Some stutters but we roll on…

Two thirds of the league season completed as well as some mileage as we visited Slovenia and Israel in our quest to conquer the Europa Conference League, thanks to the fourth placed finish last season. With the season coming to a head, there’s a few things that need clearing up over the last ten games, such as the difference between our home record of 5-4-0, which puts us fourth and our away record of 8-3-0, which puts us nine points clear at the top.I need to rethink the game plan when playing at home and ensure that we are able to break down teams that are now sitter deeper and more compact than ever. Worryingly, our continental jaunts have impacted our recent form:  our last five games saw us taken eleven points, the fourth best behind Hammarby, Djurgardens and Malmo, who’ve caught up to the front runners, somewhat. Elsewhere, Sundsvall have made a fantastic mid season recovery whereas Norrkoping – who, as a reminder, came second last year – are still floundering towards the bottom end.


N.B – I’ve altered my writing style here as I have gone back and watched all the highlights from these games again rather than write as I go along. It’s allowed me to see a snapshot of how things have panned out in more of a ‘highlight reel’ fashion.

We finished May off with a slightly disappointing draw at home to Hammarby; Noor Ouma and Brusberg combined (I don’t have the records for it but I’d say that either Noor Ouma or Okkels have provided 90% of the assists for Brusberg and I love their interplay) to put us ahead before a defensive mix up allowed them to equalise almost instantly.Jeng’s poor aerial challenge allowed the visitors to steal a lead early in the second half before my Kenyan hero laid on Okkels to rescue a point at the end. Statistically, we dominated – nearly three times as many passes in the final third, nearly double the xG and a control of most of the match – but we succumbed, like many of our goals conceded, to switches off. I need to remedy that.

Two in May, starting with Brommapojkarna where academy graduate Berndtsson nodded in his first career goal and Brusberg raced through from Okkels’ through ball but, again, a sloppy error costs us the clean sheet. Paulo Vitor, in his Lib(s) role, is far too advanced and some relatively simple movement from their forward allows him acres of space to finish a low cross. Really basic. Kallander struck a low, sweet shot to get us started against Degerfors, before the famous Nour Ouma/Brusberg link up put us two ahead. The former of that pair unleashed a thunderbolt to make it three, moments before Mbacke decided to just ‘not’ defend, allowing the loss of another clean sheet. He did make amends with a bullet header but 2.90xG vs 0.33xG (their only shot of the game) should make for a much more comfortable scoreline than it really did.

July started strongly with a demolition of Halmstads: Noor OumaBrusberg from the spot and a really well worked free kick tucked away by Bernhardsson amounted to 2.73xG, with us allowed three shots at a total of 0.29xGA. We then left it very late against GAIS as we underperformed, conceding 1.47xG – our highest total for some time. Brusberg was the hero as his goals sandwiched yet another low cross that found its way into the six yard box and was met not by one of our two defenders, but by an attacker to finish a really easy chance. Normal service was resumed with a dismantling of AIK despite going behind to a very tame effort from the edge of the area. Jeppe Okkels was sublime, with a fantastic hatrick and great link up play with Noor Ouma, before Eriksson netted his first for the club, climbing highest at the back post. A much rotated squad made the trip to Slovenia but Kallander showed his class from the right hand side, cutting in to score twice. We amassed 3.02xG but were very wasteful in front of goal, particularly Riasco, who hadn’t scored since March. A dour draw was played out against our title rivals, with us accruing just 0.21xG – by far the lowest of my tenure here. Another bit of rotation saw Wester, the backup libero, score a wonderous curling strike from thirty yards and Brusberg and Noor Ouma also net in a convincing win.

2.07xG created against Norrkoping but, somehow, they held on for the draw as Baidoo seized on an error early on before Jeng clumsily gave away a penalty. Okkels accrued 1.12xG himself but failed to find the net. Fortunately, Djurgardens were unable to close the gap as they drew, too. Straightforward stuff in Israel as a thunderbolt from Ilunga came before a lovely worked goal finished by substitute Noor Ouma. Beitar didn’t trouble Ronning – the backup keeper – at all. A much better performance post-Europe against Hacken as another twenty-five yarder from Ilunga sealed the win after a mazy Bernhardsson run and a glancing header from Paulo Vitor set us up well. Widespread changes for the Beitar game led to a slightly disjointed performance but Rapp got us off to a strong start before the Israeli’s hit back thanks to a lovely passage of play that saw us on our heals. Ilunga went three-in-three for twenty-five yarders, somehow, and then Riasco and youngster Bashiru scored before Macagno was beaten far too easily at his near post from range, taking the shine off the win a little. I do wonder whether ten or eleven changes after these games is making us a little disjointed as we certainly were against old side Sundsvall, having Brusberg to thank with a double. Yet again though, we were carved open far too easily and Forsberg, my ex-full back, scored a goal from a shot that really should’ve been saved.

Looking at our goal concessions and assist locations, I have two lines of enquiry: a) is Macagno good enough for this project? b) Is Paulo Vitor‘s role appropriate.


Because of our slightly different league calendar, I’ve compared him to all other Scandinavian leagues of a similar stature (Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark) and have looked at keepers with over 1000 minutes, which, I think, rules Denmark out of it due to their adjusted season cycle. Interestingly, I brought up an issue with Johansson, my keeper at Sundsvall in regards to the amount of saves he does not hold – my findings had him ranked in the 100th percentile for the % of his saves that he’d parried or tipped. It wasn’t a me problem! Somewhat unexpected for a team that are higher up the league, Macagno is making more saves than a lot of the other keepers, and is holding less than 40% of them. This is a lot – 0.95 saves held is in the ninety-fifth percentile for this value and, importantly, compares the number of them not the quality of them (i.e, a shot that a keeper has no right to hold on to). I think there are some concerns around him, if I’m being honest and I may look to see what I can do to improve this role.


