FM22: South American Football…

Hello all, welcome back to my blog. For this post I plan on providing you will a brief introduction to South American football, with the FM22 winter update out, it might be time for you to start a new save.

Football first landed on South American shores in the 19th Century, European sailors played the game whilst in the port of Buenos Aries. From there the English inhabitants decided to created a football club, Buenos Aries F.C. was born in 1867, followed by another team, this time in Rosario, which was made up of British rail workers. The second South American country to take up football was Brazil, after Charles Miller (a leading player in England at the time) arrived in Sao Paulo in 1894 and introduced the sport. The introduction of football across the rest of the continent followed similar patterns, for example in Colombia and Uruguay, British engineers and rail workers that introduced the game in 1903 whilst in Chile it was sailors who brought the game over. In Paraguay, Dutchman William Paats introduced the game at a school where he taught physical education.

Charles Miller – the man who introduced football to Brazil.

In the 1910s, the top flight teams from Uruguay and Argentina would compete for the Copa Rio de la Plata, also known as the Copa Aldao as the trophy was donated by Argentine football executive Ricardo Aldao (1863-1956). The winners of the inaugural competition were Nacional who beat Racing 2-1 in the 1916 final, River Plate (ARG) hold the most titles with five to their name, including the 1947 title which would be the last time the Copa Aldao would ever be played. The success of this tournament is what sparked the idea of a continental competition; in 1948 the South American Club Championship was held, where all the champions of the first divisions competed against each other, Brazilian champions Vasco da Gama were crowned winners. However this tournament wasn’t held again, it was only in 1958 that the idea to form the Copa Libertadores began to take shape. In 1960 the very first Copa Libertadores tournament took place, Uruguayan champions Peñarol were crowned winners after beating Paraguayan team Olimpia. Argentine club Independiente have won the competition the most, picking up the title on seven occasions while América de Cali of Colombia have played in four finals and found themselves to be the losers on each occasion.

1960 Peñarol team

Each league in South America has a very different structure, I’m just going to do a brief overview of the basics just to give a little insight into how it works. In terms of the league with the closest structure to Europe, it is Chilé, each team plays each other home and away, whoever is first in the league are crowned champions. Argentina is an interesting one as there is currently some restructuring going on in the 2021 and 2022 seasons you will experience the current system where the teams are split into two groups based on their league performance in there previous six months, then a more traditional league format where all teams play each other once. Then in 2023, there is an evolution into a league with a split into relegation/championship groups. Brazil as most people will know have national leagues and also state championships, while this equates to a very busy schedule it is a great way to bring through youngsters and guarantee them playing time to develop. Over in Uruguay the season is essentially split into three tournaments; opening, mid-season and closing. The points from all three tournaments are then collated to generate an overall winner. In Colombia there is an opening and closing system, then the top eight teams move into two groups of four (top two teams are then separated) and play each other home and away, the winner of each group will then play each other to see who is crowned champion. Peru sees there being an opening and closing system, with there being a playoff system to decide the eventual winner.

FM22 Team Recommendations… Honestly, there are so many great clubs in South America, you will have so much fun wherever you decide to go, but here are my personal top 3 choices:

Cruzeiro

One of the G-12 (big twelve), Cruzeiro is considered one of the most successful clubs in Brazilian football with two Copa Libertadores titles, four national Serie A titles, six Copa do Brasil and 38 (yes, thirty eight) regional Campeonato Mineiro titles to their name. Located in Belo Horizonte, the club can trace its origins back to the local Italian community who decided to set up a football club. In recent history the club has suffered relegation to Serie B for the first time in their history in 2019. Cruzeiro is a big club in need of restoring to greatness, with a 62,000 seater stadium and a long history of producing some of the greats of Brazilian football (Ronaldo who now owns the club, being the greatest in my opinion) it has the basis of a thoroughly enjoyable FM save.

R9 in his younger days

América de Cali

Next stop on this list, Colombia! América de Cali AKA The Red Devils. This is one of the oldest clubs in Colombia, and plays its football at the Estadio Olímpico Pascual Guerrero. Founded in 1927 the club spent its first two decades as an amateur club, embarking on nationwide tours to garner fans across the country and build up its reputation. In 1948 the Colombian game was moving towards professionalism, one of Cali’s star players at the time was Benjamin Urrea AKA Garabato. It could have been bitterness due to his career coming towards an end but the move towards professionalism was not met with positivity by Garabato, he claimed that América de Cali would never be champions, initially no one took him seriously but as the side then failed to win a title for three decades it became known as the ‘Curse of Garabato’. In 1979 Garabato agreed to come to the stadium to ‘lift the curse’ the club then won the league six times the following decade. As mentioned above, Cali have reached the Copa Libertadores final four times… and lost all four times. The question is, are you the one to help América de Cali to finally overcome the Copa Libertadores curse and guide them to victory in FM22?

Peñarol

Club Atletico Peñarol, Uruguay’s most successful club and the inaugural Copa Libertadores winners. The Montevideo based club have 51 league titles to their name and five Copa Libertadores titles, the last of these was in 1987. That is the basis for an FM22 save… a club absolutely steeped in history, the league in Uruguay seemingly being almost a given, you have the opportunity to build a team that can take on the continent and bring the Copa Libertadores back to Peñarol. Whilst chasing the continental title, be sure not to take your eye off the league as Peñarol fans will not be happy if their rivals Nacional manage to grab first place.

