A final 8 games of the league campaign over March and April to decide whether we fight in the Championship Group for a European spot or finish the season on a lull.
Just the one defeat in the final 8 games in what was a largely positive end to the season which even saw new winger Boetius score a hat trick for the side in what was a very impressive month for the Dutchman as he adapts well to his new surroundings.
There were also big wins over Lech and Legia who were in the title fight and it means we have a very interesting Championship group where everything is up for grabs.
Just 2 points off the top and realistically there are 5 teams fighting for the Title and the two Europa league spots up for grabs. With everyone playing else there could be massive twists and turns yet to come.
The League has really stepped up this season as is evident by the points total. We are 5 points better off than this time last season yet find ourselves in 4th. In fact we are only 7 points off the total points total that won us the league last year, which to me only highlights how weird my debut season was.
Can we do it again and take an unlikely title? Only time will tell....
It is going to the last day of the season again as we go away to Lech in a match to decide the title. A draw should be enough due to our superior goal difference so for once i am hoping to draw for the 15th time this season.
We absolutely fucked the final game against Lech losing 3-0 having gone down to 10 men. A killer of a blow but we did secure 2nd meaning we have Europa League football to look forward to next season. To be fair, it wouldn't be fun if we just won the league again.
Still even though we have just the Supercup to show for the season, it has been a good year. We picked up 7 more points in the league than last season and finished with the least defeats. A decent Europa League run that saw us get to the knockout's with some great performances against Lazio and Zenit showing we can compete if we want to. All in all a good season and if anything it shows that our title win in the 1st season was similar to Leicester's a few years back. The big teams had a rare flounder and we capitalised but we are going to need to be stronger if we want to win it next season.
We had 3 players in the League's team of the year with another making the bench. It is a decent showing and Alexander Hack was unlucky not to be voted the leagues best player as we was superb last season. A great signing for us and i loved the fact he was able to play out from the back. Branimir Hrgota was also the league's top scorer in his first season with 17 goals (23 in all competitions) and it was enough to get him into Sweden's Euro2020 squad as well.
Well it is time to rebuild. The board have allocated £4.5m in transfer money and an extra £27k per week for wages and with that we can probably get around 3-4 players to bolster. With Lookman and Grandsir on loan, i will have to either look at bringing one of them back and/or add to my wing selection. Serder Serderov is going to leave on a free meaning we are very short in this area.
Hack's brilliant performance at the back has me hankering for another ball playing centre back whilst veteran Janusz Gol is leaving so another central midfielder wouldn't go amiss especially as i might sell Budzinski as well.
So that is the plan, but we have a number of our players linked with bigger clubs and we might just get picked apart. So far we have Keeper Hadzikic, centre backs Hack and Datkovic, Midfielder Dabrowski and Branimir Hrgota all being targeted.
A 3rd summer window and a chance to find the players that can wrestle back the league title having lost it on the last day. First things first we secured Samuel Grandsir for a 3rd loan spell extending his stay here and meaning a right winger was no longer a must, but we still needed to add some new players to the side.
The free transfer market is always a good place to start and we added two bosman signings. Young Spanish midfielder Manu Garcia was signed from Man City. Some nice dribbling and technical attributes means i hope the Spaniard can provide some creative flair from the centre of midfield. The second new face was Pawel Dawidowicz, a polishman who had recently been in Portugal from Benfica. He is another ball playing defender and after the success of Alexander Hack last season, i feel a 2nd ball playing defender can really help us with playing out from the back.
My final three signings all did end up being wingers and all for different reasons. Venezuelan Yeferson Soteldo was on loan at Sampdoria last season but found himself back in South America after that deal ended. Good pace and technical skills as well as being 23 this South American could end up being one of them players that fetches big money in a few years. At £1.6m he was the most expensive signing but one that could make an immediate impact to the side. Milosz Sadowski was a player of the future and my first regen signing as the 16 year old looked impressive with the right attributes and personality that could turn him into a future star. For this season he will be in the U19's and might make an appearance in the cup. The final new face was a loan for the season as Yacine Adli was bought in to give us good coverage on the wing and in the centre of the midfield.
In terms of the outgoings it was generally a case of trying to trim down the U19 squad of players who were getting too old and not good enough to make the first team. Both Culina and Hernandez were out with ACL tears last season and were deemed surplus to requirements so i let their contracts run out. Budzinski and Dytyayev were both the wrong side of 30 and i felt that youth was going to be the way forward.
So onto the football. Well with the window shut we have been battling on two fronts (The league and the Europa League) and it has largely been a success. However, i will start with the less good and that was in Europe as it was hard to replicate the form we showed last season. Personally i always find the Europa League qualifying a lot harder than the Champions League qualifying and so when you don't get seeded, it was always going to be tough.
