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What a pair of wins at the end of the month. I really do flip-flap about us on whether we'll survive or not, but after those two wins it's hard to not have the confidence back, especially with Bossiwa coming back. We've also got a young Argentine midfielder on the way. We're really putting together a good young squad. The worry is that we would have it picked apart if relegated, but even so I think we would then be in a strong enough financial position to bounce back up.

It is a mad table though. That bottom 8 is mental - to think if we'd drawn and lost one of those final two games we would be bottom.

Now that we have the monkey off our back regarding home wins, maybe we will pick up. I was at a point where I backed us to beat nobody at home, draw to the rubbish, lose to the better sides (and Dunkerque, that was the one that really hurt me).

Romain Spano man. I think no matter where this save goes, even if we ended up winning the Champions League, he's got to be the first real brick in that wall. He's come up trumps for us so many times, continuing to defy logic.

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LE CLUB DES JEUNES TALENTS

It has to be said, for all of the flaws we have shown this season at times, it's really becoming apparent that we've put together a squad that, whilst it has its limitations, there are some really interesting young players here. The scouts have got some massive credit to take - they have on a number of occasions now come up trumps with some fantastic bargains. I'd be interested to see who people think the best ones are.

 

Shea Charles - Came in during the summer for free after Manchester City let his contract run down.

Rayan Sroler - Spotted by a scout in the summer and available for a hilarious £120. One hundred and twenty pounds. He's already our best right back.

Alexander Albini - Spotted by a scout just before January, this is the midfielder I was talking about, I didn't even realise he was dual nationality and the fact he's an EU eligible player makes it even better. Free.

Marc Medou - Signed last summer from Cameroon for £50k. Has never managed to shift Spano out of the side, but he's improving.

Baye War - Exciting player, signed for £110k, but has often disappointed, though appears to have improved somewhat upon a shift of the system.

 

This is not even including the likes of Wiltord Antonio & Elamine Moussa - two of the very first signings we made, who whilst they don't have the same potential, they have rarely let me down when called upon and they're still only 20.

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Posted (edited)

To say that things have taken a turn for the better would be quite the understatement, in-fact it's scarcely believable what's going on.

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We have become the leagues form team, leaving relegation fears almost a distant memory. You would imagine we're probably 3 wins off survival now - I can't see 41 points relegating you.

A change in system has been the catalyst. The Albini signing has helped, but Miccoli playing deeper also seems to have brought the best from us as a team.

One of the most interesting pluses as well is the reintroduction of Roger Tamba. Yet another of the initial squad I inherited is coming up trumps. He's come back in at number 10 and seems to have just totally galvanised things in the middle for us.

Even Soga, a player I was close to done with, has hit some form at last. He's linking up excellently with Sroler on the right.

Bossiwa, who I brought back in on loan, can't even get in the side. Spano has been smashing it on the left wing now.

It really is a monumental turn in form. I can't quite believe it. The Auxerre win was incredible.

Edited by Dan1884
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We levelled out somewhat for the rest of the season, was no point doing regular breakdowns as it was quite apparent that from the end of January we were going to be in Ligue 2 next season. Too far off being a promotion contender, too far clear of being a relegation contender. Just bang in midtable, which is spot on for me.

The draw with Caen is what confirmed our safety - a game we snatched a point with 10 men.

 

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We didn't hit the heights of 7th last season, but the way we turned our season around is really quite encouraging and gives me hope that we're becoming a quite established side at this level. To finish 10th after such a dire first 15 or so games is commendable, especially given the use of youngsters as well. Feel the best about this save that I have done yet, actually.

FC Annecy were formed in 1927. It would be quite fitting if we were a Ligue 1 side by the time of our 100th year, so that I think will be my aim.

Proper season breakdown coming soon.

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Posted (edited)

SEASON REFLECTION - 2022/23 (Season 3)

 

Player of the season:
Romain Spano won the fans player of the season yet again but I think it's a nonsense this time, he didn't get the highest rating so I'm going to spread the fun a bit - it was a very close run thing between three in-particular, but I'm giving it to Yannis Clementia. He's become a really decent goalkeeper at this level, better than I thought he was, keeping an impressive 17 clean sheets and saving another penalty, adding to the 3 saved last year. Spano ran him extremely close for me, what was impressive about Spano was how he had started doing this from the left wing rather than as a striker, he's really showing a quite the all-round game now. The other contender was Clement Benard, the midfielder with 3 goals and 6 assists, but I think he was just behind these two personally. Honorable mentions to Miccoli, new boy Alexander Albini, and Roger Tamba, who's reintroduction seemed to really galvanise the team and I would guess that he had the best points per game ratio in our side.

 

New signings performance:
The good: I would have to say Albini was our best signing. 18 years old from Argentina, coming on a free transfer mid season and ending up holding down a regular place in our team is some effort. Miccoli for me was also a very solid addition and I think he's not far off our best player personally, with him expecting a bigger role next season.

The average: I would say club record Diaby probably carries that tag a bit unluckily as he's just a steady left back who fit the bill, and we really haven't paid out much in fees, but he was average I'd say. Rayan Sroler for £120 probably deserves to be in the good due to him being a 17 year old who held down a place all season, coming at such a small price, but his performances did tail off a bit too much for my liking. Shea Charles similarly I considered a coup but his performances were a bit ordinary, though he is attracting interest from St Etienne and he may be the first departure from us to make any kind of real step up, which is a sign of progress to me as much as anything and that we are getting good players in. I will also throw in Bryand Soga to this, after a torrid first half of the season he held down a place in the improved side, and maybe I just hadn't used him properly. Maybe a little kind on him there. Alex Kpakpe, the other young defender, went out on loan to Cheltenham and progressed at a steadyish rate.

The bad: Nobody really stood out as too bad, so I have thrown two players into this and it's kind of my own fault. Goalkeeper Hyapoute Djiba was brought in to replace the departing Perez (and is significantly better than him too) and despite wanting a first team deal, strangely accepted a cup goalkeeper clause as his contract, and worse still I forgot to even pick him in the Grenoble defeat, so he didn't even get a game. It feels a waste, but Clementia won POTS so it's just unlucky really. The other bad one, bizarrely, has to be Samuel Bossiwa. This again ended up being circumstance, but I had changed my system prior to him joining (after it had been agreed) and we had clicked so well in it that he actually hardly got any game time, so a slightly wasted few months for him and a waste of decent wages for us. though he did still land a couple of goals from the bench.

 

Points of note:
- I know I harp on about it, but we are still significantly overachieving as a club. Even despite it being our second year up, and nobody of note coming up (I mean Concarneau, really???) we still have the lowest wage budget in the division, and yet despite this have posted another top half finish.

- To big the last point up even more, we gave so many minutes to youngsters and even better, permanent youngsters of ours, not loanees. 19 year old Shea Charles played 32 games, 17 year old Rayan Sroler played 25, 18 year old Alexander Albini played 15 despite joining in January, Marc Medou got 26 games as well this season, though a slightly underwhelming 8 goals. Not only are we overachieving for our wage budget, but we are giving actual proper gametime to youngsters and it's a sign of how well we've recruited. The scouts have done superbly, they have really delivered me some gems and I want to ensure we reap some real benefits for these players. Without giving too much away, I expect this trend to continue as well, as we have spotted some more targets of a similar nature.

- Our average attendance grew by about a third, so it is now over double what it was two seasons ago. Whilst the ground is still pitifully empty, I feel like we're growing as a club. The room to grow is there, but I don't like the fact that a ground being a third full feels like a big crowd for us. The truth is we should be playing in a ground of about 3-4k, but as it is, we use one in Annecy that is of that size, Evian TG (remember them?) used to play there.

