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The cold Canadian winters mean that the off-season here is particularly long: November to April to be precise. That brings with it a chance to make quick progress but also a hugely long pre-season schedule and a long transfer window before a ball is really kicked in anger. That being said, it gave me time to have a little look at the backroom team as well as react to the transfers that my recruitment team made. However, the biggest change was at the top:

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Nikola Bursac – in his first non-playing role – comes in as the new director of football. When compared to Oli Mellorhe’s a clear upgrade and it was nice to see that my board acted swiftly after Mellor’s contract expired and he decided to leave. As a player, Bursać’s career began at Woodbridge Strikers SC in January 2017. He subsequently moved to TSC in July 2018, where he also spent time on loan at FK Radnički Sremska Mitrovica and FK Spartak Subotica, making a combined total of 18 league appearances. His playing career continued with a stint at Radnički Sremska Mitrovica from 2021 to 2022, followed by a move to Spartak Subotica from 2022 to 2023, and finally to Vizela from 2023 to 2035. Over his 18-year playing career, he made 270 appearances – with one season in the top flight at Vizela – and earned six caps for the Canadian national team, debuting against the UAE in June 2031.

Bursać’s knowledge in football is extensive, particularly in Canada, Portugal, and Serbia, suggesting a deep understanding of the footballing landscapes in these regions. His competencies extend to several key areas, including the ability to judge player and staff potential and abilities, negotiation skills, and tactical knowledge. His mental attributes such as adaptability, determination, level of discipline, motivation, and people management are also notable, indicating his suitability for high-level administrative roles. In terms of tactical preferences, Bursać favors a 4-2-3-1 formation as his preferred setup, with a secondary inclination towards a 4-3-3 formation. His playing mentality is balanced, and he is recognized as a motivator and youth developer, which is further supported by his strength in analyzing data. These attributes align with his job role interests, which prominently include director of football, technical director, loan manager, and head of youth development. Bursać also shows interest in managerial and assistant managerial positions, along with coaching and various analytical roles, but less so in positions like goalkeeping coach, fitness coach, and physio.

If I’m being picky – I’d like to have a DoF who has handled non-hands on, or, at least, been a part of a recruitment team before but Nikola comes with a good reputation as an ex-international and has links to both Serbia and Portugal, which will hopefully broaden our recruitment network.

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Nikola and his team made light work on his first transfer window, recruiting four unattached players:

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Hans Age Fjellheim represents, I think, some shrewd business – tightening up on our deficiencies on the left wing but also an ample replacement on the right. Like many of the signings before him, Hans career has been spent outside of the first team, but, unlike those previous to him, his has been spent at a top academy. With over one hundred competitive adult appearances for Bodø/Glimt’s second and third team. His last season came in the third tier of Norwegian football, probably a level or two down from ours, but he scored six times in seventeen games, creating another three. Agile and pretty athletic, his ability to progress the ball – with dribbling (12), agility (14) and pace (11) – looks to be pretty good, as does his unpredictability: flair (12). That being said, I think I’ll need to work on his final ball given his below average for this level passing (8) and anticipation (10). Hans is one of the highest earners at the club and I will not ever have any say in this – which does, slightly, scare me. He’s certainly a player who could take time to gel – I often find that wingers who favour running, adding in those who are not listed as particular consistent and especially those without a full grasp of the native tongue, often struggle because they aren’t afforded space easily and, probably more importantly, can find themselves way out of the game for long periods of time. It’ll be interesting to watch how this young man conducts himself across the early games of his career with us!

Fellow Norwegian Joakim Gundersen arrived next, with little surprise given the relative proximity of the two nations. Born in Askoy, the professional youngster will add to the positive characters within the team and I hope that his already basic grasp of the language will improve quickly as he adapts. His career has also been spent in the 2 teams of bigger Norwegian sides, this time Brann. He’s played forty times over the last two years in the third tier there and, as a versatile defensive option, will be important to us. I’ll be looking to ensure that at no time he is ever allowed to run with the ball, instead making use of another physical figure in the defence.

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Davis Barnes is where the signings start to get a bit odd! With Daniel Jepson and Gordon Winn settled as first and second choice striker, and with Bruno Marques and Sobhan Hashemi also able to play there, bringing another striker in feels a little counter intuitive. Barnes is a 22-year-old advanced forward from Peabody, MA, USA and his market value is estimated between $900K and $1.4M meaning he’s already one of the most valuable. He arrives with seventeen MLS appearances since coming through the New England Revolution system but clearly hasn’t kicked on and may present as an issue with his fickle personality – particularly if another club comes sniffing. Therefore, despite the slightly sour taste left after taking up valuable salary cap space, I am presented with an idea that really was the driver in this small squad, player development phase: retraining. After a lot of analysis and watching of my best, arguably, player, Jordan Heath, I think that Barnes could be a real outside of the box thought for a Segundo Volante. We had our issues with scoring last year and the more creative players I can get into the offensive third, the better. With the running ability of wingers Fjellheim and Green, I think that more of a playmaking Volante, rather than a box to box Volante could work and, given his balance, technical ability and first touch coupled with decent flair and finishing, he could be a danger arriving late and taking first time shots. Whilst not the best defensively, his marking is above average for this level and I can work on polishing a few other things and adding a couple of traits to influence the strongest area of his game. I must admit to being quite excited about this move, after all!