We started off in the 1st qualifying round with Zeljeznicar Sarajevo of Bosnia and that was comfortable enough winning 1-0 and 2-1 to set up a tie against Norrkoping of Sweden. That is where we fell apart as we got smashed 4-0 in Sweden killing the tie meaning our 3-1 victory in the 2nd leg was just to make the aggregate score look a bit more respectable.
I am gutted but i want Domestic success and so far it has been pretty good in the league as we won our first 5 games before drawing the last two before the window shut leaving the table like this
Doubling up on months as i played through September and October. There is good news and there is bad news. First of all the bad news, as we once again crashed out of the Polish Cup early losing in the 1st round to Legia Warsaw 3-1. The good news is that we are top of the table after 14 games
Oh and we are 8 points clear as well as we have quietly beating the opposition in our most consistent season so far. Branimir Hrgota has been excellent hitting 11 goals in the league and 14 in all competitions as the Swede continues to impress. The same can't really be said by the new players in the team as apart from centre half Dawidowicz, they have been subpar. Manu Garcia isn't producing much in the centre of midfield whilst Soltedo and Adli have offered little on the wings when used. As although we have been winning, we haven't been dominating like i hoped we could. We lead the charts for possession, passes completed and pass success stats but i fear we are just keeping the ball rather than trying to kill games off. Perhaps we are a little too Sarri-ball? However, i cant be too harsh when the league is going as well as it is.
The other new signing that is shining is youngster Sadowski who has been playing in the U18's and with 10 goals and 4 assists in 18 games. If i can't get Soteldo and Adli to improve, i might just call him up to the 1st team
A very quiet 2 months with just 5 games over the period. That is what no cup football does to you. Still it is a perfect time to win my 2nd league trophy of the save and we are looking pretty good despite some mixed results.
The challenge is, that we are not playing that well and the wheels do feel like they could fall off at any point. The 2-1 defeat to Lech was a classic case of we dominated possession, shots and pretty much every stat but didnt have that killer instinct that you need to win trophies. I know they are the reigning champions but they absolutely suck this year and we should be doing better.
The real killer is that without Hrgota's goals we would be a world of problems as none of the attacking midfield 3 behind him are producing on a regular basis with the AMC slot a real challenge as Pasquato is showing his age whilst Rakoczy is young and not really progressing as i had hoped. So expect a new AMC for the back half of the season.
The other shining light has been Jakub Serafin who is outperforming his average attributes and was even voted Polish player of the year for the league. He just seems to be at the center of everything we do and he loves to score a free kick even with an 11 rating in that area.
We are now off for the winter break and the transfer window will open soon but in the mean time i was offered this.
I of course rejected their advances but it is the Polish National team job i want next if i can.
A relatively quiet transfer window but i did add the new AMC that we were looking for to help us with our title tilt. That man was Arsenal's Kelechi Nwakali who joins on loan for the rest of the season with a small monthly fee. The Nigerian has some real quality for this level and is an instant upgrade on Pasquato and the now injured Rakoczy (Out for 3 month).
There were no major outgoings either with a couple of prospects leaving on loan for the rest of the season.
I think the above tells you how it has gone with a flawless mid season friendly spell against lower league Polish sides whilst picking up maximum points in the league with newboy Nwakali hitting two goals already and giving me hope we can get more from that spot. Manu Garcia has also scored his first goal for the club and is now starting to get a few assists with Garcia and Nwakali starting to link up nicely in the midfield. All in all it means the table looks like this.
A 9 point gap at the top and we are looking like a lock on for a title. Our best ever points total at the 30 game mark was 57 points and to be just 3 points off already gives me real hope. Legia and Lechia who are probably the strongest sides anywhere near us and they are even further behind in what has been a poor year for the top sides.
We are now at the stage where the season breaks into two and even though inconsistencies have crept in to the team we are still an almighty 9 points clear at the top of the table as the other sides fail to mount a challenge.
All i can really take from this period is that we still have some work to do if we are going to dominate this Country for years to come. Inconsistencies need to be ironed out and we need more from our attacking midfielders who are still failing to really click on a regular basis. Jean Paul Boetius is the only one performing on a regular basis and he has been here longer than Soteldo and Adli. However, Grandsir is having his worst season so perhaps it is time to look at other options on the right wing.
Nwakali has looked good but than he picked up an injury meaning we will not have him until the final few games in the Championship phase so i am back to Pasquato who is just not doing it for me.
Still 64 points is more than what any other team has achieved at this stage in the last few seasons and we should finish on our highest ever points total as our defence has done the business this year and allowed us to pick up the tight little victories we would normally just draw.
Another season of utter turd. I need to improve the facilities and get a new Head of Youth Development as clearly something is not right.
We were never in doubt as the table shows with 76 points being a record haul for the club and our 10 point gap shows our dominance. To be honest we could have won the league 2 games earlier than we did but in two seperate we blew a two goal lead which was very unlike us. We got back in the groove though in the next game winning 7-3 over Lechia to clinch the title at home.
