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[FM21] Welcome to my personal hell - AFC Fylde to the moon!


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WELCOME TO THE FUTURE!

After a full decade and some more, we find ourselves in the year 2033. Manager Christopher Hench has taken the ambitious and young club from the depths of the National Leagues, all the way up to the Championship - a place the club has found itself for the 7 seasons (since getting promoted in the 24/25 season). A combination of tactical difficulties, key injuries, player sales and limited economy has efficiently kept the Coasters from taking the next step. And now, the finances are rapidly deteriorating. Despite having established themselves in the Championship, with several upper mid table finishes, the club has failed to attract bigger money from sponsors, investors and/or stadium expansions - still sitting at a measly 8900 capacity, selling out every home game to no avail. Now struggling to even meet FFP requirements, uncertain times are coming in Kirkham. How will manager Hench cope? Will their key players be sold off to keep the club afloat? Or will Hench up and leave a potentially sinking ship?

Time will tell, and I hope to find out together with you guys!

THE CURRENT SITUATION

Well into the 2033/2034 season, we find ourselves in a surprising position, sitting calmly in 5th place. The season as a whole has been plagued with injuries - both in number and on which players - as well as tactical tinkering and game play issues. Our results are in large due to being really, really good at home (only losing 4 games at home in 20 total). Fulham have been absolutely stellar and will win the division in supreme fashion. While grabbing the 2nd place is still mathematically possible, I don't think making up the difference in the remaining 6 games is all too realistic. Conversely, I see a world where Brentford and/or Nottingham Forest overtake us. Our team has been plagued consistently by both losing games we dominate, as well as being run ragged by really good wingers/attackers. Despite being 9 points clear to Brentford, I don't feel all too confident yet. Additionally, I don't feel like our squad belongs in the Premier League at all.

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As for the financial situation I mentioned, it is absolutely dire. We've not attracted any sponsorships of significance, earning a meager £500k from sponsorships last year - and on track to slightly improve that to around £600k this season. It's peanuts, barely worth mentioning. Combining that with Mill Farm only holding 9000 people, it's quite obvious we won't generate much money over a year. I was banking on us being able to attract bigger sponsors by now, and as such, haven't focused too too much on selling high value players. In retrospect, that is about to hit me like a shiv in the kidneys as you can see below: 

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To combat this recent development, I've sold off pretty much every player of noteable value that I could do without this season. I've brought in approx. £16M in immediate transfer revenue, with especially one player ensuring future revenue as well. Victor Foged, a young danish player we signed in the 30/31 season for £3M, was sold to Brighton for £7M plus clauses, making up a total potential sum of £15M. The clauses are mostly guaranteed, however, being distributed amongst annual instalments, per game payments and a one-time payment from his next international appereance (he's got 21 U-21 capps already, and is still only 21 years old). He was arguably our best player, and still has room to improve - more international appearances are almost guaranteed for him. As of right now, we're clear for FFP, but since it's a rolling evaluation over 48 months, that could change at any time. 

Another aspect of our mismanaged economy is me having given certain players too high of a salary, compared to both their level and what alternatives where on the market. I can be quite sentimental when bringing clubs up through the systems, which has lead me to keeping a couple of players around on far too high wages despite them not being worth it. Our wage expenses are still only the 19th highest in the Championship, but that doesn't matter if it isn't sustainable. Luckily, I've also done a decent job in finding value targets that far outvalue their wages to compensate. Below you'll see our full squad as it stands - feel free to ask for screenshots of any specific players. Players of note include Jim Cresswell (been at the club since 23/24, in League Two), Iago Mancebo (young prospect that is already one of my best players), Robbe Van Den Bergh (arguably our best player) and Miguel Rodrigues (another hot prospect I expect much from): 

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WHAT ABOUT TACTICS?