Adrian is a direct replacement for Dominik Paprocki – the biggest underperformer from last season – who, amazingly, was sold for $90k back to Sweden, which, I’d imagine, triggered this deal. However, I don’t think that the introduction has done him any favours – as I’ve, potentially, now got the best player at the club. Born on January 25, 2012, Adrián brings versatility to his team, capable of playing in multiple positions including left midfield, left wing, right wing, and central attacking midfield. His professional demeanor and consistent performances make him a standout player in the league. Fourteen appearances in La Liga (and a relegation) with Oviedo before falling out of favour and never quite getting his career back on track in Sweden with Jonkopings came before the move to Canada where he’ll move in as a classic number ten.  His strengths lie in his acceleration (12), agility (13), balance (13), and pace (11), making him a formidable presence on the pitch and he is also highly skilled in dribbling (12), passing (11), and technique (14). His mental attributes include high levels of determination (16), flair (14), and vision (10), which contribute to his effectiveness in creating scoring opportunities. However, his heading (5), marking (2), and positioning (2) are areas where he shows less prowess and – as such – I need to keep him as far away from our goal as I can. I really think that his combinations – particularly if I can add a trait like plays one twos – with Barnes or Heath in the Volante role could be beautiful and could allow us to unlock defences. With hi physical playing style,and exhibiting traits such as shooting from distance, shooting with power, curling the ball, and an inclination to round the keeper and I think that these can all help unlock a really good combination in the centre of the park. With three years required for Canadian citizenship, I think he could potentially even go on to become a nationalised player for us, if he can deliver just what I think is possible. Ultimately though, he counts towards maximum squad registration rules both domestically and continentally and has an injury-prone nature, meaning that, without careful management – this could end the same way as the man he replaced!

– – –

One thing that I am really enjoying about this level is finding value within players, not only attribute wise, but also wage wise. With a weekly salary budget of €19,750, teams have to think carefully about who they sign, register and play, allowing a roster of just 23 players. I’m looking at how other teams are developing their squads and feel that, even with my hands off approach, I can do what I can to ensure that we are operating in both a profit and using the allocation of money wisely. Below are the weekly wages of the current first team squad:

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At the lower end of the salary spectrum, we have players such as Mikey Page, Bruno Marques, and Fabio Hughes. Mikey Page earns the least at $220 per week, followed closely by Bruno Marques at $240 per week and Fabio Hughes at $325 per week. These figures are in line with those players who are newer to the team, less experienced, or not yet established as core members of the squad.

In the mid-range salary bracket, several players earn identical wages, highlighting a potential standard rate for a specific player tier within the team. Jonathan Parkin, Gordon Wrin, José Gustavo Zamarripa, Danny Green, and Edgar Ortiz each earn $400 per week. Slightly higher is Kofi Ibrahim at $425 per week. Alex Osborn stands out slightly above this group with a weekly wage of $500. The next tier includes Daniel Jepson at $650 per week and Jordan Dicks at $725 per week. Sobhan Hashemi earns $825 per week, while Davis Barnes receives $975 per week. Adrián, at $1000 per week, marks the upper boundary of the mid-range earners. These players likely constitute the backbone of the team, providing essential skills and experience without commanding the highest salaries. Interestingly, though, some of my top players are in here and, surely, if they have another successful season, will be badgering for new deals.

The upper echelon of the salary structure is composed of players who earn significantly more, reflecting their likely status as key players or those with substantial experience and value to the team. Jake Heath and Joachim Gundersen each earn $1300 per week, indicating their importance and possibly leadership roles within the team. Ross Byrd earns $1600 per week, placing him among the highest earners and suggesting a pivotal role in the team’s strategy and performance. Topping the chart are Hans Åge Fjellheim and Nicholas Hutchinson, each earning $1700 per week. Their top-tier salaries indicate they are likely the most valuable and possibly the most senior players on the team but I do have that burning question of ‘are they?’ Gunderson, Byrd and Fjellheim are all new players and, whilst this indicates – hopefully – an increase in quality joining the club, it also does raise questions about the negotiating ability of my recruitment team as I cannot afford seven, eight or nine of these players on these wages.

That leaves me with approximately 22% of my salary budget – €4265 per week – left over, along with three foreign player slots left. Furthermore, this is the last year of the easy U21 Canadian minutes as Jake Heath is a 2017 birth and will not qualify next year, so I need to take a keen eye on how the board plan the next couple of transfer windows. Furthermore, I need to look back, in a couple of months, to see whether these wages are justified and, if not, think creatively about how I can replace these players. I am happy to use the ‘Unwanted List’ but that, ultimately, doesn’t secure a sensible and money-efficient replacement!

