FM21: Three Seasons Deep

Two further seasons have passed since I last gave an update on my save. This isn’t a seasonal blog post, but more of a general overview of the progress I’ve made. Lets not piss about, read on!

Competitions

I’ll start with the TL;DR, you’ve got shit to do.

Three League Titles
Two Super Cups
One FA Cup
One Champions League Group Stage appearance

The long version is that we’ve done well. I chose Dinamo as my team for this save as they’d narrowly avoided relegation last season(IRL) and generally been on a downward trajectory for the past few years.

So far we’ve managed a clean sweep of titles. They were by no means a walk in the park, especially the third title, but it has been a bit easier than expected. I’d set myself a target to be challenging for the title within three years, so I’m well ahead of that.

The third title was probably the hardest to get over the line. We had a poor run of form which I could only remedy by tweaking a few things tactically. The team turned it on at the right time. I always prioritise the league over every other competition. It’s the bread and butter, no title means no Champions League qualifiers which in turn equals less income to invest in the club and team.

I don’t put a lot of effort into domestic cup competitions, but in Romania, we’ve made it to the cup final twice. Obviously once I’m there, I want to win the game, so I’m happy to have one cup in the bag. The board see it as an important competition. I think there’s enough depth in my squad to do well in this competition without negatively impacting progress in the League or Champions League.

Ridiculously, I put a lot of emphasis on the Champions League. It’s a long road to the group stage if you are a Romanian club. Three Champions Path qualifiers followed by a Champions Path playoff tie gives us eight games to get into the big time.

We’ve made it to the Playoff each time we’ve qualified, but only made it into the group stage once. As long as we don’t get embarrassed in that competition, I’m happy. The financial return on making it into the Champions League is great. €16m if we make it into the group stage. Ridiculous money for a club of our stature.

Last season we got to the promised land and got a pretty tough draw. PSG, Chelsea and Zenit. All I had to do was keep the scores respectable. Put in performances we could be proud of and not get hammered 10-1. Can safely say, despite only getting one point, we did pretty good. The Chelsea game at home was a bit of a disappointment as we were 2-1 up and lost to two late goals. A learning curve though. København match aside, I’m quite happy with that run.

Overall, we’re doing well. I don’t think I’ll make it out of the Champions League group stage and into the Champions League knockout round, but I think getting third place is a realistic target for future seasons. Dropping into the Europa would be very good.

Transfers

Ok, calm down, don’t expect a flood of images of all 29 players I’ve bought/48 I’ve sold on this save. I’m not going to break down every signing or discuss why he was signed and why he was good/shit. Life’s too short. So instead, I’ll just highlight a couple of the important transfers I’ve made.

Before I get into that, I just want to touch on my transfer policy. In previous iterations of Football Manager, it has always been my preference to sign young, talented players. I’ve not really swayed too far away from that, but there’s definitely a place for more experienced players in my side too. 27 used to be my upper limit for signings, but I’ve signed a couple of 32/33 year olds this year to add experience to a team that has a lot of youth products in the first eleven.

Bulgaria has been a happy hunting ground for me so far. Definitely worth checking out some of the players coming through there. A lot of talent for not a lot of money.

Marian Pintea

Starting off with a sale as it’s an important one. Marian Pintea joined on the first youth intake. He was instantly noted as a star in the making and so far, he has lived up to the hype. It’s been a funny one though. Initially though of as a defensive minded central midfielder, he now has the tools to do other things very well.

It’s no surprise that he eventually caught the eye of some big clubs and eventually, PSG (bleh) came in for him. €5m is a lot of money for us. Pintea wanted to go and I rarely stand in the way of players that want to move on. I know the position of the club. I don’t kid myself on and think that players should just stay… that said..

PSG let me keep him on loan for another year! Not quite €50m hackz, but it’ll do.

I’m not desperately disappointed by this sale, I think I can replace him with someone better. He’s only 19 so I hope his development isn’t stifled at PSG.

