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  • Writer's pictureFMBhikkhu

La Pulga & Kun - Vaya Con Dios, FM23

June 5th, 2023

 


 

Intro



In 2021, Lionel Messi's time at Barcelona came to an emotional end. After 17 years of service for the Blaugrana, he moved to the Qatar-backed riches of PSG for nothing. In the real world, it looks like he might be set for a sensational return - that never happened in my FM universe. However, in 2028, he's come home - not to Barcelona, but to Galicia. It might only be a coaching role, but having one of the best to grace the game in our technical area should provide some excellent transfer pull.


If that wasn't enough, how about Argentina's third highest goal-scorer? Yeah, I've brought Sergio Agüero in to our coaching team as well. The thought of both Messi and Agüero flanking Ferdinand De Borja on the touchline is a picturesque one. It's just a shame they can't play. It would be nice to see them on the pitch once more. They'd probably even provide good rotation options, especially when we're set to be playing a few more games this year...



Yeah, that's right. SD Compostela will be playing in Europe for the very first time.


Plucky little Compostela, on the continental stage. SD Compostela who, 6 years ago, were playing in the Spanish equivalent of League Two. SD Compostela, who last year escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth.


Next year, it's Thursday nights on Movistar Plus+.


Well, hopefully anyway. We enter the competition in the third qualifying round, so we'll have to get through that to reach the league phase proper. Still, it's a nice reflection of how far we've come. This is our best season of the save so far, and also the best season in SD Compostela's history.



 

Season Review



Well, where do I begin?


Firstly with a bit of shameless self-admiration - Ferdinand De Borja came third in the Manager of The Season awards. Not bad for his second top-flight season. I do think he maybe deserved to be higher, as coming 7th with the lowest wage bill in the league is no mean feat.


I concede that Xavi is a worthy winner, however. Barcelona clinched the league title on the final day with a convincing 8-1 victory over Villareal, winning the title by one point. I'd like to point out that we were one of their 4 losses in the league, having defeated them 2-0 at fortress Vero San Boquete. Still, they did win a treble, so I guess Xavi deserves the award.


We also put up a good performance in the Copa Del Rey, reaching the quarter final after beating Fernando Torres' Atletico 1-0 in the previous round. We were victims to a similarly cruel defeat, losing the quarter final 1-0 to Villareal. That matches Compostela's best result in the competition, having previously reached the quarter-final in 1999/2000.


The final run-in was equally exciting and nerve-wracking. Despite our good form pre-break, it took a bit of a nosedive afterwards. In fact, after Christmas, we only won 5 games - 3 of them in the last 4 games of the season.



However, a victory on the final day and Valencia losing 2-1 to Atletico was enough to just about scrape our 7th placed finish. La Liga favours head-to-head results over goal difference, and a win and a draw over Valladolid put us ahead of them despite tying for points.


April was a particularly grave month. There were some painful results here, like the 2-2 with Almeria. After going 2-0 up in half an hour, we let Almeria back in as they scored 2 in the space of 12 minutes. Against Valladolid we were losing until Jesse Maruti popped up with a tap-in debut goal in the 87th minute. The shining light in April was the win against Elche, one of our close league rivals, which also saw a debut goal for Brazilian youngster Emerson.


In contrast, May was a month of joy. We couldn't beat Sociedad despite taking 22 shots against them, but apart from that we did well. The Betis game was one of the most exciting games I've played in a while, having blown a 2-0 lead (again) only for Ratko Vojvodić to seal the rout, and his hat-trick, with a two-minute double salvo.


It was a fitting end to a prolific debut season for the young Serb, one which saw him score an admirable 12 league goals and earn his first Serbia cap. He's formed a productive partnership with eventual top-scorer Afena-Gyan, and has become an unlikely creative outlet too - registering 5 assists in La Liga this year. He's come a long way since he tried to break Frenkie De Jong's legs 8 minutes into his debut. He's the fan's and my player of the season. Everyone has their obsessions, and I think mine might be mercurial Eastern-European strikers.


