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The most logical place to begin feels like the incoming transfer dealings, given that the correct recruitment this summer may well make or break our season. In previous editions of FM, I’d spend hours exporting the data into Excel and creating as many charts, visualisations and combined metrics as I could – but – given my lack of playing time at the moment and the developments in my Statman skin, I’m now able to do more in game. When looking to recruit, I tend to create a hierarchy of things that force my hand into decisions:

  •  Watching the player play myself in competitive, open age, fixtures.
  • Analyst report.
  • Scout report within a modelled league.
  • Watching a player play at youth level.
  • Scout report within a non-modelled league.
  • Historical stats from previous clubs and/or previous seasons.
  •  Stats at youth level.

Whilst I trust my scouts’ judgement, I do feel that there is an element of realism in that I’d probably ask them to bring back comprehensive video footage of the players. Now, sometimes, when I send my scouts out, they aren’t able to/don’t bother to attend matches and, whilst they can get a nice overview of the attributes, I always like to settle down and watch five to ten games – usually in extended highlights – of their performances. I am not picky and like to try and get a mix of good and bad performances against a variety of tactical styles and oppositions. It’s a long, drawn-out process but really gives me an immersion into the player I’m signing. If I can’t get that, an analyst report is the next best because they’ve taken into account how the player is performing and identified any under/over achievement that I can ponder over. With my tendency to want to sign and develop younger players, I often find myself having to look at youth level to spot players who are doing well but are not quite ready for first team action. When all that fails, and when my recruitment pool is more limited – like this season given our promotion and lower reputation – I turn to previous season data from a save file I make at the end of each year.

I feel that this process stops me going overboard on unrealistic signings – a bunch of 15 year olds or 18 year old Ivorian’s playing in the (unloaded) Ivorian youth leagues and also streamlines the number of signings I make, given the labour intensive process.

With that in mind, I headed into the winter transfer break with a rough plan in mind of what I wanted and where I wanted it, below. As the 24.2 patch has now fixed the issue with a director or football not making the signings, I tasked him with sorting these out by creating groups per position, ranked both in order of need and in order of preference within each group. I was also able to split things down into a timeframe for the signings:

Immediate:

  • Goalkeeper: I talked about Jonsson’s lack of command in the centre of his goal so ideally wanted a bigger, more commanding keeper with better reflexes than my current number one.
  • Left winger: I wanted a flair player who was able to progress the ball into dangerous areas, either to shoot or lay off to a team mate and one who may also draw us fouls in dangerous areas.
  • Defensive midfielder: A man who could step into Salaou’s shoes and win the ball back before progressing it.
  • Centre back: A man who could step into Perez’s shoes and complete all defensive duties but also be able to help us play out from the back.

6-12 months:

  • Stiker: With Damus and Mattson both untested at this level and Engblom no longer at the club, I could easily find myself lacking an actual goalscorer. I want to trust them but I need to be busy creating a list of alternatives for when, or if, the time and price is right.
  • Centre Back: Captain Blomqvist is getting no younger and his lack of passing ability may grow to hamper us at a higher level. I’ll be on the look out for right footed centre backs, or, should my left footed centre back search not be fruitful, continue that one.
  • Left Back: With Team Leader Olsson not interested in renewing, I’m left with converted midfielder Andersson in this role. He could be great but he showed last year that he might not be. One certainly to watch.

12-18 months:

  • Right Back: Forsberg was, on paper, the weakest performer and is tasked with quite a tough job in the IFB role. I want to tie him down a bit longer as he develops but do have some reservations.

Here is what I got:

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Full profiles can be found by clicking on each thumbnail.

Marko fits the bill for my number one slot and the DoF was able to make quick work of the shortlist that I’d created for him in that area – considering he was the onlyname that was on it. He has significant experience at this level – playing for Trellborgs, Mjallby and Malmo before moving to HSV for €600k in 2021. He turned out a few times for HSV II last season but I was unable to watch any of these games so dipped into his time on loan at Halmstads, who finished fourth in the Allsvenskan. The data is encouraging – he’s able to keep clean sheets and is pretty tidy with the ball. My concern, as raised with Jonsson’s performance, is the ratio to saves held to saves parried, which sits around 2:7, compared to the 1:1 for my keeper. I’ve watched a number of the matches he appeared in and – honestly – don’t feel too worried given the shot types, compared to what we faced in the second tier. His reaction speed is great and, at 6’4”, he’s three inches taller than Jonsson, too. I put all my eggs into one basket though with this, risking the happiness of my ousted number one, moving him to ‘Backup’ before this move had even been finalised. Fortunately, he has not (yet) complained of this as he recovers from a broken hand but, whilst I’ve got myself a great new number one, am conscious of the wider impact on the team.

