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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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lvckv's avatar Group lvckv
2 yearsEdited

So, every year I try to recreate Zdenek Zeman's tactics in FM. If you don't know him, Zeman is a Czech manager, a cult figure, who has managed almost exclusively in Italy from the 1970s to 2018.

He is known for always using a 4-3-3 with a playmaker, attacking wing-backs, midfielders (mezzala) always running forwards, and wingers cutting in. The philosophy of Zemanlandia has been the same since he started coaching – we will score the most and never stop attacking. Zeman is also known for focussing on young players and hard and physical training methods, as well as his kick-offs, which see 2 defenders stay back while 8 run forwards.

Along with the trequartista-less 4-4-2 with pressing of Arrigo Sacchi, his ideas were revolutionary in Italian football which was focussed on the libero, catenaccio, and defensive play for decades.

His teams are known for scoring an absurdly high number of goals and also conceding a lot. In the late 80s/early 90s he managed Foggia from a small team perennially in Serie B to Serie A, winning promotion with 14 goals more than anyone else, then finishing 10th in Serie A, scoring and conceding the second-most goals. In 1994 he went to Lazio, twice finishing in the top three and scoring the most each time and also bringing through Alessandro Nesta. Then it was Roma, where he brought the 12th place team to fourth and sixth, top scoring both times and helping turn Totti into Totti.

Most recently he is known for managing Pescara in 2011-12 where the world learned about Verratti, Insigne and Immobile and won Serie B again with 90 goals scored (27 more than anyone else) and 55 conceded. The next year he came back to my team Roma and had some big wins and bad losses with a horrible squad before he was fired in February.

If you are interested in more can read more here, or read some details about his tactics here, or view the Tifo video below (which is ok but not detailed)...

lvckv's avatar Group lvckv
2 yearsEdited
Anyway, onto the team. I have tested and tweaked my tactic out with various teams this week – including Foggia in Serie C (an OK season to the playoffs), Cremonese in Serie B (promotion with a poor team), Lecce in Serie B (mediocre top half of table), Sassuolo (fourth place finish) and Roma (Scudetto, Coppa Italia and Europa League treble) in Serie A.

The tactic seems to work quite well, but not sure it's fully there yet. I don't even know if it's really possible to properly replicate Zeman's tactics in FM, but next I decided to try it with a small team outside of Italy.

So, it's Nîmes. They have a crocodile in their badge (though their old badge was nicer, I think) and are towards the bottom of Ligue 1. The city is also heavily linked with the Roman Empire and even has a Roman amphitheatre, so it's a small link with Zeman's Roma and Lazio.

They have spent most of their recent history in Ligue 2 but finished ninth in Ligue 1 two years ago. They're not rich – their sponsorship income is 1/22 of Marseille and 1/165 of PSG, the stadium is among the smaller ones at 18,300 capacity, and the wage bill is in the bottom five of the division, a quarter of teams like Marseille, Lyon and Monaco.

I guess my aim is to score as much as possible and finish in mid-table, even if we are predicted to finish 17th and the board aim is to avoid a relegation battle. With £8m spent in the summer before I got there, I only have a small transfer budget of £1.7m and no wage budget, so it will probably just be a couple of loans to fill out some spaces in the squad.

That squad looks decent, quite a few 3- and 3.5-star players which will be good for the starting positions. Maybe I could use a centre back and midfielder to fill out the starting 11. Goalkeeper Reynet, winger Ferhat, defender/defensive mid Briançon, new midfielder Cubas, and new left back Meling look among the most promising players here. Below that is the tactic they will have to fit into. I can't say I know much about these players already – maybe I managed Nolan Roux for Lille during an old FM, but that's about it.

There aren't many young players in the first team that have the quality to start, which is a bit disappointing. 23-year-old Kone can start up front, 23-year-old Miguel at centre back, and 21-year-old Alakouch at right wing back. 21-year-olds Benrahou and Fomba will come off the bench.

Defensively, we will press full backs, wing backs, midfielders, and wingers (via opposition instructions) and show them onto weaker foot. The defence is set narrow to funnel opposition players out into those pressing traps. We also use a high line, offside trap and more urgent pressing.

In transition, the ball goes to the wing backs, who are pretty much wingers in Zemanlandia, and distribution is quick to get to attacking as soon as possible.

