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I’ve been reading a lot lately and that is usually a catalyst for thinking about my FM save, with this one being no different. The book in question is The Nowhere Men: The Unknown Story of Football’s True Talent Spotters, tales of how scouts work and vast recruitment networks are built across big clubs. What is also interesting, for me, is that this book was written eleven years ago now, with a focus on Damien Comolli and his time at Liverpool. I know just how much technology and styles have moved on but I do feel that it’s such an under-represented part of FM, particularly at the very early age group.. I don’t want the say but I want to know what goes on at under 15 level and how that shapes the players I’ve got coming through: is it my local scouts that do that or do we have foreign based youth scouts that are picking up players from hotspots? What hotspots are they? The list goes on.

The other thing that I was interested in is the sheer amount of games watched and how that triggers the recruitment drive and not the other way round. I felt that this was something that I could interpret into FM but, to do that, needed a much bigger database. I have a decent laptop and have pushed the boundaries a little more anyway but my new setup gives me the stats, below:

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The new intended league setup adds basically all of Europe’s playable decent leagues so that I can continue to attend matches and push my scouts out there, building that database of players. Furthermore, adding South Africa and improving the detail level of the CAF Champions League means that I may now be able to do more than just guess on African imports, which have been a target of mine lately. My only concerns when doing this are those random over-aged newgens that are added, and a test save confirmed that they’d likely be some; I just find it really unrealistic to be signing a 27 year old who has no career history to date and, as such, no backstory or statistics to work with. With this though, my plan is to really develop hubs in certain countries – either here or further along my journey, where I can instruct my team to watch matches, learn about players and clubs and bring in the best quality. Since this screenshot, I’ve also increased the detail level, taking the game speed down to three and a half stars, ensuring I’m getting the most accurate statistics from the some of the loaded leagues.

In addition to that, and with absolute influence from @Shrewnaldo – I have created a filter that covers the 49 municipalities of  Västra Götaland County (Swedish: Västra Götalands län), an area covering the  western coast of Sweden. The county is the second most populous of Sweden’s counties; Its population of 1,616,000 amounts to 17% of Sweden’s population. The formal capital and seat of the governor of Västra Götaland County is Gothenburg. The political capital and seat of the Västra Götaland Regional Council is Vänersborg. With 23 players at the club currently from Vastra Gotaland, excluding loanees JBK,Collins Persson, Rahm and Wigermo, who all hail from Boras or nearby Goteborg, I really want to create a stronghold in our domestic game too – using our ‘quicker than planned’  league title to push the credentials and assist in the development of Skovde – our ex-feeder team now at our level, third tier Norrby and second tier FC Trollhättan‎, all producers of this local talent.

However, before reaching this decision, I’d already made three more moves in the transfer market:

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Atilla Zsigmund – a product of the Kalmar youth system, who had his breakout in the second tier, scoring five and creating another five in thirty appearances last term – comes in to fill a gap across several areas. I felt, through pre-season, that we were a little light with another runner in midfield but also a fourth or even fifth winger – given that Rapp, Okkels and Bernhardsson can all be utilised elsewhere, and would often need to be the case in my second string XI. Atilla, at just €700k, is a powerful ball progresser who can also finish his chances. Whilst he is a little rough around the edges, and I noticed this when watching back highlights of him: passing and first touch in particular, he represents a player pretty well suited to a number of the roles I use. He’ll rotate in and out of the first team setup over the coming months.

Asael Ben-Sha’anan is the perfect example of why I want to beef up the game setup and load more leagues. He’s plying his trade in Israel but, astoundingly, our scouting team found him before any of the bigger academies across the continent; surely this has something to do with the lack of a modelled Israeli league. The Hapoel Nir Ramat HaSharon man – a second tier club – has the most goals and assists for his side this season but there is very little other data to drive that. Of course, it’s then also impossible to watch him play as the club have no schedule and are not willing to even entertain the thought of a friendly. So he was fully scouted and still was considered a top talent, forcing my hand and €240k from my pocket. It’s peanuts, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one of those where – if I want to feel realistic – I don’t make. The Libyan’s I brought into my youth system were different – that’s identification for academy purposes and I mould and develop from there but I wouldn’t fancy my club signing a player who they’ve never watched play!

That being said…

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…when an agent approaches you will a youngster from the Cook Islands, you kind of have to sit up and take notice, right? Harlem Strickland – at just 19 – is the first ever Cook Island international, I believe – to be on a contract that is not amateur and to play outside of Oceania. Their squad is entirely domestic players with a spattering of players who represent teams in the fifth, and lower, tier of New Zealand football, which is hardly the pinnacle of the Oceanic game! I think it goes without saying that I’ve never managed someone of this nationality before and, should he actually be any good, have no idea how often the international windows are but, credit where it is due, his agent got him in the shop window. He’s a bit of a brute, to be honest and lacks in some pretty basic decision making but my staff feel that there is potential there than can be harnessed. He’s good in the tackle, tall, two footed and naturally fit and I think something like a ball winning midfielder might allow him to make the most of that skillset.

A conveyor belt of talent is what is needed here. Players who can come in, develop for a short whilst and step into the first team. With interest in several first team players (Soderberg, Wester, Rapp, Ilunga, Brusberg, Kallander, Jeng and Ayari at time of writing), I need to accept that – if the likes of Leverkusen make a bid for Brusberg – he’ll, realistically, have to go: you ‘can’t’ keep a young Swedish international in Sweden when Germany is calling! That puts further pressure on my recruitment, my early development and my player pathway but that is one of the parts of the game that I love!

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We are through twelve games of the 2028 season now and we are, quite frankly, making a mockery of the majority of our competition at the moment. Solid progress in the Svenska Cup has seen us reach the final, where we look to avenge last year’s defeat to Hammarby as well as strong progress in Europe. Successful knockout tie wins over Famalicao and Dunajska Streda – of Slovenia – have seen us creep into the Semi Finals, where, inevitably, our dream will end as we didn’t get the rub of the green with Lens or Gladbach and instead drew Chelsea. Our league season has started brightly, too, with eight goals and none conceded from the first three games.

It is, however, just the one game that I want to focus on here, rather than fully rounding up the fixture list.

I’ve thought, and posted, a lot about our in-possession shapes – trying to exploit spaces within opposition defences or overload weaker areas. However, I’ve rarely talked and, for that matter, thought, too much about our defensive organisation – beyond the movement between the 4231 shape that I employed earlier in the save and the 433 that I often use now. However, the screenshot below, in the 6-1 hammering of Malmo, demonstrates something I’ve been wanting to achieve for some time.

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I decided on using two inverted wing backs to create  235 shape in transition, taking into account the fact that Malmo employed a double Mezzala in the middle and, as such, there would be significant amounts of space early in the build up. It was, however, not that which really impressed me. Analysing their team, it became obvious that one particular Mezzala – Kyprianou – was almost acting as a false playmaker and was much deeper than the other one. The ball often went through the DM to the Mezzala who looked to drive forward. To counter that, I set a very specific trap, pushing the player instructions for my centre mid – Noor Ouma – on to mark the space that the DM would employ, then asking Soderberg – my own DM – to push on and mark the space that the Mezzala would employ. This allowed a much better ball winner to be near to their danger man, without changing the way that we transitioned and kept my best ball carrier available. Here, Soderberg wins the ball and is higher up than Noor Ouma but, because I’ve committed an extra man to that, we are able to counter really quickly via the left sided IW and have a 5v5 going. Over the course of the game, he won the ball four times from the Malmo’s Cypriot midfielder and was instrumental in the pre-assist pass as we repeatedly punished them on the counter.

small change but a hugely effective one!

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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