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[FM 21] Aussie Football!


Butlee
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Posted (edited)

G'day mate!


Melbourne Victory 
A-League (Australia)

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Melbourne Victory - An Introduction

Melbourne Victory are unquestionably the most supported club in Australia. They are also one of the most successful during the 15 year lifespan of the A-League; collecting 3 Premierships and 4 Grand Final wins, along with a FFA Cup trophy. They clash in the some of the most fierce and widely anticipated derbies in the competition - against other strongly established clubs like Melbourne City, Adelaide United and most famously The Big Blue* against Sydney FC. In the A-League landscape, Victory see themselves as the 'big dogs', the leader of the pack - where no football challenge is beyond them. Their reputation alone attracts overseas players, returning Aussie stars and a healthy flow of the nations best youth - they all want to play for Melbourne Victory.

*Note: Having a blue in Aussie slang means to have a fight - so the derby title is a clever meld of two teams who play in blue, having a blue!

Everyone loves to hate Victory.

 

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Victory play out of AAMI Park in Melbourne - one of the most southern clubs in the comp. Melbourne is one of the most populated, and most multicultural areas in Australia - giving it a thriving sporting culture that stems across multiple football codes. For sure, Football in Australia is only a small piece of the overall sporting pie and Melbourne exemplifies this. If their A-League clubs are going well, the fervour brewed by the Melbourne public reverberates throughout the country!

 

Performance History

To understand where the club is now, we need a bit of background on how they arrived here. The club has been home to several popular, well-known and successful A-League managers and will soon have another one on the way (Tony Popovic).

While the first season after the formation of the A-League wasn't that strong, Ernie Merrick helped establish the roots in the club and built the prevalent feeling that Victory should be one of the nation's top clubs. As results started to waiver in 2011, the club chopped and changed managerially until they were able to secure Ange Postecoglu who was fresh off the back of a premiership with Brisbane Roar.

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Unfortunately Ange was also tipped for the Australian National Team managerial role and was whisked away almost as quick as he came - leading to an accelerated promotion path for former club captain Kevin Muscat, who had been deputising as an Assistant Manager since his retirement. Muscat has always felt (to me) like the modern image of the Victory team - a successful player who became a success manager, and one who is a little curt at times - he's a manager that everyone loves to hate. And some clubs thrive off the notoriety. Victory have done in his time and in 2017/18 they fought to win the Grand Final! 

Here I'm injecting a bit of my own personal opinions, so bear with me. After the Final win, a lot of the players were high in value and Victory lost a half dozen key players. But with successive ventures into the Asian Champions League and an A-League trophy, they were wealthy and reputable - they attracted a megastar in Keisuke Honda, and signed Ola Toivonen to captain. The squad looked better than ever! 
And somewhere in there, things changed. You can't point to it exactly, and I'm not deeply 'in' with the supporters base in Melbourne, but I think something shifted in the culture. The club was competitive in the 2018/19 season - they did finish 3rd in the premiership race!

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Melbourne were still strong here - just not as strong as everyone anticipated.

Victory had the best team on paper and looked to be playing solid footy - but not being as dominant as they expected seemed to almost wear the players out. It all came to a head in the semi-final that year where Sydney FC belted them 1-6, and Muscat resigned despite having a year left on his contract. 

Some people cite some internal turmoil and say that the club was looking for Muscat to move on anyway ('so he jumped before he was pushed' kind of thing), and that poisoned the efforts through the latter half of the season. But honestly, I believe Muscat felt a bit of a reality check of the A-League this season. He had every tool at his disposal (money, team harmony, winning form, star players coming in etc..) and just couldn't get it to work! 
That would be deflating to any manager. Kevin immediately moved over to Europe after resigning to pursue managing jobs over there. It seems to match with my theory - he just capped out in resources in Australia and desired a chance to do more.

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And now that's everything nice I had to say about Muscat *shudders*.

 

Marco Kurtz was doing wonders at Adelaide, bringing them back up the ladder with a steely resolve. It would have seemed to fit the Victory way and they wasted no time in poaching him. Unfortunately it didn't come together - and with covid starting to impact A-League fixtures (and travel!) the club elected to see out the season with internal resources. That lead them to their lowest ever finish (10th out of 11 clubs) in 2020.

We move into a post-FM era now (since FM starts Jul 2020 typically), but former Assistant Coach Grant Brebner was promoted to Head Coach - a role he took reluctantly for what it's worth - and he lead the club on their worst run of form before being replaced by another coaching staff member Steven Keen. 

Melbourne Victory are likely to finish out the season in 11th (out of 12 clubs), just 1 point away from the wooden spoon.

 

Edited by Butlee
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G'Day - For real this time

Hi everyone, I'm Butlee. Not a regular forum poster, but I've had a few goes at this kind of story-telling over a few years. It hasn't quite stuck with me (/ I haven't quite stuck with it). When I was thinking about getting back into it, I figured maybe planning to do a shorter term save and doing what I know best would help me get used to writing up my regular updates. 

There are probably  things I want to give & get out of this venture;

  1. I want to learn. I try and do research on clubs that I manage and to learn about them as a club, their history and what got them to where they are today. I also want to try different things; formations, tactics, styles, players etc... And where I'm learning, I want to be sharing that everyone else, so maybe you learn too!
  2. I want to take the time to stop and smell the roses. Creating a story in FM is fun. Reflecting on your history through that story is even more fun. Taking the time now to talk through decisions, ideas, aims and plans, opinions on players and events etc.. and being able to review all that in the future when these things come to a head - that's a whole new level of entertainment that I hope you'll enjoy as much as I do. 

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Overall this isn't going to be a thread that has me playing for a few months and then updating how we went or showing off some players, and then repeat. There will be times where that happens, but I'll likely be cutting in with comments on different areas as they come up. I'm good at overthinking things like Scouting, Training, Affiliations, Staff etc... and I want to spend more time looking over the in-game analytics and thinking about what other things I'd like to see.
It'll get a bit word-y, but hopefully you can see in the above post - I'm pretty keen on bringing in visuals to support the text so it's not just a big novel of writing to read.

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Why the A-League?
Aside from sticking to what I know to give you guys the best experience I think I can give, I think the A-League has a lot of nuance to it - from the rules and regulations, to the respective reputations and geographical challenges, to Australia's football position in the Oceanic, Asian and World's eyes. A lot of those challenges show in FM21 and I'd like to explore some of that with you.

So you're a Melbourne Fan?
Early disclaimer - no. I live in Brisbane and support the Brisbane Roar. Further truths - I've only been following the A-League for 5-6 years... not much out of the 15 year history of the competition (I've mentioned the framework of the A-League a few times now, we'll get to why that's significant later).

But why Melbourne Victory then?
It's your typical return them to their former glory save. The club has some fantastic players and it's hard watching them struggle week-in, week-out. Here we can take those players and really show them off. And if they do perform well, maybe it'll be interesting to talk about what their real life challenges have been (on and off the park) versus what they're doing for us. 
And overall Victory has so much identity in the game. If I'm going to introduce people to the A-League for the first time, choosing our biggest club and drawing on what makes them so interesting - that sounds like a good plan to me!

You mentioned a shorter term save?
Unfortunately the AI struggles a bit in the A-League. It's primarily due to the salary cap and some other features (we'll cover them as they come up). You can get a few competitive seasons out of it, but it's hard to commit to anything more. 
Having said that, there's still plenty of good stuff here. A season or two to get up the A-league ladder and a season in the Asian Champs League if we're lucky - that can be a lot of fun!

You keep opening with "G-day" - do you really say that?
Yes, yes I do. We're not all Steve Irwin or Croc Dundee, but we do have Aussie slang. And how much of it fits into our day-to-day language - it's hard to even notice when you live here!
But more pointedly, I'm not going to deliberately Aussie-up the thread just to score some points. Maybe I'll make some fake press conference answers or something and ham up the thing for a bit of fun, but the intent isn't to make this "Aussie man commentates footy". 

But also:

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Last couple of comments before we get into the save proper....
I tend to play as if I (the narrator) are some kind of confidant, or club consultant to myself (the manager). It shouldn't really make a noteable difference in narration, but it covers me if I slip between first, second and third person! 
I'm also a bit of a spreadsheet manager - so with some luck I'll be sharing tables and stuff that I put together to help break up just writing things in here. 
On the flipside, I'm terribly un-artistic so there's no photoshop here! If I can't cook it up dodgy-style in Paint, it ain't happenin! haha!

 

 

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I thought Muscat was a player-manager at the beginning of the A-League, and during that time he was very successful. Built the team like he played though (ugh!).

Also, never been a fan of G’day.

And, the rivalries go back before the A-League to the NFL (I think, can’t remember now) where Victory was know for it’s Greek origins. The A-League was created this way to try and remove ethnic rivalries.

I’ll keep an eye out for more updates :thup:

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Posted (edited)

7 December 2929

Melbourne Victory - 20 days until A-League

 

Aims & Objectives

We could begin this journey on Day 1 in a lot of different places - but I want to get to the players and start the journey proper. One last thing we should identify before we start!
The Board has given us their vision, but what do we want out of this?

  1. Repair the club's reputation.
  2. Ensure there's a strong core in the squad.
  3. Become a challenger for trophies (premier's plate, grand final results, ffa cup trophy).

Basically the club has been on a downward spiral since Muscat left, and it's losing all the things that made fans love them - identity, performance and the steely competitiveness that made them such villains in the eyes of their rivals. 
It may be impossible to recreate the Muscat era, but the club desperately needs someone to show them their new identity. That comes in many forms - results of course, but also how you play football and the types of footballers you attract. 

Our primary goals will be to rebuild this club in a manner that will strengthen it mid-term - if we've got the managerial skills, we may be able to make the top 6 and enter the Finals Series - then the Grand Final win is anyone's game! 

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Here's a timeline** of when our current 22 players arrived at the club. While it's not uncommon for a handful of players to come and go from an A-League club, to have that happen twice in a row in an era where you've gone through 3 coaches, it would cripple the core of any club. That's what we're up against!
 

** I've got a few things I'd love for SI to consider, and I've suggested them over the years. This is a good one. I feel like knowing when the players arrive gives you a feeling for how 'together' the club is. Since the introduction of dynamics, I've always felt this piece was missing. If you see any suggestions along this line (I've no idea how far down mine is buried now), please drop them a comment or thumbs up and maybe it'll let SI know this is interesting to us!


How does that align with our Board?

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Fairy well I'd say. Entertaining football is a fair request, and I think every A-League club is (or should be) pushing for as much growth from their youth players as possible. 
The rest - the "plan" part of the arrangement - is really down our alley. The Board wants to push the club back to being the best in the country and we agree that's where we need to go!


Meet the Players

With one eye on our ambitions above, we can now start to look at our capability to pull that off. A great place to start is of course knowing who our best players are! 

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Whatever strategy or tactics we employ this season, they will end up with these 3 in some mixture up top. These guys are hired to create and score goals and if we've got any hope of doing well, we need them in form.

Robbie Kruse is a former Victory player from 10 years back - he shot over to Bundesliga and there was a time when Leverkusen were looking at him for First XI duties. He was a regular in the Socceroo's (74 caps to date) and has this slinky kind of silky style where he gets into spaces and has surprising pace to boot. Unfortunately for Kruse, he always struggled with injury and he never quite made that next step up. He clearly shone with potential, and he has had a well-paid career for sure, but you can't look back and say he was ever a key player or fan favourite anywhere. Even his National team career could be argued that he played off the back of some real stars initially and as they moved on and guys like Robbie had to lead the line more, he struggled to make the impact the nation so desperately wanted from him.

Robbie Kruse has had three hamstring injuries now this season.

The guy has worn his fair share of criticism (and lets be fair, 'abuse' as well) and you can have opinions on where the line is drawn on that one. Fact is he looks like he's got great skills, but he could never get his career nor his body into the right space to really leave a huge legacy. We need to give that guy a run.

There is actually a really cool, quick article with him here from earlier 2021. He shares a few comments about abuse and what his thoughts are on his role with Victory & the Socceroo's.

Callum McManaman was brought in from England after playing for 4 different English Championship clubs in 4 years. He was getting regular-ish footy, but couldn't prove himself enough. This is a brilliant signing for the A-League - he's still physically a great player and he's an attacking option in his prime who can get a few really good seasons as a starter here!

With two handy wingers and tall Swedish striker Ola Toivonen having recently left the club, it was all about who was going to get into the box and slam home the bulk of the goals?? The club turned to Rudy Gestede - an imposing central striker who had been duking it out on the line between Championship and EPL for years. I actually really like the idea here as much as anything else. A lot of A-League clubs tend to go after whoever they can get when importing players and it's rare to see a player brought in because he fits a tactical void rather than just a formation-al one (if that makes sense)?

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The side doesn't have an AMC or primary central playmaker - their talents are down the flanks. They needed a guy who could get on the end of crosses or be strong enough to win the ball centrally and play in wider men overlapping him. They also needed someone they could play long to out of defence since there aren't a lot of experience midfielders supporting the central build-up play. Gestede fits a role well here.

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We can speculate throughout the season over whether there are other elements to why an age curve like this exists essentially between the First XI (7 shown above) and the rest of the kids. But if someone like Shotton were to fail to fire, we'd struggle to have a reliable central defensive replacement - this is largely a problem in real life... I don't think Ryan ever really settled, he got injured and then he eventually left.

Hopefully that helps layout what we've got to work with here. We'll do what we can in the transfer window right now, but largely we're locked in with the squad we have!

 

The Salary Cap & Squad Registration

There are 2 defined challenges when building a squad for the A-League, and those are in the Salary Cap and Squad Registration rules. If you've ever taken a look at how the MLS works under the hood well... don't panic, we're kind of a watered down version of this!

Registration means you can have up to 23 registered players in Senior Contracts. Youth-contracted players can step up and don't need to be registered. There's also a special kind of "Scholarship contract" which is essentially an upgraded (& more senior-binding) youth contract with a few extra dollars attached to it.

Further, you can only register 5 foreign players. We call these these overseas signings the "Visa" spots (as in, if they need a Working Visa to come play here, they're likely to be counted as 1 of the 5).

Then there's the Salary Cap. The competition says you can spend a certain amount on wages this season and you have to stay under that else you're disqualified.

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In our space you can see we pay Kruse almost twice the next highest paid players - we've nominated Kruse as our Marquee/Designated Player, and he's exempt from our Salary Cap count.


From there, it's all about what does and doesn't count in the Salary Cap.

  • You can nominate 1 or 2 players who are entirely outside the Salary Cap.
  • Your Scholarship Contracts are outside the Salary Cap.
  • If a player leaves of his own accord, he's no longer part of the Salary Cap.
  • Players can be loaned out to remove them from your Salary Cap.
  • Players loaned in - their full wages from their parent club are included in your Salary Cap (so you can't beg Man City to send their best kids over for free loans, just to get them first team footy!).

And a whole bunch of other scenarios....

What you end up with is a slightly awkward mix of players are do or don't need to be registered and players who are and aren't in the salary cap. 
Here's what our Finances Page has to tell us:

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We're not doing too badly. There's room to attract another decent player there!

 

 

Ozzie Mate

This is the guy who's going to bring all this together. You saw his full portrait in an earlier post. I'm not putting too much light on this guy, as this isn't really a big journey of us - it's a journey of Melbourne.

But the logic is that he's a Disciplinarian - the guy will not allow anyone to conflict with the approach we're taking and he won't let players dictate who plays where and when. With a lot of Senior players it could be an important feature.
Overall though, I think this is the best thing for Melbourne. Oz has a firm hand and steely conviction.

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Training-wise you take what you can get. The possession-based skillset may not ideally suit the flowing attacking style that we seem set up to entertain with, but at least working with youngsters could help with bringing through a lot of the talent we've got already chipping in at the senior squad.

 

 

 

Edited by Butlee
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Best of luck, I recently did a Perth Glory save (which I hope to get back to soon), and won the toilet seat in the first year.

Good luck and make sure you give the youth a run, you'll thank me later with all the fixture congestion!

