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[FM22] To Win Or Toulouse


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To Win Or Toulouse

End of Season - Squad Review

Well, it's safe to say that our first season in charge of Toulouse was a massively successful one! We will be welcoming Ligue 1 football back to the Stadium de Toulouse for the first time since the 2019/20 season was curtailed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic in what was a truly disastrous campaign for all associated with the club. I am somewhat confident that regardless of how the campaigns fairs, it will be a marked improvement on the final season Toulouse spent in the top-flight of French football. As a quick aside, the board are being somewhat coy in their expectations and are simply asking us to fight bravely against relegation. Interestingly and something that I must highlight before we delve into reflecting upon the individual performances of the squad this season, Ligue 1 will adopt a unique format next season.

As the league seeks to undergo a re-structure for the 2023/24 season whereby the division will only have eighteen teams competing in the competition rather than the typical twenty, there is to be a shake-up for the upcoming season. As a consequence to the reduction in the number of teams for the 2023/24 season, there will be four automatic relegation spots rather than two and a play-off place next season. Whilst this will make our task that little bit harder, I am somewhat relishing the challenge and cannot wait for what a step up in division will welcome.

Without further ado however, let's take a look at the individual performances of the squad in what was, as I have previously stated, a fantastic campaign - both collectively and individually.

Goalkeepers

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We begin our reflection on the past season with our two first-team goalkeepers. Isak Petersson was identified as our number one at the beginning of the season and he more than established himself in-between the sticks. He played forty-one games this season and performed consistently throughout. He would ultimately rack up an impressive tally of fifteen clean-sheets in 37 league games, conceding just twenty-nine goals in the process. This would enable him to win the Goalkeeper of the Season award in the process despite being pipped to the Golden Glove award by Nîmes Olympique shot-stopper Per Kristian Bråtveit. Whilst I was content with him at the beginning of the season, I did have some concerns that he may not be up to standard should we achieve promotion. However, I feel that he does enough this season to reassure me and merit an opportunity to be our number one next season.

Maxime Dupé was only called upon once all campaign. This came in our 4-0 victory against SC Bastia as Pettersson sustained a light injury and I did not feel the game justified rushing him back - with all due respect to our opposition. At twenty-nine, he still has plenty of years in the tank and on £6,500 p/w - which isn't all too much when comparing to other clubs in Ligue 1 - I cannot think of any reason as to why he cannot continue at the club. He is happy to play the role as side-kick to Pettersson and will therefore remain at the club until the end of next season when his contract comes to an end. We will then review the situation to see whether we ought to extend his deal or wish him well in his future endeavours.

Defenders

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I have separated our defence into two categories, first focusing on the heart of the back-line before shifting the focus to our full-backs. At the beginning of the season, Bafodé Diakité was set to be the key man and I was not left disappointed. Anthony Rouault was identified as his usual accomplice and this would be the case until his unfortunate injury. This gave me the opportunity to see what Rasmus Nicolaisen and particularly Logan Costa could do. Diakité was a main-stay in the starting XI and also deputised out wide when required during particularly bleak moments on the rare occasion. Rouault made nineteen starts and eight substitute appearances whereas Costa made seventeen and four off the bench. Nicolaisen was the least favoured of the quartet due to his age with all honesty, as I preferred giving the younger trio a go, as the Dane managed just five starts and six appearances off the bench.

Diakité was an unsung hero at times. I know I have mentioned his impressive season, albeit fairly sporadically, however the average rating he accumulated at the end of the season speaks volumes for his season. He will certainly be attracting yet more attention in the summer and we will be utterly desperate to retain his signature. Another massive boost to our promotion is that it has satisfied his desire to remain at the club, else we would have certainly been saying our goodbyes in the coming months. He was a huge threat from corners in particular and amassed eight goals over the season. I expect him to be just as influential for us next season.

