Success has many fathers… room for one more? – Episode 4

Welcome back to this Liverpool FC series from @anfmoldtimer. Here you can catch up with episode 1, 2 &  if you haven’t done so already.

Episode 4 – From Can to Riech’s

Building on success is not easy. You become the hunted. With this in mind, and our clear lack of class in European football, I sought to strengthen the team further.

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As I mentioned in my last post, Man City decided to plunder their oil reserves and splash out on Dybala (£86m) and Emre Can to the tune of £54m (£78m). I hunted for the best possible replacement who held the both the attributes for the role and for my team. Riechedly Bazoer fitted the bill. Remarkably, two years into the save, he was still at Ajax and they were willing to accept a bid of £26m (£29.5), nearly a third of the price of Can and when I compared his attributes against Can, he was better in many areas, most notably Vision. His ability to pick out a pass in the DLP(D) role, alongside providing a high level support to my defence, was going to be a welcome addition to my side. He had clearly benefited from first team football at Ajax given his technical and mental improvements over the two years.

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I also look to solidify the defence. Both Lovren and Matip had done well, clearly leading the statistics in key headers, tackles and interceptions within my team. However, Sergi Gomes has also come to realise that physically, he’s just not up to playing regular football, so he departs for the second time from Liverpool, for £7.5m to the Bundesliga and Dortmund, who always like a ball-playing defender in their team.

I noted that Spurs put in a bid for de Vrij and jump on it, matching their bid, just as Arsenal place a minimum fee release bid for Giménez, which I also match. Both de Vrij and Giménez come, separately, to my office at Mellwood to discuss terms. De Vrij and his agent are given the full guided tour and seem interested in the move, knowing that the signing of Bazoer is already announced, and Gigi Wijnaldum has been saying how much he’s enjoying playing for the ‘Pool whilst away on Netherlands duty. He is yet to stop telling everyone about his goal in the title deciding match last year, but we let him gloat for the time being. We have other plans for him…

De Vrij asks for £140k/week and sizeable, but not gargantuan, bonuses. I whittle him and his agent down to £115k/week and more reasonable bonus payments to my liking and they agree. I delay accepting the transfer, citing some technical issue with the fax. What’s works for United….

Giménez, three years younger and with more scope to develop as a result, takes less of an interest in the tour, instead asking to go straight up to the boardroom, following his agent in through my door. This is never a good sign. His head has been turned by London living and wants compensation for having to play in the cold, wet North. Telling him the fact he’d have to play here regardless of where he signs crosses my mind, but I decide not to bother. He wants £300k/week and a £9m singing on fee, not to mention considerable bonus. Oh, and his agent wants £7m. For driving him here from John Lennon Airport. I give him the taxi fare back and tell him to sling his hook to Arsenal after it becomes clear he is not interested in fitting into the wage structure we currently hold. I show him the Premier League trophy on the way out in the glistening trophy cabinet alongside the Champions League trophy from 2005 and tell the translator to instruct Giménez’s agent to ask when Arsenal last won these when negotiating with them. I immediately get on the phone to de Vrij and tell him we’ve been down to PC World and upgraded out fax so the problem is solved and he can join us the very next day.

de-vrij

Vaclav Cerny had not developed as I’d hoped out on loan, so I let him go to QPR for a fee nearly £5m above what I paid for him. Junior van der Velden falls into the same category. Decent core defending attributes, but not cut out for Premier League football so is sold on for a profit of £4.5m. Brannagan’s contract actually ran out, but I managed to offer him to clubs after he didn’t leave on the turn of July and compensation was agreed with Burnley at £6.25m (£8.25m).

This left me with some cash to spend and my scouts turned up a report on Kovalenko. He is naturally an AMC, but looking at his attribtes, it’s immediately clear he could be the solution to the lack of back up to Goretzka in the CM(A) role. He looks an absolute snip at £14.5m, with bonuses to Shaktar which would take it up to £19m. He comes in and instantly is on paper worth £32m. Already looking like good business.

kovalenko

(Kovalenko post re-training to be a natural CM)

Having tried both Danny Ward and Karius in goal across some games over the past season, it’s clear they are not of the quality that I desire. Not even as back-up. Though Karius would want to disagree with you on that one. He thinks he should be starting ahead of Simon. His stats in goal tell you otherwise. My scout in Belgium has for some time been putting forward the prospect of Mile Svilar so I indulge him and buy the Belgian youth international from Anderlecht for £10.75m (£18.25m). Quite whether he was going to sit on the bench or go out on loan, I hadn’t made my mind up at the start of the season. With Karius going out on loan, it was likely that Svilar was going to stay, but I’d like him to play some games in order to develop. He was certainly going to play EFL Cup games, but I wanted more playing time for him than that.

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You’ll note that I mentioned Leicester were relegated in my last episode. Both Vardy and Drinkwater were there and both were unhappy at the prospect of Championship football next season. Given the floodgates I’d opened of the British (so-called) ‘talent’ out of the gates of Mellwood, this left me with registration difficulties. I no longer had sufficient numbers of players who were qualified as English-trained squad members who were older than 21. My scouts told me I could pick them up for £21m. Vardy breaks many rules within my traditional transfer methods. But he does have outstanding attributes within his teamwork and his work rate and I think he’ll offer something different to Origi. His high determination also makes him an ideal tutor for my U19s. Drinkwater also possesses good attributes and is a worthy tutor. Both are brought in and make up my English-trained contingent to six out of a possible eight.

