“Boring, Boring Lorient” - Orange Is The New Black #FM19


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My 7th and final season at FC Lorient offered the chance for me to change things up tactically. Heading into a new stadium, we moved away from the 4-3-3 that brought about three consecutive years of European football. In its place came the 4-3-1-2 DM Narrow: making use of our industrious midfield and allowing us some romantic Summer signings. Read on to see how the twilight of Orange Is The New Black progresses…


Season 2024/25

Ligue 1

Improving on last season’s 4th placed finish means qualifying for the Champions League in 3rd is this year’s target. I fully expected the riches of Monaco and PSG to battle it for the title, which meant I’d likely battle for 3rd with Olympique Lyonnais & Olympique de Marseille…

I got the PSG bit right, but the historically big teams in France are all having poor seasons so far. Our consistency has seen us sit 3rd at the mid-point of Season 7, and it’s partly due to some newfound resilience that I’ll come to discuss a bit later in this post. Just look at our clean sheet wins:

“1-0 to the Lorient”

Europa League

We’ve topped a Europa League group for the third consecutive season! I’m really happy how we recovered from that opening San Siro loss to AC Milan, by winning the head-to-head in a 3-1 victory at the FC Lorient Stadium.

We draw Standard in the next round, a team Les Merlus beat 7-1 last season in our biggest win of the save. I can only hope for a similar mauling!


Boring, Boring Lorient?

Last time out on the blog I spoke about a potential tactic change for my last season in FM19, it was also the subject of Episode 35 of the GrassNGear podcast. I initially toyed with an Enganche + Double Segundo Volantes in a 4-3-1-2 DM Narrow, but eventually dropped the Enganche in favour for a Shadow Striker (to make use of Mo Diallo & Lovro Majer’s explosiveness at AMC).

Goss’ 4-3-1-2 DM Narrow, highlighting the CWB and DLF roles which have been recruited to.

The Complete Wing Back

A headline addition to our new 4-3-1-2 (apart from the Volantes of course) is the Complete Wing Back role. Our new €11.5m Summer signing ‘Nivaldo’ plays the part well, a Brazilian Left Winger who is being re-positioned to play at Left Back via training and gametime.

Nivaldo has moved from ‘Awkward’ to ‘Accomplished’ at LB in 5 months.

Despite being positioned at LB on the tactic screen, Nivaldo plays like a Winger…often hugging the line within the opposition’s half. I’ve shown below two examples of where he is receiving the ball, against AC Milan in the Europa League and Toulouse in Ligue 1. It highlights how the position on the tactics screen doesn’t necessarily relate to the spaces in which a player will mostly operate during a match:

Deep Lying Forward

Vincent Aboubakar - back at Lorient 10 years after leaving the Orange & Black.

I don’t feel the need to talk too much about the Deep Lying Forward here, as it’s a role I have discussed a fair bit in FM19 already. But the Summer recruitment ended with a dream signing of ex-Lorient front man Vincent Aboubakar on loan from Porto. As a DLF on a Balanced Mentality, he will drop deeper and provide a vital link between the Volantes and his fellow forwards…who are all on a Very Attacking Mentality. His output has been encouraging too: 7 goals and 5 assists in 17 games (all comps) whilst building up a great partnership with Advanced Forward Gustavo Ramírez (who currently has a respectable 10 goals and 6 assists in all comps too).

Team Instructions

I’m pretty simplistic with the Team Instructions. Originally, I was asking the team to Play Through The Middle, but as FMPressure rightly mention in my Slack channel; the play would naturally gravitate towards the middle anyway due to this being a 4-3-1-2. Good point. So, we now only Pass Into Space when in possession, mainly to take advantage of the Acceleration and Off The Ball of my CWB, SS and AF.

In transition I build from the back, seeing as I have a naturally solid platform to construct team moves from. We also play on the Counter too, seeing I have 5 guys in the team willing to bomb forward. Lastly, Out of possession we are marking tighter because I want to be hard to break down and have quite a disciplined and tenacious set of CBs and Volantes in terms of Marking.

