A really promising start to the season, as usual, where we have found our scoring feet - in particular, that man again, Brian Pena, with nine goals already. Most pleasing from this start is the wins over Valencia Mestalla and Espanyol, two teams who will be challenging at the top of the league this year. I have been able to rotate and keep my players, meaning that I've suffered very few injuries and have been able to build up a bit of competition between my more experienced starter and younger backup. I, for some reason, am really struggling to get good ratings from the AMR who plays as a W(s) - in an ideal world, I'd actually have the 'blank-slate' WM(s) in the midfield strata but that would really make a defensive looking 4-1-4-1 AM and maybe even be a little too cautious.
I was met with this news on deadline day - my first choice centre back moving for just about 10x his market value, but, as his minimum release clause was met, I had no say in it. Orriols was a really good ball player but it does give me the chance to fully integrate my second academy prospect, Alberto Ropero, into the first team. He joins Miguel Angel Villalba as the second Guadalajara graduate to be an important first team player and this is really a sign of what we want to achieve.
We continue our good form into the third and fourth month of the season, with just one defeat, albeit a defeat against a title challenging club and our nearest rivals, at home. Whilst the loss has closed the gap at the top, at present Las Palmas are our closest foe as Sevilla's B side can't get promoted anyway. What has pleased me most over this spell is our ability to perform with a rotated squad and beat teams that are of similar quality to ourselves: Numancia were hot on our tails before our comfortable victory and Atletico Madrid B and Las Palmas are within the top sides in the league.
With our good position here, I have instructed my scouting team to look for players who will be good enough to feature in a potential La Liga squad next year - with the ongoing look at Determination, Decisions, Concentration, Anticipation and the ability to use both feet.
I'm not really ever one for making wholesale January changes, especially given our fantastic start to the season and real shot at promotion - filling the team with players who are good enough for this level and not good enough for La Liga will vastly reduce the money I'll get should we get promoted. However, I've brought in two Brazilians, who, should we get promoted, will fill two thirds of our Non-EU quota - a potential worry.
Sandro signs on a free transfer after his MAD (I can't work out who this is but I still haven't put the fix back into the game) contract expired. He's young and quite well rounded - good in four of the five areas I'm looking at currently (work rate, determination, decisions, concentration and anticipation). He lacks the two-footendess that I really favour in my full backs and he's not going to ever be able to get trained to that point. He's not good enough for La Liga, yet (if at all) but will get plenty of minutes this season to see just how good he is.
Initially signed for Gremio for €1.5m, the Palmerias lad never really broke into the first team and, strangely, was listed for just €15k, 100x smaller than his previous sale. He's three years older than Sandro but not hugely more developed than him. He's my archetypal ball playing centre back, a role that I didn't manage to fill following the deadline day sale of Orriols and is good in all of the areas that I want from him, with the exception of positioning. Probably, a little homage to the much loved Brazilian styled centre back (cough: David Luiz).
I decided to allow one outgoing transfer of note, that of Jorge Penalillo back to South America. He signed for €14k from Palestino so this is a massive profit on a player who hasn't really hit it off, with just nine goals in fifty appearances for us. It also coincides with the emergence of Septien as a real first team option for me. It's been nice to actually get FM open again!
The good form keeps on going and, with just the one (expected) blemish at the end of the month, we have really fired ourselves into a position whereby anything other than the title would be a disappointment and anything other than promotion would be a travesty.
The goals are again being shared out but it was club icon Brian Pena who struck three times against an under-strength but still very good Atleti side but we couldn't repeat that performance in the next round, even though we did take Real to extra time.
A cup run in the past few years has always made January a tough month and, as such, we have always faltered come February. We are in a great position and we must now capitalise on it and pick up as many points as we can.
Scouting missions are continuing as I look to find players who are potentially going to be interested in joining a newly-promoted team next year. The initial focus is on South American talent but largely not from Brazil or Argentina (although I've found a cracking couple of fullbacks who certainly fit my description from Brazil) and I'm ensuring that I can save every penny to give myself the largest transfer budget that I can.
A little hit and miss over the past two months but, with the lead that we have already accrued, we haven't jeopardised our potential successes. January, as mentioned, took it out of the team and some, what I thought was clever rotation, saw us fail to win either of the first two games against mid-table opposition. A defeat against Leganes at the end of February had me worried, given the way they sliced through our tired defence in the last half hour - scoring three but probably deserving more.
