Bayer Leverkusen = Unexpected Highs and Lows

901Well, I’ve reached the end of January in the new Bayer Leverkusen save, so it’s time to update you all on how things have been going. Reading the last update, you’d expect the same rosy outlook in this update. Looking back, I’d cleared out the majority of the deadwood, made some fantastic signings in Cyril Bodin and Youri Tielemans, and created a 4-3-1-2 tactic that looked like it could take us to the league title. I apologise, but you won’t be getting that ‘rosy outlook’, and there’s a reason that I’ve had to play up until February before updating. Things have been crazy in Leverkusen so far this season, and it’s been a real challenge.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 22.46.22However, the challenge has been off the pitch, rather than on the pitch, which I’ll cover later.

On the pitch, we’ve been nothing short of fantastic. We currently sit top of the Bundesliga after 20 games, having now played Simeone’s Bayern twice. Bayern sit 2 points behind us, but they really seem to be unable to beat us. We beat them in the Super Cup, and we’ve now drawn twice in the league, 1-1, and 0-0. Obviously, I’d like to be beating Bayern to extent our gap at the top, but I’m more than happy to maintain it, and considering Bayern won the league last season and recently won the Champions League, I’ll take being on a similar level at this early stage.

Like all my sides, you can see what it’s built on – defence first. We’re level with Bayern in only conceding 15 goals in 20 games, a concession rate of 0.75 goals per game. However, what’s also pleasing to see is the side is incredibly good in attack, leading the league with 52 goals scored.

Despite that, I’m not happy. It should be much, much more. We’re nowhere near prolific enough upfront. Playing as a pseudo-striker in the AP-A role, Hakan’s been absolutely peerless (scoring 16 goals and making 11 assists), but it’s the rest that are letting the side down. It’s not that they don’t score (52 goals suggests they do), but they’re inconsistent with their scoring, and it’s a major reason I’m making a new striker a priority in the Summer. Josip Drmic has scored 15 goals in 19 appearances, but this stat does not suggest how inconsistent he’s been. Julian Brandt has been fantastic in the Trequartista role upfront, and has provided 13 goals and 10 assists in 24 appearances, contributing to a goal in almost every game. However, it’s behind the starting trio that we’ve really struggled. The backup Advanced Forward Mehmet Sahinoglu hasn’t scored in ages, going through ‘one of those’ FM scoring droughts. He’s clearly got the talent (18 for Finishing), but he’s just stopped scoring, making things difficult when Drmic needs a rest. Before his drought, Mehmet had actually been a fantastic backup to Drmic, and I was debating starting him. Karim Ansarifard was the backup to Brandt, and he only scored 1 goal in the league. Heung-Min Son has barely played, and I’ve been desperately trying to get rid of him and his £120,000 a week wages. So we’ve scored 52 goals, but it’s certainly not as perfect as it would seem. Only Hakan and Brandt have been consistent throughout in the attacking corps, and Hakan isn’t really a striker. On top of that, as a Trequartista, Brandt also has to be creative, and can’t shoulder all the scoring load.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 23.18.14

In terms of results though, we’ve been absolutely brilliant. Draws in both games we’ve played against Bayern, and dominant wins over former Bundesliga champions in Schalke and Dortmund. Stuttgart were also much more involved in the title race when we swept them aside 4-2 away. When we’re in sync and on form, we’re amazing to watch, and the 4-3-1-2 provides some of the best football I’ve seen on FM15. In a way, it’s ridiculous that we’ve been so good in the league, and we’re only two points clear of Simeone’s Bayern. Bayern’s only really scary player is Memphis Depay, who seems to cause my defence trouble every time we play them.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 09.46.40

We haven’t played many games in the DFB Pokal, but we’ve quietly made our way through the draw. We were quite unlucky to draw Bundesliga side Koln in the second round, but fortunately beat them (before ironically, they beat us in the league a few days later to end our unbeaten run). A win against Karlsruhe has set up a lovely quarter final with Dortmund. We beat them 4-1 in the league, so I should be confident going into this game, but this is Football Manager, and it’s rarely that simple. Either way, I’m looking for trophies this season, so there’s no way I’m tanking the cups like I did with Bradford. We’re going all out for victory.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 09.51.29

