CSKA-Sofia: 5212 WB Tactic

I’m not a tactician so there isn’t a big write up or analysis to follow, but here’s the CSKA-Sofia tactic, used for 3 seasons, that won the Champions League in the 3rd season.

It’s not always easy but it gets there in the end, scores goals and doesn’t concede many. It may need tweaking to fit your squad, but it worked wonders with my CSKA team.

Don’t start with OI but listen to the Assistant’s feedback during the game and make changes based on that.

Against bigger teams, start with an attacking mentality and change to cautious once a goal ahead.

If they equalise, change back to attacking and repeat until the last 10 minutes when you should go very defensive.

So Near & Yet Sofia | Season Three

Spoiler Alert: CHAMPIONS!

Lilyana Dimitrova Stats
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Superkupa na Bulgaria

Champions!
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Parva Liga

Champions!
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Kupa na Bulgaria

Champions!
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Champions League

Champions!
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Competition, Club Culture and 5 Year Plan progress
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Competition, Club Culture and 5 Year Plan progress
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Player & Club Records
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Team of the Season
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So Near & Yet Sofia | The Story So Far

As you may have seen on my Twitter feed, I’ve made the decision to stop my regular blog posts about my CSKA-Sofia save. This is mainly due to lack of time and brain space on my part, plus the limited views I get for each post. I’ve found myself playing slower this year just so I can get a blog post out before I forget what’s happened so it’s kind of taking some of the enjoyment away from the game.

My plan now is to start a Twitter thread for each season and post more regularly on there instead, then at the end of each season, I’ll create a blog post with the tweets embedded for those who prefer to read them all in one place. This gives me the option to expand a little more in the blogs if I want to without feeling like I have to.

My previous CSKA blog posts are still available to read here but I’ve also put together a little ‘at a glance’ view of the story so far.


10 seasons to achieve as many competition and award wins as possible
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Lilyana Dimitrova Stats
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Competition, Club Culture and 5 Year Plan progress
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CSKA-Sofia Facilities
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Player & Club Records
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So Near & Yet Sofia | Season 2 | Part 1

Previously in Sofia
Season One


In a bit of belated update, we have reached the Winter Break during Dimitrova’s second season in charge of CSKA-Sofia.

Club Vision

In what could be the biggest turnaround of all time, the board are finally something other than devastated with the club vision of signing high-reputation players! Rumour has it, they were even delighted at some stages during the season.

They are still only satisfied with the development of youth players however they are delighted to see CSKA are maintaining the best youth system in the country. Once the upgraded system has bedded in properly, there is no doubt in Dimitrova’s mind that several Youth Academy players will become a major part of the starting 11.


Parva Liga

Board Expectation: Challenge for the title
Current Status: Very Pleased

It couldn’t really be any closer at the top but thanks to the goalscoring prowess of Evandro, Ali Sowe and Graham Carey (31 league goals between them), CSKA are sitting top of the Parva Liga on goal difference.


Kupa na Bulgaria

Board Expectation: Reach Final
Current Status: Failed

For the second season in a row, CSKA has failed to progress further than the Quarter Finals, with another 2-1 extra-time defeat.


Superkupa na Bylgarija

Board Expectation: Not Important
Current Status: Lost

Even though it’s not an important competition, it’s still heartbreaking to lose on penalties.


UEFA Champions League

Board Expectation: Reach 3rd Qualifying Round
Current Status: Passed

CSKA were not expected to make waves in their first Champions League appearance since the 1989/1990 season, and waves they did not make, losing in the 3rd Qualifying Round as expected.


Europa League

Board Expectation: Be Competitive
Current Status: Very Pleased

After being knocked out of the Champions League, CSKA were thurst into the Europa League once again.

A convincing 4-0 first-leg victory over NK Maribor helped secure their place in the Group Stage for the first time in 10 years. It was there where they caused one of the biggest upsets in the competition, beating Roma twice to finish 2nd in the group and reach the Knockout Stages!

Just reaching the knockout stages is a massive achievement for Dimitrova and her band of merry men, but will they be able to continue the fairytale and beat Man Utd… ?


Transfers

The chequebook has been called upon several times this season, with the money from the Antov sale being reinvested into the squad. It’s unlikely CSKA will have anywhere near the same amount of transfer budget for a long time so the aim was to strengthen the team for the current season whilst also ensuring the majority of the players would improve even more over the next few years.

Karnezis, Antov and Anderson all returned for a second season on loan. The remaining signings were all youth team members and will be covered in a separate post.

