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_Ben_

[FM20] Tequila and Mariachi?

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Squad comparison

Being promoted as champions is always a worry for me - firstly, because we were too good for the league below and I know that this won't happen again and secondly because I always feel guilty not trusting in the players who have got me into this league. I know that the step up to this league is going to be tough - there are some really good teams in it; Granada, Tenerife and Malaga have been relegated from La Liga and there is always a concern when you are facing the B sides of Valencia and Real Madrid as you never quite know who is going to turn out for them.

Below is the comparison between our attributes and those of the rest of the league:

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We have our brand of football and, as I've already alluded to in this thread, I am very much a style over substance kind of manager. We play, hopefully, a nice technical game with short passing that relies on good technique. We are nowhere near the level of some of the teams in this league but, when you look at the attributes that are the best - they are technique, passing, vision, flair and determination - pretty much exactly what I want us to be good at. 

We can never play a long ball game - as we are simply not physical enough and I would expect us to fair poorly in games against tough tackling and aggressive sides as we lack the bravery and aggression to match them.

I am looking to set out a plan for teams that I would like us to beat and teams that I want us to remain competitive against - and see if I can almost predict this season ahead.

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Player development tracker

I haven't been able to afford a single training or coaching upgrade, nor do I have any staff for the youth or B team at the moment and I run a threadbare first team coaching session, of which I don't actually control the training yet. However, I want to get a development tracker up and running for when these things are in place - if only to have some comparative data. 

Unfortunately, only two of the four players listed are from my own academy and only two are young enough to have fitted in on this tracker when I have used it previously. I have added my two new breakthrough signings this season; Angel and Benajmin, for comparison. They are both older and will have access to some first team minutes as well as having decent personalities - so I'd like to see them improve well, even considering our poor facilities.

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I think that I actually like this more this year than last year - due to the coloured boxes as opposed to the bars meaning I really have no idea of changes under the hood. This shows me the average development to 1DP for the whole cohort of monitored players and, even though I'm not micro-managing each player (how would I really know that a player has improved 'by one point' on his crossing in real life [apart from looking at playing stats, of which I will be doing]) I can see how well the group are doing in each area and re-address balances in training, coaching quality or additional roles and individualised plans. 

The group is of decent standing, to be fair, but my only comparative data here is against initial youth candidates from my San Marino save in FM19, whereas here I have players who have made a total of nearly fifty appearances in professional football. We stand out well with passing and technique, which is a sign of both my own recruitment (for Angel and Benjamin) and, hopefully, my HoYD's preferred playing style of Tiki-Taka. We are also determined - which is good, and seems to be improving across the squad, work hard and seem to be particularly physical - an almost complete opposite of the overall first team picture.

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At this point, I won't be changing a lot - letting this run with my assistant doing first team training and my two U19 players receiving the standard youth training (they are the only players there as the rest are in the newly formed Guadalajara B squad). I will however, be looking at the training schedules and individual training of these four players and report back at the end of the season before compiling the data to compare from cohort to cohort.

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Youth player poached

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I wonder if I'll now get less in my intake this year? That's two gone this summer...

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2024/25 Liga 2 Manager information

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An interesting bit of data that might give me a bit more of an insight into what I will be facing. I am utterly dismayed that I can't filter by division of staff on the staff search screen so this has taken a bit more making than I wanted it to.

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Just by looking at this - should Cazorla be at Oviedo by the time we play them, I feel that we'll struggle. Long balls are going to be a danger a) over the top of our relatively high line and b) for winning balls against our small full backs and overall small side, so we will need to adjust appropriately. There are also a lot more managers at this level that favour possession football than there were in the Segunda D2 so I would certainly expect our passing stats to decrease, too.

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August/September 2024

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A really tough start to our life in LaLiga 2 - but we have picked up a good couple of wins against teams I really hoped we'd be able to beat. B teams are peculiar and especially so at this point of the season - where there is less of a need for first team players to be a part of their side in order to (re)gain match fitness. Our big problem has been in front of goal as we've found defences much harder to break down and this has been somewhat down to the poor form of the front three, up until the last game where Pena ended his drought. 

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In slightly better news, we are now a profitable business and, in a few months time, may be able to afford to spend some of this money upgrading facilities and staffing:

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4 hours ago, tyler16 said:

Funny to see Santi Cazorla of all former players prefer a direct style.

Funny you should say that - because I didn't think that'd match his style either. It turns out that it's either variable or I have encountered a graphical bug, as this is what it is now:

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Actually - when I look at Ciraco Sforza (previously Catenaccio) - he's now Route One. Maybe this is what they favoured in their previous job as it is worth noting that they both took new jobs just before I took these screenshots?

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October/November 2024

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Some concerning performances here but we are in a decent position as we near the mid-way stage of the season. I am most worried about how we have, on three occasions here, collapsed and conceded three times. We can be a little naive and I think that my usual plan, which is to consolidate and attempt to not concede again to keep the score respectable before trying to build back into a game, is somewhat counter-productive as we are inviting more pressure and sitting more under the cosh.

The winter months are going to see a continued tactical focus with little to nothing in the transfer market as I look to kick start the development of the players within the squad.

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Player Sale

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Velez seem to have a thing for my wingers - they paid the £205k release clause for Guillermo Lopez last year and now they have given me an offer I cannot refuse in winger Rangel. He was my second signing for the club and converted him from a striker to, what I hoped would be, a goalscoring winger. A solitary league goal later sees a huge profit come my way.

