Our Bundesliga finish of 3rd in season 2 was above all board and media expectations and saw us qualify for the riches of the Champions League, of course. At the start of this save, I outlined what I wanted to achieve and when I wanted to achieve it. We’re well ahead of schedule, and as such, I mentioned that after our performance in season 2, in season 3 I want to challenge for the Bundesliga. I hadn’t planned for this until at least season 5. Can we do it?
The media certainly don’t seem to think so.
But it’s progress. In season 1, they thought we’d finish 15th. In season 2, it was 12th. And for season 3, they reckon we’re long shots for the title and should be aiming for a top half finish. The board expectation is higher than ever before, but still gives us wiggle room to over-achieve. They’re expecting us to qualify for the Europa League this season. I’ve got other ideas though as you know.
A few incoming transfers to go through. Mohamed is a fairly low risk purchase, he looked like he might be able to improve and he’s been sent off to RB Salzburg, alongside Sosa. The 18 year old Argentinian looks like a good prospect and should hopefully get a decent amount of game time at our sister club. Aziz joined fellow Egyptian, Mohamed, at the club and instantly went out on loan Kaiserslauten in 2.Bunde, in search for game time. He looks like he could develop really well too, and just 18, has room to do that. Eventually, we’ll be at a reputation level where having players like Goto from Japan will be beneficial for merchandise sales abroad. We aren’t there yet, but at 18, Goto should develop into a nifty right winger for us. He’s left on loan to 1860 Munich. Orlowski is probably the pick of the bunch, in terms of signings for the future. The Pole is 18 and arrives from Goteborg in Sweden.
Gbamin arrives from Mainz for £7m in one of only two main 1st team signings. He’ll provide some extra cover for the defence and in the defensive midfield role, competing with Khedira and Janelt.
Then the big one. I wrote extensively about looking for the next Naby Keita. Despite me preferring Goretzka for his German nationality, we found him to be injury prone, so I saved myself £40m there. Napoli wouldn’t budge on Diawara. This man received a fair bit of love from some of the feedback on the post, so #WelcomeSensi.
He can pass, he’s got technique, he’s a team player with flair and vision. He becomes the most expensive transfer in the club’s history at £17.25m. Will he be a success? Time will only tell. He unfortunately suffered a twisted ankle not long after joining which hampered his integration into the team. Since then, it’s been all about slowly and surely giving him an increasing amount of game time.
Alongside the outgoing loans for the new players I mentioned above, there was a fair few other loans out. Plavsic struggled for game time after coming back from injury last year, so out he went to Stuttgart in search for 1st team minutes. Seeking fees for players wasn’t, and hasn’t, really been the aim. If a player is free to leave I’m happy to get any fee for them right now. Jung and Kalmar being examples of that this summer. The only other outgoing to really note is Dusan Vlahovic’ loan to join Plavsic at newly promoted Stuttgart. He’s hit 9 goals in 15 games so far for them, and is now labeled a wonderkid. Nice to see a loan out going well.
Transfers out of the way, let’s have a look at our results in the Bundesliga so far in the first half of season 3.
We started with an absolute shocker. That’s Bayern in season 1 and now Dortmund in season 3 that we’ve faced in the first game of the season. Conspiracy. The reigning champions were rampant and we couldn’t cope with them. Since then though, we’ve been solid and it remains our only defeat so far this season. At times we’ve been lucky and have struggled our way to wins or draws. The draws against Augsburg and Hoffenheim, who are both languishing towards the end of the table, were disappointing. We should be beating those teams, and look where we’d be if we did. We’re keeping up with the big boys, but turning just 1 or 2 of those 6 draws into 3 points would see us more than likely leading the way in the Bunde. Not to be downheartened though, we’re up there without playing particularly amazingly. We don’t concede many (2nd lowest in the league, 19) or score particularly many (7th in league, 31) so narrow wins led the way up until a great 4-2 win against Leverkusen on matchday 13. I had to actually replay the match due to my laptop fucking up, and I bloody won the 1st game 5-0! I’ll take a 4-2 win though as compensation.