March was somewhat better but a poor performance away at Sevilla cost us the points. Although we have a lot more goals from elsewhere - we are still evidently far less incisive when Pena is having a bad day. At this level, these have been few and far between but I do need a plan B for next year, which, all being well, won't be at this level.
Above is the current squad that I am using and, with the addition of Marlon Lucas, who joins in the summer - will be the squad that I hopefully start La Liga with. Highlighted are the group of players who I feel need time out on loan (Lucas does, too) next year, hopefully at the level that we are playing now. I feel that, on the whole, the idea to give the younger players experience this season has paid off - they are much improved and now probably good enough for this level and we have been able to perform well with them.
This essentially leaves me with a shopping list of:
- A Right back (but could be a winger conversion). Required to be fast and technical with at least average defensive attributes. - A left back - see above. - A centre back, good enough with the ball at his feet to assist with transitions. - A half back (but could be a NCB/CD conversion). Ideally, really tall and good at breaking up possession. - Central midfielder. Ideally an all rounder but certainly a creator wouldn't go a miss. - A right winger. Needs to work really hard in what will essentially be a more defensive role than normal. - An attacking midfielder (but could be a ST conversion). Backup for Pena, at this point. Ideally hugely experienced but willing to sit on the bench.
Then, and only then, can I look at improving areas of my current squad - with Lazaro, Willian Santos and Eduardo Berro all on the list of potential replacements.
I need to start looking now (although this is hard to identify the correct players given that they, clearly, aren't interested until we achieve promotion. I also want to sign players who are ready, or at their peak of their careers, allowing me to make the decision on which player to retain when the youngster's loans have finished.
A poor intake that comes at a time whereby youth players will have a hard enough journey into the first team. I've not screenshotted any of these initially but I may use the tracker next year for the top few.
A truly wonderful season, one of my best in fact, in terms of pure enjoyment at watching what I'd created unfold. We were, by far, the best team in the division - as noted by our goal difference and setting a new LaLiga123 points record. The final months saw us smash Alaves 8-1 and then proceed to throw some points away, maybe making the only blot on our season - our inability to hit 100 points, a target that I don't think I have ever reached in Football Manager. The absence of any B clubs really posing a challenge made the season more difficult for us - given that they increase the amount of promotion slots and often beat the teams around me - but we had enough about ourselves to do this alone.
From a playing perspective - we have performed really well although have become slightly dependent on largely the same eleven but this is somewhat down to keeping a winning team together. Pablo Fernandes has been an absolute delight to watch, playing in the RPM(s) role as, essentially, a Free 8. He plays next to a Mezzala, usually Puigmal or Berro but has really shone with his ability to create more than a chance per game. His creativity has been shared somewhat with Juan Jose Septien, who, over the season, has grown into the AML position and made the sale of Penalillo much easier. He's, I think, the only player, aside from Brian Pena, to reach the 15 goal mark at the second level of Spanish football for us. Below shows how important he's been:
Elsewhere, Sergi Puig has, once again played every minute of football and, once again, shown that he is good enough to play at the top level. One bit of immense joy on FM19 was getting a player to 1000 career games and, sadly, the transfer of Puig will probably stop that being repeated - given that it's going to be pretty much impossible to give a 16-year old first team football in La Liga. Never the less, he has six to eight years left I'd say and he'll certainly improve on his 301 league games for us.
Some interesting news regarding the stadium - but I knew that ours was too small for La Liga, anyway.
This summer is going to be massive, but I'm looking forward to it!
Using my somewhat basic approach to rating the player, I have a decent view of just how good the players are for what I want from them and how deep (or not) the squad depth is. Sadly, FM is not at a point where it could translate the numbers to coloured blocks on other screens, such as a customised home view, so I have to do this myself - meaning that I've probably made an error somewhere.
The first thing to notice here is the sheer lack of depth. Three central midfielders, three defenders and two wingers, plus no backup should Brian Pena get injured. I am, fortunately, blessed with a lot of versatility, something that I have always insisted upon in the squad building process. However - the squad lacks quality throughout - and even my rating system can pick up that there is a whole host of players who, across the board, do not average highly based on their attributes (but this is largely an initial judgement - Paolo Fernandes is amonst my best players yet only has a 'half full' circle and Berro, Lazaro, Carlos Alberto and Angel are two footed so their attributes are slightly skewed anyway).
Looking at the attributes, a Mezzala that can't finish, a full back that can't tackle, a winger with average technique? These are things that I need to look at, in combination with the big picture of their historical performances for me compared with what is available on the market, at what cost, before I sign new players.
However - I have decided to run each possible signing through a little flowchart to make sure that they are the right player I need:
To break this down - we are still working really hard on creating a style of football and this won't change, even going from the top of one league to the bottom of the next. My scouting team have been working hard to find people who's base attributes in A,D,C,D and WR (see image) are at least good (dark green on attribute screen). The next check is that if the player is experienced - I have a whole bunch of youngsters who I am loaning out and, if the player has a similar amount of top flight experience as they do (which is none), then there is little point splashing out any money to replace them. Obviously, a player who is playing at a top club in Spain compared to a player who's experience is in the top flight of Botswana is a different story - but it's a start. Next up, I want players who are at their peak unless they fit into somewhat of a 'marquee' signing. We don't play a physical game but our high line and our compactness (as you'd get with a strikerless formation) and our fluidity of play means that the players need to be fast to move back into positions - I can have a lad with no legs, unless he's a Xavi-esque player and always finds time on the ball. The last criteria is my fault - bringing in Marlon Lucas and wanting to loan him out immediately was a silly idea and that means I have too many non-EU players and I've had to loan out Sandro Henrique, the left back I signed last year who played really well. Therefore, the signings, at this point - need to be EU or good enough to displace a current holder of a non-EU spot.
Therefore - based on probability of acquisition and need of replacement, my shopping list is as follows:
Lazaro was signed three years back for €105k from Huesca and has no top flight experience. He's two footed and has good anticipation, decisions, determination and work rate and decent concentration. His average rating, over the three years in the division, has always been below the squad average and, he hasn't contributed too as much as I'd like to attacking output over his time at the club.
I have a number of targets in mind here but none of whom fit in with the EU part. I also believe that I will have to spend a considerable amount of my budget to bring in the type of player that fits the bill here.
Willian Santos has been left behind a little by the club, a valued servant but really a third tier player who has slowly seen his playing time diminish and his role as a team leader disappear. He's not too bad across the board, except for having a weak left foot, which has let him down against a strong winger. Unfortunately, I don't have a player who I've established would improve this part of the team yet, however, it is vitally important that I do so.
Puigmal and Fernandes were good last year and Berro is a decent deputy but I've got three players who would be marquee signings and are all available, 32 year old Dani Ceballos, 33 year old Marco Asensio and 31 year old Carles Alena. The latter is the most likely to sign based on wage demands but he would be the only one that would cost me money, as he's currently looking for a new challenge from Vallecano. They are all over 30 but the Free 8 role would mean that, even as their legs go, they can still influence the game. This is not the highest priority but probably the most likely deal to happen.
I currently have nobody lined up for this role.
Lazaro is the key upgrade and Willian Santos is the key 'will be out of his depth' and I have just over €13m to work with!
The signing of Carles Alena is our first real marquee signing and, as important as youth development has and will continue to be for me, marks a really important part of this save. Alena has not quite hit the heights that I'm sure he could do in real life but has maintained a steady career in the top two tiers of Spanish football - yet is still quite the steal for a newly promoted club.
Signing number two of the summer is the big one. Jorge Varela smashes our record transfer for the second time in a month as he makes the switch from Mexico to the top tier of Spain. He's a bit of a diamond in the rough, if I'm honest - a player with such vast honours who was considered an important member of a strong Club America side, available for quite a meagre sum in a league that can, when necessary, charge a pretty penny.
Jorge takes up my last non-EU slot but I feel is a worthwhile investment. I was particularly drawn his versatility, natural on both wings but also accomplished as a full back (and not really out of his depth either) but also incredibly well rounded with excellent technique and work rate. He's 25, which means he should be past the stages of inconsistent performances and his prior experience can only be seen as a bonus for us in this situation.
