The Rondudno way #1: It’s you Ron, Ron, it’s you Ron, Ron..

So we’ve reached that silly save season time again when most of us in the FM community go rogue having either completed or lost interest in our main save(s).  So not wanting to be left out, ladies and gentlemen I present to you a tasty little Ron Atkinson Welsh seaside aside save, that I have decided to call ‘ The Rondudno way’.Capvture.PNG

Our story begins in Rhos-on Sea in North Wales, and more specifically in the conservatory of Ron’s modest 8 bedroom bungalow overlooking the golf course on the quiet rural road that runs to the neighbouring seaside town of Llandudno, lying in the shadow of a majestic piece of rock called the Great Orme.

After leaving his DoF post at Kettering Town in 2007, Ron has been very firmly in the football wilderness and despite an attempt at sideways celeb-for-hire fame on Celebrity Big Brother in 2013 when he made an inappropriate reference to an Irish contestant (all true, I kid you not), it is fair to say that Ron has now accepted the reality of a peaceful retirement punctuated by the odd game of golf, a 19th hole Drambuie and the odd cream tea with the missus in the shade of Conwy Castle.

On the day we meet Ron, it is 11am on a Saturday morning and he is pottering around the bungalow in his dressing gown and slippers and doing nothing apart from generally getting under his wife’s feet.  The golf course is closed due to recent flooding (this happens a lot) and before she commits murder his wife orders him to go out and ‘find something better to do instead of getting in my bloody way’.

Feeling downtrodden but without otherwise a care in the world, Ron capitulates and decides to go into Llandudno for a coffee and to pick up a copy of the Racing Post because, in his words ‘I shouldn’t have to fucking ‘log on’ every time I want a flutter’.

On the way there, while approaching the town from the Colwyn rd (a beautiful sweeping A-road descending from a small mountain with the fields on one side and the sea on the other) he slams on the brakes as a mud-ridden football flies into his path, bouncing off the bonnet of his pristine red Jag and onto the rounded pebbles of the beach. Capture 2.PNGStartled but unable to resist the lure of picking up a ball again, he gets out of the car to see a ginger-haired young lad leap the wooden railings, retrieve the ball and turn to hoik it 60 yards back into the field towards another group of players assembled on the soaking wet field. The 18-something lad turns to the bonnet, spits on his sleeve, generally just spreads the muddy print around and leaves without a word, leaving Ron stood there aghast – he couldn’t give a shit about the car but why did the little bastard not recognise him?

“Oi!” he shouts, at which point the lad turns round.

“Yes, mate? Oh, sorry, just training like – got a game this aft.” he replies, jumping back over the fence.

“Do you not know who I am?” Declares Ron, indignantly.

The lad pauses “Hmmmm no, sorry mate, but do you know who we are?” he shouts back, pointing at his teammates as his jogs back to them.

Ron looks at the disheveled crowd of players of what can only be described as ‘mixed-age’, some of whom are wearing white striped football tops.

“No lad, why don’t you educate me?” Ron shouts back, struggling to be heard in the sea breeze.

Turning and pausing, the lad smiles for a second before replying.

“We’re Llandudno!” He cries, at which point the crowd of players start jumping around and singing a song which sounds something like “we are the Llandudno boys!”

“Oh, okay.” Ron says before getting back into the car, still upset at his apparent anonymity.

The next two hours seem to pass in an instant as Ron walks around Llandudno in a haze before calling into a newsagents, walking straight past the Racing Post on the newsstand and up to the shopkeeper.

“Hello Sir, the Racing Post again?” The shopkeeper asks.

“Not today,” Ron replies, “You know this football club, Lllandudno?” He asks.

“Well, yes sir, of course.” The shopkeeper replies.

“Can you tell me where they play and who their Chairman is?” Ron asks. 🙂

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“We’re Lllandudno mate”

And the rest, as they say, is history (or it will be when I’ve fired up the save).

Watch this space for #2 of The Rondudno Way, coming to a twitterbox near you soon 🙂

The Old Lady and Ronaldo #4: finale!

Capture.PNGWhat a season, what a run-in, what a great little save that at times had my heart threatening to jump out of my body. Yes, I am happy to tell you dear followers that we managed to do it; to leave Ronaldo’s (and Dybala’s et al) Juventus floundering in our wake as we stormed on to a magnificent league and cup double despite the relentless onslaught of the angry old lady.   Here’s how the run-in went:

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So much happened this season that it’s hard to know where to start.  With that in mind I think it’s best to start first with how we set up for the year with transfers and strategy then go on to our performance in each competition, so here goes.

