In the previous post of Sexi Brexi, we saw Marcus Allbäck earn promotion to the Vanarama National League after winning the title with Stockport County. To read more about last season, go back and read the previous post!
[Read like Arnold Schwarzenegger] “This is not satisfactory, Marcus!” Rolf Elgeti said in a harsh voice. “I give you one million Euros and you give me….” He paused for a second as if he waited for an answer to a question that hadn’t been asked yet. “You give me this!” he said with contempt in his voice as he threw the list of the new signing onto the desk.
Marcus Allbäck, who in all honesty was quite satisfied with his squad looked the owner in the eyes and replied. “These are the best players that our money could buy, Mr Elgeti. They are a real upgrade to the squad. Great additions, actually”. “Great additions? Great additions? I don’t see a single butcher on this list. I don’t see a single killer!” Rolf Elgeti shouted. “I cannot accept this. I need to leave!” he continued as he rose from his chair with a force that made the chair tip over. He didn’t even look at Marcus Allbäck as he started walking across the floor towards the door, he only made a small gesture with his hand towards the corner where Mr Cat in the Hat had been hiding.
The giant cat took a majestic leap up onto the desk and from there up to Mr Elgeti’s shoulder just as he headed out the door. Marcus Allbäck remained seated, not knowing whether he was supposed to feel relieved or worried…what did Mr Elgeti mean when he said he had to leave? Leave for the day, the week or forever? As he heard Mr Elgeti shouting “Why can’t you find a good butcher when you need one?” whilst walking down the corridor, Marcus Allbäck got the feeling that they wouldn’t be seeing each other for a while…
The money given to Marcus Allbäck gave him the opportunity to look beyond the bargain bin of free agents on his pre-season shopping spree. This provided him with more options than previously in his attempts to strengthen the squad for the upcoming Vanarama National season. The level of players available were still quite low, providing a challenge when searching for players to fit the “Butchers and Killers” system. This resulted for the most part in players that partially fit their roles, which makes it more challenging to actually play the type of football that he wants.
After a brief summary of the “Butchers and Killers” concept we’ll go through the team position by position and present the new signings.
Struggling to find decent Butchers and Killers
All players in a “Sexi Brexi” Stockport team will need the skills listed below.
- Mentals: Work Rate, Team Work, Positioning and Aggression
- Technicals: Tackling
- Physicals: Strength
All of these are skills needed for each and every player in a system that’s basically all about minimizing risk, working hard to win the ball back and then attack in a direct and swift manner.
There are players that are simply only Butchers, in it to defend, crash and smash, win the ball back and give it to someone else. Then there are players that are pretty much only killers, in it to finish off the attack. Then there are players who are a bit of both.
The three No-Nonsense Centre-Backs and the Ball Winning Midfielder are considered pure Butchers. Additional skills needed besides the six above are:
- Mentals: Bravery
- Technicals: Marking and Heading
- Physicals: Jumping Reach
Since we want to force the opposition to send in a lot of crosses into the box, we need to have players that are able to get those crosses away from our goal and out of the box again. We brought in 3 new centre-backs since the feeling was that our current line-up didn’t really live up to our expectations.
From: Halifax FC for €27K
A tall guy standing at 194cm and a great header of the ball with Heading and Jumping Reach of 15. He is solid defensively with a Marking of 10 and a Tackling of 13. He lacks a bit of speed which is generally a problem with these tall centre-backs. However, with a low defensive line that won’t cause any major problems, hopefully.
From: Maidstone for €130K
Seems like a well-rounded defender for this level. The Holy Defensive Trinity of 10+ in Heading, Marking and Tackling in combination with nice physicals and decent mentals makes him an important piece in our defensive puzzle.
From: Maidstone for €70K
A bit of a different type of centre back compared to the two above. Still a big guy, but not a fantastic header of the ball, despite a Jumping Reach of 15. Instead he’s got nice Vision and Anticipation (14) making him a decent threat playing the long ball, despite a Passing of 9 (which is actually fairly decent at this level).
This leaves us with a total of 6 centre-backs going into the new season, planning to use the 3 signings in our starting eleven and the three remaining players from last season (Cowan, Palmer and Keane) as back-ups.
Ball Winning Midfielder
The ball-winning midfielder’s primary job is to win the ball and give it to a more suitable team-mate.
No new signings for this position as the feeling is that we’ve got two solid alternatives already in the squad. Both DiMaio and Turnbull are versatile and well-rounded enough to play as a ball winning midfielder. They are both good at winning the ball, but Turnbull is the stronger header of the two. Turnbull is also our captain, but I have yet to decide who will start the season.
The only two pure Killers in the line-up are the two Pressing Forwards. Additional skills needed besides the six above are:
- Mentals: Off the Ball and Composure
- Technicals: Finishing and Heading
- Physicals: Acceleration, Pace and Jumping Reach.
