Toulouse 4.01: Room 101
Welcome back to Toulouse. It’s been some time. I’ll perhaps cover why that is at the end of the post, but let’s do the actual save first. This will be a bumper post, covering the entirety of season four, with two appearances from Tedderz. You lucky people.After last season’s performances, including being mere moments away from the Europa League final, the hope is that we can deposit something in to the barren wasteland that is our trophy cabinet. Otherwise it’s the usual, attempt to catch PSG as they spend hundreds of millions of Euros, every year…over to Ted…
My task for Mr From in the 2023/24 season is simple – continue closing the gap to PSG. The previous two campaigns had Toulouse 10 points behind, then 9 points. Is there anyone I can sign that will increase the quality of the side to such an extent that we can definitely take 6 points off them a season? The short answer is no. The long answer is nooo. Nevertheless, there are always transfer shenanigans when TedRedwood is involved, so I tried my best.
Over the course of the campaign we made a net loss of €23m or so, which is by far our biggest over the save. There was only one real first-team player sold in the summer, with Kelvin Amian bringing in €5m as he jetted off for Nantes. Mohamed Dieng is easily my preferred player at right back, so we may as well make some coin off the old guard.
The incomings during the summer were well targeted – Tenas remains on loan for a second campaign in goal, and we replaced some of the other loanees with permanent signings. We needed a centre back to replace Gabrielsen, so I acquired Konstantinos Mavropanos (Mavro) on a free. Rabie Aribi and Grzegorz Mazek fill out the forward positions for €16m combined, and are good investments for the future, as well as winger Joao Mubenga for €900k, one that F had brought to my attention earlier in the summer. I decided that we needed to up our game in the middle of the park, so Oriol Busquets joining for €4.8m is a bit of a snip. On top of all that, there were the standard 10 or so youngsters coming in that may or may not succeed.
Some great looking transfer business, I’m especially excited to see what Mazek can conjure:
I confess I’m not entirely sure where he should be playing, but we’ll try him all over and see where he works best.
I think it’s only proper I give a little mention to some departures though. Ruben Gabrielsen was a great captain, especially off the field, and a reliable performer at the back, adding goals to his repertoire when we changed our corner routines last year. With his contract up at age 31, it’s the right decision to let him go. 80(1) appearances for me (and Ted), and 6 goals, all scored last season.
Kelvin Amian had two good seasons at RB, but last year, for whatever reason, he seemed to stand out as our biggest defensive vulnerability, whilst also contributing less in attack. Dieng’s progress made his departure…inevitable. 82(5) apps, a goal and 12 assists in the last three seasons.
I mentioned last time my desire to have interchangeable tactics, and I worked on a pair. The team instructions for these aren’t dissimilar from how we’ve been playing, and the shape for the primary tactic is the same. However, as the season went on, I became a four tactic man.
Tactic #1: 4231:
The main change here was also alluded to previously, with Manuel Ugarte’s role becoming more ambitious, as his talents have expanded. He’s our best player in my opinion, and it’s time to make him the centre of the action. We’re going to give the roaming playmaker role a try.
To compensate for the freedom being afforded to Ugarte, Busquets is a CMD, rather than the BWM that I’d been considering, to hopefully keep his position more reliably.
Tactic #2: 3331:
Yes, yes, I’ve been reading books on football, what of it? I won’t bore you by re-purposing what I’ve read in order to try and convince you I’m smart, I hope you’d see right through that sort of bollocks.
This is not a tactical recreation or anything like that, though I confess it may have started out that way. Watching it in action, pragmatism led me to change some of the midfield roles, the striker role, and to remove an offside trap, amongst other things.
Both central midfielders and both ball-playing defenders have the “stay wider” player instruction, to try and avoid being crazy narrow. It looks a bit daft, but as Ted pointed out, wide attackers are pretty decent at contributing defensively, so those red boxes didn’t worry me overly.
What brought this on? Mainly, because when playing four at the back, we seem very susceptible to leaking goals against two strikers. Even if they’re shite. We’re not squaring off against systems like this too often, but when we are, I want to try this.
The above line-up is probably not the strongest we could have here, but one of the points of having two main formations was for them to be interchangeable, and I believe Alonso and Dieng are capable enough to thrive outside of their usual positions.
Tactic #3: 42DM31:
Or, my old Champions League tactic.
Mostly, this will be reserved for trying to see games out, or for particularly stern opponents (like PSG). Quite often I’ll couple this shape with both DMs and the AMC set to man mark their opponents in the centre, which seemed to work pretty well when I tried it last year against PSG.
Tactic #4: 424:
Everyone’s got at least one tactic for when things aren’t going well, surely? I actually have two, the first is our default shape with the lines dropped and the pressing reduced, in an effort to suck particularly defensive opponents forward before going on the attack.
