image.png.fc9cdfd83ecc25f93696fb2e980bf16e.png

The transfer window:

As we entered the summer window, I was conscious that we had several areas that I really needed to work on, and work on immediately. However, money struggles meant that I would have to sell before being able to increase my scouting package, let alone sign new players. However, my prayers were answered when – after identifying one of Bah or Carstrom to be my most sellable asset and utilising an intermediary – I saw that there was Saudi interest in my wingers. I rejected the immediate offers and offered Saidou out, to which Al-Fateh’s bid met my expectations. A huge deal for a man who came in on a free and reallyhasn’t impressed as I had intended. Just a few days later, Newcastle came in for Lofberg and, at four times our previous record, I couldn’t say no. Again, a lad who came in on a free and, whilst he has led the line, hasn’t quite been the player I wanted – plus, he returns on loan for the remainder of the season.

€4.4m for a club of our stature is absolutely groundbreaking: improvements to structures across the entirety of the club as well as improvements on the pitch can happen and we are now predicted to be over €2.5m in the black at the end of this season, before any performance related income is factored in. With that in mind, my first intention was to improve our scouting package from our current knowledge of just Sweden to something more extensive. However, before I did that, I wanted to develop the scouting team and claim as many free bits of knowledge as I could – through staff knowledge.

image.png.a83f2755554578b1a3d3bedf22f726eb.png

Under Cedergren, a man who can motivate other staff, we have a full knowledge of Scandinavian countries, which is probably a given for anyone with these nationalities. He’s quite vanilla with what he does but leads the team for me. As time progresses, I will look to employ a chief scout who can specialise in those final reports – whereby I fully trust his judgement to make the final call after those who work beneath him have uncovered him. My process is laborious at the best of times with an insistence for me to actually take in as many minutes of a player’s performance as I can during the recruitment phase but he will be needed to see the things that I can’t see – namely the potential ability of the player and whether what I see is just a flash in the pan or is a consistent determiner of their current ability.

image.png.d5fc4f2acd364ed11d230697df3dbffa.png image.png.26409cc197b3b0707047ad6c23c37a37.png image.png.cdd7e7c68d488236eb51e2d21d95aa79.png image.png.e28afd6d79fd150fd22af417a00da14c.png

Ethiopian Tuji brings us widespread knowledge of Eastern Africa. Not exactly a hotbed of talent but there are the likes of Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast which he has, at least, good knowledge of. His attributes are quite similar to what the other three have – and are more here for their identification rather than true judgements. Zamble, a player who has spent his career between Africa and Norway brings me more knowledge of Western Africa, with places such as Burkina Faso and Togo on his list. Blaise has spent his entire career in Sweden but, given his US citizenship, comes with a huge knowledge bank of strong nations such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica; all three of these nations way overperform with youngsters given their overall quality within the game. Lastly, Marcus Bring comes with a little bit of central European knowledge. Not a priority right now, if I’m honest, but the best of the remaining bunch from my ongoing applicant search. With any further increases to staff sizes, I’ll look to recruit someone with knowledge of Eastern Europe and this, along with the other identified nations, provides us with cheap, young quality who see Sweden as a stepping stone and who we see as an opportunity for financial gain. As my scouting team grows, I will continue to place adverts that allow me to bring through realistic applicants – i.e. these are all players who have played in the country and speak the language – and gain that free knowledge, eventually, hopefully, leading me to create strong working relationships with teams in these countries, cherry picking promising youngsters and having a core of, for example, Kosovan, Ivorian and Burkinabe players alongside my Swedes, who have either been developed at the club or procured based on their statistical outputs.

Yet, even with that long term thinking in place – my recruitment still came very close to home. These projects will take time and I don’t feel that I’ll be truly in a position to raid these low cost players for another twelve months or so. In the meantime, shortlists will be created with those players they do find so that I have a database ready for when I analyse and look at areas where we need to grow and develop.

image.png.fe0e55a62240583f13d8565ea703c524.png image.png.127d4b9a103d3df6d99971c0a9dd5b59.png

Gustaf is a signing who really intrigues me because he is just so different from what we’ve had before. Fresh from a spell at USG in Belgium, he’s scored quite prolifically, at nearly one in three games and put up some good stats last season – particularly in front of goal. Before that, he’s played in the 3.Liga in Germany – slightly lower than the level I’d like to pick up talent from but that move did come from the Danish top tier, where his performances had been rewarded with a national team call up. He is a typical target man – 6’6″ tall, good in the air and powerful with his shot. However, for this level, he’s pretty mobile too and has good technique on the ball. He’s not the forever forward but is so different from Lofberg that it’ll be a really nice experiment in terms of seeing what he brings to the style of play we have. Another player joining on a free following a spell in Belgium is Tolinsson, a centre back I’ve been tracking for some time. He moved from Goteborg to Belgium for €2.5m so obviously has some quality, even if he’s found his time there quite tough. In both 2023 and 2024, he spent time back on loan in this league at Norrkoping, where he did much better of the course of twenty five games. He was a mainstay in the Lommel team that finished sixth last year in the Belgian league – which may indicate the relative low amount of defending he’s done. Sitting at just under 70% for both tackling and heading outputs, it scores lowly on the overall comparison but sits just below the league average here in Sweden from last year. Combine that with a nice report whilst on trial and he feels like the perfect choice as a Fringe Player – sitting behind Haliti, Rapp and Frej in the pecking order with Deen Haruna now fighting for a permanent deal to stay here.

