My FC Twente side hosted Eredivisie leaders, Ajax on matchday 21 (26/1/20) of the 19/20 season. Heading into the match things looked a little different to how I expected they would when I started the season, we found ourselves in fifth position, level on points with Willem II as the best of the rest behind Holland’s big four of Ajax, AZ, Feyenoord and PSV.
Having just been promoted FC Twente’s predicted position was 14th. I knew that in the future, the squad could be moulded to reach the top half and challenge for the European places but I didn’t quite expect to do it so quickly. Especially given my track record in FM20. Sacked by Toulouse and Werder Bremen in both saves I’ve ‘blogged’ about. In between those saves I had eight great seasons in Denmark with FC Nordsjaelland but didn’t blog about that after my first few posts. Perhaps now I’ve started blogging about this save my blogging curse will strike me again. Let’s hope not as I’ve got the bug again after a break away from playing and concentrating on other things since being furloughed.
Anyway, back to the Ajax game. We drew 2-2 having given them a well-fought game. We had the majority of possession, just how I like my teams to play, and matched them toe to toe in the midfield battle and were even on shots/chances. The draw meant that we kept our unbeaten run going, but it stopped our five-game winning streak. Something that came as a pleasant surprise in the first place.
Above you can see how we’ve been lining up this season. The 4-1-4-1-DM Wide as the game calls it (4-3-3 as I call it) has been everpresent throughout the season but things have been tweaked. The back four roles have stayed the same likewise the striker role. The DM started out as a DLP-D with the AP-A being a CM-A but I’ve switched them and things seem a bit more balanced now. Javi Espinosa in the AP-A role has been superb and has 9 assists so far this season. My wide players started out as IF-S on the left and W-A on the right but I now prefer the balance with the IW-S and IF-A. Noa Lang has been particularly impressive in the IF-A role.
Oliver Jensen released his mentality calculator last week and having played around with it I’ve learnt a few things and it appears to be paying off. My idea is to have possession of the ball so I wanted to use a balanced mentality to encourage this, however, certain players needed an ‘attacking’ mentality to enable us to create chances. Those players are the DLF-A, IF-A, AP-A and the FB-A. Why these four? I wanted my left full-back to overlap, my advanced playmaker to be my main creator and my striker and right forward to be the main goalscorers. The standard FB-A only has a positive mentality but using the ‘focus play down the left’ instruction pushes him to use an ‘attacking’ mentality. The overlap left instruction, which is key to push the FB-A forward, changes my IW-S from ‘balanced’ to ‘cautious’. Which seems to give more space to enable the overlap. I haven’t looked at this role that closely yet but I do like what I see. I also like my team to use high pressing, I’ve achieved this by telling my front five players to do so do more often. I didn’t want my whole team to press, just in case we lose our shape, so I’ve used player instructions rather than the team instructions to do this. Our goal difference isn’t the best, as we’ve conceded on average a goal per game but this has improved recently with the tweaks I’ve been making as the season has gone on.
One of my main concerns with the playing squad when taking over was the number of players that we had in on loan. At the start of the save the squad contained eight players on loan from other clubs, seven of them would expire at the end of the season with only Giorgi Aburjania at the club for a two-season loan.
When January hit, I was given €2.5m transfer budget and I wanted to strengthen the first-team squad in key areas of the pitch to hopefully enable us to push on and finish as high as possible up the table. Bringing in two or three players in January would also give players time to settle in before the new season and would reduce the number of new recruits that would have to gel together next preseason. Key to my tactic was the overlapping left-back but neither of my two loanees had impressed me with their final delivery so a left-back was put to the top of my priority list. With the defence leaking a few goals too many I wanted to sign a centre back to pair with Xandro Schenk. Both Julio Pleguezuelo and Peet Bijen were being rotated to see who could step up to be my first choice and neither really impressed me, both gave away goals with silly errors in games. So a centre-back went on my shopping list too.
At the start of the save I set up a new scouting team. I wanted to create a team that can help me find players with potential from areas that can give me good value for money. I set out five main areas to look at. Holland, South America, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia and signed a scout to perform assignments in each region to look for players with good potential under the age of 21. The Eredivisie is a great league to give chances to youngster talents and it will be one that players look to use as a stepping stone to a larger Champions League side, I’m good with that. I want to create a system that allows me to find players, train them, give them playing time at the correct level and move them on, the key will be to have a replacement ready.
I’m now at the end of January and have filled to two aforementioned positions. Despite his low Adaptability (something I missed when hiring him) my Scandinavian scout Ricardo Knarren found Fredrik André Bjørkan who became my first signing, he joins from Bodo/Glimt for €2.5m, the deal is structured like many in real life in instalments. A classic modern full-back, better going forward than he is in defence but that’s perfect for how the team is setup. More importantly, he’s a huge improvement in key areas, crossing, composure, off the ball, teamwork, work rate and multiple physicals. He wanted a €10.5m release clause for Champions League sides and I gave him that without hesitation.
My second signing was that of Kevin Ehlers from Dynamo Dresden. My Eastern European Scout Ivan Popovic spotted him playing for Germany U20’s versus Czech Republic U20s in which his Germany side won 4-0 and he came away with a 7.9 rating. He joined for €1.5m in another structured deal. He’ll slot in next to Schenk in the centre of my defence and I reckon he’s an instant upgrade. Ehlers also has a release fee, this time for any club and it’s €10.75m, a tidy profit for someone who I think is destined for greater things and right now I don’t mind if it’s with us or not.