That tricky 2nd year: developing and implementing a strategy

So after falling short of Juve by 28 points last year and STILL coming second it was clear that we needed to improve in the following areas.  I had a hunch that Ronaldo might be a little slower this year so their points might not be as high but still I couldn’t rely on that happening. With this in mind these were my aims with the actions in blue:

  • Improve goals against: a very poor 62 goals against in season 1 had led to us suffering 11 losses and 3 draws so it was clear this needed to change. In fact, if we were ranked on this we would have only been 11th in the league so it was so poor so something had to change quickly. ACTION = STRENGTHEN THE DEFENCE AND THE GK
  • Replace an ageing squad: together with this, we also had the problem that 5 of our top players were approaching their mid-thirties and 3 had already started to lose attrib points as well as costing us in fatigue when it came to rotation for the Champions League and Coppa Italia. ACTION = RENEW WITH YOUNG OR PRIME PLAYERS (CAN BE OLDER BUT MUST BE TOP NOTCH WITH AT LEAST TWO YEARS LEFT)
  • Develop 2 good formations: we had no variety at all last year mainly due to the players we had, so I wanted two firm formations, possibly 1 for lower sides or home and 1 for stronger sides or away (with a preference for a 5-3-2wb)

So I went into the transfer market with quite a set focus – my first priority was a solid defence and my second was overall improvement with a focus on players either young or in their prime (oh, and if you’re wondering why I didn’t focus on youth there were two simple reasons – Napoli had literally none of any quality and I didn’t intend to stick around long enough to see them develop anyway).

After a very long transfer window with some surprising twists and turns these were the results, with me having to do some serious shipping out to fund the purchases of Harry Kane and Pablo Alcacer, who in the end proved crucial to our success.Capture.PNG

Perhaps the biggest shock was who had to leave to fund this influx, with Koulibally, Diawara, Allan and Zielinski being the main A-list casualties, some of whom were sold in a panic for less than their value as the clock ticked on the deals for Kane, Alcacer and Harry Maguire (who was a like-for-like replacement for Koulibally but 18 mil cheaper and with more room to grow).  I was also extremely pleased to pick up GK Nahuel Guzman on a free despite him being a star above Fernando Muslera my main keeper with a 7.2 avg for Tigres (ironically though it was to be Muslera who kept his place for most of the year, no doubt fortified by Mr Maguire in front of him, though it did give me a good rotation option 🙂 ).  I also fortified further in January with the absolutely outstanding Marcelo, who finally gave me that 532WB option that I had so much craved.

The league

So with the first transfer objective out of the way, on we went and by the halfway point we were neck and neck with Juve on 41 pts, despite losing 2-1 to them in October from (yet again, boring FM) a Ronaldo penalty when we were dominating the game.  In fact, the only difference was that they were ahead on GD by 6 goals.  I was also very happy to see that they were nowhere near on target for their titanic haul of 103 pts last year.  So far so good I thought! We then went on an incredible run that included 14 undefeated in the league, leaving us 7pts clear at the start of March – oh yeah baby 🙂Capture.PNG

From then on it was a serious roller coaster ride as first we won then drew as Juve did the same almost on a week by week basis, leading to an absolute cracker in our second meeting, when we came back from 3 nil down after spending what felt like a week preparing, including watching ALL of their last game on comprehensive highlights:

Capture.PNGThus we took our 2pt advantage into our final game against Torino, which we went into quietly confident in our dominating 532 that had put us into this position post-January.  As you know already we won it and beat the challenge but if you want to see the video it is here:

Oh yeah baby 🙂

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Coppa Italia

Now this was a surprise, one of those times in FM when you look around and just realise you’ve made it to the final because the journey was that easy.  Not that I’m dissing it, but it says something about the comp when just two games will get you into the semi-final, which is a bit unfair I guess.  But that’s not all, for we drew .. wait for it .. Juve in the final 🙂

Yet again I went and watched their previous game only to have it all turned upside down when they changed formation completely as Ronaldo was injured (bless him 🙂 ).  Stifling a smile I pressed on with the intention of holding them until half time with my stalwart 4222 before driving home the sword with my 532WB late on if needs be and I have to say it worked perfectly, with me live tweeting the whole thing and us finally winning 2-1 to lift the trophy:Capture.PNG

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Champions League

If the story of us winning the double is about winning against all the odds, then by contrast our UCL campaign was much more sobering.  While we qualified well from the group despite two absolute batterings by Man Utd, and even beat Chelsea to take us to the quarter final, Atletico Madrid was a case of boys against men.  In two horrendous games we were well and truly put to the sword by the head, feet (and at one time, ass) of Diego Costa, who despite having two markers on him managed to score EVERY goal in a 7-4 aggregate battering, where the 4 goals completely flattered us.Capture.PNG

In fact, the disappointment I felt at the time is best summed up in the tweet I sent and it’s probably best if we leave it there 🙂

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Onwards and upwards (or maybe not)

So there you go, challenge completed.  The intention was to win the league against a Ronaldo-inspired Juve and we have done it.  If I had all the time in the world I would crack on and go for that Champions League and true domination, but unfortunately real life beckons (and I need to take the missus to Ikea).

