Predicted to finish at the 9th place, overachieved, finished third and lost in the promotion playoff against Helsingborgs IF. That’s probably the shortest summary of the first part of my save in Sweden with GAIS.
It started in May 2020 so I didn’t play the domestic cup as the group stage is scheduled for the spring of every year.
I decided to write the (probably) most important things of these months of competitive matches in the timeline and you can switch between the 10 bookmarks/dates. The pictures are normally clickable and they will open in a new tab to ensure you can see the whole image if you are interested.
Why testing season?
It took me almost a month of the real-life to finish the 7 in-game months due to more important commitments in the real world. I knew about this before and I’m sure I won’t play as much as in the past. I named this season, or maybe better this year, as the first testing season. The reason is simple.
I tested the new league with the schedule based on the calendar year rather than from August to May. It was also about to try to know new players and try to find some good players around the Scandinavia.
It was also about to create the required views, shortlists, filters and other things I like to make during the first season to have it ready for the rest of the save if I will not change the way of recruitment, club philosophy or strategy.
The 3-5-2 formation also required the testing and it was great to follow the development of it. It will continue for sure. It went from a more conservative approach with a lot of clean sheets to aggressive pressing with more risky playing style. We conceded 3 goals in a single match only twice per season. One of these matches was in the last match against Helsingborgs in the worst moment. But that’s life…
Four wins from the first four league matches including four clean sheets. Julius Lindberg scored two goals in the first two 1-0 wins against Umea and IK Brage. Nikola Lada (our DLP) scored twice from the penalty kick against Ljungskile SK during a 4-0 win.
We started the season and the save itself with this version of the 3-5-2 formation. It's something I will try to develop for the entire save duration. The Much Shorter Passing instruction helped us to keep the ball during the pre-season very well so I decided to keep it here.
We conceded our first competitive goal after the first five matches as we tied 1-1 away with Västeras SK. We ended July undefeated in the league campaign as Julius Lindberg scored 7 goals in his 8(1) appearances. We first in the league table, much higher above the expectations.
Julius Lindberg injured
The best goalscorer of the league campaign after the first two months of the season, Julius Lindberg, was ruled out of the action for up to 2 weeks on August 1 due to gashed upper leg. It was just a day before the 'Original derby' against Örgryte IS, our main local rival. We were 1st in the table, they were 9th.
We played at home and I was interested in how many people will visit the match as all our previous matches had under the 1k attendance. But the 0-0 derby draw was seen by 5,981 fans what will be undoubtedly our biggest attendance of the season I would say.
August - where the goals are?
The injury of Julius Lindberg just before the derby match against Örgryte resulted in complete and total impotence in terms of our attacking power. And it continued even when Lindberg was back after an injury. Four matches in August ended with a 0-0 draw. The last one, against the bottom Umea, we won 1-0.
And we also lost our main WBR Fredrik Martinsson who was out due to Hernia injury for 4-6 weeks. The cover - 26 years old August Wängberg is not one of the best wing-backs you probably saw in your FM careers. Crossing & Dribbling attributes under the value of 10, not enough fast. I rather decided to give him Cross From Deep, Cross Less and Take Fewer Risks instructions. It gave me food for tough why I didn't do the same with Martinsson earlier as Fredrik is not that good either. Our third choice for this role (Australian Aiden Harvey) is back just after 10 months off due to damaged cruciate ligaments.
It resulted in the typical FM situation - Wängberg was injured (out for 2-3 weeks) after 7 minutes of the next match. And yes, Aiden Harvey was subbed out due to injury in next match after 23 minutes.
You know what? The next player I played in the WBR position in the last match in August lasted 50 minutes on the pitch before he had to be subbed off due to injury (5 weeks out with twisted ankle).
I'm sure we will have better players in the future when the scouting, player searching etc. will be in full swing and in better conditions.
The halfway point
We remained the one and only undefeated team after the first half of the season. Fifteen matches resulted in 8 wins & 7 draws. We scored16 goals&conceded just 3 goals. It earned us the 2nd place just two points behind GIF Sundsvall. Considering the pre-season media prediction about 8th or 9th place, it's much above the expectations. Even my own expectations.
Young English midfielder signed
I want to have my squad based on Scandinavian players but I noticed there is a lot of players around and a lot of them free. I have a keeper on loan from Ipswich btw. A lot of free agent appears in the scouting centre/recommendations. I just took this one for a week trial, I think he can be very good as DLP(S) or RPM. In terms of mental attributes, he is better than my current players.
It resulted in signing the midfielder Matt O'Riley. The 19 years old playmaker produced by Fulham academy was a free agent. He signed for free and he became the highest earner of the team. He considers our club as a stepping stone and it means he has €1.9M release clause & €1.4M Non Promotion release clause in his contract. Both will mean a big profit if he will ever leave.
