Good morning #TheJenaJourney fans! Welcome back to my #FM15 series where I am managing German side FC Carl Zeiss Jena. It is season five, and following three straight promotions up to the Bundesliga we were relegated last season. Four games into the new season we have made a half decent start and I hope we can really push on today!
We start the day in 6th place, with 7 points from the first 4 games. I’m aiming to get five matches in today and therefore we face Munster, Nurnberg, Braunschweig, St Pauli and Halle. These are all teams we have beaten before, so I hope to get a half decent return – fifteen points to play for, anything less than twelve points gathered would be disappointing.
First up were Munster. Tino Schmidt and Sustersic both resumed training three days before the game, and I was hopeful they might be fit. Macuilt was looking unlikely though, as he never returns in great shape from an international game and Big Basil picked up a back injury. Tino and Sustersic were passed fit and were restored to the starting XI, as was YP and Dereli was back on the bench. Nana Welbeck missed out and Villagra made his first start as the right wing back. Munster were down in fifteenth so I really wanted us to push for the win.
Things looked good after six minutes, Conde wandered into the penalty area and was needlessly brought down. He got up, dusted himself down and gave us the lead, dirving it low to the ‘keeper’s left. On the stroke on ten minutes, YP drifted in short, turned and dribbled. He waited for the support, fed it wide to Villagra on the right wing and then legged it into the box. The cross arrived perfectly and YP headed home his sixth of the season, a great goal. 2-0! He got his second two minutes later, and were 3-0 up after 12 minutes!! Despite having three or four more chances in the half we were unable to add to the lead. The second half passed with zero incident and it was a comfortable home victory. The result put us just one win off top place, held by Heidenheim.
We travelled to Nurnberg in our next fixture. I chose the same XI, hoping for the same first twelve minutes! I didn’t get that, as they went ahead after nine minutes – poor defending from a corner. They got a second straight after half-time and it looked like our little run of form was coming to an abrubt halt. Then Koc scored a worldy, from 35 yards. A wonderful strike to say the least, but it was not enough – we couldn’t find another way through.
This division was feeling tougher than last time we were in it, teams seem to be beating each other all over the place. Had Nurnberg lost, they would have slipped to the relegation zone.
The match against Braunschweig was now vital, if we were to meet my aim of fifteen points in six games we now needed to win the next four matches. Conde was injured, so it was a first start for the Argentine winger Farias. The first half was scrappier than Scrappy-Do, and our passing was shocking. I was relieved to come in level. At the end of the second half five minutes of injury time was put on the board. Wow. I was grateful though, as we won a penalty in that time, not that our performance had deserved it. Vegas stepped up and cooly passed it home. Come on!
We still sat in 6th place, and our next opponents were one of the bottom, St Pauli. We’d beaten them in the cup a couple of seasons back, but since then our paths have not crossed. Conde wasn’t ready, so I named the same XI as the late win last weekend. The opening half an hour was tight, and I switched it up to the overload that used to serve us so well. A minute later Pezzin drilled one in from distance and we were ahead. I praised them at half time, then wished I hadn’t, as the ball was in our net 20 seconds after the restart. Sustersic hit the bar with a header with 20 left and then rifled home a twenty yarder five minutes later to put us back ahead. We managed to hold on, another three points had been collected and we glided up to fifth.
The form of Tino was worrying me. The mainstay of the side since day one had not impressed in any of his six games this season and, amazingly for him, he had not got on the score sheet once. Nana Welbeck had been waiting, not very patiently, for a run in the side for nearly two seasons now so I vowed to drop the club captain and give the Ghanaian a decent run of a few games. The next game was against Halle, and although I felt we were defending a little better than we had done for a long time, some of our attacking flair was definitely missing. Hopefully a game against the division’s bottom side might change that and it would be nice to end today with a resounding win.
Although Conde was back in full training he wasn’t in great condition, so I named the same team bar the dropping of Tino. We made a great start, Welbeck feeding Farias who fired home his first FC Carl Zeiss Jena goal. Again, that was all there was to report from the first half – we were becoming quite dull to watch! Fifteen to go and I made a double sub, on came Tino and Dereli. Would you believe it, the club captain scored with his first touch. Koc’s free kick was half cleared and Tino steered it home for 2-0. It was another win, and we had achieved my target of the day which was twelve points minimum. As it was a Friday game, the win moved us to second, but by the end of the weekend we were in fourth but it was very, very tight at the top as you can see below.
So, what are the learnings from this sitting? Well, I hoped for a little more defensive stability and thanks to a tweak suggested by Jim Lowe on Facebook (making my left back CWB/S and my AMR a W/S) I seem to have found it. I do feel we are not as flamboyant going forwards, but I’ll sacrifice that for the time being if we keep grinding out three points.
I have a full day tomorrow, so there may not be an update – but if there is it will be another five matches including Fortuna (2nd), Heidenheim (6th), Karlsruher (5th) and 1860 (1st) as well as the cup game with Union Berlin. A tough little run for sure, so make sure you tune in!