Welcome back to my second season review with Austrian side Rapid Wien. Last season was a really good one but we managed to bottle it right at the end handing the title to the dominant Red Bull Salzburg (RB). So this season we go again in hope that with the right additions we can take RB on and snatch the title from them.
So the squad needed a slight overhaul, last season gave me a good idea on who my key players were and who I knew didn’t fit the way I wanted to play.
A few people left, most were reserves or players who aren’t worth mentioning. The first teamers to go were Ammerman and Marcal (Strikers), Brinkmann (LB), Emre (AM) and Leber (RW). None of these made an impression, Ammerman and Brinkmann left before the season started as the bids were good and they wanted to go. Marcal, Emre and Leber all left in January after falling out of favour and I decided that I was served getting money for them and saving on the wages
So clearly I needed some new recruits, the second season is always the toughest and I needed to bring in some quality to close the gap on RB.
Christian Damgaard – Left Wing – £350k from Esbjerg
I saw this guy and felt he looked good enough to snap up. Will provide back-up to my main man on the LW Althauser. He has a lot of improving to do but do feel with a bit of work he can be a good squad player.
Christian Garate – Central Defence – Free from Danubio
Central Defence was somewhere I really felt needed improving. Lederer and Scheiner were my best CBs but both had serious flaws, especially mentally. Garate is a major improvement on those two and will be my No. 1 CB this season.
Alexey Gorin – Central Midfield – Free from Chernomorets
Last season I felt midfield was a serious problem. Radoslavjevic and Wieland were good but all the others were seriously poor. Gorin came in as mainly a rotation but as you will see later after a switch of formation he became a major player.
Michal Houska – Striker – £1.8m from Slavia Prague
Yes the main man came back. After a fantastic 6 months on loan last season scoring 11 on 13 games I signed him up on a permanent deal. With Marcal and Ammerman leaving Houska will be my main striker moving forward.
Nuno Araujo – Goalkeeper – £2.2m from SV Reid
With only Addo as a first team GK I really needed to add some competition and sign someone who was a step up in terms of quality. I looked around for ages and eventually decided on Araujo. He has everything I need in a GK and at only 24 has many years ahead.
Aslak Bjørnstad Haugen – Central Midfield – £500k from Rosenborg
Signed in January, after my switch of formation I really needed a player who fitted the CM(A) role. I did a lot of research and decided on this guy. Naturally a DM but I feel he has all the attributes to play the role I want really well.
Strahinja Kovacevic – Central Defence – £775k from Red Star
Signed in January as well, I brought him in as I expected Lederer to leave but he ended up signing a deal to leave at the end of the season when his contract is up. Kovacevic however is a major step up from Lederer and my hope is over the next few seasons he can provide a good partnership with Garate. He has fantastic physicals, is quick, tall and strong.
Bacai Camara – Right Wing – Season loan from Benfica
After losing Leber I needed a RW who could come in short term and provide back up to Bruckner. I have a couple of young RWs who are close to being able to make the step up but felt for the rest of this season I needed someone with a bit more quality.
So a lot of transfers but all brought in with careful thought. Hopefully these boys will push us on to the next level.
Austrian Premier League
We had an absolutely superb season, we started well losing only 1 of our first 10 games, and at the mid season break we sat 7 points clear. After the break ended we had 4 games left before the split. A couple of poor draws meant that at the end of the regular season we had a 5 point advantage.
After the spit the points get halved but as RB had an odd amount of points it got rounded up meaning we had a 2 point advantage. We started off brilliantly winning 1-0 against both Austria Wien (a) and RB (h) meaning our advantage was back to 5 points, we had a few dodgy results but then so did RB and with 4 games left our 5 point advantage was in tact.
Then came the big one, RB away, anything other than a defeat would be amazing. We took the lead and RB equalised just before half time, they came at us but we held on to draw 1-1. A great result. But all the hard work was ruined as we lost 1-0 away to Wolfsberger, luckily RB lost to SV Reid meaning with 2 games left we sat 5 clear.
Their defeat meant we knew we would only need a point to pretty much guarantee the title as our GD was significantly better, and we managed it, but only just, a 0-0 draw at home to SV Reid meant we had the point we needed, RB won but going into the final game we sat 3 clear with a 16 goal better GD. Shall we start the party bus?!
We partied hard in the final game, all out attack to try and give the fans something to cheer about. Well it wasn’t the battering but we managed a dominant 1-0 performance against Sturm Graz!
AUSTRIAN PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPS!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was a really good campaign in the cup, after last season terrible quarter final exit I was determined to get to at least the final.
And we managed to do that with relative ease. Lower league opponents were dispatched all the way to the semi finals where we faced our toughest test so far, Austria Wien stood in our way and like most games against them this season it ended 0-0 and went to penalties. We scored all 5 and it was down to Aurajo v’s their young winger Huber. Araujo saved the shot and we were into the final!
Where we would face my bloody nemesis Red Bull bloody Salzburg!