We’ve also been in action in the Europa League, a reward for the club’s performances last season. We drew a fairly easy group of Newcastle, Steau Bucharest and Anderlecht, and eased through the group, only losing to Newcastle 2-0 at St. James’ Park in one of those FM games where you dominate, but can’t finish, and the opposition gets two chances, and sticks them both away. Despite that, we finished off the group with two more wins, to draw Dnipro in the 1st Knockout round. Usually, I wouldn’t be too fussed about the Europa League, but for reasons I’m about to reveal, I would really, really like a good cup run.

As you can see, on the pitch, everything looks rosy. We’re actually challenging for a treble, and we’re sweeping away all the big teams not named Bayern, and coping with them well when we play them. So everything’s good right?

Wrong.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 09.54.50This is what I said in the previous update:

‘Financially, the club is in a good position’.

I could not have been more wrong. Have a look to the right, and see the utter nightmare that I’ve inherited from the morons in charge before me. I started the save with nearly £50M in the bank, and it’s whittled down to nothing as the season has gone on. We are predicted to still make £70M profit from the season, but this worries me. A lot.

As the season went on and it slowly declined, I presumed that it was a natural decline, before rising up again later (I don’t profess to be good at the financial side of Football Manager). However, it was when I decided to have a quick look at the contracts of all the players (most of whom have long contracts) that I realised why we were haemorrhaging cash. ALL of the players not only had their normal weekly wage, but also had massive appearance fees. This meant that on top of the normal wage, we were paying a couple of hundred thousand extra every week solely on appearance fees, a fact that is made even worse when you consider we’re in contention for three trophies!

When you look at the wage budget, you can see I’m doing my job properly. We’re £151K per week under budget, and that’s still with £12M still available to spend on transfers. I’ve done my job, but the utter financial idiots before me have really put this club in trouble. On top of the appearance fees, we were also paying off a bank loan at £313k every month, something which will continue until 2029! I still can’t figure out what on Earth this is even for, because there’s nothing in the plans that requires a loan, like facilities, or a new stadium. Nothing. We’ve just got a bank loan.

So, with this new information, I went to town and tried to solve these issues. Firstly, Kostas Stafylidis started talking about leaving the club. He’d been fantastic all season for us, but I am very much a proponent of the fact that on FM, you can always get better for cheaper elsewhere. Real Madrid and PSG were interested, and I negotiated a £20.5M sale with PSG. I have an irritating feeling I could have got more for Stafylidis (and the fans don’t like the sale), but it gave me the influx of cash that I needed to start looking at a few contracts. The vast majority have been renegotiated now to not include any appearance fees, and only players like Tielemans and Murillo still have them, who I simply can’t afford to renegotiate right now. Of course, Tielemans is fine. He’s our best player along with Hakan and I’m more than willing to spend to keep him here. I’m just not willing to spend ridiculous amounts to keep Joe Bloggs sitting on our bench and wasting money every time he comes on for a few minutes.

After that, it was time to make some transfers to sort out the rest of the mess. Firstly, Christoph Kramer was sold to Manchester United for £16M. He’d just been a backup to Lars Bender in the CM-D role all season, and had a massive appearance fee (Bender also had a £20,000 appearance fee, which was renegotiated). He’s also 28, and reaching the point where his value and ability will decline, so I’m happy to move him on. He’s played well this season, but the CM-D role is Lars Bender’s. Plus, I’d also signed the replacement for Bender earlier in the season, before I’d even noticed the financial issues.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 10.21.44

Which is just as well, because I brought in Argentinian Daniel Vener on a free from Lanus. A good passer and tackler, with fantastic reading of the game. He’s not strong, but the CM-D role doesn’t require physical strength, but good pressing, good reading of the game, and a decent passing range out to the flanks. Vener has all of these things and at 22, still has time to develop. I still can’t believe I got him for nothing, and he’s also on a tiny wage. All in all good business. I’ve traded backups, made £16M, and much, much more in lower wages and less appearance fees.

