up the best skill set for each player, if they are more adaptable then this will be more successful. Looking at his history he has worked as a Head of Youth Development with Watford and Sheffield United (obviously) previously and generally their youth players are considered to be pretty good so I am hopeful that he will be able to help take Charlton onto the next level.

Next up is my Assistant Manager, I will need his help managing the coaching staff and their particular roles in training while also taking on some of the training himself. My search turned up a number of people who could take on the role but only one of them really jumped off the screen at me. Let me introduce you to...

Javi Garcia

While very young, he could still be playing at some level, Javi has all of the necessary foundations for me to build a long term management relationship with. Honestly, why was this guy available as a free agent?

Determined, Highly motivated and very adaptable he will fit right in. The opposite of Neil, Javi is pretty good at determining players current ability but doesn't have the foresight to see where they will be down the line, but this doesn't bother me, I have scouts and other coaches for that. But his ability to judge players current ability may prove useful during matches and setting opposition instructions.

Javi is also pretty good at man management and working with youngsters, as I want him to organise my coaches this will be very useful and as he will be coaching younger players it's good to know that this wont faze him.

Now to look at the coaching staff Javi and I will be working with going forwards. I'm not going to look at the skeleton coaching staff that I have kept on from the previous regime, but instead look at the two additions that I have made to the team. Both are decent, if not amazing, but they can definitely work with kids and (as I am sure you can tell) this will be a theme going forwards. So without further ado...

Michael Forsyth and Paul Hilton

Starting alphabetically, Michael Forsyth has a number of years experience coaching and scouting. Working his way up through the ranks at Burton and Derby as an Under 18s coach, he moved into scouting with Sheffield United for a year and becoming a first team coach seems like a natural progression.

While the motivation may be an issue hopefully the level of discipline will make up for it. He is also decent at judging player potential and ability so I may come to him when I need to judge just how good a player is and could be. His main focus will be on developing my defenders with that defending attribute, and at 49 I don't think he is too old to learn a few new tricks.

Next up is Paul, he is the oldest member of staff I have brought onboard at 55 but with a good spread of attributes I couldn't leave him on the coaching shelf collecting dust. With a lot of experience at the Under-18 level I know he will be good at working with youngsters, and with Ipswich and West Ham on his CV he must have been doing something right.

In more recent years he has worked at Stevenage and Bishop's Stortford, not footballing powerhouses but it gave him experience in some different backroom roles and who knows when that could prove useful! There isn't one area of his attributes that really stands out as a coach, but as I only have a limited number of staff I can bring in someone that is a jack of all trades is not necessarily a bad thing to have.

Finally, we have the scouts. When I took over there was only one scout left on the books, my Chief Scout. He couldn't do everything himself so I made sure to add three other scouts to the team to give us a better chance at unearthing some key players for the team. So here is the team:

Roger Cross, Bruno Toralbi, David Pelaez and Mogi Bayat

Roger is a holdover from the last regime, not particularly special it is probably worth keeping him around for the moment as he will have valuable knowledge that could be lost otherwise. He's also the most experienced scout I have and hopefully able to organise the rest of his team reasonably well.

I also feel that I can rely on him to identify who is a worthwhile transfer target and who isn't with his ability to judge players being better than average. These are the key job specifications for a scout and he ticks the boxes so hopefully he lives up to the job.

The rest of the team come from different areas of the world. Bruno has worked in Italy for a number of years before he was let go by Perugia. His knowledge of Italy has already lead to one scouting discovery for the first team and highlighted some younger players who I will continue to scout throughout the year and look to sign next summer.

David may struggle to settle in at first as he isn't very adaptable, but he is very determined and very good at identifying new talent. At 24 he is very young to be in the backroom staff but he was a scout for Granada and chief scout for their "B" team, so the talent is there.

Bringing knowledge of Spanish football to the club is always appreciated and his additional knowledge of Italy will hopefully complete the knowledge that Bruno brings.