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Aussie here (South Melbourne fan going by my user name and not a fan of the A-League really) but good luck since Victory have been so mismanaged recently 

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Nice introduction. My wife and me spent our honeymoon in Australia and we actually saw Melbourne Victory live. One of the few teams I've seen play outside of England. Was a lot of fun and a nice atmosphere too! Got me a little interested in aussie football for a while. Will follow your progress 

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7 December 2020

Melbourne Victory 20 Days until A-League

 

Time for Action!

Unfortunately not League matches yet, but now we've danced around who the team is, where the team is, what players we have, and or targets for the save, we can start to put some plans in motion.

Step #1 - Booked a friendly with Brisbane Roar
The (COVID-imapcted) League season starts on 27 December and will largely be 2 matches per week until the middle of February. The club has been playing friendlies since October, but match sharpness is still middling.

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With that in mind, we've booked a friendly with Brisbane - fitting as I know plenty about them! It'll be 5 days since we started.

Step #2 - Hiring Staff
The club is stable financially - it's one of the biggest clubs and can easily comply with the Salary Cap without fear of going into debt. But since we have a Salary Cap we can't necessarily inject our money into players. But we can ensure we put together the best coaching staff.
Currently we have 12 staff from an approved quota of 28. (No scouts :'( )

I won't labour over the entire process (I'd love to, but I think we need to get the season going!). Though I did want to show off the HoYD we're chasing.

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We tried a few options and this is who we secured.

Priorities were having an Aussie HoYD who knew Australia, with a personality that would hopefully encourage the right kind of player. And then we tried chasing the best reputation among who was left. I think if this were a longer-term save, and we had aspirations of winning ACL we might have imported a manager - he could grow his Aussie knowledge over time and I could get a slightly better mix of those 3 desirable features. But for now he helps us build our Aussie knowledge banks and if we get a couple of fairly professional youths they might come close to the Senior Squad.

 

Step #3 - Squad Flexibility
While we're not looking to make major changes to the squad, obviously we need at least a cursory look at what our options are. The skill gap between 'senior' and 'youngster' is often pretty high in this comp and thus clubs will tend to move a senior player out of position to fill a gap rather than look into their youth depths - but that doesn't mean we shouldn't entertain the idea of signing some depth. If for no other reason than to lock down a bunch of kids to see if any have potential to unlock - 'a bolter' we'd call them.

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Suffice to say we have room to move - but only for Aussie players. We can sign at least 3 more senior names before we even have to consider letting anybody go.

Without diving too deeply into squad coverage and potential formations, I think the weakest area in the squad is DR, and if we're looking to play a DM we might need some cover there. In fact we should definitely get some cover there so we can swap to a more defensive style mid-game if needed.

 

Step #4 - Goalkeepers [Crocombe vs Acton]

The club recently lost their senior keeper and while Acton had been here a while waiting for his chance, they went with signing (for Free) Max Crocombe. Max has been a fringe New Zealand international for a few seasons after cutting his teeth trying to get out of League Two with Oxford... and Barnett... and Carlisle... before being picked up by Brisbane Roar last season. This was the great Robbie Fowler Era (if anyone is interested in a tangential story, I can recount Robbie's holiday in Australia for that one season - from the eyes of a Brisbane fan!) and he'd taken 1 look at long-term GK - Young - and decided he needed a better guy. Crocombe was his pick. Max lasted 4 League games before being dropped and Young barely missed a match after that. Crocombe eventually left before the season was over!

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Personal history aside, it's actually hard to split between the two. Overall Max has a few inches on Matt and that means the Kiwi has better Aerial and Jumping, whereas the Aussie is a bit better balanced and quick. Crocombe has slightly more teamwork and leadership, but Action more determination and positioning. It all sort of balances out.
But in the technical skills we see the main splitter - Crocombe seems to generally be a better shot-stopper, Action's primary advantage is in distribution. Having said that, one has better long kicking and the other better reflexes.... so it's not an easy call to make.

 

 

Leigh Broxham

I'm weary of just dumping too many players and names at everyone at once, but we couldn't start the season without a quick mention of Leigh Broxham. Defensive utility, club and league veteran, general hard-ass, pretty sure his blood is dark blue and bloke who cannot help but look angry all the time. I saw him smile once, and he still looked he was about to yell at someone!

"Broxy" as those in the know call him, has the incredible record of the most A-League games played with a single club! 335 times he's lined up for Melbourne Victory in a professional career stretching beyond 15 years. In any league that's amazing - in a salary capped league it's something else entirely.

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Posted (edited)

7 December 2020

Melbourne Victory - Day 1 of the A-League

Typically I'll write a post up after the fact, but for our first game we'll make notes as we go.

 

Matchday 1 - Western Sydney Wanderers!

Western Sydney are one of the difficult teams to predict. They burst onto the scene in 2012 and immediately won everything: A-League in the their first season, leading into a historic Asian Champions League win the following year. It's the first (and only) time an A-League side has won the Asian comp!

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They have one of the most vocal and dedicated fan bases going around and they revel at being the loudest and having the most attitude. If there's a line between untethered, unrelenting passion for your club and going too far, they don't know it - they've danced that line many times. A strong, impactful, unique bunch of supporters, or an unruly bunch of hooligans? You can decide!

Since their initial charge they've been up as high as 2nd and down as far as 9th. Recently they've been finding themselves just outside the top 6. WSW always strikes me as a club that puts together great players, but struggles to get the culture and mentality right for them to play as a team


Matchday 1 - Tactics Reveal!

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These are the first couple of tactics we're looking to employ. They're both keep the core of the side the same, but with a few differences in approach. 

#1 - More of a passing/possession kind of structure. We employ the central midfield trio to keep the structure and give the right depth so we can keep the ball. The aim is to get the whole side forward and essentially look for the killer pass as guys like Butterfield and Brimmer will make dashes into the box, but also roam wide as well as looking for those passes. We have a bit of an off-centre approach with Kruse cutting in and Adama Traore (not that one!) overlapping him, and we also retain the direct route - especially if our BPD's want to launch forward and set us off there.

The main weakness here is that Gestede isn't going to move much and we might find teams can easily condense centrally in defence and lock us out. We can only hope we get enough bodies forward to make this work. Broxy also isn't the best ballplayer - so he'll have to stay focused and not give the ball away cheaply, lest we face a troubling counter attack. It's also tough to fit our winger/playmaker/attacking-threat triad in - Kruse, McManaman, Rojas.

#2 - Allows us to be more direct, to look for space or passes to our more attacking options and to essentially let those 3 AM roles work their magic. It was tough to pick who should play centrally there, but I figured Kruse is the higher skilled and his movement makes him a good SS. We make a few tweaks to accommodate the more direct style - I don't need Roux to get as high up and Butterfield isn't looking to push right into their box this time. The wide men are also more intent on unleashing Gestede and Kruse than they are getting into that space themselves to be primary goal scorers.

There are a few tweaks still to do (not sure I intended an attacking sweeper keeper!!), but the biggest weakness is if we don't have possession we'll struggle to win it back. We may get chewed on the counter as well.

 

Matchday 1 - First XI + Subs

We're going with our 2nd tactic for this one. WSW have 4 injuries - GK, DR, DC, ST - and they've also loaned out one of their only DM's (Baccus). I figure having that extra AMC in the space where they don't really have a good tracking DM would help. And with defenders out, they might struggle to handle an SS AMC that's acting like a 2nd ST at times.

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It was a little tough to pick the subs. We only take 1 defender sub in (Ryan) and ended up with 2 MC's (Brimmer, Barnett) and 2 wingers (Lauton, Kamsoba) - I wanted the wingers in case we run out steam fitness-wise this game, and I also wanted enough MC's that if we swap to our other formation we have enough middies to execute the DM/MC/MC triad.

 

Matchday 1 - Play-by-Play!

Writing this live as the game plays out!

[Min 1] Gestede peels wide and we play into space. He shepherds the ball down into the corner and Ziegler slides in to earn us our first corner of the season.

[Min 3] Some good interplay has McManaman cut in and play back and forth with Butterfield, before Butterfield smashes our first shot of the season from 18 yards. In goals, Margush pushes it over the bar.

[Min 10] After some heavy possession, we decide to throw in a long cross from deep. Gestede reacts well and gets his first header at goal for the season! It sails over, but it's a significant moment for the tall striker.

[Min 13] WSW have their first threatening foray forward and some slick passing leave Duke with space. Roux sticks out a timely leg and prevents the final ball from reaching him and a quick wide pass leads to us charging down the other end to win another corner! Corner count is already 5-0!

[Min 15] Ibini scraps with Roux on our right, and throws in a deep cross - Jordan Mutch rises above Troare, but fortunately it's a tame shot that is easily saved.

[Min 20] Rojas puts in a freekick to the near post and Gestede flicks...... just over the bar!

[Min 25] Rojas with another deep freekick. This time he gives it the full boot and forces Margush to parry on the save.

[Min 27] Former Victory player Troisi gets up on the 6 yard box for a header and forces the first difficult save from Crocombe. Our keeper gets down well and pushes the ball wide.

[Min 35] Game is pushed into a bit of a stalemate as both sides fight for possession. We're winning that duel, but they're packing back in their box and making it hard.

[Min 38] We're getting into nice pockets down to their byline, but we're just not doing it efficiently enough to create shots. On this occasion McManaman does find Gestede with a chip and Rudy forces another save.

[Min 42] Kruse shimmies past one, but loses it to the 2nd and Muler puts on the afterburners on the counter. Shotton is able to keep him wide and finally leans in to clear for a corner. Crocombe comes out to make the save.

[Half Time]
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Honestly it's probably not the most exciting half for the neutrals. I've described how a lot of those shots are long, 50/50 crosses that don't trouble the keeper. We've had 2 good headers and them 1. Butterfields first long shot could have tested the keeper more as well.

But it's fair to say we're on top. We move the ball around a lot better and our lack of shots is more to do with our patience than it is our lack of attack. We're looking exactly like we are - not quite match fit yet, and not quite efficient with our tactics yet. 

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This is not the cleanest graphic, but you can see what we're trying to do here - work into those red areas and create problems for our opponents. We're just not quite managing it - especially on our right where we look so close to getting in there, but can't. But that's why I feel it's to do with passing efficiency - if we get just a little fitter, a little faster and a little more efficient with our passing, some of those wide possessions will get into the box and then we'll have a few guys making runs to hit.

Before we go on, a few HT mentions of key players so far:

McManaman is our most threatening player. He's running at players and mixing up his crosses with cut-backs and trying to beat his man. He wants to get on the ball all the time and he's looking for Gestede often.

Gestede himself has been 50/50 for me. He's showing that he's not just tall timber - he does know how to make the right runs and he does turn crosses into chances on goal. We're just not quite seeing the end product yet and I need him to come get the ball a little more.

Roux has been far better than I gave him credit for. Bernie Ibini is a challenging prospect to mark and he's doing well keeping the WSW attacker quiet.

While Broxham has been  doing a solid job giving the defenders an outlet to build the attack from, Butterfield started the half in everything. He used the empty space in that middle 3rd to roam from side to side and to move the ball effectively between our attacking options. Neither may be the kind to thread the needle with a killer pass, but in this formation we have plenty of attacking options and fullbacks pushing on - the 2 central players are supposed to just keep the shape and move the ball around.

[Min 46] No thoughts of a tactical change from either side. I'm mostly happy so far and changing formation and taking players out of the final third doesn't feel right at the moment. We need to keep the pressure on.

[Min 51] Rojas roams centrally and hits a long-range speculator. We swap Kruse with Rojas - mostly because I'm not seeing any real SS impact from Kruse. Rojas has been ok, but you can tell from the crossing chart above that he's not as dominant on that side as we on the right.

[Min 53] You can see the issue I'm having in getting this TM/SS combo working here:

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Gestede has made the right move here, and Rojas responds perfectly (I don't think I saw Kruse do this once!). But because we're only playing 2 in the middle of the park we've got no way to play him in.

This may sound like a minor change - but we're going to put Broxham (DM) on "Support" rather than "Defend" and see if he'll step up 10 yards into that space in front of him. That may just give Rudy an option who can then thread the ball through to Rojas' run.

[Min 55] Kruse steals the ball at halfway and perfectly gets into the threatening zone in the PB we described at half time. He cuts back to Butterfield who drives a shot in low - defender Georgevski gets in the way and we win another corner.

[Min 59] GOAL WSW! An absolutely appalling piece of marking see's Nicolai Muler slink past the absent-minded Roux and make an uncontested header home from 8 yards out.

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Just see how little Roux moved to challenge that. Compare it to Muler who slipped past him, or someone like #5 Ansell who busted their gut to get back to a position to ensure we double-marked their #10 Duke. That sort of paltry effort won't fly on my watch, and is exactly what I was worried about when I said DR was our weakest position. 

Full credit to WSW though. I didn't catch that they'd switched wingers - Ibini sat a bit deeper and helped Mutch find space for the cross and Muler easily had Roux beat.

[Min 61] An encouraging reaction from the team as Kruse comes inside a bit and holds the ball nicely for Traore to overlap. A bending cross comes to the back post and McManaman attacks it well. The header goes over, but it was the right kind of play.

[Min 63] Muler dances past Roux and forces Crocombe into a diving low save. At this point we decide to pull Roux. Fairly or not (Muler is a great player!) I'm upset about the goal and don't see signs of things improving. We decide to put Shotton out on the right - mostly just to go and kick Muler a bit (you'll probably see that kind of move a lot in my management style!). Ryan comes on at DC. So we're a little weaker in the middle, but Duke is having a nightmare anyway and I'm not too concerned about Kamau or their other ST options off the bench.

[Min 66] A fantastic little interplay through midfield leads to a shot from McManaman. Broxham playing higher up is helping and Kruse gets into a good place to coordinate some short passing. McManaman is cutting in and gets the shot near the penalty spot, unfortunately hampered a bit by the tracking defender and the keeper saves. But it's good football. We need more of this!

[Min 67] Cal McManaman throws in a divine cross from out wide and the keeper desperately chases the ball as it curves away from him, forcing a dramatic dive forward to pluck the ball just before Rojas's foot jammed the shot home.

[Min 68] GOAL VICTORY! After 10 minutes of throwing ourselves at them, we finally find a way! Kruse is acting more like a wide playmaker than an inside forward and comes inside to get the ball. He knows just how long to hold to ball to let Traore overlap him and a quick layoff to Rojas means we unleash our left back into miles of space. Traore gets into that dangerous area in the box and is good enough to get half a metre of space and drives a low ball across goal, picking out Gestede's run ahead of his man for a tap in!

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This is the kind of thing you've gotta love about Football Manager!

We identified what wasn't working with our tactics (getting wide players into those spaces in the box), we reacted (swapping Kruse and Rojas), and we saw the impact of those changes (we already identified that Kruse moves better off the ball, and he knew better how to find the initial pass and make space for the overlapping run), and then we scored!

You may not believe me now, but I am pausing the game and writing these things live! I didn't set up that half time rant just to brag about it here!!

[Min 73] GOAL WSW! A cutting through ball from Troisi finds Duke peeling off his man and getting into the box. The angle isn't great, but Duke is good enough to slot home.

That one hurts. We made the decision to move Shotton out from the back and have opened ourselves up to Ryan not being able to handle Duke anymore. I don't blame Ryan - it's on me for making that decision. I should note as well that Ryan is our 4th choice DC. 3rd pick Anderson picked up a knock and was ruled out of this match.
I'm a little disappointed with Butterfield as well - he should have just run through Troisi in midfield and stopped the pass from occuring.

Now we have to chase again!

[Min 75]
We sub out Butterfield for Barnett. Butterfield started amazingly, but has just phased out a bit. Barnet is 11 years his younger and brings a bit more athleticism for late in the game - but mostly I just make the change to give us something different.
We sub out Rojas for Brimmer. Essentially with both wide men working well and Gestede having score, I wanted to change up the ballplayers. So we decided to forego the wingers on the bench and bring in 22yr old Brimmer. Jake hasn't really established his role in professional football. He looks to be a kind of box-to-box option in the centre, but he's also pretty sharp on the ball and could be a more advanced midfielder. Here his preferred role is MC, but we're going to use him as the SS AMC as a direct replacement for Rojas

I'm actually cursing at myself from bringing 2x out-and-out winger subs and not bringing our young AMC Kirdar.

[Min 79] Shotton & Broxham work some 1-2 passes and a nice cross hits Kruse's head. Unfortunately he nods straight to the keeper.

