RBL 2031/32 – Part 1 of 2 – A Season To Remember

It’s the morning after the night before. I woke up today with a renewed vigour, like the veil had been lifted on my life and all was now clear before me.

I’d imagine that the majority of you reading this will by now have heard the news of what happened on that fateful night the 29th May 2032 at the San Siro. When two juggernauts collide there can only ever be one winner and lo’, how many times I have fallen at that final hurdle to be pummeled by those I despise and humiliated by condescending bastards. Yet no longer…

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The Diego Diaries: Chapter 1 – Intro & The Ill-Fated Sevilla Diaries

The Premise

For a while now, I’ve been fascinated by Monchi. The Sevilla Director of Football is one of football’s best dealers – buying some of the world’s best talents for low prices and selling them for a high profit. Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Sergio Ramos are just a few of the stars who have passed through Sevilla, earning the club a major profit.

It’s a model that is often used in the stock market – buy low, sell high, but Monchi has applied it to football.

This summer, he is off to Roma, where it will be interesting to see how he will transfer his methods.

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FM17: Stuttgart – 2018/19 Season Review

As promised, I’ve now written a follow up blog. Funny how a new game coupled with enjoyment can spur someone on to put words on a page. In this post I’ll bring you up to speed with my progress (which is tough, believe me – playing at some rate of knots right now) and I’ll also give you a run down on the youth prospects at the club that I’m excited about, so much so that a little wee came out.


2018/19 – Pre-Season Transfer Shenanigans

Now, I found this transfer window really, really frustrating. Usually I find pre-season one of the most enjoyable things about FM; the wheeling and dealing, transfer rumours, fighting to keep hold of your best players, scouring the world for unearthed gems and inevitably scrambling around to replace a player whose just stabbed you in the back now that a bigger club is sniffing around. It’s all a lot of fun…usually.

From finishing 4th in the previous season we were hopefully looking at qualifying into the Champions League group stages. With this in mind my squad needed more strength and depth. I had a few clubs sniffing around one or two of my players and alas I had to give in to AS Monaco when they faxed over a £28.5m bid for Mihailo Ristic, a £27m profit after one season. I was pretty gutted to lose him as he was fantastic on the left as my defensive winger, however his head had been turned by the luxury of life in Monaco and so I sanctioned the deal knowing full well I could use all those reddies for some sound reinvestment.


I had identified that the two key areas I needed to invest in were at GK and at ML now that Ristic was gone. I made the mistake of accepting the deal for Ristic without lining up a suitable successor – I have a chap called Bogosavac signed from Partizan the previous season who was ‘competent’ at best – but not on the same level as Ristic. I quickly found that there was no on his level to perform as I wanted, I considered retraining players with similar attributes but who weren’t natural left midfielders, wing backs, full backs, the lot – no bloody club bore any fruit and my scouts were so useless I banished them to scout in Greenland and cursing them the whole way there – it won’t surprise you that they failed to find a better keeper than Langerak too.

In the meantime I set about reinvesting some of that Ristic cash on players that I had found through my worldly travels. In came Rodrigo Bentancur of whom I am a long-term admirer (not in that way). He had many a great day with me at Stoke in FM16 so this was a no brainer at such a relatively small fee. He would come in and provide great competition for my two AM roles and even provide cover at MR & MC. Long term I want him to nail down the AP-S role at AMCR.

Zdenek Vesely & Daniel Horvath are two kids to watch out for, more on them soon.

Davinson Sanchez came in to replace my ageing captain Toni Sunjic at the heart of the defence & Cristian Pavon to make the SS role his own as alarm bells rang around Maxim’s recent performances. Luis Olivera from River was not a signing I necessarily wanted to make but I felt he was the best of a bad bunch of scouting reports to provide backup to the ML role.

Grobler was a dirt cheap, guaranteed profit making DC from South Africa…and finally Jose Laertes joined in January – 6 months too late for the keeper I wanted but alas I only found him at the end of November after a quick trip to Brazil for the World Beach Volleyball Championships. Some compromising photos and a bribe or two later and he was booked on the first flight out of Brazil in January. A much needed long-term upgrade in goal. More on him in my Youth Players blog post which I think we can all see, won’t be happening in this already 700 word post.

August – January


The season kicked off with as a bit of a mixed bag. I was pretty gutted to be drawn against a strong Monaco side in the Champions League qualifier and they ultimately proved too strong for me over two legs. It was a bit of a kick in the teeth but at least we could fall back on the Europa League on a bloody Thursday night.

A last minute screamer by Assombalonga salvaged a point away at Bayern to kick off the season, other notable wins included a 2-1 away win v Schalke & 4-3 home win v Dortmund. Our EL results were very positive and we comfortably topped our group. I particularly enjoyed our 4-0 drubbing of Lyon in France.

January – May


Before April came we were keeping pace with Leverkusen in 2nd place – especially after a cracking 2-1 win against them away from home which sparked a run of 4 wins in 5 games. However 3 defeats on the bounce before May saw us drop down to 6th albeit in very close proximity to the 3 teams above us – our title challenge had withered yet I knew we were some way from competing on that front.

An incredibly poor 3-0 away loss at the Mestalla meant we left ourselves with far too much to do in the return leg and a 2-0 victory was not enough to turn our fortunes. We wrapped up the league in a more positive fashion bagging 3 wins in our last 4 games to lift us into 4th place at the expense of Schalke who failed to win their final game. I was still pleased with our table finish knowing that we had another shot at Champions League football next season…

…except we don’t do we? FFS the bloody co-efficient. Though going on the results in Europe of the past few seasons – I can’t really see how this is possible, but there you have it. Italy currently have the 4th Champions League spot – the bastardo’s!

It was another enjoyable season where we performed slightly above expectations again, the aim has to be to kick on and nail down a Champions League spot next season and in the meantime – go as far as we can in the Europa League next season.

Watch out for my next update on the wonderkids of Stuttgart as well as summer of transfer madness.

