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[FM22] "Despertando a Los Blanquiazules" Season 3 - Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña


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Posted (edited)

New poster - be gentle.  My love affair with FM began with FM 2006 in an oft remembered Norwich campaign with @andychar via Hamachi.  After skipping 19, 20 and 21, I've really fallen back in love with the game in FM22 and it felt like the right time to share my experiences.

I'm a Liverpool supporter born and raised in Mansfield, and I absolutely support my local team (on the side... just not pitch-side at £20+ a ticket)... But since the European campaigns of the early 2000's, with games still aired on ITV or Channel 5, I've been an admirer of Coruña... Pandiani, Scaloni, Romero, Andrade, Valeron, Makaay, Tristan... A joy to watch and a team I've always watched out for... but these days, with the team in the depths of the Spanish leagues, even finding scores or team news is a challenge.

It's time to revive a sleeping giant.  My ambitions for this save are to;

  1. Re-establish Coruña's reputation.
  2. Maintain a Spanish core in the squad.
  3. Develop an academy product and see them capped for Spain.
  4. Win La Liga.
  5. Win the UEFA Champions League.

So without any further delay... I bring this save to you at the beginning of the 5th season, which is admittedly very late in the day... The first 4 seasons will be very much a re-telling of the story so far.  

Edited by SinlessCity
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Despertando a Los Blanquiazules 
Awakening the Blue and Whites

 

Prequel:

Our story begins in the summer of 2021.  

After relegation to Segunda Divison B - the third tier of Spanish football - for the first time in almost 40 years, Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña failed to secure an immediate return to Segunda Division.  A club on it's knees, clinging desperately to past success, Los Blanquiazules were on the precipice of relative obscurity and in a battle to remain relevant.  But how did it come to this?

The clubs' last victory in La Liga was over 20 years ago, but felt like so much longer given the gulf of talent between the current crop of players and legends of the past.  Los Herculinos struggled to cement their success after ascending to the summit of Spanish football, but fans still remember their day with destiny in the UEFA Champions League.  As Walter Pandiani gave Coruna a 1-0 lead at the Gieuseppe Meazza, nobody predicted an eventual 4-1 defeat to Milan... But back at Riazor, as Albert Luque made it 3-0 on the stroke of half time, the fans could dream once more, before scenes erupted with Fran's eventual winner in the second half. 
But alas, it wasn't to be.  A disappointing 1-0 aggregate defeat against eventual winners Porto - managed by upcoming manager Jose Mourinho - marked the beginning of the end for Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña.

After a spate of mid table finishes, in 2010/11 Coruña dropped out of the top flight in their 40th season at the top of the Spanish pyramid.  And thus began a period of "yo-yo"ing through the divisions.  Although they secured an immediate return in 2011/12, they were hit with immediate relegation at the end of 2012/13.  Another promotion came in 2013/14 as the club started to see shoots of recovery, with a 4 season spell back at the top table of Spanish football, only for another relegation in 2017/18.  Unfortunately this time there was to be no return to the top, and after a 6th placed finish in 2018/19, Los Blanquiazules would suffer from the global pandemic in more ways than one, with their eventual relegation to the third tier in 2019/20.  Unable to play their final game of the season against Fuenlabrada due to a COVID outbreak, Coruña were relegated on the last day of the season... by the third bracket of positional separation in the divisions rules.  Level on points (51) and head-to-head points (3-3) with Ponferradina, they would be relegated on head-to-head goal difference (3-2).  Another dark day at Riazor, but a richly deserved relegation after a 19 game winless run early in the season. Not even a 7 game winning sequence mid-season could revive their fortunes as their place in the third tier of Spanish football was confirmed.

Which brings us back to the present day.  June 2021.  A Coruña native Ruben de la Barrera couldn't bring the team out of the doldrums during his half season in charge and it was time for a change.  With the clubs top scorer for the season - Miku - managing only 7 goals, the fans would lament their form in front of goal, longing for another Roy Makaay, another Diego Tristan, to lead the line and drive the team to glory once more.  But they knew it needed so much more than goals - this club needed to start again.

Taking something of a gamble, club President Antonio Couceiro made the controversial decision to sack de la Barrera and appoint an unknown - and somewhat untested - manager from the UK.  Fresh ideas, fresh perspective and the dawning of a new day.  Enter Scott Carver, the man from Mansfield (England), in his first role in football.

1 July 2021 and the beginning of a new chapter as Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña took what they hoped to be their first step on the road to redemption.

Edited by SinlessCity
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This is too funny - I have been managing Deportivo for 3 seasons now on FM22, securing direct promotion to second division on the first year and a second promotion to La Liga on the second year by ending 3rd and beating our rivals on the playoffs. The key really has been some really lucky signings and loans, loans, loans. On my third season with them, just passed the half-season mark, I am 14th on the table, 7 points clear of relegation and with one game less than some of my rivals. I am not sure how player performances translate from one save to another, but for me the key to all this success has been a player I signed for free on my first season; Facundo Ferreyra. If you go by his attributes, you probably won't be too impressed but if you look at his stats over the last 3 seasons... this guy has scored 78 goals in 3 seasons for me - 50 in 3rd division, 24 in second division, and unfortunately just 4 so far on first division haha. 

Good luck with Deportivo, I will follow your journey. 

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Edited by Hen123
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Many thanks for your kind words, @Javier
I can see some clear parallels in our experiences, @Hen123 and I'd love to hear more of how you managed back-to-back promotions!  I've found that free agents and pre-contract deals have been pivotal in my own journey.
Now, to the matter at hand... I think I'm going to lay this out in first person narrative - if it doesn't work, I'll come back and rehash.

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HERE WE GO!

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Fresh from the board room, the Chairman had made his expectations pretty clear to me.  He expected his team to reach the La Liga 2 playoffs by the end of my 4th season.  I was alright with that, it felt realistic.  We'll ignore my contract expiring part way into that ambition, but It wasn't until we got into the weeds that the magnitude of the task started to reveal itself.

In full, the Board expected the following goals to be achieved during my first season in charge:

Promotion by winning the league. [required].  Can't argue there, I'll gladly resign if I don't make it out of this league at the first attempt.

Sign players under the age of 23 for the first team [favoured].   OK, I can definitely work with that., Coruna have a decent youth setup which will help with development.

Do not sign players over the age of 30 [favoured].   I'm cool with that, I want to build for the future, afterall...!

Sign players to sell for a profit [preferred].  Mm, maybe... Depends on the player... I don't want to lose the really good ones!

Transfer budget £1.5m.  Now we're ta-- wait, isn't that a bit low for a club of our size?

Work within wage budget of £98k [required].  And we're already over budget?  Marvelous, there goes part of my transfer budget...

It wasn't until Antonio pulled a document from his desk and directed my attention to the number in red that the depths of Coruna's troubles revealed themselves.  This was a club with money issues, serious money issues.  A small, insignificant, barely noticeable, easily overcome matter of £31m in the red. And then the expectations made sense.  We were hemorrhaging cash and desperately needed to stem the flow.

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I needed to become a wheeler dealer in the short term. A conveyer belt for talent, a feeder club to the big boys... And even if I pulled it off, only 35% of sales would be returned to the transfer budget until the club made £43m.  That's how bad it was.  This club needed to get back to the big time and to the riches of La Liga... if for no other reason than to reclaim a slice of the TV rights pie.  I was ready for that challenge.

All said and done... I could work with this.  This wasn't an insurmountable task, right?  It might need some good fortune, but I still felt confident I could get this club out of the third tier.

Then came the team and meeting my squad...

I was determined to imprint my philosophy - my ethos - on this squad of players and get them to play football in the mold of Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, with a couple of tweaks to make it my own... but I wanted to make this squad mine.  My players, playing my way...  After a couple of hours drawing up on our tactical whiteboard, I spoke with my assistant, Alex Martinez, and he made his recommendations for who would suit my style of play.

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A decent bunch.  Nothing more, nothing less.  This squad was clearly too good to be in the third tier, that much was certain, even the media were predicting a 1st placed finish.  But although I had confidence I could make it happen, I needed to impress my own mark on this squad and start preparing for the seasons to come.  This foundation would be the basis of my (intended) success. 

As the transfer window opened, it was time to make some difficult decisions and give myself the best possible chance of promotion...

 

Stay tuned for 1.2, as we enter the Summer transfer window and find out how Los Blanquiazules fared in the first half of the 21/22 season.

 

Edited by SinlessCity
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@SinlessCity  this is such a deja vu, reliving the beginnings of my own save! So interesting too how you are presenting it. If you are ever curious about how I went about it let me know!

Buena suerte!

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Thanks @karanhsingh!  It may be a while until we see them back in the big time, but those European seasons were some of my favourites.  Some particularly memorable ties against United in there, too!
It's one of the most beautiful things about FM, @Hen123, how we all tackle things in different ways!  I'll drop you a DM once I've caught up.  I've got another 3 and a bit seasons to get through to be up to date.  Doing it retrospectively is hard! :D
Thanks @TelcontarTargaryen, I'm hoping to be a disruptor!  Thankfully Barca have bigger money troubles than Depor do now, so might make it easier!

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TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY!

After a couple of weeks of scouting - clearly showing an abundance of faith in my somewhat underwhelming scouting team - I made the first signings and sales of my tenure....

Whilst being conscious of the future, the £1.5m budget was used sparingly, without bringing even more financial trepidation to the club.  It felt like the right thing to do, and my instincts told me that the owners would appreciate it... But only if we made it out of the division...

A modest window with a couple of signings, and mainly loan outgoings to free up the wage bill and gain some valuable experience.

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  My spending started with Aitor Manas, the somewhat untested 18 year old striker from Real Madrid's youth system intended to give backup to Miku and Quiles.  This was definitely one for the future, where even if it failed, he would hopefully fulfill the "sell for a profit" obligation hanging over my head. Although somewhat ordinary looking, but potentially quite pacey, my scouts seemed to think something of him and £135k felt a fair price for what was likely to be a risk.

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Before the ink on Manas' contract had dried, I'd moved on to a more certain starter to play across any one of our forward positions, the slightly more experienced Matheus PereiraBarcelona B picked up the Brazilian for £7m in 2019 and must have had high hopes of him progressing to the senior squad... but after only 2 goals in 24 appearances, Barcelona were prepared to move him on.  An absolute bargain at £250k for a 23 year old with plenty of miles left on the clock and a point to prove.
I'd got my main target and - whilst he wasn't the quickest, or the most hardworking - he had the passing and the vision that I needed.  This would be the player to drive me into La Liga 2.  Or so I hoped.

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As the window moved closer to deadline day, I ummed and ahh'd over whether to make further reinforcements.  On paper, my squad was good enough.  More than good enough, but I felt like something was missing.  I needed a hard working ball-winning midfielder to marshal the troops, but my two best options - experienced defensive midfielder Borja Granero and club captain Alex Bergantinos - were the wrong side of 30... So when presented with the opportunity to sign Jamie Allen from Coventry for a knocked-down price of £30k... I couldn't resist.  At 26 he was young enough to grow into a key player, and cheap enough to maybe one day turn a profit.  His work rate sealed the deal.  Tick, tick, tick.

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That left one potential gap in my squad.  My goalkeeper - with the most un-Spanish name of all time - Ian Mackay was a solid option between the sticks... But at 34 he was never going to be a long term option.  In my hours of speaking to Agents in a search for free transfers, I happened across the somewhat eccentric Ali Ahamada who really caught my eye.  Having most recently played for Brann in the Norwegian Eliteserien, he had been released and was without a club.  As my system needed a Sweeper Keeper to be effective, I was convinced I wouldn't get better value than Ali.  I was a little nervous he'd be the kind to give away ridiculous penalties, or drop the occasional Loris Karius-esque clanger... but whilst he would be a gamble, I had a feeling he would be an easy one to turn a profit if it didn't work out.  No fee, no risk, right?

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PRE-SEASON

Pre-season was spent mostly evaluating the squad, testing out a few different variations of our 4-3-3 Gegenpress formation, and the results represented exactly that.  A mixed bag.  Nothing spectacular. 

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We started out dreadfully with a disappointing reality check against Oviedo, humbled in an immensely one sided 3-0 defeat, before bouncing back with a win against Dutch middle-tablers NAC Breda and securing a satisfying penalty shootout victory against English Football League One mainstays Bolton Wanderers. The joy of victory was promptly quashed with a somewhat expected home defeat against La Liga regulars Sporting Gijon as we paid tribute to one of our longest serving players. 