Appearances were shared out between the others. I was left incredibly impressed with Costa by the end of the season and found myself affording him more starts than Rouault towards the last run of games. It means that heading into the summer break I have somewhat of a selection headache over which of the two I partner with Diakité next season. I don't plan on too much transfer activity going on here should we retain Diakité so pre-season should assist in making a decision. Nicolaisen is likely to depart if anybody does in this area. It's unfortunate as I find he is a dependable option but he is a victim of us being fairly blessed in this area of the pitch. With finances being tight, it would likely make sense for both parties to cash-in.

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If we were perhaps short in one area this season, it would be in the wide areas of our defence. Mikkel Desler was our first-choice right-back and was initially supported by Karol Fila until he made a premature return to Strasbourg after a lack of opportunities. We would ultimately replace him by bringing in the 23-year-old Spaniard, Iago Lopez. Franck Tabanou was initially brought in on a free with the expectation of him being a regular starting but with an early injury and match-fitness issues, Moussa Diarra would assert himself as our first-choice instead. 

Desler was a regular starter prior to an injury that ruled him out for the final few weeks of the season. He made thirty-four appearances and averaged a handsome rating of 7.13. His only goal of the season came during our 7-3 victory in the Coupe de France against Villefranche Saint-Jean. He will continue to be our first-choice right-back going into next season. At twenty-seven, he still has a few more years in him before I will likely opt to ship him off. Lopez would fill in for Desler until he too suffered a knock. He played five times with the same number of appearances from the bench. Sacha Semaoun was promoted from the Toulouse '2' side and Sam Sanna was also called upon when necessary. I expect them all to remain at the club over the summer with play-time varying. Lopez should continue to be a capable back-up with the two youngsters mainly being fringe options to call on when we're desperate.

On the opposite flank, the story is extremely simple. Diarra took full advantage of his chance and flourished. He went on to secure 32 appearances and four from the bench, averaging a rating of 7.18 in the process. An extremely impressive return for the twenty-one-year-old. He scored a couple of excellent goals this season which was extremely pleasing and I was delighted that he found the net. He more than deserved those goals. He will likely play a supporting-role for me next season with us needing to find a proper first-choice option. Tabanou departs the club after making a sensational return in the summer. He made twenty-one appearances with nine starts. Surprisingly, he has opted to hang-up his boots following the conclusion of his deal. Best wishes to him!

Midfielders

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Attentions turn to our midfield now. We adopted a midfield trio that was propped-up by a DM to protect the back-line. Batista Mendy, on loan from Angers, was the man tasked with playing the BWM role behind the three men ahead. He proved to be an outstanding piece of business as he played consistently over the course of the season. Often going under the radar, his consistency was key to our success and I will be very keen to exercise any opportunity we can to bring him back to the club in some capacity next season. Amongst his performances, he managed to chip in with three goals; one of which was a goal of the season contender against SC Bastia in the aforementioned 4-0 victory.

Brecht Dejaegere, Stijn Speirings and Branco van den Boomen were the typical trio we selected over the season. Denis-Wil Poha provided adequate support and competition whilst Steve Mvoué saw an increase in minutes via the bench in the final few months of the season as some injuries began to crop up in the ranks. No doubt about it, Branco van den Boomen was the star of the show. Eight goals and an outstanding twenty-three assists thus averaging 7.54 this season tells the story perfectly. There are no words to sum up a season like that and if it wasn't for the performances of Rhys Healey, which I will discuss later, he would have been the Player of the Season easily. Perhaps he still is?! I'm sure @Shrewnaldo will be campaigning for him!

His brilliance certainly meant there wasn't too much of a burden for both Speirings and Dejaegere to carry. The older of the pair, Dejaegere, was good but never truly outstanding. At 31, there is certainly scope to perhaps explore the option of moving him on. Although, he has just signed a new contract to remain at the club which may muddy the waters just a little. Speirings was consistent if not impressive and I expect that he will continue to play in the DLP role next season given the financial limits we face. I cannot justify tapping into the market here when there are more important areas of our squad to improve at present. Branco will be the key man next season. I have a feeling that any success we enjoy will be decided on his performances. No pressure, Branco.

