Track 15 – Whatever
Always seems to me,
You only see what people want you to see,
How long’s it gonna be,
Before we get on the bus and cause no fuss,
Get a grip on yourself, it don’t cost much..
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Four months and twenty-two days ago we embarked on a new homegrown save adventure here at Angers SCO. As of my last post some one hundred and thirty odd days later, we had just completed our 7th season at the helm of Les Scoistes having finished in 3rd place to clinch automatic qualification for the Champions League Group Stages – a landmark moment considering we have twice previously failed to qualify at the hands of Sporting Lisbon in the qualification playoffs.
Speaking of landmarks and knowing that after 14 blog posts it can be hard to keep up – let’s take a quick trip through the “Don’t Look Back in Angers” timeline and bring ourselves up to date before we crack into Season 8 in the West of France (click here to read from the beginning if desired 👍).
This obviously is just a fraction of the 19 days worth of game time we apparently have clocked up in this save (bear in mind I leave the game open a lot, especially when typing blogs), but overall this has been one of my best ever FM saves in terms of challenge, realism, enjoyment and absolute FM misfortune which seems to culminate each season as we continue to fall behind PSG and Lyon on Ligue 1 and ultimately battle for that “best of the rest” label. If this season is to be any different than others, we most certainly need to bulk up our squad for both league and Champions League purposes and with €33m in the bank after receiving €60m for Guendouzi and €15m in prize money – an optimistic MaddFM takes to the transfer market to see if we can find some homegrown gems of either French first or second nationality, and hopefully avoid blowing it all on some newgen dud now that we are 8 seasons into FM21.
Having lost both Guendouzi and Amadou at the end of last season, our midfield is the first place that needs investment – we generally play a 3-man midfield with those two acting as our main options for the Half-Back role, so DMC is priority number 1 this window. Just as I am taking a break from dragging a sackful of cash down the Angers training ground staircase, we decide to have a quick scan through the various Free Agents available; bearing in mind we are in the year 2027, the majority of Free Agents with whom we are familiar are usually far too old to even consider signing so my hopes were quite low as I prepared to splash the cash in this position. Boy am I glad I took the break….
A 31-year-old Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg arrives at Angers on a Free Transfer after his contract wasn’t renewed at Tottenham, and we learn he holds a French passport having been born in Copenhagen to a Danish father and French mother. He is joined by 28-year-old former PSG youth graduate Antoine Bernede who also arrives on a Free Transfer after he decided to leave Red Bull Salzburg at the end of his contract following 9 seasons at the club, 8 of which he scored above a 7.0 average rating. Both are quality Defensive Midfielders and even more interestingly, both shoot up in value to €35m and €18m respectively.
OKAY OKAY OKAY fine….
You wanted magic beans right? In one foul swoop, we more than double our previous Transfer Record (Amine Gouiri – €18m) to complete the €47m signing of Michel Morand who is a Newgen attacker from Montpellier. A HUGE decision spending all of our budget on a single player, however the reality is that I am quite happy with and attached to my squad currently and there simply aren’t any other options available that are (1) Homegrown, (2) Interested and (3) better than what we have already. Granted we only had a €33m transfer budget however with circa €50m in our overall balance along with Champions League TV revenue and earnings to come, we decide to bite the bullet paying €30m up front and the remaining €17m over three seasons. This is the type of player that can help bridge the gap with PSG and Lyon as well as compete in our Champions League group which incidentally is drawn just as Morand is signing the paperwork at Stade Raymond Kopa.
900-1 odds on winning the Champions League – granted it’s unlikely however with our current squad I feel we have the best chance we have ever had of success this season, depending on what you define success as. Overthrowing PSG was never really on the cards, and as this save has progressed it looks like breaking into the Top 2 will be equally difficult. Nevertheless, our aim this season is to finish in 2nd place and this is the squad that will hopefully help us achieve it with which we started the 2027/2028 league campaign – reverting back to our 4-3-3 Asymmetric “Angers Management” tactic for which I now feel have the players to deploy. HERE WE GO.
We get off to a good start. A very good start. A 4-0 in our opener sees debut goals for both Hojbjerg and Morand, and this theme congtines as we go unbeaten in our first five games, three of which saw us score four goals which left us in 3rd place right as we got ready for our first ever Champions League Group game against Bayer Leverkusen, a game which saw that man Hojbjerg bag the winner in a 1-0 win. The shock of Champions League football seems to slightly impact us in terms of fatigue however with back to back league defeats at home to Lorient and Monaco, and after 10 games we sat in 6th place while preparing to board a flight to Madrid for a showdown at the Bernabeu.
The game against Real Madrid was an absolute banger, arguably one of the highlights of this save and we didn’t even win. It had everything – goals, cards, injuries, late drama and even Phil Foden who looks to be playing a lot less golf than Gareth Bale ever did.
We ❤️ Europe
I don’t know what it is, but we absolutely f*cking love it out there in Europe when it comes to group games. Following our epic 3-3 draw with Madrid, we welcomed Inter to Angers with the Italians boasting the likes of Nico Barella, Renato Sanches, Achraf Hakimi, Ismael Bennacer and a 34 year old Romelu Lukaku up front. Not only did we win, we battered them to put ourselves top of the group with 3 games played. As if we might qualify from the group of death we were dealt?! Unfortunately both Inter and Leverkusen got their revenge in the return fixtures in Italy and Germany, and with 5 games played our qualification hopes hung on a thread knowing we needed to pick up points at home to already qualified Real Madrid and hope that Leverkusen could hold Inter in Milan.
