I think that things are starting to just about even themselves out now.

Our form, in January at least, has been a little patchy with three games where we’ve failed to find the net and striker Minami continues his goal drought stretching back to November. However, things are still going well and we’ve certainly made improvements from last season. Our current PPG – 2.0 – would see us finish ten points better off than last season and, at 0.08 goals per game better, we’re outscoring last year, too. Tactically, I’ve been looking at opportunities to make us more potent against deeper blocks and, as I’ve mentioned a few times, using a DLF/SS combo against a 442 seems to be one of those. Here, with an AF(a), my striker is pushing the backline back but, with a Shadow Striker – essentially the same kind of player but deeper – I’ve got nobody to fill those holes. I could use an AP/AM or similar on a support duty to fill that but prefer the fluidity and unpredictability of greater movement by pulling the forward, essentially making a box or, even, a pentagon in midfield. This is hugely helped by the wide men who do not come inside until late in the move, allowing opportunities like this, where quick movement and a nice run from the Libero leaves us 4v3 just outside of Zone 14.

I’m also making developments in the way we can defend. This Emery inspired 6-box that I used against Bayern kept them out of the game and their 2-0 win was absolutely not deserved. If I’d have read my notes better and not put the wingers to mark their wingers – who, actually were so inverted that they left wide open gaps for wing back Fresneda to break through to net the opener – I’d have been able to keep them at bay much longer. A goal inside the first five and then a goal right at the death where they caught us on the counter ends this period on a particular sad note, especially after a strong comeback against Man Utd, where we found ourselves 2-0 down and a bit shell-shocked before we valiantly battled back and should’ve taken all three points. Not a big deal though as qualification had already been secured thanks to a 100% record prior to that. With our league form strong, the Europa League is a competition that I want to win this season, because, hopefully, it’ll be our last entrance to it!

Not related to our own performance but I like to keep a close eye around the world at interesting developments. We’ve set up a youth link with Farul Constantia and that alerted me to the fact that 2029 winners FCSB are no longer in the top flight. That pales into insignificance with what is happening in Sweden as Brommapojkarna, who were named  league winners in 2030, were relegated in 2031, Superettan winners in 2032 and then league winners again in 2033 – taking yo-yoing to an extreme! It is also sad to see that my old club, Sundsvall, dropped out of the top tier after eight strong seasons.


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With interest in Stepan Pejsa and my concerns around my inability to make him a better player, I felt that it was a good opportunity to cash in on him. His move to Nottm Forest – 2nd in the Championship – is quite a clear indicator of the level that he actually is at. The deal, sitting at €20m, gives me €11m of profit, which is significant given his poor scoring record, and, for want of a better phrase and for people who get it, looking a bit like Emile Heskey whenever he was on the ball. He clearly was a striker and moving him out wide, despite watching him playing for Sparta Prague as a withdrawn striker, meant that he had far too much time on the ball and – despite decent attributes – didn’t really know what to do with it. Unfortunately, upon this discovery, he’d also fallen back into third or fourth choice striker and there was little way to appease these demands of first team football. He’d barely featured this year, with only a solitary goal to his name – so the move made sense for both parties. I think that this move gives me an opportunity to provide further game time for Franco D’Anzi – as his development has been strong and, probably, he’s reached the limit of how far youth football will take him. There may be calls to explore a loan move to get regular football next year but, with a versatile squad where really any of my forwards could play this role, I think it’s quite a safe experiment. The comparison between his attributes and Pejsa’s show that, as expected, he’s a little weaker but – hopefully – has a much higher ceiling and will fit into our playing style.

Bauer (a rise to €50k per week), Stierpmann (€40k), Reckert (€40k) and Minami (€46k) all recently signed new deals, accepting my squad role and future plans for them. However, the same was not to be said for Antonini Javorcic, who demanded to be an important player despite only playing thirty-five games – mostly from the bench – since his arrival as well as contract demands of north of €70k per week, on par with my top earners and most valuable players. Sadly, there was no budging on this and his agent quickly lost patience. My decision to then cut ties with him was also difficult given the fact that, when my DoF arranged the deal for him, he also included a clause that would give Hadjuk 30% of the profit made above the €4.5m we purchased him for. Fortunately, there was significant interest and I was able to move him on for €30m, giving nearly two of that to an intermediary, and then a further €7.65m of that back to Croatian football. Yet – with every setback is an opportunity and I was able to to dig into a shortlist and spend just €3.5m on Christian Ammer from second tier Aachen. He’d been considered when I made the signing of Javorcic but I felt that he wasn’t experienced enough in open-age football, having only really featured for Aachen’s II team in the lower levels. Now, he’s got two full years on senior football under his belt and looks to be a promising option. Whilst his defensive attributes aren’t quite at that top end, his footballing intelligence really is and I’m hoping that I can allow him time to develop over the coming years – giving myself not only another German option but also a cheap, well-considered and moldable player – which is pretty much my perfect recruitment strategy!

I’ve had significant interest in many other players – as you’d expect, given our form. Minami was subject of bids from many clubs – PSV, Newcastle and Dortmund included – that reached up to nearly €70m: a considerable profit on a man who has scored twice in the league this season and cost just €1.5m. However, he was keen to discuss a new deal with us so I left it to him: accept our deal or accept theirs. Fortunately, the Japanese youngster agreed to extend his stay for 5 years but, like every player at the club, is not tied down and will be used as part of creating a profitable business, given the confidence I have in my recruitment process.

I also sanctioned a few more loans as I build quite a strong list of youngsters who are now temporarily away from the club:


Playmaking keeper Bjorklund is nearing first team readiness but, as a goalkeeper, I always struggle to sanction playing time but will look at a Roberto De Zerbi-esque rotational plan for next year as he’s potentially going to be one of the best keepers in Europe. That being said, his loan has just been extended until November of 2034, so I am in no rush to recall him and will only likely make that move if I smell any interest in either keeper currently at the club or Fischer – the backup – becomes unsettled at his lack of exposure to any footballNikolicand Schulz remain the two players I’m most interested in but I really don’t know whether the potential for the latter will actually ever be reached as, at 20, he’s not really kicked on. That being said, I do see him as a long term Havertz replacement as he’s more of a deep lying striker than Noa, who I’d expect would be able to lead the line and score goals, as he has done so well for Ingolstadt, who’re hugely overperforming in the 2.Liga following their promotion. To join him, I’ve sent Angerer andBatyrkhanov – who will, presumably, both sit as central midfielders in their preferred 442 shape. Not ideal but, for Fynn – who is in a similar situation to D’Anzi – first team football is really important for him as he’s outgrown what youth football can offer. Salman Kuczmann has just won the European Golden Boy award whilst out on loan but, a Shadow Striker, maybe, aside – I really don’t feel that I have a role for him in the way that I play.

The future is very bright though


  • 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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