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  • Writer's pictureFMBhikkhu

'Viva La Reconstrucción' - Vaya Con Dios, FM23


February 24th, 2023

 


 

Intro


The summer of 2023 has been one of upheaval in Santiago de Compostela. A playoff final win secured promotion to the RFEF Grupo 1, the third level in the Spanish football pyramid. With that comes a natural step-up in the level of competition, and we were faced with the sticky situation of having just 3 first team players on contracts that extend past this season. We had to improve our team to survive. We had to recruit to exist.


Luckily, the board have faith in us - rewarding Ferdinand de Borja by tripling the club's wage budget. That investment comes with the cost of expectation - they expect the club to record a mid-table finish this season. To hit that target, and to field a squad, no less than 17 players have joined the team over the summer. I've also brought in some new backroom staff, particularly in the youth department.


A new era dawns in Galicia.


2023/24 Compostela Kits

 

New Staff Members


To work alongside our new look playing squad, we needed a higher level of non-playing staff. Throughout the team, a number of staff members have joined the club this summer, with the goal of improving the standard of coaching at the club from youth to first team level. I aimed to get staff of a proficient level, and who suit the system we'll be using from now on.


'So all you have to do is kick it into their goal... yes, their goal!'

 


First Team


I always feel hesitant to replace assistant managers in Football Manager. It feels a bit like losing an old friend. That said, efficacy overrules sentimentality when you're trying to improve your club. With Cardeñosa's contract running out, I appointed former Betis B manager Manuel Ruano as his replacement. He fits the style of play I want to implement at Compostela, and his people management is excellent.


Our youth intake last year was better than I expected, and to capitalize on this I decided the club needed a head of youth development to ensure our youngsters have good personalities and fit our style. The answer was Jonathan Antúnez, who has a professional personality and prefers a control possession 4-3-3 system. That's not too far off what we play, so we shouldn't get many players coming through in positions or roles we don't use.


Manuel Ruano - Assistant Manager

HOYD - Jonathan Antúnez



 

U19 Team


Previously I had held off from employing youth team members. Our youth setup isn't developed yet, and I wanted to avoid spending money on coaching players who didn't have much potential. However, our intake this year looked more promising than I had expected. To try and capitalize on this, I've brought in a 4 man coaching squad to assist in their development.


Leading the team will be Jamaican manager Omar Edwards, who left his post as the head coach of Turks and Caicos Islands to join us. He's excellent at youth development, ikes to control possession, play a high-pressing game and allow players creative freedom. That matches our club culture, so our youth players will be well versed in Borjaball before they transition to the first team.


He'll be aided in his post by Assistant Manager Gerard Lucas, General Coach Roberto Rocha, and the recently retired Goalkeeping Coach Patricio Guillén.


Manager - Omar Edwards

Assistant Manager - Gerard Lucas

Coach - Roberto Rocha

Goalkeeping Coach - Patricio Guillén




 

The First Team


While our new staff will make an impact, the bulk of this rebuild has been new players. We've gone from 3 first team players to a full squad of 24, and our squad depth is looking considerably healthier:



That's a full squad with substitutes, all without a single penny being spent on transfer fees.


I felt our Nottingham Forest-esque overhaul required a more in depth analysis. The squad I've assembled are more than capable of achieving our required mid-table finish, and with the quality we now have I don't think a promotion push is off the cards. As such, I'll be listing the players we now have by position, and explaining a little bit more about why I like them and what they'll add to the team. We'll start with goalkeepers, naturally.


 

Goalkeepers


With Patricio Guillén switching to a coaching role, we were left with no senior goalkeepers in the squad. I had identified some targets, but none of them seemed worth the wages they wanted.


I opted to fall back on a player I knew, and will be bringing in Nathaniel Nwosu for nothing once he turns 18 in January. I didn't get much chance to experience the Nigerian stopper at Leipzig, where he played as a back up for half a season before I put the save on hold. He'll likely be first choice once he arrives, but I needed somebody between the sticks now.


My solution was to sign Ander Astrálaga, a 19 year old Spaniard who has found himself without a club after leaving Barcelona B. He's a solid if unremarkable choice and has plenty of room to develop. I had to pay him a little more than I would like at €109k p/a, but if i'm going to spend money anywhere it's going to be on good goalkeepers. He's got an impressive aerial reach, good reflexes and the mental side of his game isn't bad for someone his age. He'll be taking the number 1 slot for us this season, at least until Nwosu arrives.