Finally, a quick word on Poha and Mvoué. Poha was brought in on a cheap fee from Portuguese side Vitória de Guimarães which appeared to be a good financial investment at the time and would ultimately prove to be just that, I would argue. He featured in 32 games this season and notched a tally of three goals with four assists. Meanwhile, I continue to look forward to what Mvoué can bring to the table. He was afforded some minutes towards the latter stages of the season which was pleasing and I hope that we can assist him in fulfilling his potential. A loan move seems to be the likely destination for him next season.

Attackers

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Rhys Healey was the story of the season as he raced to the Golden Boot in an exceptional season. 34 goals in 42 games is quite extraordinary and I cannot wait to see what he can do in the top-flight. There has been some early interest in the Englishman and we are keen to impose our stance that he is not for sale. Certainly not for the measly fees that are being banded about at present. There has been a lot of focus on his achievements this season and whilst I am not one to detract from them, I feel he has been singled out enough this season so without further ado, we move to focus on the other attacking players at the club. 

Rafael Ratao was viewed as Healey's strike-partner from the off and he delivered too this campaign. Often in the shadow of his teammate, he still amassed a pleasing twelve goals in 39 games and came up trumps during some highly important moments this season. Corentin Jean was drafted in as Ado Onaiwu's replacement once the Japanese star was loaned out to Kawasaki Frontale for the remainder of the season at the end of December, heading into the January window. A quick note regarding Onaiwu, Kawasaki did not opt to make the move permanent in spite of an impressive spell in front of goal during his time in the J-League. He will therefore be returning to us where we will likely look to move him on. I cannot see a way into the team for him and I believe there is only likely to be improvement in the attacking ranks of the squad.

Jean will, as mentioned in the previous update, be making the move back to RC Lens where his contract is due to expire. He was merely a back-up option and didn't particularly deliver any notable moments in his time here. I am pleased with the regular pairing we have but there is scope to improve. There are some question marks over whether Ratao is capable of the step-up in division, honestly. Whilst I was pleased with his performances, I am somewhat torn on whether he has the quality to play regularly for us. It's a situation you'll have to watch over the course of the summer as I don't have an answer right now.

Sparse minutes were afforded to Stephané Zobo as he made just the one appearance off the bench during our Coupe de France run. He will be departing the club at the end of his deal. Naatan Skyttä faired a little better as we gave the 20-year-old four run-outs from the bench over the course of the season. He is still developing at the moment and I doubt he will be given too many chances with the step up in division. A loan move may be best for the Finn.

Final Thoughts

All-in-all, the squad requires a few additions here and there to bring us up to scratch for Ligue 1 next season. The only downside is that the financial situation isn't too bright and we will have to sell to buy or manage our budgets extremely carefully and settle for the loan or free market as I briefly discussed in the last update. Another huge disadvantage we have is that the transfer revenue is very low - around 15% - so we will be holding discussions with the board in an attempt to bring this up else we are in somewhat of a difficult position. I expect we'll be somewhat reliant on the same squad we have at present but I am hoping that the board will be kind to us which should give us more wriggle room to make suitable additions to our squad.

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On 23/12/2021 at 23:52, Shrewnaldo said:

Mad how good Healey is, you got a screenshot? He was pretty poor in last year's FM but I know he's been doing well IRL so maybe he got a bump.

And glorious to see Branco in his pomp. The guy can be key player for you until he retires. He's so good.

He has been incredible. Both Healey and Branco were revelations and surpassed all expectations even though I knew of their quality when starting this save. I'm looking forward to what the pair of them can do in Ligue 1. Screenshot here!

7 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

You still carrying on with this?

Yes, I will be! I've just had a couple of weeks away as a result of the festivities and football. Unlike most, our games weren't postponed and went ahead as normal which was pleasing. I'll be posting again shortly, don't worry! :) 

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To Win Or Toulouse

Transfers and Pre-Season 2022/23

After a short-break for the festivities on top of a generally busy period, I am pleased to report for duty. Following promotion as title-winners last season, we return to Ligue 1 with aspirations of maintaining our league status in an extremely tricky division this year. As I mentioned in my previous post, the league is set to have an increased number of relegation places as the league begins its restructure ahead of the 2023/24 season - meaning that four teams are to be relegated at the end of this season. Now, it was always due to be a difficult season ahead for reasons I will discuss later on in this post but our job has been made just that little bit harder as a result. Nevertheless, we cannot change anything and must accept that we're just going to have to ensure we're not within that bottom four come the end of the campaign.