More last minute drama as we equalise 3 minutes after Madrid took the lead, however it wasn’t enough with Inter comfortably defeating Leverkusen – our first ever outing in the Champions Leauge which started so promisingly unfortunately comes to an early end as we exit the competition to take our place in the Europa League knockout round. I’m not even going to write too much about it – we got Arsenal in the draw, drew 1-1 at home and lost 3-1 away, putting a swift end to our European adventures while Arsenal in fact went on to win the competition outright.
Home Soil, Club Bias and Justice for Amine
Back in the league – by Christmas we sat in 4th place, picking up some decent results and going unbeaten in December however a combination of squad gelling and fatigue from Europe meant we lost points foolishly while our ever out of reach rivals PSG and Lyon continue to dominate all around them, with Lyon stretching to a 7 point lead as we entered 2028 in France. Even though we only lost 4 games the gap is persistent and halfway through the season our chances of closing said gap are already slim to none halfway through the season.
It’s all we can do to keep up and our only option is to try and control the controllables, ensuring we do all we can not to drop points in the hope that they do. The January transfer window rocks around and we decide to take action – with Evan N’Dicka wanting to leave due to a lack of first team opportunities, we take the €10m Shanghai pay for him and reinvest it in an even better defender, echoing our earlier move for Serge Giraud as we bring in Jean-Paul Silvestri from PSG for €20m to help shore up our defence and provide competition at both Centre Half and at Right Back where we have the consistent but slowly aging Jean-Philippe Gbamin.
We definitely see an impact, both with Silvestri slotting into that Right Back position (and retraining him accordingly) as well as seeing our team cohesion start to rapidly improve culminating in a 2-1 win over PSG courtesy of a brace from our divine hero Amine Gouiri taking his tally to 19 for the season. With Europe off the cards we can focus all our attention on the league and with 4 games left to play we push ourselves up to 3rd position, 5 points behind Lyon who have since succumbed to the PSG pursuit and we are now effectively competing with Monaco for what will surely be an irrelevant 3rd place considering both 3rd and 4th now qualify for the Champions League group stages.
4 games to try and spark a miracle; he who dares wins right?
Saint Etienne (a) ❌ 0-1
Lille OSC (h) ✅ 1-0
Montpellier HSC ❌ 0-2
FC Nantes ✅ 1-0
They say “one egg is un oeuf” in France but that certainly wasn’t enough. Despite encouraging signs in terms of us starting to gradually close the gap at least with Lyon in second place, we fell at the final hurdle allowing Monaco to overtake us meaning we finish our 8th season at Angers SCO in 4th place – securing Champions League football for a second season running but still with room to improve in our quality and ability to dominate weaker teams in this league. Gouiri finishes Top Scorer in the league for the second season running with 23 goals (more on this shortly), record signing Michel Morand chipped in 4 goals and 7 assists while Mario Thimon goes from strength to strength contributing 12 goals and 7 assists.
Bearing in mind we are still always limited to signing French-only players (first or second nationality), we have done well to elevate ourselves to being a consistent Top 4 team in France and with newgen signings like Thimon, Silvestri, Giraud and Morand adding a layer of star quality to our spine of the likes of Brassier, Ait-Nouri, Hojbjerg, Theo, Koné and Mo-Ali Cho. Unfortunately we cannot compete with Lyon and PSG in terms of our own youth produce which means we have had to spend most of our budget each season on one or two players to make up the difference, however with regular Champions League football we hope to continue attracting some top talent and bridge that elusive gap between ourselves and those pesky folk in Paris and Lyon.
Before we sign off I do have a bone to pick with the French national team. We now have 8 seasons under our belt, 4 of which have seen Top 4 finishes and throughout which we have had some outstanding individual performances. Theo has continued to be the assist king in our midfield, with the highlight being Season 6 in which he assisted 20 goals in the league. Amine Gouiri has been Top Scorer for the last 2 seasons straight scoring 53 goals in 70 odd games. If that’s not enough to get a call-up what is?! Paul Bernardoni is always in the vote for Goalkeeper of the Year and his clean sheet/shot stopping numbers are up there with the best in the division, while Rayan Ait-Nouri is easily the most feared Wing-Back in France and has attracted bids from Liverpool, Man Utd, Dortmund and Inter each season. But yet – WE HAVE NEVER HAD A PLAYER CAPPED FOR FRANCE. The national side are now on their 3rd manager of this save but one thing seems to be consistent – they don’t seem to want lowly Angers players turning out for the national side, instead preferring older players or those from the more elite clubs in Europe. Paul Bernardoni remains the only Angers player called up to the France side but still hasn’t been capped and has since been dropped again; with one of our main save objectives being to have a player capped for France in a World Cup, unless something drastic happens (i.e. we take the reigns) it’s possible this goal may permanently elude us as we continue to be the perceived “misfits” of French football. Are we bothered?
Thanks for reading, support of this save all along has been much appreciated and we aren’t done yet 👌.
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Morand is a beast 😍
Love the player traits of Morand👌🏽 Great save mate and really enjoyable to read.