And so we begin. Thanks to everyone that read my intro post to the RBL save, and also my approach to scouting for the save too. Both seemed to go down really well which gives me a lot of encouragement going into the save proper! Talking of the save proper, it’s time to get stuck into it. I’ve reached the Bundesliga winter break which is handy as it gives me a chance to pause and look back on what’s happened in the first half of the season.
The beginning would be a good place to start. Of course, you’ll know we’re a newly promoted side to the Bundesliga, so we’re 1000-1 to win the league and the media are predicting an 15th place finish. I amended my board expectations slightly in that I’m expecting us not to be in a relegation fight, as opposed to them expecting us to fight against relegation. A little bit of extra pressure on myself and the team, but I’m confident we can handle it. I’m actually more than confident, and my personal aim is at least a top half finish. Going back to my aims that I outlined in my intro post, I’ve given myself 2 seasons to remain and consolidate our position in the league. Like I said, I’m more than confident!
Squad & Transfers
What have I inherited and what changes have I made to the squad? Analysing the squad, I made the decision that yes the first team is pretty strong and we’ll probably be able to achieve my expectations, but it’d be good to get a few more options in for rotation and back up purposes. So who’s joined RBL as a result of my extensive scouting assignment network?
Vanja Milinkovic Savic signs from Lechia in Poland. I felt we were lacking in depth goalkeeping-wise, and decided to bring in the ex-Man Utd youth player to provide it. He’s only 19 so I’m expecting him to eventually challenge for our no.1 slot. My first foray into raiding one of our sister clubs sees Valentino Lazaro join from Red Bull Salzburg. My initial reaction is that I paid slightly over the odds at a potential final fee of £3.5m, but again at just 20, he’s got room to improve. The next incoming is a bit of a bitter-sweet one. Jai Quitongo has been Morton’s star this season so far in the non-FM world, and he’s received a significant boost in quality in-game too. He’s gone back to Morton on loan for the rest of the season for game time. Red Star will be glad to see the back of, for now, after we nabbed Plavsic and my FM16 man crush, Mihailo Ristic, from them for a combined total of £3.1m. The final summer deal was for 18 year old Romanian, Vlad Mihalcea. I was delighted to bring him in for a deal that’ll cost us just over £1m eventually, he was brilliant on last years game and it looks like he’s going to be real prospect this year too.
Following my self-imposed transfer rules, all of these players are under 24 years of age. They aren’t all rare, shiny wonderkids, but they’ll come in, hopefully get some game time and develop.
I won’t spend too much time at all on this, but it’s obviously good to come in and join a new club, try to implement some new tactics and win all your pre-season games. The Sampdoria game was obviously our biggest test and we came through it well ahead of the new Bundesliga season starting.
To come crashing back down to Earth. It was always going to be tough going to the Allianz on the opening day, but to get beat 5-1 was tough to take. It was also really harsh, because we played superbly believe it or not. We more than matched them on the balance of play, with the difference being finishing. They took their big chances, we didn’t. Delighted to see Oli Burke get a goal on his league debut though!
It was important to bounce back from that with a win to get us off the mark. We did that against Darmstadt, and gave Leverkusen a good game following that too. They did go down to 10 men though, but we just couldn’t get a result. A smash and grab 2-1 win against Schalke was next up, with substitute Davie Selke having a devastating impact after coming on. We couldn’t see off Wolsburg despite them going down to 10 men too, a worrying trend.
The Schalke win took us on a 6 match undefeated run, albeit it did contain 4 draws, including 2 2-2s in a row against Freiburg and Mainz, two teams that in the near future I’ll be aiming for 6 points against. We did everything but score against Hertha, battering 24 shots on their goal but just couldn’t find a breakthrough. Hoffenheim and a certain Mr. Nagelsmann performed their own smash and grab as they took all 3 points late on against us to inflict our 3rd defeat of the season.
Really delighted to get a draw away at Dortmund, and the 4-0 drubbing against Gladbach was probably our best performance of the season. Everything just clicked, plus an inspired Timo Werner was on top form.
Where do these results leave us in the Bundesliga at the half way point of season 1 then?
Flying high in a current Europa League qualifying slot (depending of the winner of the cup)! We’re confounding all media critics and our own board expectations by sitting 7th. Leverkusen haven’t lost a game yet, but the mighty Bayern aren’t far behind them. Lewandowski, after his 2 goals against us in the 5-1 game, has 18 goals in 17 league games. Ridiculous. Mr. Nagelsmann might have been ousted as the youngest manager in the league (by me), but he’s got Hoffenheim firing as their goal difference is currently better than Leverkusen’s. They’ve actually scored the same number of goals as Bayern, but have conceded more. I’ve amended our board expectations to a top half finish, and to be honest, I’d be delighted if we did that.
We’re expected to reach the 3rd round of the cup, and we’ve done just that. A straightforward win over Lotte in the 1st round was followed by a good 2-0 victory over Hertha. Our cup win against them came just days before we played out a 0-0 in the league, and should have won. Disappointed not to win both games, but a cup win and a point in the league wasn’t too bad a consolation. We’ve got Koln coming up at the start of February with the chance to advance to the next round. It’s at home, so I’m feeling confident, especially after our 4-1 league win against them earlier on in the season.
I’m just going to pick out one player that’s really caught my eye so far this season, and it’s this man.
He’s been playing in the space behind the striker as a shadow striker and he’s performed brilliantly so far this season. 8 goals and 4 assists in 15 Bundesliga games, an average rating in the league of 7.25 with 4 man of the match awards too. He’s been the scorer of my two favourite goals we’ve scored so far this season too. Firstly, this beautiful move against Mainz showing exactly how I want my targetman and shadow striker to be linking up. Some finish too. Excuse the random cursor appearance!
And this one. Just sheer power with the finish after he’d tenaciously won the ball from the Gladbach CBs on the half way line. Ruthless.
Do you think I should be pushing on and competing for a European spot? Or should I just settle for consolidating in season 1? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! Thanks for reading.