So, it’s time to begin the fourth season of the Bayer Leverkusen save, as we enter the 2022/23 season. This save is still very much alive and I plan to continue it for a few more seasons, so there’s no concerns about this save stopping (I am considering an African international save before FM16). In the last update, we finished the third season, and repeated (if not quite matched) the epic highs of the second season, winning the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and the Champions League, whilst adding to that with both Supercups and the Club World Championship. All in all, that’s 6 trophies, the best season we’ve had so far in this save.
It’s meant that we’ve risen up the club rankings, moving from 15th to 9th in the world, above PSG and Real Madrid, who have really declined over the past few years. Juventus are 4th in the rankings, which I find strange, as we’ve dominated them every time we’ve played them since I took over.
So this season, it’s time to push the boat out in every sense of the word, with signings and tactics. I’ll cover the tactics later on because it’s highly dependant on the signings I’ve made, but I have definitely pushed the boat out. As you’ll remember in the last update, I said that quite a lot of players were going to be leaving the club this summer, and they have, with us raising £139M in transfer fees. Firstly, 26 year old Julian Brandt was sold to Man City for £56M. I wasn’t going to be using Brandt in the new tactic I was developing, and £56M is way above what I’d value Brandt at. He was voted as German Player of the Year last season, and I’m not totally sure why. He’d played well for sure, but he wasn’t outstanding (hence why he wasn’t included in the POTY section in the last update), so I was more than happy to cash in on him.
Dominik Kohr was also finally sold to Dinamo Moscow for £2.8M after happily sitting in the reserves for the past season following the signing of Towa and development of Vener. I also finally made the decision to move on Ulrich Isa, selling him to Schalke for £28M, a fantastic profit on the £2.9M I paid for him from PSG two seasons ago. He could come back to haunt us, but at 28, he’s approaching his later years, and now was the time to cash in. Isa’s been a huge player for us over the past two seasons, scoring some huge goals in big matches. The signing of Isa represents some changes at Schalke, as Diego Simeone is now their manager, with Luis Enrique having left them to manage Bayern (after I told them to do one) in effectively a swap manager deal.
Arsenal also came in for Dirk Bruinsma, who was signed last season to replace Ivan Ribeiro. I negotiated Arsenal up to £26.5M and was more than happy to make the £12.5M profit on him, and look for a replacement. Jose Luis Gaya was also sold, moving back to Juventus for £16M. I’ve made a £5M loss here, but Gaya has been extremely valuable over the past few seasons so I don’t mind making a loss on him. With the development of Evan Viennet, it was time to move on the 27 year old. The last proper sale was a big one, as Number 10 Hakan Calhanoglu was sold to Valencia for £8.5M. He’d really started to decline, and now was the time to move him on, and at this point in his career, £8.5M is reasonable value.
In the last update, I said this:
“Well, there are yet more changes to come, and there’s a lot of players to move on this summer. Isa, Gaya, Hakan, Kohr, and possibly even Medaglia (who had the best averaging rating this year) will hopefully be sold, to make the most of the money we can get for them at this point, and to lower the average age of the squad. Even Julian Brandt is now 26, and if a good offer comes in for him, I could be tempted. The big clubs are after him.”
So out of those players, I’ve only held onto Medaglia, and that’s largely because there isn’t the right option out there right now to replace him. Pere Busquets works very well as our utility man, and always plays well when he’s needed, but he isn’t the long term replacement for Medaglia at right back. I consider that to be very good business, and I’ve made the moves I wanted to make. It means that there aren’t many players still at the club that were there when I joined. They’re now my players.
So, with this it was time to go out and let loose on the transfer market, and I spent £98.5M, much less than the fees I received. Firstly, I needed to replace Bruinsma, so a centre back was absolutely a priority.
I signed Brazilian centre back Elaninho from Cruizeiro for £18M. He’s perhaps a little less cultured on the ball than Bruinsma, but he’s strong and more than capable of filling the Dutchman’s shoes. He very much reminds me of Ribeiro in the sense that he’s a tank of a defender. I don’t think he’s necessarily an upgrade on Bruinsma, but I don’t think he’s a downgrade either, and his performances so far have been very encouraging, and it looks like £18M well spent. I’ve swapped a player, and made a nice profit out of it.
With the sale of Hakan to Valencia, I now definitely needed a new permanent Number 10, and I decided to splash out here. Money was no object. I’ve needed a top class Number 10 since the beginning of last season as Hakan started to decline. You know who my top target (not named Alexander Walter) was…
Yep, I finally got him. I signed Belgian Francis Mbiyavanga from Arsenal for £53M. Yes, it’s a huge outlay for one player, but in effect we’ve swapped him for Brandt, and made £3M profit. He’s got everything that I’ve been looking for. He’s a great dribbler and finisher, a willing passer able to see and pick out any pass, and he’s strong with a good amount of pace. He’s going to be a key part of the new tactic, and he’s dominating early on, scoring and making assists. I couldn’t be happier that he’s finally part of the team. In a way, his style of play reminds me of Ruud Gullit.
We also needed another left back with the sale of Jose Luis Gaya, and I signed Maguila from Coritiba to provide competition for Evan Viennet. Maguila looks like a fantastic player, and I managed to get him for only £850k, which is a ridiculously low fee. He’s actually been the starter in our early games, and he’s been very solid so far, and it’s going to be tough to choose between him and Viennet. Viennet is the much faster player (Maguila’s only real weakness), but Maguila is a more rounded player in terms of his technical and mental attributes. I think both players are going to push each other all season, and bring the best out of each other.
