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FM14: St.Etienne - Allez Les Verts!

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Welcome To The St.Etienne Football Manager Thread - 2014

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Introduction

The St. Etienne thread returns for its second year. With a fresh installment of Football Manager we are bought another chance to manage Les Verts, the most successful club in France. This thread will shed some light on one of the most exciting and historical clubs in Ligue 1. Please join in and share your success's and near misses! This thread will act as the go to hub on anything involing St.Etienne so get get inspired and get involved.

Why St.Etienne?

St.Etienne are the proverbial sleeping giant of French football. With such an illustrious past the fans have become accustomed to the roller-coaster ride of relegations, promotions and near misses in recent years. With continued stability in Ligue 1 in the last decade the ship has steadied itself, but league positions have been somewhat mediocre.

The exit of big players to other Ligue 1 teams have left Les Verts titled 'Acadamy' to top teams in France. The most painful was in 2009 with the exit of Bafatembis Gomis to bitter rivals Lyon who are fast approaching Etiennes record of 10 titles - Selling him to Lyon with a number of European teams outside of France interested was a tough pill to swallow. This was just the start of a trend. Dimitri Payet - a great prospect whose goals held Etienne in competitive European spots was sold - To Lille. Followed up with U21 French international Emanuel Riviere’s transfer to Toulouse who evenutally moved on to a resurgeant Monaco. Riviere had attracted interest from clubs like Arsenal, common sense failed again and he was sold to another Ligue 1 mid-table club who were challenging for the same spots as Etienne. Blaise Matuidi's transfer to PSG is another in recent years that have stung the potential of this great club and with star striker Aubemeyang's recent depature to Borussia yet another blow to les verts.

However with the abundance of up and coming youth raised through the Etienne acadamy and some flamyboyant counter attacking play, St.Etienne lifted their first major domestic trophy in over 30 years winning the French League Cup propelling them back into Viva Europa.

With a solid group of young and exciting players there is a great opportunity to play creative, attacking football and gain momentum in an attempt to reclaim a glimpse of Les Verts former glory.

History

Founded in 1919 and currently plays in the top division of French football. Saint-Étienne plays its home matches at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard located within the city. Saint-Étienne are the most successful club in French football history having won ten Ligue 1 titles, six Coupe de France titles, and five Trophée des champions. The club's ten league titles is the most professional league titles won by a French club, while the six cup victories places the club third among most Coupe de France title.

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ASSE was once the top team in France and a European powerhouse during the 70's with greats such as Platini & Santini, winnng 10 ligue 1 titles. However recent years have been less than kind to Les Verts. The last Ligue trophy was lifted under Platini's guidance in 1981 and since then Etienne have been relegated a number of times, most recently in 2001 during the clubs involvement in the European passport scandal.

Stadium

Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. The stadium opened on September 13, 1931. The stadium was named after Geoffroy Guichard, founder of the Casino retail group, who purchased the site on which it was built. Nicknamed "le Chaudron" (the Cauldron), or "l'enfer vert" (the Green Hell) given during the team's heyday when it drew particularly large crowds (the record being set in 1985, with more than 47,000 spectators). More recently, its current capacity was 35,616 before the current renovations, which began in 2011 and have temporarily reduced this figure to 26,747. When the renovations are finished, the stadium will hold 40,830 seated spectators.

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Boardroom

Minimum expectation again is that we finish top half of the league. After reviewing last season's performance this is just about fair. The impact due to the loss of key striker Aubameyang cannot be overstated though a top half finish is certainly achievable. European competition will alure you with and extra £1.75m and some more manouvrability in the wage structure - Qualifying for the Europa league may be seen as daunting, particularly for the first season but with the extra budget it offer this may be a tempting offer for the ambitious.

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The Club

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Goalkeepers

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Ruffier: It is surely only a matter of time before Ruffier becomes a regular in the France squad. The former Monaco captain has emerged as a leader in the St Etienne dressing room, an imposing presence, very hard to beat in one-on-ones and brilliant on his line. A gritty, determined character. He's your number 1 guy for this spot.

Valette: The young keeper brought in from Montepellier to provide extra cover has no Ligue 1 experience and a long way to go to ever challenge Ruffier for a first team spot. Will provide cover where needed but will require significant development to ever establish himself.

Moulin Is a reserve team keeper, his comparatively low wages and level headed personality make him a suitable squad player and backup if needed.

Defenders

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Kurt Zouma (DC): This talented 18yr old is a product of the Etienne academy and is highly rated. Very promising young starlet that will attract alot of attention from European outfits. A first team regular in Ligue 1 all last season and again this season, the club has alot of confidence in this young lad and so should you. Formed a essential role in guiding to club to the second best defensive record in the league, behind only PSG.

Jean-Pascal Mignot (DC): Having recently joined from relegated Auxerre, Mignot is a solid and consistent centre back. Although approaching his twilight years he has a role to play in your back 4 and is dependable when callled upon.

Faouzi Ghoulam (DL): Is your go to LB. Solid for the first season, lacks key defensive stats but has been present for Etienne in their campaign and will be an solid player for a season or two depending on his development. Product of Academy.

Loic Perrin (DRC/WBR/DM): Is St.Etienne's captain and another product of the youth system. Very versatile in his roles being able to cover DR/DC/DM/MC he is a wonderfull all round player with good stats that enable him to contribute effectively in all phases of play. Starts consistently alongside Zouma in the centre back roll for ASSE this season round.

Moustapha Bayal (DC/DM): This 96Kg man mountain from Senegal is a good centre back that will put pressure on Zouma and Perrin for a first team spot and may warrant it. With good physical attributes and a commanding aerial presence he will give you a selection headache when it comes to picking your two centre halfs. His physicallity also makes him a real threat from set peices.

François Clerc (DR): Despite a striking resemblance to Lazio front man and German international Miroslav Klose this French fly back is quite the opposite. A solid veteran of the French league winning 3 Ligue 1 titles, 2 Champions Trophies and French Cup with Lyon. Clerc will provide your young squad with that vital experience and know how. One of those players that you love to have in the dressing room.

Florentin Pogba (DLC): Joining from Ligue 2 outfit Sedan Ardennes, Pogba is a capable squad player with strong physical attributes. With a busy European and domestic calender he is capable of providing cover where it is needed.

Paul Baysse (DRC): Having only made a dozen or so appearences for fellow Ligue 1 club Stade Brestois last season Baysse has his first season for Les Verts. He certainly boasts some impressive skills in the right areas though his lack of playing time and competition for the central spot will mean it will be very difficult for him to break into the first team. A team player, with bravery and a good head, suited to to limited defender role to compensate for a lack of technical prowess.

Midfield

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Jeremy Clement (DM/MC): This baby faced boy is a hard working defensive orientated midfielder with a good eye for a pass. He fits perfectly into the Etienne midfield with his high Work Rate and Teamwork attributes. Something you'll notice as being quite common across the squad.

Renaud Cohade (MC): Cohade is one of my favourite players in French football. Having recently signed from Ligue 1 outfit Valenciennes, he's another of your 16+ players for Team Work and Work Rate. Being utilised as a hard grafter in Etienne's squad this season - he'll give you 110% on the virtual pitch as well. Will nail down that MC position all season long.

Fabien Lemoine (DM/MC): Lemoine recently joined from Rennes for a trickle over £1m. I hate to harp on but he's another 16+ on Work Rate and Teamwork and will give you hearty performances in the centre midfield or sat deeper in the 'makelele' role. Will warrant a first team place but will face strong competition for the midfield spot.

Romain Hamouma (AMR): This pacey winger joined from Caen for over £3.5m and possess's real pace and dribbling ability. Not technically gifted but is capable of those magic moments that leave you speechless.

Ismaël Diomande (DM): From the Ivory Coast, Diomande completed only 1 full 90 minutes for Etienne last season. However with a solid platform of mental and physical attributes he certainly shows promise and has already accumulated 404 minutes of playing time for Etienne this season. Is developing well so show him some patience and playing time and you may be rewarded.

Franck Tabanou: Will be well known to followers of French football, the under 21 international moved to Etienne from Toulose this season for £4.5m - His pace and technical competance on the ball makes him a real threat in the opponents third. He also posses all the defensive abilities of a full back and really is a complete player down the left hand side.

Ben Corgnet: Another of Etienne's new signings, joining from Lorient where he played consistently all season chipping in with goals in the process. Posses a great turn of pace and is currently St.Etienne's second highest scorer behind Hamouma in Ligue 1 this season.

Defenders

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Yohan Mollo: #YOLO - A pacey inside forward currently on his second season on loan from Nancy. Does lack certain a technical buzz with some of his execution but does have that spark and air of confidence and is certainly effective and flexible driving inside from either wing.

Ibrahim Sissoko: Another loanee, this time from Wolfsburg in Germany. Certainly a similar mould to Mollo possesing great pace and dribbling ability. Has a lot of work in developing his mental side of the game but may be one to work with and watch for the future.

Brandao: The Brazilian and veteran has a proven record of goals after 3 seasons with Marseille in Ligue 1 and a number of seasons in Ukraine scoring goals for Shakhtar. Is a powerful target man with a great work ethic. Certainly has another season of goals in him though it will be up to you to ensure he gets the service he needs to work with the strengths he has.

Mevlut Erdinc: The Ligue 1 journeyman joined Etienne from Rennes having played for Sochaux and PSG in previously. Has a track record of goals in domestic competitions and provides the little man to the big man / little man partnership with Brandao. Has a good range of pace though composure and decision making are low for a centre forward.

Idriss Saadi: Academy product returned from a loan spell at GFC Ajaccio where he notched 7 goals in 36 appearances for the club. The young lad requires work to be a first team striker but posses great determination that could drive him to get there.