Thanks for joining me and I look forward to seeing you again in FM19 🙂

Bye for now,

Daz

 

 

 

The Old Lady and Ronaldo #3: a cruel mistress

The Sacking of Roma

It was all going so well as we returned to the shadow of Vesuvius that evening after beating Roma 2-1 at their awesome Stadio Olimpico, with their anthem of ‘Roma Roma Roma’ still ringing in our ears.  But it was the silencing of it that we remembered most, when our giant of a centre back Kalidou Koulibaly defied gravity to mute it instantly with a monumental winning header in the 87th minute.  What an atmosphere and what a night. Here is a youtube video of the song, watch it halfway through then stop it and you’ll see what I mean, 🙂

Invincible for our first 11 games and with just 2 draws (1 each in the league and our Champions league group) we were riding high as we turned to face the Old Lady in our first duel of the save.   After the sacking of Roma could we actually achieve the dream at the first time of asking and pick Juve’s pockets at their mighty Allianz fortress? Capture 2.PNGIt would be a tough task indeed but hours of preparation meant we went into the game quietly confident.  Our main problem was tiredness, but then for Juve it was the same, with us both playing 3 games in 8 days and while they had Dybala, Ronaldo, Cancelo, Sandro et al they were only human after all, weren’t they? Well, that remained to be seen.

Il preparazione per la Juve

With (not too much) extreme caution then we set up for the game, going for a more defensive variation on our standard 4-1-2-3 wide but changed slightly to accomodate 2 DMs and a few role changes to try to cope with the Juve onslaught. Marking up was the order of the day of course and we tried to play a short passing game with a low defensive line but the same pressing style that we normally used.  The team was picked based on form and fitness and our main midfield outlet was Zielinski, who had been deliberately rested for the Roma game.  Diawara’s role as the HB was perhaps the most risky and one that I deliberated over for a while – I’ve always found the role a bit hit and miss as it encourages the CDs to push up, but with Allan alongside I felt we would be well covered and he normally performed well in recycling possession for us in that role leading to a quick counter. In terms of other team selection, Robben had become a first pick ahead of Callejon with a 7.62 avg, as had Mertens with 6 goals in 8 games.  Zlatan was being rested after Roma but was a fitting super sub if we needed a late goal and with that we were all set (PS: the keeper role is wrong – I changed it to GKdef as soon as the game started).Capture 2.PNGEarly doors, we faced the onslaught well, with Juve clearly going for an early kill.  Wave after wave of attacks came from all over the field and Paulo Dybala hit the woodwork on the 11th minute.  One good thing though was that Ronaldo was pretty much muted by Diawara in that HB role so I was pleased with that.  As we know though, simply stopping attacks is not enough and our counters were shocking, with almost all of them ending in misplaced passes for yet another Juve attack.  But then, almost inevitably it seemed, our Roma hero Koulibally gave CR7 a cheeky off the ball nudge on the tip of the box and a penalty was given.  Our gladiatorial 6’5″ talisman could only hang his head in shame as Ronny stepped up ..

Capture 2.. and did what he does, nailing the bugger right in the top corner as our keeper Kamezis was left flailing.Capture 2.PNGAnd that was how it stayed, with us weathering the storm for the next 70 minutes, barely getting out of our own half, with Ronaldo still muted by Diawara but Dybala still running the show and Alex Sandro basically taking the piss out of Robben and Hysaj on our right hand side.  Not quite a day to forget and with some positives (such as keeping it just to 1 nil) but sad all the same 😦

I gave the boys the day off on the Thursday to recover and gather their thoughts.  It was never easy to lose but with the knowledge that our head to head games were probably our only chance of gaining points over Juve the boys’ heads had gone down, with some clearly feeling that our league challenge was over already.  It was clear from this performance that Juve were not just good, but frighteningly good, with Ronaldo the final piece of a puzzle that had already claimed the title 7 years on the bounce.

