Welcome back as we see if we can take our pre winter break form into the new year, in all honesty we were more consistent in the second part of the season and never fell below 7th place which was pleasing.
Could we against the odds mount a challenge to be promoted? Let’s find out.
2. Bundesliga results
So we were in inspired form and had a 4 point gap to 3rd to close, we had however played a host of weaker sides and in my mind I felt this season a top half finish would still be the aim but we would give it a go to see what this side could do.
We faced Bochum at home after a long winter break and thumped them 4-2 in a confident performance with us scoring 4 in the first half. Goals from Matthew Kennedy, a Hodzic double and an own goal saw us take the 3 points.
We followed this up with a a 1-0 away win, yes you read that right. An even game but we took the three points in the 89th minute through a great finish from Zejnullahu after good work from James Maddison in the box after receiving the ball from a throw in and then cutting it back.
We would then be defeated 2-1 by Stuttgart at home which being truthful wasn’t the worst result given they would end up runaway leaders but the 1-0 loss to St Pauli frustrated me, another even away game would be changed in the 88th minute when our left back Parensen got a second booking and we lost a goal in the 90th minute. Brutal
Karlsruher would be next up at home this time and we would win 1-0 when it should have been 3 or 4 if I’m being honest. The goal scored by Skrzybski was one of the most scrappy goals I have witnessed but it gave us a big 3 points.
Another away game. Another winnable fixture. Another defeat.
This is the type of result that cost me a bit this season, facing a team who finished 15th should be a simple win but not for us on our travels, again it was even with us just shading it on the day but they scored a wonder goal from 30 yards from open play then 2 minutes later went 2 up through a unreal 25 yard free kick.
We’d get back in the game through our right back Trimmel on the 34th minute which was a great 22 yard strike too but couldn’t get the equaliser. Frustrating.
A simple home victory would then be attained when Felix Kroos dispatched a penalty in the second half but we limited Dusseldorf to one shot against us which was pleasing, annoying we couldn’t score a few to show our dominance however.
Back to back 1-1 draws would follow with the away result against Wurzburg frustrating the life out of me given top sides slipping up and us not taking advantage but the 1-1 result against Hannover was pleasing.
We went 1-0 up through Nicolaisen from a corner but were pegged back on the 19th minute through a goal from Sobeich, however we were the dominant side and missed a penalty on the 26th minute which would prove costly.
On our travels again and against a 2nd placed side needing the win themselves, I feared the worst. I shouldn’t have as we ran out 3-2 winners, we were 3-0 up at half time with Furstner and a double from Hosiner but I was frustrated with having to hang on in the last 20 minutes given where we were in the game.
Furnster goal was a great team goal and you can see it below we love to keep possession but we also move the ball at a good tempo and Eintracht can’t handle it, credit goes to @VRFussball on twitter who helped show me how to create these. He’s also on the Deep Lying Podcast very soon so check them both out.
Still a massive result and pushed us back within 5 points of 3rd place, could we do this?
Looking at these fixtures I targeted 13 points if we were to really have any chance of 3rd place. We managed 8 points, in the end we would have needed to win every game due to Dynamo better goal difference but it wasn’t to be.
To start off a 3-0 win over lowly FC Erzgeburge was expected and we scored through Kennedy and a double from Hosiner who was back from injury, I knew this tie and 1860 Munich were the easy games and duly won both.
Dropping points to Heidenheim killed our hopes, well I thought it did but there were slip ups elsewhere and we went to 4 points and with 2 games to go we had the slightest chance of going up, the draw to Arminia Bielefeld saw us leap Hannover into 4th but we couldn’t catch 3rd now.
4th place would have been over achieving but what’s wrong with that? Well FM likes to put us back in our place and we were battered 3-1 by lowly Nurnberg and I don’t understand what happened if I’m honest. We collapsed.
So a 6th place finish in my first year at Union and £7.61 million in prize money, we bottled it to a degree on the last day losing to lowly Nurnberg which saw us drop from 4th to 6th but overall it was a fair reflection on a decent debut season in Germany.
A couple of points I’d like to make, scoring just 47 goals was the 10th highest in the league and is something I desperately wish to improve on but despite shipping 3 goals on the last day we held the record for the joint least goals conceded in the league this year. A solid foundation to build on.
Another area we really need to improve on is our away record, which I’m sure I mentioned in the previous update. I tried different formations, such as 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1 and 4-1-4-1 with a more counter strategy but it never worked so reverted back to our trusted 4-3-3 and it was hit or miss as to what we would gain from these games. The away form killed any chance we had of a top 3 challenge.
Home league record
Away league record
It is quite mad how strong we are at home and how weak we have been away from home, to clarify we have the best home league record but only the 11th best away record. We have two major things to work on ahead of next season, fixing our away record and starting to score more freely, on the second point it’s not that we don’t create enough but the quality of finishing lacking.
This hasn’t been helped with our best striker Philip Hosiner being out injured for around 4 months of this season but a big need to improve on this whilst having some positive signs for the future too.
