At ViewFromTheTouchline we are happy to host and promote other people’s posts and blogs, We’re happy to have Matt aka @FM_Throwing share his FM23 save here on our site. Today’s post is his introduction to his FM23 save.
Why UD Almeria?
They say you should never go back to an ex. There’s a reason it didn’t work out, There’s too much bad blood and negative energy. And they’re probably right, Most of the time. Sometimes though, you can’t quite put your finger on why it ended, You lay awake at night wondering, What caused a promising and fun relationship to collapse? Why have you spent the last two years not knowing? What if they were “the one”?
At the start of FM21 I had a save with the Andalusian team Union Deportivo Almeria. Like most romances, it started well. Sure, there were a few rocky moments. I couldn’t get any strikers to stay fit. We worked hard to overlook each other’s faults. Eventually, we clicked and won La Liga 2 thanks to a very late run of beautiful form.
Back in the big time, we fought hard and managed to achieve a 10th-placed finish. Things were looking good. Season 3 started brightly and after 8 games we were in8th position. We’d just beaten Barcelona 1-0. And that’s where it ended. No reason. No drunken one-night stand. No blazing argument. It’s not you, it’s me. Since then, I’ve had a yearning to rekindle the relationship. With the club now in La Liga, where I left them, I feel it’s a perfect time to restart the journey.
The (recent) past of UD Almeria
Since the start of the century, Almeria had spent a total of six years in the top flight of Spanish football. The last was in 2015. After that, they failed to finish above 10th in the Segunda division. A big change was needed. That was until Turki Al-Sheikh, advisor to the Saudi Royal Court, completed a takeover of the club in 2019.
Big-money takeovers of football clubs aren’t as common in Spain. Of the few to have taken place, there have been warning signs. The ill-fated purchase of Malaga, in particular, shows the potential pitfalls. Al-Sheikh also seems to have heeded these warnings and did his due diligence. He spoke to many leading figures in Spanish football, including former manager Unai Emery, to make sure his dream of creating a profitable, self-sustaining club was a realistic one.
Part of Al-Sheikh’s plans for his new club was to invest in extraordinary young talent and provide them with a positive, winning environment in which they could thrive.
He quickly invested in promising youngsters from across the footballing world, including Darwin Nunez from Penarol for £13m. The Uruguayan striker, as we know, was later sold to Benfica for 24 million euros and then to Liverpool for around £64 million. Luckily, Almeria had included a 20% sell-on clause.
Nunez wasn’t a lucky find, however. He was one of the fruits of a policy of scouring Uruguay for the next star. Also making their way to Andalusia were strikers Cristian Olivera and Juan Manuel Gutierrez, who despite having not made an impact for the first team still have bright futures.
Life in La Liga
After twice getting knocked out in the playoffs since the takeover, Almeria finally achieved promotion to La Liga in 2022. A drama-filled final few weeks of the season saw them promoted as Champions, along with Real Valladolid.
It won’t be easy to make an impact in La Liga, though. Despite having a rich owner there are still elements working against the club. A small fan base and a stadium only capable of holding 15k fans will restrict natural growth and make it hard to compete with the larger teams in the division. Naturally, the new owner has already started a plan to modernise and expand the stadium.
However, a club expected to be finishing near the bottom of La Liga can only grow its fanbase one step at a time.
The playing squad is also far away from being at the same standard as established mid-table teams such as Celta Vigo, Osasuna, and Getafe. Avoiding relegation will be more of a concern than challenging for the European places.
The recent £18m departure of Umar Sadiq, to La Liga rivals Real Sociedad, leaves a huge hole up front. The Nigerian scored 40 goals in 79 games for Almeria. His goal-scoring talent will hopefully be replaced in the short term by the incoming Dyego Sousa, formerly of Benfica, and Leo Baptistao from Santos. However, neither are proven La Liga strikers. With Sousa being 32 and Baptistao 29, neither are long-term options either.
The signing most likely to fill the shoes of Sadiq is El Bilal Toure, joining for around £8m from Reims in France. The powerful Malian striker is only 21, though, and has only scored 7 professional goals in 42 appearances.
The Future of Almeria
Thanks to Al-Sheikh’s pledge to bring young talent to Almeria, there’s a host of potential at the club. Most will need easing in gently, though, as they lack either the mental or physical attributes to be thrown in at the deep end. Only Lucas Robertone (signed from Velez) and Samu Costa (from Braga) are ready for regular first-team involvement.