Astrálaga will need a backup in case he gets injured, and as I'd already used 2 key player slots from my wage structure on goalkeepers, I didn't want to pay much for another. I spent some time looking around the big european clubs to see if they had anyone available, and agreed a €4.9k p/a deal with AC Milan to loan young Dane Andreas Jungdal for the season. He's actually probably good enough to start at this level, but Astrálaga is a slightly better option for me. That, and I'd rather develop my own young goalkeeper than somebody else's. Still though, he's a solid option as a backup and I won't feel too nervous if he has to play the occasional game.


  • 1. Ander Astrálaga (GK), Free

  • 13. Andreas Jungdal (GK), Loan - AC Milan

  • Nathaniel Nwosu (joins 10/01/24)



 

Defenders


Our back line was the only area of the squad that we retained a good proportion of our first team players in this season. Central defenders Damián Canedo and Álvaro Casas were our first choice pairing in the Segunda División B, and both are on contracts extending to 2024. Riki Mangana made the right-back slot his own over the course of our first season, and had an optional one year extension clause in his contract, which I opted to trigger as I think he has a part to play in our squad. Left-back Manu Rial was second choice to the excellent Kilian Durán last season, and while he won't be first-choice this year I think he actually has some potential. He signed a two year contract worth €28k p/a, keeping him at the club until 2025.


Our trial farm for released sudamericanos provided us with the excellent Breno Bidon, and many of the players we had training at the club signed for other teams across Spain. It's a tactic I'll be using again this year, and it's nice to think I'm helping these youngsters begin a new life across the pond - even if it isn't at Compostela.


The only other player we signed from the trials was Brazilian centre-back Walce. He never really broke into the first team in São Paulo, making just 4 Série A in 8 years there. He's 24 now, so he's on the older end of the development spectrum, but I think he's still got some growing to do and he's a good rotation option for our level. He's not the smartest defender, but he's good at marking, tackling, and making decisions. He's also got a bit of physicality to him, boasting good speed and aerial presence, but he's not the strongest. That shouldn't be too much of an issue in the Primera Federación where big, burly strikers are a rarity.


David De La Vibora is a name that will be well known to many FM fans, as he's been a bargain wonderkid for a few game cycles now. He hasn't quite got the ceiling that he used to this time round, but he's still a very capable left-back who has the potential to be a La Liga level talent. Real Madrid have loaned him to us for the season for just €3.6k p/a , and he'll be starting over Manu Rial on the left side of the defence. He's a good all rounder and he's capable of using his right foot so should fit nicely into the IWB role of our system.


Taking up the first choice on the right hand side will be Kluiverth Aguilar, on loan from Manchester City for the season and costing us nothing. The Peruvian youngster has just spent two seasons on loan at Lommel SK in the Belgian 2nd division, so he's got some good first team experience behind him. He's pacey and a capable defender but he's not the fittest so I expect Riki Mangana to get plenty of game time this season too. We don't have a buy option in the loan contract, but realistically he's probably never going to be good enough to be a starter at City so if he impresses I'm hoping they might let him join us for a low fee at the end of the season.


Rounding off our defensive acquisitions is Toulouse loanee Kévin Keben. He's costing us €33k p/a, but that's a steal for a player of his ability at our level. The mental side to his game is well developed for his age, he's tall, strong, and good in the air. His only downside really is that he doesn't speak Spanish, so he'll be allowed some time to become accustomed to life in Galicia before transitioning to a regular slot in the back line.


  • 6. Damián Canedo (DC)

  • 4. Álvaro Casas (DC)

  • 18. Manu Rial (DL)

  • 17. Riki Mangana (DR)

  • 5. Walce (DC), Free

  • 3. David De la Víbora (DL), Loan - Real Madrid

  • 2. Kluiverth Aguilar (DR), Loan - Man City

  • 15. Kévin Keben (DC), Loan - Toulouse



 

Midfielders


At the end of the 22/23 season, just two midfielders remained on the books at Compostela. I've talked plenty about Breno Bidon, who this team has been built around. The other player to stay was Pablo Antas and while he racked up 31 appearances last season he doesn't fit into our system this time round. I also don't think he really fits at this level, and at 33 years old I'd rather give some game time to a developing player. I couldn't find a solution to move him on over the summer, so it looks like he'll be running down his contract until 2024 unless we can find him a new home in the winter window.


Jorge Cano was set to leave, but he agreed to stay for even less than what he was on and has signed a two-year deal worth €17k p/a. At that price I think keeping a highly influential senior player around can't be a bad idea. He's 33 now but he's fit enough to play for at least a couple more years, and he performed amicably last season too. I don't think he really suits a high-pressing system, but he's got the technical ability I'm looking for in my squad and good qualities for the shadow striker role.


