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[FM 21] Aussie Football!


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I am impressed by those great posts here. Plus, I learned a lot too, especially the youth intake insight was very interesting! Really enjoying the read and can´t wait for the next update! Keep it up mate :)

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3 hours ago, Butlee said:

He's listed as a pressing forward, and with that kind of pace and ball skill I would be more than happy to have him as a roaming pressing striker

Pressing is pretty interesting topic at the moment because of this post:


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46 minutes ago, Matt_1979 said:

Thanks mate, glad you find it interesting. 

He's right, it's really interesting. Thanks for sharing!

I'm going to take some notes :D

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30 October 2021

Melbourne Victory - Pre-Season

First tentative steps towards the new season.

Pre-Season Friendlies

Things are going pretty well. 


There's something to be said of going around and beating semi-pro clubs and not being able to write home about it, but there's also an adage of only being able to best what's served up in front of you.
We've been rotating a bit, we had a few injuries & niggles, and we've been trying to make sure plenty of players get a chance and we're not just committing to a similar First XI to last season. And we've still powered on and won all the games comfortably and we've always managed to score.

Speaking of, it's nice to see Wood & LLL getting on the scoresheet. Wood doesn't look like the best of our young striker brigade on paper, but he seems to be edging Popovic, LLL & Toure at the moment.

Diego Castro

It would be a fair question to ask why we have spent so much time planning the squad balance, trying to theorycraft how to squeeze just the right mix of talent and bargain out of our restrictions and trying to incrementally improve on how we went last season - only to then see a 39 year old player and jump at the chance!

But it's the A-League and if there's a known product sometimes you just have to go for it. Diego in friendlies so far:


He's not even fully fit and he's already getting better and better. South Melbourne are arguable the best, most financially sound, semi-pro side in the country and he took them apart by peeling off his man for a silky finish early (shown below). The 2nd goal was a curling freekick that beat the keeper. And later in the game we moved him to the central MC(atk) role we use and he got in between the opposing MC's and threaded a great ball for LLL to run onto to score.


If he's this good in the A-League we're onto something. I don't even mind if he trails off later in the season, but let's hope not.

He has announced his intentions for the future:


Which is a shame, but as a guy who came to Australia seemingly after his career was over, he has certainly become a Perth Glory and A-League legend!

Formation Updates

Starting to make player decisions based on how we want to play. It's all about how comfortable we're getting in the formation. We're looking to play our own brande of asymmetrical football - but the off-centre style is all in the roles and aggressions, not in the physical starting places on the grid. I definitely prefer to manage my formations based on player positions at different phases of the play. It looks like this:


You can see where Castro is playing as our MEZ - essentially he's afforded all that space himself - even the fullback stays back a bit more to stay out of his way.
On the left hand side I wouldn't expect the B2B middie to get quite as wide as the MEZ does, so hopefully that keeps opening up room for the more attacking WB Traore to keep doing what he does best down that side. 

And then a roaming False Nine needs someone making that overlapping run - which is our MC on attacking's job. 

We'll go into it a lot more as we finalise the roster and we've finished making tweaks based on what we can get out of the players we have. 


Minor Transfer Arrangements

With that in mind, I've decided to try and find loans for Dukuly & Popovic. Dukuly is kind of too good to let go or to waste away in youths again, but also can't really fit this strategy. Popovic is good too - but as mentioned but we couldn't keep 4 young strikers (LLL, Wood, Toure & Popovic) here this season.

You may also remember our interest in signing Alex Paulsen.


After a few months out of the game we've been able to net the 19yr old on a Youth Contract, so worst case scenario is that he spends a couple of seasons in youth - maybe getting near to gaining Aussie citizenship.
The rules on Youth players not-needing to be registered technically states that it's domestic youth that quality. Unsure if the New Zealand keeper counts as domestic or not. I guess it's a little experiment to see!


Updated Squad Map

We're not far off now. I think this time next month we should be fairly well down - which will give us a few more weeks before the season starts. We still need to sign up the scholarship players properly, and we haven't quite pulled the trigger on a Striker or Right back signing from overseas just yet.


That's how I think we'll lineup though. With our most likely prospects in square brackets.

At the back we just need some depth. Whether that's 1 or 2 signings I'm not sure. Even though we're light at centre back, I think van der Saag, Laws & Broxham can help cover there, and it's where we start looking at guys like our new Youth Intake DM Danny Watson - if he's going to get any early growth, would he be that bad as the 3rd or 4th in line DM, allowing some of our others to play elsewhere as needed?
Let's phrase that another way. We may want a new backup DC / DM / MC player - is it worth going in getting someone in when we have a player with heaps of potential in those roles ready to go?

