Patrik Maddsson is as usual the last to leave the AIK training ground as the sun sets over the Solna city skyline, a familiar sense of accomplishment after a high-octane training session, yet a sense of yearning burning in the back of his mind knowing that these players and this club are capable of so much more. “They need time” he says to himself..”they know they are good, but they don’t yet know they can be great”. Things have been going well – five wins from their first five games, their new signings fitting in well and things have clicked almost immediately to put AIK top of the table at this early stage of the season..is it really going to be this easy?
As he makes his way over to his Volvo C40 (electric of course), he passes the U19 side who are deep in a training match under the watchful eye of manager Steve Nilsson..almost immediately his eyes fall upon a strikingly large figure wearing the #9 shirt for his side, tall yet nimble, awkward yet athletic, who out of nowhere snatches a ball out of thin air by trapping it with his right foot before turning and unleashing a powerful rocket into the bottom right corner of the goal. “Holy sh*t” are the words that expel from the usually impeccably decorous mouth of the AIK Fotboll manager..”who the hell is this kid?”
Welcome back to Sweden, where we have kicked off Season 1 of this brand new FM24 save adventure having finished our last blog update with a thumping 4-1 opening win against Kalmar FF to give us a cracking start to life in Stockholm. As mentioned above – new Manager Patrik Maddsson is the man at the helm of AIK Fotboll, and though an inherent optimist with a firm belief in his own and his team’s capability, even he couldn’t have dreamed of a better start as this side went on to pick up 5 wins from their opening 5 games to put us join top of the league alongside 2015 champions IFK Norrköping who have also started with an impressive 100% record.
Nice to see some of our new boys among the scorers during our opening fixtures with goals for both Oscar Pettersson and Oscar Højlund, not to mention victories over two of our local rivals including a four-goal hammering of Djurgardens, but it was Bersant Celina who stole the early headlines with four goals in our first three games, including an early contender for goal of the season 💥.
That run meant we were in top form heading into one of the biggest and arguably most difficult games of the season – a 1200km round trip away to Malmö FF, the club with the most Swedish titles won in history (23 versus our 12).
Malmö FF vs AIK Fotboll
📍 Eleda Stadion, Malmö
📅 Saturday 29th April 2023
🗣️🎙️ “It’s 3rd against 1st today as Malmö host AIK in this historic clash, over 1,000 Gnaget fans making the 620km journey south and every one of their voices heard as they were escorted to the Eleda Stadion. AIK are without the in-form Bersant Celina who just about makes the bench following a muscle injury, which means veteran John Guidetti starts up front with Ioannis Pittas taking Celina’s place on the left of a front three. Malmö look to be at full strength with star boy Sebastian Nanasi leading the line after being linked with multiple moves abroad over the summer. Strap in folks, this is going to be a mad one…”
0′ – AIK kick us off here at the Eleda Stadion.
13′ – Yellow Card! 🟨 (Cornelius) – that didn’t take long as the home side pick up their first booking of the game.
28′ – GOAL FOR MALMÖ!! (Nanasi) The AIK fans are silenced as Sebastian Nanasi breaks the deadlock for Malmo, a cool finish past Kristian Nordveldt.
35′ – GOAL FOR AIK!! (Modesto) An almost instant reply from AIK as Modesto heads in an Otieno cross at the back post! Game on now..
42′ – Substitution for AIK as goalkeeper Kristian Nordveldt looks to have injured his arm after landing awkwardly catching a cross..on comes 6’8” Samuel Brolin, my he is a big fellow…
45′ – There will be four minutes of injury time added.
45+2′ – What are the chances? This time it’s Malmö keeper Jonas Dahlin who is down clutching his hand and can no longer continue, on comes Ismaël Diawara in his place.
45+5′ – GOAL FOR AIK!! (Højlund) – what a header from the 18-year-old who rises highest to meet a perfectly delivered Salétros corner to put AIK in the lead!! Pandemonium in the away end, 2-1 AIK!
45+5” – HALF-TIME. What a half of football and chaos. Nanasi had given Malmö an early lead, but this AIK side showed they are no pushovers and go into the half-time break with a 2-1 lead..let’s see the second half top that!!
49′ – GOAL FOR MALMÖ!! (Jorgensen) Just the start Malmö needed! Sloppy from AIK as a low cross comes in and Jorgensen is unmarked to tap in easily at the back post. 2-2!
72′ – Substitutions on both sides as Malmö bring on Lucas Orban for the goalscorer Jorgensen, while AIK make a double change with Coric and Pettersson replace Salétros and Modesto.
75′ – GOAL FOR MALMÖ!! (Moisander) WHAT A COMEBACK!! AIK are left stunned – a Malmö corner results in a scramble in the AIK box which they fail to clear and it’s Moisander who gets the last touch to put it in the back of the net to give Malmö a 3-2 lead! AIK Manager Patrik Maddsson has his head in his hands..what a finish we have here folks.
