There comes a time, thankfully in every version of FM, where I’m so desperate to carry on my save that it can be somewhat all-consuming. I’m lucky to work from home during these strange times we live in, my setup is usually my work laptop sitting on my desk with my PC rigged up with monitor behind…now it would make sense to connect my work laptop to said monitor…but then sneaking in a bit of #lunchtimeFM would be a bit more onerous. That temptation is often too great to resist.
Similarly, I really enjoyed writing the last blog I wrote, but I have to force myself to stop finger-blasting the spacebar, sit back and take stock of the in-game 12 months that have passed since the last blog. And it’s been one hell of 12 months.
Well, we won the league again, three times in a row now. I’m not going to dwell on this too much as I’ll always expect myself to win the league now. My squad is one of the strongest in the league and short of a huge slump in the form I was at least 6 points clear of 2nd place from the halfway point of the season.
As I did in the first blog I do like to reflect on my domestic season statistically and see where we were better (or worse) than last season with a view to improving or building on our progress to date.
Before I get to that I’ll bring us back to that halfway point in the season where I was confident of the league title. It gets to June and the transfer window opens for the majority of Europe and this is where I get a little nervous; bids are almost guaranteed for my players each year and I always like to play as realistically as I can in the market – if a good bid comes in that would have been accepted in real life then I’ll almost certainly accept it in the game, within reason.
The summer of 2022 was no different as we saw two first team players leave;
Sivert Mannsverk was only signed from Sogndal at the end of our first season for around £1.6m. Just as he had established himself as a regular starter alongside Patrick Berg he was subject to a bid from Aston Villa that was eventually negotiated to £10m – not a bid I can rightly reject.
Boniface signed for Bodø in 2020 and was very much a squad player for me. He was largely frustrating with flashes of brilliance but more often than not was pretty average for me either from wide or up top. More than happy to accept £7.5m from Fulham for him.
It’s easy to forget that I kicked the season off with my Europa League knockout games. We faced FC København, a tricky tie but one I thought we could compete in. Given that we played these ties as our first games of pre-season we looked a little off the pace as we limped to a 1-1 draw at home followed by a 2-1 defeat in Denmark.
I still hope to one day make it to the latter stages of this competition in my pursuit of European glory, however, it won’t happen in Season 3 *wink wink nudge nudge*.
So the second half of the season sees us begin our Champions League group stage qualification again, like last year we had some tricky ties but I was really chuffed with how dominant we were at home as we fought our way into the group stages for the 2nd year running.
It’s always tough to balance the squad with the league and group games coming every 3 days, some bans and injuries take their toll so I had to make sure my best players were fresh for the home ties and they didn’t disappoint.
So into the group stages, we went where we were drawn with PSG, Inter Milan & Club Brugge. A mighty tough draw again and my aim was to try to pip that 3rd spot from Brugge. They have a stronger squad than we have by far but you never know in football…
Our Champions League campaign defied all expectations. Beating Brugge in Belgium kicked things off to a great start and we crashed back down to earth at home to Inter getting royally thumped.
I thought we better set up to absorb more pressure so from my standard ‘home’ tactic of 4-2-3-1 I went to a 4-1-4-1 system and reduced how intensely we pressed (facing better technical players an intense press may have seen us carved open again and again) and it worked wonders…that and a huge slice of luck and some stand outperformers.
The PSG game was mad. Højbjerg in goal made 10 world-class saves, notching an 8.8 rating for the match and this was basically the difference-maker. That and some phenomenal link-up play between Solbakken & love of my heart Albert Braut Tjåland (now dubbed ‘The ABT’).
This moment felt almost surreal, sat in my dining room one evening it was fist pump over fist pump. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing both from my keeper and from Solbakken / Tjåland. A historic night and I’m still buzzing from the win.
Incredibly we scored 3 times against PSG again in the following game and were 3-1 up at one stage only to eventually succumb to a Mbappe masterclass and lose 5-3. Not to be downhearted, however, we dusted ourselves off and got the crucial win vs Brugge to cement 3rd place, or so I thought…an incredible 2-1 win in the San Siro with a 95th-minute ABT penalty earning us a deserved 3 points and somehow, somehow, we had made it out of the group stages in the Champions League – far surpassing mine and anyone else’s expectations.
It’s moments like this that make these FM saves so bloody enjoyable. Oh and guess who we face in the 1st knockout round?
End øf Seasøn Repørt
The culmination of the group stages coincides with the end of the domestic season and a time to reflect on how we fared.
Very similar seasons, we conceded slightly more which I’m not too surprised at given we moved from a flat 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1, a slight increase in xG per game but a massive jump in goals per game – thanks to a certain someone…
We’re massive outliers here, there’s nothing better than being aggressively clinical, or clinically aggressive…the latter sounds a little like a diagnosis mind you.
I thought I’d share this screen as, well, you can see we scored 31 more goals than our xG which seems like a lot. Basically a goal per game more than expected. This was largely down to a certain somebody.
This fella absolutely steamrolled all opposition this season. Some fantastic goals…he was a pure joy to watch. He massively outperformed his xG, so I feel like this season was a bit of a one off – but I was here for it and it was brilliant.
With Mannsverk leaving I needed a direct replacement and FRJ was very much of a similar mould. MNW is the hottest young Norwegian DC out there so I had to bring him to Bodø before it was too late.
With a tactical change to 4-2-3-1 and utilising an AMC I needed depth and competition for Fagerli Halsøy and he can also rotate in the MC slots where required.
We also brought in some more 16-18 yr old Norwegians & Danes, hopefully one or two will progress well enough to be included in a future blog post.
Another great and enjoyable season. The ABT bossed it and the supporting cast of Solbakken, Berg, Bjørkan, Tounekti & Højbjerg was brilliant.
The save ticks through the winter World Cup of 2022 and sees…Norway win! Incredible. Mad but incredible. I was gutted that Berg & Bjørkan weren’t called up the tournament to share in the success. They beat Switzerland in the final 3-1. Mad.
On top of breaking all the domestic records for goals scored & games won for a domestic season we also had this little bit of news…
A huge climb and it’s great to see our progress over the last 3 years. Next up, Man Utd – we couldn’t could we?!