DYNAMO! #1: In defence of overdue honour

Image result for dynamo football bookWell hello again and welcome to my new blog for my FM19 beta save, simply called ‘DYNAMO!’ as it is with Dynamo Kyiv, the once formidable Ukranian powerhouse who have been in a constant battle with the mighty Shaktar Donetsk for almost 30 years for league domination.  But why Dynamo?

In short, the first thought of doing a save with them came to me a long time ago when I’d only just got back into FM after a long lay-off in 2013-14, when I read the book ‘Dynamo: defending the honour of Kiev’ by Andy Dougan.  The book is absolutely excellent and describes the story of how a cobbled-together team of malnourished and mistreated former players faced a team of incredibly fit and healthy evil Nazi bastards several times in exhibition matches only for the Nazis to be royally handed their arses on a plate.  I won’t give away any spoilers about the end but it’s enough to say that it is an incredible story of endurance and defiance that will leave you similarly inspired I’m sure.  If you would like to buy the book you can find it here on amazon.

So, that said, it’s been in the offing for a while and I was just waiting for the right opportunity which I think is now for the FM19 beta.  Aside of the history, here are the FM reasons why it should make a good short save:

  1. THEY ARE OVERDUE TO WIN THE LEAGUE AGAIN: They haven’t won the league for 2 years, and only 3 times in the last 10
  2. OVERCOMING SHAKTAR: there is literally only Dynamo and Shaktar who have shared league wins since 1992-93! In that time, Dynamo have won 15 and Shaktar have won 11.  However, this doesn’t tell the full story as 9 of Dynamo’s wins came on the run between 92 and 01
  3. EMULATING VALERIY LOBANOVSKYI: Dynamo’s greatest ever manager, Lobanovskyi’s high pressing style was responsible for 12 league titles, 8 domestic cups, 2 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, 1 UEFA Supercup (thanks Wiki) during several tenures from 1974 to 2001 (by the way, my good twitter friend @FM53bast1an wrote an outstanding blog for FM18 for his Dynamo save, which sought to emulate Lobanovskyi down to the smallest detail.  It is in German on here but run it through google translate if you want an absolutely cracking read.
  4. A SHORTER SAVE SUITED TO A BETA: No messing about here with LLM 1.5k transfer budget shenanigans so at least I should have a fair chance 🙂
  5. A TARNISHED REPUTATION: sadly, in recent years some of the ‘fans’ of Dynamo have been horrifically racist, resulting in the abuse and attack of away fans and club punishments as a result.  Some of them also brandished swastikas ffs despite the history of the club!!! I obviously can’t change that here but it’s enough to say that FM is about football first and foremost so it won’t do any harm to just concentrate on that in this save and ignore them from now on.

That said, with only two weeks to my main Newton Heath Global Domination save and without time to either emulate Lobanovskyi properly or win everything in sight. the aim is very simple, to win the league!

First look at the team

I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised as the team looks ok to go right from the outset with a strong midfield and maybe just a few additions required for Def and Att (we only have 1 natural ST in Artem Besedin atm).  Sure, they’re not all 4 star (only 7 in there) but as always the stars don’t tell all the story and the range of positions and spread of attribs is very encouraging indeed, with many players in the 11-16 range almost across the board and almost every one of them being able to play in at least 3-4 positions as natural.  They’re also a young squad with plenty of retrain possibilities just perfect for the new FM19 training and mentoring system.  Of course this also means we lack leadership, so this is something I need to address in the market, maybe with an elder statesman CB if I can find one.