Next up, goal shy striker Karim Ansarifard was shipped out to Spartak Moscow for what will eventually be £4M. It’s left us a little bare in the striker department, but I’m not willing to just splash cash on anyone just to give us backup, and I’ll take the risk with injuries. He was another with a big appearance fee, so I was happy to see him gone. Heung Min-Son and his £120,000 a week wages was also shipped off to Everton on loan, with them paying 50% of those wages. He also had £20k’s worth of appearance fees, so again, I’m happy to have him out of the club, at least for now.

With that, it was time to go shopping, albeit for one player. With the sale of Stafylidis, we were very low on quality at left back, and I was left with just utility man Gonzalo Castro.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 20.40.04

Jose Luis Gaya was signed from Juventus for an eventual £19.25M, with £17.5M of it upfront. Much like Tielemans, Gaya was wasting away at Juventus as a rotational option, and was more than happy to come to Leverkusen. In an attempt to keep his wage down as low as possible and keep the club going, I’ve offered him half of any future fee, but that will be negotiated out as soon as I get the club back in shape. I really think I’ve upgraded here (the game doesn’t think so). Gaya is a better crosser, tackler, and reads the game well. The only area where he is significantly weaker is his aggression, which really doesn’t bother me. He’s started off well in his first couple of games, and looks to be a fantastic signing. He also looks more than capable of playing as a wing back, should I decide to move to 3 at the back down the line. I’m absolutely chuffed with this signing.

I’ll cover more tactical information in the next update, and show what is making the 4-3-1-2 so rScreen Shot 2015-01-04 at 19.50.04idiculously effective, but for now the financial aspect of this save is far more pressing. Usually, I’d start to wander tactically now and think of next year’s plans, but I can’t afford to this time, and I have to put everything into making sure that the club recovers financially from the near sabotage that existed before I joined. A treble will go a long way towards recouping some of that lost money, but the most basic need is Champions League football next season. Even if I don’t win the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, or Europa League, regular Champions League football will see us make that money back. That’s absolutely vital now.

I’ll update the save again at the end of the season, hopefully with everything recovered, and Leverkusen having at least qualified for the Champions League. Until then, thank you for reading, and as always, feel free to ask questions either in the comments section or on Twitter (@JLAspey).

10 comments

    1. The majority of them now don’t have them. Only the top players that I can yet afford to renegotiate like Brandt, Tielemans and Murillo still have them.

      1. But doesnt that cost a hell of a lot more monthly wages??
        And do you also exclude the goal bonus or the non allowed??

      2. Not really. We’re still way under budget. I don’t like bonuses to be honest. I like the straightforwardness of being able to know what my outgoing is in wages.

  1. Hello, I recently discovered your website and I think you are doing a great job explaining tactical things in FM

    I particulary enjoyed your demonstration about the central winger, because it is the role that i was desperately trying to create in every tactic since FM2013

    And by the way : WTF with the CPU financial gestion in your Leverkusen save ! I know I will pay great attention to those apperance fees from now on.. and so will you I suppose :p

    Now, I would like to ask you a few questions about your tactics (the 4-5-1, the 4-6-0 and the Leverkusen 4-3-1-2), because I’m trying to recreate them for my new game with AS Roma..

    -You usually use those tactics with a Control/balanced mentality for the 4-5-1 and the 4-3-1-2 and a standard/defensive + balanced right ?

    -I managed to understand what you emphicise on team instruction for the 4-5-1, but since the 4-6-0 was designed in a defensive mind set, i wonder if you created it with “counter style” type of instructions or not..
    As for the 4-3-1-2, I suppose that you use the same type of instruction that you use in the 4-5-1 because you are using a “Top of the league” team

    -For the 4-3-1-2 do you have specific instructions for your attacking players ? Because I was thinking of putting Iturbe as the AP-A, Totti as the Trequartista, and Insigne as the AF, but I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do as you mentionned that you were giving specifics player instructions to those roles..