That leaves us with the midfield spots and I'm pretty happy with the flexibility there except for not having a decent MEZ backup. What happens when Castro needs a break (it's bound to happen at that age)? We can certainly do a shuffle, and Rojas wouldn't be too bad an option for a really offensive MCR MEZ role as well! But for now we should look at just signing a young right-footed MEZ backup. And if we decide to do the shuffle later, we can.

Who is [Cisse]?? You guys might see soon...

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17 November 2021

Melbourne Victory - Pre-Season

First tentative steps towards the new season.

Marquee / Designated Player Signing

Got our man! Or boy as it were! 19yr old Thai International Suphanat Mueanta signs for Melbourne Victory!


That's a really top drawer kind of striker for this league, and he has potential to grow. What impresses me the most is in his mental attributes. He's got the whole strikers kit - movement & anticipation, composure and a good bit of flair and vision as well. Mental skills are important because I find you can train technical skills a lot easier and shape the player a bit, whereas mental skills are largely going to improve (or not improve) on their own. Mueanta already has a great football brain and anything more is a bonus.


If we go back to what we were looking for - we had 2 objectives in mind for our transfers this season. We need to find a marquee who has a bigger impact than Kruse, and we needed to find players who can break those defensive walls (so we don't get another Brisbane Roar in the Grand Final). While the first target will be proven once we get going, Mueanta ticks the 2nd box well. Having some extra flair on a dribbling striker means he can run at players (and beat them), having good decision-making, teamwork, vision and just enough passing as well means he won't only be a dribbling machine - he'll have the smarts to look for passing options and turn playmaker as well. I feel like he's the perfect fit for making runs for a False Nine or roaming midfielder to hit on the break, as well as breaking the lines with runs or dribbles when we're setting up camp in our front 3rd and we need or creative options to make some magic.

And keep in mind we're only talking about how he looks now. The guy has potential. Imagine if he gets +1 to everything - all of a sudden he's reaching into the 'speedster' range with 15 acceleration. He's got 15 finishing and composure and with his Places Shot trait he'll be lethal when shooting. Already he's handy and if  there's any growth in him, he'll turn into a magnificent player!

Last quip - he also speaks English, which hopefully reduces the settling period. It would be great if he's confident and good to go by our first official fixture on 26th of December.

Finances Involved

Since we're trying to show off what a save in the A-League, we should talk a bit more about the economics in the signing and how it may compare to other signings in Asia or Marquee signings.


Some of this deal is really good, and some isn't the best. Let's start by saying this isn't going to be the best long-term financial deal for us. We obviously paid a fee & signing bonus (1.75M), and in selling us as a stepping-stone club, we had to put in a 3M minimum release clause. And of course his Thai club wanted a piece of the pie so they get 20% of any profits. If we end up making half a million on this guy we'll be lucky.

Having said that we built in some other securities - it's a 4 year deal which he's unlikely to see the end of. It does ensure that teams will have to buy him from us though. We also negotiated the purchase price down by loading it with incentives - 50 league games and 40 goals is likely into his 3rd season. It's kind of a trade.... either he leaves before then and we cash in without paying that extra 500k to his former club, or he sticks around and meets those targets - in that case we have had this great striker for 3 seasons and we're getting returns on his performance (winning competitions etc..).

Despite being a Designated Player (outside the salary cap) we do save a bit of money when compared to Kruse - who was on 11.5k pw if I remember correctly.


Not a typical designated player deal?

A couple of things if you're doing your own save, looking for a Marquee signing.

I don't think many A-League clubs will have a natural 1.5-2.5M sitting around to spend on a player. You may not find a fully-rounded player like Suphanat and have to chase someone with most of what you want and accept that you can't always pay premium. You may go for and older guy and pay <1M to pick him up. To be fair, a lot of marquee's are Free signings - clubs deliberately scour the world for players who will soon become free agents.

4 years is a long time to have Designated Player for. Most contracts are for 1-2 seasons because it's a lot of money and it's hard to sell players when they're playing in an out-of-sight league like the A-League. For example no one hears about how Andy Keogh or Adam le Fondre get golden boot Down Under at age 29-30 and pays to sign them back in England. Obviously FM doesn't consider those kind of factors, so it's up to you to be careful. Typically Marquee's are older players winding down their careers and you need to make sure you get the best out of them without being 'stuck' with them for long periods of time.

You could also probably make really good money if you found a slightly lesser younger player and signed them for Free/Cheap and shipped them off - but it's a risky game to play!

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14 minutes ago, Djecker said:

Good striker in the marquee spot. Wish more actual A-league clubs would do that instead of signing ageing English warhorses.

These days actual A-League clubs are so embarrassed by the kind of players they get that they don't even announce which ones are on the marquee-level wages!
The concept has turned into a bit of sham to be honest :(

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3 hours ago, Djecker said:

Good striker in the marquee spot. Wish more actual A-league clubs would do that instead of signing ageing English warhorses.

I agree. Good striker signing for Marquee spot.

