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[FM18] Journeyman - Scholar's travels

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After lurking around the forums for a long time, i finally decided to start a topic. But, i'll try to keep it interesting and do some stuff not everyone does. 

So, what am i going to do. Well, as the title says: it's gonna be a Journeyman save. But that's not all. At the time of starting this save, i'm working my way through a few books:

  1. The numbers game: Why everything you know about football is wrong
  2. Moneyball: the art of winning an unfair game
  3. Inverting the Pyramid: the history of football tactics

To be honest: i'm not nearly done with all three of them. So, expect to reflect on the things i read during my tales and adjust my way of playing and managing on the way. Still, we start with a few rules that i'll manage and coach by. A long the way, these rules might dissapear or get company of from new insights. Of course, other sources are interesting as well. For now, i don't have the book soccernomics (yet), but Alex Stewart wrote a nice career story on it at thesetpieces. A few of his lessons/rules are also down here.

  1. Defense beats offense. This might be a bit of an overstatement, but i want to play a more defensive game that prioritizes preventing goals and getting clean sheets. We do this, because statistics show that a goal gained is less worth than a goal prevented. So, to gain results, a low amount of conceded goals is worth it's weight in gold. Then again: to a certain level, because 0 goals over 34 games is rather poor.
  2. A team is as strong as it's weakest player. Again, based on statistics: replacing a strong player by an even stronger one has an effect, but the effect of replacing a weak player by a slightly better player has a bigger effect on the amount of goals/points gained. So; expect transfers that focus on the weak links, not replacing superstars with even bigger superstars.
  3. Buy/sell smart: we don't buy older players, sell players when a decent offer has been made, and: go for the bargains. Scout a lot, check stats and make use of the numberous amounts of transfer-listed players and free agents. 

Alex draws an interesting conclusion, which i fully support: If, (rule 1) defense beats offense, but this is overlooked, and strikers are usually the most expensive players (in the top 10 most expensive transfers only 1 defender (van Dijk), at 9th place. The rest of them are (attacking) midfielders, strikers and wingers.). So: with equal funds we could buy better/more defenders and goalkeepers, which provides better results anyhow. This isn't really a rule, but gives you an idea where i'm heading.

Now: time to start the career and see what job opportunities are there for me!

Edit 1: (i'll keep editing this post untill someone responds, then i'll switch to opening a new entry). 

After some applications, i've been in talks with numberous teams. Fortuna Sittard in my home country came close, but Swindon was the one who believed in me the most. So, i'm the proud new manager of Swindon Town in the Sky Bet League 2. In my negotiations with the club i managed to secure an improvement to the data-analysis facilities. An improvement might be an overstatement though, given the fact that they currently have none. 

Other vital stats: 280K transferbudget, 234K wagebudget (204K allready reserved), and a complete lack of staff. Literally, only me, a goalkeeping coach and the head of youth development as coaching staff, no scouts or data-analists what so-ever, a head physio, head sports scientist and chief doctor. The -23 team has no staff either, the -18's do have a manager and a coach. So, the first investments will be on the staff department.

Edit 2:

But, before we get to the staff replacements it's time to build a tactic and a way of playing. As mentioned, we're going for a defensive formation focusing on preventing goals more than scoring them. As a basis, we're taking Mourinho's Chelsea with Drogba, Lampard and Makelele. He used a system that changed a bit during games, but could be defined as a 4-3-3 system. While his team relied more on counters, we're settting it up as a defensive formation. Underneath my formation, with inspiration from Jose's and the team instructions. Individual instructions have not been set up yet, i'll go with those when i've played some games and see what works and what does not work. (little lie in that one, we did tell the goalkeeper to use shorter passing).