We'll delve into the transfer dealings first, shall we? You may remember that depth was a word I used quite regularly when it came to discussing improvements. You may also remember that the board were quite modest in the budget they afforded us as a result of the ongoing financial situation at the club meaning we would have to sell to buy. One thing I overlooked initially was the transfer revenue percentage we would be given per transfer. It certainly made my life hell. I can tell you that for free! The board refused to increase our revenue percentage from 15% meaning we would have to be very careful with our dealings and look towards the loan market in most cases. You will see this reflected in our business over the summer.

We let a number of our young players leave on free transfers as they simply had no future at the club. Meanwhile, Alexis N'tamack (Stade Montois Football), Denis Genreau (Quevilly-Rouen), Yanis Begraoui (Valenciennes), Nathan NGoumou (SC Bastia), Lukas Kengbo-Meynot (FC Chambly Thelle) and Tim Rey (SM Caen) all departed on loan until the end of the season as they bid to win some much-needed first-team experience to help them reach their potential. 

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The pick of the bunch: N'tamack is spending time with Stade Montois Football in the Championnat National 3 this season.

Elsewhere, there were plenty of sales. The first of these came in the form of Rasmus Nicolaisen (Aarhus) and Kléri Serber (Quevilly-Rouen). A collective fee of £900,000 was raised between the two sales and whilst neither were huge contributors to the wage-bill with modest wages being paid for their services, it was still a sensible move to let them leave given that they were on the periphery with not too much scope for them to ever work their way into my plans in the foreseeable future.

They were soon accompanied by Agustin Rogel who spent time out on loan with Estudiantes and Club Atlético Peñarol last season. The Uruguayan is an excellent player certainly capable of playing at this level but he boasts of a hefty £11,750 p/w wage which was difficult to justify given that we aren't too short of quality in the central-defensive ranks. I wouldn't usually have allowed him to leave but unfortunately we have to manage our books carefully to facilitate additions and consequently, we have to let high-earners who aren't imperative to our side leave in order to do that. He joins La Liga side Granada for £325,000.

Another player who spent time out on loan last year departed the club as Ruben Gabrielsen completed a £925,000 move to Malaga. Boasting similar high wage demands to Rogel alongside an unwillingness to even entertain contract negotiations, I was happy to cut my losses with his services and not miss out on making a bit of income.

There are two final departures to discuss. The first of these being Anthony Rouault. I wasn't preparing to allow the youth graduate to leave the club this summer but once Crystal Palace's interest materialised into sufficient offers, my hand was rather forced and I found myself tied-down to accepting a £2,300,000 offer from the Premier League side. Crucially, the deal included a 30% profit clause which should result in some further income later down the line. I was disappointed to lose him but as shown in his absence last year with injury, we can manage without him. It means that Logan Costa will be given ample opportunity this year to really flourish and show what he is about alongside Bafodé Diakité who we managed to retain. As I say, it's a disappointment to lose a player as capable as Rouault but the financial income was beneficial and we still have quality at the heart of our defence in spite of losing him.

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30% of any profit made on Anthony Rouault will make its way into the club's bank account

The final departure features Ado Onaiwu with the Japanese striker leaving on loan for the season as he heads to En Avant Guingamp. I was keen to sell the forward after he returned from J-League side Kawasaki Frontale but there were no acceptable offers made and consequently he spends further time out on loan with the hope that a sufficient offer is made sooner rather than later.

Moving on! The loan market was crucial for us as we continued to raise funds to enable us to offer the appropriate wage contributions that clubs were asking for their players. The very first addition to the team was Paris Saint-Germain's Aranud Kalimuendo. An ever-present for RC Lens last season where he spent the campaign on loan, the Frenchman scored fourteen goals to assist Sabri Lamouchi's men to safety. I am very excited by his arrival as I hope he can lead the line with Rhys Healey. His arrival was initially sparked by interest in Rafael Ratao who appeared to be departing the club for £2,000,000 but the move broke-down and Ratao stated he was happy to remain with us. I am confident that he and Healey will be the difference this season and their records (albeit Healey's at a lower level) speak volumes about the impact they can have for us. 