[Min 85] McManaman threads a lovely ball into the path of Gestede in the box and the keeper rushes out. Fearing the worst, Ziegler sticks in a boot and clears it anywhere. Turns out anywhere is another corner.

[Min 86] We've adopted the 5-subs rule in the A-league, so we throw the dice now. McManaman has given everything he's got, and the goal aside, it's time for something new up front.
Sub McManaman for Kamsoba.
Sub Gestede for Folami.

[Min 90+2] WSW wear down the clock nicely with a couple of corners. Ibini does rise to one and force a Crocombe save.

 

Full Time

That's one of the frustrating ones because we controlled the game so well, only to be upset on the few opportunities through they got - mostly from our poor defending rather than them doing anything spectacular.

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17 corners and 0 payoff from them - that's a bit of a concern. 
On the flipside, having 15 shots and making 9 of them a goal threat is pretty good returns.
It's possible that 90% passing is a little too conservative. We've been playing a Balanced mentality, but maybe we should be just biting the bullet and playing attacking to encourage the lads to take some more risks.

The thing that hurt us the most was fatigue and match sharpness. After WSW's 2nd goal we struggled to create too much and we did mention in the first half while we dominated, that we just couldn't make it stick.

For players, I'd say McManaman & Shotton were our best. The winger was great in all areas except creating a goal. We saw the impact of Shotton - kept Duke and Muler quiet, and both those guys only shone once Shotton was gone. We're in a real pickle at the back I'd say, because I liked our main man as right back - but then we're lean in the middle.

Broxham got highly rated just by being that deeper midfielder who's the connection to the backs. Can't say it's undeserved - that's the job we asked him to do! Butterfield was 50/50. He started well and dropped off. He's sporting just '7' in pace and I'm looking at a whole host of young options who are simply better athletes and might be better in his place.

Gestede was solid but I need more from him, and we saw good things from Rojas and Kruse - especially after we swapped them over - but we need to see more of that. 

 

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Overall it wasn't a bad effort. We did stick to our strategy - I guess I'd rather we do that even if we're only doing it adequately, as opposed to not playing the strategy and just winging it.

You can see we penned in WSW - just couldn't get through them enough. 

 

Anyway, that was an emotional ride - extended by breaking to do a write up lol. I need to go decompress a bit!

Edited by Butlee
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That was some match update! I could see that being a write-up style for important games/finals. A whole season would be tough!

It was also interesting to note that only one of the most league games played was a GK!

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Posted (edited)

Haha yeah I won't do that every time. But I'll try and do some of the analysis as I see interesting stuff or really nice goals. 

The hard part with long A-League careers is that there's a salary cap ceiling. So no offence to Durante, Topor-Stanley and Broxham, but you've got to be only 'so good' that you never attract big contracts from overseas. And as much as they say Broxy is a MF, he's a DM at best - so that would make 4/5 from that list defenders. Usually guys who get a few years Down Under, don't quite crack it in Europe, get a couple of years in Asia, and come back to Australia - getting another 4-5 years into their mid 30's based on football smarts at the back.

Edited by Butlee
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Posted (edited)

17 January 2021

Melbourne Victory - 4th in the A-League [3W / 1D / 2L]

I got into the swing of things a bit and had to stop to remind myself to write!

 

An A-League Season

Initially I rushed into matches a bit, but we need to circle back to unpack an A-League season before we get too far in.

  • Firstly it's a 12 team comp with 26 rounds. 
  • After 26 rounds, the top 6 go into a 3-week playoff series 
    • Week 1 is 3rd v 6th and 4th v 5th (1st and 2nd get a rest).
    • Week 2 is the 1st vs winner and 2nd vs winner.
    • Week 3 is the grand final between the two sides who won in week 2.
  • Due to broadcasting deals and a COVID-impacted late start to the season, these 29 'rounds' need to be played between 27 December and 30 June.
    • Comp also breaks for an international window in March.

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None of that probably sounds too ground-breaking if you're familiar with European footy, but Down Under it's significant. Sides are used to having a whole 3 extra months to finish a season and two-games-per-week is pretty well unheard of. Here we'll find times when we play 4 matches in 10 days! Again not a big deal - but if you've got pro players here who've had many seasons with 1-game-per-week, and your entire squad registration & salary cap logic is built around a squad to handle 1 game per week, it's pretty tough to suddenly prepare for a LOT of footy!

The 26 rounds thing is a bit skewed as well since you don't play ever team thrice - just 5 of them. It's not ideal, but we weren't ready to commit to a 33 round season plus finals. 
Why finals? Basically it's just how it's always been here. It stems from the popular football codes here - mostly Rugby League and our own Australian Football League (AFL for short). You'll happily run along filling 1/3rd of your seats all season, but if you crack finals it's sellouts all the way! It's pivotal to the fanfare of the sport as well as the economy... rewarding broadcasters, sponsors and it rewards the clubs financially too!

Long Story Short.... is that I can't just rip through a month or 8 games every time else this is going to be 1-2 seasons done in just a few posts!

 

What Are The Odds??

When the Club Vision (back up in earlier posts) says we want "Top Half" what it means it "Top 6 & Finals". In a Salary capped league where half the sides can make it, I think it's fair to say every club should target Finals. 
So what do the punters think of us then?

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For a side that's been struggling of late, that's not the worst position for us. We do have some really competitive players in this comp, and I still like the framework of how this side has come together tactically. Whether those pieces combined with a bit of a managerial boost from Ozzie Mate here are enough to win the whole thing - that might be getting ahead of ourselves. For now let's focus on getting into the top 6.

Now for a bit of an image dump - but I want to refer back to these as we go. 

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Interesting ones, but it shows how important these sparse overseas signing slots are. Only Diego Castro counts as Australia, but that's only because he's been dominating in this league for 5 years now!
A couple of extra notes: Sanchez (33) is picked from Western United, despite a still fairly athletic Alessandro Diamante (37) playing there. Sanchez is good, but Diamante has 17 Italy caps to his name - he's probably the highest internationally profile player here! But it also makes sense if the game has Alessandro wearing off a bit.
Other note is that there aren't any Sydney or Melbourne City players - they were last seasons' finalists and (as you can see in the team odds above) are likely to go there again. I guess they're more rounded teams rather than having 1-2 huge guns.

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Derbyshire is really good for this league. I don't know if there will be any Blackburn or um.... (checks player history... damn this guy is a nomad!)... Rotherham fans out there who love or hate him, but he was camping out in Cyprus in his 30's, banging in goals for fun - and he's actually still quite athletic for 34 years of age, and just having had some many years in the English Championship makes him a smart striker who will do well here. 
"JMac" is an A-League golden boot winner and probably the current preference for Socceroo's striker.
"Scotty Mc" is an old head, looking to get another year or two of footy in him before getting into coaching. With Roar taking on an inexperienced coach this season, I suspect Scott felt he could wrangle an assistant gig when he retired (hasn't panned out like that, but that's another story!).

And Berisha & Fornaroli are golden boot winners too - older heads who might not play as many minutes nowerdays, but are a threat none the less.

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The Australian youth landscape is so different to what most people would be used to aboard, but in many ways it's the same. For example - of the 6 guys there... the brightest young prospects in Australia right now... I'll bet that at least 2 of them never get a consistent gig at a club better than an A-League club. So the spark and then drop-off of players is huge here. Not many 'make it' overseas, but on the flipside there are always stray Aussies scattered around the place. Just not at any of the big clubs unfortunately.

Having said that, there's still plenty to be excited about. Joel King is a solid left back at age 20 and there's a handy 21yr old right back not on this list in Nathaniel Atkinson who plays for Melbourne City. Give it 4-5 years and that may well be your Socceroo's pairing! 

On the other end of the scale is the phenomenon that is Al Hasan Toure. It's a bit hard to describe why this guy (and his younger brother) is a big deal. If you imagine King and Atkinson being really, really good players - solid, strong, reliable even at a young age and they can go on to have fantastic careers. Then you see someone like the Toure brothers - and the sky is the limit for these lads! They're lacking a bit of polish - heck even the basics fail them at times - but in terms of flash and flair, in terms of skill and technique, and in terms of uncanny strength and speed - these guys can do things that other players can't... and that gives them nearly unlimited potential to chase after!

 

Where are the Victory stars??

I think that's the problem at the club. We're a mix of pretty handy A-League players and others unproven or not-quite-good-enough. Every other team either has a pretty handy mix of high quality (say Sydney or City or even Brisbane), or they have some absolute guns mixed in a few off-pace players (Adelaide, Macarther, Western United). 

When I say I want to rebuild the core of the squad, this is the kind of thing I mean. We don't have a noted golden boot challenger, nor a star player. We don't have the best youths. We're the biggest team in the country - what are we showing to our fans to encourage them to keep coming!?

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It's not all bad - I think a lot of it is the flow-on of some poor seasons. For example our youths are plentiful and handy (Brimmer is still 22, and see above) but in a side that's struggling are they given the right environment to prove themselves? They look worse just by playing in a weak side. We need to get the foundations of the squad right so that the better youth players can shine.

I won't say I'm targeting to have players on those lists in the next season or two, but it would go a long way to proving that we're moving in the right direction.

 

Edited by Butlee
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Awesome job mate. I'm a Melbourne lad as well and just started a save with Newcastle Jets (for something different). A-League is proving really fun so far, I'm hoping to move to Scotland then England if I can secure some success, although who knows! planning for it to be journeyman type of save.

Best luck with the Victory!!!!!

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56 minutes ago, sultan1991 said:

Awesome job mate. I'm a Melbourne lad as well and just started a save with Newcastle Jets (for something different). A-League is proving really fun so far, I'm hoping to move to Scotland then England if I can secure some success, although who knows! planning for it to be journeyman type of save.

Best luck with the Victory!!!!!

Ah awesome! Jet's are a tricky one because the club has no owner nor any money!

But the backline isn't too bad and I don't mind Millar and Prso as dynamic talents. And maybe you can untap Yuel and he'll just be something else!

 

Biggest challenge with journeyman starting in Australia is just how and when to make the jump. A couple of A-League trophies just isn't going to cut it. You'd need a few trophies and some good runs in Asia too. And even then it'd be hard to get a Scottish side to take a punt on you over a local/UK coach. We can't all be Ange Posticoglu! :D

But good luck! 

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17 January 2021

Melbourne Victory - 4th in the A-League [3W / 1D / 2L]

Ok so what's been going on....

 

Early Doors

The other Covid-impacted part of the A-League 2020/21 season was in the fixtures - specifically who you play and when. There are a lot of scenarios where 2 sides will play off multiple times within a few weeks. Even doing both the home and away legs within 2-4 rounds. 

I can't speak to exactly how the fixtures were allocated, but I know that there were a few key elements. One being that they tried to ensure the Victorian sides would play all the Victorian sides and have other home games all around the same time. That way if covid hotspots cropped up and interstate travel was banned, at least a core bunch of the teams were all in the same place and could still play. Same story for the New South Wales sides.

The other tough one is Perth. I guess if you don't live here, it can be difficult to properly sense how far it is from Perth to the East coast where most of us live/play football. The League did their best to have Perth play a handful of matches on the road in sequence, before going home for a bit and having everyone fly over to them.

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The graphic is a bit misleading, because Wellington Phoenix actually based themselves in Australia for half the campaign (an incredible effort by all their players, living apart from families for a considerable period of time), but it gets the point across. Travel is tough and it's toughest for Perth, and covid just made it tougher still.

 

Sydney Leg

That in mind, it's no surprise that we went from Western Sydney Wanderers at home, to play Macarthur FC and then WSW again up in Sydney.

The Macarthur match was actually pretty interesting as a follow up. 

They played a passing/possession style of 4-4-2, but they had Susaeta coming in from their right and Derbyshire up front dropping in to look for the ball. Out of the gate it looked like we weren't even at the races.

Tommy Oar actually burst past Roux within the first minute and opened the scoring. On one of our rare foray's forward we won a freekick which Rojas jammed home. A few minutes later they won a corner and Puyo managed to put a high header on target. It should have been a regulation save for Crocombe, but he fumbled it into his own net.

And yet, almost immediately from the kickoff we got Traore overlapping and he had the wiles to cut back his cross to McManaman who slotted home. We were extremely lucky to be 2 shots and 2 goals at this stage. It did spark a revival though - there were probably 15 minutes either side of half time when we looked like winning. But unfortunately Derbyshire turned out to be too much to handle, and Shotton picked up his 2nd yellow bringing the striker down. We consolidated the rest of the game and took our 2-2 result.

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** You can see where Shotton got sent off in the 65th minute and they started coming at us late.

Then 6 days later we showed up across town and got belted 3-6 by WSW!!

We decided to use Broxham in central defence (get used to him moving around) to cover the suspended Shotton, and while Broxy played OK on paper I think it punished us in a lot of those indirect ways - for example Roux was completely at sea and could not handle Troisi, Muller, Ibini, Thurgate... whoever they decided to throw at him! And as handy as Brimmer was coming into the centre, we had traded the more defensive man for a more offensive one. We didn't have the pace or the anticipation to cover the defensive spaces and they ran away with it.

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Road to Recovery....

At this stage we were pretty upset, and we were looking at tearing up all our notes and starting over. It was the age old FM thing. You can see some good footy - it's just all the stupid mistakes and errors in judgement that were letting us down. Would more cohesion help with that? Was it just time?

Whatever the answer, a trip to Brisbane put us on a path...

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We got Shotton back and reverted to our typical lineup against Brisbane - the one major change is dropping Crocombe after 10 goals conceded in 3 rounds. Maybe we didn't protect him much and that's really harsh on Max, but we felt we had to make some change, and that started with Acton coming in with the gloves.

Roar actually scored first but we dominated possession and scored 3 goals from crosses.

With a win under our belts and an early penalty in the 2nd fixture against Macarthur, we suddenly found ourselves up by 3 goals. We slacked off a bit and let the kids have a run later which probably wasn't the wisest move, but we held on.

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As Perth hopped on a plane over to us, Roux picked up a 3 week injury - a surprise blessing? We moved super-utility Broxham down there and brought in Brimmer. From the start we were better here - Perth had a couple of early chances through Diego Castro, but he had to limp off injured just 18 minutes in. We scored early and they were never looking like coming back. Extra props to Broxham for a man-of-the-match performance including 2 assists. I think we might leave him there for now??


 

Kruising....

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I wanted to give a shout-out to Robbie Kruse for scoring his first goal of the season though. For one, because he's our marquee man and if he's not producing big we really need to consider putting that money elsewhere and for two, because on a personal level he's been struggling for goals and most recently he's been struggling for game-time. This 6 games of successive starts may have been his longest since 2018! That bloke is only 32 - if he can get it together he could dominate this league!

 

Quick Review....

I'm looking for interesting ways to look over the side, to help break up the narrative and the endless dump of FM screenshots. In these very forums I found something by TheBlackPrince and have mocked up my own copy. He was having an interesting save with Lincolnshire-born players only. I was actually born in Lincoln before emigrating!

Anyway I wouldn't normally do this because I find squads get bloated sometimes and the chart would be overwhelming - but it actually fits perfectly in this A-League scenario where the Squad is a fixed size.

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We'd all love to joke that the GK switch is clearly what's changed our fortunes, but I honestly think it's the consequence of getting the consistency in the front 3rd. We've had the same attacking 4 every game so far and as they get more in-tune it's forcing teams to sit deeper to stop them.

We don't have to make a definitive conclusion on the Roux scenario yet - he's out for a couple more matches so we'll leave Leigh out there. It's comforting to have Anderson back on his feet also, as Ryan was a bit shaky subbing on at the back. And we've been making a concerted effort to get the youngsters time off the bench. And someone like Brimmer needs to get some starts.


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Obviously I keep a spreadsheet running in parallel to the save. I see it like a toolkit, and depending on how things are going, you draw upon certain tools/sheets. This particular review I put together by looking at the shot analytics - I don't think it tells us anything too conclusive just yet. But it'll be interesting to keep an eye on it over the course of the season. And even compare this season to next based on any tactical, formational or personnel changes.

If there's 1 area to improve it's our conversion from Scoring Range (13.8% of shots end up in goals). I think the main contributors here are that a lot of those would be headers since we're cross-happy, and many of the rest would be from poor angles as our wide players cut in from the wings.