Formation 4-3-3.png

As you can see, i'm playing with 2 Central defenders on defend, accompanied by 2 wing-backs, also on defend. We don't want to get caught off-guard with our wing-backs attacking and a ton of space behind them. We play with a 3-man midfield, where a defending ballwinning-midfielder provides additional defensive cover. A supporting Box-to-box midfielder provides extra defensive cover, but also moves up front when the attack calls for it. Finally, the attacking advanced playmaker should provide our wingers and forward with the passes they need to score. The forward-3 are 2 wingers (which can be converted to inwards when the situation calls for it) and a advanced forward as the final destination of crosses and passes. We might change the forward role to a more supporting one if we choose to play with inverted wingers, but we'll see how it goes.

team instructions.png

I made some choices here which i'd like to explain:

  • First of all: defensive mentality, given the fact that we're focusing on defending more than scoring goals.
  • A deeper defensive line to limit the chances of deep/through balls becoming a hazard. The ball-winning-midfielder and the box-to-box midfielder should somewhat close the space that this choice leaves between defense and midfield.
  • Since we're using an advanced forward that's allready close to the opponents goalkeeper, we might as well hunt him down. Preventing short distribution forces the goalkeeper to go for the long ball, which, hopefully, forces errors and gives us the ball.
  • For that exact reason, we choose to play out from defense. With the B2B midfielder and BW midfielder we should have plenty of options there. We use those players (and the AP) to play through the centre. 
  • Retain possession and passing directness is untouched. Statistics show that pass completion is more down to skill that long/short passes. 
  • We go for structured and disciplined, because we don't want to get surprised by a wave of creativity and 9 players in front of the ball when the opponent manages to take the ball from us.
  • And last: we go for work the ball in the box, since this seems to focus more on patience than on forcing the issue, which should fit with our tactic.
Edited by Unigo

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Billedresultat for moneyball memes

Interesting. Following. :thup: 

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Right, with the pre-season over and the first league match approaching, time to look back at what happened the past weeks. 

The friendlies are over, and the tactic has been slightly adjusted. We've told the goalkeeper to roll the ball to the defenders, to ensure careful build-up. Also, we've experimented with the two inverted wingers, which seems viable if our striker is having trouble getting his shots of. The results of the friendlies were:

0 -2 loss against Everton (English Premier division)
2 -1 win against Eastleigh (Vanama national)
1 - 2 loss against Oldham (Sky bet league one)
4 - 0 win against Swindon Supermarine (Southern D1W)
1 - 1 draw against Real San Sebastian (Spanish first division)

All in all, i'm most stoked about the 0-2 against Everton. It took a premier league club 61 minutes to find the net against our defensive system. Also the 1-1 against San Sebastian is a great achievement!

Staff upgrades
I won't list 'em all, but over the past weeks we've hired no less than 15 staff members. The most notable ones are:

  1. Spencer Prior as my assistant manager
  2. Kevin hunt as chief scout
  3. Julian Broadbent as chief data-analyst
  4. Matt Jackson as director of football

Not really a surprise, but no big news here. At the start of the transfer window prices tend to be high, so we're just waiting out to see if we can find a bargain. I'd like a decent central defender, if one comes by... There are some movements in the works though:

Raheem Hanley
Raheem Hanley has been offered a contract after coming to an agreement with Northampton Town over a transfer-fee of 35k euro's. The contract he was offered is worth 6,5K a month, and an additional cost of 19K to secure the deal. Given his worth of 64K, 2,5 star rating with potential to go to 4, it's not a bad deal. He's 23 years old, so still has some potential left. We need some backup on midfield, and with him being able to play as a central midfielder and a leftback we allready have a replacement for Chris Hussey available when he leaves us next year, after his loan has ended. Let's hope we seal the deal!

Marc Richards
Once (and possibly still) a decent striker, but allready 35 years old. His contract is worth 9,75K a month, and lasts for the next 2 years. Not worth too much (21,5K), but with his salary we decided we should let him go. So, he has been transfer-listed. Let's hope we get some interested clubs for him where he can end his career on a high.

Other news
The data-analysis facilities have been built! All our new employees must be pleased with their brand new desks and computers. 

Also, our board has come through with this seaon's goals:

  • Qualify for the playoffs for promotion
  • Reach the second round of the FA cup
  • Reach the first round of the Carabao cup

For now: onward to the league, let's see how things play out!

