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For my own clarity, if nothing else, I wanted to spend a few minutes working through the backroom panels to ensure that what is in the game matches with how I want this project to run. Therefore, I decided to see if I could marry up my thoughts – from the below flow chart – with those options. I think I’m close…

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Oli Mellor and Callum Weir are two men, neither chosen by me, who have an important role in the running of this club. I’m hoping that, as time goes, by, chairman Derek Martin will be able to advertise for, and recruit stronger members of staff for this area as the playing side (left in the image) will become significantly stronger than the recruitment and retention side (right). Whilst both Mellor and Weir have favoured formations that I will be utilising, neither of them are great at recruitment and negotiating, which means we may end up paying over the odds for players who aren’t good enough. Sitting beneath them in Fabrice Fort who – honestly – isn’t the best at really identifying who is currently good and who could be good, but I’ll have to trust that he can do a good enough job.

My initial plan is to let the recruitment team just get to work on things, but, in future windows – I may utilise the ‘Request DoF Suggestion’ area to create a list of three players that he recommends for that role, choosing one to add to his list of transfer targets. However, that is something that will be explored at a later date.

With that, I entered my first ever transfer window without control

– – –

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Honestly, it’s pretty scary not having full control of the players who join and those who leave the club. But this sense of pessimism has, largely, been turned into excitement given the type of players that have joined us this summer window.

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Ross Byrd joins on loan from divisional rivals Forge FC, after being second choice for much his career that has taken him from FC Dallas to San Jose Earthquakes, DC United and Vancouver Whitecaps. With this vast experience, he’s earned just the three MLS appearances but does come with a history of, at least, working with higher quality staff and players than many of my current crop have done. The loan, at any point, can be made permanent for around €50k, so it’ll be interesting to see whether there is any movement on this. Obviously, the recruitment team saw this as an opportunity to upgrade on our current number one, Ibrahim, who – to be fair to him – has done nothing wrong. Statistically, there is a difference and I like Byrd’s distribution even if he does concede a little in his handling. My job, as Head Coach, is to now allow both of these players to co-exist as a shared number one. I don’t know quite know how I’ll keep them both happy but that’s my job!

Sobhan Hashemi is pretty much exactly the type of playmaker that I think we need. He came in on a free after spending the last six years at LA Galaxy, but – in probably a recurring theme – only has the solitary MLS appearance to show in that time. Prior to that, he was a regular at North Carolina Fusion after he left Vancouver Whitecaps. He can dribble, pass, possesses good technique and decisions, works well in a team and has really good vision. Combine that with a trait that, essentially, works with all of those attributes – and I think I can forgive his slightly weak frame. He’ll be a bit more static than I, ideally, want in that role but as a man who can pick a pass – I think he could be great.

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Bruno Marques – a free transfer from non-CPL side FC London (of Ontario) – is a really interesting purchase from those above me. His game is clearly built around speed – something that makes up part of my player ideology but he’s far from the finished product right now. He’s scored well in non-league and the combination of his speed off the mark, dribbling, finishing and technique is surely a bit part to play in it. My idea, with him, is to utilise him as a right winger – given that the primary job for that side, with Ortiz as an IWB(s) behind, is to hold his position, high and wide, and then make these runs. Neither he nor Danny possess much footballing intelligence but the youngster has space to grow and offers a really nice ball carrying option, something that the less pacey winger has already shown that he can exploit. As a real ‘project player’ I feel like this is a great opportunity to dig deep into his player development and see what I can make of him. A slightly odd signing, all things considered, but one that could give me the most ‘joy’ if I can make it work!

Jacob Hull is direct competition for Daniel Jepson although I feel that the market could’ve allowed better recruitment in this area. That being said, even the recruitment team felt that he wasn’t first choice, with two previous options rejecting the club. However, Hull is pretty well rounded for a striker and his physically tall frame will help us, although his lack of strength and aerial prowess may mean that I need to continue to analyse and rethink our set pieces going forwards. Hull started life at the Vancouver academy but struck top form whilst playing at FC Manitoba (another Canadian side that play in the lower levels of US football) before scoring fifteen times in seventy three matches for Atletico Ottawa at this level. There is proof that he can do it and, given the struggles of Jepson and – so far – the untested idea of Gordon Winn being converted to a striker, I think he’s worth a shot.

– – –

July 2037

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Match reports can be accessed by clicking on each thumbnail.

Just the one league match this month as I settle into – probably – updating the fixtures each calendar month with other little spotlights. We started with a double header against Vancouver, dominating most of the time and justifying that with five goals. It’s clear that the rest and the three friendlies along with heavy tactical work has paid off, given our familiarity increase. Vancouver were lucky to come away with anything in the second leg as a speculative lob and a hugely deflected shot gave them the bragging rights in a game that should’ve been put to bed early on. Despite Ross Byrd’s four goals conceded across these three games, his work – particularly in the second game against Vancouver – was really strong, allowing us to play out from the back better than we were able to do before. A Danny Green masterclass propelled us to a massive victory over bottom side Pacific as a slight tactical change, from the 2-3-2-3 shape – seen below – ensured we coped with their 442 shape. I’ve been utilising Dicks as an A(d), which then creates some lovely interplay with the L(s) and IWB(s) in the transitional stage, but, this time, wanted to ensure that we were not going to be easily countered, so, instead, asked him to sit in a false centre back using the HB(d) role. Ahead of them, I used a F9(s)/SS(a) combo – my one and only attack duty – to create havoc between their two banks of four, deviating from the DLF(s)/AM(s) combo that I have started with in most games.

This shape, narrow, compact and aggressive with players moving between the lines is absolutely beautiful to see and I’m really pleased I’m seeing evidence of that so early within my tenure here. From the initial build up – where the keeper has a choice of a L(s) or a NCB(d) to build up from: the former encourages a calmer, press-beating play whereas the latter will look to wider areas quicker and spring an earlier counter – to the different styles of wide men, one cutting inside late on and the other providing cover and running options for the SV(s) near him, I think there is scope for this to become something fantastic!

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With only one league game for us, there is little change in the table, but our comprehensive win has moved us ahead of Valour and York FC, who are our next opponents. Cavalry’s poor form continues but it certainly still feels that we are some way off the top three and, with just seven games left of the regular season, I’d happily plump for a solid fourth place.

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September is hectic. We play eight times and, from what I’m told, will also have the annual graduation of youth players – a particular highlight for me! I’m hoping to continue plugging away at somewhere near my current 50% win ratio. If we do that, we’ll be just fine!

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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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