The fact I’m not able to register all my foreign contingent means that Gigi, the wonderful lovely Gorgeous Gigi, doesn’t stack up any more. How fickle a beast I am. My wife asks me how I can do that to Gorgeous Gigi but trying to explain that I can only register a certain amount of non-British trained players doesn’t wash and I’m cast a stern eye. Simple truth is, his attributes aren’t as high as Goretzka’s, Kovalenko’s nor Henderson’s, so I need to move him on. I try my best to sell him but with a bid of £8m being the highest offered for a playing supposedly worth £31m, I look to loan him out for a fee instead. Gigi reluctantly packs his locker up and heads to Roma. I don’t think we’ll hear about his exploits in the last game of the season again too soon as he drops out of the WhatsApp group.

Before the close of the window I always get an itchy trigger finger. I always like to look for any talent that searches and scout reports might have turned up. This time around is no exception. My own talent searching turns up Biro. In truth, how could you not write about a player named Biro!? With five star potential and already some good attributes to play RWB he joins for a flat £2m with an extra £2.2m in add-ons. These include an immediate loan back to Gaz Metan, which I’m happy to accept with Alexander-Armstrong popping up in every training report as making excellent progress and acting as back-up to Clyne.

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Then another scout report pops up, this time from my scouts in Argentina. I’m aghast. How’s this guy not already picked up? Both Barcelona and Real Madrid are showing an interest in Martin Dahul, but neither have bid yet. I put a half blind bid in for him of £2.5m with a further £7m to follow in add-ons. Racing Club accept. £9.5m for a talent such as this looks an absolute bargain and he will, I really hope, have a long-term future at the club alongside Isik, introduced to you in the last post. The ‘slight’ problem? Dahul can’t get a work permit. I decide to sign him anyway and take the risk. He looks too good not to get called up for the Argentinian national squad going forwards. I immediately offer him out on loan and a plethora of European, Brazilian and Argentinian clubs come in for him. Boca Juniors offered the more attractive deal, promising to offer Dahul first team football in order to develop and they have excellent facilities for him to train at and a manager who looks to play youngsters.

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All of a sudden, whilst I’ve got vast sums of money still left in transfer budget, FFP is looking distinctly dodgy on wage growth, so I loan out a number of players for both a fee and the club taking them on loan paying their wages to get the wages under our cap. Ascacibar still didn’t have a work permit at the start of the season, so jets out to PSV, me praying this time he gets recognised by the Argentinian scouting network and picked for their national side. Ings, van de Beek, Upamecano and Joe Gomes aren’t likely to feature in the First Team, so are shipped out to other teams around Europe too for a reasonable fee to someone who at least promised to offer them footballing chances in their playing XIs. This helps to balance the wages and the transfer fees. I’ve added more depth in quality, so I’m relatively happy going into the season.

The season

Friendlies

Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning these but we had the most incredible start to our first game against Rennes. We were ridiculously going forwards. Our attack was ruthless, pinging crosses around, one-touch glorious scintillating football that I was so pleased and proud to see. Five goals in the first half and I passionately tell them that that was incredible stuff. Is this it? Have things clicked? Our defence certainly didn’t think so, conceding goals from set pieces and some sloppy play, but we score another to secure a brilliant victory. Yes, I know, it’s only pre-season… but you weren’t there man!!

The rest of the friendly games pass without us conceding a goal… maybe we’ve solved our defensive issues too?

Community Shield

We add another trophy to the cabinet. Smoke on that Giménez. We look good for our victory, though in truth, Guardiola’s Man City treat this as nothing more than a glorified friendly, playing kids for the most part with the odd bit player thrown in. Still, a win is a win.

EFL Cup

After being left high and dry against Watford last year and Newcastle the year before that, I was keen to restore pride in this competition, even if the board didn’t care for it. Another congested fixture list meant that I was forced to rotate the squad, giving opportunities to Tobias Svendsen down the left, who performs magnificently with a record of 2 goals and 3 assists in 4 games. Belotti also gets some game time scoring 4 in 4 but that’s flattered by a hat-trick at home against Burnley in the Semi-Final. Alexander-Arnold continues his development, as does Florentino Luis. Svilar is given the game time I was looking for when I signed him back in July. In the Final, we meet our title rivals and old player Can. We go a goal down courtesy of a strike from Agüero but take the lead thanks to Origi and Berardi, only for the little Argentinian maestro (no, not Maradona!) to equalise before half-time. Danny Drinkwater proves to me he was worth every penny of his transfer to break the EFL hoodoo by scoring the winner on the 72nd minute. We manage to hold out the onslaught that Pep unleashes to secure the Cup with a 3-2 win.

Champions League

Following last year’s drubbing from Juventus, I was keen to avoid a repeat. I had, I believe, strengthened the squad through the middle spine of the team and hoped to progress further than just the First Round Knock-out stage.

