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[FM21] Bonjour, les Guêpes!


KlaaZ
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More exciting news, because of the promotion and the fact that we don't adhere to the minimum requirements when it comes to stadium infrastructure (just like we didn't in the Ligue 2) the board approved for a new stadium to be built. 

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Hopefully, there's some expansion potential because I don't want to be stuck for 25 years in a stadium playing in front of only 15k people. That said, it will double our current capacity from the start, which is great, and it isn't too expensive at only 18M. 

We also managed to upgrade our youth recruitment twice this season (after some bickering with the board), and recently upped our junior coaching as well. Once I get some decent funds in the bank, I'm hoping to do the same for my youth and training facilities but at this point, we're still almost 3M in the red so the leadership won't budge. 

The financial issues also show in both our wage (110k) and transfer (4M) budget, which means there will be very little room for improving the squad and I'll have to be very careful about who I bring in. I'm hoping to at least find some loan players who will make sure I stay up, and maybe pick up some interesting freebies as well. Touré wants to leave (because I promised to play him as an inverted winger on the AML and I played him as a ML in the same role (ass), and there's interest for quite a few other players as well. I wouldn't rule out selling anyone at this stage, assuming I can use the freed up budget to sign a better replacement.

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Transfer update

We're currently at the end of July and I believe most of my homework is done. First of all, the bad news: My scouts seem to be unaware of the fact that we've been promoted as they just keep turning up with suggestions at Ligue 2 level. Either that, or the club's reputation is too low to attract anyone better (more likely). That said, we've done a bit of wheeling and dealing, and I believe with the current squad we should at least stand a chance to survive, if necessary through the playoff final. Anyway, on to the details!

Out

We release eleven players who are end of contract and are not deemed good enough, in an effort to open up some more of the wage budget. The most important players to go are Antoine, our former leading goalscorer in the year we won the National, previous first-choice goalkeeper Franck L'Hostis and defensive midfielder Ismaël Keita. Apart from that, we sell our other goalkeeper, Andrea Seculin, to Zaragoza for 170k because his wages are substantial and he's not bringing anything special to the table (apart from being injured for six months last season). Sagna and Zesiger also return to their parent clubs at the end of their loan spells.

In

This is where it gets interesting. Because Zesiger didn't really put in the performances I had hoped in Ligue 2, I was in need of a new central defender, preferrably left footed. Because this is a hard profile to find, we gave a one year contract to Nicolas Pallois, a 34-year old defender who was released on a free at Nantes. He lost most of his speed but his mentals are quite impressive and he's got a great personality which I can use to tutor a young regen. 

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I already mentioned that we released our two goalkeepers, whom we obviously replaced. Lukas Raeder was released on a free by German third division team Lubeck and signs on a free until 2025. He will compete for the position of first-choice goalkeeper with Nicolas Tié, a young Ivorian/French lad who we sign from Guimaraes in a deal that can run up to 275k. I'm hoping he can improve a lot, as my scouts suggested.

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To replace Antoine, we simply sign Antoine 2.0. Andrew Jung is 24, French, tall and had a great season on loan at QRM in the National before his contract with Châteauroux ran out. Chrigor will still be first choice, but this guy will be the battering ram when we're desperate. 

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Our most expensive signing this season is a two-footed, 24-year old Italian holding midfielder with plenty of experience in the Serie B at various clubs. He was owned by Atalanta who let him go for 700k. Big money for us, but he still has some room for growth and although he doesn't really excel at anything, he also has very little weaknesses.

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Just to be safe, we got our biggest reinforcement on loan from our senior affiliate, OGC Nice. Khephren Thuram is a French/Italian midfielder with a LOT of potential. And more importantly, he doesn't cost us a penny as Nice keep paying his wages. One of the few players in the squad already at Ligue 1 level (the other probably being Rodriguez).

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The final signing worth mentioning is another loanie. Hiroki Abe provides more depth in all attacking midfield positions, joining us for a season from the mighty Barcelona. His contract runs out in a year, so with some luck and if he lives up to expectations, we may be able to snap him up on a free afterwards.