Other standouts include Beñat Prados, who at 27 is at the peak of his powers and a fan-favourite after four years at the club. He was our top assister with 7, and is one of a few players we signed in La Liga 2 who is still a regular starter. After his season on loan in Ligue 2, Lorenzo Blasco has become a decent La Liga player and has had a breakout season this year. He became a fully-fledged starter towards the end of the season, after I changed our shape slightly...



 

Tactical Evolution


I'm still committed to a diamond midfield, trust me. However, tactics are a work in progress and the 'Diamonds Are Forever' style has changed slightly - mostly in terms of shape. With most teams in La Liga playing with two Defensive Midfielders, I often found our number 10 was just being marked out of the game. The 4-4-2 shape wasn't performing defensively as I would've liked either, and somehow we were still leaving space in the middle. I decided to drop the CAM back to a midfield role, but keep them as an advanced player to retain our diamond shape. The CDM, usually Paul Okon, has been switched to a half-back, and the FB-At's have been switched to WB-Su's. The tactic now looks like this:



It's still a diamond shape in attack, but having the CDM drop into the back line affords us more protection against crosses and means our wing-backs can retain wider positions rather than having to tuck in. I think that's the tactic finalized, though I'm considering switching back to a mid-block as we transition into one of La Liga's stronger teams. That, and we've got some recruiting to do.


 

Preparing For Europe


I think we're in with a real shot of going far in the Conference League. Actually winning it would be a big ask, particularly as English titans Man UFC are competing in it this year. Continental qualification bring us a better reputation, but more importantly - money. This could be one of our most important years in terms of recruitment, and I'm keen to improve some key areas of the squad. Also, playing in three competitions brings a congested schedule, so we'll need to ensure we have competent backups to keep pushing on all fronts.


One area that needs improvement is in our midfield. I'm working on an article over on Dictate The Game outlining how I picked my targets for the central midfield position. I'm keen not to repeat the mistake I made in 2026, with the simultaneous signing of Afena-Gyan and Omar Faraj. While Afena-Gyan is our top scorer, Faraj is yet to score a league goal for the club. He's been a stain on my usually competent recruitment ability, and it looks like he'll be leaving this summer.


Besides my starters, our depth in midfield isn't great. I feel bad for Þórir Jóhann Helgason, as when he joined he fit our system well but the changes since then have seen him left out in the cold. If I can fit him in I'll probably keep him around the squad, but if not then a move this summer might be best for both parties. Omari Hutchinson played a fair bit this season, but since we've dropped the CAM deeper he's struggled for game-time. Tofol Montiel is a team leader but I just can't see him playing a part in the upcoming campaign.


I think not having a proper B team is hurting us here, as I have to keep a long list of players out on loan rather than using our 'Excellent' facilities here. Players like Montiel, Hutchinson and Helgason could be dropped to the B team and play a part for them. But, if my gran had wheels etc...


It looks like we're set for a bit of a clear-out, and I'd like to bring in solid, first-team options for each part of our midfield to ensure we have options for rotation.


As per usual, I've got the bulk of my business done early.



First up, my top-target Junior Kroupi.


He brings almost everything I want for that central role in our midfield. A strong ball carrier, I'll be looking to get him on the ball often where he can use his dribbling and pace to beat opposition CDMs before putting a through ball in for our strike partnership. His traits also fit nicely. He's keen to try killer balls, and arrives late in the opposition area. That could see him picking up the ball on the edge of the box and taking a shot on goal while the defense are distracted by our speedy frontline.


He's set to be our most expensive signing this summer, coming in for €7M from Lorient.


I've also sealed a deal for Argentinian Lucas Robertone, who spent this season playing in La Liga 2 for Mallorca. He's a bit of a set-piece specialist, something we've lacked for most of the save. We're actually a threat from set-pieces but haven't had someone with the ability to consistently find his man. Robertone could change that. He's happy to play a lesser role in the squad, and will likely be a rotation option alongside Kroupi.