How it plays out

With this tactic, 50% of our domestic games have ended as a clean sheet. This is a massive improvement to last year…where at this stage of the season we only had a 35% clean sheet rate. Narrow wins have seen us adopt the ‘Boring, Boring Lorient’ label, a phrase made famous by George Graham’s Arsenal who made a habit out of 1-0 wins.

But, these 1-0s and clean sheets are anything but boring. We play some great stuff at times and I’ve enjoyed the mixture of highlights I am getting, particularly the link-up between DLF & AF and also the glorious CWB role:

DLF to AF combo.

Elite CWB crossing.

CWB-AF-DLF.

In possession we are very high up in the pitch and resemble a 2-4-2-2, with a lot of activity happening centrally:

Average positions when in possession + heat map.

Improvements needed

I believe that this tactic can be improved, especially as this is only 5 months into its lifespan. Looking at the goal locations (see below) against us, I decided to recruit a dedicated ‘water carrier’ in front of the two central defenders.

Goal locations in the last 25 games (all comps).

At first, I thought about re-training a Centre Back and playing them as an Anchor Man at DM, but ultimately, I don’t think I have enough time to see this one through to fruition. So that’s where Josuha Guilavogui comes in. At 34 years of age, he is by no means one for the future. But what Guilavogui does bring is maturity and leadership to the defensive crux right away. A bargain €375k signing from Leganés in Spain.

Josuha Guilavogui, FM12’s Wonderboy back in La France.

Shielding the Centre Backs better will help cover centrally, however the weakest point is my left-hand side which is a direct trade-off between having a marauding Complete Wing Back. The assist locations are perhaps even more insightful than the Goal Location image above…because cutting off the life supply to the opposition forwards will be even more effective:

Assist locations in the last 25 games (all comps).

Most of the goals we concede are crosses (10 goals coming from crossing in the last 25 games - which equates to 47% of all goals against). So, it’s something we need to keep an eye on and now that I’m aware of it I can look out for this weakness.

To counter it, I could defend wider and stop the crosses coming in…or reduce the attacking mentality of my CWB and hope he is in the positions to block the cross. It’s something to think about during the winter break, as we head into a couple of friendlies. One of them being the ‘Vincent Le Goff Testimonial’, who became the last surviving player of the 2018/19 Achilles Goss squad when Julien Ponceau moved to Al-Ittihad Club (KSA) in the Summer for €7m*.

*Au revoir mon fils.


The End Is Nigh

The 4-3-1-2 is by no means perfect, but it’s done enough in the first half of the season to see me continue with it into 2025; with qualification to the Champions League the overarching aim. A few people have asked me what happens if we realise the dream, would I stay beyond my contract and play out one more season in the Champions League? The answer is simple: ‘non’. These last few months in-game will be the last of Achilles Goss and FC Lorient, with one more blog post planned.

The reason is clear to me, I intend to have some downtime over September and October even if it’s just a few weeks, before we hit FM20 hard again with another save. As a writer it’s hard to do something consistently, and for so long, whilst still retaining the interest of the reader. So those few weeks are perfect for recharging the blogging batteries and getting the thirst back again for Football Manager.

But fear not, there are posts already scheduled over mid-late September and although I probably won’t be playing a ‘blogging save’…there should be some words appearing on the blog to tie us over until Football Manager 2020.

As always thanks for reading, sharing & caring,

Achilles Goss / FM Grasshopper

"La génération d’aujourd’hui" - Orange Is The New Black #FM19


Intro

I’ve moved into the Autumn of this FM19 save, so my posts therefore naturally gravitate towards reflecting and assessing the progress we have made as a club. Today specifically focuses on ‘La Jeunesse’ who I introduced you to on this blog two seasons ago (read here). During this post, at the climax of Season 4, I decided to place greater emphasis on giving game time to the Academy players who were nearing adulthood.

