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[FM21] Swiss Army Knife


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December 2031

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Just the three games in December before our winter break, but the most important (and financially significant) of our season so far.

We started the month off with a draw against draw specialists Lausanne, with literally no highlights to note from the game. We went into the Benfica game with us bottom of the group but with a chance of redemption against a Benfica side that held us in Portugal. To be honest, it wasn't a classic and the scoreline did flatter us, but we took our chances, won, bagged over €2m and did this:

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We drop into the Europa League and I really think we can have a good shot at this, provided that I can manage fixture congestion and fatigue. We have drawn an underperforming Koln side, who sit 11th in the Bundesliga.

We wrapped up the calendar year with a straightforward win over Thun, despite going one down inside a minute. I was a little short on depth so opted to play Wang Tao, in his final game, as a right winger. His feat of goalscoring, including the stunning volley, below, shows, albeit from a tiny sample size, that the issue is maybe the Mezzala role rather than the player.

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As I enter the new year, I'm looking to get myself re-acquainted with some youth development. I say 're-acquainted' because I haven't really had to focus on a lot lately. When I came to Luzern, I harvested the core of the youth team and promoted them to the senior side and have, in the following intakes since, just cherry picked the one or two top players. This has meant that anyone coming into the team has been a lot younger than would normally be expected due to us cutting out two or three generations in one promotion.

I've added two new players to the first team squad: Pece Taseski, a long term rotational prospect which will allow Adebayo and Costa to at least be injured without stopping the team from having a cutting edge and Alban Shpendi, who will fill a space in the interim until I decide what to do with the gap left by Tao. Of all the young players in my squad, the two promoted players have been chosen due to the progress they've made since coming into the club:

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My aim is to take these two, along with the three other players: Mazinot, Kostadinovic and Gonzalez and convert their current ability into something much closer to their potential ability. I've got a few important players who I've noticed are just not reaching their PA (whether this is misguided info from the backroom, a personal issue or the lack of reputation within this league or a combination of the three) so I need to focus on those 'finishing touches' getting the most out of all of them.

It's a laborious process, but one that I feel this club deserves!

 

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January 2032

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Lots of friendlies to test out some new ideas for the second central midfield role as well running some schedules that really put the focus back on team cohesion and tactical familiarity after the mid-season break. We were then faced with just one league game this month,  securing a comfortable 4-0 win over Sion but it was the role that I was most interested in this month. Initially, I went for the CM(s) role with the player instructions to mirror a Mezzala (although, obviously, not with the under-the-hood settings). There were a couple of nice highlights, like this run from Gonzalez that led to a goal but I began to question what I want from the team and then his role.

Team (offensively):

  • Pacey and potent counter attacking.
  • Quick ball movement with verticality.
  • Clinical passing into the final third.
  • Overloads and clever off the ball play.

Inverted Winger (currently ML): Get into the box, allowing an overlap and finish chances

Playmaker (currently MCL): Become the fulcrum between defence and attack and co-ordinate transitions.

Winger (currently MR): Stay high and wide offering a crossing and scoring threat.

Yet - to balance the style of play out, this player is not an 'all out' offensive player - so won't be making breaking runs through the middle of the park. He is also not a playmaker as I don't want to constrict my play to have to go through certain players, and, even so, Dantas is essentially my false-playmaker in that sense. He's also no use crossing as he's too central to have an impact. We already have plenty of cover behind him with a Half Back and an Inverted Wingback - so just what does he need to do?

I looked at the mid-season performances of Chipperfield and Gonzalez, who alternated in that CM(s) role for the three games of the tour:

Chipperfield:

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Gonzalez:

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Inconclusive. No more involved in the build up through passing, no more involved with dribbles and, to be fair, the goals/assists data must be discounted due to the (lack of) quality of the opposition. The more I watch though, in particular that great run from Gonzalez, the closer I get to what I think I want.

