Yes, a second post of the AaB save everyone! Told you consistency was my main focus this year. Having played through towards nearly the end of the season, I wanted to do an update to discuss how things have gone, because so far this has been one of the most enthralling seasons I’ve ever played on Football Manager. I know I had intended to do topical updates, and I still think I will, but this has me so enthralled right now that I’ve just continued to keep playing. Clearly, I’ve also played the winter transfer window, and save for some kids sent on loan and the arrival of much needed left sided centre back Charlie Weberg from Swedish side Helsingborgs for 37.5k (a bargain if I’ve ever seen one), there wasn’t much to report back on recruitment and scouting. I am still actively scouting four particular countries in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and England, based on my scouts areas of expertise and knowledge, and it’s starting to bear fruit, with some players already on my watch list for the summer window.
If you read the last update, I said that apart from the fact the team is from Scandinavia, and I love the colours and the logo, one of the main reasons I chose AaB is that Kasper Kusk – who I signed for Newcastle on FM16 – plays for them. Kusk is without a doubt the top player at the club and every system I’d come up with had been to get the best out of Kusk… and then this happened. Kusk would be out for around 3 months. Now, if you’re managing in a top league, this likely isn’t an issue because you’ll have a backup who – whilst maybe not being as good as your main option – will be more than able to do a job whilst your star player is out. However, at AaB we do not have such a player, and the loss of Kusk sent us into an absolute tailspin. If you remember, we ended the last update one point behind Midtjylland in the Superliga.
This run of form absolutely killed our season. One win in nine Superliga games, and only five points gained out of a possible 27. We collapsed from 3rd to slipping out of the top half of the table on the final day of the Preliminary Phase, finishing 7th, meaning that we are technically in the Relegation Phase for the remainder of the season. Some of our games were absolutely atrocious. Our defense remained largely as good as before – though we did slip and begin to let in goals that often went against xG – but our attack became even worse, to the point where we were one of the worst attacking teams in the Superliga. Clearly, Kusk was having a significant impact on our attacking play as it became pathetic after his injury. I tried to stick to Back 3 systems to maintain our philosophy but was forced to adjust several times to try and get something to work without Kusk. Eventually, I began to worry that our dreadful form could have actually led to me being sacked, and decided to make the switch to a quite defensive system, a deep 4-2-3-1 shape, but with a central midfielder rather than an attacking midfielder. It has slowly recovered our form, but by then, the damage had already been done.
So now, we sit top of the second half of the table. It’s still effectively 7th when we were predicted to finish 6th so it’s not as horrific as it originally appears, but it is obviously disappointing given our early promise. The fact that we still have a good defense – fourth in the league – and our goal difference of only +4 shows how utterly atrocious we’ve been in attack since Kusk’s injury. Clearly, attack has to be the main focus for us going forward, both in terms of tactics and recruitment. I expect us to finish 7th in the end as we’re better than the teams around us, but given how the season completely collapsed, I’m not taking anything for granted from here on out. What I will say though, is that these early struggles have me more invested in this save than any I’ve had for a while. The last time I found a first season this challenging was probably Napoli back on FM16, and when I began to crush the league in season two, it made it all the sweeter.
One bright spot to the season however has been out performance in the DBU Pokalen. Even as we continued to struggle and stutter in the league, our cup performances continued to be decent – not good, but decent – and in the end we’ve made our way through to the final, where we will face First Division side Esbjerg on the 12th of May (it’s currently the 23rd of April 2021 in game). I certainly won’t be taking things for granted in this game but if we play as we can, then we should at least come out of this season with a trophy, giving us a small silver lining. The trick though is going to be how we plan to go forward. Returning to the 3-4-3 isn’t really an option as it didn’t help us without Kusk, and we have too many talented midfielders to only play two in the middle of the park. Around a month ago in game, I noticed that Elias Andersson – who I’d been keeping tabs on – had been released by Swedish side Helsingborgs, so I swooped in and gave him £4.6k per week to come and play in Denmark for us. He plays simple passes and dictates play, a perfect DLP-D in our 4-3-3-ish system. I think that the new system is the one to stick with, but I’m certainly not 100%. It may be that I end up moving to a more standard 4-3-3 but with the way things were going, I was desperate to regain some solidity and grind out some results. One of our greatest weaknesses has been wide players – clearly shown by the injury to Kusk – so I have already made moves for next year, signing Max Svensson again from Helsingborgs for a measly £550k as he was transfer listed. I have had to give him a larger wage at around $8k per week, but this is an area where we badly needed not only quality, but depth. I’ll be looking for him to play in the IW-A role on the left side, with Kusk retaking his spot floating inside to create from the IF-S role.
One of the most positive results of our collapse in form and injury problems has been my discovery of striker Tim Prica. Considering we played a DLF-S in the 3-4-3, I always thought Prica had promise, but didn’t fit the system as well as van Weert, but with the switch to the deep 4-3-3 and the use of an Advanced Forward, Prica skillset is much more effective. As a result, not only have his attributes massively improved, but he’s scored 8 goals in 12 starts with an xG of 5 goals. His recent form has been a big reason why we’ve started to turn things round, and I now see him as a large piece that we can build around, as he continues to develop.
So, things haven’t been so easy so far, and you know what, it’s been great and I’m loving it. My next update will cover where we finish the season, and also analyse where we go moving forward, both tactically and personnel-wise. I think the deep 4-3-3 is a decent system, but whether it’s the one we stick with moving forward is another matter. It will stay for the remainder of the season, I’ll see how it compares to other systems we’ve used, before planning moving forward. Either way, the challenges I’ve encountered thus far have been as invested in this save as any for a very long time. I’ll be back again with the third update, and as always should you have any questions about my plans for AaB, or Football Manager in general, then please don’t hesitate to contact me either in the comments section, or via Twitter (probably best, @JLAspey). Thank you very much for reading again, and I’ll be back again soon.