A 6th place finish in my, and our, first season in the Bundesliga might seem to some like a bit of a failure when you take into account the resources on offer plus where RBLeipzig are in the table in the non-FM world. I’m taking it as a good achievement though, a building block in the long term aim of eventual Bundesliga, and European domination. More and more I’m coming to realise that probably the key thing to note so far is that we’re really not anywhere near the upper echelons of German football yet in the game. Our reputation is still only national, sitting 19th in the country, and still lower than 2 2.Bundelisa clubs. Putting things very much into perspective.
Talking of expectations, we certainly exceeded the ones set out for us last season. If you remember back, we were 1000-1 to win the league, and expected to finish 15th. The board expected us to fight bravely against relegation. As I already mentioned, a 6th place finish was secured, which meant Europa League qualification too. This beat my own aims set out before the start of the save too. Our first two seasons were planned to consolidate our place in the league, before an attack towards European football in season 3. Progress ahead of schedule.
Where do the media predict us to finish in season 2 then?
We’ve gotten better it seems! A 12th place prediction from them, but our odds have been slashed compared to last season. They’re coming round to the idea that our reputation is severely understated.
The board are expecting a top half finish this season, and I’ve gone along with that. I’ve mentioned before that I much prefer to lower expectations and then surpass them. I’m expecting us to be there or thereabouts to match our position from last season.
Squad & Transfers
There’s been a fair few outgoings as players returned from loan, and as I continue to shape the squad in the way I like. There’s probably only a few to really call out here. Marvin Compper played a bit-part role last season, but at 32 and declining, I’d prefer to let him leave and lower our average age. This was a bit of a recurring theme of the window, as Stefan Ilsanker left for what could eventually be £2.6m to Frankfurt. He had a decent season for us, but he’s nearing 30 so out the door he went. Terrence Boyd was never going to get a look in and also joined Frankfurt for £900k. Captain Dominik Kaiser was deemed surplus to requirements and left for Hull in what is a record transfer fee received for us, a somewhat paltry looking £3.7m. £6m brought in to the club, but I’ve got a feeling this figure will rise as the seasons go on.
This feeling comes from the Naby Keita transfer saga of summer ’17. Bayern had been chasing Naby all season, but I’d managed to successfully persuade him to stay and coax him round to feeling happy at the club again. Bayern were determined, but I really didn’t want to lose him just yet.
It took all my willpower to not accept a whopper of a £56m bid. I think if it was slightly negotiable in any way, I might have attempted to change a few things about it and potentially might have been swayed to eventually accept. I hate the 50 league appearances fee, much prefer to have it after 20 or 30 games max. 20 international appearances too, I’d have negotiated that down to 5 or 10 max. I prefer to get a percentage of the next fee, as opposed to a percentage of the profit. Do these things, Bayern, and you’ll maybe have a deal! But not just yet, not this soon into my save.
Figal was spotted by Roberta Ayala during his scouting trip across his home country, and I was delighted to secure him on a free transfer to bolster our defensive options. My hopes for Hadziahmetovic aren’t too high, he’s got decent potential so I want to see him improve but I don’t realistically see him as a viable first team option in the future. Much more of a back up. I shouldn’t really need to introduce you to Dorin Rotariu, you’ll be well aware of him by now. I’m not quite sure where he’s going to fit in, but I couldn’t resist bringing him in for what seems like a relatively low fee.
During my first trip to see what players I could poach from our sister club in Salzburg, I’d spotted Upamecano. I tried for what seemed like the entirety of the January transfer window to sign him, and that spilled into the summer window too. We might be friends, but they certainly tested my patience as they rejected bid after bid. I really didn’t want to pay over £10m for him, but I had to settle for a deal that could eventually be worth £9m. I really like the look of Mihajlovic, not outstanding, but room to develop, we should easily make a bit of money on him in the future. Fisch and Bargiel were additions to bolster the u19 squad.
Let’s get down to why we’re here, the league table and our performance so far.
Well looking at that, we’re certainly performing above board expectations. But my assessment is, must do better.
We’ve already lost as many games as we did in the entirety of last season, and you’ll spot that draws are killing us once again. I hate dropping points at home, so the 1-1 against Mainz, the 2-1 defeat against Schalke, the 0-0 v Frankfurt and the 1-1 against a 10 man Gladbach all greatly annoyed me. We did find ourselves as high as 5th after our 1-0 win v Hertha, but that run of 4 games without a win to close out the first half of the season has seen us drop down the table.
The 6-2 win against Braunschweig was a high point, and really came out of nowhere. Who was I to complain about a great performance. However, defeats against 4 of the 5 teams that finished above us last season won’t get us anywhere. Our results against the big boys has to improve in the second half of the season. It’s not the sole reason we are where we are though, and I’ll repeat it again, we really should be beating Mainz, Bremen, Frankfurt and our bogey team of Hamburg if we want to qualify for Europe again.
Talking of Europe…
We’d enter Europa League qualifiers, due to Wolfsburg winning the DFB Pokal, at the 3rd qualifying stage. A relatively comprehensive victory over Djurgarden was followed up by a tighter than it should have been win against Romanian side Poli Iasi. Despite losing the 2nd leg, 2-1, we absolutely battered them but found ourselves 2-0 down and going out on away goals before 18 year old Dadachov scored in the 72nd minute to take us to the group stages.
A solid win over Rijeka was followed by Rapid (presumably trying their bloody best against another much hated Red Bull club) snatching a late draw. We gave Monaco a scare at the Stade Louis II, and well deserved our home win against them. Rijeka then gave us a scare, meaning we had to draw with or beat Rapid at home to secure qualification for the knockouts. Another randomly brilliant performance (similar to the Braunschweig one) took us through.
We’ll face the mighty Leicester City in the 1st knockout round. Hopefully our owners take the initiative to stop selling our products in Leicester before that tie otherwise we might have a Vardy party on our hands.
I’ve often found in the past that when I’ve qualified for Europe for the first time with a club, that I struggle to balance the two. I always want to do well in Europe, but I think our league form has definitely suffered as I get to grips with the rotation and playing pretty much twice a week. Ensuring the players are properly rested, meaning a lack of time on the training ground, and a disctinct drop in time to properly work on being a cohesive team compared to last season has definitely affected us.
I think the less said about the DFB Pokal this season, the better. The board only expected us to get to the 3rd round, which we did, but to go out against Bremen wasn’t great. Winning the cup didn’t actually appear anywhere on my aims, but it would be nice to win some silverware and a cup win can sometimes be the catalyst to propel you on to challenge for the league title.
If you hadn’t already figured, I’m developing quite the man crush on Timo Werner. He’s followed up his great form last season by hitting 10 goals and 9 assists so far in 21 games so far this season. His value is finally starting to rocket too which is a good sign. This may be because he’s earned his first German senior cap, and topped it off with a goal too. Oh and there’s this too…
He’d been rumoured for it last season, and he’s managed to win it this season. It’s always good to see your players acknowledged, I think this is the first time in a long time that one of my players has won an award like this on the game. Delighted.
How awesome do these look in-game?
Will we improve our league form and qualify for Europe again? Can we get past the EPL might of Leicester in the Europa League? Would you have sold Naby to Bayern, and how long do you think I can hold on to him for? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! Thanks for reading.