Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Tactical Annals
. I’ve been promising FM21 content on my Twitter (@JLAspey
) for around a month now, so it’s time we got started with what I’ve been doing on FM21 thus far, where I’ve gone, and what my plans are moving forward. The first thing I want to say is that for a few years now I’ve been really unhappy with the content I’ve produced, and the inconsistency of my saves, not only in terms of posting, but the saves themselves. I’ve never been one to have long and extended saves, and as I’ve become older – and therefore way more busy – this has only worsened – but over the last few years, really since FM18, the content I’ve produced here has been way below my usual standard. This year, things will be returning to normal, which is why I’ve waited until now to write my first post for FM21. This year, I’ve settled on Aalborg BK in the Danish Superliga, known better as AaB. I want the format of these save updates to be very focused, so you’re unlikely to get the classic ‘mid-season, end season’ updates from me, and instead you’ll get focused updates that will discuss specific areas of the club, whether that’s tactics, recruitment or anything else. For now however, I’ll give a brief overview of what’s been going on as I’ve reached the end of December in the Superliga.
So why AaB? I’d love to pretend that it was something really deep and meaningful, but really it’s because they’re a mid-table team with some former glories giving me a recovery aspect to the save, and I like the logo and kit colours a lot. I also really enjoyed managing in Sweden back on FM14, and wanted to go back to Scandinavia. Other than that, they have Kasper Kusk
playing for them, and I signed him for my all conquering Newcastle side back on FM16
. He’s now 29 and not quite the player he was back then, but it’s still nice to be managing him again.
As far as how we’re doing, you can see the league table to the left. After 13 games we sit third, only one point behind famous moneyballers Midtjylland at the top. However, you can see that there are two definite halves of the table, and arguably Nordsjaelland should be doing better than they currently are, so it’s not as if everything’s been playing sailing. I know the league position tracker shows that we’ve been either 1st or 2nd for the majority of the season thus far, but in reality I feel that we’re most likely going to finish around 4th or 5th when the big boys really get their act together – particularly Kobenhavn. As always with my teams – if you’re new to this blog, my teams are always
built on defense first – we’ve been impressively defensively, with the tightest defense in the league, with only 10 goals conceded, much better than the next best with 15.
However, we’re only 7th for goals scored, and this is something I’m going to have to work on. Part of this though is that I’ve messed around tactically a little bit, and have clearly impacted the fluidity of the side. I’ve used 3-5-2, 3-4-3 and a deep 4-2-3-1. Our best results have come with a Back 3 – something that will be a tactical philosophy for the club moving forward, but I’ll discuss that in a specific article – and I’m set on sticking with the 3-4-3
because we don’t have enough strikers to play 3-5-2 regularly yet, and it gets Kasper Kusk in his best role out on the right flank, sitting narrow as an IF-S and cutting in to create. He did play effectively as a False 9 in the 3-5-2, but again, we don’t have enough strikers to consistently use that system just yet. I have also been lucky that Tim van Weert
has been in such good form, chipping in with ten goals. However, he’s now been moved out wide due to injury problems.
Moving forward, there are a few key things I want to focus on with the side, although some of these ideas are still developing in my mind – I am just focusing on enjoying the game. I really want to focus on signing players from Scandinavia, with the majority being Danish but I’d be idiotic to ignore the other Scandinavian nations as well. Unless it gets destroyed by any coming match engine patches, I also want the Back 3 to be a core part of our tactical philosophy too, and ideally with a Libero. Right now the 3-4-3 uses a supporting Libero, but I’d really like to get the attacking Beckenbauer-like Libero that I’ve always dreamed of using on FM, but have never been able to. Recruitment wise, I’d like to use data to support my decisions. This won’t be a complete ‘Moneyball’ save, but as the use of analytics and data becomes a bigger part of football, I’d like to incorporate it into saves to add elements of realism. It also provides an element of competition with Midtjylland, perhaps one of the earliest clubs to embrace the analytics revolution that spread from baseball outwards. Most importantly, I want this save to be realistic. Gone are the days of me creating superteams within a couple of seasons like I did at Newcastle. Yes this is a game, but I want an authentic experience not only for myself as the player, but for you as the reader.
At the moment I’ve been pretty straightforward with transfers – and neither of these used data in any way, that’s a new addition to the save – bringing in Mathias Haarup
and Daniel Granli
. Both can play right back but it’s Haarup who has spent most of his time there – although he’s been pretty poor thus far – with Granli moving inside once I adopted the 3-4-3 and needed a capable passer in defense to move the ball to central midfield. The idea of full backs moving inside to play Libero is extremely common, and there are countless examples in the history of football, particularly in Italy, of where this has been effective. Granli is certainly less aggressive than I’d like him to be, but he’s been good in the role I’m asking him to play. As for the rest of the players, right now I’m just assessing where we need to improve next year, given that we don’t have much room to sign players with only £215k of transfer budget as I try to give myself as much wage budget as possible to re-sign the players I like this year. It is clear however that it’s going forward that we need to either invest, or look at things tactically.
However, a look at this suggests that we create chances – and we are at league average for expected goals – or shots, we just don’t take them. Hopefully this will be something that will sort itself out as we move forward but we either will have to assess things tactically or improve the quality of the side upfront. Our defense however is not only unbelievably quiet, but also doesn’t let in goals
, the perfect combination. Hopefully we can continue this for the remainder of the season. So, this ends the first update of my AaB save for FM21, and it is so nice to back writing FM content. These updates will now more than likely move to topical updates, but I will always include where we are with each update. Thank you to everyone who has supported me during my effective hiatus from FM writing, and as always if you have any questions regarding AaB, my plans for this save, or just Football Manager 2021 in general, then please feel free to leave comments either on this blog, or on Twitter (@JLAspey
). Thank you once again for reading, and I’ll be back soon!