RCD Espanyol – 2.1

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Welcome back our journey with RCD Espanyol where we endeavor into a new season after a quite stunning finish to the 2016/17 campaign. Finishing 4th was an incredible achievement for us and something that I never expected would happen so soon. My ambitions for the new season is as followed:

  • Get through the qualifying round and enter the Champions League group stages.
  • Transition from the ‘Four horsemen’ tactic to a 41320 .
  • Promote a young player from the ‘B’ team and bleed them into the first team to help with development.
  • Finish the 2017/18 season in the top half of the table.
  • Reach a minimum of the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey.

The reason I have set the minimum expectation of a top half finish is purely because we overachieved last season, it is going to be a big ask from the side to replicate this success again. Realistically we are a mid table side and although we finished 4th we should expect that we have a given right to be there again. For me a more realistic finish would be in the top 10. It gives the players time to adapt to the new tactical system, just in case it isn’t as effective as the ‘Four horsemen’.

The vultures have landed

Due to the successes of last season, many of our players were wanted by multiple clubs, this was something that I started to anticipate during the final run towards the champions League place. I knew that player ingoings and outgoings would be high during this window, so even though we have taken a step forward with CL, I will be using this as a transition period.

rcd-espanyol_-transfer-history-outs

As you can see we have many new faces arriving at Espanyol and many players that have left the club, just as I predicted. many of our performers like Gerard Moreno, Hernan Perez, and Caicedo left the club for reasonable fees, they were all unhappy when I initials dismissed pitiful transfer offers but just under £20m for the 3 of them is decent money for us. Our top performer was Leo Baptistao and he was rumored with a move to Napoli all window but it never materialized, that was until deadline day, where Napoli finally came in and met his minimum fee release. £21.5m, thank you very much indeed. But after so many departures, we need some new recruits.

rcd-espanyol_-transfer-history-ins

A few bargain have come our way, who doesnt love a bargain. Rodri and Munoz both transfer listed by their respected clubs, both not world beaters by any stretch but both are under 22 and look like they could do a job and improve with game time and decent training. Jota and Schone come in on a free, both add vital experience and the ability to pick a pass under pressure (something that is key with strikerless football). My key and record breaking signing is the young talented Kasper Dolberg. Someone who is starting to make a real name for himself in the real world and looks pretty tasty in game. I’m seeing him as an ideal fit for the shadow striker role.

Additional signings such as Pezzella from Atletico B has come in and bolster the backline along with ex Real Madrid winger Pedro Leon joining us from Eibar to add vital experience and flair to our dilapidated midfield.

Tactical switch

As mentioned before i wanted to continue with the strikerless theme throughout this save after the enjoyments in my Arsenal BETA save. So this season we will be transitioning from the ‘Four horsemen’ to this prototype shape below: There were a number of issues with the shape once we started to go through its testing period in pre season. The idea was that the 2 wide men in the ‘Four horsemen’ would drop into the BBM roles and would get forward supporting to 2 advanced AMC’s. Just behind them would be our DLP backed up with an Anchor Man protecting the backline. Our Wingbacks would provide the width with a supportive mentality. This was the vision in my head, what actually panned out was something completely different. Below is what actually happened and what caused me a few problems:

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Our BBMs got forward far to often and the majority of the time would be ahead of our SS and AP, if caught out of position we were left very vulnerable. Our DLP would drop too deep an virtually sit himself on top of our Anchor Man, 2 men occupying the exact same space, pointless. Lastly the wingbacks wasn’t so much as supporting but more like driving us forward, they were also high up the pitch and often being exposed.

Changes

So in order to rectify these issues I went back to the drawing board. Both BBMs were changed to CM(s) and the difference was instantaneous. They support the attacks just how I envisioned they would, supporting the AMCs and overlapping them in situations when a through ball can be played, not at every opportunity like the BBM. The DLP was switched from Defend to Support, this made his positioning a little higher up the pitch, so the gap between him and the other CMs was too big, he also wasn’t sitting on top of the covering midfielder behind him. The Anchor Man was switched to a bulk standard DM, once again positioning was key here and I liked the way he sat nicely between the CBs and the DLP. Lastly the WBs, just like in the ‘Four horsemen’ I stuck with 1 WB to get forward and 1 to cover. Looking at our WBs the left hand side was much more athletic and clinical going forward, so it only made sense to set the left to (s) and the right hand side to (d). In order to keep width on the right, the CM on that side has a PI to move into the channels, this idea is so play can be spread out wide if necessary as this is very much a narrow system.

