This is a man's world This is a man's world But it would be nothing Nothing without a woman or a girl
– by Betty Jean Newsome & James Brown
Welcome to this little thread reporting my save. Above you can see Lyn, the governess. It’s FM21 and she has newly taken charge of Rennes, breaking the glass ceiling. She plans to maximise the player development traditions of this French football club that’s on the rise whilst supplementing the staff with numerous female additions.
Over the coming days, weeks and maybe months I intend to reveal Lyn’s story and report on progress at the club in Ligue Un, with young players being given a 1st team pathway and the challenge of overtaking traditional domestic heavyweights like Lyon, Marseille and Monaco plus the behemoth that is PSG.
Season 2019-20 Rennes have recently enjoyed the most successful period in their history. Having lifted their first trophy in 48 years when they won the 2019 Coupe de France. The following season, Covid-plagued 2019-20, saw League-1 suspended and then completed after just 28 games; 10 games shorter than a normal season. One of the benefactors, if that's the right description were Rennes. Already having a good season, the early curtailment saw them unexpectedly qualify for the Champions League. A campaign that subsequently will come under Lyn's 1st season in management.
The Squad My initial impressions are ones of a well balanced squad. Firstly there is great cover at nearly every position and yet the senior squad does not feel bloated. The average age is lowish and yet we also some experienced players. Overall it has a solid feel to it, but there is a bit of pace and flair too. So all in all, pretty good to be fair. In fact I've only identified one gap and thus made a solitary signing.
I have signed Gonzalo Montiel, a right back from River Plate. It's the only addition and we're going with that. This is good for two reasons:
As a new manager yet to get to that all-important first contract renewal you want your arrival to go smoothly. Get the players behind you and create a good atmosphere at the club. Player signings can mean upheaval and uncertainty. So nice and settled is good.
This is something of a development club. The reserves and youth teams are exploding at the seams. Throughout my time at Rennes it almost needs to be an unspoken rule that I should not be making lots of signings, thus allowing a pathway from the academy to the first team.
Amongst the names that might be more familiar within the FM world there is M'Baye Niang, Jeremy Doku, Daniele Rugani (on loan), Steven Nzonzi (on loan) and Eduardo Camavinga.
Starlets Rennes is a known entity to well-seasoned FM'ers. It is one of the club's with a great Development record and almost always a rich source of regen youths. The academy, as ever, has plenty going on as Lyn Papin takes the reins. Keep an eye out in this save for these names: Brandon Soppy, Georginio Rutter, Pepe Bonet and Lucas Kouao. I'm sure there are many others too that I am not yet familiar with or far enough into the save yet to have named.
The two outstanding starlets though are already in the 1st team. Doku who was captured from Anderlecht and then the 17-year old star heavily linked with Real Madrid and that is Camavinga.
Camavinga seemingly has the world at his feet. Equally adept in numerous central and defensive midfield roles reflecting the roundedness of scores across numerous attributes. I have no doubt that I will spend much time talking to him, his agent, and just about every leading football club in Europe in regard to his services over the next few years. How he reacts to those pressures and the size of any carrots dangled in my direction will determine whether he stays, how long he stays and quite possibly it will also be a big factor on how well we do.
Money More good news. We have some dosh in the bank and that signing I made didn't empty out my transfer budget. Slightly surprised by the finances I made a little Google enquiry to discover that the owner of Rennes is a French billionaire. This may explain the healthy balance and the fact that we have zero loans. Add in Champions League money that will be due to us this season and finances are in a good place.
Tactics I will cover tactics at different points throughout this story but to begin with I have gone with what I know. Over the last ten years I have regularly had success with a 4-2-4. I have two variants of this tactic but the differences from one to the other are small. No more than 2 or 3 roles changes plus 1 or 2 Team Instructions.
I call it 4-2-4 because the game does and that's what it looks like on the screen. Appearances in FM though can be deceptive and it isn't really a 4-2-4 at all. This is because FM's formation screen is only a representation (and not necessarily an accurate one) of defensive shape. In my experience, this shape can actually be great defensively because it adapts brilliantly to high block pressing the opposition defenders. In attack though one version is really a 4-2-3-1 with a forward dropping off into the hole. The other version keeps the strikers more orthodox and it operates like a 4-3-3.
