A first foray into FM15: Southampton in peril

Welcome back to my first FM article in a long while. Obviously the release of the Football Manager 2015 beta and the release of the actual game has effectively ended my Ujpest save for FM14. It would’ve been great to win the Champions League, but progress was stunting massively and it seemed unlikely. Maybe one for the future.

Despite this article, there’s no commitment from me to play or write about FM15. I’ve recently opened my new football analysis website, 13steps: http://13steps.co and it’s taking up a lot of time for each new article. It’s simple a matter of motivation & enjoyment right now, and FM has taken a back seat in those stakes recently.

However, I’m more than willing to give the new game a try. After initial forays with Bayern and West Ham, I eventually settled on a save that interested me: Southampton.

The Saints have a squad at the start of the game that has potential (lowest average age of any PL squad), but with no specific philosophy or distinguishable style. It’s always an interesting project, but I passed them over in favour of holidaying the game and looking for something exclusive to my save. Fortunately, I reached December of my holiday to find this:

Koeman had been sacked, and it was far too juicy to avoid. I disabled the first window’s transfer budgets as I always do, and with a clean slate in terms of the squad and only a month until the chaos of the January window, it seemed the perfect opportunity to start a save.

It also presents a fairly unique opportunity in analysing Koeman’s deficiencies. Usually I take over the club at the beginning of a season and stick with it. In this case, Koeman has had three troubled months. The deficiencies in his tactics were highlighted by the horrible stat of Fraser Forster having completed more key passes (1) than Graziano Pelle (0). Not good reading.

My initial approach will be to keep things fairly simple and manage the squad well. The team is shipping goals, and this should be easily solved by maintaining a regular Wanyama / Schneiderlin double pivot. After all, the squad we have is good enough to complete the board’s expectations of avoiding relegation. As I look to add to the squad in January, I’ll be aiming to bring in players who fulfil my underlying philosophy: creating overloads. The best way to do this in Football Manager is a combination of Dribbling and Off the Ball. This means when the players have the ball, they are able to beat their man if isolated 1v1. Off the Ball allows for interchange, and is key to a fluid passing system.

As the squad naturally develops, it will allow for a more deliberate approach. Creating a tactic in Football Manager is very much a chicken & egg situation, where the tactic and squad must morph around each other. This will be the key at Southampton.

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