Right then, let’s get down to it.

Day one at Atletico Ottawa – so much to do, so little time. Plenty to cover in this post, that’s for sure.

Ideally, I want to use this series (well, at least some of it) to document my journey through FM21 up until the point where I invariably will get bored and remember that every minute I have spent playing the game is a minute I could have spent on my business – but hey, got to have some downtime, right?

I don’t play FM that differently to many people, I am sure – but it’s been a long-time since I’ve really got deep into it and tried to involve myself in all facets. And that is what I am hoping to do in Ottawa – I’ve been here before though (not Ottawa on FM) where I have started something with the very best of intentions and never actually finished it. I’m hoping I’ll stick this out by getting into the details.

What I’m hoping to cover in this post is: how I set the game up, the tactical framework I am going to work to which will then influence what staff I want, how we train, how we scout and then the players I have, want and need. Mixed into that a little bit will be a quick explainer of the CPL and it’s rules which will, no doubt, influence some of the scouting stuff too.

So, with no further ado – this is how I have set the database up.

I’ve kept it relatively simple – MLS and LigaMX are there as it should add some realism as and when we qualify for the continental competitions. For the same reason, I’ve added all North American players.

Due to Atletico Ottawa’s ties with Atletico de Madrid, I’ve also added all Spanish players to the database as I will aim to keep a consistent Spanish core to the club as well as we grow.

Straight on the tactics – and in the words of Blue Peter, here’s one I prepared earlier.

I’ve spent some time in beta mucking about with my original Argentine Strikerless approach and I have been pleasantly surprised in it working OK so far. One of the reasons I wanted to take on a club with less pressure at the start was to give me the breathing space to get his style of play fully embedded in the culture without getting fired – which, of course, might still happen.

In the original AS, we had a roaming central midfielder and I have finally decided to sacrifice this by pushing them into the central AM slot which gives me the benefit of the two other AMs playing in the channels a little more. I was seeing that by just playing with two, the opposition defence were coping a little better.

The original AS also had a RPM in the right-DM slot – I have changed this to an attack-minded segundo volante to have another player willing to break the lines from deep.

Fingers crossed this works, of course – it’s been OK in beta but that might change on full release and all that good stuff.

Now, this links to everything else from here, really – the staff I need, how we train, how we scout and, of course, my existing squad.

Let’s look at the staff first of all.

This is the coaching team that welcomed me – notice the Spanish influence of Atletico de Madrid (I also replaced a Spanish manager).

Neither are great shakes, either – but at this early stage I don’t know what quality of staff I can attract to the club so I am not rushing them out of the door.

What I can see already is that I do need and I do have space for an assistant manager and a coach.

Let’s think about the assistant manager first, again not knowing who I can actually attract.

What we can see from me, is that I am more on the motivating and mental side of things – and probably not a great deal of use on the field. But, I am slightly more technical focused than tactical.

So I need to get two outfield coaches, I think, who can do what I cannot (everything).

I am sure we are all familiar with the fact that in an ideal world we are looking to bring in coaches that are either professional, model professional or model citizen. Do I even have this option? Let’s see.

Look! There might be two options!

My hopes are up already.

Marcos Senna, ex-Spanish international, contract offered to be my assistant on sensible wages? Better start than I was expecting, that’s for sure.

And Paredes, too – to be the coach. We have a Spanish coaching core now, and I have no idea if this is a good thing or not but hey.

I felt it wise to quickly sanity check I couldn’t get a better fitness or goalkeeping option.

Oh, go on then.

In fairness, I couldn’t find a better fitness coach option so he gets to stay.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the backroom recruitment, but I managed to secure analysts, scouts, physios and sports scientists as well.

So far, so good.

Next up, time to look at training I think.

A lot of this comes from something I read on both FMScout and Football Whispers around training and will certainly give me the base I want to work from.

As you’ll see in the tactical approach above, we are focused on the en-vogue gegenpress, so I will want to ensure that the advice I am following also blends into having enough relevant training.

So, what is being recommended for sessions?

One Match Week

Monday – S1: Physical. S2: Overall. ES: Rest.

Tuesday – S1: Outfield. S2: Match Practice. ES: Recovery.

Wednesday – S1: Attacking. S2 Defending. ES: Rest.

Thursday – S1: Att. Movement. S2: Def. Shape. ES Recovery.

Friday – S1: Transition – Press. S2: Rest. ES: Match Preview.

Saturday – S1: Rest. S2: Match. ES: Rest.

Sunday – S1: Recovery. S2: Rest. ES: Rest.

Two Match Week

Monday – S1: Outfield. S2: Rest. ES: Rest.

Tuesday – S1: Transition – Press. S2: Rest. ES: Match Preview.

Wednesday – S1: Rest. S2 Match. ES: Rest.

Thursday – S1: Recovery. S2: Match Preview. ES Rest.

Friday – S1: Attacking. S2: Rest. ES: Match Preview.

Saturday – S1: Rest. S2: Match. ES: Rest.

Sunday – S1: Recovery. S2: Rest. ES: Rest.

No Match Week

Monday – S1: Physical. S2: Transition – Press. ES: Rest.

Tuesday – S1: Overall. S2: Transition – Restrict. ES: Rest.

Wednesday – S1: Match Tactics. S2 Match Practice. ES: Recovery.

Thursday – S1: Attacking Overlap. S2: Defending from the Front. ES Play from the Back.

