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Implementing Zemanlandia – Nîmes Olympique

Trying to replicate the tactics of Zdenek Zeman
Started on 13 March 2021 by lvckv
Latest Reply on 22 October 2021 by lvckv
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Into January after a long time away from the game, and the first order of business is to sign a few players on expiring contracts to new deals. MC Lucas Deaux (18 gms, 4 gls, 2 ast, 7.13 avg) and LWB Florian Miguel (10/6 gms, 6.92 avg) are re-upped, while Alakouch won't sign a new one just yet, which is somewhat concerning given he's one of the top performers in the team so far.

First game of the new year is on January 3 against Dijon in the Coupe de France. We beat them 2-0 in September and should be beating them this time, even without key winger Ferhat, who strained his knee ligaments in the Montpellier game

In the end, it was a standard 2-1, with Alakouch scoring his third of the season from the wing and taking MOTM as Duljevic scored his first. The 57% possession, 20-3 shots and 1.37-0.52 xG showed our dominance on the pitch.

The league returned on January 10 with a visit to Angers for the first time this season. Kone returned to the play up front as Schiappacasse (RW), Phillips (DC), and Pacquiez (DM) got rare starts. Ferhat remained out injured.

Ripart saved a point and made the team of the week with two goals from the bench in an even game according to the stats. He chipped in with two headers from right-wing crosses from Deaux and Burner, the latter coming at 90+3mins.

PSG's 4-0 win against Strasbourg two days earlier put them on top on goal difference (+41 vs +33) after 19 games played.

Nine days later came the Coupe de France tenth round against fellow Ligue 1 team Rennes, who we beat 3-0 on the opening day of the season.

A Coulibaly cold meant 22-year-old Fomba made his debut in midfield, while the rest of the squad – Ferhat apart – was first choice, with Ripart moving up front after his two-goal haul.

Briancon's header from a Meling cross and Deaux's long-range strike from the corner of the box gave us three points in a controlled and straightforward win that saw us control 64% of possession and into the next round – against Nice in a weeks' time.

There were no major in- or outgoings at the club during the month, barring some staff members at the reserve and youth teams, plus some players on expiring contracts signing pre-contracts elsewhere.

For the home game against Monaco, our 20th game of the league season, the suspended Briancon was replaced by Phillips, the injured Cubas by Pacquiez, and Fomba by the returning Coulibaly.

Despite our 3-0 away win at the start of the season, we played more defensively here and came away with a 0-0 draw. We only had 5 shots, including a Ripart missed penalty after half an hour, but Monaco didn't do much better with an xG of just 0.59.

We fell two points behind PSG at the top of the table, but with our 50-point total we remained a massive 14 points ahead of the third-place team – Monaco.

Back to the cup on the 26th and the visit of Nice as we bid to make the quarter finals.

Cubas and Briancon returned as we neared full-strength (though still without Ferhat). After two draws it was good to get back to winning ways, even if the first 120 minutes of the game passed without a goal for either side. We were slightly on top in terms of possession, shots, chance creation and xG, though, and in the end won the shootout quite easily 3-0 with Reyet pulling off three saves to win the MOTM.

The quarter final Coupe draw saw us drawn away at Bordeaux, while PSG faced Lyon and one tie would be entirely lower league as Toulouse faced either Granville or Nancy. Those matches would come in the middle of February, though.

January ended with a Sunday afternoon away at Lyon. They lay a lowly seventh in the table 18 points behind us, having already sacked Rudi Garcia and replaced him with Patrick Vieira, who had won four of his five games in charge so far. Elsewhere, PSG marched on with a 4-1 win at Angers to make it seven wins from seven and 23 goals scored in all competitions in January.

Ferhat made the bench for us, back in the squad for the first time since Montpellier, but otherwise the first 11 was unchanged from Nice. It was another draw and another close-run game, with Kone's first goal since November 8 cancelling out Toko-Ekambi's opening half strike.

We ended the month in a solid second place, four points and 12GD behind PSG, though we still have the best defence in the league with 11 conceded in 21 games and 13 Reynet clean sheets.

We're still 15 points up on Nice and Monaco in third and fourth. 31 points back in 17th lie Rennes in our predicted position.

Some attacking stats – we are third in possession table, second in goals and xG, second in shots on target, fifth in clear cut chances (49 in 21).


Unfortunately, the end of January brought with it the first bad injury news of the season, as left back and league assist leader Birger Meling (19 gms, 10 ast, 5.2 kp/90 7.45 avg) came away from the Lyon match with a broken foot. He was sent to a specialist but would be out for 3-4 months regardless. With 10 starts and 9 sub appearances under his belt (mostly at centre back), Florian Miguel could step in, and centre back Pablo Martinez can also play there, but we'd really need to look at the market for a backup. Inter's newly signed 22-year-old Norwegian Frederik Andre Bjorkan was first on our list and we moved quickly to beat Chievo and Salernitana to loan him.

On the outgoing list, the unneeded central midfielder Sidy Sarr left for Saint-Etienne for £500k (£100k up front), taking £7.5k off the wage bill, while wantaway winger Yassine Berahou was loaned out for his full £4.7k wages to Le Havre. Two youth players on £1k each were also sold for small fees. At the end of the transfer window we remained in the red by £1m but now well under our wage budget.