Wildcard: LDU Quito

This one is a wildcard because being based in Ecuador you will need an additional database to play as this team in FM22. Liga Deportiva Universitaria was formed in 1918 as a university football club. In 1954, professional football really began to take hold in Ecuador and the club won the league’s first title. The club have 11 league titles to their name, the latest being in 2018, since then however they finished runners up in 2019 and then in 2021 finished 6th in the league so there is something of a rebuild needed. In terms of continental success, LDU won the Copa Libertadores in 2008, came runners up in the FIFA Club World Cup the same year and bagged the Copa Sudamericana in 2009 so there is a history of success here. If you really fancy a challenge, LDU could be club for you.

Tactical Periodisation in FM22: The Beginning

Welcome back to this Tactical Periodisation experiment with FC Augsburg in FM22. In the previous post in this series I explained what Tactical Periodisation is and how it came be used in football, here I will explain how I am going to implement this within the games obvious limitations. The key to TP is that tactics are at the heart of everything. So by creating specific training schedules based around the Game Model (how I want my Augsburg team to play) and placing every player on an individual training schedule in the role they are going to play, lets see if its possible to get as close to tactical periodisation as we can.

As this methodology is about using training to improve a players tactical intelligence to help them make the right decisions in game situations, the most obvious place to start is; what FM attributes make up ‘tactical intelligence’? This is what I have come up with and these are the attributes we will be aiming to improve by our training schedules:

The FC Augsburg Game Model:

How to implement this within the Four Moments of the Game… (I wrote about the four moments of the game in the previous blog) but here it is again…

Four Moments of the Game…this is quite simply the idea that a football match consists of four moments; AttackingMoment: this moment is when the team has possession of the ball and their opponent is holding their defensive shape. The Attacking Moment lasts until the team in possession loses the ball. Transition From Attack to Defence: This moment begins when possession is lost and the team is not in their defensive structure meaning their opponents may launch a counter-attack. This moment ends when the team enters their defensive shape. Defensive Moment: This moment is when the team is in their defensive structure while not in possession of the ball. Transition From Defence to Attack: This moment begins when the team regains possession of the ball and their opponent is not yet in their defensive shape, in this moment the team in possession has the choice to launch a counter-attack, or maintain possession and enter the Attacking Moment.

How to follow the FC Augsburg game model within the four moments of the game:

The formation and tactical instructions to implement the game model:

We have a typical back four with Iago as a Wing Back on Support meaning he is still able to push forward and help the attack but is equally able to get back into our defensive shape quickly. As a Wing Back, this is where our width will come from. Caligiuri is our Full Back on Attack, sitting more narrow to cut out opposition passes in transition and he is more likely to be ready to get forward to launch a counter attack. Reece Oxford is the Half Back who will drop back to form our back 3 when we attack. Hahn as a Raumdeuter has the freedom to roam and find pockets of space that have been created by Pepi, our Advanced Forward who works the channels, dragging defenders with him, leaving gaps to be exploited.

Here is my FM22 FC Augsburg Squad: (My signings are in bold)

Goalkeepers: Rafal Gikiewicz, Tomas Koubek, Daniel Klein.

Defenders: Robert Gummy, Mads Valentin, Reece Oxford, Felix Uduokhai, Daniel Caligiuri, Tanguy Nianzou, Frederik Winther, Raphael Framberger, Amos Piper, Iago.

Midfielders: Tobias Strobl, Carlos Gruezo, Arne Maier, Jan Moravek, Fredrik Jensen, Niklas Dorsch.

Forwards: Ricardo Pepi, Ruben Vargas, Alfred Finnbogason, Andre Hahn, Andi Zeqiri, Noah Sarenren Bazee, Michael Gregoritsch, Florian Niederlechner.

Key Players:

So this is what a typical Tactical Periodisation looks like…

How can this be implemented in Football Manager?

I have created five training schedules for us to use, two for match day on Sundays, two for match day Saturdays and one for a two game week. I have tired to stick to the above plan, so the day after a game will be complete rest, the following day will be a recovery day and then the weeks training will begin with a strength day, an endurance day, a speed day and then a specific pre match session. Our tactical intelligence attributes need to always be at the focus point of these sessions though, so we improve individual players via the team’s methodology. The most difficult training day to create was the speed day, there is not a specific speed training session (that doesn’t involve specific fitness training) within FM so I had to adapt and also incorporate a couple of other training sessions.

Below I have highlighted a few specific sessions to show how they stay within our tactical framework: based on the game model…

This is the physical session on Wednesday which is our selected strength training day. As I have highlighted this session will impact in a players strength and stamina while also training other fitness components such as pace, agility and balance making it a well rounded session rather than a specific focused gym session.

This is what a month looks like with our training schedules. Depending on the opponent I may make some modifications, for example when we are playing against Bayern we will likely focus solely on defence and maintaining our defensive shape. Whereas against the likes of Wolfsburg and Hertha we can be much more attacking and look to push on, as per the Sub Principles of the game model. The Main Principles being the things that will never change, as in our core sessions that train our specific game model, the Sub Principles are the specific unit training that takes place, geared towards the upcoming match while the Sub Sub Principles in FM’s case has to be the specific individual training a player is on. In terms of the Scales of the Team, we can see that the ‘Team’ sessions are representative of the Collective, the Inter-Sectoral is covered in the transition sessions while the Sectoral sessions are the specific unit sessions in FM. We also have Individual training so the only thing we are missing is Group sessions which is specific players from different sectors who work close together such as DM working with CBs.

