Today on Girona to Greatness

Welcome to the next part in my “Girona to Greatness” series with Girona FC. In the previous post I explained the save, my goals and an introduction to the club.

If you missed that catch up here.

In this second installment, we will be reviewing the whole first season. I’ll be looking at things like competition progress, transfers, youth intake and a tactical insight.

 

Preseason

Preseason for Girona FC was all about testing formations, getting in players on the cheap and performing in friendlies. I had a good feeling about this one! In the following friendlies I tested out a few formations mainly the 4-1-2-3, 4-1-2-1-2 & 4-3-3. The 4-1-2-3 had the best success rate which I’ll go through later in the post.
 

Girona 5-4 Barcelona B

One of many tough friendlies that we’ll compete in this preseason. It was basically a Barcelona team but full of their high potential wonderkids. A superb performance from the lads secured a 5-4 win from the game. 
 

Dortmund 1-1 Girona

Another very tough friendly. One that we came from behind to draw against bloody Borussia Dortmund. A great friendly and good learning experience for me. 
 

Girona 2-0 Man City

A friendly against main affiliates Manchester City was for sure a tough match. Although, easier than I thought once I saw the team they fielded. No big guns in the squad to play us. We dominated the match and won 2-0. One positive is that Tosin Adarabioyo looked very good at central defence for Man City. So, I’ll be looking to sign him on a loan. 
 

Girona 3-1 Espanyol B

A different type of match vs the B team of Espanyol. A match where we are favourites to win. Which won’t be the case for much of this season. An easy 3-1 victory in the end. 
 

Ajax 1-1 Girona

A friendly I was super excited to play; Ajax welcomed us to the Johan Cruijff Arena. A tough fixture for any team let alone massive underdogs Girona. But this would be the case for most of this season. The practice would do us good. A 1-1 draw in the end. A good result in my opinion. 
 

Shakhtar 0-2 Girona

Away in Ukraine for a friendly against the Ukrainian champions saw us play in front of a pretty much empty stadium. It seems the people of Ukraine didn’t wanna watch Girona play. We lost 2-0. We got absolutely dominated in this one.
 
 

Competition

This season we would be competing in the Copa del Rey and La Liga. Only the two competitions which makes a nice difference to my Christchurch FC blog where I’m competing on 4/5 fronts. I’m aiming to do well on the cup and survive in the league. 
 

Copa del Rey

This competition reminds me of the old UEFA Cup format of a two-legged knockout round system. This would give us half a chance against the bigger Spanish sides. 
 

4th Round

We enter in the 4th round where we face Real Valladolid. Strong performances away and at home see us go through 5-3 on aggregate. 
 

5th Round

The 5th round drew us against lower league side Cultural Leonesa. A disappointing 1-1 draw away from home, left us with much to do at home. We smashed it 3-0. We are going through to the Quarters!
 

Quarter Final

Malaga were our opponents for the Quarter Finals. A respectable team to face and in my opinion on an equal footing with us this season. A 1-0 win at home meant a clean sheet away from home and we go through because that is how football works! The away leg saw us claim a 1-1 draw. So, no clean sheet but we are through to the Semi Finals!!!!
 

Semi Final

It was a tense moment; the Semi Final draw. Las Palmas were drawn first at home, their opponents… Barcelona. Phew! That was close. Unfortunately, that left us to be drawn next at home, followed by the Galacticos. Girona vs Real Madrid in the Semi Final. WHAT THE ACTUAL ********
 
We had no pressure on us to perform. I told the lads to go out there and enjoy the game. Infront of our own crowd we stunned the world and all expectations; a 2-1 victory. Could we be going to the final. Can we realise the dream! The second leg at the Bernabeu was first. It was a tough ask to go there and not concede and somehow with 34% possession we managed to scrape a 0-0 draw. 
 

Final

(If we were in England) I’d be screaming WERE GOING TO WEMBLEY! But, instead… WERE GOING TO THE BERNABEU! Doesn’t have the same ring to it does it? Who cares… we are off to the Santiago Bernabeu for the Copa del Rey Final. Who would we face? Las Palmas only needed to turn around a 4 goal deficit. Surely they could do it? Nope, Barcelona went through. 
 
Girona Vs Barcelona in the Copa del Rey Final. Could we keep Messi & co at bay. It started very well, not conceding in the first 35 minutes. Then we caved in. One, soon became two. Apart from the first 30 minutes; We didn’t turn up. At very least we’ll be hoping for Barcelona to claim a top 4 finish in the league. So, that it will give us a route into Europe. 
 
What a cup run. I still cannot fathom it. Some great performances in there. Can we take this form into the league campaign.
 
