"The Lorient Express" - Orange Is The New Black #FM19


The Lorient Express. Goss in First Class, of course.

The Lorient Express. Goss in First Class, of course.

Season 5 was really enjoyable, notably due to the 10,840 km of travel for Achilles Goss’ inaugural Europa League campaign.  Trips to Stockholm, Liverpool, Copenhagen, Manchester, Tel-Aviv & Istanbul caped off a profitable season, which came as a nice sideshow from the usual domestic challenge.

Bank loans, costs and profits are what I’ll document in today’s post.  It’s financial summary time at Lorient, but first let’s recap on 2022/23’s results…

🧡 #AllezLesMerlus 🖤


Season 2022/23

Ligue 1

Due to the 2022 World Cup sandwiched mid-season, I expected this season to feel different and it didn’t disappoint.  We’d become known for our draws over the previous four seasons, yet in the 2023, we only drew twice.  Perhaps this was due to us moving to a more Positive mentality in a flat 433, where we were pretty ruthless in the last 3 months (almost half our goals coming in March, April and May).  Despite the eight losses, we accumulated a record points haul.  83 league goals scored and 73 points earned.  That total would have been enough for Champions League football last year.  But this is 2022/23, it doesn’t behave.  6th place is our league finish.

We therefore enter the 2023/24 Europa League via qualifiers again, it’s not perfect but this has been a year where we experienced our first taste of Europe.  So, to combine that and qualify again (ensuring that there is no drop back beneath the glass ceiling) is rewarding. All aboard The Lorient Express once again…

Europa League

I wrote about our Group Stage last time out and how we had surprised everyone by topping a group containing Manchester United. So you can understand my optimism when FC Basel came out of hat for our 1st Knockout Round. Cue FM to bring me back down to reality however:

We were the better team.  But a Julian von Moss majestic solo run and a cheap penalty was enough to see us crash out as 2-1 losers.  Remember: there is only one leg for Europa League Knockouts in 2022/23. There wouldn’t be a 2nd leg Lorient retaliation 😭


Finances 2021-2023

During my last piece on financial analysis of Seasons 1-3, I concluded that I needed to re-think my Director of Football approach in FM19.  I saw my wage bill rise 50% in the three years, and despite this partially being expected due to a promotion, something had to be done.

The three-year summary also determined that FC Lorient had reached a glass ceiling of sorts (noun: an unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession), whereby Lorient’s organic revenue had largely plateaued.

I introduced an Operating Index (Revenue divided by Costs) KPI (Key Performance Indicator) to provide a snapshot metric of each season.  The target for a self-sustaining club like FC Lorient should be 100%, meaning we are “wiping our faces” in a budgetary sense.  In the first three years of Ligue 1 football (2019-2022) we were doing this with the help of Player Sales to keep us afloat:

Season 1-5 in FM19.

Revenue 2018-2023

Our fifth season (2022/23) brought European football to Stade du Moustoir and I always knew it would bring some much-needed money into the bank balance.  With Europe came a 136% increase in TV Revenue and an extra seven home games (of which five were maximum capacity sell-outs).

Headline Revenue.

Additionally we also made big sales in January 2023, both to Benfica: Assane Dioussé at €20m and Chris Mepham at €7.25m (which included an 18-month loan-back with zero wage costs).  It’s deceptively enhanced our revenue for one year only (with a rather gluttonous 203% Operating Index*), seeing as I can’t make sales like this all the time, but it needed to be done in light of the €37.5m Bank Loan taken out to finance the new stadium:

*Note - it may sound bizarre, but I would not often advise an Operating Index score of 203% for a football club.  You would pay more tax back, and that excess could rather be put back into the playing squad or other club infrastructure (staff, facilities etc).

Costs 2018-2023

Headline Costs.

The new 25k capacity stadium will open the season after next, and its construction is costing around €4m each year in Non-Football Costs (see above).  It’s also the reason why Season 4’s finances in the overview looks insane…as we took the loan out and paid the construction costs right away (documented as Ground Maintenance).

Despite a Season 5 Closing Balance of €36m and a Transfer Balance of €17m (a record high so far in this save), I still need to be apprehensive as we move forward into the new stadium.  It’s the reason why I have been reluctant to splash the cash, instead opting for one ‘major’ signing of €4.4m and one big name Freebie.  This is a nice segue into our 2023/24 transfer dealings…


Mon Mamadou

The aforementioned Freebie is Mamadou Sakho, who is always an attractive player in Football Manager terms.  His real life and fictionalised career in my save paints a picture of vast potential but with weird oddities:

  • PSG Captain at 17-years-old

  • €116m moves across England

  • A relegation with Crystal Palace

  • A huge move to Manchester United

At 33 years of age, I still think Mamadou has something to offer...with the Media still describing him as ‘elite’ (was he ever?).  So he returns to France after 10 years away, to complement our backline.

Mamadou Sakho - our new top earner.

Sakho’s return to France follows a decade in England.

The €4.4m major signing for 2023/24 is a Goalkeeper: Raúl Rivera.  It also comes after seeing our current 1st choice goalkeeper, Lars Unnerstall, win the Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year.  Admittedly it seems odd but, if the scout and coach reports are anything to go by, Rivera has vast potential.  He probably won’t be 1st choice right away, but he’ll be pushing Unnerstall over the course of the season and I expect him to eventually win this 1:1 duel:

The big loss over the summer for me is Joshua Zirkzee, who returns to FC Bayern after his two-year loan spell ends.  He scored 35 goals and assisted 20 times over two seasons at Lorient.  A failed move to bring in Edinson Cavani (now 36-years-old), who chose Marseille over us, means that we go with ‘The Three Os’: 28-year-old Enzo Crivelli and 20-year-old Wonderkids Gustavo Ramírez & Slavko Vucetic:

Enzo.

