The end of the season marks a really important time in my tenure here in Germany. Less than eighteen months ago, I was a Champions League manager, having wrapped up successive top flight titles in Sweden, losing only once in sixty games. Now, I sit here faced with a third season in the 2.Bundesliga and a lot of questions to ask myself and my tema. That being said, I’m completely committed to the job and have shunned interest from a couple of top flight teams across the continent of late, with the power of the project keeping me sucked in here in Germany. Longer term – and I’m talking five or six years – it may become necessary to take the next step but I’ve always enjoyed building on more mediocre budgets and within tighter constraints, which is what we’ve got here at Bochum: from the 26,000 seater stadium to the financial implications that will surely subside following several seasons in the top flight.



As is so often the case, the finest of margins and the smallest of losses have held us back. We could mention the loss to Heidenheim, where a shocking start saw us 2-0 after ten minutes but a valiant effort was in vein as we could not find the equaliser, which would – all things staying the same – have seen us ahead of Darmstadt on goal difference. If it wasn’t that, maybe it was the sickening last gasp defeat to the hands of the side that pipped us to automatic promotion or the pair of no shows against Paderborn and Regensburg, where our dilapidated side couldn’t handle the heat. Nevertheless, we look back with pride as our finish tops that of last year and the year before, where they finished fourth in their first season since relegation. Looking at individual stats, through the order of minutes played, you’ll see attempts at proper squad rotation were tough – injuries took their toll on the latter half of the season and both failed targets showed that there were areas that we didn’t quite achieve what I set out to do. That being said – Tchetchoua ended with thirteen goals and, when you consider that he didn’t score in any of the first fifteen league games, this is a pretty solid return. Likewise, Lawrence’s aerial superiority showed from set pieces, allowing Ibrahimovic to somewhat falsely inflate his assist tally.

Next season, under the stewardship of Vincent Kompany, Union Berlin will be joining us, along with St Pauli, who weren’t cut out for the to flight and leave after just a year there. Within our division, Mainz – who somehow justified a €31m fee for a defender in January – will surely want to improve on their pretty awful showing and ten place failing below their xPos. There will also be a Hannover side who will surely not want to spend much longer at this level but, aside from that, the floor is ours as we can hopefully push on and assert our dominance.


When I moved to Bochum, I tried to explain my tactical thoughts through a series of bullet points which would, in the Hammarby method, lead to a series of metrics that could be used to calculate quality of performance as well as outcome of it. Below are those five core ideologies of our play, now adapted – in bold – to show our amendments and changes in style of play. The core goal remains the same though and I do feel that, however slowly we are moving, we are still moving forward with it.

  • Calm build-up through numerical advantages in a 3-2 shape shape matched to have one more player than the opposition in the early transition: either 3-2, 3-1 or 2-2 box.
  • Progress the ball forward vertically through overloads in the centre of the pitch wide areas to create spaces centrally.
  • Get the ball into and around zone 14.
  • Run at the opposition defence and counter attack from turnovers in the middle third.
  • Win the ball back through a solid defensive line rather than committing to duels.

Whilst the comparison cannot exactly be aligned, due to the fact I took over midway through the 28/29 season, there are some interesting developments:


Less possession than last year, which is interesting and would require a little more investigation. My thoughts are that we’re no longer having quite as much possession in the defensive third, given the fact we’ve moved away from a 5-3-2 shape, where, previously, we’d definitely have more than one extra player there. We’re creating more without a huge amount more passes in the final third – which, actually, I am not against – showing that we are trying to be clinical. That, yet, isn’t working with a drop in average shot xG – indicating that some of our attacking play is not quite as free and as well-rehearsed as it should be. The turnover and transitional elements are stronger as we have improved our dribbling and interceptions rate, whilst dropping – or, at least, what looks like dropping, our defensive line. The hint states that this is point of first defensive contact, which actually indicates that we have not necessarily dropped deeper but have become far more compact in shape – something which I was keen to do. It has also allowed the opposition conversion rate to stay the same, suggesting that the chances they are creating and, importantly, the quality of our goalkeeping, hasn’t diminished.

Something that I intend to look back on this year and further develop through some recruitment.


With my ambitions lofty, this summer will be as important as ever as I look to build a squad that will see us win promotion from this division.

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I started the summer recruitment off with a handful of games left to go – selling two of my French imports for a whopping €19m in profit, despite neither of them actually playing well. Geubbels was somewhat usurped by Tchetchoua in his quest for ten league goals across the second half of the season and his murmerings were picked up by another Belgian team, following Anderlecht’s move for Tillman earlier in the season. At €12m, this is a great figure for a someone who was essentially a backup. Likewise, Lemina moves to Belgium for €7m as I came to the conclusion that a full retraining mission of a player just about entering their prime must be handled carefully – and this one wasn’t exactly done so. He’s a decent player but €7m is a great figure that I intend to repurpose into the signings of several new players:

  • Rotational strikerNow that Tchetchoua – a full Cameroonian international and representing them at the World Cup this summer – has virtually cemented himself as first choice, I feel that it is imperative I have an older striker, one with more than the fifty-odd senior games that the youngster has played, available to rotate in. Clearly, his half-season goal drought has has a lasting memory with me and it’s something I’m keen to ensure I have the resources to ensure I can manage better next time. Because there will always be a next time.
  • Rotational right wingerWith Molina’s failed target, I need reinforcements here. My promise to develop youth means that he’ll get all the time he needs but I cannot, realistically, be carrying a playmaker who is creating just a handful of goals a season into the top flight, where he is completely untested. I will, however, support him as much as humanly possibly in his quest to become that combo creator/dribbler and want to partner him with a player in a similar mould.
  • Ball carrying centre midI believe that Osterhage has been immense this season but I have little in the way of depth behind him, bar Jan Sommer, who could really use some time out on loan to develop and gain experience. Again, I’ll put faith in him developing but feel that some experience here would help. He’d potentially join a small group of players who are enjoying success elsewhere as developmental loans.
  • A dribbly centre midIt’s time to introduce players who can carry the ball more in my quest to rise up the dribbly rankings and I think a centre mid is needed here. Tillman’s absence has never been filled and Maier is young and, again, could do with some extra experience.
  • Rotational right back: The stalwart Passlack played all but thirty-four minutes of first team football this year and, therefore, some assisting for his aging legs is much needed. A player who possesses similar traits – in terms of getting forward – is key here, despite this role not exactly being in my long, long term plans. As such, a converted winger or someone who could even play as a ball carrying midfielder might be a positive option for us to ensure that we get the best for our money.
  • Upgraded keeper: Not an ‘essential’ but Gebhart’s ‘2’ for Determination and not fantastic ball playing ability can always be a marginal gain for us.

The best part of this summer is that I now have some money! With €19m from above sales, I will also receive €4.25m in both January 2031 and January 2032 from the Tillman sale. Combine that, with a sort of ‘eggs in one basket’ approach and I’ll see €15m+ for prize money at the end of the season and €30m+ for prize money at the end of the season following promotion. I am conscious that I want to keep within our wage structure but build in bonuses and new wages post-promotion, knowing that it’ll sweeten a deal now but also save money in the long run through forced renewals. Yet, this summer should see a departure from the ‘free transfer business’ of last – regardless of the success and the profit I have turned in such a short time.

I always reach a point in my save where I want to do this. I’ve tried to achieve it on previous games but it’s going to get my full attention here. My plan is to create shortlists, with at least three men on each. I will use of DoF if I don’t want to structure payments but will look to spread payments cleverly, something which I am notoriously bad at doing. Below, I have the beginnings on my shortlist for the right winger role:


The fun here comes working through and deciding on how to order these. Clearly, Kluivert is the biggest name here but he comes with the downsides of being 31 and also wanting a substantial wage and, more than likely, would not settle for being in rotation with Molina. Then there is Borges, a player I seem to remember from FM-fandoms in years gone by. Seems decent, but playing for Jong Ajax. They’re a second tier team like us, but, really, would he improve us? Then it comes down to stats – dribbles and key passes are the name of the game for this role and, for reference, Molina averaged 1.82 and 1.39 respectively in these metrics last season. Therefore, it’d be Sari that is the only player that comfortably exceeds them but part of me has an interest in Siaka too, mainly for the fact that it’s still mid-season in Sweden and I can go and watch him play for my old team GIF, where his chances created and dribbles per game rank him pretty high when combined.

I then have this same process for all of the above positional needs! FUN!

Nur der VfL!


  • 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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