After three months of implementing these training schedules, here are a few selected players and their development. Even after a short time the players are already showing an improvement, Pepi in particular is really benefiting from this specific focus.

Ricardo Pepi’s development can be seen here in more detail:

Player Focus: Caligiuri (RB) has become a very important player for us, these 3 clips show how his crossing ability, anticipation, positioning and ability to run with the ball have proved to be one of our most useful attacking outlets. Playing as a Full Back on Attack duty, he sits slightly narrower that Iago who is a Wing Back on the left. This means he is on hand to cut out passes when we lose possession and our opponents are trying to launch a counter attack (as seen in the third video).

Here we see a throw in being taken, Caligiuri receives the ball back and hits a first time cross into the boss where Vargas, the Inverted Winger has made a good run and is able to apply the finish.
Once again see play being focused down the right wing with Caligiuri driving past the defenders and crossing to the far post where the Inverted Winger is waiting to head it in.

This time we see Caligiuri use good positioning to anticipate where and when the ball will be played and make an interception. Then he makes a good decision to pass the ball forward to Hahn, immediately switching us from defensive transition into a counter attack.

Focusing on our attacking moments in this post, here is a great snapshot of our 3-4-3 going forward:

Play being focused down the wings as per the game model:

Results so far:

So where are we in the league?

Is it possible to create Tactical Periodisation schedules in FM? Yes, within the games limitations, because it’s a game, obviously. But it is possible to get close to TP, creating training schedules that focus on a methodology, with specific principles in mind that will help create a specific way of playing.

Aktionsplan: Introduction

Willkommen! As you may have gathered, this is an introductory post to my adventures with Augsburg in the Bundesliga. The reason behind starting this save is because I haven’t had the opportunity to use the Data Hub in FM22 to its full potential yet. In my previous save with Sakaryaspor we sadly couldn’t attract good enough data analysts so the information collected wasn’t always useful, in my current save with Port Glasgow (which is still ongoing) being in the lower leagues of Scotland we don’t have data analysts and the coaching/scouting staff don’t exactly have great attributes to provide high quality data.

Why Augsburg? Well, quite simply I like them. When deciding on a team for this save, I knew I didn’t want to use a ‘top’ team such as Bayern or Liverpool etc. Augsburg are an established Bundesliga team but have plenty of room for improvement, this is where I plan on using the Dave Brailsford endorsed technique of marginal gains. The idea being that if you make enough small changes/tweaks the marginal gains will then become a big gain where you will see tangible improvement. Using data analysis to carefully tweak the tactics being used and also when choosing which players to sign or sell we will hopefully see Augsburg climbing up the league year on year.

I am quite a bookworm and have been reading a lot recently, two of the books I enjoyed are The European Game by Daniel Fieldsend and The Barcelona Legacy by Jonathan Wilson. Both books mention the ever controversial Jose Mourinho and his chosen method of training, known as Tactical Periodisation. I plan to try and implement this into our training schedules at Augsburg to see if it helps us generate the aforementioned marginal gains.

What is Tactical Periodisation? It is a training methodology developed by Sports Scientist Vitor Frade about 30-35 years ago, as a football coach myself I was aware of the basis and ideas behind the method but have really delved into it recently to develop my knowledge and understanding. The methodology has since gone on to be used most famously by Mourinho but does have other subscribers such as Brendan Rogers, Nuno Espirito Santo, Andre Villas Boas to name a few. So, the idea is that the Tactical element of the game is the overarching element that is the most important while the other three elements; Physical, Psychological and and Technical should be trained in a way which compliments/reinforces the Tactical aspect. Prior to Frade developing this methodology, all four elements would be trained separately, for example the Physical element would require gym sessions with a designated fitness coach, the Technical element would be trained in sessions specifically designed to improve a players technical abilities such as first touch, dribbling, crossing. A separate session for tactics would take place, meaning players would get an overview of how the coach wanted them to play but would not have had the training sessions to teach them how to implement this in game.

By using the method of Tactical Periodisation the main objective for the training sessions is for a coach to be able to teach/coach his/her players in the ‘Game Model‘ they desire. The Game Model is the key, this is the Tactical element, AKA the way the coach wants their team to play. Training uses the other three elements, Psychological, Physical and Technical to teach players how to implement the Game Model, prepare them for in game situations, how to adapt to these situations and how to make decisions based off these situations. The Game Model consists of 3 parts; Four Moments of the Game, Principles of the Game Model and Scales of the Team. I will try to break each part down and give an explanation as I understand it…

Four Moments of the Game…this is quite simply the idea that a football match consists of four moments; Attacking Moment: this moment is when the team has possession of the ball and their opponent is holding their defensive shape. The Attacking Moment lasts until the team in possession loses the ball. Transition From Attack to Defence: This moment begins when possession is lost and the team is not in their defensive structure meaning their opponents may launch a counter-attack. This moment ends when the team enters their defensive shape. Defensive Moment: This moment is when the team is in their defensive structure while not in possession of the ball. Transition From Defence to Attack: This moment begins when the team regains possession of the ball and their opponent is not yet in their defensive shape, in this moment the team in possession has the choice to launch a counter-attack, or maintain possession and enter the Attacking Moment.