 

As I mentioned, we've been back and forth alot. I've struggled alot to build a system that would work consistently, without running into the same issues; not taking the chances created, and not creating actual proper chances. I've seen my team repeatedly go above 1.5 xG, but not have any shots worth more than 0.1 xG individually - it's an aspect of tactics building I've yet to crack. Most of my tinkering has been based on the 4-3-3 - my system of choice for most my life -, but very recently I've decided to move away from it. Whenever it'd seem like I 'cracked' creating proper chances in a 4-3-3, we'd start leaking chances against. From my understanding, the system itself proabably demands more quality than I have to play a controlling style - so it's a system I'll revisit once we've moved up a bit. I'm not too keen on playing a counter based system as both my defenders aren't good enough to withstand constant attacks, nor do I feel like the match engine properly values the playstyle. As such, I've moved over to a 4-2-3-1 based around 4 players in specific (Cresswell, Moyle, Van Den Bergh and Williams). My experience with that system is it's easier to get to 'tick' going forward, due to having more players further up the pitch, while being able to maintain defensive solidity. It is more vulnerable against certain threats - the space between defence and midfield especially - but it's a trade off I'm willing to make. As of right now, this is the system we're using and working with - it's still a work in progress -, with the results from when we started using it below: 

 

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The first two games was previous to a couple of tweaks to roles and duties; noteably, I had my AM on Attack and my DLF on support. I swapped them around after the Bristol City game, and the effect was immediate. The 'In Possession' instructions are chosen specifically to drag opponents out of position to create space for my AM and IF to move into, plus me wanting to defend by controlling the ball as I don't trust my defenders. Counter press also fits the formation well, having several players already far up the pitch being inherently positioned to counter press. I'll make adjustments in game based on what's happening, of course.

 

ROSTER CHANGES IN THE NEAR FUTURE

 

As some of you might have noticed, quite a few players have their contracts expiring at the end of the season. Three of them are either too old, not good enough or both, and I don't mind them leaving. Two of them are players I'd like to keep, but I simply cannot as my wage budget has been halved due to the financial situation. I simply cannot afford to keep them. The last one is a loanee, which I might be able to bring back for next season - he was here last season as well, and it doesn't seem like Manchester United (his club) have much room for him in their squad. A reminder of said contracts expering: 

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The players I wish I could re-sign are Yahya Kalley and Julle Mvuemba, for different reasons. Kalley is the only left back with both attacking and defensive quality I've found that is both interested in playing for us and has fit our budget. He is aging now, of course, so I'm not torn up about it - but he has been one of our top performers for the past 3 seasons. Mvuemba, on the other hand, is on a low wage and is a perfect depth player. He is just below the quality needed for a starting CB, doesn't complain about not being a first choice and he's left footed. Perfect squad player that I will not be able to keep, both due to finances and because he now wants to be considered an Important Player. Considering all of this, we will be looking into finding players for the following roles & positions for next season: 

- Starting Left Back. We have 18 year old Jorge Vierinha as a big prospect, but we need immediate quality if we can find it. 
- 1-2 Starting Centre Backs. We are lacking quality here, plaing & simple. This will be exceedingly hard to find considering our financial issues - might have to loan a player or two. 
- Backup/rotation Central Midfielder. Outside of Mancebo and Campbell, we don't have the right type of players here. Majarira doesn't have the defensive ability to play in the double pivot, nor does Van Den Bergh (he can potentially fill the DLP role against mid table and bottom half teams). 
- Starting Striker or Inside Forward. If Moyle cannot be loaned in again, we need to either replace him or move Cresswell in the striker role. Either way, a player needs to come in to replace the gap. 
- Backup Goalkeeper. Salaun is as good a keeper as we can get at this level, and we only need a semi-competent body to be ready in case of injuries. I might have a prospect from the academy to fill this role already. 

 

MOVING FORWARD

 

If you got this far, congratulations! I will be updating this thread whenever there is anything of value to add - be it important matches, tactical innovation, signings or whatnot. I'll also do summaries of significant periods of the year, like pre-season, transfer strategy and dealings and the likes. And as mentioned previously, feel free to ask for screenshots of anything you're curious about - or ask questions if you have them! Suggestions about things are also welcome, of course! 