We get mixed group, battering BATE 5-0 both home and away, but struggle against Bazoer’s old team Ajax in the Amsterdam Arena. A pleasing 1-1 draw over Barcelona at Anfield gave us hope going into the away leg against Barcelona. I decide to play Vardy upfront as a DF(S), thinking that his constant harrying of the Barça defence would serve as a great chance to restrict their possession and perhaps provide opportunities to counter them. I was right. At least in the 4th minute I was. Vardy poked home from the edge of the six-yard box, having set up a goal scramble in a completely disorganised Barcelona defence. Sadly, this only served to rear the ugly teeth of Suárez and co, with Luis scoring against his old club, along with Rafinha and Umtiti. Sadly, it’s de Vrij who looks like a bit of a tit at the end of the game with a rating of 6.4. Vardy though decides to have a bit of a do in the Camp Nou and scores a second for himself. It’s not enough, but we come close to achieving another point against MSN et al.

We qualify second from our group and get the draw I feared probably the most. Real Madrid. Big Slick Ron and his mates. Great. Goodbye Champions League football for another year I think to myself whilst watching the draw. We’re ‘awarded’ the home tie first, since Real have the advantage of the second leg of the tie at home for winning their group. The crowd decide to make a proper Anfield night of it. Banners and flags flying, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” blasting on the PA and throughout the crowd, a high number of whom are recording it for posterity on their phones. Me? I’m stood in the dugout praying we don’t get ripped apart and can take a glimmer of hope into the Santiago Bernabéu. We’ve worked hard in training for the game though. I even say such a thing to any reporter who will listen.

Boy what a night we had in store for us…

To find out how far we go in the Champions League and how Liverpool respond to defending their first Premier League, you can read it here in Episode 5.

Be sure to catch up with Chris on twitter @anfmoldtimer and join both our FM Slack groups #anfmoldtimer and #limitedfullback. If you haven’t check out the FM Slack then get in touch with @FM_Samo and join the rest of the FM community. Over 300 people have joined already, so if you haven’t, get involved.

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RCD Espanyol – 4.1

Welcome back to my RCD Espanyol blog save following on from our success of winning the League title last season. If you haven’t caught up with that one yet then Click HERE.

Firstly I’d like to apologize  for the delay in this post coming out, I’ve been incredibly busy with work and college assignments, so this update is well overdue.

So into the campaign and we start with our summer transfer dealings. Now obviously due to our league and cup successes, the sharks were hovering around our players, something that we have become accustomed to in recent years.

My dynamic duo of Dolberg and Ziyech who have built such formidable partnership has unfortunately been broken apart. Manchester City were the vultures and bids started in and around the £20 mil mark, which obviously was way bellow what I wanted for him. I negotiated for his minimum fee release and they came back meeting it. £44 mil is something I couldn’t really grumble with. Very sad to see him go, but puts our finances even further into the green.

Bayern were sniffing around our versatile defender Jonny and came in straight away and match his release clause. £33.5 mil for a defender we signed for £10 mil, that’s a massive £23.5 mil profit. Include that with the £28 mil profit from the Ziyech sale and bingo, a £50+ mil profit.

7 players arrived at the club in order to bolster the squad and strengthen in all areas.

RCD Espanyol_  Transfer History.png

Mattheus Pereira

A 21 year old who looks pretty decent in all areas. Coming in on a free transfer, he has excellent potential and is versatile, being able to play across the whole AM line and even play a little deeper.

Matheus Pereira_ Overview Profile.png

German Staricco and Guillermo are both young decent defenders who have both been loaned out to gain some first team experience. I have a keen eye on both of these guys to be decent squad players next season. Vargas comes in to as back up to Pau Lopez in goal. He also is young and has decent potential.

Jaoquin Correa and Gerard Deulofeu were added for their experience and for their ability out wide. “But why do you need wide players when you play a narrow system?” We will touch on our narrow system later on.

Tactics

The last 2 years we have been playing with our strikerless 4-1-3-2 system, something which I highlighted as something we were to transition into from the ‘Four horsemen’. So after our success winning the league title last year, I decided I wanted to test myself and my players by implementing a new system. So I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and really test my bottle. What better way to do that then with a back 3.

I love the pairing of a SS with a AP(s) along with a DLP(s) and a MC(s) with a DM(d) behind. So what can I do with these 5 roles and a back 3. Well this is what I came up with.

RCD Espanyol_  Overview.png

A  Strikerless 3-5-2 with Defensive wingers. I opted for DW’s because I wanted to implement some width but also wanted some protection on the flanks. “So why didn’t you opt for Wing Backs?” Well like I said earlier, I wanted to test my tactical skills in this game, WB’s are an obvious choice in a 3-5-2 so let’s see if this can work. It also gives me the opportunity to keep the CM pairing that I mentioned earlier.

In terms of our instructions and style, that has changed, more so than the last transitional shift, but nothing too drastic. We still maintain the core priciples of our style, direct passing into space, playing out from the back and working the ball into the box. The adjustments that I have made a are a few tweaks in our original set up. Our defensive line has been moved back to a normal line from slightly higher, the DM sits in the space nicely and with the absence of fullbacks I wanted some more security sitting slightly deeper.

We are still playing a very fluid style but I want the players to be more disciplined with their positional play, again due to the huge change in the defence, I want the players to really be conscious of where they are at all times. Our mentality though has shifted back a couple of notches, going from attacking to standard.

