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The Anxious Gamer - A Liverpool Story


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Meet The Team

This is my squad as at the end of the season;

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Something I am really proud of is the number of players bought for piddly fees that are now turning into world beaters. Where we have splashed the cash, these players have generally gone on to be long term assets, more than earning back their fees.

My star man is this guy, Dario Bosco. I've never been quite sure what to do with him. His incredible vision means he has to play in a creative role although his slightly wayward finishing means I have more productive options up front. Last season he played mostly as a complete forward but this year I am shifting him to mezzala where he can hopefully provide some creative spark, as well as chipping in with some big goals.

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Um...something happened again.

It's ok though, this time it's good! After our near miss of season 19 turned into a pretty decent season 20, I entered Season 21 with high hopes, but even I didn't expect this. Let's start with the negatives though. After a good start, we dropped our first points with a 0-0 draw at Southampton and then, 4 games later, went down 0-3 at Man City. This was a frustrating match. We were 0-2 down after 31 minutes and never really got going. Still, although Man City have faded as a force, I considered it an acceptable result, especially given our overall form. A further defeat would follow on the other side of Manchester, league leaders United besting us 2-3. After taking a balanced stance in the City game I approached this one with a cautious mentality but again we conceded quickly, finding ourselves 0-3 down after just 23 minutes this time, our 2 goals coming at the end of each half.

This would soon be put behind us though as we went on another overpowering winning run, an aberration of a loss at Newcastle and another goalless draw with Southampton the only other blemishes as we won the league by 15 points.

20201224120108_1.thumb.jpg.8e737e0f46a9ae753eebacb38956ac46.jpg

This would be just the start though. With the Charity Shield already secured at the outset of the season, we added the EFL Cup in February with a dominant 3-0 win over Leicester. Our passage to the FA Cup final was relatively plain sailing and although Man United would put up a fight, coming from 2-0 down to take it to extra time, we came out 3-2 winners to add another trophy.

The one I really wanted though was the Champions League, having not won it for more than 10 years. We drew Barcelona in the quarter final, the first leg seeing a 2-1 victory with their away goal undoing some good work. Back on their patch, they scored after just 4 minutes to take control of the tie. We hit back on 37 minutes, only for them to score twice more in the second half. Throwing caution to the wind, we stepped out of our shell and one of my centre backs would nod in a vital second in the 86th minute. We lost 3-2 on the night but it was enough to see us through on away goals.

Leeds awaited us in the semi and were dispatched routinely, leaving Bayern Munich standing in our way. It's fair to say, we took control of the match.

20201223143648_1.jpg.29deda3511b4d85e3d91c31ddfbba1bb.jpg

And so, unbelievably, we had lifted every trophy we competed for, an incredible five competitions in one season.

20201223143639_1.jpg.54f5bbf220f7039a0eb7bd59de7da3ce.jpg

This takes me to 19 league titles in 21 years. It is tempting to stop but I quite fancy ending on a nice round 20 and besides, the (new) board have finally agreed to build a new stadium.

Despite the success though, those negative thoughts still try to penetrate. I just assume that this team isn't as good as the one I started with. I mean just look at them - Alisson, Van Dijk, Salah, Mane, Alexander Arnold. Surely they are all better than my rag tag collection.

But why? The answer is that they're not, it is simply my brain trying to find the cloud in a silver lining. I assume this team is inferior because I built it. But it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. My goalie kept 28 clean sheets and was named best keeper in Europe. My centre back, the goal scoring hero of Barcelona, was named best defender in Europe and cost me just £5m. My youth graduate in midfield, captain Tom Johnson, has lifted the world cup. My inside forward in the 'Salah role' scored 32 goals in 48 games. My guy up top, arguably the best player in the world, is valued at £97m aged 23 and cost me just £6m. The rest of the squad meanwhile is packed with 4-5 star players and prospects. I haven't made a marquee signing in 4 years because our recruitment and development of younger prospects has been so good. This is a phenomenal squad and I built it. I can be proud. Dammit, I am proud.

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20201223143732_1.jpg.3fa497ccef3450120306ecbc56f8798c.jpg

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On 24/12/2020 at 14:22, dirkgently1066 said:

Um...something happened again.