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Finally, there's also an internal transfer. Academy player Fréderic Millet will go through preseason with the big boys and depending on how he does, may stay in the first team squad to get some minutes left and right (particularly if we would happen to be safe from relegation with some games to go). 

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The first game of the season approaches, pitting us at home against the mighty AS Monaco. The Monegasks finished in second place last season and are currently probably the biggest force in French football behind PSG. We'll try to keep it respectable. 

To make matters worse, both Lambèse and Goujon on the right back and Guenouche on the left back are unavailable because they picked up a yellow card suspension at the end of last season. This actually means that we'll have to play central defender youngster Millet at right back as he's the only left who is proficient at doing so...

Anyway, we survived the first half without conceding, although we're barely reaching the opponent's half. But as long as it's scoreless, we're alive.

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Well, we got close but in the end should be happy that we were not on the wrong end of a trashing considering all the chances Monaco created. Bit worried about the performance of my midfield duo, Pallois and Chrigor, the latter being pretty much invisible the entire game.

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August is done and dusted and after the loss against Monaco, we picked up with a three game unbeaten run. The good news is we earned a hard fought victory over Rennes at home. The bad news is that the other two games were draws against the other two teams who were promoted last season, away in Lorient and at home against Amiens. The last one was especially tough to take as we were by far the better team and the buffer of points from a win would have set us up for some peace of mind for quite a while. I'm hoping this won't come back to bite us...

Either way, after four games we're five points clear of the straight drop down, and three points from the playoff spot. Long may it last!

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9 hours ago, john1 said:

Cracking start to life in Ligue 1 :cool: Such a shame you conceded last minute against Monaco! :( 

Yeah, I've never seen that kind of rollercoaster that late in the game. Conceded in the 85th, equalized in the 86th, went behind again in the 88th. Crazy!

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This journalist's question sums up my feelings quite well. 

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Nine games in and we're in ninth place, which is great. But we could've been in a way better position if we would stop conceding these silly goals right after scoring ourselves. I'm not convinced it's a tactical issue though, feels more like we're lacking the quality to finish off games or see them out. The game against Nice which relates to the above press conference is the perfect example. We opened the score through Rodriguez at a point where we were the better team, failed to make a second, conceded an equalizer, went ahead again, and then again managed to completely implode, shipping two goals in the 84th and 89th minute. Annoying, to say the least.

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Our first confrontation with the giants from Paris and we managed to at least keep the scoreline 'respectable', thanks a MOTM performances from goalkeeper Raeder. 

That said, there were also some good takes from this. At 0-1, Jacob unfortunately missed a clean one on one with Fernandez and at 3-1, Chrigor did the same when he was clean through on goal. The 2-1 came from an unnecessary mistake from Thuram who played a lateral pass at the edge of the box straight into the feet of Mbappé, who put the Parisians ahead. From there on out, we succumbed under the pressure and they started freewheeling.

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Mid season update

Due to the WC held in Quatar, the league first half ended early at the end of October. The rescheduling means that we'll have a very busy second half of the season, and it will be interesting to see how the squad copes with the extra intensity. For example, we have seven games in January, including our first cup game, away at the illustrious ACS Le Geldar de Kourou. 

Our first Ligue 1 run is going very well, although I feel that we could've done better still. As stated earlier, scoring first is generally not our biggest problem but we tends to collapse too easily. That said, I'm very happy to say that we're currently sitting in 11th place on 16 points, seven points clear of the playoff spot. The main problem, judging by the stats, is that we really need to improve defensively as we simply ship too many goals. Very happy with our scoring record though, as we're second best there of all the teams not currently in a European spot. 

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Player performances have been okay for the most part, with Lukas Raeder the only first team regular to average a rating over 7 (which says a lot really). The biggest disappointment so far is record signing Marco Carraro, who's only managed an average of 6.47 in eight appearances. 

On the transfer front, we have some big news. I've complained a lot about my scouts only bringing up Ligue 2 players in their reports, but as we extended our scouting range they did manage to flag a 16 (recently turned 17) year old Finnish lad who came through the youth academy at FH and went straight into their first team. We manage to pick him up for 200k on a 3 year deal, he'll go straight into the first team. 