Edit 1:

  • The transfer of Raheem Hanley has gone through, he has joined the team.
  • Jordan Young, a promising 18 year-old striker has been loaned out to Ebbsfleet, to gain some first-team experience.
Edited by Unigo

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An interesting concept. I am intrigued to see how your methods pan out.

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Thanks, i'll keep you guys up to date. Updates will be less frequent, i recon it's not that interesting to follow every move i make during a season. So, after a bunch of games i'll check back with an update. I think the next one will be when the transfer period closes, hopefully i'll have something to say about a new signing at that point!

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It’s the 1st of september 2017 and the transfer-deadline has passed. Time to look back at this month and see what has happened. First, the transfers!


  • Not what i intended, but Marc Richards stays at Swindon. The 35-year old striker didn’t gather much attention, and a twisted ankle puts him out of the game for 5 weeks. A smart manager might look past that injury, but apparently they didn't.
  • When i arrived at Swindon, Kyle Knoyle was already side-lined with a damaged kneecap. For the next 4 to 6 months we don’t have to expect him back on the pitch. With Ben Purkiss we have a 2,5 star rated wing-back who’s 33 years old. This season he’s averaged a rating of 6,77, which isn’t too bad but could be better, especially with our defensive demands. WIth Knoyle out of the game for so long, we have no back-up for Purkiss, nor does he have any competition for his spot. WIth that in mind, we went to look for a right wing-back. 
    After several scouting sessions we picked up Joe Riley for our team. He’s currently suffering a broken lower leg, but is expected to make his return somewhere in the next 2-4 weeks. He has a 3,5 star rating and is worth 100k. So, what did he cost us? We payed 35K for him and gave him a 7,5K a month contract. He’s 25 years old, so we should expect him to keep his value for the next few years. I’m quite pleased with this one!

Matches played
At the time of writing we’ve played 7 games for the competition or a cup. So let’s see how we did:

Sky Bet league Two
3 - 3 draw against Carlisle
3 - 1 win against Exeter
4 - 2 win against Morecambe
3 - 2 win against Crawley

Carabao Cup
3 - 1 win against Southend (Sky Bet league one) (1st round)
1 - 3 loss against Bournemouth (Premier league, currently holding 1st place) (2nd round)

Checkatrade Trophy
1 - 0 win against West ham -23

Now, on first sight these results are delightful. We hold first place in the league, are knocked out of the Carabao Cup but by the hands of the current premier league leader and are on first place in the groupstage of the Checkatrade Trophy, by winning against a first-team-loaded West Ham -23. But, look at the goals. Out of the 24 teams in the league we’re in the 19-23 range with 8 conceded goals. On the other hand, we do have 13 goals made which gives us the 1st spot, by a large margin. Still, this is weird. We play defensive, but concede a lot and score even more. So, we need to work on this. 

To find out where things went wrong we’re gonna look at some of the matches played. First of all: we rule out the Carabao Cup matches. Southend and Bournemouth are better teams, so more goals conceded makes sense. The Checkatrade trophy match against West Ham -23 didn’t have any conceded goals, so that’s not worth our trouble either. This leaves the four league matches.

3 -3 draw against Carlisle

  • The first goal we’ve conceded was from a direct-free kick
  • The second conceded goal was scored by an unmarked left winger, who had a ton of space. Purkiss, the designated wing-back was going of the man on the ball, which was a mistake. That guy already was under pressure from another defender. 
  • The third conceded goal was again scored by an unmarked left winger. A cross from the side gave him the ball, which he (rather beautifully) knocked in. Again, Purkiss was not marking his man.

3 - 1 win against Exeter

  • The conceded goal came from a indirect-free kick, a diverted header found his way to the foot of the wrong player and got knocked in.

4 - 2 win against Morecambe

  • First conceded goal came from a through-ball to the striker, who was tightly marked by a central defender. But a good pass and good anticipation did the trick. Weirdly enough our defender is a whole lot faster than the striker though.
  • The second conceded goal came from a penalty.

3 - 2 win against Crawley

  • The first goal came from a penalty. 
  • The second goal came from a cross, headed in by the striker. Plenty of central defenders were close, but still too much space for the striker.