I was very much drawn to Arnaud's all-round ability but particularly his pace and acceleration (14 and 15) alongside his finishing and composure (13). I feel that a striker with a bit of pace combined with good finishing and composure should provide the necessary tools in our bid to avoid the drop.

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Kalimuendo was an important figure in RC Lens' side last season

Melvin Bard was the second arrival and second loan arrival of the window. Joining from OGC Nice, the left-back will be our first-choice option this season with the young Moussa Diarra playing a supporting role after Franck Tabanou departed the club and promptly announced he was hanging up his boots. Bard spent time out on loan in Switzerland's Super League with Lausanne-Sport making 29 appearances where he was fairly consistent in his performances, averaging 6.86. He possesses good crossing and dribbling attributes (12 and 11) which is important in the system we deploy alongside good physical attributes that will enable him to get up and down the pitch confidently. Admittedly, he isn't anything too special but we were rather limited when it came to availability in this position, unfortunately. Nevertheless, I anticipate that he should more than suffice this season.

Samuel Moutoussamy was another addition to the squad on loan from Ligue 1 opposition. FC Nantes kindly afforded the DR Congolese midfielder's services to us with an optional future fee included in the deal of £1,300,000. Making 23 appearances last season with ten of those being starts, I am very pleased with his arrival. Moutoussamy presents with plenty of versatility whether that be in terms of position or via his confidence in a multitude of roles. I anticipate that he will primarily find his place in the midfield three, supported by the anchor behind, as a BBM. He's well-rounded in his attributes if you overlook his poor finishing and long-shots however those are attributes that I can overlook without much fuss needed. The optional future fee is particularly pleasing and I will be keen to activate our option should he perform as well as I hope he does. Should we have been in a position financially to do so, I probably would have been announcing this as a permanent signing but alas!

Our one and only permanent signing of the window came following the departure of Anthony Rouault after a few weeks of intensive scouting to find the right option. One thing I identified was the lack of attacking midfield options we had outside of Branco van den Boomen and I wanted to rectify this with a young talent to ensure we had a long-term successor to the Dutchman. My search was narrowed down to FC Nordsjaelland's Leo Walta. Walta, a Finnish U21 international alongside Naatan Skyttä, completed a £775,000 move from the Danish side and subsequently departed the club on loan until the end of the season to enable him to access regular first-team opportunities with La Chateauroux - who were recently promoted to Ligue 2. My staff are particularly excited about him and I can see why. He possess excellent technical attributes on the ball and should be able to expand upon the rest of his game, which isn't to be sniffed at either, with regular game-time. 

Finally, we made a Deadline Day addition to bolster our ranks with Armando Obispo accepting a loan move from PSV Eindhoven. Capable of playing as both a central-defender and DM, Obispo continued his breakthrough into the PSV first-team with ten appearances last campaign averaging a promising 7.02 rating. The most pleasing aspect of this deal was its cost. The Dutch defender is only on a £3,400 p/w contract in Eindhoven and we will contribute £2,700 p/w of this until the end of the season. 

However, whilst this was the final addition, it isn't the last piece of business I need to discuss with you. Prior to the club returning for pre-season, we completed a deal to retain Batista Mendy for another season from Angers SCO. I need not explain any further about his ability given that I explained this in the previous post but I am absolutely delighted to have him for another season and he will continue to serve as the ever-reliable anchor I have referred to throughout this post. I'm sure those who have followed this thread so far (and thank you to all those that do!) will be as pleased as I am.

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A mixed-bag of results during pre-season

I never give too much focus to the results in pre-season. They're merely there to help players gain match sharpness for the season ahead and bed in new arrivals who need to familiarise themselves with the existing system we use. However, the results can be viewed above. I can confirm that we will be entrusting the same system as last season - at least initially. If any changes need to be made, we will make them, however at this moment in time I don't see why we can't trust a system that brought us a great deal of success, including a victory over FC Nantes, last season. The only real talking point from a results perspective in pre-season was Christophe Huet who is eligible to sign a professional deal on his sixteenth birthday (15th September) scoring in a 4-1 victory against FC Dordecht.

