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It was a season to remember for FC Nantes fans, as thanks to results like the emphatic 5-1 win against Lens, we managed to finish 2nd, twelve spots above our pre-season expectations of a 14th place finish.

 

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Les Canaris were one of the competitions surprise packages, consistently defying expectations to celebrate a successful campaign, one which closed with the lifting of the Coupe de France.

 

THE BEST XI

 

Below is the best XI as per the end of season in game review, as always FM slides in a few surprises based upon their very own algorithm.

 

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I must admit, this tactic has been an absolute pleasure to play with, yes there is room for improvement. I am hoping with a better player, a natural in the IWB role, there is the possibility the effectiveness of this game model in the offensive phase can really improve.

 

For those of you who would like to test this out, I have included a link to download ‘The Nantes Way’.

 

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Less than a year after my arrival in Nates, I was crowned the best coach in Ligue 1. The last time the award was won by a Nantes coach was back in 2000-2001 when Raynald Denoueix won the old Division 1, now Ligue 1, accumulating 68 points. This points haul is still a record today, his side won 21 games, scoring 58 (record), and conceding 36.

 


 

TEAM PERFORMANCE DATA

 

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It just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t present to you some data analytics as part of the season 2023/24 review.

 

ATTACKING STATS TO NOTE

 

  • Goals 67 (2nd)
  • Expected goals for 59.45 (2nd)
  • Chances created 147 (2nd)
  • Shots for 432 (3rd)
  • Conversion rate 15% (1st joint with PSG, and Lille)

 

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I have opted to highlight the statistics where we are within the top three best performers, from the above it is clear to see that our game model is extremely effective in the attacking phase of play. We are creating 40 more chances, compared to conceding them, a chance every 60 minutes to our opponents, every 126 minutes.

 

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Looking at the below, you can see where all of our 67 Ligue 1 goals were scored from, with 85% of all goals scored from inside the box, and 82% of these coming from central areas. There is no surprise we hold the best conversion rate in the league, along with the second highest expected goals.

 

DEFENDING STATS TO NOTE

 

  • Conceded 24 (2nd)
  • Expected goals against 30.65 (2nd)
  • Clean sheets 15 (3rd)
  • Fouls made 462 (2nd)
  • Shots against 276 (3rd)
  • Opposition PPDA 4.65 (1st tied with Montpellier)
  • Final third passes against per game 44 (2nd)

 

All of the above was completed with 44% possession, the fourth lowest in Ligue 1. Given we are seeing less of the ball than our opponent on average, to have conceded the second least goals, and accumulated one of the lowest expected goals, it again highlight the defensive efficiencies of our game model.

 

Yes, it is aggressive (2nd highest fouls made), but with the highest PPDA, we aren’t allowing our opponents to settle on the ball, scuppering their progress up the field, as reflected in the second lowest final third passes against.

 

All this with a fitness, and stamina attributes which sit below the Ligue 1 average within the comparison screen.

 

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It is also pleasing to see that 62% of the goals conceded have come from those high scoring xG positions, if we are to concede we are making our opponents work for the goals, much better than seeing lots being scored from areas with a lower shot quality.

 

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11 goals were conceded in the first half with 13 in the second across the breadth of the season, no real spikes to report on with regards to trends. The most goals (6) were conceded between the 1-15 minute mark, maybe we are slow starters!

 


 

SQUAD PROFILE

 

For those of you who have followed my work over the last few year, you will know how much I value a squad profile. I believe this visualisation is an excellent tool to use at the end of each season, from it you can easily see what youth players are getting sufficient game time and are really adding value to your squad, along with which ones aren’t and could benefit from being sent out on loan to assess as to whether or not they are good enough to be involved in your plans.

 

Secondly, it will identify which players are integral to your plans…you should know this as these are the ones you will be selecting week in week out! However what this tool does is help you to assess which ones are fringe players and ones which may be approaching the end of their prime and could be offloaded.

 

Now clearly this viz doesn’t cover outputs so it isn’t your only resource, however in my humble opinion it is a great way to see things from a different perspective.

 

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What is the above informing me?

 

Development (<23) – the two standout players from within this age group are Nastan Zeze, and Bastien Meupiyou, both have played a high number of minutes in their breakthrough season in Ligue 1. Securing such a high volume of minutes at a young age, already informs me these are high value assets, which have the potential to develop into quality players, either here in Nantes, or elsewhere.

 

Mohamed Achi carved himself a first-team spot midway through the season when Pedro Chirivella picked up an injury, like the other two he needs to be presented with a contract to secure his services at the club, or increase his potential sell on value.

 

Three players failed to draw down minutes of any significance, two were at the club on-loan (Bénie Traoré, and Matthis Abline) wasting a year of their development time, clearly their deals will not be explored with regards to extension.

