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

Stop the slump – a guide to getting out of trouble in Football Manager 2017

It’s rare to find any Football Manager player who has never experienced a slump in form. Whether they’ve been hampered because of injuries, had their squad blown apart by transfer dealings or simply been found wanting tactically, most managers will have experienced the gut drop moment where it’s clear things aren’t working.

I had precisely that feeling in a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago. My Crystal Palace team were sitting pretty in the top half of the Premier League table in early December 2016. Things were going well, we looked set for a solid mid table finish and should have been looking to prepare for a proper assault of the top half. But by the end of January – and after an increasingly desperate number of consolatory flat whites – we found ourselves dragged into a relegation battle after a run of eight games without a win.

Still, despite those problems, I did eventually pull us out of the death spiral. Though we finished the season in 15th, our final 12 games of the season yielded six clean sheets and 13 points – not sublime form, but considering that four of those matches were against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United I was desperately relieved that we avoided the job.

How did I do it though? What follows is a little insight into how I stopped this particular slump just in time and what I hope you can learn from it. To help speed things along, I’ve broken the piece into four numbered sections – each one should help you get into my way of thinking as quickly as possible.

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FM17: Stuttgart – 2018/19 Season Review

As promised, I’ve now written a follow up blog. Funny how a new game coupled with enjoyment can spur someone on to put words on a page. In this post I’ll bring you up to speed with my progress (which is tough, believe me – playing at some rate of knots right now) and I’ll also give you a run down on the youth prospects at the club that I’m excited about, so much so that a little wee came out.

Gross.

2018/19 – Pre-Season Transfer Shenanigans

Now, I found this transfer window really, really frustrating. Usually I find pre-season one of the most enjoyable things about FM; the wheeling and dealing, transfer rumours, fighting to keep hold of your best players, scouring the world for unearthed gems and inevitably scrambling around to replace a player whose just stabbed you in the back now that a bigger club is sniffing around. It’s all a lot of fun…usually.

From finishing 4th in the previous season we were hopefully looking at qualifying into the Champions League group stages. With this in mind my squad needed more strength and depth. I had a few clubs sniffing around one or two of my players and alas I had to give in to AS Monaco when they faxed over a £28.5m bid for Mihailo Ristic, a £27m profit after one season. I was pretty gutted to lose him as he was fantastic on the left as my defensive winger, however his head had been turned by the luxury of life in Monaco and so I sanctioned the deal knowing full well I could use all those reddies for some sound reinvestment.

ins

I had identified that the two key areas I needed to invest in were at GK and at ML now that Ristic was gone. I made the mistake of accepting the deal for Ristic without lining up a suitable successor – I have a chap called Bogosavac signed from Partizan the previous season who was ‘competent’ at best – but not on the same level as Ristic. I quickly found that there was no on his level to perform as I wanted, I considered retraining players with similar attributes but who weren’t natural left midfielders, wing backs, full backs, the lot – no bloody club bore any fruit and my scouts were so useless I banished them to scout in Greenland and cursing them the whole way there – it won’t surprise you that they failed to find a better keeper than Langerak too.

In the meantime I set about reinvesting some of that Ristic cash on players that I had found through my worldly travels. In came Rodrigo Bentancur of whom I am a long-term admirer (not in that way). He had many a great day with me at Stoke in FM16 so this was a no brainer at such a relatively small fee. He would come in and provide great competition for my two AM roles and even provide cover at MR & MC. Long term I want him to nail down the AP-S role at AMCR.

Zdenek Vesely & Daniel Horvath are two kids to watch out for, more on them soon.

Davinson Sanchez came in to replace my ageing captain Toni Sunjic at the heart of the defence & Cristian Pavon to make the SS role his own as alarm bells rang around Maxim’s recent performances. Luis Olivera from River was not a signing I necessarily wanted to make but I felt he was the best of a bad bunch of scouting reports to provide backup to the ML role.

Grobler was a dirt cheap, guaranteed profit making DC from South Africa…and finally Jose Laertes joined in January – 6 months too late for the keeper I wanted but alas I only found him at the end of November after a quick trip to Brazil for the World Beach Volleyball Championships. Some compromising photos and a bribe or two later and he was booked on the first flight out of Brazil in January. A much needed long-term upgrade in goal. More on him in my Youth Players blog post which I think we can all see, won’t be happening in this already 700 word post.