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2 hours ago, john1 said:

Leifsson, looks incredibly good :eek: 

Yeah, I'm just a big sucker for flair. Had a Brazilian at Kobenhavn who was two footed and also hit 20 flair, the guy was a machine. :D

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Season overview 2022-2023: Surviving among the big boys

The season's come to a close, so it's time for a big update. First off, some transfer news as we did an additional signing during the winter break. After the success we had with Rodriguez, we signed another winger on a free from Defensor Sporting, Ignacio Laquintana. Older, better, but not two footed, he'll compete with his former teammate for the place on the right wing.

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Our first season in the Ligue 1 was a resounding success. As stated before, we were in 11th place at the winter break after 13 games. We also managed to pick up after the break with a very, very impressive streak of eight unbeaten games, which came to a disappointing halt when we lost at Amiens, who were dead last. We picked up with a home win against Angers but after that results deteriorated fast. In the last fifteen games, we only picked up eleven points. The quality of play was still there, but we just didn't manage to edge those games anymore. The best example was perhaps our final game away at second placed Monaco. We were even for a very long time but two moments of magic from Volland sent us home with nothing. 

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That said, I'm very happy that we held on to the 11th place we occupied at the winter break, although at one point we were even in the running for European football. But once again, if we look at the quality of the squad we should be very happy indeed. The comparison tab says everything really. There's two attributes where are (just) above the league's average (determination and heading), everything else is far below and the mental overview hurts my eyes. 

 

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Either way, here's the final league table!

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The best news is that we're financially finally out of the red thanks to the almost 5M in prize money we received for our final league position. We immediately reinvest a portion of it into our training and youth facilities (both still below average) and manage to upgrade our junior coaching after some bickering with the board. 

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Introducing the new kids

As we have a lot of new faces around, I feel it's time I introduce them. All but two of them are freebies, the others come in for a very modest fee. Here we go!

Adérito Andrade

Andrade is one of the two (soon three) players who we paid a transfer fee for. With 375k, it is still an investment with very little risk, which I considered the most prudent thing to do considering our financial status. Not a fan of his personality but he can play relatively comfortably in four positions and has a lot of room to improve. He's actually not far off the skill level that Touré has and once he gets there, he'll permanently replace him in the squad. 

 

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Julio Cano

The other player that involved money changing hands, Julio Cano will get a lot of first team football this season. I'm pretty much replacing my entire central defense: Lloris was asking for a wage way too high for his ability, Pallois retired and Saint-Ruf (who has been with us from third division) simply isn't good enough. If I have to play someone who doesn't quite have the ability, I'd rather have it be someone who will improve. We paid 275k to América de Cali, where he already contested 66 games in the first team. Good physicals and great mental ability (brave, determined with good work rate), his technicals need work though.

 

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Can Coskun

This lad was more of an opportunity. He drew the interest of a few big clubs including PSV, being on an amateur contract at Volendam. We swooped in and offered him regular playing time in the first team which probably influenced his decision to come to Orléans. Another 18-year old with hopefully a bright future. 

 

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Jean-Baptiste Roche

Another opportunity, Roche was end of contract at Caen, and they for some reason didn't prolong his stay. Great physicals and a decent mental attribute spread but this rough diamond will need polishing before he gets anywhere near the first team. At only 16 years of age, there's plenty of time.

 

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Joël Savané

A similar story, also end of contract, also at Caen. Great personality and high determination. Hoping to make him Chrigor's replacement in a few years time.

 

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Mehmet Topal

Another exotic name, Topal came through the youth ranks at Besiktas where he made his debut with the big boys last season. Another end of contract, another freebie. Will spend one season in the youth squad and depending on how he develops, could be added to the first team in 2024. Considering retraining him as a left back because of his height and lack of jumping reach.

 

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Hernando Valbuena

Left back prospect for free from Deportivo Cali in Colombia. As he's lacking pace and technical ability, I may retrain him as a central defender because of his left footedness. Will replace Thiam in the first team as he's arguably just as good. 

