The Managerial Debut
"Possession isn't everything, it's what you do with it that counts"
Never was a truer phrase spoken. You will hear it a lot from me in the coming weeks/months/years, it's the philosophy that I hold and forms the basis for how I expect my team to play. Granted, it is not for everyone, many prefer to see a team dominate possession and have a high workrate with the ball. Don't get me wrong, I set my team up to have a high workrate as well, but I prefer that workrate to be used in frustrating the opposition, letting them have as much of the ball as they want but only in the areas I want them to, in their own half where they can't do any damage. I want my players to hassle the opponent, tire the opponent out and strike only when necessary, conserving their effort for when it counts.
It was a strange situation in the Allianz-Arena, Munich, eerie in fact, a great arena that holds 71,000, only graced by a crowd of less than 19,000, it was a very strange experience. It was my first match in charge, I had less than a week to learn everything I could about the club, the players and even the culture, the press had me and the team on a hiding to nothing for this game. Even the biggest newspaper in Germany "Bild" surprisingly ran a story in their Saturday edition, confidently predicting there was no place for me at the club and that I would be gone by the end of October. To compound matters, after our arrival in Munich the evening before, we took a short training session in the arena and had three short five-a-side games from which Martin Fenin picked up a gashed leg. On the morning of the match it was determined that this injury would keep him out for 10-14 days, hampering the plans I had created during the week.
As it turned out, the match could have been a lot, lot worse. We were a team with new ideas, playing away at a team that are arguably a better side both man for man and collectively. We started the game very brightly, the players seemed to have taken on board much of what I had said to them and allowed 1860 Munchen to have the ball in their own half, breaking up any play which they tried to develop in our own. After around 10 minutes, we started to get the ball down and play our football and our patience was rewarded after 18 minutes when Stiven Rivic took hold of a short pass from Marco Stiepermann and stroked it past the keeper. Although the shot was on target, the slight deflection from Maximilian Nicu meant that it was credited as an own goal, maybe the dubious goals panel works slightly different here in Germany.
The team managed to stick to my philosophy for nearly an hour after the opening goal, but following a raft of substitutions, things started to change, the 1860 wide men knew that we were struggling in the full back positions and started to try and exploit this which culminated in a 74th minute equaliser from Ismael Blanco. It wasn't particularly deserved, we controlled the pace of much of the game as well as controlling how 1860 used the ball but we contributed to our downfall, lacking concentration in the final third when it mattered most. The players did respond well to the equaliser, once again nullifying any threat that 1860 had after that and the game was closed out to a creditable draw for ourselves. I would have much preferred a win, but it was also equally as important not to start with a defeat, it provides a platform, however small, to build on in the coming weeks.
In other news, whilst returning on the coach on Sunday evening, I received a call from former Bochum full back Philipp Bonig, in response to my offer of a trial. Phillip was very interested in partaking in the trial and arrived on Monday morning where he was assessed both on the training ground, by the medical department and by my technical staff. However, I don't believe that Philipp offers anything different to what we already have here at the club and I won't be pursuing a deal for him at this moment in time.
As previously mentioned, we have a home game coming up in midweek against Duisburg so after an assessment this morning, the players will be coming in for light training this afternoon in preparation for this game. Duisburg have made a solid if not unspectacular start to the season so should provide another tough test for the squad.