The other is this attacking 424, which I kind of see as a last resort when all of my cunning plans have failed me. It turns out both Ted and I have independently developed variations on this shape. “Never mind the manoeuvres, always go at ’em!”, as Lord Reiss Nelson used to tell me last season.
I don’t think it really works against “park the bus” types like Lorient and their flat back five, but I like it against slightly more ambitious opponents. Having said that, if we’re using it, something has likely gone wrong.
July to December ’23:
The season started with PSG comfortably beating us 2-0 in the Trophée des champions, which I assume we qualified for by coming second in the Ligue, and not being des champions of jack shit.
We were presented with another tough task in the Champions League, though our performance last season had me more optimistic this time around.
We weren’t as good as last year, but Roma’s failure to beat repeat group whipping boys, Leverkusen, meant we were through with fewer points than we’d failed with last time.
We didn’t really get near City, our back three formation had Roma’s 352 on the ropes twice, but our finishing was poor. I’d welcome Leverkusen in our group every year, they have been rubbish. 13 goals in 6 games is pretty good, slight concerns about conceding 10 though. Did that sort of thing happen in the league?
No! What a start defensively, more than three games per conceded goal, ridiculous. Of course, the loss was against PSG, and despite our outstanding record, it’s still not enough for us to top the table.
Unfortunately, the last game before Christmas (a 5-0 win at home to Auxerre) resulted in a broken leg for Mavro, and his season is likely over in any meaningful way. He’ll be a big loss, as he’d formed a formidable partnership in central defence with David Carmo, and we’ll likely be much weaker at the back without him. Unless Ted’s got a trick up his sleeve…
As mentioned earlier, summer was quite a targeted window, where we strengthened positions in need of depth and extra quality. January was where I decided to start throwing the cash around, as well as having a hand in some good form.
Covering the results first – we progressed through three rounds of the French Cup (including a penalty win against PSG after going 3-1 down in the 89th minute), as well as winning both of our league games. 24 goals scored, 5 conceded – I’m pretty satisfied with my efforts this year.
After analysing the squad (mostly – more on this next time), I realised that a few of the lads had only 18 months left on their contracts, so decided that I’d be cashing in during the following summer window – this was to ensure that FEO had the resources to challenge on all three fronts for the rest of the campaign. My forward thinking didn’t just stop there, however, as I also tried to bring in the newer faces a few months early so they could really hit the ground running from next season.
After checking the player search for expiring contracts, I signed Man City centre back Taylor Harwood-Bellis for €1.6m. Dragoslav Nestorovic (whom FEO had pleaded for after the scouts had unearthed him in December) had a contract that was up in six months, but we had another #FMThings situation where a demand for €18m or so quickly became €160k for an immediate transfer after I’d agreed a contract with him. The final, luxury, signing was Turkish striker Ahmet Eris, arriving from Sivasspor for €18.5m.
My gluttony resulted in the squad becoming quite bloated, with a different 11 being able to be played in successive games, whilst still not being able to give every senior player a game. In my mind, it left FEO with no excuses about squad depth going into the second half of the campaign. I was hoping for at least one trophy, but hopefully PSG could finally be caught, and their domestic dominance brought to an end…
Oh, Dragoslav, I think I’m in love:
I’ve done my level best to be true to the save by not interfering with Ted’s transfer policy. Before now, I’ve only sent forward any interesting reports that his masterful team of scouts provide me (see Mubenga). But when they found Nestorovic, I was enamoured. I think Ted thought we were sorted up top, but I saw Mazek and Aribi more as wide options, and wanted another striker. And then Ted signed yet another striker in the shape of Ahmet Eris. He’s a complicated guy that Ted. But don’t get me wrong, it’s a delight to welcome our new Turkish sensation. Our stable of FM Wonderkids is getting quite large.
February to May ’24:
In some ways, progressing through the Champions League group isn’t ideal. As we saw last year, we have a legit chance of glory if we drop into the Europa League, whereas in the CL we are completely outgunned.
What a night! Did we batter them, as the scoreline suggests? Not at all. They probably should’ve won by a couple, but Tenas in goal had an absolute stormer, with ten saves, at least three of which were world class. He was PotM both accordingtoFM with an 8.7, and from my eye test too.
He had another good game in the second leg too, as try as I might, I couldn’t get the lads to do anything other than sit back against United’s onslaught. We lost 2-0, but progressed on aggregate 3-2 from a tie that could’ve finished 6-1 to them.
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that Liverpool knocked us out, and very comfortably:
Though once again we finish as the overachieving team in European competition. A run to be proud of.