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We will continue to play with the system we deployed last campaign.

With that addressed, the next post will address the beginning of our Ligue 1 return. Our season opener is a home tie against RC Strasbourg before we travel to Angers SCO. The fixture computer has been somewhat kind to us in the first-half of the season (with the Qatar World Cup providing a short break in November/December) by spacing out some of the trickier games. There is somewhat of an exception to that at the end of this month however with games against OGC Nice and AS Monaco to cap-off August. I'm looking forward to the challenge ahead. Allez!

 

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Interesting that you've gone with the 4-1-3-2. I'm not sure if it's something about league but I found it to a successful system for France. Do you push the fullbacks further forward at all? Given they are the only width, I'm a little surprised you've gone with FB(S) - although it's clearly working for you!

Lovely to see Franck Tabanou's name again. I had him in his first spell at Toulouse, way back on FM12 and he was an absolute phenomenon bombing up and down that left flank 

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Great breakdown, and Walta looks class.  As much as I love having a solid transfer budget, there is something really fun (and rewarding) in working with much less and seeing what you can do with it!

Curious to see how your attacking 4-1-3-2 does in Ligue 1. The shape is compact and the roles fairly conservative so even with the mentality you should well.

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On 10/01/2022 at 10:13, Shrewnaldo said:

Interesting that you've gone with the 4-1-3-2. I'm not sure if it's something about league but I found it to a successful system for France. Do you push the fullbacks further forward at all? Given they are the only width, I'm a little surprised you've gone with FB(S) - although it's clearly working for you!

Lovely to see Franck Tabanou's name again. I had him in his first spell at Toulouse, way back on FM12 and he was an absolute phenomenon bombing up and down that left flank 

I was somewhat... reluctant? I'm not too sure if that's the correct word to use, to use it at first. I am usually quite consistent with my tactics, I like to cater to a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, for example, so this is a little bit different. I'm very pleased with the results it brought in season one. Not only were results pleasing, I thought the performances were consistently excellent. In that case, it seemed pretty common sense to apply the well-known catchphrase "don't fix what isn't broken!" 

The full-backs typically remain as FB(S) but they can be brought forward when required, typically in games I feel we are playing well in and looking for a goal. It's risk and reward doing that but I found that I tend to get more reward - whether that happens to be the case in Ligue 1, we shall find out. Even on the support duty, I find that they provide adequate width. They tend to get forward and supply balls into the box etc. at, again, an adequate level. :)

It was a shame that Tabanou's final season never truly worked out although Diarra proved to be somewhat of a revelation so every cloud. I remember Tabanou at Toulouse myself, I'm glad we managed to provide a little bit of nostalgia for you!

On 10/01/2022 at 14:54, karanhsingh said:

Some good transfers there and I like the rationale behind them. Best of luck for the coming season. 

Btw I might just be joining you in France:cool:

Much appreciated mate! 

Glad to have you on board the French crusade. :cool: The more, the merrier. 

On 10/01/2022 at 17:20, 13th Man said:

Great breakdown, and Walta looks class.  As much as I love having a solid transfer budget, there is something really fun (and rewarding) in working with much less and seeing what you can do with it!

Curious to see how your attacking 4-1-3-2 does in Ligue 1. The shape is compact and the roles fairly conservative so even with the mentality you should well.

Cheers mate. Walta does, indeed, look an excellent player if I say so myself. I certainly agree about there being a greater reward managing a side with a smaller budget. Any success you achieve seems to have that greater level of satisfaction. 

I think there's a careful balance to the system and that should (hopefully!) have us in good stead for a no doubt tough season ahead.

On 10/01/2022 at 20:50, SixPointer said:

4132 is a system I have failed to get working properly at any time I’ve tried it. But I like your balance to the roles and duties. Gearing up for an exciting return to Ligue1

As I mentioned above, I've never deployed a 4-1-3-2 before but if it delivers results and performances like it has for me here, I'm more than happy to give it a go elsewhere in other saves! 