On to the acquisitions, and our first signing was Sergio Carrasco. We signed Sergio on a pre-contract deal a couple of months before he was set to leave Calahorra. He made 31 appearances for a team that finished 8th in the Primera Federación last season, and when he agreed to be a fringe player at Compostela for just €47k p/a it seemed a bit of a no-brainer.


The second of my previous save signings, Amadou Diambo was still without a team and I couldn't resist bringing in the man who had done so well for me in Leipzig. He was well suited to the CM (De) role there, but he was a common goalscorer too - surging from deep positions to get on the end of a cross and send it goalward. For that reason, he'll be acting as a backup to Breno Bidon in the Segundo Volante role.


Normally, I would never sign a player who is 5'4" in any position. However, normally, I don't manage in Spain. Despite his small frame, José Lara is a quality player and one I'm excited to have obtained. He's got plenty of experience behind him despite being just 23 including 22 LaLiga 2 appearances, 1 LaLiga appearance in 2017/18 and a substitute appearance in LaLiga for Betis last season. A technically astute, agile dribbler who has the ability to do the unexpected, I'm hoping he'll become a key player for us in his time at Compostela. I think his qualities really suit our playing style and Spanish football in general, where he'll mostly fit in to the Shadow Striker role or left-side Inverted Winger. I have high hopes for the pint-sized maestro - let's just hope we don't take a squad trip to any theme parks.


Our last new face in the centre of the park is Italian U20 international Luca Di Maggio, who Inter agreed to lend to us for a nominal fee of €1.3k p/a. I've lost count of how many young Italian midfielders have been dubbed 'the next Pirlo', but Di Maggio is very much in that mould. A Deep-Lying Playmaker through and through, he'll be partnering Breno Bidon more often than not. Exemplifying his quality is the fact that picked up 3 league appearances for Inter in 22/23, which is no mean feat for a player of his tender age.


  • 8. Breno Bidon (DM)

  • 21. Pablo Antas (CM)

  • 7. Jorge Cano (CAM)

  • 14. Sergio Carrasco (DM), Free

  • 16. Amadou Diambo (DM), Free

  • 10. José Lara (CAM), Free

  • 20. Luca Di Maggio (DM), Loan - Inter Milan



 

Attackers


Last season, our front 3 was spearheaded by Etienne Eto'o, who racked up 23 goals across the 22/23 Segunda Federación campaign. I would like to keep Etienne around, but I don't think he's quite up to the task of being our first choice striker this season. He massively overperformed his xG last time round and I think a step up in league may just come too soon for him. He'd be much better as an impact sub, where his ability to just score goals could come in handy for clutching a close game. I'm at an impasse with his agent, who wants 100k p/a and an important player status which I can't justify despite my sentimental feelings. For now, he'll stick around on a month-to-month contract until we either reach an agreement or he opts to move on.


His replacement will be 22 year old Peru Ruiz. Tall, strong, perfect attributes for the deep lying forward role, Peru has everything I'm looking for in a striker for this system. It's a more supportive role in our tactic, but I still think a striker should be a goalscorer first and foremost. He recorded 11 goals and 6 assists last season for Cádiz B, and I'm hoping he can improve on that here. The former Real Sociedad man joins with a star player status and pushes my wage cap to it's limit with his 2 year €140k p/a deal.


Acting as his backup will be 21 year old Juanma Hernández. He joined Real Madrid Castilla for €200k back in 2021, and after a couple of fairly lacklustre loans he joins us on a free as his contract runs out at Madrid. I'm not expecting any immediate fireworks, but he boasts an impressive first touch, has good balance and can pick out a pass. Those qualities mean he'll make a good understudy for Peru Ruiz and he's happy to sit on the bench too, so it's win/win.


Onto the wingers now, and first up is another former Madrid youngster. Carles Llario racked up a very impressive 32 goal involvements for C.E. Sant Jordi last season in the Spanish equivalent of the national league. I can't really seeing him hitting those numbers as he jumps up two divisions, but I'm confident a rise in the level of competition should bring out some of his untapped potential. My coaching staff reckon he has the potential to be a La Liga 2 level talent, and I'm hoping he can develop to that degree too.


The first of my data-led signings in this save is young Frenchman Jean-Paul N'djoli. Unfortunately, I didn't screenshot his statistics before I progressed too far, but I had added him to my 'Strikers - Analysed' shortlist which meant something statistical had drawn me to him. From what I can see now, he scored 15 goals for H. Alicante B in 22/23. I imagine they may have been playing him as a striker, but in my system he'll primarily play on the left wing.