In possession, the high tempo is important to move forward quickly. We shoot on sight and play fairly wide. Mentality can change depending on opponent – balanced for the biggest teams, and then usually positive or attacking elsewhere.

As for the players and roles… The sweeper keeper is important in a formation without much defence, and also to support attacks and a quick transition. The central defenders are simple – just defend – and the wing backs push up and stay wide.

The DLP could be a regista in bigger teams but I find that DLP is usually in the right position in attack, further back than the other midfielders to spray the ball around. The mezzalas push forward and are important to scoring. You can argue that one could be a box-to-box midfielder, but I like how mezzala plays better here. The midfield presses but isn't there to sit and protect the defence.

Up front, the striker depends on the player you have. Zeman used Signori, Baiano, Totti, Immobile, Osvaldo there, so he isn't wedded to on style. Usually, I like pressing or complete forward on support. The wingers are inside forwards who come as narrow as possible – if it looks like there are three strikers on the pitch then they are doing their job.
lvckv's avatar Group lvckv
2 yearsEdited

Our pre-season is already set with friendlies, including against Stoke and Aston Villa at home. The training will be heavy pre-season, with some attacking slots and team bonding added in.

As expected, there isn't much on the transfer market in terms of adding 3/3.5-star level players. with finances quite poor and the wage budget almost full, it's all about the loans.

In midfield, I bring Lassine Coulibaly on loan from Angers on £7k wages. He's a ball-winning midfielder with not great technical stats, but could work at box to box or mezzala role with good stamina, work rate and some OK stats in dribbling (12) and first touch (12).

From Sassuolo I loan Nicolás Schiappacasse, a Uruguayan winger/attacker on £6.5k per week with 16 flair, 15 technique, 14 dribbling, 12 finishing. He's 21 and can fill a backup role across the whole attack.

Finally, Nathan Phillips joins on loan from Liverpool on £4.5k wages. He'll be third-choice centre back because most of the choices there are quite mediocre.

Pre-season starts well with a 5-0 win against KV Mechelen, a top division side in Belgium. Ferhat takes MOTM with 9 key passes, 5 chances created and 2 assists. Up front, Ripart scores twice.

But apart from that, though, that it is a mediocre pre-season. There's a 0-1 loss to Viktoria Plzen, a 1-1 draw with Mlada Boleslav (???), followed by 1-2 loss against Stoke and 0-0 draw with Aston Villa.

LWB Meling (3 starts, 7.0, 1 assist), CM Deaux (2 starts, 1 goal, 7.03), LW Ripart (3 starts, 2 goals, 7.17) and DM Cubas (3 starts, 1 goal, 7.20) are among the top performers in these games.

Everyone in the whole squad gets minutes though, so it's not like the first team is playing every game. Anyway the important thing is to get used to the tactic. Most importantly, nobody gets injured, and with all games at home, we get almost 5,000 attendance worth of gate receipts, times five.
Best of luck mate. I always enjoy a save in France especially with a club like Nimes.
lvckv's avatar Group lvckv
2 yearsEdited

This is my first choice lineup as we head to the start of Ligue 1. It's the strongest we have on paper, even if neither mezzala is perfectly suited for the role. LB Martinez gets the nod over LB Miguel as LCB as we have no left-footed CBs. Kone starts over new signings (not by me) Depres and Benrahou up front.

So now we start the season and it's not a bad start. In August we just play Rennes at home and then Monaco away, and both end up as 3-0 victories. This is not what it looked like in pre-season...

With an xG of 2.42 - 1.07 and 25 (13) shots to 11 (6), it's clear how we beat Rennes. Our striker Kone is MOTM having scored twice, while loan signing Coulibaly also scored from his midfield Mez-S spot. And just look at all the shots in the box – it's not just long-distance attempts.

We had 18 key passes with eight from RW Ferhat, seven from RWB Alakouch and five from LWB Meling, who was positioned like a winger when we had the ball. The first Ligue 1 team of the week includes five Nîmes players. So a good start...

Against Monaco the xG was 1.47 - 0.66 so another fair result and we only had 12 to 11 shots. Kone, Ferhat and Alakouch scored while Meling assisted 2, though this time it was a more 'normal' 4-3-3 position map. Meling is MOTM with an 8.6 rating and already looks like the best player in the team.