Alex Bergantinos is the very definition of a one-club man. Through thick and thin, until the bitter end.  He'd been with the club since 2003/04 and gradually rose through the ranks of the Coruna B team, before spending a number of consecutive seasons on loan at Xerez and TarragonaAlex finally made his first team breakthrough in 2011 with Coruna sitting in La Liga 2 and had been with the team through relegation to the third tier.  I was so happy for us to celebrate an incredible servant and captain... his age concerned me though...  I would be looking at 1 or 2 seasons more from Alex, at most.

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Next up was an uneventful stalemate with French side US Avranches followed by a thumping of semi-professional Spanish minnows Negreira to round off our pre-season and build confidence for the first game of the season.

AND THEY'RE OFF

The season began with a fairly generous home tie against Racing Santander which gave us an opportunity to truly gauge our progress during pre-season.  As a slight twist on my planned formation, I'd flirted with more a possession based tiki-taka style of football, but something about it just didn't feel right, so going into the first game I made a couple of changes:

Venezuelan striker Miku forced his way into my plans and claimed a starting berth at the tip of my attack, only operating as an Advanced Forward rather than a Pressing Forward.  He just didn't have the stamina at 36.
Carlos Doncel staked a claim for the left wing spot opposite new signing Matheus Pereira, both playing an Inverted Winger role, rather than the more conventional Inside Forward in a Gegenpress.
Diego Villares slotted in as a Ball Winning Midfielder alongside Pep Calavera as a Carrilero (which, I was certain I would get mixed up as I oft called him Pep Carrilero)
In a temporary role shielding the back 4 in our first game, Alex Bergantinos would play as a Defensive Midfielder.
The back four consisted of Hector Hernandez and recently restored Albert Benito at Wing Back, with Adrian Lapena and Pablo Trigueros picking up Ball Playing Defender duties in the middle.
Rounding off the team was my Spanish-Scotsman Ian Mackay learning a new role as a Sweeper Keeper.

Needless to say - it worked.... 

 

 

Kinda.

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The numbers don't lie.  The ones that matter, anyway.  Despite controlling possession, creating a hatful of chances and building up an xG over 3, the match finished in a disappointing 1-1 draw. I couldn't believe we managed to draw a game in which we had three spot kicks.  Miku missed not one, but two penalties.  A firm disbeliever in third time lucky, I gave new boy Pereira the chance to salvage a point when VAR awarded it's second (and our third) penalty kick of the game... and thankfully he delivered.

It wasn't the winning start I'd been dreaming about since signing for the club, but it wasn't a defeat.  Despite the disappointment - and the injury to left-winger Carlos Doncel, we would go again.  And go again we did.

 

Join us in 1.3 for Sep-December results as the season gets underway...

Edited by SinlessCity
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MELLA THE RECORD BREAKER AS CORUNA HIT FORM
September Results

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In the second match of the season Jamie Allen saw his first action for Coruna in a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Irun, with experienced striker Miku shaking his demons from the Santander game to score from the spot. 
Our next fixture against Athletic Bilbao B proved to be a tighter affair with a 2-1 victory by the finest of margins, a 95th minute winner in a game that also saw promising youngster David Mella make his debut. 

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A huge moment for Mella a week later as I gave him his full debut against Zamora in a game that would end in a disappointing 1-0 defeat against 10 men - a match where I questioned the desire of my players.
To round off the month, thankfully my strong words provoked a reaction as Tudelano were put to the sword in a 3-0 rout during which they couldn't muster a single shot on target.

Spoiler

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I was always keen to bring through players from the youth set up, more-so given the financial challenges surrounding the club, but I could see there was something special about David.  A local boy from Santiago de Compostela in A Coruna, I had high hopes he would bring some Galician passion to my ranks in the years to come, perhaps even becoming an icon to inspire future generations.  Lofty ambitions for a player only 16 years of age.

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"CORUNA ARE IN THEIR GROOVE"
October Results

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October saw my team climb to the summit of the division as the relentless press, the 100mph football and quality of players available started to show.  We started to really hit form and didn't the commentators know it.  Coruna are in their groove becoming something of a strapline to our games.

Miku notched up his 4th and 5th goals of the season with back to back penalties in a 3-0 drubbing of Logrones and an equally comfortable 2-0 win over Badajoz at the rapidly emerging fortress Riazor.
Matheus Pereira continued his good form with another goal against Unionistas in a deserved third 3-0 victory of the season.
In the penultimate match of month, Allen weighed in with the goals, none more impressive than the 25 yard piledriver in the 3-0 win over Calahorra after only 3 minutes.

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Right on the postage stamp and a goal for the scrapbook!  I think he might have enjoyed that one!

The spine of my team was starting to really take shape.  The players were working hard for me and their performances were regularly clocking in-and-around the 7s, with goals coming from all areas of the pitch. 

Spoiler

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The month rounded off with a dominant 2-0 win over Valladolid B that saw a string of excellent performances across the team.  Even with makeshift full-backs, with Alberto Benito filling in at LWB for the injury prone Hector Hernandez and Mario Soriano playing at RWB for the first time, we still asserted our authority and rarely looked troubled.

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SANSE-ING A TITLE WIN
November Results

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The in-form Pep Carrilero Calavera got in on the goal-scoring act for the 4th time of the season in a 2-0 away victory over Extremadura, but would unfortunately come off with an injury that would sideline him for a couple of games.
The 7-game winning sequence ended in frustrating fashion at Riazor with a 0-0 against mid-table also-rans Leonesa.
With the team seemingly running out of steam in the run up to year end - spurning 15 chances against Sanse - a third assist from returning wing-back Hernandez saw Pereira secure a 1-0 victory.

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Hernandez played a quick one-two with Doncel to beat his man and curled a wicked cross to the back-post.  Peeling away from his marker was Pereira who powered a rare header into the top corner, beyond the reach of De Andres

Bringing the month to a close was yet another assist from Hernandez in a MOTM performance during the 1-0 win over Talavera, setting up Miku for his 8th of the season.

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Despite his shortage of pace in his advancing years, The somewhat technical Venezuelan had already found his way to more league goals (8) then he had managed in the 2020/21 campaign (7)

Our performance in front of goal was getting us through games.  We would often dominate, rarely give away chances and conceding was something of a novelty.  I was happy with the way our was shaping up as we moved into the final few games of the year.

Spoiler

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A SENSATION AT SIXTEEN
December Results

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As the end of the year approached I started to bear the burdens of being a professional football manager.  Life was good, Coruna were on form, the squad were all happy.  Well, almost all happy.  A couple of players were starting to get restless about their playing time.  Juan Carlos Menudo the experienced AM, Yago Gandoy the tough-tackling DM, Diego Aguirre the left-sided utility man, (now) peripheral striker Alberto Quiles and recently signed sweeper-keeper Ali Ahamada were desperate for more playing time.  They were good lads, all of them, I just had better options that were in form.  If it's not broken, why fix it?  But, with Juan Carlos and Diego in the core social group, I couldn't risk disrupting the harmony in the ranks.

Miku suffered a relapse and missed another penalty before the dependable Joe Allen secured a 1-0 win away at relegation threatened DUX Inter with a powerful header from a Pereira corner.
In response to his call for playing time, Menudo was given a starting berth up top and rewarded my faith with a brace in the 4-1 drubbing of S.D.Logrones.  A game that also saw David Mella score his first senior goal.
Then came the turn of Diego Aguirre to play his part, drifting in a cross to David Mella to score a late, late goal in the 1-0 cup tie win against Second Division side Vallodolid.

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Aguirre drifted a cross into the box and found David Mella timing a perfect run to slot a cool finish low to the bottom corner, giving the keeper no chance.

Final game of the calendar year finished in a somewhat lackluster showing, with only 2 shots on target in a 0-0 draw with promotion rivals Ferrol.

Spoiler

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All said and done... I had little to complain about.  My team were sitting comfortably at the top of the table after 13 wins and only 1 defeat from the first 17 games. 

If I was being picky - we could have scored more goals and truly compounded our dominance. One of my main challenges going into the winter break was squad harmony.  I had a lot of players desperate to play and I either had better players, in better form, or just had too many options for the positions available.  I was a nice guy - or so I thought - and I didn't want to upset anyone... But football is a results business and that had to come first.  As the players left for the break, I started preparing my plans for the January transfer window.

Join us in 1.4 for the January transfer window and Jan-March fixtures, including clashes with promotion rivals Badajoz, Extremadura and R. Santander

Edited by SinlessCity
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Thanks @TheGoodRebel.  Easily done, sometimes I forget what I've written myself :D  The press would often describe my tactics as Tiki Taka, but I think they leaned more towards Gegenpress.  It was pretty fluid in the first half of the season and at times it definitely swung between the two, but by mid-season I'd steered it more towards a press.  I only had one formation on the go though!! :D 

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January came with little to no event by way of transfers.  A couple of teams from the Second Division were beginning to show interest in summer signing Matheus Pereira, so I'd need to think about improving his terms in the summer to stave off any would be suitors.  After a couple of administrative errors (yes, that sounds good!) with the squad registration in August, desperate measures needed to be taken to prevent the disharmony breaking out.  A groveling, heartfelt apology to Diego Villares and Rafa de Vicente followed and all was well in the camp once more.  The problem was that they weren't in my long term plans for the club, I had my eyes on other players for the future.  With us sitting in the lower leagues I would have the chance to blood a group of players on my way up, who would hopefully become my new-age mainstays.

At the start of the transfer window I took another gamble on the recommendation of my scouts.  The young Spaniard Aitor Manas had barely featured and didn't look all that impressive in training, so obviously the right thing to do was try another youthful forward option.  In came another product of Barcelona B in the form of the 21 year old Forward Peque Polo.  Once more fitting the bill of young, decent potential and a chance to make a return, the £200k fee felt like a reasonable gamble.  He was quick and could finish, but there was clearly room to improve.

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Secondly came another option in the middle of the park.  I needed more options in the middle with both Bergantinos and Granero in the latter parts of their career, but wanted the luxury of a 'try before you buy' for such an important role in the team.  My scouts had taken a keen interest in some of the talent at Real Madrid and at a further glance at their squad, I liked the look of Antonio Blanco, a midfielder that could play BWM, Carrilero or a more conventional CM, which would give me so many more options.  Unfortunately, Madrid neither wanted to sell or loan him out.   Even if they did, he would command a fee upwards of £8m and his wages would take up 15% of my wage budget...  Perhaps one for the future.

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Once again placing faith in my scouts (who, all had no more than 11s for judging CA/PA, I'll add) had identified one of Blanco's teammates, Ivan Morante, as a suitable option for my midfield.  His numbers were okay for this level, but with underwhelming passing and tackling, he wouldn't really suit the DLP or BWM role in my team.  For that reason I started talks for a short term loan deal as a 'try before you buy'.

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A BADAJOZ ENDING TO THE CUP RUN
January Results

As the winter break came to an end and the players returned, thankfully everyone was in good health and raring to go in the second half of the season.  No rest for the wicked as January would feature no less than 6 competitive fixtures.

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After our convincing 2-0 victory against title rivals Badajoz in October they found their opportunity to exact revenge, comfortably beating us 3-1 in the Spanish Cup second round with a helping hand from Hernandez having a shocker at LWB.  We were always in the game and the late goal from Santamaria perhaps made it look worse than it actually was.  We didn't create enough chances, owing much to the changed midfield, but balancing happiness was still important at this stage.

Spoiler

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A glimmer of hope in the match as Miku slotted a through ball to the on-rushing David Mella to power a first time effort beyond the goalkeeper to make it 2-1.

With the cup run over it was back to league action with a controlled 2-0 victory away at Majahonda, a victory made all the easier for a quickfire pair of yellow cards for midfielder Bernal in the first half.
Unable to start a new winning streak, and with a much changed midfield, we limped to a frustrating 1-1 draw with the Vigo B, the second team of our bitter rivals Celta.
Despite a beautiful curling effort from on form wing-man Pereira in the first half, we ended up with another 1-1 draw, this time against Racing Santander.

Spoiler

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In an expected return to winning ways, an early penalty from Miku inspired the team to a 3-0 pounding of relegation threatened Real Irun in a game with 6 changes to the XI including a De Vicente-Villares pairing in midfield.
The reverse fixture with A. Bilbao B rounded off January with yet another draw, this time a 0-0 stalemate.  The decision to play Juan Carlos Menudo drawing fire for his inability to convert a few golden chances.

Spoiler

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As the transfer window came to a close at the end of the month, I decided to take Ivan Morante on loan instead of dropping the huge fee Real Madrid would want for him.  A loan felt like a safe bet and if he fitted in he would be a good candidate to fill one of my 3 midfield positions in our first season in the Second Division.  Our only outgoing was the loan of Ivan Guerrero to Sta. Eulalia in the lower leagues of the Spanish hierarchy.