 

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Exodus?

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We are, and have to be, a selling club at this point. These two sales represent at least £1.1m in profit and Restrepo moves to a reasonably reputable league whereby he'll be in the shop window for a potential move back to Europe and/or a place in the Colombian national team. Bastiani may not make the first team at Velez (he's definitely better than Rangel and Lopez - who they've poached off me before) but, again, the Argentine market is pretty lucrative which will allow him to fulfil his potential, as he won't do so here.

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On 06/12/2019 at 21:55, _Ben_ said:

Many thanks! Are you playing FM20? Not seen anything (sorry - tend to browse on my phone which means I don't see thread starters) since your Leicester save!

Yeah, I'm too slow of a player to keep an interest in an FMCU thread, which is why the Leicester thread died out really quickly ahaha

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December 2024/January 2025

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Wow! We are massively overachieving here - mainly thanks to a great December. The new year has seen our goalscoring tail off somewhat but to sit in tenth place at this stage is huge - particularly with a 12-point gap back to the relegation zone. 

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I am a little concerned at our recent exodus of players but it has left us in a fantastic financial position and I have decided to bring forward my planned Bosman signing:

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Tomas Martinez joins for £32k (that's the fee they wanted for early confirmation) and was initially going to be another one of my 'project' players - yet is actually hugely complete. He's a physical central midfielder but also had good first touch and technique, even if his passing is only ok - he does make great decisions and has good vision. His traits suggest that he's can operate as a Mezzala from a slightly deeper position (allowing me to move to a HB in the DM role [I've never seen this as a role for a possession tactic, but I'm very impressed]) and introduce him to the side. He's in a mentoring group with Brian Pena (great Det and Resolute/M.Friendly/Reserved) so hopefully he can pass that on.

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Looking forward to the next few months and the youth intake!

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February/March 2025

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Fun fact - only one person has scored a league goal for Guadalajara since Esteban Bastiani's 44th minute strike on the 14th December 2024. Aside from that pretty terrible run of scoring, I must say that this season is petering out into one that does disappoint me a little - we have been promoted and, with largely the same squad, have avoided any real kind of relegation trouble. Of course, I will have spoken too soon and will be scrapping it out for the next few seasons but to come through a run vs Tenerife at home (3rd), Zaragoza away (2nd), Gijon away (4th) and Valencia Mestalla away (1st) with six points, shows that we clearly are good enough for this league - just lacking some consistency - as noted in February.

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I could argue that, without a striker, I can't moan about not scoring - yet my AM (who is essentially a striker given his role as a Treq) is scoring, it's just everyone else. That list above shows the entire list of goalscorers that we have this season. You will notice that there isn't a single centre back as we haven't scored from a corner - out of design rather than unfortunate circumstances/bad planning. We are a small team and, fitting in with our possession style, take all corners short and work them into the box that way - stopping ourselves being liable to goals scored on the break against us. 

This is definitely some food for thought!

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88 wins, 53 draws and 58 losses to date with 206 goals scored and 149 conceded, I have started my tenure reasonably well. I've spent a grand total of £37k on transfers and recouped £2.1m. My tendencies are to want to play possession football with a high-tempo pressing game and signing young, and very young, players for the first team squad. 

I am also just about to start my Continental A License. 

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Youth Intake 2024/25

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Alberto joins the youth ranks despite being born some 135km south-east in Cuenca. He's just about geographically in the middle of ourselves, Albacete and Valencia - and I'd have assumed he'd of gone in the opposite direction to the La Liga giants in he'd have been good enough. Following the geography trend - Israel Dominguez would have had to come pretty much straight through Madrid on his 164km journey - probably stopping off at one of the bigger clubs if he was good enough. Rafael Varela is just a 10 minute bus ride away in Azuqueca de Henares, Juan Jose Arganda came 256km from a town closer to Murcia and Gregorio Carvajal followed, with his home town of Miguelturra being a stones throw away.

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We've a nice range of positions, as you'd expect from a HoYD who favours a 4-4-1-1 formation as it's only really Varela who plays solely in a role that doesn't fit in with that. Cristo Fernandez, the man in charge of this, is listed as F.Det and, sadly, he's not given much over in terms of positive personalities with the best personality coming to arguable the weakest potential player.

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I think that both the style and pros are a little irrelevant when the players are so poor but Dominguez's intelligence is a positive sign that his anticipation, concentration and decisions may be good - or, just everything else is really poor. I don't know if this column is comparing these kids to those their own age - are they fast for a 16 year old or just fast overall? I would question the latter.

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Sadly, this isn't a great intake - the players listed here as potentially being good seem to lack the all round game to a) realise it and b) become well-rounded enough to feature for me, especially given that they are four to five years away from the first time with us at our current standing.

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Cohort 1 Youth Development

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So my first year of tracking player development is over and I am quite pleased with the results. All of the four players are now within the first team and have performed reasonably well. Villalba has now become, in my eyes, the long term successor in the HB role - which means I re-addressed his individual training role a short time into the season. Both Angel and Benjamin have grabbed their chance within the first team and have become important players.

It is interesting to see that, despite both of the older players having amassed more than 2000 minutes each, they haven't developed as much. Maybe this is down to my own input, or lack of, at this time with training schedules or that they are both close to their potential or that their attribute growth is naturally slowing down at this age - as is a path for some players. Never the less - their end point sees them as good enough to remain anyway. 