Last, but certainly not least is Mogi Bayat. Adaptable, Determined and decent at judging players, our Iranian connection has knowledge of more countries than the other members of our scouting team. France and Belgium are very good footballing nations so if Mogi can help us find even one or two diamonds in the rough it would be greatly appreciated. Also, if there are any players in Iran capable of playing at the required level then hopefully he will be able to bring them to our attention.

So there you have it. Welcome to the team and hopefully there will be many years of success to come!

Football Manager 2016 - Getting the right tactics!

So, day one on Football Manager 2016 has seen me discover the all new "build a manager" function when you first set up your save game, but I am not really interested in talking about that. While I am sure some people enjoy being able to customise their look on the sideline I am not particularly bothered about it. Instead, I want to focus on how I go about building my team and getting ready for the challenging seasons ahead.

Firstly I wanted to set up my own tactics for the game, I had a very particular style in mind when I booted up the game but I wasn't quite sure how I was going to make it work. Basically, I want to dominate possession from start to finish, if you don't have the ball you can't hurt me kind of thinking, but I also needed to pose a threat going forwards as 40 draws a season will not be enough to achieve my "mid-table finish" objective set by the board, and I want to exceed that target. There were 3 tactics that I had in mind from previous games, 3-5-2, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-1-1.

I had pretty much written off 3-5-2 before even starting, I am playing as Charlton and one of our best players is our right winger who isn't built to be a wing back. I toyed around with the 4-2-3-1 formation for a while but injuries to my entire midfield limited my options here and I couldn't quite get the balance I was after. So I was left with 4-4-1-1. I tried to push the right winger forwards into an AMR position with the Inside Forward role, but this seemed to leave my team exposed on the right, and there was negligible difference in terms of positioning and attacking intent when I moved the player back to an RM position and set up their instructions as a wide player.

Previously asymmetrical tactics have been all the rage, and they may prove so again this year once everyone starts to get their heads around the match engine and how the game plays out. But right now I am keeping my team pretty balanced. Through the centre there may be some variation on position but in general the positioning seems to balance itself out.

The two CBs are set to Ball Playing Defenders as I want everyone to be comfortable on the ball and contributing to the passing game. There is no room for route one in my Charlton team, you need to pass the ball regardless of where you play. In the above example I also have the keeper set to standard, although I may look into making him a sweeper keeper if this option is still available as we use a pretty high defensive line. (making a note to check this later!)

My fullbacks are also set to either support or attack. They form a key second line of attack as I find that my two wide men push into the box quite often and the fullbacks can provide a very reliable crossing option which is useful when my big Danish striking option is playing.

In midfield, I had originally set Jordan Cousins up as an Anchor or Halfback but quickly discovered that he wasn't offering much in terms of positioning and a lot of space was opening up in front of him for my opponents to exploit. Similarly, Johnnie Jackson has changed from AP to DLP to CM - attacking early in the season. Every option seemed to leave too much space either up or downfield but the CM position does seem to provide some balance, which it should do in theory.

Up front I have a Shadow Striker and, currently, a false nine. The shadow striker is supposed to provide your main goal threat (according to the role description in the tactics creator) but my main player for this role hasn't been scoring too many. Similarly, my centre forward is also struggling for goals, the balance further back in the team seems to have limited their options, although the right winger has more than made up for this with a number of goals.

Early results have been positive, we are dominating possession and getting a high number of shots in, but the low number of goals from "strikers" is concerning. I haven't quite figured out an effective corner routine just yet but it is possible that this is due to the players I have available rather than a failure of any particular system.

Next up I will take a look at my revamped staff, where I have been bringing in a number of people who will hopefully push us onwards and upwards.

Goodbye FM2015

I can't believe that it is that time of year again, the time of year when the next iteration of Football Manager is release. I have to admit, I failed to play 2015 as much as I usually would. I'm not sure why, I think it was a combination of factors. My interest in football waned to a degree with the increasing scandals, the attitudes of footballers and the way my own club was being run. But usually I would keep going with Football Manager and enjoy my journey through the land of make believe.