 

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Allan Andreasen

For free (surprising, I know) from FC Midtjylland. Not the best personality but I'm hoping that with some mentoring, he'll pull through. Apart from that a great attribute spread and potential to retrain him as a striker.

 

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Lazar Carevic

The biggest name of the lot, Carevic moved to Barcelona at a young age but never broke into the first team. He had a great loan spell at La Liga outfit Granada last season and is a considerable improvement compared to Raeder and Tié. The latter has made a lot of progress though, so he'll keep getting game time until he's ready to take over completely. 

 

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Niclas Backer Norregaard

A 17-year old Danish defender from Kobenhavn who can play in all three defensive positions, although he's a natural in the center. Same story as Topal, may have more to offer as a right back.

 

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Guylian Zouma

19-year old Frenchman who's contract at Nice ran out. He played 23 games for Dunkerque in the Ligue 2 last season, doing very well. Unpolished diamond but a candidate for a first team spot right now. 

 

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Victor Rua

Will only join us on 04/08 as he needs to wait until he turns 18, and will get a lot of playing time once he arrives. Probably the best young central defender I've picked up this transfer window. Also a record signing, costing us a whopping 950k. 

 

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The only profile we're still looking for is that of a solid midfielder, because Cararro is the only one right now who can properly fill that position. I wanted to resign Thuram on loan but he got bugged (enquired for a permanent transfer first, enquiry was still open one month later, had to make an acceptable offer to fix it but after I withdrew from talks they don't want to loan him out anymore). So we keep looking and have our sights set on a few targets. 

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Got our midfielder, although we may have overpaid slightly. But as our options ran out, we moved and went all in, snooping him from under the nose of Lille.

Kevin Ackerman signs a five year deal, he joins us from Örebro where he was an established first team player. We had to pay 1.8M to match Lille's bid, which leaves our transfer budget empty to the last drop and sees us hitting the wage budget cap. I feel he's worth it though, great all round mentals and a great personality, which is something we lack.

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He didn't want to go but started on his last year of contract and was too greedy when we talked about an extension. Considering we picked him up on a free two years ago, this is a very healthy profit. And it's a record for the club as well!

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The transfer deadline has passed, and we brought in two more players to provide some more depth. 

Hakon Forsmo

A 17-year old Norwegian winger, who plays on the left against his foot. A bit of a different profile than Touré (who wanted to leave and went out on loan) and Rodriguez (who was sold to Gent), but as he's still young there's plenty of time to mould him. There are some concerns about a recurring injury, but at 100k, this is a relatively safe investment.

 

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Melvin Dufour

Melvin has been on my list for a while, coming through the youth ranks at Strasbourg. They didn't want to let him go though, and he didn't really want to move. Things changed when his club refused an offer from Lens, which triggered him to hand in a transfer request and Lens to lose their interest in him. We swooped in and signed him for 275k. Destined to be a central defender or the cleanup crew in front of the defense, with great aggression, bravery, determination and work rate.

 

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January update: Ligue 1

I already revealed the trashing of Nantes in their home ground a few posts ago, and things have generally been going well. I was worried that the replacement of Lloris and Zesiger (on loan from Nice) would mean we were going to concede more goals but our new tactical framework is really paying dividends. We've moved from a 4-4-1-1 counterattacking style where we sat rather deep to a more aggressive assymetrical formation, and the results speak for themselves.

After Nantes, we tripped slightly by only drawing Rennes at home 1-1, but after that we went on a spree, winning five games in a row until we once again hit a home draw, this time against Nîmes. Nice put us back with our feet on the ground and deservedly kicked out butts with a 3-0 victory. Next up unfortunately was PSG at home. I'm not going to pretend we did superwell but just like last seasons, the positives were there. The first two goals we conceded were individual errors, and Mbappé added a third after only 22 minutes. When Laquintana got sent off after 51 minutes, I feared for a serious beating. But we actually stood firm and even managed to pull one back through Chrigor, final score 1-3. 

The two losses hurt morale and away at Lorient we found ourselves 2-0 down after only 11 minutes of play. Andrade pulled one back before half time but once again Lorient ran out 3-1 in the beginning of the second half. But we kept banging on the door and the reward came through Chrigot and Andrade, saving us a point. 