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A MAT-TRICK FROM MAGIC MAN PEREIRA 
February Results

Still juggling playing time and a few delicate personalities, I had to manage the growing discontent from Villares, De VicenteMenudo and Ahamada, so continued to rotate the squad in February.  Thankfully this time it wouldn't see us drop points and continue to build up the already impressive goal difference.

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Avenging the 1-0 defeat earlier in the season - our only defeat in the league campaign so far, Menudo repaid the faith with an early goal in the 2-0 win over Zamora, in a game which unexpectedly saw 7th choice taker Benito take a penalty (???).
As the now famous Coruna Groove returned, Matheus Pereira scored his first hattrick for the club in a 4-1 bludgeoning of Tudelano.  Despite the convincing win, my transfer window concerns came back to bite me as I gave STRIKE ONE to crazy sweeper keeper Ali Ahamada after he - completely unchallenged - gave away the opening goal.

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Ali Ahamada, a long way from home and completely uncontested, plays a ball to Granero who is immediately dispossessed. Can you guess what happens next, Sports Fans?

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Despite the temptation amidst the anger, I resisted the urge to immediately withdraw the keeper.  Because you got it... A comfortable finish into the empty net followed for Vassilakis.  I might have been a little harsh, but it annoyed me.

Restoring regular striker Miku to the forward line saw a brace for the Venezuelan in a solid 4-0 victory against Logrones.
The month ended exactly how I had hoped as we secured a double over title rivals Badajoz. Despite an early goal from nemesis Santamaria, we battled back to win 2-1 as payback for our exit in the Spanish Cup.

Spoiler

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At this point, it was looking certain that I would be taking the team up, barring a complete collapse in the final three months of the season.  I wanted to go up as division champions - anything less would be failure.

MARCHING ON TO THE TITLE
March Results

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March opened with a continuation of Pereira's scintillating form as his brace against Unionistas secured a 2-0 victory for Los Blanquiazules.  These were his 10th and 11th goals in his debut season, a terrific return.
Against my better judgement, I rotated again for the drab 1-1 draw against Calahorra. Menudo opened the scoring from the spot, before Ahamada picked up STRIKE TWO with another shocking error.

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Madrazo beats Benito easily on the left wing before running unchallenged into the box.  He strikes his effort directly at Ahamada who parries the effort tamely onto the head of Grande to convert the simplest of chances and level the match.
The sound of the disappointment amongst the home fans drowned out by nothing more than Ian Mackay's tittering on the bench alongside me.  "Told you, boss".

The wicked side of me wanted a third strike and a reason to be rid of Ahamada.  He'd let me down twice in 'easy' games and I couldn't have that kind of player in potentially relegation threatened seasons in higher divisions.  Especially from a senior pro...

I kept Ahamada in goal for a second game in a row as we romped to a three goal lead inside 20 minutes, a curling 30 yarder from Jamie Allen and a Menudo double to thank for it.  But the game with Vallodolid B finished 3-1.

You know what's coming already...

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Ali Ahamada sets himself well for Fran's powerful drive from outside of the box and makes a spectacular save to tip it around the post, a redeeming moment for the experienced Comoron!

If only.

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Of course he spilled the effort.  Not Even FM (NEFM) would be able to save him here.  Fran Rivera picks up the loose ball and squeaks it in from the narrowest of angles.
That was it for me.  STRIKE THREE.  I - perhaps prematurely - lost my confidence in Ahamada and this would be the end of his Coruna career.  I couldn't tolerate liabilities.

March concluded with a tightly contested draw with promotion rivals Extremadura as a late goal from Vargas saw the game finish 1-1.

Spoiler

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We'd performed OK in March despite rotating the squad significantly to give game time to fringe players.  Having 5 substitutes per game helped that and without that privilege I'd be upsetting even more of my players.

 

Stay tuned for 1.5 as the 2021/22 season concludes, with Super Depor on the brink of securing promotion to the second tier.

Edited by SinlessCity
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Posted (edited)

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With 8 games of the season remaining I found my thoughts drifting to next season.  I recalibrated my scouts, started dismissing targets around our current level and started looking at a better calibre of player.  Three more wins would see us achieve step one of the mission and return to the Second Division as Champions.  The end was in sight.

WOAH-OH, WE LOVE JAMIE ALLEN
Woah-oh, he's our best midfielder. Woah-oh, never gives the ball away. SU-PER-DE-POR
April Results

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April saw a few more tweaks to the first XI, with the experienced forward Miku restored to the attack alongside in-form Menudo to inspire us to a 2-1 victory at Leonesa.
The good form carried forwards into a dominant 3-1 win over Sanse, with the inspirational Jamie Allen turning in a MOTM display to complement his close range finish in the second half.
Standing on the brink of history in this new era, a Miku penalty set us on the road to victory, before a second half fightback from Talavera saw the game finish in a 2-1 defeat.  (Hello FM my old friend...)

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Miku fired a confident penalty in off of the post to make it 1-0, before Rodrigo set play-off hopefuls Talavera on the road to recovery with an acrobatic effort into the top corner, in a 2-1 defeat for Coruna.

Spoiler

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Something about this felt all too familiar, like I had been here before in a former life.  I felt a nagging de ja vu sensation and an overwhelming sense of dread.  Like a mechanical entity was conspiring against me in 1s, 0s and RNGs.
"Pull yourself together, man", I said to myself.  "This isn't a movie or some computer game - we've got a title to win!"

Much to my relief, 2nd placed Badajoz slipped to a 1-0 defeat against already relegated DUX Inter.  But Extremedura maintained pace in a tight 1-0 victory over mid-table Leonesa.

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One more win, or one more defeat for either Extremadura or Badajoz would see us seal the deal.

 

SCENES AT RIAZOR!
May Results

Back at home after our disappointing away defeat at Talavera, we had the five more opportunities to become champions.  With two of our fixtures in May played against relegated teams and one against a team fighting to stay up, the odds were stacked massively in our favour.

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And yes... We did it!

Back in front of our own fans,  Juan Carlos Menudo scored an early goal to seal our status as Champions with a 13th minute goal in our 1-0 win over DUX Inter.

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Matheus Pereira floats a cross into the path of Hernandez who finds himself in acres of space and whips a low cross in to Menudo who slams a powerful volley beyond the goalkeeper.

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Juan Carlos Menudo leads the team in passionate celebrations after his opening goal.  "SIUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU"

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I hadn't been Juan Carlos Menudo's biggest fan - but he'd well and truly earned this moment with a crucial role in our charge to the top of the league.  It was exactly what we deserved and we would celebrate this one long into the night... even if I did feel a little sorry for the three travelling DUX Inter fans who saw their team play for 54 minutes with 9 men.

A week later we celebrated again - on the pitch this time - with a resounding 5-2 humbling of S. D. Logrones who had just about avoided the drop.
The promotion bounce still inspiring the boys, we put a serious dent in Ferrol's play-off hopes with a 4-2 win, despite us being behind in the game twice.
In the penultimate game of the season we threw away a lead twice to ultimately draw 2-2 in the return fixture with Vigo B.

Spoiler

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And then to round off a long and successful campaign came an easy-as-they-come 2-0 win at home over relegated R. Majadahonda, with goals from star-man Pereira and the ever dependable Miku.

Not only was this a chance for the fans to celebrate our achievements, but a final shop window for the players we were hoping to move on, namely Aguirre, Villares, De Vicente, Jaime Sanchez and my old friend Ahamada.  Thankfully he didn't make any further gaffes and knock another few hundred thousand off of his transfer value.

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An impressive 76 goals in a season that saw us fall to only two defeats, 2021/22 had been a good season for Coruna.  This grand old club had some life in it yet!

Following our game, Extremadura were the only team from our Division to make it to the play-off finals, with Badajoz falling 2-1 to Villareal B and Ferrol missing out to Tarragona by the same score line.
At the end of the play-offs, it was confirmed that Extremadura and Castellon would be joining us in the second tier, along with 1B winners Barcelona B.

ONE STEP CLOSER
End of Season Review

Player of Season: 
Midfield general Jamie Allen picked up player of the season with an impressive 7.25 rating across his 35 appearances, weighing in with 7 goals and 3 assists.

Top Goalscorer: 
Veteran striker Miku was the top scorer at the club with no less than 19 goals to his name, a staggering 11 of those coming from the penalty spot!

Mr Assister:
Summer signing Matheus Pereira made 9 assists throughout the campaign to go with his impressive 14 goals.

Best Eleven:
No surprises as Miku, Matheus Pereira and Jamie Allen made our best XI, joined by the reliable CB duo of Pablo Trigueros and Adrian Lapena, with Ian Mackay as number one keeper.  Alberto Benito had a productive year at RB, with loan midfielder Ivan Morante having made a mark in only half a season, forming a good relationship with Pep Calavera. Injury-prone LB Hector Hernandez and moody wide man Carlos Doncel rounded off the team, perhaps harshly at the expense of Juan Carlos Menudo.

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Reflecting on the squad, I had a core of players I could trust, but a clear idea of those I didn't need - or want - at the club.  Life in the second tier wouldn't be easy and I'd be very busy in the off-season preparing myself for an altogether different task in the 2022/23 season.  I would need a new strike-force, more depth in attacking midfield and some stronger options in my backline.

And so concludes Chapter 1...

Join me in Chapter 2 as we navigate a busy summer transfer window and prepare for our new life in the Second Division!

Edited by SinlessCity
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  • SinlessCity changed the title to [FM22] "Despertando a Los Blanquiazules" Season 2 - Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña

Well done in winning the title! There’s a certain pressure in being favorites and needing promotion for financial reasons as well, so that’s a relief. 
I’ve got a soft spot for Deportivo after an ex of mine got me into them a bit and I played a very fun save with them back in 08 or 09.

 

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SECOND DIVISION... LET'S BE HAVING YOU
Setting up for the season

After a summer that seemed to whizz past, I was back in my office and ready to plot my way out of the Second Division and back to La Liga.  We'd been promoted in our first season together and with the right signings, there was nothing to stop us from doing it again.  I was confident.  My scouts had been hard at work, compiling data on my targets and seeking to engineer moves away for those players we didn't want *cough* Ali Ahamada

The board didn't budge too much on their vision from the previous season, the major change being our competition expectations.

Work towards recording a Second Division top-half finish [required].  I'm not sure you're being all that ambitious here guys, but OK, I'll take the low bar.

Sign players under the age of 23 for the first team [favoured].   I'm fine with this, we still need to bring the age of the squad down.

Sign players to sell for a profit [preferred].  Annoying... But OK, we were still in a perilous debt situation that couldn't be ignored.  Actually... We do have a goalkeeper we signed on a free...

Work within wage budget [required].  I'd accepted my budget would always be lower than other clubs... It wasn't a problem anymore.

With the season goals agreed and understood, it was time to start overhauling the squad.
 

A SUMMER REVOLUTION
July Transfers

The transfer window would prove to be my biggest test in the Coruna hot-seat.  Lots of players to move on, a budget that would need me to sell-to-buy and a need for quality in a few key areas.  Not only did I need to move some players on, but our club captain and long serving hero Alex Bergantinos made the decision to hang up his boots and retire.  I was sad to see him leave, we would miss his leadership, but the 22 appearances he made last year would have diminished further if he decided to play on.  I was pleased he could go out on a high after being there through the hardest of times.

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My intentions for the window were:

A new Striker to replace Miku who would be playing more of a bit-part role.
An AML to replace wantaway winger Carlos Doncel.
An AMR to give cover and rotation options to Matheus Pereira.
A WBL to provide competition to injury prone Hector Hernandez.
A WBR to provide competition to first-team regular Alberto Benito.  We had high hopes for Trilli long term, but he would be getting another loan this season.
A versatile CM to provide cover to main-men Jamie Allen and Pep Calavera, with Borja Granero earmarked for a peripheral role.
A CB to provide back-up to main pairing Adrian Lapena and Pablo Trigueros.
A replacement Goalkeeper if we were able to shift Ali Ahamada.

...and to loan out as many of the promising youngers in the U19 team as possible.  I had my work cut out.

INCOMINGS

A welcome bit of news to start the window as I remembered the deal I'd done towards the end of my first season in charge.  Firstly, I had secured another season of defensive midfidler Ivan Morante after an agreeing an extension with R. Madrid.  In addition, arriving from Real Hispalis was exciting young winger Juan Cruz for only £79k, who would give competition to Matheus Pereira as an Inverted Winger on the right, or even a regular winger to replace Doncel on the left.  His pace would be a huge asset to our style of play and enable some quick breakaways, it helped that he had enough of an end product with decent crossing and finishing numbers as well.