 

 

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On 07/06/2021 at 14:17, Butlee said:

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Here's a timeline** of when our current 22 players arrived at the club. While it's not uncommon for a handful of players to come and go from an A-League club, to have that happen twice in a row in an era where you've gone through 3 coaches, it would cripple the core of any club. That's what we're up against!
 

** I've got a few things I'd love for SI to consider, and I've suggested them over the years. This is a good one. I feel like knowing when the players arrive gives you a feeling for how 'together' the club is. Since the introduction of dynamics, I've always felt this piece was missing. If you see any suggestions along this line (I've no idea how far down mine is buried now), please drop them a comment or thumbs up and maybe it'll let SI know this is interesting to us!

Just caught up on all of this and love your attention to detail but, in particular, I love this. Definitely something that SI could add and something that I will use in my save. 

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5 minutes ago, _Ben_ said:

Just caught up on all of this and love your attention to detail but, in particular, I love this. Definitely something that SI could add and something that I will use in my save. 

Cheers!

Obviously SI could pretty it up and bring in some extra info (transfer fee? age? personality?) and that would look pretty cool.

A-League clubs don't really do the exercise justice - imagine you're a club with a better youth flow and a few more players.
Actually, let me see if I have another one lying around:

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In a Real Madrid save you can see how it pads out better when you're busier on the transfer market and utilise a bigger squad.

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On 29/06/2021 at 20:35, Butlee said:

None of that probably sounds too ground-breaking if you're familiar with European footy, but Down Under it's significant. Sides are used to having a whole 3 extra months to finish a season and two-games-per-week is pretty well unheard of. Here we'll find times when we play 4 matches in 10 days! Again not a big deal - but if you've got pro players here who've had many seasons with 1-game-per-week, and your entire squad registration & salary cap logic is built around a squad to handle 1 game per week, it's pretty tough to suddenly prepare for a LOT of footy!

The 26 rounds thing is a bit skewed as well since you don't play ever team thrice - just 5 of them. It's not ideal, but we weren't ready to commit to a 33 round season plus finals. 
Why finals? Basically it's just how it's always been here. It stems from the popular football codes here - mostly Rugby League and our own Australian Football League (AFL for short). You'll happily run along filling 1/3rd of your seats all season, but if you crack finals it's sellouts all the way! It's pivotal to the fanfare of the sport as well as the economy... rewarding broadcasters, sponsors and it rewards the clubs financially too!

Never liked the finals format (probably too used to the normal format and not a fan of the other codes), but your point about financial rewards is fair. Much like I’d never thought about the league set up for only 1-game-per-week.

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35 minutes ago, Sonic Youth said:

Never liked the finals format (probably too used to the normal format and not a fan of the other codes), but your point about financial rewards is fair. Much like I’d never thought about the league set up for only 1-game-per-week.

All fair points and I completely agree on all points. I like League structures and I think footy is best over a season when you need to ensure you have a good squad and not just a good 'best XI'. 

But I'm glad it's a different perspective - that's the main reason I wanted to do the A-League. I think it functions in it's unique way* and that means you have to adapt a bit from a traditional save. I kind of hope it helps spruce up how fun the A-League can be a bit, and by the end of this might even give folks some perspective of what Australian players come from as they vie for contracts overseas.

 

* And there's plenty to learn here as well. A-League is like "MLS Lite" in many ways. But I think we could really create some new rules to custom-fit the competition we're in.

For example:

  • I like the MLS concept of a 'youth marquee' as well as a couple of senior marquee's. If there's a young player on the edge of National duties who is struggling for a run at his Oversea's club, why can't the A-League sides bring him back via transfer or loan and pay whatever wages they need to to make that happen.
  • Championship Groups. I really like the idea (in say Belgium or Austria or Greece) where the comp splits at the back end and the top 6 playoff and the bottom 6 playoff. That really suits the way clubs ebb and flow here.
  • If/when we get to Asian Champs League, we'll be allowed to register 4 overseas players + 1 Asian player who's not from our country. But I think it'd be better if we  could go 3+3 or something instead. We should be encouraging or making it easier for clubs to trade within the Asian FIFA Federation (Aus is classed as Asia, not Oceania).

Overall it's pretty fascinating to me to see how different countries handle their competitions. 

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18 January 2021

Melbourne Victory - 4th in the A-League [3W / 1D / 2L]

Had to sneak this post in on this date...

 

The Concept of Player Recruitment...

For me, finding players is one of the most comprehensive, exciting and ever-evolving parts of FM! Depending on a whole bunch of circumstances at your own club - reputation, current form, board targets, resources, scouting, finances etc... - your market will vary over time and no two saves will ever be the same. And depending on how your FM-world plays out, the places and clubs that you rely on to find a healthy stream of players may also vary. What if Man United crash and burn, struggle to retain good young players and suddenly there's 1 less big club in England for your Liverpool side to steal from!?

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Credit for images to:
Dictatethegame.com
Passion4fm

I feel like you resonate more with players that you've had to work harder to secure;

  • finding someone from somewhere no one else is looking
  • winning the race to spot the next big South American kid before everyone wants him
  • being prepared and jumping on that opportune signing just at the right moment (often for a bargain or free signing)
  • deciding this one is the one and going all in to get them

Those are the kind of deals you'll remember long after the player has moved on and the save is over!

 

The Strategies of Player Recruitment...

As FM is essentially a single player game*, you generally work out your own way to approach recruiting & scouting. At the end of the day it's two questions:

  1. Do I want to spend more time myself / Do I gain enough by spending time manually scouting versus letting my staff handle it?
  2. How and where do I focus my scouting efforts?

* I know you can multiplayer, but multiplayer is just 2 single player games operating in the same universe really.

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Back in 2017, before the Scouting Knowledge map was a bit more interactive, I mocked up (on the right) my own image of what nations were in each of the European regions.
As I hit big clubs, I spent a lot of time trying to get my scouting knowledge up as high as possible - covering as broad an area as I could. I wanted an easy visual such that I could work out where my overlaps were between scouting certain nations/competitions and then having regional scouts as well. For example if I had a Turkish scout who was adaptable enough, I'd use this graphic to tell me he should spend some time in Greece... and then after a couple of seasons I'd trust him to just be the Southern Europe Regional scout, without needing anyone specifically in those nations.

When scouting got its overhaul - FM18 or 19? - I kind of left it to the Chief Scout to look after scouting. But After a couple of years of (a) trying to figure out the logic on where my scouts go in this case and (b) getting upset and convincing myself I could do it better, I took back on setting scouting assignments and managing the whole thing a bit more. 

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With our overseas quota full and our aim being to rebuild a local core into the squad, we signed local scouts and wanted the most comprehensive coverage of Aussie football we could. There's 1 SE Asian assignment - a little bit of future planning there for if we make it to ACL, and the rest is about scouring the local landscape.


But it's not all about the club scouts and what they can do - you also have to consider your own scouting. Who are you looking at? What scout reports are you requesting? 
I don't spend too much time going over all my opponents in detail for the purposes of finding transfer targets. They'll show me what they can do when they play against us! But one thing I do a fair bit is look over national teams. I figure the game is already doing a bit of a calculation on form, current skill & potential skill so I may as well lean on that a bit and check through some nations. In the EU where players can move around fairly freely for a lot of leagues, it can take a long time to pour over every country, but that one time you find a teenager on the cusp of his first Senior International break and get him signed before he bursts onto the scene - it's all worth it!

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Highest rated Australian players for what its worth!

The game is geared to using the player search as well. The aforementioned changes to scouting around the 18/19 versions essentially encouraged you to build up or invest in a pool of knowledge rather than just knowing player-by-player. Then you would search from that pool with the Player Search. 

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This was just the search I had running right now. I didn't know it was specifically the one to find a replacement for Roux, but it is very on-topic :D

I really like the modern era where you can dial into a Twitch stream or pull up a YouTube video for advice in this area. I know there have been guides on what-impacts-what and where-and-how to go about it, but there's a huge difference between understanding the mechanics of features and actually seeing them in action & watching it play out live, while learning for yourself.

 

The Trials of Player Recruitment...

But all that brings us to another key part of my (and now Melbourne's) player recruitment policy - Trials!

Man I overdo it with trials!

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I just don't see a downside. If you don't know about a player and he's not in a professional contract, don't wait for your scout report - just invite him to the club for 2 weeks. If he declines, he probably didn't want to play for you anyway. If he accepts, within 2 weeks you should know almost everything about him (and if not, make them 3-week trials). If you don't care for the details, sign him for 1, get an instant appraisal from your coaching staff on ability and potential stars, and then sign or terminate a day later!

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Don't worry, not everyone is Ibrahimovic. Most will be happy to come and fight for a contract!!


As you can see from my (very blurry) image above, we currently have 17 players on trial (including one finishing tomorrow, thus why I had to post this post today to make the point lol). You can see that most of them are fairly ordinary - the star ratings fluctuate to show their strength relative to the team and most are fairly average/comparable there. But for the 2-3 guys with >4 stars - they may well be worth taking a look at!

 

The Rewards of Player Recruitment...

That brings us to the final part of the process. What do you get out of this!?

Well I was all set to use the tail end of this review to announce the signing of the 5-star potential player in the blurry screenshot above - 18 yr old keeper Alex Paulsen!

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But I'm not sure if you can see the issue right away. He's from New Zealand! 

For the New Zealand club Wellington Phoenix, Australian players playing in the A-League are not treated as overseas signings. And they get an exception to allow their New Zealand players to 'not' be counted as overseas as well.
The same doesn't apply in reverse though. Since it's primarily the "Australian-League", the rules are created to encourage the use of Aussie players. So an Australian club going after a New Zealand citizen has to give him one of their overseas visa spots. 

Since we've brought in McManaman, Butterfield, Shotton and Gestede to go with returning attacker Rojas - we simply can't sign another NZ player at this stage!

 

So no Paulsen for us. Why did we even do all this scouting!? :(

 

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1 February 2021

Melbourne Victory - 2nd in the A-League [6W / 1D / 2L]

First major personnel decision.

Note: Yes I get bored with skins a lot and change them around.

 

The run continues

A quick update on our fortunes to keep everyone up to date.

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Before we get carried away, we need to look at the top of the table - of the other 4 sides in the top 5, we've played just 1 of them once. In fact, in May we have 5 fixtures ALL against top 5 sides. We won't know our true strength until that test!

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It's been a really good run so far. Newcastle got a lucky deflection in the first minute and tried to defend us out - but some short passing and a nice long cross found Kruse in space to head home, before later Brimmer slotted home a penalty. Adelaide were never really in the hunt - Ansell scored of a corner and we were up by 2 before half time. Then it was our youngsters' turn to shine through. Kirdar's been playing as the Shadow Striker and made a forward run to get behind the defence and score, then Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio (LLL from now on) hit a ranged effort as a striker. I'm really liking the early signs from LLL.

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Central Coast weren't considerably better - notice how great our possession is as we keep the ball and are forever probing the attacking 3rd, looking for chances. We scored from a Traore cross - we just managed to get 3 guys into the box against 3 of their defenders and with the forward momentum we were primed to win in any of those 1-v-1 aerial duels. The wingback hit our far post option Kruse who got another goal.

And just for our 2nd....

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You can see how our short passing game has put the grey CCM defence all out of whack. They're struggling to man-up (red links) and LLL just burns the last man for pace and makes the blue run - Broxham hits the pass between the two "X" marks. 
It's not the most dramatic goal, but it shows what 70 minutes of being passed off the park can do to a team. Also gives props to LLL for knowing to make that kind of run - a real poachers goal if you ask me!

The Kids

Just talking about some of the younger guys for a moment. Brimmer (22) has been great in midfield - I don't think it's a coincidence that our oppressive possession football started when a ballplayer like him stepped into midfield to replace more of an anchor like Broxham. Barnett has been fine off the bench - as has Nishikawa. I haven't given Lauton much of a run yet. Anderson at the back is still finding his feet after injury.

The two loan-in's - Ryan and Folami - have been poor. Ryan was a liability early on and Folami looks good on paper, but in the short space of time LLL has been playing (when Ben got injured) we've seen a lot better product.

But then I wanted to point out Elvis Kamsoba. He's a nippy little winger who's good at getting into space and likes looking for the ball. The game estimates his "distance covered per 90 minutes" to be the highest of the entire squad! But I've actually been really disappointed with him to date. 9 runs off the bench isn't the best way to prove yourself, and yet with very few key passes, a terrible pass completion rate in general and some extremely egregious passing mistakes (there's nothing that sticks in a managers' mind more than an attacking player turning to play the ball backwards, only to pass it directly to the opponents attacking player!), he's going to have to show something soon else he won't be around next season.

 

The 2021/22 squad - Contracts #1

We're faced with our first major contractual issue this save (you know what, let's call it a campaign).

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I'll try not to overthink this too hard, but I'd say there are 3 things to consider.

  1. Has he been good enough?
  2. Mid-term (ie next season and beyond) consideration - would we keep him for that?
  3. What does he want? Terms? Money?

 

1. Is Robbie Kruse good enough for the A-League?

I've said all along that Kruse should be an instrumental part of our squad and a large part of how we do would depend on if he can turn his career around in it's twilight and have a big impact. 

Has he? 

Well we've won 6 games in a row now, and I'd say yes! yes he has been pretty solid in helping us build a winning streak.

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That recent form puts him 3rd in our squad, behind Broxham and Ansell (who are defenders). You could argue he's our most valuable attacking player right now.

 

2. Would we want Robbie Kruse short-to-mid-term?

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Managing an aging player into the later parts of his career is a challenge unto itself. Measuring the skill of a player, what he's done for the club, and everything that's made his career what it is to date, versus declining skills, struggling physicality and just generally them having 1 eye on their post-playing future - it's all a difficult equation. One that's extra tough in A-League because the skills, experience and football smarts can be extremely valuable if used right - even if the touch and athleticism goes.

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Physically he's holding up well. A bit of a loss in pace, agility and stamina. 

I'd leverage that with the fact that he will be 33 by the time the new season rolls around. I think that where it leaves us is if Kruse is happy to take a reduced wage and come off the marquee status, we'd be happy to keep playing him until his legs run out. 

Which brings us too....
 

3. What does Robbie Kruse want?

Well that about settles it.

 

This is after a couple of attempts to negotiate. The trouble is threefold - and this is why it's challenging in the A-League.

Firstly it's a 3-more-seasons deal. I'm not worried about this season or next, but it's the two after that where we won't know if he'll holding up - we're already seeing signs of decline.
Plus the manner of player he is - the best thing about him is his movement and ability to find space off the ball. He's not an out-and-out playmaker as evidenced by him scoring goals recently, but making only a few key passes and zero "Chances Created" during our winning streak. If his physical attributes go first, that'll weaken his primary reason for being in the squad.

Which wouldn't be too concerning if he wasn't asking for a Designated/Marquee deal. This would lock up a very rare, very limited spot. We need to award those contracts to game-changes.. and again it's not this season or the next I'm worried about. It's when we have a 35yr old who can barely run anymore who's eating up a huge wage. He won't budget on the terms.

Even if we could offer him a general full time contract, we can't get anywhere near the kind of money he wants. Even if we convinced the Board, we simply couldn't spend 1/4 of our wage budget on this guy. Again, he might be worth it in the short term - but in 3 years he almost certainly won't be!

 

In conclusion

It'll be sad to see him go after just two seasons in his return to the club, especially when he really only just got going here. But if he wants to chance his arm in Japan and Cyprus and they can give him a salary or the stardom he's after - we can't compete over it.

 

The 2021/22 squad - Contracts #2

If nothing else this serves as a warning that we need to look into our other off-contract players. It feels weird doing this early in the season, but what about a covid-impacted season doesn't feel weird??

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Yeah that's going to take a little while to get through!

 

 

Edited by Butlee
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22 minutes ago, Butlee said:

Yeah that's going to take a little while to get through!

So many off contract! Looks a good, but long way to assess each player’s right to the contract they ask for.

I’ve never been totally convinced by Kruse, as when he came through, he was supposed to be the next Kewell. Him and Oar actually, just showed up what the next generation of players were lacking.

