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[FM 21] Aussie Football!


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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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