{A handful of fringe and youth players who didn’t make the grade found themselves leaving the club }

Awards

The success of the club brought in more awards at the end of 2019,

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 4

Previously in Sofia
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


Club Culture & 5 Year Plan

Overall, meeting the expectations around the Club Culture & 5 Year Plan could have gone a little better. Despite the success around attacking football, wage budgets and youth development, the lack of high reputation signings has left the board devastated and Dimitrova was awarded a B – in her end of season review. She even had to promise the board that she would sign more high profile players. Could a visit to the jobcentre soon be needed?


Finances

One of the things outlined in my first blog was a need/want to improve the club finances. Starting with a balance of £3m, the finances rocketed to £14m by the end of the season.

This is all thanks to some high-value transfer sales, most notably the departure of Valentin Antov.

Antov was at the heart of a solid defensive trio but when Man Utd came knocking on the door with an £8m bid, eventually negotiated up to a cool £15m, it was impossible to say no. The deal involved Antov being loaned back for the remainder of the season plus a 50% cut of his next transfer fee. Some say it was the deal of the season.


Parva Liga

When we last checked, in only 10 games remained in the season and CSKA were topping the league.

7 wins, 2 draws and 1 defeat followed.

So what does that mean for the table?

LEAGUE CHAMPIONS, THAT’S WHAT!

For the first time since 2008, and for the 32nd time in their history, CSKA-Sofia are the Bulgarian Champions!

Ludogorets, who?


Star of the Season: Ruben Pinto

Pinto secured his spot as a club legend this season with some stellar performances.

He added two awards to his cabinet,

was named in both the club’s and league’s Team of the Season,

and had the highest average rating, most assists and most PoTM awards in the squad.

Best of all, he’s only 28 years old so still in his prime – just how high can this guy fly.


Next Season

The 2020/2021 season is going to be a big one for CSKA as they fight to defend their league title, they also have the small matter of the Champions League to contend with. Some squad strengthening will be required and Dimitrova has big plans to cement the future of the club with an overhaul of the Youth setup.

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

{ I’m changing up the format of my save game blogs – I’ll be doing more in-depth ones at the beginning and end of each season, with shorter ones in between covering the ‘highlights’. This is the first of the latter }


Previously in Sofia
Part 1 | Part 2


Personal

In the biggest news of the last 3 months, the CSKA board finally gave in to Dimitrova’s requests for a contract extension and she officially signed on the dotted line for another 2 years with the Armeytsite.

Along with the contract extension, the board also permitted Dimitrova to study for a new Coaching Qualification and she now holds a National A Licence after 4 months of intense study.

The impressive start to her professional management career continues and after a further 6 games – Dimitrova has a win percentage of 62%!


Parva Liga

The league run continued and CSKA went 19 games unbeaten before a surprise 1-0 defeat to midtable Botek Vraca. Their fine form propelled them to first place in the league, overtaking historic rivals Levski Sofia in the process.

Officially qualified for the Championship Stage, now only 9 games remain. Can CKSA hold on and win their first Parva Liga title since 2008?


Club Vision: Sign high-reputation players

Before the Winter Break, the board were devastated with the lack of high profile signings. In a bid to appease the board, Dimitrova dipped into the loan market and brought in 2 new squad members.

Former Greek international, Karnezis, comes in from Napoli to provide goalkeeping competition.

Up and coming Ukranian defender, Mykolenko, also arrives and slots straight into the starting 11 at wingback.

The board were delighted both signings, they fitted exactly within the high reputation vision of the club. “More needs to be done”, they said, “more.”


In the next blog

It’s the end of season review: will CSKA win the league and, most importantly, will the board ever not be devastated with the transfer market?

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 2

With the mid-season break upon us, what better time to catch up on how Lilyana Dimitrova is doing in her first season at CSKA-Sofia.

On paper things are looking good for Dimitrova – after 31 competitive games, she has a win percentage of 58% and only 5 losses to her name. With a tenure of 387 days, she has also lasted longer in the role than the last four CSKA managers.

Behind the scenes… things are a little tougher and Dimitrova is struggling to live up to the board’s expectations in a few key areas, especially with the very specific club culture.

Develop players using the club’s youth system

Slightly misunderstanding the philosophy, Dimitrova took this to be a long-term vision for the club and had taken steps to invest in youth training and development. The board, however satisfied they are, wanted more club developed players active in the first team. Out of the 24 players in the first-team squad, 4 are youth players who have been with the club since they were 15 so fingers crossed a few appearances from the bench could see the board confidence change before the season is out!

