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. I’m nine games into the league season and sitting in 4th place, a single point off top spot. Today I am aiming to take you through the next five games.
I started the day, annoyingly, with 14 days to the next fixture against Ingolstadt. That always kills my enthusiasm, I open the game all poised to play and write and then have to wait an age whilst I trawl through the usual rubbish – the same players complaining about training, the same chat from my backroom staff, agents offering me rubbish from abroad. The game finally came around and I decided to name an unchanged side from the previous victory – meaning Tino Schmidt was still on the bench.
Yan Perin seems to be a striker who scores his goals in bundles. He’s not an Alan Shearer type who gets on the scoresheet most weeks, he seems to go four, five or six matches without a goal regularly but then gets on a run where he might get ten in four games. Well, he put us ahead today after 14 minutes. He looked like getting more, but it was Nana Welbeck who doubled our lead before half time. Two minutes after the restart YP did get his second, picking up on a shocking back pass and making it 3-0. That was the end of the scoring and a fine start to the day, a convincing three points. It set us up brilliantly for the Fortuna Dusselfdorf game – the winner would go top of the table.
The guys appeared to have recovered quickly from the game three days earlier and we headed off to Dusseldorf full of hope and optimism. The first half was solid, we had a couple of decent chances but didn’t take them and they hit the bar from distance. A minute into the second half and we were behind, a poorly defended free kick. Push as we might, we couldn’t find a way through and it was a disappointing defeat for the Jena. Getting into a regular rhythm of form is proving challenging this season, and if we really want to go straight back up then we need to find said rhythm.
The games were coming thick and fast, Heidenheim were up next four days later, then it was going to be Union Berlin in the cup 48 hours after that. Crazy fixture planning. Koc had an ankle injury so I brought in Cebellos to start and I also recalled Macuilt at right back. We were 4th and Heidenheim were 6th, so this was a big, big match for us. Ten minutes in and we scored, Cebellos with a cheeky little finish after a YP through ball. We then got an incredibly dubious penalty to go two up and the elegant Argentine defender Vegas slammed it home. Deep into first half injury time, Cebellos crossed and Macuilt leapt and headed home number three. Come on boys! We let one in with ten minutes to go and I hoped we wouldn’t need to waste energy chasing the game out. Luckily we went down the other end and scored right away, Giese leathering home a beauty after Cebellos’ free kick was charged down by the wall. They got a second, which meant we were not going to top the table after this game on goal difference, a shame beyond words. Nevertheless it was a massive three points which saw us move into a three-way tie at the top of 2.Bundesliga.
Attention had to turn quickly to the cup game against Union. They were sitting mid-table in the top tier and it was a chance for us to show that we did know how to beat a Bundesliga team after last season’s relegation. I prayed the lads could recover quickly, 48 hours is nowhere near enough time between games – there was no logical reason for the league game to be Sunday and the cup game Tuesday. With four of the starting XI all under 80% condition for the match I had to make changes. Vegas and Sanchez were rested for Big Bas and Orfila, Pezzin swapped with Tino and Ullua came in for YP. I still had six others between 80-85% and a massive league game coming up against Karlsruher so it was not easy to balance. I then realised I had 5 non-EU players in the starting XI and was only allowed 3 so I had to drop Farias and Nana Welbeck, meaning Conde and Gorbo came in. A completely random side went out to battle.
Half an hour in and two of my Argentine’s linked up to give us the lead. Ullua fed Cebellos and he got another goal. We held on to half time and went 1-0 up. We were looking tired, and Sustersic had gone off injured. This was going to be a tough second period. They had two disallowed in quick succession and a goal was coming for sure. It was, and we got it! 2-0!! Gorbo ran through to an Ullua pass and buried the ball into the back of the net. I switched to counter to see it out and Peri made four or five great saves in goal to keep us ahead. We came out the other side with the win, incredible. We won a handful of games in the league against these sides last season, and we’ve beaten them as many times in the cup now. Madness.
I had five days to get the lads into some kind of shape for the last game of the day against Karlsruher, who were sixth. It was at the Ernst-Abbe for the first time in a few games too. In the build-up to the game their gaffer got a public telling off for expressing an interest in the Augsburg job, so I hoped that played into our hands. We were back to regular starting eleven, the only enforced change being Tino shifting out to the left wing in place of the injured Cebellos, a miss as he has played great in the last few games.
He wasn’t that missed after ten minutes mind, a deep cross from Macuilt was met by Tino heading home at the far post. 1-0, great goal. Tino then played in Conde who was clipped in the area, penalty! Conde got up and thumped it home, 2-0 before twenty minutes were on the clock. We were really motoring now, Conde missed a decent chance for three-nil then Sustersic got the third from the resulting corner. Come on the Jena! YP made it 4-0 before half time, flicking home Tino’s freekick – what a half of football! They came out fired up and made it 4-1 shortly after the restart. That’s how it ended and it was a brilliant win for us, one that moved us into top spot after thirteen games!
Well, as far as a day goes on #TheJenaJourney that is a pretty damn good one. We’ve moved from 4th to top and knocked out a Bundesliga side in the cup, I cannot complain.
The first four games tomorrow are tough ones – 1860 (3rd), Sandhausen (5th), Paderborn (2nd) and Hamburg (5th). If we can get through those unscathed then we are going to have a very successful season. I am just glad that at this early stage in the season we are not just in touch with the leading pack, but leading the leading pack.
Thanks as ever for reading folks.