- We continue to be the leagues dirtiest side, with the most yellow cards again (80) and top of the foul count by an absolute mile (704, next had 572). It is quite remarkable that for such a consistently dirty team, we have only picked up two red cards in three years. Are we just really clever about it?

- The board agreed to upgrade our youth facilities, so we finally have some infrastructure work.

- Our creativity went down quite significantly from last season, with just 17 clear cut chances against the 35 last year (which was a league high), but we seemed a bit more effective. We ranked 8th best for expected goals conceded, and 14th for expected goals for, so a 10th placed finish seems about right on that balance. We averaged 50% possesion which is just totally what you would expect from a side with such an average record.

- Our second half of the season was seriously impressive and ranked us at 4th in the division. This put us above even Montpellier.

 

Where to strengthen:
I don't think anything radical is required this summer. Obviously I will make signings, but I think we're putting together a decentish side for this level now. The targets however are...

CB - Amazingly, the ageing and incredibly slow Matthieu Sans is still on our books on a month to month basis, but he's getting on and so is his partner Fabien Boyer. I've given up on Ruben Droehnle, he's hopeless, he's had about 3 good games in 2 years, a liability and I want him selling. Charles is first choice now, and usually partners Boyer, but I think we just need another in that area simply. I would rather a slightly more experienced centre back though as I don't want an entire defence of teenagers, I think it's far too risky. I think we're in a position where we can now get better than Boyer, who has done well, but yeah.

RB/LB - It's worth mentioning that two right backs are leaving, but I think Charles will cover for Sroler when not available - ideally I want another player who can play on both sides as Sylla can, but he's leaving and I think we can do better now. Samake, signed last summer, was simply not good enough. I have found an interesting youngster at left back though so watch this space.

RAM/CAM - I think Tamba has done well, but I have found somebody a little better in my opinion, and somebody who can play on the right too as Soga, whilst improved, cannot be 'totally' trusted, so another option to compete with those two will be very welcomed.

ST - I'm going to be honest, I think Medou isn't really good enough and I don't think he ever will be. He got the gametime he asked for and whilst he was alright, I don't think he's ever really kicked on as a player, he is still only 19, but I just think he's a bit too limited and I would take a decent offer if I got it. Again, I have found a very interesting player.

I want 4 or 5 players, and I already think I know 4 of them - potentially even all 5.

 

The rest of football:
France: PSG once again champions, followed by Lyon and Marseille. Last years surprise package Stade Brestois made it to the group stages of the Champions League but finished 3rd, before being dumped out of the Europa League by Braga, though they have bagged themselves a Europa League place. Lyon won the cup, beating 2nd tier Auxerre in the final. Toulouse and Amiens have been relegated and will face us next season.

England: Liverpool won the Premier League with an astounding 101 points - a Premier League record. Bournemouth finished 7th, but unfortunately for them, Everton won the FA Cup so deny them a European place.

Spain: Barcelona, like Liverpool, got 101 points on their way to the title, with Atletico on 97 just behind (you would be gutted). Athletic Club have bagged a place in the Champions League.

Germany: Bayern Munich won their 11th straight title, dropping points only 4 times all season. Werder Bremen won the Cup which was surprising.

Italy: Inter won the title this year with Juventus second. Nothing else really of note.

Portugal: Benfica top, Porto 2nd. It's actually barely worth even reporting on this. I actually doubt anybody is that bothered.

Champions League: Barcelona beat PSG in the final. Nobody surprising put together a run.

Europa Leagues: Lyon beat Koln in the Europa League final, whilst Atalanta beat Dynamo Kyiv in the Conference. Koln's run consisted of beating both Chelsea and Arsenal, which is a great effort for them.

World Cup: Brazil lifted their 6th World Cup trophy, beating Spain in the final. The surprise package were Austria who made it all the way to the semi final.

 

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Edited by Dan1884
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A shame because I thought he was quite promising, but a good deal given he only played twice for us.

 

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Posted (edited)

I have to give this board a lot of credit. Other than stepping in a bit too soon on the Kpakpe deal and declaring a bid of £200k from Montpellier "impossible to refuse" (even though I had accepted double from Lens) they have backed me up on every request I've ever made. Even on the Kpakpe deal, luckily he went for Reims who had made a slightly worse offer than Lens but a better one than Montpellier. They have backed every proposal I have made so far. A lot more than can be said for plenty similar.

 

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Edited by Dan1884
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NEW SEASON - 2023/24 (Season 4)

New signings

I made the mistake of not capturing these in the summer so their attributes have changed somewhat - a couple of them fairly significantly too, though that's only a good thing.

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Maxence Toutain - I felt we needed a little more creativity and as decent as Tamba had been, I think he'd overperformed somewhat and we needed slightly more quality, so in came this man, after failing to agree a deal with 3rd tier Rodez (after smashing it for them) he came in for nothing.

Roland Toure - This felt a bit silly because I broke my record last season to sign a left back, but when you see a player with obvious potential, attainable for nothing, then you have to take it.

Jeroen Baggerman - The signing I'm most excited about. What I've found interesting is Spano's performance as an all-round striker seems to totally eclipse Medou, who is for me better at some things, but not quite as rounded, so I looked for a young striker with more of an all round game and my god did the scouts do me good. The finishing is the only letdown but for £100k it's a really good signing.

Curtis Tilt - I did say I planned to upgrade on Boyer and brought in, in my eyes, a better version of him - a bit on the old side but he's just simply of a higher standard and I'm amazed Rotherham let him go.

Nicolas Luna - Another risk free signing. He was smashing it in Uruguay and I just couldn't resist giving him a deal, one to work on, probably going to be a winger for me though rather than a striker as the finishing is simply dire.

Josh Emmanuel - A slightly reactive signing for me but a good one. Well-rounded and versatile - we definitely needed another right back as the cover wasn't doing it, as showcased in some of the games.  Released by Hull City in the summer. Luckily he is partially Nigerian so is not classed as non-EU.

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I want to make this team an exciting one in the long run. Maybe not quite a Bielsa-level all out attack every game, but one that will always threaten to create chances, one that can really hammer a team when it clicks. I would argue pretty much all of these signings filled into this thinking in some way.

What was good is that selling Kpakpe for £400k meant for the first time we had a negative net spend - though of course, that can change in January.

Two more youngsters are coming in January - one of those the Gabonese midfielder. Sadly he's not kicked on and is a bit of a waste of time.

 

Season so far

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If I had to use a word to sum it up so far - infuriating.

I think it's fair to say we were dealt a very tricky first few games, though the comeback win over Troyes was impressive, the others less so. We did play the sides expected to finish in the top four in our first five games, but it's dropping points to teams like Laval, Paris and Orleans that worries me. The Auxerre hammering was a bit of a freak as we lost Baggerman to a red card in the 2nd minute.

The performances, by and large, have been pretty impressive. We're creating chances and I'm seeing the value of really using the likes of Toutain, Miccoli and Baggerman. Spano had a slow start but has really picked up of late.

We remind me a bit of Brighton in the Premier League. Often play well but rarely win.

I don't have any real relegation worries. What we did to Niort was a sign of what we can do on our day, when the finishing is there. But we have got to have a few more days like that. Some of the draws have been infuriating and I've not been impressed with much of our defending. I'm getting increasingly concerned that Charles isn't actually very good, and that we seem to fall apart a bit if Albini doesn't play - which is something we're often faced with due to how many yellow cards he picks up.

I'm a bit disappointed but at the same time I don't feel like we're far off being a pretty good team.

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It's a bit worrying...

The longer this season goes on, the more worried I become about this team. What became a minor irritant earlier on the season is more and more becoming a full blown problem that we just cannot seem to shift ourselves out of.