Both of these signings allowed me to terminate loans deals of current players. 4th choice centre-half Joel Latibeaudiere goes back to Man City after playing * games. José Matos who featured in a few more games heads back to Cadiz. He hadn’t impressed me as much as Calvin Verdonk in that left full-back role. I decided to sign Verdonk permanently as his contract expires in the summer. He’ll join on a Bosman deal and is happy to be a backup to Bjørkan. Another played less to find for the summer.
We’re down to six loanees now, one of whom is joining on Bosman and one other has a two-year loan deal so that leaves four players to replace in the summer. We’ve dished out new deals with the wages saved from those returning loanees so the squad is in better shape in that respect too.
Twente Twente Vision
My vision for FC Twente is clear (20/20 vision get it?) I want to consistently produce high-quality academy graduates, supplement them with talent from my key scouting regions, whilst developing each player within our own framework to be the best that they can be. Ideally, I will make a profit on almost all players and predominantly sign under 23 players.
Recently, Seb Wassell (features designer at SI) has been sharing gems on his Twitter account between those and my understanding of how the game works I wanted to break down how I think it’s best to achieve what I’ve outlined above.
1) Youth Intake
How can I ensure my youth intake is providing me with players that could make their way to the first team? All of the below areas can affect and influence the youth candidates that come through every year.
Youth Facilities (currently: good) – this only applies to juniors i.e only players not currently at the club. Any player at the club, regardless of age use Training Facilities.
Youth Recruitment (currently: good) – the Club’s recruiting of Juniors, those of home and foreign origin
Junior Coaching (currently: Excellent) – the quality and quantity of Junior Coaches at the club
Nation Youth Ranking: the potential maximum quality and quantity of Juniors produced in that Nation. I assume that this is pretty good for Holland.
Head of Youth Development: The club’s HoYD is responsible for bringing Newgens into the club. He will influence what “type” of players are selected and can partially or fully pass on his personality to some of these Newgens. The “type” of players selected refers to a player’s position and style, for instance, a HoYD with a preferred 4-5-1 formation and a Technical Coaching Style may produce more technically styled midfielders than another HoYD. The HoYD will also influence the rare “freak” or exceptional Newgens that come through, modifying their ability and style. This role is filled by the HoYD by default, however, if none is employed whichever staff member is set to be responsible for youth development will fill this role.
2) How can I ensure I find the best players outside of the club?
I have touched on this already but the answer to this question will be focused around scouting. I am going to employ scouts of key areas that I want to focus on. This will raise our club’s knowledge level in certain regions/countries. The scouts judging attributes will also be key for obvious reasons although I will have the final say on who we sign.
Another way to raise our knowledge levels of certain regions is to create partnerships with clubs in the areas I’d like. For example, we currently have partnerships with the Paraguayan team Libertad, perfect for my focus on recruiting from South America.
3) How can I ensure my players are developing at the best they can be?
There are three key areas in this section. I want to provide the relevant game time to players over the age of 18. For this, we have three squads at the club, the first team, reserves and youth teams. The first team are obviously in the Eredivisie and the youth team are playing in the U18 Eredivisie. However, the reserve team are just playing in a reserve competition. This may not be the best game time for some of my higher potential players. I’d love to get them playing in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie (professional second division) just as Ajax, AZ, PSV and Utrecht have their second teams in that league. I will also look at loaning out players and creating partnerships with clubs to enable this loan system, the downside to this is that other clubs will be in charge of their training.
Talking of training, this will be key a key factor for under 18s at the club, although relevant at all levels. I have created three schedules (above) which focus on training attributes that suit the way my team plays. I want to focus on attributes like Anticipation, Decisions, Composure, Off the ball, Positioning, Vision and Teamwork. All mental attributes as I want smart players in the side. All three teams will use these schedules on a rotating basis, (as well as the same first-team tactic). In addition to team training, I am training each player in a specific role and with an additional focus too. Again, focusing on the above attributes and also the role he’ll play in the tactic, I’ll use my own judgement to deem which role/focus is best for each player. I’ll choose a few players and highlight their development in future posts.
The last part to discuss here might fall more into the Scouting part as we move forward and sculpt the squad for the future but Personality (specifically Professionalism and Ambition) and Determination have been proved to accelerate players ability. Whether this still applies for FM20, I’m unsure. Developing players and this point, in particular, is a long term strategy, can I fill my senior squad positions with ‘top tier’ personalities. This links nicely to our squad Hierarchy and Mentoring. Right now, I have one team leaders, Wout Brama. He’s a Resolute personality and has great mental attributes but he’s not first choice, he made some complaints about this so I’m giving him some game time to keep him happy. I want him to stick around so he can effect some youngsters. At the moment, he’s leading my only mentoring group, as seen below but I’ve not seen much effect take place yet.
I feel that I’ve rambled quite a bit so that’s all for now. I’ll report back at the end of the season. Thanks for reading if you made it this far, hopefully, my blogging curse doesn’t hit me and I can get a few good seasons under my belt blogging this save.
Bye for now!