Track 8 – The Importance of Being Idle
If you give me a minute,
A man’s got a limit,
I can’t get a life if my heart’s not in it..
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We are back!! After a 2-3 week hiatus from FM due to Brexit-induced work chaos, we finally managed to get back to a somewhat normal routine which means completing Season 3 of our Homegrown (i.e. French nationality only) save at Angers in France’s Ligue 1 after finishing 7th and 6th respectively in our first two seasons. If you are new here feel free to jump to the beginning and catch up (20 mins should do it), otherwise join me as we find out how well (or not well) things are going in the West of France after three seasons at the helm.
Idle Ideas = Ideal
If things weren’t bad enough having to take an enforced break from FM21 in real life, we also experienced something similar in-game where we have just reached November 2022 which brings the first of a two-month Winter Break due to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – YEAH THANKS FIFA. When we last left off, we were sitting in 11th place in Ligue 1 after 13 games having lost our star player Mathieu Cafaro to a board-accepted €16m bid from Newcastle (replacing him with none other than Theo Zidane i.e. SON OF ZINEDINE), followed by the worst injury crisis I have ever set eyes on in FM where 9 of our first team were out injured over the course of a 2-3 month period including a long term injury for top scorer Rachid Alioui who has played just 3 games this season. New year new us right?
The positive thing about the 2 month winter break however, was that it allowed us to focus on some badly needed admin – what to do when you have 61 days to kill before your next competitive game?
One of our main save objectives outlined at the very beginning of this save is to establish affiliations with some of the top African academies in the hope of influencing our Youth Intake to develop a pipeline of French/African youth prospects and/or wonderkids. While this is of course a Homegrown save in which we can only sign players of French nationality (first or second) – the hope is that rather than sign players directly from these feeder clubs, having this connection will influence the quality and nationality of our annual Youth Intake.
After 3 seasons we are finally given the opportunity to select a club with whom we want to create such an affiliation and our first port of call is the Generation Foot Academie in Senegal, responsible for producing the likes of Papiss Cissé, Ismaila Sarr, Diafra Sakho and Sadio Mané. The club already have an affiliation with FC Metz who are in Ligue 1 so part of me thinks the game won’t allow two Parent clubs from the same league however we manage to hoodwink the board to hop on a flight down to Dakar in the hope we might get our first African feeder club in this save.
This objective could prove to be tricky to say the least however I take comfort looking at the league table above and seeing Metz sitting in rock bottom – there is hope yet! Our other target is the Right to Dream academy in Ghana, however we will have to wait for the board to get over the wasted trip to Senegal before asking again.
2. Staff Up
I haven’t spoken much about Backroom Staff in this save so far; even though we all do it it’s not usually the most exciting thing to read or write about especially as I am limiting myself to the same Homegrown rules for staff as well as players – however during our trip to Senegal we became acquainted with two French expats that have played a key role in the development of the Generation Foot academy, so we decided that we would have them both! Emmanuel Beauchet arrives as our new Assistant Manager, while Olivier Perrin takes the reigns as Head of Youth Development – even if we don’t get an affiliation any time soon, hopefully this might help influence our youth intakes in the coming seasons which have been fairly poor so far in this save.
Having flicked between some of the default training schedules over the past two seasons as well as a couple of tailored ones in between letting our Assistant Manager handle a lot of the hassle – we decide to do a complete overhaul and create 5 new training schedules which are largely designed to cover our match plan depending on (a) our opponent each week, )b) whether we are at Home or Away and (c) whether we expect to be favourites, have a close game or get our assess handed to us by a PSG or Lyon as has generally been the case so far in this save:
> Schedule 1 – “Pure Counter“
By and large we have been playing a Fluid Counter Attacking tactic, relying on decent BPD/DLPs to distribute the ball up the field quickly and on the speed of wide players to carry the ball forward and create chances. To facilitate this, our training schedule is set up so that we focus on Defensive Play earlier in the week where we work on pressuring our opponents to win the ball back in our own half, followed by sessions focused on transition, distribution and wide play to then create chances accordingly:
> Schedule 2 – “Attack the Block“
It doesn’t happen often but on the occasion where we are favourites or expect to dominate our opponents, we swtich to a more attacking training philosophy which is all about taking the game to our opponents and attacking at every opportunity to maximise our chances and scoring output.
> Schedule 3 – “Lockdown“
PSG like this. When you are up against a side that now boasts Ronaldo, Mbappe, Neymar, Salah and Kulusevski it’s literally all we can do to try not to concede (let alone having to also try and compete with the likes of Lyon, Monaco and Rennes), therefore we focus completely on defensive positioning and movement for the majority of the week in the hope that our lads at the back remember the ball isn’t supposed to go over their heads and that remembering to mark a player as you were told can actually be effective if executed correctly:
> Schedule 4 – “Ronnie Ballwork“
Possession. Ball Retention. Repeat. Always repeat.
> Schedule 5 – “Fitness & Set Pieces“
This one is simply for weeks where we have no game or a decent gap between fixtures as well as increasing intensity during the Winter break etc. The focus is on intense physical/fitness training in the mornings all week, with Set Piece training in the afternoons to give a bit of relief. With the likes of Theo (6ft 5″) and N’Dicka (6ft 4″) we don’t capitalise enough on Free Kicks and Corners, plenty of room for improvement here.