Naturally, I had to bring Juanda Fuentes back to Compostela. His arrival in the second half of last season gave us a much needed boost to claim second place in the league. He scored 7 goals in just 14 appearances for us, including a crucial winner in the playoff semi-final. His contract at Barcelona runs out at the end of this season, and depending on his performances this time round we'll have a look at getting him on a pre-contract deal. ¡Vamos Juanda!


The last of our new additions in the forward roles is Benfica graduate Ivan Lima. He's a quick dribbly boy who has the potential to play at the highest level of the game - unsurprising when he come's from Benfica's assembly line of talent. The young Portuguese will compete with Jean-Paul N'djoli for a spot on the left side of attack, and while he's an unrealistic long-term acquisition for us I'm hoping some game time here should prove mutually beneficial.


  • 25. Etienne Eto'o (CF)

  • 9. Peru Ruiz (CF), Free

  • 19. Juanma Hernández (CF), Free

  • 11. Carles Llario (AMR), Free

  • 12. Jean-Paul N'djoli (AML), Free

  • 23. Juanda Fuentes (AMR), Loan - Barcelona

  • 22. Ivan Lima (AML), Loan - Benfica



The Numbers


Plugging the wages into my trusty calculator came out with this:

Any players who aren't here we just aren't paying anything for so it seemed pointless to add them. Pretty much everything is in order, but we are overpaying for Nwosu who is acting as a backup on a key player wage. I'm not too stressed about this as we still have ~€300k p/a left in the budget. I think he'll be a key player in the future too, or he'll at least make us a lot of money if his €10M release clause is triggered. That made it worth a gamble in my eyes.

 

The Season So Far


I'm really enjoying FM23 at the minute. The match engine feels good this year and it's nice to work with a team that's been built in my vision. I've been flying through the season, but I had to post a quick update before I go too far.



Our introduction to the Primera Federación was admittedly a little rocky. We picked up just 16 points from a possible 30, and after 10 games sat 6th in the league. That's not bad for a newly promoted side, but I was disappointed at our inability to score goals. Besides a 5-0 opener against Melilla and a 4-0 romping of fellow Galicians Ferrol, we had scored just 5 goals. On the plus side, the switch to a 4-2-3-1 DM/AM has stopped us leaking goals, as we'd conceded just 5 at this point too.



It wasn't for a lack of chances either - we were topping the league for expected goals, and expected goals underperformance. Those are encouraging signs, so I put it down to a new squad still gelling together and stuck with the system.



The only tactical change I made was to tweak the tempo of play to be quicker. From watching the games, it seemed to me like we were creating great opportunities but the emphasis on slowing play down was allowing time for defenders to get back. I'm not sure if it was that tweak, or just that the squad had found their feet, but since then we haven't stopped scoring.



Heading into 2024, we're undefeated for 11 games in all competitions. That run of form has put us firmly into contention for a playoff space, and our goal difference of 30 (the best in the league) places us in 4th above Logroñés and Alcorcón who are level with us on points.



After 18 matches, statistically, we're top of the pack. We're first in the league for goals scored (38), shots taken (324), expected goals (39.62), most dribbles made (384), cross completion (22%) fewest shots against (101), goals conceded (8), and clean sheets (11). If this dominating form continues, I don't see why we can't be pushing the top of the table come the end of the season.


José Lara is probably the standout player so far, as he overcame an unproductive start to be joint top goalscorer on 11 goals. The fun-sized shadow striker is a joy to watch in the match engine, and so far he's fulfilling what I wanted from him. Interestingly, he's also joint 6th for key passes with 48 so far, so he's capable of providing as well as scoring spectacular goals.


Peru Ruiz has spent 7 weeks in total injured this season, so I think the best is yet to come from him. Still though, he's scored a respectable 5 goals in 12 appearances and looks to be improving game by game.


Breno Bidon has been as good as I expected, and is excelling in the Segundo Volante role. He tops the league for expected assists/90 minutes (0.31), is 6th for open play key passes/90 (2.19), and 5th for progressive passes (136).


This is all compounded by some rock solid defensive performances from the back line. Damián Canedo has been imperious up to this point, leading the league for headers won (311) and runner up for possession recovered (452). While I originally signed him to act as a backup, I can't see myself dropping Ander Astrálaga any time soon. He's kept the most clean sheets (11) and conceded the second fewest goals this season (8).


We're currently in the midseason Christmas break, and we're in a strong position to mount a title charge in 2024. Without wanting to jinx it, if we can keep these performances up then we're set to be ahead of where we wanted to be at this stage. We've got a cup tie against top division Almeria coming up and a battle for promotion on our hands. Let's see what 2024 brings - it's set to be an exciting year in Santiago de Compostela.



As always, thanks for reading.


 

Patrick - FM Bhikkhu





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