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Our first big challenge is to qualify for the CL, where we have drawn European giants AC Milan. Wish us luck!

So that it for this post, thank you all for reading. Next post will return for a mid season review.

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RCD Espanyol – 1.5

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Welcome back to the final installment of the RCD Espanyol post of the season, so a perfect time to round up on my first season in charge. You can check out the first half of the season in RCD Espanyol 1.3.

We came into the second half of the season off of the back of 6 games without a defeat in the league but were 2-0 down to Sevilla in the first leg of the Copa del Rey.

So that is where we kick things off, the return leg at home to Sevilla, where I honestly though that we up against it to try and get through. What I did not expect was the lads to put in arguably the game of the season, added with the fact that Sevilla just rolled over. We destroyed them 5-1 to send us through to the quarter finals.

Our next home game saw us give away a cheap goal in the last few minutes at home to Celta, thinking would get a 2-2 draw and we were quite unlucky not to win, Iago Aspas pops up and nicks the winner. We lose the match 2-3. This continued form continued in both legs of the Copa del Rey quarter finals against Villerreal were we lose both legs and are eliminated from the cup. But that is fine by me as we can now focus on the league with no other distractions.

Elimination from the cup definitely helped our league form, following the defeat to Celta, we went on a 9 match unbeaten run lasting nearly 2 months and beating title challenging Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the Vicente Calderón. The run ended when Real Madrid beat us 2-1 in a game where it could have easily been more, we defended very well but gave away far too many chances.

So 8 games left of the season and we only suffer 1 defeat, a game where we were completely outplayed by Deportivo and they smashed us 3-0 at home. It was one of those games where you can see things going wrong but everything you try to do just doesn’t work, it puts doubts in your head that you are actually any good at this game. We all have those games from time to time. But 4 wins, 3 draws and a loss in our final 8 sees us finish on a high, we also managed to draw 1-1 at home to our arch rivals Barcelona, something after the first game I was a lot happier with.

rcd-espanyol_-senior-fixtures

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So after a quite excellent season, were we overachieved massively, we confirmed a Champions League place finishing 4th, it would have been 3rd but our head to head against Real Madrid was poor so they pipped us to 3rd place, if it was goal difference then we would have got it as we were the second highest scorers behind the champions Atletico.

An added achievement to this very good season was Diego Reyes, our CB on loan from Porto, was named in the Team of the Year. His loan deal is finishing soon and has an agreed fee of £6m so I may look to capitalize on that.

team-of-the-season

Due to our fantastic 4th place finish, a was delighted to be named Manager of the Year. For some reason though, FM has randomly given me a bit of a tan since being in Spain for a year. I look slightly odd.

manager-of-the-year

Financially we are in a very good position with our commercial summary posted bellow. We have a health bank balance on £56m and the board have given us £16m for new transfers over the summer. There will be some new signings coming in with 1 already confirmed, Jota will be joining us on a bosman from Brentford. The attacking playmaker could fit into our stirkerless squad quite nicely. There are also a number of clubs watching a number of our top performers, Baptistao, Luis Lopez, Caicedo and Perez just to name a few. I think there may well be a fair few departures as well as arrivals this coming window.

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So the plans for the new season is:

  • Develop the new strikerless system (a narrow 41320), this will be tested over pre season and tweaked ready for the 17/18 campaign.
  • Look to develop some of the younger players that has come through the ranks by promoting some up from the B team.
  • Review the players who have been out on loan and see if any of them have developed enough for a first team place, or need to be moved on.
  • Realistically set expectations for the league, a top 8 finish is achievable and the board and players all agree after this years over achievement.

So that concludes this post, stay tuned for the next post where we go into next season and I discuss transfers, tactics, pre season and our Champions League qualifier.

Thank you for reading, please like, follow and share. If you think of any improvements to the blog or any feedback at all please comment or send me a DM.

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RCD Espanyol – 1.4

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Youth

Welcome back to my journey in RCD Espanyol and due to the main focus in the save being ‘Youth Development’, this post will focus on a few potential stars that have been signed from youth intake day. If you want to catch up on our progress in La Liga then check out RCD Espanyol 1.3.

