Faced with predicted losses of over €10m a season, I knew that this transfer window would really be tough and I’d need to pull as many strings and think as far outside of the box as I could to ensure that we came out of it in a stronger position. To be fair – the window has been a little vanilla, in all honesty. I’ve looked for upgrades where possible and experienced squad depth, rather than expansive scouting and high risk signings. With board demands of only reaching the top half of the 2.Bundesliga this season, I feel that I’ve got a bit of a free shot whilst I continue to repair the financial damage to the club. My first order of business was to cash in on Agustin Alvarez, who moves to Holland for €8m. This gets over €40k p/w off the wage bill and moves on a player who really was not at his best last season. With a USA snub, part of me expected Tillman to kick up a fuss but, with my recent wage reworking, his salary commitments are way above anyone else here and, as a man with no interest in negotiating anything new, I felt that this could be used to our advantage. As of the time of writing, he remains at the club but efforts to replace him are being explored with more haste than before.

Despite the outgoings of Alvarez and the pre-arranged deals previously mentioned, I decided to instead put my money towards signing free agents, most of whom performed well at their previous clubs. Again, I’ll mention the vanilla element to this window but I really think that it was needed. I mentioned the want for an overhaul in a previous update but have now gone ahead and signed just four players – however, each of those brings experience, quality and potential to offer more than just a name on the team sheet. It is that, I truly believe, that will allow me to take the gambles with blooding youth players, changing roles and elements of individual players’ games as well as the team shape.

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Arijon Ibrahimovic – no relation to Zlatan, who is on my coaching staff – moves to us after a dominant season with Bayern’s II team in the 3.Liga. Last year, he recorded thirteen goals – third best in the league – from 8.67xG and a total of 0.59 goal contributions per ninety in a team that, despite finishing fifth, only had the fourteenth best goals scored tally. 0.29xA/90 compared to just 0.16 assists/90 further backs up that a reasonable number of assists (joint 25th in the league) could, and probably should, have been better. Over five and a half progressive actions with a skew towards dribbles and 2.36 key passes per game show me that he’s a carrier and a creator, too. With great Flair, Dribbling, Technique and a solid, agile physical base, I truly think he’s a coup for the club and expect him to be making noises for a move to the top tier very soon. It’s Bayern’s loss, clearly, but a testament (and a shock when we get to this level) of their depth that he’s not been able to break into the first team. Another man at the top of the scoring charts is Willem Geubbels, whose twelve strikes – from 8.65xG – sits him fourth in the league in a season where his St Gallen side romped to the title. Therefore, this move can be considered another huge coup. Guebbels’ average shot xG of just 0.10 is pretty poor and his 14.77% conversion rate can definitely be worked on but his eye for goal is nothing short of fantastic as he covers ground, takes players on and can turn into a creative force, too, with seven assists to his name, bringing his goal involvements to 0.56 per game. I remember him from previous games and what he could become but it seems that he’s landed in Switzerland and somewhat found his level; he’s really well rounded with little in the way of deficiencies but, most importantly, was €8m cheaper than Alvarez and earns €18k p/w less than him, too. I believe that he could go on, like Arijon before him, to feature at this level and in the top flight, whether that comes with us or not; this two could be a deadly duo!

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Noah Lemina – younger and less-famous brother of Mario – is another player to be joining us after a spell in the Swiss top flight. The Lausanne man, on loan from Nice, averaged over three dribbles a game as well as 1.15 key passes per game. FIve goal involvements overall do paper over the cracks of a couple of wobbly years in and around the two Nice sides and the PSG 2 side earlier in his career, sandwiching a successful loan at second tier Sochaux. At 23, I think he’s got time left in him to develop and is, again, well rounded – a really clear recruitment decision I have made. However, Lemina is the most creative of these signings whereby I want to utilise him in the centre of the pitch. He’s slight – 5’6″ and 62kg but he’s fast, clever and can progress the ball: ideal for what I want as a central winger, the direct translation of the Mezzala role. There is, of course, some flexibility in this choice as he could easily play wide left, pushing Ibrahimovic to the right and Tillman to the CM(a) role – it’s all about options! I have to go back to 2025/26 to find the last full season that Dominik Stumberger played and it was whilst he was at WSG Tirol before a €4.7m move to Salzburg. A left footed centre back who can progress the ball and offer something more than most going forward feels like a sensible transfer, particularly when I face the prospect of losing Hajrizi in the summer and require a stop gap for a couple of years until any of my youth may be ready for first team action.

After successes with this method for Elfsborg and the quality of youth I am really focussing on, I think that my core squad – of just twenty players – provides me with enough depth in most areas of the pitch, as you can see below. I intend to keep the defence as solid as possible, rotating as little as I can in order to maintain the solidity that you can get with well-built partnerships. Plus, the area of the squad where I have most youth quality is in defence, therefore I don’t feel overly worried. Going forward, the signings I’ve brought in and the players I’ve looked to retain all offer me flexibility in different roles and will allow me to deviate from my original tactical styles and plans when needed. There will be multiple questions to answer further down the line: a considerable number of the squad are entering their final two years, with many in their last, there is a considerable divide between old and young within the squad and we still need to be aware of being usurped by bigger teams for stronger players in the squad who’d happily move elsewhere.


Pre-season has come and gone by quite nicely. Three cups – courtesy of the @danielgear method and my players are fit and ready to go. I know my strongest side but the reality is that they won’t be playing together that often as I want to really dig into the analysis of our opponents this season. Our 3133 shape, with sets of overloads – originally down the right in our earlier transition but then again on the left when we approach the goal, which, to me, is screaming out for a player who can switch play or move quickly to change the dynamic of our attack but, overall, is feeling positive and suited to what we have here.

With eight parts to last season’s updates, I intend to split this much cleaner into another couple of updates, giving me a bit more time to dig into the game and develop both tactically and develop the players I have at my disposal. I also want to dig into some player amortisation stuff as I will need to keep a closer eye than ever on the financial implications at the club. I’m positive about the season but also conscious we share a league with Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz, Heidenheim, Hannover, Kaiserslautern and several other really strong sides


  • 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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