Next month we'll see two more sides who are predicted for the top five – Lyon and Lille, plus Nantes and Dijon.
lvckv's avatar Group lvckv
2 yearsEdited

Another good month. Really it's beyond what anyone could expect of Nîmes. Maybe I have solved something with this tactic...

Anyway, it's another four games and four wins with a 12-2 goal difference. Believe me, I don't know how, either.

First up, it's probably the hardest challenge of the month. Already I am changing the mentality to cautious (though nothing else changes about the tactic) for Lyon's visit to the Stade des Costières. Yes they come to Occitanie and they lose 4-0.

Our xG in this game was 0.65 from nine shots and theirs is 0.77 from 10 shots. We had 55% possession and the heat maps are quite even, so it was no special counter-attack performance. Loan signing Coulibaly scores twice to take the MOTM and Kone scores once again.

Against Dijon we easily triumph 2-0, playing mostly in their half as Coulibaly is MOTM again and creates both goals – one for Kone and one for his fellow mezzala Deaux.

Lille is another hard test and wee concede our first goal of the season. But still we score 3 from an xG of 1.02. Meling is MOTM with three assists – two of them to Ferhat, and this one to Coulibaly. That is our best goal yet!

Finally, we end September with Nantes. It's another lower end club, and another who doesn't give us much trouble. We have 25 shots to 13, 2xG to 1.04, and win 3-1. Coulibaly (again!), Deaux and Kone score the goals, while almost everyone has a key pass. What is this team?

Come the end of September we are top of Ligue 1 with a perfect record. PSG – that team with a wage bill £190m more than us – lie in second place, three points behind. Their star man Neymar takes second in the Player of the Month. First is our Coulibaly with four goals, two assists and an 8.05 average rating, while Meling takes third.

Kone (12 finishing) has six goals and is joint-top of the Ligue 1 scoring charts with Kylian Mbappe. Coulibaly (10 finishing) has five goals and Frehat (10 finishing) has three goals.

While the start has been incredible – seriously in my other tests with this tactic nothing has been like this – it is concerning that it might be a lot of luck on the attacking end. Our goal difference in 18-2 while our xG difference is 8.79-4.96. I can't see how these players on a relegation candidate team will be able to continue like this...
It may not be sustainable but what a great start!
lvckv's avatar Group lvckv
2 yearsEdited


Just three games in October, all against teams who are slated to finish in the bottom half of the table. Would be great to get six points out of Saint-Etienne, Metz and Brest. That'd get us to 24 points already and pretty much make sure of safety even if regression comes. But we continue the winning run...

Saint-Etienne are dispatched just as easily as Lyon, Dijon, Lille and Nantes were last month. A 4-1 victory at a full Stade de Costières with a 1.81-1.18 xG difference, coming back from a goal down after the ball was lofted over our defence to Wahbi Khazri.

Two more assists for Meling, two more goals for loan signing Coulibaly (!) to take him to seven goals in seven games from midfield and another MOTM performance. Deaux gets another goal, as does Kone.

This was the pick of the goals, from Coulibaly of course, while his second saw his slide in to meet a low cross in the last minutes.

Next it's time to head to the north-east and to Metz. Another match, another victory, though the 1-0 was the closest margin yet. Our 1.70-0.48 xG suggests it might've been bettter though, with Metz only taking four shots to our 21. Defensive midfielder Cubas took the only goal with a 30-yard long shot in the 54th minute after the ball was worked across the pitch from the right.

The visit of Brest brought another win and another clean sheet, 2-0 though 0.60 to 0.62 xG suggests we've been lucky or just great at finishing once again. Kone struck his x of the season, intercepting a pass at the halfway line before running through to score one-on-one. WInger Ripart completed the job with a header after 70 minutes.

Come the end of October and PSG are level with us at the top after winning 5-1 against Lille, 4-0 against Nantes and Saint-Etienne, and 3-1 against Dijon. We have a game in hand, but we're hardly realistically in direct competition here. Kone lies top of the goalscoring charts, level with Mbappe and Neymar on eight goals, while Coulibaly is somehow second on seven.

Despite all this, we lost £800k last month, with £947k in TV revenue just about covering the player wage bill (£846k), and a further £1.4m spent elsewhere. Not great, and our balance is already £300k in the red. The board are thrilled with how things are going so far, in any case.

lvckv's avatar Group lvckv
2 yearsEdited

November 1 and our run continues with a 1-0 win away to Nice.

