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FM19 | Life After Wenger; An Arsenal Story | Pre-Season & Final Touches

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So, it turns out that Football Manager 19 is flexing its realism muscles harder than I expected this time around. In my last installment, I delved into what my goals were for revamping the first-team and how my financial goals were connected. The Football Manager gods laughed me out of their proverbial office on this one.

I can now confirm that escaping Arsenal’s nightmarish contractual situation, even in the digital world of Football Manager, is going to take a bit of work beyond one transfer window. While I was able to get some rather solid business done, I fell short of some overall goals I had previously set for myself.

Christian Pulisic ₤38M ₤75K/week Shkodran Mustafi ₤25M ₤90K/week
Kieran Tierney ₤26M ₤60K/week A. Lacazette ₤15M ₤180K/week
Yussuf Poulsen ₤10M ₤40K/week Danny Welbeck ₤12.5M ₤83K/week
Willi Orban ₤9M ₤56K/week Nacho Monreal ₤10M ₤70K/week
Alex Blesa ₤825K ₤5K/week Carl Jenkinson ₤2M ₤34K/week
Magnus Kaastrup ₤700K ₤5K/week Henrikh Mkhitaryan ₤10M ₤200K/week
Armin Djerlek ₤600K ₤5K/week
Ionuţ Rus Free ₤5K/week


Total Money Spent: ₤85M – ₤251K/week

Total Money Recouped: ₤75M – ₤657K/week

Combined: -₤10M (lost) | ₤406K/week (gained)

Final Assessment of Summer Transfers:

  • Never Spend more than ₤35M-₤40M on a single transfer deal – It was close for the Pulisic deal, but considering I managed to stagger the fees based off the players’ role in the team, I came off quite well here. Sub-₤30M for Tierney (and more than reasonable wages) was an absolute steal. Both he and Pulisic have incredibly high resale value if it comes to that. Poulsen is a more than an adequate back-up at both CF and RW, and as he is a pressing-forward, suits my system to the ground. Orban was intended to compete with Holding for the third spot in the squad depth chart, but the unexpected bid and subsequent sale of Mustafi (to Bayern of all clubs) means the pair of them will likely rotate as Sokratis’ partner, at least until Koscielny is back fit and in contention. Overall, it’s rather solid business with room for a considerable amount of progression.
  • Get inflated contracts off the wage bill; namely Özil, Mkhitaryan, and potentially Welbeck, Cech, Aubameyang, Elneny, and Ramsey – Fair to say that I fell well short of the mark on this. Özil proved impossible to jettison; I even dropped the asking price down to ₤15M, which only garnered interest in a loan to Juventus, who never sent the offer. Mkhitaryan was subject to a deadline-day offer from Inter for far below market value but shifting him out of the Premier League and the chance to get rid of his ₤200K/week pay packet, plus the deal for Pulisic, made it a no-brainer for me to accept. Welbeck out the door was never going to be all that difficult; he was the first sale that I finalized, the same day I listed him for transfer. Lacazette was an unfortunate casualty and I am still rather annoyed that he only fetched ₤15m. I never wanted to keep both he and Aubabeyang on the books and risk one causing tension in the squad dynamics because of a lack of minutes. Both were on the same wages, but Laca fielded interest that Auba didn’t. He’s off to Milan and out of the country…a win-win. As mentioned before, Bayern came in with an offer for Mustafi that I likely was never going to be able to better even if I had listed him as available at some point. He’s rated well in Football Manager, but Orban is on the same level. This also allows the increased potential of more minutes for Mavropanos, who I decided to keep until Koscielny is back in the squad. As for Monreal and Jenkinson, good servants but neither was in my long-term plans, so any fee received for them was a win. Overall, I am somewhat frustrated by not being able to get another big contract off the books, but it’s a decent starting point. Hopefully next summer I will be able to complete the rest.
  • Have a strict wage structure that is capped at ₤150-₤160K/week – I am well on my way to fixing this, but I will need one more summer window. As it stands, only M1Ö and Auba are above the wage threshold. Ramsey accepted a contract extension at ₤140K/week, which was far less than I expected. I decided to keep him since he made it affordable to do so. With any luck, by next season, only Auba will remain above the limit. Overall, I think I’ve done well to set the ball rolling on this front.
  • Using Hale End for supplementary income rather than a talent supply line

    Emile Smith-Rowe has plenty of room for growth and already will see time in the Europa League.