It's ok though, this time it's good! After our near miss of season 19 turned into a pretty decent season 20, I entered Season 21 with high hopes, but even I didn't expect this. Let's start with the negatives though. After a good start, we dropped our first points with a 0-0 draw at Southampton and then, 4 games later, went down 0-3 at Man City. This was a frustrating match. We were 0-2 down after 31 minutes and never really got going. Still, although Man City have faded as a force, I considered it an acceptable result, especially given our overall form. A further defeat would follow on the other side of Manchester, league leaders United besting us 2-3. After taking a balanced stance in the City game I approached this one with a cautious mentality but again we conceded quickly, finding ourselves 0-3 down after just 23 minutes this time, our 2 goals coming at the end of each half.

This would soon be put behind us though as we went on another overpowering winning run, an aberration of a loss at Newcastle and another goalless draw with Southampton the only other blemishes as we won the league by 15 points.

20201224120108_1.thumb.jpg.8e737e0f46a9ae753eebacb38956ac46.jpg

This would be just the start though. With the Charity Shield already secured at the outset of the season, we added the EFL Cup in February with a dominant 3-0 win over Leicester. Our passage to the FA Cup final was relatively plain sailing and although Man United would put up a fight, coming from 2-0 down to take it to extra time, we came out 3-2 winners to add another trophy.

The one I really wanted though was the Champions League, having not won it for more than 10 years. We drew Barcelona in the quarter final, the first leg seeing a 2-1 victory with their away goal undoing some good work. Back on their patch, they scored after just 4 minutes to take control of the tie. We hit back on 37 minutes, only for them to score twice more in the second half. Throwing caution to the wind, we stepped out of our shell and one of my centre backs would nod in a vital second in the 86th minute. We lost 3-2 on the night but it was enough to see us through on away goals.

Leeds awaited us in the semi and were dispatched routinely, leaving Bayern Munich standing in our way. It's fair to say, we took control of the match.

20201223143648_1.jpg.29deda3511b4d85e3d91c31ddfbba1bb.jpg

And so, unbelievably, we had lifted every trophy we competed for, an incredible five competitions in one season.

20201223143639_1.jpg.54f5bbf220f7039a0eb7bd59de7da3ce.jpg

This takes me to 19 league titles in 21 years. It is tempting to stop but I quite fancy ending on a nice round 20 and besides, the (new) board have finally agreed to build a new stadium.

Despite the success though, those negative thoughts still try to penetrate. I just assume that this team isn't as good as the one I started with. I mean just look at them - Alisson, Van Dijk, Salah, Mane, Alexander Arnold. Surely they are all better than my rag tag collection.

But why? The answer is that they're not, it is simply my brain trying to find the cloud in a silver lining. I assume this team is inferior because I built it. But it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. My goalie kept 28 clean sheets and was named best keeper in Europe. My centre back, the goal scoring hero of Barcelona, was named best defender in Europe and cost me just £5m. My youth graduate in midfield, captain Tom Johnson, has lifted the world cup. My inside forward in the 'Salah role' scored 32 goals in 48 games. My guy up top, arguably the best player in the world, is valued at £97m aged 23 and cost me just £6m. The rest of the squad meanwhile is packed with 4-5 star players and prospects. I haven't made a marquee signing in 4 years because our recruitment and development of younger prospects has been so good. This is a phenomenal squad and I built it. I can be proud. Dammit, I am proud.

20201223143708_1.jpg.aefd57fb8964091d0578af2d040cea2d.jpg

20201223143715_1.jpg.804b2b2f6750dcceccb9ab830390c3a7.jpg

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I love the fact that you managed these great achievements with all your anxieties and perfectionism. A very nice sight, especially that 295M bank account haha.

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On 24/12/2020 at 14:22, dirkgently1066 said:

Um...something happened again.

It's ok though, this time it's good! After our near miss of season 19 turned into a pretty decent season 20, I entered Season 21 with high hopes, but even I didn't expect this. Let's start with the negatives though. After a good start, we dropped our first points with a 0-0 draw at Southampton and then, 4 games later, went down 0-3 at Man City. This was a frustrating match. We were 0-2 down after 31 minutes and never really got going. Still, although Man City have faded as a force, I considered it an acceptable result, especially given our overall form. A further defeat would follow on the other side of Manchester, league leaders United besting us 2-3. After taking a balanced stance in the City game I approached this one with a cautious mentality but again we conceded quickly, finding ourselves 0-3 down after just 23 minutes this time, our 2 goals coming at the end of each half.

