After finishing 8th last season in our first year back in the Bundesliga (our third season as Greuther Fürth Manager) and earning the club a tidy €59 million in prize money for our efforts – needless to say we have business to do as we look to build on what was definitely a season of over achieving for the Kleeblätter. Chairman Niall Quinn gives us €19.3 million to bolster our squad, a bit of smart maneuvering and shithousery means we might be able to stretch that to €30m if we play our cards right 👀.
A-loan no more
Josh Sargent has been on loan with us for three consecutive seasons, scoring 30 goals in 65 starts playing in the lone striker role as an Advanced Forward. While not overly prolific, his strength, movement and finishing make him a quality striker at this level therefore and having played a big part in our rise to the Bundesliga, he earns a permanent deal as we agree a €10 million transfer with his parent club Werder Bremen.
Another repeat loan signing for us who initially played a big role in our promotion chase before becoming a rock in defence during our first season back in the Bundesliga is Nicolo Armini, who we have had on loan from Lazio for two consecutive seasons with a €7.5 million optional fee. ACTIVATE THE SH*T OF IT NIALL.
There comes a point in every footballer’s career where the inevitable decline begins in terms of both their physical and footballing ability, as well as their ability to continue competing at the higher levels of the game. Some are lucky enough to have a very slow and gradual decline whereby they continue to play a part in their team’s success even if not in a full time capacity – unfortunately some players experience a much more rapid fall from grace and this has been quite evident even in recent times where players have gone from playing top level football to suddenly finding themselves out of contention and often unwanted by their clubs – think Jack Rodwell, Joe Hart, James Rodriguez and Anderson to name a few.
Football Manager is no different and can be equally as cruel – players can often go from being first team regulars in one season straight to the unwanted list the following year or even halfway through the season as their ability and attributes start to decline. We as Managers with a fondness for loyalty and connection to the players we manage/sign can often find it difficult to spot or accept that a player’s ability has declined, and this blogger has frequently fallen for the “Halo” effect whereby we have continued to persist with a declining player, refusing to accept that they are no longer deserving of a first team place and are no longer capable of performing at that level – I’m pretty sure I never sold alan Shearer in over 10 years of CM/FM saves at Newcastle such was my stubbornness and denial levels 😆.
The best way to avoid this? Here are a few handy tips to ensure you can spot a player whose ability is declining, so that you can react accordingly either in the transfer market or via some miraculous individual training mastery to combat said player’s fall from grace and decline in footballing ability.
1. Player Development Summary
Our Assistant Managers are sometimes (lol) known for giving somewhat random advice at times with an extreme fondness for spotting that we are being overrun in midfield (writer’s note: we never are) – however one of the more useful features in FM is that they send a fortnightly report on Player Development which calls out how your squad is developing and which players are improving or declining in ability. If one of your important players appears on this list and looks to be on a downward trajectory, you’d best be getting a replacement lined up asap as once that decline starts it can be next to impossible to halt their downfall.
In this save, Assistant Manager Alan Maybury is also kind enough to provide welcome reports on positive development so it also pays to keep an eye out for updates like these:
2. Backroom Advice
You can always ask for advice if you trust your backroom staff’s judgement and opinions – the “Advice” section of the Player Development tab gives a short summary on the player in terms of Training, Tactics, Contract and Development and it’s here that you can get a real time view of how that player has developed over the past few months.
3. Player Progress 📈
Football Manager is excellent at displaying a player’s attributes and in particular when these are moving in an upward direction as a player’s training performance improves. What we don’t see at first glance however is when a player is declining particularly over a longer stretch of time – to see this one needs to dig slightly deeper within the Player screen by navigating to the “Progress” section of the Development tab.
Let’s look at Branimir Hrgota, our 30 year old Swedish Inside Forward who has been immense for us since taking the helm at Greuther Fürth three seasons back. At the start of the save his Acceleration, Pace and Finishing really stood out and he surprised us with 20 goals and 10 assists over the past three seasons, showing he was good enough to play Bundesliga football and contend with Antonio Marin for the right Inside Forward position.
As we approached the end of last season, I noticed Hrgota starting to get dispossessed quite frequently as well as being beaten for pace on occasion – he started the season well scoring 3 goals and getting 2 assists in our first 10 games, however in the second half of the season his output was much less impactful scoring just 1 goal and 1 assist, and this led me to have a deeper look at his overall progression and development bearing in mind he had just turned 30 in January.
