Tartan Takeover

Imagine the scene. You’ve witnessed a club at the peak of its power, dominating European football and winning the European Cup back-to-back. People would have told you it must’ve been a dream because only five years previous the club in question had been dwindling in the Second Division of its domestic footballing pyramid. This sounds like something that could only happen in Football Manager, right? Well in fact this is the story of one man’s achievements that will forever be the challenge myself and many Football Managers will try to replicate. The amazing triumphs of Mr. Brian Clough and his Nottingham Forest team of the 1970s and 80s.

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RBL 2031/32 – Part 1 of 2 – A Season To Remember

It’s the morning after the night before. I woke up today with a renewed vigour, like the veil had been lifted on my life and all was now clear before me.

I’d imagine that the majority of you reading this will by now have heard the news of what happened on that fateful night the 29th May 2032 at the San Siro. When two juggernauts collide there can only ever be one winner and lo’, how many times I have fallen at that final hurdle to be pummeled by those I despise and humiliated by condescending bastards. Yet no longer…

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The Diego Diaries: Chapter 1 – Intro & The Ill-Fated Sevilla Diaries

The Premise

For a while now, I’ve been fascinated by Monchi. The Sevilla Director of Football is one of football’s best dealers – buying some of the world’s best talents for low prices and selling them for a high profit. Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Sergio Ramos are just a few of the stars who have passed through Sevilla, earning the club a major profit.

It’s a model that is often used in the stock market – buy low, sell high, but Monchi has applied it to football.

This summer, he is off to Roma, where it will be interesting to see how he will transfer his methods.

Suggested Reading: http://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/05/05/the-life-and-times-of-monchi-the-transfer-guru-heading-to-roma/

How does this transfer to Football Manager? Well, using my created manager Diego Maradona, I aim to transfer Monchi’s intricate methods to my recruitment in the game. Think of it as a form of moneyball, as made popular by Alex Stewart’s Moneyball series on The Set Pieces, but with a specific way of recruiting.

The Method

I was particularly taken by this Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/may/17/sevilla-monchi-liverpool-europa-league-final

In it, Monchi describes Sevilla’s methods of recruitment:

“Sixteen people cover a series of leagues. For the first five months we watch a lot of football but with no particular aim: we’re just accumulating data. Every month we produce an ideal XI for each league. Then in December we start watching players who appeared regularly in different contexts – home, away, international – to build the broadest possible profile.”

Monchi pulls out his phone and, carefully reducing the image so the names can’t be seen, says: “That gives us this.” A colour-coded spreadsheet shows players by position. Around 250 potential targets, in all positions. “The manager says: ‘I want a left-back who averages 11km a game, runs 800m at full speed, uses both feet.’ And from these, 10 will fit.”

I will be using this method in my Football Manager save. I’ll monitor the leagues and create ideal XI sides for as many leagues as I can, using these to identify the ideal signing needed. I talked about this during episode 98 of The Deep Lying Podcast.

The Manager

Diego Maradona. Yes, that Diego Maradona. The Argentine international returns to Sevilla, where he suffered an ill-fated spell before returning to his homeland in 1993.

Whilst there, Maradona became friends with a back-up goalkeeper – Monchi.

The Story To Date

I took over Sevilla on the 1st of January 2017, with the club lying in 11th place and someway off where they should be.

I brought in Rodrigo Bentancur from Boca and Frederico Venacio from Vit. Setubal, whilst the likes of Tremoulinas, Mariano and Sarabia all left the club. We spent £6.5million and brought in £15million, meaning my first window resulted in a profit.

Things would go okay and I managed to guide Sevilla to a 7th place finish and qualification for the Europa League.

The summer was an important one as it was the first real chance for me to implement my recruitment strategy.

I spent £48 million, but brought in £79 million as my recruitment strategy went to work.

