Previously on Orange Is The New Black, FC Lorient secured 5th place in the 2021/22 Ligue 1 season and Achilles Goss reviewed his aims.
Perhaps celebrating my European qualification was a bit premature. We had finished 5th in the league, but France’s drop in co-efficient and Bordeaux’s French Cup win resulted in FC Lorient entering the 2022/23 Europa League at the 2nd Qualifying Round. I have always said “our way is the hard way”, and I was proved right once again.
We faced six games (3 rounds) in order to get to the coveted Group Stages, did we do it? If you’re even mildly intrigued then please read on to find out…
Over the last couple of seasons I’ve been faced with three or four players getting jaded during the spring months. I don’t have a huge squad and financially I am still prevented from building one. So, to combat player jadedness, I decided to apply real world logic and give the team a heavy pre-season.
It’s hard to push the players physically once the season is underway. Especially as I hoped to be playing every 3-4 days if Group Stage qualification could be achieved. So we went full-on during the pre-season months in the hope that their fitness could be built up to last the rigours of a whole season...Europa League included.
As mentioned last time out, I plan to introduce four Lorient Academy players into the side this season (Rolland, Le Moigne, Julien & Rousseau). In addition to the Lorient Youth, I have also brought in two targets from Atlético Nacional in Colombia, which will help me meet the below restriction in my save:
Include four under-20s in the match day squads (all comps)
For just over €1m the signings of Wonderkids Markel Alemán & Gustavo Ramírez represent incredible value. I honestly don’t think I could have found two better players, regardless of age, for that amount of money.
Joining the plethora of youth was Alessandro Murgia, who arrives on a Free Transfer from Lazio…having spent last season on loan at Lorient. In the final few weeks, he made the Centre Midfield Attack role his own in Goss’ side. He is everything I want in the centre of midfield: a Mental Juggernaut of a player (refer back to my Fibra Battleground post to get what I mean here).
The final notable arrival was deeper playmaker Bruno Jordão, who like Murgia was a Freebie from Lazio. His arrival was confirmed with half an eye on Assane Dioussé leaving for mega money. But the bids never came in for my Senegalese International playmaker.
Furthermore, there were no outgoing player sales (only the release of non-renewed contracts and end of loans). Being in a position to sell-to-buy therefore meant nothing else happened in the transfer market. Goss’ Lorient would enter 2022/23 campaign with largely the same squad plus a few extra youngsters offering cover…
It’s logical to first talk about the Europa League, seeing as this tournament kicked for us in July. Despite a lack of match fitness, we managed to see off Swedish AIK with relative ease…although the score was a little too tight in both games, due to our rustiness in attack.
The next round proved to be the most difficult tie and it wouldn’t be FM19 if not for some Goss-drama. Why face Rovaniemen Palloseura, Saburtalo Tbilisi, FC Thun, KS Skënderbeu Korçë or Knattspyrnufélagið Valur when you can face an English Premier League team like Everton?
Just our luck. But after conceding two away goals at home, we managed to go to England and win. The Italian heartbeat of our team, Alessandro Murgia (CM-A) and Luca Valzania (B2B) with the goals to see us through and keep the Group Stage dream alive.
FC Midtjylland of Denmark were next, who had to be bystanders to the Joshua Zirkzee show. The €50m valued Bayern loanee grabbing a hat-trick as we run out 5-0 winners in the 1st leg. The 2nd leg, although fun, was a formality…Zirkzee once again scoring.
We’ve pissed all over the Group Stages, qualifying as group winners with a game to spare. I can’t quite put my finger on where it’s all going right for us. Was it the heavy training back in July? Are the youth really that good? Whatever it is, the team is settled and playing their best football.
There will be financial gains from all this too, our prize money so far this season equates to €6m, and I expect that figure to at least rise by a further €2-3m as we enter the Europa League knockout stages and play the two French domestic cups in 2023. Note - to put into context, our total prize money last season was €2m…the glass ceiling has now certainly been smashed.
I suppose I should gloat over beating Man Utd more, seeing as half of FM Twitter now manage them! Here is my Academy product, Julien Ponceau (who remains my biggest headache with only 7 months left on his current contract) scoring one of FC Lorient’s most famous goals:
Due to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we pause over November/December so our break isn’t quite at the half-way point. In fact, it’s preventing me for getting properly hyped about our current 3rd place position…as we need to play everybody first to properly judge where we’re at.
The most satisfying part of 2022/23 so far is that we are not reliant on one player for goals or assists. It is spread throughout the team really well, as shown below:
I plan to write more on our Youth Development in my next post, but I’ve highlighted those under 20s that have already been integral to our squad this season. It’s added another dynamic to my save and I can’t wait to see what the next months and years has in store for some of them.
As always, to find out what happens next on OITNB follow me on Twitter (@FM_Grasshopper), on FM Slack (#fmgrasshopper)…or on here for the next post.
Thanks for reading/sharing/caring.