First up:

Alejandro Bernabéu

What a brilliant name! Regardless of his ability I would have just signed him purely on his name alone. Turns out though my staff believe he has the potential to develop into a 4 star player. At the minute his attributes are pretty low all round, but at 16 he has a good amount of years to change. Now apart from his physical attributes, nothing says “I am a winger”, so I will be taking advantage on his decent passing and  vision by retraining him as Roaming Playmaker. He also has very good decision making and leadership for his age, so a CM role could be great for him. I look forward to seeing his progress. I will also aim for him to be tutored by ex Arsenal legend Jóse Antonio Reyes.

alejandro-bernabeu_-overview-profile

Héctor Embela

Once again my staff have given a great star rating for him, but his attributes look a lot better than Alejandro’s. Now as you can see he plays as a Striker, something that we do not use. So looking at his finishing skills and his physical attributes, he could be an excellent Shadow Striker. Looking forward to seeing how he can develop and hopefully is hair too. Embela will be tutored by Baptistão.

Hector Embela_ Overview Profile.png

Jordi López

A decent CB with a very exciting potential 4.5 star rating. Now his pace isn’t fantastic but it is still better than Per Mertesaker. What he does make up for instead though is his excellent aggression, bravery and positioning skills. I’m Hoping he can become a top CB who can potentially partner Luis López in future years. Unfortunately he has the same hair stylist as Héctor Embela. Jordi’s tutor will be Diego Reyes.

Jordi Lopez_ Overview Profile.png

Miquel Padilla 

Now probably my favourite of them all and my staff as they all believe he could be 5 star worthy. With the new tactical system that I will impliment next year, he could fit in lovey. For a 16 year old he has great mental attributes with a whole lot of room to improve. The poor lad obviously suffers from the same hair condition as Wayne Rooney, let’s hope he doesn’t get ahair transplant, or worse a Donald Trump toupee. He will learn his trade as an Anchor Man for a year, then BWM, DM & Regista, to try and develop him into the perfect all rounder, if that is possible. David López could be an ideal tutor for Miquel.

Miquel Padilla_ Overview Profile.png

Pol Lozano

Pol didn’t come through this years youth intake but has done very well at such a young age in our B team. The plan is for next year is to move him into the first team and start to introduce him into some league game and sub appearances, as well as being available for the U19’s squad. The plan is to train him as a Roaming Playmaker and to concentrate on his Composure. An ideal tutor for Pol will be veteran Playmaker Jurado.

Pol Lozano_ Overview Profile.png

So that some’s up this post, thank you all for reading. Next post will return for our end of season review.

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RCD Espanyol 1.3

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Welcome back to Espanyol and its mid-season point in La Liga, let’s have a look at how our Strikerless system has got on and how our players have adapted.

August

We kicked off our campaign with an away fixture at Celta de Vigo, where we grabbed a cracking 3-0 victory with goals scored from Duarte, Perez and Baptistao.  A quite frankly amazing start to the season and starting to show signs that the system was starting to embed on the players.

Our opening home fixture was a tough one against Atletico Madrid. Moral was high considering we’re coming off a cracking 3-0 victory, an upset could possibly on the cards. Cue the Catchphrase incorrect buzzer.

Simeone’s hard working side were simply too much for us to cope with and they beat us convincingly 3-0.  So 3 points from our opening 2 games and a goal difference of 0. Next up is the international break where our players can get a rest a head of our next fixture, a home tie against Granada.

September

4 games in September starting at home against Granada, where we hoped for something after the drumming our fans saw on the last outing Caicedo from injury and a bit of rotation to freshen things up. Not the performance I was hoping for, a real scrappy game where we should have created much more. We settled for a point in the end but on another day Granada could have easily walked away with all 3.

We follow up this poor home draw with another tough away fixture at Europa League experts, Sevilla. We were hoping for a better performance here and optimistic for some kind of result as Sevilla are sitting in 16th place with only 1 on the board point so far. Our performance was slightly better as we looked capable of creating the defensive block, but Sevilla had too much skill going forward, with goals from Nasri and Vazquez. We lost the game 2-0 and didn’t create any clear cut chances. Ouch, potentially a long season ahead, maybe a top half finish was a bit too optimistic on my part.