A genius. Not in the Xavi or Pirlo sense, but in the slightly-more-like Iniesta sense. Whilst searching around for some stuff, I came across this great article on Statsbomb that really puts into perspective what I want this role to be, with a lovely Guardiola quote:

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne is certainly one of the most gifted passers around, but in a different way to previous Guardiola stars. “He is not a controller”, the Catalan manager claimed, but is instead “more dynamic, coming from behind, finishing, crossing, appearing here, then there, defending, attacking… less control and much more movement”

I'm going to try and spend the next months moving this role to a player who does not command the ball, like Dantas does (again, without the playmaking 'magnet') but instead makes all of the moves off the ball, freeing up space for others and getting himself into the box to become a finisher and assister, too. How I will track this, I do not know - as the game lacks the necessary statistics (at an easily accessible level, anyway) and it may be a case that the Mezzala-copy I created did do that, just not as often nor as visible as I wanted. The other thing to consider with this now-vanilla role is that maybe I'm taking it back too far and a Mezzala would work better in this situation with the correct traits: Gets forward whenever possible is certainly one that springs to mind.

I'll update more on this as I try to integrate it. 

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In terms of recruitment, I had a couple of ideas for what I wanted to do. Obviously, the hole left by Wang Tao needed some consideration but the player I wanted wasn't really available and, given the fact that I've spent some time analysing the role I wanted, I just decided to stick with the combination of Chipperfield, Gonzalez and Fabiani. I did want to push on with a ball playing defender though, and made a pre contract move for Felipe Cifuentes, who will be joining in the summer from Castilla, the B-team of Real Madrid. I see him as a replacement for the outgoing Fikret Grahovic and a player who will push Yannick Bayiha all the way in terms of quality. I also struck a deal with Enyimba to bring Friday Osemene to the club for just €155k. He is of a similar mould to Cifuentes, as seen by their attribute areas and attribute values, but is a little rawer and younger. I have one eye on the future with this deal but his immediate signing means he'll get some first team football this season.

To compensate the incoming deals as well as the youth promotions, I decided to allow deals for three players who were already at the club when I joined as well as the aforementioned sale of Wang Tao, to Manchester City:

The three had been great servants but, to keep the club moving in the direction I want to take, needed to move on to allow for fresh faces to become part of the squad. Diaz and Kunert have gone to Servette and Grahovic is still in talks with a number of clubs, for a deal worth around €1m.

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Speaking of the youth promotions - I've also spent a bit of time setting up the finer details of my progression plans for them:

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I like the look of Pece and he's remarkably similar to Anderson Costa, albeit lacking vision and aerial ability. The first job will be to ensure he's comfortable playing as a deeper striker, so I'll use the Shadow Striker role for him. I don't usually add additional attribute focuses until a player is natural as it speeds up the process but I'm adding Quickness as I feel speed is the key attribute for this type of player and has certainly helped Costa to progress. I will also use Costa as the leader of a mentoring group for him:

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I do have worries that, with Costa not being a Team Leader, he won't impart exactly what I want but I'd be delighted to see an improvement in Determination, knowing that Light-Hearted (with good Det) can be a precursor for a Model Citizen as well as potentially passing on some traits, given the similarity of playing style. Adebayo makes up the trio, and I'd not be unhappy to see him pick up the traits but he's mainly there to ensure I have enough in the group.

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Firstly, I can't look at a Tunisian called Trabelsi without remembering Hatem Trabelsi, who was, at one point, a top signing on maybe CM03/04...

I decided to recall Lassaad following the bid for Andre Diaz as I intend to use him as, probably, a stop gap in the IWB(s) role. Whilst I'd love to continuously develop absolute star players, I also need to do my bit to get the best out of those players I have at the club, even if I don't necessarily see him to be a long term successor there. I'm going to use the No Nonsense Full Back schedule because it doesn't have too many attributes to focus on and may speed up the process of his retraining. Once he's reached Accomplished there, I will look to move him to the IWB(s) schedule and then look at some specific schedules to compliment him.

He, too, is in a mentoring group - with my best mentor, Tiago Dantas. He, also, isn't a Team Leader but I'd really like that Model Citizen personality to be moved over to him and, to be fair, I have no issue with a right back picking up his Dictates Tempo trait.