So, I want to spend some time with these Newgens today…to recap on their growth and also introduce a couple of new guys who are ‘knocking on the Lorient First Team door’. I’ll also have a little update on Africa too, as I haven’t done that for a number of seasons. But first, how is my sixth season going (2023/24)?


Season 2023/24

Just as the season was starting, we waved goodbye to Markel Alemán who was sold to Bayern for €50m. It was obviously great to turn in a tidy €44.4m profit on a player who was only here for a year, but it left me weaker in depth. Sakho and Mepham would therefore be my central pair for 2023/24 as I couldn’t sign a replacement of real quality with the Alemán millions.

Ligue 1

The departure of Joshua Zirkzee (back to that club again…Bayern) has not been massively felt due to the form of Gustavo Ramírez - who has scored 19 goals in 26 starts (all comps). His goals along with Mo Diallo and Alessandro Murgia’s see Lorient competing for the European places once again:

Generally we’ve been good, although a difficult November and December had seen us slip as low as 6th. Retaining European football is once again the target as we move home after this season, waving goodbye to Stade du Moustoir and opening the new 25k FC Lorient Stadium for 2024/25.

Europa League

We’re smashing the 2024 Europa League campaign! The 7-1 win Vs Standard equalled my record win in this save (the other was a 7-1 in the French Cup against amateur opposition). Last year we exited at the 1st Knockout Round Vs FC Basel…so I am fully aware that I need to take Feyenoord seriously this time round!

On my to-do list is to sign a top Centre Back, as Chris Mepham will be leaving in the Summer to Benfica. It’s proving very difficult so far to find somebody of real quality, but my top target is RB Leipzig’s Luc Tournier…who has a wonderful €11.75m release clause. Just look at him:

Luc Tournier - future French Worldie.

It’s too early to say if we can convince him to swap Bundesliga for Ligue Un…but maybe qualifying for the Champions League will be enough to tempt him back to France (after previously playing for Monaco and Sochaux). We’ll see.


La génération d’aujourd’hui (19-20 years)

Two seasons ago I introduced four Academy players and discussed their pathway into the team, they were: Alex Rolland, Roland Le Moigne, Matteo Julien & Adam Rousseau. I do not feel there is a need to re-introduce them, so if you want to see their background and what they looked like at 17/18 years-of-age, read the post here.

Alex Rolland (born 09/03/2004 - Lambersart, Lille)

The subject of Alex Rolland was a lengthy discussion on the GrassNGear podcast with Dan Gear & Thomas Pigot. In that discussion, I spoke in detail why I wanted to develop him as a Right Back:

Over the course of 18 months, Alex has flourished as newly developed Full Back. He started re-training in the Summer of 2022 and had become Awkward in the role by October of that year. But the game-time over 2023/24 has seen him become an Accomplished Right Back a year later. He’s also bettered his personality from Balanced to Fairly Professional.

  • 19 years old

  • 62 appearances for FC Lorient (3 goals and 4 assists)

  • 7.14 average rating

  • ‘Wonderkid’ Media Description

Roland Le Moigne (born 05/12/2003 - Brest, Brittany)

Of the four youngsters I introduced, Roland Le Moigne was the one I was the most unsure about; and for that reason he’s played the least. Assembling just 10 appearances over the last two years, Roland has made gains in some areas and has changed his personality from Ambitious to Fairly Professional.

Roland Le Moigne’s gains since joining the First Team at 18 years old.

However, Roland has had major overall improvements in all three attribute areas and I think he is now ready to step into my central midfield more regularly.

20 years old

  • 10 appearances for FC Lorient

  • 6.76 average rating

  • ‘Defensive Midfield’ Media Description

Matteo Julien (born 16/07/2004 - Quéven, Brittany)

After two years of dipping in-and-out of the match day squad, Matteo Julien is now the first choice Left Back at FC Lorient. I’ve used him 35 times as a Wing Back on Support Duty and he’s been solid with an average rating of 7.21. His craft has been recognised by France U21s and is our highest Internationally capped Academy player.