August – January

1sthalfseason

The season kicked off with as a bit of a mixed bag. I was pretty gutted to be drawn against a strong Monaco side in the Champions League qualifier and they ultimately proved too strong for me over two legs. It was a bit of a kick in the teeth but at least we could fall back on the Europa League on a bloody Thursday night.

A last minute screamer by Assombalonga salvaged a point away at Bayern to kick off the season, other notable wins included a 2-1 away win v Schalke & 4-3 home win v Dortmund. Our EL results were very positive and we comfortably topped our group. I particularly enjoyed our 4-0 drubbing of Lyon in France.

January – May

2ndhalfseason

Before April came we were keeping pace with Leverkusen in 2nd place – especially after a cracking 2-1 win against them away from home which sparked a run of 4 wins in 5 games. However 3 defeats on the bounce before May saw us drop down to 6th albeit in very close proximity to the 3 teams above us – our title challenge had withered yet I knew we were some way from competing on that front.

An incredibly poor 3-0 away loss at the Mestalla meant we left ourselves with far too much to do in the return leg and a 2-0 victory was not enough to turn our fortunes. We wrapped up the league in a more positive fashion bagging 3 wins in our last 4 games to lift us into 4th place at the expense of Schalke who failed to win their final game. I was still pleased with our table finish knowing that we had another shot at Champions League football next season…

…except we don’t do we? FFS the bloody co-efficient. Though going on the results in Europe of the past few seasons – I can’t really see how this is possible, but there you have it. Italy currently have the 4th Champions League spot – the bastardo’s!

It was another enjoyable season where we performed slightly above expectations again, the aim has to be to kick on and nail down a Champions League spot next season and in the meantime – go as far as we can in the Europa League next season.

Watch out for my next update on the wonderkids of Stuttgart as well as summer of transfer madness.

FM17: Stuttgart – The Story So Far

So this wasn’t supposed to happen so soon was it? I mean, usually I flounder around hopefully for AT LEAST a few months on a new Football Manager game, jumping from tactic to tactic, team to team & rage quit to counselling. But here I am, the game has literally only been out a matter of hours and my first blog post is here, cherish this moment folk, and pray this lasts for a while to come.

I’ve sunk my teeth quite far into FM17 by my now-restrictive-time-standards. Real life tries to get in the way but I’ve found myself staying up ridiculously late & playing each minute I spend on bloody trains, but I digress – let’s focus on FM.

Stuttgart

So why Stuttgart? I’ve always enjoyed saves in Germany and the fact that they really should be a Bundesliga side meant my chances of early success were somewhat higher than most. Plus during my fantastic, all-conquering Stoke save in FM16 Stuttgart notoriously churned out some fantastic regens – something I was hoping would continue into FM17.

Here I’ll sum up my progress so far, I’m 2 seasons in so I’m not going to bloody remember every detail – so I’ll stick to the juicy bits. Melons.

Season 1 – 2016/17

Well this was a journey into the unknown, tactically that is. I don’t really know why but looking at the squad at first glance I thought ‘yup, 3-5-2 definitely, or 5-3-2, 2-3-5? No, definitely 5-3-2. Wins followed losses followed wins followed losses. Consistency was hard to come by & I was frustrated time and again by our inefficiency going forwards. Something had to change as we then slipped to 14th and murmurs of impending doom were sounding around the Mercedez-Benz Arena.

In a moment of lucidity the cogs began to whirl and the puzzle pieces began to come together. Over Christmas 2016, when in real life I would no doubt be rather inebriated, I decided to scrap all instructions, drop back to 1 striker in Daniel Ginczek (returning from a long term injury) & giving some of my best young players a chance. What was born from the fruit of my loins brain was a 3-4-2-1 as seen below:

system

Stuttgart clicked as we rocketed up the table, culminating in winning promotion and the title with a few games to spare, including a 5-0 drubbing of 2nd placed Kaiserslauten to notch up the trophy. This was in no doubt down to some crafty transfer business as well in a busy January 2017:

Ins

jan17 inOuts

jan17 out

My better performers/players were inappropriately touched up (steady now) by those clubs with more money than me. They all moaned as initial bids were knocked back but I saw it as an exciting challenge to replace some regular and positive performers. All those sold were aged 25+ years with Grosskreutz & Gentner both 30 – I couldn’t turn down some good money for them – even if Gentner were my star man at that point. It gave us some good money to reinvest.