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Alban has performed really well for the u21 squad and I hope he can continue as he moves up to the first team, getting a few minutes here and there. It's a bit of a shame that he's left footed as he'll play, predominantly on the right hand side of my midfield duo, next to Tiago Dantas, in the first instance. I'm going for a Roaming Playmaker schedule to work on a nice broad set of attributes as well as his Shooting. I've made a decision to pop him in the Attacking Unit, too, as, given our play style, he should be involved going forward. As you can see from above, he's also being mentored by Dantas and, again, I have no issues with him dictating the tempo, even if it'll be in a very different way to how Dantas does.

All three of the above players are being monitored and will get some minutes as the season progresses and I will continue to look at them to either be good enough here or to move on elsewhere.

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On 15/04/2021 at 20:18, OlivierL said:

Reading this now, once again great stuff ! i'm playing youth only with Aalst (Belgium) and i'm in the 6th season but after reading this i'm getting once again.. new ideas :) 

Thank you! Are you updating that save anywhere? I've always enjoyed reading your escapades and the following of all of the data sets you track.

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48 minutes ago, _Ben_ said:

Thank you! Are you updating that save anywhere? I've always enjoyed reading your escapades and the following of all of the data sets you track.

Thanks Ben , i'm updating it in the youth only challenge topic . But didn't play a lot since begin of april.

I'm thinking to start one more last save.. with mix of Youth and transfers but with some data tracking :) still doubting between some obscure countries or teams with a special background / story.

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On 17/03/2021 at 20:56, _Ben_ said:

2028/39 Three Quarter Update

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A little less playing time today but the juggernaut still continues to roll on!

An absolutely scintillating set of results that sees us just four wins from promotion. We started with yet another tough game away at Fribourg. Our away form has been less than exemplary, compared to our home form anyway, but going back to my old stomping ground has been the hardest place to visit this year. They are an organised and well drilled side who defend really well and have pace on the attack - continuing to overachieve in their semi-pro status. We followed that with, what I'd consider, a poor mid-season break as we really didn't get enough match fitness or morale and, as such, were tired and complacent against Chiasso, who scored both their goals through ex-Meyrin striker Hoxha. A lovely run in February followed with just the one goal - again from a corner, conceded and plenty of goals scored. That run has continued into March as we look to sew the league up as soon as we can.

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Performance wise, we are head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Whilst I haven't created a monster, we are efficient, and practice set pieces often and Gavioli, as my set piece taken, has reaped the rewards. The most incredible one here though is Stefano Herzog and his amazing clean sheet record. The more I look, the more I realise he isn't just good enough for this league and would easily get in most top flight teams, too.

My youth development is ticking along really well - in particular Anderson Costa. He's a little technically flawed (but not in the Shadow Striker or Winger areas) but is such a hard worker and an absolute pain for defenders. He's developed really well this season and I'm utilising him in a way that gives him the best chances of success - predominantly in home games against smaller sides, so he can use his pace on the break. His eight league goals come from just eight starts as he ties Marcio Veiga on 0.65 goals/90, scoring a league high goal every 102 minutes  and has also chipped in with 0.24 assists/90. I'm also trying to find minutes for Levin Zehnder and Taulant Kabashi in the same kind of ways. I have been able to completely integrate two 18 year olds into the team this season and, I must say, they have been great:

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Gavioli was at the club when I joined, following a €2.4k move from Torres, in Italy but Mojsovski hadn't tasted first team football until this season.

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I also had my youth intake in this time, and it was like I'd never seen before.

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With four poached players, we actually brought 20 new faces into the club in the largest pool I have ever experienced. Sadly, the depth wasn't that great but, in Nixon Mazinet, I do, potentially, have a player worth spending time developing.

As I work out my limits on players and the quality of the leagues, I will decide to sign more and more of these players.

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Also, the board allowed me to extend my deal here:

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Never had anything like that.. 4 extra youth intake players because those were poached? Where did u saw the news or info with the 'original club' ?

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I love those absolute gut-punch Champions League Group Stage draws.

When I haven't got a very strong first team, I'm always in two minds between 'make an effort' and 'send the kids'. 

But when the draw puts me up against Real Madrid, Inter and Liverpool, it's basically an open invitation to get the kids to update their passports and line up some facilities upgrades. 