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My first new signing was a season long loan of young Irishman Ryan Johansson who could fill in it either WBR or CM.  I didn't expect him to play all that often, he would likely be a utility bench option.  He had the energy and work rate to fit our style of play and he would definitely be more suited to a defensive role.

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Next up came something of a coup as one of my main targets was wrapped up early in the month, with the purchase of Inigo Vicente from A. Bilbao for an initial £525k (rising to £625k with add-ons). Although he was a little over the target age of 23, he was a fantastic acquisition as he could play in any one of our forward three positions, but was most likely to fill the left-sided attacking position.  His value was only going to up and he looked to have the potential to grow with us on our journey to La Liga.

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Rounding off the activity in July was the signing of Dodo, the Brazilian WBL from ATM for a fee of £69k.  He was a little old for me to be completely happy, but he would bring an immediate injection of much needed quality on the left side.  His record suggested that he might have been a little bit injury prone, but I still had the option of playing Alberto Benito at either WBR or WBL if needed.

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OUTGOINGS

Having shelled out over £600k I would need to start balancing out the books.  In July, six of our youth prospects left the club on loan deals, but I also managed to pull off the greatest heist of my career so far...
The sale of eccentric sweeper keeper Ali Ahamada to Italian side Sassuolo brought in a whopping £1.4m to bolster our finances (albeit only a portion being made available for transfers), which was promptly followed by the sale of rarely used central defender Jaime Sanchez to Almeria for a modest £550k.  Almost £2m recouped from players that cost me nothing was tremendous business and was greatly received by the Chairman.

 

KEEP CALM AND DON'T PANIC BUY
August transfers and pre-season

With some of my main bits of business done early, I was eager to give the new boys some action to warm them up for the season ahead.  Walking into training I asked my assistant Alex Martinez who we were playing and where we were touring.

Blank look.

Silence.

Awkwardness.

Proverbial tumbleweed rolling past.

We had NO fixtures planned for pre-season and we would be going in to our first match of the new season on 13 August against Zaragoza.  Less than ideal preparations for an intended promotion year.  It felt like it was too late and we would have to make do with some intense training sessions over the next two weeks.

In the build up to the first match, I managed to secure loan deals for some of our promising youngsters, including a loan to A. Getxo for David Mella, our greatest hope from the academy...  but with no more time to prep it was time for our first three fixtures before the end of the transfer window.  Not much had changed in the off-season and we were still largely setting up the same way.  The major change was to our forward line as we were setting up with a Pressing Forward (and still intending to sign one).

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And we're off!

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Despite the absolute lack of any warm up matches, the season got off to a fantastic start with an encouraging 3-1 victory over ZaragozaVicente and Dodo both making their first starts alongside returning loan signing Ivan Morante. The game also saw a second half debut for Juan Cruz who created the third goal.

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Juan Cruz swings in a searching cross looking for the run of Matheus Pereira.  Carrying on his form from 21/22, Matheus volleys an effort beyond the goalkeeper who has absolutely no chance.

Then came a 0-0 with Oviedo in our first match of the season at Riazor, I could have little complaint as they created the better chances.  The step up between divisions starting to become evident.

Before the final game of August I managed to finally sign a Pressing Forward for my system in the form of Torles Knoll.  Although he would only cost £74k (£84k with add-ons) from Turkgucu Munchen, he was only prepared to sign a deal until the end of the season.  Whilst he was a bit of a gamble, a good season could perhaps convince him to stay.  His mental strength, work rate and strength convinced me that he could be the man to press and harry opposition defenders.  Whilst I hadn't scouted him enough to get a sense of his goalscoring prowess, there was enough evidence to give it a go.

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Our August fixtures rounded off with a fortunate 1-1 draw with Castellon. In a game where the possession was equal, we created the better chances and were unfortunate to go behind to a thunderous drive on 87 mins.  However, we wouldn't go down that easily and Matheus Pereira hit back within 2 minutes with a beautiful curling free kick to level the game and secure a point.  The game also saw a substitute appearance for the recently signed Knoll.

Spoiler

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I SAID... KEEP CALM AND DON'T PANIC BUY
Deadline Day

I'd managed to sign a lot of the players that I wanted, or find solutions within my squad, but then came deadline day and I found myself making some further signings.  I told myself these weren't panic buys.

The final day of transfers started with the sale of Diego Villares to Eibar for £450k.  He wanted out, I had no objections...  He would likely not be getting the game time this season, even as a rotation option.  Eibar finished 8th in the Second Division last season so arguably I was strengthening a promotion rival, but I wasn't worried...  just hoping it wouldn't come back to bite me.

First order of business was to sign a man of my own choosing to replace him as a longer term midfield option.  In came Markel Lozano for £150k from Amorebieta.  He could compete with Pep Calavera for our Carrilero position, but also provide emergency cover as a Ball Playing Defender if we were desperate.

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Next up was young Portuguese defender Denis Martins. He was far from the finished article, but at £91k the Leiria defender would provide back-up to Trigueros and Lapena.  I may have panicked a little here, as he was nowhere near my first choice, but I was struggling to sign my priority options.

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Then came a player I'd flirted with throughout the window and fought off other clubs to sign.  In came right sided wing back Joan Sastre for £200k from Mallorca.  In addition to being quick, hard working and with a decent cross on him, Joan could also play on either side, or even more advanced as an AMR.  He would compete with Alberto Benito for the WBR spot.  I expected this to be a signing that would either bring me long term success, or turn a massive profit.

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Having loaned out back-up goalkeeper Pablo Brea a few weeks prior, and also having sold previous back-up Ahamada, I needed cover for first team keeper Mackay.  Unable to sign the options that I wanted for the long term, I settled on a loan for Morten Behrens from German club Darmstadt 98.  I didn't expect him to play much, but he was more familiar with the role than Mackay and would be able to help compatriot Torles Knoll to settle at the club.

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I also brought in a complete gamble in the form of young goalkeeper Ivan Vinyals, a free signing from A. Madrileno.  He was young, he was free... and the club were furious with me for signing a player as bad as him.  Harsh!

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The window rounded off with the last minute loan signing of Nils Seufert from SpVgg Greuther Furth. I had plenty of options in the middle already, but it would give me the chance to rotate a little more, or to give further depth in case of an injury crisis.  He was far from spectacular and a signing that I went into with a hint of regret from the outset.

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The final bit of business in the window was the loan of talented youngster Ben Ratcliffe to Spanish Federation team Antequera C.F.  The promising winger was giving off Lionel Messi vibes as he was good with both feet, a capable dribbler and a clearly very technical player... all at the age of 15.  If we managed his development properly, he could go on to be a remarkable option out wide.

Spoiler

Incoming summary:

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Outgoing summary:

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As the window slammed shut, we knew the squad we'd be taking into the season... And after a mixed start to the campaign with a win and two draws, all of the hard work was yet to come.

 

Join us in Chapter 2.2 for the results from September to December as the season starts to take shape.

Edited by SinlessCity
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On 15/07/2022 at 07:22, karanhsingh said:

Well done buddy! Onwards and upwards from here

Thanks chief!  The first season was a bit of a free pass with the quality of squad!  Hard work to follow...

17 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Well done in winning the title! There’s a certain pressure in being favorites and needing promotion for financial reasons as well, so that’s a relief. 
I’ve got a soft spot for Deportivo after an ex of mine got me into them a bit and I played a very fun save with them back in 08 or 09.

 

Thanks!  I just knew that season to season, without getting promoted, the best players would need to be sold to keep the club afloat.  Getting to the TV money should wipe most of it out.

They're a special club and I just hope they can have similar success going into the new season IRL.  After failing to get promoted this season just gone, they've released a lot of players and had one of their promising youngsters (Noel Lopez) poached by Madrid, which is pretty much the problem I'll face in future seasons until I get re-established. 

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Funny about no preseason - if you don’t want to do it yourself, go make sure you have the AM doing it for you! Lesson learned.

Looks like good work overall in the transfer market. Making a lot on players you don’t even want and bringing in good options. Good luck with getting that top half finish!

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Posted (edited)

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THE SLOWEST OF STARTS
September Results
 
As my new signings started to get up to speed with training and our style of play, I started to experiment with the forward line.  Still operating the the same wide 4-3-3 but now with a more natural out-and-out Striker in Torles Knoll, I had the option to rotate his game-time with other strike option Inigo Vicente and last years top marksman Miku.  Fortunately, Vicente was versatile and could switch between left-wing and up top. 
 
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In true FM style, the month started with a crisis with three goalkeepers injured in training on the same day.  In came the unknown Tasevski who managed a clean sheet and 7.4 rating in our 0-0 draw with Huesca.
Despite having only a third of the possession against Fuenlabrada, we took the lead early with a debut goal from Vicente but conceded midway in the second half to draw 1-1Fuenlabrada also had a goal ruled out by VAR (phew).
 
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Markel Lozano - operating as a Deep Lying Playmaker - sends a searching ball behind the Fuenlabrada defence for Vicente to run onto.  Controlling the high ball with his chest, he then runs beyond the defenders and slots a cool finish low to the bottom corner.
 
Finally breaking the three match sequence of draws, the team found their shooting boots with a 3-1 away win over Malaga.  The numbers suggested this was a game we should have lost if Malaga had taken their chances.
The excitement was short lived as I came back to earth with a bump after a 0-0 draw with Cadiz, with only 5 attempts on goal and a meager 1 on shot on target.
 
Spoiler

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Honestly, it took some adjusting.  Coming from 3-0's and 4-0's every week, I had to remind myself we were playing much stronger opposition and this was still a relatively new squad.  Perhaps the board were right about a top half finish!

 
THE CWB EXPERIMENT
October Results
 
One thing was beginning to come clear.  We were getting plenty of possession, we weren't looking out of our depth, but there weren't enough quality chances being created.  The two areas I thought could be issues were that my WBs were either too deep and unable to impact the game, or the hole between my strikers and midfield was too big.  With a DLP, BWM and Carrilero, the gap may have been too big with not enough support up the pitch.  I'd tried pushing the WBs forward and converting them to Complete Wing Backs in the Cadiz game to little avail, but was determined to give it a fair run.  Cadiz, after all, were tipped for promotion.
 
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Recapturing last seasons form, with 22 shots on goal, Torles Knoll got off the mark with a brace in the 2-0 win over relegation favourites Burgos.  The game saw left CWB Dodo come off after 1 minute, and right CWB Sastre turn in an 8.0 showing.
 
1b8d792ce6e7220cdc2a4a7e81403683.png 052f6bf42e2a638f943f8f0ef70fddd3.jpg 28e903a6daf44ba83bce82677a9f428f.png
 
Vicente lofts one behind the defence and over the shoulder of the on-rushing Torles Knoll who lashes a first time volley beyond the goalkeeper for his first Coruna goal.
 
Up next was our old friends Extremadura who just about shaded the game, but the points were shared as Vicente scored his second goal for the club in the 1-1 draw.
Against promotion hopefuls Ibiza, I reverted to our more familiar shape and the boys turned on the style, albeit helped massively by an early red card for Pape DiopVicente, Pereira and Knoll all playing a key role in the 4-2 victory.
Our penultimate game of October was an away clash with promotion contenders Mallorca - a game where I made a few forced changes due to fitness - and once again saw only 1 shot on target in the 2-0 defeat.
Rounding off the month was a frustrating 0-0 with strugglers Alcorcon in a game devoid of quality.  Both teams had one shot on target apiece in a match where the highlight reel consisted of little more than a 92nd minute yellow card.
 
Spoiler

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Spoiler

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A somewhat mixed month.  It didn't have the feeling of a season where I'd be fighting in the upper echelons of the top half, but it also didn't feel like I'd be in a battle to stay up.  Cautious optimism to follow.
 

NEW FORMATION, NEW DIMENSIONS
November Results

With us sitting in mid-table on 19 points, it would be important to start getting wins on the board to pull away from a relegation scrap and make it to the magical 40 point mark.  Half way to that milestone, November proved to further stamp our credentials on the Second Division.  I was starting to get similar playing time struggles as the first season at this point, as new boy Juan Cruz was impressing when he came on from the bench, but he needed regular game time.  However, with only two Inverted Winger slots in the team, it was becoming difficult to keep one of my three options out of the starting line up.

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The result was a new formation, a twist on our original 4-3-3 DM.  I switched to a midfield two with a Box to Box Midfielder paired with a Deep Lying Playmaker alongside.  This then allowed me to put an Attacking Midfielder in behind Torles Knoll

Whilst less than convincing, the debut of this new tactic saw us create enough chances to beat Cartagena by the slimmest of margins - 1-0.
A week later, using the tweaked formation, the team delivered the best performance I'd seen in my tenure to date in the 3-0 victory over Tenerife.  In a much changed side to cater for injuries and to balance playing time demands, every player put in a 7+ performance, including a solid debut for on-loan goalkeeper Morten Behrens.

