Building from the previous post about developing a style here at Bayer, I also want to really rationalise my decisions about where the players come from. I have long stayed away from central Europe, feeling that there are often far more flair players in South America or fair more rough diamonds in Africa but, fitting in with the board’s objectives, I think that there is a real bonus to shopping a bit more locally. Right now, the Bundesliga is the fourth most reputable league in Europe and , because of this, talent is exceedingly expensive, as it is from any of the other leagues of a similar standing. Whilst I do need to get into the mindset that – at this level – the €10m signing is akin to the €500k signing in Sweden and a €70m sale is also akin to a €10m sale tere, I think that there is significantly better value at a number of leagues that – unlike Africa – are loaded within the game and can give me a fully detailed set of statistics as well as a better pathway for player development and the added bonus of modeled youth leagues so that I can identify talent at an even younger age. Particularly interesting to me are those neighbouring nations – Poland, Czechia, Austria and Switzerland – as I feel that the language will be relatively easy to pick up if, in nations like Austria, they don’t already know German to, at minimum, a basic level. I will look to reshuffle the recruitment team over the next six to twelve months to ensure that I have sufficient coverage in terms of nationality of my scouts so that I am able to send them to these countries and they already have strong understanding of it.


My target costs are between €5m and €15m because that should skim off the bottom end but also keep signings manageable as we will still have to accrue income from players sales to fund them. Those player sales, across the next years, will likely be these players who are then able to move on for a profit, which is exactly what the board wants. At present, the squad is shy of German talent but, in the longer term, I envisage that the only incoming German talents will be those who are too good to say no to or those that are young enough that they are able to spend one or two years within the youth side and, potentially, become home-grown at the club. This should allow opportunities for a steady stream of German talent from within to work alongside those players brought in from lesser European nations. This is not moneyball; that term has been banded far and wide and, the origins of which have largely been forgotten. This is targeted recruitment within set focus areas, again looking to recruit the following type of players:

  • Players Under 23: The board want me to sign U23 players for the first team so it seems a no-brainer that the target area is between 15 and 22, meaning that I can identify, scout, watch and bide my time to get the best deal for a player before he really hits his peak. This does add extra importance in keeping the experienced heads as well as identifying any 30+ players still at their peak who can add that level of been there, done that to our young squad.
  • Strong personalities: I want to become serial winners here at Bayer and, to do that, I need the right mentality. I will look to recruit and develop good personalities and even reject poor personalities if I don’t feel I have the tools to develop that player.
  • Versatility: I want to recruit players and develop players who can play across a number of roles, ensuring a need for rounded players who can attack and defend.
  • Decisions, Determination, First Touch, Pace and Technique: In trying to build a slick, vertical footballing system, I feel that these five attributes are key to our playing style so will look both recruit with and develop into these attributes.

WIth those parameters in place, I felt energised heading into the summer and have completed my planned business nice and early, leaving me very happy with the outcomes.

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Following Ipswich’s bid for Simons and an amicable departure where Hlozek agreed a move to the Middle EastI had €38m to spend but had removed two really high earners from the wage bill, yet created two quite big holes within my first team squad. One of the things that I have been enjoying utilising is the ‘Team Report’ for clubs who have been relegated or, opposingly, teams who have good academies. Krassnitzer fell into the former category. Relegated at Admira Wacker, his stats don’t look amazing but there needs to be (from me, mainly), a more holistic approach to this; Thomas’ goals scored percentile is above 50%, meaning that, whilst my eyes aren’t drawn to a long, green bar, he’s still scoring better than half of the players based on data collated from the top twenty European leagues. This context, then added to the fact he hasn’t been played as a striker and that – in the two games I watched back – his team are so, so so, bad at retaining the ball, he’s actually doing pretty well at completing any dribbles, accruing any xG and is a pretty good player. Originally, I had identified Thomas Lackner as an emergency replacement for Hlozek as he attracted some interest in January. However, that contextual understanding was used again, as Lackner was involved in nine of their thirty-six league goals: 25%, whereas Krassnitzer was involved in ten of their 22: 46% and has eighteen goals over the last two seasons where Admira have finished seventh and twelfth, where they succumbed to relegation. Additionally, Krassnitzer – found after his relegation – was available for around 12.5% of the cost that Lacker would’ve been given a relegation release clause. This transfer window has been the first where I’ve completely handed this over to my DoF for signing the players and this is where my first mistake has been made: despite very much being a ‘project player’ – he’s been brought into under the promise of being a star player and, whilst his wage demands are low, the minutes required to keep him happy will be a concern once he sees that I’m not able to, nor want to, make this a reality.

My largest outlay of the window – €9m – went on Stepan Pejsa from Sparta Prague. Originally found by my scouts, his stats are phenomenal for a team a who ran Slavia all the way in the domestic competition. Again, my DoF decided that he’d be a star player but I do see him as a much stronger player than Krassnitzer at this point in time. A little too slight to be a lone striker, I intend to use him as a like for like replacement for Hlozek out on the left wing, cutting inside once he has learnt enough of that position for this to become available. At Sparta, he played as part of a front two with a big strong target man, which, to be fair, Boniface could be – should I need to change my style at any point. However, I envisage a combination of his Technique, Dribbling, Flair and Agility making him a really difficult player to mark but need to secure his transformation into a wide man is done carefully at his young age.

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Again, trying to replace those not fitting with my DNA for those who are, both Neuer and Porciani moved on for a total of €4.5m, whilst I spent that, and a further €4m on two replacements, who meet the versatility requirements allowing me to have less players within the first team. Javorcic arrives from Dinamo with a decent record of ball retention and positive passing and – again – not a bad set of stats defensively, hugely skewed from playing for a strong team that really doesn’t do a lot of defending! Pacy enough that he’ll assist with our high line and mentally strong, this time, my DoF got it right that he will indeed be a squad player for us, probably backup for Ozdemir at right back, initially. I like that he can play as a holding midfielder, too. The same can be said for Christoph Bauer – a €4m signing from 2.Bundesliga champions Mainz. Whilst not really fitting in with my transfer identity, his stats – like Javorcic’s – are somewhat skewed due to little defending and comes into the squad in an area where we do not have the luxury of several promising youth players right now.


Yuki Minami is my last planned signing of the window and another project player, initially coming in to learn from Boniface in the striker role. At 5’7″, he’s slight but quick, agile and very technically strong offering me more options in terms of creating counter attacking, ball carrying forwards. His stats in Japan have been great but I am well aware that there is a significant difference between the quality of players he’s played against at JEF United to those he will face in the Bundesliga. Part of my journey, as well as with transfer fees, is to realise that a set of attributes that I used to rate highly in the 11-14 category, are now the same as those in the 14-17 category as those are the levels I am facing week in, week out. The youngster does have the right base to work from and I look forward to see what I can do with him.

Overall, I’m really quite happy with my first team squad for the current season and, now that I’m up and running with my plans, I think that I can focus on the planned transfer business of replacing like for like as the seasons go on – starting with the aging players of Krecja, then Tapsoba and Boniface. Obviously, I need to contend with players who are pinched from my club or those who are not performing well enough, but that is why I have built (or, at least at this point) envisaged, my recruitment policy, which can now go out and identify shortlists of players worth keeping an eye on. My aim is to have ten to twenty players per position that could be viable targets for the club. In addition to that, I hope that, over the coming years, I can cement a clear pathway for youngsters to move into the first team. One thing that I have been doing of late that I’d previously brushed off is attending the weekly staff meetings. I’ve been reading and listening to my staff’s interests in changing individual foci (of which I ignore for youth team players following the monthly rotation – as spoken about in a post, I think, I wrote when I was at Bochum), but then also looking at what they have to say about player development. Previously, I’d never consider loaning players under 18 out, but, given that our affiliate – Duisburg – are in the 2.Liga and my staff believe that certain players are good enough, I’ve allowed five young players to move there. They’re not predicted to do amazingly well in the second tier but there is a good opportunity for football – in particular for Schulz and Nikolic, of whom I have the highest hopes.



Not a huge area for writing here but I’m playing with something and I like it! I’ve felt that, in the past, we’ve been quite stagnant at times going forward, so, therefore, want to look to commit more forward whilst still keeping a 3box3 shape. One of my biggests areas for inquiry has been around the role of Ferhat Duran, one of my best players. His ability to fire off long shots has been great and he lacks any kind of defensively ability, but, playing him as an MC – even on attack – meant that he wasn’t getting into that Zone 14 enough. Moving him to the AMC role with a SS(a) role is also really interesting for me, given that he has a trait of comes deep. I want to watch and observe how he uses that to find space before arriving late in the box, another trait not necessarily considered for this role. With the new elements of positional play here, I like that he and Boniface can interchange their sides but it does mean that I’ve gone for wrong footed wingers, rather than more traditional inverted wingers in order to allow some more stretching of the play, although the use of ‘Fairly Narrow’ for our attacking shape will also sit them narrower but, in essence, keep them wider until later on in the transition. That means that I have to utilise a link up midfielder and, to do that, Hannibal will become the Volante. Whilst I do not really have a right back capable of doing it, I can also move to a mirror image of this and use a HB(d) instead of a DM(d), allowing a wing back – Hagiwara – to overlap. As a team, we’ll need to push even higher up and move the press – which isn’t particularly incessant – slightly higher to alleviate balls over the top from more creativite players.

It’s early days but I’m enjoying what I’ve been seeing in pre-season from it!



My old foci felt out-dated and gave me a very broad search criteria, with little identity or alignment with my recruitment targets. Therefore, I’ve used a similar formula as with my players to generate a suitability rating for my scouting team, looking at the harmonic mean, five times, to create an overall percentage rating. I’m looking for scouts who are able to judge ability and potential but also those adaptable to new countries, disciplined with their work and determined to produce results that can benefit the sporting side of the team. Then, with those still at the club following a raid of other teams, I tried to prioritise sending a scout to the area where they have knowledge – through their first, or additional, nationalities. When that ran out, I just assigned scouts to countries that mean 95% of the twenty one leagues (Scotland and Cyprus remain) are now covered by my scouting team with the remaining staff then being assigned more generic but still focused recruitment jobs across the continent and globe.

This new move sits alongside an even more driven academy approach as we are losing around €30m a year and are needing to stay afloat with wholesale changes each summer.



The 4231 shape continues to evolve but I feel like it’s the direction that is the most suitable for the team, the players I have and my overarching style of play. We’re recording the second most dribbles per game, fourteenth least passes in our box and, actually, still have the lowest OPPDA in the league – a sign that we’re not entirely gegenpressing our way through things, just yet! There is still a considerable amount left to improve on and I think that we need to continue to work on creating those high-quality chances but it’s a move in the right direction!



The happiness around our tactical direction largely mirrors my happiness around our league form.

We’ve got through highs and lows and pretty much everything in between – taking points from Bayern and Leipzig but then coming away with nothing against Werder and Dusseldorf as well as a poor draw with relegation-battling Heidenheim. I’ve been able to – and somewhat forced to – rotate my attacking five considerably as the season has gone on, with long term injuries for Boniface and then a repeated set of short term knocks for the likes of Pejsa, Duran and Krassnizter. However, we’ve fared pretty well and have been able to make the BayArena a bit of a fortress of late


  • 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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