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9 hours ago, OlivierL said:

Thanks Ben , i'm updating it in the youth only challenge topic . But didn't play a lot since begin of april.

I'm thinking to start one more last save.. with mix of Youth and transfers but with some data tracking :) still doubting between some obscure countries or teams with a special background / story.

I had a quick flick through there and couldn't see any of your posts - why I asked!

8 hours ago, OlivierL said:

Never had anything like that.. 4 extra youth intake players because those were poached? Where did u saw the news or info with the 'original club' ?

I don't recall seeing any news to say that I'd poached them. However, I added the 'Last Club' column to the intake screen, which showed me this as I thought the number was off somewhere.

8 hours ago, turnip said:

I love those absolute gut-punch Champions League Group Stage draws.

When I haven't got a very strong first team, I'm always in two minds between 'make an effort' and 'send the kids'. 

But when the draw puts me up against Real Madrid, Inter and Liverpool, it's basically an open invitation to get the kids to update their passports and line up some facilities upgrades. 

It's certainly reminded me how tough the CL is with a team from outside the bigger nations. Will certainly be an end goal to get some success here.

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February 2032

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We keep marching on. Unbeaten in the league but sadly out of Europe.

I think it's telling to see that St. Gallen as so far ahead of the pack yet we are also a ridiculous distance from them, too - 26 points separate first and third, and only 24 points separate third and tenth. We are dominant. We've been utterly dominant against each opponent this month, too only conceding one goal from a silly defensive mix up from a set piece against Basel. However, that goal was overshadowed by a perfect hattrick from Anderson Costa and the eventual return of Joachim Magola, who will only make us stronger.

I am disappointed at Europe though. 2-0 at home to Koln and cruising at the hour mark before a beautiful lob and a late Fierte Arp strike salvaged a draw for them. We were the better team in pretty much every area but, unfortunately, that counts for nothing on the scoreboard. I was then really upset at our profligacy in Germany, against a team that had holes and defended poorly in the first leg as we just couldn't find a way through. An 81st minute gaol from Magola saw ten minutes of kitchen sink throwing but it was to no avail. Koln face Monaco in the next round, which, granted, would probably be a step too far, but it's all about the experience that we've missed out on.

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I've been playing with some more data visualisation lately, trying to make them as clean as I can. So here's a little sneak peak:

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For anyone that thinks we don't deserve to win the title this year, just look at the above! St. Gallen have had a really good season but we've just been amazing when you compare our xG and xGa over a near two year period (except I closed and didn't save the Excel file so this is now finished!)

At the end of last season, we were winning but our form wasn't great and the difference between our xG and xGA was low - indicating that, even though we were winning, it wasn't convincing and we relied on a far chunk of luck. However, this season and, dare I say it, the arrival of Tiago Dantas, has just elevated our rolling xG average to ridiculous new heights. It has coincided, too, maybe, with the arrival of Georges Henry who has brought our xGA right down, with us averaging a difference of nearly 1.75xG a game - a stupendous stat!

With the league win an almost dead cert this year, it'll be interesting to see how the longer term xG trends look as teams change their approach towards facing us.

However, one thing that I have noticed about the approach of other teams is this, below:

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Granted, this is a tiny data sample as collating passes against, tackles won and lost, fouls and interceptions is fairly laborious and not something I could have easily gone back and collected two seasons of, like I did with xG but it does show a very clear trend in our game plan compared with that of our opponents. This data has been collected from the competitive games of 2032.

What is shows is that we press far less than our opponents, which is a purposeful attempt at creating a mid to low block that focuses on defensive compactness rather than strong pressures. It also re-affirms that, in general, we are defending far less than our opponents as, not once in this data collection, has our Tackles/Interceptions/Fouls value been greater than theirs. I think, based on the success of this style, I'd really like to take the Swiss Army Knife to another country and see how it can adapt - but that is for a long time from now!

Lastly, I wanted to just take a small snapshot of an area where I need to work on, either through recruitment, training, interaction or tactical adjustments:

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Costa has, and is always going to be, a key player for us but even he struggles with the game load that we have - a domestic cup, Champions League and a 36 game season and I need a backup who can come in and take over from him. Ike has struggled with that and is rolling xG average is considerably lower than that of Anderson, which is a worry but that is down to a combination of player quality, game time, training happiness, opponent quality and several others. I need to look at how to best utilise these backup players.