Spoiler

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Against stronger opposition, I wimped out and went back to the original formation for the Granada match.  And boy did it fail spectacularly.  Falling behind to an early Antonin goal, we fell to a 3-1 defeat.
The disappointment was short lived as we bounced back immediately with a tight 2-1 victory over Eibar. Home advantage played a huge role in our win, inspiring a quickfire double from super-sub Torles Knoll in the last 10 mins.

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Markel Lozano pings a 40 yard ball over over the top of the defence.  Torles Knoll takes the ball down and a touch to set himself before bending a beautiful effort around the keeper to make it 1-1.

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Spotting the run of Knoll, left wing-back Dodo threads an inch perfect through ball to split the defence.  Knoll times his run just right to find himself one on one with the Cantero and powers a shot beyond the helpless goalkeeper.

Spoiler

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That was more like it.  3 wins from 4, with two of those results coming against top half opposition.  Similar form in December would see us start to force our way into the conversation for the play-offs.  Whilst the adjusted formations had worked in some games and not in others, it really highlighted that I need to start mixing it up from game to game, rather than keeping the faith with 'our way' of playing.  Preparation would be key.

 

WIN-TER ISN'T COMING
December Results

WIth four games to go until the break, we set out to make a statement to the league that we were serious.  Confidence had started growing amongst the ranks and we were beginning to believe.  Needless to say, it may have been premature.  Matheus Pereira picked up an injury at the end of November that would keep him out until the new year, with Torles Knoll struggling for fitness and needing rotation.

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Despite the injuries, December opened with a comfortable 3-1 win over Ponferrada, the 4-2-3-1 paying dividends with 10 shots on target resulting in goals for deputy striker Vicente and Juan Cruz in a less familiar AMC role.

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Trickster Juan Cruz picks the ball up deep and uses his pace to burst beyond two defenders, making his way into the box he curls his shot around the goalkeeper

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It bounces off one post, rolls painfully across the line and then rebounds in off of the opposite post.  Who doesn't love a goal in off the post(s)?

The enjoyment was short lived as we suffered a narrow 3-4 defeat against one of the strongest teams in the Division, Almeria, despite a heroic effort from Torles Knoll who scored his first hat-trick for the club.  Switching back to the usual 4-3-3, the goals we conceded were disappointing, with two of them coming from poor tracking by left wing-back Dodo.

A welcome break followed against lowly Olot in the Spanish cup first round.  In a rare outing for Miku in a much changed line-up, the dependable Venezuelan opened the scoring from the spot en route to a 2-1 victory.
However, our patchy form would continue with a consecutive league defeat, this time in 4-2 humbling against mid-season promotion hopefuls Las Palmas.  We just couldn't get going in this one, managing only 3 shots on target.

Spoiler

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The year rounded off with us sitting on 31 points and feeling confident of safety, but a little less assured of a top half finish.  Looking ahead to January I would need to strengthen.  We had lost too many games in the middle of the park and just weren't consistently creative enough.  Not only that, but I needed more cover for my forward positions for the new formation.  An injury to Cruz, Vicente, Pereira or Knoll meant I was down to my B and C listers...  But for now, the winter break was here!

 

Join us in 2.3 for the January transfer window and January-March fixtures.  Will the Blue and Whites recapture form of last season and find a winning run?

 

Edited by SinlessCity
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Up and fork form, but at least you’re not drawing all the time. Seems like high scoring all around. Fun for the neutrals 

Did you stick with the CWBs? Maybe my lack of reading comprehension but I couldn’t tell if you kept them. I’d also love to see the whole tactics in general. Sounds like it’s changed a decent amount since the start.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, 13th Man said:

Up and fork form, but at least you’re not drawing all the time. Seems like high scoring all around. Fun for the neutrals 

Did you stick with the CWBs? Maybe my lack of reading comprehension but I couldn’t tell if you kept them. I’d also love to see the whole tactics in general. Sounds like it’s changed a decent amount since the start.

We're not often a boring team to watch... Some emotional rollercoasters, but very rarely a total bore.

I blame the writer, as opposed to the reader... Let me try to expand.

First season was a pretty standard 4-3-3 Gegenpress.  I ended up switching the Pressing Forward to be an Advanced Forward as Miku just wasn't up to a press.  As the season went on I ended up turning the Inside Forwards into Inverted Wingers and also switched up the Box to Box Midfielder with a Ball Winning Midfielder in the more difficult games.  I always had a Deep Lying Playmaker though.  Wing Backs always played support unless I was struggling, in which case they'd switch to defend duties.  I had two Ball Playing Defenders even though the players available to me were more suited to No Nonsense or regular CB's.   I always used Sweeper Keeper, but as Mackay wasn't a perfect fit for it, I left him on defend.

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Second season started with the same formation until the draws were becoming a concern.  I was playing fully with a Pressing Forward in Knoll with two Inverted Wingers supporting.  Middle of the park became primarily a Ball Winning Midfielder and a Box to Box Midfielder (or a BWM and a Carrilero) still with the Deep Lying Playmaker behind.  The main difference being the change from Wing Back to Complete Wing Backs and pushing them further up the pitch.  From so deep they weren't getting as involved as I wanted, but with the change I found the overlaps with the wingers was more successful.  The main downside with this was that both of my CWB's were basically wingers playing in defence.  Sastre on the right was the more solid of the two, but Dodo would often go walkies and be caught out of position.

The other variation was based on the original formation of the first season, only moving the deepest midfield role up the pitch to become an Attacking Midfielder.  I'd then play two of BWM, BBM, Carrilero or DLP depending on the game.  Having Vicente on the left, Matheus Pereira in the middle and Juan Cruz on the right was amazing creatively.  They just didn't offer much defensively so it put strain on my CMs.

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I liked using CWBs, I just didn't have the right personnel to do it at this point.  Dodo was a liability when playing more advanced and my CBs weren't good enough to cover for him.  Also found that whilst the attacking three behind Knoll was working in some games, we were badly exposed in others. Vicente and Cruz were quality going forward but offered next to nothing defensively. 

Only other change of note was stopping my PF from harrying the keeper so much, as it just meant the keeper was pumping the ball behind my WBs and giving away some really cheap goals (see: the 4-3 defeat to Almeria).

My biggest problem was trying to train new tactics throughout the season, the familiarity levels weren't great and boy did it show... but to quote the great D:Ream, things can only get better...

Edited by SinlessCity
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@SinlessCity Very exciting so far! It would be interesting to see some of the players' stars in addition to their attributes when it comes to signings, as I have found that that is a great driver of success in the game. In my game, the winter transfer window was a key turning point point - would encourage you to bring in loans - big first division teams looking for playing time for their promising young players. If you are patient enough you might even end up picking some free loaned-in players (no salary or monthly fee) right before the transfer window ends.

Good luck!! Vamos Depor!!

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Very nice stuff here.

Hear you on the CWBs - definitely looks a bit too attacking in a 4-3-3 unless you have top class players in those roles and an excellent defense.   Maybe a thing to use when you need a goal?

Fun to see another tinkerer tinkering season to season and match to match.

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3 hours ago, Hen123 said:

@SinlessCity Very exciting so far! It would be interesting to see some of the players' stars in addition to their attributes when it comes to signings, as I have found that that is a great driver of success in the game. In my game, the winter transfer window was a key turning point point - would encourage you to bring in loans - big first division teams looking for playing time for their promising young players. If you are patient enough you might even end up picking some free loaned-in players (no salary or monthly fee) right before the transfer window ends.

Good luck!! Vamos Depor!!

I might have mentioned it on another thread, but I remember reading guidelines from the Mods that suggest not posting CA/PA.  If it's not a barrier and we're OK to share the deets, I can start bringing them in!  Can anyone confirm?

Appreciate the kind words and wise counsel on loans!

 

1 hour ago, 13th Man said:

Very nice stuff here.

Hear you on the CWBs - definitely looks a bit too attacking in a 4-3-3 unless you have top class players in those roles and an excellent defense.   Maybe a thing to use when you need a goal?

Fun to see another tinkerer tinkering season to season and match to match.

That's pretty much where it came in.  I'd often start a game with a more defensive shape (and cautious mentality) with the 4-2-3-1 against 'bigger' clubs, then after 30 mins I'd either realise we're better than them and switch more attacking... or we'd go a goal behind and need to chase it.  I've been known to do some quite radical things in the last 10 if I'm a goal down.

More tactical changes will inevitably follow, I can't resist.  I fall into the:  "If it isn't broke, try and find a problem with it and make it better" camp with tactics.  We need to evolve, after all!

 

14 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

So what shape are you using now, is it a 4231? Personally I've never managed to get the AMC working too well with this formation. 

Moving more towards a 4-2-3-1 as the players are now getting more familiar with it.  The AMC experiment is a weird one.  Matheus Pereira is by trade a wide man but can play centrally (both attacking and deep), so he has high ratings for the AMC role.  But as you say, it's a funny old role in this formation.  Neither here nor there.  You'll see in the next update that I tried different roles for him to try and see what worked best. 

Spoiler

AMC didn't give me enough assists or goals and games would often pass Pereira by, especially with my focus on wide play. He'd get a few chances on the edge of the box, but my IWs would either cut in and have a go, or look for Knoll.  Largely made him a passenger.

I found Enganche didn't really suit me as I was already using a DLP.  Similar kind of story to AMC really, I thought if I ever came up with a more narrow and centrally focused formation it would be useful.

But the last train of thought was to play a Shadow Striker.  It was the best of the three options I'd tried and he got more involved with goals/assists.  The more I used it, the more I thought about just signing another striker and pushing the position up alongside Knoll.

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7 hours ago, SinlessCity said:

More tactical changes will inevitably follow, I can't resist.  I fall into the:  "If it isn't broke, try and find a problem with it and make it better" camp with tactics.  We need to evolve, after all!

Wise words!

On the AMC - I think the AMC can be effective in support role if you want him to be primarily a midfielder that starts a bit higher. I’ve personally liked it in a 4-2-3-1, as otherwise you often have the front four all attacking the same space - especially with the IF or IW roles. Put some PIs in there to help him play the way you want and it’s a really flexible, tough to mark role.  
SS can be really effective too if you want a slightly deeper striker who helps our defensively sometimes.

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Posted (edited)

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The season was going well.  Life was good.  Our first season back in the (2nd) big(gest) time was looking likely to not end in relegation.  I was already thinking ahead to next season and how I could add to my squad to make a play-off push.  January is usually a fools game and I didn't want to be that guy making silly signings for silly money.  We couldn't afford to, simple as that. 

January would be about smart buys for the future and perhaps a loan or two to see us over the line. My midfield felt like an area for improvement if I was going to play a more aggressive formation, so a higher quality option for BWM felt key to screen my back four.  I also wanted more options for the forward 4 positions if I was going to persist with the new 4-2-3-1 wide formation.

[From here-on I've moved to the Tato skin for player profiles.. I'm experimenting with what I like.  I prefer match reports in Zealand, though!  Tricky... ]

 

INTRODUCING... THE JAPANESE MESSI
January Transfers and Results

The window got off to a flying start as I looked to get my business done early.  After picking up Pereira for a bargain price from Barcelona, my scouts had been following their B and U19 teams to scope out other potential talent.  The result came in the form of Hiroki Abe and I was able to sign the young Japanese attacker for only £25k.  An absolute bargain for a player that ticked all the right boxes.  He clearly had potential and had been compared to a certain Argentinian striker before but let's not forget how many times those comparisons have been made prematurely. His versatility to play anywhere in the front 4 would be a boon to the squad.

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Up next was the shrewd loan signing of highly rated midfielder Oier Zarraga from Athletic Bilbao until the end of the season.  An accomplished Ball Winning Midfielder who ticked plenty of physical boxes, albeit less impressive on the tackling front (a key component for a BWM, I hear you say).  He could play deep but could also cover an AMC role if needed.  My scouts were absolutely buzzing about this one, especially as his contract was winding down and he could be a good/cheap option at the end of the season.  In all honesty, we'd need to get promoted to convince him to stay.

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The transfers would have to wait as we had league action to return to... And it's safe to say that this was the month that made us.

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Persisting with the new 4-2-3-1 formation with two CWBs and a man behind the striker, we were starting to reap the benefits of a more attacking focused approach. The January fixtures were kind and allowed more time for us to bed it in.

The fixture list opened with a dominant 2-0 win over Ferrol in the Spanish Cup. Oier Zarraga made his debut alongside Morante and offered nothing more than getting an early yellow card.
In a return to league action Knoll kept up the scoring in the 1-0 victory over Barcelona B, with Hiroki Abe making his debut against his former club.
Next up was the 4-0 humiliation of Leganes at Riazor with both wide men getting on the scoresheet and main man Torles Knoll making it 4 goals from 3 games.