The last thing I changed, and probably the most important, going from narrow to balanced. I don’t want to give the opposition and additional room out wide due to our missing fullbacks, so I want the outside CD’s to drift out either side, not so far that we leave massive gaps, but enough to deal with wingers looking to punish us.

I know that the potential flaws with a back 3 is the lack of support in the wide areas. If we come up against a 442 or a 433 etc, the chances are is we will be doubled up out wide. This is something that I am willing to concede trying to build this system. with our CD’s pushing out wider and the DW’s coming back to help, we should be ok to cope with supportive fullbacks causing us problems.

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This video is an example of some of the passing, and movement in our new system. It shows our positional layout and how we can overload team in areas. I have also broken each segment down into screenshots for a different view.

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You can see in the overhead shot that our width is pretty good and the wide CB’s have their areas covered. You can also see the DM covering the space between but also close enough to act as an option in the attacking move. Our midfield 4 are all supporting the move with our AM’s . Now watch the move as we continue, our AM’s are played in from wide and they link up together and pull away the CB’s from their positions. They also cause the attention from the midfielder tacking back. This all together leaves a perfect hole for Ascaibar to burst into and finish the move. The fullback doesn’t come over because he is occupied by our DW, giving Ascaibar the perfect opportunity to score. Feel free to go back and watch the clip again to see it in its full glory.

So how have we got on?

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We lost the Supercopa, after rallying at a 3-3 draw away from home we fell apart on home soil. The less said about that the better, in all honesty, if that result didn’t happen then I would never have made some of those tactical decisions I mentioned earlier. Since then though our league form has been excellent, however we have drawn too many games, especially 0-0’s, 4 of them to be precise. Although I shouldn’t grumble too much, as we are sitting 3rd and have only lost 1 league game. Not bad going for a rookie in a back 3 system.

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Our CL efforts have also been pretty good, we lost our opening game but it was one of those that could have gone either way. The other loss, well, take a look at the gaff that lost us the points.

We won our other 4 fixtures meaning we qualify from the group stages for the third consecutive season. Next up is AC Milan in the last 16.

 

So that is where we will leave things for now. Just before you go take a look at my new kits I put together for us.

I am making kits and banners for the FM community and if you would like anything created for you FM save or content then head over to my Patreon site. FM_grasshopper, FM_Adventure, KeyseRensie and @lpqr plus many others have already got kits made up, if you want to have the next set, head over to my Patreon or DM me on Twitter or Slack.

Please like, follow and share. If you think of any improvements to the blog or any feedback at all please comment, send me a DM or join my FM Slack channel #limitedfullback.

Don’t forget to check out social media:

Twitter: @marcbowen17

Football Manager Slack Channel#limitedfullback.

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/limitedfullback

 

Success has many fathers… room for one more? – Episode 3

We return with the excellent @anfmoldtimer with his Liverpool FC save. Catch up with Episode 1 & Episode 2 if you haven’t already.

Episode 3 – Hopes and expectations cont.

So with our European adventure over as it was just getting going courtesy of Juventus, we were able to focus our ambitions towards domestic titles.

EFL Cup

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This year I continue to bed in youngsters with talent and first teamers who are lacking in match readiness and make it into the Final for the third year running (including the year Liverpool made it under Klopp in real life). The first few rounds were hard fought as we lacked the quality to really push through ‘weaker’ opponents, but it gave a considerable amount of playing time for my youngsters to develop. Florentino Luis in particular is starting to stand out as a real prospect and will be pushing for a first team berth in a season or twos time if he continues to develop in training and U23s games at the same rate. Belotti is also given game time as he’s not managed to overtake Origi and scores goals throughout. However, he frustrated me immensely during the EFL Cup and any other game he played in. He would waste numerous chances created by the hard-working midfield who were winning the ball back and pinging balls to him or for him to run on through simply because he was lazily standing in an offside position. The timings of his runs and his positioning was so awful that it became crystal clear that he was not going to be the player that I wanted him to be. The reason: his player preferred move (PPM_ of ‘likes to beat the offside trap’. I didn’t coach him this, but it’s my fault that my own scouting (mine, not my scouts) let me down here. This PPM would have made me question whether he was the right player for my side given the high press we try to implement and his preferred position of Advanced Forward. Many teams try to play a higher line against us and so offer us space, in an attempt for them to compress passing lanes and squeeze the midfield, providing opportunity for the more direct pass (even though we do have the instruction to pass it shorter) over the top for one of my attacking players, either the Complete Forward (A) or the Inside Forward (S) to latch onto and create a goal scoring chance. This then meant that Belotti was resigned to the bench for most of the 17-18 season and was not a wise investment on my behalf. Lessons learned here.

FA Cup

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After two sweet victories, especially the ones over our insignificant “small”, to quote Rafa, local rivals in the Third Round, I was hopeful of a good cup run. However, congested fixture lists and a small squad with areas requiring further investment/training time, I took the opinion that sacrificing the FA Cup, probably much to the chagrin of our fans and board, was the wise thing to do and elected to play a slightly weaker XI than I otherwise might. We actually ran Arsenal fairly close but we were profligate upfront taking pot shot after pot shot and we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.