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I tested out Chat GPT’s image to text feature to summarise the main points of my pre-season:

CPL Invitational Semi Final: Halifax Wanderers FC vs. Vancouver FC

The CPL Invitational Semi Final saw Wanderers FC lock horns with Vancouver FC, a club known for its robust defensive play and disciplined tactical approach. Despite the wet weather conditions and an attendance of 1,783 fans at Wanderers Grounds, the match was a tightly contested affair. Both teams employed a cautious strategy, with Wanderers FC sticking to their tried and tested 4-2-3-1  formation. Neither side managed to break the deadlock in regular and extra time, leading to a penalty shootout. Ross Byrd was the hero as he saved the sixth and final penalty, allowing HFX to progress.

CPL Invitational Final: Halifax Wanderers FC vs. Flower City Union

In the CPL Invitational Final, Wanderers FC faced Flower City Union, a team renowned for its swift counter-attacks and clinical finishing. The match, played under persistent rain with 2,090 supporters in attendance, was a high-stakes encounter. Wanderers FC took the lead through Hans Åge Fjellheim’s well-timed strike in the 56th minute, a moment that seemed to tilt the balance in their favor. However, Flower City Union showcased their resilience, scoring twice in the latter stages to secure a 2-1 victory. Wanderers FC maintained their 4-2-3-1  formation throughout the match but couldn’t withstand Flower City Union’s late surge, missing out on the title.

Halifax Open Semi Final: Halifax Wanderers FC vs. Pacific FC

Wanderers FC’s journey in the Halifax Open brought them against Pacific FC, a club known for its dynamic midfield and tactical flexibility. Despite the wet conditions and a large turnout of 3,751 spectators, the match was fiercely competitive. Danny Green’s goal for Wanderers FC ensured the match ended 1-1 after regular time. With the stakes high, the game proceeded to a penalty shootout. Wanderers FC, shifting to a more defensive 5-2-3  formation, showed remarkable composure, winning the shootout and booking their place in the final. This victory highlighted their ability to adapt tactically and perform under pressure.

Halifax Open Final: Halifax Wanderers FC vs. TSS FC

The Halifax Open Final featured Wanderers FC taking on TSS FC, a team known for its aggressive pressing and attacking flair. Played under wet and surprisingly warm conditions at 17°C, with 2,090 fans cheering them on, Wanderers FC delivered a masterclass performance. Goals from Gordon Winn (43′), Fabio Hughes (45+1′), and Daniel Jepson (85′) underscored their dominance. Sticking to their 4-2-3-1  formation, Wanderers FC controlled the tempo and exploited TSS FC’s defensive frailties, clinching a 3-0 victory and the Halifax Open title.

Nova Scotia Cup Semi Final: Halifax Wanderers FC vs. Charleston Battery

In the Nova Scotia Cup Semi Final, Wanderers FC squared off against Charleston Battery, a team with a reputation for solid defense and structured gameplay. The match, played on a breezy day at Wanderers Grounds with 1,796 spectators, was intensely contested. Gordon Winn found the net in the 47th minute, but Charleston Battery equalized, leading to a 1-1 draw at the end of regular time. The third penalty shootout of the pre-season, however, was not successful for the home side.

Nova Scotia Cup Third Place Playoff: Halifax Wanderers FC vs. Abbotsford MF Mariners

The final match in this series saw Wanderers FC take on Abbotsford MF Mariners in the Nova Scotia Cup Third Place Playoff. Known for their attacking prowess but vulnerable defense, Abbotsford MF Mariners faced a relentless HFX side. Despite the wet and chilly 8°C weather, with 1,797 fans in attendance, the home side put on an attacking clinic. Alex Osborn’s hat-trick (7′, 20′, 59′), Daniel Jepson’s brace (16′, 25′), and goals from Mikey Page (46′), Sobhan Hashemi (64′, 90′) and Hans Åge Fjellheim (87) led to an emphatic 9-2 victory. Wanderers FC’s 4-2-3-1 formation proved devastatingly effective, highlighting their offensive depth and tactical acumen.

– – –

Whilst Chat GPT is very good at summarising the statistical elements of the games, it fails to add any emotional thoughts to my pre-season, which, to be honest, hasn’t been smooth. Dogged by training concerns, a huge difficulty in achieving match fitness – leading to the slightly rushed advert and appointment of Haakon Vaaga, hardly a long term option, I feel that we are not quite as prepared as we could be.

However, I’m onto season two here in Canada, full of optimism about a new chance to develop a new squad and see what happens from there!

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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1 thought on “The Norsemen: Season 2 Offseason

  1. Just curious as you mention on a few occasions particular attributes as being above and below average for the CPL. what is the average for this level?

    I’m also curious about the DNA spectrum on the player screenshots. Is that part of your skin? Does it require anything extra to have that display?

    Thanks for the interesting save and continuation…very enjoyable and informative keeping up with your progress!

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