Before you start, make sure you read my previous article, which was published only yesterday. It’s got lots of info about the team and squad as a whole. Read here: https://fmcoffeehouse.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/fm14-quick-progression-with-ujpest/
As promised, here’s the update outlining my transfers and July & August’s European qualifiers. The title says ‘early season’ rather than ‘pre-season’ mainly because our pre-season consisted of a single friendly. The new season’s transfer window opened on 1 July, and having already played our only friendly, we had to ready ourselves for the first leg of the first round of Europa League qualification. In this case, we had a pretty easy draw, against Velez Mostar of Bosnia, so we didn’t need to prepare as much as usual. But it’s still a bit frustrating for bedding new players in; of which there were a few.
A reasonable amount of cash generated, and without losing any key players. Whilst he’s not actually on the list, we were also unable to renew the loan of Russell-Yves Ngawa. His contract with Standard expired at the end of the season, and he wanted a wage of over £2k p/w. We’ve been given a massive chunk by the board, but I wasn’t willing to stretch to that when our previous highest earner was £1.3k p/w. As for the other loans, we decided not to approach Julien de Sart again, but Nebojsa Kosovic was renewed successfully — I’ve only just finished fawning over his Key Passes stats from last season.
We managed to hold onto the likes of Juanan, Asmir Suljic and Chema Anton who had bids of up to half a million pounds. It was incredibly tempting giving the club’s value in its entirety is supposedly £1.7m. But we held onto them and the squad remained firm.
What was also particularly interesting was the new wages of Stanisavljevic and Aarab upon their sales. Both saw massive increases in their weekly earnings, which will suggest upon the next round of contract renewals, our wage budget will probably take quite the beating.
1: Janosz Szabó: Defender (Left) / D (C), WB (L)
Throughout last season, we had very little cover for Gyula Forró. Whenever Forró was unfit or unavailable, Chema Anton had to fill in. And as a central defender, he was never able to offer anything like the threat I needed from my full backs. As he can also fill in right down the left flank, as well as central defense, right back and even defensive midfield, Szabó is basically the perfect utility signing for a free transfer and only £350 p/w. Funnily enough, Szabó has already also recently been my first call-up to the Hungarian squad. I’d be waiting for a full cap for a while, so it’s somewhat frustrating that Szabó was called up over Forró, who had a wonderful last season.
2: Aristote Ndongala: Attacking Midfielder (Left) / AM (C)
Essentially a project player, I’ll be looking to mould Ndongala into an AP-A. Once Standard decide Kosovic is ready to play for them, we’ll need a ready-made replacement. There’s a lot of similarites between the two, although Ndongala provides a more direct threat than the create-first Kosovic.
3: Victor Lekhal: Defensive Midfielder / M (C)
Lekhal is one of two signings who would slot into a hypothetical best XI. In truth, it’s really rare I ever get to play what I feel is my best team, because we play a game every three days. For some bizarre reason, the winter break in Hungary is two months long, with the occasional cup and European game scattered about in that time. That means the rest of the fixtures have to be crunched into a much smaller time period, which is pretty frustrating. But I digress — Lekhal is a young defensive midfielder capable of covering either the Defensive Midfielder or Regista roles and for that he’s invaluable. Lots of room to improve, too.
4: David Alcibiade: Defender (Right) / WB (R)
With the outgoing Ngawa, we needed a replacement. Alcibiade was available on a free transfer, whilst also being handy going forward, as well as nice low wages. Ideal. However, he still needs some work to become as polished as his Belgian predecessor (9 crossing, 9 dribbling, 7 flair; not ideal).
5: Romauld Lacazette: Defensive Midfielder / M (C)
Of all the incoming transfers, Lacazette was the only one who wasn’t really replacing anyone. In fact, I didn’t even plan to make another signing after the deal for Alcibiade was completed. But Henri Enriful was injured early on in the early season, leaving Lekhal and Balogh as my only two defensive midfielders. Lacazette has plenty of potential and will act as my 4th DM until he’s able to push on and replace Balogh into the first team.
Finishing 3rd or 4th in the Hungarian league means that you have to go through each and every round of Europa League qualifying. What a bore. We swept Velez Mostar 6-0 on aggregate with a pair of 3-0 wins. Unfortunately, Jarmo Ahjupera was injured in the first leg of the tie and would be out for the rest of our qualifying campaign with what must have been a pretty severely twisted ankle. So that meant Hungarian veteran Péter Kabát would have to step up; this is a 36 year old who scored only 4 goals last season. Immediately I scoured the transfer target and lined up a replacement on a short-term loan. But first, we had Dundee United to deal with.
Lining up with a number of players worth several millions of pounds, I was skeptical of our chances of progressing any further. Even after we battered them 3-0 at home I was still really unsure, mainly because of a tweet I received upon announcing Újpest as my new save:
— John Sinclair (@johnnyfitba) June 10, 2014
For those of you who can’t be arsed clicking the link — it tells of the story of Újpest playing a European cup tie against Aberdeen. The Hungarians managed to take a 3-0 lead to Scotland, where they were promptly swept aside in extra time by the Reds. I managed to avoid a similar fate as we recorded a fantastic 3-1 win led by Péter Kabát. Having scored 4 goals last season, he managed to almost match that in one game with an outstanding hattrick. I obviously immediately cancelled plans of a replacement for Ahjupera and Kabát cemented his place as the #2 striker.
The next round was even more straightforward as we all but ended the tie in the first leg with a wonderful 5-0 win over AA Gent of Belgium’s Pro League. We absolutely deserved the scoreline, and at times our counter-attacking was absolutely breathtaking. There’s so much fluidity in the midfield when we have three such dynamic roles (BBM-S, AP-A, SS-A), despite the rigid team instruction. The tie ended with a 6-3 aggregate after we gave the reserves a run-out in the second leg.
Dundee United & Gent seemed a bridge too far when the draw was made, and Maritimo of Portugal was much the same in the playoff. Particularly as by the 80th minute of the first leg, which was at home, they had scored 3 goals to our 1. By that time, plans were already being made in my head for the upcoming games with the idea being we wouldn’t have to rotate for any more European games. The next ten minutes, however, turned things around as Asmir Suljic and Péter Kabát both netted. Taking 3-3 to Portugal certainly wasn’t ideal, as we essentially needed to win due to the high number of away goals conceded; but it could’ve been worse. Upon arriving in Portugal we were written off almost immediately, and punters could get 10-1 on an Újpest win, or 5-1 on the draw.
There were a number of selection issues, but the main issue was to go with the in-form Péter Kabát or the newly available Jarmo Ahjupera. They have very similar strengths and so this was purely a selection, rather than tactical, decision; and Ahjupera was picked. It paid off as after 22 minutes we were 4-3 up on aggregate, and only fifteen minutes later Asmir Suljic was in on the act again as we went up to 5-3. This was bizarre.
With ten minutes left, Maritimo scored. I shat bricks and brought off a CAM for a central defender, perhaps fulfilling the true nature of a ‘defensive’ tactic for the first time with a horrid 5-2-1-1-1. But it did the job and we were through. Europa League Group stages here we come.
Bring it on.