I’m slowly seeing the benefits of a good Mentoring group too; Matteo has picked up the ‘Runs With Ball Down Left’ trait and has made gains in his Determination…both from club legend Vincent Le Goff. It’s the same three-man group that Alex Rolland has been in during this two-year period, we’re creating Le Goff clones here!

19 years old

  • 35 appearances for FC Lorient

  • 7.21 average rating

  • ‘Full Back’ Media Description

Adam Rousseau (born 08/06/2004 - Ploemeur, Brittany)

Despite not seeing huge gains in training, Adam Rousseau saves his best stuff when actually on the football pitch. He’s played 48 times already for Les Merlus and has an encouraging 7 goals and 9 assists for Team Goss. Again, we’ve seen a change in personality from his Mentoring Group, but his individual focus of Passing isn’t really yielding much.

Adam Rousseau will need to remain patient whilst at Lorient, as he has real competition alongside Julien Ponceau and Arsène Sidibé (who we’ll see in a sec) for the starting right attacker role.

19 years old

  • 48 appearances for FC Lorient

  • 7.12 average rating

  • ‘Winger’ Media Description


La génération d’aujourd’hui (18 years)

Readers should know all about Julien Ponceau by now, the first Goss Graduate into the First Team, you now know more about the four guys above too. But let me introduce you to the sixth and seventh Academy players to join the First Team squad: Arsène Sidibé & Vincent Maury.

Arsène Sidibé - another youngster spoken about on Episode 31 of GrassNGear.

Vincent Maury - physically advanced for 18 years old.

I added both these guys to the team for season 2023/24, and set individual training to roles within my 433 tactic (Winger and Full Back respectively). Annoyingly, Arsène Sidibé has seen a 2 point drop in Determination which will need to be corrected via Mentoring. But in terms of attributes both have made slight increases.

I have no plans to re-position them, as I see a pathway into the First Team via their natural positions…but I have placed Sidibé on a focus on Strength (Strength & Jumping Reach) and Maury on Passing (First Touch/Passing/Technique). Hopefully I can give the game time over the next couple of years, and I’ll make a vow not to recruit to any of the right sided positions to help facilitate this.


Achilles’ Africa

With all the focus on Academy youth development, I did not want readers left thinking I had abandoned my FM19 recruitment project (read my original plans here). Africa remains a focus for Achilles Goss and I’ve increased the tally to 13 players recruited from the continent.

Georges Sombola - an International at 19 years of age.

Isidore Kossounou - a €150k signing from the ASEC academy.

New recruits are Gabonese youth Goalkeeper Georges Sombola & Ivorian ASEC graduate Isidore Kossounou. I am particularly excited about the latter, with Isidore scoring a crucial away goal on his debut against FC København in the Europa League qualifiers. He has the right kind of raw ability that Goss has polished before (see Fonsinho & Mo Diallo on the Goss CV).

Achilles’ Africa so far: Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal & South Africa.

Achilles’ Africa so far: Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal & South Africa.


Closure

I never like to put a fixed date on ending things, or make any grand promises on how long I will play this save. Readers only have to witness the vagueness in my introductory post as testimony:

“My aim is to be as consistent with blogging as last year, so that’s two posts a season. As with last year, I expect to play at the same speed too. So please don’t expect a 20 year save, it’s more likely to be somewhere between 5 and 8 seasons”.

Moving into the new stadium is a big reason I stuck around with FC Lorient, it’s something I’ve wanted in Football Manager for many years now. So, my desire is to see out the inaugural season in our new home before calling it a day with this fine club.

That would be 7 seasons in Football Manager 2019 and enough to give me closure of this fine save. The countdown is on…let’s enjoy the ride we have left.

As always, thanks for reading, sharing and caring.

FM Grasshopper/Achilles Goss

"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