 

La Liga

As mentioned or you probably could have guessed, we’re favourites to get relegated. Predicted 20th by the media prediction season preview. No one has placed a single jot of hope in us or me. It’s our job to prove them wrong. 
 

We’ll Meet You Half Way

At the half-way point in the season the league table doesn’t resemble La Liga at all. You’ve got Las Palmas pulling up trees of the palm variety. You’ve got teams such as Celta Vigo, Real Sociedad, Malaga and Athletic Bilbao struggling in the bottom half. Then you have Girona. What a season we’re currently having. 7th place in the league after 19 matches. We have taken huge victories against Villarreal 3-2,Athletic Bilbao 2-0 as well as avoiding defeat against Real Madrid by drawing 2-2. 
 
Without getting ahead of ourselves I am concentrating on avoiding relegation still… Even though we are 13 points above safety.
 
 

In the End

The full 38 required matches have been completed. Barcelona have won the league, as usual. Well it’s always between them or Real Madrid. There was disappointment for Atletico Madrid as they slip to a 6th place finish. There have been sackings for the Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and Villarreal managers as they finish 8th, 9th and 15th respectively. Surprise packages Espanyol, Girona and Las Palmas pull up trumps by finishing 4th, 5th and 7th respectively. 
 
An amazing season, one for the hall of famers. Finishing 5th place on “result between teams” is unfortunate. However, we are in Europe next season and have absolutely smashed this league campaign. A fantastic unbeaten run in the second half of the season helped us to that 5th place finish. Results against Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will go down in the history of the club as some of the greatest upsets. 
 
 

Awards

The end of season awards ceremony was one of spectacular fashion to rival South Korea’s Olympic one. However, the closest Girona came to winning any award was in the “top goalscorer” category. Let’s see who won what!?!
 

Top Goalscorer

This award would usually be between players from 3/4 clubs. Not this year, however the winner and second place you could almost guess. That’s right Barcelona’s Luis Suarez came first, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo. But, third place was even a shock for me. Girona’s own Antony Lozano. When I say “Girona’s own” I mean loaned in from Barcelona. 
 
 

Team of the Year

Unsurprisingly, there were no Girona players featuring in this award. However, it was instead dominated by the BIG 3 in Spain.
 
 
 

Player of the Year

The same for this award you could see them winning it in real-life, let alone the world of Football Manager. It was a contest between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Philippe Coutinho came out on top, leaving team-mate Luis Suarez and rival Cristiano Ronaldo in his wake.
 
 

Young Player of the Year

Quite a surprise package for this award actually. I had expected a young wonder kid from the top 3/4 teams to be winning this competition. Much like previous winners; Marco Asensio, Isco and Lionel Messi back in 2005/06. Alexander Isak, on loan from Dortmund this season produced wonders to win this award. A total contribution of 9 goals, 8 assists and an average rating of 7.72 in 15 games.
 
 

Goalkeeper of the Year

As you would expect this award has been contested by the big 3 teams in Spain for over the last 10 years. This season was no exception. Marc-Andre ter Stegen won it for Barcelona with Jan Oblak and Keylor Navas coming second and third respectively.
 
 

Manager of the Year

This award had usually been won by a top team manager. The likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Valencia and so on. 1999/2000 Season was the last time a manager unexpectedly won this award and that manager was “Javier Irureta” of Deportivo. That year Atletico Madrid and Sevilla got relegated. Real Madrid finished outside the top 4 and Deportivo won the league. Not quite the same happened this season, but we have won manager of the year for guiding Girona FC to a very unexpected 5th place finish on goal difference. The pressure will be on to perform again next season.
 
 

Squad

Our squad was really boosted by loan players. By that I mean, we need to thank our loan players for getting us to 5th place in the league. It wouldn’t be possible without the likes of Manchester City, Dortmund, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AS Monaco and other Premier League sides loaning us their talent. Another thing to say about the squad is that they have completely gelled together and performed to a very high level.
 
 

Key Performers

These players have performed to the highest level since first appearing for the club. I can only salute them. 
 
Alexander Isak, the Swedish wonderkid from Dortmund. He joined us on loan in the January transfer window and performed superbly. Isak appeared in 18 games, scoring 9 goals, making 9 assists and grabbing an average rating of 7.59. 
 
Anthony Lozano, our Honduran striker on loan from Barcelona was already at the club when I arrived. The goal scoring record of this lad was phenomenal this season. A total of 32 appearances, scoring 22 goals and making 4 assists whilst getting an average rating of 7.33.
 
Borja Garcia, another player who was already at the club when I arrived has performed to the best of his ability this season. Although, he’s moved around the pitch in terms of positions a lot this season he has still managed to perform to a very high standard. A total of 35 appearances, 13 goals, 11 assists and an average rating of 7.41 in all competitions shows that he has been key for us this season. 
 