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re: Contracts - it's true! I think there are always going to be half the team off contract here though. It's just how the A-League goes with short term deals.

And you're right about the Aussie generation. There was a whole bunch of them at different talent levels that never went anywhere - no wonder the current side can't get it together!

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7 February 2021

Melbourne Victory - 2nd in the A-League [6W / 2D / 2L]

Big game time! But first....

 

The A-League: a brief history of clubs

I'm going to give a quick version, based mostly from Wikipedia, so strap in.

Once upon a time Australia had a National Soccer League (NSL). It fluctuated in success and financial sustainability, but it never really grew the sport. But it was what we had Down Under and we accepted that for 27 years, right up until 2004. 
Afterwards a complete reset and complete overhaul of the Aussie football landscape was undertaken. The A-League was born as a completely new competition and Football Federation Australia (FFA) would essentially award franchises the rights to come and play in their league.

A-League logo.svg

Initially, one of the key focuses of the FFA was to consolidate the number of professional clubs to help them be more sustainable. They developed a '1 city, 1 club' system which would centralise a lot of key metrics - fans would have 1 club to support, sponsors would gather around the 1 club, young talent would have 1 local club to try out for etc...
So in my local area we had Brisbane City, Brisbane Strikers and Brisbane Lions, and the A-League awarded the Franchise to (the club that became) "Brisbane Roar" - and they would receive all of the abovementioned perks direct to them, as opposed to them being spread among 3 competing clubs (and all 3 risking being unsustainable).

These franchises/clubs were incentivised by being offered 5 years of exclusivity in their respective cities - to build their brand etc..

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The first casuality of the switch was the hapless New Zealand Knights, who were taken over by Wellington Phoenix.

At the start of the 2009 season there were many teams lining up and FFA was looking to expand - Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury would bulk up the QLD roster. And a season later Melbourne Heart was awarded a licence - the first 'two team, one city' promotion. As both Gold Coast and North Queensland (Townsville) folded, pressure was on FFA to find a 10th team to meet their TV deal requirements - so a 2nd Sydney team was formed named Western Sydney Wanderers in 2012

The City Group (ie Manchester City owners) bought Melbourne Heart in 2014, and they were renamed to Melbourne City to fit the brand.

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You can see why Sydney & Melbourne were the first to get 2nd teams. But remember this chart - it'll be relevant again soon!

It was here that the game suddenly stumbled upon one of it's major selling points for the future - derbies! 
We had 2 young, upstart clubs wrestling for dominance from their much larger, historically successful geographical rivals and the fans really got into it! Leading up their match, half to Sydney would be blue and the other half red & black and it would sellout stadiums!

Come 2018, and FFA announced it was time for 2 new clubs to join the A-League. After many submissions and a lengthy review process, we ended up with another Sydney team (Macarthur) and yet another Melbourne team (Western United) - the exact reasons were buried in politically correct comments like 'best markets' and 'sustainable futures' etc... but at the end of the day, the FFA had come to love the 'whale' events that were derbies, and now we were getting more of them!

 

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Victorian Football

There's something different about sporting culture in Victoria. I think it's because it's the most multicultural part of the country - and the Aussies revel on mixing it up with the expats and their sporting fervour. That presents primarily in this incredible support of AFL and even their national rugby league side is one of the most consistently strong. But there's a lot of passion for the round ball game, and a lot of people who've come from overseas who want nothing more than to see the world game grow down here. A prime example is former Melbourne Victory manager, Ange Postecoglu. You may have heard of him - he's the new manager of Celtic!!
He's actually Greek-born who's family emigrated in 1970, and he grew up in Victoria. Now he's the most successful A-League manager and the most successful Aussie manager of all time!

In terms of football & the A-League, Melbourne Victory were the first team - and backed by the above cultural fervour, fast became the largest club based on season members.

Then along came Melbourne Heart - and Victory were quick to tell them and show them their place.... well beneath the original Melbourne.
Heart were then bought out by The City Group, and the dynamics changed. The injection of cash went into facilities, coaching and other resources whereas the brand recognition and connection to the rest of the Group attracted a lot of the best players and talents to the club.

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Victory though, refused to be bullied out of their own city and the derbies were fierce and brutal and they have always been a real spectacle.... up until the most recent season where City belted Victory 6-0 and 7-0, firmly cementing their dominance and the possible changing-of-the-guard in Victoria....

 

The Big Game in FM

And then we belted them! 3-0!

Lol.

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On paper it doesn't look too bad, but we were far too clinical.

Pre-match we'd made the tough decision to bring back in Roux and move Broxham into the centre of the park again - cover for the injured Brimmer. Leigh used the newfound freedom to sneak into the box and drove home a goal - just 8 minutes in!

Actually I'm pretty happy with that one (looking back on replay). Here we go:

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So our we've got Traore and Kruse rushing forward, the defence is naturally sliding over, and Broxham just slinks around the back un-impeded. Kruse steps back and hits a beautiful bendy right-foot pass behind the play and it's perfect for our midfielder to jam home near post. We could argue that Glover in goal (yes Australia has a Young GK named "Glover" - he's owned by Spurs iirc!) could have done better, but quick switches are always tough to reposition for.

Second goal came just before 20 minutes where Kruse got in between defenders and met a Broxham return-the-favour through ball.
And #3 was a colossal screw-up from the City defence where we scramble in their box lead to an overzealous passback that beat their own keeper. Yeah Glover got a 6.5 rating for this one - poor kid!

 

Contracts Etcetera...

 

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He's still too expensive for us to keep, but he also doesn't want to take a cheaper role. I should have known a Cypriot club wouldn't pay more than us! haha.

Meanwhile we locked in Broxham and Traore for a couple more years. Traore is really strong this game and he's valued at a million bucks - so long as he doesn't completely drop off physically overnight I'm happy to keep him around. Leigh (age 31) has actually taken this season as a bit of a 2nd wind for his career. He's improving!

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Obviously we're looking at not-quote-two-months of progress here, but hey, they're training hard and results are going our way!

The next big decisions will come in our backline, with Roux, Shotton, Ansell and Anderson all up. I'm pretty OK with letting Roux go, but I don't want to get stuck with Broxham as a fullback - so we'll need to be ready to find a right back. 
Centrally Shotton (32) is playing well. Unfortunately he's 32 and is already not that quick - call it a gut feeling (or real life bias), but I can see him struggling within 6-10 months. Ansell (27) has been solid and will probably want more wages to stay and Anderson (20) will probably stay for cheap, but back-to-back serious injuries mean he's probably not going to reach his potential. 

Alongside Roux there are probably 3 guys I'm not too interested in keeping: Crocombe (why have 2 senior keepers in a salary capped league?), Kamsoba (can't pass), Ryan (just doesn't look like he's at this level).

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Do they look like bad players because I'm barely giving them a chance, or am I barely giving them a chance because they look like bad players??

I just realised that we have 12 players with a Balanced personality and all 4 of the guys I definitely don't want come from that category. I'm pretty big on getting the right personalities these days, and maybe that naturally makes me dislike Balanced guys because I never feel the impact of them. Someone like Action [Resolute] is better than Crocombe [Balanced] for example. It could be fanciful, but I can feel the impact - Acton seems to be better. 

We're actually starting to see a bit from LLL [Driven] off the bench as well - the kid has that rare, unwavering mix of determination and ambition and he'll come on even when we're up by 3 goals and try for more!

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Posted (edited)

20 February 2021

Melbourne Victory - 1st in the A-League [8W / 2D / 3L]

Halfway mark!

 

Topping the League

We've battled our way to outright top of the A-League by the halfway point. Not bad for a side who, in real life, won the wooden spoon.

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I've said all along that there's a bunch of talent here, and it's been a complete lack of management and culture that has destroyed all the on-field cohesion and unity in the real world.
In FM we've managed to play a mostly consistent lineup (thanks injury gods!) and keep tactics that let our better players do their thing. I've mentioned that getting some life out of Robbie Kruse (that's been absent in his real club footy lately) has been key, as has squeezing a little bit more out of guys like Broxham or Ansell who were on the edges of 'quality' for this level. In fact both those examples have been among our most consistent players.

Anyway, no more talk about 'in reality' - because our next two Englishmen just got released...

 

Jacob Butterfield

Probably the least mentioned player in the First XI, he's been doing his thing in midfield without much drama. I didn't realise just how much we'd come to rely on him though.

  • Top Scorer
  • Highest passes-completed per 90min
  • Outside our front 4, has the most key passes
  • 2nd highest average rating

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I have him on Box2Box and I don't have him with Get Further Forward instructions. So he gets near the box and has to use his intelligence on whether to dive in and give us extra numbers, or to pull back and wait for a cut-back pass. His one goal in the box was when Target Man Gestede came out to help in the build up - and Butterfield dove into the space in the centre and get onto a header. The rest have been him hanging just outside the box, letting our 4 front guys go in and just waiting for us to pass back to him - so he can tee up a longshot home!

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You can see he has the trait for shooting from afar.

I was initially pretty worried about the output here. Jacob has a good football brain for playing here, but he's not quick or imposing physically - and playing as a B2B seemed like the worst option for a guy like that... especially when we moved towards the 2-man midfield and not having the ball-winning DM behind him. Would we just get torn up by more athletic midfielders??

But he's really playing smart football and not letting that impede his efforts. He's also slightly improving as a player - not bad for a 30yr old. I think it's because he's getting regular footy. A quick glance at his bio tells me that despite being consistently employed by English Championship clubs, he hasn't had regular starts for about 5 years.

 

Callum McManaman

On the other end of the scale is Callum McManaman. He started the season off with fire and flair, but he's really settled into a funk. 

  • Scored all his goals in our first 5 games.
  • Only tangible contribution in the last 8 matches has been 1 assist.
  • On the lower end of our crosses-completed charts.
  • Of our attackers, he's the least successful at dribbling past his man.

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As you can see, he hasn't been terrible - he's just slightly not doing that extra bit anymore. The problem gets highlighted when Lauton comes on in his place and hits a screamer like this into the top corner:

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Mid-Season Transfers Review

One thing I like to do on longer saves is assess our transfers and reflect on how well a player filled the role I was looking him to fill. It's a completely subjective review, but at the end of the day you've gotta make the manager feel like you're doing your job, else you're out.

Those player 'cards' I shared early on (refresher below) were actually built with this kind of thing in mind.

Let's make a record at the point of signing, on the how, why and other circumstances we that encouraged us make the deal. 
AND
Now we can look back and compare the reality to what we expected.

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In Gestede's case, I'd say he has contributed - probably better than expected - in every area except actually scoring. 3 goals in 13 matches is ultimately fairly poor. You'd think he'd have a couple of corner headers and a couple from general play at least.

As with all charts (below), I feel like it needs context. 

  • The ratings piece is new. I haven't done that in the past (which is mostly just for myself), but I like the idea of giving yourself a rating over each season. I'm a numbers guy and measurements and metrics make it fun :)
  • The scale is 1-5. It's based on how well you fit the role you're intended to fill, not how 'good' you are.
    • 5 is over performing - maybe being better, or more versatile.
    • 4 is when you have filled your role and you're a positive contributor to the side.
    • 3 is a pass on filling your role - but you're just kinda doing the job and not much more.
    • 2 is not doing your job.
    • 1 is active liability to the team.
  • To be clear - I'm rating my ability on having signed & using the players. It's not me just attacking the players (even if they deserve it!!) 

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To put the rating logic into words: Ansell is someone we didn't expect much, but has become one of our most reliable players. Butterfield has contributed just as much, but as one of our overseas signings, we were expecting him to be a cut above everyone else. I felt like Gestede has such an impact on our style that he deserved props.

McManaman on the other hand - he's doing his job, and has at times shown a lot of talent. But he gets weighed down by that 'overseas signing' thing too - we're expecting him to be one of our better players... and he's not.

So it's a 3.2 overall. Not our 3.2 per se - more from the previous regime. But it's a 3.2 for the club this season.
 

To put a final comment to this, I think a lot of our players are struggling to improve this season. Whether it's age or lack of game time or other factors, I don't have this feeling of 'growth' within the player base. 

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These guys are struggling the most - obviously Traore is injured so it's not fair to group him in - but we're going to have to make tough calls on all these guys. We risk losing our Marquee in Kruse, 2-3 of our overseas signings (if you add McManaman who's nearing 30), Folami and our other loan Ryan, and maybe another 2-3 of these guys - of a 22 man squad we've been running that's probably half of it gone. And half our First XI as well!

And that's important to mention because I've spoken about trying to rebuild a core here, but it's going to look like we haven't done that at all. But I'll counter by saying - based on everything we've said in this post today, it's really us making do with what came before us. Our goal will be to try and do better than everything on this page today, but next season. It'll be the end of the next season when we'll know if we've improved the core of the squad.

 

Mid-Season Performance

I'll drop this here. Sydney broke our undefeated streak in the Big Blue after a scrappy goal!

Also with Brimmer coming back, but Traore out for a bit - do we give the utility-man Broxham the left back spot? Or back young Nishikawa for a bit while we drop Roux for Broxham? And at what point do we give Lauton (who's banging in fantastic performances from the bench) a start ahead of McManaman (who's doing ok, but not impacting matches as positively as we would like)??

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Oh and a final tidbit on why the Sydney game made me a little sad. They're on the left. This is what I believe they call being FM'd!

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Edited by Butlee
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Top of the league! Some good progress here :thup:

Looks like your also finding who/if you want to resign with this break down. I feel you need another column, one that scores how good they have been in the job of their position (eg, Gestede’s scoring and linking or Macmanaman’s continuations) as well as the column of fitting the role intended for context.

Harsh with the loss against Sydney with that heat map. Did the goal come early and down your right by any chance?

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12 hours ago, Sonic Youth said:

Top of the league! Some good progress here :thup:

Looks like your also finding who/if you want to resign with this break down. I feel you need another column, one that scores how good they have been in the job of their position (eg, Gestede’s scoring and linking or Macmanaman’s continuations) as well as the column of fitting the role intended for context.

Harsh with the loss against Sydney with that heat map. Did the goal come early and down your right by any chance?

Alas the Sydney goal was a scramble. One where the initial shot was blocked by a defenders challenge, but the ball fell to one of their guys - and since the keeper moved to try stop the first shot, he was out of place to stop the 2nd. Bit unfortunate, but we can't complain.

As Brimmer has been coming back, I've definitely been dropping Roux on the right though. 

 

Good point about rating them against their expectations and rating them in their role (ie, as compared to the rest of the team). I'll do something up for EoS.

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31 March 2021

Melbourne Victory - 1st in the A-League [10W / 4D / 3L]

Transfer window closes

 

Challenges of the Registration Rules

I got a bit stuck pondering what to do on 31st of March - the obscure covid-effected transfer window close date around the middle of the season - so decided to share the dilemma. It'll give everyone a good idea on the kind of challenges you have in the A-League as a manager.

We're starting to find more frequent  injuries coming up. We've been fortunate to boast a mostly injury-free season and I think we might be feeling the consequence of fielding mostly the same lineup for 20-odd games in just 3 months. It's nothing too concerning, but we were already only using 21 of our 23 squad slots and I've got a few players falling out of favour with me now. To compensate, it wouldn't hurt to have more depth.

Long Story short, I found 2 players:

  • Presley Ortiz (18, ST)
  • Roly Bonevacia (29, MC)

Ortiz was let go from the Western Sydney Wanderers academy, and our coaches gave him a bit of a wrap:

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I'm not too keen on using Folami now (in the background his home club in England just released him on Free to a Korean side) and with Kamsoba also on the backburner, just having another option would be nice. Also if we're looking at playing an AMC shadow striker, having a quick guy with a bit more technical ability might give us some lucky x-factor in a pinch.

The challenge is signing him and him never playing. He need to grow to really be comfortable at this level, and if we don't give him ample time, will he waste his late teens not getting enough footy? As much as I say there are injury concerns, just look at Kamsoba & Lauton in the spreadsheet in the last post - only 1 of them could play at a time. Would Ortiz just get perpetually stuck on the bench?

 

Bonevacia on the other hand - he's a seasoned player now:

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He actually played for Wellington, and then at Western Sydney himself, before shipping off to Saudi. I know we've just re-signed Butterfield, but Roly would make a grand compliment in that 2-man midfield - he's slightly more balanced and a fair bit more athletic.