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To Win Or Toulouse

August/September 2022

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A new season warrants a slight switch-up in style. I will instead bring updates like this (bar the next, ironically, as a result of the Qatar World Cup enforced break) rather than the monthly recaps that I presented in season one. The reason is pretty simple, I just felt that there was often a bit too much filler and waffling so I hope to cut this out by adopting a more common approach used on this forum with bi-monthly posts.

With that said, you will see that we have enjoyed quite the start to life (back) in Ligue 1. It began with a 3-0 victory against RC Strasbourg - a side who impressed last term as they finished narrowly outside the European places. A large contributor to their success were the reliable source of goals from Ludovic Ajorque and Habib Diallo but the latter left the club in the summer to join Celtic for £5,000,000. They seemed to lack any creativity going forward and looked notably frail at that back which allowed Arnaud Kalimuendo to open the scoring before Branco van den Boomen would double our lead after an hour. Kalimuendo would seal his debut with a brace as he netted again in stoppage-time to seal a perfect return to top-flight football.

We would then travel to Angers SCO with spirits high and we played in a similar vein to how we did a week prior. It was an action-packed first-half as van den Boomen gave us the lead prior to Rhys Healey opening his account for the season. Angers would bring themselves back into the game as they pulled one back after 33 minutes but we would soon regain a two goal cushion through Kalimuendo's strike and claim a 3-1 win.

After two impressive victories, OGC Nice were welcomed to the Stade de Toulouse and frustrated to excellent effect. The visitors were the better side but were unable to break through a resolute defence. Nice won a late penalty two minutes from time but the usually reliable Andy Delort failed to convert and his team had to settle for a 0-0 draw. It was very much a case of Déjà vu as we travelled to AS Monaco who are very much on their way to regaining their status as one of the challengers to Paris Saint-Germain. Nevertheless, Monaco too had to settle for a 0-0 draw. The hosts amassed twenty-one shots but only six of them were on target, resulting in an xG of 1.79. The biggest talking-point of the game centred around Krépin Diatta as VAR overturned his goal in the first-half for offside. An excellent defensive performance that rightfully merited a third clean-sheet from our opening four games.

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The class of the opposition shown but we had enough to keep clean-sheets against both Nice and Monaco.

There was some disappointing news ahead of our trip to Monaco as it was revealed that Rhys Healey would be absent for just over a month with a torn groin muscle which he sustained during training. This presented Rafael Ratao with his first start of the season. 

Whilst Ratao wasn't given much opportunity to have an impact on the game, he would certainly deliver in the first game of September following a two-week break for international duty. Just over fifteen minutes from time, the Brazilian was on the end of Branco van den Boomen's corner to give us the lead against FC Nantes. It appeared we were headed for our third victory of the season until Moses Simon cruelly denied us in the latter stages of the game. RC Lens also claimed a point from us, arguably against the run of play. Wesley Said gave them the lead before we levelled from the spot ahead of half-time through Stijn Spierings. The second-half saw a barrage of Toulouse attacks but we were unable to convert. Lens' escaping with a point despite us boasting an xG of 3.50 was disappointing to say the very least.

However, not to be deterred, we responded to end the month on a high. A 1-0 victory against Stade Rennes marked a return to winning ways. Arnaud Kalimuendo scored the decisive goal of the game just after the hour mark in a game where Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé's lyrics of "what goes around, comes around" would be an accurate description of the ninety minutes. The visitors left with nothing to show for their 2.02 xG compared to our own xG of 0.68. The beauty of football, eh?

A 3-1 victory against Montpellier HSC was the perfect way to cap-off an excellent couple of months as we further extended our unbeaten start. There was one particular positive from this game that would also result in history being made. Montpellier took an early lead through Solo Bidanessy after just three minutes in a dismal start to the game. Arnaud Kalimuendo equalised in the second-half before history was, indeed, made. Christophe Huet made his way onto the pitch (replacing Rafael Ratao as our supporting striker) for the very first time after signing a professional deal on his sixteenth birthday just ten days prior with half an hour to go. He would make an immediate impact. The sixteen-year-old jinked his way through and netted to become the youngest ever Ligue 1 goalscorer, breaking the existing record set by Laurent Roussey over forty years prior.