 

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The most staggering thing is that our build up and general play is probably as good as I've seen from us. We are consistently in games, consistently look the better side, and I keep thinking that eventually we are just going to click, get some confidence and really put a run of results together.

But with each passing game, it seems to just slip through our fingers. A number of games signal this...

Annecy 1-1 Orleans - A game we had largely controlled and spent the majority of wondering how we were only 1-0 up, thrown away with 5 minutes left.

Stade Lavallois 1-1 Annecy - A game we dominated, missed a penalty, fell behind but equalised immediately in, failed to grab the winner.

Annecy 1-2 SM Caen - A rapid start from us and we grabbed the lead. Caen would grab two goals from their only two shots on target.

AS Nancy 1-1 Annecy - A very late equaliser denies us in a game we were largely on top of.

Annecy 0-1 Grenoble - An even game which of course is stolen at the death, by our opposition.

 

There is just simply no way that can continue happening and whilst not being somebody who generally makes too big a move in January, I think I'm left with little choice. I am aiming for a central midfielder, a box to box 'reliable' head, in the mould of Benard who carries this job out, just not quite as well as potential alternatives. The Miccoli - Albini pivot hasn't worked, despite initial promise.

I also think another pretty obvious solution here is to get in a striker. Baggerman's all round game has kept him in the team, but he's not a clinical striker at all and you only have to see the lack of goals from players other than Spano to show how reliant we are on the latter. Baggerman can drop to number 10 where he can continue to showcase his ability, but he's not scoring enough and we're at a point now where this is costing us.

Soga and Toutain are a good example of what sum us up. They play neat football, they don't do a lot wrong, but they just don't score. Nicolas Luna will be getting some game time but finishing is his weakness too - though I think he's a bigger prospect than the others and he's demonstrated such form in the B team that he deserves a go. Something needs to change anyway. The wage budget argument matters to some degree, but this squad in my opinion should be quite clear of this. I think we will survive - but it gets harder and harder to avoid the thinking that we will go down with each passing 90 minutes of frustration.

Our xG for, and xG against, are both 6th best in the league, which is astounding considering our league position.

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Big sale made.

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The club record sale broken again. Great profit for just a year at the club, though he is a loss.

It is strange though with Albini. I was never 'totally' sure how best to really use him. He didn't massively fit, though he was hard to actually leave out.

We have a very decent budget now, but I've already made a couple of signings! I don't want to totally bloat the squad. I hate situations like this, squad imbalance becomes almost an inevitability.

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Sapeur Pompier!

It's quite well documented now that January is about strengthening and that we really need to pad out the squad with some better players. We're in real danger of getting relegated here, so I had to get some deals done, though, as shown above, Albini did leave. In came...

Massimiliano Busullato - We simply needed a bit more in midfield and I found just the man. Experienced, resolute and the kind of 7/10 midfielder I have been missing. He joins an 18 month contract.

Leandro Cardoso - Spano's goals have dried up and he's the only player who seems to score. We're just simply not taking chances so in comes the Portuguese forward, with an option to make it permanent for £100k if needs be. I did pay around the same to do this deal though.

Gabriel Charpentier - A striker I had looked at in the summer but couldn't afford the wages. This is a bit of a free hit to me - Medou left for Le Havre so I needed another option. He's declined since the summer but I did think I would grab him as beforehand he looked a real handful, and somebody who I think can improve, though there's also a chance he does a Keita. There's little risk, really.

Denis Duarte - One real elephant in the room is how poor we've been defensively in a lot of games. A regular inability to see a game out, conceding late goals and just the general tendency for somebody in the back line to drop a shocker. He comes in on loan for the rest of this season as another, a bit like Busulleto, who I think just assures 7/10 performances. He's out of contract in the summer, so I may take the chance to sign him permanently up if he impresses, but I do generally operate by buying younger.

 

I'm not confident because it's hard to be when you win so infrequently, but I think it's certainly possible. It's also worth pointing out the pre-agreed deals to sign African youngsters Issahaku Hammond & Yohan Ambourouet went through this month. Hammond is an intriguing prospect and cost us pennies. The latter unfortunately just hasn't developed since I agreed the deal and I will think twice before sanctioning such moves again - though I do think he can have a steady career maybe at the level below.

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6 hours ago, Northernpilgrim said:

What tactics are you using?

Generally I use 4-2-3-1, it's a relatively basic system, but I do tweak it a bit to accomodate whoever is available. I've had a bit of an issue this season as regards to players being available so I've often found myself changing it.

This is my favoured one at the minute though;

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I often use very few instructions, I just tend to find it's more helpful and that players adapt to different situations better.

My alternative is generally to drop in a defensive midfielder for my attacking one if I'm against somebody significantly better but I haven't found myself doing it a lot lately. I intend to get another defensive midfielder.

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The latest

I have played on quite a bit since the last update.

 

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I had mixed feelings about this month. It was on paper about as tough a month as we could possibly have wished for. Not only did we have 3 cup games, but we had the repeat run of fixtures to the ones we had earlier in the season and it's about as tricky a run as you could ask for in this league. Toulouse was an embarrassment but the other games actually made this a decent month in my opinion. The two draws were both unexpected and we were so close to getting something at Guingamp, though the collapse late in that game is what forced the Duarte signing. The defence needed fixing. Pushing Rennes all the way in front of a bumper 4,428 crowd was also quite a good effort - no shame in a game I expected us to be hammered in and our best cup performance yet.

Now we had the harder games out of the way, we really needed to start converting some of these other games into wins. For all January was acceptable in the circumstances, it only prolonged our winless run and we now had gone 14 games in the league without a win, which cannot be dressed up as anything other than shocking. Our next job was a home game against bottom side Laval.

 

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There is no getting away from it. We are in huge trouble. That is probably the worst result I have had at Annecy since I started there. The manner of the loss as well - this wasn't bad luck or wasting chances, this was just an abject no-show against the worst side in the league, and infact I was at a point where I thought that title belonged to us. It's difficult to actually see us coming back from this.

Then the rest of February happened.

 

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My god how we needed that. The Dunkerque win felt enormous, 15 games without a win and the monkey finally off our backs in a fixture we often have a bit of trouble in. The sinking feeling returned after the Clermont loss, but the two subsequent wins were vital - Niort have somehow managed to lose 4-0 and 3-1 to us this season which is some going given how disappointing we have been. The performances are on the up again, and I feel like we have a real fighting chance again, but it was Orleans next. We sat 17th, Orleans 18th and four behind us. If we win this, we are really easing the pressure on ourselves. If we lose it, we're dragged right back into trouble.

It would be so fitting that after this season of extreme wastage of chances and inefficiency, that this would happen.

 

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Three shots and we win 3-0. Sensational. Admittedly if you look at the xG it was three absolute sitters, two penalties and a one on one, but the defensive resilience was the most notable thing in my eyes. The Duarte and Busellato signings have really helped steady the ship a bit. Cardoso is playing well and Spano seems to have clicked again on the left, looking set to bag the top scorer award for the fourth straight season, though he's scored more penalties than from open play. The reintroduction to the team of Souleymane Diaby has helped too. As good as the youngster Toure is, Diaby's a bit better defensively and it shows.

The rest of the month was a little frustrating.

 

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In hindsight the Valenciiennes draw was infuriating. Winning that would've really pulled them into the mire with us, but so be it. We have a reasonable run in, largely against sides around midtable, so I think we can do it - but we aren't there yet.

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2 hours ago, Dan1884 said:

Generally I use 4-2-3-1, it's a relatively basic system, but I do tweak it a bit to accomodate whoever is available. I've had a bit of an issue this season as regards to players being available so I've often found myself changing it.

