Back at the Top

This Kaiserslautern save is my last one on FM17. It seems a bit fitting that it not only is my most enjoyable one, but also my most successful one. I might as well end this version of Football Manager on a high.

I had already defined the success of this save after winning the DFB Pokal in our first season, whilst still in the 2nd Bundesliga. I then redefined that success, when we marched all the way to the Europa League final the next season. Well season 4 with Kaiserslautern once again redefined success for me in this save.

In my last post I caught you up on what I had been up to with the Red Devils. We had just finished the winter break and were sitting atop the Bundesliga at the half-way mark.

Matches 18-30

Despite some stumbles along the way, like the predictable loss to Bayern (more on that later), I was really pleased with our league form. The cup competitions, however, were a different story.

After finally reaching our first DFB Pokal quarterfinals appearance since winning the competition in season 1, we lost to eventual finalists VfL Wolfsburg 0-1. It was a stunning, undeserved and frustrating loss. Then in the Champions League we faced the mighty PSG. After a great 2-2 home-leg performance, the Parisians steamrolled us in Paris by the unflattering scoreline of 0-5. The Champions League loss was predicted, the cup loss was not. Regardless, I could now focus solely on trying to win the Bundesliga title and field my strongest 11 in every match. I had no need to rotate anymore.

With four matches remaining, we were sitting top of a tight Bundesliga table. Thankfully, the chasing pack of Bayern, Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Dortmund would all have to face each other in this same timeframe. The fact that they would inevitably take points off one anther definitely filled me with hope.

After beating Augsburg 4-2 and winning an epic battle against Hertha 4-3, which saw us down a man for over 60 minutes, we hosted 1. FC Köln on match day 33 with a chance of securing the title. All that was needed was a singular point.

Köln Match

The boys put on an absolutely dominant display and we came away as deserved victors of both the match and the league!

Final Run In

On the final match day we brushed aside Mönchengladbach and headed back to Kaiserslautern for a week of partying!

Final Table

For the first time since 1998, 1. FC Kaiserslautern were back at the top of the Bundesliga. We did it with style and attacking flair, which is the way I love to see football played.

Analyzing our Title:

I’m a statistics and analysis geek. As such, I wanted to break down and analyze our Bundesliga title-winning season. In a separate post I will do the same with the tactics I used to win the league.

The league table shows the obvious: most wins, least losses, highest goal difference. But that’s a too simplistic approach to figuring out how a team with the 11th highest wage bill could top the table at the end.

I love attacking-possession football. What I mean by this is controlling the ball in a way that leads to goals and high-percentage scoring opportunities. We were #1 in the possession charts, with 56.85% (3% more than Dortmund and 9% more than Bayern). Couple this possession with the fact that we scored the most goals (70) and had the most shots on target (290) and you will quickly see what I mean by attacking-possession football.

The 56.85% possession came about due to our very high pass accuracy (top with 83%), the high amount of completed passes (top value with 19,007, which is over 2,200 more than the next highest) and the fact that we don’t dribble much per match (16th in the league). All of these factors lead to us having a lot of time with the ball, but in a meaningful way. The ball does the movement for us and quickly opens up gaps in the opposition defense, hence the reason why 60% of our goals came from through balls.

NOT Beating Bayern:

The by far biggest Football Manager bogey team of mine is FC Bayern München. In the last 5 years of playing FM, I can probably count the number of times I’ve beaten them on one hand (one being a Champions League final with Hamburg in FM15!). So far, my title winning Kaiserlautern side has yet to gain a point against the Bavarians. We didn’t face them in season 1 (we were in the 2nd Bundesliga). So in the last 3 seasons, we played each other 7 times. Bayern has beaten us every time (4 times by the infuriating score line of 0-1) and out scored us 2-13 in those seven matches. However, we have won more titles in these four seasons than they have. They won the Bundesliga in 2016/17 and that was it (aside from us this season, Dortmund won the league twice). Bayern haven’t won the cup (Kaiserslautern 2016/17, Nürnberg 2017/18, Leverkusen 2018/19 and Leipzig 2019/19) or the Champions League (Arsenal 2016/17, Juventus 2017/18, Manchester United 2018/19 & 2019/20). So as long as we’re winning titles, losing to them doesn’t bother me as much.

Season 5 Preview:

There’s still enough time before FM18 beta launches that I can squeeze out at least one more season. I’d like to challenge for a European title. I had been considering a move away from Kaiserslautern to achieve this goal (got offers from Chelsea and Barcelona), but after the board gave me a nice extra chunk of transfer- and wage budgets I decided to stay with Kaiserslautern and try to bring even more glory to this great club.

The next couple of posts will detail the tactics I’ve been using, as well as highlight some of the great young newgens that have helped us win the Bundesliga.

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