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Introduction With Fm2019 beta only a couple of weeks away, I launched into my final FM2018 save, again! This will be the first save I have reported, so please bear with me as my style, and level of detail are worked out, both by me, and by you, my readers. As always, feedback is most welcome. The Early Days The Staff In previous saves I sacked Lee Carsley and replaced him with somebody with higher attributes for picking the starting team. I took a different approach this save and opted to keep him as I couldn’t find an assistant with a better Tactical Knowledge attribute. I felt quite able to pick the playing team myself, and wanted to see how using the tactical advice would go. There were no senior coaching slots open, so I asked the Board for more coaches which they approved. I had three slots available for the U23s but I had plans for them. I hired an additional goalkeeping coach and then another U23 keeping coach, a fitness, and a technical coach for the u23s who did double duty for the seniors. I took on the attacking role and had four stars in all training roles except Tactical with three and a half. The scouting team comprised an analysis geek and two lacklustre scouts. I sent the latter packing and hired in my favourite Scout xxx with 17 and 20 for actual and potential attributes and gave him the chief’s role. I then found a rather uninspiring Polish scout who had a good knowledge base and a reasonable Tactical Knowledge rating to be my next opponent reviewer and two guys with moderately good potential attributes to find my young blood. I beefed up the medical department with some decent physios and went to see the players. The Squads The Youth team had a handful of 16 year olds who looked like they might develop okay, so I organised some mentoring to boost their determination, personality or both. The 17 and 18 year olds of potential (3 ½ stars) went into the U23s if they had a full star in Actual. The U23s boosted by some youngsters with potential was a tad unwieldy, with only a few candidates for long term careers with the club. There were quite a few who might develop a bit who could be sold off for cash, but there were many playing the same position which proved to be a bit troublesome as finding playing time worth a damn was going to be difficult. The younger ones I paired up with mentors where I could and the older ones I set to training either new traits or on individual traits as advised. The seniors looked a good bunch, and from previous saves I knew most could be counted on for making a good account of themselves. First thing I did though was to send all the loanees back to their home clubs. This freed up over 2 million pounds of salary, and gave me a transfer budget if I could find players better than my squad already had. My only concerns were lack of depth at Goalkeeper, both in their 30’s and only one star youngsters to back them up. I also had concerns with left wing, though the best replacement for Maghoma was away on loan, I still needed some backup. There were similar concerns for left defence, as Grounds’ backup were one star youngsters of 16! My central midfield was solid, with Kleftenbeld and Davis destined to be the starters with xxx, Gardner and xxx capable backups, the latter two able to rotate into Right Defender as well as Midfield. Ngoye I would set to learn Central Defence to provide some more quality backup there too, having doubts about the long term viability of Dean and Roberts who I had experience with from FM2016, and the veteran Morrison would be solid for only a couple of seasons at best. I didn’t even consider starting club legend xxx in the first team. The System Training In previous saves I put all players on the training schedule pertinent to the position I wanted them to play, to either increase their familiarity with it or to increase their relevant attributes, or both. I can’t say the results were impressive that way, so I thought I’d try another for this last hurrah in FM2018. All players were left on the playing position default, so they trained in the position they had been playing in. This allowed me to put them on focus training or new trait training, sometimes both. It would be interesting to see the results at the end of the season. Scouting I only had two scouts to assign as one was reviewing the next opponent, and the Chief was left free to take a look at players I identified myself. I assigned one scout to UK and the other to Central Europe looking for Hot Prospects. I set the Chief up with a selection of free agents I thought might be interesting. I was hard pressed to find anybody better than already available so in the end I opted for youth… well young anyway. A versatile midfielders capable of playing anywhere from DM to AM and left to right, though a specialist ball winner, and a young left fullback to relieve Grounds when he needed a breather. Cohen Brammal joined during the winter window after being placed on the transfer list. Tactics I think it’s fair to say the System evolved somewhat through the year, but was always looking to allow the players free rein in interpreting the team instructions. From time to time I changed a few things, and changed them back again. Even the Team instructions changed as the year went by, as our reputation relative to the other clubs in the competition changed. As usual, I had a standard 4-4-2 utilising a Deep Lying Forward and Advanced Forward combo, but later this changed to Target Man/Advanced Forward whenever Jukewicz was playing. I chose to have a Winger on the left and a Wide Midfielder on the right both on attacking duty. Both Fullbacks set to Support and the Central Defenders to Defend. In the centre of midfield I ended up with a Central Midfielder on Defend Duty as my holding player and a Ball Winning Midfielder on Support to do the running around. I experimented with various combinations utilising Deep Lying Playmakers on Defend or Box to Box Midfielders, but the Central Mid and BWM ended up the most effective. Eventually, the Team Instructions ended up as: Flexible Shape with Standard Mentality. Tempo, Width and Closing Down remained on default, while Defensive Line was set to Slightly Deeper and GK distribution set to be hindered. I set Passing at Direct most of the time, and fiddled with retaining possession at times throughout the season. In the end I did without it, unless the Assistant harped on about possession during a match. I asked the guys to play with more discipline, and left the final third settings at default unless he was beating his brow about longshots. I issued a few Player Instructions: The keeper was asked to distribute quickly to flanks, but rarely did; Central Defenders told to close down much less and to ease off tackles; The Box to Box / Ball Winning Midfielder was asked to Close Down More, Move into Channels and Get Forward; Both wide midfield players were asked to Close Down More; Both Strikers were asked to Close Down More. Concluding While the System was developed during the season and not just prior to ball meeting boot, any changes were gradual and not necessarily permanent. The next post will cover the 2017-18 season. Read on, to see how the Second City Blues went putting theory into practice. As always, your feedback is heartily welcome.