We lost the next game at home against Lille in a very even affair which could have gone either way (2-3), but then picked ourselves up again. A solid away win at third placed Marseille (0-3) and a 4-0 demolishing of Reims were brutally interrupted when we lost 1-0 away in Monaco. But we nontheless managed to win three of our four final games in December, stumbling over Montpellier in what I can only be described as a complete offday.

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The result is a very satisfying third place at the halfway break. We're the third best scoring team after PSG and Lille and, more importantly, are looking a lot more solid at the back. But we'll talk about player performances and the impact of the new guys in a later update.

The only bad news was that Leifsson didn't want to sign a new deal with his current one expiring in the summer of 2025, but he's come around and talks are ongoing for an extension that will keep him in Orléans until 2028.

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The newbies: How they did so far

As you read before, we brought in a boatload of new players in the offseason. Some of them were signed with the intention of going into the first team straight away, like goalkeeper Carevic and Kevin Ackermann, others were coming in with a more long term plan in mind. Some of those players ended up in the first team anyway because we had no other options, but the good news is that they did surprisingly well for the most part. A small overview:

Guylian Zouma

Was signed with the intention of replacing Lloris place for place but ended up being more of a rotation option. Still, he's had four starts and six subs in the league and has performed satisfactory. If he can improve some more, he could end up becoming quite important.

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Julio Cano

One of two Colombian central defenders we picked up, Cano started 50/50 for a starting place with Zouma and ended up coming out as the winner. Fifteen starting games and slow but steady progression. Will be one of the key players to build the defense around if all goes well.

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Joël Savané

One of two free prospects we picked up from Caen, Savané is the one who's getting closer to more first team involvement. Initially in the U19's, he was  called up for the main squad when injuries and suspensions left us with very little options up front. Jung wants to leave and is end of contract at the end of this season, so we'll keep Savané on the bench instead of him. 

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Adérito Andrade

This young Portuguese started as a rotation option for both wingers and the attacking midfield slot, but ended up quite a bit of gametime due to the suspension of Laquitana with his two red cards. Will permanently replace Perrin in the squad next season. 

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Kevin Ackermann

The oldest of the lot at 22, and has been very important for us so far. Played. Only missed one game through a yellow suspension and made some impressive progress in only half a season. Indispensable at this point.

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Victor Rua

Initially signed for the center back position, he was blocked off by a well performing Cano and the fact that I want to empoy a left footed defender as well. The solution came by playing him in the right back position, replacing Goujon who is also end of contract in six months. With the abundance of central defenders, the main question is if I need to start looking at a system with three central defenders but for now, everyone's playing and happy.

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Melvin Dufour

The last player worthy of a mention, Dufour is in the same boat as Cano, also having played 15 games as a starter. Has the advantage of his left foot. I'm looking into creating a corner routine that would have him excel at attacking set pieces as well because at 192cm, 17 jumping, 18 heading, 18 aggression, 17 bravery and 17 determination, he's been made to make war in the opponent's 16 yard box. 

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We also have one honourable mention for an academy player, Ismaël Mununga. He was moved to the senior squad because of suspensions and a general lack of depth after Rodriguez left and lately has been impressing. He started two games and came on quite often as a sub, getting a 6.95 average rating and scoring the equalizer in the away game against Brest.

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Transfer news

It's becoming more and more obvious that our main weakness finds itself in both full back positions. At left back, Guenouche is still a solid option, but still someone who has the ability of a good Ligue 2 player. Behind him is Thiam, a player that was with us in third division and really doesn't meet the standard. On the other flank, our first option is actually a central defender (Victor Rua, the Colombian) but next to him we only have Stéphane Lambèse, another ancient leftover from our days in National. Goujon has filled the gap as well but his contract is up in the summer. We also lack a bit of depth in the attacking midfield position.

With those things in mind, the following transfers were made.