Tonislav Yordanov

Strikers are usually the first ones to go when you’re doing well. Teams swoop in as they’ve scored 25 goals for a couple of years straight. That is exactly what happened to Tonislav Yordanov. I picked him up from CSKA Sofiafor €5.5k (yes, €5500) and after a couple of consistent seasons, Fiorentina swooped in and bought him for €4m.

He played one game for them and was put up for sale. I rarely bring players back, but I made an exception for him. I bought him for €1.3m and instantly got €250k back as I had a 20% future fee sell on. A low risk transfer as I think he’s rather good. For a young striker, he has everything in his arsenal, especially for our level.

Andrea Hristov

Continuing my trend of buying Bulgarians (I currently have four on the books) I bought Hristov from Slavia Sofia. He’s not perfect, far from it in fact, but he has attributes that I like in a central defender. Height, pace, strength and intelligence.

He’s maybe lacking in a couple areas I’d normally prioritise, but he’s been a very strong player since joining for €875k. Not only is he a decent defender, but his height and aerial prowess mean he’s a threat at set pieces too. In fact, last season he nabbed 8 goals. He’s already at 4 goals this season and it’s only September. (Set piece hackz!)

I don’t think it’ll be long before some other clubs come sniffing, but I’m enjoying him. People get excited about forwards, but I get very excited about good centre backs. He is one of those!

Youngsters

I’ve definitely enjoyed developing youngsters on this save. At present I have seven first-team players that I’ve either brought through to the first team or were in the first team when I joined. I’ve also got two other players in the squad that were developed at Dinamo, left and then I signed them again.

Watching those players grow is great. Seeing my training schedules and individual training plans pay off on these guys is awesome.

Ahmed Bani is one of those youngsters I’m very happy with. Initially, I wasn’t sure what he’d be. He wasn’t amazing at anything an average youngster. In the second season, I took an interest in him and decided that he could make it in the first team if I put a bit of work into him.

His progress in the past few seasons has been remarkable. When he was in the youth team in the first season, he scored 24 goals in 50 games. I didn’t think I’d get near that, but for a support duty player, I’d be happy with ten goals a season. He managed that, but in his second season, he hit top form and scored 21 goals in 46 games. Having a homegrown player hit those sorts of numbers is great. It’s only a game, but I fucking love that about this game. I’m invested in Bani! haha

Tactics

Please see my thread on FM-Base if you want TI’s/PI’s/OI’s/Training/Players/Set Pieces.

Just kidding.

I like the tactical side of FM a lot. It’s interesting to see how people recreate tactics or how differently they interpret them.

I’ve kept it pretty simple with my setup. I’m not really a 4231 fan, but I think it works quite well here. I have had a few issues which have lead me to this point. The big one being just how wasteful we were being with the ball. Often, we’d punt it forward to the striker who would inevitably be isolated.

While that in itself was annoying, it also meant that the ball was bypassing some of my better players. My striker is good, but he can’t dribble round five players on his own and score every time. He needs support and punting it forward meant he often had none.

This lead to me adding in the lower tempo and shorter passing. It helped massively as we now move the ball around nicely and the previously bypassed players are now playing key roles.

The other thing I’ve been doing is signing players that are versatile. This gives me more options with my system. I used to always sign like for like players when filling my squad. If I used an Advanced Forward, I would have two Advanced Forwards in my squad. I realised the limitations of this though. If my AF was getting stifled, what difference would it make if I took another one on? Probably not much difference as they’d likely have similar sorts of attributes.

This lead me to buying more of a Target Man type of striker, someone who could hold the ball up and bring others into play instead of looking to break lines and attack space. This has also meant that when I’ve signed attacking midfielders, having a couple that can play on both wings is good as I can use a winger or in AMC I can use an attack minded player rather than a supporting one. It just changes the system slightly, but the overall style stays the same.

Most of the other roles stay the same. I’ve changed the DLP to a CM/S on occasion and made the ten my primary creator, but it’s not something I do often.

Q&A

Where’s the link to the FM-Base/Download for your tactic?
Get out!

Are you going to leave Dinamo?
I likely will at some point, yes. I’m not there yet though. Probably got another couple of seasons here though.

Chocolate: Fridge or Cupboard?
Cupboard. Always.

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