Principles of the Game Model… The principles of the game model are essentially the style of play that the coach wishes to implement. This can be broken down into 3 parts; Main Principles: This is the identity of the team. This principle never changes, for example if a team’s main principle is to keep possession, they will not change this from game to game as loss of their identity would have a negative effect. This is the core of the team so training sessions based around the Main Principles will involve all the players. Sub Principles: For the most part the Sub Principles remain the same, with small amendments during the weekly morphocycle. Here, the team is split into groups/sectors to work on specific movements to implement in the upcoming game. For example, if the upcoming opposition is a high pressing team, training may consist of new variations of the Game Model to accommodate a DM dropping deeper to aid playing out from the back. Sub Sub Principles: This is specific individual training (or very small groups of 2 or 3). The Sub Sub Principles are adaptable and change depending on the opposition. This is the most flexible element of training, this is where the small tweaks are made depending on the variables such as who the opponent is, for example, a Central Defender who will be playing against a Centre Forward who runs in behind and has plenty of pace will have to adopt a different approach than if they were playing against a Centre Forward who likes to play with their back to goal and hold the ball up.

Scales of the Team… These are the groups that the squad is broken down into in order to implement the above training methodology. Collective: this is the whole team, the Main Principles are geared towards the Collective. Inter-Sectorial: This involves two areas/lines of the team such as defence and midfield, or midfield to attack. This would involve training the relationship between the two lines which would aid/improve the team in transitions. Sectorial: This involves one line of the team such as defence, focus on the defensive line working as a unit to prepare for in game situations. Group: This is even more specific as it involves certain positions from different lines/areas that play close together such as Central Defenders and Defensive Midfielders or Full Backs and Wingers. Individual: This is specific training for one player to develop the coaches desired behaviour or trait.

What Does a Weekly Training Session Look Like?

The entire training cycle is based around improving a players in-game intelligence to help them make the right decisions. Everything is centred around what happens on the pitch, fitness training is integrated into football based training sessions to boost a players fitness components while also ensuring it is relevant to in game situations. This is why Jose Mourinho’s assistant for 17 years was Rui Faria, a Sports Scientist who has a clear knowledge and understanding of fitness training but also has a UEFA Pro Licence meaning he is an equally adept football coach with great tactical knowledge.

So, the plan is to see if FC Augsburg can make significant progress year on year by implementing a Tactical Periodisation approach to training on Football Manager, ensuring it is focused as a whole program rather than specific component based training. I hope you have enjoyed this brief introductory post just outlining the ideas behind this FM save. I’m looking forward to seeing if this works!

As always, thanks for reading!

‘You Don’t Look Autistic’

‘You don’t look Autistic’ four words I have heard a lot recently and four words that I am tired of hearing. This is my experience as someone with high-functioning Autism. Essentially when people say this to me what they are trying to say is something along the lines of ‘you look normal’. I’m not. The way my brain works is fundamentally not normal, however because I went most of my life being undiagnosed and also I am able to understand the expected social norms of the society we live in, masking my autism became the norm.

It’s such a strange paradox to be able to have a full and conscious understanding of the societal norms you are expected to fit into as a human and also knowing you don’t fit those norms. For example, if you were to sit next to me on a train and started chatting I would politely smile at you and make small talk while in my mind I would be so overwhelmed and feel like screaming.

I really struggle to cope with loud noises and lots of people, whenever I was invited to parties as a teenager I would always avoid it. At first people think you’re shy, then the more you avoid social situations they start to think you’re anti-social. Then when you avoid them even more, they just think you’re weird. Some people thinking they are being kind and understanding would say things like ‘I don’t enjoy going to parties either’. What no-one understood was that I couldn’t go to parties or social events because I couldn’t cope with the sensory overload and would likely end up having a meltdown. Being autistic is walking around being so acutely aware of EVERYTHING around you, sounds, smells, lights that the slightest change to your environment can create a sensory overload that leaves you unable to cope.

Another common response I received was ‘but you’re clever’. Again, can we please get over this misconception that autistic people are stupid. It’s just offensive. I really don’t think this needs any more explanation.

I’ve had to learn to mask my ‘bluntness’ I guess you would call it. If you want an honest opinion, you will get one, people can find this off-putting. I have had to teach myself how to word things so that others won’t consider me as mean, the reality is that I am not intentionally mean or inconsiderate, I just say things as I see them, literally. So I have to put on an act and force myself to constantly think before I speak and try to figure out if what I am about to say will offend someone. It is exhausting, plus by the time my brain has figured that out, the conversation has moved on anyway.

While I have been quite successful in terms of understanding and accepting my Autism diagnosis, I am quickly learning that society isn’t that understanding or accepting. In a world where we are constantly told to be ourselves, it seems that people like me don’t have that luxury as it seems our blank faces and emotionless responses inevitably offends other people. So, society wants me to be myself but within the parameters it has set out as being socially acceptable?

If I tell someone that I am autistic, it usually means that I am struggling to cope with the situation/environment I am in, not because I am looking for some warped idea of a compliment. I really wish one day I will be able to reveal my autism to people and I won’t be met with skeptical looks or condescending responses like ‘you don’t look Autistic’. I mean, what does autism look like?

I hope that society becomes more open and inclusive to people like me, in the right environment I know I can thrive and develop my social skills and overcome some of my anxieties. I just currently feel like there is a lot of token gestures of acceptance but not much understanding.

I just wanted to write this to get it out of my head, if it connects with any of you reading it then that is great.

What I Have Learned Since My Autism Diagnosis

Since being diagnosed as Autistic in December 2020, my life has changed significantly. I’ve slowly been able to start understanding so many things that previously didn’t make sense. I’ve always struggled to maintain friendships/relationships with people, very often I prefer my own company. I struggle socially, I’m not good at doing ‘small-talk’ so I think sometimes I can be quite blunt and to the point which may be off-putting to others. My difficulty to maintain conversations means that some may consider me to be ignorant sometimes whereas in reality it’s just that I don’t always know what to say or how to get my thoughts across succinctly.