Cheers!

Edited by Christopher S
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  • Christopher S changed the title to [FM21] Welcome to my personal hell - AFC Fylde to the moon!

Good luck.

 

I feel promotion to PL undoes all of this. Keep any good players you still have and go for it. Then if you go up, don't improve much and take the money and come back down (install relegation clauses to all new contracts). Parachute payments and profit from PL era should cover you for a little bit whilst the PL exposure gives you more clout with an upgrade potentially?

There is more to gain than lose. Slowly falling back down the leagues to your natural home will happen eventually, but do you grab on you a slice of the pie before it goes cold?

Will be interesting to follow.

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And we return!

Having left off in the final stages of the season, we powered through trying to cement our spot for playoffs - and maybe even direct promotion. The results were as follows: 

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A couple of things were noted from these games; 

- If Cresswell doesn't score (through lack of chances or not converting them), we're not likely to get a result. 
- In all the draws and wins we didn't fall behind once, but struggled really hard to hold leads. We'd be dominating games for 45-60 minutes, then get trampled for the remainder of the game. Has to be addressed moving forward.

In simpler terms; more productive attacking and improving retaining a lead once gotten. 

This lead to a 4th place finish in regular season: 

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Sadly, the playoffs games versus Sheffield United didn't pan out all too well. The first game was away, and we did respectably - denying them quality chances for most of the game coming away with a draw. Home game was worse, actually, seeing Sheffield dominate most of the game without being able to score. It all culminated in a Penalty Shootout that we lost having missed 3 penalties in a row. 

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ON TO OFF SEASON!

As mentioned in the first post, we'll be looking to replace and improve certain positions. It'll be hard, considering our total lack of funding at the moment - we might have to sell off one or two of our star players to even be able to bring anyone in. Currently, the projected wage budget for next season is £160k per week, we've already committed £163k in the players that'll still be on contract. It's going to be tough, that's for sure!

 

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1 hour ago, BS_8 said:

Good luck.

 

I feel promotion to PL undoes all of this. Keep any good players you still have and go for it. Then if you go up, don't improve much and take the money and come back down (install relegation clauses to all new contracts). Parachute payments and profit from PL era should cover you for a little bit whilst the PL exposure gives you more clout with an upgrade potentially?

There is more to gain than lose. Slowly falling back down the leagues to your natural home will happen eventually, but do you grab on you a slice of the pie before it goes cold?

Will be interesting to follow.

I've thought about this, for sure - the issue has just been actually achieving it. As you'll see from the update I just posted, we got close - but no cigar. We've gotten this far once before as well, so we're no strangers to Premier League playoffs. Especially the prospect of going up, cashing in all the payouts and getting relegated with a parachute has crossed my mind, as it'd surely bolster my finances for years to come. 

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PRE-SEASON SHENANIGANS!

As promised, an update about what's been going on in the off-season. 
We went on a rather long holiday, having no money to make signings until the new budgets were announced. Lo and behold, a takeover happened towards the end of the vacation - bringing in new owners and a hope of money and better times. Alas, no money was brought and our finances were still a bit ****. Some TV-money and a little chairman injections came and went, but our budget was still pretty dour. 

Transfer budget: £1.7M
Wage budget: £190k p/w
Transfer revenue: 5%, but I managed to increase it to 20% through begging the owners 

Simply put, we had to sell. We luckily had a couple of players on expiring contracts with significant wages, and after them leaving + yearly adjustments, we were £10k p/w below our budget. Not much, but it's something. So on I went, trying to sell players. Luckily, there was some interest for a few of my remaining players, and we managed to generate a small chunk of transfer revenue. Better yet, we freed up wages. 