4. Individual Development
It’s not half as easy to impact an individual player’s development as it used to be in earlier versions of CM/FM, however one of the best ways to see visible results sooner is by focusing on Player Traits which specifically develop a player’s propensity and ability to take a certain action more frequently in match situations – this requires a bit of manual intervention on the Individual Training screen however the results can be pretty quick and worthwhile to see more of what you want to see in-game.
Always a good feeling to take care of some of the admin which I had put on the backburner for a while, and this combined with Rachid Alioui returning from injury and scoring in a couple of friendlies gives us a fresh positive outlook heading into the second half of the season. LET’S DO THIS.
🖱️ One mouse click later……..
COME ON. I mean seriously – this guy has had more injuries than I’ve had poor Oasis puns. The dude is 30 years old and should be in prime condition, however when I look at his injury history since we started this save – well, see for yourself…
Enough is enough. We can’t go another month without a quality goalscorer in the team. Our backup options are Stephane Bahoken who simply isn’t good enough for this level, and Said Benrahma who isn’t a natural Striker and lacks the clinical goalscoring instinct we urgently need to resuscitate this season. We need a proper Striker; one who can score goals, is good enough to lead the line and ultimately replace the aging and ever fragile Rachid Alioui. Having earned €30m in transfer fees during the summer window and spending less than €20m, we have the bones of about €9m in our transfer budget to find ourselves a proven goalscorer who can make an immediate impact and who of course meets our Homegrown rule by being French or having a French passport. We really don’t ask for much in this save….
They say the January Transfer Window is silly season, designed for panic buying and over-spending – I have no idea what they are talking about. Amine Gouri arrives at Angers from Nice for a total fee of €18 million (€9m up front and €9m over 3 years), completely emptying out our finances and more than likely screwing our overall bank balance for the foreseeable future….did we think about this before clicking that Confirm button? Of course we DID NOT.
Did it make a difference? Whether it was scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win over Lorient, or just a bump in morale on the back of making our record signing – either way we went on an epic 8 game unbeaten run in which almost all our attacking players managed to find the net, marred only by a narrow defeat at home to in-form Strasbourg followed by our usual defeat against PSG.
By the end of February we find ourselves up to 8th place – the killer thing about this league is that in general, when one of us has a run of good form we all do, with Monaco picking up 9 wins in 13 games and the likes of Brest and Nimes also hitting spells of form. Amine Gouiri picks up 4 goals in 9 games which isn’t a bad return – if we can keep this up, we are in with a shout of European qualification for the second year in a row (hopefully not the Europa Conference again) and potentially continuing our upward trend having finished in 7th and 6th position respectively in the last two seasons.
After that, things started to get a bit..interesting. I say interesting…WEIRD is probably a more appropriate word. After that defeat to PSG, we go on a 7 game unbeaten run which sees us climb up to 5th place in the league, before back-to-back defeats against Lille and Montpellier send us down to 8th place again.
Considering some of the quality we are competing with and that we are a squad limited due to our Homegrown rule I think we are doing well – the board on the other hand decide to take an extremely strange turn, firstly getting ticked off with something I said to the media (still actually don’t know what triggered it) and then subsequently making our status “Insecure” at the club. What the hell is going on?!
That game finishes 1-1 at home and I legit was expecting the sack there and then despite the fact that we are exceeding expectations and on course for our third consecutive Top 10 finish at Angers. The call never comes however, despite us moving to “Very Insecure” on the Job Security ladder and with 5 games remaining I find myself unsure if we will even see out the rest of the season and more importantly, how the hell am I going to blog this if we get fired?!!!
Thankfully it’s at this point that Amine Gouiri bats away all doubts about his transfer fee and manages to reassure me that I am not in fact the worst Football Manager in the world – a brace from both he and Michael Olise hand us the first of two back-to-back 4-0 wins over Lorient and Saint-Etienne, and despite our second defeat against PSG this season (that’s three seasons in a row now), we finish relatively strongly to put all rumours of a sacking to rest. Once again however, the teams around us also keep winning and even though we pick up 10 points from our final 5 games, and we are consigned to finish the season in 8th place for our efforts.
As I write this I still can’t really figure out if it was a good or a bad season. 12 draws (the most in the Top 10) are probably the clearest indicator of where we need to improve and the signing of Amine Gouiri combined with promising performances from the likes of Michael Olise, Theo and Mohamad-Ali Cho make me think and hope that this was simply an in-between season if you will (that’s what I’m telling myself anyway). We won’t have much to spend in the summer (€7.25m in prize money won’t go too far when you are €10m in the red), however I am actually pretty happy with the squad as is and with a few of our key players hitting that age where they go from early to mid-20’s it’s time for the boys to become men and push for a Top 5 finish next season. Theo is voted as our signing of the season, while Goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni is getting better and better with each campaign that passes as he picks up the fans Player of the Year award. Probably the best news of the lot however comes to us live from Paris:
As always thanks for reading – hopefully we can continue being back in the normal FM routine which usually means a new post every Monday. Time will tell!
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