Antov has been with the club since he was 13 and, at the age of 19, has already secured his place in the starting 11

Sign high-reputation players

This could not be going any worse for Dimitrova. Despite having a relatively decent transfer budget, Bulgaria is not a place many high reputation players want to move to and for those who do, their wages demands are too high for even the most financially secure clubs to afford. Dimitrova is definitely looking for a Christmas miracle to turn this one around.

Attacking football is where Dimitrova is strongest and, as she hasn’t signed a single player over 33, she is hoping this will be enough to prevent the board making a kneejerk reaction based on the other failures.

The 5-year plan the board set out is currently course which should also alleviate a bit of pressure.


Europa League

CSKA have never had much success in Europe and lived up to expectations again this time around. After Graham Carey put in a world-class performance against Viktoria Plzen in the 4th Qualifying Round 1st Leg- scoring a hattrick and levelling the score twice – hopes were high that CSKA could reach the Group Stage for the first time since 2010. Unfortunately, an 88th-minute goal in the return leg ended the dream and they succumbed to a 5-4 aggregate defeat.

Kupa na Bulgaria

The Bulgarian cup is where CSKA were expected to shine and add to their previous 21 titles. Dimitrova was so confident she even fielded some second-string players in the first two rounds. It was the Quarter Final where disaster struck.

In the 64th minute, Dimitrova used her final two substitutions – not something out of the ordinary for her style of play.

In the 65th minute, Evandro was taken off with a fractured lower arm. CSKA were down to 10 men.

In the 76th minute, Atanasov picked up his second yellow card and was sent to the stands. CSKA were down to 9 men.

The match went to extra time, Cerniauskas made some sublime saves and kept CSKA in the game right up the 105th minute.

An absolute belter”, they called the 25-yard free-kick that sailed into the back of the net.

Parva Liga

After a bit of a wonky start due to Dimitrova wanting to be a tactical maverick with a 31312 formation* , CSKA soon found a 5212 set up was a lot more successful and are currently on a 16 match unbeaten run.

Sitting 2nd in the league, CSKA are exactly where they’re expected to be.

* when later asked why she’d chosen such a formation, Dimitrova distracted journalists by pointing at a 3 headed monkey in the distance (???) and ran from the room.

In the next blog…

We’ll be returning to Dimitrova as she ends the Preliminary Phase of the Parva Liga, maybe by then she’ll understand how the league structure actually works…

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 1

Day One: 9am

During the first meeting with the board, the club culture was outlined.

Develop players using the club’s youth system

I already had the personal aim of turning the club into the Barcelona of Bulgaria by bringing first-teamers through from my academy so it’s great to see the club on side with this too.

We have great youth facilities, good academy coaching, exceptional youth recruitment and my HoYD claims we have a strong U19 squad. I’ll be looking to invest in facilities as soon as money allows too.

The u19 squad has four 5 star potential players in its ranks – Mitkov is already on the cusp of being good enough for my first team and will be a regular on my subs bench for the season.

Sign high reputation (attacking) players younger than 33

I’m not a manager who frequently signs older players so the prefered age limit of 33 doesn’t worry me, neither does the attacking football playing style as I don’t class my teams as successful unless scoring lots of goals. The signing high-reputation players stipulation however does – I have limited funds and not much in terms of recent success so drawing those big names to my club could prove quite a challenge.

Finances

Whilst the club finances aren’t terrible, they also aren’t great, and they’re something I’ll be looking to improve. We’re projected to have a balance of £8m by May 2021 which is an increase on now but I won’t be satisfied until we’re at least in double figures.

I’ve started the save early (in November 2018) and I’ll be using the 7 months before the season starts to play friendlies and bring in some easy cash. I’ll be assessing my squad soon so no doubt some players will be sold and I’m hoping to turn a profit by bringing some freebies in to sell on.

Backroom Staff

When most managers start at a new club the first port of call is to assess their playing squad. Not me though, I always go straight to my backroom staff because how can you expect to achieve success on the pitch if you don’t have the right team behind you.

Whilst we’re above average in most areas there a few worrying shortfalls and we lag a fair way behind our two biggest rivals.

Rather than paying out substantial amounts in mutual terminations I’ll be letting most contracts run down and then replacing them. The only exceptions being my Assistant Manager and Head of Youth Development, two roles which are vital to the success of the club and currently don’t have the right people in place. I’m planning on doing all transfer dealings myself so I have made the DoF and Loan Manager roles obsolete, saving the club £2k a week in wages.