“He’s one of our own, he’s one of our own. Borja Garcia, he’s one of our own!”
 

Could Do Better

The players in this category could all be gone at the end of the season if I’m honest. I’ve no time for wasters in my club. #roykeanehonesty
 
Marc Cardona, a striker I bought from Barcelona B for a minimal fee of £550,000. He had failed to perform in the 11 Appearances he made before his season got even worse. Cardona succumbed to a damaged spine injury which put him out for the rest of the season and more through being on the treatment table for more than 12 months. 
 
Marc Muniesa, a player on loan from Stoke who has failed to perform this season. Averaging below a 7.00 in the average ratings this season. He has had plenty of opportunities in the 29 appearances he’s made this season. In truth Muniesa only made that many appearances because we had no one else. 
 
Portu, an attacking midfielder who will be moving on at the end of the season. He’s played in 15 games this season and not consistently performed. Portu should be one of the first names on my team sheet, unfortunately it’s not the case. The performances just haven’t been there and for that reason he’s a goner. 
 

Youth Intake

The time of the year where emotions fly high or sink low. Yes, it’s youth intake time. I’m not expecting anything amazing, but would love a great prospect to build the U19s around. But hey, wouldn’t everyone. As I expected no one will be of any value to me or my youth team. The only player that “could” improve to a decent level would be Fran Perez a potential central defender or left back. Usually I would post some screenshots of the players coming in, but seriously it’s not worth it. We’ll hope for better next season.
 
 

Tactics

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been using a variation of two formations. The tactics I’ve been using are the same or at very least similar. But I’ll explain each formation below. 
 

4-1-2-3

The 4-1-2-3 or what I like to call 4-3-3. We started off playing this formation and tactic. It enabled us to play very nice football whilst controlling the game, even against bigger teams. This setup got us to 7th/8th in the league after 25-28 games. It also got us into the Copa del Rey Semi Finals. After that time had elapsed I think the AI has caught on to how we were playing, so I changed it.
 
 

4-4-2

A flat 4-4-2 not what you would expect in the land of beautiful football. However, once looking closely in games. The inverted winger and wide midfielder push up quite high to make the formation act like a 4-2-4 instead of the arranged 4-4-2. I used this for the last 10 games of the season and we managed to pull of some giant killings in those games such as seeing off Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey as well as in La Liga. We also managed to climb from 7th/8th in the league to a mighty 5th place in those last 10 games using this tactic. I’m no tactician but I’m pleased with how these two have worked for me, so far.
 
 

Transfers

This season has been somewhat a builder in terms of transfers. We mostly bought in loan players to help build up our finances ready for next season.
 

Ins

Andrea Pirlo, was literally a 5/6 month signing who actually did nothing but was solid for us. He helped tutor some young players as well. A true legend. 
 
Josue, a Portuguese attacking midfielder that signed for us on a free transfer. Josue definitely played his part as he played in 34 matches across the season.
 
Tosin Adarabioyo, joined us on loan from Manchester City. As mentioned in preseason I liked the look of this lad and we signed him the day after our friendly with Manchester City. The central defender ended up playing 37 games for us and became a key part of our defence. A tackles won percentage of 81% and an average rating of 7.15 proves he was a vital part of our back four. 
 
Michel Cardenas, a young Colombian attacking midfielder joined the club on a free transfer whilst I was trying to bulk out my B team. He’s got some potential, played in some cup games this season. Expecting more in the future from this lad. 
 
Jordi Osei-Tutu, a young right back from Arsenal joins on loan for a few months until Arsenal Wenger decided to recall him because he wasn’t playing enough. Fair point Wenger mate. He was signed as a back up for an injured player, but had never really made an impact. 
 
Brahim Diaz, another young Manchester City loanee. A good squad player for us in the end. Diaz played over 20 games for us and made 6 assists. 
 
Marcos Llorente, a young defensive midfielder from Real Madrid. He joined on loan with an option to buy. However, contract negotiations to sign him on a pre-contract didn’t go well as he wanted over £60,000 per week and I wasn’t willing to go anywhere near that. So, as a result he’ll be joining Sevilla at the end of the season. 
 
Larry Kayode, a Manchester City loanee (I know again!). However, a different story with this player. Manchester City have forced this player on loan to us twice after I cancelled the original loan. My theory is Manchester City want him to gain an EU citizenship, but why? I have worked out that it would take nearly 9 continuous seasons for Kayode to gain an EU citizenship and by that time he’d be well into his 30’s. You have to ask, is it worth it City? 
 