Waiting in the wings are wingback Alex Centelles (Valencia), central defender Kaiky (Santos), and attacking player’s Largie Ramazini
(Manchester UFC), Lazaro (Flamengo). All promise a bright future for the club.
Obviously, my plan for save is silverware. I want European nights in Almeria and I want trophies for a club who’ve never won anything in the top flight. At a more granular level, though, we all like to add nice side quests to keep things (even more) interesting. Whilst reading this introduction article, two things may have stood out.
1. Part of his plan was to invest in extraordinary young talent and provide them with a positive, winning environment in which they could thrive.
2. He (Nunez) was one of the fruits of a policy of scouring Uruguay for the next starlet.
To tackle the first point: to create a positive winning environment for young players I’ll attempt to do four things:
1. Pester the board to build the best youth facilities we can afford. The youth training is currently “average”, so there’s plenty of room for improvement.
2. Employ the best youth coaches possible, with an emphasis on technical coaching abilities.
3. Ensure there are plenty of older players around the squad to act as mentors and role models for the younger players.
4. Attempt to look for an affiliate club or potential loan clubs that play the same formation as our first-team squad. This will allow the players to get used to the system, and allow me to see their effectiveness in their role.
To fulfill the second point I shall ensure the club continues to scout Uruguay. With Uruguayan players already in Almeria, it should be easy to settle into life in Spain. Maybe we’ll find the next Nunez. Or at the very least a borderline psychopathic wingback.
Tactical Plans (Building an identity)
In FM22 I pushed myself out of my tactical comfort zone. In order to replicate the style of Pablo Machin’s Girona side, I dived into the realms of the 5-3-2. It was set up to be compact, defensively solid and suited me perfectly.At one point in that Girona save, when we hit rocky times, I experimented with a 5-2-1-2. No matter how I tried I was unable to have any success with it, so stored it away to drag out again at a later date. Well, that time is now.
The focus will be different, however. Those who’ve read my deep dive into the 5-3-2 will know that playing three central defenders doesn’t have to mean defensive football. This Almeria team has too much young talent to not play football on the front foot. With four Brazilians in the squad, it’d be a shame to waste the talent and flair they bring.
Remember, we want a positive environment for the youngsters to thrive in, not a defensive one. As we’re looking to not be defensive we’re going to call it a 3-4-1-2. Sounds much sexier.
In previously favoring compact, defensive styles I’ve always preferred either regrouping when possession is lost or pressing in a mid-block. So, to go along with our more attacking outlook we’re stepping out of our comfort zone again and braving a more aggressive counter-press.
When taking over the club, Al-Sheikh stated he wants Almeria to have its own playing style and identity, like the leading clubs throughout Europe.
Therefore, our identity will be based on playing aggressive football. Both with the ball and without. With the ball, we’ll be attacking, trying to get forward in numbers. Out of possession we’ll press and get in the faces of our opponents. Almeria football is aggressive football.
As mentioned earlier, I shall be ensuring I have a scout in Uruguay to carry on the relatively new tradition of bringing talented Uruguayans to Andalusia. Here, however, I want to focus more on the type of player.
In both my Girona and Hamburg saves in FM22, I set out to recruit players who fit a physical profile. As I feel this will fit our aggressive identity well, I’m going to roll with it again in FM23. To play for the Rojiblancos players need to be fast, powerful, and tough… OR they should excel in one of those three areas.
I judge these to relate to the following attributes:
Fast – acceleration & pace
Powerful – strength & determination
Tough – bravery & aggression
In both FM22 saves I didn’t implement this properly. I signed too many players who didn’t match up to these parameters, Some for lots of money. None made the impact on the team I desired. To instill this “ethos” I shall also focus on selecting the right coaches and creating training schedules to help maximise these attributes.
So, there we have it – that’s my plan with UD Almeria in FM23. In the next update I’ll focus on the players in the squad, how they’ll fit into my 3-4-1-2
and how I want the tactic to work.
Will UD Almeria be that crazy “ex” I should’ve left well alone? Or will we stroll off into the sunset together, with a wheelbarrow full of success and silverware?
An interesting save idea from Matt, and he will continue to post his save progress here on ViewFromTheTouchline so make sure you are following us across social media to keep up to date.
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