After a few months feeling angry and confused, I kept thinking that if only it had been picked up earlier, I could have gotten so much more support in school. I fell into the trap of thinking how different my life would have been if I had been diagnosed at 5 rather than 25. During lockdown(s) I lost myself in the Football Manager world, I have played the game for many years but during this period of my life it became more than a game, it was my way of coping. I couldn’t make sense of my diagnosis yet and then the pandemic happened so I couldn’t make sense of the world anymore. Getting immersed in the FM world helped me forget about everything for a while.

It dawned on me that I would have to ‘unlearn’ a lot of things and essentially retrain my brain with this new information. Being diagnosed allowed me to understand my behaviours a lot more, for example I know WHY I get anxious now so it is immediately less scary. The not knowing why I felt certain ways was the most difficult thing for me, this subsequently made my anxieties worse.

Here are 3 things I have learned since my diagnosis:

I am different, not less than anybody else: Growing up I always felt like I didn’t fit in, I never knew why and this made me develop the belief that I wasn’t ‘as good’ as others. My behaviour patterns didn’t comply to the social norms, as a kid you just want to fit in, be accepted and I never was. Now I understand that my brain just works differently to other people’s, my thoughts/opinions are no less valuable.

It’s about marginal gains: I learned this from the king of performance athletes, Dave Brailsford. I have been applying this concept to my university work and now to my life. The idea is to think ‘what ONE thing can I do differently next time to make my work/experience/performance better?’ In terms of my autism, I don’t have many friends and I would like to develop the ability to maintain better relationships with people. So after some thought, I plan on joining a disability football team this year. I want to meet others like myself and also boost my own confidence at the same time. The overall idea behind this concept is that if you make enough marginal gains then they eventually become a big gain.

I like myself now: yes, it’s that simple. I am Autistic and I’m okay with that.

I am in no way an expert, I am simply writing what my experience has been. I have found writing things down to be a very helpful way of processing things. I wrote this post because I feel like the last few weeks have been very pivotal, like I have turned a corner in my understanding of myself. I am thinking much more clearly and have a vision for the things I would like to accomplish this year. Autism is a part of me but it does not define me.

2028/2029 Season

Hello! Welcome back to Sakaryaspor, as I mentioned in the previous post, this is going to be the last season with this save. I have throughly enjoyed it but I just have the feeling that I am ready for something new. So let’s see how our final season goes…

Transfers In:


First through the door is Omer Vatansever on loan from Trabzonspor, I feel like this is an upgrade in central defence. Bartug Elmaz joins on a free, offering cover in the midfield area. Rodrigo Rodriguez who can play RB or CB comes in for a £1.1million outlay. Alejandro Zuluaga is our biggest signing to date, costing us £11.25million from Man City, an upgrade on Barcola, I am hopeful he can help us stop conceding so many goals. Next is Ozer Mert, somewhat of a coup for us, £3.8million from Bayern Munich, definitely going to be a big fish in a small pond here with us. Calegari signs for free after a successful loan spell last season. Michael Cuisance signs on a free while Hazar sets us back £2.2million.

Transfers Out:

The biggest names leaving us this season were Kayky who moved to Cruzeiro for £2.5million. Anthony Rouault signed for Genoa for £4.6million and Malcolm Barcola went to St Etienne for £2.1million.

Tactics:

For this season we have switched to a 4-4-2 Diamond. I did this because I feel like having someone in the DM area will offer a bit more cover to the defence, we can use the Mezzala to attack the half spaces out wide. Having two strikers will also allow us to be more creative in the final third rather than relying on one man.

The first image is what I consider to be our strongest eleven. The second image is what I consider to be our rotational options while the third image shows our utility players who will cover for injuries/suspensions. The biggest change is we are now utilising Moises Argueta in the AM role, previously he had been used as a CM (DLP). I felt like we could get more out of him, so allowing him more creative freedom further up the pitch seemed to be the most logical thing to do, especially with our new players coming in to play in the CM and DM areas.

Fixtures & Results:

Our season got off to a good start, we were given a relatively easy group in the Europa Conference League.

Also, Bernal was recognised as Europe’s Golden Boy! A huge achievement for the young Colombian. He is officially classed as a wonderkid in FM now.

January Transfer Window:

In January we said goodbye to Mueanta after Zagreb offered us £6million. His departure freed up a foreign player space in the squad and our DoF Emre recommended we sign Manuel Argueta (no relation to Moises). After a scouting expedition I was really impressed with his attributes and the fact that he would only cost us £2million. So we snapped him up. Also, Carlos Bernal left us to join Man Utd for £13.25million however they did loan him back to us until the end of the season.

My hopes for a run in the Europa Conference League were scuppered by Atalanta in the Second Knockout Round. I can’t really complain, they were just better than us.

We finished third, which thanks to the league climbing up the coefficients table, now means Champions League qualification. Overall a good season, its a shame we couldn’t finish with a trophy but we are now an established Super Lig team who regularly qualifies for European competitions.

Just a quick mention for our Under 19s who have had their most successful season in the Elite Group.

The decision to switch Moises Argueta to AM was vindicated as he provided us with 16 goals and 14 assists! Last season he only managed 2 goals and 10 assists.