This would soon be put behind us though as we went on another overpowering winning run, an aberration of a loss at Newcastle and another goalless draw with Southampton the only other blemishes as we won the league by 15 points.

20201224120108_1.thumb.jpg.8e737e0f46a9ae753eebacb38956ac46.jpg

This would be just the start though. With the Charity Shield already secured at the outset of the season, we added the EFL Cup in February with a dominant 3-0 win over Leicester. Our passage to the FA Cup final was relatively plain sailing and although Man United would put up a fight, coming from 2-0 down to take it to extra time, we came out 3-2 winners to add another trophy.

The one I really wanted though was the Champions League, having not won it for more than 10 years. We drew Barcelona in the quarter final, the first leg seeing a 2-1 victory with their away goal undoing some good work. Back on their patch, they scored after just 4 minutes to take control of the tie. We hit back on 37 minutes, only for them to score twice more in the second half. Throwing caution to the wind, we stepped out of our shell and one of my centre backs would nod in a vital second in the 86th minute. We lost 3-2 on the night but it was enough to see us through on away goals.

Leeds awaited us in the semi and were dispatched routinely, leaving Bayern Munich standing in our way. It's fair to say, we took control of the match.

20201223143648_1.jpg.29deda3511b4d85e3d91c31ddfbba1bb.jpg

And so, unbelievably, we had lifted every trophy we competed for, an incredible five competitions in one season.

20201223143639_1.jpg.54f5bbf220f7039a0eb7bd59de7da3ce.jpg

This takes me to 19 league titles in 21 years. It is tempting to stop but I quite fancy ending on a nice round 20 and besides, the (new) board have finally agreed to build a new stadium.

Despite the success though, those negative thoughts still try to penetrate. I just assume that this team isn't as good as the one I started with. I mean just look at them - Alisson, Van Dijk, Salah, Mane, Alexander Arnold. Surely they are all better than my rag tag collection.

But why? The answer is that they're not, it is simply my brain trying to find the cloud in a silver lining. I assume this team is inferior because I built it. But it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. My goalie kept 28 clean sheets and was named best keeper in Europe. My centre back, the goal scoring hero of Barcelona, was named best defender in Europe and cost me just £5m. My youth graduate in midfield, captain Tom Johnson, has lifted the world cup. My inside forward in the 'Salah role' scored 32 goals in 48 games. My guy up top, arguably the best player in the world, is valued at £97m aged 23 and cost me just £6m. The rest of the squad meanwhile is packed with 4-5 star players and prospects. I haven't made a marquee signing in 4 years because our recruitment and development of younger prospects has been so good. This is a phenomenal squad and I built it. I can be proud. Dammit, I am proud.

20201223143708_1.jpg.aefd57fb8964091d0578af2d040cea2d.jpg

20201223143715_1.jpg.804b2b2f6750dcceccb9ab830390c3a7.jpg

20201223143732_1.jpg.3fa497ccef3450120306ecbc56f8798c.jpg

You bought 68 players in 20 years?! I bought 24 in 3 transfer windows in my Forest save! :D

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On 29/12/2020 at 19:56, engamohd said:

You bought 68 players in 20 years?! I bought 24 in 3 transfer windows in my Forest save! :D

Lol! 😂 

I've tended to buy young and develop them into first teamers, who then stay in the squad for the majority of their careers. Add in my natural anxiety around spending money and the decision making that comes with it and it leads to a fairly conservative transfer strategy, at least in terms of numbers. 

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Season 22 would bring a 20th league title to Anfield whist only a defeat on penalties at Everton would deny us a clean sweep as we picked up League, FA Cup and Champions League, together with the Community Shield and Super Cup.

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In some respects, it wasn't a vintage year. Our tally of 93 points eased us comfortably ahead of United but falls someway short of our recent 100+ points escapades. Our 3 league defeats were all disappointing, poor losses against Wolves and Leicester added to a 1-4 thumping at Old Trafford. Our late season form also tailed, resulting in 6 draws. Mind you, 101 goals scored was still very good, as was 23 conceded. 