Around the league, the biggest deal by far was Monaco's sale of Alexandr Golovin for £36m to Man City, while Lyon's purchase of Rade Krunic for £2.6m from Milan was the biggest incoming deal.

Less than a day after the window passed, news came in that Benrahou had broken his leg 45 minutes into his Le Havre debut. He'd be missing the rest of the season, but hey at least we're not paying his wages anymore.

On to the next league match, though, and 15th place team Dijon at home and the first start in over a month for Ferhat in his green-link right-wing partnership with Alakouch. There was also a debut for Bjorkan. The rest of the team remained our first-choice selection, as usual.

Fewer than 10 minutes into his return, Ferhat won a penalty dribbling on the edge of the box and Ripart didn't disappoint from the spot to put us 1-0 up. That was to be the only goal of the match, with our poor finishing letting us down despite a 1.81 xG, 62% possession and 14 shots to their 3. Another 3 points on the board in any case, though centre back Pablo Martinez would be out for a month with a hamstring strain.

Elsewhere, PSG lost at home to a Rennes team surprisingly fighting with Lille in 18th place. Just one point in it at the top after 22 games.

Lowly Lille were up next three days later, managed for two and a half months now by Remi Garde but in awful form with just five points from eight games. Miguel would come in for the injured Martinez, while Duljevic, Pacquiez and Fomba gave Ripart, Deaux (pulled ankle ligaments in training) and Coulibaly a rest.

We were back in the goals big-time, handing Lille their third defeat in four games with Kone, Paquiez, Ripart and Coulibaly all scoring as we took 27 shots, created two clear cut chances, and four half chances. Alakouch and Bjorkan had two assists apiece as they enjoyed tons of space out wide with the latter put in nine key passes and taking the MOTM. We were 2-1 down at half time but hit back with three in the second half, including a Pacquiez long-range strike from 10 yards outside the box. Back on top of the league as we waited for PSG to play Monaco later (they won 2-0).

Next up was the Coupe de France quarters and a trip to struggling Bordeaux who, like Lille, were battling relegation in the league. Earlier in the day Granville (of the Championnat 2) had beaten Toulouse, their second Ligue 2 team in two rounds, to make it all the way to the semis. Later on, Monaco would play Saint-Etienne as PSG played Lyon. For us it was largely more of the same, with Ripart and Coulibaly back starting against Koscielny, Ben Arfa and co.

It was a rare occasion that we didn't dominate, but we still came away with the win thanks to a brace from Kone against what ended up as a ten-man Bordeaux side after Youssof Sabaly got his second yellow after 70 minutes. We took fewer shots and created fewer chances but Kone's 88th minute strike (number 13 of the season and his fourth in four games) after picking up the ball from substitute right back Burner was enough to get us to the semis.

The £259k win prize was a big bonus, but the news was followed by the draw, which pitted us against PSG or Lyon. Predictably it was PSG who prevailed to lie in wait for us at the start of March.

On the return to the league, PSG beat Lyon once again to go four points clear, meaning we'd have to dispatch with 13th place team Nantes to stay within a point at the top. Phillips stepping into defence was the main change from Bordeaux.

It was an easy win, despite the xG being 1.50-1.48. Coulibaly burst from midfield twice to make it three goals in two games and a phenomenal 12 for the season (joint third in the league) for the central midfielder on loan from Angers. Cubas added a long-range strike to his assist, while an injury time counter-attack combination between substitute wingers Schiappacasse and Duljevic made it four.

In the immediate aftermath of the game, Kone asked for a big raise to £30k per week, and was quick to throw a strop when I said it was out of the question. He'd be moved to the bench for the foreseeable future, though Alakouch did agree a new contract at a reasonable £13k to become one of our highest-paid players.

A surprise PSG loss to 17th place team Dijon gave us more positive news ahead of gameweek 25 in mid-table Saint-Etienne. Some rotation saw the little-seen Ueda (DC), Guessom (DM) and Depres (ST) start as we had the chance to go top properly.

It was a tighter game than the previous two, but goals in the first 20 minutes from Depres and Cubas settled it as Alakouch laid on both assists. An injury time scare saw Hamouma's equaliser ruled out for offside, meaning Nimes were back on top of Ligue 1, two points up on PSG!

After five wins in a row, the month would end with a home game against 17th placed Metz, and so another chance to rotate ahead of the Coupe de France semi against PSG to kick off March. The day before the game, DC/LWB Florian Miguel suffered a lower back stress fracture to rule him out for six weeks, making that rotation a little easier.

Six players with fewer than 10 starts under their belt started for us and we still managed to eke out a win. Nicolas Schiappacasse grabbed the only goal of the game, one of 26 shots to eight, after half an hour from a deep Duljevic assist. The rest of the game was easily in hand, meaning our unbeaten run had lasted two and a half months since mid-December's loss to PSG who, following our five wins in a row this month, lay two points back in the title race after 26 games. Two days of rest and we'd be up against them again in the Coupe de France semi...

A small attacking/defensive efficiency update at the end of February. The quietest defence in the league and an attack to rival PSG, if more wasteful...

And a look at the stats of the first team.

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