Our team was starting to be recognised globally with some of our most important players picking up awards:

Then vs Now:

As we say goodbye to Sakaryaspor the progression is clear to see. In the last 8 seasons the club has gone from the third tier of Turkish football to playing in the Super Lig (and even winning it). Consistently qualifying for Europe has allowed us the finances to constantly improve the facilities. Huge progress in a relatively short space of time, after 8 seasons I am ready for something new. I have absolutely loved this save and loved writing about it even more.

Thank you so much to anyone who has taken the time to read anything I have written, it is much appreciated. I already have in mind what the next save of this FM22 cycle will be, I am looking forward to getting started and writing about it.

Thanks for reading!

2027/2028 Season

Hello and welcome back to Sakaryaspor! Last season was incredible, we won the league and the cup. With our first venture into the Champions League how would we fair this season?

Transfers In:

Carlos Bernal joins us for £1.5million, a small outlay for such a quality player. Gökdeniz joins us from Caykur Rizespor, we spent £6million on him which with hindsight might have been a mistake. Suphanat Mueanta comes on a free, he just gives us a bit more quality going forward. Ferhat Cogalan signs to be a fringe player while Julian Aude is here to add quality at LB. Finally a player I am a huge fan of IRL, Calegari. He can play RB, RWB or in midfield. He is a great player, he joins us on loan from Man Utd in game.

Transfers Out:

The main outgoings were Jacob Ramsey who failed to make an impression in his season here, and Felix Nmecha who was in the final year of his contract so we decided to get some money in for him.

Results:

Well, our season got off to a great start winning the Super Cup! While our first ever venture into the Champions League began with a very difficult group. I had no real expectations of us, if we get out of the group, great if not then I’m not going to be too disappointed.

Our league form suffered this season, we couldn’t seem to get any consistency going. Our leaky defence made a reappearance and we were conceding goals left, right and centre. I think it might be time to look for a new keeper.

In the January window we said goodbye to our wonderkid Neil Griffin as Barcelona bid £19.5million for him, the money was too good to refuse for us. Sad as it was to see him go, we can reinvest that money into the club to help us progress.

I have to admit, the save became at bit monotonous this season, I started to lose interest in it. I think it is becoming a bit repetitive, so I feel like next season will be the last one at Sakaryaspor. Galatasaray came back fighting and took the title away from us. We finished 5th and are in the Europa Conference League next season. A competition I feel we have a good chance at winning. I am going to assess the squad and make some improvements, I will most likely tweak the tactic. Let’s see if we can go out on a high.

When I started this save the Super Lig was 14th in the coefficients table, seven seasons in and it is up to 6th. There are some real quality players in this league now and it has become very competitive. In terms of finances, reputation and squad quality, Galatasaray are still above the rest but other teams such as Caykur Rizespor and BB Erzurumspor.

A bit of a hit and miss season then, I am hopeful we can turn it around next season.

Thanks for reading!

2026/2027 Season

Hello and welcome back to life at Sakaryaspor. As we secured European football for a second season, I wanted us to try and bridge the gap between ourselves and the ‘top’ teams in the league.

Transfers In:

Colombian playmaker Moises Argueta joins us on a free, his attributes speak for themselves. He is a clear upgrade in the DLP role. Michael Eidissen set us back £850k, a small outlay for a player with such potential. He comes in to play as our Shadow Striker. Thanasis Chatzieleftheriou (yes you did read that correctly) is a young Australian striker we picked up on a free. He is our replacement for Tezcan who wouldn’t extend his loan with us, however we did sign Mete on loan for yet another season… it’s like he never left.

Tugay Kanli is a left footed CB who joins us from Altinordu for £1.5million, while Bunyamin Balci is a very versatile player who joins us from Antalyaspor for £2.6million, while he can cover in a number of positions, he will mostly play as a RB in our system. Kayky is a player you may recognise, released from Man City he will be able to give some competition to Neil Griffin for our Inside Forward role on the right.

Next up we have our most expensive signing, we spent a whopping £7million on Ilker Atlay, I think he can go on to be a key player for us for many years. He can play CB or LB which is very useful and he is obviously Turkish which is brilliant. The fact that we can now attract some really talented home-grown players is a sign of how far we have progressed. Previously they wouldn’t even enter negotiations with us, never mind actually sign for us. Mahsun is a Turkish LB I found in the Sheffield Wednesday youth system, I think he could become a good LB for us, while I am not totally convinced of his potential, I thought the £2million outlay was worth it. Finally, Dogacan signs from Goztepe for£6million, another big signing for us. Our consistency in being in the European places is paying off in terms of the players we can now attract.

Transfers Out:

Obviously with payers coming in, there had to some leaving us. The most difficult choice was to let Anthony Rouault leave on loan. He was a key player for us last season. However we have a limit of 10 foreign players and I couldn’t guarantee him a place in the squad. Especially as we had such good Turkish defenders joining us. So I let him go out on loan, with a recall clause in there, just incase.

Nihat Gunes was attracting the bigger teams in the league so we negotiated a good deal for us £2.7million with 40% of his next transfer fee. Jacob Ramsey failed to impress last season and with the latest signings he fell down the pecking order. The same went for Jonathan Panzo who had a poor season last year and so I decided to cash in.

Tactics:

I wanted to essentially create two starting 11s and then there would also be 3 or 4 ‘spare’ players.