Muamer is a similar type of signing too Marko in that he came as a free transfer; however, unlike the keeper, had spent a significant amount of time on trial with us, performing strongly in reserve fixtures.  Another Swede who, as a youngster, moved abroad – firstly to Fulham and then to AZ, before scoring at more than a goal every three games for Hammarby. This preceded a move to AEK Athens and then of to Pafos, in Cyprus. His performancesin the 2023/24 season left a bit to be desired but (in a non-realism sense) I was less worried as Cyprus is not a loaded league and it was pretty clear that his creativity, progression and outputs were strong. He was, again, an agent offer, but his flair and skill combined with a historically good finishing record convinced me to take the leap without watching him outside of our environment. However, when the five-time capped winger stepped into our tactical shape – albeit for the reserves – he was outstanding.  His traits really closely match the style that I want and the fact that he’s naturally inverted will only help the build-up down that side as I look to create a transitional overload on the right with the IFB, BWM and DC before an offensive overload on the left with the IF, VOL and AF. I placed him atop the list of wingers that I wanted and my DoF was able to secure the deal. At the time, his €1.2k p/w made him the highest earner but since then he has been usurped following some contract renewals.

Manasse is my favourite signing of the lot – coming in on a free from last-years divisional rivals, Osters. His output at the base of a three-man midfield was really interesting to me and I must have watched ten to fifteen of the games he appeared in. I watched him, time and time again, progress the ball to the midfielders ahead of him but it was the trait combination – Dwells on Ball and Likes to play out of trouble – that really did it for me. Osters were always quite an aggressive team, yet he was calm, collected and many, many times drew pressure from an opponent before moving the ball on – even against us. Yes, there were occasions when he gave the ball away from this but this alone was enough to make him the top target in my pursuit for a defensive midfielder. However, his role will be slightly different for us as part of a two-man pivot – so it was pleasing to see the contributions in terms of blocks, clearances and pressures that he attempted, too. He’s clearly not just a deep lying playmaker and will, in my eyes, excel as a 6 in my system – strengthening the area compared to Salaou.

The fourth many on the list is Robin Frej, a man who has been on my shortlist for what feels like an eternity. I took the chance to sign him as his contract at GAIS – another second-tier team – was coming to an end. I really wanted a left footed centre back but, unable to find any that fitted within our pricing range, settled for Robin and placed him atop a list of very average centre backs. The thing, attribute-wise, that sets him apart is his intelligence in game. Statistically, he is choosing the right moments to progress the ball forward, sitting inside the top five percent of all defenders in the top leagues of the game, which will be even more of an anomaly at the level we are at. Clearly a ball player, Robin will slot in on the left hand side of the two centre backs and I may look to add a trait, or – at minimum – player instructions, that will allow him to get the ball forward to bypass any potential press that we face. At 26, he has one year of experience in the top flight – at Brommapojkarna – so does pose a risk.

My recruitment, overall, feels really strong as we’ve upgraded areas that we are weak in. However, it has come at somewhat of a cost – noted when you see the squad status of my players, below.

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In order to keep the current crop of players at the club, my hand was forced across many contract renewals as both myself and the DoF were only able to renew contracts with promises of ‘Important Player’ status. Whilst I’ve recruited arguably stronger players, they, too, have asked for similar statuses within the squad, very much leaving me with a strong XI and a much, much weaker XI. With little to nothing left in the kitty, I fear that any sort of injury could curtail our plans massively. That, however, is perfectly normal for a newly promoted team, in my eyes – especially one that hasn’t chosen revolution by bringing in fifteen to twenty new players.

However, all didn’t quite feel right through pre-season. Our training ratings were really poor as I reshuffled the backroom staff and things didn’t quite click in the friendlies. I feel that, more than likely, there is a part of me looking for something given that these were the first games I’d played since the ME updates but I definitely think something is a little amiss. I’ve not broken the dynamics within the team nor changed anything drastic. As you can see from our performances, below, we didn’t really get moving until the end of the season and luck meant that I was in the easier side of the draw for the last tournament:

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We were handed a battering by champions Hammarby; expected but, maybe not quite to the extent that it turned out – amassing a grand total of three shots. I was, unfortunately, without both end-contract players, Musu and Frej, but soldiered on with the slightly smaller squad. That squad was then butchered in the Cypriot heat by Larnacas and, again, by Pafos as we struggled to a draw. We defeated Sirius – just relegated into the tier we left – before three easy games, although Brage – also of the second tier – had beaten Hacken, the large side, in the semi final to progress themselves.

Nevertheless – I’m heading into the season with some positivity – hopeful to upset the apple cart and build something really wonderful here in Sundsvall!

Author

  • Ben

    Ben has been a long time contributor to the FM community previously on The Dugout and the SI Forums. He is known for his great in-depth tactical analysis and an increasing level of understanding of data led recruitment. His FM saves are always in-depth and he delivers both his knowledge of the game and great storytelling including a talent for squad building, progressing youth players and finding diamonds in the rough. His saves are really popular within the blogging community. He is also the creator of the popular skin “Statman”

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