Max Gradel: The aggressive winger starts his 3rd season for Les Verts having joined from Leeds Utd in 2010. Very quick with the ball though though his finishing product is questionable. Suited to driving at defenders and charging counter attacks forward from the flanks.

Summary

The expectation you decided upon with the board will ultimately stipulate whether the existing squad is strong enough. I believe for a top half finish, no investment would be required to achieve - Now that's not to say I don't think it would be wise to strengthen certain potions but I believe it would be achievable as it is. If you are one for ambition and are pushing for Europe then I would say almost certainly there are areas of the team that will require bolstering. Remember Les Verts only qualified for Europe last season through the domestic cup and not league position. If you are attempting to challenge a top spot then I would recommend looking firstly and acquiring a proven goalscorer. Whilst Brandao has a record of goals he is ageing and his finishing prowess is not as it was 5 years ago.

Defensively and through Midfield the squad are strong and there is depth, though the team does lack that truly gifted creative midfield player.

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Tactics

Here's a summary of a few options available to you. I like to to take note of the strenghts within the squad and look at how i can build a formation and play style around those strength.

Firstly you need to note that your midfielders are all very hard working, with high teamwork and work rate stats - this is opitimised by Clement, Lemoine, Cohade & Diomande to name a few. Those of you that participated in last years thread will be familiar with the style of football i adopt here. With this in mind i chose to set up a compact midfield with high closing down and instructions to pressure the ball and get in the faces of the opponents to stop them playing.

Now unfortuanatley at the start of the game Etienne do not posses that creative playmaker that other top Ligue 1 team have such as a Pastore, Valbuena or Martin so i would question a tactic revolving around a central playmaker in this respect. Etienne do have pace on the with Mollo / Hamouma / Tabanou & Gradel and a big target man in Brandao. With this in mind i opted for a 4-3-2-1 strategy with the aim of winning the ball from the midfield position and launching quick counters exploiting the flanks:

Formations

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4-3-2-1: As i've described above this my preferred formation. So far this season Etienne have adopted for the AMC in (Usually Corgnet) in favour of the more defensive approach. I feel this gives the team just a bit more balance in defence and as a unit the midfield are able to absorb a little more pressure before launching counter attacks. Alot of focus is placed on winning the ball back quickly in the midfield and laying it off the wider players.

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Many of the players - certainly in the central midfield have player instructions to close down more & tackle harder. You will note the team insructions:

  • More Direct Passing - When we win the ball back i want ensure its played forward quickly to a front man, possession football is not so important to me here as gaining territory when we do have it.
  • Exploit The Flanks - Get the ball wide to the players with flair a more techincal ability. They will be the creators of goals and able to drive forward in space.
  • Hassle Opponents - This is the other side. The players have such high work rate and this will drive the ability to shut down the opposition and prevent them from playing their game.
  • Get Stuck In - Again as above, This is to really drive the point home to the players that this is a style of football and work ethic required.
  • Be More Disciplined - There are few flair players in Etienne squad, so this isn't a major concern. But for the tactic to work the team need to stay united and operate their roles effectively.

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The Transfer Market

The transfer market and dealings are big business in football. Whilst Ligue 1 is viewed as a feeder league for the major European clubs there is a sense in France that with the uprising of Paris and now AS Monaco more clubs and owners will be digging in and ensuring that not only are their best players kept hold of to remain competitive in a league where the power of balance has shifted greatly, but also to invest in new talent from overseas to ensure the longevity of their clubs in the top tier of French football.

St.Etienne - The New Boys 2014

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Potential Transfers

Now this bit is up to you! But here is a run through of the players that have caught my eye and one or two that have had been linked with Les Verts during the close season:

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Also bare in mind Ligue 1 registration rules only allows for a maximum of 4 Non-EU Players. Dont get stung by this. However it does allow players from African nation to NOT count towards your limit of 4 Non-EU players.

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Ligue 1 - Matches

Biggest Win: 9-1 (vs Stad Reims 25th August 1971) - Historic

Biggest Away Win: 4-1 (Vs Tolousse 19th August 2012) - RvN#17 [FM13]

Biggest Win in a Cup Final: 3-0 (Vs Bordeaux 2014) - GrZeeZoo [FM13]

Biggest Win in Champions League:

Most Possession in a Match: 77% (Vs RC Lens) - GrZeeZoo [FM13]

Most Shots in a Match: (15) Aubameyang (Vs Nancy Lorraine 2013/14 - BradleyBrax [FM13]

Most Games Won in Row:10 Games (22nd February : 21st April 2013) - RvN#17 [FM13]

Most Matches Without Losing: 23 (21st December 2012 : 12th May 2013) - RvN#17 [FM13]

Most League Goals Scored in a Season: 78 (Season 2012/13) - RvN#17 [FM13]

Least League Goals Conceded in a Season: 27 (Season 2012/13) - Saint_Lane [FM13]

PLAYERS - Ligue 1

Most Goals in a Match: (5) Pierre Aubameyang Vs Tours FC (2012/13)- RvN#17 [FM13]

Most Goals in a Season (26) Pierre Aubameyang (2012/13 Season) - RvN#17 [FM13]

Most League Goals in a Season: (25) Pierre Aubameyang - Season 2012/13 - Saint_Lane [FM13]

Most Assists in a Match: (3) Renaud Cohade - Season 2013/14 - DasBloo99 [FM13]

Most League Assists in a Season: (19) Romain Hamouma - Season 2012/13 - Saint_Lane [FM13]

Youngest Player in a Match: 15 years 307 Days - Laurent Paganelli Vs PSG 1978 - Historic

Oldest Player in a Match: 33 Years 44 Days - Florent Malouda Vs Tolousse 27th July 2013 - RvN#17 [FM13]

Youngest Goalscorer in a Match: 16 Years 115 Days - Laurent Roussey Vs AS Monaco 1978 - Historic

Oldest Goalscorer in a Match: 32 Years 227 Days - Brandao Vs AJ Ajaccio 2013 - RvN#17 [FM13]

Most Passes in a Match:

Most Yellow Cards in a Season: 10 Yellows (Brandao) - RvN#17 [FM13]

Most Red Cards in a Season: 2 Reds (Brandao) - RvN#17 [FM13]

Highest Transfer Fee Received: £3.5m - Francois Clerc to Valenciennes 2013 - RvN#17 [FM13]

Highest Transfer Fee Spent: £10m - Javior Pastore from Paris St.Germain 2013 - RvN#17 [FM13]

In order to have your record here, please PM with link to screenshot and detail of what record is being set or broken. Alternatively post in the forum and share your glory with us all

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Nice job, loving the team guide. I'm hoping someone will do something similar for Lyon and Marseilles

Agreed. Its an exciting year for French football with Monaco back in the top flight. I'm really interested to see how Lyon and Marseille do this season. Lyon are certainly struggling atm and dropping points most games. Whilst you are waiting why not fire up an Etienne game - you may get the bug :p ?

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Picking St Etienne as my first team to manage :cool:

Going for 4-5-1 formation.

Great Stuff! Keep us posted. Really keen to see how people fair with Les Verts this time round - I've hit the final leg of my season so a season review going up next day or two!

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Looking forward to it :thup: Just sacked pretty much the entire scouting team Bereta. Brought in Rob Bone from Middlesborough. Hoping more will follow.

Chairman just agreed to improve our youth recruitment and junior coaching budget.

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Pre-season result

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Pretty happy with our pre season. Started the first 3 games with 4-5-1 and decided to switch to 4-4-2 diamond which seems to be working great for us at the moment. But tad disappointing with the way we concede the goals :( Like Perrin just stands there and AI players runs past him to score.

Europa League Third Qualifying Round

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Pretty happy with the result against Xanthi. Got to play Zeljeznicar in Europa League play off. Pretty confidence of going to group stages.

Transfers

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Only brought in Jussandro and other was signed by HOY.

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Only brought in Jussandro and other was signed by HOY.

Wow, what a great find - He looks solid and for the price you paid I salute you. I'll be interested to know how you rotate with Ghoulam as i rate him quite highly in the left back position!

Solid pre-season as well and you've hit the ground running in Europe <!> Keep us posted

Allez Les Verts

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Yup, his agent offered him to me and as we're short of cover at left back role so I brought him in. I also rate Ghoulam highly as well, he kept being approached by Lille in the summer and told them where to go.

Yup, hoping get off a good start to the League as well.

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August 2013

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Ligue 1 -Good start to the season for us, Shame to lose 2-1 to Lille even we took the lead. We still need to tighten up our defence. Good position to be in after 3 games.

Europa League - We was shocking in the 2nd leg and took so many long shots which is frustrating. Their goals came out of nowhere.

Our group

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Not sure if we can qualify from that group. Real Sociedad lost to Arsenal in Champions League play off. Our first game will be away to Fiorentina.

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Is it just me that our defence is frigging awful :( Already leaked in 11 goals in the league so far.

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September and October 2013

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September have to be the worst ever :( We took the lead against Bordeaux, Valenciennes, Toulouse and yet the team continues to make mistakes and gifted them the goals. We even race to 2-0 lead against Valenciennes. Was even considering quitting but decided to carry on. I'm still under huge pressure and my job status is insecure :(

October - Much better month compare to last. Was unlucky to lose to Monaco, Perrin made a crucial mistake to gift the ball to Toulalan for his goal. Superb win over PSG :cool:

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Looking to bring in old decent-ish defender to shore up our leaking defence. Came close to sign Gallas but pulled out at the last minute.

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My journey has come to the end :( Been sacked. Team constantly making mistakes each games and cost me the job. chairman sacked me after 2-0 loss against Evian TG FC.

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Is it just me that our defence is frigging awful :( Already leaked in 11 goals in the league so far.

You're not the only one. I always seem to start off well and then the defence goes missing after about 10 games.

