I’ve only been to one Newport County match (in the 2015/16 season) but once was enough. I also saw fellow League Two sides Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City play in the 2015/16 season and it was a similarly scrappy story where physical strengths seemed more important than technical skills. I thought Exeter played comparatively decent football though. Shrewsbury, in League One, weren’t a lot better, however, they did have one or two players whose quality in attacking areas highlighted their teams’ slight superiority.
The brutal-ful game
It’s not easy playing beautiful football at that level. Players are on the whole not as gifted and pitches are usually harder to play on. Trying to pass the ball out from the back would be a particularly risky strategy as defenders are unlikely to have the technical and mental attributes for it and the ball could bobble horribly and fall to an opposing striker. That isn’t to say no players at this level are good passers or there aren’t any great playing surfaces – there are always exceptions; for example, semi-professional Nantwich Town FC always have a fine pitch – but for the most part, you notice a difference between Premier League football matches and matches in lower leagues.
It’s like watching Brazil
So, I’m not criticizing these teams, it’s just unrealistic for them to aim to play like Arsenal or Barcelona and still win games in largely physical, pragmatic divisions. Having said all that, I’m going to try to achieve what I think is almost impossible. I want to get League Two Newport County playing attractive football in FM17. But what is attractive football? Isn’t it subjective? To know if I’ve succeeded in my attempt, I must set measurable targets. So, as a club we must endeavour to (if you think there’s more to beautiful football, let me know):
- Achieve the best pass completion ratio over a season
- Achieve the best average possession percentage over a season
- Score more goals than the average number of goals scored over a season
- At least one player in the top five for dribbles per game for a season
To achieve these targets, I will need the right players, system and some luck.
Our best passer is Mark Randall with a 13 rating. At this level, it’s decent but we’re going to need more players at least as good a passer as Randall if we’re to play attractive football.
I’m excited to have a folk hero among us. John Parkin is well-known in English football after playing for nearly 20 years at a high level. He started at Barnsley before playing for the likes of York, Hartlepool, Hull and Stoke. Parkin is our second best finisher after Grego-Cox and I expect him to bag a few goals for us. I’m not convinced he can be relied on to bang them in consistently over a season though so I’ll be looking for another striker to chip in. We also have Rhys Healey, on loan from Cardiff. He has 12 finishing and, at only 21, he can improve.
Well, I’m keen to get stuck in to this challenge. It could be the most difficult test I’ve set myself yet on Football Manager. Follow me on Twitter @fmscrapbook to find out how Newport’s season progresses and if we can play ‘like Brazil’.