Friday – S1: Teamwork. S2: Att. Movement. ES: Def. Shape.

Saturday – S1: Match Tactics. S2: Match Practice. ES: Recovery.

Sunday – S1: Recovery. S2: Def. Free Kicks. ES: Rest.

Cool, all that makes sense as the base to start from and would look like this in my schedules.

Then, checking the gegenpress training schedules, I decided to make a couple of tweaks making the attacking and defending elements more specific.

It now looks like this.

The other bits of advice gleaned were around not bothering to train people into specific roles – just let them play there and focus on improving little elements of their games. The overall training, in theory, will cover all.

I’m going to try this in this save and see how well players progress – in fairness, I’ve not had a decent training routine since FM15-16, and have fallen into the 80% who just let the assistant take care of it.

That said, I will only start to employ these schedules in the later preseason – up until then, I will trust the FM preseason predefined schedules.

Next!

Scouting.

There’s no point me showing you what I am going to do as I don’t have any scouts yet (this is still day one, remember).

But my planned approach is this.

Analysts take care of opposition scouting.

Chief scout will do CPL.

One scout will do 16-20, the other 21-24 – both focusing on Canadian players.

Before we really kick off, I’ll also get team reports on the Canadian MLS clubs to see if any of them fancy loaning me any players (if my scouting range allows).

We won’t waste money on a recruitment tool – I’d rather save that budget.

If a player catches my eye but is out of our territory, we will bring them in on trial for four weeks and assess them that way.

My initial thoughts, having not even clicked on the squad overview yet is that there will be an element of make do with what we have this season and start thinking about next season in terms of our scouting.

One main reason for that is that the CPL season in 2020 is condensed into one small tournament called the Island Games, which we will now explore as the learnings will help guide me to my squad thoughts.

Fortunately, expectations are low!

Key takeaways from the graphic below are that we are 700/1 to win it and that the CPL is currently the 6th ranked league on the continent – these are obviously two gradings we are going to chip away at over the coming seasons.

No Ottawa players in that key player squad…

I am always slack at checking the league rules before I start, which is mental as I am a bit of an FM globetrotter. But I have this time, and I am glad I did.

No more than five foreign players in the starting line up and we must focus on getting some U21 domestic players on the pitch – must remember that.

The way the Island Games is set up is actually quite simple – the eight clubs play each other once and the top four then move into a playoff group and play each other once more. The top two teams then play in a one-off final. The winner qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League. Well, we can dream.

Next season, it moves into a Spring and Fall season where the winning team from each ‘season’ then play in the grand finale.

I quite like this, I have to say.

League favourites are Forge FC who won the inaugural CPL in 2019.

So, I think we’ve covered enough now to finally look at the squad I have got.

22 players who, allegedly, should line up like this.

Except, it’s not actually 22 players at all – it’s 18. For some unknown reason, and I only noticed this by pure chance, three of my squad are ‘unavailable’ until the end of November – which is after this first short season has ended. Plus, our best goalkeeper has a cruciate injury and is out until then as well.

Awesome.

Goalkeeper wise, I can probably get by with the two that are in the squad.

Immediately looking ahead to next season, I don’t feel either of the better paid keepers would be worth retaining next season. There’s not a great deal of value for money in either.

At right-back, Malyk Hamilton is a great example straight off the bat for what we are looking for.

He’s young, Canadian and in terms of how we want to play, capable of being higher up the pitch. I’ve taken the immediate step of offering him a longer contract.

Kapor is interesting as he can play in various positions – he has suggested as the segundo volante, which I am not bought into yet.

We have options at left-back, as well. Neufville is our best option, a young English lad last at Newport County. However, the longer-term option at this stage is Djao. Neufville is good enough to play in the DM positions too, so will consider this.

I am very happy with my central defensive options at this early point. Facchineri is on loan from Vancouver (hence me thinking there is mileage in checking out the other Canadian MLS clubs) and Brandon John is solid. Kapor might end up as our anchorman in midfield.

Defensive midfield is the first worry – Tevin Shaw, potentially a good player, is one of the randomly unavailable. McKendry is my only natural player in this position, and could play in any of the three slots.

Natural attacking midfielders are not aplenty, either. Osah is unavailable, meaning Khabra and Coupland will get plenty of minutes. Coupland is young – is he a potential CPL wonderkid?

Well, I wouldn’t go that far but he is clearly an important prospect for us and will figure this season. He is also a local lad, which makes him the poster boy.

And then we have the players who don’t naturally fit into the shape. However, they will be important to me I feel – forget Kunle and Osah as they are the unavailable ones. Ben Fisk and Acuna could well be the first choice shadow strikers – both have pace and good technique for playing there. Equally, both can play in a variety of other positions which suggest they are versatile.

Young Matteo is another important one for us – he’s local, also speaks Spanish, left-footed and the quickest player in the squad at 18. He’s been given an extension too.

Kourouma is big and powerful – I might spend preseason seeing if I can turn him into the volante.

Finally, we have a striker in Shaw. Except we don’t play with strikers. In the short-term, he’s another shadow striker option.

Recruitment needs: DMs – I feel we are actually able to cover all other positions.

With what I have actually available, this would be my preferred XI at this very early stage.

So, one month until the league starts. Six friendlies and plenty of training.

I can’t wait.

Speak soon x