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You're not the only one. I always seem to start off well and then the defence goes missing after about 10 games.

Unlucky dude :( Yeah, the defence constantly keep giving away the ball.

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Just completed my first season with St Etienne. Overachieved so will probably pay for it next season. Finished 2nd in the league behind PSG. I had 21 wins 12 draws and 5 defeats finishing with 75 points. Ten behind PSG and 9 points ahead of third place Bordeaux. Got to the semi final of the Euro Cup before being eliminated by Bayern Munich. Beat Udinese and Spurs on the way. Won the French cup and got to the semi final of Coupe de la ligue. Only major player I bought was Koo Ja-Cheol from Wolfsburg.

Played a 4-2-3-1 formation. No real star performances, although Zouma got the second highest average in the league. Took on Damien Comolli as Director of Football. He found Koo Ja-Cheol and I've got Ola Toivannen coming in the next transfer window.

Thoroughly enjoyed the season although with my tactics I think I was lucky with many of the wins. Great team to play a season with.

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Just started my new career with St Etienne.

Some great info in here thanks.

Ill keep you updated on my progress.

Trying to only bring in French players.

So far I have only brought in Gabrial Obertan on loan.

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Just started my new career with St Etienne.

Some great info in here thanks.

Ill keep you updated on my progress.

Trying to only bring in French players.

So far I have only brought in Gabrial Obertan on loan.

Hey EvertonFanCam - Good to hear! Keep us posted! I have my Etienne save fired up - Hoping to get first season knocked out the way next couple evenings. I like your policy on French Only. You should see some gems come through the academy to help you out!

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Hey EvertonFanCam - Good to hear! Keep us posted! I have my Etienne save fired up - Hoping to get first season knocked out the way next couple evenings. I like your policy on French Only. You should see some gems come through the academy to help you out!

Yeah hopefully with the good youth training centre.

How good is Tabanou :D

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Can anyone please tell me how Kurt Zouma has been performing for you? I have just signed him for 12 million at the start of my fourth season. He seems to have all the attributes to be a great centre back with his marking, tackling, heading, jumping, pace and acceleration abilities. However, his passing and mental stats don't seem the best, even at 4 seasons in. I will play him as a limited centre back, but do his mental stats cause him to make many mistakes?

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Cheers, he's been very solid for me so far in pre season. I have made him my vice captain. I have brought in an excellent mental coach who will hopefully boost those mental stats up for him, although playing more games and getting greater experience will help also.

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Pre season 2013 – St Etienne

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Pretty happy with our results. Baffled with our 1-0 loss. We was all over them and they only took 2 shots and one landed on target.

We outclassed FSV Frankfurt and should have scored more. Pleased to see Erdinc on scoring sheet.

We went behind against M.Tel - Aviv thanks to glaring mistake from Perrin who missed the ball over his head. It was game of two halves. Thankfully our strike duo grabbed the goals for us to win our final pre season fixture.

Europa League Third Qualifying Round

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Pretty happy to see us beat Thun. We raced to 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. Which was disappointing that Zouma was sent off on 30 minutes for double booking. And which we struggled to score afterwards.

Was confidence of us seeing this out and did the job, Switched from 4-4-2 diamond to 4-5-1 and gave Tielemans, his first start and did well. Was disappointing performance from the team as we just couldn't step in gear.

Europa League Playoff draw

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Pretty good draw for us. Confidence of going through to group stages.

Transfers

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Frédéric Kanouté - Was no brainier for me, We was lacking a class striker and I'm glad we have signed him, as he was chased by other clubs. Also vice captain.

Javier García-Noblejas - We was lacking a left back and we signed him cheap. Very promising player.

Youri Tielemans - As we sold Clement, I decided to almost blew my transfer budget on him. Massive signing for us, He was heading to Man City but they couldn't complete the deal due to lack of funds :D So I poached him right away.

Pretty happy with my transfers dealing. Was sad to see Clement leave but it was hard to turn down for him.

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Also made changes to our backroom staff

Yes :D I'm back :cool: Hoping for a better outcome than my previous save with them.

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Hi guys, nice to see this thread becoming more active.

I've been managing Portsmouth but was looking for an alternative challenge in a different nation. Whilst deciding who to take on in Spain, Germany and Italy, I've returned to France. I had a great time with an all-French team at PSG in FM13, and I've spent a whole day deciding on St.Etienne or Marseille. The fact that you have this thread, and some cash (Marseille have neither) has persuaded me to try here - before the Zouma transfer update! I managed both him and Ruffier at PSG, and I like the fact that - with one or two exceptions - the squad is at, or just below, prime ages.

I've found that there is not much need to splash the cash, and all the young French players I wanted and could afford were priced out of moving by their clubs. For example, Veretout and Nery were in the reserves of their respective clubs, not wanted, and available for loan. Neither club would accept full value or loan offers, and in Veretout's case, they said he would not be allowed to join a rival in the same division. On the same day, they allowed him to join Nice on loan!

For me, the glaring need is for a decent striker - I'd love to get rid of all three of ours. I've done a handful of deals, but haven't been able to land any of the strikers I wanted. For some reason, even Gomis didn't want to come back - despite Lyon accepting my bid for him. None of the signings so far have been in the starting X1, as most are with an eye to the future. I've also changed a couple of staff - I was surprised to see we didn't have any coaches!

We progressed comfortably in our first European round, and kicked off our Ligue 1 season with a slightly disappointing 0-0 draw at Ajaccio. I've started with similar instructions to those set up by the OP - 4321 - and have bravely gone for a Euro finish because I saw that the £6m kitty for a top half finish would need to be reduced by the maxed-out wage budget.

Last time I tried to do screenies I found it wasn't working, although I have no idea why that stopped when I updated to 14.2.2 last month. I will try again and see if it works now - otherwise you will be asked to forgive text-heavy updates. I'll post some details about signings and early progress etc later, after the transfer window is closed.

ALLEZ LES VERTS!

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Yes :D I'm back :cool: Hoping for a better outcome than my previous save with them.
That's what we like! Liking the Kanoute signing - Loved him and Negredo at Sevilla together (With Navas and Perotti on the flanks!) - Keep us posted!!

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Well, it seems that I was able to get screenshots again, so I've gone overboard on them!

Here is a summary of my transfers in the first window. Malumandsoko was signed on my behalf, as with all other managers. Evandro is a creative Brazilian midfielder who may not feature in the starting X1 too much, but will hopefully be useful from the bench if we need a bit more flair in some games. Sunzu was bought in from Africa when I couldn't land my main target (Nkoulou). He had a shocker in the friendly defeat against Rayo and I offered him out immediately (his value has trebled since signing). In the end, OM took him on loan for the season, paying 100% of the wages and a further £100k p/m. Yougouda is a young central midfielder from Africa, and will be developed in the reserve team, and Amartey is another one for the future. The fee for him was steep but he should make the grade - he was loaned back to his former club for the season. Eto'o is a striker, and younger brother of Samuel. That would make him about 35 years old, according to Jose, but he is in fact 23. How could I resist having Eto'o on a free transfer and low wages - especially as his first name is Etienne! I actually have high hopes that I can make something of him, and he has shown some glimpses of talent from the bench already. Akpa-Akpro was an early target, and came on loan, but complained early on at a lack of action and was sent back. Ironically one day after leaving, he suffered a hamstring injury in training and was ruled out for three months! I bemoaned the failure of landing a top striker in my first post, but finally made a breakthrough when a third attempt to sign Batshuayi was successful. The young Belgian joined for £4m, but given the surprisingly good form of Brandao to date, he will have to be eased in to the team whilst the veteran plays out his final season at the club.

Leaving the club for a small fee was Mignot, and I have loaned out Brison, Baysse, and the aforementioned Sunzu. All three are bringing £100k p/m in to the club, and their beneficiaries are also paying 100% of the wages. If the need arises, any of them can be recalled from their loans. There were a number of other players I was prepared to sell (Coulibaly, Gradel, Erdinc, Saadi and Brandao - before he changed my mind - but nobody was interested).

ASSaint-Etienne_TransfersTransferHistory_zpse841f9ef.png

A few changes were made on the staffing front, and obviously the lack of any coaches at the club was an issue. But I felt most of the existing staff could offer some value.

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Our early season form has been quite good, especially the home performances in Europe, and the away wins in Ligue 1 at both Lille and Marseille (who were unbeaten and leading the league until our late winner against the run of play).

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The 4321 and high-pressing game is a different approach to me, but the wingers are definitely the stars of the show until now. Most goals have been created from crosses by them (or occasionally the full-back), or from corners and free-kicks, usually delivered by the impressive Tabanou. Here is a brief run down of the key performers, in order of appearances so far.

ASSaint-Etienne_SquadPlayers_zps3e344055.png

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This save could be shorter than I thought!

Since my last update, results have dipped a little. I've had a couple of injuries but all games have been close affairs, and we've been affected by Brandao, who hasn't scored since my previous post.

St Etienne 1-1 SC Bastia

Sheriff 2-0 St Etienne (Europa League)

AS Monaco 2-1 St Etienne

St Etienne 2-0 FC Lorient

St Etienne 0-0 Tottenham (Europa League)

St Etienne 0-1 PSG

FC Sochaux 2-0 St Etienne

After the disappointing defeat at Sochaux, we dropped a few places to 9th in the table, but we are only five points off PSG in third. However, before the post-match press conference began, I was summoned by the board to explain the result, and they weren't convinced by my comments. So much so, I had to assure them we would win the next match to save my job. Unfortunately, I was unaware at the time that this would be at Tottenham in the Europa League!

I'm not overly optimistic this is going to happen (Batshuayi cannot play in Europe having played for Standard before I signed him), and the odds on it are 9-1 against us doing so! I was stunned that the board took this action so soon (early November) as there had been no previous indication that my job was at risk (they have been satisfied throughout).

