A brief prelude: This is my first purchase since FM14. I feel like since I last properly played the game, I've developed a much more concise idea of football cultures, style and tactics and this led to my urge to play the game again. Also reading a few of the stories on here has inspired me to detail my own.
Choosing a team to manage, it was never going to be anything other than Newcastle United. They're my team have have the potential for growth into an elite club. They just need my help!
What do I want to achieve in the long term?
End the club's major trophy drought (now standing a ridiculous 48 years).
Develop the academy to produce players for the first team.
Play intense, attractive, attacking, winning football.
Create a winning culture, something the club has lacked for years.
That last point is difficult to quantify exactly in the game. It's a problem that set upon Newcastle United from c.2012-2016 and culminated in a second relegation to the Championship in the past 8 years. The strategic direction for transfers on the playing side was to sign younger, cheaper players from Europe, develop them for a number of years and then sell once a big offer came in (see Sissoko, Moussa). This worked initially, but fell apart as those brought in were not up to the task, failing to address gaping holes in the squad. There was also a depressingly hilarious disconnect between those in charge of transfers and those coaching the team. An example would be signing a Target Man type in Mitrovic despite having no wingers to provide crosses.
An imbalanced squad lacking talent and application
Players who had no bond with the city or fans
A culture of malaise and low ambition
Not enough players with a 'winning' mentality
Chapter 1: A False Dawn
Before loading up the game for the first time, I spent a good few hours reading some guides and experiences on here. It's safe to say I learned a few new things, especially relating to the impact of personalities, tutors and tactics.
Shape, Mentality and Team Instructions
Upon starting, the first screen I gravitate to is the tactics builder. Because one of my goals above is to rebuild the culture of the club, I want to try and instill my tactical philosophy from day 1. This will be built solely on a future vision, not built on the players I currently have at my disposal.
So, what is the tactical philosophy I wish to implement? It can be summarised in 4 points.
A co-ordinated high press.
Attacking football based around width, movement and penetration.
Intelligent players being given the freedom to show their ability.
Having learned from some of the excellent threads on here, the Mentality and Shape that suits what I want to do above is a Very Fluid Shape.
This provides the compact shape for a high press, and gives the players complete freedom to show their ability. A standard mentality (standard attitude to risk) should provide a good balance; let the players decide when to push and when to sit back. This brings us on to Team Instructions.
Tempo - Much Higher: I want maximum intensity in attack and especially in my pressing.
Time Wasting - No change.
Width - No change.
Def Line - Higher to close space between the lines.
Offside Trap - No: I've only ever had bad experiences when using offside traps, personal preference not to use them.
Closing Down - Much More: Needed for the high press.
Prevent Short Kicks and Tighter Marking - Both yes as they help with my high press.
Play out of Defence - I don't want to be preaching to the players about how to attack, but I've not got the set up to play a long ball game, nor do I really want to.
Pass into Space - Yes: I find this goes really well with the high tempo approach, lots of forward runs and through balls.
Low Crosses - As much down to personal preference but I want my onrushing midfielders and wingers to chip in with goals too. High crosses will not be their forte.
Formation, Roles and Duties
The above 4-4-1-1 is what I settled on as my formation in the first season. I was never wholly comfortable with it and tinkered with the roles and duties of the central midfielders especially. As I'll come to detail later, I eventually moved away from this shape and onto something new. My main tactical post will come in chapter 2, as I don't want to dwell on something that won't be a part my plans moving forward.
As you'll have noticed, I've not really discussed the specifics of players and the squad so far. I only made a couple of loans in the first year, perhaps under the arrogant belief that I couldn't fail but get promoted. Additionally, as stated above, I wanted to focus on implementing my desired culture rather than build something tailored towards players who won't be here in the future. You can guess how that turned out.
For the future, I'll be looking to bring in players who meet the below criteria (in addition to specialised positional attributes). These fit my culture, shape and tactic.
I wanted to highlight some further reading I did and changes I think applied during the season. One of the things I didn't previously realise was how the personality of a player can affect his training and development. With a cultural philosophy or developing young players for the first team, this is something I need to factor in from day 1 via training and tutoring.
Related to the above was discovering that the Head of Youth Development's personality reflects that of the youth intake. So Joe Joyce received his P45 and Kristjaan Speakman was brought in. A shame really, as Joe is quite a talented coach.
I'd already made several requests to Mike Ashley to invest in widening the youth recruitment network and to improve the junior coaching budget. The first intake was disappointing on the whole (one potential 4.5* talent and little else), but this is year 1 and in more time better prospects should emerge. I had set up some tutoring on past editions but without any real idea on exactly how it was beneficial to the younger players. In my experiences so far, the right tutor has improved determination and personality in youth players. I intend to use this to improve my 'winning' culture to create a determined and professional squad.
As you may have guessed, the season did not end as I had wished. We finished 3rd, which at best could be described as an underachievement. A crushing 1-0 defeat in the playoff final had me genuinely fearing for my job, but luckily Mike Ashley appreciated my failure (as he does) and came calling with a 2 year contract. If this happened in reality, I would certainly be demanding my instant sacking on twitter, but there we go.