Our dominance showed in the team of the season selections as we had 8 players selected. So back in the Champions League and hopefully we can have a better run than last season as we are in the need of the finances.
Which leads me to perhaps the only bum note of the save and that is the fact that Cracovia are not in a better financial position and it is going to make improvements harder. We have a transfer budget of just £1.3m to make improvements and there will need to be some if we want to truly dominate Poland. We have 3 players on loan (Nwakali, Adli and Grandsir) and i will hope to bring back Nwakali and Grandsir but i wouldn't be surprised if their parent clubs want to keep them next season. Adli on the other hand can go back to PSG as he didnt do a lot and i would like to get a new right sided winger. However, if Nwakali and Grandsir are not here next season than we will need 3 new players.
Our back up keeper Muminovic is starting to whinge about first team football, so i might move him on and Vestinicky and Pasquato could both be shipped on as i look to inject some new life into the squad. Defensively it was our best year so other than a more natural left wing back as the current two (Siplak and Ferraresso) are not naturals for that role.
Just took over Cracovia in a journeyman save. A bit of an unrealistic move since my Norwegian manager only has one year of managerial experience at a third tier Danish club and Cracovia are currently 9th in the league. But hey, they know what they are getting. Now to sift through the senior, B, and U19 teams to see what I can do with them.
Here we are. Season 4 is upon us and we are back in the Champions League and for the first time in this save, the vultures were circling. All of our top players were linked to moves (mainly to England) and it was a case of trying to keep the team together. I should have expected it but it did change pre-season plans.
The first to leave was South American Yefferson Soteldo who i sold to Middlesbrough for £2.5m. This one i was most comfortable with as his first season was pretty lacklustre and it was a nice little profit from last year. The 2nd to leave was Manu Garcia in a £5m deal to Newcastle. I couldn't do much on this one as it was his minimum release fee and they were offering a lot more money on his wages so the Spaniard was back in English football. Towards the end of the last season, Garcia was controlling everything for us so it was a massive blow.
Middlesbrough came back in for Branimir Hrgota and his £5m release fee was met and i was fearing losing my only striker but somehow the FM gods heard my tears because the Swede rejected the deal and opted to stay. The 4th player targeted was Keeper Osman Hadzikic whose £5m release fee was met by Atlanta United of the MLS and the Austrian will be leaving in February.
Back up keeper Musiminovic was a little whingey and so he was sold on for a small profit as well as 4th choice centre half Helik and a few youngsters as well as we managed to shift on quite a bit and raise some money for some new signings which we clearly needed.
First of all, as expected we couldn't get Nwakali back on loan as Arsenal were only looking for a permanent sale and we were no where near to having the money to splash out on one player. Winger Grandsir though is staying for his 4th loan spell in Poland whilst youngster Adli was allowed to go back to PSG. So we needed an inside forward for each side and at least 1 AMC for the season so that was our number 1 priority. The Loan market was kind to us as we bought in Ademola Lookman for his 2nd loan spell at the club as well as Brahim Diaz from Man City. Two potential superstars for this league and giving us great options for their spots. For the right winger, i wanted to bring in a Pole and so i signed Przemyslaw Frankowski from Jagellonia for £1.5m. He will likely be a back up to Grandsir but it means we finally have an AMR of our own having relied on loans for the last 3 seasons.
Boosting the Attacking midfield options i signed 22 year old Croatian Luka Ivanusec for just over £500k. He has something about him that i like and if he can adapt to the league he could be a little gem for us. He will rotate with Diaz and i will play who ever performs best. With Garcia leaving we needed a new CM so i signed Norwegian Anders Trondsen from Rosenborg for £1.4m to become my new Mezzala with Ukrainian Orest Silyuk signed on a free to be a player for the future. With the goalkeeping situation looking troublesome when Hadzikic leaves in February, i needed a new man to take the No.1 spot in the future and Sergio Mora of Colombia was the man i have chosen. A snip at £300k, he will go on an intense language course to get him ready for the step up in the 2nd half of the season.
Europe dominates the early fixtures as we juggle our European ambitions with the start of the league campaign and it was tough going. I think the number of new faces i needed to integrate was a problem as i really didnt expect to get picked apart like i did.
We got through the first two rounds in the Champions League with relative ease beating RFS of Latvia (7-1 on aggregate) and then beating Rijeka (2-0 on aggregate) to set up a tough 3rd qualifying round tie against AEK Athens. Ill discipline crept in as we blew two leads at home whilst going down to 10 men to draw 2-2 in Krakow before going to Athens and getting comfortably beaten 2-0 to send us into the Europa League.
Qarabag were the opponents and my confidence was high having played them 2 years ago and getting past them. We once again went down to 10 men in the first leg at home and the 2-1 loss meant we had a hard job in Baku and it was just too much as we could only muster a 0-0 draw away from home. A very bitter blow as European success is really the next major task for me having won the domestic title twice already.
Our League campaign has been Ok with our only defeat being against bitter rivals Wisla who are seemingly back to being a force in the league. We did in the meantime win the Superpuchar beating Zaglebie Lubin 3-0 in a comfortable little showing to give me my 4th Trophy.
With Europe a distant dream it will now need to be a League and Cup double for me to be satisfied with this fourth season. I am demanding Domestic Dominance and anything less will see this season as an abject failure for me.
A quick little update from me. With no European football to keep me occupied we had to make sure we did the business in Poland. This included finally making some progress in the Polish Cup where we have been woeful over the last 3 years. So far i am pleased to announce things are going well as we remained undefeated over the last 2 months
As you can see we even progressed to the 3rd round of the Polish Cup meaning the double is still a possibility. In the league we have a game in hand but already sit 3 points clear but a title fight might still be on the cards with Legia finally having a decent season.
Win after Win in Poland as we have the perfect 2 months with 7 wins from 7 taking our winning streak to 10 in all competitions. We now have a quarter final to look forward to in the Polish Cup against Lechia and dominate the league domestically.
We are 6 points better off than this time last year and last year we ran away with the title. If we can not repeat the trick i will be absolutely shocked as no one domestically looks ready to even compete at any level. For example here are the stats from one game
It is absolute domination at its best yet i still think we need to do more. The spine of the team has been excellent with Hack, Trondsen, Ivanusec and Hrgota being excellent with the two new signings in particular excelling. We have some work to do on the wings as they are underperforming again whilst Brahim Diaz has been disappointing so far as well.
We are losing Hadzikic in February so we are going to need a new keeper in the window to compete with Colombian Sergio Mora for the back end of the season. In fact the keeper situation might be the only thing that could derail our season
Another quiet mid season transfer window as we saw one keeper leave and one join, as well as the sale of an original Cracovia player. SO the pre-arranged transfer of Osman Hadzikic went through and the Austrian was off to Atlanta in the MLS for £5m. Considering he cost nothing and was my first signing, he has had a great 3 1/2 years in goal.
To replace him, i signed Belgian Arnauld Bodart from Standard Liege for £1.4m. He is slightly better than Mora but the Colombian has more potential so they will likely rotate for the rest of the season until i can pick a winner.
The only other major news was Jakub Serafin left for just oer £500k. He was brilliant for the last 2 seasons, way outperforming his stats but with Trondsen now in the side and the emergence of Kanuch and Kuscek he wasn't getting any games and we have to keep building for the future.
It has been pretty easy street in the league as we picked up 10 points from 12 to extend our lead at the top to an impressive 11 points. There really should be no stopping us now and a 3rd League title in 4 years is a formality. There will though be no double as we lost on Penalties to Lechia in the Quarter final.
A massively bitter blow as the one thing we are missing domestically is that double.
Youth Intake & Facilities
For the 4th straight season it has been poor on the youth front and so i went straight to the board and got the Youth and Training facilities upgraded.
Annoyingly we have stuttered a little during March and April as the boys seem to have taken their foot off their gas.4 draws and a defeat across 7 games certainly has not been the form that got us to the top of the table. Will it make an difference? Probably not unless we have a massive collapse in the final 7 games.
Still our points total is 4 points better off than last year and we only need 7 points to get to the winning points total from last year. In fact 68 points would have won the league in the first two seasons so i am hoping we can just finish the job to pick up my 3rd League title.
Despite taking our foot off the pedal in he run up to the Championship group the boys refocused and smashed their way to my 3rd league title in 4 years. 19 points from the 21 available gave no one a chance and showed our ruthlessness again.
87 Points smashes our previous record of 76 points and the 17 point gap between us and 2nd Place Legia being the biggest yet. Saying that an AI team hitting 70 points is also a record and a first and its Legia's best showing in 4 years so maybe they will be able to become the 2nd team in Poland and provide me some competition in the upcoming years.
So how did we do it? Well we had the best defence in the league for one but we also managed to score goals. Branimir Hrgota was the top scorer in the league and his 29 goals in a campaign was the best ever for a Cracovia player. In fact his run of form in the Championship group was superb scoring in 5 of the 7 games.
However, he didn't win the player of the season. That went to new boy Anders Trondsen who not only won the Club's player of the season but also won the Leagues player of the season. 12 Goals and 8 assists from the central midfielder was incredible for a 1st season and he has quickly become one of my favourite players. In fact him and young Ivanusec were breathes of fresh air for us this season and were a big driver for our even more dominant performance than last season. It goes without saying that we were heavilty represented in the leagues team of the season
But we can still improve. We have three players on loan (Lookman, Diaz and Grandsir) and we have to remove our reliance on loans. Mainly because they dont seem to be performing. Other than Grandsir all of the others we have had have been ineffective mercenaries and so i will look to change that next season, The other obvious area to look at is my wing backs. Both are getting on a little now and some younger blood that could really improve our play next season.
A transfer budget of £4m (our highest yet) and another £20k per week for wages has been allocated for another onslaught on Europe. As per last year, i have to be getting into the group stages of either the Champions League or the Europa League (more likely) and a domestic double. If i can't do the double an undefeated league campaign will suffice.
After our demolition job last year in the league, it really highlighted that we didn't need to change much and so it was one of our quietest summer windows as i looked for quality instead on quantity. In terms of the outgoings there were only two of note. Back up striker Vestenicky left on a free after his contract ran out whilst the only other move was left back Ferrarresso was moved on for £300k.
Incoming wise, it was just the 4 new(ish) faces. On top of that we once again re-extended the loan spell of Grandsir meaning he will have been on loan here for 4 1/2 years but Monaco keep renewing his contract so the hope of him being here permanently is slim. The other slightly non newish face was the return of Kelechi Nwakali (who was previously on loan here for 6 months) but this time on a permanent transfer after Arsenal released him. He was a great AMC in his cameo time here and with him and Ivanusec i have two great options in that slot.
For the last few years i have been talking about bringing in a left back who can operate at fullback as we have gone 4 years without one. I finally found my man as 22 year old Czech Vaclav Dudl joins for £1.3m from Sparta Prague. I think he is a great option and means i now have a LB and a RB who can overlap the inside forwards ahead of them. He was also the only man signed for any money as the final signing was made on transfer deadline day as a second man from Monaco joins on Loan. I know i said i didnt want loan signings but South African Lyle Foster looks to be a great player and could finally give Hrgota a rival for the striking slot.
So as always we have to compete in two competitons. The Champions League and the Polish League. Games have come thick and fast, in fact even faster than normal but that is what the World Cup in Qatar causes. I will get to the European run in a bit but it has meant we have had some problems in the League. My hopes of an undefeated season have been dashed, as we have already lost 2 games (as many as the whole of last season). Draws have also crept in as well and it looks like we are likely to be in a fight this year.
Now on to Europe. We started in the 1st round Qualifiers as per against Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia. At home in the first leg we smashed them 4-0 with Hrgota, Dabrowski, Frankowski and Trondsen getting the goals. I thought that might mean we could rest a lot of the first team for a dead rubber 2nd leg but in Bratislava we were 3-0 down within 20 mins meaning i was in real danger of blowing a massive 4 goal 1st leg deficit. Somehow we got to half time and at that point i bought on the big 3 (Nwakali, Trondsen, Hrgota) and we got two goals back meaning we still lost the tie 3-2 but a 6-3 aggregate victory.
The next round saw Steaua Bucharest come to play but Hrgota got 2 at home to seal a 2-0 win before we won 2-1 relatively easily in Romania to seal a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory. Next up were IFK Norrkopping and we had history as they knocked me out of this very competition a few years ago. This time we were away in the first leg and in Sweden we struggled as we lost 1-0. It meant we needed a big 2nd leg and we got it, as we comfortably beat them 3-0 to avenge our exit from them a few years ago.
We were now 180 minutes away from the Champions League group stage. Standing in our way were Celtic. Progression was unlikely, i was gearing up for another Europa League group stage but the boys wanted more and they delivered more. At home, Anders Trondsen smashed in two to give us a 2-0 victory. Not done there we went to Glasgow and played them off the park winning 3-1 to give us the most unlikely 5-1 aggregate victory and Champions League football for the first time in our History!
It has been epic 2 month spell and one of the more enjoyable spells of this save. Reinvigorating it to some degree. Anders Trondsen has been a beast and he is already becoming my favourite player on FM19, even more than Russell Hessenthaler in my Woking save and that is saying something. More importantly i can say
WE ARE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE! OOF! WE ARE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Due to the Qatar World Cup i come back to you with a 3 month update as things finished a little earlier in Poland to allow for the Winter World Cup, and what a spell it has been as i have been continualy shocked by my team. After a slightly topsy turvy first few months in the league, September saw us win all 3 league games at a canter including a 7-2 smashing of Jaglellonia and a 3-1 battering of rivals Wisla.
October on the other hand was a bit more of the hit and miss as we won 4, lost 2 and drew 1 before we won the final league game of 2022 2-0 against Slask. So although we havent been at the levels of last year we are still looking good in the league as we lead by 6 points and should be on course for another title especially as the fixtures will thin out a bit
Well in some ways it will thin out, as we crashed out of the Cup in the 1st Round in a poor showing against Pogon but our European adventure is going to continue after Christmas.
We have pulled some of the biggest shocks in European football. It started in our first group game at home to Juventus where we went 1-0 up, than 2-1 down before hitting two more goals through Trondsen and Hrgota to give us a famous 3-2 win against the Old Lady. Anders Trondsen in that game was incredible scoring our opener and the equaliser and is now attracting interest from the Premiership. Juventus got their own back in the 2nd group game winning 2-0 in a game where we barely got out of our own half. We followed that up with a 1-1 draw in Brugge before going to Madrid and getting smashed 3-0. However, in the final group game of 2022 we did the unthinkable and beat Madrid in Krakow 1-0 with Hrgota picking up another famous winner.
It means going into the final game we need to better Atletico Madrid's result to go into the Champions League knock out rounds and if we dont we have the Europa League to look forward to. Either way we are winners, and one thing we have been winning in is prize money. That prize money allowed us to do this
On top of this we are also expanding its capacity by 2.5k to 17.5k. The wheels are starting to turn.
Normally the month of January is a month of rest but we had our final Champions League group game as well as 3 League games to get through with a smattering of friendlies to get our fitness back up. It all started with Brugge at home and like all of our other home European ties we were victorious beating the Belgians 2-1 despite having two men sent off. All we needed now was Juventus to take at least a point in Madrid and we were through to the Champions League knock out rounds.
It wasn't to be as Atletico Madrid beat Juventus 1-0 and into the Europa League we went. I can't be disappointed as we have been excellent picking up victories against two massive European sides whilst also staying undefeated against a Belgian giant who in their history had even made the final of the European Cup many years ago. Branimir Hrgota and Anders Trondsen have been the shining lights in Europe this year and without either of them we would have no chance of getting anywhere. Unfortunately the Premier league has noticed with Burnley and Everyon both bidding for the Norwegian Trondsen. I did briefly accept a £6m bid from Burnley for Trondsen but changed my mind as really we would need at least £10m for me to consider.
One player to leave was regen Kamil Kusczek who came through my first youth intake. He has been a solid back up this season in central midfield and Middlesbrough bid £1.8m + 30% of future fees for his services. It is a shame to lose a home grown player but with other youngster Kanach and Ukrainian Silyuk we have some capable back ups to Dabrowski and Trondsen.
With the Champions League now finished we turn our attentions to the Europa League 1st Round Knockouts where we have been drawn against Besiktas of Turkey. I would have said unwinnable but after beating Juventus and Atletico Madrid, you never know what is possible.
Meanwhile in the league we won all 3 league games to keep our stronghold on the league extending our lead to 9 points in the league.
Things our ticking on nicely as the transfer window opens in Poland. I don't think there will be any new signings for the rest of the season as everyone is performing well and i want to give the youngsters a chance who are coming in for the odd game in rotation. We should have enough to finish off the league and i dont think there is anyone who i can bring in that will make a massive difference vs Besiktas.
I said there would be no action in the transfer window and i was wrong. In the end there was one new face to come in on loan for this season and next. Right back Joao Ferreira has joined on loan from Benfica having played in Poland last season at Lechia, where he impressed. He is younger than first choice Rapa (who is now 33) and a better prospect than back up Zieba so he should add something to the side.
In terms of outgoings i loaned out back up Zieba for more game time whilst loaning out a few of the U18's
Youth Intake wise it was another average showing with just a couple showing potential to maybe be a back up. Nothing worth taking note of though
On the Pitch
On the field it has been business as usual in the league as we wrapped up the league title with 5 games to go. Once we wrapped it up we were distinctly average as we took our foot off the pedal but it is now 4 league titles in 5 years with Cracovia which is a massive achievement and sees us leapfrong Lech in the alltime table with 9 titles.
However, what you guys really want to know is whether we progressed any further in the Europa League. Now because of the World Cup the 1st Knock out round is just a one legged affair meaning our home advantage against Besiktas would be very useful indeed. The game itself was a goal fest as attacking football ruled all and our boys came out victorius in a 6-3 victory. South African Lyle Foster opened the scoring whilst a hat trick from Jean Paul Boetius put the game beyond doubt.
The next round was also a one legged affair but this time we were away to Sevilla. This time it was too much to ask as our away form in Europe has not matched our home form (8 victories from 8) and we were blown away by a far superior team 5-1. A horrid way to go out of the competition but our progression into the knock out rounds has done wonders for Poland's Coefficient (Up 7 places to 20th) and our own (Now 57th in Europe). Hopefully it means a few more seeded ties in the future!
So that is Season 5, a similar tale domestically where we have won the league and performed awfully in the Cup whilst picking up the Polish Super Cup but with a slight twist in a decent European adventure. Domestically we dominate as seen in the Leagues team of the year where had 8 players. Anders Trondsen was voted the Leagues best player and quite rightly our own. He was superb last year hitting 21 goals and 11 assists in all competitions in what was a Yaya Toure esq season. He could change games by himself and his set pieces and long range shots were on point. A real power house and my favourite player on FM this season. On a side note i have never had a central midfielder bang in that many goals in a season as he ended up our top scorer.
So where do we go from here? Technically the squad is great. I want to try and retain Grandsir and Foster for next season, hopefully on permanent terms rather than loans. Other than that, we don't need any massive reinforcements so really it is going to be about perhaps looking at some younger prospects ready to take over from the slightly older squad members. Cornel Rapa (33) is getting on right back and needs replacing, however Ferreira should cover that. Datkovic (30) is a decent back up centre half but he has some value and he might be worth selling on if we can find a younger ball playing centre half. Interestingly Branimir Hrgota had his worst season last year with just 15 goals and it might be time to move on the Swede. At 30 years of age he is starting to deteriorate and Foster was immense so if we can bring in Foster than we have the replacement in place. The only other position really is the Central midfield slot where Dabrowski (Also 30) is doing well but could be replaced by a younger face.
Either way we have a massive £19m to spend and a very hefty wage budget to make the little changes we need to make. Exciting times ahead
So i feel like i am at that point in the save where my updates need to become less frequent as are now at an established stage of the save. Domestically we dominate and the expectations are that we win the league every year whilst Europe is now the main focus as we try and break further into the latter stages whilst building up the nation of Poland.
So therefore i will be moving to two updates per season as we tick along. It also might mean i have time to write up about another save i am planning too. So onto the transfers.
So we were given a war chest but there was no way i could spend it. With the stadium purchase going through and the upgrade to the capacity, if i had spent all £19m i would have put us way into the red and that seemed like a bad idea. Luckily we didn't need a lot and i believe in making small changes every year so not to disrupt the harmony.
The main theme of the window though was to look to move on the older players (Over 30's) and bring in some younger replacements who could
a) have the potential to be even better than what we had b) become sellable assets in the future as we continue to build our reputation.
Therefore starting with the outs we shifted on back up centre half Niko Datkovic (£1.3m), Captain Damian Dabrowski (£1.4m) and right back Cornel Rapa (£400k). All of whom were 30 and over and were not likely to be starters this season with the incomings i had planned. We also shifted on young 21 year old Michal Rakoczy who had featured in my first few seasons but had been out on loan for the last 2 for just under £900k whilst we than loaned out some youth who had potential to get some more game time. All in all around £4m raised from sales.
In terms of incomings, the first big piece of news was Samuel Grandsir and Lyle Foster joined on free transfers having been here on loan from Monaco. Grandsir as we know has been on loan her for 5 years meaning he was part of the furnitue whilst young Foster impressed last year getting into double figures despite spending large chunks of the season on the bench. I think he can be the long term successor to Hrgota who is the only over 30 remaining in the team this season.
They were joined by young 17 year old Jules Ousamanou who i have had scouted since he was 15 with this deal being in the pipeline for over a year. At £180k he is a bargain and i really think he could be our version of Kante in a few years. He will get plenty of game time this season as he will take the place of Kucszek who we sold to Middlesbrough in the winter and i am sure if he progresses well enough he will be crucial in our pursuit for European success.
WIth Dabrowski leaving we needed a playmaker to partner Trondsen (Who takes the captaincy from Dabrowski) and the man i chose was 22 year old Italian Manolo Portanova from Juventus. He joins on a free and has a big wage (for us) but the Italian looks excellent. Pacy and can pass the ball i am hoping him and Trondsen form a formidable and exciting midfield two for us.
The next three ins were all ones for the future as i added in Serbian Striker Sladjan Radisavljevic (£650k), French right back Andrew Voteau (£700k) and Polish Attacking midfielder Adrian Dudka (£16k) to the side. Voteau will be the one that gets the most game time as he will rotate with Ferreira this season whilst Radisavljevic will get the odd game in the cup this year, and will probably feature more if we sell Hrgota next summer as i have planned.
The final new face to the side was a deadline deal as i searched for another ball playing centre half. German Jordan Torunarigha from Hertha Berlin was the man i chose. Hertha are paying a large chunk of his wages but the German joins for £1.2m with an extra £300k if we win the Polish Cup. As a left footer he becomes a natural replacement for Hack should we sell or he gets injured. It now means we have four very good centre halves (Two German and two Polish) meaning if our first choices continue to be pursued by English sides we could sell one and not be too worried.
All of that for around £2.8m meaning another transfer profit and with a much stronger squad than last year. I am feeling confident we could compete on all three fronts (League, Europe and the elusive Polish Cup).
Our only main worry now is we are severely lacking in home grown players and i am going to have to start thinking about shifting players on who are foreign so i can bring in a few more Polish players to take their spot. The general problem is the fees being demanded for Polish talent are astronomical and it means my spending is likely to outstrip any incomings unless i plan carefully.
On the pitch - Domestically
So i thought i would split the performances up between domestic and European football. Starting with the day job so to speak of dominating Poland and it has been business as usual.
Our defence has been excellent conceding just 6 goals in 19 games with 15 clean sheets as we have generally gone about our business with precision and confidence despite havng to rotate to allow us to have the best possible shot of success in Europe. A 9 point gap looks good and i am predicting a 5th League title for me with the real possibility of hitting a record points haul if we can keep it together for the rest of the season.