I’ll be looking to bring in a Fitness Coach, another Physio and one or two Scouts as seeing the giant gaps between CSKA and Ludogorets Razgrad is setting my vertigo off.

CSKA-Sofia: Meet the Manager

Lilyana Dimitrova has been appointed manager of CSKA-Sofia, becoming the first female football manager in top-flight football. Dimitrova, 27, replaces Milos Kruscic who resigned less than 24 hours after taking charge.

The appointment has divided football fans across the world, with many wondering whether Dimitrova can make the jump into a male-dominated world and bring success to her new club.

When asked during her first press conference how she would command respect within the dressing room due to being a female manager, Dimitrova was indignant in her reply:

If my father or brother were sat in this seat now, would you be asking them about respect? Women have fought in wars but for some reason nobody expects us to be able to manage a group of men who kick a ball for a living. Football is in my blood. I’ve been surrounded by it my entire life. I’ve done the same courses as many of the other managers in this league. The only difference is I have a pair of breasts.


Lilyana Dimitrova (born 13 March 1991) is a Bulgarian professional football manager, who currently manages CSKA-Sofia. She is the daughter of sports agent Petar Dimitrov.

Dimitrova signed for FC Sportika Blagoevgrad at the age of 16, signalling the start of an underwhelming playing career. Due to persistent knee injuries, she struggled to break into the first team and at the end of the 2008/2009 season was released from the club without ever having played a competitive match.

After being released from Sportika, Petar Dimitrov touted his daughter to clubs in the United States in the hope it would relaunch her career. Dimitrova eventually signed for Philadelphia Independence in 2010 for their inaugural WPS season – she went on to make 23 appearances over 2 seasons but again suffered from several reoccurrences of knee injuries.

When the WPS folded in 2012, and on the advice of doctors, Dimitrova announced her retirement from professional football at the age of 21 and returned to education.

In 2014, Dimitrova relocated to England and attended the University of Chichester for 3 years while studying for a degree in Football Coaching and Performance. Alongside her University course, Dimitrova gained her National B Licence and assisted in coaching the Under 14’s squad at Chichester City FC.

CSKA-Sofia is her first full-time coaching appointment in professional football.

CSKA-Sofia: A History

CSKA Sofia are the most decorated Bulgarian team, holding 51 league and domestic cup titles – they are also the only Bulgarian team to reach the Champions League semi-finals, albeit the last time being back in 1982. Over recent years, Ludogorets Razgrad has challenged their dominance and have beaten CSKA to the league title for the last 3 seasons.

CSKA Sofia Milestones

1948Officially founded under the name Septemvri pri CDV
1948Won first league title
1951Won first league and cup double
1954 – 1962Won 9 consecutive league titles
1956First European Cup appearance, reached Quarter Finals
1964Sacked manager, Krum Milev, after 16 years in charge
1967First Bulgarian team to reach European Cup Semi-Final
1968Signed Petar Zhekov, the top Bulgarian scorer of all time
1985Forced to disband after violence during the Bulgarian cup final
Refounded as Sredets
Hristo Stoichkov banned from playing for life
1986Hristo Stoichkov ban overturned
2002Won first league title since 1998
2005Won 30th league title
2008Refused license to play in Champions League due to unpaid obligations
2008Former Club President, Aleksander Tomov, arrested for embezzlement
2013Withdrawn from Europa League after financial problems
2015Refused license to play in Bulgarian top tier due to unpaid debts, demoted to 3rd tier
2016First 3rd Division club to win Bulgarian Cup
2016Reinstated to Bulgarian top tier

Managerial Merry-Go-Round

Out of the last 20 managers, only 7 have stayed longer than 3 months. The shortest tenure belonging to club legend Hristo Stoichkov who lasted just 1 month in the role, leaving due to the club’s poor financial state.

Krum Milev is deemed the most successful CSKA manager, winning 11 league and 4 cup titles in 16 years. He was sacked in 1964 after finishing 11th during the previous season and only 3 points clear of relegation.

What the (FM) Future Holds

  • will I be able to end Ludogorets run of 8 consecutive league titles?
  • will I be able to turn CSKA into a European powerhouse?
  • will I be able to last longer than 3 months in charge?

In my next blog I’ll be outlining my aims for my FM20 save, I have a few ideas up my sleeve and have taken inspiration from a few other bloggers. Now, where’s that beta so I can get planning…