Despite some misgivings, I opted to stick with our 433 shape throughout the season. Ironically, given a number of my earlier posts, I found myself flirting with 424 only to snap back to the comfort of 433, believing it to be more stable and more likely to grind out a win. Suddenly, despite its success, 424 became the risky option.

My indecision is driven by a couple of factors. From a tactical standpoint, I'm always concerned that against weaker sides, a player in the DM strata is something of a waste, especially when we come up against teams that refuse to emerge from their penalty area. From a personnel perspective, I'm still struggling with this guy;

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Now clearly he is an absolute world beater but in a 433, with just one central striker, I have usually favoured Carlos Bastos, a more straightforward goalscorer. Bosco I tend to play in midfield but I'm not convinced I'm seeing the best out of him. Strange as it may seem for a Liverpool fan, I liken him to Wayne Rooney in his prime; his stats and versatility mean that he can play comfortably up front, in the middle or out wide but the player themselves becomes a victim of this very flexibility, used to plug a hole rather than being allowed to excel.

For next season then, I'm going to revert to my 424 shape and get Bosco back up front. It may turn out to be a mistake but I also have a number of young striking prospects coming through and so it gives more natural chances for them to play. Breaking with my own tradition, I will keep the 433 as a second tactic, likely using it when playing away at a top side, although the Man Utd result above gives me pause for thought even on that.

What I do find interesting, 22 seasons in, is that I still have the same doubts and dilemmas as I did in season 1. Seemingly no matter the success, I still hold on to that expectation of failure and the fear of being found out.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

As my ridiculously long save continues, Season 21 would see us achieve a 3rd unbeaten league season. It was a strange affair though. Right until the last handful of games I thought we might beat my best ever points tally of 107 but then we hit a really sticky patch drawing 5 league games on the bounce. Whilst we didn't lose, our total of 9 draws took the sheen off the season somewhat.

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Still, with a Community Shield, Super Cup, FA Cup and Champions League, I couldn't really grumble.

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Season 22 would bring further league glory however we suffered the ignominy of being dumped out of the Champions League at the group stage. We went some way to making up for it by winning the Europa League but I was starting to have some doubts about my tactics again. I mean to be fair, this happened in pre season...

20210112230116_1.thumb.jpg.e4f2803ebe26c6de047ec7228bb7ef0b.jpg

...but even still, I could smell the winds of change. My 433 was clearly successful. Having tweaked my pressing forward to a complete forward and my wing backs to complete wing backs, this was a winning formula that could grind out results over the course of a season. I wanted more though. For all its flaws, the earlier 424 played with a style and swagger. It wasn't quite as dominating as 433 to be sure, indeed it is notable that my only undefeated seasons have come when playing this way. Nonetheless, I missed the goal scoring exploits it offered.

Going into Season 24 then, I have started tinkering again. I dabbled with 424 but I'm just not feeling it. After some trial and error, I have settled on a 4231, complete with my own custom style, taking the best of gegenpress and incorporating my own desire for possession football. It is early days but as we approach January, we are top by 5 points and still in all competitions.

Very Disappointed

To my horror, I noted that the board had classed my use of academy players as very disappointing. I was puzzled at first as I had brought through so many players, Ballon d'Or winner Dario Bosco (£6m to £97m) the prime example. I realised though that most of my successes in developing young players were those I had bought for small fees. Rarely had I taken a home grown talent, brought in by my head of youth development, and brought them through to the first team.

This then is my mission. In the last 5 years we have spent just £40m whilst at the same time bringing in a ridiculous £627m! £338m of this was recouped in one season as I looked to trim the squad, achieving good profits on a number of club developed players. My transfer kitty is overflowing but I determined not to use it. Instead, I am committing to bring through as many youth players as possible. I'm not naive enough to think that I won't need to buy. There will always be a need to fill a gap or bring in a particular bit of quality, but this far in, it will be fun to set myself such a specific challenge.