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Huet the History-Maker.

The game was wrapped-up by another substitute, Denis-Wil Poha, converting six minutes from time to seal all three points on what was an emotional day for young Christophe Huet. I was excited about him the very day he came through our intake. It seems I had every right to be. He's still growing as a player and I know there was a bit of discussion about what his best role would be at the time. I can confirm, at present, he will continue to play as the supporting striker in our system (either as a PF or DLF.)

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Consequently, the table looks like this heading into October. It has been a miraculous start to the season from our point of view as we find ourselves in fourth. We also remain unbeaten despite having played some excellent sides in the likes of Nice, Monaco and Rennes. Our early success can largely be attributed to our defence with only Lyon have conceded fewer goals than our tally of four. Arnaud Kalimuendo has been impressive, particularly in the absence of Rhys Healey, too. However, it has been a collective performance once again from the boys. They are, similarly to last season, all performing excellently and this is reflected in the average ratings.

It should come as no surprise that Paris Saint-Germain lead the way having yet to drop a single point in their opening eight games. Lyon trail them by three points whilst Nice round-off the three teams ahead of us. Towards the bottom, it has been a dismal start for Troyes as they have yet to record a single point. They are the lowest scorers and also happen to have conceded the most goals in the division, statistics that don't particularly bode well for them at this early stage of the season. Bordeaux have also started poorly with seven defeats from their opening eight games. Nîmes Olympique, who accompanied us into Ligue 1, and Reims round-off the bottom four.

October, on paper, looks promising. We are tasked with home groups against Stade Brest and Bordeaux either side of a trip to Saint-Etienne where we have a fantastic opportunity of amassing maximum points from the two games. We then travel to lowly Troyes where we have to be targeting three points again. The month concludes with the hosting of Lyon prior to a lengthy break to the domestic season for the beginning of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. As a result, there are no games scheduled for November and we do not play in the league until January with only a Coupe de France game to be played in December with our opponents yet to be known.

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Edited by DefinitelyTaylor
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Fantastic start! Very cool to have a youngster break the youngest goal scoring record. The future is bright as it seems like your successes are built on solid defensive work. You’re not lighting the league on fire in attack, but you’re not struggling there either, so the season looks promising!

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14 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Nice start! Did Huet come through the ranks last season?

He did, yes. He was one of the star players in our youth intake. :)  

14 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Fantastic start! Very cool to have a youngster break the youngest goal scoring record. The future is bright as it seems like your successes are built on solid defensive work. You’re not lighting the league on fire in attack, but you’re not struggling there either, so the season looks promising!

Absolutely! Interestingly, my systems usually favour a more attacking approach that sees plenty of goals with more focus on the attacking aspects. However, the system adopted here is more conservative even with the attacking mentality. I’m delighted with the defensive solidity we have maintained so far. 

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On 19/01/2022 at 04:00, karanhsingh said:

Nice he looks good, would probably make a better AMC though if you play one. 

There was a lot of debate about where suits him best. We’re going to try and work that one out. I don’t play a number ten in the current system which makes it a bit more difficult, VdB operates as an AP from a deeper position. It’s something to consider going forward but he’s started well as the supporting striker. 

On 19/01/2022 at 13:21, Raz Van Rat said:

Love the way you've written these posts. Makes it very easy to read and get invested in.

Glad to see your second season is going well, hopefully you can stay up!

High praise mate, much appreciated! We’re certainly onto a good start which has increased our hopes of survival ten-fold.

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8 hours ago, DefinitelyTaylor said:

There was a lot of debate about where suits him best. We’re going to try and work that one out. I don’t play a number ten in the current system which makes it a bit more difficult, VdB operates as an AP from a deeper position. It’s something to consider going forward but he’s started well as the supporting striker. 

High praise mate, much appreciated! We’re certainly onto a good start which has increased our hopes of survival ten-fold.

Fair enough hope he continues as his debut was for you!

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