Gustavo.

Slavko.

It’s a low-key Summer in transfer terms, but I hope it’s enough to see us start well and qualify into the Europa League Group Stage. In addition to Mamadou Sakho and Raúl Rivera, I am continuing with the introduction of another 2-3 Academy players into the 1st team squad too (read about my policy here). I hope to detail their growth next time out here on fmgrasshopper dot see oh em.

As always, thanks for reading/sharing & caring,

FM Grasshopper

"Les Merlus Européens" - Orange Is The New Black #FM19

The 2-year goodbye to the Stade du Moustoir starts now!

The 2-year goodbye to the Stade du Moustoir starts now!


Introduction

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…


Season 2022/23

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.  

Heavy Heavy Heavy!

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)

Markel Alemán - the next Mario Yepes?

Gustavo Ramírez - the next Falcao?

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).

Alessandro Murgia - My new No.10.

Bruno Jordão - A solid Deep Lying Playmaker.

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…

Europa League

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:

Julien Ponceau Vs Manchester United - 22 September 2022.

Ligue Un

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.

FM Grasshopper

Five *NEW* Challenges in Football Manager 2019. Please Retweet #FM19 #WeAreTheCommunity

I have experienced a love-and-hate relationship with Football Manager 2019. I don't think I am the only one either, as I have seen a lot of people fall out of love for the game, take extended breaks or mention burnout - and it genuinely kills me seeing people switch off and head to Other Games. So, I thought I would spend some time noting down FIVE challenges that could see you get the FM thirst back…


(1) The Dan Gear 7 year Bolivia Challenge

This challenge needs no introduction: Daniel Gear went 7 years without winning a competitive game of football with the Bolivian National Team in Football Manager 2017, thus becoming Daniel Gear [of Bolivia fame] on the cult FM podcast: GrassNGear. Dan set the lofty bar at 7 years, but now it's your turn to play the '7 year Bolivia Challenge' and win a match sooner:

  • Manage the Bolivian National Team from July 2018 in FM19 and win your first competitive match by July 2025.

  • Can you sneak a win against South American giants, such as Ecuador, Peru & Venezuela?

  • Shithouse your way up in the clouds at home (altitude is in FM19) and win against an Argentina or Brazil?

Let us know how you get on, make sure you hashtag the challenge #7YearBoliviaChallenge.

Recent FM Pioneer: Dan (@DGear86)


(2) Giving a million to a Football Manager YouTuber

Often YouTubers are giving themselves virtual millions to spend in-game. But how about I, FM Grasshopper dot see oh em, invest in a YouTuber with real life monies? This challenge involves depositing a large wad sum of cash into a YouTuber's Patreon or PayPal account, and seeing what happens.

On this basis, I invested a 308 million Vietnamese Dong (£10,000), to see what Paul The Northman did. You won't believe what happened…

(1) He rented his local supermarket for a weekend and walked around in it…naked.

(2) He bought 500 shirts, 200 hoodies and 364 mugs (one for every day of the year), so he’d never have to do household chores again #scenes

(3) He acquired the land of the Vikesa Stadion (Bjerkreim IL) and will host the inaugural ‘FM Fyre Festival’. Coming: 2020, featuring your favourite FM influencers.

Let us know how you get on, make sure you hashtag the challenge #FMTYVietnameseMillionaire.

Recent FM Pioneer: Paul (@TN_TheNorthman)


(3) Numberless

Cleon81 paved the way in FM19 for playing without attributes. It was innovative and unique, which was quickly adopted by lesser-known bloggers once they caught wind of the approach (See: Oliver Jensen & Dan Gear). But can you go one step further than Cleon: by playing the game without numerical values whatsoever?!?

  • Download the new ultra-realistic FMG 'Numberless' skin from the Steam Workshop (see example screenshots below).

  • Play FM the way it was mean to be played (if this was set in the 1920s), by only looking at players in the match engine and go with your gut instincts.

Let us know how you get on, make sure you hashtag the challenge #NumberlessFM.

Recent FM Pioneer (traditional attributeless): Cleon (@Cleon81)


(4) Galatico Challenge

Why not start at the very top? It's a perverse thought, I know. But imagine a series like Non-League to Legend without any of the boring lower league nonsense. Straight away you can find yourself at the pinnacle of our sport, competing against the very best teams.

The Galatico Challenge is simple: every signing must break your previous transfer record. Sky's the limit. Can you build a team that rivals the Galatico Project of old? Can you win the UCL in your first season?

Let us know how you get on, make sure you hashtag the challenge #GalaticoChallengeFM.

Recent FM Pioneer: Joe (@FridayNightFM)


(5) Reverse Moneyball

Moneyball is a concept that has been applied, with various levels of accuracy, to several FM saves over the past few years. But imagine a statistical concept like Moneyball in the reverse: sign defensive players with favourable attacking statistics (such as Dribbles per 90 minutes, or Key Passes), your attackers could be judged on their Tackling success or Interceptions. Go a step further too, judge them on reverse attributes: Defenders with high Flair and Technique or Attackers with strong Positioning and Tackling.

Moneyball encourages shrewd and unbiased signings…so why not flip this on its head too? Combine the Reverse Moneyball Challenge with the Galatico Challenge: sign big, sell cheap. How low can you sell your marquee signings and yet remain in the job? The Reverse Moneyball Challenge may be the one to reignite the passion for FM19.

Let us know how you get on, make sure you hashtag the challenge #ReverseMoneyBallFM.

Recent FM Pioneer (traditional Moneyball): Jonathon (@JLAspey)


Good Luck!

What else can I say? Whatever you choose, my only request is that you have fun and enjoy Football Manager 2019 in the months we have left.

Thanks in advance for reading/sharing/caring,

FM Grasshopper