When we look at the dissection of the goals 4 of the 8 are not really a concern to me. 2 penalties, the indirect-free kick and the direct free kick are all valid reasons to concede a goal. This does mean though that we might have to look out with our fouls, since half our conceded goals were caused by this. 

2 of the conceded goals, in the first match, came from a wing-back that didn’t mark his player and left his position. We might need to choose the ‘stick to position’ instruction and instruct our wing-backs to tightly mark the opponents wingers.

The remaining 2 goals came from poor marking by the central defenders and possibly a lack of anticipation. Robertson, a decent central defender scores quite well on these attributes (11, 12). Matt Preston could be an issue though. He’s by far our most talented central defender, but only puts a rating of 9 on the table for both these attributes. We might give Dion Conroy some chances in the future. His overall rating is not as good as that of Preston, but with 12 marking and 11 anticipation he might be the key to leak-proof defense.


  1. Added team-instruction: Stick to positions
  2. Added positional instructions to both wing-backs: mark tighter

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Before we get into the save, other news: the book Soccernomics just arived! So, scanning through it we have to add a few guildelines. Our original ones are (first post):

  1. Defense beats offense
  2. A team is as strong as the weakest player
  3. Buy/sell smart

The first two remain in tact. The third one will be split up in the following:

  1. Use wisdom of the crowds (a lot of scouting and analysis before we buy a player)
  2. Buy in the early twenties, sell before they get 'old' (in our case: 30)
  3. Sell a player if some one offers more than he's worth
  4. Make sure you have a replacement in place before a player gets sold.

So, with these new rules, onward! Currently, it's november the 7th. And to be honest: stuff is not working out. The results below will show you what i mean.

Sky Bet League Two
0 - 0 draw against Barnet
2 - 3 loss against Luton
2 - 1 win against Notts County
2 - 1 win against Stevenage
1 - 1 draw against Forest Green
2 - 1 win against Coverty
4 - 1 win against Cambridge
2 - 3 loss against Cheltenham
1 - 2 loss against Mansfield
4 - 2 win against Lincoln
1 - 0 win against Wycombe
3 - 1 win against Port Vale

Checkatrade Trophy
1 - 0 win against Wycombe

FA Cup
0 - 1 loss against Yeovil

Again, on first sight it's not all that bad. We've passed the group stage of the Checkatrade Trophy by winning our first two matches, and with the performance in the league we're currently on 2nd place. The loss in the FA cup obviously does mean that we're out of the running there. But, as you can see, we've got no issues scoring a goal, but are still conceding a lot. Over the past 14 games we have scored 25 goals and conceded 17. That needs to change. 

Possible changes
Now, we still want to play defensively. So, i've constructed a new tactic to try something new. Over the past 10 games we have tinkered a lot with the team and individual instructions, but we can't seem to stop the opponent scoring. And, we were in luck. With our 2 wins in the Checkatrade Trophy we were allready through to the second round and so were the Bristol Rovers, who remained as the last opponent of the group stage. Strangely enough, Bristol felt the urge to play with their A-squad, so it's fair to say their squad should have been a fair bit stronger than ours (they are currently 6th in the Sky Bet League One). Eitherway, time to test the new tactic without the risk of spilling precious points. We used a 5-2-3 tactic, still with the defensive mentality. And the result was: we won! It still took a penalty-shootout to get the victory, but over the entire match Bristol had virtually no chances created. All in all, i'm happy. I might have to put this tactic to the test a bit more. If it remains succesful, i'll post it here in full.

