Better than Ole Gunnar Solskjær?
"Finally, YES" - the answer to the above question.
Managing FC Lorient's finances is like emptying the sea with a plastic bottle, our way of doing things had to change and I wrote about this at the end of Season 3 (read it here). Fast forward a season and I am delighted to report that we smashed through that glass ceiling! My FC Lorient side is officially the 5th best team in France, walking on broken glass and into the 2022/23 Europa League. Achilles Goss, in the Autumn of life, is dreaming once again.
The season was not without its struggles though, but after four seasons with this club, it's time to take stock on what's happened over the last 4 years and re-assess the aims of this save.
Orange IS the new black bitches…
The second half of the season had its good moments, a strong 9 game unbeaten run (all comps) from January to March put us into a good position for European qualification. From there we really stuttered, losing a Coupe de la Ligue final to Marseille in their home ground and losing two Breton derbies against Rennes and Guingamp.
A recovery in the last two games meant 5th was secured, meaning we bring continental football to the Stade du Moustoir for time since 2002/03. Phew. I only bettered last season's points tally by a single point, so there is still plenty of work to do here at Lorient!
Why FC Lorient…still?
As I always do before each edition of Football Manager, I ask myself why I wish to manage my starting club. Doing this helps me setup objectives and overall aims that I wish to work towards in the save. It's a way for me to become more invested and probably helps me stick at a save by savouring the journey a bit more. Back in October I laid out these aims (read here), but it's normal for me to pause and take stock as to how I have done and whether anything needs to be revised.
Back when I wrote these, some were a bit tongue-in-cheek:
Don't get sacked and achieve promotion within 2 seasons - Achieved! See the revised objective further on in this blog post.
Be an Entraîneur and use a Director of Football - now ditched in favour of me doing most of it all (see Part I of the Glass Ceiling)
Sign some Africans and Celts - Lots of Africans and one Celt have been signed. Boom.
Adopt a non-restrictive fibra policy - Yep, I've added in some fiery players to my side (see my Fibra Battleground post).
Embrace orange - The vast majority of my blog posts have some element of orange in them, what a colour!
The French Play Off system, although incredibly gut wrenching and challenging, was incredibly fun. I really enjoyed the euphoria of playing them on 90-minute Full Match highlight mode. Failing in the Play Offs could have set me back in this save, as I would have found it hard to keep my top performers for another season in Ligue 2. But we did it, at the expense of Dijon who should maybe focus on their mustard more.
After being promoted, spending two seasons comfortably in Ligue 1 and now qualifying for Europe…I need to revisit what I want from this save. I do not expect a title challenge anytime soon (especially after PSG's lavish spending - see below), so I am going with the simple aim of: Win a domestic or continental cup in FM19.
Transfer Net Spend (€m) - Seasons 1-4
The initial aims around my save were always based in the short term i.e. get promoted within 1-2 years and then stay up. When you're playing like this, you naturally tend to think and make decisions in the short term. My transfer policy is a good example of this ‘short-termism’, where I have signed players who I expected to do a job in the here and now.
Then there's the youth squads, the knock-on effect of the above is that I have not provided a gateway for the Lorient youth into the First Team (something which goes against their approach in real life). With the exception of Julien Ponceau and Mohammed Diallo, nobody has broken through.
Until now. I want to integrate a few 18-year olds and give them game time in 2022/23. I fully accept in advance that this may make us weaker and less competitive, but it's a chance to enjoy this save and find satisfaction in other ways (and also keep us working within our financial means). So, my new second aim: Include four under-20s in the match day squads (all comps).
Along with Diallo & Ponceau (with the later interested in leaving for UCL football), meet the four academy players I am placing into the First Team from 2022/23:
Alex Rolland (born 09/03/2004 - Lambersart, Lille)
In order to make this work, and give every chance for the young player to develop, I am going to provide these youngsters with as much gametime as possible. They’re training in the First Team squad now, so I can compare how they do alongside their older peers.
Straightaway I can see that Alex Rolland is fairly versatile, playing centrally at DM and MC but also on the right side of midfield. He is pretty explosive too and with favourable Mental Attributes in Aggression, Bravery, Concentration and Work Rate. For this reason, I have started to train him as a Full Back on Support in the RB slot. This is a position where I am currently lacking in, so my aim would be to sign somebody and have Alex Rolland as his deputy. Long term I hope that Alex Rolland can become a decent Full Back for us.
Roland Le Moigne (born 05/12/2003 - Brest, Brittany)
Roland Le Moigne is not quite near the level of Alex Rolland. His game is also simpler and I am reluctant to re-train him when I am not quite sure on his pathway and don’t want to take ability away from him just yet.
For now, Roland Le Moigne is going to have to sit tight as a back-up central defensive player. I’ll be keeping a close eye on his training & mentoring in order to see if he makes gains. He has the physique for top level football, which will help him cope with the demands. Fingers crossed!
Matteo Julien (born 16/07/2004 - Quéven, Brittany)
I am going to need an understudy to Vincent Le Goff as he enters his 33rd year. Matteo Julien could be that guy. He has strong physical attributes and some solid mental qualities. He does have his work cut out however in order to become a more technical and expressive player.
The jury is out on Matteo, but a predicted 2.5-star gap in current to potential ability from my Head of Youth Development leaves me with hope that he has room to grow.
Adam Rousseau (born 08/06/2004 - Ploemeur, Brittany)
The Achilles Goss right wing has been a fruitful position to play. Fonsinho lit up the Stade du Moustoir from 2019-2020 and since then it has been filled by Julien Ponceau, who re-trained successfully into a natural winger.
Adam Rousseau could be the next heir, should Ponceau depart for Champions League football. Rousseau has great quickness for a winger and is a relatively good crosser of the ball. There are a few Player Traits I might add, like Knocking The Ball Past His Opponent…due to this Acceleration & Pace.
I would also like to boost his Technical attributes, so I am putting in an intensive focus of ‘Passing’ which will train First Touch, Passing & Technique.
Introducing: FC Lorient Stadium (24,950 capacity)
If the above is not enough to keep me interested in FC Lorient for a few more seasons, then perhaps this will:
A new stadium! I’m absolutely delighted to be leaving the Stade du Moustoir, a stadium which we have outgrown by selling out more often than not. The new FC Lorient Stadium will be open in 2 years, so my main motivation now is to have Achilles Goss continue here and manage the 2024/25 season (which will be my 7th season in charge of Lorient in FM19).
It’s poetic justice for that catastrophic database failure I had in FM14, which I wrote about in my introductory blog post:
‘Les Merlus’ were hitting the big time, with a new stadium in construction funded by the inflated coffers brought about by my astute transfer dealings. There was no stopping my side…until…a catastrophic database failure.
To finally see them have a new stadium, due to my handiwork, will be incredibly satisfying. So, the 5 aims [revised ones in bold] of this save going forward are:
Win a domestic or continental cup in FM19
Include four under-20s in the match day squads (all comps)
Continue to sign some Africans and Celts
Continue to adopt a non-restrictive fibra policy
Continue to embrace orange
Thanks again to the readers of this blog and to all those who interact with me about A.Goss’ Lorient journey. Merci à tous et joyeuses Pâques!