    -In the 4-5-1 and the 4-6-0, do the W-A and the WM-A are acting like inside forwards or “old fashionned” wingers ?
    Because my main plan is to have Insigne on the left side and Iturbe on the right side, so that they can cut inside on their right foot.
    So, do you think I need to use player instruction to force them to do that or they are able to do it without me asking ?

    -Finally my last question : I’m thinking of using your Tweak about the mobile targetman in the 4-5-1
    But I will be using Totti and I’m not sure if he is mobile anymore.. :p
    But my interpretation of your post is that Totti will be monstreous in this role, as he his capable of doing a lot of things in the game but is too old to drible all accross the field

    I will try to recreate those tactics as I’ve understood them in my Roma save, and I will let you know if it’s going ok or not 🙂
    Thank you for your patience (and sorry for my english, I’m french) and congrats for your hard work, it’s so much more interesting that the classic “plug my awesome tactic and don’t think about how the game is played” ! 🙂

    1. Thank you for the comments, I really appreciate it!

      For my tactics I’m usually on control and some version of fluid. I tend to find control balances out positive attacking football with a focus on possession too, without being too cavalier.

      The 4-5-1-0 was very much designed as a counter formation, but it’s mainly just very defensive. I had several games where I won easily despite very low possession stats.

      For the 4-3-1-2 I do use fairly positive instructions like work ball into box etc. I’ll cover those in the upcoming standalone article on the tactic itself. The tactic is also full of player instructions too to encourage player movement.

      I think those players would be worth trying in the 4-3-1-2, it’s just whether Iturbe would work as the AP-A, but I haven’t seen his stats.

      In the 4-5-1-0, the wide players do cut in, and tend to get on the end of passes and score.

      Totti would actually be very interesting as a Mobile Targetman. If you try it, make sure you let me know how it works out!

      Your English is fine mate, much better then my French is!

      1. Thanks for the reply !

        I’m going to use the 4-5-1 as my main tactic, and switch for the 4-6-0 in order to manage the score or to protect the score

        The 4-3-1-2 will be used in differents situations, usually to have a better usage of Doumbia which is a totally different player from Totti

        Totti should be fine in the Pivot role, but I think his PPM really waste a large chunk of his potential.. He just can’t stop shooting from long distance with power
        So he is a very difficult player to manage because of his PPMs, even though he has incredible stats.

        I’m starting tonight so I will keep you updated.

      2. So, I’ve been using the tactics for a couple of game (5 or 6) and the results are very positive.

        -The 4-5-1 works very well, even though I think that sometimes middlefield players are too close to the penalty area and thus making it difficult to create chances to score because they receive the ball under a lot of presure.
        Maybe thinking of switching the mentality to normal, or switching the BBM role to an other thing.

        As for the players, Totti has already score 8 goals and 2 assists and surprisingly Verratti seems to be more effective as the CW than Florenzi. I think it’s due to his PPM “prefers to pass instead of score”. Verratti is already at 6 assists and 1 goal.
        But I think I’m going to make them invert their positions during the match.

        The only problem comes from the bench/second unit, but it was predictable until Strootman comes back from injury. I only have Seydou Keita, Naingolan and Paredes as replacement for the CMs. And Doumbia also isn’t very good for now.

        -The 4-6-0 is marvellous, it has been so helpfull when I have a big lead and want to “sit back and wait” or when I’m in dangerous position (lost Manolas on direct red card 10min in the game, played in 4-5-0 without a left winger and won 6-1 with 4 goals from Iturbe on the right wing !!)
        I will maybe replicate the tactic but on the other side (the left side as AM).

        -As for the 4-3-1-2, I’m putting it on hold for now as it is clearly not working, and I’m sure it’s because of the lack of individual instructions.. Players are kind of lost on the pitch for now. I will be using it again later though, because of how good the 4-5-1 and the 4-6-0 are working !

        I will keep you updated of the rest of my season at the end of it

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