Winning Back The Old Firm - 2015-16 Midseason Review and Handoff
Well as I said, here's my handoff post. A bit overdue, but hell, as I said above, I'm sorry. It was a convoluted semester, where we struggled at times, specially trying to be consistent, but in the end I'm pretty satisfied with what I managed to do, although I guess things could've been a bit better.
Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership
Our main focus this season was to make our first season back in the Premiership a successful one, and while the Title was always something unreasonable, the squad was strong enough to put us in Europe right away and with some luck, give our rivals a run for their money on their surefire title.
We got off to a shaky start, with 10 points in our first 8 games (2 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses), but after that found some form and managed to get points into the bucket. Again, we had a tough spot, losing 2 of 3 games in November, against winnable teams (8th placed Hearts and 9th placed Ross County), but December was quite good, up until the end, where St. Johnstone and the fuckers from the other side of town stopped us.
In the end, 35 points from 21 games is below what I expected, but have us very much in the hunt for European qualification, which is the overall objective.
Betfred League Cup
As already foretold, I managed to get some silverware, by the means of the League Cup. But not without a few setbacks, hahaha.
We won our group, with 3 90 minute wins and 1 penalties win, and faced Hamilton in the Second Round. They took us to extra time, but we won 4-2. Then in the Quarter-Final, we faced Inverness CT, and also needed extra time to beat them, this time 1-0.
In the Semi-finals, we faced Kilmarnock, and this time, extra time wasn't enough and we had to resort to penalties, where a big couple of stops by put us in the Final. There, St. Johnstone gave us a good game, but a late goal from Martyn Waghorn, gave us the title.
Here, I'll give a bit of an assessment on our squad, tactical output and players used.
I mainly used a 4-2-3-1 tactic, and my favourite starting 11 was with Alnwick; Tavernier, Wilson, Hill, Wallace; Rossiter, Hyndman; Forrester, Toral, McKay; Garner/Waghorn (both of them spent some time injured, they both played a similar amount of games). When I had both strikers healthy, I had an alternative 4-4-2 tactic, where usually one of the centre mids was benched for the striker.
The tactical setup worked out pretty well, and barring injuries and a few suspensions (aggression seems to be a problem with either the squad or the tactic, I think it's the squad), our main issue was defence, where the quality of our players, make us concede a lot of goals. I'm not good at playing a defensive minded tactic, so my approach was to try and score more goals than our opponents, which worked at times, but backfired a few as well. Maybe the right approach would've been a more rigid/defensive one, instead of my fluid/attacking system.
I'll divide the squad into tiers, depending on how important I think they are for the team.
- Jordan Rossiter: Our top sellable asset, as he's young, packs a ton of potential and is signed to a long-term, affordable contract. He has played decently as well, getting himself on the scoresheet even. He's a priority to be re-signed to a longer contract sometime during next season, to secure him.
- Danny Wilson: Our best player in the semester, Wilson has a lot of years still in the tank, and despite having peaked, he's a pretty solid player for our level. He's Scottish as well, so that's a plus.
- Lee Wallace, Martyn Waghorn, Harry Forrester, Joe Garner: Important part of our core, this 4 players have been regular starters and have between 26 and 29 years old, meaning they've peaked and won't grow much more. They are good, specially for the level we're at right now, but will need to be replaced if we're to improve our stature.
- Jak Alnwick, Barrie McKay, James Tavernier, Lee Hodson: Almost the same as the above group, but in the 22-25 age margin. They still have some room to keep improving and could become a bigger part of the team, but will need to be under scrutiny to see if they stagnate.
- Jon Toral, Emerson Hyndman: Two brilliant young players on loan from EPL clubs. Their loans, unfortunately don't have buy clauses, but if it was up to me, I'd try to renew their loans for next season, trying to get a clause in the new deals.
- Niko Kranjcar, Clint Hill, Kenny Miller: The three of them are past 30 (and two on the wrong side of 30), but still quality players for situational purposes. Hill has mostly been a starter and Kranjcar one of our key subs. They decent personality and mental attributes, so mentoring youngsters with them is viable.
- Robby McCrorie, Jason Holt, Josh Windass, George McLennan: All have room to improve, but an important (or far better) player above them in the depth chart. They are candidates to be loaned out and looked after. Maybe with a little push, they could become starters.
- Wes Forderingham, Andy Halliday, Rob Kiernan, Michael O'Halloran: Either they have lost a position battle, or just haven't got enough quality to even be a bench alternative. They are all excessive wages in my view. They could be sold, as they have long contracts, but mainly to get rid of their wages, more than to get some cash as they won't produce big fees.
- Phillipe Senderos: Old, tortoise slow, on massive wages and with a stupid grin everywhere. The only good thing is that his contract runs up at the end of the season.
Points of Improvement
Defence, defence and defence. We need a centre back to help Danny Wilson at back. We might also need take a look at our fullbacks. If the loans aren't (or can't) be renewed we'd be short in the middle of the pitch as well. Take a look at the U-20 side, there are some potentially good players there, on loan or playing for the youth side.
I scouted a few nations with the scouting dept of the team. All players I deemed interesting where shortlisted indefinetely.
Off the Pitch
- Finances aren't great, but aren't terrible as well. We've got around £6M in the bank, and we're projected to finish the season with a bit more, at nearly £7.5M.
- Waghorn and Garner have been our top scorers, with 13 goals each. Hydman, Toral and Forrester have been our top assisters, with 7 each. The best average rating was Danny Wilson, with 7.28, from 28 games.
- The Board is satsfied with my work. We're expected to qualify for the UEL, to reach both Cups semifinals. We're meeting expectations in the League, and won the League Cup, so the Board is happy with that. They are also happy with our wage budget, being under control.
That's it, hope you guys find this useful for your turns to come. I think we can improve consistently, without big investments, as there is a good solid base and a few great prospects. Let's hope the youth intake is great as well. Good luck @Rico, go get us into Europe!