For €1.5M, I'm happy to take him.



After two years at the club, Paul Okon looks set to move on this year. He's been moaning about moving to a bigger club and naturally it's upsetting the dressing room. I do have options in the CDM slot, but Blasco and Prados are better further up and I think Alexandropoulos is more suited to being a backup. His replacement will be Chilean Juan Medina, a player I'm very excited about. I like to think of him as an Arturo Vidal regen, and despite being 18 will be our starting CDM next year. He's already been capped 6 times for Chile, proving his ability.




He's brave as a lion, good in the air, and has a great defensive mind for such a young age. His main strengths are his ball-winning ability, but has the on-ball ability to provide a good option for recycling the ball through our 4-man midfield.


€900k rising to €4.5M is not bad at all, and his stats back up my confidence:


  • Possession Won - 149 (1st in Chilean First Division)

  • Pass Completion - 92% (5th in Chilean First Division)

  • Progressive Passes - 39 (6th in Chilean First Division)

  • Passes Completed - 350 (7th in Chilean First Divison)

Normally, I'd be worried about the discipline of a player like Medina. However, unlike his card-laden forebear Vidal, he's only been booked once in 20 games this year.


I've completed the permanent signing of Enzo Loidice as he's leaving Leipzig on a free, and I think he's good enough to be a squad player for us after a decent loan spell.


Rounding out the midfield business this year is the signing of 20 year old Antonio Luque from Villareal. His price is reduced as he's only got a year left on his contract, but I'm surprised Villareal are willing to let him go so easily. He's an academy product of theirs, and he's also pretty decent. €850k isn't much of a gamble and I'm happy with him providing a backup option to one of our Carrilero slots.



Besides them, two young strikers are also joining the club this Summer. Neither Ali Mohammadi (from RW Oberhausen) and Rodrigo Véliz (from Villa Mengelle) are world-class players, and I don't think they'll be first-team regulars yet. Coming from the lower leagues of Germany and Argentina respectively, they're cheap punts on two players with decent potential. They were top recommendations from Chief Scout Stéphane Chapuisat, and I trust his judgement.


All that remains now is our outgoings. We've got a few players to try and shift, but I'm holding off a little bit on this one, as I'm aiming to bring in a new DoF in July. Hopefully, I'll be able to bring in a good negotiator to get some deals done. There's a few players I'm hoping to get out on loan, like Gianluca Del Duca and Emerson who need to be playing every week. Pedro Quintero has served the club well, but there's better DoF options available. I was hoping to bring in RB Leipzig's former director Christoph Freund, but he wants too much money. At the minute, it looks like Italian Massimo Taibi will be replacing Quintero.


 

So, we've achieved our target of reaching a European competition ahead of schedule. I think we can at least get out of the group stage, but it's not going to be an easy competition to win. The current holders are Sporting CP, to put it into perspective. Still, I think it's our best shot at getting the first trophy of the save. I'd like to think we have the squad depth to challenge in the league again, and squeezing our way into the Europa League would be a nice achievement.


I'm keen to keep our momentum up as we approach the 2030s in game. I can't remember how long my Newcastle save on FM20 was, but I know I kept playing it after FM21 came out. Either way, this save is fast becoming one of the ones I have invested most of my time into. Once I've got my PC back, I'm tempted to load up the Newcastle save and do a special post on it.


Apart from that, FM progress has been fairly slow of late with me gearing up to move in a few weeks. I actually finished this season about two weeks ago but haven't had much chance to play since then. With it being the summer in the UK, and getting our three month ration of sunny weather per year, I might be spending some more time outside too. I expect playtime and therefore blogging time to reduce, but not to stop completely - especially with such an exciting season ahead.


As always, thanks for reading.


 

Patrick - FM Bhikkhu





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