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Below is the overall tracker I am going to use for each cohort over the years as my facilities, coaching etc improves. I will then keep a notes section for reviewing whether they've settled into the first team, moved on, been capped for Spain etc. Ideally - this tracker will work for my top two or three prospects each year but I will ensure that I don't forget the rest of the cohort, as, in line with my philosophy will ensure that I do my best to give as many players as I can careers in professional football, at my club or elsewhere.

Sometimes a player will appear on here more than once - for example, they might appear in their first year (ending 17) and then again when they end as an 18 year old and again as a 19 year old, if they aren't in the first team. With my facilities not really up to scratch at the moment and my board wanting me to sign young players to develop - there may be older players appearing on this list, Angel and Benjamin as an example, at the start. It'll be interesting to compare their development (not as much as expected this year despite their first team minutes) with my younger players. I'd expect the number of players older than 19 to significantly decrease as I develop as a club.

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11 hours ago, tyler16 said:

Oof, love the attention to detail but not an amazing intake there.

I know! The 3 gold stars means good enough at this level - which is not the best long term goal. Funnily, that player actually rejected my contract and is now about to rot away as a free agent!

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2024/25 End of Season Review

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Mid. Table. Mediocrity. I don't think there is a lot more to say than that. Eighteen points away from the drop zone does represent a really successful season - one where we haven't been drawn into a relegation battle at all. This, to be fair, is a bit of a shame - I haven't had to think too hard tactically, nor make too many adjustments to get the best out of my players, instead, I have just focused on keeping morale up through praising good performances and training as well as criticising the opposite. The above 17 people represents my whole first team squad and, even though some of these are young, they have been given as many minutes as possible - largely showing the lack of depth that I have as opposed to my insistence for developing youth players.

The convoluted system of playoffs in the Segunda Division means that I may not even be facing the creme-de-la-creme of the third tier talent and, instead, may be facing B sides who have put their best players into the system for those final four matches. I managed Real Zaragoza a few years back and have a little soft spot for them, so, naturally, I am delighted for their promotion. Other teams I have had an interest in over the past few years - Las Palmas: largely due to their isolated location and Real Oviedo: a real 'CM/FM' team and their fan ownership have been good opposition for me. It is also sad to see Santander fade away - their FM stars of yesteryear, Fede and Borja San Emetero are no longer there and sadly they no longer house the kind of talents that my own team, Aston Villa, raided when we signed Olof Mellberg some eighteen (real life) years back.#

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Coming into a new division, I would expect a downturn in the statistic outputs of my players - we'll score less as we are faced with tougher opposition and, where possible, are trying to consolidate rather than attack and we may concede more, playing against more physical, technical and downright better players. There are some pleasing figures here - another good goalscoring haul from Brian Pena - my talisman has 75 goals in 155 games from the AM slot, which is fantastic. Elsewhere, I'm happy to see that the assists are split between midfielders and defenders - with the full backs chipping in with a combined 11.

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We now have nine players who have been at the club for the last three years - to be fair, a worrying statistic. As mentioned, I'd expect the ratings to decrease as we are faced with tougher foe and as we go from league winners to mid-table fodder. In particular, the performances of Antonio Sola and Willian Santos have concerned me - with both dramatically decreasing. The former has completely lost his place to the ever improving Vilarrasa and Santos' broken ankle coincided with a spell of form for deputy Angel, of which he hasn't been able to dislodge. I feel that Santos, despite his poor season, is still in my plans, although not necessarily first choice but I feel that Sola will be moved on - should I be able to successfully upgrade him to a player who can compete with Vilarrasa - and one who may fit into a slight tactical tweak I want to make.

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I'm looking forward to a busy summer!

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Summer changes

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Surprisingly sensible of the board to ensure we are cemented as a LaLiga 2 team before they expand the stadium. Definite incentive to use this year to save as much as we can...

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2025/26 Transfer Dealings

I wanted to move quickly to secure my transfer dealings in order to spend a little bit of time looking at pre-season and how we will structure our training sessions over the course of the season. The board gave me just over £1.5m to spend but only £50k to conduct my scouting missions - so I shifted some budget, not that I was planning to spend much, if anything, on transfers this summer. With plenty available in the wage budget too, I could have spent considerably more than I have but, with one eye on the impending stadium expansion, I don't want to be putting the club into financial peril at this point.

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My first two signings come from a very familiar place. Velez Sarsfield. They happened to nick my two wingers and I have done the same back - but this time I haven't paid a penny. Lukas Konig is a stereotypical winger who can dribble and cross and has a turn of pace. As I intend to move to a style that fully integrates a tiki-taka model in all areas, this may become a bit redundant but Lukas adds good passing, decisions, technique and vision to his game. He's F.Pro and young and will hopefully improve, adding a couple of passing-styled traits to his game in his time here. He is joined, on the opposite side, by Thiago Ojeda, a name I am sure I have seen mentioned in FM forums before. Again - he has the conventional winger traits and more, and is wrong-footed, too - this will give me another tactical option should I want it. Both Ojeda and Konig will be part of the 'Puigmal model' - named after Arnau Puigmal, who I signed from Manchester United several years ago. They are in this become the pair of them, at 22 years old, have amassed a single professional appearance each. I am hoping that their new-found first team opportunity will allow them to rapidly develop over the course of the season - yet they are slightly older and, as such, more developed mentally, which should allow them to start strong. Next in the door is Pelayo Suarez on a Bosman from relegated Santander. He's a ball playing centre back and is good in all of those areas. At this point, he's backup but, like previously shown, can force his way in given a good spell of form. Lastly, I spent £5k on Jose Ramon Baena from Vallecano. He's a younger and, not too much, poorer version of Brian Pena - an ideal deputy in cup games and in tough runs. His passing, flair, balance and acceleration are top class, meaning he'll be able to get away from his man and hopefully create something or finish himself.