78′ – Another double substitution for AIK as Beširović and Celina replace Højlund and Guidetti.
90′ – There will be 5 minutes of additional time added.
90+4 – Yellow Card! 🟨 (Pappagiannopoulos) Frustration as the Greek defender fouls Nanasi as he looks to hold up play.
90+5 – THAT’S IT!! What a contest we have witnessed here in the Eleda Stadion, a game in which both teams looked on course for victory but only one could prevail and it was the home side who take all three points and inflict a first AIK defeat on manager Patrik Maddsson. Defeat for Norrkoping at home to Djurgårdens means that they stay level on points with AIK, while Malmö remain in 3rd but only one point behind after today’s events. How can you not love football…back to the studio.
Ignoring the double-goalkeeper injury (a bug which was addressed in the first patch update by Sports Interactive) – that was insane. I won’t lie – up to that point I was worried that things were going too well or that the game might be too easy, so it’s somewhat reassuring to see we are indeed beatable even if it was tough to take.
I really shouldn’t have worried…
After bouncing back with a huge 4-2 win over rivals IFK Norrköping during which Ioannis Pittas scored all 4 goals and later another 4-2 over Mjallby courtesy of an Oscar Højlund hattrick (from the Mezzala role but more on that later), things started to get a bit choppy as we suffered back to back defeats and overall dropped 14 points across a rollercoaster 10 game period, and this inconsistency saw us drop back to 4th in the league with a lot to be desired for if our hopes of European Qualification are to materialise here in Stockholm.
Wonderkids – they’re a thing
As promised at the end of my last post, we need to talk about wonderkids. One of the 4 pillars of this save is to up Sweden’s game in terms of wonderkid production, export and success on the international stage and to do that we will look at 4 aspects: (1) existing in-house talent, (2) recruited talent, (3) top targets and (4) our first ever Youth Intake.
(1) In-House Talent
You saw Patrik Maddsson’s reaction above to seeing Jonah Kusi-Asare on-field for the first time, and we can empathise easily as it’s generally the same reaction we all have when looking at his FM24 profile for the first time. 6’5″ (196cm) and already looking like a top top talent by his 16th birthday, it’s impossible not to compare him to AIK’s most successful ever youth product and also their most expensive departure following an €8.6m move to Dortmund in 2017.
Both are tall and athletic, quite quick with decent technical ability and solid mental attributes to go with it – not much between them although Kusi-Asare will arguably become more of a Target Forward than Isak who we could say is a more rounded or complete forward. With Jonah, we are focusing on developing his ability in the Final Third (particularly Composure and Decisions) as well as adding traits for him to play with his back to goal and favour a short passing game..I also noticed he doesn’t seem to get much game time for our U19 side yet, if that continues then we will may be forced to intervene 💪.
(2) Recruited Talent
Our first transfer window ended up mainly focusing on first-team signings, so as we reached the mid-season window we raised ~€500k through the sales of Jetmir Haliti (Elfsborg) and Axel Björnström (Silkeborg), and reinvested this in a bunch of young Swedish players whom we found to be plying their trade outside of the Swedish leagues. Lukas Bjorklund (19) arrives on loan from Sonderjysk with a €500k future fee, Bamir Sadiku (16) signs permanently from Bologna for €48.5k, Viggo Elfstrom (16) arrives from Sassuolo for €55k, FredrikNissen (18) lands from Milan on loan with a €1m release fee, Santino Samuyiwa (17) signs for €160k from Real Sociedad, and finally the most exciting prospect to arrive is Jayson Ezeb (17) on loan from Feyenoord, with no optional fee however as we took over his existing loan deal with Örebro but it felt good and that’s all that matters.
It’s unlikely that many of these will end up as first team players for us at AIK and most will go straight into our U19 squad, however if we can unearth a few gems at low cost as well as develop them in-game, we will hopefully be looking at a few prospects who can reach first-team football and/or be sold on for profit.
(3) Top Targets
As usual in my saves, I want what I can’t have and this year is no different. While there are of course some major Swedish talents that I would love to obtain (e.g. Roony Bardghji, Jens Cajuste, Jesper Karlsson, Hugo Larsson etc), realistically it’s unlikely they will ever be tempted by a move back to Sweden so we must look at a slightly lower level and/or younger profile of player whom we might have a remote chance of luring to Stockholm at some point in the near future.
The first of these has FM narrative written all over it:
John Mellberg is the son of former Aston Villa and Juventus defender Olof Mellberg, who in addition to being a Swedish legend is also a former AIK alumni having spent a season here in the 1997/1998 season! This would be a dream signing and is now our Top Transfer target – just 16 years old but already looking highly promising for our long-term Centre-Back plans, sadly he has no interest in joining as yet but let the pursuit begin – more targets to follow in my next blog post 👌.
