After a brief delay as I took my turn at a now defunct succession game, I’m back with a vengeance at Le Stadium Municipal. A stadium, incidentally, which is due to complete its expansion in July 2014. If I manage to get that far before FM13 comes out then it’ll be a welcome boost to the finances.
I’ll start by saying that it’s been a fairly difficult summer. I had a lot of conflicting ideas for what I wanted to do with the squad, most of which were stupid. I had too much time to think about it whilst I played the other game and lost some of the momentum thanks to the delay. Re-reading my posts helped though and I think I’m fairly happy with the business that we’ve conducted.
My squad management, which this post is likely to focus on, deals with two aspects of the club: the first team and the youth system. The latter is quite a hefty subject so I’ll deal with that later and this post will largely focus on the transfers that have involved players likely to be playing first team games this season with the necessary asides on the tactics and attributes I’m looking for. I’ll also post some targets for each of the players so that I can judge whether they’ve been doing the job I wanted from them by the end of the campaign.
So I guess a sensible place to start when considering the close season transfers is the club’s finances and how much money the board decided to give to me in order to strengthen our playing pool. You may remember that I set out in my first post that I would look to make a transfer profit every season. Whilst I still intend on doing so, I decided to give myself some leeway this season. We made over £14m in profits last season and I don’t think it unreasonable to roll some of that profit over into this year’s budget.
The board gave me a fairly decent budget of just over £6m and a very small increase in the wage budget. Whilst this isn’t a bad budget, it’s hardly Champions League level funds and I was going to have to do some serious prioritising of transfers to ensure I didn’t waste money and leave myself short elsewhere.
Before I did that, however, I wanted to offload some deadwood and so 10 players left the club rather than have their contracts renewed. Most noteworthy amongst these was unfortunate ‘keeper Pelé who retired from football taking his £33k per week wages with him; and Pantxi Siriex who was also on decent money. And although I couldn’t arrange a permanent deal for the predictably disappointing Riviere, I did manage to bring in £1m for loaning him to Valenciennes who will also pay half his wages.
The biggest sale of the summer, though, was that of Paulo Machado. He was a decent servant to the club for the 3 years that he was here but I only used him intermittently last season and primarily from the bench. He suffered from playing in a position where we’re strong. Capoue – Didot – Sissoko had established itself as the first choice midfield line and I’ve made a couple more moves in this area over the summer so he was surplus to requirements. Not only that but he was the only player I am willing to sell who could command a decent fee.
Thus far that has been the sum total of my outgoings but there is still some scope for further movement, more likely in the loan market if I can get some youngsters some first team action.
Coming in the other direction, though, are a number of players. The first of which was the pre-arranged deal for Frenchman Morgan Schniederlin from Southampton. £1m represents a good price for a promising player that more or less exactly fits the description of what I was looking for.
The priority, therefore, was a striker. Umut Bulut had ended up doing well last season as he finished the campaign with 17 goals but I think that we could do better. I am keen on continuing to use the deep 4-3-3 that I developed last season and as such I was looking for a specific type of player to fit the targetman role. My search was looking for a tall, strong player with reasonable pace but high attributes in the following: finishing, teamwork, work rate, heading, jumping, off the ball and anticipation with passing and creativity an added bonus. I’d identified Denis Stracqualursi as that player towards the end of last season and I couldn’t find a better option through all my scouting.
£4.6m was perhaps more than I was willing to pay for him but his wages were cheap and he fit the bill perfectly. If he works out then I should be able to sell Bulut for £2.5m and if he doesn’t then I should be able to recoup the same price selling him and keeping the Turk. Therefore I saw it as a £2m gamble and one I was willing to take to make this save a little different.
HOWEVER, I have some concerns from the friendlies. I’m hoping it’s just “settling in” but he didn’t seem as mobile as I would have anticipated during the 3 friendly games he played and he failed to score in any of them, albeit against decent opposition. My concern is that his low dribbling and flair attributes are going to stifle my attacks as lumbers around not producing much. His passing was good but he didn’t take many shots and failed to complete a dribble in any of the 3 games. Something to keep an eye on certainly.
With a large part of my budget spent on the new striker, I decided to limit myself in my other moves and have yet to spend any further money on permanent transfers for the first team. Instead, I’ve signed another youth prospect for free, a back-up ‘keeper on a free on and made 4 loan moves.
I love the loan market. I’m a naturally cautious manager when it comes to transfers and I regularly abuse the loan market to “try before I buy”. I find it especially useful in securing a couple of experienced players that I don’t want to sign on 2-3 year contracts but also don’t want to waste money on by signing for a single season and allowing to leave on a free. Instead, I’ll take a small hit on a loan fee and be able to hand the player back risk-free at the end of the season.