 

Emerging (23-25) – All players from this segment are contributing to the squad, apart from Ignatius Ganago who failed to draw down above average playing time. This was impacted due to the importance of Mostafa Mohamed, who carried the main goal scoring burden for the team. Whilst Ganago did feature, the majority of appearances stemmed from the bench, this lack on consistency impacted the strikers ability to find any sustained form, making him a candidate for selling on, due to his age which will ensure he holds a good market value.

 

Peak (26-31) – The players above the average in this segment are all in their prime, it will be important for me to attempt to keep hold of this bunch for as long as possible, with the view to ensuring consistency, and cohesion. Of course I am no fool in understanding an offer from a bigger club may turn heads. However, the player will actively want to move on, along with a fee above market value for delas to be agreed.

 

With Moussa SissokoDenis Petrić, and Nicolas Pallois‘s contracts expiring at the end of the season I will need to keep hold of the other individuals from within this group in order to ensure we have a good mixture of experienced pro’s to help with the development, and mentoring of the youngsters coming through.

 

Experienced (31+) – Florent Mollet will be the only senior member left (depending on recruitment), whilst he played above average minutes last year, there is a need to explore a natural successor for the attacking midfielder. As with any other player that finds themselves in this category.

 


 

ATTACKING CONTRIBUTIONS

 

Whilst I had Tableau open, I thought I’d test out my muscle memory and knock up an attacking contribution visual, the below is a graphical representation of the main goal contributions by position in my best XI.

 

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Now stating the obvious, our danger man is Mostafa Mohamed with 31 goal contributions. However, what you will note is that the game model is actually quite well balanced, with five players contributing with over 10. To make things better these individuals are spread across the width of the pitch, occupying four of the five vertical channels, if we can get a little more return from either the Volante, or Inverted Wing-Back we will have achieved a perfect balance.

 


 

BREAKTHROUGH SEASONS

 

A little segment dedicated to the individuals who have had a breakout season at the club, these Académie graduates have secured a significant number of minutes, contributing to the first teams success.

 

Nathan Zeze

 

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Nathan (18) secured 1,626 minutes of football for Nantes across 2023/24, to be honest this figure would have been greater if he wasn’t one of two promising left-footed centre-back talents emerging at the club.

 

  • + Pass completion ratio
  • + Possession Lost

 

Bastien Meupiyou

 

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Bastien (18) is the other lefty, he secured 1,381 minutes for the club, showcasing his ability to impose himself in most aerial duels, exerting his physical prowess. Unlike Zeze, Meupiyou opted to progress the ball more via pass, rather than dribble.

 

  • + Pass completion ratio
  • + Progressive passes
  • + Possession lost

 

Mohamed Achi

 

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Mohamed (22) played 884 minutes of first-team football for Nantes, grasping his opportunity with the big boys with both hands. Looking at the above you will see he managed to make quite the contribution in both his attacking, and possession outputs.

 

  • + Expected Assists
  • + Open play key passes
  • + Pass completion ratio
  • + Progressive passes
  • + Distance covered

 

With UEFA Champions League football coming to Nantes next year, the increase in matches to be played will hopefully see these three continue their development, along with the likes of Stredair Appuah Owusu, Junior DiazLohann Doucet, and Mathieu Acapandié, being the next batch of Académie graduates to potentially make their breakthrough season.

 

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Above is a flavour of what the first-team would look like if we were to field a team of pure Académie talent, based on current ability. Keep your fingers crossed for a weak draw in the opening round of the Coupe de France, although I’m not quite sure I have the bottle to even attempt it with nine of the 11 players on two stars or below.

 


 

RECRUITMENT

 

The transfer window was always going to be of significant challenge, we initially only had £2.1 million available to spend on strengthening the squad. My challenge was to ensure we have the strength, and depth to navigate two fixtures per week, and stay competitive in Ligue 1. This is going to be essential for the continued growth of the status/reputation of FC Nantes, if I am capable of turning them into France’s second ‘super club’ along with PSG.

 

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In order to bolster the war-chest I would have to first sell, Anderlecht (Belgium’s Champions for 23/24) enquired for striker Ignatius Ganago, after a few negotiations, we agreed on a deal totalling £4.7 million, (£4m to be paid upfront). Game on!

 

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Eray Cömert – having played over the average minutes threshold, as viewable in the squad profile, the option to make the 26 year old loan deal permanent for only £2.6m was a no brainer. The Swiss defender will bring much needed experience to the defensive unit, which will be of need when playing on the continent.

