Toulouse 5.01: Déjà vu
Hello again. A bit of a quicker turnaround this time. It’s back to a more routine half season update today, mainly because Ted’s summer dealings have given us quite a lot to talk about…Last season was a bit unprecedented. A Coupe de France for the trophy cabinet, 101 points accumulated in the league (still finished 2nd ffs) and a Champions League quarter final. I don’t think we’ll be able to reproduce all that, but we’ll do our best. Anyway, down to (Ted’s) business…
Back again, eh? What’s that, the only trophy FEO won was the cup that I set up for him by knocking PSG out myself? I’ll let my loyal fans decide what they think about this. (Editor’s note: Ted’s a wee dick).
I mentioned in F’s previous blog that I was aware of some expiring contracts, as well as the fact that I’d brought in replacements in the previous window, so the removal of five first team players (Porozo, Sylla, VDBNTO, AK-AK and Sidibé) for €38m was good business. I also shipped out Mavro after he sustained a broken leg last season, as I never trust someone who’s been through that – €18m for someone who arrived on a free a year ago and hardly played is inspired.
What was not good business was neglecting Spanish wonderkid wingback Guille Alonso’s contract situation – he has twelve months left, and was only happy to sign a new deal after the conclusion of the transfer window. He was satisfied with my transfer dealings, but he demanded a whopping €285k p/w to stay…
With gaps in the defence and midfield forming, I smashed the chequebook open to sign Colin Prent for €46.5m, and Hugo Garcia for €7.25m. Prent is especially expensive, however he’s a great long term hold, and both add real world-class depth to the midfield.
The defence was strengthened by the signing of yet another Portuguese centre back, Henrique Fernandes, for almost €13m, and the free signing of German-Vietnamese wonderkid, Truong Van Hoai Nam. What a Nam.
In addition, as always, around €15m was spent on vague youngsters, most of whom departed on loan immediately, with a couple landing at new affiliate club, Sporting Gijon.
All-in, I’d say it’s a very good window, although at some point I need to let these youngsters settle, improve, and take Toulouse to glory, rather than breaking the team up every window.
A fair bit to unpack then. To defend Ted against his own criticisms, the majority of the players he’s let go weren’t all that young, and with expiring deals and the potential to upgrade significantly, the moves make total sense. Porozo is only 23, but as he was a back-up CB (where we have plenty of depth) and critically, an occupier of one of our four non-EU spots, I’d argue his departure was necessary.
Sidibé’s woeful record scoring from two years worth of targeted corners is still baffling to me. He also didn’t develop as much as I’d hoped. He was decent enough, but it seems Ted came to the same conclusion I did, we can do better than his 13 goals, 4 assists, and 9 secondary assists from 110(15) appearances. Even from a defensive option in central midfield, I’d expect more.
With Porozo and Sidibé out the door, space has been made for my favourite of Ted’s signings, Hugo Garcia:
He looks great, I expect him to put pressure on Oriol Busquets straight away for a starting berth, and he looks like he could become a world-class ball-winning midfield option. I think that role will be returning to the tactical fold.
Reliable second choice left back, Sylla, who outperformed his attributes (and arguably Alonso too), departs after 63(10) apps, 2 goals, 25 assists, 5 sec. assists for us. Ted has signed a new 16 year old left back prospect, also called Sylla, which won’t be confusing at all.
In a move that’s bound to get us both blocked by Shrewnaldo, VDBNTO has also gone. His influence on the team was on the wane, this is Ugarte’s house now. Van den Boomen leaves after 92(32) apps, 15 goals, 20 assists, 17 sec. assists, and some sweet-ass free kicks.
I feel like Ted’s been a little harsh on Mavro, perhaps because he never got to play with him. I must say, I would’ve kept him, given how great he was before the broken leg. However, there’s no doubt that an injury that severe can derail a career, and the profit turned is impressive.
The Alonso situation sucks, but I don’t think Ted can be blamed overmuch. We’ve done everything to placate him to the point where he’s “happy to stay” (Alonso, not Ted), who could’ve predicted he’d want that much money? Considering our current top earner is new boy Colin Prent, who is on €40k p/w, Alonso’s demands are outlandish, and we will now likely face a desperate rush to sell him for something in January.