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23 December 2021

Melbourne Victory - Pre-Season Recap

With FM22 announced for a 9th November release, it'll be nice to play out this season and wrap it up around then. Then we can prepare an FM22 save!


We talked up that early FFA Cup showdown facing Brisbane City (NPL) in August, then kind of went radio silent there. That is, quite simply, because we didn't last long in the Cup.


We can rattle off a bunch of excuses*, but at the end of the day we had our chances, it was a good battle and we lost in the fatigue-laden extra time.

* Early pre-season with us only having half a side signed.
* Game seen as an away fixture even though it was moved to AAMI Park - our home ground in Melbourne.
* Overzealous Referee (31 fouls against us, to 12).

FFA Cup is so strange in the Aussie football landscape. The clubs do put in competitive teams, and do make a fuss if they win. But there's not a lot of regret if you don't do well or go far in the comp. Still, it would have been nice on a personal level to secure a trophy this season!

Jamie Maclaren

Topical because he scored a hattrick in the Cup match for the other Melbournians, the fondly dubbed J-Mac has had a career that tells the tale of a lot of Aussie players, with their fight to break out overseas.

Just let me drop his playing career:


The pacey striker plucked from Green Gully in his teens to trial at Blackburn. By 19 he couldn't do enough to secure a Senior contract, so Perth were happy to give him a run and get his career going again. Perth were a side struggling to make finals at the time, and a couple of years later Jamie saw the opportunity to play under retired Socceroo's striker John Aloisi, which saw him move to Brisbane. As you can see he started banging in goals for fun. And when you're that good in the A-League, it's only natural a 22/23 year old would consider his options.

I recall a bit of a conflict at Brisbane around the start of 2016. Maclaren's agent essentially told Brisbane they had to assign him the marquee spot and pay him a European-esqe wage to keep him else he'd run out his contract for Free. Aloisi responded by dropping his top goal scorer for a couple of matches. It all died down fairly fast so it's safe to say J-Mac got his Germany deal and then all parties agreed to move on and get back to playing football. 
Sadly Darmstadt demoted from Bundesliga that season. Worse still, after just a few matches and a bit of injury trouble he couldn't crack their First XI and was given a chance to play himself back into form in Scotland. The lad has Scottish roots, so maybe not a bad idea.


But here's the familiar tale of Aussie players - he simply didn't switch on in a way that made him attractive to Darmstadt, and he was flourishing enough for Hibernian to go in for him either. 
The man, now in his mid 20's, had other things building up in his life. For example, the time of Tim Cahill and the final remnants of the Socceroo's Golden Generation (I don't like that they call it this, but it's a story for another time) was wrapping up and Australia had no proper striker. Maclaren needed to find goals if he wanted to be that leading man. He also had a family now and was considering kids. He needed stability and a promise of regular footy - Melbourne obliged.

And he's been a regular battler for golden boot ever since he's been back! Let's take a quick peek and see how he went in the most recent season in real life.


Yeah... I'd say he's going alright!

Ultimately the A-League benefits, because we have a striker who is clearly one of the best in the country right now. But it's such a regular tale for Aussie players - they just don't quite make the step-up from A-League dominance to proving themselves ready for matches in top flight footy in Europe. And it's a problem so many of our stars have that cripples our National Side. If you've ever heard of Daniel Arzani or Riley McGree - two of the most gifted players to come out of Australia in the past 5 years - both are young, both are struggling to find a place in Europe. McGree went overseas, came back for a year and is now looking to try his hand at the MLS for the newly founded club (Charlotte?).

Chris Ikonomedis is another player whom you can tell has the talent, but he's stuck trying to dominate in the A-League in the hopes a club in Europe will notice. And the list just goes on and on. There's a huge valley to cross from A-League dominance to being competitive in Europe. Some will take deals in Asia as a bridge (ie, to try get more competitive footy and training), and some get to run to the Middle East to chase big contracts that they couldn't secure in Europe. 

I know this has nothing to do with us, but it's such a big challenge for players at this level and helps explain why the A-League just has some players that are that good.


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23 December 2021

Melbourne Victory - Pre-Season Recap (2nd attempt)

Ok, got distracted. Let's try again.


We managed to secure a couple of full squad friendlies against A-League teams in the leadup to the season. Of course we wanted a run at Brisbane to gauge where we were at!


A lot of pre-season here is open for clubs versus NPL sides, but they play the AL vs AL matches behind closed doors. Just another interesting tidbit.

Brisbane actually attacked us a lot more than the Grand Final, but it's all about perspective. You can see we scored 3 goals in 10 minutes, so that definitely impacted the mentality of both sides. And Brisbane picked up Keanu Baccus - one of the dynamic MC's we were looking at signing (if only we had room for all the great middies I want :( ) - and as he get used to their style, he became a real dominant force. Then Rene Piscopo - another player we had on trial because I like him - popped up off the bench for them and scored their 2nd!
From our perspective it's coming together though - we knocked the ball around well and some key player (like Rojas) are starting to enjoy the tactics.


