My long term Rapid / Austria save has become a little stale recently and so I’ve decided to take a break from it and have a play around with a new club – le Téfécé. I thought this might be a good opportunity for me to record how I go about setting up at a new club, how I analyze my squad, decide on tactics, identify signings targets, deal with training… the full shebang basically. Hopefully this will prove to be interesting reading and provide some insight into how I go about the game. What I am anticipating will be most obvious is why I play so slow and give undue publicity to my enormous FM procrastination.
This first post will detail how I go about analyzing the squad at my disposal, develop the tactics that I anticipate using throughout the season and the actions that I take right up to the first competitive game of the season. Future posts will take the form of more traditional game update posts but I will try to go into more detail that I would previously and I’ll look to update every 2-3 months so that I can include idiosyncrasies that I would usually leave out.
So I guess before I start delving into what I do when I get to the club, I should probably explain why I chose Toulouse. Well there are usually certain things that I look for in a team – potential and a challenge being the biggest two factors. Whilst these are both present at Le Stadium Municipal, there was only one real reason that I was persuaded by Toulouse and that is Daniel Braaten. As I wrote for The Dugout some time ago, I bloody love Braaten. As, given the time of year, this isn’t likely to be a long term save and I was just after a few seasons of fun that was enough for me.
Couple of other small items worth mentioning: I always select both a huge database and attribute masking. I like transfers and I love unearthing a random talent from the back end of nowhere so the huge database suits whilst I can’t remember ever having done anything other than mask unknown attributes since the option has been available – it just seems more realistic to me.
Right, the game’s set up and I’ve installed my manager at the club, selecting “automatic” reputation so that I don’t gain any undue advantage from a very high reputation nor makes things unnecessarily difficult by selecting the Sunday League option. The very first thing that I do is check the finances briefly. I don’t go into any great detail here, all I’m looking to see is whether my squad analysis is going to be based on who I need to sell or where I need to strengthen. In this case, Toulouse are a little in the red meaning the board have, understandably, given me no transfer budget and no wiggle room with the wages either. The message is clear – I need to sell before I can buy.
Quite simple really, I go through the squad from back to front including the reserves and youth squads and bring all the players I like, including prospects, into the first team squad so I can assess them during our friendlies. No-hopers are immediately dropped to the reserves or, if they are youths with no sale value, free transferred.
This is an absolutely key position for me. A poor ‘keeper can be catastrophic and completely negate any strengths you have in the rest of the team. Therefore, I was delighted to find Yohann Pelé lingering in the reserves. There’s something odd going on with Pelé as he is scheduled to retire at the end of the season despite being only 28. I had a quick Google search and there’s something on there about him suffering a pulmonary embolism and being advised not to play football again. However, he has no recorded injury in the game and I have therefore asked him to reconsider his retirement, something he has still to respond to. He’s clearly the best ‘keeper that I have although Rémy Riou and, in particular, Ali Ahamada have real potential should Pelé decide to go through with his retirement.
For now, I’m happy with my goalkeeping options. Anthony Loustallot and Marc Vidal have been transfer listed but are yet to attract any interest. Neither are on big wages or would bring in more than £500k so they won’t be the answer to our financial restraints. Once I get Pelé’s response on retirement, I’ll know how much game time I need to give Ahamada, my chosen back-up. I reckon I’ll need a good 10-15 games to figure out whether he can make the step up for next season or if I need to find a, potentially costly, replacement.
I’m very happy with the state of the defence that I’ve been given.
There are three excellent centre halves for this level in club-captain Congré, Tunisian Aymen Abdennour and back-up Fofana. There are also a couple of prospects in the youths and Mikael Firmin can step up in an emergency. I had considered using Fofana to raise some funds – he’s clearly going to be 3rd choice to Congré and Abdennour and his contract is up at the end of the season. However, I just can’t find anyone who can do a job for the money that I’d get for him. If I do find someone before the end of the window, however, there is a real chance that Fofana could be moved on before I lose him for free at the end of next season.