The trouble is that having split his A-league stint into 2 seasons in Wellington and 2 seasons in WSW, he never got citizenship (which is 4 years spent in Aus).

With our 5 overseas spots filled (McManaman, Gestede, Butterfield, Shotton, Rojas), there's simply no room for him. I thought about trying to move players on - but there's not a huge market for selling players from Australia. Like no one is going to take a nearly-30-yr-old McManaman and buy him back,
You can de-register players, which means they can't play A-league. There's a break-contract clause that kicks in there - where the player can leave for Free if you de-register him. But the kicker is that FFA will still count that player in your salary cap equation - so you can't use the registration process as a way to cheat and break contracts if you're not happy with players.

I was considering options - mostly with a mind for next season - but we might have to cut our losses here.

 

But I did want to show the kind of challenges you'll face. You can't just go sign all the best overseas options for 3 years and roll on. Good players are going to want more money and juggling that versus keeping the squad fresh and with up-and-coming players (and still getting them game time) is a challenge.

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I've been reading your thread and really enjoying it!

Based on the rules of the league, I don't know how it is possible to fill your Youth and B team with players. How does it work in real life? Are the rules in FM correct?

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3 hours ago, BlueScreen said:

I've been reading your thread and really enjoying it!

Based on the rules of the league, I don't know how it is possible to fill your Youth and B team with players. How does it work in real life? Are the rules in FM correct?

Glad it's a fun read! I think I'll get better over time as I get used to things here.

 

That's a really good question though and it's difficult to answer. I was hoping there would be a good flow graphic out there that describes the relationship between Clubs, but alas there isn't one.

The quick answer to how it works in real life - the B Team is actually more of an affiliate which plays in a separate competition. Since the B-Team league and the Youth-Team league run on opposite seasons (summer vs winter), most A-League clubs simply move their youth players over to the B-Team comp and move them back later on. It's good for the kids to get football for most of the year, and saves the club employing 20-odd new players just to fill a B-Team obligation when they probably only want to house 3-4 of them there as prospects for the future.

The quick answer for FM, is that the game does get some of it right, and doesn't get others. In terms of filling a "B Team" - the game won't typically start with a full B Team worth of players for these A-League clubs (because they all start in the Youth Team), but there's nothing saying you can't move players to the NPL side and run it like a B team normally would. But since you have registration windows for the A-League, you can't freely use B-Team to move players in and out. Point being, the benefits may be marginal at best.

 

How can I best explain this in more detail...

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The Senior squad & the Youth squad have your typical, direct link within the club. You don't need to register Youth players, so they can move between squads at any time.

The "B Team" are probably best described as affiliate clubs playing in a different league structure entirely. We call these "National Premier League (NPL)" teams.
Each State and Territory in Australia has it's own NPL - each coloured zone below is a regional National Premier League.

 

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Each NPL is a Senior State League. So if I used the example I know best, Brisbane Roar NPL play against Ipswich, North Queensland Fury, Gold Coast United etc.. in the Queensland NPL (Maroon in the above graphic).

**The other note to make here is that these are fully senior semi-pro leagues. 

 

In FM, you tend to only fill out your A-League and Y-League squads. 
The NPL's actually simulate - a lot of them have real players to start with and keep a steady flow of generated players to play through a steady amount of simulated games.. You can't see a fixtures list and their running league ladder - it's that kind of faux simulation that FM has when you run Read-Only leagues I think. But you can scout & sign players from these teams and look for those semi-pro player gems. It's not as common, because at the start the talents have already been signed to A-League clubs, and ongoing the facilities and pro status of the A-league clubs means they largely have the better Youth Intakes anyway.

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There's nothing stopping from taking Marko here and putting him and his Y-League buddies all in the NPL squad (that only has greyed out players atm). It's just really difficult to measure if it's worth it. Maybe it is. Maybe I should set up some test players for next season!!

I think the main (practical) positive to come from NPL simulating is that they will trade players with you - and you can loan players out to them. As shown with Markovic who we've loaned from our Youth Squad to Bentleigh Greens in the Victorial NPL.

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So he is actually playing for Bentleigh this season and he is starting to improve because of it:

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Would he have got better exposure being in our Youth side? What if we moved him to our NPL side instead of loaning him out to a rival of our NPL side? I honestly don't know. 
 

In reality, as mentioned above, most of the A-League clubs technically forego a separate NPL club, and simply have their youth players move across to play NPL.

It's actually kind of strange - because NPL is a Senior comp. So you can end up with a bunch of kids (professionally trained kids mind you) against part-timers and semi-pro seniors at other clubs in the NPL. Would that make Melbourne Victory's NPL side good or bad??

How the moving of on-contract players works mechanically - I'm not 100%. I'd suggest it's case-by-case - the NPL or B-Teams are more like affiliates - so you can take your guy on a 3-year Youth contract and loan them over to the NPL side. Or there's probably a contractual thing in your youth contract that says you can still play for an NPL club during their season and your Professional club will still have you back at the end.

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You can see Aaron (currently aged 20) has done that song and dance for a while. He didn't debut for Victory Seniors until 2019. Prior to that he was doing Y-League for 6 months and NPL for 6 months (they don't actually overlap). Was it a loan or 5 separate short-term contracts until he secured his full time Melbourne Victory?

And just in case that wasn't confusing enough, I add Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio to the mix:

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Melbourne Victory signed him in 2019, played him in Y-League until Feb 2020 and let him go back 'home' to play for Adelaide's NPL side before returning to his Youth contract at Melbourne Victory. Then we debuted him in the Senior side in 2021.

So I'll go out on a limb and say there are no hard and fast rules around playing for Youths and playing NPL - and that's probably why it's so difficult for FM to simulate things.

 

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Posted (edited)

12 April 2021

Melbourne Victory - 1st in the A-League [11W / 4D / 3L]

With 2 international breaks, not much has happened since the last update - but it's technically been the best part of 2 months, so let's take a look.

 

Still topping the League

No one's knocked us off our perch yet, so can't complain too much. 

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As you can see, we're having to manage the squad a bit more now as a tightly packed season with a small squad starts to wear on the players. McManaman has really fallen off the wagon but I'm starting to think it's my fault for fatiguing him too much.

The results are fairly middling - we've never had an immaculate defensive record and we're just doing enough to out-score our opponents most of the time. Let's take a look.

*Note: Wont do this kind of summary of thoughts every time, because just reading match after match can be tiresome if there's nothing significant to share. But every now and then I want to do some of  this - it is the core of football manager I guess.

 

vs Brisbane Roar [1-1]

Selection: We got a bit stuck with Traore (DL) out injured and  Brimmer (MC) just returning from one. So we had to keep Broxham in the centre and risked Roux & youngster Nishikawa on the flanks. 

Match: We got off to a flier with Gestede scoring from the backpost off a corner. This hasn't happened nearly enough this season, so we'll take it!
Our joy lasted 18 minutes because Golgol Mebrahtu - Brisbane's tall striker equivalent - also got a back post header goal :(

Our striker then turned villain as he got sent off making a 2-footed tackle up at half way in the 37th minute. I can't even comprehend why your striker would lunge in like that at halfway when there's no threat. But it took a game that we were dominating and put us at risk. Fortunately we still held the ball well.

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In the 76th minute Mebrahtu did a Gestede, by being sent off after scoring earlier in the game and we tried to bring on some young fresh players to steal the win, but weren't able. Brisbane have been climbing the ladder on the back of Mebrahtu's scoring, Jay O'Shea's midfield creativity and Joey Champness' incredible ball skills that terrorise defenders. 

 

vs Perth Glory [2-1]

Selection: With Gestede suspended and LLL picking up a knock, we leant back on Ben Folami to lead the line (it was not a success!). We threw Brimmer back in the deep end and tried Broxham at DR and gave Nishikawa another chance on the left. I know ratings aren't a great measure, but he was getting 10-20 minutes bursts, he was looking reasonable enough without making a splash.

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By no means amazing by Nishikawa, but at least his passing had been solid and he was making tackles.

Match: Matches like these tell me we don't give Gestede enough credit. You can tell we lacked the presence in the box. I think the front 4 works nicely as a group - the mix of dribbling, passing, movement and shooting goes well with the size and pace of some of our guys. But you take away Gestede and we lose just enough of that threat that teams can bunker down and try to keep us out.

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Fortunately there was a cut-back to Brimmer on the 18 yard box and he managed to drive a shot home. And our 2nd came from the ever-impressive Ansell rising up to score with his head from a freekick.
Shotton picked up a caution which would leave him suspended for the next game, so I subbed in Anderson for the final half hour to get him some match time - and of course in the 90th minute one of Perth's stars, Diego Castro, slipped past him to get them 1 back. I'm finding the gulf between the regular 11-14 guys we use and the rest is pretty huge.
Despite our dominance, this lead to a panic'd 5 minutes of stoppage time where we were pretty lucky to hold them out.

 

vs Wellington Phoenix [1-1]

Selection: Here's where it gets dicey. Gestede pulled his calf in training. With LLL not quite there yet and the Folami return not doing it for us last match, we decided to dip into our other tactic - the 4-3-3. This meant promotion to a roaming striker role for Robbie Kruse and 3 in midfield - a move which let Leigh Broxham sit in as a DM which I thought would help against 2nd placed Wellington. Then Roux had to come fill the DR spot, Traore was rushed back in on the left, and Anderson steps up to replace the suspended centre back.

Match: Hard to say if our changes just upset the team or if it was just that The Nix were just a bit more competitive, but the game was really bogged down the entire time. Both goals coming from set pieces, just minutes into each half. We were trying to inject our full quota of bench players to run at tire sides, but they do the same and it didn't impact the game much.

image.png.bbad426fa3886a66565d51d727d70843.png

 

 

vs Newcastle Jets [1-0]

Selection: Shocking everyone was Robbie Kruse being called up to international duties!! 

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This is why people get really upset with Kruse. He's an attacking player and in modern football you can't say you're a winger or AM without scoring goals. If you imagine through his career we've been primarily playing 4-3-3 and as part of the front 3 that's his scoring record. In most countries that kind of turnover would not sit well! It's just frustrating because he does play some good football - he gets into nice areas and you can see he has talent on the ball... but he's got no end product, be it scoring or assisting and he's terrible inconsistent (ie making mistakes etc..)

 

Despite the break in fixtures, he still wasn't back in time for our date with Newcastle. With the failed 4-3-3 experiment (we'd only won 1-in-4 at this point so we were keen to ensure we banked a good win here), we needed a front 4. Decided to drop Rojas to the bench for a rest, and bring in Kirdar and Lauton. Since Lauton's more of a right-y, we swapped McManaman over to the left to see if we could kick some life back into his season (note: it did not). LLL was finally back to full fitness so he started up front - we know the Jets us two older, slower central defenders in Boogaard [34] and Topor-Stanley [35], so the idea of having some of our pacey youngsters running at them was pretty appealing.

Match: In response they parked the bus on us. You really have to see the heat maps to get it:

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In this case having Lauton who is more of a right winger as oppposed to McManaman who likes to drift in and out and use the channels a lot more, it helped us get around their squeeze a bit. You can see the slightly lighter area in the top right corner of our field - that's where Lauton kept driving towards. And it paid off as eventually he got up there and threw in a timely cross for LLL to run onto and score the winner!

 

vs Adelaide United [4-1]

Selection: I can't quite tell you what went through my head when deciding to choose Folami to start this one. I guess I'd felt that despite scoring LLL hadn't contributed enough against Newcastle. Scoring just 1 with such dominance left a bad taste in my mouth, so Folami came in. We were otherwise back to full strength - so it's one of those wins where that might have contributed to it, or are Adelaide just really bad.

Match: I may have mentioned 'The Original Derby' before, which is Adelaide and Melbourne being the first major rivalry in the A-League. This tends to mean tough battles, even if the results are one-sided. So no surprise we saw 2 red cards.

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All in all it was a great performance at home. We scored early, there were some great goals including a belter from Folami from 25 yards out! 
Adelaide are in a right state, sitting 2nd last on the ladder. They have (/had - we'll get to this at some point*) such great talent and it's completely fallen apart.

 

Contractual Things

I'll need to do a proper update on contracts as we edge on. But let's work up some visuals to see what's happening.

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Crossed out names are either we're not going to offer them a new deal, or we don't think they'll sign a new one anyway. Ticks are players locked for next season. We're leaving the big decisions on Kruse, Gestede and Shotton right until the end because they're all going to want good money and 'until-I-retire' contracts. Not sure if we can afford that in a salary capped league, especially with 2 of them taking up Oversea's slots. 

Edited by Butlee
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On 24/07/2021 at 04:05, Butlee said:

Contractual Things

I'll need to do a proper update on contracts as we edge on. But let's work up some visuals to see what's happening.

image.png.ffd70792c355932c68f691ac6befd4f9.png

Crossed out names are either we're not going to offer them a new deal, or we don't think they'll sign a new one anyway. Ticks are players locked for next season. We're leaving the big decisions on Kruse, Gestede and Shotton right until the end because they're all going to want good money and 'until-I-retire' contracts. Not sure if we can afford that in a salary capped league, especially with 2 of them taking up Oversea's slots. 

Once again - love this visual!

Completely immersed in your love/hate relationship with Kruse! I think I recall seeing him play before but those international numbers are poor and I can imagine him being a bit of nightmare to manage with this reputation.

What’s the market like for any potential replacements for he and Gestede (another man I know well as an ex-Villa ‘player’)?

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Heh glad it's fun. This is why I like to write the stories, because honestly I can't remember what I thought of Kruse 2 months ago - but here it is on the page for me and everyone to remember!

So this little save is going to be Aussie, but I think I'll do a serious long-term save after, so it builds a great story over time.

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5 hours ago, _Ben_ said:

Once again - love this visual!

Completely immersed in your love/hate relationship with Kruse! I think I recall seeing him play before but those international numbers are poor and I can imagine him being a bit of nightmare to manage with this reputation.

What’s the market like for any potential replacements for he and Gestede (another man I know well as an ex-Villa ‘player’)?

You've hit upon a really good question when you ask about Gestede and/or replacements. It's one of the most interesting things about putting a squad together in Australia. Because you're juggling a lot of different factors.

Because you have to consider the salary cap, obviously. But it's also how many marquee and overseas slots you have.
But you also need to think about the squad - what are your tactics, where do you need the key players? What about experience in certain areas of the park?
And even if you work all that out, you've got to realistically balance it with 'who can you get?'

image.png.0d1298d61a758247959fbb42a6289edb.png

Gestede's training is fine, but his skills are dropping :(


I find it challenging, in a fun way, that you can't just make a decision on one player without considering the overall (unstable?) tower that is the balance in the squad. If we're top of the league, should we replace Gestede like-for like? Can we find someone like that? Would we have to pay them more? What if we want to drop big marquee money on a striker instead? Can we adapt our tactics around that? 
Or can we compromise and get a lesser option up front (younger, cheaper, aussie-instead-of-overseas etc...) and use that extra manoeuvrability to improve elsewhere?
Are there other players we're losing that we need to start compensating for?


Let's say we try and Moneyball the thing...

We look to score 50 goals a season (just under 2 per match).

Our top 5 assisters are as follows:

image.png.30ffe30957a46ce28c082a2d6a280bc0.png

And most of Leigh's assists are from DR. So we're saying most of our threat is DR/DL. But look at the age on those guys. Is Broxham still going to be marauding up and down that right flank in 6 months time after another offseason at age 34? 
We are at a very real risk of losing Kruse, McManaman and Broxham (if he retires) at EoS. 

Let's do a direct comparison on who's missing from that sheet (since it has all our other regular AMR/AML/DR/DL players:

image.png.a831824e30085a520455cffb2cee81db.png

The passing and crossing  doesn't seem so bad, but when you start looking at the output per match you start to see a huge difference. 

So obviously where I'm going with this is - why don't we invest in an overseas wingback? If we're looking If we can get 8-9 assists out of our AMR/AML/DR/DL then that's 2/3rds of our target of 50 goals done. Yeah, you still need the ability to put goals away up top, but you can easily see how much impact an improved wingback would bring.