I am very familiar with these particular tactics have ported variants of them over the years through editions of FM. Let's see how the FM21 match engine responds.
No Country For Old Men I have added Severine Chapeyron as my Head Physio. It is worth pointing out that you can not use 'gender' as a criteria in staff searches. So this is something where I am going to have to do a little homework as the game progresses.
Next update will pick up on how the first season is progressing.
Mid 1st Season 2020-21 This has been a start in earnest both with FM21 action and Rennes. Both have ticked over fairly well, a better than satisfactory beginning. The first thing to note was how well did we settle in and our tactic(s) perform? This neat little graphic (below) sums things up nicely. Here we are in the top right quadrant with good company in the form of Lyon, PSG and Marseille. We're categorised as aggressive clinical in terms of attacking efficiency. Sounds good to me.
Next to consider is Champions League progress. We were a 4th seed and bagged ourselves an incredibly competitive group along with Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and Porto. We got beat up in Spain but crucially we won all three of our home games to earn a knockout match in the Spring versus Juventus.
And then finally in this section, on to the league. We've played well and scored goals. We're playing above board expectations and our media prediction. A little unfortunately but without much surprise PSG are on another level. More unexpectedly perhaps we've found that Marseille are too. We're averaging exactly 2pts per game which I always find is a great benchmark for teams looking to be in and around the European qualifying spots. The league is actually a little tight beyond where the caption cuts off but the bottom teams are struggling.
Learnings to Date The season starts late and we've had a lot of midweek football. Suffice to say that fatigue has started to become a problem for us, none more so than in central midfield. The 4-2-4 we operate demands that players have an enormous engine to get through the workload. One of the roles as you may expect is a Box to Box. Not keen on my backups I'll be swapping them out in January for replacements that are a better system fit which will allow me to rotate more.
Serhou Guirassy has scored 14 and assisted 11 so far, a very pleasant surprise. My new fullback, Montiel, has 8 assists and a 7.25 average rating.
Soppy, Rivollier and recently Gboho have all been promoted to the 1st team from the reserves.
Camavinga has been immense and Doku is now starting to light up too.
Domestic League and Cups Performance After spending the majority of the season in the top 4, Rennes fell away badly in February and March, only to rally late on to secure 4th place.
Rennes made a dream start to the season under Lyn Papin only losing once in the league in the Autumn, as we showed a ruthless touch in front of goal. By the halfway point in the season, the Red & Blacks were the team trailing PSG and Marseille but with plenty of football to be played, the gap to those team grew as Rennes spluttered and failed to cope with injuries and fatigue.
But our form majorly improved following our exit in the Champions League. Instead of the season petering out Rennes won their final matches to book our place in the Europa League, disappointingly missing out on the top three requirement for Champions League, leaving us a couple of points short.
Still, there are a large number of reasons for the fans to be positive such as a chance at picking up some silverware in the Coupe de France, but unfortunately, we lost 3-5 to PSG in a thriller of a final.
Continental Football Performance Rennes performed very well in the Champions League, with a side inexperienced on that stage. Silverware was never a realistic target, especially in Europe - but the group stage victories provide hope for when the next campaign gets underway.
Best Player I could make a case for a number of players as a result of their fine 20/21 season, such as fullbacks Montiel and Maouassa who as a pair managed 16 assists and 5 goals in all competitions. But it goes to Serhou Guirassy.
Far from the most glamorous name, and overlooked by Lyn on her arrival, his enthusiasm and hunger for goals drove the team forwards on many occasions.
23 goals and 15 assists were a very good return for a 24-year-old already playing at his sixth club. The big clubs won’t be after him anytime soon but he showed that he’s a willing runner who puts in a shift for the cause.
Manager, Tactics and Grade Was it a perfect season? Not at all. The club failed to win anything and lost their Champions League place, but they were viewed by everyone else as the team that overperformed the most. The tactics went well although maybe a few too many goals ultimately conceded. The current group of players gave it their all but more quality is needed for continued upward progress.
Note we have been the subject of two failed takeovers so far which have come at a time preventing us from having the training and academy facilities upgraded.