The first, and most expensive, of the loan deals was that which brought Yannick Djaló to Toulouse. The Portuguese winger has actually moved to the club in real life, so I thought it a nice touch to mirror that in my game. Besides, he’s very useful. Cardozo and Lazovic will start as first choice on the wings but our depth in these areas is rather lacking. With a £2.2m fee agreed if he impresses, Djaló will provide an option on either wing and is a slightly different player to the former pair. Where Cardozo and Lazovic have more passing ability to feed the striker, Djaló is all about raw pace, dribbling and flair. Always nice to have options and just £4.3k a week wages are a steal.
The second important loan deal was that for Andrea Bertolacci from Roma, although this one comes completely free of charge. Whilst Didot will start the season first choice central DM, he is starting to get on a bit at 29. I don’t have a particularly obvious successor and I’m looking to find a long-term option. I like the look of Bertolacci but Roma wanted £6m for him which I wasn’t willing to risk even if I could afford him. Instead, I inserted this as a future fee as a successful season will make that price more attractive. He also doesn’t have the “tries long-range passes” PPM which I feel limits Didot’s efficacy and will allow me to judge whether or not this is something to consider even if the Italian proves in adequate.
My other two loan deals aren’t that exciting – Patrick van Aanholt joins from Chelsea to provide specialised back-up to Tabanou at left-back whilst Samuel Umtiti replaces Wily Bóly as the “young French centre half with £2m future fee on loan at my club to see if I want to sign him” player. Seriously, every club needs one.
All of which leaves my summer transfer business thus:
So whilst I didn’t make a transfer profit through direct sales, I did sell a couple of transfer clauses on old transfers and have, in fact, made a £120k profit on player moves thus far.
I say thus far because, as is my usual modus operandi, I’ve held funds back in case my early games identify an obvious gap in the squad or I need something new injected into the team in January. I say “held funds back”, it’s actually an increase on my starting budget with £6.5m waiting to find the right target. One of the most pleasing items for me is this though:
My current total salary is actually LOWER than that which I started with and there is another £14kpw in wages waiting to be moved on in transfer listed players. The spread of wages is better balanced too although I still feel like we’re spending too much on the “rotation” players. Lastly, I have a whopping £100kpw to play with which can be used to attract any star players I find or ploughed into the transfer budget if necessary.
All of which leaves my first choice XI lining up like this in my first choice starting tactic. The more attentive amongst you may notice that this is no different to my starting line-up at the end of last year. Whilst I am tempted to start with The Stracq up front, Bulut is on a huge high just now following his form in the friendlies and I’m going to try to ease the Argentine in as his replacement.
The other positions which are at risk are the possible replacement of Didot with Bertolacci and Capoue with Schniederlin who has really been impressing in pre-season. Talking of which, you can see the results below. My usual spread of games, I’m pretty happy with that.
The only game we conceded in was that in New York where the reserves were used and we put in a really good performance against Arsenal, outpassing them and restricting them to just 4 shots on goal with 1 on target.
So I guess the last thing to cover is expectations – the board’s, the media’s and my own.
Well the media predict that we will finish 5th which is a slight improvement on the 8th of last season and indicative that we’re still a relatively small club – way behind the likes of Lyon, Marseille and PSG with Lille being the last side predicted to out-perform us. The board will be happy with Europa League qualification, a group stage appearance in the Champions League and quarter finals of both domestic cups. I think the second of those will be the hardest as we’re likely to face a very good team in the “Best Placed Playoff”.
Myself? I want top three again. We’ll need to qualify for the Champions League again next season to keep the finances coming in and hold onto players such as Abdennour and Sissoko.
I also have my own expectations for the team and players as follows:
- First of all, I want 65 goals in the league. We scored 56 last season and I think we have greater depth this year to provide the goals. Personally, I’ve set targets for the players as follows: Stracqualursi – 18, Bulut – 10, Cardozo – 8, Lazovic – 8, Djaló – 4, Sissoko – 4, Capoue – 4, Abdennour – 4, Congré – 4, all others – 5. We’re strong from set pieces and I think each of those are achievable.
- Secondly, I’d like to concede less than 20 in the league. We conceded 26 last season and had the joint best defensive record in the league. The biggest problem was brain-fart games against some of the better sides, i.e. 3 conceded in single games against PSG and Marseille, then the catastrophic end to the campaign. 20 should be achievable.
- I want to see more creativity from central midfield. Capoue and Sissoko only made 3 assists between them last season and I’d like to see them playing the inside forwards in more often. This is the main thing I want to work on tactically before the winter break.
And that, I believe, is that for the pre-season update. Like I said, it’s concentrated very much on the first team. I’ll try to include more youth team details later but, for now, these are the options I’ll be working with this season: