This blog is going to be a little different as I will not be talking about real life football, but will instead talk about my current save on Football Manager 2019. This blog has been somewhat inspired by the excellent series of blogs posted in the Football Manager Ambition page on Now We Live.
I first started playing Championship Manager (as Football Manager was once known) with the 1997/98 version of the game. I think that game will always hold a special place in my memories. Hours, days and weeks were spent playing that game either on my own or with friends but the most enjoyable games I had were with my Dad. We still, to this day, talk about some of the memorable saves we had. I took Sheffield Wednesday and turned them into the biggest club in the world. My Dad, more impressively, took over Exeter and did the same.
The Championship Manager series continued and I was a huge fan for several years. I can’t remember which version of the game it was, but there was one in the early 2000s where I started off as Sheffield Wednesday and got them promoted to the Premier League. I then took over at Porto and won the Portuguese league. I then went to Roma and spent around ten seasons there; winning every trophy possible several times over. I then went to Manchester United and did the same before finishing at Real Madrid. In that save I must have played over twenty seasons. I still remember some of the fiction players that were created during the game. There was a young English striker called Justin Roden and a young Australian called Tony Yarnald. Both of these players were what you term “wonderkids”. I signed them at Roma and turned them into world beaters. They then followed me to every other club I managed thereafter. I think that game was my favourite ever save.
Following that, I gradually lost interest in the series. I found that many later versions of the game were released with bugs and I also grew frustrated with the ever expanding complexity of the game. I found that you could spend the better part of a whole day setting up a club, hiring and firing staff, scouting players and going through pre-season. Then, when the season proper starts, you get your ‘keeper sent off in the first game and your substitute ‘keeper gets injured. You lose six or seven other players to injury in the first couple of weeks of the season and after seven or eight games you are so far off the pace that it’s not enjoyable. I know this can happen to managers in real life, but I’m not looking for the closest possible simulation of being a real life football manager; I want a challenging and fun game. Random chance should play a part or else you are simply crunching numbers to win the game, but I felt that some earlier versions of the game made it virtually impossible to actually have fun.
I started getting back into the series with Football Manager 2010 (or it might have been 09 or 11) when I played in the Romanian league with Timișoara. I spent some time as Sheffield Wednesday as well but had no memorable saves. It was with the 2017 edition that I really got back into the groove. I had a fun game with Wednesday where I won promotion, was then relegated but was promoted straight back to the Premier League again. I built a very athletic and skilful side and, when I stopped playing, was in the process of turning Wednesday into a top-six Premier League side. To some people, this may seem like modest success, but to someone who had spent a long time not playing the game it felt like a huge success.
So, onto Football Manager 2019. After a few false starts I have been running a save in which I have just finished the 2019/2020 season. I am playing as Sheffield Wednesday (surprise, surprise).
When you start the game with the Owls there are several key players injured, such as Hooper, Joao and Lee. There is also very little money to spend with the board only giving you a proportion of any fees raised to spend on new players. It is very difficult to raise money. Here is a screenshot of the transfer business I did in my first season:
I let some players go for little to nothing as their wages were extortionate. Because you can alter your budget, letting a player go for nothing who is eating up £20,000 per week can create £1,000,000 to be added to your transfer budget. There are several players who can be loaned for zero in terms of wages and fees. Others such as Phil Foden can be loaned for just a small proportion of their weekly wage.
Several players will play well but later create unhappiness such as Daniel Pudil. I could not get Forestieri to perform and with his contract running down I made the decision to cash in. Although I only received a proportion of the money raised, it was enough to sign Tyrone Mings and Peter Pekarik who are both solid full-backs.
My first season seemed to start ok with wins against Wigan and Hull. I then lost in the League Cup at Accrington despite absolutely hammering them on the match stats. I then lost at Brentford. My form was then very hit and miss. After 14 games I had 21 points. That fourteenth game was away at QPR and I lost 3-0. At that point I knew something was not working. I was playing a 4-5-1 with attacking full-backs, a ball winning midfielder in the anchor man position, then a box-to-box midfielder and roaming playmaker in the middle. I had two inside forwards and one advanced forward. I was dominating many games and consistently having 65-70% of the possession, but I was losing more than I was winning.
I called another manager and invited them down to the training ground to get a second opinion. They gave me some useful advice and observations some of what I had not thought of and others I was already coming to the conclusion of myself. I made some slight tweaks to my system for my next game, switching to a 4-4-2 counter attacking system and beat Birmingham 4-0. I then tweaked the system again, playing Norwich and beating them 4-0. Finally, I tweaked my system again for the Steel City Derby. I went to Bramall Lane and dominated the match, but lost 1-0 to a freak goal. Although this was disappointing, I had faith in my new style of play; still a heavy possession based system but rather than having three midfielders who were all out of position, I packed the midfield.
My original system had two players in the middle who would normally drift from their position as part of their role; think about it a roaming playmaker and box-to-box midfielder. Both of these roles make it clear the players will move. So I had three players in the middle and just tweaked their instructions and roles to get the desired outcome. Following these changes I went on a strong run of form and finished 3rd.
Out of interest, I went back and calculated where I would have finished, had my form from the Norwich win onward been averaged out over the season. Based on that form over the season, I would have finished in 3rd still! I ended up losing the play-off final to QPR after my players bottled the pre-match team talk.
I was confident that the following season I could challenge for promotion. I was not given much money to spend and had to wheel and deal to raise funds. Fortunately, some contracts were coming up for renewal so I was able to get rid of players like Matias who were eating up a wage without contributing much quality. I also sold Tom Lees for £7.25M with a few add-ons on top.
My plan was to build a large squad and use squad rotation. For parts of the previous season my players were exhausted and I was constantly getting advice to rest players. I knew that over a long season I would need to call on quality so I spent hours scouting players. I was delighted with the business I completed.
I signed to permanent contracts:
Ryan Bennett (£500K) – CB
Marko Maric (free) – GK
Danny Fox (free) – CB
Adam Bogdan (free) – GK
Tommie Hoban (free) – CB, LB, DM
Mohamed Diame (free) DM, CM
James Wilson (free) AM R/L
Miles Jedinak (free) DM/CM
Bassala Sambou (free) ST
Ryan Tunnicliffe (free) CM
Declan Rudd (£200K) – GK
Adam Forshaw (£4.6M) – CM
In January I also signed:
Julian von Moos (£7.5M) – ST
In addition to the permanent signings I hammered the loan market. In pre-season I signed the following players on season long loans:
I also extended the loans of:
It is important to note that in the Championship your match day squad can only contain five loan players. I had to juggle these players in and out of my squad. Onomah, as a left-sided inside-forward is a mega star in the Championship.
Onomah's stats in his two seasons at The Owls.
My second season started out brilliantly. For the first sixteen league games I was unbeaten. Then, I lost to Blackburn. Two games later I lost to Reading. I then won six of my next seven league games.
I groaned when the FA Cup 4th round draw took place. I had to travel to Manchester City. What was worse, three of my star loan players were from Man City; Foden, Harrison and Diaz. I took a 5-2 defeat with the only silver lining being the debut of my new 18 year old Swiss striker from Dortmund; von Moos, who bagged a brace.
As the month of April started I was on level pegging with Stoke in the Championship. Stoke were top on goal difference but I was confident I could overtake them. I had done the double over The Potters beating them 1-0 home and away. On April 4th I beat Blackburn at home 2-0. Then I travelled to Barnsley and this is where it started to go wrong. In quick succession my first choice full-backs were both injured in training for a month. I also had a few midfielders struggling for fitness and a couple of other defenders with little injuries.
I put out a tired team against Barnsley and dominated the first half. Somehow I got my team talk wrong and the entire team “switched off”. I managed to claw it back a little with individual team talks, but the second half played out to a 0-0.
Have a look at my form for the rest of the season:
I had two players sent off early on against Sheffield United and was happy to get a 0-0 playing much of the game with nine players. When I played Leeds my team was a mess with only five substitutes being named (filled out from my under 23s). I took a pasting.
Going into the Southampton match, I was somehow still three points clear of West Brom who in 3rd place. I missed a penalty early on and then fell behind. Late in the game I salvaged a draw and because West Brom lost, it was enough to secure promotion but by this time Stoke were five points clear. Although I achieved promotion and kept a clean sheet in half my league matches, it still felt like a disappointment.
The season was a frustrating one at times and in the pre-season I nearly left to join Newcastle. I only stayed at Wednesday when the board offered me more funds to stay as Manager. Had this not happened, I would not have been able to sign anyone. All of that transfer business happened because I threatened to take the Newcastle job.
When I butted heads with the board again partway through the season, I was offered the Dortmund job, the Sevilla job and the jobs at Newcastle (again) and Southampton. I was also offered an interview with Benfica. I used the Dortmund and Sevilla jobs to try and leverage more money from the board for transfers but after listening to my demands the Chairman never got back to me.
As I was getting ready to save the game last night I was suddenly linked with the vacant Barcelona job. I was given an interview but was unsuccessful.
For now I am going to see how I fare with The Owls in the Premier League. I am just starting the pre-season for the 2020/21 season. I have been given £38M to spend and I have already completed the transfer of Isaac Hayden for a little under £5M. I am waiting to complete the transfer of Danny Ings for £14M and Michael Hector on a free.
I will probably post another blog on this save once I finish the next season.
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Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.