With the leaves falling, the january transfer period is quickly approaching. Over the past few matches i've noticed that we might need an extra midfielder. The current ones we have are feeling the weight of our season allready, it's only a matter of time before one gets injured and i'm screwed. On top of that, we currently are housing 5 players on a loan. They all will leave our team at the end of May. I want to prevent having to replace all 5 of them at the same time, when they allready left, so let's see what's needed. The 5 are:

  • Timi Eisnik, 4,5 star (left) winger
    Timi is the hardest player to replace. Sofar he's played in 19 matches, and with 13 goals and 4 assists he has an average rating of 7,47. Matty Taylor has played some games when Timi needed a rest and performed well, but with him being 35 years old there's no way he's going to keep fit an entire season. 
  • Chris Hussey, 3 star left back
    Chris has played 19 matches and has an average rating of 6,74. We bought Hanley as back-up, he's not ready yet to replace Hussey though. We might have to bring in some one else if Hanley does not grow in the next 6 months.
  • Rollin Menayese, 2,5 star centre back
    Replacing Rollin should not be that hard. Rollin has played 1 match for the senior squad, in which he scored a rating of 6,80. But, if we are going to use the 5-2-3 more often, we need a lot of centre backs, so some fresh blood is needed.
  • Ollie Banks, 3 star midfielder
    Ollie has played 19 matches for us, resulting in an average rating of 7,05, which is quite impressive. We don't have a replacement (or do we....) yet, so we need another midfielder.
  • Kellan Gordon, 2,5 star (right) winger
    And last, Kellan only played 1 match for the seniors, resulting in a 6,40 rating. We seem to have plently of wingers on the right side, and barrely used Kellan. So, i doubt he'll be replaced.

I ended with a bit of a cliffhanger on the replacement of Ollie. Over the past few weeks we have been scouting (outside of our range, but we stumbled upon him) Javier Vet. Javier is a Dutch defensive midfielder who can also play as a central midfielder. After being scouted for 100%, the scouts rated him a 73, which is not too bad. Also, with him being 24 years old he's about to enter his best years. Javier was unhappy at his club, Almere City and was listed for a transfer. We struck a deal with Almere City and paid 28K for him, being worth 54K. He'll earn 6,25K when he joins our squad in January. When we scouted him he was rated being a 3,5 star, with a potential to get to 4.

On the next update: did we stick to 4-3-3, or did we go to 5-2-3? And: what else happened in the January transfer-period?


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Time for a new update. It's February the 1st and we've just gone through the transfer period. 

First, the Results
Sky Bet League Two
0 - 2 loss against Yeovil
0 - 1 loss against Grimsby
1 - 1 draw against Newport County
0 - 0 draw against Chesterfield
2 - 3 loss against Accrington
3 - 3 draw against Colchester
1 - 2 loss against Crewe
2 - 2 draw against Luton
4 - 4 draw against Notts County
1 - 0 win against Barnet
1 - 2 loss against Stevenage
1 - 1 draw against Forest Green
0 - 0 draw against Coventry
2 - 1 win against Crewe

Checkatrade Trophy
0 - 0 win (penalties) against Bristol Rovers
1 - 0 win against Southampton -23 (2nd round)
2 - 1 win against Chelsea -23 (3rd round)
5 - 3 win against Southend (qtr final)

As you'll see, we've had a quite bad period. The first few months we were still in contention for automatic promotion, currently the table looks like this:

30 games table.png

With 16 games left to play, everything is possible. But to be realistic i've still got my hopes up for a play-off position. 

After the disaster of the past few months i've changed a few things. Neither the 4-3-3 or the 5-2-3 seemed to work, no matter what i tried. So, i went back to basics with a 4-2-2 formation. I figured if i could put a bit more pressure on the opponents that might prevent some goals as well. I came to realize that, based on the numbers game, conceded goals are worth more (negative) than goals scored, but that does not mean you have to play a defensive game. If by applying more pressure and a standard mentality i concede less, that's also fine. The tactic we are currently using is still in development, but looks something like this:

Swindon 4-4-2.png

Now, since the transfer period has passed, what has happened to the squad:

Matty Taylor has been sold for 3,3K, while being worth 7,5K. This does not bother me though, since i allready found a replacement and this lift a burden on the wage budget. We're still paying 6K a month to Port Vale (where he went), but that's only for the remainder of the season. And with his original contract being worth 12,25K a month, i'm not too fuzzed about that.

Rollin Menayese has requested to be released from his loan and wanted to return to the Bristol Rovers. I haven't used him that much, so i let him. Morale was under pressure allready due to the results, i can't affort more unhappy players. Besides, i was required to pay around 2K a month for him, so we've cut those costs as well.