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We also managed to secure solid percentages of next transfers for both Martinez and Beya (30% and 35% respectively - and that's of total sum, not profits), which should hopefully add a couple of tenners in the bank at some point. This meant that we offloaded two right wingers and another centre back, and this had to be added/baked into the prior list of positions to invest in. Here's what we brought in: 

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Cyprien Henry: 
A player I found a couple of months back, before I had money to bring him in. When the new budgets came, he was still available and I snatched him up immediately. He's not a world beater, but considering he came on a free and his wages being really low, I can only say that he's a damn bargain: 

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Jamie McCormack: 
I needed a starting CB, and was well aware that I'd most likely have to find one on loan. Quality CBs are generally really expensive, and we don't have the money. Luckily, Leeds had this guy available and it was a no-brainer given my situation: 

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Gus Bertrand: 
We needed an LB to compete and rotate with Vierinha. Ideally, someone better and more experienced, but at the very least someone who's good enough to actually play. Turned out, the market for left backs is fairly bad. With our limited finances, Gus was our best option - he's not great, but he'll do - Vierinha is the end game player here anyway:

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Moritz Degen:
Another rotation player. We needed someone to be avaliable both for the DM and BWM roles, but not someone who expected to start a lot of games. Ideally we'd find a young player with room to develop, as I don't expect Mancebo will stay with us too long given his development. We found Moritz, and for £500K he ticks all the boxes - bonus points are added for being able to flex into a CB role in a pinch, giving us extra cover here:

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All in all, a pretty solid window given our resources. We also have 3 more players coming in 1/1/2034 due to transfer restrictions around ages and foregin players. All three are very promising, especially Ndoj and Gaffner: 

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Besnik Ndoj:
Found him looking for a CB for this window. Would ideally have preferred to have him right away, but waiting 6 months will do. I expect him to develop into a really solid CB over the next 2 years. He did cost me a full £2M to sign, however, so there is some inherent pressure on this to work out.

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Samir Ruiz: 
I signed this guy a little over a year ago, recognizing I needed talented personell in the LB position. Since signing Vierinha, however, that has sort of been covered. Regardless, he's younger than Vierinha and will likely be loaned out to get experience for the rest of the season - and if Bertrand or Vierinha gets sold, he'll slot right in! 

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Luca Gaffner: 
I signed this guy when he was 15 years old, so it's been a good wait already. I imagined he would develop into a really gifted player, and it's looking like I was right. He's got some work to do in improving his work rate, bravery, teamwork and concentration, but besides that he's got the makings of a lethal striker: 

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TRANSFER SUMMARY

All in all, I'm fairly happy with my dealings. We had a net spend of -£4M which I'm very happy with, and our wage budget is now £188k p/w compared to £255k p/w the last season - meaning just shy of £3.5M saved across the full season in wages. 

Here is our full squad as of right now, at the start of the season: 

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As you can see, Mancebo sticks out like a sore thumb. When I signed him, I didn't expect this level of development at all. Luckily, I knew better than to accept a release cluase of any sorts and hopefully I'll be able to squeeze big money out of him when (not if) bigger clubs come for him. As for the rest of the squad, I'll be looking for long term replacements for Campbell and Hughes. Campbell is geting older, and Hughes is sadly far too injury prone. The latter has stayed with us for since the 27/28 season, arriving for £700k from Peterborough, and has an injury history the length of a short story: 

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Therefore, I'll be looking to move them on come january, hoping to cash out what I can and replace them with younger and hopefully less injury prone talent. The time is as right as it gets, considering we're forced to buy unfinished product due to finances anyway. A rebuild of sorts. 

Here's a small look at our friendlies during pre-season: 

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The FC ST. Pauli game was unlucky, as Campbell decided to two-foot an opponent inside of the first 2 minutes and get sent off directly. We almost managed to pull an upset playing the entire game 10 vs 11, but fell to a late goal. 