This is my favoured one at the minute though;

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I often use very few instructions, I just tend to find it's more helpful and that players adapt to different situations better.

My alternative is generally to drop in a defensive midfielder for my attacking one if I'm against somebody significantly better but I haven't found myself doing it a lot lately. I intend to get another defensive midfielder.

I have never managed to get a BBM and BWM to work together. Currently I'm using a DMC set as DLP(D), and 2 MCs, BBM(S) on the left, MEZ(A) on the right. Generally if I'm using a triangle in midfield, so either a DMC or AMC with 2 MCs, I'll have one on defend duty, one support, and one on attack. I have my AMR as Winger(A), my AML as IF(A), so I've got one flank primarily creating chances, the other looking to finish them, along with my AF(A) lone striker. Having an IW on both sides I find makes the attack too predictable, and easier to defend. 

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37 minutes ago, Northernpilgrim said:

I have never managed to get a BBM and BWM to work together. Currently I'm using a DMC set as DLP(D), and 2 MCs, BBM(S) on the left, MEZ(A) on the right. Generally if I'm using a triangle in midfield, so either a DMC or AMC with 2 MCs, I'll have one on defend duty, one support, and one on attack. I have my AMR as Winger(A), my AML as IF(A), so I've got one flank primarily creating chances, the other looking to finish them, along with my AF(A) lone striker. Having an IW on both sides I find makes the attack too predictable, and easier to defend. 

I find your tactics not actually all that far off mine really. I think it's quite similar anyway. If I use the DM then I will generally pick a midfield trio like yours as well, MEZ(A) likewise something I regularly use. I've made a point of ensuring that I on the flanks, you obviously have your two full backs and your two wide players. I usually have two of them on S and two of them on A but ensure that they're in opposite sides to each other, if you get me. So I will have either...

1. LB (S) LW (A), RB (A), RW (S)

2. LB (A) LW (S), RB (S), RW (A)

But right now I've dropped one of them to S because I think it's helping us defensively.

To me it's largely based on the players you have anyway. What works for you may not work for me, and vice versa. I often find myself tweaking players roles over the course of a season. Nothing drastic game to game but if we are struggling over a few games, or even in just one game I will try and make the occasional tweak. It would be nice to have a very 'set' plan A though so I can buy every single transfer to fit it. I've had to deviate from my transfer policy a little this season due to being in genuine relegation danger.

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Live to fight another day

 

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We did it, and what a way to finish the job.

We went into a very tense final day where there were games that directly impacted both the battle between us and Orleans, as well as the play-off battle between Troyes and Le Havre. Two away wins was very surprising, and it presented Nimes the chance to pinch the play-off spot.

We just needed to avoid defeat at Troyes to be sure of survival. We made hard work of it, but a fantastic solo effort from loanee Cardoso in injury time stole the points and survival was in the bag, even managing to leapfrog Valenciennes!

Full season breakdown coming soon - though just another thing, I must praise this board. I mean, I think it's deserved, but they really do back me every time I ask for anything.

 

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SEASON REFLECTION - 2023/24 (Season 4)

Player of the season / top scorer

This was a tricky one again, Denis Duarte did post the highest average rating of the season but did only join in January and only made 14 appearances. It's tough to give it to him on that basis, but our record was significantly improved amongst those games. Weighing it all up though, the winner, again, has to be Romain Spano. Comfortably top scorer for the fourth season running and this time doing it largely playing from the wing, which is something I probably haven't taken enough into account. Spano being good from the wing doesn't really make loads of logical tactical sense to me, but I'm not going to question it too much as its worked for a long time now. The only thing I will say for Spano this season is the number of penalties. Of his 16 goals, 7 were penalties - he missed another 3 as well.

 

New signing performance

The good: Without wanting to blow my own trumpet too much, I really did fix it with the January signings who did do everything I hoped for. They saved us as far as I'm concerned. Duarte's performances at centre half really helped shore up the defence and I need to have a real think about Shea Charles, who hasn't really delivered and nor has he really improved. Cardoso got 8 goals in 15 games which is around 20 goals if he plays a full season. Having both him and Spano as goal threats made a difference - we can't rely on just one player to score all the time. I have activated the £100k optional fee and he joins permanently this summer. Busellato likewise was consistently good in midfield and I was frequently quizzed in the media about how his signing had lifted morale around the club.

The average: I think the majority fall into this category though. Baggerman's performances were pretty consistent but I do think his general lack of goal productivity can only mean he's placed in this category, though to hold down a place all season as an 18 year old is good and I really think he's got the highest ceiling of anybody at the club. Roland Toure is tricky, his performances individually were decent, but the reverting to Diaby at left back (who is a bit better defensively) definitely helped the team. Toure's attracting Ligue 1 interest though. Curtis Tilt had a mixed season, never hit it off with Charles but was good alongside Duarte, but a quite bad injury late on has really scuppered him and at his age I don't think we can afford to gamble on him next season. Emmanuel was just bang average. Nicolas Luna absolutely far too good for the U19 where he got a ridiculous 23 goals in 12 games from the wing, didn't do a great deal in the league but he's only 18 and he's a prospect. Hammond I think can be placed in the average category. Toutain was hit and miss though I do think our results often seemed to depend on how he played. Toutain turns up, we win.

The bad / pointless: The Gabonese Ambourouet is just pointless really and after waiting two and a half years to make the move here I think I will just let him go for free next summer, or sell this summer if anybody wants to buy. Charpentier was a waste of time as well really, though did get me a late winner in the cup, but in all honesty he was just a pointless move, he's declined too much for me to make anything of. Will probably try and sell.

 

Points of note

- It has to be pointed out that this is the second season in a row that we have declined in both points total and position, and that this time we ran relegation far closer than I'm comfortable with. It is hard to be overly critical, we are predicted to finish 18th in the league and we came 16th, but I felt that this group of players had a little more in them than what we served up.

- The thing that really does stand out is quite how significantly we underperformed against our xG. If you look at this it's really quite alarming to say that we were expected to finish 9th. I think it's really quite plausible that we're not actually that far off being a quite good side, we just happened to be a bit useless in both boxes. The improvement upon the signings of Duarte and Cardoso only back this up.

- What also must be factored into how good our xG looks is the sheer number of penalties we got. As stated half of Spano's goals were penalties, and we didn't even have that great a conversion rate, we had 10 penalties in total, scoring 7.

- We posted our best cup performance yet, but for the fourth season running lost at home, which is an odd trend I've noticed.

- We were still quite dirty, Troyes comfortably the worst this year, but I am trying to get away from that a little now as I found the number of suspensions we were getting early doors ridiculous, I think we'd had 3 suspensions after 5 games which is just stupid, funny, but stupid, and we haven't really got the means to cope with that.

- Our average attendance dropped this season for the first time, which is a shame, though only slightly, and I think it's only natural. The performance definitely impacts it, as early doors we were averaging over 3,000. Clearly the fans were getting fed up of losing 0-1 every week.

- This summer will see a departure for a number of players who've played quite a big part for me since I've arrived. These include Roger Tamba, Migouel Alfarela, Clement Benard, Manuel Mane and Diego Michel.

 

Where to strengthen

I think as stated we probably need the following:

- Centre back. Probably two. I will attempt to get Duarte again but I won't pay big money as he has just turned 30.

- Central midfielder. I think the number of departures particularly in this position forces our hand a bit and I intend to bring in somebody.

- Possibility of another full back, both Sroler and Toure are attracting higher league interest. Given our spending on facilities lately I think we probably would be well advised to cash in on one of them.

- Striker, though I have fixed this, as Cardoso is joining permanently. He's accepted a bizarrely low wage too.