There was only one outgoing - that of Pablo Fernandez, a rotational left winger, who joins Real Union.

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First XI:

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I feel that, on paper, this is very strong. Sanchez and Benjamin were key players last year and Vilarrasa is on the up based on historical form. Willian Santos has done well to recover from a broken ankle and really fits in the role I want, moving inside when we are in possession. Ferran Sarsanedas had my highest AR a couple of years back and his ball playing ability remains fantastic - even as the eldest player within my team. Tomas Martinez struggled in the early period after his move but is a class act in the more offensive MEZ(s) role and is paired with Puigmal, who has been somewhat of a revelation in a number of roles for me last season. The front three is now two thirds inexperienced but quality and, by given Brian Pena a new contract, have tied down my talisman for another three years.

Substitutes:

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I have, for the first time, a little more depth here. I am planning on keeping a note of every game that I have an academy graduate within the first team squad - currently at 40 (starting Vilalba's appearance on the bench at the start of last season) and I have two of my own here. Baena and Angel are both young but do have experience at first team level and there is some age in my other players, who are all good enough to actually offer to the first team, if needed.

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Cohort 2 Youth Development

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I've been scouring the market for players who I can sign as 'development players' but haven't really found what I'm looking for. I would, at this point, take a mercenary 16 year old striker, simply as a measure that is comparable in future years. This season sees two player remain on the list - Vilalba and Martinez, as neither broke into the team last year. I've added Baena to this list too, as an 18-year old.

These player are in the senior squad so I'm not really impacting their actual training so again, this year will be down to mainly personality and game minutes when I look to analyse their development.

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Squad numbers

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Pretty much following the Argentinian squad number rules (LINK: here) except I'm not entirely sure which way round I want my wingers so I've muddled that one up. It's the little things in this game that still get me excited...

Sadly, Rubén Carrillo was less interested!

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August/September 2025

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A very promising start to the season as we have picked up an average of two points a game. Keeping this form up, which, of course we won't, would lead us to 84 points - enough for promotion. I have stayed injury free, yet rotated heavily within the starting XI and, with a squad of fit players and those who have high moral from a successful pre-season, a start like this was both to be expected and very much needed. I worry that, every year, Brian Pena will have gone one step too far, but again, he's started strongly although didn't score in September and it was down to his deputy, Baena, to net the winner in a tough tie away at the Riazor.

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A tale of two wingers. New signings Thiago Ojeda and Lukas Konig seem to have settled in very different. Below is the comparison between their key attacking statistics, all taken over per/90 periods:

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Konig's two league goals at a very impressive 21.3% shot to goal conversion rate put him head and shoulders above Ojeda, who is yet to register and isn't getting as many of his shots on target. I was interested if Ojeda was maybe doing more in the build ups to outweigh his lack of goals, but only a slightly higher number of key passes and less assists are to show here. Both players are working for the team with a good Interceptions+Tackles ratio but at this point - I'm struggling to find much positive for Thiago. They are different players - Konig is a winger and Ojeda is essentially a wrong-footed winger but, in this tactic, stays wide. He has a player trait to try killer balls whereas and they both are naturally interested in running dowon their flanks (yet Konig has nearly double the amount of dribbles).

At this point, I will proceed with using Ojeda as more of a rotational option and will use the interaction to tell him that a) the strikers are feeding off scraps and b) he's not contributing enough goals, before moving to fine him for subsequent poor performances.

He has the ability to make a difference and there is no noticeable struggles to settle in (in fact, he and Konig are in their own social group and he is amongst a group of 'other players' in the hierarchy) but he'll need to offer me some more soon in order to justify the £7k pcm on his wages and how he is in front of Felipe Martinez, a youth candidate, in the pecking order.

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I have also extended my contract - but was unable to use this as leverage for any recruitment upgrades.

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November/December 2025

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The second update of the season normally sees a downturn in our form but this is very different. A poor result at home to a struggling Oviedo team quickly subsided and we have had a magnificent run of victories. Criticising Brian Pena the month before for his goal-less run worked miracles as he has returned with seven goals in this two month period and it also saw the introduction of Thiago Ojeda's name on to the score sheet. 

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Sadly, my youth intake doesn't look promising, once again.

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January 2026

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Morale is a wonderful thing.

After missing a whole month out of the last update, I have made sure that I have included all of the fixtures this time so that you can see the end of of wonderful winning run, where we went over a month without conceding a goal. This coincided with a wonderful run in the Copa del Rey although my board are, sadly, very disappointed with the home loss to the minnows of Barcelona. Sigh. February has seen our form tail off a little, sadly, but we are holding on to a space in the playoffs even though that is wildly above where I expect us to finish.

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This shows that, however far our first team have come, that we, as a club, are still a long way short of where we need to be. I have seven or so players across this team and the B squad, who are, currently, in an unplayable league. In the next three years, I'd like to increase those numbers to 15 in each and look at the long term goal of having Guadalajara B promoted to the playable third tier. 