As for part b – I’m not actually sure whether Vitor is justifying this support role. A completed dribble every five games and the lowest defensive minded player for progressive passes, having laid on a quite impressed three assists, joint highest in my defensive area with Jeng. What he does do really well is hold a good position in our attack, ready to recycle the ball but I am still concerned that he’s defensively quite weak and exposed here. Despite decent tackle and header success rates, he’s barely attempting a tackle and a lot of his headers are offensive, partly to credit for his six goal return to date. Likewise, he’s not making interceptions or winning and kind of duals – which kind of makes him a luxury player – which is not something I’d ever considered saying about a defender!

Hopefully, I can address this little area for concern within the last ten league games at no cost to our title chances.

Transfer business


Full profiles can be accessed by clicking on the above thumbnails.

The aforementioned signing of Eriksson was completed and I’ve been really impressed with the start he’s made to the club, allowing Mbacke to move out wider and for us to penetrate a little more with our early transition. I was able to add one more signing to that over the summer window – that of Yasin Ayari. He is a player I am aware of as he currently plays for Brighton and has been tipped for big things, but, in FM, his chequered recent history had led to him being available on a free transfer. In the months before his contract expired, I looked at him but was put off by Premier League wage demands – however, once on trial, his agent negotiations were very reasonable. Another solid option for the middle of the park – a young, international level Swede returning home because first team chances were few and far between: a real area that we’re trying to exploit in our recruitment process!

I have hit a wall with my next bit of recruitment though: a nine and a half. Brusberg brought on the preface that he was tall and somewhat creative, rather than a true playmaker and a true finisher. The concept of a ‘nine and a half’ has been around for many years, with Marco Van Basten being one of the first. Essentially, I was hoping that the T(a) role would be perfect for that – someone to link play and also to score. My wonderkid has done that, but the role has come at the expense of Riasco really excelling there – 0 in 3(7) for the Venezuelan vs 13 in 16(3) for the man who usurped him during his injury layoff. Originally, I had my eyes on Hugo Bolin but, completely unknown to me, Elfsborg fan and forum member @JogaBonito sent me a message with some information about him…

  23 hours ago, JogaBonito said:

It’s fun that you mention and highlight Hugo Bolin. He is actually from Borås but didn’t go through the youth system of Elfsborg. He went to the Swedish giants and developed (it’s not the usual route here in Borås) . We (Elfsborg is my team at heart) had the chance to secure the league title on home ground before Malmö. We only had to beat second to last placed Degerfors who were fighting for relegation.

Hugo went out on loan this fall to Degerfors as well as fellow Malmö player Gwargis. Both of them crashed the party on our home ground and next week we got beat in Malmö on a controversial penalty kick.  In the highlights you can see Gwargis score and Hugo Bohlin be the last player who wants to defend in min 103 or min 3.00 in the video. This ending of the season crushed me. So please don’t sign that traitor Hugo for Elfsborg. That guy isn’t welcome back to Borås anymore. This is the most sickening match I have ever witnessed in my life.

Here is the link to the video!

The narrative, for me, was all about a return to his hometown but, given this fantastic bit of real life connection, he’s very much in the bin and won’t be coming home! Last year, I found myself watching a documentary on Trabzonspor, but today I’ve delved into match footage of Elfsborg, with the ‘oooh, I know him – he’s playing for me!’ comments every so often. It’s interactions like this and knowledge acquisition like this that make FM so good for me! If anyone else knows anything about these players – please let me know…

I did, however, allow some players to depart during this window:


The sales of Barros Schelotto, Wilkman and Coumbassa came as part of my thinning of the first team squad. Even with a load of fixtures and – hopefully – more to come if we qualify for the group stages of the UECL, we had too many options and couldn’t afford them the minutes that they desired. Part of my work with media and morale has also led to me paying more attention to a happy squad and therefore, these moves, bringing in just shy of €2m, offsetting the Eriksson deal, made sense to me.

Developing youth:

Given our u19 team performance, I took the opportunity to loan a few players out – mostly, to our feeder in the second tier, Skovde.


By making Persson accountable for his performances – something I don’t seem to be able to do with these forced moves to affiliates – I can put another layer of development there, after he was successful in maintaining a high training rating following a target set previous to this. The three departures are players who have all excelled at this level and, to kick on, need to experience first team football. I’m hoping that, by setting JBK’s position to a left winger, he’ll get some more experience in a role that, overall, I think he’s probably more suited to.

That left some holes in our youth sides so I filled them thanks to some clever, cost effective recruitment.


Full profiles can be accessed by clicking on the the thumbnails.

The four lads above cost a grand total of €43k and, for me, these types of players are just as exciting as the potential world class players. For such a cheap outlay and, for me, a chance to play with two Libyans, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before, means I can put detailed training schedules together – for example, a push for Al-Ruwaili to become a nimble inverted winger, making the most of his ball control and agility. Whilst it is unlikely that these players will move on for eight figure sums to Europe’s best, seeing them continue their fledgling international careers and, maybe, making a career for themselves here in northern Europe, is a great win for me! I won’t, however, go overboard with these – either in costings or amounts as I want give chances to my own academy players and also not stifle results on the pitch by too much silly rotation of them!

Ten league games to go plus, hopefully, a group stage set of fixtures in the Europa League should we overcome Farul, of Romania, in the next knockout round. There’ll also be my youth intake and a lot more recruitment and player thoughts, too


  • 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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