Western Sydney were a reasonable challenge as well, but they only scored a penalty in a match we were otherwise fairly dominant in. Castro really started to hit the straps here and guys like Traore and obviously Brimmer are coming good now. We've been sprinkling some minutes into the 16yr old youth intakes (Wason, Polyzos & Mason) and the striker Polyzos looked handy over his 30 minutes as well.

One player you're not seeing right now is our new signing Mueanta.


It's great having a youngster with that kind of pedigree (to be playing for his countries' senior side!) but it's awkward timing for our preparation. Suphanat signed for us, flew to Australia, played 1 friendly for 70 minutes, scored a goal, and  then flew straight back to Thailand for the South East Asia Championships. Thailand beat reigning champions Vietnam on their way to the Final. 

So it's great for him to be playing in a nation doing well, and hopefully he'll join us match-fit because of it. But it's also tough for us to measure where we're at. We did alright again Brisbane and WSW without him - are we going to be incredible with him?


U23 Asian Cup

There's a bit of a contentious point among A-League clubs right now. It surrounds the U23 squad and when their fixtures are played. The way the A-League is structured there's a real value in good young players. They (usually) are more desperate for match time than they are money, so if you can find the ones ready to compete at an A-League level it can give you a leg up on your opponents. Two good examples are Aiden O'Neill & Tom Glover. Both have been mainstays in the Aussie U23's. Aiden was owned by Burnley from his teenage days but wasn't ready to crack it in EPL - so Brisbane loaned him and gave him a full time midfield role. Glover was owned by Spurs and was in the same boat - Melbourne City loaned him. Both players eventually ran out their contracts and were signed as Free Agents to A-League clubs. 


This from September 2020.

There's also a bit of a belief that if your club can sign one of these guys, give him the matches and showcase his talents, then other clubs will have to pay a transfer fee to take him away from you. Transfer fee's are often not revealed down here, but they do at least announce when someone has been bought rather than just released on a Free Transfer. Adam Taggart is a good recent example - he was part of the massive Fulham spending a few years back, got injured and released back to Perth Glory. He played a couple of seasons for Perth, half a season for Brisbane and then was sold to Suwon Bluewings in Korea. Taggart's actually 28 now, so he's not perfect for the discussion at hand - but that the general idea that clubs nurture when they sign U23 players - hopefully they're already good enough for A-League sides and if so they'll attract bids from elsewhere to help the club out.


Adam Taggart's club career.

Point is that most clubs will try and find the best 20-23yr olds they can. They'll be doing what they can to have Youth Development Programs for their teens and Academies for younger kids still. It's far cheaper to help your local players become great players (and hopefully make some money selling them) than it is to be forever reaching out trying to lure and sign players from everywhere to suppliment your squad.

But then we hit a brick wall with the scheduling of U23 and U19 competitions in Asia.


Our matches start on the the 26th of December and because of the rushed season we have 11 fixtures between then and the start of February! It's the time when we need our depth most, and here we're going to have our least depth. 

And for Victory - it's not quite so bad as it looks. Obviously some of those guys are younger and aren't in the Senior Squad - but even just losing LLL, Wood, Barnett & Kirdar is disappointing. They would have had a chance over the next 6 weeks to prove that they're ready to play more often at this level.

We could pull them back from international duties, but is it worth upsetting a good young player and preventing him from representing his country? 

Whether you're talking FM or the real world, it's pretty annoying to be in this situation and it's probably no better for the players themselves. Imagine being 20 years old and your Aussie club is saying you're a big part of their plans to get real First XI minutes - then you have to choose between going to the Young Socceroo's and skipping a chunk of the season (in which time they'll learn to play without you) or skipping Socceroo's duties which will put your out of favour with the powers that be at that level. There was a rather infamous calamity when this came up in Jan 2020 (because covid was restricting travel) where Aiden O'Neill 'got sick' on the day he was supposed to travel, skipped Young Socceroo's duty and managed to front for his club game a couple of days later.

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There's definitely a set of Aussie players who are too good for the A-League but not quite good enough for the top leagues in Europe. They either need to play in a good Asian league (K-League, J-League) or move down a notch in Europe. Sainsbury is an example of one who did the latter.

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23 December 2021

Melbourne Victory - Pre-Season Recap (3rd attempt)

Ok, ok, ok! This time we'll talk about the team, honest!

Full Squad?

We're kind of done with signing players, with the option to change our minds I guess. We've got plenty of registration spots open, and so far we're supplimenting the depth with our 3 Youth Intake guns. 

The reason for that is because we expect to largely use the same First XI where we can, and the rest are kind of fringe players waiting for a chance to take a spot (aka Brimmer last season). It's tough to justify going and spending money on a player to sit on the bench. Especially when you consider you're looking to buy Australians - why do that when you can give that opportunity to your own youth? The skill gap isn't that huge.