Looking at his attributes screen he still looked close to being the same player however it was only upon reviewing his progress that we can see a sharp decline right around the point that he turned thirty (writer’s note: MEGA HARSH SPORTS INTERACTIVE #justiceforthirtysomethings). Not only did his overall ability deteriorate, so too did some of the key attributes we need to deploy him as a successful Inside Forward (Pace, Acceleration, Dribbling, Finishing etc) and where previously I had felt we were strong in this area and Hrgota was good enough for our First XI, suddenly we have a major gap to fill if we are to compete and build on last season’s 8th place finish in the Bundesliga.
Off to Market
We know what position we are after, we know what attributes we need, we can attract a slightly higher calibre of player after hitting a Top 10 finish last season and we have the bones of €15 million to play with – this is what Football Manager is all about.
Loving the fact that Johnston is Scottish and a Celtic graduate – granted he isn’t Irish however it’s close enough in terms of the #narrative of this blog and our Irish connections. I haven’t heard much about Torres from an FM perspective, and while I have heard rumours he is linked with a move to Man City in real life I’ve never seen him make a big move in-game, what a coup he would be if we can broker a deal within our means. I’ve always been a big fan of Dilrosun and he is electrifying when it comes to pace and quality down the wing – my only concern would be his goal scoring ability as we rely on our Inside Forward to bag goals as part of our tactical setup. As is always the case when it comes to me making transfers, the standard Steve Martin gif needs to be brought out:
After hours of negotiations with Valencia we finally settle on a €22 million deal – €11 million up front with the other €11m paid in 3 installments over the next 3 years. We tried to go for Johnston however Celtic wanted over €30 million for the lad, Valencia clearly in more need of the cash as they agree a split transfer deal which suits our budgetary constraints. Admittedly this will be a hefty blow to our future transfer budgets however, WHAT A F*CKING PLAYER.
That pretty much depletes our entire budget however we still have a couple of gaps particularly at Left and Right Back – we shopped around however eventually we settle on return loans for both Enrico Del Prato and George Bello (writer’s note: this blog is getting very deja-vu). We also decide to bring Antonio Marin back in on loan for another season – we are still getting great mileage out of David Raum in the Left Inverted Winger role however if we are to push for Europe this season, we will certainly need more quality and depth in our squad.
Finally – as mentioned previously we have a rule to sign at least one Irish player each year if for nothing but another partner in crime down at the local Irish Cottage Pub in Fürth. While browsing the Celtic squad when scouting Mikey Johnston, we spot that a previous target of ours is at the end of his contract so we dive straight in to bring in a 3rd choice Striker to offer backup to Sargent and Bilic up front:
Fourth Season at Fürth
An 8-0 win over Baunatal in the DFB-Pokal Cup 1st Round gets our season off to a flyer however as they are a Tier 5 team we are under no illusions that it might as well have been a friendly – new signing Ferran Torres picks up 2 goals which will do no harm for his confidence and morale.
Despite finishing 8th last season and bringing in a few signings, the bookies still have us at 1000-1 to win the league, tipping us to finish in 15th place which doesn’t sound too bad until you remember there are only 18 teams in the Bundesliga. Regardless, hopes are high in Fürth as we kick off the league campaign with a home tie against Borussia Monchengladbach (BMG sidenote: if you never seen this video, watch it now).
Our second season in the Bundesliga starts like a dream as we win a penalty on 17 mins – with Josh Sargent on the bench and our only designated penalty taker (yes I am a bad manager), it’s new boy Ferran Torres that is selected by the match engine to take it and he calmly steps up to net his first league goal for the club. The elation of our new signing giving us the lead lasts for a grand total of 2 minutes before Breel Embolo equalises for BMG – the replay had barely ended for crying out loud 🤦♂️. Even though we had Armini, Bello and Del Prato on loan the last couple of seasons it feels like the game thinks we have a new squad to gel and we look fairly rusty until Shadow Striker Alex Blesa smashes home a 67th minute header to bag all 3 points on day one of the new season – we’ll take that!
Our next game at Leverkusen sees us overcome a two goal deficit to go level before an 84th minute Lars Bender goal condemns us to defeat – Torres finds himself on the scoresheet again as does Josh Sargent who also scores the winning goal in Game 3 to give us a shock victory over Dortmund in front of our own fans, you sweet sexy ginger American b*stard!! 5 games in and we are enjoying ourselves in 5th place, two points clear of Bayern in 6th position while also getting a swift revenge over Leverkusen to advance to Round 3 of the DFB-Pokal Cup.
It’s Ferran Torres’ world folks and we are all living in it – the lad is literally a goal and assist machine and has fit like a dream into our beautifully ugly 4-1-4-1 asymmetric system.
The Fürth is well and truly with us and this save just keeps on giving (at least in terms of movie references anyway). If you are enjoying this save be sure to drop a follow below, new updates are out every Monday and hopefully will be until FM21 is a thing!