    Initially, there is no avoiding the young players that are in and around the first team; I would be insane if I binned them. Smith-Rowe and Nketiah, in Football Manager especially, are too good and too promising not to keep on the books. Both have at least 4-star potential, with ESR hitting 4.5 if you develop him correctly. Maitland-Niles and Mavropanos also have the same potential rating.

    Alex Blesa is one for the future. He may well find himself being the in-house replacement for Mohamed Elneny next season.

    Willock is right on the line between keep and sell. As for the new youth additions; Kaastrup, Blesa, and Djerlek are also in the same potential bracket as the first-team youngsters. This really does afford me the ability to keep or sell depending on the need at the time. Overall, this is an absolute win for me.

First-Team Squad at Match-Day 1:

GK: Cech, Leno, Martinez

LB: Tierney, Kolasinac

CB: Sokratis, Koscielny (INJ), Orban, Holding, Mavropanos

RB: Bellerín, Lichtsteiner

DM: Torreira, Elneny

CAM/CM: Özil, Ramsey, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Maitland-Niles, Willock

LW: Iwobi, Smith-Rowe

RW: Pulisic, Poulsen

CF: Aubameyang, Nketiah

Will Thompson’s changing to a 4-2-3-1 to suit Ozil come back to haunt him?

This should be more than good enough to challenge for a top-four place whilst almost guaranteeing Europa League qualification at the very least. It has a nice balance between established ability and potential. It is clear that I still need a CB upgrade, especially with Koscielny nearing the end of his career, but that to me is the only glaring weakness; ironically, much like real life.

Unfortunately for me, the only downside with my best XI is that I am forced to utilize a 4-2-3-1 given that Özil is still on the books. He is too influential in the squad and relegating him to the bench would give me far too much of a headache from the very start of the campaign. My plan for a 4-3-3 that pressed more will have to largely be scrapped until next season.  Still and yet, this is a pretty strong first-choice team and should not have any major issues I suspect. What are your thoughts?

Pre-Season Pros and Cons:

Pre-Season can often be tricky and deceiving. One of the main keys to effectively utilizing your pre-season program is to understand that winning every match will often mask tactical deficiencies. So too in relation to the strength of your fixtures. Finding a balance between matches intended to target fitness and cohesion, and matches meant to test your tactical schematics against decent opposition is paramount. Thankfully, Football Manager makes it relatively easy to be able to craft a balanced pre-season.

Out of the 8 fixtures on the pre-season program seven of them ended up in wins; 6-0 (Tanjong Pagar; Singapore training camp), 3-1 (FC Metz), 2-1 (Lincoln City), 8-0 (Lewisham), 3-2 (Las Palmas), 1-0 (Ascoli), and 5-0 (Croydon). The only non-win was a 1-1 draw at Espanyol.

A worrying – and typical – trend for me that cropped up was inconsistent finishing relative to the number of shots and chances I was creating. At the other end, in the matches where a clean sheet was not kept, the opposition never registered more than three shots on frame (and always less than ten total). Normally their goals were the result of a mistake somewhere in the back, either in turning over position or a moment of poor marking. Like I said, typical Arsenal.

Prime examples of this came during the Espanyol and Lincoln City fixtures where all it took was 1 shot and 3 shots on frame respectively for them to find themselves on the scoresheet. In the case of Espanyol, a decent La Liga side capable of pushing for a top seven finish, I held them to two shots in total. Compared to my twenty and 9 on frame, the result was frustrating yet confirmed my two biggest flaws going into the league campaign. Limiting mistakes at the back while improving my chance conversion rate is vital in the first weeks of the season.

Despite one or two questions, overall pre-season form was good. I was especially pleased to see so many young players play rather well. Iwobi dispelled any notion that I should have gone in for a LW in the window. He was brilliant.

How would my efforts come off? Find out in the next installment where I tackle the opening month of the season, which culminates in a home fixture against Wolves.

Thank you once again, and as always, feel free to leave your thoughts on the blog itself and the save. Have suggestions, please leave those as well! And don’t forget to explore some excellent Football Manager community content.

Until next time! COYG

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