At least that's the logic I'm going with. You may have noticed for example, Angus Thurgate was on our list of U23 AFC players - Angus (22) is a midfielder on trial. We already have Laws, Kirdar, Barnett & Watson looking for opportunies in there. Do we bring him in and create more competition there? Is it worth bringing a 22yr old and that stops our highest potential AM Kirdar (19) from getting a run? 

Here's an extremely simple view of matches played last season:


By the time you get down to about 12 players, you'd argue that the rest are in the fringe bracket. And within that bracket, there's the Kirdar, Barnett & LLL's (regular rotational players) and  the Anderson kind - only used in a pinch. 

Using the same methodology (ie, combining both keepers), I'd say we have 13 players we're confident in this season, which is good on the above metric. So it's all about the supporting players and the hierarchy they have. We may well sign Thurgate, we just need to take care that we're not damaging Kirdar's career opportunities because of it. If we think we might be, it's better to find us another younger player as the 'in a pinch' players... and if we're already looking at that level of player, we may as well just go find the next best youthie instead of signing in from outside!

** Having said that there's also no rush to decide on the Thurgate / Kirdar thing, since both are on U23 AFC duties for a month. 

So is the squad full or is it not? As said, it could be either.



Right Wars

I found a Senegalese player to sign on the right. Honestly it's not our best signing and I'm a little disheartened by it. The challenge was actually getting knowledge on him from Spain's 2nd division. I could see that he was quick but wasn't sure how quick. I could see he had good determination and the right skills for a fullback, but couldn't see if he the attacking powerhouse that Traore was.

In the end I figured van der Saag was putting on a good show and we could take a punt with Cisse. If it wasn't great we still had the younger Aussie. And that kid Mason isn't the worst kind of backup either.


But I wouldn't say either way yet for Cisse. He's definitely quicker and defensively he's not far off. I'm torn because if I go by my logic that newly signed players are always worth a '+1' to all attributes when they get into training full time, then we've got a handy, pacey player here. On the flipside I was looking for Traore 2.0 that would help give us the edge if teams like Brisbane parked the bus on us, and I don't think Djimou is that guy.

Either way, welcome to the A-League where you have to live with your bad decisions all year!


The Squad?


Overall I have a gut feeling that we're 1 player short - ergo the Thurgate trial. With Laws & Broxham being able to support the backline, I don't mind if we pick up a new DC or MC. 

The other signing option we haven't spoken much about is older players. If our concern is that someone like Castro won't handle 30 matches over a 7 month season, maybe we do try find another older Aussie who can share that role with him. 



We covered this a bit before, but we've been tweaking and fine tuning and it's starting to work.


A couple of smaller changes:

Central Defenders are now Stoppers*. I always prefer stoppers unless you're completely outclassed as a team. But otherwise I'm fairly old-school: a CD's primary role is to dominate the striker.
Defensive Midfielder - no specific role. This one took a lot of thought. The tactic itself is titled "HB" which means it's based on a formation with a Half-back. (I think I used it in 2nd div Germany where teams couldn't handle scoring wingbacks). In the end I decided that the main reason for having a DM at all wasn't to screen the backline (if that's all I wanted I could change the CM and we already have the B2B that drops deep) - it's to give us depth to the attack. Our 3 MC's should largely play within the same depths (end to end) and while they'll move in and out of alignment at any given time, the DM is there to ensure there's always someone deeper to play in. If I had a better playmaker back there we'd definitely use DLP, but for now he's just there to recycle the ball and let us go wide or go looking for Brimmer or Castro or Rojas' roles as the playmakers. 




* Funny personal anecdote. I played football since I was 5 years old and my other favoured pastime was reading. Obviously 'reading' at 5 was a very different beast - but the point is as I grew more into both things I ended up with some football books... stories, rulebooks, and training & teaching books. One of my first memories of thinking of football from a tactical sense (beyond just being 5-10 and kind of understanding the difference between goalkeepers, defenders and attackers) was the difference between a "Stopper" and a "Sweeper". 

So that's really where I first stopped thinking of defenders as 'the guys who stand back and stop the other team' and started thinking of football with tactics 'that Stopper guy steps up to make the challenge, and that Sweeper guy covers in case he fails' and it really opened my mind as to how that concept worked all over the field. Not saying I was some kind of kid genius or anything - just that it's a fond memory because here I am some 25-30 years later playing FM, and it all started with some book explaining how all defenders are not mugs the same.



Some A-League Fever

Media is dropping predictions like they're going out of fashion:


I'd say there's the appropriate amount of fanfare surrounding our new signing!


Sydney have signed a LOT of players - young and old. I think the inclusion of Boogaard would make them look good on paper. They've combined him with a Spanish DC and a Lithuanian GK. So they may well be difficult to break down.