Slip sliding away

An easy 2-0 home win over Chievo followed with our old boys Zlatan and Robben doing the business with two cracking solo efforts but then the cracks started to appear as our invincible start, destroyed by the Old Lady, faded to a distant memory.  While our Serie A form wasn’t by any means abysmal, with just 4 points dropped in 8 games, Champions League away losses to RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg had us placed 3rd in the group and facing an early shower unless we turned things around PDQ.Capture 2.PNG By this point though we were already adrift of Juve by 10pts and let’s face it, despite a miracle our league challenge was over 😦 .

Come the January window it was clear then that we needed to step things up.  The aim now became to finish a strong second ahead of (by the looks of it) Milan, Inter or Roma but still without a pot to piss in again budget-wise I knew we had to sell-to-buy.

I was helped in this by Arkadiusz Milik, our CF whom I had high hopes for but had struggled all season with just a 6,73 avg and 1 tap-in goal in 3 starts.  With interest from Southampton he wanted away so off he went with our best wishes so I could use the money to buy in a new keeper I had targetted, Fernando Muslera.  He had an avg 7.25 for Galatasaray over two seasons and was a star and a half ahead of my keeper Orestis Karnezis, who had clearly been a stop-gap brought in by the Napoli board IRL when Pepe Reina went off to AC Milan. We also badly needed cover for Diawara as I had a glut of creative APs but just him in the DM/HB slot.  With that in mind I sent the scouts off and they came back with another aging soul (my 3rd so far) in the form of Javier Mascherano, who was dragged from his Chinese exile with the promise of no more than a game every two weeks, a cosy, 7 bedroom villa in Sorrento overlooking Piazza Tasso and as much Bruschetta as he could eat.Capture 2.PNGBut readers, sadly it was not to be and the rot continued with my supposed GK Messiah Muslera the chief culprit with some ridiculous mistakes, including one where he ran back to the line as the ball trickled in then stopped and watched it cross the line as Raul Albiol ran back frantically and tried to kick it out (I kid you not).

January saw us lose another 2 Serie A matches and, while we qualified from our Champions League group with a final home win against Russian side Akhmat Grozny, we now sit at the start of April having been knocked out in the first knockout round by Arsenal 4-2 (despite drawing 2-2 at home).  We are also out of the Coppa Italia with a shocking defeat to Chievo and are now 16pts behind Juve (who have two games in hand 😦 ).  Oh dear, oh dear.

Going forward

The good news is that we’ve reached board expectations and will (probably) be good for 2nd place, so I guess it ain’t all too bad.  They’ve also give me a new contract, so with that in mind, we rebuild.

Initially I had a short term plan to use our elder statesmen of Zlatan and Robben to bolster our push for a quick title this year but it is clear that I need something more for maybe the few seasons left of Ronaldo’s career as that is where I will end the challenge.  In fact, he played until he was 40 in my Newton Heath save so I may well have 5 seasons left.  That said, I will also end the save if he leaves Juve so it may come sooner than that, who knows? With all this in mind, here are my actions going forward:

  1. Bring some loanee youth players back as rotation options (slim pickings but there’s at least 4)
  2. Target Gianluigi Donnarumma as a replacement for GK for Muslera (I have already unsettled him but we may have to sell someone to raise the funds)
  3. Improve our away form by hook or by crook
  4. Lessen the gap between us and Juve to under 10pts for next season.

So there we go, enjoy your Mocca Frappacino and ciao for now,

D

The Old Lady and Ronaldo #2: Three Kings and a dodgy Greek pizza

“To me, being the best means proving it in different countries and championships”  – Cristiano Ronaldo

“First I went left, he did too. Then I went right, and he did too. Then I went left again, and he went to buy a hot dog.” – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“I have no idea when I’ll be fit.” – Arjen Robben 

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Hello and if you’ve read my first blog in this series The Old Lady and Ronaldo #1: il Partenopei chiama (The Parthenope calls) then you’ll know already the scale of this challenge and if not here is a recap in one sentence – to win Serie A with Napoli ahead of a Ronaldo (and Dybala, but more of that later) inspired Juventus.

Sure, it is ambitious and as I mentioned in that first blog this Partenopei challenge is made even harder by having an aging squad, no strength beyond the first team and piss all in the transfer pot. To add to that, my key player contracts were all due for renewal, (together with the subsequent signing bonuses and wage rises) and the directors took a 28mil dividend a week after I signed. But enough of that, excuses over and let’s see how I started to deal with it.  Firstly, those contract renewals ..

Catalan taxi for Mertens?