At the half-way point in January we fought bravely against vastly superior opposition, but were defeated 4-2 by Sevilla in the Spanish Cup third-round.  Reverting to our defensive 4-3-3 shape, the team still struggled to compete. Hiroki Abe came off the bench and took the game into a tense last 5 minutes with his first goals for the club.  However, a late goal from Suso ended any chances of taking it to extra time.

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Hiroki Abe makes a run beyond the defence as Jamie Allen slides a perfect through ball into his path.  The diminutive Japanese winger takes a touch, carries the ball forward and rifles a shot into the far corner to give Coruna hope.

Spoiler

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The second half of January saw a switch back to the increasingly more successful 4-2-3-1, with a return to winning ways with a second consecutive 4-0 win in the league. Juan Cruz on target in his return to the starting line-up against Zaragoza.
The winning run continued with a convincing 2-0 victory away at Oviedo, with a rare goal from Jamie Allen after Matheus Pereira opened the scoring from the spot.
Rounding off the month was a hard-fought 2-1 win against Castellon, with Oier Zarraga scoring in his first appearance at AMC with Pereira covering for the injured Juan Cruz on the right.

Spoiler

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Then came transfer deadline day...

To round off the window we secured the signing of Brazilian attacking midfielder Daniel Penha from ATM for £7.75k, our second signing from the club following the acquisition of Dodo in the summer.  This was a bit of a contingency plan incase the interest in Matheus Pereira firmed up.  As I was already at the limit of non EU players (Pereira, Abe, Dodo), he was immediately loaned back to ATM for the remainder of the season.  My scouts were only just dipping into South America, so not much was known, but they rated him highly enough to recommend the signing.

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Finally came the loan signing of another attacking midfield option in the form of Ayman Aourir, a somewhat last minute loan signing from Bayer Leverkusen.  He would typically play as an Enganche or a Shadow Striker, so that's how he would be used.  He could also double as a striker if desperate.

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A modest window, with very little spent by the club.

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Wantaway midfielder Yago Gandoy was given a chance to earn himself a permanent move, whilst talented WBR Trilli was farmed out to gain experience.  I wasn't ready to give up on Polo or Manas just yet, but they wouldn't be displacing any of my forward options, so they too left on loan.  Striker Menudo left us on a permanent deal in a sale that just made sense, whilst a few others left on short term loan deals.

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DREAMING OF THE PLAY-OFFS
February Results

After a blistering start to the year, dampened only by a tricky tie in the Spanish Cup, February brought a bit of a reality check with a mixed bag of results.

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Missing a couple of key players, the old 4-3-3 made a return and despite a rapid start with an early goal, we fell to a 1-1 draw with Huesca as Inigo Vicente reminded me that he could still score goals.
Switching back to our now Primary tactic with the 4-2-3-1, early goals from Abe and Pereira were enough to see off Malaga in a largely uneventful 2-0 victory.
However, we came back to earth with a bump in a 2-0 defeat against Fuenlabrada in a game where nothing seemed to come off and the boys looked out of sorts.
Thankfully it was nothing more than a blip as a 3-0 victory against struggling Burgos restored confidence to the dressing room, with a rare goal from Joan Sastre in his now favoured role of CWB.

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After turning over possession, Juan Cruz spots Sastre high up the pitch and loops a ball over the defence.  Sastre takes it down with ease before carrying the ball forward and slamming it into the back of the net

Spoiler

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The role sitting in behind Knoll was proving to be transformational for the team, with Matheus Pereira increasingly playing in a Shadow Striker role, in rotation with Abe, Juan Cruz and new boy Ayman Aourir.  The extra bodies up the pitch -supplemented by the more attacking CWB's - was improving the quality of chances and the conversion rate.  However, it needed to be used sparingly.  In the more difficult games it was proving to leave us a little bit too exposed to counter-attacks.  One to watch, the tinkerman would find a way... Especially as now we were in with a real sniff of making the play-offs.

 

WITHIN TOUCHING DISTANCE...?
March Results

I didn't want to get carried away, but inevitably I did.  Feeling overly confident I went into the March fixtures with very attacking line ups in games against rivals for the play-off spots.  Having all but secured our place in the Second Division next year, it would be an opportunity to play with more freedom and chance our arm at a late promotion push.

Alas, the fairytale vision in my head wasn't to become a reality.  Our hardest run of games generated a frustrating set of results.

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Against much stronger opposition - with a team including veteran striker Alvaro Negredo in the line-up - an ill-tempered match with Cadiz ended in a deflating 2-1 defeat.  The game also saw injuries to winger Abe and left CWB sicknote Dodo.
Up next came Ibiza who robbed us of the win with a last minute equaliser to end the game 1-1.  We created the much better of the chances and were disappointed to throw the points away at home.
The most frustrating was saved to the last, as after fighting back from two goals down to take the lead, we were pegged back late in the game to draw 3-3 with thorn-in-the-side Extremadura.

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Juan Cruz scores the pick of the goals with Coruna's third, giving his side the lead after being 2-0 down. Running onto a precision cross from Vicente, Cruz takes it first time and thumps the ball high into the top corner.

Spoiler

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We'd defied the odds and secured our safety, but now promotion was on the cards, albeit only through the play-offs.  We weren't ready for the step up as defensively there was far from enough quality in the team.  Sastre had made the right CWB slot his own - much to the dislike of first season regular Alberto Benito - but Dodo was far too unreliable on the left.  Lapena and Trigueros had formed a formidable partnership at CB but they would invariably struggle at a higher level... much like most of my other players.  I had far too many players that were likely to hit their ceiling in this Division, and boy did it show.  Hiroki Abe was showing promise, Zarraga was doing 'OK' but not the blockbuster signing I expected and I was yet to be impressed by Ayman Aourir.

More worryingly, Juan Cruz and Matheus Pereira were attracting a lot of interest from La Liga, as well as starting to draw suitors from abroad.  Sheffield United felt like an odd place for Juan Cruz to end up, but they were keen, and he was starting to show signs of discontent amid the interest.  There was also the Torles Knoll situation, his short term contract would be up in the summer and his form had also started to attract other clubs.  It was probably time to re-negotiate before losing a key man on a free transfer.

With 11 games to go, including the return fixtures with Mallorca, Tenerife, Granada, Eibar and Leganes, we'd need a near perfect run to make the play-offs... or - if results went our way - even push for an automatic spot.

Join us in 2.4 as we make the final push throughout April and May, with lofty ambitions of promotion to the top flight.

Edited by SinlessCity
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Posted (edited)

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Yes Sports fans, after a much disrupted week or so of work troubles and juggling an almost 9 month old son, I've found some time to dive back in... And it's a double-update today!

ROCK THE EIBAR, ROCK THE EIBAR
April Results

After a tricky run in March, April offered some respite in the form of relegation threatened Alcorcon and Cartagena, but mixed this up with the threat of runaway leaders Granada, play-off favourites Mallorca and the ever-present Eibar who were still in the hunt for a play-off place.  For any chance of the play-offs, wins against at least a couple of these teams would be essential.

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The month started well with a narrow 1-0 win over Alcorcon.  The relegation strugglers looked to have weathered the storm and secured a valuable point until Vicente struck late in the game.
Our first major test came against Mallorca, with the home advantage we limited our promotion rivals to 1 shot on target on our way to a tight 1-0 win.  The 6 pointer dragged us into contention for the play-offs.

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Matheus Pereira whips an in-swinging cross into the box as Juan Cruz finds a pocket of space and smashes a close range volley beyond the goalkeeper.

Up next came Cartagena who were beaten 3-1 in an evenly contested game where clinical finishing was the difference.  Ayman Aourir also found the net in a late cameo showing.

Spoiler

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So far, so good... But then things got trickier as the goals dried up, no coincidence that it coincided with a higher class of opposition.

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A dismal 0-0 draw with mid-table Tenerife wasn't the worst result, but was more of a reflection of how far we'd come. Vicente had a horror show (5.9) on the left wing and we missed the quality of the injured Juan Cruz.
We followed this with a tricky return fixture against Granada who once again beat us by a 2 goal margin, this time it was a 2-0 defeat.  Whilst we gave them a decent fight, the clinical Antonin sealed the points for the champions elect.

Spoiler

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Bouncing back immediately from the disappointment of losing to Granada, the boys had the opportunity to put it right against Eibar.  And put it right they did, in emphatic fashion.

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The now established 4-2-3-1 working it's wonders once again in the 5-2 away thrashing of Eibar. Despite a basketball first half that saw us take a 3-2 lead into the break, we asserted our authority in the second half.

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Matheus Pereira sends Coruna in to the half-time break with a 3-2 lead, with a truly special curling effort from outside of the box.

Sastre and Cruz were beginning to form a partnership on the right hand-side with the CWB pushing up and overlapping with his wing partner, whilst Pereira was finding himself back amongst the goals as a Shadow StrikerZarraga and Lozano had well and truly made the two midfield spots theirs keeping fan favourite Jamie Allen out of the team, whilst veteran utility man Borja Granero had found a new role filling in at the heart of defence alongside Pablo Trigueros.

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The Eibar game was everything good about our game and a situation where everything just 'clicked'  5 shots on target, 5 goals, and our 'work the ball into the box' tactics were paying dividends.

With 5 games to go, reaching the play-offs was now completely in our hands...  Automatics were a slim possibility if Mallorca and Cadiz dropped enough points... The dream was still alive...

 

2022/23 PLAY OFFS?
May and June Results

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...and May got off to the best possible start as we put play-off hopefuls Almeria to the sword in a comfortable 3-0 victory, in a game that saw Jaime Sanchez given a torrid time on his return to Riazor.

The victory assured our place in the play-offs with a now unassailable points total!
We would have a dream finish to the season... but it was now a question of whether we could make the final push and seal automatic promotion.

And just like that the automatic hopes took a huge dent with a drab 1-1 draw with Ponferrada.  With nothing to play for their season was already over and yet they still gave us a game.
Despite an early set back, we returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Las Palmas. Matheus Pereira continued to be Mr Dependable from the spot, before Vicente wrapped up the points on the stroke of half time. 

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Juan Cruz plays a delicious ball over the defence into the path of Inigo Vicente who carries the ball into the box, takes a touch to set himself and bends an effort around the keeper into the bottom corner

Going into our penultimate game of the season, we needed maximum points and for Cadiz to drop points...

Unfortunately, despite the goals from Abe and loanee Aourir to secure a 2-1 victory away at Leganes, Cadiz took a point from their away fixture at Cartagena, leaving them 3 points clear in 2nd place going into the final game.  Our poor record against Cadiz (D1 L1) made it impossible to place any higher than third, but our points total of 78 made it impossible for us to finish any lower than third.

Spoiler

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And so it came, the final game of the season at home to Barcelona B.

With our position confirmed and no risk of us finishing any lower or higher, it presented an opportunity to give a send off to veteran striker Miku, our hero of 2021/22 who had recently announced his intention to retire.  Despite a fine showing infront of the adoring Coruna crowd, there was to be no fairytale send-off for the Venezuelan.  A deflected effort of his fell to the path of Vicente who made no mistake from 5 yards, before the aging striker found himself in behind the defence to convert from close range in the second half... only to see the goal ruled out by VAR for the tightest of offside calls. 

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The regular season had ended and we now had our day(s) with destiny to reach La Liga. Finishing 3rd, we would play against the team in 6th, Almeria.  With 10 points between us in the league, and having W1 L1, it was set to be an exciting encounter.

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If we were to be successful against Almeria, we would meet either Mallorca (4th) or Huesca (5th) in the play-off final.

No matter the outcome, it was a remarkable achievement to have reached this point... But I would be heartbroken to come so close and to lose out.  Now was our time!

 

Join us in 2.5 for the epic conclusion of the 2022/23 season, as Coruna stand on the brink of promotion... Will Los Blanquiazules take the final step on their journey back to the top?

Edited by SinlessCity
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Well done reaching the playoffs! I think you deserve to go up basis the performance over the entire season but of course it doesn't always work that way. Is the final one leg in Spain or two? 

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Nicely done reaching the playoffs!  Maybe a step too far to actually be promoted based on your squad assessment, but to get that far after just being promoted is a great achievement.

I guess if you get to the top flight you might just have the funds for an overhaul?

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4 hours ago, Hen123 said:

@SinlessCitycongrats for reaching playoffs! 

Thanks buddy!

3 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Well done reaching the playoffs! I think you deserve to go up basis the performance over the entire season but of course it doesn't always work that way. Is the final one leg in Spain or two? 