City are a bit tougher to spot. They signed Brazillian winger (Melo) but let go a good Uruguayan winger that they had (Luna) so not much there. They obviously picked up Kruse, and got a pacey U23 attacker in Buhagiar. Not as significant improvements as Sydney from what I can see, but the media favours them.

Strange to see Brisbane so low. They don't appear to have given up anyone too crazy and they've made some good additions - Baccus, Piscopo and Burgess look handy. But maybe it's that focus on youth rather than proven stars that's cost them their reputation in the media. I still expect them to be right up there.


And that's really about it. I've been sitting on this save for about a week now, waiting to write all this up so we can get started :)



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just made my way through this, not sure how i missed it tbh. thoroughly enjoyable read, even if i dont particularly like Victory.

level of detail is great, and quite necessary for those who no next to nothing about Australian Football.

big props on the intake post, ive been heavily invested in delving into the intake model and its varying results, so was good to read your tests.

will continue to follow. nice work, mate

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I think it'd be nice to do a longer save to really test out Intake over time. But I also think that'd be better served in a more stable environment. But for now we've learned a few things, so that's cool!

And I think one of the reasons I chose Victory was because I simply never liked them in real life. It's one thing in FM to pick a club with some of your favourite players and laugh all the way to the bank, but it's a different battle to go find a bunch of guys you don't like and to give them a go (I already wasn't a Crocombe fan from his Brissy days and still gave him a chance lol).


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Nice couple of season previews :D

I liked the bit where you tangented away in each of them to something shiny :lol:

My wish for the A-League is, they run like a proper season, with their own stadiums and don’t worry about other leagues. The competition and national team’s will be stronger for it, and be in the correct timeframes too.

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26 December 2021

Melbourne Victory - 1st Match of the Season

They call this one the "Original Derby"

vs Adelaide United

With respect to general squad strength and knowing how competitive you'll be coming out of pre-season, there are really only two scenarios:

  1. Same as last season but a bit better, so we know how we'll fare.
  2. We had to make changes everywhere and now I have no idea, uh oh!

Obviously we're in the latter. I try and convince myself that the core is still there - our theoretical Best XI still has 7 players from last seasons' top XI. But the reality is that the structure has changed and our entire attacking philosophy is different now - both in approach and in personnel. And from there maybe, just maybe, we've put it together right and we'll come out a better side than ever!


First concern? The handful of young Socceroo's are on a plane and our shiny new marquee signing still has a Final to play for Thailand. That's 3 strikers missing somewhere in Asia right now! The premiere scoring position falls to 17yr old Mo Toure - a player I'm really fond of, but he's probably about 5th in the pecking order right now. LLL showed signs of competitiveness last season so he's the known quantity and Wood has just been too good in preseason to ignore. 
Toure is still growing, but he's quick and determined and he likes being on the ball - if he can make himself space he can make something happen. Just gotta hope he's not marked out of it like we saw in preseason a bit.

Otherwise the issue is just depth from the (not fully filled) bench. Being first match of the season, if anyone's match fitness isn't there we may not have easy cover.

And as much as I like how Castro has functioned in the friendlies, and how Brimmer has made that awkward kind of 'do things, but don't stray too far' role his own, and how Cisse has actually proven how powerful his pace can be - now it's the real deal, there's a lot more to play for, and maybe these kind of players that have been chewing up space will struggle to find it in competitive fixtures.

We're not writing ourselves off or anything - just highlighting the unknowns!


1st Match of the Season Preamble

Adelaide's rebuilt squad fronts a 5-3-2 build, with the central MC playing advanced a bit. It's a lineup that suits us well enough because we're happy to go 2 DC's vs 2 FW's and let our wingbacks face theirs - and we'll still have the DM security.


I don't 100% know how this works out the averages. Who's included for example? Is it weighted towards defenders, or a simple sum of all middies versus backs? What about those guys who are wingers/FW's - how does it define when to count one of them or not?

Such questions mean I don't take a lot of stock in these charts usually. But for now I guess it's reasonable enough to say we're good at the basics of defending - tackling, marking and heading - and that supports the notion that I'll back my DC's & FB's to stop their FW's & WB's respectively.


Fear's Allayed

Won't beat around the bush and create suspense where there isn't any. We were far, far too strong for Adelaide:


I started the play-by-play, but it was so one-sided it wasn't that interesting. We reached that level of complete dominance where we were so effectively turning our possession into shots that it actually looks like they had reasonable possession. 

What we will do instead, is break down the goals we've scored. All 3 are interesting in that we can pinpoint pieces of our tactics (/tactical targets) that came into play and we can be proud that it's all coming together.


The Match & The Goals

The first half was a test of patience - we controlled the game and it was frustrating not to score. Trying to temper expectations  was tough. It was the first match of the season, we're a little short-staffed, and we haven't had the full squad up and running together for long really. 