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Very Pleased

A season of experimentation, Season 24 would see us again crowned champions whilst adding another Champions League to the cabinet. I've now won a ridiculous;

  • 23 Premier Leagues
  • 12 FA Cups
  • 12 EFL cups
  • 19 FA Community Shields
  • 2 FIFA club world cups
  • 8 Champions Leagues
  • 10 UEFA Super Cups
  • 1 Europa League

It wasn't a vintage year by any measure but we still managed to win the league by 12 points. Dario Bosco, now surely the greatest player in the world, smashed in 28 league goals, 44 in all competitions, as well as adding 10 assists and garnering 16 player of the match awards.

Tactically I tried a few different scenarios but eventually found my way back to 433. At one point I switched to 424 again to try and make best use of my second striker, himself a world beater. A 0-3 Champions League defeat soon saw the end of that experiment, the switch back to 433 ensuring we thumped them in the return leg. Ultimately I decided then to stick, rather than twist. Bosco is playing out of his skin as a lone forward and it would be foolish to risk that, just to try and accommodate other players who aren't at his level.

Two other events would please me too. First, our youth development. Having relied on developing my own purchased players, I made a conscious effort to give minutes to academy products, the board moving from disappointed to very pleased before the season was out. None has yet managed to establish a definitive starting role but moving into the next season, I have academy products as back up at goalkeeper, full backs, centre back and centre forward. I am also going to chuck one promising youngster in at DM whilst I have high hopes for two young 'keeper prospects, one of which looks a potential world beater. With a 16 year old centre back from the latest batch also looking like real quality, things are looking good.

To illustrate the point around player development, 24 season in I have spent a total of £2.34bn on 82 players whilst recouping £3.12bn on 158 players. My record signing remains Mbappe, his £160m fee looking ever more the panic buy that it was, albeit he became a club legend.

The other thing to happen was the announcement, finally, of a new stadium. Whatever plans I may have for eventually packing up this save, I'll see at least the next 4 years through, just to have a chance to play at Scott Delonnette Arena!

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Wow that's an impressive list! I think you collected more silverware in one save then I have during all my years playing FM. 

I've had a couple of saves where I've become as big as you are now. And at that point (or sometimes on the way too) I usually come at a stage where my youth graduates are only getting a back-up or rotation status. I don't know why but I never ever produce elite players out of my academy. I can buy them at a young enough age so they count as own youth, but that's it

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, it's been a while. Where did we get to? I think I might've lost count of seasons. Whichever way you slice it, I have now finally beaten my Championship Manager '93/94 record of 25 seasons!

Whichever number it is, we're now at the end of 2046/47, having secured our 9th straight league title and my 26th overall. 

The last couple of seasons have been strange to say the least. Frustrated by various aspects of my tactics, I flitted between 433, 424 and 4231 without ever really landing on anything I truly embraced. Despite some shocking inconsistency, we managed to secure those league titles and even add a Champions League or two, racking up 4 out of the last 7 years.

This season in particular has been challenging though. As has often been the case, I would start well before hitting the buffers against a weaker team. In this case is was a frustrating 0-0 draw with Fulham, followed by a disgraceful 0-2 defeat at Brentford. Clearly my standard 433 set up was having issues against weaker teams and although it would generally fare well across the season as whole, I was losing faith.

With a number of attacking players at my disposal, I again switched to 424. Next game up was at home to Bayern, who we promptly smashed 9-1. This would be the first of 10 straight wins in all comps before we again came a cropper against weaker opposition, losing 1-3 at Newcastle and then 0-1 at Valencia. More chopping and changing resulted, trying variations of my favourite set ups, even going all the way back to my season 1 set up. Form remained patchy though and we fell 7 points behind the leaders, Everton of all teams emerging as front runners. Despite some seriously indifferent form, including another defeat at the hands of Newcastle, we managed to stay in contention, our efforts bolstered in part by the £90m+ striker I signed in January.

It wasn't until the last 4 games of the season that I really hit on a set up I liked. Most of my strikers preferred playing as an Advanced Forward and I would be wasting their talents trying to shoehorn them into a pressing or supporting role. I am still looking to try a Complete Forward as the role offers a bit more for a lone forward role and I figure a player at a top team should be able to play it effectively. My midfielders by contrast all want to play mezzala or as a supporting playmaker. My solution then was to switch my DMC from a DLP defend to DLP support, my BBM to a second mezzala, my wide inside forwards from attack to support and my wing backs from support to attack. Leaving me with this;

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It ain't likely to be perfect but it helped me secure 4 wins to end the season, thumping title-chasing Everton 1-5 on their own patch before sealing the title with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. Have it.

