We had a chat with Fnatic's coach keita ahead of their ESL Pro League games tonight to chat about how afro and dexter have been going in the team, the relationship between IGL and coach, as well as the rest of the teams in their group.
Grady: A couple of months ago you added afro and dexter to the squad. How's that been going for everybody?
keita: We've had 2 real tournaments with Gamers8 and Cologne. For Cologne, we only had one and a half weeks practice, so we had a bit of a disappointing end to that tournament. Overall we were pretty happy with beating Cloud9, even if they had a stand-in, and beating 9INE as well. For the first tournament and to get the feel of each other, that was like pretty successful and we were pretty happy with that.
Then Gamers8 was a weird tournament 'cause it was in Riyadh and single elimination - we had Cloud9 who are obviously a brilliant team and we had a close map, but it was hard to take anything away. Normally when you attend a tournament, we have a lot of thoughts and some conclusions of what you need to improve, but it's pretty difficult only playing one best-of-three.
So far it's been going pretty well and we've mostly just spent the last few weeks practicing and getting a better feel of the identity of our team. It's still a bit early to say, but overall it's been good bringing dexter on as the new in game leader and then afro has shown he's a pretty impactful AWP, I think it's been positive so far.
Talking about that new in game leader, obviously the coach and the in game leader need quite a bit of synergy, need to work together quite well. How's that relationship between you and dexter been going?
That's something that's quite important, having that relationship between the IGL and the coach, probably the most important relationship I'd say in the team. They're the two people that will be leading the team and it's important you're on the same page, because they can put the team in a really weird situation if they're aren't on the same page. We've done a pretty good job at looking at like IGLs, I interviewed and spoke to a lot of different ones and I spent three or four hours to make sure we're on the same page. It's been going pretty well, obviously there's always gonna be stuff that you need to talk about and change, adjust for each other. He's really open, when we've had differences he's pretty keen to hear my thoughts on different things.
You've been with Fnatic for a while now, and been through quite a few combinations. How does the combination that you currently have stack up against some of the ones that you've had in the past?
I've had like three different versions now of the team, there's probably more with all the little changes. We had the kind of Swedish lineup with Brollan, ALEX, Jackinho, and KRIMZ and that team didn't work out too great as everyone saw and definitely needed a revamp. It was sort of like a transition period for Fnatic going international, everyone getting used to each other and that team wasn't so successful I'd say.
Then we did the big transition where we brought in nicoodoz and roeJ, then we brought FASHR in and I think we started to find more of a identity there and that team felt pretty good. We were all pretty happy with what we achieved, especially early on in the team. We just felt that we sort of stagnated and we needed to make further change.
Whereas I would say the Brollan and that lineup are completely different, this new one is more trying to build on what we had previously - the only thing that makes a big difference is moving IGL from mezii to dexter. I've worked with mezii as an IGL and as a player, so it wasn't a totally brand new thing having him as a player. The main differences would be trying to free mezii up as more of a fragger and trying to bring in an in-game leader that's a bit more focused on of helping develop the players and has a bit more experience. We still play similar and still have the same culture and the same way that we like to operate as a team in and outside the server.
You've signed a contract extension at the start of the year. Do you have any goals left with Fnatic or things that you'd like to achieve with the team?
I don't think us, as an org, think we feel like we've fully achieved our goals honestly. Coming into it, all the players knew that this is a very competitive scene, it is hard to make a successful international team from scratch. When I joined it was the first time we went international, it was literally from ground zero, I think we were ranked #80.
I think we've done bare minimum and got to a point where we can qualify to majors, made it to one playoff, one game away from the other, close to some playoffs. Ideally all of us, even the the new guys like afro, would like to become a playoff contender and eventually do even more. We've of course achieved goals on the way, mini goals, we want to make majors and we want to pass the groups stage here, we wanna be ranked within the top wherever. In terms of grand scheme end goals, I don't think we have no, there's still more to come.
If you could peg it down to one or maybe two things, what do you think is the changes that you guys need as a team to go from where you are to achieve those goals?
I'm not sure, I think it's quite difficult. We found ourselves in our last team that we were sort of near where we wanted to be, we just couldn't quite take the next next step and by making changes that shows our thought process that we thought that we needed a new change. Hopefully bringing in like bringing in afro it could be that impactful AWPer that could take us over the line or bringing in dexter which would allow mezii to focus more on fragging would sort of bring us over the line. We just felt that we needed to somehow make a way to enable the players to play better, that's what we felt we were missing, we needed a bit more punch in our team.
Looking at your group, do you have any opinions on those teams? Ones that you think will definitely make it through ones you think could dark horse in getting to playoffs?
NaVi and FaZe should be the two favorites in the group, both teams are really good and I'd be surprised if one of them wouldn't make it through. For us, we're sort of in the middle where I think we can beat both teams, we've shown that on our good days we can beat top teams, there's a chance that we can get ahead of one of them.
In terms of who could upset, Apeks despite losing jL and kuben, they had a really good run at the major and everyone expected them to fall off when they lost jL. Maybe they lost a bit of steam, but I don't think that's because they lost a player, I think that's more that they highly overperformed at the major. They're a pretty good team with good ideas and have their own way of playing Counter-Strike. On a given day, like us, they could beat one of the top teams like NaVi or FaZe.
Out the other teams, I don't know as much M80, new team that has mostly practiced in America. We haven't practiced them coming into this because we didn't wanna practice against teams in our group. I can't really say much on them or the Asian teams either.