Premier League

After last year’s somewhat surprising second place finish, I was keen to solidify a top four finish and retain Champions League football for next season. What actually happened went beyond my expectations

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This should never have happened. Man City were running away with the league and had a comfortable gap over the rest of the chasing pack and I had an uneasy run in with Chelsea, Tottenham and Man United all to play in the last eight games of the season. I was fighting just to remain in the top four in my eyes and hopefully squeak guaranteed qualification into the Champions League proper. Man City though, blow it. Losing to Arsenal (fair enough), Everton (who finished the season in 17th) and QPR (who at the time were scrapping, unsuccessfully, to remain in the Premier League – to no doubt splurge a bunch of money on over-rated, fit players again. What’s that? Harry’s not their manager? Oh, OK, they may not have done then).

Nine points dropped allows a surging Liverpool, who only drop two points at home to West Ham in eight games up until the last game of the season. 22/23 points is very pleasing end of season form and the press are loving the tight last day, the two teams only separated by goal difference. They ask me during the press conference about how does it feel to know that the title is in our grasp – simply match or better Man City and the Premier League is yours? Daftly asking what tactics I’m about to play, as if I’m about to tell Stoke’s Sam Allardyce (when you actually think about it, that makes sense… about 7 years ago!) that yes, we will be playing 4-1-2-2-1 and that of course we’re going to play attacking football. He has his scouts for that, let them do the dirty work. In truth, I was nervous. I remember when Liverpool last had the title in their sights… the chants from the opposing fans still ring in Liverpool’s supporters. You all know the one. An early goal is a must. Calm the nerves. I tell the boys assertively, the League is yours for the taking, go and do it for the fans that have supported you all through the season. Georginio Wijnaldum listens. He smacks home a shot from outside the box within three minutes. I jump for joy but immediately wonder what to do. We can’t shut up shop and defend for 86 minutes, that’s just silly. Especially against Long-Ball Sam. We don’t. We score again. Leon. Lovely Leon. Gorgeous Goretzka. Didn’t I say in my last post that £48.5m was a bargain? Remember too, Man City spent £86m on Griezmann and look where it’s got them! Man City win their last game too, but it doesn’t matter. The Premier League is ours!

No more slipping and losing the ball to Willian for him to run through… the nightmares of Stevie G can be laid to rest and the Kop can claim back bragging rights over their Champions League-less Man United counterparts.

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Spurs too have Spurs’d it up to… or at least so it seems. Under van Gaal, yes, I know, I had to look twice too, they win the Champions League. Unbelievable, Jeff! Leicester, two years on from their League title are relegated.

I’m awarded Premier League Manager of the Season and Coutinho runs off with the Fans Player of the Year Award and by some margin. He contributes 15 goals, 12 assists and 9 PoMs with a season’s average rating of 7.47. Origi scores 21 in 36 starts, seven off the bench, and 8 assists, whilst Berardi, last season’s January signing, scores 16, assists 10 in 32(7). Quite some front three with 52 goals and 30 assists between them in all competitions.

Needless to say, the board are delighted with the first Premier League title being in the bag and so soon into my time at the club. I’m given a good wodge of cash to spend and asked if I would like to take a more prominent role in deciding upon affiliate clubs to help grow the commercial side of the Club (which I gratefully accept) and state I’d like a tie up with New England (being a big Patriots fan that I am). The board also say would I like more wages for coaching staff… I don’t, but I say yes anyway. Prize money is reinvested back into the youth team coaching, improving the youth recruitment, the training facilities for the first team and the youth facilities. Always pays to consider the future, and improving the first team facilities should help going forwards with attracting new players.

It’s also important to remain focussed. Liverpool won the League four times in the 1980s and the Champions League twice, doing the double in my year of birth, so there is quite some way to go yet. We’ll seek to win the title again next year, though I know the transfer clout of the big teams below me will rear their head again, hunting out Europe’s best talents and deals are already being talked about in the media. Gabrigol and Giménez are wanted by Arsenal; Meré touted to go to United, Ceballos hunted by Chelsea… and Man City bid crazy money, £78m including add-ons, for Emre Can.

I’m torn. He’s good, steady, young. He could be the basis of the middle three in the DLP(D) role for years to come. That’s not a natural role for him, but he’s so well-rounded it doesn’t really matter too much. But that’s just silly money. Money I can’t really say no to. So I accept, after working them up to this amount and begin looking for his replacements. The fans will no doubt hate me, they weren’t too keen when I sold Lucas Leiva for £15m in January 2017, but I suspect the board will be secretly pleased to rake in that much money for a player signed for £9.75m.

Thank  you so much for reading, to find out who and other transfer movements, read Episode 4.

 

Be sure to catch up with Chris on twitter @anfmoldtimer and join both our FM Slack channels, #anfmoldtimer and #limitedfullback. If you haven’t checked out the FM Slack, then get in touch with @FM_Samo and join the rest of the FM community. Over 300 people have join already, so if you haven’t, get involved.

Introducing Patreon

Hi all and I’d like to introduce my Patreon site.

For those of you that don’t know me, I am Marc and I am a huge fan and player of Football Manager. The Football Manager community on Twitter is huge and I highly recommend that if anyone wants to catch up with some top quality FM content, simply search for #wearethecommunity.

