Well, I’ve finished the 2016/17 season with Sturm so it’s time to update once again. I think it shows how much I’m enjoying writing these updates that I’m playing FM faster than I have in a long time. Usually it takes me forever to actually play a season on FM, and I’m already through 3 of them with Sturm. So, last time I updated we were 4 points clear of RBS, had been beaten to end our undefeated run at 56 games, and had made our way through to the first knockout round of the Europa League, having been knocked out of the CL by Celtic in the final qualifying round. I’d also started to use a 3-5-2, that I felt got the best out of our new striker ‘Super Kev’ Kevin Friesenbichler.
We carried on our great form in the league, beating Wacker, Ried and Grodig in ridiculously easy fashion. In between other cup games, we were in sublime form, playing ‘attractive football’ according to the game. Then we played Salzburg, and it all just went away. Rather than the 4-1-4-1 they used in the first game of the season between us (a 1-1 draw), they went back to the 4-2-4, pressed us very aggressively, causing us to struggle to maintain possession and play through them. They got one decent chance in the match, and it ended 1-0.
I then proceeded to rant on Twitter, which just shows how much I hate Salzburg. I actually said that I’ve never disliked a team so much on FM, and it’s pretty spot on. They’re funded well, and just buy their way out of trouble. Some of their signings this season smacked of desperation as they tried to win the league, but also irritated me as they bought two very, very talented Austrians in Marcel Buchel and Louis Schaub from Juventus and Rapid respectively. Not only that, but Schuab was on the bench the majority of the season, and Buchel was rotated constantly. They’d have been 1st teamers for me, particularly Schaub. It’s almost like RBS have figured out my signing policy, and are snapping up the best Austrians, only to do nothing with them. Anyway, this loss reduced the gap to 1 point, and I was worried.
Fortunately, I didn’t need to, as we recovered our form following that game, and Salzburg lost theirs. They still kept winning games, but there was the odd draw thrown in there, giving us the chance to capitolise. We didn’t manage to every time, particularly when drawing against FAK and Altach, but then in the penultimate week, Salzburg failed to beat Floridsdorfer and we finally took our chances, beating Admira to take a 5 point unassailable lead, and the Austrian title for the second year running.
We ended up winning the league by 7 points, but it was far closer than that suggests. Salzburg drew again on the final day, meaning the gap looks much bigger than it was in reality. Still, two league titles in a row is a huge achievement, and gives me another crack at the CL groups, which I’m determined to reach this year. Speaking of Europe, how did we do in the Europa League?
If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you’ll have seen me going crazy over this, but pretty damn well. Very well. We absolutely demolished Alkmaar 7-2 on aggregate in the first knockout round. They tried to go with a deep 4-4-2, but the 3-5-2 just tore it to shreds, with Friesenbichler and Quaschner getting most of the goals. We then drew Dynamo Kyiv, and I was positive we’d go out. We beat them 2-1 at home in the first leg, but allowing an away goal is always iffy, and I presumed in their stadium, Dynamo would finish us off. Not even close. Sallahi scored an early free kick to effectively kill the tie, before Schnaderbeck finished the game off. At this point, I was happy whatever happened, and if we’d gone out I’d have still bragged about it. We drew Everton (still with Lukaku, Barkley, Coleman etc.) in the quarters and proceeded to demolish them 3-0 at our place, thanks to a tweak I made with the tactic that was enforced. Super Kev had been injured in the game before, and sometimes I feel he’s too disconnected from the rest of our team in the build up, so I changed the front two from an AF-A and a DLF-S to a CF-S and a DLF-S. Quaschner was moved to the CF-S role (which the game reckons is his perfect role) and Alar was moved away from the CW role and played at DLF-S. It seemed to work pretty well, as Quaschner became the focal point of the attack, scoring 2 goals, with Alar getting one of his own. The team played so well, I decided to use the same setup from then on (with Friesenbichler out for 4 weeks). The fantastic results you see in the league above are as a result of this switch, I’m sure. The only issue is that it now has me questionning Super Kev’s place on the team, as he is neither a DLF or a CF, and the team were so good with these roles, and Quaschner grew into our top attacker. Anyway, back on topic. We then managed a 1-1 draw in the second leg, to put us through to face Spurs in the Semis. At this point, I really did know there was no chance of us going through, but for us to manage a narrow 5-4 aggregate loss was absolutely heroic. They were brilliant, all of them, and I had this very weird moment of pride towards my fictional players on a computer game. We got all the way to the Semis, to finally be knocked out. An unbelievable cup run. Ridiculous progress in 3 years.
So we’d won the league, and got to the Semis of the Europa League. Last season we’d managed to achieve the double, winning the OFB Cup for the second year running. I would have liked to make it 3 in a row, but of all the tournaments we were in, the OFB Cup received the least attention.
Unfortunately we couldn’t make it 3 years in a row. The OFB eventually just got in the way of the league campaign and our Europa League cup run, so in a way I was happy to be knocked out. There was one run of games where we faced Salzburg in the cup, then faced Dynamo in the EL, then Salzburg in the league (the 1-0) and then Dynamo in the second leg. It was a crazy run of games. We were knocked out on penalties by Ried, but honestly didn’t deserve to win the game at all.