 

How about prioritising what Aussie talent we can secure first...

image.png.8f29a01d3451da2e28cf37c92e3faccf.png

Nikitia is 33, but he just got called back up to the Aussie side (and scored) and he's off contract in June. He's banging in goals in the Israeli league and he's still fairly fit.

image.png.7d0434032a533aba21ae45019a6e391d.png

Rukavytsya on left, Gestede on right. The Aussie is probably going to last another couple of years with that fitness.

Obviously it's a completely different type of player - but you trade out an international player to bring in an Aussie. And it might free you up to go after another overseas signing. Remember when we looked at Bonavacia and lamented that we couldn't even sign that high prospect GK!? We could make space to do that!

 

What if we take a known quantity instead of an unknown...

Here's the best of the best for scoring the A-League.

image.png.b12021128fe953c349aa5e64cf75aebf.png

 

Obviously if those players are scoring goals, their clubs are in the better end of the equation. But we're top of the league - we might get an Asian Champs League spot! Surely if I approached Golgol or Marcos or Tomer - all off contract in a few months - and offered them 1-2 years with us, they'd consider upgrading to Melbourne? 
Granted we'd have to make sure they're not struggling for skills and fitness like Gestede, but it'd an avenue worth checking out. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All in all, that's just us musing over scenarios to replace one player. You run that equation over the entire side plus young players and it's quite an entertaining jigsaw. 

I'd love to have a scenario where I have 1-2 slots for bringing in young talent from overseas on long-term deals, with the shameless intent to have them naturalise after 4 years and stay on as an Aussie slot in the team. I've got some really good memories of making that happen. Instead of always chasing the guys in-or-just-past their prime and looking to win asap, if you can find some players in their early 20's who have probably already missed their shot at the big leagues - you can have them build a fantastic career Down Under for you.

 

So that's all stuff that's going on as we battle towards the end of the season. I don't want a mass clear-out - really just topping up what is already a fantastic side! But it's a fun puzzle to try and mock together - and I like to think the more you stick around, the more you fine tune those questions on where you prioritise and where you compromise and you put together a really tight little group of players :)

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2 hours ago, Butlee said:

So that's all stuff that's going on as we battle towards the end of the season. I don't want a mass clear-out - really just topping up what is already a fantastic side! But it's a fun puzzle to try and mock together - and I like to think the more you stick around, the more you fine tune those questions on where you prioritise and where you compromise and you put together a really tight little group of players :)

What an incredible reply to my question!

I’d consider myself pretty ‘well travelled’ in FM terms but I guess that it’s easy to overlook the fact that you don’t have a youth team and seem to have the second most convoluted (after the MLS!) set of league rules to contend with. 
 

Maybe just hope that a generation talent comes in the youth intake and miss out all of this stuff, then?!

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That's not a bad way to put it. A-League is definitely MLS-Lite, because we follow a lot of similar rules, but we don't have the money to entertain some of the pillars that hold that up - ie, drafting, youth marquee's, trading in draft picks etc..

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24 April 2021

Melbourne Victory - 1st in the A-League [14W / 4D / 3L]

It feels like a long time since I came to this thread and read replies/wrote a post. Turns out it's barely been a week!
I hate to ruin the escapism of FM by speaking on world events, but hope everyone is safe and well with Covid still going on!

Anyhow, today it's story time! Honestly if you're just here for the FM, skip to the next post!

 

You May Finish Before July, You May Be Paid

Let's talk 2021, and a story of Broadcasting rights! It's more a tale of conflicting ideologies and a maybe a little bit of ego than it is anything particularly slimy. But it's such a pivotal part of where football is in 2021 in Australia, that I can't rightly finish a 2021 season in FM without some context of what's going on right now in the real world for us.
 

The early days of pay tv

FOX SPORTS | Live Sports Scores | NRL, AFL, Cricket Scores

In Australia we have our very own 'Foxtel' Media Company, which started as a (pay-to-view) cable TV network. We won't get into the nitty gritty of history and all that, but suffice to say the name is a portmanteau of Fox (yes 'that one') and local leading Telco named Telstra.... ergo "Foxtel". They were quick to pick up Australia's first paid Cable Sports Network and soon that was rebranded as Fox Sports Australia in 1996.

 

The landscape of sport in Australia

In Australia there are 3 main sports - Australian (Rules) Football, Rugby League, and in our summers there is Cricket.
For many years everything else has been largely peripheral and unsupported. Don't get me wrong; there are heaps and heaps of kids playing a whole wide range of sports here - we're a great 'everybody is welcome' sporting nation - but in terms of professional sports and leagues, it was always those 3.


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^^ I don't actually know the best way to describe 'the most popular' sport in Australia, so I just picked the first site I could find that supported my own, anecdotal evidenced, opinion.  
Stole this from: https://blog.statscore.com/what-are-the-5-most-popular-sports-in-australia/

 

The Fox Sports Model

Fox Sports' primary business model in the early days was securing rights to the lesser-developed & lesser followed professional sports in the country. Their focus would be on refreshing or rebranding them, and giving them the professional treatment so they were a lot more accessible, marketed and generally entertaining for the viewer. They started with Basketball & Rugby Union: we did have national professional competitions for both of these, but suddenly the NBL was getting prime time airing and a concept of "Super Rugby" was born!

It was the concept of 'if we build it, they will come'. But hey, it worked!

Fox Sports to broadcast Vodafone Super Rugby AU from July 3 | QLD Reds Rugby


The A-League (refreshed & Rebranded!)

Which brings us to 2006 and the birth of the A-League! Broadcast exclusively on Fox!

And the A-League really was the shot in the arm the sport needed. The National Soccer League was outdated, bankrupt and falling over, and 2006 coincided with the Australia qualifying for their first World Cup since 1972!!* The rebrand brought about a revitalised Football Federation Australia (FFA) to oversee things, and the A-League built itself from the ground up - offering new A-League licences as opposed to just promoting pre-existing clubs (which helped condense & combine fan bases in major cities) and ensured a new level of professionalism as well as enforcing standards for each of these new clubs to meet. We now had a tight, competitive, salary-capped 8-team comp backed by a fresh broadcast team of experts. All while riding the wave of enthusiasm at mixing it with Brazil & Italy in the World Cup! Football was making a surge and Fox Sports were leading the charge!

*We made it through qualifiers on penalties that year, and every Aussie football fan will tell you who scored it - it's part of our history now!

 

Aussies at the World Cup - our best ever performance. We were eventually knocked out by Italy in the Ro16 by a 95th minute penalty scored Totti. My local pub opened for us at 2am on a random Tuesday or Thursday morning just so we could get together with a beer and watch the game live! 

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Fast Forward 1X Years

You can probably tell by the way I write, that this story doesn't have a fairly-tale ending. In 2016 Fox Sports signed an exclusive 6-year broadcast deal with the FFA - the largest one since inception - which seems to point to a strong, healthy relationship at that stage.

From there it's hard to pinpoint 1 thing and say "that's where the wheels fell off".

A few contributors being the poor transition by Foxtel to Digital Streaming, the much more competitive market that showed up in the streaming space, the FFA's continually frugal and pragmatic approach to growing the professional scene, the desire to bring in new clubs and expand the league (and thus if renegotiations on the broadcast deal would commence) and the overall lack of success from our National team and lack of stars to get behind after our 'golden generation' retired. All this (and I'm sure there's more) lead to Fox not seeing the kind of return on their 2016 agreement as expected. 

 

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https://www.foxsports.com.au/football/a-league/fox-sports-will-remain-home-of-aleague-until-at-least-2023-after-new-broadcast-deal/news-story/4d82a015c0b7b13e7814c5da51296cbb

 

Tensions

On top of those factors, for years there had been a building of pressure between various stakeholders behind the scenes. When the whole national football structure was rebuilt, there was a heavy reliance (and belief?) that the FFA/Foxtel partnership would do a solid job. The professional output of the product that is football, the marketing, the scheduling, the licencing and restrictions placed on clubs and owners (and enforcing those restrictions) - in the early days they ensured that this A-League (and subsequence W-League for the women) would survive and prosper.

But over time there were more stakeholders, and the FFA/Fox (under the guise of FFA, but it was clear that 'the money' which was Fox held a strong sway in the decision-making) control would not budge to allow these stakeholders a governing say on the sport.

Clubs were feeling the pinch in a lot of ways:

  • A significant portion of any income (specifically gate receipts) were fed back into a pool owned by the FFA, designed to cover the salary cap over the comp - clubs would have to apply to get that money back based on their registered players count.
  • Clubs felt they were unable to pursue other many other revenue streams (for example, McDonald's sponsored the FFA's A-League, so no club could have a chain fast-food competitor as a sponsor. Repeat for a clothes brand, repeat for cars, etc...).
  • There were strict rules on loans and transfers - clubs were literally not allowed to buy or sell players within the A-League (so that team who's last can't sell their gun youthie... they just have to wait until his contract expires and the bigger clubs can swoop for free),
  • Each club was paying for the A-League licence; and the model meant that the FFA owned the club badges and branding - and thus the majority merchandising rights and proceeds.
  • And more, which concluded with a real lack of a platform for Clubs to advocate for change.


A few clubs went under - Gold Coast United for example. Newcastle Jets went bankrupt and needed a bailout. Brisbane Roar was sued by players for not paying salaries and superannuation (which is a legal requirement here). And all of a sudden the Professional Footballers Association - a players union - was asking for a seat at the table too. 
The women's game was growing - our Matildas were fast becoming a real force on the world football stage! Who represented women's interests in the local scene?

Meanwhile the FFA kept to, what I called earlier, their pragmatic approach. They feared overexpansion and collapse due to lack of financial resources, and indeed had felt their frugal approach in controlling the money in the game (which included the broadcast deals) was key to keeping their A-League and W-League afloat.
 

40 days to go: Harry Kewell's FIFA World Cup story | Socceroos

Of all the Aussies I've seen play in my lifetime, none had as much talent as Harry Kewell. You add to that Mark Viduka, Mark Schwarter, and a whole bunch of Aussies that you may have heard of - Moore, Grella, Niell, Bresciano etc.. and that's the most strongly represented Australia has ever been in big leagues overseas. Making the 2006 World Cup secured their group status as The Golden Generation.

And it's that kind of media hype that inspires a nation to watch football!

The Boss Steps In

Which is where FIFA stepped in. It's hard to express the situation without sounding hyperbolic, but Australia was extremely close to being de-registered from FIFA in 2018. The full story is probably a tale for another time, but that would have meant we simply had no professional affiliation anymore. We couldn't pay players to pay football - contracts would evaporate and no insurance, broadcast or sponsorship company in the world would touch us without FIFA accreditation.

The quick version of events is that FIFA heard the disruptive noise from Down Under, stepped in and told FFA to allow more people to join the Outback Jedi-footy Council.

FFA (showing their outrage at the intrusion rather loudly and publicly) declined the advisement. FIFA insisted by sending a committee down to review things and issuing a mandate to change - with the ultimatum to follow the mandate by 1st October 2018 or be de-registered.

FFA's board, in their last whimper of defiance, waited until October 2nd to respond. The finally accepted, the head of the FFA resigned on the spot and more than half his co-council-members left in the months following, and a new era dawned.

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https://www.fifa.com/news/fifa-statement-on-congress-review-working-group-crwg

 

Mummy & Daddy fighting!

As mentioned, it's hard to know if the FIFA intervention and changing-of-the-guard at the FFA was what broke the relationship with Foxtel. Maybe it was declining TV ratings? Or maybe competitive pricing for alternative streaming services crushed the profitability. Maybe Fox Sports (or Foxtel) made other investments and those didn't pay off, and something had to give? Maybe it was any of the factors mentioned in this post - or all of them!???

What we do know is that Fox Sports wanted out.

The fallout came on a lot of different ways. Mostly in heavily reduced marketing and visibly low-effort broadcasts. Less cameras were set up for example. And we ended up with this ridiculous scenario where FIFA gave us a grant to let us be one of the first Professional leagues to test VAR. Fox Sports decided to take away the goal line cameras and utilise them for the VAR purposes, and essentially pocketed the money. Imagine the scenario - we could tell near halfway, to the millimetre, if a part of a players body was offside, but we couldn't get a clear shot to tell us if a ball had crossed the line for a goal!

Robbie Slater on Twitter: "Hahahaha gold !… "

There was this really silly moment in the broadcast where lack of goal-line technology lead to a 'no goal' decision. Commentator & former Socceroo Robbie Slater (shown) was vocal in his opinions on if it were a goal or not, and actively went down during Half Time to do a live re-enactment of what it looked like on camera vs where the ball really was (over the line or not). Best part of this? He proved his earlier comments wrong!!
Worst part? Showing how silly it is not to have goal line technology; cameras or detectors.

Tuba Guy

Oh my god, who could forget "Tuba Guy"?

Fox Sports had come under fire for their lack of quality in the womens league space. Our government had actually given the company a grant to increase the quality and support for our female professionals, but they had multiple major faux pau's with low res cameras, lack of good height or cameras for some fixtures, broadcasts cutting out or having interference for periods of matches and things like single-commentators, which all seems a bit disrespectful when you're sitting on a 40M dollar pay cheque from the government.

But none of those incidents compares with Tuba Guy, where 1 broadcast cut-out somehow cut to a tech guy's web cam and they broadcast him looking at the screen monitoring some specs - completely unaware the entire country was watching his mug on-screen... well his face and his tuba! You really have to see it to believe it - this is what 40 million Aussie dollarydoo's will buy you in sports coverage!

W-League tuba gaffe: Senator takes aim at Foxtel over third broadcast bungle

You can even see all the Fox branding still on the broadcast! :D

All Downhill

From there it became a back-and-forth between Fox Sports and the FFA over who is due what and why - with some legal arbitration thrown in. Fox was looking for excuses to get out of their 6 year contract. First couple of passes were thrown out in court. 

And that was all before Covid hit! We had a few months with no football mid-season, and we were struggling to get scheduling together to actually finish a season. Crowds were obviously low (or not-even-allowed) and it was tough to keep the players healthy. It was almost the perfect excuse for Fox Sports - they would withhold scheduled payments and claim that FFA wasn't delivering on their end of the contract, all the while making it as difficult as possible for the FFA to deliver on the contract.

At one point, Fox went so far as switching off their entire back catalogue of football-related digit media that had been available as part of their streaming services, to try and throw football into a media 'black hole' until FFA agreed to renegotiate the deal. Eventually, in 2020, FFA had to make a new commercial agreement with Fox - that Fox would continue to render service in full, but would pay less for the exclusive broadcasting rights. The outcome was reported as slashing the payment by half!

Come the 2020/21 season, with Covid still impacting the ability to play football across the country, Fox took the opportunity to state that the new deal runs out on 30 June 2021, and if FFA fail to finish their season before then, they've breached contract and will not be paid their final payment. That's right, the reduced payment that they'd just negotiated - they won't pay that either.

xx

Melbourne City eventually took out the premiership and beat Sydney FC in the Grand Final!

 

You May Finish Before July, You May Be Paid

And that's how we got to where we are now! The A-League Grand Final was squeezed in on the 27th of June 2021, beating the cut-off by just 3 days. The scheduling all season was all over the place, and continued challenges from the pandemic, travel and things like the weather all made it extremely difficult for the clubs to get through matches. 
But we did it. And we got paid!

And then Paramount+, owned Viacom, bought the rights to all things Aussie football and in a few weeks we get our first taste of the brand new Streaming service as we go into preseason and prepare for an October kick-off for A-League 2021/22!

 

 

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Hope that wasn't too boring for everyone. I feel better having shared all my thoughts on things, if nothing else :)

 

Going onwards, I want to get another match or two along and do like a 'final status update before EoS' - and spend a bit of time talking about transfers & squad building and the like. If I wait until EoS to do all the transfer talking, it'll feel really out of the moment since I'm doing a bit of work on that stuff now and back-dating my comments won't sound as genuine. So we'll see how we go over the next week or so! Cheers!

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2 May 2021

Melbourne Victory - 1st in the A-League [15W / 4D / 3L]

We're on the verge of securing the premiership plate! But there's still a KO finals series to conquer!
 

Results Wrap

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It's all coming together now. Side note: see how the derby with Western United (9th) pulls higher crowds than the Sydney (5th) game?

vs CCM not too much to say. We brought Lauton in for the suspended Kruse and swapped McMananan to the left side. Neither change had much of an impact and even though we dominated possession and scored a goal in both halves, the game was a fairly timid attacking affair.