Youth intake coming next...

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That's Sevilla's b team in second place right? I assume they can't get promoted so if things stay this way at the end, you go up?

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15 minutes ago, kidthekid said:

That's Sevilla's b team in second place right? I assume they can't get promoted so if things stay this way at the end, you go up?

Correct. However - if you look at the teams below us - Espanyol, Mallorca and Tenerife, you'll see just how much of a fight I've got on my hands to end up there.

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2025/26 Youth Intake

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Despite the preview being poor, I am very happy with this intake. I seem to have broken a curse that stayed with me all the way through FM19 where I didn't get a single player with a different nationality. Whilst these are only dual nationals, I am happy that, with my increased recruitment, I will continue to get players in like this. I have also re-introduced my star system, whereby I asterisk the promising players until they are ready for first team action - this is particularly useful when/if I can start to build up three squads with decent depth.

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Firstly, Jose Angel offers me a different option on the right wing. He's really tall and quite well rounded mentally. I'd rather he didn't run with the ball through the centre as that is where Pena and the underlapping Mezzala are and I may look at utilising him as a wider option - hugging the line, knowing he'll win any headers and provide space for runners. Alberto Ropero is listed as 'intelligent' which is unusual for a player of his age but I do really like his good decisions and anticipation. He'll need to toughen up a little, get a little better on the ball and learn to rely less on just his right foot - but the signs are promising. Santiago Santos has excellent technique and passing but is rounded enough to be a supporting player, with him having good positioning as well as being brave. Again, he'll need to learn to not be so reliant on his right foot though. Sunny Godwin is a bit of a gamble - he's tiny and he's nowhere near the level of some of the others at this time - but he's got a good personality and a decent base; he works hard, is reasonably physical and is determined. He'll need to massive improve technically but that's all part of the project. Lastly, Juan Jose Septien joins - he's got the makings of a tricky inside forward with his good dribbling, technique, flair and all-round physicality. 

---

All of these players will be part of the ongoing youth tracking system and will join that in the close season.

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March/April 2026

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A really tough couple of months for us - we have shown weakness against those teams around us; Sevilla Atletico, Tenerife and a pasting from Espanyol show that we, maybe, aren't quite at the level as they are but then an away win at then league leaders Vallecano might prove different. With Sevilla's B side in and around top spot and Castilla, Real's B side, breathing down our necks - the playoff spots may actually drop to eighth, which gives us a fantastic shot. At the other end of the table, Real Oviedo's relegation has been sealed and it looks like a shock double relegation could be on the cards for once-giants Deportivo La Coruna, who finished 19th in La Liga last year - they are on 34 points, three adrift and in a terrible run of form. 

---

Lastly, I would like to propose a toast to Brian Pena. It is very rare that my favourite player in a save is not a newgen - but this man is something else:

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He leads the LaLiga 123 scoring charts with 25 this season, five ahead of his nearest competition and has just netted his 105th goal for the club - an amazing 38% of all goals scored by Guadalajara, with me as manager, have come from him- and he wasn't even playing for us during my first season! His league record of 100 goals in 193 games (3 for Barca B) comes at a fantastic 0.52 goals per game - and with this seasons 0.68 eclipsing that, he seems to be getting even better. 

All this whilst playing as a withdrawn striker - he isn't even the target man or, necessarily, the focal point of every attack. I'm hoping to continue to build a team around him for the next ten years.

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Cohort 2 Youth Development

Two returning players to this list in youth academy graduates Martinez and Vilalba and joined by Baena, who was new to the club this season.

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Smaller growth in all three areas compared to last season, which is a shame but that is largely down to the stagnation of Jose Ramon Baena, who has been unable to displace Brian Pena from the first team. We are, once again, not using anything particularly personalised in terms of training to our strengths or particularly trying to pinpoint areas to develop, but this is good baseline data for future reference.

----

Here is the overview of all player progress:

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First thing to note is a statistic I have made (and I'm unsure of whether I like it) which is their mean improvement divided by the minutes they have featured - it is a very rough number but, in future, may be able to show me something useful. 

The most interesting thing to take from this is that Villalba's development, whilst great in both years - was exactly the same even with nearly four times the amount of first team minutes. Martinez also played more minutes in the 2025/26 season yet increased at a much slower rate. Whether this is down to the fact that both of the players were 18 or younger, and, as such, would be developing more, the match strain has impacted their training regimes or the old adage that it's harder to improve from (and a reason why I don't use them) a 17 to an 18 than a 3 to a 4, for example.

---

Next year sees five 16 or 17 year old academy graduates populate this list and, for the first time, none of them will be near the first team - so this is a chance to have a real look at how youth development is working and to see if there is anything I can do to accelerate their progress. Sadly, I'd say that next year is going to be very experimental, but I can't improve if I don't know what to improve on.

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2025/26 End of Season Review

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My second season in the second tier has come to an end and, to be fair, has fizzled out into something of a non-event. Our form, in parts of the season, was strong enough to get us promoted but it is the graphic on the right that I can focus on, as a team. Failing to beat bottom of the table Murcia, just a point against Almeria and two draws against Albacete are the kind of results that we need to turn around if we want to go up. Saying that, we are two seasons in to our time at this level. That being said - given our performances against teams above us,  bar Vallecano, shows us that we are not ready for the step up, yet.

