Good morning #TheJenaJourney fans! Welcome back to my #FM15 series where I am managing German side FC Carl Zeiss Jena. I am about to enter my fifth season in charge of the former East German champions, and we have just been relegated back to 2.Bundesliga. Today we start the new season proper, and I have a renewed sense of enthusiasm for the job.
So, the bookies have made us 25-1 long shots to win the title this season. I’d have a tenner on that if I were you. The media think I am going to lead us to 14th place! There is no chance they are right on that one, I am confident of a successful campaign.
We kick off against Kaiserslauten, who were also relegated from the Bundesliga with us and Bochum last season. The side has evolved a little from last season – Geisler, Berbig and Luirink all decided to retire once I told them that their contracts were not to be renewed, and my back up striker Marcelo moved on. Somehow I seem to have signed eleven players over the summer, but just two of them have settled quickly enough in the friendlies to get himself in the starting eleven for the first match – the left back Sanchez and the new ‘keeper Peristeridis. Pezzin is back from his loan spell away and the ex-Standard player will start in place of the suspended Tino Schmidt in the new look flat midfield three.
I’ve decided to change the way our midfield lines up this season. I felt that playing with a DM/D was meaning the two central midfielders, a CM/A and BBM/S, were getting overrun. I have shifted the DM/D up to a CM/D and it has worked reasonably well in the pre-season games. The other change is the F9 is now a DF/S, though I am not convinced on this yet – I will see how we go with it.
So Kaiserslauten came to the Ernst-Abbe to kick off our new season. The new look side went out to battle and I was quite nervous – this was going to be a tough game and we lost a lot of games last season, so I was hoping the players were not too battle weary still, especially after I put them through a tough pre-season fixture list. The first half was pretty dull, Conde spurning our only real chance following a great dribble and cross from Sanchez. Whatever was said to them at half time certainly woke them up, as they came out and scored immediately. Conde hit the bar straight after, he continues to be the most frustrating of players. We kept pushing, but got hit on the break. 2-0 with twenty to go. The standard FM15 “if you have used all three substitutes you will get an injury” thing kicked in again, leaving me with ten for the last 15. It was not a happy start. I recalled my first game in this division two seasons ago – we lost 6-1 and still won promotion. Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts.
It was a long week as we prepared for the Bochum game. I needed a win, I needed to really feel like all this effort over the summer was going to be worth it. The board have been great to date, but even they must be starting to wonder whether a fresh pair of eyes might push the club on to greater heights.
I kept faith in the same starting eleven, meaning Tino was on the bench – a brave move I think as he has been our best player for four seasons now. I did make a tactical change though, changing the striker’s position to a trequartista for the first time in my FM15 career. I believe in our style of football, but I am thinking other teams might finally be wise to us. Considering I have never got anything other than this 433 to work for me, this could be a problem!
We made a great start, first Koc went close and then YP fired home from distance. This was more like it! Our defensive woes continued though, as they pulled level before half time. Youth team graduate Giese was then on hand to head home from a corner and suddenly it felt good again – 2-1 at half time. We played brilliantly for the opening part of the second half, and Koc assisted his second goal by laying on a tap-in for Conde (even he couldn’t miss that one). We were 3-1 up with twenty to go, so I switched to counter to hopefully close it out without drama. We managed it and the season was up and running. The front three were excellent today, maybe something to do with the change in role for YP, not entirely sure. The only downside was Sustersic fracturing his arm, a 4 week lay-off.
Wilhelmshaven were our cup opponents, a team we knew nothing about. We were the favourites by a mile, but with our recent travails I was not so arrogant to believe this was a done deal. With that in mind, my strongest available XI was selected and I was hopeful of the first win in a long cup run. The cup is financially brilliant for clubs like us, where every penny still counts. As the game was being televised, it was a payday of £350k already.
Macuilt hammered us ahead after 20 minutes, thumping back a half clearance from their ‘keeper. He then turned provider, setting up Yan Perin for our second. This was looking easy. Conde tumbled over for a penalty, which he promptly put top bins. YP then picked up on a mistake by their ‘keeper for the fourth, this was a stroll. Worryingly, Tino had to go off injured – I didn’t like the potential of him and Sustersic both injured. On came Gorbovskyi, or Gorbo as he shall now be known. He soon made himself known, getting the fifth from a corner. YP only needed ten second half minutes to complete his treble, great for the lads confidence. Nana made it 7-0 and there were still 25 minutes to go, could this be our record win? Yes! Sanchez crossed for Conde, who again scored from a metre out – 8-0. Dreams of double figures ended there, but it was a thoroughly professional massacre. It did come at a cost – Tino, Gorbo and Dereli all picked up injuries and were ruled out for three weeks.
The injuries meant we were suddenly very light in the middle of the park, so I called up young Gonzales from the U19’s – one of my many Argentinian signings in the summer. He would be making his debut against Augsburg, a massive league game for us at the Ernst-Abbe. We were on TV again, and I wanted to continue the attacking form we showed in the cup. Well, we went behind after 15 minutes, the ball hitting the post and nobody following in. But we switched it up to overload and boom, Conde crossed for YP. 1-1! The first minute of the second half was a great minute. We won the ball back and off we went. Welbeck shot from distance, the ‘keeper fumbled. Koc followed up, the ‘keeper saved, it fell to Koc again and goal! Conde had one chalked off for offside (standard). It was the best we had played in a league fixture since the opening day of last season, and we won it 2-1. Brilliant. YP got MOM again, and there was a new energy around the place. YP picked a toe injury, and was going to miss the last match in this run, a trip to Aalen.
Aalen away. We had a youth team striker on the bench, the day after signing his first pro contract and it was a debut for Argentine striker Ullua. Lining up for Aalen was another one of my young Argentine’s, this one on loan, a kid called Zhang. It was Ullua who scored first though, following up a free kick from Vegas that hit the bar. 1-0 at half time, and with twenty to go I switched to counter to close it out. With the very last kick of the game they equalised, I couldn’t believe it. Seven points from the first four games was not the return I was hoping for.
So that’s it for today. Some of the Jena doom and gloom has lifted, but we are still frustrating the hell out of me. YP is playing really well in the new trequartista role that I am using, Giese is starting to look like a first team player. Other than that, not a lot of great things are happening yet. I reckon we’ll be there or thereabouts at the business end of the season though, so it’s not all bad.
Tomorrow we will aim to drive through six 2.Bundesliga fixtures – an unbeaten run out of that will have us sitting pretty I’m sure.
Thanks, as ever, for reading.