There was the first Youth Intake of this save in September 2020. A couple of midfielders took my eye but they would be not good enough for most of you. I promoted four of them to the first team to boost the rotation policy in the second half of the season. Central midfielder Anders Svensson was the best one of these players in terms of the star rating. It’s still related to my current squad so it’s not that relevant but all these four promoted players played at least 5 competitive matches.
The board elections happened at the beginning of November and current Chairman Jonas Andersson won it for the second time so he will continue in his role for the second term.
The Svenska Cupen draw took place at the end of November as it will be played during spring of 2021. The group of four teams consists of GAIS, Ljunkskile SK (both 2nd tier) and Falkenbergs FF (relegated as the bottom team of the top tier) and Helsinbgorgs IF (14th team of the top tier table).
The last-named team was also our opponent at the end of this calendar year…
The full league standings
We were second after the first 15 matches but we took the 1st spot back after the 16th round and we remained at the top until the 24th round. But our end of the league campaign was not good in terms of results due to several reasons:
- Minor injuries of key players
- Younger players and newgens got their chance
- We were too much dependent on goals by Julius Lindberg
The team won only one match in the last month of the regular season (1-0 away in the derby against Örgryte IS). We only tied 2-2 at home against Akropolis in the last match of the season thanks to a late equaliser by Lindberg who was not fit to play the whole match.
And it leads to the fact we moved down to the 3d place in the league table and the promotion playoff.
Against Helsingborgs IF, the 14th team of the Allsvenskan table ⇒
vs. Helsinborgs IF at home
The first promotion playoff match against Helsingborgs IF took place at The GAIS Stadium in Göteborg. It was quite disappointing to me that only 2,378 fans attended the game as it was more than 3.5k less than our highest attendance during the league campaign (derby game against Örgryte IS).
We took the lead in the 38th minute after a perfect throw-in routine and lovely Meinhard Olsen’s finish.
Max Svensson equalised four minutes later and gave Helsingborgs the away goal advantage. Meinhard Olsen was brought down of the pitch twenty minutes before the end of 90 minutes and the young Arigon Zekaj took his place. To be absolutely clear, Zekaj is not the best young player you saw in the game. And he will probably not continue with us in next years but he took his chances rightly in the past and he deserved to play some part.
And he scored the winning goal in the 82nd minute after the assist of Nuha Jatta. That means we won 2-1 at home the first leg.
vs. Helsinborgs IF away
The second match against Helsingborsg had to be played without several players from the regular starting XI.
The best goalscorer Julius Lindberg was suspended due to yellow cards ban. Anton Snibb [(WB(S)], Matt O’Riley [(DLP(S)] and Nuha Jatta [CM(A)] were all only among substitutes due to fatigue.
Argion Zekaj (mentioned in the previous timeline bookmark) started as our Advanced Forward. One of our newgens Johan Wahlberg started as one of our three central defenders because the rest of our central defenders were not ready for the match. Other CD(D) – 29 years old Boris Lumbana from DR Congolese – played his last game for the club as his contract expired at the end of the calendar year.
The 16 years old Anders Svensson (mentioned in the bookmark about the Youth Intake) started from the beginning as our CM(A). I did it despite some more experienced players were available (Adnan Maric, Joackim Aberg) but I didn't see a point to play with players I don't want in the club for next year and I will try to sell them.
"I have faith in you, get out there and make a difference."
Players looked motivated, inspired and motivated or pleased before the match kick-off.
But it was the home side who took the lead as Max Svensson scored from a close range with a simple tap in the 11th minute.
Zekaj had great opportunity to equalise in the 33rd minute after good defensive work and the individual solo from the half of the pitch but the Helsingborgs‘ keeper saved his effort from the close range.
Helsingborgs was closer to win the tie after the first half of the second match as they lead 1-0.
Zekaj, the not good enough youngster, was close again in the 56th minute but Joelsson saved his nice curling shot again.
I slightly adjusted the team instructions after sixty minutes of play to be more aggressive in terms of pressing. I also removed the DLP(S) to not use a playmaker role and subbed Ladan off despite he was our best player so far in the match in terms of the match rating. But I wanted to make our play a little bit straightforward instead of searching the playmaker every time.
But the more experienced home side played the final part of the match much better and they scored their second goal of the match in the 84th minute thanks Andersson and third in the 89th minute thanks Hafsteinsson.
Helsingborgs won 3-0 the second leg and 4-2 on aggregate.