In came Onguene to sure up my backline, Ristic to make the defensive winger role his own on the left hand side, Havertz on a compensation fee from Leverkusen who can play anywhere across the MC/AM lines & Assombalonga so replace Ginczek and be my main man up top.

Ristic was brilliant, Assombalonga even better as he notched 15 goals in 12 games from January including two hattricks. Britt was the shit.

Season 2 – 2017/18

Confidence was high in the Wilson household. The 3-4-2-1 was producing some stunning passing football in central areas. My friends had a new-found respect for my managerial skills & even my wife came up with the chant ‘Britt, Britt, he’s the shit’. She didn’t really, but I like to think that if she ever showed an ounce of interest in my managerial career, that’s the sort of crap she’d come out with. There’s nothing quite like enjoying an FM save is there ey?

The only major departure in the summer of 69 2017 was Emiliano Insua to Monaco for £6.75m – for an ageing, whining, ex-Liverpool player I was all too happy to see the back of the Argentinian bastard. Besides, Ristic was my man at ML & that was that.

Ins

ins Jul17

Gajic came in to provide sufficient backup and a rotation option with Jean Zimmer who was pretty darn good at MR. Bogosavac was to sit on the bench and learn every fucking detail possible from Ristic. Manojlovic was a cheap backup GK whose progression has been disappointing. Diaz provided backup to Britt the Shit, as did Guillaume (who again, hasn’t had a sniff nor progressed as expected). M’Vila was a cracking free signing to walk into the CM-D role and Upamecano was a must buy when his lovely agent told me he might be available – I promptly threw a bunch of my resources at the 18yr old wunderkin from Salzburg and he’s been a stalwart in the Stuttgart defence ever since.

So how did we do? I have to say this was one of my most enjoyable seasons in recent FMs to date, we over-performed on a consistent basis and, well, just have a look at some of these images.

results to Jan18

Some cracking results including a phenomenal thrashing of Schalke at home (yes, I don’t have the name fixes yet please don’t hate me too much).

results to Jul18

A great 2nd half to the season though we stuttered through April, however, the 1-0 win v Bayern & 4-0 drubbing of Dortmund were orgasmic.

A season to be very, very happy with. The board expected mid-table as a minimum required (one I was genuinely worried about at the beginning of the season) and we sat in 3rd place pretty much all season, once flirting with 2nd & even spent a few hours at the top of the table. Our late season stutters however meant that the defeat to Koln on the last day of the season dropped us down to finish in 4th. Still a brilliant achievement and ensures we have a chance to qualify for the Champions League next season – which is bloody awesome.

Of course, the success isn’t all down to me, I suppose. We had some great performances throughout especially from some of our young talent – here’s a summation below:

Upamecano Jul18

Dayot has been consistently great for us. At 19 he’s got many a season ahead of him – though I am worried I won’t be able to hold onto him. Averaged 7.10 this season.

Anto Grgic Jul18

Grgic has been fantastic in his role as DLP-S at MC-L; though these down arrows concern my slightly (I’m hoping he’s just boozing up on his summer holidays). He dictates the play and most of our goals involve him at some stage. Averaged 7.05 this season.

Havertz Jul18

Largely a rotation option, Havertz was a steal to effectively sign on a free. I’ve used him at DLP-S, EG & SS and if I’m honest I prefer him from the SS role and his better performances were from there – he even bagged a few playing up top when called upon.

Ozcan Jul18

Ozcan was fantastic in his first season with us and showed glimpses in his 2nd, I’d love more consistency from him and to play more of a pivotal role – maybe I should ask him to ‘dictate the tempo’ from his EG role, or play killer balls often…it’s amazing what you think of when writing up crap like this. 12 goals, 3 assists in 33 games this season, should only get better too.

Britt Jul 18

Ok, ok I know he’s not a ‘youngster’ but I couldn’t leave without telling you more about this guy. 45 games for Stuttgart in total, 44 goals and 14 assists, averaging 7.53 this season. He topped the scoring charts with 29 in 32, won numerous awards and was the most potent scorer in Europe. In other words, Britt is the Shit.

Summary

So this brings you up to speed, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have so far. This will be the first of many posts and as a teaser I’ve just had permission to pay money and play with a couple of cracking 16 year olds next season. If you won’t come back for the fallout from that sentence then well I don’t see George writing much for the site these days.

Roll on Champions League qualification!