Cheers... It's been a rollercoaster of a season!  The form suggests I deserve it... And as the highest placed of the four play-off teams, can count myself a little bit unlucky.  Those dropped points against bottom half teams, as well as the defeats to Cadiz, is where I lost it!  However... It's a two legged final, which gives us a chance!

1 hour ago, 13th Man said:

Nicely done reaching the playoffs!  Maybe a step too far to actually be promoted based on your squad assessment, but to get that far after just being promoted is a great achievement.

I guess if you get to the top flight you might just have the funds for an overhaul?

Thank you!

100%.  We'd be an overwhelming favourite to go back down as front-to-back my squad is full of "Decent Second Division player", and "playing close to full potential" players.  Even with TV money, I'd struggle to bring in top, top quality for enough positions!

It was far too early on the journey, but having defied the odds and managed to get this far, it would be disappointing to miss out in the end.

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Posted (edited)

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SEMI FINAL FIRST LEG - ALMERIA v CORUNA
7th June 2023, Estadio Juegos del Mediterraneo

Concerned with the magnitude of the fixture and the quality of opposition, for the away leg we reverted to the more defensive 4-3-3 that had served us so well in the past.
Ian Mackay (SK) occupied his regular slot in goal.  One change to the back four as experienced utility man Borja Granero (BPD) replaced Lapena, alongside Pablo Trigueros (BPD), with Dodo (L-CWB) and Sastre (R-CWB) either side.
Markel Lozano (DLP) dropped a little deeper with Pep Calavera (CAR) returning to the side alongside mainstay Oier Zarraga (BWM)
With one of the forward positions sacrificed, Pereira missed out as Inigo Vicente (L-IW) and Juan Cruz (R-IW) played behind main-man Torles Knoll (PF)

KICK-OFF

'9 - An early chance for the hosts as a free-kick is floated to the back post and knocked across goal by Nunez, but Curro tamely strikes right at the keeper.... it wouldn't have counted anyway as the flag is raised. 
'29 - Juan Cruz picks up a loose ball 40 yards from goal and threads a pass through to Vicente who hits it early.  At a comfortable height for the goalkeeper, the shot is tipped over and into the stands.
'34 - A defence splitter from Zarraga finds its way to Juan Cruz who squares to Knoll.  He hits it first time and is saved causing a pinball ricochet between defender and goalkeeper, but Knoll is unable to poke the loose ball home.
'45+1 - After a slower spell in the game, the referee blows the whistle to bring an end to the half.

HALF-TIME - 0-0

As the game progressed we felt confident of an upset.  To force the issue the formation reverted to 4-2-3-1 at half-time as Lozano (DLP) was withdrawn and replaced with Matheus Pereira, reprising his role as Shadow Striker.

'46 - A flowing move for Coruna sees the first quality chance of the game as Vicente slides a perfect pass behind the defence.  Juan Cruz finds himself one on one, but goalkeeper Fernando is equal to it and just about tips it round the post.
'47 - As the game becomes more open, Nunez threads a ball through to Curro who has broken free of Dodo.  Much to our relief he hits the side netting, as Mackay was rooted to the spot and barely reacted. A let off for the visitors.
'52 - Dodo steps up to take a corner and floats an out-swinger into the mix.  Calavera wins his header and the ball falls to Torles Knoll... There's only outcome from here....

Spoiler

GOAL!!!!!!  1-0!  CORUNA TAKE THE LEAD

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The Almeria defence are all sat sea as Calavera climbs highest to knock down Dodo's corner.  His header drops at the feet of Torles Knoll who has the simple of task of stroking it home.  A Shearer-esque poachers finish from the big German striker!  And how about that celebration.  Ha-way the lad.

'53 - Near silence in the stadium as the referee consults VAR.  After a short delay, Referee Luis Mario Milla Alvendiz awards the goal and the away end erupts once more.
'55 - CHANCE!  Matheus Pereira receives a cute pass from Torles Knoll and takes on an ambitious curling effort from long range... He hits it well, and...

Spoiler

SO CLOSE!

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Pereira takes one on from outside of the box but narrowly misses the top corner.  A little bit lower and it would have been 2-0 to Coruna, as the goalkeeper - at full stretch - was well beaten.

  '64 - Coruna turn the screw and Vicente once again finds himself free, but this time his cut back to Pereira is intercepted and Almeria clear.
'69 - OFF THE BAR!  Matheus Pereira whips an in-swinging free-kick to the far post to meet the head of Borja Granero... but his header clips the top of the bar and goes behind...
'71 - Another great chance for Pereira.  Following a neat one-two with Hiroki Abeon for the tiring Juan Cruz, he attempts another long range effort which is caught and held easily by the goalkeeper.
'80 - Hearts in mouths as Puigmal picks up a stray pass and sends one long over the top to the on-rushing Ramazani... He sets himself and lets fly with a right footed effort...

Spoiler

BUT MACKAY SAVES COMFORTABLY... A TAME EFFORT!!  THE HOME FANS CAN'T BELIEVE IT

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Ramazani rues the spurned opportunity. After finding himself free in the box his curled effort is easily saved by veteran goalkeeper Ian Mackay.

'90 - Hiroki Abe finds himself free in the box, but the defender manages to charge down his shot as it deflects harmlessly wide for a corner.
'90+3 - Hijinks in the Coruna defence as Appiah almost charges down and disrupts a series of one-two's between Dodo and Granero.  Fortunately, they manage to clear the ball!  That would have been a "Keystone Cops" moment!

FULL-TIME - 1-0
CORUNA TAKE A ONE GOAL LEAD BACK TO FORTRESS RIAZOR

Spoiler

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A confident second half made all the difference in a game we were disappointed to only win by one goal.  Not only did we out-run, but we outfought our opponent.

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SEMI FINAL SECOND LEG - CORUNA (1) v ALMERIA (0)
11th June 2023, Riazor

Confident that our home support would see us over the line, and having already outperformed them in the away fixture, I went back to the 4-2-3-1, a sign of my belief in the squad to finish the job in style.
Ian Mackay (SK) kept his place in goal.  Two changes to the back four with Adrian Lapena (BPD) returning to partner Pablo Trigueros (BPD) with Dodo replaced by Alberto Benito (L-CWB). Joan Sastre (R-CWB) continued on the right.
Oier Zarraga (BWM) and Markel Lozano (CAR) resumed their formidable pairing in the middle of the park.
That meant that the awesome-foursome would be together from the start.  Inigo Vicente (L-IW), Matheus Pereira (SS) and Juan Cruz (R-IW) supporting the first-leg hero Torles Knoll (PF).

KICK-OFF

'10 - After a tepid start, the first real chance of the match as Inigo Vicente prepares to take a freekick...

Spoiler

GOAL!! 1-0 CORUNA!!  Vicente finds the top corner and gives the goalkeeper absolutely no chance!

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A dream start for Coruna with one of the finest goals of the season.  Totally unsaveable.  The goalkeeper simply watched it go in.

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Scenes at Riazor as the home support erupt.  Coruna with a 2-0 aggregate lead have one-foot in the final.

'11 - CHANCE!  Almeria stretch the play as Ramazani breaks free on the left, he cuts the ball back to Portillo who hits one in his stride, but it's straight at Mackay for a comfortable catch.
'13 - SO CLOSE!  An end-to-end spell of the game now as a quick one-two between Pereira and Vicente sees the Spaniard through on goal, he hits one across goal and the keeper parries. Juan Cruz follows up but his shot is gathered easily by the keeper.
'15 - GOAL!!  Almeria think they've scored, but the linesman has his flag up.  A close call for Coruna as Appiah found himself clean through on goal and finished confidently into the bottom corner.  Relief at Riazor.
'37 - An uneventful spell comes to an end as Portillo floats in a quick free kick from the left, but it's cleared easily by Joan Sastre and Coruna clear the danger.
'41 - Juan Cruz picks the ball up on the right wing and - with nowhere to go - sends a searching cross into the box, but Torles Knoll's header is straight at the keeper.
'42 - CLOSE!  A flowing Almeria move sees Portillo bearing down on goal with only the keeper to beat, but Mackay gets out quickly and the shot cannons off of his shin and out for a corner.
'45 - A deep free kick from Matheus Pereira is pumped into the box, Juan Cruz finds himself in space for a rare header, it looks good...

Spoiler

BUT IT'S NARROWLY WIDE OF THE POST... That would have been some goal!

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Juan Cruz narrowly misses with a rare header, it would have been his first headed goal for the club

HALF-TIME - 1-0

With the game panning out well, I felt no need to make changes.  We kept with the shape and personnel, feeling confident of more goals - and victory - in the second half.

'48 - ALMOST!  Torles Knoll is clean through after running onto a searching through ball from Oier Zarraga... but his powerful effort is tipped over the bar
'53 - Another chance for the big German as Vicente finds him in space, only this time he scuffs his shot well wide of the goal.  He'll be disappointed with that one.
'55 - A hattrick of wasted chances for Knoll as he once again finds a run to split the defence, but the keeper is equal to it again and tips it around the post.  Vicente nods wide from the resulting corner.
'63 - HE'S THROUGH!  Zarraga plays the ball to Knoll with his back to goal, who sends an early ball behind the defence in search of Juan CruzCruz gets beyond his man and surges into the box with only the keeper to beat...

Spoiler

AND IT'S 2-0 ON THE NIGHT... WHAT A FINISH!

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Cruz breaks free of the defender and finds himself in acres before dinking a cheeky lob over the goalkeeper to make it 2-0.  What a goal!  Almeria have a mountain to climb with a 3-0 aggregate deficit to overturn in the final half hour!

'65 - CLOSE!  Juan Cruz sends a long ball from the right wing back position and the defender mistimes his jump allowing Knoll to run through unchallenged.  The keeper makes himself big and deflects the effort behind.
'68 - Yet another chance for Knoll but this time former Depor man Jaime Sanchez makes a recovering challenge to block the shot.
'70 - Almost a lifeline for AlmeriaLlambrich slides a ball into Nunez who finds Appiah in the box.  He cuts the ball back to Curro but his shot thunders against the crossbar.
'75 - A free kick is floated in by Pereira and finds substitute Hiroki Abe who gets ahead of his man and directs an effort towards goal, the keeper parries...

Spoiler

BUT TRIGUEROS IS THERE TO MAKE IT 3-0!  CORUNA HAVE A 4-0 LEAD ON AGGREGATE!!

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Central defender Trigueros finds himself in the right place at the right time and volleys home from close range after Hiroki Abe's effort was parried!  A surely unassailable lead at this point!

'77SAVED! Looking to compound the misery, Pereira lets one fly from long range and the keeper gets down well to save to his left.
'83 - A Coruna effort breaks down on the right and mid way into his half Ramazani sends a long ball up to Nunez who splits the defence... Surely from here he will pick up a consolation goal...

Spoiler

AND HE DOES.  NUNEZ MAKES IT 3-1 ON THE NIGHT. IS THERE HOPE YET?

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An emphatic finish from Nunez as he drills one into the opposite corner.  Too little, too late from Almeria... surely?

'85 - Growing pressure from Almeria as Appiah's shot is blocked by Lapena.  Fortunately, the loose ball sends Curro wide and he's unable to put in a cross.
'88 - Another chance for the visitors as Nunez picks up the ball deep and bursts towards the box before unleashing a vicious drive...

Spoiler

AND IT'S SAVED!

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A disappointing effort from Nunez as his shot isn't quite in the corner and Mackay is able to catch and hold onto the ball, to prevent a nervy finish.

'90+3 - A hopeful ball over the top from Hiroki Abe is headed back to the goalkeeper by Jaime Sanchez, the referee has the whistle to his lips... AND IT'S ALL OVER!!

FULL TIME - 3-1
CORUNA WIN BY 4 GOALS TO 1 ON AGGREGATE AND ARE INTO THE FINAL!

Spoiler

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A commanding performance from Los Blanquiazules in a game that could have ended with many more goals.  A late flurry from Almeria proved inadequate as we held on to win comfortably.  Pablo Trigueros asserted his authority at the heart of the defence with another man-of-the-match performance, capped with a deserved goal, in a game that saw a lot of defensive work from the visitors.

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Elsewhere... Mallorca made it to the final by beating Huesca 3-1 on aggregate.

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After a tricky few games against them in the regular season, this would prove to be our toughest test yet.

Join us for the second half of 2.5 (after an unexpectedly long part 1) to see how Coruna fare in the play-off final.

Edited by SinlessCity
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Great work! Never really seemed like losing (from the description anyway!). So close to back to back promotions. Good and bad both ways though - sounds like you’d need an overhaul to survive the step up, but it’s hard to be so close and not dream of what might be possible…

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Posted (edited)

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And so it came.  Our final hurdle to seal a fairytale ending to a much-better-than-expected return to the Second Division.

