You can find the introduction and part 1 of The Pilgrimage here:
Not long after Gaz [Sawyer] left the room, Lilian, Ákos, Rory and I re-convened in one of the many modern meeting rooms of the redeveloped Mayflower Grandstand to meet with my Director of Football, Paul Sturrock, about the state of our squad; strengths and weaknesses, etc. My aim was to have players that are capable of reaching the play off berths we were expected to meet by the end of the season. I also wanted to start off playing exactly how I do with Plymouth Argyle on every new Football Manager edition: I try to best recreate how the current Argyle manager in real life is playing; in this case Ryan Lowe’s attacking 5-3-2/5-1-2-2. I don’t like to keep a large squad, but to have at least enough depth to have the possibility of two players per position on the pitch (with a couple of youth candidates sprinkled on top).
First up (naturally), the first team squad.
As stated in the caption above, I am a very demanding manager: not only do I expect enough depth to have two players per position on the pitch, but I also would prefer players to fit my ‘RPW DNA‘ (inspired by real life club DNA and the excellent ‘fibra’ from FMGrasshopper). These are all mental attributes that I believe are most important for us to create the perfect, cohesive unit in which players will put their bodies on the line for each other and play with a relentless drive for success. These are bravery, determination, teamwork and work rate. Just like FMGrasshopper, I wanted my more experienced players (25+) to have an total of 60 across the four attributes, while players between the ages of 18 and 24 require a total of 50 across the four attributes. Players from the Argyle academy have until the age of 21 to reach the magic 50 marker otherwise they will be sold or released. Secondary to this are other things I consider important, which include height (I love a team of giants, yet can never explain why), leadership and place of birth/favourite clubs. This final area is key to one of my aims outlined in The Pilgrimage’s introduction: bring through youth that are from the local area and are as die-hard fans of the Greens as their manager is.
Ones to Watch – Zak Rudden
Zak Rudden, a 19-year-old Scottish striker on loan from Rangers, is the player who fits my required RPW DNA attributes best: a total of 63 across the four attributes is not too shabby at all, especially for a player at the relative start of their career. Through pre-season, Rudden seemed to be the ‘danger man’; playing as an aggressive pressing forward he was the top scorer during the preparatory matches.
Ones to Watch – Danny Mayor
How do you solve a problem like Danny Mayor? Arguably the most talented (and definitely the highest paid) player in League 2, Mayor has gained a reputation of being a creative, game-changing midfielder who linked well with the attacking wing-back system at Ryan Lowe’s Bury last season. However, playing Mayor in the role he plays in real life for Argyle – a mezzala-esque drifter linking well with McFadzean at LWB – has been fairly uneventful so far. I will continue to try and find the best position for our star player but with an RPW DNA score of only 43 and a huge contribution towards the collective wage bill, it may be that I consider getting rid of the magician before I’d originally expected.
One for the Future – Mike Cooper
‘Super Cooper’ has been one of Argyle’s greatest young talents on the past few iterations of the Football Manager series; twice he has taken me to the glory of the Premier League and has often found more immediate success at Championship level football. Strong RPW DNA is a good foundation for the young goalkeeper to build on and a first season as second-choice goalkeeper should allow the Exeter-born player to grow throughout my first season in charge.
This season’s squad is not a bad one by any means. 62.5% of the first team squad fit the RPW DNA mould and there is a lot of promise in a lot of the key positions in my tactics. However, there are clear and obvious areas that the previous manager, Ryan Lowe, missed out on. There is no one apart from Callum McFadzean to play at left wing-back apart from Gary Sawyer and he is far too old and slow to play the constant up and down the pitch game anymore. We also have far too many strikers than we need; Ryan Taylor and Zak Rudden fit the bill as far as pressing forwards go and Dominic Telford and Byron Moore are talented advanced forwards. The other strikers (Billy Clarke and Joel Grant) unfortunately just don’t fit my tactic and aren’t particularly strong in RPW DNA. For now, I have Grant training as a backup left wing-back and Clarke is rarely playing at all.
The under-23s were described as a ‘decent’ squad by my backroom staff: there are definitely some players with some potential but it will be interesting to see who makes it. Across the board, most players have excellent RPW DNA and I can definitely see good potential in these players:
One for the Future – Adam Randell
Filling in for an injured Jose Baxter during pre-season, Randell filled the hole left by the defensive midfielder seamlessly and slotted straight into the first team squad easily. Following these talented performances, under-23 manager Kevin Nancekivell recommended that Randell be given a chance in the first team, while also making him available for U23 matches.
One for the Future – Luke Jephcott
Currently on loan at Southern Premier League South side Truro City, Luke Jephcott is a player that in the past has featured more prominently as a striker but more recently can be found on the wings playing as an attacking midfielder. The image above raises a number of questions for me: 1. If Jephcott is one of my top prospects, is he making enough progress at Truro? and 2. Where should I retrain him, as I don’t play with attacking midfielders at all?
To quote my backroom staff again, there is little to no quality currently in my small under-18s squad. Therefore, I have left Mickey Evans, my Head of Youth Development the task of hunting for talented youths to fill the ranks, make offers and negotiate contracts before I have the final say on whether the player will make the cut. The only issue is that I set up the save with the first transfer window disabled, and therefore will not see any new young player appearing in the academy until January 2020 at the earliest.
Pre-Season – A Summary
Pre-season left me feeling optimistic: over the space of 10 matches, Argyle only failed to score in 1 of the matches (against the might of Dynamo Kyiv) but I would have liked to have kept more clean sheets. I had noticed that while we had little trouble scoring, the high defensive line and my slower centre-backs often left my goalkeeper exposed to one-on-ones (which luckily are so awful so far on FM20 that my goalkeeper hasn’t conceded too many from these opportunities.)
Thanks again for reading – next time, the season begins.