Finding Our Feet

The first few months at a new club are always an interesting time for me, and it’s a period that I think a lot of people approach in their own ways. For me, I head into my first season in Paris with a dual priority: Firstly to organise the squad into a more manageable and sustainable structure, and secondly to begin work on improving the coaching and development staff at the club.

At the start of the new season, there are 48 players at the club and we are just barely under the board’s allocated wage budget – with multiple gaps in the squad which need filled. Realistically 48 isn’t far away from the number of players I want at the club in the long-term, but it is the quality of player that isn’t anywhere near where I want it to be.

In the Introduction I picked out 6 attributes which I wanted to see within the squad at a consistently high level; Anticipation, Composure, Decision-Making, Determination, Teamwork and Work Rate. I want a hard-working squad which consistently finds the correct pass, makes the right tackle, the right interception, and who win and lose as a unit. Obviously from the outset I dont want to make wholesale changes to the squad purely on the basis that players don’t hit the baseline averages across those 6 attributes (13 by the time they leave the Under 19s, 14 by the time they leave Paris 2, and 15 by their first contract renewal in the senior squad). Instead, where decisions will be made on a player’s future will be when their contracts come due for renewal – this allows me to plan for their replacements and future development within each of the three squads at the club.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a new season if my squad Analysis didn’t throw up some immediate issues – there’s not a single player in the senior squad who hits the benchmark I’ve set for mental attributes:

The second issue with the above screenshot is not the sea of red, but rather the glaring issue with the entire right hand side of the team; there’s not a single player available at either right-back or right-wing who is of a good enough level to be starting senior games.

Then, there’s my second issue:

It turns out, there’s not a single player at any age group who meets the benchmarks I’ve set for mental attributes. I did start to wonder if maybe I was being overly optimistic for the level the club is at, but I had a look at our team report, and compared our mental attributes to the league averages. It didn’t help much – and I think 15 on average is still a steep ask – but we are below average in most of the 6 attributes I selected:

So I have a decision to make; Do I move the goalposts, and aim for 2 points above division Average, and increase this with time? Or do I go all-out and stick to my guns at 13/14/15 as players move up the age groups. The current league average across all the attributes which I’m looking for is 11.49 (rounded up to 12), so really, any plans to aim 2 points higher than average would take me to 14 anyway, and don’t account for attribute growth if we do achieve promotion. For now, I have stuck with my average aim of 15, as I also have to consider the impact of any potential promotion, and the quality of player in Ligue 1.

Playing squad analysed (and cried over), It was time for me to move on to look at my coaching staff. I always take a top-down approach to this, starting by improving our senior coaches, and then moving down through the age groups. This is partially because the senior squad are naturally the priority, and also partially because I often find there are coaches at U23/Reserve and Youth levels who want to – and are ready to – make the jump to senior coaching.

At the start of the game, we have 6 coaches of a possible 9, 3 of whom are shared with Paris FC 2:

Asking my assistant to assign the coaching assignments works out about as well as can be expected, and highlights that there is still an extraordinary amount of work to be done with the coaching team, particularly in the technical aspects of the game:

Job adverts placed, I’m priorising coaches for the tactical aspects of defending, posession and attacking; this allows me to better split the coaching assignments, and will hopefully be the start of a longer-term improvement project within the coaching staff. We are limited by our very minimal budget, but I hope to be able to revisit this screen at the end of the season and see a clear improvement.

So, almost 800 words later, where are we? I’ve built up a picture of where both the squad and the coaching staff need to improve, i’ve got a spreadsheet (because why not?) and I’m off to trawl the depths of the free agent pool to find players who suit our squad.

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