FM17: Stuttgart – The Story So Far

So this wasn’t supposed to happen so soon was it? I mean, usually I flounder around hopefully for AT LEAST a few months on a new Football Manager game, jumping from tactic to tactic, team to team & rage quit to counselling. But here I am, the game has literally only been out a matter of hours and my first blog post is here, cherish this moment folk, and pray this lasts for a while to come.

I’ve sunk my teeth quite far into FM17 by my now-restrictive-time-standards. Real life tries to get in the way but I’ve found myself staying up ridiculously late & playing each minute I spend on bloody trains, but I digress – let’s focus on FM.


So why Stuttgart? I’ve always enjoyed saves in Germany and the fact that they really should be a Bundesliga side meant my chances of early success were somewhat higher than most. Plus during my fantastic, all-conquering Stoke save in FM16 Stuttgart notoriously churned out some fantastic regens – something I was hoping would continue into FM17.

Here I’ll sum up my progress so far, I’m 2 seasons in so I’m not going to bloody remember every detail – so I’ll stick to the juicy bits. Melons.

Season 1 – 2016/17

Well this was a journey into the unknown, tactically that is. I don’t really know why but looking at the squad at first glance I thought ‘yup, 3-5-2 definitely, or 5-3-2, 2-3-5? No, definitely 5-3-2. Wins followed losses followed wins followed losses. Consistency was hard to come by & I was frustrated time and again by our inefficiency going forwards. Something had to change as we then slipped to 14th and murmurs of impending doom were sounding around the Mercedez-Benz Arena.

In a moment of lucidity the cogs began to whirl and the puzzle pieces began to come together. Over Christmas 2016, when in real life I would no doubt be rather inebriated, I decided to scrap all instructions, drop back to 1 striker in Daniel Ginczek (returning from a long term injury) & giving some of my best young players a chance. What was born from the fruit of my loins brain was a 3-4-2-1 as seen below:


Stuttgart clicked as we rocketed up the table, culminating in winning promotion and the title with a few games to spare, including a 5-0 drubbing of 2nd placed Kaiserslauten to notch up the trophy. This was in no doubt down to some crafty transfer business as well in a busy January 2017:


jan17 inOuts

jan17 out

My better performers/players were inappropriately touched up (steady now) by those clubs with more money than me. They all moaned as initial bids were knocked back but I saw it as an exciting challenge to replace some regular and positive performers. All those sold were aged 25+ years with Grosskreutz & Gentner both 30 – I couldn’t turn down some good money for them – even if Gentner were my star man at that point. It gave us some good money to reinvest.

In came Onguene to sure up my backline, Ristic to make the defensive winger role his own on the left hand side, Havertz on a compensation fee from Leverkusen who can play anywhere across the MC/AM lines & Assombalonga so replace Ginczek and be my main man up top.

Ristic was brilliant, Assombalonga even better as he notched 15 goals in 12 games from January including two hattricks. Britt was the shit.

Season 2 – 2017/18

Confidence was high in the Wilson household. The 3-4-2-1 was producing some stunning passing football in central areas. My friends had a new-found respect for my managerial skills & even my wife came up with the chant ‘Britt, Britt, he’s the shit’. She didn’t really, but I like to think that if she ever showed an ounce of interest in my managerial career, that’s the sort of crap she’d come out with. There’s nothing quite like enjoying an FM save is there ey?

The only major departure in the summer of 69 2017 was Emiliano Insua to Monaco for £6.75m – for an ageing, whining, ex-Liverpool player I was all too happy to see the back of the Argentinian bastard. Besides, Ristic was my man at ML & that was that.


ins Jul17

Gajic came in to provide sufficient backup and a rotation option with Jean Zimmer who was pretty darn good at MR. Bogosavac was to sit on the bench and learn every fucking detail possible from Ristic. Manojlovic was a cheap backup GK whose progression has been disappointing. Diaz provided backup to Britt the Shit, as did Guillaume (who again, hasn’t had a sniff nor progressed as expected). M’Vila was a cracking free signing to walk into the CM-D role and Upamecano was a must buy when his lovely agent told me he might be available – I promptly threw a bunch of my resources at the 18yr old wunderkin from Salzburg and he’s been a stalwart in the Stuttgart defence ever since.

So how did we do? I have to say this was one of my most enjoyable seasons in recent FMs to date, we over-performed on a consistent basis and, well, just have a look at some of these images.

results to Jan18

Some cracking results including a phenomenal thrashing of Schalke at home (yes, I don’t have the name fixes yet please don’t hate me too much).

results to Jul18

A great 2nd half to the season though we stuttered through April, however, the 1-0 win v Bayern & 4-0 drubbing of Dortmund were orgasmic.

A season to be very, very happy with. The board expected mid-table as a minimum required (one I was genuinely worried about at the beginning of the season) and we sat in 3rd place pretty much all season, once flirting with 2nd & even spent a few hours at the top of the table. Our late season stutters however meant that the defeat to Koln on the last day of the season dropped us down to finish in 4th. Still a brilliant achievement and ensures we have a chance to qualify for the Champions League next season – which is bloody awesome.

Of course, the success isn’t all down to me, I suppose. We had some great performances throughout especially from some of our young talent – here’s a summation below:

Upamecano Jul18

Dayot has been consistently great for us. At 19 he’s got many a season ahead of him – though I am worried I won’t be able to hold onto him. Averaged 7.10 this season.

Anto Grgic Jul18

Grgic has been fantastic in his role as DLP-S at MC-L; though these down arrows concern my slightly (I’m hoping he’s just boozing up on his summer holidays). He dictates the play and most of our goals involve him at some stage. Averaged 7.05 this season.

Havertz Jul18

Largely a rotation option, Havertz was a steal to effectively sign on a free. I’ve used him at DLP-S, EG & SS and if I’m honest I prefer him from the SS role and his better performances were from there – he even bagged a few playing up top when called upon.