Western United Double Header: Act 1
We've got this habit of controlling games, but not really running away and scoring heaps of goals. We got ahead against WUN and really tried to kill off the game, but never quite managed it. We had to throw bodies forward and eventually win a late penalty to get us over the line.

But the more frustrating thing than the challenge to secure the win was their first goal - it's a bit of 'an FM thing' that I think got introduced halfway through FM20.

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They have the ball on halfway (left panel) with no one in front of them, and drive forward. 
The problem (with FM) is; because Ansell is assigned as the defender for Guarrotxena, the other defenders simply will not make any attempt to stop the player. It's one of the most frustrating things about the Match Engine in its current state.
As you can see (right panel), the attacker doesn't even take a wide berth to dodge Shotton or anything - he just steams forward. In fact, by the time the ME registers that some cover defence is required, Iker G has already burned him for pace and the right back has to try and swoop in.

In any real situation, at the very least Shotton is going to slide across into the direct path of the attacker - forcing him wider. In reality, a fairly respectable defender like Shotton in this scenario (with knowledge that Broxham is covering as well) would simply step up and commit to the challenge - risking a foul & card in the process.

And that's the bit that's frustrating. FM defenders can't quite make the distinction between when to press and when not to. 

Western United Double Header: Act 2 was a LOT easier for us. By the 11th minute we were up by 1 goal and they were down to 9 men!
Unfortunately Folami picked up an injury, but on the flipside at least it helped with the decision on whether to play the in-form loanee striker kid, or start trying to get our veteran import striker Gestede back to fitness for the finals in a few weeks!

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Sydney put up very little fight as well. Traore scored his 2nd goal of the season - the guy storms down that left all game long, and every now and then finds himself fairly narrow, but still outside the last defender. And when he has a clear view on goal like that, he drives the ball hard at the far post - just like they teach you as a young player! It doesn't yield a lot of goals, but it's a nice little extra threat to have, and adds another element to our tactics working correctly.

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I know #30 in white should have covered here, and that's the main reason our fullback is free to shoot, but I also think a lot of credit has to be to all those guys who made the (blue) runs into areas in the box, causing all kinds of choas and back-tracking from a lot of the defending sides' players. 

 

Goalkeeping to the Max!

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The previous administration made the mistake of promising both our keepers "First Choice" status, and while we staved off any complaints early on because of Max's early cameo between the sticks, it's been a while between drinks for him now. I would have expected him to complain rather than going silently into the night.

What I didn't expect was for him to bribe some pretty important team leaders to be on his side:

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There were 2 reasons we haven't given Max a run:

  1. He was poor when he had his chance.
  2. Acton has been fairly solid (18 apps, 15 conceeded, 5 clean sheets, 92% distribution accuracy).

I could forgive the first one - it's been plenty of time between then and now and form comes and goes. But we're doing really well - why would we upset the harmony. 

So we can at least go back to Max with some reasonable feedback......

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I feel like none of these really fit what we want to say. "We're doing so well on the park now, why should we change up?" I guess some of the convince options are close.

Either way I figured things were going well and our keepers aren't getting too much work. We also have time to try Max for a few matches in the leadup to finals, but can revert if it doesn't work out. So we made the promise to play him.

Which lead to the hilarious scenario where Acton actually agreed with this decision lol. :D

792331945_210426MaxGametime4.png.fe406b4b166b219135e547457fc1569e.png

 

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4 May 2021

Melbourne Victory - 1st in the A-League [14W / 4D / 3L]

It's difficult to define a snapshot in time to look at transfers. Obviously it's a rolling thing in time.

 

A quick tip on where to find good A-League signings

You're welcome!

1721115366_210502ScoutMap.png.2b9883d25a9997a3b10034983ebe2019.png

:D

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Very detailed read, Lots of juicy stats and analysis. I really want to give an A-league save a try especially with this season and being a foundation member of Macarthur FC I could really make the club my own. I feel like the salary cap and contract system would end up really frustrating me though.

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Ok, seriously....

 

1. Everywhere

If you step away from the 'real life' examples for a bit (since they come with a whole bunch of other cultural and 'quality of life' discussions that FM doesn't weigh in on really),e, the world really is your oyster. The challenge isn't finding the right player: it's finding the right player who will come to your (often lower rep) club for the right wages, at the right time in his career, and him sticking around long enough to acclimatise well enough a positive impact on the club. Honestly the A-League coaches are struggling to get 50/50 on that one over the last few years!

The limits of where you can look are only defined by those qualities and how much time & effort you want to spend looking - be that with your scouts or on your own. In some of my longer saves I've had scouts sent to specific countries and in others I've just poked around a whole bunch of U23/U21 national teams to try and find players who might want a run Down Under. These days you can leave it to your Chief Scout and they'll have no shortage of overseas recommendations to dig through!

1673435068_210504ScoutPgt.png.502898b37dbfdfc28717237acabcb3ec.png

When the scouting system changed a couple of FM-versions ago, I played a season with Newcastle Jets and noted every single card that came through my scouting inbox. Because I only filled 4/5 of my foreign spots, the game gave me an abundance of oversea players to look at!

For what it's worth the some other stats from that study.

  • Average Age: 22.8
  • Average Recommendation: 69.4

1685188649_210504ScoutPlayerBase.png.54d279b2f1cc1b7c37c6c322d01c0121.png

So there you go! Does that mean my scouts see Holland as the next-closest-equivalent to finding A-League quality players (since it had the 2nd most recommended options)?

 

When going after an oversea's signing, I think you have to consider what kind of player you need rather than just going and getting whomever you can. From there you have to force yourself to consider a trade-off between the skills and instant impact of a player versus his place in his career. 

For example, when Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero came to play in the A-League, he was already 38. A player of his calibre still contributed incredibly, but the trade off was having to play around his fitness, pace etc...

For example, Perth Glory star Diego Castro is coming on 38-39 now. He's a fantastic player, with the right mix of skills, fight and unpredictability to be amazing in this league. The trouble is he can't play all game, every game. You have to manage that.

For a different example, Brisbane Roar signed a 28yr old Tom Aldred when England's Bury collapsed. He's a top central defender in this competition, no doubt. He's also young enough that he's played nearly every single match in 2 seasons since he arrived, and he's got another 2-5 good seasons here if he wants it. The trade-off of course, is that he may not have the impact that an attacking superstar would. He might not look like he's winning you games on his own etc...

1192075556_210504Scale.png.fe229bec3ad2367b839c3c475aa4b988.png

The other factor to that kind of trade-off is where you find players from. If you step away from the 'real life' examples for a bit (since they come with a whole bunch of other cultural and 'quality of life' discussions that FM doesn't weigh in on really) where do you target your search? If you're looking in England for example, the odds of finding an Premier League player who'll want to come are slim to none. What about the Championship? Maybe L1 or L2? Same story in France, Spain, Germany, Italy etc..

So do you start looking down those league tiers until you find someone? Or do you expand your search a bit? Who's good in Switzerland? Are there any handy options in Scandinavia? We seem some Polish and Turkish players come down, who are really in their prime, and fit this level well!

One of my favourite stories managing in the A-League was sending a random scout to South Africa and finding me a 20 year old fullback. He came over for peanuts on a Free transfer, and he was terrible!! But he was a cheap backup and I wasn't struggling for oversea's slots in the roster, so I kept him on. Back end of his 2nd season he really got going. We re-signed him for 2 more years, and at the end of that he was a fully fledged Aussie citizen and he was a gun wingback for my side! So then I went back to South Africa looking for another player! 

 

2. Recycling A-League Players

I use the phrase 'recycling' to describe A-League clubs that sign players who've been recently released by their previous club - usually it's because their contract has run out or because they're not getting game time and both parties want to go with other options. Since it's a salary capped league and we have no MLS-esque concepts of draft pools and the like, it's not uncommon to see anywhere from 1-2 players to half-the-squad to get released. As shown:
 

920066088_210504VictoryDepartures.png.bee5f3b636f410e27be8ea5c2e6c8f33.png

https://www.a-league.com.au/news/all-players-signed-a-league-202122-season?fbclid=IwAR2LGrxwM5qBF6E7DAfqQHb0CdHQD-MC2wfra-xi0LwZ_H7iJqyvDb-Pquk
This recent article shows how many players let go from each club this season.

But in response to that image above, Victory have signed: Stefan Nigro (Central Coast), Jason Geria (Perth), Matthew Spiranovic (Perth), Bredan Hamill (Western Sydney), Chris Ikonomidis (Perth... sorry perth!).
And that's why I call it recycling. Those players were let go from those teams for a reason, and if you're picking them up, you really must be seeing treasure in someone else's trash. 

Obviously not all these players are trash, and there are a lot of reasons a club or player might run down the contract to release or seek other avenues, so 'recycling' may not be the best analogy - but it's a cute catchall term for players who move from A-League club to A-League club.

To that end, I went and made a recycling list from all the A-League players who aren't yet re-signed for the new season.

999625979_210504Recycling.png.0fbc7947a0287ed0235a30c6666cd2f6.png

Obviously I live in Brisbane so they have the most names. Actually I wasn't that fond of Brindell-South for our Victory team, but seeing that Brisbane don't want him and he was killing it in NPL, he might be worth a shot.

The out-and-out best player on that list is Chris Ikonomidis. If he can stay injury free, he's a Socceroo and he's just about hitting his prime. 
Another player I'm really fond of is Cam Devlin - he's actually (post Olympics) just been picked up by Hearts in Scotland. That's a good space for an Aussie to go - he'll be able to fight for a First XI spot and have a shot at really building his career.

The other player worth mentioning is Daniel De Silva. To talk about him, a little tangent.....

There's something to where footballers come from, in the style they bring to the table. Naturally there are exceptions, but South Americans being famous for their flair, or Germans for their more structured styles, or the Dutch when they had 'total football' on the table! Australian's are not naturally gifted very often - we bring a level of grit, a level of combativeness and overall a reasonable amount of athleticism to the game. 
But then there are players who have the natural talent. You can see it from their first touch. There's a skill that other Aussies just will not ever have. And that doesn't instantly make that player a star - because football is about the complete package, not just ball skills - but it definitely gives them a higher ceiling for where they can go.

Think Cahill - who was a very good player. He was unnaturally good in the air for a man of his size and he perfected who he was and what he could do and had a long an brilliant career. But cast back a few years and think Harry Kewell - similar career overall, but if you watched Harry Kewell - he had that extra bit of natural talent.

1998639680_210504DeSilva.png.0fadca69d6ef969e0ca209b32432c55b.png

Which brings us back to De Silva. He's one of a few of the talented young Aussies who've got that extra spark (another Daniel, surname Arzani, is the other bright spark in this regard). Ikonomidis is probably the better full package at the moment, but De Silva has got skills that Chris and others will likely never have! 

Unfortunately De Silva just hasn't quite put it together in his career. He's a bit on the sluggish side, which hampers him a bit, but good players learn to get around that kind of thing. Daniel has tried his hand with a few clubs, and it's only recently that CCM have given him the right kind of chance and environment to match his skillset. 

 

3. Amateur Efforts

If you've really got a hunger to uncover an unearthed talent, the NPL can be an interesting place to go. The best thing is that most of these players are going to be extremely cheap to sign - we're talking sub 50k Aussie dollars in transfer fee's. 50k to an Ama Aussie club is a gold mine! 
There's also a bit of precedent for plucking NPL players out and them proving themselves as strong A-League players, or exciting future prospects. One youngster called Lachlan Rose was in the NPL - playing his clubs reserves and an A-League club picked the exciting youngster up and got him a pro contract!

While it's possible to dig around the NPL sides, your best bet is likely to be the player search. 

2124963954_210504ScoutNPL.thumb.png.9b6abf91899ce891259693a2f2c71bda.png

 

That's still the same right back search I showed earlier in the season. It does pick up all the National Premier Leagues' sides & their players. I just have the national recruitment package. You'll still need to scout them to know exactly how good they'll be, but this will get you close.
Plus, sometimes you can wrangle a few tricks. If you're looking at younger players you can probably sign them to youth contracts initially, so no risk of eating up spots in your squad or salary cap. Also, since they're amateur players you can sometimes get clubs to send them on a trial to let you get a good look at them before signing.

 

4. Youths

Serious question - how successful are people being with youth intake on FM21? I've found my luck to be pretty dire over multiple saves. Maybe I've just got too high a standard now :(

The hard part with youths in FM is that they'll unlikely budge if they're at a Pro club, and if they're at an NPL club they'll be hard to find. You're really just going to have to be diligent. 

On the flipside, because the level isn't top-Europe-ish here, the gap from being a pretty handy 16yr old from the Youth Intake to holding your own in the A-League isn't that huge! So it's worth signing most of your youth intake if you can, because a little unforeseen growth spurt at a young age has much more impact down here.

749190100_210504YouthIntake.png.f2528550c77e09cc8cc43252dd063f6f.png

Unfortunately we'd have started just after the first intake of the game (if we'd started earlier, I'd wager they wouldn't have given us one for the first month/season anyway). We'll be waiting until right before the first match next season to know if we've got anyone worthwhile.

Final comment on youths is the youth contracts though. Having a player good enough for the A-League but still young enough to be happy on a youth contract - that's gold. It won't eat the salary cap, it won't take up a squad spot, and you can upgrade the contract at any time! We've actually signed Lawrie-Lattanzio for 2 more season (until he's 21) on a youth contract! With the rate he's improving, I doubt he'll be happy waiting for a senior contract that long, but for now he's the ideal 3rd-string striker to have around!

 

A Wrap

That's a bit of a prelude to the run home. It explains how I see the transfer landscape of the A-League and starts throwing around the ways in which we'll be tackling it this season (mostly behind the scenes). Obviously we'll go into detail on why we signed any player, but for now let's get on with the run home!!

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3 minutes ago, Jolanthustrel said:

Very detailed read, Lots of juicy stats and analysis. I really want to give an A-league save a try especially with this season and being a foundation member of Macarthur FC I could really make the club my own. I feel like the salary cap and contract system would end up really frustrating me though.

If you're part of the crew responsible for the cowbell idea.... well keep that up, it's great!! :D

And fair call about the frustrations of salary cap and contracts. It's a huge part of managing down here - far more time needs to be spent thinking about this stuff than in other leagues. You're either into that or you're not. Personally I can't play long saves here - 3 or 4 seasons and I'm looking for something else - but it's not too bad for a quick season or two where you don't have to sign too many players and you just mess around with the guys you love.


Not sure if this helps, but I took notes on every club when trying to decide which to do for this save - here are Macarthur's:

306309317_210504Macarthur.png.ad0291e43fdac5995c94ef83b4d35564.png

Main reason I didn't go with them is because I think a lot of their players will leave, or want to leave, or will start to drop off in FM after the first season.


Seeing how positive I am about that, and then seeing how Victory are going - I think it helps show that any  club in a salary-capped league is just a few clever signings in any season away from being a top competitor. 

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On 04/08/2021 at 23:54, Butlee said:

But none of those incidents compares with Tuba Guy, where 1 broadcast cut-out somehow cut to a tech guy's web cam and they broadcast him looking at the screen monitoring some specs - completely unaware the entire country was watching his mug on-screen... well his face and his tuba! You really have to see it to believe it - this is what 40 million Aussie dollarydoo's will buy you in sports coverage!

W-League tuba gaffe: Senator takes aim at Foxtel over third broadcast bungle

You can even see all the Fox branding still on the broadcast! :D

Every Moment Counts! :lol: :(

I knew the situation was critically horrendous, but that was worse than expected :idiot:

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I was there at the beginning of the A-League, Sydney FC though just couldn’t say I was a fan of them (happier to see WSW kind of, and MacArthur not sure about it have a feel for), but those games where fun. Lots of enthusiasm around, but felt like the decision making was lacking (which you succinct showed). Never liked that rip-off Foxtel, and it sucked that they also had the EPL :mad:

Another wedge was Fox losing the rights to the EPL. Did you know that Fox low balled SBS over the rights to the EPL highlights show, saying they wouldn’t do the deal if it wasn’t included in the package? :herman:

Lack of free-to-air really hurts it I think.

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