Moving on to our Ligue 1 form, it was still very good. Unfortunately, PSG’s was even better. We rested players in the game before the United second leg (I’ve seen more than enough “comfortable” first leg wins overturned in my time), and losc away at Lille.
As anticipated, the loss of Mavro from our defensive line had seen our defensive performances reverting to the norm compared to the incredibly watertight unit we’d been before Christmas.
PSG meanwhile were still unbeaten. We still had a slight chance though, and seeing this news item is always welcome:
We needed PSG to drop points somewhere and we had to beat them at their place.
PSG did drop points, losing the penultimate game of the season at Lyon. Unfortunately they’d tonked us 4-1 the game before.
101 points for second place. I need to do a sick.
Coupe de France:
After Ted did the heavy lifting in January by beating
Dijon 10-0 PSG on penalties after an incredible comeback, we would surely never have a better chance of lifting a trophy.
And we won it with three confident wins. Amiens’ goal in the 87th minute of the quarter final was their only shot of the game, at no point were we troubled.
Next season we can lose to PSG in the Trophée des champions safe in the knowledge that at least we deserve to be there.
Aribi’s form after Christmas was particularly good, slotting in brilliantly on the right wing as Camara suffered another string of unfortunate injuries in the second half of the season, denying him a great chance of being a 20 goal a season winger.
Dieng outperformed his more attacking counterpart Alonso from the full back positions, and I suspect I’ll be binning off the CWB role on the left next year. Nestorovic bagged 9 goals up top after his signing, really our only alternative to Vlahovic as a striker, as all our other attackers performed better in various AM positions.
In terms of individual accolades, Mazek pipped Alonso to the NxGn award (whatever that is), Ugarte was the Ligue 1 Foreign Player of the Year winner, and third choice CB, Anthony Rouault, won the Ligue 1 Revelation of the Year award, featuring heavily in the Ligue as we rested our more prominent stars for our European adventures.
Most goals: Vlahovic (23), Aribi (15), Camara (14), Mazek (13)
Most key contributions: Sarmiento (10), Dieng (9), Camara (8), Bacanin, Mubenga, Ugarte (all 7)
Most assists: Ugarte (21), Mazek (14), Sarmiento (13), Mubenga (11)
Most secondary assists: Ugarte (11), Busquets, Dieng (both 5)
What are the plans for next season? Basically the same as this one, keep trying to catch the big boys from Paris…
I’ll sign off now, and leave the reasons for not posting for well over a month as a post script, as you may not be interested in that part. Thanks for reading, stay safe out there x
Why the big pause?
As the bartender said to the bear. Mainly, it’s because I’m not really enjoying this edition of Football Manager very much. There are so many flawed features, from the minor issues, such as press conference questions referencing the wrong things, to the major problems, like stats being banjaxed. I personally detest club vision. Maybe because I expected it to be so good, and it just doesn’t work as intended (I assume, if it does, then that’s worse).
My natural cycle with Football Manager is actually not to get the game every single year. With the relatively slow way that I play, I used to like the extra time to get deep in to a save. Also, when I was younger, cash was tight, and a CM/FM every year felt like an unnecessary indulgence.
There are two types of FM release as I see it; the one with big, important changes, and the meh. It feels to me like we’ve had two successive “meh” editions now. Old (young) me would probably still be playing FM19. FM21 feels particularly buggy and frustrating. Probably the only reason I’m still playing it, is that I’m really enjoying sharing this save with Ted. Genuinely, the most enjoyable part of this save from my point of view is when Ted has it…
Since picking up FM18 halfway through the FM year, in April 2018, my blogging has played a part in my decisions to buy the new games, in fact, it was never in question that I would. I’d never bought Football Manager as soon as it came out before, let alone pre-ordering the thing. Doing so in order to blog about it is not about views, hitz, or even flags for me (though I do love flags), but rather the interactions with others on similar journeys.
What does this mean for the future? Well, in terms of this series, we’re about halfway through playing season five, so there’ll be another post for sure, but I don’t know when my desire to play will vanish again, so there’s no guarantee it won’t be the final season. When I didn’t want to play with Toulouse, I tried out starting a couple of alternative saves, but they were extremely short lived. Because the problem for me isn’t the save, it’s the game.
And beyond? At this point I’d say it depends on FM22. If we get a big upgrade edition, I suspect I’ll be diving straight in, as I have for the last couple of years. If that doesn’t materialise though? I’m not sure. The way things are, I imagine that instead of trying out the game to prepare for a blog, I’ll instead be using the beta period reading the blogs and Slack channels of other FMers, to decide whether I’m buying the game at all. It’s entirely possible I’d go back to playing an old save on an old version, and whilst you’d probably not be as interested in reading about that, I feel like I might have more fun. And isn’t that the point?