Ozcan Jul18

Ozcan was fantastic in his first season with us and showed glimpses in his 2nd, I’d love more consistency from him and to play more of a pivotal role – maybe I should ask him to ‘dictate the tempo’ from his EG role, or play killer balls often…it’s amazing what you think of when writing up crap like this. 12 goals, 3 assists in 33 games this season, should only get better too.

Britt Jul 18

Ok, ok I know he’s not a ‘youngster’ but I couldn’t leave without telling you more about this guy. 45 games for Stuttgart in total, 44 goals and 14 assists, averaging 7.53 this season. He topped the scoring charts with 29 in 32, won numerous awards and was the most potent scorer in Europe. In other words, Britt is the Shit.


So this brings you up to speed, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have so far. This will be the first of many posts and as a teaser I’ve just had permission to pay money and play with a couple of cracking 16 year olds next season. If you won’t come back for the fallout from that sentence then well I don’t see George writing much for the site these days.

Roll on Champions League qualification!


The Stoke Chronicles: Tactical Analysis (Part 1)

I’m heading into unprecedented ground here folks. I can’t remember ever churning out articles so regularly as this, it’s a good thing, a bloody good thing. I’m enjoying it and hopefully you are too – long may this continue.

As promised I wanted to provide a bit of in-match tactical analysis to back up my last article where I broke down my team, tactic and instructions. So prepare yourself for death by screenshot.

Here I’ve looked at 2 matches from the 2021/22 season, one of the seasons with a Premier League & Champions League victory. I wanted to analyse matches before this season – but only realised when writing this article that I couldn’t go back further than 4 seasons! Slightly gutting, but a lesson learned. You’ll go on to see that I’ve analysed goals from these 2 games – as this is the easiest thing to do. In future posts I will focus on defence and weaknesses to try and give a really rounded look on this Stoke team.

Champions League Final: Stoke 3-1 Chelsea

I’ve picked this game because it was lovely to revisit, always savor a win over Chelsea, especially with Mourinho still there. We won the game comfortably in the end, 2 goals from set pieces and the first goal I’ve analysed below.

I enjoy scoring this type of goal and it’s one that’s pretty commonly scored in this Stoke side. It’s fairly simple and direct and takes full advantage of the demonic pace in our wide players. Rene-Adelaide’s starting position between the lines is exactly what we want for him to either turn and run at the defence or to have time to pick a pass – which he does very well.

Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg – Stoke 4-0 Dortmund

Now for a lot more insight. Here I’m analysing all 4 goals and will hopefully give you a good idea of how my tactic and instructions contribute to the build-up and more importantly, the goals we score. Buckle up and get ready for a thrilling ride.

Stoke 1-0 Dortmund (Gabigol 4′)

Another deadly counter-attacking goal. Against a 4-3-3 we are lethal on the break as more often that not, the AMR/AML are caught high up the pitch and leave acres of space down the flanks as the DR/DL tuck inside. I particularly enjoy how Jevdjovic is within the penalty area when crossing and not nearer the corner flag, meaning we’ve a much higher % chance of finding the man in the middle and ultimately, scoring.

Stoke 2-0 Dortmund (Cresswell 29′)

This is a great example of how the instruction to ask my full backs to sit narrow can have a positive affect in attack. Notice how we have 5 players in their penalty box and a further 3 supporting. If an attack breaks down we may be a little exposed, so it’s a good job we have a good habit of scoring.

Stoke 3-0 Dortmund (Gabigol 51′)

A lovely goal and an example of how our players can find space both through the initial set up positionally and from their own ability. The triangle between Romero, Rene-Adelaide & Gabigol works very well again.

Stoke 4-0 Dortmund (Gabigol 79′ – hat-trick)

A fairly straight forward goal but one that comes about through a number of factors. Cresswell starting wide means Sane tucks in, allowing him to break into the box when he skins his man, making the ball to Gabigol a simple pass instead of a low % cross.

I hope this gives you all a bit of an insight into how the tactic works in practice. There’s a lot more to show – but only so much I can do in one post. All feedback appreciated as ever. My next blog will profile a few key players in our current squad, until then!

The Stoke Chronicles – Tactics – The 4-4-1-1

So I now sit here in the summer of 2024, in my first installment I caught you all up on the brief history of my time at Stoke. Since then the 2023/24 season has ended and Stoke have gone on to retain their Premier League title for the 5th consecutive season (gutted there was no Steam achievement) & also stormed back to win the Champions League after a 4-3 win over Arsenal (who I also pipped to the title by 3 points). All in all, the Stoke train keeps on rolling.

A big reason for our success is our 4-4-1-1 system that I’ll delve into in this piece. I’ll firstly say a big thanks to Jonathan Aspey (@JLAspey) as it was after his success at Newcastle with his 4-4-1-1 that formed the foundations of Stoke’s success.

So let’s look at the basic structure of the system, instructions & then plenty of in-game analysis will follow over the coming weeks.


A pretty straight forward set-up. The idea behind my system is to dominate the flanks whilst having plenty of support in the box to aim at. Coupled with my instructions I want to be incredible on the counter attack, press high, have good and meaningful possession (not possession for possessions sake) and most importantly – clinical. Let’s summarise how I expect each role to play out:-

– Goalkeeper – Set to the default setting – all I’ve asked is for him to distribute to our full backs; this way I hope to utilise the wings as early as possible whilst also opening up vertical passing alleys to the central midfielders.
– Full Backs – Fewer Risky Passes & Sit Narrower, the passes instructions speaks for itself, I don’t want him to be wasteful in possession or look to play too long & direct. Sitting narrower may seem a little ambiguous but it’s effective; in defence he will not so easily allow a wide man to cut inside and shoot or play a through ball, in attack he dovetails well with the W/WM – often starting in a different, more narrow channel than the winger allowing him to underlap, provide a passing option AND overlap where the winger is either forced or dribbles inside.
– Central Defenders – no frills, no spills, be solid defenders, keep it simple, break up attacks, mark the forwards etc…in practice if I can also have centre backs who are confident on the ball and can distribute well – then fantastic. Otherwise, just play it simple to those who can do it better.
– Right Midfielder – a lot of people will ask why this chap isn’t set to a winger, the main man I use there (Jevdjovic) is a perfect winger, not necessarily a wide midfielder. The answer is, mostly, balance. I find his starting/defensive positions are far better, he will occasionally sit narrow allowing the wing back to support, however I also want him to be a winger so I also require him to Shoot Less Often (not unnecessary shots from stupid angles, ideally!) , Dribble More, Roam From Position & Cross From Byline – and boy, there aren’t many better than Jevdjovic at crossing from the byline.
– CM-D – the midfield needs balance and can’t be too gung-ho – this chap is there to shore things up in transition but also be a key cog in our build-up play, always offering a passing outlet when possession needs recycling from side-to-side, something we do extremely well.
– BBM-S – arguably the most important player in the team. He needs to support both in attack and defence, so just has to be a fantastic all round player. Lucas Romero made this position his own.
– Left Wing – other than also asking him to Shoot Less Often (wide men do it far too much), all I want this player to do is give the opposition full back absolute hell. Raid that wing, get the ball in the box and also support attacks from the opposite wing.
– Trequartista (AMCR) – this position is lob-sided to the right to allow the BBM to break into free space ahead of him and also allow the striker to drop off without the AM-strata becoming congested. I want this player to always provide a passing option between the lines, look to play in the striker and also be someone who can score plenty of goals himself when presented with the opportunity.
– Striker – get me goals, goals, goals. Get on the end of all those crosses and be the one to take all the glory. I want this player to be quick, able to beat a man & most importantly, clinical. He’s also the first line of defence and a high work rate to close down the defence and block passing channels, forcing them to play long is key in allowing us to strangle possession.


As you can see, setting player roles shouldn’t just be something you do idly, each should have their place within the tactic as a whole – just like the instructions above.

– Mentality – Control – I want to be concise in possession and also look to dominate weaker teams, we’ll take slightly more risks and the full backs will often look to overlap. I know that we will be susceptible to counter attacks – but the goal is for my attacks not to break down and result in a goal 🙂
Team Shape – Very Fluid – this will allow my players to break out of a strict 4-4-1-1 setup to press the ball, close down channels whilst also roaming from their position to provide passing angles & allow for high creativity in our passing. It also ensures all of my team contribute to defending. Winning the ball back as quickly as we can is important to me.
– Shorter Passing – don’t hoof it long boys, be visionary, make good decisions and build the attack concisely
– Pass Into Space – I like to think that this instruction coupled with my other ones means that we’ll only do this when the pass into space is our best option and not just an aimless hoof into space.
– Play Out of Defence – again, shorter passing is encouraged, I don’t (usually) use a target man so long balls aren’t going to be successful
– Exploit the Flanks – we want to utilise our wide men and whip those crosses in, over and over again
– Much Higher Defensive Line – encouraging our high press and forcing more of the play into the oppositions half of the pitch
– Close Down Much More – press players, close down channels, win the ball back as soon as possible
– Prevent Short GK Distribution – another instruction that encourages the opposition to play long and preventing build-up play. I’d be much more happier with their GK lumping it onto the heads of my defenders then moving my players out of position with short build-up play

Opposition Instructions

Often overlooked but bloody important. As if telling my team to press & close down more wasn’t enough – I’m reminding them again. I want my defenders not to let their attackers out of their sight. I always want to close down their ball players and if I can force their full backs and wide midfielders inside then I can congest the pitch and hopefully turnover possession. I will also look at the opposition and ensure that strikers are shown onto their weaker foot. With players in the opposition AMC strata I will look at their system and see if they play wingers or inside fowards, it’s important to discover this as you may want to force inside fowards wide & wingers inside – and this can change from player to play, tactic to tactic, team to team.

I hope you’re still with me and have found the above insight interesting – and I know what you’re thinking – you want to see how this all works in practice. Well, conscious of my word count and the fact only half of you may have read this far, never fear – that’s coming next. Some key match analysis will follow next week where we’ll see how the instructions and player roles come to life on the pitch and all contribute to our success.

Until then!


The Stoke Chronicles: A Brief Story So Far

As many of you (hopefully) reading this you’ll know that for a fair while now I have been progressing extremely well with a Stoke save on Football Manager 2016. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s now definitely one of the best and most enjoyable saves I had in any version of the game.

I’ve been playing a lot, we’re into the 2022/23 season which, for me, is some damn good commitment to a save. I’m usually hopefully jumping from one to another, I get itchy feet – but I’ve found my slippers at the Britannia Stadium.

With all this in mind I’ve decided it’s about time I share my Stoke saga with anyone who will listen. In a series of blog posts I hope to give you an insight into the brave new world in the city of Stoke, the club, the players, my tactics, results and everything in between. Hopefully you’ll then all see a bit more into my FM mind and who knows, maybe even come to like Stoke a bit more than you do now. Forgive me for the lack of detail, but I will be revisiting past players & matches for you in future posts 🙂

So without further ado, let’s crack on.

The Story So Far

I sit here today on February 25th 2023 and things are looking quite rosy, but it wasn’t always this way you know. I’ve worked bloody hard to get where I am today, you don’t get paid £40k for nothing…come to think of it I really should be getting paid more – but I digress.


So this is me. A not too shabby looking manager wouldn’t you say? Other than my apparent complete disregard for domestic players (which is kind of true), 4 personal trophies but more importantly, 16 trophies with Stoke over the last 7 seasons.


Since 2020 there really has been no better team in Europe that Stoke – winning the Premier League and Champions League for 3 seasons running and 4 times overall since 2018. It’s been such an enjoyable trophy haul with some cracking matches and hopefully I can give you an insight into the reasons for my success both tactically and individually.


It wasn’t all plain sailing though…we finished 12th in our first season on 50 points, OK it wasn’t plain sailing for the first season but we’ve achieved over the odds pretty much from there on in. As much as we struggled in the first season I was able to make a number of transfers that would help change the face of Stoke;

– Felipe Gutierrez (FC Twente) £3.9m
– Gabriel Barbosa (Santos) £9.5m
– Andrija Zivkovic (Partizan) £950k
– Leroy Sane (Schalke) £13.75m
– Robin Knoche (Wolfsburg) £1.7m
– Lucas Romero (Velez) £950k

The first 3 were bought in the summer, the latter 3 in January, alas they weren’t enough to make an instant impact, but all were big improvements and went on to have fantastic careers with us. As we moved into…


…we made these transfer;

– Geronimo Rulli (Sociedad) Free
– Emanuel Mammana (River) £7.5m
– Simone Zaza (Juventus) £15m
– Hirving Lozano (Pachuca) £12.5m
– Aaron Cresswell (West Ham) £10m
– Mayke (Cruziero) £7.5m
– Matias Kranevitter (Valencia) £24.5m
– Andrija Balic (Hajduk) £7.75m
– Matthew Targett (Southampton) £5m

These incomings were aided by the sale of Shaqiri to Utd for £40m, someone who I was reluctant to let go at the time, but he moaned, he wanted to leave and I rarely keep someone against their will. All of the transfers above went on to make a huge difference, with 4 of them still at the club with me now 7 years on.

Our second season is where we really started to assert ourselves as a top Premier League side, finishing 3rd (joint 2nd) with a record high 78 points, 10 off eventual runaway winners Arsenal.

In my next post I will delve deeply into my current tactic – but even in my second season, despite my success, I still wasn’t happy at the time with the system, we drew too many games (12) and I couldn’t get the two central midfielders to harmonise in a symmetrical 4-4-1-1. With the help of loanees Serge Gnabry & Rodrigo De Paul we ensured Champions League qualification outright. Rulli, Knoche, Juan Jesus & Barbosa were fantastic but it was Leroy Sané who stood head and shoulders above the rest averaging 7.90 and clocking 13 goals & 12 assists in 29 games. He quickly became a fan favourite and also won a special place in my heart as he tore right backs to pieces.


The Champions League was coming to the Britannia Stadium, would Lionel Messi be able to do it on a cold night in Stoke? Maybe we were going to find out.

A frustrating Hirving Lozano was sold to Watford for £35m, in truth he needs to play as an IF from the right hand side but I was stubborn and wanted a Winger in that role at MR – he wasn’t going to dislodge Sané in the ML position, he did quite well at MR but his incessant need to cut inside was a detriment to our play at times.
Out went Juan Jesus too, for a cracking £33.5m to Wolfsburg, he had a fantastic season with me but I had 2 left footed defenders at DC and he wasn’t getting any younger – I just couldn’t turn that sort of money down. It also allowed me to do the following business:

– Alex Teixeira (Shakhtar) £17.5m
– Rodrigo Bentancur (Boca) £7.25m
– Lucas Moura (PSG) £10m
– Filip Lesniak (Legia) £5.75m  –  Regen
– Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) £25.5m

Teixeira & Firmino were still fantastic players, unhappy at their clubs and available at good prices, with De Paul heading back to Valencia they would rotate in the AMC position. Moura would replace Lozano at MR, Lesniak was a cracking looking young DC & Bentancur is a potential world class midfielder able to play anywhere across midfield.

This season turned out to be quite special.

17-18 CL run

Initially I was happy to progress through such a group, but nothing could prepare me for the run we then went on to lift the trophy at our first attempt, the two wins against Barcelona were just…amazing, and I’ll be sure to analyse these games for you in the coming weeks. The final was then so special; 1-0 down, 2-1 down, 3-2 down and then a last minute winner from Teixeira sealed an incredible win.

It was a run that, at the time, kept me going with the save, our league form was incredibly inconsistent and we struggled with the hectic schedule and ended up finishing 6th – but they didn’t bloody matter did it?! Champions League secured for a second season and what a way to do it. It was at the back end of this season that I finally settled on my current lob-sided 4-4-1-1 system. This was also the season I discovered how good Jeff Rene-Adelaide was after a cracking loan spell with me averaging 7.50.


How could Stoke improve after winning the Champions League? Well I still had the desire to win the Premier League and now I’d gotten to grips with my 4-4-1-1 I was far more optimistic of a stronger domestic campaign. It was another busy summer…


18-19 Ins

Outs18-19 Out

Kranevitter never quite performed as I’d hoped so when PSG came in with a big fat offer, I lined up Kimmich and cashed in. Moura & Zaza weren’t happy with their lack of football so were sold. Chambers was an annoying one, I really didn’t want to sell but he moaned so bloody much. His story with Stoke wasn’t over though. Kyle Walker came in for a complete steal given what he went on to achieve with us, and this was the season we welcome Milorad Jevdjovic to the club. You’ll hear a lot more on him. A lot more.

But how did we do in competition this season? Frustrating that’s how. We bowed out of the Champions League at the hands of Bayern in the Quarter finals 4-1 on aggregate and came runner-up to (bloody) Chelsea in the league, finishing on 77 points and 6 behind Chelsea. Again draws were our downfall as we drew 11 games, there were small improvements to be made and I was keen to find them, the title would be ours. Our team was starting to click with my wide men performing fantastically, Gabriel Barbosa getting 41 goals in 48 and Lucas Romero was becoming the ultimate box-to-box midfielder.

2019/20 – 2021/22

Three seasons, three titles, pipping Chelsea to the post on all three occasions made them all the more sweeter. 86 points, 91 points & 92 points and we had converted the frustrating draws into wins and the steady process of buying numerous wonderkids and regens was reaping dividends alongside the 4-4-1-1.

It didn’t end there, each of these 3 seasons also saw 3 Champions League titles added to the bag, making it 4 in the last 5 seasons. We have established ourselves as the best team in Europe through extreme pace down the widths, incessant pressing and some fantastic, intricate build-up.

2019 saw the birth of a star and a key cog in the Stoke machine – Milorad Jevdjovic. After a fruitful loan spell in his first season with me at Sporting Lisbon as an 18 year old – he progressed very quickly and I could do nothing other than start him the following season. Let’s just say his article will be the longest and the most enjoyable to watch and read.

Thanks for sticking with me here, I hope this quickly summarises how I’ve got to where I am today, please rest assured I will be jumping back to plenty of the key moments throughout this save and going into a lot more detail on the tactic, matches and the players.

Until next time where I’ll be drilling down into the successful 4-4-1-1.


The Versus Series – Ed’s Stoke take on Chris’ (FM_Samo) Morton

FM Versus Competition – Ed v Chris

Stoke vs Morton

Welcome to a brand new feature some of us within the FM blogging world are looking to bring to you over the coming weeks and months where we pit ourselves, our teams, tactics & pride against each other in a one off, winner-takes-all-the-bragging-rights match.

However this competition is different in that it’s not the result that matters the most…ok it still matters – but what we’re looking to mainly provide is a bit of an insight into our thought process as FM managers as well as a rundown on our team, tactic and in-match analysis when standing on the touchline with each other. So without further ado, let’s stop Ed from waffling on. When you’re done reading this make sure you check out Chris’ take on this game here.

So to kick things off I’m up against Chris Samson (FM_Samo) and his overachieving Morton side. To set the scene my Stoke side have, for the most part, been laying to waste most of the PL & Europe for a few seasons now, so the match-up is slightly skewed, however as mentioned before, it’s more about the journey than the destination (big hint: I won the match, go Stoke!).

So here’s how the teams looked before kick-off:

FMV - lineups

So as you can see I’m in my beloved, slightly lob-sided 4-4-1-1 formation & Chris has gone for a 4-1-2-2-1 / 4-3-3 formation. On seeing Chris’ formation before the kick-off I didn’t make any changes, I know that my team has fared fairly well against this system in the past with the only real threat coming on the counter attack if my full backs have bombed on too bloody far and we for some reason don’t put the ball in the back of the net. Yet I know that Chris had more to worry about that I did (that sounds awful but really no offense is meant Chris). Mind games ey?

And here’s my instructions:


Stoke’s key men:

Keyman - Jevdjovic

This is the main man right now. My best player and a bloody awesome regen. He dominates the right flank with his pace and power. I play him as a WM-A which may surprise some who would no doubt look at him and cry out that he should be a winger, but hopefully all will be revealed later. He also does a damn good job if getting on the end of left wing crosses from…

Keyman - Sane

This chap, my first love (not strictly true) and you’d be hard pushed to find two better wide players. Sane is the source of most of my assists because he’s bloody brilliant at whipping in them crosses. Most of them to…

Keyman - Barbosa

Gabriel Barbosa, Gabigol, Sexy Beast – he goes by many names & he’s nothing short of fantastic playing as an AF-A up top for Stoke. Morton, you have been warned.

Stoke 1-0 Morton (Barbosa – 9mins)

1st goal initial

So here we are in the build-up to our first goal, Chambers has played the ball into Lucas Romero. You can see how Morton are set up with quite a structured 4-3-3 and quite narrow sitting full backs and inside forwards. My 4-4-1-1 becomes a 4-4-2 here with both wide men sticking very wide and stretching the pitch. The three danger men are circled, all of which are available to Romero who has a plethora of passing options. The filled boxes also demonstrate just how much space Sane & Jevdjovic have should they receive the ball.

Romero decides to switch it out to the danger man; Jevdjovic (as we look to exploit the flanks).

1st goal 2nd

Jevdjovic takes one touch to control it and then his 2nd touch is shown above, lightning turn of pace and he’s beaten his man with ease with acres of space to run into. Romero (circled in white) who played the pass has already bombed past his man to provide support in the attack.

1st goal 3rd

Jevdjovic actually slowed up to allow the defence to get back at him, but he was just toying with them as he gets to the byline and whips in a beauty to the near post as Gabriel Barbosa heads in ahead of his marker. 1-0.

Stoke 1-1 Morton (Kyle Walker O.G – 38mins)

It wasn’t all plain sailing after this as Morton grabbed an unlikely equaliser after 38 minutes through a Kyle Walker own goal.

morton goal 1st

Their deep lying forward picked the ball up between the lines and plays it square to an advancing central midfield player in Kern, instantly I can see I’m in trouble as Walker goes to press the ball due to my instructions to close down like f*cking crazy. Jevdjovic is fantastic but he’s not completely enamoured with the idea of tracking the full back here and he has oh so much space to run into.

morton goal 2nd

Mings is let loose down the touchline and he fires a cross into the near post, as you can see Walker has done his best to get back into the box to defend but right now he’s not even looking at the ball…and doesn’t look at it once as it cannons off his knee from the edge of the 6 yard box and into the bottom corner past the despairing Rulli. You can argue I was slightly unlucky with the nature of the goal however I was caught out by clever overlapping by Mings and also a victim of my own philosophy to press the ball extremely meaning Walker was caught out.

Stoke 2-1 (Barbosa – 58mins)

3rd goal 1st

A rather fortuitous, if not well deserved lead came about from a throw-in deep in Morton’s half. Chris will no doubt be annoyed at his team’s desire not to clear the ball as it ultimately ricocheted into Barbosa’s path who lashes a volley into the far corner to give Stoke the lead.

Stoke 3-1 (Barbosa – 68mins Hat-trick)

4th goal

Not a lot to analyse with this goal either, after a lot of pressure by Stoke on the Morton goal Chris will again be extremely annoyed with the marking at this corner. A simple cross to the 6 yard box and Barbosa is unchallenged as he heads into the top corner to settle the tie and bag a hat-trick too.


As a side note I’ll be showing more of Stoke’s tactical shape and build-up play in a separate blog post in the near future (honestly), but this was a game where we were helped by Barbosa’s clinical finishing as well as some abject defending. We didn’t create a hell of a lot as the stats show:

summary stats

We had the lion’s share of possession though as you can see we don’t complete many more passes than the opposition; I’m ok with this as I play quite a high risk style of football with the aim of getting the balls quickly to the wide men and letting them attack their man or work the ball around the box till we find an opening. Only two clear cut chances were created and neither of them resulted in a goal funnily enough, with Angel Correa thwarted by the keeper from a corner and Barbosa somehow missing from point blank range after Jevdjovic had yet again skinned his man.

Barbosa picked up PoM however Jevdjovic was the one who really caused problems and indeed completed 12 dribbles in the match, his finishing was woeful given 3 reasonable chances in scoring positions but I’d much rather he look for a pass/cross than attempt to score (he is instructed to do so in his PIs).

As for Morton they rarely troubled us but I put that more down to individuals than anything else, my average player is worth £30m+ so there was always going to be a gulf in class. It has to be said that his deep defence on what I believe may be a counter tactic stifled much of my attacking play and indeed Leroy Sane has a very quiet game and was hooked at half time having only made 1 dribble and offering very little. We struggled to create and had a number of crosses intercepted.

Morton’s full backs were by far their biggest threat to my formation and it was interesting to see how when their striker comes deep, the two inside forwards would tuck in to create space for the full backs as they’d sometimes drag my full backs inside with them.

If I were to play against Chris or a similar system in the future I would definitely worry about how gung-ho my full backs are and may even suggest switching them to defend duties and to sit wider to counter the threat posed by the opposition full backs.

If he were to play me again all I can think of is that he hope Jevdjovic has a little niggle and fails to make the squad.

FM16 – Cukaricki & Me

FM16 has been an utter bastard to me. As other FM’s have been in the past, most notably FM14 & FM15 (are you noticing a trend?) but by Joe Allen I still love trying to get to grips with a fragment of success through gritted teeth and smashed mugs of tea.

For those of you who’ve followed my woeful start to the FM16(beta) you’ll have seen I had planned a long term save with Padova; a potential fairy-tale story where I manage the team where my Father worked for much of my teenage life and where I used to join in local kickabouts with kids and did I worry about the language barrier? No, football is a universal language we can all play to.

Alas the fairy-tale became a nightmare and I was sacked after 13 games after winning only 2 of them, a measly attempt in the home town of Alessandro Del Piero & those local kids now laugh at me as I cross the street – I quickly sought pastures new.

I’m useless at decision making (not ideal for a football manager), so took advantage of a suggestion from @DMendoza1969 and plumped with Cukaricki in the Serbian SuperLeague (sorry if this is wrong but blame FM’s licenses), off the back of a record high 3rd place finish last season the pressure was on to keep the good times rolling at a club with minimal resources and only a 4,000 seater stadium. Step in Ed Wilson.

Serbia recently won the U20 World Cup and have a bunch of great youth players smattered around the teams in the top division, Cukaricki was no different and I’d be a fool not to look to build the club around these players and the other youth prospects coming through. Yet with recent success comes added exposure and alas I have been a victim of this. Larger clubs have made bids, unsettled my players, made more bids and in most cases forced my hand in selling on players I’d have loved to keep, bloody football ey?

Never fear! I’m confident I can reinvest the incoming funds on even more young Serbian talent and hopefully give Cukaricki the success their 4000 die-head season-ticket holders desire.

The early start of season seems to take forever, I’m refused from tinkering with my staff so I don’t even make them a cup of coffee before training. They swear at me in Serbian I swear…I set my training up as I want these kids to be worked hard and reach their undoubted potential…though I am trusting my staff and hoping they are lying to me about their star ratings.

As far as tactics go it’s pretty obvious I’ve struggled massively here and it’s my biggest weakness. I’m always torn between rigidly finding a tactic suited to the personnel & their desired roles, and forcing my squad into a system I ‘like’. So I decided to try and something much different;

Cukaricki tactic

I’m still not sure what to make of this tactic – this isn’t what I started with but after watching matches and analysing a number of players this is what I have for now (5 games in to season + 4 Europa matches). I’m doing my best to observe how it plays and the key things I’m noticing so far are:
– Conceding too many shots
– Not creating enough key/CCC chances
– My better players aren’t excelling like I’d like them to

Now I’d genuinely love any input on how to improve this tactic, I do have some player instructions in place that I hope will help. I’ve only used this set up once and it harboured a 1-0 away win in a fairly even game so I’m hoping for progress. What I’m trying to do (with limited/varying success) is:

  • Get my best players bloody playing like they are
  • Overload the right flank
  • Limit the amount of shots I’m conceding
  • Win games
  • Don’t lose
  • Enjoy FM16

As I hinted it earlier it’s been fairly busy transfer-wise so far. I’m coming towards the end of the window and here’s business so far:

Cukaricki transfers aug 15

As you can see I’ve seemingly spent more than I’ve earned, yet I’ve some good future fee %, instalments and clauses on all sales and most of my incomings were in long term instalments and finances at the club are fine as things stand with a balance of £1.6m.

I’m particularly sore about losing Srnic & Mandic, I wanted to keep both and even offered to cycle them to training each day on my extended penny farthing but their heads were turned by contracts where they could afford a second-hand Ford Capri. I milked the fees as much as I could/dared and focussed on replacing them.

Mandic is replaced from within as I still have 2 or 3 players who can fill that role competently, again the replacements are young and full of vigour and verve and I’m disappointed an option to use such a phrase has yet to come up in a press conference.
I’m hoping to retrain Milosevic as a defensive winger to suit my current tactic – though he has great versatility across the left hand side should I look to tweak things in the future.

So how have I started? Agh, a bit hit and miss, some promising stuff followed but less promising stuff. Here’s my early season form:

Cukaricki early season form

A couple of good wins vs Linfield got my hopes up for qualification yet we were just about undone by superior opposition in Slovan Bratislava, hey ho – the fitness of my squad was suffering hugely from the regular games so early in the season so I don’t see it as a major loss other than the financial rewards.