My role within the community is a blogger where I share my FM stories and sometimes break down my tactical decisions. You can check out my blog at Limited Fullback. I have been part of the FM community for almost a year and I can honestly say if you ever need any help, ideas or issues, the FM community are always willing to help. I’ve also written for award winning blogger, Guido Merry on his fabulous Strikerless website

My role within the community has taken a turn and whilst I am still sharing my stories, I have taken a step into the graphical side of things. I have created a numbers of things for myself and members of the community, such as custom kits, graphical banners and now as part of this site, downloadable kit packs.
Bellow is a banner that I have created for my current FM17 save with RCD Espanyol and one I created for a community member.

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montpellier-header

Also bellow is an example of the kits you can input straight into your game:

 

The idea for me starting this Patreon is I want the community to be behind me in this venture, and whilst I really enjoy creating these graphics, it does however get quite expensive. The idea is that donations would help generate money to go towards purchasing more kit templates, upgrading my website and the Photoshop license. I want to make this clear this is not a money making exercise, just purely an opportunity to help fund my editing within the community.

So I hope you will all support me on this ride and a huge thanks to all the support so far.

Current Patrons:

@FM_Grasshopper

@FM_Adventure

@KeysiRensie

Thank you all so much, I really appreciate it!

Marc

Success has many fathers… room for one more? – Episode 2

We return with the excellent @anfmoldtimer. If you haven’t caught up with Episode 1, then click HERE

Episode 2: Hopes and expectations…

Having met the expectations of Coutinho and Lovren of Champions League football for the forthcoming season, I was keen to strengthen the side and bring in more squad players to all for greater rotation to cope with the extra fixtures. I also realised that there was a need to move on some of the players whose attributes just didn’t fit within what I was trying to achieve.

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Bayern Munich came in for Daniel Sturridge. Daniel, much like real life, just simply wasn’t able to keep fit during the season and when he was fit, he wasn’t contributing in the same way as he has in a Liverpool shirt because he was lacking in match sharpness. It took a bit of wrangling because Sturridge was wanting to go (big pay day after all) but I wasn’t willing to accept anything less than £30m for him given he was valued around £35m at the time. Eventually, a deal was struck with me playing hardball and I was happy to let him go. Immediately, whilst negotiations were going on actually, I dialled up Torino and spoke to them about the availability of Belotti. I’ve seen him score a bundle of goals across various FM17 saves across the community and wanted a piece of the action and saw him as a potential replacement for Origi, if he could prove to be more consistent.

Lallana going might look for some as a bit of strange one, but given his age, to have an offer at that level from West Ham was something of a no brainer given his pace of 10 (one of the attributes I feel is slightly undervalued in FM) and the fact that I had other targets in mind with the money on offer. Milner, in FM17, just simply doesn’t have the ratings to justify £140k/week. So to remove him from the wage budget as one of, if not the highest earner in the team was an easy decision too. Andre Wisdom just simply wasn’t going to cut it at Liverpool, so he left to Hull. Flanagan I would have liked to have kept, but he was complaining about the lack of first-team football after experiencing it away on loan during the 16-17 season and decided that he’d like some more of it and clearly worked out that he wasn’t going to get in ahead of Clyne. Clever boy. He really wasn’t. He would have been the kind of squad player I’d like to have kept had I been aiming to keep a predominantly British playing XI, in line with the 1980s dominance I’m seeking to achieve. However, times they have a changed. Given the different rules and better/wider scouting networks that exist in modern football, I’m convinced that they would have had a number of players beyond the British Isles (and Scandinavia!).

You’ll note a transfer ‘tactic’ of mine too. I look to loan out players that I’m either hoping to develop or aren’t good enough to make my first-team and do so for a fee. I don’t think it’s the case any more, but in previous editions, the AI seemed to only offer a maximum of £200k/month. Given the new dealings with loan, I’ve also made sure that where possible, the team loaning the player is paying the same fee regardless of whether they’re playing him or not to maximise my revenue. I use this to increase my transfer budget. If I loan out a player for £200k/month then that generates £2m for my transfer budget. Do this a number of times and it soon boosts the transfer budget, whilst also lowering the wages I’m paying assuming that they are paying the wages.

Whilst analysing match after match of the 16-17 season I was getting frustrated by the lack of quality finishing from my CM(A), who predominantly was Lallana. This led me to searching for a quality player who was able to put the ball in the back of the net on a regular basis and one that was realistic. Delle Alli isn’t going to leave Spurs to join Liverpool except for silly money, which I was not prepared to offer both Spurs and him. In my search, which focussed on work rate, stamina and teamwork, up popped Leon Goretzka. Leon and I have a history together in FM. I’ve signed him for the last two editions of FM and he’s never let me down. A solid player up and down the pitch and a great team player who is willing to chip in with goals and is rarely out of position. Nor does he make many mistakes given his composure and technique. A bid was placed with Schalke, who accepted a negotiated offer, Leon flew over with his agent and we agreed a perfectly reasonable contract for £120k/week over five years. Remember that’s a £20k/week saving on Milner and quite an upgrade by attributes! Leon is given the number 8 shirt and a place in the starting squad. Bargain. Yes, the deal is costing me £48.5m plus his agent fee and signing on fee, but if you divide that by the five year contract, it works out pretty well.

