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  • Writer's pictureFMBhikkhu

"Son of Sam" - Vaya Con Dios, FM23

February 16th, 2023



 


 

Intro

Our first season in Galicia has come to a thrilling end. Previously, I predicted that we should be top of the league come the closing stages. That didn't turn out to be true, nor did we escape the nail-biting experience of the playoffs.


What is true is that playing Football Manager in Spain is excellent. I think I had forgotten how frustrating FM can be. How stressful it can be. Managing in Spain has made me remember.


I've a bit to unpack in this post, starting with a quick season review, then the plan going forward. So, on to it.


Oh, and apologies in advance for any visual changes in screenshots. I've been playing around with different skins to find one I like.


 

The Season


If I could some our first season up in one word, it would be ‘inconsistent’


The end of the regular season ended on a high, with Etienne Eto'o getting his first hat-trick for Compos (more on him later) with a 6-0 thrashing of Laredo – essentially dooming them to relegation on goal difference.


In contrast, The lowlight (if that’s a word?) of the season was a 6-0 loss to Lugo B in February. This has been a season of two halves. Some stellar performances, but a couple of absolute drubbings.


We started off with a 10 game unbeaten run, which is becoming a bit of a theme in my saves. We spent a lot of the season in first place, but a downturn in form allowed Torrelevega to run away with it. They beat us by 5 points, and we finished 2022/23 in second place.


That sent us to the playoffs, and I was less than confident. We had won only 2 of our previous 5 games. Finishing second earned us a good seeding, and we drew Utebo for the semi-final, who had finished 5th in Group 2.


It was a nervy game, despite our dominance. We put up 3.12 xG to their 0.68, and held 62% of possession. It looked like were were set up for an 'FM'ing. My nerves were finally settled in the 66th minute, as Barcelona loanee Juanda Fuentes headed home a Mario Rodriguez cross to decide the game.



That got us through to the final, where we would be playing Valladolid B. Like us, they had won their first game by only a single goal, beating Leganés B 1-0. Again, I was unconfident. We had been at the receiving end of a 4-0 hammering by Valladolid B just 3 weeks earlier. Ferdinand De Borja arranged a team meeting, and informed the boys that no matter what happens, they should be proud they got this far.


Fortunately, my scepticism was misplaced. The Compos lads turned on the style, and we went in 3-0 up at the halftime break. A decidedly more comfortable affair, we turned the tables on Valladolid from a few weeks prior and were crowned victors when the final whistle blew, 4-0.



 

Standout Performers


In a season of ups and downs, some players shone brighter than the rest.


Towering centre-back Damián Canedo finished with an impressive 11 goals, and as far as I can remember all of them came off his head. He earned fan's player of the season for his efforts.


We loaned Juanda Fuentes in the winter window, and after scoring 2 goals on his debut, he proved to be vital in our end of season promotion struggle. Juanda finished 2022/23 as the club's 3rd highest goal-scorer with 7 goals and 3 assists. Managing that in less than half a season is a remarkable feat, demonstrating the talent of this Colombian U20 international.


Speaking of assists, topping those charts was Mario Rodriguez with 12, closely followed by the stylish CAM Jorge Cano, who picked up 10. Juan Parapar left the club to join Neuchâtel Xamax in January, opening up a space for Rodriguez to claim on the left side of the front three. I hadn't expected much, but he impressed - scoring a brace in the playoff final a particular highlight.


Loanees Guille Bernabéu and Kilian Durán impressed too, and both were first-choice for their respective positions. Durán was top of our charts for dribbles completed, making 6.14 per 90. Happy to take the ball at his feet and progress it up the left-hand side of the pitch, Kilian picked up 8 assists and 4 POM during his time with us. Bernabéu orchestrated the midfield as per his instructions, gaining 91% passing accuracy and an average season rating of 7.17.


Not bad for two freebies, and they can both go back to their respective clubs with their heads held high.


Patricio Guillen, in his twilight, had pulled off some huge saves in both playoff games to fire us into the Primera Federación. His snail-like pace had been a big reason for the gaping scorelines at times this season, but his swansong was here. He's announced his retirement in June 2023, after which he'll be joining our U19 team as a goalkeeping coach. He won't be the best coach to begin with, but I'm happy for him to grow as we do. He's spent 15 years playing in Spain now, 5 of them at Compostela. That experience, coupled with his knowledge of Uruguay could prove useful.