Here is a quick snapshot, including my own acronym system which I always use for the first couple of games to let me know my starting XI (if you are interested in the system, I blogged about it in FM18 and you can find it here) I get rid of it about a month in but I have always found it very useful indeed:squad start view

.. and here is a sample of what I mean by the versatility of the players, with my midfielder Denys Garmash:

denys

 

We also have some good depth in the U21s and in our loaned out players, some of whom are annoyingly good but have only just been loaned out, meaning I can’t bring them back within this window 😦

I also enjoyed bringing back my mindmapping planning method which I used throughout the Heathens’ FM18 save, with an added squad review this time as follows:

mindmap

With all this in mind, here is a quick summary of my squad review based on all this:

  • Strong midfield spine, with a LOT of attacking midfielders
  • Suited to narrow style as a lot of IFs and IWs on the wings
  • All right and leftbacks are natural WBs
  • Overall a decent team but recruitment needed for leadership, preferably in defence and attack
  • Need to use retrains to maximise benefits of a large squad of young players
  • Small budget of 7mil and a maxed-out wage budget means not a lot to play with

Tactical shenanigans

In terms of tactics, I have tried to draw inspiration from Lobanovskyi’s high pressing style and conveniently FM19’s brilliant new tactical style choices include the perfect match with a ‘control possession’ style that will be a cracking starting point with the roles and instructions to be tweaked later on.  That said, these are the two shapes that I would like to try – firstly, the  4231 wide, which I used in a friendly against Everton to reasonable effect, drawing 1 all and dominating possession and passing (roles are straight of the FM box):4231 wide

Here are the pros and cons of this IMO:

PROS

  • Plays to our midfield strengths
  • WBs could be very exciting

CONS

  • WBs could leave us VERY exposed, maybe changed to FBs even though we are more natural as WBs
  • I don’t like 2 BPDs – will have to change, maybe with that new super-leader CB 🙂

That said, I’m thinking that this would be a better variant, which allows the WBs to move up on overlap into the space vacated by the left IF and right IW (both natural roles for my best players on those sides), with the MCs dropped to the DM strata to give us cover.  It does leave a hole in the centre of course but this should be covered by the DLPsup and the IWsup.  As you can see, I’ve added the overlap instruction and (brilliantly, this year, thanks SI) I can always make this one-sided if needs be:

4231 assymetricAs well as this I have also used the new defensive shape sliders to compress the centre and close that gap when out of possession, as follows:out of possession

Of course with only one game under my belt it remains to be seen if my frankentactic will work but we shall see.

Another formation that the squad is VERY WELL suited to is the 5221 WB, due to me having loads of WBs and AMCs, but with a lack of depth in defence I’m not sure I’ll go there yet unless we transfer in.

5221 wb

Summary

So that, so far is where we are up to.  To sum it up I think I have a good core squad with loads of potential, suited to a strong high pressing tactic with (possibly) a narrow style.  We lack leadership and depth in defence and attack and I probably need to recruit with that in mind.

Thanks for reading so far and I hope you join me for the next instalment.

See you then,

Daz (aka @FMheathen)

 

 

Heathens global #3: STOP PRESS 17/3/18

NEWTON HEATH 1878 FACE RELEGATION


18 PT DEDUCTION CAUSED BY ‘CHANCER’ SIMEONE BRINGS GLOBAL HEATHENS CRASHING DOWN TO EARTH

Simon Curtis, Wembley, 6:15pm, 17th March 2018

Newton Heath 1878 were dramatically deducted 18 points at an FA disciplinary hearing today, meaning almost certain relegation to the Championship for fielding two ineligible players in the league fixture against Liverpool on the 8th of March, which the team lost 3-1.  In addition, the club have also had a one-year transfer embargo imposed, restricting them to only loan signings until the summer 2019 transfer window, pending appeal.

The FA disciplinary panel took just 32 minutes to reach the majority decision after hearing evidence from the club’s chairman, Ian Stafford, and their former manager Diego Simeone, who was sacked by the club just two days ago amid allegations of deliberately trying to cheat the player work permit system.

Former Atletico Madrid manager Simeone is said to have known that the two substitutes he played, Gabriel Bratu and Christian Madu, were in fact ineligible due to work permit delays but still played them regardless in an attempt to overcome both Liverpool and local rivals Manchester City, who were jointly just one point ahead of Newton Heath 1878 on the morning of the game.

league-table-march-18

While both the club and Simeone have so far refused to comment on the disciplinary outcome, it is believed that a sensational video recording that surfaced on social media two days ago sealed his fate with the club, who parted ways with him within hours of its release.  Recorded secretly by an anonymous fan who had challenged him on the matter outside the club’s New Bank Street football complex, Simeone is clearly heard to say “I knew and I didn’t care – all I wanted to do was to beat those two b******s, isn’t that what you wanted as well?  It was a chance worth taking”.