We hit the road again for our midweek game, this time we head to Sociedad. Before the game I held a meeting with the lads to pick up the morale, ‘Things haven’t been going our way recently, but I know you have what it takes to turn our fortunes around.’ It seem to have benefited as the attacking performance was raised, unfortunately we were caught out from 2 set pieces, but goals from Diego Reyes and Hernan Perez earnt us a 2-2 draw.

Unfortunately Hoffman suffered a 3 month layoff and I really didn’t see the point of keeping hold of him, so his loan was terminated.

Next up is Osasuna at home where we are hoping to build upon our recent 2-2 draw with Sociedad. The lads put in a much better performance here with Caicedo grabbing his first goal of the season from the Shadow Striker position. The little beauty Piatti also getting his first goal in a comfortable 2-0 win. Finally we have given the home supporters something to cheer about.

October

An action packed month this October with 5 games to discuss, first up, a home tie against Sporting Gijon. Gijon didn’t show much at all in terms of an attacking threat and our defensive block looked really good here. Gijon defended very bravely but we finally broke through with a goal from Gerard Moreno. In a game where we created lots I was disappointed we only managed to score 1, but looking at the bigger picture, the lads managed the win in the end.

A 3rd home game in a row and this time we host Valencia. A tough fixture with Valencia up in 4th place, but the lads kept up their recent form. The visitors went ahead but we showed resilience and created a decent amount of chances, we just couldn’t finish our dinner. Finally the equaliser came in the 84th minute, a corner from Paitti and Demichellis rises above his marker to nod in. A well earnt 1-1 draw making me feel proud seeing the boys pull it back against a tough side.

2 away trips follow firstly with Malaga then Betis. Espanyol manage to keep the form and run going by winning both games 1-0, Caicedo scoring both goals, extending our run to 6 games without a defeat. Next up the Galacticos!

We managed to create a few chances and at one point we pulled ourselves back level after Bale broke the deadlock. Piatti put us back on level terms but a brace from Ronaldo finished us off. It finished 1-3 to Real Madrid and saw the end of our little run of 6 games.

November

What better way to kick on from a defeat to Real Madrid, well it has to be an away trip to the Nou Camp surely (feel the sarcasm oozing out). Now as I started this save during BETA I stumbled across an issue during this match (I’m not bitter at all). Baptistao put us into the lead after 50 minutes and on the 70th minute I decided to change from an attacking system to a counter attacking system as Barca were starting to really hassle our box. This is where my issue arose. Normally when I make any changes during a match I always hit the pause button, so as I hit space bar my advanced tactic screen pops up. Rather than pausing the game it goes back to the game with ‘pending changes’ at the top. Nothing has actually changed and I am unable to do anything, this stays like this for the rest of the game. Incredibly we hang on but only until the 87th minute where Neymar scores the equaliser (still unable to do anything). 91st minute Messi scores the winner and the game ends 2-1, as you can imagine FM rage has taken over and game closed for the night. Couldn’t sleep though, still raging over that bloody game.

So the next day, once my stress levels have reduced, I fire up the game again and we are off to Leganes. Jurado is back from his long spell on the side lines and his creativity was something that really cheered me up. We finished of the game 3-1 winners with a goal from the returning Jurado, David Lopez and Jose Reyes.

Our last league fixture in November saw us taking on Bilbao at home. Bilbao are a very organized and solid team and the boys put in a decent performance picking up a 1-1 draw, Baptistao getting the goal from the bench after Caicedo picked up another injury.

The last game of the month was in the Copa del Rey against Cadiz, where I decided to play some of the fringe players and give them an opportunity. 0-0, so they actually showed me nothing except they couldn’t beat a Segunda team.

December

Our first match sees us taking on Las Palmas at home were we won 3-2. This is a game where we were poor in the first half going 1-0 down, we pegged back to 1-1 only to concede again straight from the kick off. To be fair to the boys and after a bit of touch line shouting, they pull it back and secured the win, but my god they didn’t half make things hard for themselves.

We continued the winning streak by beating Deportivo away 2-0 with a brace from Hernan Perez. A much better performance all round and once we took the lead we never looked like giving it away.

