And so it begins. Welcome. It’s my first blog post, it’s probably going to be my last save of FM16 and I’m going out with a challenge close to my heart: Liverpool. I have never done as well as I should have when managing my own club so I did what any mad FM player would do for my first blog post. I’ve made it harder. In my opinion, the best players at Liverpool, the players that win matches, are not British. Coutinho and Firmino spring to mind. So let’s sell them all and build a team of home-grown players.

The challenge…

This year, the aim is to clinch Champions League football by only playing British players. This will lead to a mass sale of my international players and a tough first transfer window where we will need to get in a number of home-grown. I will have to promote a large number of U21 players into the first team squad to be able to field pre season teams and hopefully this rushed progression will lead to a few becoming first team regulars in the near future. In the long run, the aim is to become a consistently successful team. I stress consistency as this is what has plagued Liverpool for years. You just have to look at the first two games of this EPL season to see what I mean. Ultimately it would be great to win something, but I feel that the first few years will be about laying the foundations for the future as I can’t imagine I will be able to get the best home-grown players in on transfers. It will become a development project with young British prospects.

First day…

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So it begins. When I first came up with this challenge I thought I would do OK but now I am doubting how it will work after getting to this point. Normally when taking over a club I take a long hard look at who I have in each position, scouring the U21s and U18s too but this job is different. I have to sell most of my starting 11. Not often you go into a club and put your best players on the transfer list within five minutes of meeting your chairmen. The obligatory fixture with the U21s was set up and we were off. In regards to my goals for this season, I agreed with the board to aim for a EURO cup spot. My personal aim is a Champions League place but I feel like I need to set the bar slightly lower to give me a bit of wiggle room if the odd result doesn’t go our way.

 

Transfers so far…

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Surprisingly one of the first player out of the door wasn’t one of my Brazilian midfielders. Instead, heading to Palace was Jose Enrique for £3m. I was just happy to see him leave even if the deal sees a loss of £3m for the club. The liability that is Alberto Moreno was the next left back to leave, heading to The Emirates for £17m. At this point I was convinced I could get rid of all the unnecessary players for good money. Sakho returned to Paris for £17m, Lovren was set to partner Morgan at the King Power and Mignolet was involved in a swap deal for my new incoming goalkeeper, Jack Butland.

Butland will play in front of some inexperienced centre backs this year mainly due to the fact that no top level British centre backs would sign for me without the deal being astronomical. Stones doesn’t want to join a rival, Swansea refused any offer below £30m for Williams and no one else wanted to join. Looking back this may be because the club is selling top class players left, right and centre. And this is where we paid the price for wanting British players. We managed to get in Holding from Bolton for £1.3m. Wenger sees something in him so he’s worth a punt. Even if he fails to break through to the first team we should make a profit to reinvest back into the squad. Michael Keane of Burnley was brought in as I player many I know have had good success with on the game and he was later joined by the stellar signing of Palace’s Scott Dann. We overpaid. Massively. But he was genuinely the best I could get and I was desperate. Robertson becomes my only true left back in a good deal from Hull. In the midfield cheap deals were made for George Thorne and Tom Carroll before we brought in the attacking reinforcements. Redmond and Gray were added to give us options on the wing and now with Ibe we have a real threat for the next few years. Sturridge’s injury issues have forced me to spend big on a striker and we swooped in for Wilson, taking him from Eddie Howe’s side. A solid option who definitely could score 20 goals a season.

 

Tactics…

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Here’s the basic shape I am going to start with in the game. I see the strength coming from the wide players in my squad (Redmond, Gray and Ibe) and have worked something that hopes to utilise that whilst noting the attacking potential of Robertson and Clyne at full back. The defensive midfielder is going to be vital for me and his role may be changed. He needs to be able to get on the ball and move it out wide quickly but primarily he needs to support the two centre backs if we are hit on the counter. Normally I would sit high up the field but for this tactic we shall sit a little deeper which will give us room behind the opposition for the wingers and Wilson up top to run into. This tactic will evolve as I get to know my new team.

Pre-season…

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Pre-season was a mixed bag of results. The U21 game was a good result considering all my international players were in that U21 side and the win away at Lyon with a young side was encouraging. The Bejing result is disappointing as we had to play our U18 goalkeeper and he made a classic Football Manager howler to let them take an early lead. Either way we should have scored more. Dortmund came at us with a full strength team and Danny Ward seemed to concede every time Aubameyang got the ball near the box but the performance was pleasing against world class opposition. We scored in every game and kept three clean sheets, but I would have liked to see the attacking players gel together within the tactic a little sooner. I can’t help but feel this will lead to a slow start in the Premier League. Should I have organised more games? Only time will tell.

 

First league games…

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The season started at home to Swansea with the team above being entrusted to get us off to a quick start. With all the early transfers made we were easily able to name a first team squad of British players for the first game which was a relief. But the score line wasn’t. 0-0. A bore draw. Bar a Milner penalty that went at least ten yards wide, nothing can really be said of the game. What was worrying however was the performance of Wilson. The stats show he had no goal scoring opportunities, having one speculative shot which went wide. And as his heat map and average position show he really wasn’t a threat and was hardly in the game. For me his position is deep and this is seen through the little time he spent in the box; It wouldn’t surprise me if the heat map is actually showing him being in the 18-yard box for set pieces only. I will keep an eye on this but for the next game I will change his role to see if we can get him into the box more.

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And the next game was not one I wanted so early on with my team still finding their footing: a trip to Old Trafford. Still with Henderson and Sturridge out and my squad’s low tactical understanding I had a feeling this could be a big loss.

The first twenty minutes went well. Thorne in the holding role looked controlled and Redmond and Lallana were getting between the lines causing Schweinsteiger and Herrera problems.  On the half hour mark this control paid off. Allen intercepted a poor pass with our high press and after a series of quick interplay with Redmond and Lallana, the ball was played into Milner’s path who made up for his penalty miss last week. 0-1. This was almost identically repeated ten minutes later with Allen winning the ball and a quick counter attack following, this time rounded off by Lallana after Wilson’s assist. 0-2. And then we sat back and Butland earned his money with save after save. Mata was unplayable but couldn’t get past our home-grown keeper. A great three points away from home.

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What was pleasing with this game was our resilience. Local lad Scott Dann and new boy Butland were outstanding. We won the ball high up the field and played with intensity and accuracy. I just hope this isn’t a one off.

Below is Wilson’s heat map and average position again. The only tweak I made was to play him with the Attack duty in his Complete Forward role rather than Support. I have no concerns about how deep his average position is. We sat back for the last hour of the game and I am glad he showed the discipline he did. What did impress me was how central he stayed this time, which allowed Redmond from the left and Lallana just behind him to float and pick up space. This lead to Wilson being named Man of the Match scoring a 7.9.

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Next time…

Next time we shall see how well we negotiated the last two weeks of the transfer window. I will profile a few of my key performers and highlight those who are not performing. Thanks for reading my first blog post. Feel free to comment and get involved in the conversation.