What this deal does provide me though is a player who is far more rounded than his predecessor, Lazaro, as seen below:
Lazaro won't be sold, at this point but with Varela in and Samuel out on loan hoping to gain some good experiences at Castellon in the third tier, I wonder how longer he has left.
Carlos Sabena is the next major signing and will hopefully complete the defensive line now, with himself, Ropero, Benjamin and Angel (now reverting back to left back until Marlon is ready to take over). I tracked Carlos when we were in LaLiga 123 when he was at Elche but could never afford him. He moved back to Argentina and has been playing well, but not outstandingly, but I felt that he was a risk worth taking. Another one past those formative years whereby he might be a little inconsistent, he's, again, remarkably well rounded and and excellent decision maker with a superb long shot (yet has not scored a single competitive goal in his career!)
Another good season from a development point of view with two of my youngsters making good progress over the year. Both Antonio and Mendy have made really good development physically, which is surprisingly really as the Treq(A) role doesn't hugely focus on that area of the game. Both players are now at a point where they'll need some exposure to competitive football and will be moved to the B squad with a view to a loan move.
The easy bit - the outgoings. Only Willian Santos was sold for here, staying in the second tier, which is probably his level. Elsewhere, the loanees Samuel, Jose Angel, Juan Jose Bono, Francisco, Sandro Henrique and Stephen Olawale are all out to add to their taste of first team football, with most staying in LaLiga 123 and hopefully coming back a year better.
I have already discussed the three main transfers here: Alena, Varela and Sabena. But, to have recorded a net spend of only -€6m upon my arrival to the top flight, yet to be relatively happy with my transfer dealings is a position that I could have only dreamed of.
Firstly, Jorge Navarro could be a signing that goes way under the radar - he signed on a free from Valencia's B side. A two-footed central defender-come-wingback, he's really quite good on paper. He was one that I had intended to bring in to loan out but, like Lucas, he had no interest in discussing an would go to waste elsewhere. Probably a backup option to this point. The aforementioned Marlon Lucas is next in - a real project at full back but the type of full back that really fits our style. He's pretty much neck and neck with Angel as to who starts at left back but will have competition from Sandro Henrique either in the summer (should I sell a Non-EU player) or in 18 months once he's picked up citizenship. Claudio Pintado fills the next void - a dual DC and HB combo who was a snip at just over €150k from Pumas. Like Varela before him, he has a good pedigree, finishing as a runner up in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2025 and appearing in a strong Mexican side. He's hopefully not got the dirtiness to back up his aggression and bravery but is that stereotypical hard-man that I was after. Andreas Pereira, once a €23.5m signing for Newcastle United joins us for a small fee from relegated Empoli. He's the first real backup player I've had for Pena and, with his ageing legs, will be used as just an impact sub.
I have assembled a really decent looking squad here. There is a fantastic mix of personalities throughout the squad - all being largely professional and positive and I have continued my slight OCD for signing 'Either' footed players - with ten in the first team. If this doesn't add to my goal of a total football styled approach, I don't know what will! We are strong throughout, with my rudimentary rating system picking out strong players across the spine of the team and no real week areas, except for maybe at centre back. I was watching the Man City documentary on Amazon Prime and it was commented that Pep finds recruiting centre backs the hardest job due to the sheer amount of things they have to do, and I would wholeheartedly agree with that. Ropero is a youth graduate, so my loyalty sways towards him and Benjamin was a fantastic find a few years ago with Alberto looking like he could reach that level but I don't know if I'd class these as potentially going to be world class. Carles Alena stands out as a cut above, as he should for the marquee signing.
I have always ran with a small first team and, in particular now, feel comfortable doing so given the above information. Given that I play a 4-1-2-3-0 formation (as FM calls it but Pena is clearly just a withdrawn striker) - I need depth in a few areas and I think that I have enough versatility within my squad to be able to cover all areas that I use. The combinations that I can have at DM are fantastic - Villalba and Pintado as HB(s) but Alena or evergreen Perieira as a REG(s), Berro as a RPM(s) or even Ropero as a BWM(d) show that I can adapt to any style. Ahead of them, Alena and Fernandes play in a RPM(s)/MEZ(s) combo but I could have two Free 8's with them, a runner in Berro, an AP(s) in Periera, a CM(d) in Benjamin, for example. The wings are similar - players are largely able to be a W(s) on one side or a IF(s) on the other and the mirror image of the formations allow that to swap and are used in game - which is why I love either footed wingers as their roles can change without their positions.