----

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The season has, yet again, been dominated by the performances of one man - his thirty goals is more than everyone else combined and his average rating, unsurprisingly, leads the way. Benjamin, who was part of my tracker last year has cemented himself in the first team and currently tracked holding midfielder Vilalba has usurped Sarsanedas to be my first choice, at only 18 years old. There has been a pleasing amount of minutes for everyone, except maybe Jose Ramon Baena, who's development has massively stalled after being a super sub, mainly on the wings, as he hasn't been able to hold down a spot in his favoured AMC role.

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The last year that I'll be using the 2022-23 and 2023-24 data as it was from two good seasons at a lower level but there are some good and some pleasing things to see here. Sergi Puig continues to grow and, at 27, is now nearing the peak of his goalkeeping career. It is nice to see that Puigmal has bounced back from a poor season, along with Willian Santos and the right back, right sided CM pairing have shown me why they were so good together in the third tier. A worry is Tomas Martinez's performance - giving his 'settling in' season saw him perform much better than this. Felipe Martinez hasn't taken the chance like his other academy graduate, Vilalba and is performing badly as my backup winger.

---

There are a lot of things I have planned for the summer - looking at staffing, re-assessing the weaker parts of the squad and building a longer term plan for my three squads.

---

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Player Sale

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With the board announcing a stadium expansion, which is being covered by a loan (£48k pcm until 2036 and an additional £7k pcm from a previous loan) cash flow is imperative here. We have £10.2m in the bank following this sale and are projected to, just above, break even this year, but the forecast for the two following years looks slightly more bleak with us losing upwards of £2m a season. Therefore, it's sales like this that are going to keep us steady and give us the freedom to improve our facilities and use the budgets on the right player, should he appear.

---

My mantra for the save has always been to develop youth players, firstly from the academy or those from Guadalajara (sadly, none have joined, yet) but to also see every player with a price-tag and know, regardless of the effort put into developing them, that they can and probably will be sold. Martinez fits that bill perfectly - for a profit of £1,970,000, I cannot complain, particularly when, as highlighted, his average rating last season well down on that of his first, introductory, season at the club.

---

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He's clearly very good - excellent physically and works hard, making good decisions and can dribble, pick good passes and has good technique if somewhat lacking in his passing range. I am a huge advocate of player traits to add another dimension to the role (note: Thiago Ojeda joined with the traits of 'Runs with ball down the left' and 'Tries long range passes' and now has neither of those but 'Tries killer balls,' 'Plays one-twos' and 'Places shots' - immediately a much changed player in the same W(s) role) but I think that Martinez is the outcome of too many. His time at Castilla saw him develop lots and the 'Come Deep for the ball' and 'Dictates Tempo' probably aren't the best fit for quite an offensive Mezzala role given his attributes.

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Signings and Squad Depth

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I've been relatively quiet in the transfer market, to date, choosing not to re-invest the money from the Martinez sale. That is largely due to the fact that I haven't finished sorting through my backroom team nor have I finished looking at some training modules that I want to start implementing this season. I am also looking for two very specific types of player but haven't really had much success in doing so - first team ready players and those who have potential but are not at the required stage to be within the first team, of which I would call my 'developmental players.' 

First came in a developmental prospect and bosman signing in Victor Barroso. I like IWB's and they are currently used on both sides, although that may change on the left at some point. Both Konig, my first choice, and Angel - the potential prospect who came through my academy last year - may well be really suited to stretching the play as wide as possible and allowing space for a player filling the space inside. I sent some scouts out to look for an IWB, preferably with enough to play a supporting role - and this lad was found. He has a strange set of traits, of which I'd presume were learnt through a mentoring group as it would be rare for a full back to dictate the tempo and definitely needs to work on becoming less reliant on his left foot - as this will leave us stranded defensively against a good out-and-out winger. He's physical, got good tackling, passing and first touch and his mental attributes are quite well rounded for his age. At 18, he's probably a lot closer to first team football than I may be giving him credit for but want to iron out a few things first.

I then *smashed* (by £60k) my transfer record to sign Lazaro from CD Tenerife, where he'd spent last season on loan in the Segunda B3 with Hercules, and playing reasonably well. I have taken a bit of a punt but, on paper, he looks as good as Konig, which now gives me four wide attackers. He's two footed. fast, works hard and is good at passing and dribbling. I'm hoping that some mentoring can work on his personality and, like Barroso, I'm not expecting much in the early stages of his career here.

Lastly, Paolo Fernandes signs on a free after his release from Malaga. He, in real life, is on loan at Perugia in Serie B from Man City's academy after being snapped up from Zaragoza. In game, he made a £2.3m move to Alaves, being a regular in their La Liga side before dropping into the second tier to play for Malaga in a £1.6m move. He didn't really set the world alight with an AR of 6.69 over 15 appearances last season and, as such, was released. He's a direct replacement for Tomas Martinez and, at over £2m cheaper, looks every bit as good. He's versatile but my ideal role sees him as a Mezzala, utilising his pace, dribbling, passing and technique and I want to modify this to become a bit more of a free-8 kind of player. He's driven (but that doesn't tell me anything about his professionalism, sadly) and is media-friendly. I was also impressed that he's a massive upgrade for a very weak area of ours - set pieces. We still employ a short corner routine but hopefully he can come up with some goals from direct free kicks, as he's the best in the team at them.

---

That leaves my three squads looking like this:

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The first team, bar a backup right back is pretty much complete. I am impressed at the options that I have to play with tactically:

- Puigmal can fit in at right back when teams sit back to provide deeper creativity.