At full-back, I have a enough options to preclude the use of 3 at the back. Pavle Ninkov looks like he should be a more-than-useful attacking right-back whilst there were a couple of options for left back. Options were what I was looking for to allow me to raise cash and so I was faced with a choice. Cheik M’Bengué is a prospect, there’s no doubting that, but I could also use Franck Tabanou and with Aurier, Legrand and Espinoza all providing youthful possibilities for future year I decided that cashing in on M’Bengué was the most logical option. He was on relatively high wages and could bring in one of the biggest fees of anyone in the squad so knowing I had a ready-made replacement meant it was an easy decision. £7.5m and a 20% future profit clause later and M’Bengué had left for Amsterdam to join Ajax whilst I suddenly had the guts of £4m to spend and plenty of space in the wage budget.
So a back four is a must. Attacking fullbacks are a must. Abdennour is an absolute beast and has enough pace to allow us to play a high line. In terms of building my tactic, these are the sorts of things I’m taking note of as I begin to develop an initial gameplan.
We are ludicrously blessed in the engine room of the pitch. I’m sure most FMers are well aware of Capoue and Sissoko, both of whom start at Toulouse, and they are ably backed up by the likes of Machado and Didot.
The screenshot above shows just how solid we are in the middle with clear strength on the more defensive attributes of Work Rate, Teamwork, Anticipation and Stamina. Didot, injured for two months, and Machado are the most creatively adept midfielders we have, in my opinion although neither are top class. Nevertheless, I don’t plan any immediate transfer activity here. Keeping hold of Capoue and Sissoko will be key and I’d only let either of them go for some serious cash.
At this point I was thinking that the personnel at our disposal more or less demanded a three-man central midfield and my earlier assertion that we would be most suited to using attacking fullbacks demands the use of at least one DM to protect the two central defenders. We have no AMC to speak of and any intent to use a 4-2-3-1 would require some transfer activity. Should we have poor wingers then I would consider doing so and using a narrow diamond but otherwise I’d be content to use what we have and implement a deeper midfield.
Well the thing that drew me to this club in the first place was Daniel Braaten so it’s not likely that I’m going to implement a system whereby I can’t use him or don’t get the best out of him. He’s clearly not the player he was once on FM/CM but he’s still decent for this level and should make a very good winger with great pace, flair, technique and dribbling ability. Ideally, I would look to use him as an out and out winger but, remembering that I’m looking to use Ninkov as an overlapping fullback behind him, it makes sense to use him as an inside forward despite his poor finishing. Therefore I’ve immediately put him onto a personalised schedule to increase that attribute.
On the other side, I had the option of using Tabanou but I’d already decided that he’s more suited to an attacking fullback role. This left us a little light in terms of left-wingers / inside forwards. Adrien Regattin is probably the best option but his finishing is even worse than Braaten’s whilst Aguemon and Ben Yedder aren’t ready for first team football quite yet. The youth squad didn’t offer any assistance and so I either had to bring in a new inside left forward or play an assymetrical system.
Umut Bulut is the only first-team striker of note and he doesn’t get me very excited at all. He’s got very decent physical attributes but his Off The Ball, Finishing and Composure give me absolutely no confidence whatsoever.
As soon as I saw him I wanted to sell him but he’s only just joined the club and it would likely prove nigh-on impossible to shift him on. Therefore, I’m stuck with his near £20k per week wages and average ability for the moment.
My predecessor also saw fit to invest £5.25m in Emmanuel Riviere. I can only assume that this was his “Bebe moment” because Riviere, even were he not injured for 4 months, is tosh and money-laundering is the only logical explanation for such an idiotic transfer. He’s still young, to be fair to him, so perhaps he’ll improve once he’s recovered. I certainly hope so as I can’t foresee me getting anywhere close to recouping the outlay on him.
There are a couple of real prospects in the youths though with Soukouna and Dabase looking like they’ve got first team potential although I don’t expect either of them to become top class.
So I’m lumbered with two strikers that I don’t particularly want and I don’t think a great deal of. I would dearly love to bring in a new striker but it would need to be someone special that fits the system I implement perfectly as Bulut and Riviere are taking up over £40k per week between them and that’s an awful lot of money to waste on unused players.
As I was going through the squad, a general shape to the team was coming into my head. Defensively we look incredibly strong but we’re lacking in offensive areas. Playing to our strengths is paramount and so I concentrated on optimising our excellent central midfield and encouraging the use of our fullbacks as attacking entities. I don’t anticipate us scoring many goals with the personnel at my disposal so it’s vital that we don’t concede many. To do so, I’ll be looking to the curious combination of a high defensive line and a deep midfield. 3 DMC’s has proved very productive in terms of ball retention and this will be key to my outlook this season.