The Cup has normally been an area of pain for me as we have only made it to the quarter finals once in the last 5 years but we have now done it for a 2nd time having got past two lower league sides and Korona to set up a quarter final tie away to Legia Warsaw. On top of that we have won the Supercup for a 4th time as we beat Legia 2-0 for my 8th trophy as Cracovia manager.
Now onto the real stuff as we started once again in the 1st Qualifying round of the Champions League. Due to our performances last season though our Coefficient soared and we found ourselves seeded in all 4 qualifying rounds. The first three rounds were all routine as we dispatched Dinamo Batumi (5-0), Ostersunds (8-1) and BATE (3-0) before being paired against Dutch Champions Feyenoord in what was a very unlucky draw.
We were at home in the first leg though and after a tight 1st half we preceeded to run riot in the 2nd scoring 3 in the last 15 minutes to give us a 3-0 first leg lead. Back in Rotterdam, they scored early but Captain Anders Trondsen fired an important away goal in the 47th minute. We went on to concede two more late in the game but a 4-3 aggregate victory meant we were in the Champions League group stages for a 2nd straight season.
Although our coefficient had gone up we were still in the 4th pot and our draw of PSG, Atletico Madrid and Besiktas was a tough one on paper. Last year our home form was impeccible but we couldn't repeat the heroics of last year as we lost to PSG (1-0 and 3-2) and Atletico Madrid (4-1 and 2-1) meaning it was all down to our results against Besiktas. A 1-1 draw in Turkey was a good start and in the final group game we needed to beat Besiktas to progress into the Europa League. The boys did not disappoint as they smashed the Turks 3-0 to progress us in Europe.
So back after the Winter break we have a tough draw against Roma but our European adventures are proving to be a consistent pleasure.
The key was to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season as we bid for our fifth league title and our first domestic double with a little European adventure on top.
The Winter transfer window opened and there was a little business for us. I said in my last update we were well stocked at centre back and if a good offer came i would be tempted to let someone go. Well that happened, although it was a little out of my control as Werder Bremen matched Alexander Hack's minimum release fee of £3m and the German was on his way out of the club. It wasn't the greatest fee but as a non Pole he helps me in my quest to add more Polish talent to the side.
We did replace though as we loaned in 21 year old Polish centre half Janusz Filipowicz from Hamburg for the rest of the season to be our fourth choice for the rest of the season. Secondly we also purchased a new goalkeeper as Antonis Stergiakis joins from our feeder club Slavia Sofia for £1.3m but was immediately loaned back to them for the rest of the season. The 24 year old Greek is better than Mora and Bodart and it will likely mean one of them will leave next season.
In terms of performances against other seasons it was right up there. Our best year for goals scored (71) and our best defensively by some way (Just 20 conceded) but it was our 2nd best points total (6 behind our best). A few too many defeats for me and we were lucky Korona drew so many games as they were a real tough nut to crack this season and seem to have leapfrogged Legia and Lech as my main competition with both sides really struggling this season.
However, the real icing on the cake was that we finally won the Polish Cup giving me a historic double (treble if you count the SuperCup which i dont) as we went the whole tournament without conceding adding a 1-0 win over Legia, a 1-0 over Gornik Zabrze and a 2-0 win in the final over Zaglebie Lubin to give Cracovia their 1st ever Polish Cup
Unfortunately though our European adventure post Christmas was a short one. The first leg in Krakow was a brilliant back and forth game for the neutral but we conceded twice and despite winning 3-2 on the night i knew our away form in Europe is just not strong enough and it wasn't as we lost 3-0 to Roma to go out of the competition.
Still a great performance and one that has lifted Poland up to 13th in the Coefficients meaning in two years time we will have 2 Champions League spots and if we win the league we will go into the 3rd Qualifying round rather than the 1st which is a massive start. It also might mean some competition domestically as the money from Europe might allow some teams to compete with me.
As a season it has been great and the trio of Anders Trondsen, Branimir Hrgota and Lyle Foster banged the goals in for us all season. Trondsen once again walked away with the fans player of the year and was one of 10 players selected in the Leagues team of the year as we won pretty much every award going (Other than me as i didnt win manager of the season!)
So the real question is where do we go from here? Well we need some more homegrown talent as we are desperately short on that front and that will be one of the things i will look at as i try and move some foreign lads on and buy local talent. It will cost a lot though as the Polish clubs want some astronomical fees for their better players but in reality it might help make the game more competitive as i flood them with money, they buy better and all of a sudden I am building a nation rather than just this one club.
We will also have the vultures looking as Foster, Nwakali, Trondsen, Tourinaghia, Portanova and Dudl are all being chased by some big clubs. I expect i will sell one or two but only if some big bids come in and if i can get some decent reinforcements for next season.