image.png.de01be35db3ad749535cf95de98f0ae6.png

Originally a trialist, I was already shocked enough when Ilaix would even talk to us following his agent, Jesus Toribio, reaching out to the club.  For him to then accept the contract and become a fully fledged member of my project here is beyond belief. I am conscious that his wage sits at €1.7k p/w higher than anyone else and that this could quite easily lead to an influx of requests but, given the income already across July, this becomes more feasible and forms part of the bigger picture here. Despite all my excitement, however, this is not the Ilaix of the real world. I’ve seen this lad go on to achieve world domination in the heart of the elite midfields but, this time around, for whatever reason, he’s accrued just sixteen appearances at Leipzig, with only one as a starter. After nearly a year unemployed, following the ending of what must have been a lucrative contract, it appears he has been desperate to get back into the game and agreed a move which, given the €1.6m release clause inserted by his agent, will surely be a short term affair. However, within that deal, I’ve got myself a dynamic, box to box player who is definitely good enough for this level and, judging by the potential he has been known to have, one who could really improve quickly once he’s playing first team football. I envisage that, in the short term, he’ll provide competition with Yaya Fofana, both of whom share a striking footballing resemblance to Yaya Toure, which I detailed previously, before taking the reigns and, almost inevitably, attracting interest from more suitable places.

The league:

image.thumb.png.6e3d021ddd9a232ce44dfcb7c61ef99f.png

We are, to put it bluntly, not the most exciting of teams at the moment. Worryingly, we have only scored more than once in a match on three occasions this season. Granted, our defensive form is great – just four conceded in this block of ten games and we’ve not conceded more than once all season: a meteoric rise from the instability we had at times last season. Our position is solid and I really fancy us to improve on the eighth place finish that we recorded last year.

Whilst we have seen drastic improvements in the quality of player we have: Moriba, Forsberg, Nilsson, Palsson, Fofana and Navik are all strong for this level – I still feel that there are tweaks to be made to our setup. We are scoring below our expected goals and still rank within the bottom four with our 9% conversion rate. These, for me, are short term things that will ebb and flow and, one day, we’ll hit that purple patch. However, that purple patch is impacted by our overall chances created metric, which sits well in the bottom half. Until we can create at an above average rate, we’re never going to be breaking scoring records. The last ten games of the season will see this being a deeper focus for me.

At the end of the day though, FM sometimes likes to throw curveballs at you…

image.thumb.png.2aac0f7ea6dee039c9d57bcbe50bfcd1.png

Aston Villa jumped to appoint Copenhagen’s manager, which prompted them into poaching Jimmy Thelin, the then Elfsborg manager. This is an opportunity to interview for a team who, should they win both games in hand, be top of the league, reigning Champions and, at the time of writing, one leg away from featuring in the Champions League group stage. My plan has never been to stay in Sweden, especially at Sundsvall, for a long time but I’ve kind of fallen in love with my team. However, I am acutely aware that there is a glass ceiling that we are pretty much at; regardless of the €4.4m we’ve just brought in, poor facilities and a really small fanbase will mean that, for the years to come, we’ll always be punching above our weight to achieve what we are doing now. I have, however, built so much and enjoy this building phase immensely. Yet, Elfsborg are a big side at this level – albeit with only one title in the last fourteen years. Whilst their infrastructure is significantly better, that comes with the added pressure – no longer will I be able to be as experimental in my methods or replace seasoned pros with untested youngsters – success will have to be ingrained and start immediately. Would I have that time to get to know everyone, build scouting networks, bring in some of my own players and still be in a job if things don’t go to plan or, conversely, would I find joy if things go too well and we walk the league with a squad that I’ve not touched?

Then comes the next issue. Should I get this – do I want to taste Champions League football now and, somewhat undeservedly, take over a team with about ten games to go and, maybe, win the league. Or, do I take the job at the end of the season and run the risk that their interim boss may not do a great job and they may, actually, miss out on Europe all together.

Part of me sees the name Elfsborg and, as I’m playing this on Christmas day, just hours after the household Elf has returned, feel like this is somewhere close to fate.

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”

    View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *