A transfer window, directly after promotion is – for me – the hardest one to navigate. Players aren’t willing to join the journey in case it reaches an abrupt stop just thirty-odd games from now, and, hence, will ask for extortionate wages and release clauses to get off the ship as soon as they deem it to be sinking. Any player who is in their peak that wants to join us has likely been frozen out at their current employer, giving me nothing statistical to fall back on – just a player, probably on large wages, who hasn’t kicked a competitive football for three to four years with us joining the front of a short queue, simply because of their perceived better than thou mindset. Yeah. There’s a reason you haven’t played. But, upon promotion to the fourth most reputable league in Europe, I’m swamped with young players who, despite being full of potential, see me us as a stepping stone, demanding miniscule release clauses but almost infinite access to the first team. Again. Yeah. There’s a reason you’re a rotational option in Israel (which, by the way, is a talent hotspot at present) and I won’t make you a star player in the Bundesliga! Also – why spend our hard earned pennies on a youngster if I already have five of them in the youth side?!

Then…then you have the players within the team. Most of whom are fiercely loyal to me but, still, are football players who want to showcase their ability on the biggest scene and be handsomely credited for doing so. Don’t give someone a pay rise? Mutiny; and I quote, thanks to Mr Osterhage, ‘this is just another reason to doubt you, it’s not the right decision.’  Yeah – I’m a teacher – sort out your comma splicing, fool. Fold and give them a pay rise? A lack of fairness. Allow a youngster to leave the club? A perception of lack of ambition. Keep an ambitious youngster, who has a clear playing pathway, at the club? Mutiny. Again. There’s little wiggle room at an elite club.

Genuinely, I’ve finished pre-season and feel scared. We aren’t prepared for what this season will throw at me – part of that is the continued musings around tactical play but part of it is that we’ve not moved on enough of the fringe players and replaced them with better players. My strategy of giving improved contracts with playing time promises has worked – Tchetchoua, Fischer Kozic and Molina are all successful graduates from the youth team into the first team but my feeling is that – whilst their wages are way below what I’d be expecting at this level – the importance of some of the players within this squad needs addressing. Furthermore, little things just aren’t quite clicking – Raya’s lack of status within our hierarchy is holding back the mentoring group designed to allow Lino to develop. But, summer comes and goes by quickly and I needed to act…

A number of youth players were deemed not good enough and were moved on, providing 100% profitable income that could go into the first team, if needed. Below are the players who I have signed:

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Somewhat hypocritically, neither of my two midfield reinforcements either cost money nor have played significant amounts of football of late.

Lucas Paquetawho last made a real impact in the 2028/29 season, moves on a free transfer after leaving West Ham. Aside from singing ‘just sold my car…to Lucas Paqueta’ every time he touches the ball, I feel that I’ve got myself an experienced head, who is a definite step up on Fernandez. The Brazilian is a classy playmaker but I feel that he’s more of an 8 than just a 10, which Fernandez probably is. For me, that is important as I will need to win duels and break up play in the middle of the park as more teams will try and play football against us. I was able to bring him in without changes to the wage structure, also. His midfield partner will be Leon GoretzkaAlthough ‘world class’ by tag, I feel that – nowadays – that’s more on his previous ability rather than current ability. His lack of football is obviously a concern to me as is his thirty-six year old legs, but, as a graduate of the youth system and a player who broke onto the scene, I feel that it’s really apt he bookends his career with a second spell with us. Furthermore, he has a desire for coaching so I will look to develop that area of him with him stepping into youth coaching at a sensible time here. Again, our salary commitments were not hugely impacted by this deal, which I feel is important, given the ongoing issues with players’ demands.

I had also trialled aging Americans Mckennie and Pulisic but neither were as interested in joining a geographical rival of the club where they truly made their name. However, both of those, like the two who have joined the club, had been frozen out of domestic play, yet, clearly, good enough still as part of the USA national team. That is, sadly, how the rest of the window went: player identified based on interest, positive statistical outputs from last year but then deals would fall through over €100k p/w+ wage demands, insistence of Key Player status, despite being, on paper, no better than what I already have or clubs deciding to insist on deals that are two to three times the budget we had available. It has been a really tough window, all in all, but I was able to recruit two players to join at the end of next season:

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With us – by choice – only utilising an U19 team, I need to have a ready-made pathway for those who are too old for that team but not good enough for my first team. In this case, those players born in 2012 are now too old to feature and must be either moved on or integrated, hence the sales of players listed above. This means that I need to really consider the age profiles of those incoming. Both Morgan Gunnarsson and Omri Mordahayev are highly rated players at their clubs, but would not be good enough for my first team, at this stage and also be too old to play in the youth team. By signing deals, probably costing me another ~€100k in total, I can wait, allow them to continue first team football in their domestic leagues, and sign in the summer that they turn twenty, hopefully better suited for our needs. Gunnarsson has a great personality and a nicely rounded ability, with strong crossing – perfect for my marauding right sided wing back and even more perfect that Passlack will be 34 and at the end of his contract. With AIK playing a different calendar to us, there’ll be some reviews of this deal at the end of this calendar year to see whether I feel he’s truly ready to come in as a rotational player or whether he’d need a further loan after joining. Omri has a poor personality but that, to be honest, may lead to a quick profit on another Israeli talent. Right now, he’s not completely secure out on the left wing but, with Sari nearing 33 and us only having three wide men, he’s potentially going to be a nice option. My concern, for him, is that the Israeli league lacks sufficient quality to really see him continue to flourish, but, as ever, I’m happy to be proved wrong.

Tough. Really tough.My squad for the 2031/32 Bundesliga season looked thin up top and, in many areas, short of depth. Then this happened:


Two first team players out until nearly Christmas. Great.


Promotion to the top flight can be – and is – a treacherous tactical journey. Go too gung-ho and get battered for six every game but have some fun scoring, if you’ve got the minerals up top; go too cautious and get battered for three to six every game and don’t challenge the scoreboard at the other end. Therefore, I need to be clever. Utilise what I have got; my job role is to manage the group of players in front of me and, if I were to be a little more realistic, I’d not even have control of who comes and goes through the doors here at Bochum. I must get the best out of the players and create passages of play that allow often-inferior players the ability to get the better of their opponents. A key facet of that, for me, is going to be in the early transitions and how I can create overloads and spaces which will allow us to progress the ball forwards against an ever-increasing quality of player and toughness of press.

During pre-season, I was able to get a couple of screenshots of things I liked:

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In the left image, we’re building up with Lawrence initially playing a pass to Goretzka, who has looked for Tchetchoua in the right half space. With a BPD(d) and IFB(d) as the back two, against just one attacker. That then allows Kozic – the L(d) – to move forward with Nduquidi – the the DM(d) – in order to create a deep box This means that we are able to create big spaces, such as the one in the centre of the pitch where Paqueta will hopefully flourish. Right now, he’s quite offensive, but his change to a Mezzala role, on support, feels to be quite key in our refined build up. In my eyes, this role is the most aggressive MC role that there is so I still can get him around the box but, where it differs to the CM(a) or AP(a) that I used before and, as seen in the second image, is that he’s far more cautious in our early stage build up, often dropping in to get on the ball when we are in possession in our own half. Getting him on the ball and driving forward will commit defenders and allow spaces for Ibrahimovic and Tchetchoua to capitalise on.


In the right hand image, Kozic – the L(d) has the ball and is already moving forward, as is his trait to bring the ball out of defence. You can see that I’ve created a nice box in the middle with those four and three nearby opposition players, again, giving us a numerical advantage. I then use Ibrahimovic as an IW(s) with Stay Wider as a PI and Tchetchoua as an AF(a) to stretch the play and allow us to progress forward, with our right back – this time Mehmet – able to advance from his FB(a) role. I know that, when I’m facing two strikers, I can pull the L(d) back to a BPD(d) or even a CD(d) to ensure that the 3-1 shape is always greater in numbers.

These little tweaks have seen us play some really good football in pre-season and have seen us pretty comprehensively beat two Bundesliga sides, as seen below. I’m not getting carried away, at all, and am fully aware that 16th place – a relegation playoff – is a success for us this year!

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Full match reports can be seen by clicking the thumbnails.

Nur de 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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