I can't remember the last time I was sacked, I think after saving Portsmouth from the drop in season 1 of FM13 was the only time for years. If it happens, I will start afresh, on the 14.2.2 version, and aim for a top-half finish.

Edit: Well, the inevitable happened. We played very well at White Hart Lane, and took the lead when Brandao deflected home a close range shot from Evandro (making his first start of the season in a new 4411 formation) in the first half. Unfortunately, Soldado levelled soon after, and despite us knocking at the door for most of the second half, Lamela sealed our fate with an 80th minute winner. I don't know if a 1-1 draw would have been enough for the board to re-think (odds were 4-1 against us getting a draw), but they sacked me immediately after the game.

I'm going to start again, lower the expectations, reduce my transfer activity in line with the reduced budget, and see if I can do better :o

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Second season again finished runers up to PSG. Got through the group stages of the champions league before going out on away goals rule to Arsenal. Zouma and Ruffier were the best players. Near the end of the season changed from 4-2-3-1 to 4-1 2- 2-1.

Still enjoying it

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Two very good seasons Arab. I also find this enjoyable, and hope it lasts longer this time!

AS20Saint20Etienne_zps890482be.png

Ambitions and approach

I've started again and I'm determined to make this work out better, so have chosen 'top half finish' as my goal. I asked the board to increase the wage budget and staff wage budget, also the number of coaches - they agreed to all three requests. I've adapted a few instructions, but still want to try the 4321 and high-pressing game.

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Transfer Activity - Players

I've been less active in the transfer market this time, with the lower expectations upon us bringing a reduced transfer budget. The only player to leave was Jonathan Brison, with OM paying a fee of £1m for his services. Players joining the club are:

Evandro (Estoril, Portugal - £900k)

The Brazilian attacking midfielder should be useful in central areas either as a playmaker, box-to-box midfielder, attacking midfielder or shadow striker.

Michy Batshuayi (Standard Liege, Belgium - £5m)

The young Belgian striker was finally snapped up just a few hours before the window closed after almost two months of rejected offers. Will be a vital component of our team.

Etienne Eto'o (free transfer)

Samuel's young brother was obviously destined to join our club after being named like that. His finishing stats are not as good as last time, and he joins our Reserve squad.

Alexis Yougouda (Coton Sport, Cameroon - £60k)

A young central midfielder from Cameroon with a promising future, he joins the U19 squad.

Ibrahima Drame (ASPIRE Academy, Qatar - free transfer)

A highly-rated young striker from Senegal who will join our U19 squad when he arrives in January.

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Transfer Activity - Staff

With the support of the board, massive investment has been made towards improving and expanding my backroom staff. I've recruited some familiar names from the past, with a good number of them listing ASSE as their favoured club. Comolli, Parizon, Coupet, Dyon and Santini join many already at the club that fit this bill, as I attempt to recreate an old-school 'Liverpool bootroom' situation.

Plenty of the new staff bring French international experience with them too - Parizon, Coupet, Martini, Amoros, Anziani, Nee and Saha all come in to this category. The three foreign scouts were all capped by their countries, and they're the only staff at the club (apart from myself) who are not French. I specifically wanted a scout located in Africa, Spain and Italy though, so they were given exemptions!

In terms of duties, I would have liked the roles of Comolli and Santini to be reversed, but they both wanted to be our DOF. Damien wasn't interested in the Chief Scout role at all, and although Jacques took some convincing before eventually agreeing to take that vacancy, I was pleased to have two men of their knowledge and experience working with me.

I usually control all aspects of the club myself, and have the final say, so it will be interesting to see how it all works out. For now, I feel that the youth recruitment strategy and scouting network are well defined. I've ensured that I have men in three key locations (Africa, Spain and Italy) although I don't rely on scouts to identify my players. However, they can give second opinions and other valuable information that I may benefit from.

In addition to them, we have two defensive coaches, two attacking coaches, and a technical coach, whilst my assistant can offer tactical help if required. The three superb goalkeeping coaches are spread through the different squads, and the two other squads now have staff to support the respective managers. Every player at the club, whatever their level, has an individual training aspect in place because I see the future of ASSE out of evolution rather than revolution. The fitness coaches are of a good standard, and the medical department is in good hands.

ASSaint-Etienne_TransfersTransferHistory-3_zps7e06aabd.png

The season so far

I'm in September, and after a great start in the league we have dipped a little in the last few matches. We're still in the top-half after five league matches though, and my two new signings have just arrived to improve my options. In Europe, we have won all four of the qualifying matches, and will soon start the group stage of the Europa League. Our opponents there will be Valencia, Debrecen and IFK Mariehamn, so we should expect to be in the top two.

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-2_zps83ee4391.png

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Time to report on what's happening in the Loire Valley...

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Season 1, progress to date

I've just entered the January transfer window (it's New Years Day, 2014) and the first thing to mention is that my hard-working ASSE side has had to contend with lots of injuries and suspensions due to our all-action style of play. The high-pressing game has earned a handful of red cards, and frequent yellows leading to totting-up bans.

The matchday injuries have been regular, although thankfully only one has been a real long-term blow. Unfortunately, that one was sustained on the training ground (battle ground?), with Jeremy Clement sustaining a broken leg in October 2013, which put my preferred anchorman and VC out for five months. He's now 29, with a contract expiring in the summer and on a fairly high wage of £20.5k p/w, so that disappointing incident may ultimately signal the end of his time at the club.

For these two reasons - and given that we also have the Europa League to contend with - I have been resting and rotating my players, whilst trying to keep a consistent core group of starters, especially in defence. Due to our style of play, I also usually need to hold back on substutions, so that they can be introduced in the latter stages of games when a tiring player, often a central midfielder on a yellow card, might be too risky to leave on. In other situations, the bench usually sees two of our five competent wingers being introduced to add extra pace and energy on the flanks against weary defences. The same formation (4321) and team instructions/shouts have been used throughout, as per my previous post. Now, having read all that (if anybody has actually done so) you may be surprised to hear that I am delighted with the progress we have made so far. And here is why:

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-3_zps721c1a2a.png

In Europe, despite my only two first-team signings (Batshuayi and Evandro) both being ineligible to play, we have waltzed through the qualifying and group stages. We topped our group comfortably, and apart from one unlucky 1-0 group defeat in Valencia to an 80th minute own-goal (deflection, not an act of stupidity), we have won every other match we played in Europe so far, scoring plenty and conceding few. We have a tricky 1st Round knockout tie against Russian side Kuban to come, which won't be easy to navigate through.

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-4_zpsf5a71fa5.png

Domestically, we have not lost in Ligue 1 since the final match of my previous update, when Valenciennes took maximum points off us in September to leave us languishing in 10th spot. We've drawn a few of those games since, but largely due to our impressive work ethic and spirited defence, we have hauled ourselves up to 3rd place. We trail PSG and leaders Marseille by a fair few points, but we do have a game in hand and have put ourselves in contention at the top end of the table.

Ligue1_OverviewStages_zpseb66b081.png

We were slightly more fortunate in the recent Coupe de la Ligue 4th Round win at Montpellier, where we conceded late on, equalised in stoppage time, and held out with 10-men in extra time (due to an injury) before winning the penalty shoot out. Domestic Cup success isn't my priority, although I'm respectful of the fact that it did earn us a crack at Europa League football this season. Our QF fixture in the Cup will see us host AS Monaco, who have picked up some good form after a woeful start saw them sacking Ranieri early in the season.

Financially, due to good results and improving balance sheets, the board awarded me an increased transfer budget last month, meaning we had £3.93m to try and replace the injured Clement with a similarly strong and energetic defensive midfielder. Apart from that, I'm very happy with the options available to me, although if I can land a prolific striker that isn't ineligible for Europe, that will be of great interest. I've got a couple of players in mind for each position, but won't reveal names just yet as the window is only just re-opening today.

I've paused the game to write this update as we have today been given the chance to accept a change in our seasons expectations, and the club are supporting me with a considerable increase in funds just to maintain a top-half finish. I'm weighing up whether to play safe on that, or whether I should put myself at the mercy of the board and choose the Euro-qualification option. Given how hasty they were in removing me in my first stint at the club, I'm very cautious about taking that risk. I do believe we have enough quality to qualify for Europe, but will probably maintain the existing targets for now.

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Recognitions and Player reviews

Talking of Europe, I mentioned the narrow loss in Valencia, with that late own-goal handing us our only defeat since mid-September. In the return fixture, a 90th minute own-goal in their favour took some gloss off our home victory, but this set us on a run of a further seven complete matches in all competitions without conceding a goal. Given that this sequence was only ended by a close range header from a corner after 82 minutes of our dramatic Cup match at Montpellier, we had gone an incredible 712 minutes without any opposition scoring against us (the outstanding Ruffier in goal for all fixtures). This was a fantastic achievement - one that could have easily been reading 853 minutes if that cruel and unwarranted late deflection against the Spaniards had not happened. We are currently on a 12-match unbeaten run across all competitions (could be tempting fate mentioning this).

On the individual player side, looking at the latest Ligue 1 stats, Zouma is currently top of the divisional match rating averages with 7.50, and also jointly holds the most Player of the Match awards (5). Tabanou is second in the assists chart (8), whilst Ruffier has the most clean sheets (9). I don't feature in the top goalscorers charts as Brandao (5) leads the way. From 15(1) appearances that doesn't seem prolific at all, but the goals have been shared around. Overall, he does have 12 goals from 26(1) appearances, so you can see that his importance in Europe (7 in 10 starts) has been significant. Hamouma has supplied plenty of goals and assists, Couhade has been impressive in central midfield, and the remaining defenders who regularly start (Clerc, Perrin and Ghoulam) have obviously contributed much to the cause.