Here are our two teams, Celal (our new club captain) and Metehan are youth academy graduates who have made the jump to the first team over the last few seasons. I feel like we have two players equally as good in each position. We also still have Kaan and Irfan who have been with us from the very beginning in the third tier. They aren’t good enough to play consistently for us anymore, I keep them around as they are Team Leaders, I don’t want to disrupt the cohesion too much and Irfan is still useful for his set piece deliveries. This may be Kaan’s last season with us sadly.

Europa Conference League:

We were given quite a nice group, I felt that Villarreal would be our toughest opposition but we could make it through in 2nd place.

Results:

We got off to an okay start, losing to Galatasaray is no surprise but we did match them for most of the game. They just had that little bit more quality in the final third. The loss to Fenerbahce hurt as it was completely undeserved. We dominated the game, finishing with an xG of 3.18… we were well and truly FM’ed. They scored a 20 yard screamer in the dying seconds to sneak a 1-0 win.

January Transfer Window:

Gonzalo Alvarez was complaining that he wanted to leave, Argentino Juniors made a bid of £5.5million which I accepted. If a player wants to leave I rarely stand in their way. While it was a shame to lose such a good player, I knew we had an equally good player in Rouault who we could just recall from loan. Another player recalled from loan is youngster Birol, we signed him last season and sent him on loan to get some experience. I was impressed with his development and wanted to give him a chance in the first team. Our only signing is goalkeeper Berke from Fenerbahce, he will be our new backup keeper. Lars Leinonen, who we signed for free last January, joined Liverpool for £7.75million.

The New Year…

Going into the new year, we lost Thanasis and Griffin for about six weeks as they were called up by Australia to play in the Asia Cup. So it would be up to Kayky and Mete to step up. Our first game of 2027 was against Galatasaray, needless to say I thought our good form was about to come to an abrupt end. How wrong I was…

I’ll just leave this here. What a result for us!

Our good form just continued. We thrashed Rapid Wien in the Europa Conference League First Knockout Round.

Neil Griffin (who has been attracting the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal) was named as the 9th best wonderkid in football. I think it will be a challenge to keep him with us!

We faltered a little in March with losses to Trabzonspor in the league and Fenerbahce in the first leg of the Cup Semi Final. Then in April Celtic beat us 1-4 in the Quarter Final first leg of the Conference League, only for us to win the second leg 5-0. We then beat Fenerbahce on away goals to make it through to the Turkish Cup Final!

Going into the month of May we were in the final of the Cup, in with a very good shout of winning the league and needed to overturn a 1-3 defeat in the Conference League semi final.

We won the league!

As you can see… we couldn’t quite make it to the Conference League Final but we gave it a good shot.

However, we did the double! Winning the league and the cup! What a season!

Thanasis was our standout performer this season, scoring 33 goals in all competitions, Mete had his best season with us scoring 24. I also want to mention youngster Birol who we recalled from loan in January and scored 8 goals in 16 appearances, and club legend Irfan who is mostly an impact sub these days, managing 8 assists from 22 sub appearances.

Irfan also went on to break the club appearance record, he has now amassed 182 appearances since joining us back in 2021/2022. While Malcolm Barcola equalled the club clean sheet record, with 15 this season.

I also just want to mention our Under 19s who have had their best season since being promoted to the Elite Group. The future is looking bright in Sakarya.

At the start of the season I wanted us to close the gap to Galatasaray but I never thought we would win the league! To win the Cup also was just amazing. We have made some real progress. Now we have Champions League football to look forward to next season.

I couldn’t have wished for a better season, if we can keep hold of our best players then I think we have a good chance of defending our title. In 6 seasons we have gone from the third tier of Turkish football to being Super Lig champions. I love this team and I am loving this save. Right, I am off to plan for next season.

Thanks for reading!

2025/2026 Season

Welcome back to Sakaryaspor! Last season went rather well. Going into this season my main focus was on maintaining our challenge for European places in the league. While our performance in the Europa League will likely depend on who is in our group. Let’s see how we get on…

Transfers In:

With us having extra fixtures due to our Europa League adventure, I wanted to ensure we had enough depth in the squad to cope with the extra demands. First through the door we have Burak Ince on loan from our senior affiliate Galatasaray. He is there to add some competition in midfield. I doubt he will be a starter, more an impact sub. Next we have Cemali, also on loan from Galatasaray, we are paying all his wages but I felt he was worth the outlay. The main reason why I signed him is because of his versatility, he is equally adept playing at CB or LB which could prove vital if we get injuries. Gonzalo Alvarez is a newgen CB who was available on a free. He is a huge improvement for our defence.

HAMZA IS BACK! Hamza joined us on loan a few seasons ago and was a key player during our promotion season. I had been trying to sign him ever since but no luck. Finally Galatasaray agreed to let him go for £3 million. I am so happy he is back, Hamza is who I see as being the natural heir to Irfan in the Mezzala role. Nihat Gunes is a youngster we picked up for £1.7million from RB Salzburg, I think we can develop him into a good player. Finally, we have Jacob Ramsey who was available on a free. I am a fan of him IRL and I thought it was too good of an opportunity to miss. Adding some Premier League experience could be useful.

Transfers Out:

The majority of our transfers out was youngsters going out on loan. The most notable was Dustin Tayeb who went off to Milan after they met his release clause.

All our transfers were done and dusted and we were ready for the season ahead… or so I thought…

The board took it upon themselves to sell our best player. I understand why they thought that £9.75million was a good offer but Mbi had a release clause of £11million, I do feel we could have gotten that much. At least we have a percentage of any profit on the next sale.