In terms of squad development, some of my long-term stars are ageing out. My veteran goalie was moved on at 36, replaced by an academy graduate. Where possible, I have tried to adopt a squad building tactic of 'one and young' to ensure that I have a top class player in each position and an academy product as back up. There is some work to do but we have some decent prospects coming through. I mustn't be afraid to spend though. I always felt Alex Ferguson perfected the blend of home grown youth supplemented by big money signings and it is a model I intend to emulate, my £90m striker set to be joined by a new £70m winger for next season. These are my first serious outlays in 10 years and should help set me up well for next season.

Best of all though, this guy came through the academy. I thought I recognised the name but it was only when I looked at his info screen I realised, he is my in-game son! 

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He's got some work to do but I made sure to give him a sub appearance in the first team to get his name in the record books and it will be fun to see if he develops in to anything.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Game Over Man, Game Over!

Yeah, that'll do us. In my 30th season, after 1,800 games, I reckon it's time to move on.

Whilst season 30 wasn't looking especially clever, I don't walk away with bitterness or regret. I achieved absolutely everything I could possibly hope to, putting to bed some of those anxiety demons over squad building, tactics, game management and simply value for money. My final management tally looks like this;

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Death Is Not The End

Still though, I don't think I'm quite finished.

I had a real monkey to get off my back with this save. I had to have a successful, long-term Liverpool save in modern FM, my last one probably dating back to FM05, and that goal has finally been achieved. We won the Premier League, we won the Champions League, we were crowned the best team in Europe, I was crowned the best manager in the world and I got a new stadium named after me. Man, what a legacy.

What I didn't - and could never - achieve in this save though was the thrill of promotion or the discomfort of moving to a new club or new league. I have experienced this before with my legendary (to me) FM14 Sutton United save, taking them from the Conference South to Premier League. I have made attempts to repeat this feat since but my fears around squad building and tactical acumen put me off.

Well those demons are slain. Over 30 years, I have built up a wealth of tactical knowledge and have reinvented my team multiple times with great success. Simply put; I can do this. I'm not sure where I'll start. My go-to was always Eastbourne, being the nearest in-game team to my home town of Hastings. This time though, I'll cast the net, likely still starting in England but I won't rule anything out.

And hey, what the hell else am I going to do in lockdown, work? :idiot:

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Top top save, Scott! Very nice touch having to play in the Delonnette park, although Anfield is deffo better :P

You are my inspiration in writing a story and try to get my perfectionism and anxieties. I am very bored of my Forest save with the tonnes of cash available early on, so I went on to Standard Liege, and I have just won the CL with them :D

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4 hours ago, engamohd said:

Top top save, Scott! Very nice touch having to play in the Delonnette park, although Anfield is deffo better :P

You are my inspiration in writing a story and try to get my perfectionism and anxieties. I am very bored of my Forest save with the tonnes of cash available early on, so I went on to Standard Liege, and I have just won the CL with them :D

I couldn't do it! I started a jouneyman save but gave it up shortly after.

I think with the real-life Liverpool in such a funk of form, I need the solace of my own side being world beaters.

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What a great save and write up! Glad to hear you've slaid your demons and are capable of building and rebuilding squads.

I'm trying to the same with Arsenal atm, the goal is for the first time in almost 25 years of playing fm winning the PL with them. I never succeeded, came real close but my tactical skills (and compusere) let me down

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6 hours ago, Sonic Youth said:

I’ve been enjoying your adventures with Liverpool. At times I wish there was more screenies of players (especially home grown and top world class). Thanks for sharing :)

Thanks, appreciate it. I must admit, I'm a bit lazy in how I update so will defo chuck some player screen shots in more often.