Finally, a quick progress report on the new signings from the summer window. Despite the outlay, the new recruits were always going to be eased in to the club, and there are no regrets on any of the purchases.

Michy Batshuayi has seen just 440 minutes of pitch time, scoring two goals from 3(6) appearances so far, including the Ligue 1 goal of the month for December when he came off the bench against Nantes to smash home a long distance screamer on the run. He was purchased for £5m, and his current value is £6.5m, so that's encouraging as he is still progressing well in training. Including his games for Standard Liege in Europe, and the Belgium U21 team, his seasonal record is 9(9) appearances, with eight goals, two assists, and two Player of the Match awards from his total of 1053 minutes.

Evandro has seen 623 minutes of action, scoring twice from 5(8) appearances. He was purchased for £900k, and his current value is £3m, which is justification of his progress and potential. Given that he also scored two in two games for Estoril and another goal for our Reserves just after joining, his overall record for the season so far is 10(8) appearances, with five goals, six assists, and four Player of the Match awards from his total of 1008 minutes.

Etienne Eto'o was unattached and signed on a free transfer, joining the Reserves squad as he is raw and in need of development. So far he has only made a couple of appearances for them from the bench, but his value has risen to £250k.

Alexis Yougouda was signed for £60k and immediately went in to the U19 squad. He has made 16 starts for them, with four goals, two assists and a high average rating. He has also been representing Cameroon at youth level, and is coming along nicely with rapid improvements across the board (current value is £475k).

Ibrahima Drame was the last of my summer signings, but is only arriving at the club today. Joining on a free transfer, he will also be developed in our U19 squad.

Thanks for reading the latest news from this very enjoyable management experience at AS Saint-Etienne. I hope the thread remains active and that this post will help to keep other managers of the club in here, or maybe even encourage some additional forum members to give this great save a try.

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Triple post apologies! How are you other guys getting on with ASSE?

I'm really enjoying this (still on version 14.2.2) and it's such a great club guide made by Saint_Lane, clearly demonstrating the team strengths and weaknesses. I've adapted a couple of suggested instructions, but it gave me a really clear vision of how to approach it, and I'm hoping that anyone reading or struggling to find the 'right' club will consider Les Verts.

Anyway, on to business. I'm nearing the end of March now, and results have been fairly consistent since my last update. It's true that some of the recent draws in Ligue 1 could (or maybe should) have been converted in to wins, but we have only suffered one more defeat in the league since my last update (just three for the season, which is the best in Ligue 1). As it stands, PSG lead the table on goal difference from Marseille (with a couple of games in hand), and we sit 3rd, three points behind. Monaco are 4th, six points behind us, so I'm very pleased with how it's going so far.

Sadly, in my latest outing we were edged out 4-3 on penalties by Club Brugge in the Europa League knockout stage (Round 2). It was a tough way to exit, but to be honest we had only won the previous round on away goals against Kuban of Russia (1-1 away, and a gritty 0-0 draw at home in the 2nd leg). Against Brugge, we snatched a fortunate 90th minute leveller in Belgium, and took the lead at home, only to be pegged back. Extra time passed without us being able to turn our supremacy in to a winner, and then we had a couple of penalties saved in the lottery of spot kicks. In recent league games, we have picked up a win against Monaco and a draw at PSG with stoppage time goals, so I can't really bemoan what transpired. I guess it's a sign that the team work ethic and spirit is still one of our greatest qualities, so I'm proud of these late and valuable goals that have come our way.

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-5_zps4b22d910.png

Looking back to the January transfer window, I had identified that we needed another defensive central midfielder (due to the Clement injury and regular tiredness and suspensions of my hard-working midfielders) and a decent striker that was eligible for the European games, if one was available. My concern here was that Batshuayi could not be picked, and we had no back-up to Brandao after deciding that Erdinc wasn't going to deliver enough goals.

For the latter role, of striker, there weren't too many options that could deliver what I wanted. Ideally I needed a good finisher, with workrate, movement and some pace - and a player that was the right age to be thrown in to the mix - all for a nominal fee. One man that I had on my shortlist from earlier in the summer was surprisingly available on loan, and this then allowed me to spend the majority of my transfer kitty (£3.9m) on the midfielder. The marksman in question was Raul Rusescu, who had not been able to break in to the Sevilla team (mirroring real life events), and for £28.5k p/m loan fee and 50% wage contribution (amounting to a miniscule £3.6k p/w), the Romanian joined up with us on 7th January. He had been prolific in Romania before his move to Spain, and amongst his plus points was the fact that he was eligible for the Europa League.

My main target for the midfield position was Josuha Guilavogui, who had served the club well last season before moving on to Atletico Madrid. Unfortunately, the Spaniards wanted £20m for his return home (he was valued at £2.9m), so that couldn't be done - although IRL he did return to the club in the window. My secondary target was another Frenchman playing abroad, William Vainqueur. Standard Liege wanted a hefty sum for him too (over my budget limit), but I eventually managed to do a part exchange deal, giving them £1.7m plus Mevlut Erdinc. The departing striker wasn't clinical enough to be in my plans, but despite a valuation of £4m, nobody would even offer me £1.5m for his services. In the end, it was the only way to get my man, and lose somebody who wasn't a vital member of my squad. Whilst time dragged on and it looked like the deal couldn't be agreed, I had some other offers accepted just in case (Kara £2.3m, Bourceanu £1.5m and Ballon £350k, plus a really cheap and attractive loan deal for Markel). Eventually, I was delighted to land William on 26th January, and I swiftly cancelled those other delayed transfers. Needless to say, Vainqueur would be ineligible for Europe, having also played for Standard in the early stages alongside Batshuayi.

No other areas of the squad needed attention, and although some players were offered out again - veteran defender Mignot, 3rd choice keeper Coulibaly, and reserve team striker Saadi - no more activity took place. Mignot, however, will be joining Lorient on a free transfer at the end of the season.

In other news, my left-back Ghoulam has had a remarkable 19 yellow cards - and one red - from his 42 appearances so far this season, whilst ball-winning midfielder Lemoine has achieved 16 yellow cards from 43 appearances. The yellow cards and suspensions for numerous members of my squad continue to arrive quite frequently, but the squad depth is quite good right now. On the injury front, Clement is just returning to action after his broken leg (5 months) and Batshuayi is also ready to play again after recovering from fractured ribs (a six-week absence). As far as I can recall, there weren't any other injuries longer than four weeks, but the tiredness, fatigue and minor niggles seem to be a regular event. To end on a positive note, Zouma still tops the Ligue 1 player averages, and the club still has the best defensive record of all the teams in Ligue 1.

stadegg02copie_zpsfb3b4e9f.jpg

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Well, season 1 has now been completed, and after the exit from Europe on penalties in the final game of my last update, our domestic form remained fairly similar to what had gone before.

We suffered one more loss in the league, against Lyon, where we twice took the lead only for Gomis to come back and haunt us with a brace of levellers before the break. We then conceded an 88th minute own goal when Ruffier somehow fumbled a weak shot in to his own net. C'est la vie. The remaining games were low-scoring affairs, where we either scraped out 1-0 wins, or were held to draws. We finished the Ligue 1 season with seven successive cleansheets, which made up for our lack of goals.

Unfortunately, we lost the French Cup semi-final against Bordeaux on penalties (deja vu), but did manage to retain the Coupe de la Ligue as a narrow 1-0 win over Nice in front of 70,000 spectators guaranteed us a spot in the Europa League for next season.

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-6_zps9d272035.png

Well, I mentioned that the Cup win had put us in to the Europa League, but we also managed to pip Marseille to 2nd spot in Ligue 1 as we caught them up after Round 36 (of 38) and then matched their results in the final two fixtures. This means that Les Verts will be in the Champions League next season, and will avoid the extra qualifiers that I believe Marseille will have to endure. It's harsh on them, as we hadn't been above 3rd all season, but I'm not going to be unhappy when I see the financial boost in our coffers next season! Here is the final table, showing PSG in a class of their own, although we did have the best defensive record and were the only club unbeaten at home all season.

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Ruffier was named as Star Goalkeeper winner, and both he and Zouma made the Stars Team of the Season. Zouma was also named in the proper Ligue 1 'X1' of the season, and had the highest average rating (7.32), although Cavani of PSG won the main player award. For some unknown reason, Ruffier did not pick up the main goalkeeper of the season award, which went to Mandanda of OM.

Club captain Perrin played in 60 of our 61 competitive games this season, missing the other late on after a red card. Ruffier played all 38 league games, and was rested for a handful of domestic Cup matches only. Tabanou was the creator of many goals from corners and free-kicks, and scored a decent number himself. Brandao was the best of our stuttering strikers, although nine of those goals came in Europe. His eight league goals still made him top of our chart, which shows where we need to improve. Unfortunately, expiring contracts for him and Clement could signal the end of their careers at the club, as neither seemed willing to take big reductions to stay one more year. Ghoulam managed to collect 24 yellow cards and one red, beating Lemoine's 17 yellows comfortably. Here is a summary of the main men, filtered by number of appearances in all competitions.

ASSaint-Etienne_SquadPlayers-2_zps8d32958d.png

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Season 2 is about to start, and although nobody else seems to be actively playing with the club at the moment, I've enjoyed my first season and am looking to continue.

Reflection and expectations

With Champions League football to look forward to, I'm hoping I can continue to grow the club. Finishing 2nd in Ligue 1, and winning the Coupe de la Ligue was very satisfying, and I was delighted to be voted as the Manager of the Season. However, to ensure the board retain their faith in me, I've gone for the lowest expectation offered - which is to qualify for any European competition. We made a good profit last season, and I'm hoping to build on that and strengthen our position further.