Out

Andrew Jung is blocked by Chrigor and the upcoming Savané and moves on loan to Belgian side Westerlo. Goujon signs a deal with Beerschot for the end of the season, but we offer to make the move permanent now and rake in 675k in the process. Youngster Millet, who has been making some good progress, moves on loan to Ligue 2 side Ajaccio, who have the same level of training facilities as us. Furthermore, he'll play most of the games there, hopefully kickstarting his growth.

Spoiler

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In

We sign a free goalkeeper for the future, Mark Haboe from FC Nordsjaelland. I'm not entirely convinced but he's free so there's no real risk. Apart from that, we bring in Joao Oliveira, a right back from Sporting, for 33k and loan another Portuguese right back (and another Joao, this time Ferreira) from SLB. Our last signing is also picked up in Portugal, 20-year old Mateus Santos will provide Leifsson with some competition for the spot behind the striker. We sign him from Braga for 700k.

 

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The bad news is that Oliveira played one cup game for us and then decided to break his leg in training, putting him out of contention for the rest of the season.

 

Spoiler

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With nine games to go, it already looks like we'll need a bigger squad next season. For which additional competition will be decided in the next four games, where we play Lille (away), Marseille (home) and Monaco (home). Especially the last one, as they're probably our biggest contender for the last CL spot.

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Shame we couldn't hold on to the lead but all in all we didn't deserve the win and were on the backfoot for most of the game so no complaints. Joao Ferreira actually almost scored the winner right after they equalized but Safonov managed to tip it out of the top corner.

The good news is that Chrigor finally found his scoring boots again.

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Huge disappointment this. We weren't even that bad, but they scored four times from their first three (not a typo) shots on target. And for some reason, we just can't get grips on Volland in these games, who scored four of them.

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Throwing it all away with four games to go, having to hope for a Monaco slip up and win everything ourselves which seems impossible at the moment. Drew 1-1 away in Dijon in a game where we had plenty of chances but went behind because their no nonsense central defender blasted the ball into the top corner from 30 yards out. :rolleyes:

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PS: It also doesn't help that Chrigor decided somewhere beginning of February that he scored enough this season. One goal in fourteen (!) games after...

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Goodbye, Champions League dream. In all fairness, if you're 3-0 down against 17th placed Nancy after 36 minutes at this stage in the season, you probably don't deserve it anyway. And to be fair, with the form of the past few month and a half, we'll be happy to not get relegated next year.

On the bright side, Monaco plays their final game at home against Lyon. So if we do our jobs (unlikely at this point, but you never know) and they do too, we'll still get the Europa Cup instead of the loser cup.

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2023-2024: Season recap

Ligue 1

We came so close to Champions League qualification but in the end we fell back to a fourth place because of a terrible end of season spell. Lyon won the French cup so even if we had finished in fifth, we still would have qualified for the Europa League rather than the third European competition nobody cares about. Nancy survived thanks to a very impressive 13 out of 15 in the last five games, including wins against ourselves and Monaco. 

The good news is that we've clearly grown from last season. We scored nine more goals and conceded eight less than the previous year. We could probably have done even better but the fact that we shipped thirteen goals against PSG (away) and Monaco (home) messed up our defensive stats quite a bit.

Spoiler

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French cup

Finally a cup run worth mentioning. We had another tough starting draw with Lorient away but after beating them 0-3 we went on to the quarter final through wins against Sochaux and Bergerac Périgord. Then we ran into Marseille away and lost with the smallest of margins in a very even game, 1-0. 

End of season accolades

It took him a second year and it was close because of his dry spell, but Chrigor managed to become the league's top goalscorer AND Europe's top marksman, bagging 25 goals. 

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I myself won the French manager of the year award and the Raymond Goethals trophy, an award for the best performing manager with Belgian nationality. 

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Facilities

We moved into the new stadium in the beginning of the season but it wasn't enough, as we filled it out for 99% throughout the season. I didn't even have to ask the board for an expansion, they moved themselves. A bit of a price tag but we'll get almost 7k new seats, increasing our seating with roughly 40%

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Apart from that, we made several investments to the youth and training facilities and everything else related. We're still not on par with the rest of the league (good training facilities being built and good youth facilities now in place), but at least our youth recruitment and academy coaching is now top notch. And it showed in our last intake, but that will be something for the next update.

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