PLAY-OFF FINAL FIRST LEG - MALLORCA v CORUNA
14th June 2023, Son Moix

In the build up to the game we suffered injuries to wide-man Inigo Vicente, midfield ball-winner Oier Zarraga and Matheus Pereira on the training ground.  Although not quite fit enough to start the game, they would be options from the bench. 
I couldn't afford to take risks at this point when there would still be a second leg to try and turn it around.  After the success against Almeria and with confidence high, I retained the 4-2-3-1.

Mackay (SK) continued in goal with Dodo (L-CWB), Granero (BPD), Trigueros (BPD) and Sastre (R-CWB) making up the back four. Lozano (BWM) replaced Zarraga role whilst Calavera (CAR) partnered him in the middle.
Hiroki Abe (L-IW) came in for Vicente alongside sparingly used Aourir (SS) and regular starter Juan Cruz (R-IW).  Knoll (PF) the ever present up top.

KICK-OFF

'2 - An early chance as Calavera spreads the ball wide to Hiroki Abe on the left.  He's forced wide by the defender and fashions a cross in to Knoll... but it's saved and cleared.
'16 - Early control from Coruna as Juan Cruz plays a tidy one-two with Knoll and finds himself through in the box... but it's straight at the keeper and he holds on.  He'll be disappointed with that!
'42 - CLOSE!  After a dreadfully long spell of the teams cancelling each other out, Mallorca get their chance.  Galaretta loops one in behind to Solari with only the keeper to beat... and thankfully Mackay turns it around the post.
'45 - CHANCE!  After 3 minutes of passing across the back four, Ferro sends a long ball over the top... Sastre completely mistimes his tackle and leaves Febas through on goal...

Spoiler

AND HE MAKES NO MISTAKE.  HEARTBREAK FOR CORUNA ON HALF-TIME. 1-0 MALLORCA

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Sastre gets it all wrong and leaves Febas with only the keeper to beat.  He rifles a low effort beyond a helpless Mackay who has no time to react to the powerful strike.  Veteran Granero voices his frustration after a largely comfortable half.

HALF-TIME 1-0

The boys were gutted at the break.  A knife to the heart on the stroke of half-time after keeping Mallorca at arms length.  Sastre looked especially deflated as it was his error that lead to the goal.  However, we had 45+90 mins left to put it right.
This game was far from over.  I kept the faith with the current team and set up, hopeful of better luck in the second half.

'45 - A bright start for the home-side as a long succession of passes fizzles out into an interception from Juan Cruz.
'51 Mallorca finding their rhythm as Febas picks the ball up on the right and threads a pass into Mboula in the box, but he's comfortably dispossessed.
'53 - SIDE NETTING! - Solari beats Dodo cutting inside and then out before reaching the corner and whipping a fierce cross in, but Sastre does enough to put Mboula off and he finds the side netting.
'54 - A TRIPLE SUB!  Not willing to risk injury, Lapena (BPD) comes on for the tiring Trigueros. With Juan Cruz and Knoll both carrying knocks, they're replaced by Pereira (R-IW) and Vicente (AF) up top.
'68 - A free-kick for Vicente as he has the opportunity to repeat his goal in the semi-finals...  He steps up...

Spoiler

BUT HIS TAME EFFORT IS STRAIGHT INTO THE WALL...

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Vicente takes one on from long range, but can only find Febas in the wall.

'71 - Calavera picks the ball up in the middle and slides one to Vicente, but he's easily robbed of the ball by ManeaManea immediately picks out Galarreta who makes good ground and finds Febas...

Spoiler

...WHO DOUBLES MALLORCA'S LEAD!!  A HAMMER BLOW TO CORUNA'S CHANCES!

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Galarreta plays it into space for the on-rushing Febas, who - with plenty to do - gets beyond the nearest three defenders before unleashing a thunderbolt into the top corner.  What a finish!

'91 - LAST CHANCE!  Another long spell of 'nothingness' comes to an end as Dodo takes a throw-in mid way through the Mallorca half... The ball is given away cheaply and Mallorca pass it around at the back...

AND IT'S ALL OVER.  CORUNA HAVE 90 MINUTES TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN.

FULL-TIME 2-0

Spoiler

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In an evenly matched game, we simply didn't create enough chances and were fortunate to only lose by the two goals.  An uncharacteristically disappointing display all around.

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Hiroki Abe had a tough time of it, with the occasion seeming to get the better of him whilst deputising for Vicente.

 

PLAY-OFF FINAL SECOND LEG - CORUNA (0) v MALLORCA (2)
18th June 2023, Riazor

90 minutes to become heroes.  I told the boys that this was their day with destiny and their moment to write their names into club folklore.  The dressing room was upbeat as the home crowd whipped up a frenzy outside.
FOUR CHANGES TO THE TEAM!

Mackay (SK) a familiar face in goal.  Benito (L-CWB) once more replaced the injured Dodo, with Granero (BPD) keeping his place alongside Trigueros (BPD) and Sastre (R-CWB)
Zarraga (BWM) returned in place of Calavera with Lozano (CAR) moving to a more familiar role, with Vicente (L-IW), Pereira (SS), Juan Cruz (R-IW) and Torles Knoll (PF) ready to fire us to victory.

KICK-OFF

'12 - After a slow start, Pereira sends one into the box but it's cleared from danger... Lozano volleys it back into the area and finds Juan Cruz... but his effort is well wide of goal.
'19 - DANGER FOR CORUNA!  The first meaningful move from Mallorca now as Mboula loses Benito and whips a cross to the far post, Lago Junior gets ahead of his man and...

Spoiler

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RELIEF AT RIAZOR AS HIS HEADER IS JUST OVER THE BAR!!

Relief for Mackay as Lago Junior's header slips through his fingers and grazes the top of the bar.  A massive, massive let off for Los Blanquiazules.

'21 - PENALTY CLAIM!  Vicente goes in for a sliding challenge on Febas and looks to take out the man...

Spoiler

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BUT HE WINS THE BALL FIRST AND THE REFEREE WAVES PLAY ON... VAR WILL CHECK IT... MEANWHILE

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Lozano reacts quickest to the loose ball and carries it upfield before sending a searching ball into Knoll... He finds his way into the box...

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BUT HIS EFFORT IS BLOCKED AND SAILS HIGH AND WIDE OF THE GOAL!

'22 - CORNER!  Pereira sends in a left footed cross to the far post and Knoll climbs highest but his header is wide of goal.
'45 - The referee brings an end to the half after the game drifts out into a stalemate.


HALF-TIME 0-0

Assuring the players that there was no pressure, or expectation, I urged them go and play with freedom in the second half and give a true account of themselves. 
There were goals in this team and they knew it, they just needed to relax and let it show.

'52 - CHANCE!  Lozano picks out Knoll in the area, but he's crowded out and lays the ball off to Pereira.  The shadow striker slips it in behind to Sastre who finds himself in acres of space and unleashes a swerving drive...

Spoiler

AND GREIF IS EQUAL TO IT!  THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SOME GOAL!

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Sastre unleashes a first-time rocket and almost catches out the goalkeeper

'57 - Another freekick for Coruna.  Vicente sends one over the top this time and into the path of Torles Knoll who's lost his man... He takes a volley on...

Spoiler

AND HE SCORES!! WHAT A GOAL!! TORLES KNOLL HAMMERS A SWEET VOLLEY INTO THE BOTTOM CORNER.  1-0 CORUNA!! THEY'RE BACK IN IT!!

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No, no... VAR are checking this one... It looks like Torles Knoll was standing in an offside position when the free-kick was taken and the goal will be RULED OUT.

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'62 - CLOSE!  Vicente cuts inside and sends a driven cross over to the opposite flank where Juan Cruz is free in the box... but the keeper charges down his shot and it deflects behind.
'65 - Another chance for Coruna as Juan Cruz turns provider and plays a through ball into Knoll who runs into the box to meet it and...

Spoiler

IT'S STRAIGHT AT THE KEEPER... A COMFORTABLE SAVE.  AND... KNOLL APPEARS TO HAVE PICKED UP A KNOCK...

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'68 - A double substitution as Hiroki Abe (AF) is on for Torles Knoll who can't continue. Pereira is also withdrawn and replaced by Ayman Aourir (SS).
'71 - A first chance for Abe as Vicente finds him in the box, but he's quickly charged down and dispossessed by a very deep defensive line from Mallorca.
'75 - Vicente volleys a ball through to Hiroki Abe who runs unchallenged into space...

Spoiler

AND GIVES CORUNA THE LEAD!! WHAT A FINISH FROM THE YOUNG MAN!  A LIFELINE FOR CORUNA!

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BUT THE REFEREE IS CONSULTING WITH VAR...

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And again the goal is ruled out for offside.  It wasn't even close!  0-0 it remains...

'80 - CHANCE!  Vicente again as he picks up a cross-field pass from Juan Cruz and runs at the defence before sliding a pass across to Hiroki Abe, he sets himself...

Spoiler

BREAKTHROUGH AT LAST!!  NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT ONE!!  1-0 CORUNA!

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Hiroki Abe finally gets his goal after a lay-off from Vicente.  A confident finish into the corner from the Japanese starlet, giving the goalkeeper no chance.

'90+3 - Last chance now as Vicente attempts an early cross, but it's charged down and deflects behind for a corner... This is the last throw of the dice for Coruna...
'90+4 - Up steps Juan Cruz who floats one in from the left... And Grief comes out and claims it uncontested.  A truly awful corner... AND THERE'S THE FINAL WHISTLE!

FULL TIME - 1-0
MALLORCA ARE PROMOTED AS THEY HANG ON TO WIN 2-1 ON AGGREGATE.

Spoiler

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On any other day it would have been an excellent result to cap a fine performance.  But, unfortunately, the 2-0 deficit left us with too much to do.  A final of two halves in which both teams had their turn to dominate.

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Vicente had one of his best games in a Coruna shirt and could count himself unlucky to not have created more goals.

SEASONAL HEARTBREAK
End of Season Review

In my heart of hearts, I knew it was too soon.  I got caught up in the emotion of it all and our late charge to the play-offs.  The squad overperformed and far exceeded expectations and for that I was proud of them.  We would have work to do next year to re-shape the squad and further refine our tactics, but this platform would give us a foundation to mount a proper title challenge next year.

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Player of the Season:
New signing Torles Knoll was the pick of the bunch.  In his first season he averaged a 7.17 rating and lead the team to the play-offs across his 45 appearances, scoring over 20 goals in the process.

Top Goalscorer: 
Picking up the award in his first season, 22 goal striker Torles Knoll topped the scoring charts, ahead of Vicente (14), Pereira (13) and Juan Cruz (10).

Mr Assister:
The electric winger Juan Cruz amassed 14 assists in his first season at the club, some distance from nearest team-mates Pereira (9) and Vicente (6)

Best Eleven:
Unsurprisingly, Torles Knoll (PF), Inigo Vicente (L-IW), Matheus Pereira (SS) and Juan Cruz (R-IW) were all featured in the best eleven. 
Oier Zarraga could count himself unlucky to miss out at the expense of Pep Calavera (BWM) alongside Markel Lozano (CAR).
Dodo (L-CWB)
managed to edge a place ahead of makeshift backup Alberto Benito, with Pablo Trigueros (BPD), Borja Granero (BPD) and Joan Sastre (R-CWB) all deservedly making the cut.
There was only ever one choice in goal, with the backup goalkeepers hardly featuring in place of mainstay Ian Mackay (SK).

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Thanks for joining us for Season 2... After the heartbreak of narrowly missing out on promotion, Los Blanquiazules will be back shortly with Season 3.  Lots of squad changes to come!

Edited by SinlessCity
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Heartbreak in the end, but you can consolidate your position in the 2nd division, take what you’ve learned, and make another push.
Maybe start improving the defense that plagued you? Make it that if (when) you make the step up, you have a defense that is ready…or moreso!

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  • SinlessCity changed the title to [FM22] "Despertando a Los Blanquiazules" Season 3 - Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña
On 04/08/2022 at 05:05, 13th Man said:

Heartbreak in the end, but you can consolidate your position in the 2nd division, take what you’ve learned, and make another push.
Maybe start improving the defense that plagued you? Make it that if (when) you make the step up, you have a defense that is ready…or moreso!

I was gutted mate.  Mainly because the board were fuming that we'd missed out after finishing way above expectations (ungrateful, much?)

The warning signs were there way back in the season with the defence, just had nowhere near enough depth to deal with it... but alas... Here comes a new season!!

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