The next player brought in on the list is, to me, what looks like an absolute wonderkid. Meet Thibaut Isik (aged 17 when signed). I will admit to the fact that, yes, I probably have overpaid for this player. I was extremely keen to get him on my books as all of the major Premier League teams have been hoovering up quality regens. With his 16s for bravery, decisions, balance, natural fitness and passing, he was simply too good to pass up, with his professional personality and 17 determination. Given the right coaching and some first team experience, I was firmly of the opinion that he could become a very good player and was touted as the future Didier Deschamps. That’s not a bad player to be compared to. His natural position is CM(S) but I think that he may be better off as a DLP(D)/(S). I’m yet to decide. Expect him to play in every cup game possible and be on the bench for a few first team games where possible. I really expect him to play a big part in the future of Liverpool FC and winning the Champions League to follow in the footsteps of Deschamps.

Thibaut Isik.png

In other areas, Pitzalis comes in as cover for left full back and looks a reasonable and very cheap prospect given his attributes. Jehanno is another regen who may/may not develop into a decent striker but certainly someone who I could potentially generate some return on in future seasons. The other notable ins come from Scandinavia (yes, yes, I know… much like the 1980s!). I would imagine that Svendsen and Isak will be familiar to many of you in FM17. I felt as though Svendsen could offer genuine back up to Coutinho as an AP(S) despite him naturally being a winger down the left flank and Isak had some great attributes for an 18 year old. Both rejected offers from other bigger clubs, so I’m delighted to have them on board. Isak went out on loan for the season to the Championship and did very well for himself scoring a hatful of goals for Ipswich. The remaining players were players that looked like they may have some talent from their scouting reports and were worth a calculated gamble that profit could be made on most through loans/coaching within my U23s/U18s going forwards. All had good attributes for teamwork and work rate, bar Boudraa who is a French youth goalkeeper.

So to the season:

Champions League

Given this is the aim, it only makes sense to start here. Finishing second last season put us straight through into the League proper. However, because of our lack of European participation and therefore poor coefficient, we found ourselves in Pot 3. Eugh. We drew Shakhtar, Benfica and Milan. Talk about a group of death! Trips to the Ukraine, Portugal and the San Siro were afoot.

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We kicked off with a magnificent victory away against Benfica before a very drab performance against a well organised Milan side. Imagine that… a well organised Italian defence… with 10 men. The air was blue in the Anfield Home changing rooms, let me tell you. We then drubbed Shakhtar both home and away before smashing Benfica at home 5-1. An incredibly pleasing performance with goals from five different players. The 0-0 draw v Milan at the San Siro meant that we did qualify for the next round of the competition but the draw wasn’t kind to us. Juventus. Brilliant(!) A trip to see the Old Lady, 33 years after Heysel, who were still in possession of Dybala and a slimmer than real-life but still goal hungry, Higuaín. They demolished us at their place. Smashed us out of sight. It was incredible football to watch as they played all around us and ran through my defensive line like a young male Italian in a rush getting through traffic on busy Turin streets on a supped up moped. I tried to take the gung-ho approach and get the Anfield crowd roaring, hoping for another infamous midweek European match back home, but to no avail. Juve saw through this and knew it was coming. They soaked up the pressure (there’s yet another organised Italian defence!) and hit us on the counter. Disappointing performance across the two legs and my objective of European dominance looks a long way off. I didn’t say that this was going to be easy though.

Premier League

Last season’s second place was incredibly encouraging, especially to see us mount a title charge as those around us were dropping points. Whilst I’d improved the side in places, I was still not confident the title would be in our reach and even less confident when I saw the players that the teams around us were bringing in. Laporte and Griezmann for Man City; Ruben Neves, Biglia and Danilo for Man Utd; Almamy Toure joins the returning Romelu Lukaku at Stamford Bridge and Icardi joins the hustle and bustle of the capital city, by joining Arsenal. The BT TV deal really is showing its power in the transfer market, with Neves and Griezmann and Laporte costing around £200m combined.

With that in mind, my expectation was to consolidate our Champions League position and perhaps look to pick up a cup trophy along the way. The board were happy to go along with Champions League qualification, so we set about our task.

And what happened… well, the phrase “squeaky bum time” doesn’t quite cut it!

Be sure to catch up with Chris on twitter @anfmoldtimer and join both our FM Slack groups #anfmoldtimer and #limitedfullback. If you haven’t check out the FM Slack then get in touch with @FM_Samo and join the rest of the FM community. Over 200 people have join already, so if you haven’t, get involved.

 

Success has many fathers… room for one more?

I would like to welcome my first guest writer to the site – Chris Mason. He started writing about his Liverpool save on #Slack and I really liked his debut in FM blogging. It’s my pleasure to be hosting this series on this site. Please give Chris a follow on Twitter @anfmoldtimer. He is a genuine, nice guy and it comes across in his writing. From what I have seen this will be a good series, I hope you enjoy.

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Episode 1

I should be clear for the outset that I’m already nearly two and a half FM years into this save, so this won’t be a save that you can join from the get-go. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t bring you up-to-date on what has been happening with Liverpool Football Club after I took over from the grand-master that is Jürgen Klopp.

I’ve tried to keep his style of gegenpressing, “heavy metal” fast-paced football. I find it attractive to watch in both FM and in real life, being a fan of Liverpool. I can definitely say that I’ve been taken in by the counter-pressing style which is dependent upon heavy reliance upon teamwork, high work rate and a steely determination to win the ball back quickly after losing it in order to generate scoring opportunities. The board have given me the expectations of attacking, possession football and this style can deliver the attacking element and requires young players with good stamina levels. The board also expect me to be buying young players for the first team. This suits the way I like to recruit within FM too and is a must with this approach.

