Auxerre 1.2

I ended my previous post with us sitting fifth in Ligue 2, still in with a shout of promotion and hell, even a chance of snatching the title. I needed consistency which we really lacked during the first half of the season to stand any chance of that becoming a reality. Top half was still the goal, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about promotion.

Youth Intake

I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the intake, but I like being pleasantly surprised. This is what we got.

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Youth intakes have always been exciting at Auxerre, this year is proving no different. I’ve got a couple that I’m really excited about. The first one being Sebastien Lamy. 15 years old and his attributes are insanely good. The only worry is that he’s not going to grow much after this, although I’ll be doing my best to make sure he reaches his potential! Ian Clerc is also another player who looks like he could turn out rather good, he needs a lot more work than Lamy, but still exciting. Finally I picked out Bertrand Besancon. I’ll need to spend a bit of time developing this guy, but I’m sure with the right tutor and coaching, he can be a good player for us.

Performances

Going into the second half of the season we were on a nine game unbeaten run, three short of the club record of twelve. That’d be nice to make, right? My next run of games made me think it was possible, I was already dreaming of the adoration of the fans. 1-1 against US Orléans, followed by a penalty shoot-out win over Valenciennes in the French Cup. RC Lens up next, equal the record, just stay calm… oh for f*ck sake, an 89th minute winner for Lens.

I changed things up tactically around this point as I was getting a bit annoyed at our lack of penetration. We were scoring, but it was a very laboured task. For whatever reason, teams were starting to sit back against us and try to close up. We were getting more goals from midfield than attack so they were obviously thinking that they needed to drop deep and park the bus.

Frustrating games against Amiens, GFC Ajaccio, Angers, Tours and Brest had me at that point of wanting to punch my monitor. We were picking up points and sneaking wins, but it was rather frustrating watching us play. Meeting eight men either in or around the box is tough to break down.

Time for some composure. The game against Stade de Reims made me really annoyed. They were down to ten men and we couldn’t kill them off. This isn’t going to be a thing now. I watch games on comprehensive and if things are going well, I switch to key highlights. Things were not going well a lot of the time, so I spent more and more time watching on comprehensive highlights. It was plain to see where we were going wrong.

 

I’d set us up on an attacking mentality which meant we had zero space to move and were running into brick walls all the time. I remembered that Cleon wrote about having a solution to this problem on FM15. It’s still very relevant now and if you’re having similar issues, I’d definitely check it out here.

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There’d be times when I was getting into the right areas, but the final ball was always against a defender, so I switched us to standard mentality, played as wide as possible and added the roam from position team instruction. I only did this if the original plan didn’t work out. Things just got better, in fact, watching our run towards the end of the season was great as I knew how to beat these stubborn teams, something that I struggle with at the best of times.

These changes saw us charge to six straight victories and securing third after a nervy win over Sochaux on the final day of the season. I’ve actually on just realised that we undefeated in eleven league games. Can’t be unhappy with that!

The Play-Off

Finishing third in the league meant that we had to overcome the team that finished 18th in Ligue 1 in a play-off over two legs. Metz were to be my opposition. They’d had an awful run the league so could have no complaints with their lowly finish. A change in manager didn’t even inspire them.

The first leg was to be at Stadé Abbe Deschamps. The goal was to get at least a goal and try to keep a clean sheet.

Borja Gómez had injured himself in training so that meant playing both games without one of our starting centre backs. Rémi Fournier would deputise. He’d not really played a lot of football this season so I was hoping that he’d be composed enough to see out the game.

12,869 fans turned up for the game, our second highest attendance of the season (the cup game vs PSG being the biggest with 13,108) hoping to see us on our way to Ligue 1.

We started very well, controlling the game and possession for long periods. Metz barely got a sniff of the action, clearing the ball long on a regular basis. They were proving hard to get by, so as I had in previous games, I switched my instructions but this time played a counter strategy. Half an hour into the game, we were awarded a corner. Our captain, Lionel Mathis, was somehow on corner duty. He whipped a lovely ball into the box which Rémi Fournier got on the end of and powered a wonderful header beyond the goalkeeper. 1-0 up.

Metz looked to get back into the game, but veteran Mathis was on fire, controlling the game and breaking up attacks by putting all of those years of experience to good use. They just couldn’t get past us and never managed a single pass into our box.

Wave after wave of attack headed towards the Metz end but we couldn’t find a way through. In the 70th minute we were awarded a free kick about 35 yards out. Obraniak whipped a ball into the crowded box, after a game of head tennis, the ball was cleared out just left of the 18 yard box. Obraniak picked it up and crossed it back into the 6 yard box only to see Metz goalkeeper Thomas Didillon flap at it and pat the ball into the back of his own net. 2-0! I didn’t care if it was good fortune or the dodgiest goal seen in French football. This was a dream result.

There was only two days rest between games. I started the second leg with the same line-up as I had the first. I was confident but I knew an early Metz goal could cause us problems. I had to go on the front foot. I let us play our attacking football for the first twenty minutes. They were right up for this, playing with much more attacking intent. They even managed a shot on target, something they didn’t do in the first leg.

I was getting twitchy watching them get forward. Stick or twist… I twisted… then twisted again, back to attacking. Don’t be soft, go for the jugular! Almost half an hour into the game, Abdoulaye Sissako was played into the box after a lovely pass from Florian Ayé. One-on-one with the keeper, I thought he’d miscontrolled, but he managed to slot it home to put us 1-0 up. To think I almost sold him at the start of the season!

I twisted again, switching to a counter mentality to try and see out the game. They had to attack so I’d be looking to exploit any gaps now. We controlled the game again, but Metz looked like they were going to score. After the break, they did just that. A goal that just makes me mad thinking about it, Boucher played it out to Fournier who miscontrolled it, Tomás Andrade stole the ball and cut it back for Franco López to slot home. 1-1.

They still needed three goals to win the game, so I wasn’t panicking right now. We were still in the driving seat.

celebrate-the-winner

Celebration time!

It didn’t stay level for long. A bad pass in midfield was picked up and a counter attack launched. Gaps opened up and a one-on-one situation emerged… putting this away would make it 2-1. Abdoulaye Sissako would kill off the tie with a lovely strike into the roof of the net, sending Auxerre to Ligue 1 and rounding off a remarkable season for the 19 year old.

A 4-1 win over the two legs rounded off a terrific season for us. Getting to Ligue 1 was not the aim this year, but blimey, I’ve only gone and done it. On FM16, we won Ligue 2, but this felt like a much greater achievement considering the way the season went at times. I’m not sure we’re ready for Ligue 1, but who cares at this point? Not me!

Team

I’ll just start by saying, I’m really glad I didn’t sell Abdoulaye Sissako. What a season he had. He went from moany git for not getting a move to Newcastle or Anderlecht to being the star man on the pitch. He ended the season as our second top goalscorer on 14 goals, one behind our other star man, Adama Ba. Both players contributed enormously to our success in Ligue 2.

Florian Ayé had a pretty good season, scoring 10 and assisting 10. Not an out and out goalscorer, but his overall contribution to play was very pleasing.

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Notable mentions go to Gaëtan Courtet, Brahim Konaté and Alexandre Vincent who all played a big part in our promotion push. Some gaps to plug in the team, but I think a few of these players can make the step up to Ligue 1 without much problem.

A rather long post, but the excitement of the play-off got the better of me!

Will need to have a pretty stringent summer as our financial situation is difficult at the moment. I’ll take a look at that in the next post. Thanks for reading, it’s very much appreciated.

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