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Here's the first of a few players to share. I picked this fella up on a free when he was about 18. Starting out as a centre back, I thought his physical stats might better suit a wing back and after a bit of training, he's now world class in that position and being hunted by Barcelona

20210216182744_1.thumb.jpg.d3e4423ed084332d1f13816539f5906a.jpg

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This guy is my current number one having come through the academy. For a while he had 5-star potential but his lax attitude to training and lack of ambition may be holding him back. Still, he has won best goalie in Europe a couple of times in his young career so he's doing ok.

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Edited by dirkgently1066
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A striker's striker, Matt King has usually found himself shifted into other roles to accommodate other players but eventually made Inside Forward his own. Despite his great finishing, I'm currently using him as an inverted winger in a 424 as, believe it or not, I've got someone even more deadly up top. I picked him up for £27.5m from Reading and he has rewarded us with 118 league goals and counting.

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Another guy I picked up for peanuts, Gerd Schwend was signed for £2.5m and from very early on was rated highly by my coaches. it took a while for me to bed him in. His natural position was at AMC, a role I have very rarely used. looking at his stats, he looked like an ideal Complete Forward but whilst he successfully retrained there, he never really performed. This season, he has taken up the role of playmaker at the heart of my back-to-basics 442 and is absolutely running the show.

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This is my other main hitman. Having gone so long without spending serious cash, instead preferring to nurture younger talent, I spent big on this guy, lashing out £96m. He has had to cope with constant changes in role and formation but is now settled as Advanced Forward and is banging in goals for fun.

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Hot on his heels, this young man is the most promising player to come out of the academy in some time. Like God himself, we scored a hattrick on his debut in the League Cup and had a productive loan spell at Crawley. He has already seen some first team minutes and my coaches are convinced he be be of use to the squad, but I opted to loan him to Championship Swansea, feeling some more game time would be better for his development.

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Well my friends, a lot has been happening since last we spoke.

Having decided to pack up my bags and go, a new game in the the lower reaches of the non-league just didn't get the juices flowing and so back to Liverpool we went. It would prove to be a difficult season. Having fallen 10 points behind we clawed our way back to the top of the pile, only to run out of steam towards the end, gifting Tottenham their first premier League win.

No matter, I decided. I have lost the league before and it had been the spur to try something new. And so out went Gegenpress and 4141 and in came 424 and my own tactical style, the formation gradually morphing into a more traditional 442 as the season progressed. It was looking good too. Our defensive record was solid and our goals output was decent. I picked up a new right winger in January to see us through to the end of the season and was certain that this would be the new way forward. Alas, a 5-0 hammering at Shalke in the UCL would be the first sign of serious trouble. Again we topped the league as the games wound down but again we came a cropper late on. This time it was much closer, going down to the final day. In fact with 10 minutes left we were champions, only for Leeds to grab a second goal in their match to secure their first PL title and consign us to our first ever back-to-back league failure.

Rather than leaving me despairing, as it might have done earlier in the save, I felt reinvigorated. This was my title and I had thrown it away and so it was up to me to win it back. 

My first thought was to go back to our old Gegenpress 4141, and this was how I spent pre-season. A 0-2 defeat to Leeds in the Charity Shield could be easily dismissed but a lumbering 2-1 win in our first game, at home to Portsmouth, could not. We went 0-1 down and didn't look like getting back into it, only grabbing the lead after they went down to 10 men. Something had to change.

From that moment on then, I switched back to my own tactical style, shortening the passing, reducing pressing and allowing the players more time. I stuck with the 4141 shape but my DLP moved from defensive to support, my centre mids both became supporting mezzalas, my wide forwards switched to support duties and my full backs switched to attack. I had tried a similar style before but not stuck with it. At the half way point in the season, only 2 draws blight our record having established a 12 point lead.

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Plenty of games still to come but things are looking good. Still, some anxiety triggers have reared their heads...

Edited by dirkgently1066
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Money, Money, Money

I had settled on this idea of  'one and young' where I would grant more opportunities to our Academy products. Reality very much bit though when the second league title slipped away. In response, I splashed the cash, bringing in a new left back, centre back, midfielder and a couple of young prospects. To make space, a couple of academy players were let go. 

One that has made it is this guy. I have had my eye on his development for a while, his coach projection a 3 star rating. Having granted him some first team opportunities, he is now a 4.5 star player. I did it!

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And yet it got me thinking...