I’ve applied two tactics primarily, both of which I have borrowed. Nods here go to Daljit (YouTube and Twitter’s @Bustthenet) and MERT on the Steam Store.

My take on Daljit’s Wolves Experiment tactic and my variation on MERT’s ‘Jürgen Klopps’s Gegenpressing’ tactic available on the Steam Workshop

This is a vast change from the norm as to how I would usually operate in FM, as I love to find my own style on FM and typically go for a 4-2-3-1 style as so many Premier League managers have done over the last 3-4 years. However, I could not get it to work as I had in FM14/15/16 against the big teams in the Premier League. They were ripping us apart with ease and it was clear that Europe was never going to be achievable dropping so many points to my main rivals along the way. We were prone to casual sloppy mistakes and weren’t generating enough quality scoring opportunities. In part, in my opinion, this may be down to some slightly under-rated players with the current attributes on offer in the Liverpool team. I am also of the opinion though that the AI has learned to play better against the 4-2-3-1 from the outset and so with the high-pressing mentalities of a number of the Premier League managers, teams can exploit the weaknesses far earlier, way before you can simply buy up all/most of the talent that come through with regens. The AI also seems more intelligent (in some instances!) when it comes to transfers in this save too. More on this in a later post.

The focus of the save

My aim for this save is by enlarge pretty ‘simple’. Return Liverpool FC to the dominance of the 1980’s in both the Premier League and in Europe. I’d like my FM generated face to be printed next to Benítez’s on the giant flag that is swung around on the Kop during home games.

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I don’t anticipate being offered any other jobs and would reject any no matter how juicy the prospect.

I hope to be able to use genuine home-grown players to achieve this. However, this is just that, a hope rather than a specific aim/target. This is largely because I’ve never had that much success with regens in the past within my own team and often have to send my scouts out looking for the most gifted 15-18 year olds around the world. My scouts are already doing this across South America, Central Europe, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and North Africa in anticipation of poor future intakes. Always better to be prepared!

Given my tactical desire to counter-press relies heavily upon:

  1. Teamwork
  2. Work rate
  3. Stamina

I have concentrated on looking internally at the club for these attributes – and given we’re Liverpool and expectations are for European football – some genuine footballing abilities too. I will though overlook a player if I feel that these three core attributes are not sufficient for my first team (either currently or going forwards).

I also like my forward players (especially the central midfielders) to have excellent vision to see a pass. Once they get control of the ball, I’d like them to be able to release the pass that pushes the team forwards and enables us to work around the opposing team.

Transfers 2016-17

With this in mind, here were my transfer for the first season:

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I brought in Willems to replace Moreno (aka the Moronic Marauding Moreno) from PSV, and then a series of young players to replace the detritus we have in the Reserves who I hope to be able to develop either for the First Team going forwards or to sell on for profit. I doubt too many names on that list will be new to many of the readers of this post, with perhaps Berge and van der Velden being the exceptions (one of which has already been sold for a tidy profit). Berardi came in as I noticed a genuine weakness with set piece taking within the team and to keep Mané on his toes with some quality competition down the right-hand side. San José and Gómez came in for CB cover as Sakho had his head turned by Barcelona offering him the chance to play in the Champions League. When they said play, of course they meant to be paid £97k/week basic pay watching MSN play with Umtiti and Piqué at the back… (he’s only played 16 games across two and a half seasons so far in La Liga).

Coutinho and Lovren have both had bids rejected for them from Champions League teams, which has turned their heads. I’ve therefore had to promise them that if they stay, I’ll deliver them Champions League football next season. If not, then they’ll no doubt force my hand and want to be sold to a ‘bigger team’.

Season 16-17

In terms of success of the team thus far:

Premier League

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In truth, this looks much better than it perhaps should have been. We put together an eight game unbeaten streak running through April and May. Perhaps it was having Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ poem painted on the dressing room wall that made all the difference(?)

I had started the season with my own counter-pressing tactic, but only really gained consistent success after switching to a 4-3-3 with three CMs (CM(A) – CM(D) – BBM), with Coutinho playing AP(S) on the left-hand side (nominally, given how far he cuts inside to wreak havoc) and Mané playing IF(S)/W(S) down the right and Origi upfront on CF(A). This tactic looks to follow similar lines as to Daljit’s tactic with his Wolves Experiment. He doesn’t provide the player roles within the video and I have also changed a couple of things specific to the players that I have in terms of PIs.

FA Cup

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The FA Cup never really got going for us after defeating Chelsea with a deserved winner in injury time having been pegged back to 2-2 in the 89th minute. I was genuinely punching the air with both fists Klopp style when Wijnaldum scored the winner. To then lose to Watford over two legs was very disappointing having already knocked out a key rival earlier in the competition.

EFL Cup

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We also made it all the way to the Final of the EFL cup playing rotated side where I was able to. I had one eye on giving youth players who had a genuine chance of progression/development at Liverpool some First Team action. Grujic in particular benefited from this during that season, making far more First Team games in the PL than initially anticipated, as did Alexander-Arnold (though purely in the Cup)

Thank you for reading, click HERE for episode 2.