Partizan are bastards and definitely better than us and that showed when they comfortably beat us 2-0 in the Super Cup. Other than that, 2 wins, 2 draws 1 loss and sitting in 6th isn’t the worst start to the season especially as I’ve been tweaking nipples the tactic very regularly in and after each game. Let’s hope I can settle on one soon and the team can settle down and win some more football matches for god’s sake.

Now as we head into our first game at home with a ‘settled’ tactic i.e. one that I’m playing 2 games running – let’s see the outcome;

4-1 Win

A great, comfortable, home win with some really promising play at times and some good signs that my team will look to utilise our right wing dominance.

4-1 Prozone KP

As you can see above we played 24 key passes this match and the majority coming from the right or from central area towards the right hand side. Our best player is Filip Stojkovic at WBR who clocked 3 assists this game as well as winning 6 tackles and making 7 interceptions. A scorchio performance.

I love ProZone, it’s bloody brilliant. A fantastic addition this year and I’m finding myself using it during and after each game, being able to do so has hopefully help my tweak things to the stage where I have a more settled team and tactic and one we can hopefully build on. We shall see, my current FM16 form would suggest it’ll be a bumpy road ahead but I promise I’ll try to enjoy it guys.

More for you soon.

FM15 Career Update: Olympique Lyonnais Season 14/15

Oh this has been a long time coming hasn’t it? I can only apologise for me constant promises at providing some worthwhile FM content for you to read, but never fear, it is here, I’ve not drunk beer so wipe those tear…s as I’m here to stay.

On a serious note George and I plan to provide regular content to our listeners from now on, that’s your commitment in writing right there. We’ve some great plans for the site and hope you’ll enjoy what’s to come. Right, to Lyon!

As we all know FM15 is drawing to the inevitable stage where it takes all of our motivation just to double click on its small red icon these days. FM16 is so near yet so far and so what to do to pass the time between now and the beta release? My answer came unexpectedly at the hands of an old friend; oh FM15, it took a long time but I finally found a save that I’ve really, really enjoyed. It was suggested I manage Lyon, this Olympiqued my interest and I’ve never looked back.

Olympique Lyonnais – Season 1 (note: I am using LFC Marshal’s latest db update)

Summer 2014
In – Ganso (Sao Paulo) – 7.5m, Mosquito (Free Agent) – Free, Oliver (Atletico) – Season long loan
Out – Sidy Kone (Havre Athletic Club) – £325k & 4 loans of players that really don’t matter

Ed Wilson takes the hot seat as the youngest manager in Ligue 1 to the vehement protest of die hard Lyon fans. Riots in the street, tear gas, petrol bombs marred my first press conference but I was steadfast and after a calm performance swatting aside questions about Mosquito & outlying my ambitious plans for the future, the fans were generally assuaged and my reign wasn’t the beginning, but it was a beginning.

I quite liked the look of Lyon’s squad, some great young players and a sound base to be working from with the obvious goal of toppling PSG as the best team in France albeit without the Qatar-i owners & endless pots of gold. To make the most of the players at my disposal I decided on a narrow 4-2-3-1 system with two DMs (DLP-S & BWM-D), three AMCs (SS, AP-S & AP-A) & Lacazette as the AF-A up top.

My start was generally positive which, as some of you will know, is key for me is sticking with a save being the fickle FM player that I am. A loss in the Champions Trophy on penalties to PSG was followed by 10 wins from the next 13 games in all competitions. A valiant 1-0 away loss at the Nou Camp was then followed by the highlight of the season; a 4-2 home win over a full strength Barcelona with Nabil Fekir starring in the SS role. This in turn sparked a run of 7 straight wins culminating is a fantastic 2-1 away win at those bastards PSG. January came, we were top of the league & things were looking Jordan Ferri good.

January 2015
In – Luciano Vietto (Atletico) – £8.5m, Alberto Masi (Ternana) – £2.9m, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco (Atletico) – £8m, Suso (AC Milan) – £1.6m
Out – Arnold Mvuemba (Norwich) – £2.5m, Bakary Kone (Rubin) – £2.6m, Alexandre Lacazette (Chelsea) – £23m (rising to £35m)

January was a busy time at Lyon, our recent good performances had not gone unnoticed & suitors with lining up for the in-from Lacazette. In truth he was grumbling about wanting to leave in November which, as I told him, is how to behave like an utter twatazette. So I had already lined up potential replacements; Vietto was brought in for a lovely low free & Lacazette flogged for some lovely money up front rising to £35m. He’d bagged 22 goals in 26 games so I did worry if Vietto did not hit the ground running that we’d lose momentum.

Little did I need to worry, Vietto bagged 8 in his first 7 with Carrasco starring in a supporting role at AMC, but it was not to last. Vietto bagged 4 away at Nantes who were understandably pissed at how he was running rings around them. Vietto was subsequently clotheslined and out for the rest of the season.

Step forward Claudio Beauvue; if I’m honest, I had no idea who this chap was, he sat on my bench and was solid when he came off it but I didn’t pay him much attention, yet he was thrust into the main strikers role and didn’t disappoint bagging 31 goals in 33 starts across the season and, alongside Fekir & Valbuena, hauled us to a title push that ultimately fell short.

1 win in 6 across the end of March/early April saw our struggle with PSG for Ligue 1 supremacy falter and eventually die a painful death, it was an admirable effort but we just couldn’t cope with the talent of PSG & even slipped a point behind OM to finish 3rd. We did finish the season on a high however by easing past Saint-Etienne in the French Cup Final 3-1 with goals from man-of-the-moment Beauvue, Gonalons & Valbuena.

Lyon Best XI Season 1

2014/15 Best XI – the positions are slightly out…

Overall a pretty solid first season, some great wins and performances all round with the unsung heroes being my two full backs (both on CWB-S) who galloped up and down their flanks like Mad Max on acid.

Summer 2015 will be time to build on our cup success and ensure we sustain that title challenge, though with a budget of just £11m I sense it will be a busy summer of ins and outs.

Season 2 review coming mighty soon.