With no money to buy in it was crucial that I tied in my key players that had took us to within 4pts of Juve last year under Maurizio Sarri.  Dries Mertens, Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon were the first priority as they had just two years left on their contracts. Despite having a combined age of 1,163 years they are top drawer and worth upwards of 30+mil each so there was no way I could let them go as the likes of Barca, Real Madrid and Man City started to shark around us. Mertens in particular (with his 20 goals and 6 assists last year) was practically on the plane to Catalonia when I met him at the airport with 5 mil in used Euros and begged him to stay and thankfully it did the job.  Another couple followed in the shape of youngsters (both 28) Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly, meaning early doors I was feeling much more settled with the squad. This of course meant our already limited funds were depleted further so with that in mind we delved into the market to see if we could get any (cheap) bites to give us the much needed rotation options that the challenge of overtaking Juve required – and that Sarri was criticised for in his last year at the Stadio San Paolo, using a core of around 15  players for most of the 17-18 campaign.  This criticism came from Napoli President Aurelio de Laurentiis while Sarri was still there, when he said that it was ‘inevitable’ that Napoli’s players would run out of steam at the end of the season ‘if we always use the same players’.

But undeterred we went into the market, predictably unable to get any young elite players with 20 Euros, a bit of string and half a packet of ‘Babol’ (Italian sweets) in our pockets. That said, I had no choice but to turn to elder statesmen again and picked up a pair of beauties in Robben and Zlatan. Both came on low fees albeit with a few mil signing bonuses to pretty much clear us out, but what buys they were and I urge any of you to do the same if you are struggling for funds as they are just outrageously good for their ages.

So, with a little bit of rotation in the bag I also went looking for a keeper as Pepe Reina had gone to AC Milan and left us with nothing more than Orestis Karnezis who was bought just before I arrived, a Greek 2* rotation keeper who, with respect to him IRL must have surely been a panic buy from the Napoli board.  Interesting to note that, as I write this on 7th August 2018 he is still Napoli’s only first team purchase in real life this summer.  However my efforts were futile and as it stands on January 20th I still don’t have a new keeper, though I have my fingers crossed that the Galatasaray keeper Fernando Muslera will be in the van at close of business in this window.  The problem is, and has been all along, that as I started with my wage budget already in overspend when I took over the reins, trying to balance fees plus a wage from such a meagre finance slider is nigh on impossible – to give you an example, this is what the 20 mil January budget has been reduced too when I slid the wage deficit down from it’s previous 2.5 mil p/w. In other words it’s going to have to be ‘sell to buy’ methinks.

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So how we doin’?

We doin’ good.  Not VERY good, but good given the scale of the challenge.  As it stands we are 10 pts behind the old Lady despite an invincible league run until our first defeat to them away in our first meeting of the save when they absolutely destroyed us across all the stats.  It was a killer because although I managed to mark Dybala and Ronny out of the game they got two bloody penalties, with Ronaldo scoring his to win one nil.Capture 2.PNG

We also bloody bottled it and failed to win on two night games when Juve had lost their afternoon games, which was so goddamn annoying.

On a more positive note, our rotation has worked perfectly in keeping us in contention AND qualifying us from our Champions league group, even though Juve were knocked out in their group (yay woohoo 🙂 ).  This was even more important because we had some serious injuries early doors to Hamsik (3 months); Mertens (2 months) and now Insigne (2 months).  This meant that the Robben/Zlatan party could get in full swing with great results and here are their stats for the first half of the season, firstly Zlatan, who is on a goal per game plus 7 assists ..

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.. and Robben, who is almost identical with one more goal but 6 assists (interestingly, while he is a beast as an IFa he is devastating as a DLF with a FBa or WBa behind him, giving me another attacking option) ..

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As for the other players, tbh they’re all a bit bland in comparison due mainly to those injuries, so still a lot of work to do on rebuilding and renewal going forward.

Plans moving forward

  1. Buy a goddamn decent keeper as I’ve lost count of the number of times our resident Greek has stood there with his finger up his arse when one-on-one (fnarr fnarr)
  2. Do a little bit of sell-to-buying to raise funds moving forward
  3. (possibly) sell Hamsik – sorry Napoli fans but he’s worth 32 mil at 32 years old with declining attribs so if an offer comes he has to go
  4. Continue to perform well in the Champions League (Arsenal next at home 🙂 )
  5. Keep plodding on and hope the Old Lady slips down the stairs come the end of the season (though it’s not going to happen really, is it?)

So there you have it, not much to report so far so keep your eyes open for the next update at the end of this first season.  Enjoy the pizza and see you soon.