I feel that this summer has been far removed from the youth development (yet I've actually given them a great chance) but has been the most productive and soul destroying that I've had playing FM, probably ever!
I've had a very busy week but I spent yesterday evening doing something I've never done before - and that is fiddling with the skinning files. I am so incredibly inexperienced with this but really like what I've started to make. Firstly - I've taken the TCS skin and adapted the profile page but I have plans to work through a lot more before maybe even making my own skin for next year and beyond. Here are the main changes:
- TCS player information - this is great and I love the pro's and con's - Resized top bar so that I can fit in an overview of career stats (without that stupid graphical issue where it shows extra linesfor no apparent reason) - I so far have the basics but looking to edit that panel in order to fit in average rating and transfer information. - Completely resized all of the fonts - I play on 85% zoom but I've made them all smaller to fit a bit of extra info in. - Used the boxes to cover the attribute numbers as I had on the old skin - Removed goalkeeper rating from the info box as it's completely unnecessary. - Resized and added a background to the positional information - Removed the 'duties' and that stupid half-filled circle and changed the top roles to just 3 roles that a player is suitable to play in, removing the option to highlight attributes that are required as I can make that call myself. This is probably my favourite change as it all looks really good! - Changed the panel sizes so I can fit in the attribute analysis hexagon (now, no longer an octagon). I have dabbled with the criteria and names for each one and this is a work in progress but I like what I've done and I now know how to change it to have as many parts as necessary. - Removed a whole line of small panels as these don't fit my resolution - making more room to see season stats - Adapted the Form (last 20 matches) from the TCS skin to show long term form.
I have also changed the comparison screen so that it doesn't show attributes and the hexagon is mirrored to what is on the profile page and the player search screen also can't show attributes now. I have plenty more to do but I'm really enjoying this side - making this show exactly what I want!
An absolutely unbelievable start to the season - which is completely unexpected.
We started the season off in the most hipster way ever, a 4-1-4-1 AM against Valencia to keep tight and compact, not allowing their creative midfielders any space, and even Brian Pena put in a defensive shift. A fairly 'easy' run against Elche, Levante and Depor gave us seven points and, to be fair, any less than five would have been seen as a disappointment - even with our status as a newly promoted team. The away win at Depor flattered us but not as much as the home victory over Villarreal, who are a solid top half side these days. We put them to the sword with fast transitions from wing to wing which allowed Varela so much space against their offensive full backs. A good win over RCD Mallorca, a team who are probably of a similar level to us, has topped off a great time. We are probably one third of the way to our points target from about a sixth of our season.
There will be tough times to come but our transition to the top flight has been sublime.
Another landmark ticked off!
Some research tells me that the second highest migrant population in Guadalajara is, in fact, Romanians (Moroccans are first) - so this link with Romanian top tier side Iasi was a sensible option. I've added the option whereby we may get Romanian youth candidates and I've added the top tier to come into play next summer so I can use the loan market and get ourselves a footing in the Romanian market.
My scouts raved about this lad and, based on his personality and preferred foot - I couldn't turn him down. Bravo will join for €300k next summer but will probably be loaned out for a good time. He lacks the intelligence (making use of the hexagon already!) but is the perfectly physical full back I want. I am looking to also get a foothold in the Chilean market as there are several undervalued players there, such as the above.
We continue to roll on, even with a poor month that saw us lose twice - although, to be fair, as I'd expect to have done. My only concern here is the lack of conviction that we showed against Valladolid, when we dominated play but were poor in the final third. Whilst I am not getting carried away, I have been looking at some predictions based upon our current form:
We currently are scoring at just about 1.7 points per game and that, over the course of the season, would give us a total of 64 points. The orange line on the graph is the average points required to stay in the league over the last ten seasons - 32. With us sitting at over 20 points from just thirteen games, we could technically be moving past the drop line as early as gameweek 20 - a huge achievement for a newly promoted club.
Also, it is interesting to look at where 64 points would get us in the previous years - and, aside from the 2022/23 season, each end result would see us quality for Europe - an utterly unthinkable objective to have set myself when we came up.