- As you will have probably spotted now, there will be other random 17/18 year olds join me. We've always had an eye for a bargain, though I am a bit concerned that my director of football is going due to us being unable to fulfil his wage demands. Something I'm really annoyed about as he's done a lovely job with some of these players. The fact I'm only allowed to offer less than his current worth is utter lunacy to me.

 

The rest of football

I won't go into loads of detail this time as I found it a little tedious admittedly, but Liverpool, Inter, Barcelona, PSG, Bayern and Porto took the league titles. It was a year for English teams in Europe, with Manchester United winning the Champions League, beating Liverpool in the final at Wembley. Manchester City and Arsenal won the other two tournaments making it a hattrick, the first ever. The real surprises were Real Betis qualifying for the Champions League, Toulouse of Ligue 2 winning the cup then failing to be promoted (this will be funny next season)

 

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Edited by Dan1884
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As well as Nicolas Luna joining Marseille in a nearly identical deal. It is a shame, but that is three players there in those two and Albini that have raised a guaranteed £3.7mil that potentially rises to over £5mil, maybe even more if somebody moves for big money. All three of them were free transfers and found by the scouts, who've totally exceeded expectations year after year for me. 

We have plenty more where they came from as well. I have agreed another couple of deals of a similar nature.

I feel like this is where this save will begin to really take off. I still aim to be in Ligue 1 by our 100th year (2027).

 

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Future plan (South America / Spain)

Decided something I am going to do when I have the scouts in place is to utilise this loophole - I am going to scout more of South America aiming to buy up 16-20 year olds. I am then going to form a partnership with a club in Spain and send them there for a couple of seasons so that they get an EU passport and therefore won't take up spaces in my registration. FC Andorra would've been great but.... it's Andorra. It was a frequent problem when in charge of them too. I did similar with them when in charge there, I happened to set up a partnership with a club called Logrones, one I happened to pip to promotion from the third tier as it were, loaning them youngsters each season. They ended up an established second tier side out of it and helped me out with EU citizenship. I'm aiming to do similar, but probably one for another couple of years away.

In this league you can only have 2 non-EU players. Luna and Charles were mine. Albini being half Italian made him exempt, and Luna of course is now sold, so just Charles takes up a space.

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A busier summer than planned - summer 2024

I do like the idea of trying to have a base core of players, where maybe 1/2 leave a summer and then 3/4 join, gradually using the money raised from player sales to increase the quality of players coming into the club. The problem is I am finding this is quite idealistic and in our boat, particularly as a club who have invested quite a bit of money into signing youngsters, we are setting ourselves up to be overly reliable on players we're likely to lose, so I'm wondering if I need to sign more players aged say 20-22, rather than 17-19.

As previously stated, Roland Toure & Nicolas Luna both departed the club in the summer (though this annoyingly went onto last seasons record for some reason so I'll have to redo my net spend) and then right at the end of the window, something I feared, and thought I had dodged. I was wrong. Jeroen Baggerman went to join my other ex player Albini at PSV in the most lucrative move yet, signing for £2.5mil rising to a potential £3.6mil - the third time we have broken our record sale in the last year.

I was sad to lose Baggerman. He was a strange player though. He had a lot of technical quality, and never seemed to really play badly, but he was lacking in goal contribution and even when moved to number 10, you can't really carry somebody getting so little in terms of goals and assists, but I forgive him as he was looking steady at this level and was just 18 years old. I mean he's managed to get a move to PSV, he's clearly done something right. Luckily I had a replacement lined up.

Following yet another agreement from the board to improve our facilities and youth coaching, spotting that we had a slight problem regarding our projected bank balance, I resisted the urge to splash all £3mil that they gave to me as I simply think to justify it we've got to look like promotion contenders, and on last seasons showing, we are miles off.

Therefore the objective this summer was to just simply improve the calibre of players coming in a bit. Nothing too drastic, but we can't risk being in another relegation battle. There's only one place you're headed for if you spend year after year circling the bowl.

So the obvious first two moves were to make the loan deals of Leandro Cardoso and Denis Duarte permanent. They joined for £100k and £210k respectively, with Duarte's a new club record. Not ideal as he is 30, but lets be honest, £210k isn't big money and we've been largely very prudent.

---

The other first team signings were...

Gabriel Beres - The club record broken a second time as we sanctioned a £300k deal to bring him in. We were massively lacking in midfield due to the departures of Benard, Michel and Mane. He will become a first choice player quite soon, and hopefully he can fit the new role I'm planning for the season - the roaming playmaker. I feel he, and Miccoli, are both suited to it.

Stanislav Rusak - I still can't resist a youngster even for first choice, but at £40k he really was a total no brainer. He replaces Toure.

Rossi Blackett - The Baggerman replacement. I had it lined up from about a month after signing Baggerman, hoping that nobody would usurp us.

---

Following those, we also completed these deals for youngsters, the scouts really have been worth their weight in gold to us - if not more. I'm always aiming for these types as I feel they will hopefully be ready to step in should we lose somebody to injury / late sale.

Didier Ouattara - £40k from our old friends Bastia-Borgo. We somehow beat off 17 other clubs to this signing.

Carles Segura - Free from Lleida Esportiu

Filipe Silva - Another Portuguese player, we're getting quite a few now, something I often find myself doing on FM saves. For just £49k I couldn't leave this one.

Serge Bapidi - Another centre back signed from Cameroon.

Triantafyllos Goutidis - Signed from TNS for £10k. Some defensive issues to iron out, but there's enough there to justify such a small outlay.

---

I'm possibly lacking a centre half but we have quite a few now, so it's not numbers, it's more the quality. I will address this in January if I sense there are problems, but I think Tilt may just about do and despite some flaws, I think Goutidis can offer something.

Edited by Dan1884
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So onto the season we moved...

 

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Quite a mixed beg opening few games but I was reasonably happy with it. We continue to be frustratingly bad at home and our tendency to lose 0-1 is frankly boring, but the other results were impressive, and even Paris only settled a game we largely had the better of with a wonderstrike. Metz, title favourites, had made a disastrous start to the new season and that result was the final nail in the coffin for their manager - after they had been beaten 5 times out of 5, including an unbelievable 2-8 loss to Paris.

What followed next month, was simply quite funny.

 

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That's right. Three goalless draws. Mixed performances and to be honest, it was surprising because they weren't the dullest games, but to land it three times on the bounce is amazing.

And this is where something a bit spooky happened. I thought we were playing reasonable football, only 2 defeats from our first 8 and nowhere near the bottom 3, but I felt we lacked something going forward. I made a tweak to my system to get Blackett playing with an attacking role rather than a supporting one, as I was finding Cardoso too often isolated and Hammond on the wing ganged up on too easily. "Knowing FM we will go and produce a 4-3 in our next game due to this one tweak" I told my mate.

 

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For it to then happen, and then happen again, was remarkable.

The games themselves need a bit of breaking down. Dunkerque was a pretty remarkable game, but the Grenoble one was amazing. Grenoble are a rival so it's always nice getting one over them. We raced to an early 2 goal lead but were pegged back by half time, and went behind not long afterwards. We grabbed an equaliser immediately after going behind and played out a pretty end to end last 20 or so minutes, before Grenoble get a corner, we clear it, and Issahaku Hammond runs from his own box all the way to winning a penalty, converted by Duarte (who has a really good stat for a defender). He's been a bit of a revelation and I think his direct running has made us a different beast going forward. The change to Blackett's role appears to have given him so much more space.

Valenciennes was the most complete performance I think we have turned in at this level. We dominated a side we were neck and neck with last season throughout and really ought to have had a few more. We were excellent.

