Erwin van Dijk has landed on his feet in English football. After being sacked by Eastbourne Borough, van Dijk found a job at a club three divisions higher – Plymouth Argyle. Yet it hasn’t been plain sailing for van Dijk and the Dutchman found himself invited into another board meeting at the end of his first season with Plymouth.
To catch up on the previous post, click on the image below:
In this post, we create a five-year plan with Plymouth with the end aim being promotion to the Premier League.
Surviving The Sack
As you may already have guessed, Erwin van Dijk survived the sack! At the end of last season, he was given a target of seven points from his next five league games. He managed to achieve the target in the final of the five games, accumulating nine points in total.
One of the key factors behind the change in fortunes was a change of tactic. Last season we persisted with a two winger formation, despite not really having anyone of quality out on the right wing. To add to this, despite playing in his preferred position of left-midfield, Graham Burke failed to impress last season and so I decided to remove wingers from our formation. Instead, we would focus our play through the middle and have our full-backs push on and support out wide. Burke would be our main outlet playing in the AM position.
After creating the tactic I was happy with, I set about looking for the right players to bring into our system. As you will see later, year one of our five-year plan highlights the importance of increasing the number of professional footballers at our club. As such, I placed a higher importance on the personalities of the players brought into the club. Jamie MacDonald came in as a backup goalkeeper and Paul Coutts came in to add extra depth to our midfield.
In addition to these experienced signings, the other type of player who I targetted was players released from Premier League clubs. The thought behind this would be that each player would have had experience playing for a club at the highest level and they would be more determined to help push their new club towards reaching that level. Here are some of the key players brought in from PL clubs:
Having survived the sack, Erwin van Dijk can begin to put in place several components that adhere to his impressive five-year plan. Let’s review the plan now.
The Five-Year Plan
One of the main goals on the five-year plan is to reach the English Premier League. Plymouth have yet to play in the EPL and therefore this would be a club record high – something van Dijk would love to achieve. There are several components that will work towards improving the club as a whole and achieving consistent success in the future.
- League Aim: Consolidate in League One – aim for a top ten finish
- Club Aim: Bring in professional, determined and ambitious players
After a poor season last year in which we finished 18th, I am aiming to achieve a top ten finish this season before pushing for promotion the following season. I don’t think our squad are at the level required for promotion, though I do think we are close. With the right additions, we could well surprise ourselves this year.
These additions should be brought in with the focus on personality as well as ability. I’ve found that some of my players are being negatively affected by some of the less desirable traits in the squad. Also, having more professional, determined and ambitious players will help push the club forwards as the players themselves will strive for greatness. I’ll be prioritising good personalities for the next few years when it comes to signing players.
- League Aim: Win promotion from League One
- Club Aim: Introduce an attribute guide. Introduce a staffing structure
By the end of year two, I want to have won promotion to the Championship. I hope to have developed our current players enough to be good squad players in the league above and I want to have brought in a good number of players with positive personalities – this should help us achieve promotion.
Attribute Guides | The VIVA Rating System
In order to help identify the best players for our squad, I have devised several attribute guides that I will be using to help bring in quality players to help us achieve our goals. Each positional group will focus on four attributes – for each player I will add up the attributes, giving them a score out of eighty. This is the VIVA Rating System.
When choosing a goalkeeper, the main attributes I will be looking for are: Bravery, Concentration, Decisions and Positioning.
Thomas Glover, as shown below, has a VIVA rating of 44.
- Central Defenders
My central defenders will require good attributes in Anticipation, Concentration, Decisions and Jumping Reach. Kyle Howkins, one of our main centre-backs with Plymouth, has a VIVA rating of 50.
- Full Backs
Fullbacks have an important role in my current tactic. The attributes I want them to have are very similar to those of my central defenders, however I would rather my fullbacks have greater Pace than Jumping Reach.
Adam Lewis has a VIVA rating of 47.
- Central Mids
In my current system, I play with 1 DM, 2 CMs and 1 AM. Regardless of their actual position, I still want all my central players to have these core attributes: Decisions, Teamwork, Vision and Work Rate.
Ryan Manning has been the star midfielder for Plymouth so far, his VIVA rating is 53.
My current tactic plays without wingers, however I have still devised a VIVA rating system for wide players as I could easily move back to a winger formation in the future.
I want my wingers to be strong in Anticipation, Flair, Pace and Work Rate.
Finally, we come to the strikers. The four key attributes I want to see in my strikers are: Anticipation, Composure, Off The Ball and Work Rate.
Kieffer Moore, who has joined the club on loan from Brentford, has a VIVA rating of 51.
One of the easier things to do in Football Manager is to build the best staff team in your division within a couple of seasons. You can easily search for staff with the attributes you want and more often than not you can sign staff far better than you currently possess.
With my new staffing structure, I aim to make this job more challenging but more realistic (or perhaps idealistic).
Here is Ricky Shakes. He is our current under 18’s coach. His attributes are more than decent enough for him to be coaching in our senior squad. Equally, he would make a good manager/assistant manager for the under 18’s. Within my staffing structure, Ricky will have the opportunity to move up the ladder towards the senior team.
Whenever staff contract renewal date comes around, I will decide on which staff to keep and if a job becomes available I will always look to the youth teams for any staff who deserve to be promoted. This way, I am creating an environment in which all staff are pulling in the same direction. An under 18’s coach will want to impress because next year he could well be given a promotion, instead of seeing a potentially better staff member come in from another club.
Year Three – Year Five
- League Aim: Consolidate in Championship and push for promotion within three years
- Club Aim: Develop facilities to produce 3 first team youth academy graduates by the end of year five
For years 3 to 5, my main aims are to earn promotion to the Premier League and to develop Plymouth’s facilities.
If we can reach the Premier League with at least three youth academy graduates in our first team, I can consider this 5 year plan a complete success.
Year 1 of the five-year plan
If you follow me on Twitter @VivaLaVidaFM, you may have seen that I have completed the first season of my five-year plan. Here, I will go through the season and reveal how Plymouth have done. Will Erwin van Dijk be pleased with the progress of his side?
As you can see, Plymouth made the playoffs of League One after finishing in 3rd place. After a season of mostly ups, we finished the season on a down, winning just two of our final eight matches. This run of games could have seen us win automatic promotion, but the poor form curtailed any hopes of that. Nonetheless, 3rd place is still a fantastic achievement and we were given another opportunity to earn promotion through the playoffs.
Erwin van Dijk doesn’t have the best record in playoffs, he lost in the 2020 Vanarama National League South Playoff final with Eastbourne. Let’s hope this year is different and van Dijk can lead Plymouth to promotion.
Playoff semi-final vs Oxford City
In the playoff semi-final we were placed against 6th place Oxford City. The first leg saw us trail 2-1 going into the final ten minutes, but a goal from Sam Baldock, who is retiring at the end of the season, and Ruben Lameiras secured a 3-2 win heading into leg 2.
The second leg was far more comfortable as we ran out 3-1 winners. This meant that we would go on to play Gillingham in the playoff final.
Playoff final vs Gillingham
I tweeted the end of the season live, as it happened. Sadly, promotion was not to be as Gillingham ran away 3-2 winners.
We led 2-1 before half-time, but two second-half goals meant that Gillingham went up to the Championship. It is a second playoff final defeat for Erwin van Dijk…
Year One of our five-year plan has certainly exceeded my expectations. Though to have come so close to promotion and fallen short is a bitter pill to swallow. Next season sees us introduce the new staffing structure and attribute guide as described earlier in this post.
Will Erwin van Dijk finally achieve promotion? Can Plymouth build on this season or will they stutter and stall?
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Thanks for reading!