AMIENS SC – THE PLANNING FOR SEASON 3 BEGINS
Season 3, Episode 1
Having finished 12th in the first season back in Ligue 1, I see off-season as being crucial to the success and development of Amiens SC.
We’re now at a point where I’m not fearing a relegation battle next season (although the board are!) and my plans are more of a push for European football. So, I need to ensure I can free up as much money as possible and bring in the right players who can make an impact to get us closer to my goals.
In other words, get rid of the crap and bring in better players!
The most eagerly awaited email of the off-season soon arrived in my inbox just days after season 2 ended: the initial budgets.
The Board have generously given me £7.42m to spend on new players and has increased the weekly wage allowance to £162k. Unfortunately, only 15% of any player sales will be allowed to be reinvested in new players.
My main focus now is where to spend the £7m to give us the best chance of a successful next campaign. I’m not a manager who likes to make wholesale changes as I’ve seen the damage a high influx of players can do, both in real life and this virtual one.
A settled squad has better harmony and cohesion and that’s easy to destroy, so I only want to bring in new players where necessary. If I’ve got a player in the squad, or out on loan, who can fill the gap I’m inclined to give them a chance.
Join me as I try to work through the various steps of sifting through the squad and deciding who can stay and who needs to go.
The first decisions I have to make are about the loan players at the club who we have agreed on optional fees for:
First up is Angel Gomes, on loan from Lille. In 31 games he scored 5 goals with 7 assists and an overall rating of 6.93. Here’s how he performed in comparison to other Attacking Midfielders in Ligue 1:
As you can see, he excels in progressive passes (4.02) and open play expected assists (0.23) and performs above average for assists per game (0.23). These would suggest he fits a playmaker role well, however, his passing success is below average (78.27%).
Is there anyone in the current squad, or on my scouting shortlists, who can fill this role for less than the £3.3m optional fee for Gomes?
Well, there is one option currently on trial. As he’s a triallist it’s a risk as I don’t have any data for him. Ezequiel Bullaude joined Feyenoord for £7m from Godoy Cruz in his native Argentina. The 23-year-old went on to make just 15 appearances for the Dutch side before a £2.3m move to Portland Timbers, where he’s yet to make an appearance. He compares well to Gomes and would add a little more size to our attacking trio.
He’s still got plenty of room for development and his wage demands are much less than that of Angel Gomes.
His bravery isn’t great but he’s very technically gifted and has good traits for a playmaker as well as having the anticipation and composure to be useful in and around the box.
It’s a no-brainer. Right?
Next up is Javi Llabres, on loan from Mallorca. In 12 appearances, 6 starts, he scored 2 goals, grabbed 1 assist and got an overall average rating of 6.90. Whilst I’m not willing to pay the £2.5m optional fee based on such a small sample size, I might try to get him on loan again next season as he’s still young and has bags of potential. He’s also the best-set piece taker at the club and corner and free kicks are something I need to make more of next season. One thing making me hesitate slightly is that he doesn’t really fit the physical profile I generally look for fast, strong and brave (or excels in one area).
OUT ON LOAN
As any half-decent manager should, I have plenty of players out on loan. The hope is that they use the opportunity to develop their skills as well as show they can perform well enough to stake a claim for a place in the first-team squad.
As mentioned in the previous update, I was hoping Xantippe would impress out on loan and be a depth option for a 3-at-the-back system. However, he’s failed to impress in Ligue 2. I need to make a decision on him soon. My initial thoughts are to give him another season out on loan in Ligue 2 as his last roll of the dice.
Seillan did well out on loan in a central midfield role, notching up 10 assists so hopefully another loan – maybe in Ligue 2 – will help him develop further.
Lahmer might be on the chopping block. At 20, he performed poorly in Algeria so I’m not sure he’s going to make it to Ligue 1 standards. He’s got some good talent but I fear he lacks the size and strength required. Another one to ponder.
ADDRESSING THE INJURIES
Now, I’m positive you’re fed up with hearing me whinge about injuries. So, to show I’m not making it up I went through the first team squad and listed everyone who’s missed more than 1 week due to injury since the start of preseason.
A massive 22 players are on the list. I’ve also had 8 players who’ve missed over 2 months of action, these are highlighted in yellow.
Looking at these players specifically, Gurtner is retiring at the end of this season, whilst Xantippe spent the second half of the season out on loan. Bande is an issue: as well as the 8 injuries this season, he also picked up 6 injuries last season. He’s got to go.
Kakuta is now 32 and is on the decline but he’s worth keeping around as he’s a core member of the squad hierarchy and generally does well when he’s fit. I discussed Leautey in the last update and I’m hoping he’ll either join Spezia after his loan spell or I’ll be able to off-load him somewhere else.
Fofana, the younger, has potential and is versatile so I’ll keep him around but Gomez is another who just can’t stay fit as he also picked up 5 injuries in the previous season too. Another for the axe.
Meanwhile, Ciss was fouled in a game with Strasbourg and suffered a broken ankle.
Looking away from the players, the medical team isn’t the issue. My physios rank 5th best in Ligue 1 and the sports science department ranks 3rd.
Therefore, my preseason schedule and weekly training sessions could be a contributing factor. I’ll look at adapting these for the upcoming season.
ADDRESSING THE SQUAD SIZE
When not playing in European competition I like to keep a lean squad of around 20 players, with any additional cover filled by B-Team or U19 players.
This year I’ve had a staggering 28 players just in the first-team squad!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve desperately needed them due to the numerous injury crises throughout the season. However, it’s not helping the club’s finances and it’s also blocking the development pathway of the aforementioned B-Team and U19 players.
I’ve tried to get players off the books but there’s not been many takers, which in itself isn’t a great sign.
From looking at the injury table, I’ve identified the following players to try to sell:
- Hassan Bande (AM)
- Antoine Leautey (AM)
- Charbel Gomez (AM)
I’m also losing goalkeeper Regis Gurtner who’s retiring in the coming weeks.
Due to a lack of money to spend on wages, I also managed to infuriate a few players due to not being able to offer them the contracts they felt they deserved. As “we have no money” isn’t an available response, two of them demanded to be sold.
Those players are both of the Mamadou Fofanas. I want to keep both of them so I will offer new contracts now the budget has been increased. Unfortunately, three Premier League teams are sniffing around Mamadou Fofana the elder so I think his head might be turned.
Looking at who can step up from the B-Team and U19s we have 7 players who I’d have no problems using so fill gaps in the first team or subs bench when needed:
- Said Zniber (AM/ST)
- Martin Lemoine (DM/AM/ST)
- Giovanni Ghidoni (AM/ST)
- Elias Messaoudi (DM)
- Andrea Parsy-Lucas (DM)
- Henri Dupays (DM)
- Rayan Lutin (DM)
Whilst my first priority will be getting them first-team football on loan at a decent level, if that fails, they give me a bit more freedom to be ruthless when getting rid of the deadwood and freeing up funds.
Note – when looking through my U19s I noticed more players who looked good until I saw their pace and acceleration attributes were alarmingly low. One urgent task is for me to find the best Quickness coach I can get my hands on for the youth team!!
I’ve made the decision to move to the 3-4-2-1 formation. Of course, this will mean a change to my recruitment focus. It also means the requirements of the players I have will also alter slightly.
Therefore, in the next update, I’ll look more in-depth into the 3-4-2-1, what roles I’m looking to use and then, how I can build a team to be able to play it the way I want.