Fortunately Castro did us a solid and scored early. Going to implore you to use your imagination a bit here.


Summary: Rojas drifts to the right and picks up the ball. Toure runs into advanced space on the right made by Rojas, and all 3 central midfielders rush forward and create confusion in the box. Toure gets the ball to the byline and cuts back a cross, directly into the path of the slippery Diego Castro who jams home our first goal.

Cool Stuff:

  • Rojas is the left striker, but as a F9 on roaming he looks to receive the ball barely in the attacking 3rd and he pays no attention to left/right etc... You can see all 3 Adelaide midfielders have drifted across and the left back (#3) has sort of stepped up to offer security against Rojas' lateral run and Castro's storming run forward.
  • Toure is pacey enough to get into that valuable channel and down to the byline, which buys time for our 3 MC's to rush forward.
  • And should they have tracked Castro? Yes they should. But we signed a guy like that because he's got such great anticipation and movement and where Toure is just quicker to the ball to get to his spot, Castro is smarter and puts his run between defenders - they just don't know where to go.
  • Pointing out Brimmer (#7)'s run into the box as well. I've been saying that I just need someone to 'stay' in this heavily-roaming-based strategy. You can see it perfectly here where Rojas & Toure are nowhere near scoring positions, but it's ok because Brimmer is doing his job pushing onto the penalty spot. If he wasn't drawing defenders, Castro wouldn't have found the s pace to make that shot.



This is the move a few seconds later and you can see the space for Castro - he's already got the jump on his marker and there's a bit of confusion between #12, #3, #4 on who should break their position to stop him. And clearly we say #4 here, but that's what they try to do, but it's a lot of ground for him to cover to get near the shot.

And props to Toure for making that pass as well. He's not the best passer, but he has good decision-making and a bit of flair and he read the play well and made it happen.


Goal #2


It might seem like we're a 1 trick pony with this reliance on Castro for our opening two goals.

To that I could answer a lot of things - 'if it works, why change it?' being one. But what I'm hoping to be able to show is that over a season there are a lot of different ways we create chances - that has been our focus throughout the entire recruiting, planning and preseason. Just because Adelaide couldn't handle the Castro/Toure one-two punch, doesn't mean that'll be all our goals.*

*And if it is, well let's just hope Castro's good for 26 rounds and it's good for 50-odd goals this season! :D


Goal #3

This one is a bit funny, because we seemed to set up for a Long Throw set piece kind of scenario. Since we have no big guys in the box to actually challenge for a high pass, we went short.


It might be reaching a bit again, but the common elements here are (a) players moving in and out of their positions to create crowding and short-passing around the zone the ball is in and (b) just enough structure to ensure there are well-positioned players to act when we pull the trigger. Broxham's finish was solid, but I feel like the defence could have shut him down better if it weren't for other things - like packing all those bodies in the box, and the sneaky Traore move to slide wider (almost off screen in the right image), drawing a man away from the centre. It created space and after a couple of short passes Cisse found the right ball! 
Much like Butterfield in the 2nd goal, the pass that paid off may look risky, but that's the entire point - we're playing the short passing game, probing for the opportunities to make these slightly riskier passes. That's why we invested in more creative players. So to see it come off is very fulfilling to say the least!


Shooting Stats

FM's a funny beast sometimes. It keeps a lot of statistics and you can definitely click a lot of buttons on the analytics, but sometimes it's difficult to know exactly what you're looking at and what information to review to solve problem X and so on.

It's the old data >> information >> analysis thing.... wait.. what is the thing...

It's the old data >> information >> knowledge >> wisdom thing. 


FM has a LOT of data. It's also very good at providing Information. But I think FM believes it's giving Knowledge, but it's really just giving Information.

Case in point is that I want to review me shooting. 3 goals is great, but we had 26 shots. What were we doing with the other 23!?


Thank's to FM21's updated analysis chamber we can see! Well we kind of can. This is a useful visual and based on 1 match it's fine. In this case I can say we were really low-percentage at shooting from range - but we did get one - and we heavily peppered their goal from both sides of the field... though they blocked a lot of shots on our right. 

But you're not going to make many decisions based on that. I'm not suddenly going to rush to change how we play, or flick on/off the 'shoot on sight' or 'work ball into box' options. I'm not going to pin all the blame for PB blocks on Mo Toure and drop him because of it etc... I need this kind of info over time. That's the Knowledge part.

The best you can get is something like this. And it does let you click to the individual player roster with some more info there. 


But would it be so hard for FM to go 1 step further and give me this:


That's the level of Knowledge I want. And I should be able to nominate that breakdown over 1 match, last 5 matches, hand-picking which competitions I want it to put in there. Obviously the 'range' is subjective, but so long as FM is clear what counts as each range we can work with it. 