...what about all those other 3 star academy products I let go? Could they have made it too? Have I become a cheque book manager instead of youth developer? Was I *gasp* a fraud?

Let's bring some balance here. Have a I missed some prospects? Sure. A striker I sold to Brentford in particular was probably worth holding on to and fire sure I am guilty of trusting players I buy more than those that come through the system. But, but, but...those players I bought are themselves all youth prospects. Only one player aged over 25 has been bought in the last 20+ years. My total spend after 30 seasons and 1,900+ games is £3.2bn vs £4bn recouped. I develop players. It is very much my thing. I just prefer to choose them fore myself rather than relying on what arbitrarily comes through the system.

That said, there has been a dearth of English players in my squad, something I am very keen to address. If I have learned anything though, it's to implement this strategy gradually, picking the right players at the right moment, rather than just chucking them in to the side because of a passport.

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  • 1 month later...

Yes, I'm still going!

With the 2058/59 season on the horizon, my 80 year old avatar continues to dominate the European football scene. We have somehow managed to rack up 35 league titles and 91 cup wins, including 14 Champions League victories.

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After a couple of season of wobble, the Premier League has been fairly plain sailing. We lost our way somewhat at the end of the 2040s, losing the league in 2049 to Spurs and then again in 2050 to Leeds. We rebounded smartly though, taking back over in 2051 with a 103 points tally, conceding a frankly ridiculous 9 goals. Subsequent title wins were a little closer until in 2058 we broke the league again, going unbeaten for (I think) the 4th time in my career and racking up 104 points.

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Tactically it has been an interesting journey. I once again revisited my 433 vs 424 debate, never really settling on either one. Ultimately I decided to pivot to a 442 to get the best out of my start striker, who rewarded me two incredible seasons, scoring 34 in 34 league games and 53 in 53 in total in one season!

The funny thing was, I went proper old school. I kept the Gegenpress style, the one semi-constant in my save, but otherwise opted for attacking wingers, a box to box midfielder and an old fashioned poacher up top. We got spanked a couple of times - most damningly 0-4 by Arsenal in the UCL final - and it was clear that we were hugely reliant on my striker. Nonetheless, it was a tremendous success.

But what to do now? Despite its success, I craved something different. And so as we enter 2058/59, I have made a radical switch to a Tiki Taka approach. I might get bored with it but after all this time, I wanted to test myself with something different.

Star Players

The other thing I really wanted to push myself to do was to bring through academy products into the first team, English wherever possible. Whilst only meeting one of those criteria, this is my top prospect. A natural right footer at AML, I retrained him to play right wing and he rewarded me with 26 goals in 39 appearances last season. This year, he will revert to AML as an inside forward, where I have often struggled to get the best performances out of him.

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On the other side, another home grown winger. Johnston is natural on the left and made a good contribution there last year but I am retraining him to play from the right. His potential rating has fluctuated but I am confident that with some game time he'll become a 4 star player.

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Not home grown but purchased for £27m as a nipper, Underwood has been England's first choice despite being only my back up goalie for the last couple of years.

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Never a star player, I kept persevering with McMillian, primarily as a reserve right back, and was thrilled when he finally got the call with England. Never spectacular but always reliable.

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A strange one this. Hudson is a natural ball winner but it's a role I don't play. I will use a DM this season but in a playmaker role. Looking at his stats though, I thought he might work at wing back and so I am in the process of retraining him. My current incumbent is decent so he has time to develop.

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Last one for now. This fella looks like a top prospect, despite not scoring high values for any technical ability. He is being groomed for a key role in central midfield.

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National Service

Plus, I'm England manager!

I was really peeved at never being offered it and so decided that I would apply. And what do you know, it was the knock on the door they were waiting for and so I will divide my time between the two roles.

England have actually been pretty successful on my save, helped significantly by my all conquering team that has provided highest cap earning goalie Michael Janowski as well as all time leading score Matt King. They won the World Cup in 2022, 2026 and 2038, but have since had a best placed finish of 3rd in 2042. They have only won the Euro's once, in 2056, finishing runner up on 3 occasions.

No firsts for me to achieve then but plenty of scope to bring the glory days back. I don't envisage keeping the role long term but it would be nice to win the two major tournaments before, perhaps, finally retiring this save.

But not yet.

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