Like the semi final it was a cagey affair and to be honest it was a shocking game! 1 highlight in the first half and none in the second until the 90th minute. And it was for RB, a cross came in which was brilliantly cleared, it came back out to the left wing and in typical FM style it was smashed in at the near post. We didn’t have time to create any chances and the whistle blew, we had lost 1-0. Absolutely gutting, but we still had the league!
We entered the Champions League in the “Best Placed 2nd Qualifying Round” where we faced Sparta Prague and we went through but only just, a 2-2 home draw was followed up by a very tight 2-1 win away.
In the 3rd round we faced Porto and once again it was very tight. We played at home first and although there were many chances the game ended 0-0. An early Porto goal in the 2nd leg gave us a mountain to climb and although we went for it we couldn’t find a way through the stubborn Porto defence and were knocked out.
Luckily our exit from the Champions League didn’t mean we were out of Europe and we went straight into the Europa League Group Stage.
The draw seemed kind, we were drawn again Club Brugges, Young Boys and Vojvodina. We mixed the team about but went through in 2nd place behind Young Boys with 2 wins (Brugges A, Vojvodina H), 3 draws (Young Boys H/A, Brugges H) and 1 defeat (Vojvodina A).
In the 1st Knockout Round we were handed a tricky tie against Spanish side Bilbao. We played the 1st leg at home and managed to lose the game 1-0 with a late goal. It was undeserved in my eyes, we had many chances, hit the woodwork twice and they scored with one of very few attacks. In the 2nd leg we went for it but got caught out early and had a mountain to climb. We nicked one back just before half time but after that we couldn’t find a way through.
It was disappointing to go out early but we certainly hadn’t disgraced ourselves.
It also looks like we have lost a European place next season. Our co-efficient has dropped and it now looks like only top spot gets a Champions League place and 3 teams get a Europa League spot (2nd and 3rd and either the cup winner or European playoff winner).
I won’t speak too much about this, mainly because only one of my players won an award!
Austrian Premier League Player of the Season – Alexey Gorin – 43 games (3 sub), 3 goals, 9 assists, 7.34 average rating
Top Goalscorer – Michal Houska – 37 games (5 sub), 18 goals
Top Assists – Marius Althauser – 37 games (2 sub, 15 goals, 12 assists, 7.52 average rating
Best Player – Sebastien Eidilloth – 37 games, 7.45 average rating
This years youth intake has been bloody unbelievable. You get that “Golden Generation” message nearly every intake but this time I really do feel like we have come upon some brilliant looking players.
I won’t speak much about them, just show you the intake then the 4 players that took my eye.
Some serious talent, need some work but training and tutoring will come into play as will the possibility of some game time via loans. I will be keeping a close eye on these 4 players throughout the next few years.
I don’t tend to speak much about my tactics but felt I should show you what I switched to mid-season. I had started the the 4231 that I had employed successfully with Sion and Spartak but felt at Rapid as much as results were good our performances weren’t as good as I wanted. I can’t remember seeing so many games where the opposition team would score first giving us a mountain to climb to get a result. We managed it in most games but this concerned me. We didn’t seem solid enough in defence and I felt we needed someone in front of the back 4 to try and stop attacks earlier, I also felt the AM was completely useless. Kogler has started there and to be honest he had done absolutely nothing.
So I switched to a 4123 Wide, pushing the AM to DM and changing the 2 CMs to more forward thinking players. My god did it work well. What worked best was using Althauser as a RMD! He went on a scoring run which meant he ended the season as the clubs top goalscorer.
Here is the tactic:
So a flat back 4 with an Anchor in front as a shield. The main threat came from the CM(a) and the RMD with Houska playing as a lone striker offering assistance dropping deep and not only helping with goals but also setting goals up.
Team Instructions are minimal, we exploit the flanks and play lower tempo. This just helps us keep the ball and find pockets of space for the RMD. The majority of the time I play a control mentality, I do tend to drop to counter is we are playing away against a bigger side.
A very brief talk about my tactic!
So a brilliant second season, my first trophy by winning the league and we so nearly made it a league and cup double. So next season we need more of the same. I don’t think we are going to be as dominant like we were at my previous clubs, RB seem set to be at the top for a long while but with the squad we have I see no reason why we can’t challenge on both fronts again next season.
With finances in a dire state (currently -£5m) we need to start saving money or making some from somewhere! Prize money in Austria is pretty poor so the main place we are going to make money is by getting into the Champions League group stage, that is my main aim next season.
We are going to try and save money next season but cutting the wage bill, there are a few older players on obscene wages that aren’t first choice so they will go and I will look to bring in some of the youngsters to fill the gap.
Obviously new signings will come in if we lose some of our major players, there are numerous players wanted and who want to move to bigger clubs, hopefully we can hang onto them. The board have given me £2m to spend with around £70k of spare wage budget so there is a bit of movement, overall though I need to stem the losses.
Well that’s all from me for now, thanks for reading and see you all soon!