FM14: Wandering Europe

So in my last update I promised a follow-up to my previous piece on creating the gegenpress in FM13. Well, unfortunately that’ll have to be put on hold as I’ve fallen somewhat out of love with my Wolves save. This has had its advantages though, and I’ve decided to give FM14 a proper shot as a game. Despite my derision at the lack of sliders this year I’m sure I’ll get through it.

Having played very little of the game prior to now, I immediately noticed that, actually, it is better than FM13. The issue with sliders is a big one for me, but outside of the new tactics system, there’s a lot to like about this year’s edition.

I decided to start a save with England, where I was promptly dumped out in the World Cup second knockout round before taking on the job at reigning Serie A champions Fiorentina. It was a pretty harsh learning curve and after a poor run of form in January I decided a new save was in order.

So I loaded up a load of leagues, gave myself 27 England caps, and waited for an interesting project. Unsuccessful job interviews with Monaco, Real Sociedad and Newcastle meant I had to wait until later February 2014 for a job. And it would be in the Netherlands, where former giants PSV were languishing in 9th place. By the time I had my first game, we were 11th. The board said they wouldn’t be judging me on the year’s domestic achievements but I decided 8th was a minimum as it secured a place in the European qualification playoffs.

At this point I noticed a couple of handy new features. Georginio Wijnaldum, of leadership 9, was the captain at the time of my appointment. After a quick chat with him he agreed there were better men to lead the club. Nice touch.

After a staff overhaul and some scrappy results, we eventually did finish 8th. We then went on to beat Twente in the first round of the playoffs, and had to play the far superior AZ in the final who beat us 3-0 on aggregate. Unfortunately that means we won’t be in Europe next season but that gives us a reasonable goal to aim for next year. I’d definitely like to avoid those horrible playoffs next time around, though.

Upon accepting the job at PSV I was told that signing young players for the first team was the only philosophy the board subscribed to. Given that tends to be a priority of mine anyway, I don’t need to alter my managerial style massively. However, I did notice the club is in trouble with the finances, with the Club Information screen telling me our finances were ‘insecure’. The situation was further exacerbated when at the end of the season our existing sponsorships were renewed, except with an income of £4m less per season. Combine that with a lack of European football next year and we really could begin to struggle in the boardroom.

So, despite managing to manipulate the budget to give me £360k p/w to work with (that’s 1.2 Wayne Rooneys for those playing at home) in my wage budget, and currently sitting at just over the £300k p/w mark, I’ll be trying to make dramatic cuts. The first place to start is always with the player wages.

I think it’s fairly obvious where these cuts are going to come from. Bryan Ruiz, whilst being a luxury I can just about afford on the pitch (his lack of work rate, 10, is a bit of an issue for my hard-working side), his wages are unsustainable. Although, Fulham managed to burgle a 10th place finish in the Premier League thanks to Kostas Mitroglou finishing as the league’s top scorer with 22. Enjoy that, Bryan. Park Ji-Sung is another I can’t sustain. Whilst he’s available on a free transfer for next year, he wants 50k p/w (he’s on 75k p/w at QPR, imbeciles). That immediately cuts £85k p/w from the budget which is a massive saving. However, I’ll need to factor in improvements to the current squad. As a result, I’ll give myself a strict wage budget of £250k p/w. This represents a fairly sizable 20% (ish) decrease in wages. At £15.74m salary expenditure per annum, we currently sit at 2nd in the Eredivisie. Bringing this down to the target of £250k p/w would result in a saving per year of approximately £2.74m, and give us a total of £13.00m spent on salaries, to put us into 4th in the wage expenditure tables.

When overhauling the squad this Summer, I’ll look to abide by a fairly strict set of rules;

• Wage structure is more important than anything. I don’t mind having a player on a much higher wage than the rest of the squad but it’s important I come in under that £250k p/w mark.
• Nationality matters. I’ll try and limit myself to mainly categories 1 & 2 with a sprinkle of 3 & 4 and perhaps one or two players from category 5.
– Category 1 nationality: Netherlands.
– Category 2: Scandanavian. The league is full of them.
– Category 3: Brazillian. After all, we’re looking for the next Ronaldo or Romario, two PSV greats.
– Category 4: Spanish. There are close links between Spanish and Dutch football thanks mainly to Johan Cruyff and as a result, Spanish players tend to fit my style of play reasonably well.
– Category 5: Miscellaneous.
• Transfer budget is largely flexible. I’d like to roughly break even although this may not be possible. In order to save money I’ll probably only look at those on the transfer list or under a certain age.

As ever though, the most important thing when looking to bring players in is that they fit into your system and style of play. Having taken over with 12 games to go, I didn’t really have time to put my system into action properly and so the off-season represents an ideal time to do so.

My tactic is to mainly be governed by the players at my disposal. And in the case of PSV, there are several talented young players who will form the core of my teams throughout my years here.

Jetro Willems (LB) – talented, young and Dutch. Already has a number of senior caps and is fantastic going forward as well as defensively. Any tactic I create will have to make full use of his attacking capabilities.

Memphis Depay (AM) – a fancy young winger who could perhaps use some work on his end product. Could be moulded into a wide forward or a false nine in a 4-3-3. Lots of potential.

Adam Maher (CM) – probably the best of the lot. The team will be built around him and he’ll either play as an onrushing CM from deep or as the team’s pivot at False Nine.

As well as the young guys, there’s two other ‘senior’ players that are fairly important in the way I’d like to play;

Oscar Hiljemark (MC) – will likely play alongside Maher, although act in a more controlled manner. I put ‘senior’ in inverted commas because Hiljemark is only 21, but I consider him one of the main pillars of the side. Hasn’t missed a game of my reign thus far.

Luciano Narsingh (AM) – Narsingh is more of an out-and-out winger. Will stretch the opposition defense and provide something different to Depay on the other side who will enjoy cutting inside more. Again, at 23, still lots of room to develop. I feel as though it’ll be tough to hold onto Narsingh whilst we’re not in Europe, though.

Another fairly major factor determining my tactic for next year is the impact, or lack thereof, my strikers had last year. I was expecting Tim Matavz to be my main source of goals but he finished with 3 in 33 league games. My other two strikers were Jurgen Locadia, 1 in 16, and Neto Berola, 1 in 15. That’s a major area to be strengthen next year and I’ll probably keep only Locadia of the three, to be my third choice next season. Hopefully details of the Summer to come soon.

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