So with our best player off to Germany we needed a replacement, and quickly.

Enter Anthony Rouault, he was on the transfer list at Udinese so we picked him up for £800k which is a good deal for us.

Using some of the money we had gained on the Mbi sale, I decided to invest just over a million in a few youngsters I had been keeping an eye on.

Muhammet Atkas is the only one going straight into the first team. The rest will be in the Under 19s and we will see how they develop over the season.

Tactics:

These two formations are what I think will be most useful to us this season. Since we did so well last season I think teams will no longer push higher up against us. Our success last season with strikerless counted on teams pushing higher up and us being able to exploit the space behind. I think we need to be on the front foot this season and take the game to the opposition more often.

The Europa League draw: Erm, can I redo the draw please?

Our season didn’t get off to the best start and our debut in Europe resulted in us being played off the park by Zagreb. When another heavy defeat to Celtic followed I feared the worst. I had visions of us finishing bottom of the group with zero points. Amazingly we turned it around and after a very credible 0-0 draw with Lazio we won our return games against Zagreb and Celtic. Which resulted in us finishing second and going through to the First Knockout Round!

Our league form was still faltering though. Heavy defeats against Galatasaray and the revitalised Trabzonspor reminded me of just how big the gap is between us and the top teams.

January Transfer Window

The January window saw two players joining us. Australian youngster Neil Griffin who had signed a deal with us at 16 was finally allowed to join us as he turned 18. Lars Leinonen also joins on a free as his HJK contract expired.

Sadly leaving us was another key player as Tezcan drew in offers from Porto and Arsenal, opting to join the latter he was loaned back to us for the remainder of the season.

We made it to the Quarter Final of the cup this year, then lost to a team we really should beat. That is probably a good summary of our league performance this season, we lost to teams that we should be comfortably beating. We faired better in the Europa League, dispatching of Ajax 6-3 on aggregate we progressed through to the Second Knockout Round where Tottenham put an end to our European dream. I can’t complain at that, we gave it everything, they were just better than us. When I saw the group I never thought we would get out of it so to get as far as we did was amazing.

Neil Griffin proved to be invaluable in the final stages of the season, his goals ensured we picked up vital points. Our end of season for meant we climbed the table and bagged ourselves a 4th place finish. One place lower than last season, we will be in the Europa Conference League next season. I am pleased we have managed to get into the European places again. It means we can keep attracting good players and the finances will keep improving. Our success has meant that our facilities have been able to steadily improve and we have gone from having below average training and youth facilities to now having great facilities.

Neil Griffin hit the ground running and chipped in with 7 goals and 4 assists in 16 appearances.

A Quick Look at the Data Hub…

We play a short passing game which ensures we keep the ball moving. Therefore we are very accurate with our passing. This is very beneficial to a team like us as many of our players are not brilliant at dribbling.

Our attacking efficiency is pleasing as we are less likely to waste opportunities. In the training schedule I placed a lot of emphasis on chance creation and conversion this season. I feel like it has paid off here.

Our defence is something we need to work on as we do concede a lot of goals. I think we need to look into some tactical and training tweaks for next season. We are still pressing quite high so we win the ball back before it reaches our penalty area which is what I like us to do.

Looking Ahead…

While this season was undoubtedly a good season, I can see room for improvement. I think we are starting to build a really good team. Going into next season I would like us to at least ensure European football for a third season, I really want to focus on closing the gap in the league between us at the ‘top’ teams.

Thank you for reading!

2024/2025 Season

Just a quick update this season due to real life commitments.

So with our transfer business done, we are ready. Can we build on last seasons 8th place finish? Or will we suffer from Second Season Syndrome?

This was the formation we started the season with and as you can see, we got off to a decent start. I was relatively happy but I was concerned at the lack of clean sheets. I was disappointed with losses to BB Erzurumspor and Adana Demirspor as they are teams we really should be beating.

The FM Gods decided to bless us with an injury crisis in defence which can only have added to our issues.

As you can see… we got further than the fifth round of the cup! Don’t worry though, normal service was resumed in the sixth, we lost on away goals.

The January transfer window saw three additions, Abukar Mohamed is the most notable and he comes in to be a first team regular as our midfield needed improving.

I decided to take a risk and change the formation, we went strikerless. We were doing okay with the other formation but I wasn’t entirely happy with it. Watching us play, we could have been 4-0 up and I still wouldn’t put it beyond us to implode and concede 5.

I wanted a formation where we could be defensively sound and play to our strengths which is short passing, keeping possession and catching teams on the break.

Oh then and this happened:

Fantastic.

We had a brilliant end to the season, this formation works a treat. It’s like we are finally playing the football I have been wanting us to play from the start.

We keep the ball so well, it’s so pleasing to watch. Irfan was our star man this season, chipping in with 14 goals and 13 assists. I love seeing players like Irfan, Kaan, Serkan thriving in the top tier. They have been with us from the start when we were in the third division and have developed with us as a club.

The main issue I see is the defence, so we don’t face too many shots per game but we do concede a lot of them. I think we may have to look into strengthening the defence over the future seasons.

So… where did we finish? We were 8th last season. Our media prediction for this season was 16th.

THIRD!!!!

We recorded the clubs best ever finish! European football is coming to Sakarya! I am so proud of this team.

Looking at the table, Galatasaray are just streets ahead of everyone else, I am confident we can catch Fenerbahce within a couple of years though. Besiktas have fallen apart is recent seasons.

I know it’s the teams success but this was nice…

What a season!