A note - we haven't played Barca nor Real yet and Barca, who have won La Liga nine times in a row with an Mbappe and Kean front line still managed by once unknown Carlos Corberan, have smashed Sevilla 8-0, Atletico 5-0, Depor 5-0 and Getafe 6-1 - so I can presume I'll be taking 0 points per game from those fixtures!
Once again thinking tactically and thinking about how we can set up to emulate the style of football I really want. The summer has seen a big shift, being in the big time means I have much more reign over who I can bring in and also over time who I can develop.
I really like the Half Back and how he fits in as a third centre back when needed but also is a little more aggressive than the BPDs. I have the option of playing with two inverted wing backs, moving to a 3-2-xxx formation when going forward with the full backs becoming central, two complete wing backs who provide much higher width up the pitch, along side the midfielders in a 3-4-xxx formation or a combination of the two. I have been using this season to gauge the ability of opposing full backs as to see whether I am leaving too much open but we seem to be moving quite well now and any deficiencies are player related and not tactical related.
Playing a 4-6-0 means that 'midfield' is a little obscure of a team, but I don't really mean the pure attacking players here even though they all contribute to that phase of play. I have been utilising these two shapes for a long time now and adding Carles Alena as the RPM(s) has only added to the success. I like to use the Mez(s)/W(s) to overload one side of the pitch, focusing play at a weaker full back or a more offensive one and taking control of the spaces. When the opposition realise this or when my play is not strong enough to break down a solid player, I can switch this (part of the joy of having either footed wingers is that they don't need to change position to change role). In this shape, the T(a) is by far the furthest player forward but his role is one that starts deeper and moves, aggressively forward and onto the shoulder of the last defender and, with Brian Pena, often successfully exploiting the spaces between those defenders.
This is where I want to go. As previously mentioned, Brian Pena 'starts deeper and moves, aggressively forward and onto the shoulder of the last defender' but can sometimes be marked out of the game - an anchor man or a BWM(d) seem to be particularly good at that. Therefore I need a plan B. And to be safe in a tough division, a plan C. My plan B would be to have the opposite of the Trequartista, a false 9 who starts on the shoulder of the last defender and drops deeper. I would, presumably, need an offensive role on the wing but that could come on a game-to-game basis, deciding on who I have available and who I am facing. The last one is more of a Total Football shape, with a Cruyff like figure, the engache, controlling the play with two aggressive inside forwards. The double mezzala behind them provides width (maybe with some combo of IWB/CWB)
I guess now it's time to look at some team instructions and some players who can help me develop these shapes.
And preparing for the next three transfer windows.
With promotion, we are really short of metrics to compare with and half of the team haven't been here long enough to compare with past performances to see who is under performing and looking, statistically, at areas I want to strengthen or refresh with youth. I am approaching the January transfer window in my save and, given our situation, have no targets lined up, no areas ready to research or no real idea of what I actually could be doing. Therefore, I'm going to do this.
Firstly, a look at the minutes played across the whole squad will give me a breakdown of who is and who isn't playing:
Pintado was brought in for backup, so that is not a worry but I need to see just how good Fernandes and Alena have been, to keep out both Berro and Puigmal and how effective Varela has been, as third highest minutes, to keep Lazaro on the side lines. The first choice defensive pairing of Marlon Lucas and Carlos Sabena have largely kept out Navarro and Angel, too. My star players - Benjamin, Pena and Puig, have, rightfully so, taken the lions share of the minutes.
With no other La Liga players who I can compare to because a) we haven't been in this league long enough for me to know where we stand (why would I compare us, as potentially relegation candidates with Barca) and b) me not knowing the players yet (we are ten years in and AI development and newgens have taken somewhat of a hold), I can't start pouring out charts comparing my own stars to that elsewhere in the league as the comparison is largely unfair and we tend to play slightly differently from most other teams. Therefore, the likes of Puig, Pena and Alena, to some degree, have no comparison and will remain unchallenged members of the squad.
