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With the first couple of games secured and the season ticking over into the 2027 season, I was able to ease expectations by choosing the lowest targets that I could. As time goes on, I’ll push these as my demands for excellence are clearer but, in the meantime, I’d rather not be sacked! My jobs for the pre-season revolved around setting up our longer-term vision for training and development pathways, with a new found love of the target system acquired. I have been able to create widespread accountability through training targets, which, on review, has created some fantastic training outcomes across the squad. I’ve also expanded our scouting scope and am looking at youth tournaments in Africa as a feasible place to scout youngsters.

With a couple of months of working with the players, I decided to dip into the transfer market. By that, I mean, instruct my recruitment squad to do so. Initially, the plans were to just replace, and improve the quality, of a couple of players in my squad. For each signing, the recruitment team narrowed in on the target before my DoF submitted a transfer bid.

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First in, and hopefully synonymous with my transfer ideology, is young Swede Di Pievre Ilunga. It’s important that I am able to attract the best domestic players and Di Pievre had just been made available to us. With Thomas Boateng, the outgoing midfielder, wanting a new challenge, I felt that this was – at the cost of just €600k (€800k for Ilunga with a recouped €200k for Boateng) – the perfect time to solidify this area for the coming years. Di Pievre is possibly not an upgrade yet but hopefully will grow to be one.

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The second upgrade is returning Swede, Mayckel Lahdo, who my DoF was able to secure on a free, even though he was still in contract at AZ until June. Replacing Thomas Amang, I may have lost a bit of endurance and sheer physicality, but I’ve gained a winger with far better ability on the ball as well as a €525k profit. Lahdo fits another one of the recruitment areas I have – bringing back Swedes who haven’t set the world alight when moving abroad. Mainly restricted to just Jong AZ football, at 24, Mayckel is entering his prime and could turn into a shrewd acquisition for us.

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My last signing and a deadline day deal – so arriving after all of the matches I’ll detail below – is our record signing, Isak Brusberg. In 2005, the club paid €1.5m to bring back Anders Svensson from Southampton – or, at least, that is how the game tells it, even though my research leads to news articles that state he returned for a nominal fee- and I’ve bettered that with the €1.7m that Isakc ost us from local rivals BK Hacken. Despite the cost, Isak is not a signing for now – even with him actually being one of the best players we have here. Whilst he has some flaws in his game – one footed and not the greatest in the air – he is potentially the answer to the striker role that I’ve been looking for. Currently, I’m using a T(a) role (again, more on that a little later) and want a creative hub who can also score goals. In comparison with Morgan Guilavogui, he’s that bit more technical and actually a better attacker and is fast, agile and creative with a decent eye for goal. My plan is to work on his development this season, using him a little more off the bench and it easier ties before looking to build an attacking fulcrum around him in years to come.That leaves my squad looking complete, as you can see in the image below.

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This ‘X’ thread by forum user @Ö-zil to the Arsenal! really piqued my interest and something that I guess I have inadvertently tried to do over the past few years, without the ability to put into words my thoughts. This squad is too big and by that I mean positions can be covered by the following players:

  • Full Back: Barros Schelotto, Karlsson, Rapp, Wallgren, Jeng
  • Centre Back: Mbacke, Jeng, Wester, Paulo Vitor
  • Defensive Midfielder: Paulo Vitor, Wester, Soderberg, Wilkman, Coumbassa, Ilunga
  • 8/10: Wester, Wallgren, Baidoo, Soderberg, Wilkman, Coumbassa, Illunga, Brusberg, Ouma
  • Wingers: Rapp, Brusberg, Ouma, Okkels, Bernhardsson, Lahdo, Guilavogui, Kallander
  • Forwards: Brusberg, Guilavogui, Kallander, Riasco

This, if my counting is correct, gives us thirty-five options and a lot more than the 16-18 players who are good enough, rotating well around the roles. Granted – Kallander and Wallgren are both youth layers and, to be fair, neither of them are quite up to scratch just yet but I am possibly a little heavy in the central mid area and the striker area – with the likelihood that Guilavogui may not earn a new deal, should Brusberg’s retraining work. Likewise, in the middle, Coumbassa feels like my weakest option. Some time will need to be put into the next few transfer windows as I will require some more cover defensively as well as having to slowly upgrade the quality of those who are already at the club.

I have played eleven competitive games and a spattering of friendlies such the last update:

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Overall, I’m pretty happy with the direction that we’re moving in.

Despite two losses, including an annoying loss to a Gent team really struggling at home, we made the playoff round for the knockout part of the Europa League. Obviously, our biggest weakness here is that it’s our off-season and it is mid-season for virtually every other team. That being said, we were really great away in Denmark against a strong Midtylland side, only conceding from the most annoying last minute concentration lapse. To settle the tie with a strong performance at home, sandwiched between some heavily-rotated cup performances was great, too. The Juventus line-up demonstrated the gulf in quality between the teams but a resolute home performance, utilising a very restrictive 4-2-3-1 (with all three midfielders not in the AM strata), we nullifying their attacking box and really should have come away with more. Sadly, in Italy, they had too much for us and ended our great run. This is the kind of problem that I want to be solving here, every year. As for the domestic cup, we kept up our scoring record and clean sheet record despite heavy rotation – with two goals from youngster JBK and two assists in two games from Collins Persson, the young midfielder.

So far, three players have really stood out to me:

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Riasco has 0.56 goals per 90 from 0.52xG/90 so, in my opinion, I think he can kick on even more. However, it is his creativity – 0.30xA/90 and 1.24 open play key passes per 90 which are the real victory here for my striker role, which I’ve detailed below. Jeng has been a rock at the back – 72% header success rate and 83% tackle success, with good progressive passing, too. I would actually love to create a carbon copy of him to uplevel the centre back role: Mbacke doe it well but is far more limited in his passing range than Malcolm, who has, so far, played the most minutes of any player. Lahdo has been great and is completing over eight progressive actions per game, when combining passes and dribbles. He’s nippy and direct and, even though his sits in the bottom 20% of possession lost stats, isn’t afraid to try something with the ball from the wing – which is exactly what I want in this slightly tweaked shape:

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Again – I am a minimalist with instructions. We’re now pressing a little bit more than previously, given our weakness on the flanks in early transitions but the main changes come from the attacking fulcrum, Riasco. I’d previously employed a RPM(s) on the left side of the midfield duo but felt that, still, it attracted the ball further away from the goal in less dangerous areas. Using a Trequartista, importantly with the Hold Up Ball instruction – which I saw in @MattyLewis11‘s thread – gives me an opportunity for an attacking pivot high up the pitch, allowing so many third man runs from midfield and, even, the Libero (Paulo Vitor has two assists and Jeng scored whilst playing in this role from a move that involved him being that third man). As always, it’s a work in progress but it’s done us well in the first few competitive matches of the season and I look forward to further analysing.

I am very much lost in the game at the moment – taking in every sight and every opportunity to learn. I’ve no idea whether we’re title material or not but I’m going to enjoy the ride!

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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1 thought on “The Norseman Season 5 Part 1

  1. Loving this tactical journey as someone who’s always struggled with that side of the game

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