Above all though was the boy who gave this post it's name, Etienne Eto'o. He scored 23 goals from an xG of 14.98, and won 61% of his aerial duels. Despite his low strength, he was imperious in the air, winning 10.18 headers per 90. That puts him firmly in the 'high' category for that statistic in FM Stag's performance metrics for a goal-scoring striker. I think he's a nice example of how at a lower level a player who excels in one area can be really effective if they're in the right system. Value can be found in these players, who are often overlooked by other clubs. I'll be looking to extend his contract which runs out at the end of the season.


He might not be his father, but he's certainly been important in Santiago de Compostela.



 

Planning The Rebuild


Several hours after winning the playoff final and cementing promotion, this message landed in our inbox.



That figure represents a 295% increase in our wage budget from this season. It's clear the board were willing to back us, and I'm not too bothered about not having a transfer budget - there's plenty of value to be found in the free agent market at this level.


Having the budget will be nice, but there is a slight issue. Come July 2023, our squad depth will look like this:



We don’t really even retain the spine of a team. We retain a pelvis, minus the legs. A rebuild is going to be necessary for us to survive in the Primera Federacion.


I like to play Football Manager how I like to play it. I have, as time has gone on, become more interested in data analysis and it’s uses in the game. I don’t think I’m quite ready to go full attributeless, moneyball-manic right now. I think once we start buying players their statistics will become a greater focus. For now, I'll stick to following Soccernomics principles, and focus on using wage budget rather than paying transfer fees.


Thankfully, that budget is rather healthy. That said, I want to keep a steady ship financially, so I returned to my wage-cap calculator to judge how much we can afford to offer players moving forward. As we can now attract a higher calibre of footballer, it's even more important to ensure we're spending wisely, lest we suffer the consequences of a bad deal.


I've left the team listing as-is for now, and plugging in the numbers came out with this:

I'll be sticking to this wage structure strictly to ensure financial wellbeing, but now we need a squad.


 

Being a diligent manager, I had begun to prepare for the eventuality of losing almost our entire team at the end of the season. In January, I started up a 'trial farm', bringing in some players from Brazil and Colombia who had been released from their contracts at the start of the year.


This allows us to assess players, but also helps them acclimatize before potentially signing. Often, a player will considerably drop their contract demands after they've spent a while at the club on loan.


An example of this was 18 year old Brazilian Breno Bidon.

With other clubs sniffing around, I managed to sign him onto a 2 year contract with a one-year extension clause. He started off wanting €150k p/a, but after a couple of months training with the first team he agreed to a €37k p/a deal, potentially rising to €52k p/a.


He's raw, but young and talented. Assessing him, I think his best role is as a Segundo Volante - something our current tactic doesn't use. I think he's going to be a key player for us over the next couple of years, so the rebuild will be focussed on building a squad around him.


That means a change of direction tactically.


 

Borjaball 2.0


Despite our overachievement this season, I was unhappy with our fluctuating performances. We leaked a lot of goals, and that weakness will be punished even more against tougher opposition. I didn't really spend much time making a tactic at the start of this save, wanting to see how the team fared before making changes. Now, we don't really have a team, and I can build one in my vision. Wanting to build around Breno Bidon, I came up with this:



It's not too far removed from what we've been doing already, but I think dropping the midfielders a bit deeper should help protect the backline more and hopefully lead to conceding less goals. It allows us to play Breno in what I think is his best role, with an Inverted Wing-Back offering cover as he surges forward and keeping everything suitably español.


The board want us to play possession heavy, high-tempo pressing football while remaining defensively solid and making the most of set pieces. Not asking for much, then. I think this tactic fits the bill, astute recruitment provided. I don't think many of our current crop will be getting a contract extension. We'll be looking for players who are technically gifted, comfortable on the ball, and physically capable of the intensity required for a high amount of pressing. Breno fits the bill there, so it's a good start.


 

Golden Generation?


Youth recruitment in FM can be a fickle business. You can hire the best HOYD, have the best facilities available and still not come up with very much. At Compostela, we don't even have a HOYD, and boast only adequate facilities.


Imagine my surprise then when our first intake came in, looking pretty good - not least on behalf of a facelift courtesy of Guido Merry's catalogue of AI generated faces.


The picks of the bunch look to be Moroccan forward Kamel Badaoui, Bulgarian full-back Stefan Ivanov, and Galician-born Spanish winger Joaquin Torres.


Our coaches rate them all highly, and think they 'could improve a lot' in the future. Time will tell if this will become our Class of '92, but it's exciting to see some homegrown talent coming through nonetheless.



 

Patrick - FM Bhikkhu







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