Because this detail (and we'll keep this up to date all season) helps me make tactical decisions over time. I've already mentioned the shooting on sight and working the ball into the box as quick examples. This little chart let's me create parameters and define targets - and then lets me compare individual games to see what did and didn't work. 

For example I might say that only hitting the target 61.5% of the time while shooting in the PB is bad. I still need to go and investigate who the culprits are, but that's only if to cross off the blame from individuals. Primarily I'm trying to decide if we have a fundamental tactical issue. If the trend of shooting within 6 yards and only scoring 25% of the time continues for example - that's probably a tactical issue. Are we throwing too many high balls in there? Do I need to review my corner strategies (since we obviously aren't finishing in there).

It's a method that stands the test of time, where the two FM screenshots above it either aren't scaleable over a season or don't define the issue well enough. 



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Forgot to share this one:


I just find it really interesting. I'd love to be able to look this up for other clubs. 

I could be reaching for logic a bit here, but I'm sure there's an impact from us having very little retention over 2016 (where we came 2nd), 2017 (4th) and 2018 (3rd). I know keeping players while you're doing well in the A-League is tough, but that's a whole lever of empty. Most of the current squad has just arrived in the past 2.5 seasons. 

Aussie saves may not be the best ones to let this chart breath, but like a lot of things I wanted to give it a couple of spins and get the graphic to a space where it's ready to go when I want to roll it out for a larger save in the future.


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I like the movement of your tactic. It really feels like it’s breathing. There’s so much space when you push-pull the opposition.

I like your shooting table, as well as the Player Arrivals Hall table too. Much more informative.

Looking forward to seeing your team all together in this new tactic eventually this season :thup:

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Random kind of comment here, but I always take a look at the Thai squad these days:

Last time I managed in Australia I stumbled upon Teerasil Dangda, not knowing anything about him (or him being at Man City for a bit!). The bloke was fantastic in the A-League for a couple of great seasons until he retired.

Fast forward 12 months and Muangthong actually drew Brisbane in the real life ACL - and I got to see Dangda in person when they flew down. Might not seem that special, but sometimes Down Under you get a bit disconnected from all the real players in other leagues, so it's nice to get to know the real player by seeing him live.

31 minutes ago, Jolanthustrel said:

Your Thai striker has become a beast in my current save. Hope you get to see some of what he becomes in my save.


Edited by Butlee
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11 January 2022

Melbourne Victory - 1st in the A-League [3w, 1d]

Healthy start!

Early Season Form

It's been a good run so far! We've had a really forgiving start to the season in facing the 'rebuilders' Adelaide and Perth. 


The Western United game was pretty frustrating actually. They played 35yr old Andy Keogh up top and he's just not holding up like Castro is in terms of speed, movement and work rate. So they held possession along their back well and amassed more passes than even we had, and largely snuffed out the game.
What's tough is that this is exactly the scenario we didn't want to be in this season - especially playing at home! For now we might write it off to early season fitness and missing players.

Silver lining? We did get 25 minutes into Mueanta. Thailand won their comp comfortably and he played a lot of minutes so we'll use him sparingly for a bit.


Coming off the back of that I wasn't 100% confident going away to Adelaide. And despite Toure's early goal we found ourselves down 2-1 at the break. Fortunately we equalised after the break a Brimmer found more and more space as the defence tired and we were able to storm home.

Perth was the Toure show! He scored early again and it just upped his whole game, finishing with 2 goals and 2 assists. Incredibly his 2nd assist was on our last game - Mo charges into the box with men moving in and instead of deciding we're up 3-0 and he should just back himself for a hattrick, he puts a foot on the ball and plays it back to an unmarked Butterfield on the edge of the box who drives home the final goal. Very unselfish and ultimately the right call for mine.


Motivated Mohamed

Which brings us to our first major decision for the season. Toure is in some immense form right now:


But the rust hasn't been grinded out of the early season A-League clubs yet and we don't know if it's just Adelaide and Perth being some of the worst competition going. 

Because for the Melbourne Derby we're tempted to back in Mueanta for his first start in the League. And because we've won the last couple well, we've been able to rotate early on and make sure not many players have put in 360 minutes in the first 15 days or so (doesn't sound that bad when I phrase it that way anyway!).

I have a feeling we'll go with the marquee player, but it's rough to be dropping Mo based on this form and this progression:



Goals Galore!

This is where this one starts to get interesting:


We've taken a lot of shots for just 4 matches and the picture is starting to show. There's nothing that stands out so much we'd call it a problem, but even if this is just a benchmark it helps us understand if/how we're improving. 

The Close Range numbers might even seem a little light-on. They do include a lot of our headers from crosses and corners, but yeah that's something we should do better in. I like seeing the range ratio - we're taking almost 60% of our shots from on or within the penalty box without getting right into the keepers' grill. Though only getting 41.3% of shots on target from there isn't ideal. 


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