Transfers - Out

In line with my financial aims, I've decided to let some of the senior players depart after considering their wages and ages. I offered reduced deals to Jeremy Clement and Brandao, but they didn't accept what I felt were reasonable terms. They both gave good service to the club, and leave with my best wishes. Here they are (far right) at the end of the season, with the rest of the squad lining up to show appreciation for their contributions.

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Also released were Banel Nicolita (who had been loaned out for the whole of last season before I took over), and reserve team members Ibrahima Diouara, Pape Coulibaly, Corentin Nicaise and Dimitri Cheltcov. Veteran defender Jean-Pascal Mignot had already agreed a pre-contract deal with FC Lorient, whilst our three loanees from last season were not retained. Raul Rusescu had been recruited by me for cover in Europe but hadn't done enough to convince me to sign him permanently, whilst I decided not to activate the 'future fee' clauses the club had arranged for Yohan Mollo or Ibrahim Sissoko.

Transfers - In

I identified that we needed another striker, having sold Erdinc last season and with Brandao now being released. I decided to keep Idriss Saadi and will see if he can enhance his claims for elevation by performing in the reserve team alongside returning loanees Lynel Kitambala, Kevin Mayi and Danijel Aleksic. Supplementing the reserve attacking pool we also have youngsters Ebrima Bojang, Elian Tack and Romain Spano, plus Etienne Eto'o who I signed last season. I'm developing all of them, but at the same time any reasonable offers would be accepted.

Despite this, I've added another rookie striker to the reserves, with Nigerian youngster Taofeek Akanbi joining the ranks for a fee of £40k. His real life potential has brought reported interest from Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Juventus amongst others, so the small outlay was worth it for me. I have high hopes for my U19 signing of last season, Ibrahima Drame, who has performed so well at that level that he will leapfrog the rest and join my first team squad for the coming campaign. Therefore, I felt I only needed to have one more good quality striker in the first team squad, as three should be enough unless injuries force me to try some of the others.

So, as an alternative to Michy Batshuayi - who I feel is now ready to shine as my leading man - I splashed out £2.25m on somebody who has impressed me for four years in real life. That man is Innocent Emeghara, signed from Italy, but with previous experience in the French league and back home in Switzerland. With his pace he should be a good option centrally, and I've also seen him play a wide role to great effect for the Swiss U21 team a few years ago, so I wouldn't be afraid to use him out there either. From his stats, it's fair to say that I could have bought somebody with better attributes, but I've never managed him before and I think he is the kind of 'realistic' signing that a club like mine would make, so I'm more than happy.

My other signings were modest, with Clement Chantome joining on a season-long loan from PSG for 50% of his wages (amounting to £17.5k p/w) and a monthly fee of £18.5k to his owners. He brings experience, can pass a ball, and has excellent stamina that will match my other high-energy central midfielders - namely William Vainqueur, Renaud Cohade and Fabien Lemoine. Ismael Diomande has potential in the defensive midfield role, whilst Benjamin Corgnet and Evandro offer something a little more attacking from central areas. I've also promoted another signing from last season, Alexis Yougouda, from the U19 squad to the reserves for this campaign, and his progress has been excellent so he could possibly be used in the main team if a suitable opportunity arises.

With previous loanees Mollo and Sissoko not being kept on, the wide positions will again belong to Franck Tabanou (left) and Romain Hamouma (right), with Max Gradel offering support for either side. If necessary, we can put Emeghara out wide, promote one of the reserves returning to the club (probably Aleksic) or push Faouzi Ghoulam forward on the left.

Turning to defence, I've decided to bring home Loris Nery from Valenciennes. He will be in a straight fight with Francois Clerc for the right-back role, and with age on his side - and home grown status at the club already - the fee of £475k was good value for money. Finally, with the aforementioned left-back Ghoulam having picked up 24 yellow cards last season, I loaned in Massadio Haidara from Newcastle as cover. We will only be paying 50% of his wages (£6k p/w), and although I was happy with Florentin Pogba when he stepped up last season, I see him as more of a left-sided central defender than a full-back. Paul Baysse could come in to contention due to his versatility, but will be available if any suitable bids are received. The first choice central defenders will remain Kurt Zouma (who has signed a new deal until 2019, and will now be VC) and skipper Loic Perrin, whilst Moustapha Bayal is third choice for that position. The latter has also penned a new contract.

Completing the squad will be goalkeepers Stephane Ruffier (who was in the French squad for the 2014 World Cup and has just signed a lucrative new deal until 2018) and back-up gloveman Jessy Moulin. Our defence was superb last season, and with all of the regulars retained, I see no reason why that shouldn't continue again this time.

AS20Saint20Etienne_zps890482be.png

AS Saint-Etienne squad for season 2014/2015

GK: Ruffier, Moulin

DR: Clerc, Nery (£475k), Baysse

DL: Ghoulam, Haidara (loan)

DC: Perrin, Zouma, Bayal, Pogba

CM/DM: Vainqueur (£1.7m p/ex), Cohade, Lemoine, Chantome (loan), Diomande

AM: Corgnet, Evandro (£900k)

AMR/AML: Tabanou, Hamouma, Gradel

ST: Batshuayi (£5m), Emeghara (£2.25m), Drame (free)

Tactical evaluation and pre-season

I will keep the same formation (4321) with an anchorman and two wingers, and same high-pressing tactics that served me well last season. The majority of the squad is at their prime age and mainly French - with a handful of Africans, one Brazilian, and a couple of neighbouring Europeans added to the mix. I think we have a well balanced first team squad, with 24 players in it as we stand, and a few reserves that can step up if required. Importantly, for me, I believe the players we have and the signings I have made are all realistic types for this club.

I decided that I wanted a very light pre-season schedule, and I've just completed my two arranged fixtures. In our first outing we won 3-1 against 1860 Munchen, with Batshuayi scoring the opener before a brace from the bench by Emeghara. We then lost 2-0 in a decent performance against a full-strength FC Barcelona - a very late second goal made the final score look harsh on our boys. The league season is about to start in a few days, when we host newly-promoted Angers SCO.

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Just a quick update as the summer transfer window has just closed. I made one further acquisition, which was a bit puzzling. Here is what happened...

A player in my shortlist, Carlos Alberto Pena, was valued by his Mexican club (Leon) at £3.2m, was classed as a key player (not listed), and had a year left on his contract. I was notified that another Mexican club had a bid accepted for his transfer - of £0. I made a bid of £0 myself, the player chose me, and he joined up for nothing! Not bad for a 24 year old current Mexican international under contract, and being linked with FC Porto in real life. To be honest, he wasn't really needed, but has superb attributes across the board and will prove his worth over the next few years (value is already at £3.8m).

I've made a solid start in Ligue 1, with two handsome wins and three draws from my first five games. Batshuayi has scored five from his four starts, including a treble to earn a 3-1 win at Lyon.

My draw for the Champions League group could have been kinder - FC Barcelona, Shakhtar Donetsk and Anderlecht.

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I've progressed a little further, having completed my fixtures until the end of October 2014 now. The league form has been quite good, and we remain unbeaten and well placed near the top of the table. Batshuayi has been excellent as my lone striker so far. He is currently the top scorer in Ligue 1 by some distance, with 12 goals from 11(1) appearances, and has the highest average rating (7.61). He is using his pace and movement to score from open play, often with close range efforts, whilst our continued emphasis on set-plays has allowed Perrin and Bayal to grab a few goals each. Overall, we look to have more proficiency in attack, although the well organised defence and hard-working midfield are providing the platform for that. Here is the early table:

Ligue1_OverviewStages-5_zps7b61f3e5.png

We are also doing OK in Europe, having won 1-0 in Belgium against Anderlecht, then coming from two down to grab an injury time leveller at home to Shakhtar Donetsk (2-2). Most recently, Barcelona took 62 minutes to break us down at Camp Nou (Benteke), but we then had two red cards soon after (Perrin and Lemoine) so it wasn't too much of a surprise when Messi made it 2-0 after 86 minutes.

Here are the results and goalscorers so far in season 2:

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-10_zpsdb995f92.png

After the game in Barcelona, it transpired that Chantome (who had been forced off with a hamstring injury early on) would be ruled out for three months - a situation that prompted me to terminate his loan early for financial reasons. We are also currently missing Evandro (two months out with a double hernia).

New recruits Nery, Emeghara, Haidara and Pena have only appeared briefly so far, but their gradual introduction was always planned to be that way. Akanbi has made a slow start for the reserves, but has plenty of time on his side. I had to turn down a host of loan offers to ensure he benefits from training at our club.

Talking of development, the U19 squad is coming along very well, with Glodi Malumandsoko and Allan Saint-Maximin shining particularly brightly. If they can emulate the progress made by my two youth signings of last season (Alexis Yougouda and Ibrahima Drame), I will be delighted. Drame, who I promoted straight from the U19 squad, has already been used from the bench a couple of times this season for the first team. Again, I had a whole host of offers from Ligue 1/2 clubs to take him on loan, but he is far too valuable for that.

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It's time for a further update as I've reached February 2015, and it's pretty much all positive progress from the Loire Valley. Here are the results since my last update:

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-11_zps5f9cd540.png

Ligue 1

We're sitting 2nd in the league, behind PSG (again) despite being unbeaten in our 24 fixtures to date. We have possibly dropped a few too many points at home, but I'm delighted with the way the whole squad has been performing. We've encountered plenty of injuries and suspensions, so there has been a bit of player rotation going on. Luckily, I feel I can rely on every single player in my first team squad. Michy Batshuayi is still the Ligue 1 leading scorer, and has probably been the star performer so far this season (playing the lone striker role as a complete forward). Zouma continues to be a rock in central defence too, and has developed at an alarming rate.