It could also be that my success in 2014 jaded me somewhat, I eventually reached the level where my club team was nigh on invincible, I think we had a run of 100+ games without defeat, and most were victories. With 2015 I decided to set myself a challenge and build up a non-league team in England that I used to go and watch with my dad.

The team in question were Aylesbury United, now without their own ground down in a division that most fans have never, and will never, hear of. To add an additional challenge, I wanted to run the club responsibly and try to break even. Considering the number of larger teams that just run deeper and deeper into debt, and seeing so many smaller clubs go out of business because of the financial irresponsibility of the people involved this seemed like a good way of combating my cynical outlook on football.

Unfortunately I just wasn't immersed enough to keep taking the club forward for many years. I think I reached my fourth or fifth season, and we were into the Conference but I would usually be many years further into the game by this point!

I had a large number of successes with Aylesbury, reaching the 3rd round of the FA Cup, winning 2 leagues and 2 play-off finals, and as of writing this we are top of the Conference with a +21 goal difference. Maybe this won't be goodbye 2015, but I will definitely be moving on to 2016 and hopefully I will be more immersed this year!

Battlefield 4 - FPS 30 Day Challenge: Update #2 - Turning a corner

So this update is a bit late, and possibly encompassing two weeks but real life got in the way and I was not able to invest as much game time in Battlefield 4 as I would have liked. Well, at least in terms of getting material to write up this post. The good news is that I finally seem to have turned a corner and I am making progress.

I must admit, after the last past I was getting a bit disheartened, I seemed to have hit a plateau in terms of the K:D ratio I was getting in games and couldn't see a way to improve things, but by some miracle things just seemed to click for me once I got back into the game and I saw a noticeable improvement in results.

That isn't to say that I don't still have the bad result now and then, although they seem to turn up more when I am using unfamiliar weapons or I am more preoccupied with unlocking the next weapon in my class (which means I end up playing as another class, what is up with that?) but anyway. I think I have settled on the SAR-21 with the IRNV-1 sight as my preferred weapon in the Assault category. I know that a lot of people swear by the ACE in reviews but this one just seems to suit my style.

I also have found Operation Locker to be one of my preferred maps as well, which is a surprise as I found it incredibly frustrating to start with. Now, as I know it better, I can find some great angles targeting choke points where I know a number of opponents will try and make headway. This
certainly helps if my stats need a boost!

In terms of results I saw a gradual uptick in the first set of games I played. An overall K:D score of 140/117 brought a small uptick of roughly 0.07 to a total ratio of 1.20 (1.196 if you want to go into that much detail!) which, while an improvement, was not quite as drastic as I had hoped it would be. It seemed to be a case of a number of tight victories with the odd negative result thrown in but I just couldn't break a big result in many games. (there was one 17:9 which was the best of the bunch)

Then something just changed, perhaps I was lucky and ending up on good teams but even when we were losing my scores were not a weight pulling us down. Whatever it was, I saw a massive uptick to 1.29 over the next 15 games. There were some big results but the negative results were no where near the level needed to counterbalance these. I think an awful lot of this game can come down to the team you are on, if you are working as a team you are more likely to see a positive result, whereas if you are up against a very organised opponent and your team is fragmented then no amount of skill will pull the result around for your team.

Thankfully my luck, or newfound skill, has not forsaken me and my latest sets of results continue to mirror the 1.29 ratio from my previous 15 games. This has given me a whole lot of confidence to continue pushing forwards and hopefully, fingers crossed, I will be able to carry this form over into Star Wars Battlefront which has been my main aim from the beginning. While Battlefield 4 is a good game and enjoyable, there is just something about getting to play around in the Star Wars universe which is intoxicating, and I would have hated to go into that game and just being plain awful while my teammates wonder "what the hell is this noob doing!"

I think I may just get one more update in before SW:B is released, no I will, and I really hope that I see one final uptick in results pushing me above the 1.35 mark maybe even into the uncharted territory of 1.5! The opportunity is there, I just need to grab it now.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with this post, it is a bit of a ramble but then I think that may be reflective of my time on Battlefield and so it suits the subject!