- Ojeda can play as a really offensive Mez(a) should Felipe Martinez ever find some form.

- Villa is an emergency AP(s) in the AM role, but I wouldn't play that without a striker.

- Angel can play on either flank, as an inverted left back if I play left footed winger Martinez at AML or as a complete wing back if I play Baena as an IW(s) on the right.

- Fernandes, Pena, Lazaro, Martinez, Ojeda and Baena can all play in any combination of wide roles - I can go for IW(s) x2, W(s) x 2 or a combination (all on support duty to support the fluidity of the team).

- Benjamin, Sarsenadas and Vilalba can all play at DC just as well as DC and Sarsenadas, in particular, is a good choice at DC if I want to build from deep.

- Javi Sanchez is a different option at DC instead of the ball players if I need to tighten up.

- Vilarrasa and Santos can play as AMs if I want to defend from the front as they are both full backs capable of playing there.

----

It is the B team where the issues lie. I currently have not let the manager of that team (in fact, I don't have one - so my HoYD) run the incoming transfers as I don't need a squad filled with rubbish but we don't have enough players and, as such, won't be promoted into a playable league. In a few years, I'm hoping that the youth players from the U19s can fill this squad but I want to find some youngsters and fill this team out. 

---

Things are starting to look much better for the first team squad but there is still a whole heap of work to be done to turn this team into a club. I, like the board, want to spend a couple more years 'solidifying' myself as a LaLiga 123 club - although my understanding of that is way more than just league position, as the board want.

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News

In my 40+ years on the last edition and similar amounts in any previous ones (not knowing when this feature was introduced), this is the first time I've ever had this for one of my players:

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Absolutely loving this and the big picture approach. Latest youth intake looks better than you've been accustomed to so far!

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23 hours ago, tyler16 said:

Absolutely loving this and the big picture approach. Latest youth intake looks better than you've been accustomed to so far!

Thanks! Yeah - it's the thing for me at the moment and a natural progression. I could, probably, just focus on the first XI and knock ten years off the lifespan of this game, so this is a nice move to keep me entertained!

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Youth Development (Cohort 3 - 2026/27)

Firstly, I have added another signing - and this one is entirely for my youth side. Francisco joins from Ponferradina for £20k and joins the youth squad and the development plan. I was initially drawn by his personality, as that will give me an 'ideal' when I look to see just how much impact my facilities and coaches have, given he's pretty much perfect in terms of his personality. He'll work to improve his left foot and stay training as a half back as he's already pretty well suited to that kind of role.

---

Here is my third cohort to track, with five players from my academy and the aforementioned Francisco. The difference is that, this year, these players are not likely to feature in many first team fixtures so their development will largely be down to how much I can get from my coaches and their youth league, of which they got relegated from last year.

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As a cohort this is a fantastically determined bunch of players who are good physically but poor technically. We have no set piece specialist here but the passing/first touch/technique is strongest, and that is promising given our intended playing style.

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This is my plan. I have invested in some better coaches, physios and sports scientists to work with this team but the sad news is that they've dropped out of a 'playable' youth league, which means they'll not play any competitive games this year. I'm hoping that we get promoted back and we can not have to worry too much about this.

My plan is to first ensure that my players are comfortable on the ball and don't have an overly weak foot. The next plan is inspired a little bit by something I read that Louis Van Gaal brought in during his time at Ajax - and that is positional versatility; essentially having players who are capable of playing in two or more strata on the pitch. Whilst this is not always possible, particularly with less technical defenders, I would like to have central midfielders also able to play at full back, centre backs as the half back (essentially the third CB anyway) and wingers also in the middle of midfield. Not only does that help me when playing games, it also allows me to broaden their attribute development by working on a multitude of attributes across different areas.

I am also using the individual focus to really hone in on those overall 'DNA' attributes by grouping players largely into attacking movement (off the ball, anticipation, decisions) or defensive positioning (marking, positioning, decisions) but have also used passing (passing, vision, technique) for the much-further-forward players. Decisions are already a strong part of this group's ability but I don't feel that there is ever a reason to not work on them - particularly at this age.

---

My real question is of how they will progress without a playable youth league.

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Squad Numbers

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Once again - we opt for the Argentine style of numbering. This season has seen Angel and Vilalba, two players who have had their development tracked, now becoming 'officially' first team players.

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Defensive ideas

After receiving Zonal Marking by Michael Cox for Christmas, I've been linking the fantastic ideas from that with those in my own save. I'm not too far into the book as of right now and expected a lot of my most interesting topics (that can relate to FM) in the Spain section but it is the Dutch side of the early nineties, and, probably most prominently, the Johan Cruyff era at Barcelona. I'll quote a section that has really made me think:

Quote

Cruyff insisted that Koeman and Guardiola, two players he praised for their passing, were perfectly functional paring because of their positional strength and intelligence. 'As the central defensive duo, they weren't fast and they weren't defenders.' Cruyff admitted. But he believed there were only three passes that Barca needed to worry about: balls over the top would be intercepted by his goalkeeper, the aggressive Busquets; cross-field balls would be dealt with by his speedy full-backs Albert Ferrer and Sergi Barjuan, academy products and converted wingers; balls down the centre, meanwhile, wouldn't be a problem because Cruyff was confident Koeman and Guardiola communicated well, and were flawless in a positional sense. Sometimes he referred to the duo as both 'midfielder-defenders' which summarised the Dutch interpretation of defenders - they aren't really defenders at all.