3rd place in the Bunde took us straight into the Champions League group stage. All things considered, I was pretty happy to be drawn into a group containing Celtic, Zenit and Spurs, avoiding some of the major big guns.
Things started well, with hard fought wins over the teams I was expecting to beat, Celtic and Zenit, giving us 6 points from 6 available. Spurs brought us back down to earth, and we were truly woeful against them. This, in no small part, was down to me changing our approach to try and contain them, rather than attack them ourselves. Lesson learned. A sneaky win at Parkhead secured qualification for the knockouts, and I was able to give some fringe players a run out against Zenit at home.
Job done, through to the next round. We seem to like drawing teams from Britain on our European travels (Leicester, Celtic, Manchester United, Celtic again, Spurs), and you can add Manchester City to that list now too. They’ve spent over £300m in the last two seasons, so it’ll be tough to win, but we’ll do our best.
We’ve had pretty disastrous cup runs in my first two seasons at the club, making it as far as the quarter final in season 1, but being dumped out in the 3rd round last season. I’m definitely looking to beat Mainz in the 3rd round this season, and really take us all the way to the final. I haven’t concentrated much on the domestic cup, it’s been all about the league, but a good finish in the Bunde coupled with a cup win would be a good season.
I always like to call a few players out who’ve been performing well. We’ve not been remarkable, but it’s been a real team effort. My quite strict rotation policy, and almost point blank refusal to play anyone below 90%ish fitness has seen me use 30 players already so far this season. I’m the new tinkerman.
Poulsen now proudly owns the record for the most league appearances for the club! Our go-to targetman, the link up between him and Timo hasn’t been as strong this season. Usually it’s Poulsen assisting, but he’s only recorded 1 so far. He has chipped in with 8 goals though, and is leading the clubs scoring chart.
At this point last season, Timo had 10 goals and 9 assists. This season, he’s currently on 5 and 5. A huge part of that is down to the fact he’s played significantly less games though. He’s had to fall in line with our rotation policy just like everyone else. Have we suffered as a consequence? Probably slightly yes. But I need Timo firing on all cylinders when he plays.
Still just 20, Mihalcea has had a really good first half of the season. He’s only started 10 games, but when he plays, he performs. He’s got the highest average rating in the squad so far, with 7.59. He’s popped up with some goals too, scoring all 4 of his goals on a hot streak across 5 games in the middle of the first half of the season.
I haven’t spoken about my keepers much since I signed this guy in season 1. He’s slowly but surely become my go-to number 1. In the two seasons prior, I very much rotated between Vanja and Peter Gulacsi. He’s certainly well sought after too, as I’m having to fend off bids from the ‘bigger’ German clubs for him. His peak years are still to come, so he’ll most certainly be staying with us for them.
I’ve mentioned my strict rotation policy, haven’t I? Davie Selke has benefited from it, and has played over 1,200 minutes so far, putting him near the top of the pile for minutes played. He’s got 8 goals, including 2 doubles against Ingolstadt and Leverkusen, and 1 assist. He’s so similar in every way to Poulsen, it’s great to be able to switch between the two with ease.
Following on from Timo winning the 2017 European Golden Boy, I’d like to introduce you to the winner of the 2018 award. Step forward, Oliver Burke. Absolutely delighted to have him win this award. As a Scotsman myself, him joining RBL certainly just heightened my interest in them and it played a big part in me choosing them for my main FM17 save. He’s developing brilliantly and he’s finally unlearned cutting inside from the right! Only been trying for 2 and a half years…
In just over 3 weeks, over 300 FM content creators and members of the community have joined #FMSlack. We’re talking tactics, training, players, regens and just generically all things Football Manager. If you want to join too, hit the image above or give me a shout on Twitter.
I appeared on the Deep Lying Podcast too and had a brilliant chat with George about my RBL save so far, and our mutual love for our targetmen. Give it a listen if you haven’t already.