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I’m going to keep this as a separate ‘off the pitch’ update, with a final end of season update driven by statistical work, hopefully…

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The sale of a key player is always an important part of the season and I was forced into that when Anderlecht met my €22m valuation of the American attacking midfielder. He’d spoken to me days before about wanting to explore his options at the end of his deal – eighteen months from this point – but I’d been able to talk him down with a spiel about loyalty. Yet it was he who had quickly forgotten that when the Belgian giants came calling and, given his statistical output, felt that the money – given our overall financial situation – would be worth more than the one goal and four assists he’d provided. Furthermore, the two instalments, both in January of €4.25m, would – potentially – fund two further transfer windows, dependent on our situation. Obviously, this coming on deadline day meant that I was rushed to source a sensible replacement so, instead, was left with the promotion of academy player Christoph Kuhn. He’s far from perfect but is a wrong-footed right winger who can play backup to Molina.

Speaking of the young German/Spaniard, I moved to make a decision that I’ve not made before: using this opportunity to offer Molina a new deal, with the clause that, should he assist seven more goals this season, I’d make him a Regular Starter for next. Pretty self-explanatory really – he’s now got a realistic target to work towards and, if he achieves it, will have performed well enough to be part of my first team plans and probably one of my more valuable players. I then did the same for Tchetchoua, with an added €97k (some two and a half months wages), should he score fifteen times with the aforementioned promise of regularity to his starting time (and, probably a €15m income from the sale of Geubbels – who is already showing murmurs of annoyance at not being the first choice striker but would bring in a fee that’d dwarf the bonus Tchetchoua would earn) if he reaches ten goals. He promptly scored twice on the day after I’d begun this contract renewal, which feels incredibly promising or the long term future for him.

Elsewhere, I allowed Stanislaw Majewski to get some defending practice at the Eredivisie’s bottom side, NAC. Not an ideal place for him to cut his teeth but his rise to prominence has been so quick and so unexpected, I’d already recalled Theide to the first team and, as such, felt the playing time, wherever it came, would be of more benefit to him. With six teenagers – Fischer, Kuhn, Thiede, Sommer, Tchetchoua and Molina as well as four more at twenty-one or under, Maier, Adams, Kozic and Kohler, I feel that there has been a complete culture change here. All of the above players, bar Adams – bought in by the previous regime – are home-grown in the academy and have had a clear journey marked to the first team. However, with an average age of 23.15, our team is young and really inexperienced. With no real plans – despite our lofty position and good form – to be in any place other than this league next year, my focus is to now supplement these players with strong-personality, experienced heads who can bring the best out of the young players I have.

With youth intake day nearing, I felt that – given the nature of my save – it was important to share the development of the promising youth from the last intake. Full development profiles can be seen by clicking each screenshot.

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I am delighted to see that, overall, the players are generally improving just a little bit more each month. Watanabe’s loss, around October last year, cannot be attributed to an injury or an a change to the additional focus (as this is repeated in February and July and a repeated pattern wasn’t evident there) but it’s important that I look at this, along with the smaller losses for Samake and Schonwalder, to ensure that the youth training is optimal and pushing them each month. With three of the four born in 2012, they’ll still have one further season at this level before I either move them on loan or bring them into the first team, but, given our development over the past year and a half, I cannot say for certain where we will be and what the first team will look like at that point. Ideally, a spell in Sweden (as three players just have done) will be an ideal stepping stone for them to cut their teeth in adult football at what is a pretty decent level.

The youth intake itself felt a little underwhelming. No elite talents, at first glance, yet, once the dust had settled and my scholars were announced, that figure had changed to two. The five players below – all of whom have a full profile screenshot linked through their thumbnail – are the most promising of the bunch and the most likely to make the move to earning professional, first team football either here or elsewhere.

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As the season moves closer towards the conclusion, I can reveal that interest in both Geubbels and my second French signing of the summer, Lemina, has intensified, largely down to the development of my youth players here. I truly believe that this bunch of players is good enough to get us promoted but, as previously mentioned, we’re still not quite doing it as I’d like to. I think that the summer is going to be a great time to reflect on that from a holistic perspective as opposed to an individual player level. Despite this being a purely player orientated update, there is still an incredible amount of focus and concentration put into the training, match day build up and actual match – like nothing I’ve ever done before.

In the spirit of previous posts and now I’ve learnt the motto….Nur der VfL!

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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