In the last post we took a look at our summer signings and the expectations for the 2023/2024 season. Injuries or rather the lack of them certainly played a big part in Verl’s best season thus far. Let’s take a look.
For the first time in three years we finally managed to make it pass the first round of the Pokal. An easy 4-0 win against lower league side Nöttingen was then met with chaos in the second round when we faced Stuttgart. Seventeen minutes into the game Jens Castrop decided his night was over when he lunged towards his opponent with a two-footed tackle. Rightback Bahaa Abdelhaim put us on the front foot two minutes into the second half. Twenty-seven minutes later Bahaa tackles someone inside the box to give away a penalty, tying the game. The team managed to hold on to the tie and made it to penalties where we lost 5-4, Frydek missing the penalty.
Something that I did not pay too much attention to last season was how often the players were giving the ball away in the final third while trying to “work the ball into box.” Due to my stubbornness to stick with the same tactic, I let the team continue to make the same mistakes. Those mistakes allowed our opponents continue to score against us when counter attacking.
So after losing the first two games of the season due to the mistakes stated above, I decided to tweak the tactic/s a bit. I gave the players a bit more freedom in the final third by removing “work ball into box.” While the amount of chances created increased, the shot conversation rate was poor. The only positive was that we stopped giving the ball away in the final third and we avoided getting scored on during counter attacks.
The tactical changes helped Verl go unbeaten for eleven Bundesliga games (breaking the streak in a 0-1 loss to Stuttgart). We were able to out score our opponents 28-8. The team was performing well above expectations and by end of the December we were sitting 3rd on the league table. Ending the first half a season with a 1-1 tie against the mighty Bayern Munich.
January Transfer Window
Transfers – Out
André Franca and Tobias Leclerc will be sent to out on loan to our new affiliate Viktoria Köln for the remainder of the season. They will try and help them avoid relegation into the lower leagues.
Transfers – In
- Albert Braut Tjåland (aka ABT, aka Mr. FM21) joins on for free after his contract with Molde expired. He will stay in the first team and be our fourth striker until the end of the season. Hoping for some Samo magic.
- Lukas Avci joins from Fenerbahçe, his contract was up at the end of the season but was available for zero to bring him in in the winter. He will go back out on loan to Super League Gençlerbirliği.
- Thomas Kerner makes his way from across the pond by way of NYFC, he will operate as an emergency striker but will mainly play in our B team.
We came back from the winter break a bit sluggish, giving away a 0-1 lead to RB Leipzig for them to tie us in the 86th minute. The next five matches saw us win three games and losing two, a 2-0 lost to Wolfsburg and a 5-1 thumping by Dortmund brought us to 5th place by the end of February.
That 5-1 lost to Dortmund most of done something to the players. From March until the of the season we managed to win eight out of ten games. During this great run, the defense finally had clicked, keeping five clean sheets. The small tactical shift had also helped the attackers, scoring 29 goals in 10 games. Our new signings Albert Braut Tjåland and Thomas Kerner in their respective debuts, with Kerner coming off the bench to score two goals in a 0-4 win against Hoffenheim.
The great run of games even had us “battling” for the title against Dortmund. Two games later we secured our first European outing by qualifying to the Champions League. This season was definitely not what I was expecting. The cherry on top was beating Bayern 2-0 in the last match of the season with a heavily rotated squad, after we securing 2nd place. Both goals were scored by none other than ABT himself.
This season was outstanding. We finished the league with the best defense, only allowing 32 goals. We also broke our average attendance record once again. I’m hoping for more of the same next season as long as we continue to perform above expectations.
Champions League here we come!
Best of the Bunch
This year’s standout player was Angelo Brückner. He was named in both the Bundesliga “Players’ Team of the Year” and “Team of the Year.” The fightback registered 7 assists from the right flank. I’ve yet to secure another loan for him for next season. Luca Netz continues to perform great as a LCWB, he recorded 5 assists in the 28 games he played. He finished the season with an average rating of 7.07. Due to his consistency we’ve loaned in for another season.
Matthew Hoppe & Paul Glatzel finished as joint top scorers with 14 goals each. Hoppe played 19 (7) games and added 6 assists to his name. He finished with the highest average rating at 7.24 in the team. Florian Krüger scored 13 goals and 6 assists in 23 (4) games played. He is extremely versatile being able to play in all attacking positions.
The workload was split between our two starters, Joe Hodge & Christian Frydek and their backups, Samuel Lengle & Jens Castrop. No one truly stood out but were solid enough to remain in the team.
This year’s intake only had a couple of decent players but only one of them stood out. Our first decent homegrown striker, Sattar Mousavi. Attributes wise, he looks more like a winger and normal I would retrain such player to what’s more favorable but at the moment we’re quite stacked with wingers. I will try to improve his shooting attributes so that he can develop as a proper striker. He is one that I will be keeping an eye out for.
- Ian Robinson has made strides even at such young age. He scored 1 goal in the 22 (2) games that he played in. His avg rating was a decent 6.90. In his first two seasons with the first team he has played 47 (2) games, 4 goals, 1 assist with an avg rating of 6.88. To top it all off, he also made his debut with the Irish national team. Not bad for an 18 y/o.
- Billy Jones is somehow now a wonderkid? I might be off, but I don’t think his attributes reflect it.
- Joshua Embers and Roald van de Bosch turned 17 but they both spent the season with the B team. They will be loaned out next season.
- Bahaa Abdelhaim played 11 (3) and contributed to the team with 2 goals and 1 assist with an avg rating of 7.00. I might have him be our first team right-back depending on whether or not I can bring in Angelo Brückner.
I was able to convince the board to invest in our youth recruitment and youth coaching. Youth recruitment is now seen as a Good and youth couch has now moved up to Excellent. The board has yet accept my requests for a new stadium so we will continue to play at SchücoArena for at least one more season.
End of Season Review
It will be Verl’s first time playing in the Champions League. I’ll be taking a look at our coaching staff to see where we can upgrade. I’ve also negotiated a couple of pre-contract signings ahead of the new season as we are lacking depth in certain positions.
Next post we will take a look at our summer business and preseason for the 2024/2025 season.