Pau was just typical FM. Full of confidence going away to a struggler and we end up dominating the game and losing. Quite how we've managed to lose it is a mystery to me, even at 2-0 I fancied us to come back and win, such was our dominance, but we fell short.

But that latter point is kind of a signal of how much we have improved. The fact I believed we would do it. I'm quite a realist and often last season if we went behind I just thought it was curtains. Not anymore. We're playing the best attacking football I think we have played in my tenure. The defence is a bit worrying, though it's to be expected with three teenagers in it. We're doing well though - we're definitely taking the sort of shape as a side I hoped we would. Quick, dynamic football and always a threat. Hammond the player of the season so far. Took him a while to get any goal contributions but he's ripping it up for us most games now, almost Adama Traore like (when on song).

The notable absentee is Romain Spano though. He hasn't performed this season, has fallen victim to my Hammond experiment, and now isn't even getting in my side. He has a part to play, but for a player who has won top scorer 4 years out of 4, and player of the season 3 out of 4, it's quite mad to think he isn't even starting games anymore.

 

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There's a long way to go, but we're definitely in a much better position this season. It's hard to judge a side who draws 0-0 three games on the spin then wins two in a row 4-3, but we've gotten over half of last seasons points total in under a third of the games, and in the last month have played some genuinely exciting stuff. We're laying some good foundations this season, and long may it continue.

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9 hours ago, Northernpilgrim said:

Looking good. Promotion contenders next season, if you don't pull it off this year.

I think we ought to be aiming for it - we have a bit of money, not loads, but enough to add a bit more to this team, and I'm going to be a bit harder regarding selling players this summer.

We won't go up this season though, and I think if we do we're going to need a bit of a miracle to stay up. I want us to be really ready for it.

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Issahaku Hammond. Goodness me. He's having the best season any player of mine has had since I started. I'm so glad I persisted with him. More coming up about him in a following update but I just had to give him a bit of extra praise. He's been outstanding. I am ever so slightly worried about over-reliance on him though.

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I think we're just floating to a midtable finish this season, which I've no issue with, it's an improvement from last season. We won't be in a relegation battle unless we absolutely capitulate, but I think we're a bit too porous at the back to sustain any kind of promotion bid. We just have almost impressively average form. Our typical run of 6 games would be 2 wins, 2 losses and 2 defeats.

It's good that we're getting goals though. I think the switch to get Blackett playing more attacking has paid dividends. It's freed the others up, especially Hammond.

 

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A bit of a play with systems...

So I did switch things up a little this season. It's been to the detriment of Spano but I think the way it's helped Hammond has made it worth it, here's what I've done.

 

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Last season it was a little different as I had Spano as the attacking wide player, with my right winger playing a more supporting role - usually an inverted winger, and it was usually either Toutain, Soga or Luna (who has now gone).

This has been to the detriment of Spano's attacking productivity, and only in the draw with Nancy did he bag his first goal of the season. I have felt all along that despite not being a 'bad' player, Spano's exceeded expectations massively and I've never quite gotten how he was so productive, so it felt risky to sacrifice this in favour of giving Hammond the real attacking role. 6 games into this season Hammond had averaged something like 7.00, but had no goals, and no assists. I think changing Blackett to an attacking role has really freed him and the striker up. Cardoso is my first choice but is currently injured.

I think we play a quite open game now, and we're probably the most exciting side in the league in terms of our actual games themselves - we're top of the expected goals against, and second in expected goals for. I think we probably need a tweak or two, or just simply slightly better players, but the approach is working so far.

I have divulged an alternative tactic though. I used it in the cup game at Villefranche and despite only winning 1-2, we absolutely battered them all game, so it was encouraging.

 

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I'm likely to be forced into playing this again soon, though our next game is a very hard one - away at Marseille in the cup, and we're missing Busellato, Hammond & Cardoso for it. We could be on the end of an absolute massacring if we're not careful.

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Here he is, the man himself.

 

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I think it shows how much a team like us, who are likely to be doing a lot of defending, really needs that pacey outball. We've never really had enough pace in the side. War is pretty quick but Spano never was. Hammond plays like Adama Traore and I mean that in a complimentery way.

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New record signing

Well it's slightly dull again, it's no marquee signing, but the record is now £375k. That's what it has cost to bring in Abou Ba from last seasons relegation rivals Laval. For me he just plugs loads of gaps in the squad. Steady all-round player and plays lots of different positions that we're lacking in - particularly in midfield.

 

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2 hours ago, Northernpilgrim said:

Ba looks a decent player, good signing :)

Cheers. Had a relegation release clause upon Laval dropping last year, looked at him in the summer but left it, but I think we're a bit lacking in quite a few positions he plays and he's just a good all-round player.

We have got to sort out our home form. Never been good enough at home.

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We're just really ordinary. That's fine. That's an overachievement. But there are some quite worrying trends I spot with us, and I need to have a serious rethink about how we approach home games. We are routinely good away but awful at home.

Our record this season is...

Home | 4-4-8
Away | 7-7-3

In-fact, since we arrived in Ligue 2, our records are...

Home | 20-19-34
Away | 28-25-21

Now lets be fair, that away record is actually quite remarkable for us. To win more than we've lost is very strange, but we're clearly doing something right there.

But that home record is frankly embarrassing. We've got a promotion level away record and a relegation level home record, and each other generally are what nails us to around midtable.

I think we have the makings of something decent, but I am getting a bit fed up of going into home games against ordinary sides with the belief we'll probably end up losing.

In other news, Hammond is probably going this summer. I half expected it but he's out of contract next summer and sees himself as above us, which is disappointing, but understandable. Southampton are interested though, so we could spin our best fee yet. He will take some replacing though, he's the quickest player in the league and he is such a direct threat. I do have an academy product who has been smashing it, who is of a similar style, but he's even more limited.

Didn't mention also I brought in 32 year old Valentin Eyserric on loan. Almost a bit of an experiment, I've no intention to make it permanent, but I wanted a slightly more creative midfielder on the left. It hasn't really fixed the problem though. War isn't really good enough and Spano looks shot to bits quite frankly.

We're also losing some players this summer as well. Charles is going to Leeds on a free, which is a shame but he's not going to be that big a miss. Emmanuel is going as well to Millwall. The one I'm most annoyed at is losing Segura on a free to Lens. It's entirely my own fault as well, but we live and learn.

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At least someone was!

Southampton now strongly interested. Sad that we're inevitably going to lose him but we might be able to take in a really good fee here.

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SEASON REVIEW 2024/25 (SEASON 5)

Player of the season / top scorer

What is usually a very dull section dominated by one man, this season we saw a significant change as Romain Spano went from the key attacking player to barely even holding down a place. Leandro Cardoso took the top scorer award with 16 goals, delivering a very good first season at the club. I think what's happened here really is a sign that we have strengthened. The player of the season was Issahaku Hammond, quite comfortably as well, averaging 7.16, scoring 10 and assisting 7 from the right wing. The experiment sunk Spano's time here really, but you do have to move on and you can't be 'too' sentimental if you want to progress.

 

New signings

The good: Cardoso and Duarte re-enter this after both being solid upon their permanent arrivals. Duarte probably not quite hitting last seasons heights but still worth the buy. The winner for this section however has to be Goutidis, who has seriously impressed, as somebody I was in a real dilemma about bringing him in due to some flaws in his defending but he's really kicked on to the point I actually think we might struggle to hold onto him. I've tied him down to a 5 year deal though so we have some sway in all of this. Rusak I think was probably just about worth coming into this category too.

The average: The vast majority of the rest come into here in my opinion. Bares, Ba, Bapidi, Silva, Segura, Blackett and Ouattara all probably fall into this - Segura possibly bad because we've dropped a clanger and lost him on a free this summer. The majority of these were bought for the future though, so it's almost redundant doing this.