Many talented players were bought for low fees – Tisserand (£2.4m), Dembele (£6.25m), Danilo (£4.2m), Ascacibar (£2.5m), who I all thought could be sold on for a big profit in the future.

Big names left the club – Steven N’Zonzi joined Napoli for £23m, Ben Yedder joined Everton for £17.5m and Sergio Escudero joined Schalke for £13m. All represented profit on their incoming fees.

Our pre-season couldn’t have got off to a better start – going unbeaten. In the league, it was a different story. We went five games without recording our first win – a 1-0 home win against Deportivo. This barren spell included a humiliating 7-2 loss against Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

After 19 games, we were in the relegation zone and couldn’t buy a win. In fact, I’d only bought 3 wins all season.

It was one of the worst spells I’d ever had on Football Manager. Nothing I did worked. What was even more frustrating was that we were flying in the Europa League, winning 5 of our six games and topping the group.

After a 2-0 loss against Cordoba, our fifth straight loss, I was sacked. Diego Maradona and Sevilla obviously aren’t meant to be together.

Life After Maradona

For Sevilla, their new manager Fermin Galeote managed to steady the ship. He managed to get enough wins to push Sevilla up the table, securing a 13th place finish. He even managed to beat Cordoba 4-0.

What next for Diego?

After going 5 months unemployed, in which he went on a complete bender in true Maradona style, Diego was offered a job in Italy. Where? Naples. That’s where our story continues.

Story by Scott Salter – follow him here @scottsltr

Storming the Crystal Palace: summarising three seasons of Football Manager action at Selhurst Park

After months of talking about it on the Deep Lying Podcast, my time at Crystal Palace has finally come to an end.

I’ve taken the team from a relegation threatened bunch of mediocrities to Premier League solidity and two cup semi finals. I bought in a bunch of talented youngsters – including Kasper Dolberg, Franck Kessie and Charlie Taylor – that the team can be based around for years and I’ve left the club in a better place than when I’ve started.

Of course, it would have been nice to continue. I turned down a contract from the board in the autumn of the third season and never received another one. And while I know I could have added another version of me to the game and carried on, I decided to do what I thought my in game character would do and take an ambitious job abroad to further my career.

Still, despite departing for the bright lights of Hoffenheim, there’s been plenty to look back on. So here’s my summary of my three seasons in charge of Crystal Palace which have, to be fair, been some of the most enjoyable I’ve had in the recent version of Football Manager.

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The Football League or Bust – The Autumn Statement

In many ways, football is about movement; be it the revolving door of management, the positioning of the defence, or a clever run off the ball – both on and off the field, movement is key to success. In terms of transfer dealings, movement is also exactly what was needed in the autumn at Moss Lane and there was a significant amount in both directions, as certain positions were strengthened and players deemed to be deadwood were moved on. Continue reading

The Football League or Bust – Nailing the tactic

With the last article being heavy on squad detail and images, this time we’ll be looking at a part of playing FM that is renowned for its brevity… I’m joking of course, tactical discussions can be among the most meandering and silly discussions we have as fans of football, but it is an absolutely necessary part of the game and these can heed insight and even revelations.

Whether it’s an overarching philosophy or a basic game plan, nailing one’s tactical colours to the mast nice and early will make the management job a lot easier. Such is my belief anyway and I’m itching to make sure my counter-attacking 4-3-1-2 looks solid as we move through the early run of fixtures. Continue reading

The Football League or Bust – Meeting the players

At higher levels of football, I always imagine the first meetings of team and manager to be awkward affairs with overdone politesse, long pauses and the lingering feeling that both parties are sizing each other up.

I may be wrong but the further down the pyramid you go, I imagine these pressures and mind-games to be much more low key as both manager and players are usually just very pleased to be employed in football at all – particularly at semi-professional clubs where contract security is not exactly top of the agenda. It is with this mindset that I approach man management at Altrincham; aloof characters will find themselves out in the cold and there will certainly be no fawning over specific players on my part. Continue reading