The 2nd leg of our Copa del Rey tie with Cadiz, I put faith in the fringe players again and they decided to turn up this time. A decent 3-0 win in front of our home fans, Alvaro Vazquez, Jose Reyes and Sevilla with the goals.

Our final league match of 2016 was an away game against 18th place Eibar. A very disappointing 0-0 draw, hugely disappointing from the lads, considering we were coming off the back of 3 straight wins.

January

The transfer window opens and for the first time in ages I have no interest in signing anyone. Why you ask? Well basically I have no money, the money the board gave me for our record sale has been taken away from me as the club have been losing money over the last few months.

Our first game of 2017 saw us taking on Villerreal at home, goals from Baptistao and Oscar Duarte saw us run away 2-1 winners in a game that could have gone either way.

Copa del Rey time again and we are away to Sevilla and a similar story to earlier in the season. A 2-0 defeat, bringing us back down to earth after a decent run. We now have it all to do in the next leg.

Our final game was at home to Alaves who currently sit in 10th place. We came away 2-0 winners with Diego Reyes and Hernan Perez with the goals. That is a decent run in the league, 7 games without defeat and giving me optimism going into the 2nd half of the season.

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So after an indiferent start, we are actually sitting in a very nice position at the half way stage. I am optimistic that we can continue with some of the decent performances and I am going to introduce a few more fringe players as a few are starting to moan about not playing.

Stay tuned for the next post where we round up some of the prospects from the youth intake.

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RCD Espanyol -1.2

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We return to my FM17 save with Espanyol where in the Intro I outlined that the plan would be focused on the development of young players. This post will be focusing on our tactics and how pre-season has gone.

So Before we start the campaign with Espanyol, I wanted to discuss the system we intend on using and how I want it to develop over the next few seasons.

After the success I had with developing the ‘Four Horsemen‘ I wanted to continue with a strikerless theme. I wanted to use the ‘Four Horsemen’ as a foundation to lay down for the first season and use it as a template to develop into seasons ahead.

rcd-espanyol_-tactics

The system is pretty much the same but with a few minor changes. At Arsenal I had the luxury of Walcott and Bellerin having outstanding pace on the right hand side. Unfortunately no one at Espanyol has that sort of pace, so I didn’t want to my right hand side being exposed. What I did instead was switch the RWB from (a) to (d) as my RB’s are not as attack minded. My LB’s on the other hand are a little more adventurous and has slightly better pace so this was changed to (a). This could also be effective going forward as there is a IF ahead of him cutting inside allowing the space out wide to advance in.

Just like in the original my CM pairing was a DLP(s) and a CM(d). I’m sticking with this pairing but they are flipped so the CM(d) can cover the LWB space.

The attacking 4 are the same and should provide us with very exciting brand of football. My only concerns are that as the Espanyol side are not as talented as Arsenal, so will the system have the same effect? I’m not expecting to be as dominant at all, but I do hope to have a top 10 finish. That is what the board are expecting and I believe it can be done.

So let’s get into pre-season and see how the system has been working out. Before out first official match, Monaco were sniffing around Víctor Sánchez and my board accepted a bid of £14.25m rising to £16.25m. Not too shabby there, admittedly I would have liked to have kept him around but that gives me some actual spending money, although I only have been given £6m of it. With that in mind, we needed to sign another RB and someone preferably young so he can develop.

So in comes Iván a 23 year old from Levante. He doesn’t look to bad and hopefully should improve with a bit of first team football.

ivan

I know a few others have mentioned it before but injuries have been a nightmare in this version of FM and we have received some real inconvenient ones during pre-season, with Caicedo and Jurado out for 8 weeks and 3 months respectively. So I managed to bring in Ravel Morrison from Lazio and Jonas Hofmann from Gladbach on a season long loan to help out with numbers.

pre-season

Looking at our pre-season results went very much our way, aside from the Juventus game but at the end of the day it’s Juventus and a brace from Higuaín was enough to see us off. Obviously it was early days for the players to get used to the tactical system but they made a very promising start with such a huge change. Let’s hope this kind of form can continue into the season.