Ligue1_OverviewStages-6_zps7ea7d637.png

European Champions League

We progressed comfortably from our Champions League group, finishing just behind Barcelona (eliminating Shakhtar and Anderlecht). We also managed to get a 1-0 home win over my local club to gain revenge on them for one of our two defeats in all competitions this season (Batshuayi netting our winner after just 50 seconds of the return in France). Unfortunately, we have drawn Manchester United in the first knockout round, so that will be a severe test of my team.

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-12_zps536b5e50.png

EuropeanChampionsCup_OverviewStages_zpsaf00b712.png

Domestic Cups

PSG have just recently handed me only our second defeat of the season in all competitions. Their 2-0 home victory in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final tie ended our quest to win the trophy for the third successive year. We're still in the French Cup, with a home fixture against Bordeaux to come in Round 11. In these competitions I have rotated heavily, but it's important to give opportunities to the fringe players. One such player is my exciting young striker, Drame, who netted his first two goals for the club from the bench in our win against RC Lens. Batshuayi has largely been rested from these fixtures, having made just one appearance in each competition.

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-13_zps2f5c4663.png

Transfer Business

There wasn't much need for the large transfer pot to be used, and after the window closed I still have over £8m left untouched. The only significant deal saw me acquire another young striking talent that should have a great future at our club. I'm convinced that the fee of £600k for Salim Cisse is an absolute steal, and again the player will be introduced slowly to the squad with occasional bench appearances unless injuries dictate otherwise. Prior to his arrival, I also paid £350k to pick up a 15 y/o central defender from SC Bastia - the new (regen) Thierry Henry. He's the first regen I have ever paid a fee for in FM, but I couldn't ignore the temptation due to both his name and potential. Also, as good as my U19 squad is, we were lacking in central defenders of real quality there.

Meanwhile, I wanted to sell or loan a few of my Reserve squad, especially some of the attacking players that had been out on loan when I took over. Most of them are 'reasonable' but are unlikely to put much pressure on my main strikers (Batshuayi, Emeghara, Drame, and now Cisse). I'm also aware that I have Akanbi in reserve, plus Saint-Maximin in the U19 squad who is banging in goals for fun.

My 4th choice 'keeper (Vacheux) and one of the many young strikers on the books (Spano) were loaned out first, (to feeder club JA Drancy), whilst two more attackers (Mayi and Saadi) joined my highest ranked feeder club - Chamois Niortais FC in Ligue 2 - to test their potential. Derbali is another regen striker from the U19 squad out on loan, and the final three sent out are all attackers from the reserve squad. That trio (Kitambala, Tack and Aleksic) are all earning me decent loan fees, and like all of those given temporary moves, I will consider any reasonable offers for their permanent departures.

ASSaint-Etienne_TransfersTransferHistory-4_zps1798f091.png

Contracts

Eto'o has not developed well enough since arriving for nothing last term, so will be joining ASF Andrezieux on a free transfer at the end of the season. Veteran defender Clerc, a regular last season, is also likely to be released when his contract expires in the summer (age). Lemoine and Couhade are the others awaiting new contracts, so I will see if we can agree reasonable terms soon. Initial talks ended because they wanted longer deals than I was prepared to offer, but maybe a solution will be found to retain them both.

On the plus side, our three biggest assets are all tied down on long-term contracts (Zouma until 2019, Ruffier until 2018, and Batshuayi until 2018 with an optional one year extension for the club). So far, Eto'o is the only signing made that hasn't seen his value rocket - unfortunately his random stats were nothing like in my first save (cut short by the sack).

If any screenshots are required of any individual players, I'd be happy to oblige.

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Season 2 Review (2014/2015)

I've just completed a second very enjoyable season, which was successful in an Arsenge Wenger way. Yes, unfortunately no trophies will be added to our collection - which is a step backwards compared to my first term - but I actually feel we made excellent progress.

130px-Logo_de_la_Ligue_1_2008_svg_zps960441e8.png

We continued our pursuit of PSG in Ligue 1, as February continued. The month saw our first defeat of the league season, when we were comprehensively beaten by ESTAC Troyes (3-1). They were 4th at the time, scoring plenty of goals, and eventually went on to qualify for Europe. We responded well to this setback, and went a further four games unbeaten before travelling to the capital to try and close the gap on leaders PSG. Our title hopes were virtually quashed though, as they triumphed 2-1 to give themselves a comfortable cushion in the title race. We were a distance ahead of all other challengers, and the team bounced back with five straight league victories, but with three fixtures to go, PSG lifted the Ligue 1 trophy. They had been - like last season - a different class, but the gap from them to us (in 2nd) was the same size as our lead over the 3rd placed team. After they clinched the title, we laboured to a draw in our next match, but finished off in style with two more victories (eight unbeaten at the close) to deservedly claim the runners-up spot. The final table shows PSG only six points ahead, as they eased right off in the last three matches, but our 20 point distance to Marseille in 3rd was outstanding work.

Ligue1_OverviewStages-7_zps21fc3c93.png

220px-Coupe_de_France_logo_svg_zps989a9796.png

Having already been knocked out of the Coupe de la Ligue by PSG at the Semi-Final stage in early February, we still had it all to play for in the French Cup after progressing to Round 11. Our first home match in any domestic Cup fixture of the season saw us eliminate Bordeaux comfortably 3-0. The Quarter Final against Dijon was much harder, and a heavily rotated squad edged out them out 1-0 with a late extra time winner by Cisse (his first goal for the club on a rare outing). Unfortunately we drew PSG in the Semi-Final here too, and yet again they ended our hopes of silverware with a narrow 1-0 win on our patch.

Here are the missing results and scorers for the last period of the domestic season:

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-14_zpsd8c91352.png

175px-UEFA_Champions_League_logo_2_svg_zps45da7053.png

Having progressed from our UEFA Champions League group, we pulled off a stunning victory in the home leg of the 1st Knockout Round. With expectations low, we crushed Manchester United 3-0 with Batshuayi adding some gloss to the win with two crucial goals near the end. In the return at Old Trafford they battered us, with 37 shots and almost 70% possession. My men dug in though, and the Reds could only come up with a 1-0 victory with a goal around the hour mark - putting us through 3-1 on aggregate in the major shock of the round.

In the Quarter Final we had an even tougher task, facing the galacticos of Real Madrid! In the away leg, they raced in to a two-goal lead within 24 minutes (the second was a penalty) but to my surprise we held out after that. We would still be hosting them in France with a 2-0 scoreline to overturn - and I couldn't see anything but defeat - but I somehow managed to motivate the players enough to put in their best performance under my management. By half time we were 3-0 up, and that didn't flatter us at all. We even managed to create and miss numerous chances after the interval, but despite my nerves, the subdued Spaniards just didn't really test us. A strange night indeed, but the 3-2 aggregate win was wildly celebrated!

In the Semi Final we would face Chelsea, who had seen off Barcelona in the QF with relative ease. We were, of course, still massive underdogs. But this time we couldn't raise our game and after a 2-0 defeat in London, we also lost the return at home by a 1-2 margin (our 77th minute goal from Gradel being a mere consolation after they went two up) to exit 4-1 on aggregate. The dream was over, but we hadn't expected to even come out of the group stage, so the run certainly made me proud. The fans were happy, and so were the board due to the serious cash that had been earned by the adventure.

Batshuayi had really flourished as the competition progressed, adding various assists to his tally of five goals. Unfortunately, his stunning performance in the Real Madrid home victory (two assists and a goal within 42 minutes) was his last meaningful contribution, as he went on a goal drought domestically from then until the end of the season (more details on that to follow later).

For the record, PSG eliminated Bayern Munich in the other Semi Final (on away goals). After a 1-1 draw in Germany, a 0-0 draw after extra time in Paris was enough to see them through to the Final against Chelsea. In addition to our exploits, that should provide a nice boost to the reputation of French clubs. At the time of writing, that match hasn't been played yet.

ASSaint-Etienne_FixturesSchedule-15_zps5765ca08.png

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Following on from the above post, here are the screenshots of my top three men from the 2nd season, plus my favourite of our many hot prospects.

MichyBatshuayi_OverviewAttributes_zps5a7759d1.png

Batshuayi was a significant £5m investment when he joined from Standard Liege in August 2013, and was eased in action as a bench understudy to Brandao in his first season. When the Brazilian was released ahead of the 2014/2015 campaign, I hoped that the young Belgian would be ready to step up and deliver the goals we needed.

Well, he didn't let me down. With 21 goals in Ligue 1 (competition top scorer) and with major improvement across the board in his development, he was without doubt the star of my team. A total of 28 goals in all competitions was a superb effort, and he is under contract until 2018 (with optional one year extension by the club).

Despite this, there are two areas of slight concern. Firstly, after a superb performance against Real Madrid in April (mentioned in my last post), he didn't score any goals in his last eight matches. He would have been rested/dropped under normal circumstances to give him added motivation to return fresh, but I wanted him to play through it and hoped (expected) he could grab a few more goals to keep himself well ahead of the field. Secondly, a total of just two assists in 35(2) league matches shows he needs to improve that part of his game. Having said all that, I am delighted to have him perform so well, and look forward to more years of similar success with him.

KurtZouma_OverviewAttributes_zps314ee559.png

Zouma, my second young star, has been an absolute rock at the back for me in my first two seasons at the club. At the start of this season he was made VC, and took the armband on numerous occasions when his partner Perrin was unavailable. His development has also been very positive, and he is under contract until 2019. I hope we can match his ambitions in the meantime, as he has made it clear he wants to play for one of the biggest sides in the world.