D

 

The Old Lady and Ronaldo #1: il Partenopei chiama (The Parthenope calls)

“Napoli get their nickname ‘Il Partenopei’ from the siren Parthenope, who tried to enchant Odysseus from his ship to Capri. In the story, Odysseus had his men tie him to the ship’s mast so he was able to resist the song of the siren. Consequently, Parthenope, unable to live with the rejection of her love, drowned herself and her body was washed up upon the shore of Naples.” – Wiki

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For those of you who know me from my Newton Heath 1878 save, you’ll know that I goddamn love my football history, which for me is (occasionally) more important than tactics and winning trophies.  That said, this latest save diverts a little from this in that it deals with the more recent history of the long-standing rivalry between Juventus and Napoli.  Juve, ‘the old lady’ vs ‘Il Partenopei’, the very much young lady siren who was so much in despair at failing to lure Odysseus that she killed herself.

As it stands here in August 2018, for 7 years on the trot the old lady has danced at the top of Serie A, sweeping everyone before her away with a swish of her grizzled paw.  Napoli have been runners-up twice in the last three years and three times if you take it back to 2012-13, when Edison Cavani was the inspiration for their first serious title challenge since 1989-90. In that momentous year, the Golden Boy Diego Maradona powered them to the title with 16 out of their 57 goals, leading them to the highest points score in their history, just a year after a 2-leg 5-4 UEFA cup win against Stuttgart.

As a sometime fan of Napoli (we go to Sorrento for our hols) I have kept one eye on their progress over recent years and their pursuit of Juve and have watched them fall each time despite occasionally leading and looking at times like champion material.  Most recently, as many students of the game are aware, Maurizio Sarri’s high-pressing attractive football took Napoli to within 4pts (compared to 5 and 9 points on those previous two runner-up occasions).  I am no tactical expert at all but if you are interested here is an excellent Tifo explanation of it which will make much more sense than my attempts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWJkzjouJgk

So it was all looking pretty, pretty good for this year, with Napoli chasing and on the up until this batch of lovely occurrences just happened:

  1. Maurizio Sarri left to go to Chelsea
  2. Jorghino, (their crucial midfield pivot) went with him
  3. Juve bought Ronaldo
  4. .. did I say, Juve bought Ronaldo?
  5. .. oh and Juve bought R .. (you get the idea)

On top of that, several of Napoli’s key players are now over 30 (including their talismans Mertens, Hamsik, Albiol and Callejon); their ex-Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina has left on a Bosman to Milan and there is bugger all in the transfer pot because the directors have taken a heftier than usual profit share this year (allegedly).

So as you can see the scene is set for a rather difficult FM18 save that has not one but several challenges that I hope I can make a reasonable fist of.  In the true spirit of ‘il Partenopei’ therefore, my main aim is to lure Oydsseus (aka Ronaldo) and his ship (Juve) onto the rocks without the bit where I end up killing myself if I fail.  To do this I have started the save using the sortitoutsi current date and transfer patches, meaning we start on 31st May 2018 with Ronaldo at Juve and Reina gone etc. Now that is established. here are the main aims with difficulty out of 10 + notes in red):

  1. To beat Juve in a competitive game (5/10 as they’ve done it already last season)
  2. To win the league ahead of them (hmmmmm .. 11/10)
  3. To bring strength and depth to the squad to cope with all competitions and fixtures (this has been a problem for the last few years, with Sarri relying on a bulk of around 15 players for all comps. I’m going to say 8/10 difficulty as I only have a 15mil budget and all my wages are maxed out)
  4. Renew an aging squad (8/10 linked with above – this may conflict as the only decent frees are aging elite players so this may have to go down as a work in progress)

I’m going to give myself a few seasons so I hope you pop by and follow updates.  I’ve already done some transfer business with a couple of cheeky elite free or peppercorn signings so that will be my first proper post, coming soon.  Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you there.

Daz (aka @FMheathen on twitter or FMtotality on here)

PS Yes, they are fountains coming out of her nipples, it’s like, a thing in Italy (to do with nature feeding the world) 🙂

 

Heathens resurrected 18: Bye bye Bank Street (for now)

We have come a long, long way together, Heathen fans.  From a cobbled street and a filthy council croft in the shade of Clayton Gasworks to this, our stunning ‘New Bank Street’ stadium unveiled just days after our greatest triumph, lifting the FA Cup against one of our bitter rivals from down the East Lancs, Liverpool 🙂 fa cup winWhat a game and what a day, especially because I got this dreaded email as we were getting on the coach, with the board pissed at me for our 7th-place league finish despite me getting the club into both their first ever Europa and FA cup finals!Capture.PNGNow given that I had already said I would be leaving after the game anyway, you might think that wouldn’t bother me, but pride meant that whatever happened I WOULD make sure I won the bugger. I have not put over a thousand hours in for nothing, I thought. The (alternate) history of this save deserves a fitting end such as beating the scousers.  I also noticed this little news item: Capture.PNGSo there you go – the end game was all setup, with a Wembley final deciding the fate of either me or the Liverpool gaffer, Diego Simeone, the diving bastard who cost us the World Cup in 1998 after being accidentally tickled by Beckham – what could be more perfect? (Apart from it being Manchester City instead) 🙂