(4) Youth Intake
Our initial intake preview didn’t give much hope, with the highest rated player earning a C rating from our Head of Youth Development. When the actual intake came around, my initial reaction didn’t change much with just one player listed as an Elite Talent (and trust me, he isn’t).
Upon further inspection (always make sure to check them all), what we actually revealed was that one of these players actually could be our first ever Newgen wonderkid of this save. 15-year-old Robin Edin Persson comes through with 13 Pace & Acceleration, 14 First Touch & Finishing, 17 Flair and most importantly, 19 DETERMINATION! This is a player we can work with and develop, right up my street and although he lacks the Composure and Off the Ball I’d normally like to see for a striker, I see an opportunity to retrain him as a Left Inside-Forward cutting in on his favoured right side, a wide player with an eye for goal and we look forward to seeing how he develops in-game in the coming seasons.
Allsvenskan or Nothing
Back to league matters as we enter the business end of the season and it was precisely around this time that I streamed some of this save for the first time over on Twitch. Immediately after going live, some crazy things happened – see for yourself 👇
After thumping Halmstads 7-1 (another hattrick for Pittas), we then smashed rivals IFK Goteborg, got hammered 5-0 by Malmo (second defeat to them this season), won 6-1 in the Swedish Cup with goals from wonderkids Taha Ayari and Jonah Kusi-Asare, followed by a massive 7-0 victory over another rival in IFK Norrkoping which saw a second hattrick of the season for Oscar Højlund. WE SCORED 33 GOALS IN SIX GAMES, WTF 😅.
Needless to say, live streaming me was quite happy with the afternoon’s events
This insane run of form brought us up to the top of the league with just 5 games remaining and put us in a two-way battle with rivals Malmo for the title. I won’t lie – many parts of me started to think about whether the game is too easy, if our Double Mezzala pivot is too strong, but looking at clubs around us from a results perspective made me realise that aside from the ridiculous goal difference, we are fairly even in terms of numbers of games drawn and lost etc.
Speaking of that Double Mezzala pivot – I can only recommend you give it a try in FM24. By this point, in addition to Pittas being the top scorer in the league on 23 goals, we also have Oscar Højlund on 16 goals from midfield (with a large variety in terms of shots, tap-ins, headers and volleys etc) – interestingly we have a €1.6m option on him after his loan deal, that may need some consideration. His partner Anton Salétros tops the Assists charts with 15 ahead of our own Oscar Pettersson in second with 9, so you can clearly see the Mezzala effect in motion in terms of goals scored and created by the pair. You can also find a bit more about Double Mezzalas over on the 5 Star Potential website in Louis Bent’s Tactical Notebook.
5 games to go to win our first Allsvenskan title at the first time of asking. With one of our main missions to play and progress in Champions League football, winning the league is a must with only place in the qualifying round allocated to the Swedish champions, so getting this in our first season would be a massive achievement towards achieving some of our long-term save goals in Sweden.
Wouldn’t you know it – we didn’t even need all 5 games….
While we were live on stream, Malmo lost their third last game against Elfsborg which meant a win for us over arch-rivals Hammarby would seal the title with two games to spare – step up John Guidetti, who after doing nothing for pretty much the whole season bagged a brace to give us a 4-2 victory and hand us our first major trophy of the FM24 cycle 🏆.
An incredible season with some even more impressive performances; our young 6’8″ keeper Samuel Brolin stepped in early for the injured Kristian Nordveldt and rarely put a foot wrong all season; Erick Otieno was lightning in the LWB position; as mentioned aboce our double mezzalas were immense all season, while either side of them our wide forward Bersant Celina and Oscar Pettersson were both providers and scorers all year, with Ioannis Pittas finishing the season on 25 league goals to take the top scorer award. Also quite pleasing was our U19s finishing 2nd in the U19 Premier Division, and with €3,000,000 in prize money for our Allsvenskan victory plus potential Champions League football to look forward to, the immediate future is bright at AIK Fotboll ☀️.
Patrik Maddsson puts the phone down, a sign of content mixed with exhaustion after what was a very positive call with CEO Robert Falck and the board of directors who are elated with the club’s title victory. “Exceeding expectations” was a phrase used on more than one occasion; “Ahead of schedule”. He thinks for a moment; “Am I the only one not surprised by this?”. Perhaps, he says to himself, not everyone feels it, that inner belief, that immovable assurance in what we are doing here. “Well if they’re not now, they f*cking soon will be”. He chuckles, that’s twice he’s sworn this season..that champagne has also done its job well. He loosens his tie and let’s his head hit the pillow, all of the season’s efforts culminating in a wave of fatigue and just as he dims the nightlight on his bedside table, a message pops through on his phone from one of the few names actually saved in his contacts; it’s from Per Nilsson, Director of Football at AIK..the correspondence is short and sweet, but significant nonetheless..
Thanks for reading – this is tremendous fun, see you soon for Season 2 🤙.
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