I wanted another attacking player with the sale of Isa and Brandt, so I signed Dudé from Sao Paulo for £26.5M. He’s fast, strong, with great dribbling, finishing and first touch. He’s also a very good passer, if an uncreative one. So far he’s proving to be a key part of the new tactic, and has pushed Thiago onto the bench. That alone shows how good he’s been so far. His direct running gives us so much in attack, and he can change games in an instant, combining with Mbiyavanga.
Speaking of the new tactic, it’s time to cover it, and show you the craziness that I’ve got planned for this coming season. Early signs are very good, and it looks like (somehow) it’s a very solid tactic, and it fits the players we have.
Strikerless and a Libero. Yes, I’ve gone full on tactical hipster here. It’s in effect a strikerless 3-4-1-2-0 with a Libero rather than a third central defender. Due to issues with the Libero in game, he plays as more of a sweeper, and rarely steps forward as I’d like. However, Bodin is still playing very well in the role, and it isn’t causing us any problems at all. Full on hipster role selection here. However, I am searching for a way to make him play more like a Libero that I’d recognise.
Ahead of Bodin are two standard central defenders on defend to complete the ‘back 3’. Ahead of that is a bank of 4, with two DM’s and two wing backs. I’ve moved Vener back to being a DM for the purposes of this tactic, but he’s now been given license to move forward as a Roaming Playmaker, and he gets forward to the opposition’s box a lot, and really causes havoc. Beside him is Towa, who is a standard DM-D and is far more defensive. The two CWB’s provide the width and get forward plenty, stretching the defence out, creating gaps for Dudé and Mbiyavanga.
Ahead of that is a BBM-S. Etou’s energy and stamina work fantastically and he gets up and down the pitch, providing a scoring threat when we go forward. The only problem is that his finishing is too low for him to be an elite player in this role, and I think this is where we can improve. Ahead of him is an effective front 2, with Francis Mbiyavanga as an AM-A (the more playmaking of the two roles) and Dudé as an SS. Dudé is basically a deep striker, and I see some of the direct running and attacking that I wish strikers would do more often on FM15.
This tactic might seem crazy, but FM15 is starting to wind down and I can feel the whole scene is now waiting for FM16. I felt it really was time to have a last hoorah on FM15 and do something different and push the boat out. I’ll be doing some tactical pieces to cover the development of this tactic, and show how it works in game.
But, is it actually working? How have our results been this pre-season?
Things are going fairly well considering the drastic tactical switch. It was world cup year, so I gave the players an extended break for the summer, only starting pre-season in early July. We went on a short tour of China, beating Beijing and Liaoning 3-0 and 5-0 respectively in very easy matches. We then came up against Luis Enrique’s Bayern (of course) in the German Supercup, and despite having the better of the game, we went through to penalties, where Bayern managed to win when they scored all of theirs, and Elaninho was the unlucky one for us, missing his. Still, it was early days with the new tactic, and in the league it would have been a draw, which I’d have been more than happy with. Still, I hate losing to Bayern.
After the penalty disappointment, it was time to move onto another Super Cup, this time the European Super Cup, where we’d face Monaco. In a match where the new tactic worked perfectly, Francis Mbiyavanga announced his arrival into the team with two goals, striking up a fantastic partnership with Dudé. Early days, Mbiyavanga and Dudé look like a much better partnership than Mbiyavanga and Thiago, and I even considered selling Thiago over the summer. However, no club got anywhere near the £70M it would require to make me sell, and as a result, Thiago’s staying and I’m going to hopefully work things out.
Anyway, after that we beat Sandersdorf 6-0 in the first round of the DFB Pokal, before starting off the Bundesliga with a nice easy opener – against Dortmund.
Well, it wasn’t even a competition. The new tactic was in full flow, and we demolished Dortmund 4-0. Dudé and Mbiyavanga just ripped their back 3 to shreds, and Vener and Etou were magicians from midfield. I’ll probably do an article on this match, showing why the tactic worked so well in this game, and why we won so easily.
So up until now, things are going well. I think I’ll make a few more transfers to bring in some youngsters, but I’ll cover these in the next update.
I also thought I’d briefly cover the finances of the club, and show how beneficial our success has been for us financially. We’re now now longer in debt, sitting with a good amount of money in the bank, and I’m still comfortably under the wage budget. I’ve got some transfer budget left to sign those youngsters. It’s a complete turnaround from the first season where we were millions and millions in debt. We’re projected to have £108M in the bank by the end of the season, pretty impressive considering this is running alongside the development of a new stadium, and new upgrades to our facilities, which I’ve had to hold off on until now.
It’s nice to not have to worry about the financial situation any more, as that’s a side of the game I know I’m not good at. We’re established as a top side in Germany now, and can be comfortable with the seasonal windfall we receive from challenging for the Bundesliga. Even finishing second or third leads to a nice injection of cash.
I also said in the last update that it would be the last time you’d see my Leverkusen with the old kits, and I’ve had some lovely new ones made to match with the big changes that have happened this season. They were made by @DaleNichol, and they’re absolutely fantastic. It’s little things like this that make the game feel special to me, and little details help keep it fresh. As we wind down now towards FM16, that’s an important factor for me as I want to keep producing content for this blog, but I don’t want to be bored and just keep playing, otherwise it will come across in my updates. I want the content to be quality.
I’ll update this save again just after the transfer window closes in January, but until then thank you very much for reading and continuing to support this blog. If you have any questions or queries, please feel free to ask either on Twitter (@JLAspey) or in the comments section. Thank you again.