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I quite enjoyed creating some charts and digging a little deeper into what stats I can take directly from the match engine that don't always appeared to be well stored elsewhere. It has, however, glossed over the fact I was meant to be analysing the improvement in the MC role, which has, annoyingly, turned back to a Mezzala as I was not seeing the intended difference.

 

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March 2032

I had completely written an update for this month but then, annoyingly, closed Chrome down and it was not recovered. This is a slightly abridged (but still a lot of tangents) version:

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The league table is magnificent.

A month without a goal conceded and averaging just 0.42xGA/90. Granted, we were poor in the cup and it took some Herzog penalty heroics (1 goal converted and 2 saves) to get us through 8-7 on aggregate but we are still getting results. This month has solely been about managing injuries and fatigue as we are really struggling right now. I need to look at the intensity of it - as, even without any physical training - my players are still picking up knocks and struggling to see out the full game. That, however, may be due to squad depth and my own failings on timings of changes.

 With four league games next month, we can put ourselves within a point of winning our first title under my reign with a 100% record but I am now finally conceding that it's a when, not if!

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Joao RobertoCarlos PerezMiguel PedrosoTommy PortelaAntonio CelientoModou BahLamine Baldeh

(This wasn't on intake day and I think current u18 player Guido Arnold snuck in...)

I'd be lying if I said I was anything other than absolutely delighted with this intake.

With some really high potential players made even better by the fact that the trio of Roberto, Perez and Pedroso are already strong players. The former is a scarily fast winger, the middle is a two-footed centre back and Pedroso looks to have the key attributes for a scoring attacking midfielder, of which I use. Baldeh has the potential to be a solid winger and his half-Gambian counterpart Bah has potential, too. Portela looks a good fit for the awkward-to-fill Inverted Wing Back role and Celiento is potentially going to be a decent keeper.

What I really like is that, despite the strength that we are (domestically) exhibiting right now, this talented group could, potentially, take the club to the next level.

However, I am unsure as to how much impact these lot will have on the first team during my tenure here. As I've experienced progress over a much shorter time than I first imagined, I can't help but feel that it'd be nice to test my ,mettle. and the Swiss Army Knife shape in another country at some point. Whenever that may be, I intend to continue a tradition that I started whereby I take players with me to my new club: Badinca and Galeano came to Fribourg with me from Meyrin and Muzangu (Fribourg -> Luzern) and Ribic (Meyrin -> Luzern) have also been managed by me at more than one club.

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Mentoring is working!

Toni Gonzalez has become my first real success with mentoring whilst at Luzern as he has taken on the personality of his mentor, Tiago Dantas - showing that he is not only becoming irreplaceable on the pitch but also incredibly important off it. Without getting too gamey, the attribute rise in Determination (through warnings or a couple of poor performances) have helped but I know the lowest value for Det for a M.Cit is 14 and he has surpassed that, so this increase is definitely correlated to the time spent as a mentee. 

Whilst I am discussing Gonzalez, I also want to acknowledge the attribute development that I've seen from him:

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Around a year ago, as you can see from my notes, Gonzalez reached natural as an MC. Because of that, I decided to take him off the P/R/D and just focus on his trait, to improve his playmaking skills. I think that move has been justified as, although I've explored him playing alongside Dantas or any other playmaker, I feel he'd be better suited by being said playmaker. His lack of speed, strength and Dribbling means that he is too easily shadowed as he moves off the ball and I found he was unable to get up to exploit those spaces as much as I wanted. 

He has, however, improved three points in each of these playmaking attributes and I've decided to add a trait that I feel will only benefit that positively. Once he has made a little more development, I may look to explore something with his Finishing/Off the Ball/Composure as they are all reasonable (or better) for our level.

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I also put pen to paper on a new two-year deal. The board wanted four, with a wage nearly double what I accepted but I bartered as I don't intend to be tied down forever, even if I do decide to extend my stay at the club for longer.

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