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As intended, I made a big jump early in the window and sanctioned the Boniface sale, letting him to go to the Middle East for a fair price for an out of form, aging striker. After a look through both the scouted ‘A’ rated players, followed by those rated as ‘B’ – I felt that the window would be significantly tougher than I first imagined.  That being said, I was largely happy with the outputs of the remaining squad players and felt that, with the expiry of two key players next summer – team leaders Krecji and Tapsoba –  a quieter window – particularly when PSG look less likely to sign Yekini (but we are offered a pitiful sell-on clause) – might be more appropriate. That being said, there is still necessity to find value in the market. The board asked me to spend all of my original transfer budget – a worry – but then told me that, actually, I’d only have €8m available to play with before the Boniface departure. With that, I concluded three sensible deals:

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The star boy returns. Whilst the deal comes with huge compensation if he has a hand in 15 goals, which, should he do so, see us naturally propel ourselves up the league, Kai Havertz is still a properly good footballer. I have to balance in my head that short-term desire to succeed with the long-term ambitions to build a self-sufficient, attractive-footballing club built from the ground up and, whist Kai is aging, his attribute comparison and statistical comparison gave me enough fuel to ignite the fire that saw Hull spend €8m on Gottschalt. Maybe Kai does only have a year or so left in him but his quality should stay and he’s homegrown at the club as well as being paid a similar amount to Nico and paving the way for any academy graduates that may present themselves over the mid to long term. Kai’s ability to operate between the lines, in the half spaces and as a withdrawn forward meant that I felt he could add another series of options in our attacking areas, even if his top end speed and physicality is slightly dwindling. He has, however, never truly been a regular at Arsenal and I hope that the lack of minutes may allow his legs to continue a little longer – just, at least, long enough for me to identify a long term rotational option with Duran. I’m really quite happy with the signing of Pierre Helmes – who cost €6m from Saint Louis City in the MLS. I have craved a full back who can do both;  sitting, usually, in the IFB(d) role but then also being tasked with being an aggressive CWB(s)/(a) when we want to force an overload down one side. I think that Helmes does that and, statistically, doesn’t look too bad at either. I know that the MLS is a step down and his only top flight German experience comes from seven (substitute) appearances whilst at Dortmund but I was able to purchase a similar type of player in Bauer and give him minutes to settle in and I think that this deal could be quite successful for us.

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Sebastian Fischer was the last incoming deal and, for just €1.7m, feels like he’s somewhat of a bargain. My intention is to ensure that both my goalkeepers are good with their feet but, given that this is an area that generally makes them more valuable, I was conscious that I did not want to break the bank with Fischhaber being a strong number one and Bjorklund showing signs of promise and potential to be ready in a number of years. Ideally, I wanted a seasoned pro but also I wanted a German: fitting in squad regulations is really important and I’d rather ensure that my more expensive and expansive assets came from further afield. But, finding one of those, willing to be a fully fledged backup and fit in with a wage structure that is not complicit with a player returning from Qatar or dropping down to number two, meant that I was very short on options. In the end, I’ve plumped for an experienced player – but just not at this level. Fischer was a regular for the Bayern II team and has 150 career appearances to his name. Furthermore, he’s a big lad and pretty well rounded. The intention is to not actually ever have to use him – with the Europa League and the Pokal being quite key competitions for me, but I cannot venture into an FM24 game now without a sub keeper as I’ve had to make more replacements in this version than I have in all others, combined.

A small profit has been made over the summer and, whilst we’ve lost one of the two remaining original squad players, just leaving Tapsoba, I feel that we’ve not necessarily weakened. Kai could well relive the glory years that made him one of the continent’s hottest prospects and Pierre fills a slot that was vacant, relieving some of the pressure on Hagiwara ahead of him.

This allows further time to develop deeper scouting pools as I look to address at least two major holes next summer:

  • Centre Back
  • Holding Midfielder

With the nature of this recruitment, I am aware that each player has his price and, whilst we’re not at the pinnacle of European football, players will want to move on and build on their career elsewhere. This gives even more onus on creating deep shortlists of high quality players available to me, whether now or in future and whether affordable now or not. Far too often, I’m turning away from a player because they are currently too expensive or currently not interested, when they need to be retained for the longer term building of my recruitment lists. Then, I need to expand my checking process – utilising reports from several scouts to ensure that I actually know what I’m getting, because that is something that I feel I’ve been caught out by, too many times.