A quick overview tells me that, on AR alone, Navarro should be partnering Marlon Lucas and Sabena, a big buy in the summer, should be relegated to the bench, playing second fiddle with Angel. However, when looking at passes attempted per ninety minutes, all players are largely similar - as would be expected for mirrored roles and players who aren't hugely different on paper. Their outputs with the ball, however, would suggest that Marlon Luis is streets above the other three, as you'd probably suggest would be the case given his ability, and corresponding attributes, that make him a suitable candidate as an AMC too. Defensively though, Luis is good and not lagging behind the 'traditional' defenders in terms of interceptions and tackles, of which Angel struggles (although he is actually poor in that area and I've seen him caught out a few times, to be fair). I think that this is justifying my addition of Sabena, who leads in tackles and interceptions and, whilst not quite providing the offensive outlet, is a really save defensive option in the IWB(s) role.
Thoughts: Really strong but an upgrade for Angel in the coming years as he's going to let us down defensively. Not vitally important, yet.
Basically - I need a new central midfielder! Puigmal, whilst being a talisman in the second tier, has been found out here and the reason why he's got the lowest amount of minutes is pretty clear. Alena, as hoped and expected, has been top class - with 0.29 goals or assists per game from the RPM(s) role with aging legs. He's not had the highest pass completion, at 86%, but 5% of those passes have been key passes - meaning he's not making aimless passes. Paolo Fernandes' pass completion is the worst but in the more offensive Mezzala role and with a trait of trying killer balls often, I don't mind, and that is evidence in his 0.28 goals or assists per 90 scoring, too. Berro is a strange player, an aggressive Mez(s) but is completing lots of his passes, yet not getting into scoring areas - although, even when he does, his finishing is poor and has a stupid trait of trying to lob the keeper, which he won't unlearn.
Thoughts: Puigmal will need replacing in the summer and sourcing a young replacement for Berro will be necessary as Fernandes is now 31. Hopefully 31 year old Alena can keep going, even if his role is altered, but this will need to be watched as time progresses.
Slightly condemning statistics again here - Lazaro has probably justified his lack of minutes with a very poor offensive outcome of no goals nor assists. He has the trait whereby he looks for the pass rather than the goal but that isn't hugely translated into chances created - although he lags way behind Andreas Pereira, who no longer has the legs to run. Varela, despite recording the highest average rating, has been surpassed by Septien in terms of his goal contributions per ninety and his key passes. Varela comes into his own though with 3.52 tackles per game, a 92% win ratio - that leaves him second in the whole squad.
Thoughts: Lazaro looks out of his depth so maybe a loan deal would help (although his playing time sees him as a regular starter so it may end up being permanent) and Pereira, as expected, is the right type of player just maybe a little too old to really contribute. He'll need replacing by both a winger, as backup for Septien, and a striker, as an alternate role for Pena.
The January Copa del Rey wins in January mask over what was a bad month in the league - although completely expected given games against two of the big three. Barca are an unstoppable force and both Mbappe and Kean have reached 20 goals apiece already and it looks unlikely they'll be stopped with only Atletico keeping up. Our January form mirrored the December form, where we took ten points - with maybe only things expected from Celta (now 19th) and Getafe (now 20th).
I have no reason to think that we should be aiming for anywhere near Europe this year and would happily take mid table, although, given the gape between us and Sevilla, I think that the top half is a solid aim, given the spread of big games in our remaining months (Sociedad and Barca in Feb, Valencia and Real Madrid in March and Atletico and Betis in April) meaning that it's unlikely we'll be able to put consistent runs together.
Ouch. I knew we'd have tougher periods of time and this was very much it. A poor start to February, as always seems to be the case after a long January, ended with a good performance against Barca. We then capitulated at home to Valencia before making a good turn around against Getafe but, with no fixtures between that and the next challenge, away at Real, it's hard to get any momentum going. We gave a really good account of ourselves down the road in Madrid and picked up a point but that, again, wasn't enough to spur us on against Athletic.
Next month sees us play Sevilla, Atletic, Betis and Sociedad intertwined with some easier ties. It's imperative that our heads don't drop or we could well see a repeat of February in a much more fixture dense month. However, the youth intake is due any day soon and I love that!
What a good one it is! Two Paraguayans, Lorenzo Palacios and Alex Vilisanti lead the way in what should provide some players for depth over the next few years. In Vilisanti, I have a two footed, good personality, half back who is consistent and incredibly promising!
We just about break even with match day income compared to wages so all of this is TV money. This is despite our wage bill sitting 41x less than Barca's and 1.86x less than the next nearest rival, Elche, at just £6.92m a year.