FM15: First full season at Southampton, and radars galore

Having somehow finished the first year in 15th, I was hoping to push on and solidify our position as a top half team in 2015/16. Gabriel Barbosa and Eder Alvarez Balanta were to be key players, having spent the latter half of the season settling into life in England. They were also aptly supported by some big signings in the Summer window.

I went into the Summer with a philosophy in mind and a slightly different scouting process in order to follow through with it. In my last post, I focussed on the search for a right midfielder. The conclusion was that Joel Campbell was the man, with Adel Taarabt as the backup. We signed neither. Campbell chose Fiorentina. As for Taarabt, we agreed a deal with QPR, and then a contract with the player. As I went to confirm the transfer, the option was not there as he’d torn his cruciate ligaments only the day before — out for 8-9 months, failed medical. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad that we’d missed out on his signing, at that point.

Long story short, we eventually settled on another Arsenal midfielder, Kevin Kampl. I was surprised they were happy to sell him, given he only signed in January. But they made a handy profit on the £3.6m they signed him for as we gave them £10m. But as our emergency option, his attributes and stats profile were perfect for what we wanted.

The other key signings were all in the back five. Given my tactic of choice for the season was to be a 4-4-2 with wingers and full-backs pushing high, it was vital the defense was extremely solid. We were likely to cede the midfield battle unless the CF-S dropped very deep, and therefore needed to be happy to have spells without the ball.

My personal preference is also to have very little rotation in my back four. So the players brought in (RCB and LB) would need to be very competent and able to play almost every game. We eventually settled on Rhodolfo and Alex Telles respectively. As well as these two, Jeroen Zoet was brought in to reinforce the goalkeeping stocks, allowing Boruc to leave on a free and Fraser Forster to play in the cups. This meant we had a back seven of:

Wanyama / / / Schneiderlin

Telles / / / Balanta / / / Rhodolfo / / / Clyne

Zoet

The plan was for this base to stay largely unchanged in league games, home or away. And until Clyne broke his ankle in December, that was how it stayed.

The thing that threw a spanner into the works was the signing of Roberto Pereyra at the end of August. It was purely by chance that I found him, trawling through the best free agents, and for some reason he was still unsigned. Despite the rather hefty wages, it was too good to resist and got me thinking about a concept I had previously blown over: big game strategy.

With the 4-4-2 as our go-to formation, we needed something a bit different against the big teams if we were to get a result. Eventually we settled on a counter-attacking 4-1-4-1 (Counter, Flexible):

Wanyama and Schneiderlin as the base of my team was something I considered to be the key. Balanta and Rhodolfo forming a solid partnership behind them was also very important as we formed a defensive box; difficult for even the most creative of teams to break down. But when Pereyra came along, he was the missing jigsaw piece of the Wanyama/Schneiderlin midfield. All had clearly defined roles that they fulfilled wonderfully, as shows in their radars (during the season I created the DM/CM radars to go with the AM/FW radars we already had from last year):

Victor Wanyama: The Destroyer

Morgan Schneiderlin: The Facilitator

Roberto Pereyra: The Creator

This meant that in the big games, we had those three in midfield, flanked by creative forces Kampl and Tadic drifting inside in Wide Playmaker – Attack roles, and full-backs overlapping. The only time we got truly humbled was at runaway champions Man United, who beat us 5-2 at Old Trafford. Aside from that game where we were truly hammered, we picked up some outstanding results in big games; 5-0 v Liverpool (A), 4-1 v Arsenal (H), 2-1 v Man City (A), 2-0 v Man City (H), 3-0 v Arsenal in the FA Cup Final.

This led to an incredibly successful season in which we finished 4th and bagged my first trophy: the FA Cup. We managed to more than double our points tally of 14/15, as we went from 37 to 75, also going one better than the FA Cup final we achieved that year. Delighted.