I think it’s also worth mentioning how Quaschner did this season. As I said in the last update, he wasn’t cheap at all, costing £2.2M from Salzburg, where he was busy languishing on the bench (notice the trend). He started off playing in the DLF-S role, very much the Number 2 to Super Kev, but still did very well. However, when Super Kev got injured, Quaschner became the focal point of the attack, and just ripped everything up. He ended the season with 14 goals in 18 games, with 8 assists. That’s a pretty good return for £2.2M. Again, he played so well that I’m really questioning Super Kev’s role within the team, which is strange really as he managed 20 goals in 33 games, with 10 assists. I just feel that the whole team played better with Quaschner as the focal point of our attack. He’s a more rounded player than Super Kev, and that’s obvious when we’re building up play. I’ve got a choice to make this Summer. If I continue with the CF-S/DLF-S combo, Super Kev won’t fit that, and I’d rather sell him than have him kick up a fuss when he doesn’t play. For what it’s worth, I also think Quaschner is a more consistent performer than Super Kev, who despite having 15 finishing, has games where he can’t hit a barn door. Choices, Choices.
I also bought our keeper for the future in the January transfer window. Pliquett, who is now 32, started to worry me by feeling homesick (after 5 years at Sturm, yeah right SI), so I felt now was the time to go for a new keeper. I looked through the best keepers in the league, and the best option that was available was Andreas Leitner, who was doing very well at Admira. He was signed for 375k, a fantastic bargain. He was rotated with Pliquett (who recovered from his brief homesickness after a trip home) for the rest of the season, and performed very well. He finished the season with an average rating of 7.07 for us, and both he and Pliquett topped the clean sheet charts with 13 for Leitner and 12 for Pliquett. I’ll slowly start to phase Pliquett out, but I’d like to keep him on as a coach when he retires, so don’t want to irritate him too much and have him ask to leave.
I also realised after the last update that there’s a few people from the squad that I’ve sold that I haven’t mentioned, so I’ll mention them now to make sure you all have a fair idea of what the current squad is. I’ve sold Akiyoshi, Stankovic and Barbaric. All three of them were sold for asking for first team football that I simply wasn’t willing to give them. Rather than face a potential mutiny, I took the easy way out and let them leave. I’ve also let plenty of youth players go, who just weren’t going to make the cut. Speaking of youth, we’ve now had 3 poor youth intakes (or FM Christmas). Apart from Simma (who’s now at PSG), we’ve not had anyone decent come through, which is starting to concern me. The other Austrian clubs aren’t producing any future Alaba’s either.
Tactically, the 3-5-2 is the formation to go with as we move forward, it’s just figuring out the front two. Putting Spendlhofer, Dibon and one of Piesinger or Madl together as a Back 3 just means we dominate defensively. In 30 games, we only conceded 13 goals because of their utter brilliance. I’m also a tad concerned about the Regista role at DM, where Lovric plays. Against Salzburg, we were quite exposed there, and I’m beginning to think of toning it down, perhaps to a DLP-D or something along those lines. I’ll experiment at the start of next season, before making the final choice.
I’d do a ‘Top 3 Players’ like I did last season, but it would be so difficult to choose this time around. Not only because the squad is so heavily rotated, but also because everyone was fantastic. Not one player had a bad season, and they all contributed considerably. The whole defensive unit (including the goalkeepers and wing backs) do deserve a special mention though. 13 goals conceded in 30 games is absolutely fantastic. Hopefully next season we can kick on and become even stingier, whilst still scoring plenty.
So only one trophy for the cabinet this season, but I’d argue it was a much better season than last season’s double. We have progressed considerably as shown by the European campaign, and can actually compete on the continent. We’ve developed a much stronger squad, have trimmed the fat even further, to a point now where everyone cam come in and do a good job. The squad now needs heavy rotation to keep everyone happy, but it’s worth it to be able to challenge in Europe like we did this season. The absolute priority for next season is to make it to the Champions League groups. We need the cash from the groups in order to begin upgrading the facilities. In terms of transfers, the only places I’m really looking at are striker and Central Winger. I’ll probably end up going with the CF-S/DLF-S combination upfront, and therefore the choice will need to be made whether to sell Super Kev or not. Alar will therefore continue to play at DLF where he was fantastic at the end of the season, so a new first team Central Winger will be needed. I’m currently playing Schmerbock there, but he’s not good enough to really affect games in the role. If Schaub becomes unhappy at RBS, I’ll try and sign him, rather than have his development be ruined at RBS sitting on the bench. If I do manage to sign Schaub, I’ll have the Austrian/German team I wanted when I started this save.
Once again, thank you for reading my ramblings on this save, and I’ll probably update before the next season starts, depending on how many transfers I make. I don’t anticipate many, but my search for a Central Winger might be interesting to write about. As always, if you have any questions at all, please do ask.