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Introduction

(this can also be found on my blog at https://wordpress.com/view/fmmightyred.home.blog and I'll be posting updates via Twitter @FMMightyRed1)

I’m not the best FM player by a long stretch, but I’ve been doing well with Liverpool and am starting to get bored.  I don’t have enough time to do a long grind like dragging a club up from non-league so have been casting around for inspiration for something a little more challenging.

 

I come up with the idea of holidaying until Christmas day and taking over at the club most rooted to the bottom of the league.  I’m going to create a profile of an international footballer to avoid the dynamics penalties of being an unknown manager – mentally, I’m setting this up as an ex-international looking for a job and a relegation team being desperate enough to take a punt.  My self-imposed rules are to take over at the club furthers from safety in the top league for whatever nations I’m running, I can only stay at the club for the length of my initial contract (I want this to be a serial challenge – can I become a ‘fixer’ for relegation threatened teams).

I use a holiday manager and wait for the English, Scottish, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese leagues to get to 25thDecember.  I’m only interested in taking a job in the top tier of any of these nations – and I’ve got to take a job at the team that is most adrift.  

Looking around it’s SPAL in Serie A – 8 points from safety with just two wins in 17 games (all 15 other games are losses!). 

SPAL were promoted from Serie C at the end of the 15/16 season and then promoted straight to Serie A the season after – last season they very creditably managed to stay up finishing in 17th.   After being founded in 1907, SPAL have competed in Serie A 23 times in their history with their best place being 5thin 1959-60 – also reaching Coppa Italia in 1962.  More recently, the club went bankrupt in 2005 and 2012 – so has had a very turbulent time. 

I last played in Serie A in FM17 I think, and that was with AC Milan – so I’m not sure what has changed other than Juventus dominating and with the way the TV rights work in Italy and a stadium of just over 16,000, I don’t think the club will be generating lots of cash for me to buy my way to success.  

So, if we’re assuming 40 points is the magic number to stay up – I need 34 points from 21 games (average of 1.62 points per game).  I take over and assess the situation.

Edited by Mighty Red
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Players

 

I can see why SPAL are struggling – the quality isn’t great, with Lazzari (a pacey WBR) and Petagna (a target man on loan from Atalanta) are probably our best players.  We’re reasonable at central defence but lack any really wide quality on either flank either in midfield or defence, with the exception of Lazzari.  In central midfield, we have an abundance of technical attacking midfield types but only one ball-winner in the shape of Everton Luiz.  Kurtic looks like he’ll slot into a midfield slot as an all-action midfielder but is injured for the next few weeks.

Looking through our U20s and U18s there’s no hidden gems, but I bring Campagna through from U18s to play as an inverted winger on the right.  He’s only 16 so I’m not expecting him to be amazing but he’ll offer us a decent enough option.  We do have enormous squads for both U18 and U20 so I’ll be looking to offload quite a lot of players so that we can increase the amount of playing time for those that look half decent which, admittedly, isn’t many.

 

Tactics

I’m going to plump for a 4-1-4-1, partly because it’s a robust shape and we need to stop conceding goals and also it’s simple enough to set-up.  The idea is to use Petagna’s height up-front to bring the two wide midfielders into play as well as the full-backs.  I’ll rely on the two centre-backs and a half-back dropping into defence to try and keep it tight at the back.

I’m hoping that lack of truly wide players in Serie A lets us get forward without worrying too much about being attacked down the flanks.  With many teams using wing-backs hopefully the attacking wide men keeps them occupied and deprives teams of width, forcing them into my defensive two and a half plus two central midfielders helping congest things.  

It doesn’t really suit our players (lack of wide men, and limited options for ball winners but I’m not the greatest tactically and setting-up something more complex with 2 or more AMCs is going to involve getting to know the players and tweaking PIs to really make it work – being so far away from safety, I really don’t have the luxury of 4 or 5 games to experiment if we’re going to survive at the end of the season.

It’s very much a case of plugging players into a tactical framework rather than building something to the players – I may regret this but we’ll see!

 

Finances

I am surprised to see SPAL financially secure - £14M in the bank, £2M for transfers and about £18k under a $440k per week wage budget.  Sweet. I had feared that I’d come into a club that is struggling, has inadequate players andhave financial worries where I need to sell players or at least have no transfer budget to play with.  Bizarrely, our greatest sponsorship income is for our youth team – at more than double our 1stteam sponsorship.  We do have a bunch of deals expiring at the end of this season so with a bit of luck we might get better deals if we can stay up.

My contract runs until the end of next season – so if we get relegated, my challenge will be to get promoted (if I’m still in the job!).

 

Fixtures

My first 5 league games are not going to be easy, Roma clearly going to be the toughest ask and then Udinese, Lazio and Atalanta all being top half of the table (Lazio chasing Champions League places).  There is opportunity though in the shape of a home game against fellow struggler Sassuolo.

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