Whilst there are plans afoot for recruitment, I’ve also been finalising changes to the younger players over the summer and have currently loaned out five of my best prospects:

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Bjorklund was part of the Ingolstadt team that won the league last year but I want to fast track him into the first team and, when he rejected an extension there, took the chance to get him in the shop window. My old club Elfsborg – now sadly mid-table fodder – were interested in him, providing him exposure to top tier football and European football, way before we are able to. The concern is that the jump may be too big for him and he’ll fall apart but I’ve never seen a keeper with his description and I’ve seen very few as strong as he is at that age so want to work hard on him. Nikolic decided that he would continue at Ingolstadt after doing so well last year. They’ve not signed any better players than him so I expect him to continue leading the line but he, like Bjorklund will need to be watched closely as he was very poor this time last year at this level at Duisberg, who’d also been newly promoted. Kuczmann is the third of the ex-Ingolstadt players and he moves to Portugal to, again, play in the top flight at mid-table Famalicao. They’re not too dissimilar from us in terms of style and intent to disrupt the big boys but, obviously, at a lower level. Niklas Schulzwho was used pretty much solely from the bench last year – makes a great move to relegated Union Berlin, where I’m told he’ll be an important player. Hopefully, the Berlin side will be pushing for promotion and playing well, giving him lots of opportunities to kick on, as he somewhat stalled last year and is now considered to be less likely a superstar. Lastly, Yu moves to Derby, who are a lower half Championship side but do play a very similar style of football to ourselves. The draw of a 46-game season, for me, was big as it means by Korean will get plenty of chances to play at this level and, hopefully, develop.

That leaves my youth team squad looking a little depleted but very strong in the remaining areas. My concerns right now are all about not being able to promote youngsters but I feel that I’ve been able to turn around the youth sector in quite a short amount of time and now have six or seven really high potential talents that could, in a few years, be within the first team. I’m also aware of how much harder it is at an elite level to bring through young players. At a lower quality, like in the Swedish leagues, bringing through less polished players felt considerably easier and I was able to utilise my time at Elfsborg, in particular, to blood them whilst we were winning most games. I need to use this season to give as many minutes to my young players as I can. I certainly know that Thursday night Europa League games will provide those opportunities but I have to be clever about it!

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I keep coming back to this and doubting myself as to whether I’m being true to my principles but I’m learning, over and over again, that the tactical side to FM is an infinitely deep hole and I’ll never reach perfection without creating some ME-killing super tactic, which is exactly against my wants! I’m looking at our opposition more and more and have even skinned some additional analysis stuff into the in-game tablet to try and learn more about the team. However, my thinking is becoming a lot clearer around certain actions that are key in our build up.

“We need multiple ways to build up.”

With the ideology of the extra man, I need to be really clear and confident of how we build up against different teams. Some sides play two up top, whilst others player a striker and a 9.5 in the form of a Shadow Striker, for example. Others use one particularly aggressive inside forward and a striker, whilst some use two inside forwards or even just wide men and an aggressive midfielder. To counter those, I can make my rest defence in a variety of ways, knowing that this rest defence is largely the positioning for the ball being recycled. With our quicker build up, I’m now noticing more and more that our average positions and pass maps are somewhat skewed as the Libero isn’t really a passing option more of a second line of rest defence in a turnover of possession. That, in itself is fine but what it does do is reduce the distance between the defenders and increase the distance from the attackers, meaning we gather possession deeper and don’t, or can’t penetrate as efficiently as teams have recovered. There are times, however, when it works well – here, Markovic, the L(d), has progressed with the ball and is now a passing option, but that has come about from a loss of possession for the opponents and we have hardly any space. Here, we’re in our normal 3-2 build up but, probably, could use a 2-3 to create more width for Javorcic to enable a switch of play to the left. It’s minutia and it’s quick in game notices of these things that will pay off. I’m getting better at it but there is still a long way to go.

I’m thinking of a way where I can change my updates to focus a bit more on the tactical developments that don’t just lead to paragraphs of words and some hyperlinked images and gifs as this is my true focus right now and the thing bringing me back to FM each and every day

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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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