Our 26 shots bring an xG of 2.02 vs Nice's three (zero on target) and 0.35 xG. It should've been a bigger win, but centre back Martinez gets the only goal and the MOTM with a curling free kick.

November 7's visit of Lorient sees our deluded assistant manager claim that we are favourites for the title. We're doing ridiculously well, but come on guy...

Nevertheless, it's another win and another clean sheet as we beat the Breton team 2-0.

Kone and Coulibaly are back in the goals to bring them to 9 and 8 for the season. Like pretty much every other team so far this season, Lorient struggled to do anything against our attacking onslaught. As with the Nice game, our xG numbers are high (2.96 to 0.80), meaning our finishing is getting less flukey.

We put on a home friendly against Cercle Brugge during the international break. A 2-2 draw. The result isn't important with a full backup team playing, but 5,000 supporters brings in a bit of extra money.

In the middle of the month, our RWB Alakouch starts agitating for a new contract. He wants a bump from £3.8k per week up to £12k as the club's third-highest earner. We're already in debt, though, and my attempt to negotiate him down doesn't work.

Backup midfielder Sidy Sarr asks to go out on loan. We're paying him £7k per week and he has zero minutes so far this season, so he goes on the transfer list instead. Backup winger Niclas Eliasson (£9k) and Nolan Roux (£7k) join him, as does backup defender Loïck Landre (£7k) and one of the unplayed strikers Karim Aribi (£3k). These players rarely even make the bench in what is a 29-man first team squad, so they won't be missed.

After offering them all out, Nantes send an offer £675k for Eliasson, which is negotiated up to £800k. Brescia and Toulouse send offers amounting to an eventual £150k for Landre and Ajaccio offers £160k for Roux. Nothing yet for Sarr or Aribi, but a good start.

After the cull began, Marseille come to town. It's our biggest test since Lyon and Lille in September, and once again we – somehow – easily beat them. 3-0 is the final score, with Cubas the MOTM with two goals from outside the box.

There's an assist apiece for wing backs Meling and Alakouch as well as Coulibaly, whlie Ripart rounds off the scoring with a header from close range. The stats – 33 (!) shots to nine, 4-2 CCC and 2.77-0.58 xG – suggest this was a well-deserved victory against the team whose frontline of Milik, Thauviin and Payet are paid as much as our entire squad.

Our 12 games unbeaten and 12 wins in a row is, unsurprisingly, a new record. A few days later Eliasson is gone, with the £800k fee bringing us within £70k of breaking even. Landre's subsequent move to Toulouse brings us into the black. Meanwhile, nobody wants to buy Sarr or Aribi yet.

We round off the month with a visit to Reims. If we're smashing Marseille, we should be getting the better of the 17th place squad. Nat Phillips gets a start in defence with Briançon suspended, but the rest of the team remains unchanged from our strongest lineup.

It was coming, but Reims wasn't the expected place for it. Finally, a loss and a mediocre performance to go with it (1.10 to 1.16 xG, even if we outshot them and had more of the ball. We fall 1-0 to a Moussa Doumbia goal from a counter-attack – our fourth goal conceded in 13 games. Best to move on.

Planque's confidence remains, however.

So this is the outlook at the end of November, roughly a third of the way into the season. Nîmes are top of Ligue 1 and 3 points clear of PSG after they rounded out the month with a 1-0 loss to Nice.

Stats-wise, Kone, Meling and Coulibaly are unexpectedly battling it out for the top scoring, assist and average ratings in the league. Our keeper Reynet is 3 clean sheets clear of anyone else in the league, too.

Our attacking efficiency shows we're the only elite team in the league on that end along with PSG, though their conversion rate is, unsurprisingly, 3 percentage points higher. As planned, we're taking the most shots in the league at almost 20 a game.

On the other end, we face 9 shots per game on average which is more than 4 other teams, but we limit our opposition to a conversion rate is just over 3%, which is easily the best in the league.

As you can see, our opponents get shots off in the box but fail to convert, with just 3 goals from an already pretty low xG of 4.18 over our last 5 matches. Thanks to Reynet in goal as well our pressing for restricting the chances.

Offensively we are now actually underperforming in contrast to the start of the season. That's probably about as expected given the attributes of our attackers. We're still piling on the shots, though.

As planned, our hyper-attacking midfield have been chipping in with the goals. The two mezzalas have 11 goals in the league so far, while our strikers have 10. The rest of the team has 10 between them.

