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FM14 | Out of the Foxhole V – West Brom and the Premier League

Out of the Foxhole

Welcome back to my trip down memory lane! In this series, we’re returning to Football Manager 2014 and my first some-what successful Football Manager save to finish what I started and go for glory with what I know after years of experience! In this update, we’re going to be going over my year with West Brom in my first Premier League season.

If you’re new to the series, here’s a link to part one, and if you’re just looking to brush up on the most recent update, which was my half-season at Charlton Athletic, then click the link here.

As I said in the previous update, I wasn’t really feeling it after my half season at Charlton, because I was so attached to the successes I had with Oxford. After that half-season, I set the game down for many months and I turned my attention to playing FM15, which I had recently gotten in a sale in the early summer, and then I moved on to FM16 for a short while before feeling a tugging that meant I had to give this save a go again.

I fired up the game, and after giving a glance over the squad in early June, I came across a job opening for the Premier League’s West Brom and noticed I was their leading candidate. Going for personal glory wasn’t my initial objective, working with Oxford specifically was, but with that water long under the bridge, I decided to put in a formal announcement that I wanted the gig at West Brom. It was my time managing in England’s top division, and I was ready for it!

As you can see in the above table, we had a successful season. Despite being pegged for the lower end of the table and only a couple spots above the drop, we had a strong campaign under my management, and we ultimately finished in eight. Five points were all that separated us from the “Big 6” and a surprisingly strong Stoke.

If you take a look at the league results that season, the teams above us, the rich teams in UEFA competitions, were the only ones who were a serious challenge to us.

 

I’d like to pretend that it was my own genius that made it all work for me, but instead of the 4-2-3-1 tactic that I was used to working with during prior seasons, I opted for a 4-1-2-3 strikerless tactic that I got off Guido Merry. During my time in FM16, I discovered Guido’s Strikerless website, and I was experimenting with different strikerless tactics to see if they worked as advertised. I enjoyed it because it was different, though I’ll admit I’ve never successfully created my own strikerless tactic!

This is the West Brom best eleven for the 2017-2018 season. I’d like to think we had an all-star cast, considering our budget, and I couldn’t be more happy with how my first top division season went, despite it being an unknown.

I’ll let the numbers on this screen speak for themselves. I do have a couple of players that I remember well enough despite the years, and like in previous posts, I’ve got 3 players that I found particularly outstanding, that I’m going to cover briefly.

Lucas Piazon was our team’s top goalscorer, and he joined West Brom from Hull for $16m. I spent a significant amount of money on him at the time, but I recognized him as someone who would be the keystone in this crazy strikerless idea of mine, and he didn’t disappoint. He knew his way around the ball and slotted in perfectly to the tactic I was using, and his value jumped immensely. In the two and a half seasons since I left, he’s been a slightly less regular member of the squad. It’s fair to say he’s not going to be a regular under the new West Brom manager, seeing as he’s made only five appearances and we’re in early January 2020 at the time of writing.

American attacking midfielder Joel Sonora joined West Brom under my management from Argentina’s Boca for $2.1m at the start of this season. He was having some decent seasons as a teenager, and he joined us before his twenty-first birthday and made an impact on the team.

Sonora would appear 36 times for me during the league season, and he was responsible for 14 goals and 12 assists in his inaugural Premier League season. I don’t know if it was just the way he was played, but he’d enjoy good seasons for the following two years even if he scored less. He seems to be being used as a backup right now since his appearances have tapered off a bit, but after reviewing his actual attributes in 2020, I see him as someone who could be a regular Premier League player under the right management.

Argentine defender Santiago Vergini is our last player of note for this season. He joined West Brom from Sunderland in the 2015-16 season for $7.75m, and up until this current season was enjoying himself as a regular member of the first team.

As is typical for a player under my management, or under a human’s management in general on this game, he enjoyed his best season during my tenure. In 38 Premier League appearances, he scored five goals, assisted two others, and was the player of the match on two occasions. Under my strikerless experiment, he was a solid member of the defense, and he was regularly in the middle of it all making stuff happen for the team. Now in his early 30s, he’s declined slightly, and the team has more youthful options to call on, so this season he’s fallen to being a backup by the looks of it.

This is my transfer history for the season. Most of the outgoing transfers were loans, but all of the transfers that yielded money for us are shown on the screen. In my first season ever having a decent sum of money to work with, I did a decent bit of spending, as you can see.

In my opinion, every signing was good that season except for Sime Vrsaljko. I spent $9m on him expecting to use him as a regular starter, but he never performed well enough to justify starting regularly ahead of Mikael Lustig or any of the other existing defenders. He’s the one case where I spent big this season and I didn’t get quite the return that I expected during my tenure. That’s not to say he’s a flop for the club itself, though. With Lustig in his mid-30s, Vrsaljko has been starting almost every match these last couple of seasons since I left. It took some time on the investment, but he’s valued at roughly what I paid now, and he’s not a loss for the club.

I was enjoying my time with West Brom, and I enjoyed myself in the Premier Division for the most part, but I ultimately chose to leave the club at the end of the season to try international management. Between August 2018 and July 2019, I would be in charge of both the France U19s and the USA U23s. I only managed a couple of matches for each team, so I’m not going to go into them in any more detail than this quick mentioning at the end of this article. It was my first time in charge of a national team, and not only did I not understand what I was doing, I also didn’t enjoy waiting months at a time to manage a match with players I didn’t know.

In the next update, we’re going to bypass that year of international management and move on to February 2020, which is when I would first join my current employer. In that article, I’m going to cover the half-season in charge of the team, and following that, we’re going to be in the current season.