Max Svensson scored twice in and made two assists in these two matches. He saved the great form for the playoff as he scored his 3rd and 4th goals of the whole season…
I mentioned this player within the timeline bookmark(s) but he deserves his own part of the post. Soon 22 years old Swedish footballer, originally from IK Kongahälla, finished the league campaign with 23(3) appearances, 17 goals and 1 assist.
As I wrote in the timeline, he is not the natural striker, he is a more wide player. But I decided to play him as our main Advanced Forward in a combination with the Pressing Forward.
When I open the coach report, I can see my assistant manager added Fairly selfish player (the third icon from the left within cons in the picture above) within the cons.
But is it really negative thing when I want the goals from him?
He played as Advanced Forward. He is not a creator, I just want goals from him. That’s another reason why I’m trusting mainly to myself.
I’m not too much into the stats but when I open his xG rating from the 2020 league campaign, even I am able to see he did very well.
When the striker position is selected in the coach report: “Julius Lindberg is performing around average in every area in key statistics for this attacking role.” It’s “above average in every area” when it’s the wide position.
His best match was in the middle of October when we beat Trelleborgs 7-2. He scored three goals and made one assist. None of his 17 goals was scored from a penalty kick.
I know he is not the best and I will be able to find many better players but I’m curious how or if he will develop in the future. From some reason, I feel he will be even better next season if he will stay injury-free…
Central Defender with the Stopper duty
Firstly, I don’t want to talk about the whole 3-5-2 formation we are using. Mainly because it’s not a finished “product” as it will take more seasons to make it work really good in combination with better players.
Secondly, I wanted to mention just one single role. It’s the Central Defender with the Stopper duty role. I’m using it within my 3 at the back as the central one.
I experimented with this role in FM20 while I was changing from Stopper to Cover duty depending on the number of strikers our opponent was using.
Stopper against one striker, Cover against two or more strikers.
“With a Defend (Stopper) duty, the Central Defender will push ahead of the defensive line and close down players before they got to the area.”
That’s my main aim for this guy. There are still two more central defenders who can cover the defensive line if the stopper would fail to win the ball or the opponent would pass around him.
Charlie Weberg – the key man in both positive & negative way
My main man for this role during the first months of this save was Charlie Weberg. The 22 years old defender was our only one loan player in the squad. He was with us from Helsingborgs IF (do you know why the negative way in the headline already?).
Yes, he couldn’t play against his club in the promotion playoff when we lost 2-4 on aggregate.
I thought about to cancel his loan when the save started but I kept him in the end. And he became my favourite player because he played really well in the CD(St) role.
He was able to step ahead exactly as I wanted. He has a Positioning attribute value of 13 (one of his best) and it surely helped him as “This attribute reflects the ability of a player to read a defensive situation and position themselves accordingly…”
His tackles won ratio was 87.18% at the end of the season. He made 0.26 blocks per 90 minutes and he made only 1.37 fouls per 90 minutes.
Weberg finished the season with 96.80% of pass completion what only reflect the simplicity of the dribble less, take fewer risks and shorter passing instructions. He made 157 interceptions (12th in the league). He also had the highest average rating from all.
Btw. the Interceptions made stats screen will be a good source for searching a new central defender in the future.
Some examples of interceptions/push ahead…
You can see his pros & cons in the picture above. Cons also include the potential transfer fee and the estimated wage. Both are out of our limits. It’s unlikely we will be able to sign him again, 100% not as a permanent deal.
Behind the wall
One of my favourite moments of the first season with GAIS is the fact we had the best defence from all teams in the competition.
- 30 matches played
- 19 clean sheets (Mathias Karlsson 15x, Harry Wright 4x)
- 18 goals conceded in 30 matches. The only team that kept it under twenty goals conceded in the season. The league winners GIF Sundsvall conceded 20.
- 0 goals conceded from corners.
- 1 goal conceded from the direct free kick
- 1 goal conceded from the indirect free kick
- 2 goals conceded from penalties
While I’m the one who enjoyed these great defensive stats, our fans would like to see more goals probably. We scored 40 goals in 30 matches (not too much if you consider we scored 7 in a single match). But GIF Sundsvall won the league with only 38 goals scored.
We had 1265 average attendance in the first season. Only 15% of our capacity. No team sold out the stadium in any match during the whole season. The titleholders Sundsvall had 4196 (49% of their capacity). The AFC Eskilstuna (finished 14th and avoided the relegation in the playoff) had 2544 – more than double of ours.
Something to improve for sure. Hopefully, we will be able to bring more people to the stadium in the second season.
The second season, 2021, will offer the Svenska Cupen group matches during the spring. And we will continue in clearing and overhauling and improving the squad and the club in overall. It won’t be easy. But it will be enjoyable for sure.
Thanks for reading.