I had hopes to sell more players who i had listed. But, Donal McDermott (worth 29K, 28 years old), Chris Robertson (24,5K, 32 years old), Ben Purkiss (6K, 33 years old) and Marc Richards (14,25K, 35 years old) are still at the club because no one was interested. The good news is that all of their contracts will expire at the end of the season, which will free up a nice chunk of the wage budget. 

I allready mentioned Javier Vet in the previous post, he came in at a 3 star rating.

The best signing so far though, is 22 year old Jessy Galvez Y Lopez from Belgium. I signed him as a free agent, after some scouting and a trial. He is a 3,5 star left winger with a 4,5 star potential and is worth 165K. He signed a contract for the next 3,5 years worth 4,3K a month. With him we have the replacement of Timi Elsnik allready in our ranks!

Other news
Nothing major, but i managed to convince the board that investing in a youth academy would be a good idea. So, it might take half a year, but we should see an upgrade in the (currently basic) youth facilities coming our way.

Edited by Unigo

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The season ends...
There we are, the season is over. We've finished 5th in the league, qualifying us for the play-offs for promotion. First we would have to play 2 semi-final games against Mansfield. The first game was a delight: a 1 - 3 win sure gave us a headstart. The home game was a slight disaster though: we lost with 1 against 4, knocking us out of the race for promotion. The table looked like this:

league table 46 games.png

To make things worse, the board decided that the money i'm able to spend on transfers was cut down to 40% of the profit we would make. After failing to achieve promotion, they also scrapped the planned upgrade to the youth update. 

Player performance
I won't give you the stats on all the players, but a few ones are worth noting:

Timi Elsnik

Timi Elsnik.png

Timi, being on loan from Derby for sure was the most valuable player. Being a winger scoring 17 goals and giving 15 assists earned him a rating of 7.3 over all games. Also, he earned 11 player of the match awards. We're sure going to miss him!

Other notables:

  • Keshi Anderson, striker: 24 goals and 13 assists in 50 games, average rating of 7.08
  • Paul Mullin, striker/winger: 13 goals and 15 assists in 44 games, average rating of 7.00
  • Kaiyne Woolery, winger: 11 goals, 15 assists in 48 games, average rating of 7,15
  • Ellis Iandolo, midfielder: 4 goals, 10 assists, 6 player of te match awards, playing 48 games average rating of 7,24
  • Jessy Galvez Y Lopez: starting 6 games, substitute in 13 games: 5 goals, 1 assists, 3 player of the match awards, average rating of 7,19

How did the transfers do?
Jessy Galvez Y Lopez
Above i mentioned Jessy Galvez allready, but he performed really well. Being a pure left-winger he had to wait out till Elsnik was injured, on national duty or needing a rest, so he didnt get a lot of game time yet. But, the first results are positive! Especially the rating of 7,19 over all those games is pretty good.

Javier Vet
Javier played 18 matches in the starting 11, and came in as a substitute in 3. he managed to get an average rating of 6.75, which isn't too good. On the bright side: he has the highest pass-completion ratio of the entire team (86%).

Joe Riley
Joe played 35 games in the starting 11 and came in as a substitute in 2 games. He has an average rating of 6.76, which is about the same as the other players on his position (Purkiss and Knoyle). In those games he did manage to get 2 player of the match awards.

Raheem Hanley
Raheem played 17 games from the starting 11 and came in as a substitute in 18. He has the lowest average rating on his position with 6.63. This might be due to me using him all over the pitch, not giving him the chance to live up to the expectations.

The future...
Now, it's easy to see Swindon is in a bad place. We're within our player-wage budget, not spending too much on transfers, but the financial situation is quite bad. Now, the scrapping of the youth-academy upgrade is bad, but not vital. The low returns on transfers though is crippling. We'll see what goal the board throws up, and i'll have a long talk about it with them. I'm prepared to go for another season, but the circumstances have to be just right. I'm a journeyman, not a Swindon-man for life. So if something better might come along, i might not be able to contain myself...


Edited by Unigo

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