The bad: Eyserric was a bit of a waste of time and for the period he was here was our highest paid player. Bit of a pointless move all considered, despite a strong start. 

 

Points of note

- Once again we underperformed xG, yet again being expected to finish 9th, but the underperformance was nowhere near as significant as last season and it was obvious very early in that our season was going to be a bit of a damp squib, but given we brought in, and used a lot of younger players, that's pretty much what I was hoping for.

- I didn't mention but we finished quite badly. In-fact we scored just one goal in our last six games - which is really unacceptable.

- I've mentioned our home form but 4 home wins all season is so poor and it's actually becoming a real problem within the club. Only the bottom three and Chambly lost here speaks volumes. If we were even average at home we would actually have a shot at promotion.

- Romain Spano, Baye War, Shea Charles, Josh Emmanuel, Carles Segura, Bryand Soga, Elamine Moussa and Fabien Boyer are all leaving on frees this summer, which is quite a loss on the whole, but I think we can attract better now. I'm a bit miffed about Emmanuel and Segura, but the others have either gone way past their best now (Spano, Boyer) or just never kicked on (War, Charles). Charles has been a major letdown for me, probably the biggest yet, somebody I brought in with real high hopes for who I think is no better than the player I signed 3 years ago, and barely even averaged 6.70 at centre back.

 

Where to strengthen

I think we need to just add a bit more quality again. I think the standard of our squad is better than it was a year ago and I hope to make a similar stride this time. The inevitable departure of Hammond means we're going to have to get another winger in, and so far the majority of my business has been based around replacing players who are leaving, of which there are plenty. I do want another centre back, potentially even to rotate with Duarte, I'd never have had Goutidis down as my first choice centre back. Another right back is needed, another winger. Possibly a central midfielder and I think we need another striker now that Spano and War are going.

 

The rest of football

The most notable thing about this season was a shock relegation, and annoyingly, it really isn't good for us. Stade Rennais incredibly finished 19th in Ligue 1 meaning they're in Ligue 2 next season, despite a 5th placed finish the year before. It's one promotion spot gone instantly in my opinion. I think next season is probably too soon for a promotion bid, but the year after we've got to go for it.

Liverpool, Barcelona, Inter, PSG and Bayern won the leagues. Bayern Munich, Tottenham and Vitesse won the European competitions - Tottenham hammering Arsenal in the final.

 

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This thread has been a good read. I especially liked you saying it was too easy and then dropping to midtable obscurity. :lol:

Keep going, chief. Promotion is on the horizon. 

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7 minutes ago, withnail316 said:

This thread has been a good read. I especially liked you saying it was too easy and then dropping to midtable obscurity. :lol:

Keep going, chief. Promotion is on the horizon. 

So true. There was a point though where I genuinely felt I could do no wrong. I do look back at that period on this save and wonder quite how we were doing it. We have a comfortably better side now and struggle to hit heights like those.

Cheers also. I think next season may be a bit too early, especially with Rennais dropping that's one place gone immediately, but the year after, that is the aim.

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We've done some super work with regarding recruiting staff. They seem to accept every suggestion I have to improving the coaching or the scouting. I would argue we have first team staff at the level of a Ligue 1 club.

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I'm going to start making more use from the loan market. I have been avoiding loads as I don't like become too dependant on them, but I think if you can bring in somebody with a view to getting them permanently it's worth it. I think maybe limit myself to 2 a season. I've just brought in a striker on loan who is my best striker and what has it cost me? £250k for a year in wages and that's it. That's nothing really given what we'll get back.

Our sustainability does rely on us buying, and selling good youngsters. Hammond's departure has covered this year. I think we have landed a couple of the right types again to cover this year. The plan eventually is to build up the level of the academy so that we're producing these players. We have made strides but we're a way off that being any source of income really.

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An interesting summer

It's been a strange one. Issahaku Hammond's departure turned out to be quite a bad tempered one. I had spent a bit of time putting together the contingency plan and I felt Hammond could bring in the biggest fee I'd received for a player yet given it was the likes of Southampton and Lyon expressing an interest. I offered him out, which he was livid about, totally unreasonable for me apparently to offer him out given he won't sign a new deal and has just a year left, and would've no doubt kicked off if I had turned down a bid. Anyhow, it was Southampton he joined, and it was a record - a flat £3.8mil arrived and off he went, probably our best signing yet, he cost me just £1,300 which represents a staggering percentage profit.

We also had to fend off late bids for Goutidis and Ouattara, but we failed on the latter, who joined Brest for £1.7mil. A a bit disappointed about that one.

 

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The top five signings are this years batch of youngsters I've brought in. I feel like I need a name for this group. The criteria is that they're aged 20 or under, and hold a pretty good chance of going for over a million. At least one of them will. My money is probably on Rentero, who I've struck lucky with really as we got done at our own game by losing Segura for nothing, he's a very similar type of player, and also Spanish.

Fougeu is the striker I was talking about. He is very good, better than Cardoso, and I think he makes us a much better outfit this year. Guillem Jaime is yet another one of those signings where I mull over it, do it, and within about 3 games I wonder what I even dithered for. He's versatile and just really good. Vassi is the Hammond replacement, nowhere near the pace, but a bit more quality and ticks a lot of boxes. Rastoder was a late replacement for Ouattara, he's arguably better placed to make an impact this season than Ouattara was.

In other departure news we made a mammoth £2k profit on Tilt, who was well past it now, he did OK. Silva is another mardy arse who I'm disappointed to lose, but he's constantly kicking off about the stupidest of things. He kicked off a year ago because I failed to secure him a loan move, he appreciated I tried, but still wasn't willing to talk to me, which is a bit of a contradiction in itself. He eventually got his move and he's somehow come back from it still not over it. To be honest with Julien Gil's arrival he's no big loss either. It's a shame because he's got potential but I'm not even that convinced he suits our system going forward and if that's his attitude then I'll cope.

The bonus has to be Ambourouet. The Gabonese midfielder. We've somehow managed to flog him for more than we've ever paid for a player, and I say with near certainty he wasn't getting near our squad, so god knows what Dijon are seeing that I'm not, given they're currently better than us.

I will post pictures of players if people want to see them.

 

EDIT: I'm lying about the top five. Basso is 28 and a centre half. He's the Charles replacement. Good on the ball which makes a bit of a change for our defenders and steady defensively. Reasonable wage. Partially European. Likes the big games.

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Well well well...

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It took just seven games of this season to match last seasons tally of 4 wins at home. A perfect record in Annecy - exactly the kind of fundamental basis we need to launch an actual promotion bid.

I think it's too early to say we will definitely be involved, but we have a chance, there are plenty of players I expected to use (Vassi and Rastoder in particular) that I haven't really yet.

Not just the results but the performances have been superb as well. Troyes was a poor display and the only one of the season so far, and Nancy I've come to the conclusion we will just never ever beat, but other than that it's been nearly perfect so far. We're playing some excellent attacking football and the likes of Toutain and Bares have really stepped their game up a notch this season. Fougeu looks a find and a half as well.

I think Rennes' underperformance and inevitable piecing back together will prevent us getting promoted this season, but the fact is simply this looks my best side yet, and quite considerably so too. I think it was right to start buying a few more first team players, rather than youngsters who we'll get away with. We have raised enough money now to be able to make a few signings like this. Our net spend since I took over is something like minus ten million.

Early days but I feel like we're clearly operating on a bit of a different level now. Outclassing Orleans was a sign of our progress. Total domination from the off against the club we have been neck and neck with most throughout this save. Interestingly it's also the first time they have lost away here.

A great start. Long may it continue.

