Oldham: Everyone on the Minibus

Time to take a first look at the squad and see what we do… or rather don’t have: enough players.

This is what my assistant manager Brandon Brown and my coaching staff feel is our best Eleven.

As mentioned already, I’m playing with random player names turned on (and ‘fill empty teams with players’) so if you’re an actual Oldham fan, don’t expect to see any names you recognise there. Or faces. Unless your current first team looks like it just committed the Great Train Robbery in real life as well.

That said, a quick check with a friend who supports Oldham did highlight something interesting the game doesn’t do on starting this way: randomise squad numbers.

As a result, he’s given me a few important starting tips.

A quick check (before randomising the squad numbers going forward) shows that he’s right about two things. 34 and 6 are indeed pretty decent. Indeed I have a feeling that Anthony Kelly (34) is going to be pretty damn critical to our entire season.

After twenty years of this, I can smell a prospect a mile off. And though he may look like he’s about to steal your mobile phone, the combined package that is young Kelly — the high determination, the on the ball skills, the dribbling, the crossing — screams “Furious Wing Bastard.” So much so that I’ve just offered him a three year professional contract on the spot and switched his development to retrain him as one. I don’t have time for caution. We’ll be focusing our chance creation on the right wing, through him.

“Woah, wait.” I hear you say. “Why on earth would you even consider playing a sixteen year old in your first team in a professional league?”

Well, reader, because I have only seventeen first team players. We don’t have a team bus. We have a minibus, and squeeze the extras into Brandon’s car.

This is one reason why I’m worried about Rohan “Cheese Strings” Smith.

He’ll be leading my line. Mostly because I don’t seem to have anyone else in the squad who can. So if he’s injury prone (which is a hidden stat that can go up or down over time in the game) that’s bad news for me.

But his numbers?

Oof.

They set off my Spidey senses. On paper they aren’t bad. His determination is perfect (all these numbers are rated out of 20) and I want players with high determination. It’s going to be critical to our climb up the divisions. But the combination of his stats… it doesn’t add up. He’s average at everything and good at nothing. He wants to be a Pressing Forward for fucksake. Nobody wants to be a Pressing Forward. It’s certainly not what I need him to do.

I need him to be an Advanced Forward. To be the focal point of our line and make the most out of the chances our Furious Wing Bastard creates, but look at his positioning. Look at his jumping and heading numbers. He has a heading of four. Four. If you, reader, were in this game, you would have a heading of five. I believe in you.

For now though, I don’t have any other options, so in he goes. And, after doing a proper deep dive on our squad, I think I know how we’ll need to play. Because (particularly at this level) I don’t like tweaking formation a lot between games or based on injuries.

What does that mean for us?

Four.

Four.

Fucking.

Two.

This may change, based on how it works in pre-season friendlies, but the current plan is a relatively standard 4–4–2 anchored on Cisse and Marshall, who are both well suited (unexpectedly at this level) to my favourite midfield combo: A Ball Winning Midfielder to help break up play in front of the defence and move things into transition, and a Box to Box Midfielder to help bridge the gap with attack.

One thing I’ve also discovered is that most of our team can’t jump. So I’m expecting us to concede at least one goal per game from set pieces or annoying crosses. That means we can’t go full defensive counter, which was my original plan (at least until we can bring in players). So this 4–4–2 is more possession based than I hoped.

The aim is to try and contain the opposition, slow things down, control the game and stay disciplined. Then funnel our efforts down the right and hope that the petty crime duo of Kelly and Cheese Strings can spang in more goals than we concede. I’m hoping for score draws and narrow wins, basically.

Will it work? Who knows. But that’s what pre-season is for. So while, behind the scenes, I try and find some decent scouts (we don’t have any scouts at all, at the moment), it’s time to start playing some friendlies and see what works and what doesn’t.

This article is part of my ongoing series on trying to rebuild Oldham Athletic in Football Manager. You can find the full series here.

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