On the day we arrived at Wembley full of hope and grit but absolutely knackered after a massive run of games. Deciding to prioritise trophies over the league, as previously mentioned we had incredibly also managed to get into the Europa League final as well just two days before.  However, from scouting reports and watching our opponents, RB Leipzig’s last game, it was clear that it would be nigh on impossible to beat them at the final venue of Ibrox.  On the day I was right, and we went down to a very easy 2-1 loss when they barely broke a sweat yet totally dominated almost every stat, despite me preparing for hours and researching every aspect of their game.  I even went to a wider formation to counter their ridiculous goals-from-crosses rate and all they did was take it through the middle instead in a possession game that destroyed our fitness in 30 minutes (we had played our last league game 2 days before).  So onwards and upwards the Heathens went to Wembley and tried to put it behind us.

For Wembley I reverted back to starting with our narrow 4222 tactic which was a revelation in the second half of the season, when I finally realised after years that wingers were not working.  I had been lulled into a wide formation over a period when I had some nice IFs and fast Ws which was reasonably successful (we beat Spurs with it to lift the Carabao three years ago) and I had fallen into becoming one of the worst things in FM, a creature of habit, predictable and easy for the AI to unpick.  As such we were battered early doors for the first half of this season and by Christmas had no consistency and were placed 11th in the league.  Finally I realised that I had about a hundred MCs and DMs and also strikers so came up with this:Capture.PNGTo be honest, it’s not far from the default 4222 but I kept working it and adding instructions to turn it into a high-pressing, possession tactic that soon started to have great effect.  At first it was so narrow we were getting battered on the flanks, especially because I was loathe to mark up their fullbacks because it would drag those narrow 6 players into wide positions and lose our central short passing options. There was also something else I added that others on twitter (@Cleon81 and quickly pointed out shouldn’t work, and that was changing the fullbacks to inverted wingbacks.

Not reading the description properly (my bad), I was thinking very simply that it would compress play even more and overload the attackers and to be honest it did that perfectly  According to the FM description however the role needs wingers and a single DM in front of it otherwise he will basically be a regular WB.  The odd thing was that when I tried them as regular WBs or FBs it never worked half as well.  All I can think of is that that they were operating in the half space at the back perhaps more than a regular WB, maybe when my DMs were out of position and higher up the pitch, so in other words giving us cover in the DM strata.  Capture.PNGThat said, who cares?  It worked, so fuck it 🙂 and by mid-February our Franken-tactic had give us a 16-game unbeaten run from mid-December.

So into Wembley we strode confidently with this formation, knowing that, despite them thrashing us 4 nil earlier in the season (with a Martin Odegaard hat-trick) we had pegged them back to a 0-0 draw last time out.  At this point you are welcome to skip to the Youtube video I made if you like, which is here:

 

Early doors, you couldn’t get a rizla between us and marking Odegaard to death ensured his threat was negated.  We were keeping possession well and were restricting them to a ridiculous array of long shots which was almost like a ‘who can hit the corner flag’ competition.  The second half was the same, as was ET and finally it came to penalties, with both me and Simeone shitting our pants on the sideline thanking Christ we didn’t have any players called Southgate and praying our boys could save at least one of our jobs (in fact at one point I though he was going to come and put his arm round me, so united were we in our dread).Image result for simeone head bowedIn the end, after an absolute worldie from my keeper Matty Ball, the pens went to sudden death and it was left to my want-away-to-Real-Madrid RB, Fabrizio Fava, to do the business in possibly his last kick for the Heathens.  I couldn’t look as he stepped up nervously .. Capture.. to hammer it right into the top corner to send Simeone weeping to his knees and the green and gold half of Wembley into absolute rapture. Capture.PNG And that my friends was the end of this FM18 Heathen adventure, oh yeah 🙂

And there is where I am going to leave it for now as I want to do another post to tie up the whole project, which will be more in depth and befitting of the project as a whole.  So keep your eyes out for it on twitter and I hope to see you there soon.

Bye for now,

Daz

 

Edited leagues part 2: a busman’s holiday with the real Corinthians

Like pretty much everyone I have always used gaming as an escape and when it comes to FM, for many years for me it has even been an escape from the English leagues as well.  I have always been of the opinion that you play the game as you want and in the past I have liked nothing more than starting with an obscure team in a different country to see where I can take it.  This might seem odd to some of the community who prefer the Premier League or similar but each to their own and this is how I get my kicks (I also like sticking needles in my eye for a laugh and kneel on broken glass everytime I have dirty thoughts 🙂 ).