FIRST GAMES OF THE SEASON

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Honestly speaking, it's a pretty hard opening. While Sheffield Wednesday isn't much of a threat, both Watford, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Stoke have significantly better players than us. Bristol Rovers is anybodys game. Realistically, I shouldn't be upset if manage between 5-7 points from these games, but at the same time that'd be really rough way to start the season. Hopefully we can pull and upset against one of the bigger teams and hit the ground running. 

Cheers!

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22 minutes ago, BS_8 said:

Enjoying this, despite my risk everything comment, I like the steady approach you're taking. 
Good luck for this season. 

Glad to hear you're enjoying it!

To be fair, I wouldn't have minded risking everything if I could. However, there wasn't really any money to throw around, you know? I barely had room in the wage budget or any amount of money to spend, and only got 20% of sales revenue as spendable. So even if I wanted to risk everything on getting promoted this season, how would I? ;)

Thanks a lot! I expect we'll fall back down a couple pegs compared to last season, finish wise - but as long as our finances allow us to properly bolster our team for next season, I don't mind that!

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UPDATE TIME!

The first 6 games lead to some key plot points for this season. We got a good feel for how to play, tactically and we lost our best attacker to a 3 month injury. 

For the first three games, we lined up in a 4-2-3-1 as that's what we'd been doing for latter half of the previous season. It's a system based around utilizing Cresswell, Van Den Bergh and Williams to a full extent, looking for quick transitions into space with Cresswell as the primary goal threat from an Inside Forward position. 

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And the results: 

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While the results were within expectations, our performances were not. We actually dominated Sheffield Wednesday, but the games vs Watford and Crystal Palace saw us completely create next to nothing going forward. Luckily, I'd been preparing a second system in case this would happen. It's built around Cresswell, Mancebo, Van Den Bergh and Williams, with a more solidified central midfield. The addition of a DM player will hopefully deal better with all the pesky AMC systems I keep facing as well. The system looks like this: 

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Right off the bat, it's obviously less based on transitional attacks and more so on controlling space and the ball. Our AMR will swap between Wa and Ws depending on the game and situation, and is told to 'Hold Position' to maintain width. Our striker is told to 'Pass Shorter' to encourage more considered link up play, as well as 'Shoot Less Often' to hopefully discourage unecessary long shots. No other PI's assigned, though. In game, I'll up the mentality to Positive if I feel like we're the superior team or if Balanced is keeping us from properly attacking. We used the system for a bit in pre-season to good effect, so hopefully it'll still reflect that. One thing to consider is that youngster Miguel Rodrigues will have big shoes to fill as our Inside Forward, considering Cresswell is out for another 2 months. 

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As you can see, he's got some room to grow before being a proper first team player. Especially his lack of Flair is going to be a challenge, alongside his sub-par finishing. Though, considering our financial situation, using prospects is what we have to do - and this will be a great chance for Miguel to get some valuable first team experience to grow from. 

Now, on to the games: 

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Aston Villa dominated us in the first half, but we made some adjustments and changes for the second half and came away with a late winner. We deserved our goal for sure, but Villa could've/should've scored one, maybe two goals themselves. That being said, they were in the Premier League last season, and anything except a resounding defeat is worthy of praise. The Bristol Rovers game was a controlled victory, where two early goals for our prospect Rodrigues set us up nicely. We were never threatened here, though we did concede more shots than I'd like. Game against Stoke, however, was ocmplete domination on our part. What a performance! We more than tripled their xG and had almost 60% possession against a team that played in the Premier League just last season. We started the game off in Balanced, but after an uneventful first half where we controlled possession, I upped it to Positive once we passed 60 minutes wanting to push our advantage. The impact was instant, and the slightly more expansive passing play and off the ball movement tore Stoke to pieces. Chapeau!

We'll be sticking to this system moving forward, tweaking when necessary!

OUR NEXT RUN OF GAMES:
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Another run of strong opponents in Derby, Brentford, Birmingham, Forest and Swasea. That being said, we should be in a good position to win at least 3 of our home games, maybe even all of them. Anywhere between 12-18 points from these games is within what I deem acceptable. 

Edited by Christopher S
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