Within moments of the video being released and going viral, memes started to surface across social networks depicting Simeone as a ‘chancer’ who had gambled with the future of a growing global football brand with complete abandon.

Heathens’ fans from around the world reacted with mixed emotions, with some calling for his head and others saying that Simeone had showed a much needed passion that had been missing from the Heathens since their meteoric rise from League two just twelve years ago under the stewardship of much-loved club legend FMheathen.

In an FM18 save that took the club from the fourth tier of English football to a dramatic FA Cup final penalty shootout win against bitter rivals Liverpool, FMheathen capitalised on the club’s global links by developing players from ‘Heathens Global’ affiliate clubs such as former NH Virtus Entella players Zakaria Badaoui and Fabrizio Fava, who both scored penalties in that winning final.  However, in the eight years since the club have been in the Premier League this remains their only trophy and it is fair to say that while they successfully consolidated their position their performances were consistently underwhelming until FMheathen’s resignation in May of last year, echoing the famous sentiments of club legend Billy Meredith from his own resignation in 1938 with the simple words “my game is over”.  Ironically though it now seems that those words were premature as it is is believed he is once again about to take the reigns of the club for #FM19 as at least a caretaker manager until the board find a replacement.

league-positions8

Newton Heath 1878, who were renamed from plain Newton Heath in 1978 in honour of the club’s centenary, were the first English club to develop a global football franchise model in 1976 with their affiliation to Penarol Paganos in Uruguay.  Since then, they have developed a franchise network of over 30 clubs of varying degrees of involvement, which all bear the ‘Heathens Global’ trademark.

Diego Simeone’s own personal disciplinary hearing will begin tomorrow, after which he is expected to return to Spain to resume managership of his former club Atletico Madrid, who have made it clear that this matter will not effect the respect they hold for him based on his former successful management of the club.

In tomorrow’s edition: SPECIAL FEATURE: NEWTON HEATH 1878’S PLAN FOR GLOBAL DOMINATION – A STEP TOO FAR?

Heathens global #2: The plans begin ..

fan.jpgSCENE:

Meeting room of Newton Heath FC board, Bank Street, Clayton, 12th July 1976, 2:40 pm.

It is a baking hot day in the middle of a heatwave. A small table fan sits at one end of a wide teak table littered with pages of fluttering documents.  Despite two open sash windows its weak efforts to ventilate the room fail miserably but merely circulate a growing cloud of cigarette smoke gathered around the heads of those assembled, as follows:

Will Stafford: Chairman and grandson of Sir Harry Stafford, founder of Newton Heath

Tom Meredith: club secretary and grandson of club legend Billy Meredith

Alfred Winstanley: finance officer

Liam Curtis: marketing director

Jack Birchall: honorary director, youngest ever scorer and club legend (also @FMheathen’s dad 🙂 )

Gabriel Vázquez: President, Club Atlético Peñarol, Uruguay

Sally Bailey: Office secretary

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LIAM CURTIS:  So that, gentleman, is the proposal.  What are your thoughts?

(a long pause from all assembled, eventually WILL STAFFORD picks up a document from an open manilla folder)

WILL STAFFORD: It would be very good for the club.  But I’m not sure it would work – we’ve only just lost the contract to build the new stadium and I’m not sure the timing is right.

(NOTE: in the original Heathens FM18 narrative, Newton Heath were blocked in July 1976 from building a new stadium on a development site called ‘Old Trafford’ by Manchester City Council, secretly undermined by wealthy Manchester City FC board members.  The reason they needed a new stadium was due to a stand that collapsed at the end of the previous season, which meant their old stadium, the original Bank Street, was temporarily deemed unfit for use by the council and the football league)

LIAM CURTIS: But that is exactly why we should do it now.  We will never have the chance to expand like this.

TOM MEREDITH: Expand? What’s the point?  We should concentrate on consolidating what we have.  After the whole mess with the stand collapsing we have other priorities.

JACK BIRCHALL: Mess, you say? It was far more than that, people could have been killed.  I agree, THAT’S the first priority, safety.

LIAM CURTIS: And that, gentleman, is something I totally agree with as you know, but it is also something that we can now put behind us with the new stand having been passed for safe use by both the council and the league.  Our reputation around the world is growing by the day and we need to take advantage before other clubs do the same.  Since our world tours of the 1920s there has been a seed that has been growing and it is ripe for the harvest.  The time is now!

JACK BIRCHALL: Nonsense! Our place is here, in Manchester, not galivanting around Mexico or wherever the fancy takes us. We’re not in the holiday business.

LIAM CURTIS: It’s Uruguay and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with a ‘holiday business’, it’s a serious proposal that could be the start of a massive worldwide expansion.  This could benefit the club for years to come.

JACK BIRCHALL: Worldwide expansion? We are English, born and bred, and that’s where we should stay! God knows it’s bad enough trying to stay in the league as it is.  How can we ‘expand’ as you put it when we have been up and down like a yoyo for the past 10 years?  It’s about the here and now, man, not the there and then, wearing bloody sombreros!

WILL STAFFORD: Gentlemen, please, I am aware that this has been a difficult year for all of us but please let’s stay respectful.  Personally I am still on the fence so may I suggest a brief summary from you, Alfred?  As finance officer I believe we haven’t heard enough from you so far.

ALFRED WINSTANLEY (putting on glasses and picking up a paper from a file): Thank you, Will.  As I said earlier, the costs of such an expansion would be negligible at this stage, with the largest portion being the transport of any personnel between two clubs with such a distance between them and the lesser portion being the rebranding of the affiliate club.   In that respect it would have been much easier if we had chosen an English or European club, though that said, it is accepted I think by us all that the popularity of the club in South America and in particular Uruguay as a result of the 1923 tour provides us with a very good expansion opportunity.  There is an added incentive in that Penarol are a small club which means it would be a relatively safe starting point.

WILL STAFFORD: So, can we afford it or not?  And more importantly, do you think it’s a good idea?

ALFRED WINSTANLEY: Well, as I say the costs are negligible at this stage so yes, but as to whether it’s a good idea or not, are you asking me as your finance officer or as a board member?

WILL STAFFORD: As a board member and a friend.

ALFRED WINSTANLEY (pausing): Then no, I agree that while we can afford it, now is not the right time.

WILL STAFFORD: Ok, gentlemen, it’s been a long day so I propose we are ready for the vote but perhaps we should have a private chat first given the importance of the matter.  Sally, give us some privacy please then bring in Mr Vázquez.  Shall we say 3pm gentlemen? (all nod in agreement). 

SALLY BAILEY: Yes, Mr Stafford (exiting).

(3pm: enter Sally with Gabriel Vasquez)

WILL STAFFORD (standing): Señor Vázquez. Please take a seat.

GABRIEL VASQUEZ (sitting):  Thank you, Mr Stafford.

WILL STAFFORD:  Sorry to keep you waiting but as I am sure you understand this would be a very big step for us to take.  An affiliation of this kind would be unprecedented in the world of modern football and there was a lot to discuss.

GABRIEL VASQUEZ: I understand, and as president of Club Atlético Peñarol I thank you for your time.  It has been difficult for us recently and an alliance with a fellow railway club like Newton Heath would be very good for us indeed.  Without it, I don’t think we will survive as a club beyond this season.

WILL STAFFORD:  Then in that case let’s not waste any more of your time.  It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the Newton Heath board will be accepting the motion to form a senior affiliation with Penarol, adopting the name Penarol Paganos as per your suggestion.  Welcome to the Newton Heath family, Señor Vázquez.

(all rise and shake hands).

Sally. will you bring the drinks trolley in please?  I think this calls for a toast.

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Heathens Global #1: Rationale and setup

fake letter bannerSo here it is dear followers, the announcement of my football manager 2019 save where the Heathens begin their first tentative steps towards global domination, with a network of affiliated clubs around the world as per some of the modern football franchise models such as those created by Red Bull and Manchester City.