It’s not always obscure though, sometimes it is just non Premier League, such as after I had been on holiday to Italy with a Napoli save way back in the day, then went on to the Pumas in Mexico and also to the horrible experience that was Dreams FC in Hong Kong that nearly made me pack the game in (I know, I don’t know why either) among many others in different countries.  There has been the odd English save along the way, such as Morecambe in 2013 and a 13 club journeyman when I finally won the UCL with Everton, but mostly it is across the waters.

I also love edited leagues and often have one on the go as a respite for those times in my main save when it all becomes a bit of a chore and this is what this blog is about, this year’s completely daft (but very well planned) edited league save, with the Corinthian Casuals in a UK league as featured in the first part of this blog Edited leagues: your final FM18 fantasy?  It was very much a labour of love that I had been planning all through FM17 if only the right club come along ..

Ladies and gentlemen, the Corinthian Casuals

Back in October last year, in perfect timing for the release of FM18, I read this excellent BBC article entitled How the English influenced AC Milan, Juve, Corinthians, Real Madrid & Barcelona. here is a screenshot:

coritnhians.PNG

In it the author, Andrew Aloia, as per the title explained how certain English teams had seeded the growth of the game around the world and the part about Corinthian Casuals really caught my eye.  To summarise, after resisting all attempts to force them to go professional they decided to take their game global with many foreign tours to countries such as South Africa, Canada, the United States, South America, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Denmark and Germany.  It was on one of these tours to Brazil in 1910 where they inspired a group of locals to form the Corinthians, whom now of course are one of the most successful clubs in South America. They also gave birth to the word ‘soccer’ (their Captain used it as a shortening of ‘Association’ when talking to someone about why rugby was called ‘rugger’) and, so they claim, inflicted Man Utd’s biggest ever defeat of 11-3 in 1904 (though the Utd wiki is strangely silent on this 🙂 ).

So you can see why they drew my eye – they are obscure, have an incredible history and would certainly be a challenge for an FM save. But that wasn’t enough – time to get to the editing.

The ultimate league? (aka how many f***ing cups do you need?)

As I said, gaming of course is an escape, and I wanted this Corinthian Casuals save to be a respite from my Newton Heath 1878 adventure, which is honestly the best (but hardest) challenge I have had in all the years of playing the game.  That said, I needed something completely different to anything I had ever played before.  I don’t want this blog to be about the editing so won’t bore you with the 3-week long edit but basically I wanted it to look like this:

  • A wide selection of UK teams in 5 graded divisions, to give as level a starting point as possible within that division (though not always due to team rep and finances).
  • A ‘Minnows’ (non)league with teams posing either a difficult or historical challenge, either because they are amateur/low finances, fan-owned or with another interesting history.
  • A wide variety of money-earning comps, each with a different challenge (from domestic to continental, even at the Minnows level, and with varied subs etc)

All that said, this is how it came out (click to enlarge):

uk league structure

Also, to give you a quick idea on the teams included, here is a snapshot from the leagues in focus (though it shows only half the teams and just one of the tri-leagues):

leagues.PNG

So after all the screaming and shouting at the editor and about 15 ten-year holiday tests, what does the league play like and where are we now?

A Corinthian assault on the UK league

I have to say we are doing very well indeed and the database has been an absolute blast to play.  In terms of the team, it took us two years to escape from the minnows league and we have now reached the dizzy heights of League Two after 4 years.  There have been some brilliant highs on the way which have mostly come from winning prize money via the comps and we have won the Golden Goal comp outright twice.  To give you an idea of how this can affect finances here is a prize money summary for last season:

UK prize money

Now you might think this means you can waltz your way up the leagues and leather everyone by splashing the cash (I did) but unfortunately that is not the case as every other team is earning the same.  There is also the problem of your reputation and the fact that the REAL Premier League in England and every other top league in the world still exists, and given the DB is based on the template from Lichtenstein (though I upped it’s world rep a bit), attracting players is not always easy.

I will probably turn this into a proper blog post following the team as per a regular save so I will end it here, but just want to leave you with this teaser so you know the sort of interesting schedule and variety of challenges that this database gives you – as you can see, this is for last season when I used 3 up front for 6 games because fuck it, I thought, it’s not cheating if it’s a completely mental league anyway 🙂

UK schedule.PNG

So there you go – if you fancy a crack yourself the steam link is below and I hope to see you soon for the second part which will be a proper save update.  Until then ..

Steam workshop file