Lewis Cook, a young talent joined on loan from Bournemouth. I love this lad. I think his potential far outreaches any young English central midfielder in the game. We added him to our squad to fill in some gaps that were created by players wanting to leave. Cook played over 20 matches and without actually scoring or assisting much he was a solid player for us. A carrick type player of you will. 
 
Kevin Rodrigues, a young portuguese left back was bought in on loan from Real Sociedad to try to push Muniesa into action by adding some competition for places. Rodrigues ended up playing well over 20 games for us and performing quite well with that average rating of 7.02. 
 
Jordi Mboula, a young Spanish winger we took on loan from AS Monaco. Quite the disappointment this lad was. I was expecting him to push Borja Garcia out of the team, instead Borja Garcia stepped up and kept Mboula out.
 
Alexander Isak, who we’ve spoke about earlier came in on loan from Borussia Dortmund. Isak turned out to be one of our top players since joining in January. 9 goals in 17 appearances is not a bad return at all. 
 

Outs

Many players have left the club this season. Some forced exits through unhappiness, some because there just weren’t good enough and other on loan to gain some valuable first team football.
 
Manel, David Corominas, Eloi Amagat, Paik Seung-Ho, Michel Cardenas and Carles Planas all left on loan. All apart from Planas needed some first team action to improve. Planas wanted to leave due to lack of first team action. I’ll be honest when he comes back at the end of the season, he’ll be leaving for good. 
 
Aday left the club for Las Palmas in a £2,300,000 deal. Yassine Bounou left the club for Wydad Casablanca in a potential £550,000 deal. Yhoan Andzouana left the club for Reims in a potential £150,000 deal. The last player to leave the club this season was Pere Pons; who left the club for Real Sociedad in a £2,100,000 deal.
 
 

Staff

Our first step towards being a totally homegrown club was to get all of our staff to be Spanish. Which now is only 1 member of staff of being fully homegrown.
 

Coaching Staff

In terms of what coaching staff we have available we now employ 1 assistant manager, 1 Head of youth development, 2 fitness coaches and 3 goalkeeper coaches. We employ these numbers to ensure the best possible coaching for our players.
 
 

Medical Staff

In our medical department we employ 1 chief doctor, 3 physios and 2 sport scientists. I felt it necessary to use this amount of medical staff to help prevent and treat injuries to the best of our ability.
 
 

Recruitment Staff

Our recruitment staff our some of our most important as they travel around the globe searching for talent. That’s what I would have said if we weren’t trying to keep to a homegrown rule. But, I digress the recruitment of top Spanish players; young and old is still one of my top priorities until we can start producing them ourselves. We currently use 1 director of football, 6 scouts and 3 data analysts.
 
 

The Off Season

So, the off-season. How many people love going through this? A genuine question. Tweet me at @cookiefm_ your answers. I for one love the off-season. It’s where all the “behind the scenes” action occurs. Also love looking at different statistics across the globe. For example seeing how much you’ve grown in reputation and where your nation now stands in the coefficients ranking. 
 
Our first port of call was a stadium expansion of 5,750 seats. This would increase our stadium capacity to 19,036 which is a decent sized stadium for a club of our stature. The expansion would cost £7,000,000 which £3,500,000 of that was funded through a local authority grant.
 
Despite our fantastic season as a club Girona FC have only grown their club reputation from 20th – 19th best ranked team in Spain. This is ranked by reputation. I feel this is a good indicator of how well your club is growing its stature within the game.
 
I do love this little screen, showing the commercial summary. However, one thing that could be added to the commercial summary is the expenditure of the club. I would like to see both income and expenditure on this same page. 
 
We have raked in a lot of money this year due to our success in the league. I’ve listed below the types of income we had this year. 
 
  • £2,520,000 in sponsorship. 
  • £342,000 in corporate hospitality. 
  • £593,000 in match day commercial and retail. 
  • £16,860,000 in broadcast revenue.
  • £3,200,000 in competition prize money. 
  • £722,000 in merchandise sales. 
 
A very good set of income for this season which was our first step to building up this small club. 
 

Objectives

Our objectives from the first blog post will shape how this save unfolds and unravels itself. So, after only one season we should be looking at the short-term goals we set out to meet. These were:
 
  • Establish Girona FC as a La Liga side. 
  • Push for European places. 
 
I would say we have achieved both of those. Let me know if you think I’m mistaken. We have survived relegation and more which equates to establishing ourselves as a top division side. Although pushing for Europe was a bit ambitious we achieved it and almost made the Champions League. In terms of the other long-term and future aims of the save it’s safe to say we haven’t come close to achieving any of those apart from maybe winning the Copa del Rey. But I’m going with that was a fluke cup run. 
 

A Final Word…

In the next part, we will be reviewing season 2. This will consist of our first Europa League campaign as well as trying to maintain our top half finish in the league.

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