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On 17/01/2021 at 16:41, withnail316 said:

This thread has been a good read. I especially liked you saying it was too easy and then dropping to midtable obscurity. :lol:

Keep going, chief. Promotion is on the horizon. 

Loved this as well. I'm currently in a stretch where I feel invincible and the 'this is too easy' thoughts are creeping in. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I'm wondering what happened as well.

When @Dan1884 get's promoted, it'll really feel like an accomplishment now! Keep up the good work.

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On 19/01/2021 at 00:43, PatrickReynolds said:

Loved this as well. I'm currently in a stretch where I feel invincible and the 'this is too easy' thoughts are creeping in. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I'm wondering what happened as well.

When @Dan1884 get's promoted, it'll really feel like an accomplishment now! Keep up the good work.

There was a point where it did just feel like I could do no wrong, watching my team of average third tier level players go away to far better sides and outplay them for large periods felt almost unrealistic. It's levelled out though which is good.

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Might this be the year...

This is getting very interesting now. I'm at the winter break and things look better than I imagined they would have done.

 

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We've definitely hit a couple of issues in what's been our weakest month of the season there. The good home form was given a bit of a return to the usual with a 0-1 defeat to Dijon, but we made up for it in the next two games. Clermont was a bit of a shambles, 3-0 down early on and all over the place for a while, but we did nearly come back. Rennes is a tough one to judge, they have made a poor start to life in this league, and in some ways it felt like 2 dropped because we largely had the better of it, but they have a squad so ridiculously good for this league you just can't totally overlook it.

November, however, felt a bit of a turning point.

 

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The first three games were all against sides around the top. Despite not playing that well in any of those games, we took 7 points from 9 on offer. We got lucky to beat Auxerre and Nimes was just a dire game decided by one moment of magic from Fougeu. I had introduced Joao Basso to my side this month in defence because I think Duarte's showing signs of decline and I think we just need to get a bit more careful on the ball. He's made a solid start. Pau was an infuriating result though. I experimented a little bit and it backfired. We seem to always batter Pau yet hardly ever beat them.

Then December came...

 

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Flawless. We have everything you need in spaces. There was basically no weakness I could pick from that month. What I really like about how the squad is now is that I'm quite often forced into rotating and the options I've got in have given me a lot of different ways I can tweak things yet still be successful. I feel like the signings of players like Bares, Abou Ba, Guillem Jaime etc... have just raised our general standard, they've made us more adaptable. Players like Toutain and Miccoli are having their best seasons to date. You feel like we will always get the job done now. It's a very different mindset to how I felt about games in the last couple of seasons. I feel like we're just... reliable. The Nimes cup game was funny, I made a couple of changes for it, including 17 year old Nate Jackson at centre back, and it saw us thrash them (albeit a very flattering scoreline) with both Vassi and Rastoder getting off the mark for the club. We're likely to be out in the next round though as we've been given a trip to Monaco.

 

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We've completely exceeded my expecations. Predicted a 12th placed finish rather than the usual relegation battle I did feel nearly certain we would avoid any kind of trouble this year, but we've been excellent. The defensive record has been key, and the possibility of losing Goutidis in January does worry me (though I do have a replacement lined up), but I feel like things have clicked somewhat.

Promotion is still a big ask because Guingamp seem to be winning every game, Metz have the capacity to outlast us up there, and Rennes I think if they got their act together could pick up another 50 or so points, I think such is the level of their squad compared to the rest of the league. I look at them in genuine bafflement at how they're sat 8th in Ligue 2. They have the 7th biggest wage budget in French football. They have collapsed laughably and you just wonder how it was able to happen - but this could become a problem for us, like I say, if that squad clicked they would get promoted still this season.

The play-off system in France is hard as well.

If you finish 5th, you face 4th away. Then the winner goes away to 3rd. Then the winner faces 18th in Ligue 2 over two legs. The odds are really stacked against you if you're in the play-offs.

I'm not feeling it's "too early" for us anymore though. We've got money in the bank, even if that has almost exclusively come from player sales. We've got the best squad we've ever had, the best coaching and scouting teams in the league, we've got the infrastructure.

There will be twists and turns yet, but I couldn't have asked for much more this season.

Edited by Dan1884
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Janvier 2026

This month I am totally braced for the departure of my young defender Triantafyllos Goutidis. I promised him he could go if we got in a replacement, but I've left myself in this peculiar scenario where I have actually signed his replacement (for a club record too), I'm just waiting to see if anybody comes in for him late on. We're covered regardless of what happens, though I am tempted to create the situation where we have both players - we're genuinely fighting for promotion here and this really has presented itself as such a super opportunity.

In-fact, I had agreed £1.8mil with St Etienne for Goutidis, before something happened that I've not had happen before - the board stepped in to cancel it as they were unhappy with the fee. I was very impressed by this actually, and he hasn't kicked off either, to be fair to him. The last few days of the window will decide his fate.

That said, we've got to get a bit savvier if we do get promoted. The Monaco cup game was the classic case of managerial delusion, "we're flying, we can take these on toe to toe", and, erm, yeah...

 

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To be fair, I can't really legislate for conceding two penalties in the first five minutes, but it was still a brutal showing and I suppose it's good to learn a lesson in a game we were almost certain to lose anyway. The key for me was that it didn't blow our confidence ahead of the return to league fixtures. Thankfully, it didn't.

 

 

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We were a bit poor at Paris, but the next four performances were terrific. Nancy and Troyes were just totally comprehensive batterings and 2-0 totally flattered Troyes. We're winning games like this at a canter now. Bear in mind that I had never beaten Nancy before that game either. We outplayed Orleans too, just couldn't take enough of our chances and they took both of theirs.

The performances are superb though. I feel confident going into nearly every game, almost too confident if you look at the evidence from Monaco.

 

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In other transfer news, Busselato left this month which was a shame but he wanted first team football, and others had outgrown him now. He left to Dunkerque for £250k, which was a reasonable fee for a player of his age - he was replaced by Kenny Rocha Santos for just £78k, a perfect sign to me of how we've progressed. We've ended up upgrading the squad and cashing in in the process. I've always been a firm believer that just by repeatedly doing this success will inevitably follow.

Oh and on a final note, what a star Antoni Rentero has been for us. A free agent from the fourth tier of Spain has become a key player to us already.

 

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It's Guingamp next for us though. it's 14 unbeaten and this will be the biggest test to that yet.

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Draw specialists

 

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We are remarkably now unbeaten in 19 league games which is pretty insane for somebody like us. We are proving really tough to beat. The problem is we're not winning enough now either and I'd happily swap the odd draw for a loss if it meant we swapped some for wins as well. 5 draws in our last 6 games. I feel like it's probably going to cost us going the full way.

It's Metz at home next. That reeks of yet another.

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This draw business is getting ridiculous!

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I think it's probably going to cost us promotion. Our last few games do look favourable though.

 

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It's quite remarkable what's happened this season. We've gone up to 2nd from that win too with what's a pretty kind run in. We really might just do this.

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Our biggest ever games

I have been ill for a lot of the last couple of weeks so I've been limited in anything I can do, but we are back in some form, and this is how things look.

 

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Drawing at Le Havre has likely banished us the play-offs unfortunately, I can't see us overthrowing both of Metz & Dijon. I think we'll beat Creteil but it would be very typical for Grenoble to stop us on the final day.

The play-off system eventually leads to one of 3rd, 4th or 5th (advantage runs in that order, naturally) playing a two legged game against 18th in Ligue 1 - that currently looks likely to be Toulouse, Reims or Montpellier. Bit worrying as we've never avoiding defeat to Toulouse. The odds are against us.

I think even if we do miss out we've made superb progress this year.

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