You will probably notice that these posts on Toulouse are getting shorter. This is because I now know the squad and the tactic pretty well which minimises the amount of time and effort I need to put into analysis of games and signings… the latter, of course, being a complete lie when it comes to the striker.
Decisions have been made, however, and the squad now looks to be settled.
For me, this summer was all about two things: strengthening and deepening. Strengthening the first team by improving the quality of players in certain positions; and deepening the squad by providing better quality back-ups and youth players, particularly important given the number of games we’ll be expected to play this season.
I’ve always said that, in FM, three seasons should be enough time to get any team to win any league and this is our 3rd season… so is this squad now good enough to win the title which we missed out on so cruelly last season…
Some serious money has been spent at Stade Municipal this season, a lot more money than I would usually part with but, this being the last save on FM12, I thought it was about time I had a spending spree. The majority of that has gone on my marquee signing, one which I deliberated over long and hard but which brought the man you see above to French football.
Steven Fletcher cost me £9.5m, a huge sum in all honesty, and will be asked to lead the line where Stracq failed last term. Personally, I think he’s perfect for the role and my scouts were of the opinion that he is adaptable when it comes to moving country so here’s hoping that he settles quickly and starts firing us up the league.
Handily, he can also play in the wide positions and versatility will be key as I look to rotate between three versions of my deep 4-3-3 this season: the standard one I’ve posted before, one where the striker is dropped to AMC and one where the central DMC is pushed up into the MC line.
Joining Fletcher as a striking option will be Ukranian Roman Bezus. I actually looked at Bezus before signing Stracq and I wish I’d gone with my gut feeling that the former was the better option. Again, Bezus can play deeper and is slightly more creative than his Scottish rival so, whilst they are similar, there is some level of variation that I can introduce to the team.
I’m also re-training Bezus to become an AMR. I really think he can do a job in this role given his pace and creative ability. Again, it’s about providing options and increasing the depth of the squad which doesn’t always require new personnel.
The final striking option that I signed was someone I couldn’t turn down. After noticing that Slovakian minnows had thumped some Czech team 5-0 in a friendly, I took a brief look at the team and decided to scout their 16 year old striker who had scored twice. I’m glad I did because, quite frankly, Michal Stefanik is a star in the making. At just £150k he’s a candidate for bargain of the century and I’m fairly sure that I wouldn’t have signed Fletcher had I spotted the Slovakian before confirming the Scot’s deal.
Yes, he needs some work on his pace and yes he will probably be back-up to start but he’ll get some cup games and plenty of opportunities off the bench to impress and improve.
I’ve also signed two new options for the inside forwards positions. South African Sipho Makhanya is another complete steal at just £28k. He’s another depth in youth option although he’ll also be in the first team squad and getting plenty of game time. He’s perfectly suited for coming off the left wing onto his stronger right foot and just a little tweaking of the attributes here and there would see him become a very useful player indeed.
The second winger to join the club is a loan option – Magaye Gueye joining on loan from Everton where we have the option to sign him on a permanent basis for £2.5m. As I’ve sold Regattin and Ben Yedder, there wasn’t a huge amount of options left in the squad for the wide positions and I wanted to keep a French feel to some positions. Gueye looks decent but I wasn’t sure so a loan with option seemed like the best move.
The only other noteworthy signing I made was to bring in Silvain Distin on a free transfer. The veteran defender still “has it” and will provide superb cover for Abdennour and Congré whilst having the added bonus of being dirt cheap and being able to tutor my promising young centre half Amiot.
The one area where there is a remaining concern is in goal. Ahamada is excellent and will definitely be first choice. I’m surprised that he isn’t mentioned on forums and elsewhere as a recommended signing because I think he’s fantastic. However, we don’t have much cover behind him. We have an excellent young ‘keeper in the youth team but he’s only 16 and it would suicide to use him now. Belgian Begois, who provided cover last season, proved himself to be untrustworthy with some questionable performances at the start of the last campaign. I couldn’t find decent cover at a reasonable price, however, so I’m just crossing my fingers that Ahamada stays fit.
That leaves me with a first team squad that looks something like this:
So clearly we have options all over the park and real strength in depth that should be able to withstand all but the most FM of injnury crises.
With that squad, I’m really looking forward to this season although I’m setting myself the same targets as last season – 65 goals scored in the league – less than 20 goals conceded. I want to get out of the Champions League groups this season though and I desperately want one of the domestic cups to finally bring some silverware to the club.
The friendlies went really well with the 3-0 win over Man Utd being the clear stand-out result. What was most pleasing was the way that the team seemed to be gelling together nicely, though, and the tactics have been working a treat. My main concern with one of my optional tactics is that when I move the central DMC forward into an MC position, the two wider DMC’s don’t seem to make forward runs until the ball is in the final third. With 3 DMC’s they get forward whenever the ball is out of our defensive third but the additional player in front of them seems to make them more conservative. This is something to consider as we progress through the campaign.
One thing I do want to show you is this, though. It may only have been against some Austrian jokers that no-one cares about (*cry*) but it came straight from kick-off and was, quite frankly, majestic. Bodes well for the year to come…