This of course builds upon the success of my FM18 save, which resulted not in the much-hoped for FM Holy Grail of a Champions League win but the extremely satisfying FA Cup win over our greatest rivals Liverpool after a sometimes tortuous but very enjoyable climb from League Two; made even sweeter as both me and the Liverpool manager Diego Simeone entered the final facing the sack race with him losing his job the day after 🙂  If you’ve not seen the video of that final game you can find it here:

But onwards and upwards to this new save, which as I say is to set up a franchise network of clubs around the globe under the Heathen brand with these aims:

  • To give me a range of different clubs and challenges for FM19
  • To use this franchise model to facilitate club and youth development
  • To create a narrative with more stories, more drama, more fun 🙂

As this is a big project I have divided the creation of these clubs into three categories, based on whether we have full ownership, just shares or a regular affiliation:

  • NEWLY CREATED TEAMS OR COMPLETE TAKEOVERS (name suffixed with ‘HEATHENS’ e.g. ‘HOBART HEATHENS‘): complete takeovers under the Heathen banner and name as if the club has been bought out or founded
  • PARTNERSHIPS (name prefixed with ‘NH’ e.g. ‘NH PUMAS‘): shared ownership, retaining their own history but merging it with Newton Heath (think graphics, slight name changes etc)
  • STANDARD AFFILIATES (No renaming): as per usual FM affiliate arrangements

The teams will then be chosen in this order of priority:

  1. Teams with a link to the railway industry as per Newton Heath
  2. Teams with a link to the real Manchester United’s history
  3. Teams local to the main team in that area

In fact, I have already chosen a few clubs which you can see here:

heathens-global-world-map

As you can see, they’re quite varied in location and quality so I think this shows well the worldwide scale of the project and also the realistic feeder links I am going for (ie Lokomotives Leipzig/Moscow and HK Heathens/Hobart Heathens).  This of course will be greatly expanded to cover the globe with an estimated 20-30 teams, all of which will be playable should I so choose (though I will probably play just 4 or 5).

How this fits in with the current Newton Heath story (and new adjustments required)

If you followed the story last year, we began in a world with an alternate history, where Newton Heath were not bailed out by John Henry Davies in 1902 to become Manchester United, but in fact, struggled on, yo-yoing through the divisions until 2017 when they were sitting firmly in League Two.  This was inspired by both my love of United and my old dad Jack who was a train driver at the same depot and who sadly passed away in April of this year (God bless you Dad x).  If you are interested in reading about that Heathens journey, you can find all the blogs here on this site under the ‘Heathens resurrected‘ title.

After rising through the divisions with three successive promotions I managed to take the club to the Premier League, ending the save with that FA Cup win.  However, that was in 2030, so I need to revise the Newton Heath alternate history so that it is believable that they are in a position to have already rolled out an extensive franchise model, both in terms of reputation and finances, as of the start of season 2018-19.  The risk, I guess, is just recreating the current Manchester United, so I will try to build a different profile to avoid this.

The result of this will (hopefully) be that they will be a mid-table Premier League side with reasonable finances but a worldwide reputation among the football-watching public as an historic club.  This should give me a shorter challenge than an LLM save involving a long promotion run given I will have a lot more teams globally that I can step in and out of to manage.

The Next Steps

Having already spent days on the project just in this planning phase I need to simplify it from now on, so here are the next things I need to do with that firmly in mind:

  • Finalise the teams list, using EXISTING FM leagues where possible (it will be much easier than adding new playable leagues come editing time)
  • Create graphics for every new or bought out team (the partnership and regular affiliates will mostly stay the same, apart from maybe some logo work)
  • KISS for Keep It Simple Stupid, because if you know me, you’ll understand that that’s one thing I’m not very good at 🙂

Oh, and PS, there’s an added bonus in the save in that my pal Tom, who many of you know as @FMpoacher from twitter will also have a completely unconnected team in the same database matched to his own FM19 project called the Derby Midland Revival, which you can view on his blog here. It is also a railway team so it fits well in this universe and should be goddamn cool to follow.

Until next time, wish me luck and watch this space!

Daz

(aka @FMheathen)

 

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. 🙂

Capvture.PNG
“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:

Capture.PNG

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