I think that this is a wonderful paragraph that really points out something that I have always tried to do but never had the conviction to fully do it. I'm now well past the 'must be a green circle at DC' thinking, playing players who are accomplished or even competent in their roles is common practice and I encourage players to be as versatile as they can be but I wonder just how much tackling and heading (particularly if I can create a game plan where I nullify crosses into my box) are necessary, particularly for full backs and tackling is necessary for a centre back. 

From the above - I can kind of create some guidelines and some more questions to ask:

Centre Backs

  • Exceptional positioning
  • Communication - could this be leadership?
  • Passing ability
  • Look to utilise midfielders
  • Koeman are Pep are both 5 ft 11 - so how much does size matter?
  • How much does speed matter?

Full Backs

  • Converted wingers or midfielders
  • Pace is a must
  • Technically proficient

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I've been trying to do something similar. This could be the inspiration I need.

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8 hours ago, kidthekid said:

I've been trying to do something similar. This could be the inspiration I need.

I've just created a couple of filters to have a look at who the elite would be in this re-imagined 'Total Football-esque' (although I must point out that this isn't a tactical re-creation, simply my interpretation of how I want to play the game and, actually, how I would manage myself) and have come up with quite the dream back four. My initial concern was height, but seeing both full backs, Ferrer and Barjuan being 5ft 7 eased those worries. This is the 2026 version:

Dani Olmo (Albert Ferrer) IWB(s) - Ruben Neves (Pep Guardiola) BPD(d) - Ruben Dias (Ronald Koeman) BPD(d) - Phil Foden (Sergi Barjuan) IWB(s)

Firstly - I'm not comparing these players, at all. I don't remember Koeman and Barjuan and my memories of Pep are as a holding mid at Brescia, in a very different system and watching Albert Ferrer in a Chelsea shirt hasn't given me many long term memories but, instead, they are just showing comparative positions. Both Dani Olmo and Phil Foden excel physically, are technically world class and are still good (>10) in those 'defensive' attributes, positioning, tackling and marking. They are both unconventional choices and, of course, I'd rather play Foden further forward but if I was to have two players of that mould, or two world class attacking midfielders, I wouldn't hesitate to move him to a full back. Ruben Neves, despite not being too tall, is again 'good' at those defensive attributes but his world class positioning, anticipation and decisions would surely outweigh them? Lastly, Ruben Dias is a little more of a conventional defender and probably justified the £164m Barcelona spent on him.

Now to develop my own four of these!

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Player sale

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I'm not too disappointed with this - it was just under his minimum release clause and I have a few potential add-ons too and he hasn't developed too well, largely due to the form of Brian Pena. Here is his profile now and I will monitor in case he does develop any further.

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Bug?

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Now that our U19 team is not in a division this year, it appears that they are 'making up' league appearances for them. None of these players (bar Mina, who has played 10 times in his career for me) have actually ever played for the first team. I'm a little concerned because it's not a true advantage - first team football will allow them to develop really well yet I'm not actually giving it to them...

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August/September 2026

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A mixed start - which is strange as we normally come out of the gates really hot following a strong pre-season. We've really struggled to create this season - and, like always, I am questioning whether Pena needs to move to either a move attacking AM role (Shadow striker as a proper 10) or to a Treq in the ST role. Time will tell on that one.

---

N.B: I think the game issue is just graphical as the players appear to be playing in the B side but the games are appearing as first team. We'll see how this fares.

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October/November 2026

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A much better couple of months whereby a small tweak in overall mentality in the home ties has seen us being far more threatening going forward. I am a little concerned about the output from my wingers, with, once again, Brian Pena scoring the majority of goals and, pleasingly, Paolo Fernandes also scoring a few too. The losses at home to Extremadure and Cordoba are, once again, indicators that we are struggling to break down defensive minded teams - partially through a lack of quality in some areas of the team and secondly a lack of a second tactical option.

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A strange one but here is a stadium 'expansion' that has decreased our capacity. We are now an all-seater, at least but can house just about two hundred less people.

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Youth Intake Preview

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Obviously, I can't work out which side they are - but there is a decent bit of potential here!

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December 2026/January 2027

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Things seem a little weird this year - we just can't get any kind of consistency of results. Starting January with a 3-0 thrashing of, then, first placed Rayo Vallecano, but falling against similarly placed sides Valencia Mestalla and a resurgent Depor side show that we just aren't quite where we should be. Brian Pena has scored once in two months an, aside from three goals from a hit-and-miss Thiago Ojeda, who has since broken his ankle, there hasn't been a single league goal (Felipe Martinez and Juan Jose Septien both bagged a brace in the cup game) from the wings - a real area of concern for me. 

---

I want to be very fluid on the roles that I play (within reason towards my footballing Tiki-Taka approach) and have made a couple of adjustments - and also introduced a mirrored tactic which simply moves the IF and Mez to the opposite sides to create overloads as well as introducing a slightly more aggressive double Mez system when we really need deeper runners. I feel that some of the players within the first team are not really up to the right level but it goes against everything I want to achieve from this save by going out and buying ready-made replacements, so the transition of youngsters will take a few years.

---

I am looking ahead to summer recruitment plans and building some kind of analysis tool for what I want from each area of the pitch which will then hopefully point me in the right direction of whether the player is suitable or not - I guess I'll have some fun on Microsoft Excel tonight!

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