 

Tino Kadewere – If 14 goal contributions wasn’t a big enough reason to explore signing the forward from Zimbabwe, then his agents estimated sale value of less than £3 million certainly is. You will note there is a theme in our transfer dealings (structured deals), a fee with Lyon was agreed for £2 million, with only £500k to be paid upfront and the rest over the next few years. (12 monthly instalments)

 

Marshall Munetsi – with Moussa Sissoko leaving the club, I felt the need to bring in an all action midfielder, one who could play across all three strata’s if needed. Taking advantage of Reims’ misfortune (Relegated to Ligue 2) there were always going to be wholesale changes at the club. Munetsi is a natural in attacking midfield, however his work rate, strength, and stamina (15), paired with his team work (15), bravery (15), and height 6’2 make him versatile enough to operate as the Segundo Volante. He was signed for £1.9 million, again with an upfront fee of £400k.

 

Ayoub El Kaabi – With the sale of Ganago, there was a need to bring in someone up top to provide some experience. At 31 years of age, the Moroccan fit the bill, he has scored 99 goals in 175 career appearances, a goal in just over every other game. Oh did I mention, his contract had expired at Olympiacos!

 

Enzo Le Fée – saving the best until last, exploring the loan market I was shocked to see Enzo listed by Rennes, the midfielder appeared in 20 Ligue 1 games last season, albeit only two were starts after his £17.25 million move from Lorient. The fact I was able to secure his services for £1.2 million, with an option to buy for £4m was insane. Ideally Enzo will be my replacement for Mollet as my Number 10.

 

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Above is the squad depth refreshed for 24/25.

 

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Our World knowledge is pretty comprehensive with regards to the scouting team, we are complete in terms of South America (South), and have an outstanding knowledge of Western Europe, and an exceptional knowledge of South Europe.

 

We had great news in the fact that our scouting budget was enough to cover a worldwide range, meaning that our scouts could begin assignments in Africa. I immediately set up two ongoing recruitment focuses in both North, and Western Africa, with the view to continuing the longstanding tradition of French clubs harvesting talent from ‘the garden of Eden’.

 


 

INFRASTRUCTURE

 

At the end of the season I was surprised to find the below email in my inbox, the board decided to install undersoil heating at Stade de la Beaujoire, at the cost of £2 million.

 

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I also approached the board to request further investment, this time in our clubs training facilities. Given we have so little money in our bank account (£11.9 million at the time of writing), I was shocked when my request was granted, at the cost of £3.7 million.

 

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Whilst I am looking to make us have the best Académie in France, I felt it was important to invest in facilities for senior players first, I wanted to make sure we have the tools in place to maximise development in the short-term first and foremost. The revenue which will hopefully be secured from their success will help to drive further investments into the youth facilities.

 

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The fact we have the best coaching team in the league, was also another factor in my decision.

 


 

SAVE AIMS

 

When I wrote the introductory post, I set out three aims for the save, lets see how we are doing in the early stages of aligning to our long-term vision.

 

Use the Académie

 

Clearly from the above section in this post, we have a clear strategy to integrate talent from the youth section into the first-team. This season I will look to invest into the infrastructure, by looking to improve either our youth recruitment (Good), or youth facilities (Great).

 

Improve ‘the League of Talents’ coefficient

 

This is more of a collective effort, rather than something which I can impact directly.

 

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However, as you can see from above French Football is taking a nose dive, and currently sit outside the top five with regards to nation coefficients. This impacts our UCL places, which in turn impacts the amount of revenue coming into Ligue 1, the long-term impact, a potential decrease in player quality.

 

UEFA Champions League 2023/24 – PSG were knocked out in the Round of 16 by Arsenal, whilst Marseille closed their group in third place, Lens failed to record a victory.

 

UEFA Europa League 2023/24 – Marseille suffered defeat to Brighton in the round of 16 after entering the competition in Knock Out Play Off Round, Rennes also suffered defeat in the knock out play off to FC Porto. Toulouse failed to make it out of their group finishing behind Villareal, and FC Copenhagen.

 

UEFA Europa Conference League – Toulouse were knocked out by Basel after dropping into the competition in the play off round.

 

RECRUIT TALENT FROM AFRICA

 

With the increases to the scouting budget, we can now pursue this recruitment adventure.

Author

  • SteinkelssonFM

    SteinkelssonFM is a distinguished tactician in the Football Manager community, celebrated for bridging the virtual and real football worlds through meticulous analysis. His knack for recreating iconic real-world tactics in-game, like Mário Zagallo’s 1970 Seleção strategy, offers a nostalgic yet innovative gameplay experience. An active blogger on Medium and WordPress, SteinkelssonFM shares his football philosophies and FM adventures, enriching the community with guides on youth development and tactical masterclasses. His contributions extend to the official Football Manager website, affirming his position as a reliable mentor for aspiring virtual football managers. Through his content, SteinkelssonFM continues to blend historical football charm with modern-day FM gameplay.

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