I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to find players with this skill set at our level, meaning that we’d either need to scale down our expectations to find players that are decent at the most but well-rounded or split the skills in a Big man-Small man fashion with one big guy with good heading and a quicker smaller guy. I really didn’t want the latter as I want both players to be serious threats both on transitions and in the box, but that’s exactly what happened.
From: Man City for free
From: Sutton for €29K
Both Keyendrah Simmonds and Tommy Wright are small and quick, especially 168 cm “tall” Wright, with good Finishing and decent Technical abilities. They seriously lack the abilities to win any challenges in the air or on the ground though. Wright has got nice mentals with a great Work Rate, so I think he’ll have no trouble handling the defensive duties.
The arrival of these two players gives us a well-rounded group of Pressing Forwards, and provides some nice competition for last season’s goal-scoring king Darren Stephenson. The pre-season games will hopefully give us a clearer picture of whether Warburton or Stephenson will retain their position at the start of the season. I feel that perhaps at least Tommy Wright will bring fierce competition for one of the spots in the starting eleven.
The Jack of all Trades
As mentioned above there are some players that are not pure Butchers or Killers, but a bit of both.
Firstly, we have the Wing-Backs. They fall back to form a five man defensive line in defence and are supposed to act as wide “Quarter Backs” in attack. Additional skills needed besides the six above are:
- Mentals: Vision
- Technicals: Dribbling and Crossing
- Physicals: Acceleration and Stamina
From: Hartlepool for €69K
Gideon looks like a well-rounded wing back. Good defensive skills combined with decent physicals is a nice start. A good Work Rate and nice Crossing and Dribbling brings him close to the ideal picture of a wing back in my system. However, he has really poor Vision (5), which worries me. I suspect that he will be solid defensively but won’t be much of a threat up front because of this.
Adu-Peprah is a welcome addition to our group of wing backs though. Duxbury had a great season out on the left last season, but being the only left back in the team we really needed another one. On the right side we do have two players, but neither of them are very good. I really looked for a new right wing back but couldn’t find one decent enough, so both Mantack and Minihan stays for Another season.
The Box to Box Midfielder will press and close down space in front of our back three in an attempt to win the ball, but will also provide a bit of creativity up front. Additional skills needed besides the six above are:
- Mentals: Off the Ball and Vision
- Technicals: First Touch, Passing and Long Shots
- Physicals: Stamina and Balance
From: Salford for 40K
Smith seems like a good addition to the midfield bringing something different compared to Butterfield. A bit better with the ball but worse physicals.
It’s too early to tell which one of these guys that will get the chance in the starting eleven, the pre-season will be a decider.
Finally, we have the Target Man who falls back in defence in an attempt to stop the opposition from switching sides. In transition from defence to offence he provides a passing opportunity both on his head for flick-ons or on his feet. When we reach the final third he is expected to join the other two strikers in their endeavours to finish the attack off. Additional skills needed besides the six above are:
- Mentals: Off the Ball and Vision
- Technicals: Heading, Passing and Long Shots
- Physicals: Jumping Reach
As in the case with the ball winning midfielders, I saw no real need to look for more target men. That, in combination with an absolutely barren market had us settling for the two players already in the squad. Mulhern offers a bit more creativity while Beck is a force to be reckoned with in the air. This means that we have partial fits for this position as well which is a bit dissatisfactory, but at least we have different options to use depending on the opposition.
To summarize it all it has been really hard for manager Marcus Allbäck to find perfect fits for the “Butchers and Killers” concept at this level, which was suspected. With that in mind, he is really satisfied with the players he managed to bring in and comments the upcoming season with the following words: “I feel that I owe it to the players that secured our promotion last year a chance to prove their worth at this higher level and I’m certain that the players we’ve brought in will fit in both with the squad and our way of playing Sexi Brexi football. Expectations are high, I don’t think we’ll be a punching bag this season. We are aiming for a top half finish at least”.
Vanarama National League
So, has Marcus’ men managed to live up to the high expectations? They certainly have as you can see below.
A tough September aside the team has really adapted well to the new league. After an initial “honeymoon phase” it became apparent that the teams in Vanarama National were a lot better at utilizing the offside trap than the teams in the League below, which meant that the team struggled in transitions. 15-20 offsides per game became the standard and Marcus Allbäck had to rethink his tactics. With Mr Elgeti gone Marcus Allbäck made the bold decision to scrap the Sexi Brexi tactics and with a 4-4-2 with a more cautious build-up play got the team back to winning ways. With eight wins and only three losses in October to December the team climbed the League table to end the year in 7th place, just within the play-off spots.
The aim of a top half finish is starting to look a bit modest as Marcus Allbäck looks up the table. The prospect of back-to-back promotions doesn’t appear to be unrealistic with half a season left to play.
That’s it for this episode. I hope you’re as excited as I am about the next one where at least two major question will get answers: Will Stockport and Marcus Allbäck manage to reach an unlikely promotion with his new tactics? Will Mr Elgeti return with his cat? Both questions seem to be of great importance to the future of Stockport County FC…
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