The over-lapping fullbacks more or less demands inside forwards out wide whilst I’m still unsure as to what I should do with my unremarkable strikers.
Getting through that midfield line, particularly when you consider the personnel involved, is going to be a mission for any team. They will also provide good cover for the advancing fullbacks and should be able to retain possession between them easily. More crucially, I am looking for them to draw the opposition midfield out of position and free up space for the inside forwards to play “between the lines”.
This is why I’ve chosen a striking role which looks to keep the defence deep. Bulut’s only real redeeming feature is his pace so any backline looking to press up will be susceptible to a run in behind.
That’s the theory anyway. Over the course of my updates, I’ll give details on how it’s being tweaked or, more likely, abandoned completely in favour of a more traditional system.
Given the analysis of the squad above, there were two key positions that I want to improve immediately:
- Left wing / inside left forward
This was the primary area that needed improved. I wanted a player who could cut in off the left flank and either join the striker in attack or provide the opportunities for that striker.
Pace, dribbling, flair and passing were my key attributes and I had a really hard time finding someone suitable. The standard of player available to me was a lot lower than I had anticipated – I’m not sure whether this is down to Toulouse being a relatively small side in the French league or my own reputation which appears to be quite poor for the moment. Most of those options who were available to me were extortionate and/or wanted enormous wages.
Therefore, I settled for a slightly poorer initial option who has decent potential and an almost guaranteed profit value: Neri Cardozo joining from Monterrey for a bargain £375k and reasonable wages.
He’s not exactly what I had in mind when I initially set out to find a left winger but he’s a decent option whilst I improve my scout network and means I’ve retained the majority of my funds for better, more suitable players.
Similar frustrations abound here. My scouting network is very small for the moment although my board will allow me 9 scouts so it should improve quickly. I’m trying to hire scouts with full knowledge of various countries even if their “Judging Player Ability” isn’t very good. By giving them a 1 year contract I should expand the club’s knowledge quickly and be able to manually scout the better players.
Part of the reason for my inability to find a striking option was that I’m still not really sure what I want from him. I have a second version of the tactic where I withdraw the striker to an AMC role and I may eventually settle for a striker-less formation. Even if I do stick with a lone striker, I just don’t know what I want him to be – a quick player looking for the ball in behind, a big lad looking to get on the end of the large number of crosses we produce?
Whilst I work all these things out, I’ve decided to keep my cash. Expect moves in January, however.
I tend to do the same thing all the time with friendlies. I start off with a couple of friendlies against slightly poorer opposition. This lets me identify my best team and change the immediate stupidities in any tactic. I’ll then arrange one friendly against a bigger side, two or three against similar sides and a final home friendly against some complete no-hopers. This allows me to bed in the new tactic and test it against a good cross-section of teams with the last friendly being there purely to boost morale ahead of the season.
Reasonably happy with that, particularly the defensive performances which have been excellent. Goal-scoring is definitely a problem though and you’ll notice that Bulut didn’t even score against the Sunday League team.
I think I’ve bored you enough already and this is getting to be a ridiculously long post so I’ll try to be brief with the rest:
- Training – I’ve implemented my usual training schedules. I won’t go into my own theories on training as that would require it’s own article but I will say that I don’t tend to use the personalised focus tool right from the start. Braaten is an exception because his finishing attribute is just so bad but I tend to use it after a few games when it becomes clear whether a player is being hampered by the low attribute.
- Staff – the playing staff comes first for me and I tend to be pretty lax on getting the coaches sort out.
- Set pieces – I don’t use “corner exploits” or anything like that but I do think that set pieces will be important for us this season. Whilst I’m testing a tactic, I just leave the set piece instructions as default and then change it up once the formation is settled otherwise I get mixed up with who I want to stay back, etc
- Expectations – the board want mid-table which seems reasonable and quarter finals in both cups which seems a little more difficult.
- Self-imposed rules – I’m not going to sign any of the usual “popular” buys like Fierro, Sanogo, etc. I’ll also be favouring domestic players but not so heavily as in my C&C games. Lastly, I’ll be looking to make a transfer profit in every single season.
Right, that’s it for me. 3000 words is a stupid amount to type on an introductory post really. Be typical if I got bored of this inside a week or two now 😀