Performances of some of our other forward players. If you think you can get the roles each player played, then do let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Dusan Tadic:

Kevin Kampl:

Jay Rodriguez:

Shane Long:

Gabriel Barbosa:

Where to now?

4th and a trophy is a great season. I’m not sure if we’ll improve rapidly straight away, given we’ve just jumped 11 places in the table. It’s for this reason I’m not yet sure whether I’ll play the next year, or try a save abroad. Perhaps I’ll play pre-season and see how we’re looking. As it stands, I’m not sure where we can improve without spending big money. We’ll see.

What I will do, regardless of this, is more work on the radars. When I was managing Wolves on FM13, I would’ve loved any sort of tool that gave me the ability to compare between generations. How did Lacina Traore in 2017/18 compare to my star Belgian striker Hamza Nouri at his peak? Having reached nearly 2040, I had the privilege of bringing through many different teams in an Alex Ferguson-esque capacity. I always had a number of wonderful players in each team, but found it difficult to compare them easily. Having player radars for regens that I’ve already developed an emotional attachment to would be great for comparisons.

As it stands, I don’t believe I’ve got enough data for the radars. We had a great season, but we still came 4th. Yet the majority of our best forwards are 95%+ in a number of categories, which is suspiciously good. Increasing the data set will increase the max value and decrease the min value, meaning it’ll take a truly great season to reach the highest level of each category — something that is handy when you’re playing a save for decades.

If you’d like to create these radars for yourself, and for your players, contact me on Twitter and I’ll let you know how — it’s actually pretty easy.

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5 comments

  1. Qoid Naufal

    Your creator simply doesn’t good enough, only averaging 1.05 key passes per game? This was the issue I encounter on FM14 and still can’t find the solution till now.

    • 13s

      1.05 key passes per game = top 5% of CMs in Europe.
      Pereyra actually had 2 KPs per game, which is huuuuuge. Probably top three players in Europe.

  2. Shrewnaldo

    Re the key passes comment above – I think this confusion is caused by SI / FM interpreting a “key pass” as something completely different to the established definition used by Opta, WhoScored, etc. Of course, it may as difficult, if not more difficult, to define a key pass in the game as it is to define a clear cut chance, hence the current interpretation instead.

    Loving the radars, really think they are an excellent tool and good work on an excellent season. Surprised that you’re thinking of moving on. With the age of much of your team, I’d have thought there was a long way to go.

    Also, boo at Kampl, the sod. Also, since when was he a DM? Very odd.

    • 13s

      Yeah, I mentioned in my first post on radars that the values I was getting are very different to what the guy who does the radars for real world football gets. As long as I collect a decent amount of data for it, there shouldn’t really be a problem.

      The team is very young, but it almost feels as if I’ve had my Guardiola moment, so to speak. From here on it’s going to be a long, hard slog and I’d be surprised if we won a title in the next two seasons. The main difficulty is that there’s no real star players in the team aside from Balanta; everyone else in the XI is at a very similar level. It’s therefore pretty difficult to markedly improve the team by replacing individuals. I would’ve guessed Rodriguez and Long would be the men to replace soonish but both produced wonderful seasons so I’m not too sure where to go with that one. The other obvious way to improve would be tactically but I’m not sure where else to go with the tactic with this set of players.

      & yeah, I thought that was weird. We’ve actually used Kampl there once or twice in emergencies, because Pereyra apparently can’t play there even a little bit. So when we’ve had Schneiderlin, Cork and Wanyama out, he’s stepped in there and actually done alright. Odd.

  3. Qoid Naufal

    Agree with Shrewnaldo, but I guess the major issue is coming from the match engine itself. I mean there were always odd decisions (if not stupid) taken by the players in some critical situations. Well I haven’t been giving FM15 a try, but that was the major concern in FM14.

    The Kampl case is another major issue too in FM. Well, there are some players who did well even though he was being played out of their natural position, like Lahm, Mascherano. But there are some too who didn’t do well. I think versatility should have been taken into account, I mean displayed in the player’s profile.

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