We also have a bit of dressing room disquiet to contend with this season, as both Camara and Aribi are agitating for new deals. I can tell Camara is on Ted’s naughty list, as he only signed a new contract 12 months ago, and Ted doesn’t like that sort of thing. Aribi is more likely to be offered an extension, but that may come with consequences, as a large portion of the first team squad think he should pipe the fuck down…
August to December ’24:
That sure was a lot of words about the summer changes. I could probably cover the next five months by just saying, it’s almost an exact duplication of the start of last season.
But then I’d not get to mention a Champions League “Group of Death”, which is always fun. Seriously though, Milan, Bayern AND Barcelona? Are you taking the piss?
Defeat in the Trophée des champions to PSG? Check.
Great Ligue record, but lost to PSG, so still second? Check.
Somehow through to the CL knockouts? Check.
Bizarrely, this was no lucky progression, we were the better side in the first five games, although Barcelona schooled us in the final match (even before we suffered a 28th minute red card), and with Milan having a highly fortunate away goal advantage over us, we needed Bayern’s only win in game six to get us through (I think that’s how it works…).
We’ve drawn fucking Liverpool in the First Knockout Round, and seeing as they did us 8-1 on aggregate last year, I’m not optimistic. Once again I wonder if I shouldn’t be throwing CL group games to get in to the Europa League instead…
No broken leg for a key defender this time around, though there’s been an epidemic of wrist and other “lower arm” injuries, including a broken arm for Mazek in the final game before January.
Alonso’s Toulouse career came to a premature end when he broke his collarbone in November. He’ll be off to Atletico in January for €22m plus 25% of the next sale, which is better money than I feared we’d get. Seeing as Ted had removed all semblance of first team ready depth from the left back department in the summer, Sarmiento was the unlikely man chosen to fill in there. He was excellent in games against difficult opponents (Bayern, Lyon, and he had a game winning, player of the match performance coming off of the bench in the first game against Barcelona), but useless against Ligue 1 rubbish. And then he succumbed to an injury of his own.
Despite the injury problems, we’ve won ten in a row in Ligue 1, and have looked pretty good doing it.
We’ve been a lot more consistent with our tactical choices this season, with 4231 our undisputed primary tactic.
I’ve not necessarily given up on the wacky looking 3331, but it was designed to combat two striker systems, and we haven’t faced one even once this season so far. There have been a few occasions when we’ve changed to the 424, both successfully (at home to Barcelona) and unsuccessfully (away to AC Milan). A brief experiment with playing it from the start in Ligue 1 fixtures didn’t show me anything, but I still see it as a decent option when chasing a game.
While we have looked “pretty good”, I do have some ideas for how to improve further, and suspect some changes will be looked at during the second half of the season.
Most goals: Nestorovic (15), Vlahovic (9), Ahmet Eris (5)
Most key contributions: Ugarte (5), Aribi (4), Camara, Mazek, Sarmiento, Vlahovic (all 3)
Most assists: Ugarte (10), Aribi, Camara, Mazek (all 5)
Most secondary assists: Ugarte (6), with no-one else getting more than 2
Aribi did get his new deal, and his form picked up after signing it. That’s not particularly difficult as he was totally useless beforehand. It caused some low level murmuring in the squad, but nothing came of it. As an aside, I neglected to mention that a while back he decided to abandon Algeria, and switch his allegiance to France. As a result, he is no longer “Touted as the next Tedj Bensaoula“, but instead, “the next Michel Platini” :eyes:
Camara also had a dire start to the season, but he’s emerged from his slump without any new financial incentive so far.
If I have any concerns, they are relatively minor ones. Goals from midfield have dried up, I wonder if we are perhaps now overly reliant on Ugarte’s brilliance, and I’m getting next to nothing from anybody who occupies the AMC role.
On the whole though, the save heads across Essex with things in top shape…though Ted is due a shit January…