Leaving Union was attacker Colin Quaner who had never featured with us to any degree and felt it was fair to move him on and we did that to Austria Wien for £145k and moved on his £5k p/w and we moved on Roberto Puncec to Maccabi Tel Aviv for £70k and £5k p/w as well, he had been marginalised due to strong form of Leistner and Schonheim and also an arrival.
Talking of that arrival we signed Rasmus Nicolaisen from FC Midtjylland for £500k who I felt was a young strong centre back with potential to improve. He has 13 for almost every major CB attribute I look for and at this level that is impressive for 20 years old.
We also managed to bring in James Maddison on loan from Norwich to give us extra competition in the middle of the park. I’ve put it behind me that he smashed in an incredible free kick against Rangers this season in the last minute through a falsely awarded free-kick, or maybe I haven’t just yet.
Maddison scored a 77th minute winner over 1860 Munich but apart from that he never lit the league up anyway but was a nice loan addition for competition however Nicolaisen would start 9 times this season with an average rating of 7.33, impressive given the strong form of Leistner and Schonheim in the first part of the season.
In other transfer news we were knocked back from a highly ambitious loan offer for Oliver Burke who was loan listed by RB Leipzig (check out a top guy in the FM community on twitter @FM_Samo who is blogging with them). Sunderland swooped in for Oliver Burke and he chose them in the end, an early relegation under his belt followed. Ha!
I think I can easily select the top 5 players in terms of average rating as our standout players this season, 3 of these are centre backs so that tells it’s own story in terms of how strong we were at the back but also that we need to do better going forward.
One creative player I was really impressed was Eroll Zejnullahu who finished the season with 2 goals, 11 assists and an impressive pass completion rate of 87% given some of the risky passes he must make. Our main creative spark.
His central midfield partner Stephsan Furstner also had a strong season as a box to box midfielder with an 89% pass completion rate and chipping in with 6 goals and 3 assists in some big games too.
However for me at the back Fabian Schonheim was so impressive at the back and saved us on countless times, the defence was very strong last season and he was a rock. A 7.33 average rating tells it’s own story but he is also a good organiser at the back and we seem much more secure with him starting.
A major part of what I wish to do with Union is to create a strong youth ethos and improve our youth facilities, bringing kids through to the first team, at the start of the game you only have 3 players in Kotchev, Kroll and Lammel – the latter probably has the biggest chance to make it but all are decent prospects.
The rest are greyed out players but none look good enough, as I haven’t managed in Germany not sure if that just happens in our first season or if it will continue. (If anyone knows please let me know)
However we were given some good talents within our youth intake day which I was surprised with given our youth recruitment being fairly basic and average youth facilities but below are the players we signed up.
I have to admit to being very impressed with Markus Altendorf who “has the potential to be one of the best players at the club” and at 15 years old I am excited by his physicals, good passing of 12, first touch of 10 and his personality is ambitious which is great.
After Altendorf I am next excited about the prospect of Maximilian Hensel, like Altendorf he has quite strong physicals for being just 16 years old and with finishing and heading of 13 and teamwork/workrate of 15 and 12 respectively he could be a good target man in the future.
The others were given chances to develop but may not make it, we’ll see. I usually scout a host of 15/16 year olds on youth intake days throughout the world but right now our reputation isn’t strong enough to attract the interest of players in clubs that have strong youth academies but I picked up a 15 year old left back who was without a club, I have no idea why he didn’t though.
For free I am delighted with our signing of Werner Bornkessel, a professional personality along with again very strong physicals for his age, great team work and determination and is always improving. One to watch.
I was happy to receive a new contract offer but for some reason they would only give me a one year deal, I tried to negotiate this to a 3 or 4 year deal but they wouldn’t budge so hopefully we have another good year next season, eh..
We made a £186,931 loss last season, it’s well under control and not something I am too bothered about as hopefully we will make the Bundesliga soon and you get incredible prize money. For example an 11th place finish would result in receiving just over £42 million, we’ve also managed to slightly reduce the wage bill so that will shave a bit off too.
Second season initial budget
A fairly healthy budget to use for the second season, we would also say goodbye to many players who had contracts ending in the summer which would free up quite a bit on the wage budget side of things. If you remember my 3 year plan it was as below.
First season – Achieve a top half finish
Second season – Challenge for the top 3 spots
Third season – Get promoted to the Bundesliga
With a 6th placed finish we had comfortably achieved my first season target and given most of the first part of the season was stuck around mid table to just above the relegation zone it was a solid achievement.
Second season I feel strongly we can go on and challenge for the top 3 spots, the top 2 spots gain automatic promotion and the 3rd placed side faces the 16th placed side from the Bundesliga – for example Dynamo Dresden had an incredible season and finished 3rd but were thumped 4-0 and 2-0 by Frankfurt so stayed in this division so ideally a top 2 finish could be on the cards, time will tell though.
What did you think of our debut season? Do you think we can go on to be promoted next season?
Thank you for your support and any comments, shares etc are very much appreciated. As always I’ll reply to any comments either left under this blog or on twitter @johnmcintosh19.