Tactical transition

Below is where I would like to see the tactics moving forward. As mention earlier the ‘Four Horsemen’ is a foundation or a platform to start with and over the space of a few seasons we will transition into something similar to this. This is just the prototype at the moment but in 1 years time I intend on creating this and trying it out during the pre-season. Once I have found the right roles to suit the system and continue with the same brand of football, it will be trained along side the current system so players can reach maximum familiarity. All transfers and player development will be based on this new shape. it doesn’t have a name yet, I’m hope you can all give some suggestions throughout the season.

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So that some’s up this first post, thank you all for reading. Next post will return for a mid season review.

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FM17 – The Intro

Hello and welcome to my first post for FM17, well actually this is my 2nd post, you can check out my first post ‘Revival of the Four Horsemen’ on Strikerless which is full of amazing content by the master himself @MerryGuido.

After the success I had with Arsenal I decide that I would dive straight into my first save, I wanted another exciting career and one that could replicate similar enjoyment as my FSV Mainz save back in FM16. Do I opt for a lower league club and build my way up to top? Or do I go for a top flight side and concentrate on developing youth from within? I decided to go for the latter as I really enjoyed doing this last year, but who shall be the team of choice? Which league shall I be in? So I waited until the transfer window had closed before I made my decision.

That’s when a certain someone caught my eye, Pablo Piatti moved to Espanyol on a season long loan. My love affair with Piatti started back in FM09 where he was the maestro in my Premier League winning Fulham side, pulling the strings behind Lewandowski. So, a chance for me to rekindle the flame that was once lit and have another chance to utilise the beautiful Pablo whilst turning Espanyol into a talent factory.

The Club

Espanyol have only spent four seasons outside of the top flight and have been competing in the top division since 1994. They also hold a fierce rivalry that tends to go under the radar here in the UK, we only tend to here of the El Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The rivalry is with the latter, FC Barcelona. A rivalry that stretches back to when the club was created, only having Spanish players as apposed to Barca having many foreigners.

Espanyol have won the Copa Del Rey 4 times in their history with the most successful spell back in 2000 and 2006. They have also reached the UEFA Cup(Europa League) on 2 separate occasions but have never managed to win. Being crowned champions of Spain is also something the club have missed out on, with their highest ever position being 3rd.

The club has had many talented players during its lifespan, with the likes of Alfredo di Stefano and their all time top goalscorer Raúl Tamudo. The club have also named it’s training facilities after former club captain Dani Jarque, who died from a cardiac arrest in 2009 at the age of 26. He was part of the club’s youth academy and made of 250 appearances for Espanyol. He was also part of the  cup winning side in 2006.

The Squad

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So the squad it’s self isn’t too bad, we have a lot of fairly decent players, with a few stand outs such as Diego López in GK, CB pairing of Diego Reyes and Oscar Duarte, Vast experience in Demichellis, Javi Fuego and Jóse Antonio Reyes, the passing skills of Jurado and 4 fairly decent strikers (yes including Caicedo).

As mentioned earlier the main focus on this save is to develop players through the youth academy, currently the U19’s don’t show anything too promising but there are a few in the Espanyol B team who look like the could develop nicely this year. The plan is to invest heavily into upgrading the facilities so we have a good chance of developing some real talent, with the added bonus of being in the city of Barcelona so we should have a good scouting pool of kids coming through.

There are 2 young players in my first team that I want to give a fair amount of playing time too this year and watch them develop, let me know what you think of them.

Luis López

luis-lopez_-overview-profile

Now with Luis only being 19 he has plenty of time to develop as a player, the plan is for him to get a decent amount of game time this season and go under the wing of veteran Martín Demichellis. A season or two and we could really start to see how he could develop and if he is worth keeping hold of.

Marc Roca

Marc Roca_ Overview Profile.png

Another 19 year old but looks like more of a whole package, he looks very versatile so could easily play in most roles in the CM, DM or even AM position. My coaching staff also think he could develop into a 4.5 star rating player, so could well have the potential to go places. I really like the look of Marc and he is actually the best passer out of the 4 DM/CM midfielders we have, so I’m thinking of focusing his talents in a playmaking role, but we shall see. Feedback on these two would be great, would be really interesting to hear your points of view on how you would use them.

So that some’s up this first post, thank you all for reading. Next post will be looking at the system we intend to use, will I try the ‘Four Horsemen’ or maybe something different.

Please like, follow and share. If you think of any improvements to the blog or any feedback at all please comment or send me a DM.

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