FranckTabanou_OverviewAttributes_zps29b6a519.png

Whilst Ruffier could be viewed as my third most important player, the protection my 'keeper gets from the defence mean that his ratings don't in any way reflect his influence on my results. Tabanou, therefore, will be showcased here as he has been responsible for lots of assists from his attacking role on the left during my first two seasons. From corners and free-kicks he creates plenty of clear chances, but also from open play he uses his great pace to attack defenders, performing a vital role in the transition of play in our counter-attacking tactic. Not only that, he arrives in the box or at the far post himself with great purpose, and over two seasons has a reasonable scoring record for the team.

Squad stats for Season 2

Here are the stats for the main squad during season 2, showing all competitions and sorted by number of appearances. Not showing on the list are Pogba 5(2), Baysse 5, Moulin 5, Diomande 2(2), Drame 1(5) and Cisse 0 (8) who will all be in the main squad again next season.

ASSaint-Etienne_SquadPlayers-4_zps8c8c71e5.png

Transfer dealings

Apart from Etienne Eto'o, I'm very pleased with my signings in the first two seasons. Eto'o was signed on a free in season 1, but his early value of £275k flattered to deceive and, after a lack of development, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer at the end of this latest season.

Of my other season 1 signings, Batshuayi - as can be seen above - has risen in stock considerably. Alongside him, Evandro was purchased for £900k and is currently worth £2.4m (his value dropped from over £3m because of several injuries). Yougouda was purchased for my U19 team at £60k, and is worth £900k now after graduating to the reserve squad (he may join the main squad for the 3rd season). Drame also joined the U19 squad after joining for free aged just 17, and is now worth £1.7m. He made a couple of bench appearances for the first team last season, and should be more heavily involved next time. Midfielder Vainqueur was the last arrival in the winter window, for £1.7m + Erdinc, but has performed reliably and is now worth £4.3m (a definite increase in worth).

The season 2 recruits have also progressed nicely. Emeghara cost £2.25m, and despite a lack of starts due to Batshuayi excelling as my lone striker (34 times he came on from the bench) he is worth £3.5m already. Cisse was another striker purchase for £600k, and is already worth £2.8m before making a start for the first team. Nery (£475k fee) was a rotation option at RB but should now make that position his own, and is currently valued at £850k. Mexican international midfielder Pena (not a typical French club signing, but I thought he would feel comfortable in green) was also recruited on a free and is valued at £3.9m currently despite mainly being on the bench last term. Finally, another young striker (Akanbi), purchased for £40k from Nigeria, is valued at £525k already, after only a few appearances and goals for my reserve team.

Young player development

This is one of the most exciting aspects of the club. The youth intakes are good, with several of them (still under 17) having at least 4* potential and already making the French U19 squad. More satisfying, the youngsters I signed myself (and those inherited when I took over), are really coming along well. The pick of the bunch, for me, is probably Drame (as shown below). I'm really looking forward to him having more opportunities (only a lack of striker injuries and suspensions prevented him featuring more last season). Alongside him, Yougouda and Akanbi have the potential to break through and, like Drame, will also adopt HG club status. Meanwhile, the best of the youth players inherited when I took over (Allan Saint-Maximin, Malumandsoko and Bamba) have all had fantastic seasons for my U19 squad, and will be elevated to the reserve squad next season. The only issue with the latter trio is that they're all wingers - some positional re-training may be required!

IbrahimaDrameacute_OverviewAttributes_zps0dbd6412.png

ASSaint-EtienneUnder19s_SquadPlayers_zps43d5799d.png

Financial improvement

Finally, due to sensible squad building (and of course the success in Europe), here is the updated financial status of the club after completion of season 2.

ASSaint-Etienne_BoardroomFinances_zps8e50c1f1.png

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Third season completed. Again finished 2nd in the league behind PSG. They also beat me in the final of the league cup. Lost to OM in the semi final of the Cup. Finished third in the champions league group. Got to the semi finals of the Europa cup before getting beat by

Man Utd.

Zouma got the highest average rating in the league at 7.28 despite being unhappy at me not selling him to Spurs. Erdinc scored 13 and Toivanen scored 10 in the league.

Maybe try one more season to see if I can get the better of PSG . Going to try 4-1-4-1 this tome.

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Arab: Yes, PSG are a really tough nut to crack! Good luck and hope to see you posting in here again soon.

suarez7carroll9: I'm still on the 14.2.2 version, but even on 14.3 without Zouma, the squad is strong. Of course, he is loaned back in season 1, but another good central defender is quite easy to get in France. Also, you will have Guilavogui on the new database as an extra midfielder. If you're tempted, I'd say go for it!

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Hi Jogo nice to see u in charge of a french side again after the fun we all had with PSG last year.

I have not played fm14 much as was not happy with a few glitches but now i may give it a go seeing as it is all patched up

I am tempted to have another go in france but with LYON this time and maybe try to get them back to past glories.

I see PSG will be the team to beat but i was hoping Monaco would challenge for the title as well is this not the case?

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Cheers Tiger! Yes the PSG thread in FM13 was good fun. I hope you enjoy time with rivals Lyon..although I'd prefer to tempt you here instead! Monaco are a top six side but PSG are definitely a class above. The battle for Europe is close with OM and Lille plus OL of course. I haven't updated yet to 14.3 so will be interested to hear what you think.

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stadegg02copie_zpsfb3b4e9f.jpg

Season 3 is underway so it's time for another update from the Loire Valley. There was quite a lot of transfer activity in the summer transfer window, but more outward bound than inward. Of the new recruits, only one has been a regular member of the first team squad so far - but his late arrival caused some serious issues with my squad development plans.

Transfers Out

Transfer: Carlos Alberto Pena (Panathinaikos, £3.2m)

Free Transfers: Francois Clerc, Renaud Cohade, Fabien Lemoine, Kevin Mayi (all released), Etienne Eto'o (ASF Andrezieux)

Loans: Elian Tack, Idriss Saadi, Romain Spano, Ebrima Bojang (£2k p/m), Lynel Kitambala (£200k p/m), Florian Thalamy, Pierre-Yves Polomat, Ruben Aguilar, Nabil Ejenavi, Alexis Yougouda (£20k p/m), Jeremy Vachoux, Ibrahima Drame (£51k p/m)

Summary: Pena had been signed for free so made me a healthy profit. He was a good midfielder, and could easily have been kept and utilised, but he was the first non-essential player that attracted a good offer so reluctantly went. In retrospect, I would have preferred to keep him and avoid some other signings that I made (see transfers in below) but I became overloaded with central midfielders. Clerc had given good service but was too old to be given a new deal, Cohade demanded a longer contract than I was prepared to give considering his age (see transfers in below), Lemoine wanted double his previous contract and wasn't worthy of it. The other players were all from the reserve squad - Mayi was never going to progress beyond that level and Eto'o had not developed. Most of the loans out were to my feeder clubs, although both Bohang and Vachoux have already been recalled for better medical care due to injuries they sustained. With my reserve team relegated and no longer in a playable league (I'm arranging weekly friendlies), I also took the chance to get some cash in for some of the other young players - whilst giving them the opportunity to play. Yougouda and Drame would have been involved in and around my first team squad, but they asked for (and deserve) regular first team action and they can get it easier elsewhere. These two are definitely in my future plans and may be recalled later in the season.

Transfers In

Banana Yaya (Sochaux, £1.5m) - An African centre-back that I first saw playing for ES Tunis a few years ago, he joins the development squad. Rafinha (Barcelona B, £2.5m) - A Brazilian midfield prospect who will provide cover to the first team squad. Enguene Messi (Clermont Foot, £500k) - A young African midfielder, not quite as awesome as Lionel. Loaned back to his old club for the season. Daniel Amartey (Club Brugge, £2.2m) - Another African midfield prospect who joins the development squad. Josuha Guilavogui (Atletico Madrid, £7m) - A French midfield powerhouse, an ex-ASSE player (back IRL too) who I have been chasing for two (virtual) years. Renaud Cohade (Free) - Experienced French midfielder who I had to release originally, but eventually brought back home when he agreed to a shorter contract (two years).

Summary: I have mixed feelings on this lot. If Guilavogui (who is a key signing) had been available from the outset, and Cohade had renewed his expiring contract on my terms, I would not have bothered signing Rafinha or Amartey. However, they are both good young assets and should make a healthy profit for the club if/when I can move them on. I also loaned in Sulley Muntari from AC Milan, but was able to terminate his loan before the start of the season in view of latter transfer successes (not to mention a red card after 24 minutes of the friendly win over Standard Liege for a violent tackle). Whilst I was struggling to sign Guilavogui, I had finalised deals on delay for Clement Chantome (free) and William Carvalho (£8m) but eventually I landed my main target and cancelled both of them.

Staff Changes:

With the relegation of my reserve squad from a playable league, I sacked Oleksiak from his role of Manager. His assistant, Parizon, was elevated to that position but then announced his retirement within days. Martini was then given the job instead, and I brought in Samuel Eto'o to be his number two. I'm hoping he will serve the club better than his brother, Etienne. I also brought former player Jeremy Clement back to the club as a first team coach (he was released at the end of my first season due to contractual demands).

Early results and Ligue 1 table, season 3

Pre-season went very well, and we made a solid start to the regular season. The home win over PSG in August was massive, ending their 100% league record to that point and keeping us within touching distance. Batshuayi had been lethal in pre-season and in the season opener but has only scored once since, and has lost his place in the last couple of games as I try to coax him back to his awesome best. Our Champions League progress is in doubt after conceding two penalties away to Benfica that ruined a great start to the match. We followed that up with a late-goal defeat at Bordeaux in Ligue 1 - our only domestic loss to date - but have bounced back with two more wins, including a crucial one against Grasshoppers. Emeghara has recently stepped in for the out-of-sorts Batshuayi and was the man responsible for condemning his former club to their third successive defeat in Europe. We sit third in the group, but have plenty of hard work to do if we are to qualify. In Ligue 1, we sit second behind PSG (of course), and ahead of Bordeaux on goal difference.

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