The Zemanlandia tactic is working incredibly well so far, but not in the way I had imagined. We're scoring for fun (even if the wingers should normally be scoring more than the midfield), but have the best defence in the league, too.

To be more true to life, the tactic should be tweaked to be worse defensively, somehow – I'm not sure what is going on with the match engine. We'll keep going with how it is at the moment, though.

Finally, here's an upload of the Marseille match, just in case anyone is curious about the playstyle or wants to see more highlights –
Congratulations, nice start! Are you going to share the tactic? I keep following you
Incredible work.
Thanks! Will share tactic at some point, yes. Will have to test more though because it has gone badly with some other teams..


Nolan Roux left on December 1, another £160k for the pot and now the wage bill is down to £225k per week. We're still in debt, though, even if we made a £1.7k profit in November – £302k to be precise.

We've seen a couple of sackings so far with Rennes, Strasbourg and Lille have all changed their manager in November.

A home match against 15th-placed Lens is the first challenge of December. Briançon returns to start for us in defence, but other than that, there are no changes once again.

We had a good start with eight shots before Lens had any and should've scored one of them before number nine, which saw Cubas, unmarked just outside the box, hit a long-range strike from a throw-in after 25 minutes – another Coulibaly assist. After 74 minutes, Ferhat added another from an Alakouch cross. Defender Pablo Martínez's header from a Ferhat free kick made it three shortly afterwards, and that was that. 63% possession, 33 shots to 3 and a 2.7-0.24 xG.

Kone sprained his wrist during the match though, meaning it would be touch and go for the PSG game for our striker, while LWB Meling needs a rest, too. He got three days off training rather than a holiday, though.

The trip to Paris went about as expected with all the far superior quality they have around the pitch. We kept the same tactics and lineup, with Kone managing to start despite his injured wrist. Goals from Neymar, Mbappe and Otavio sunk us, with Ripart managing the only reply via a Kone assist. Ferhat had a particularly bad game with a 5.9 rating, a poor free kick from him directly leading to a goal at the other end.

We're still on top, though, clear by two points after Lorient held PSG to a 3-3 draw in the first game of the month.

We got drawn against Dijon in the Ninth Round of the Coupe de France on January 3, a winnable game to kick off our quest to reach the Eleventh Round. But bottom club Strasbourg, who were on five points after 15 games with their catenaccio style, were the next test in the league.

We could only manage a 1-0 win against the Alsace team as Lucas Deaux stuck from the corner of the box after six minutes from an Alakouch assist. Strasbourg's three shots gave them a measly 0.13 xG to our 25 and 1.41. A win is a win and we remained two up on PSG.

After that, a visit to Bordeaux and a visit from local rivals Montpellier were all that lay between us and the mid-season break and the transfer window. Before that, though, backup winger Yassine Benrahou asked to leave on loan, so I happily offered him and his £4.7k per week wages out to other clubs.

Coulibaly scored to break his five-game drought, while Kone's continued to a sixth game. Loanee Schiappacasse came off the bench to add a second and secure the win, though, while it was a 12th clean sheet for us and Reynet, the best defence in the league. Alakouch delivered his fifth assist of the season and a MOTM to go with it.

The Derby de Languedoc saw third-placed Montpellier come set up with two defensive midfielders in front of the back four, but they could only hold out for 13 minutes before Alakouch crossed it in to Ripart to put us one up. Ripart, who started striker in place of Kone, would a second just before half time with a clean penalty. The second half started disappointingly as Ferhat went off with a knee injury for, while Yves Mollet got one back soon after. Kone would come on later on, missing a golden chance on the break but setting up Ripart's hat trick goal in the final five minutes.

Our 16th win in 18 games ensured we were 'winter champions' on 48 points, two clear of a PSG team who had outscored us by nine so far. Montpellier stayed third on a distant 34 points.

And finally some squad stats to end 2020. As you can see, it's a very set starting 11 with not many chances for subs and reserves to get much game time. Another thing that stands out is the xG overperformance of several players – Coulibaly, Kone and Cubas in particular.

Meling and Alakouch are the main creators from the wing back positions. That's not much of a surprise giveen how much space they get playing as virtual wingers. Ferhat is our top real winger as Ripart was mostly just 'good' rather than great on the other side.

gog job i will try is philosophy with lille
Any new update?

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