Last time, we finished our first ever season in the Premier League (ending up in 10th place) and looked ahead to next season’s ambitions…
At the end of each season (and in January if I really need to) I normally set up a spreadsheet with my team and look at different information to decipher a number of things:
- What squad the player should be in (1st team, U23, U18) based on their current and potential ability
- How well the player fits into the RPW DNA (Bravery, determination, teamwork and work rate)
- Actions based on the previous two paramaters; whether or not we sell/loan the player out, give them a go in the first team etc.
From looking at the spreadsheet following the end of the 2022/23 season in the Premier League, I found that there were certain actions that needed doing: We needed to sign a new right wing-back, box-to-box midfielder and two new strikers for the first team; we needed to improve the quality of players in our U18 squad; and finally we needed to get rid of those players that we kept on last season in the case of relegation (Matt Butcher, Adam Randell, Carlton Morris etc.)
The Summer Transfer Window
9th June 2023 – IN – Romain Fuchs – Sedannes Ardennes – £2.5k
First through the door was 17-year-old winger Romain Fuchs from our affiliate club Sedan Ardennes for the tiny fee of £2.5k. While we don’t traditionally play with wingers, I’ll attempt to re-train him as a right wing-back to fit our system. If it doesn’t pay off, it’s a very low-risk move on the off the chance he doesn’t make it to the first team eventually.
15th June 2023 – IN – Nathaniel Chalobah – Watford – £5.25m (£5.75m)
Probably our first ‘big’ signing of a player that is currently playing in the Premier League IRL is 28-year-old Nathaniel Chalobah, who joins Plymouth Argyle for an initial fee of £5.25m. A very apt replacement for the on-loan Conor Gallagher last season, Chalobah brings proven Premier League experience to our fledgling top-flight side.
17th June 2023 – IN – Jordan Teze – PSV – £8m (£8.75m)
A huge signing and a statement of intent for sure, Dutch right wing-back Jordan Teze joins The Pilgrims from Eredivisie runners-up PSV. 23-year-old Teze should offer as much going forward as he should in defence . An initial fee of £8m secures the defender and if he can add 6 assists like he did for PSV in 32 appearances last year, he should be a successful signing.
21st June 2023 – OUT – Matt Butcher – APOEL Nicosia – £2.8m
Matt Butcher was a quality signing when he joined us back in League One, and it was his stellar season in the Championship which led to us being promoted to the Premier League. Unfortunately, Butcher never had the quality to do a job in the top flight and went out on loan to League One Hull City last season where he won promotion to the Championship. As soon as I transfer listed him this season, Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia came in for him with an offer I could not refuse.
21st June 2023 – IN – Dawid Kownacki – Fortuna Düsseldorf – £11.5m (£12.25m)
Our new record signing! The second coming of Robert Lewandowski appears in the form of Polish international striker Dawid Kownacki. Okay maybe he isn’t quite at the level of Lewandowski, but the ex-Fortuna Düsseldorf striker has incredible mental and physical attributes to make up for his technical deficiencies.
27th June 2023 – IN – Nils Finger – Wehen Wiesbaden – £170k (£1.7m)
We raided Germany for many youth players throughout the window to improve our U18 squad, and young centre-back Nils Finger (great name) joined from Wehen Wiesbaden. Already possessing excellent attributes, I don’t think it’ll be long before Finger finds his way towards the first team.
29th June 2023 – IN – Hwang Hee-Chan – FC Red Bull Salzburg – £7m (£7.75m)
Another high-profile signing, South Korean international striker Hwang Hee-Chan joins from RB Salzburg for an initial fee of £7m. Although Hee-Chan has not necessarily been a prolific goalscorer in his time in Austria, he has often came off the bench to act as a super-sub and pick up goals late in the game. His signing also means that merchandising improves across Asia to improve our finances and sponsorship further.
1st July 2023 – Retained List
While a lot of our contracted unwanted players found themselves on the transfer list, a couple were released following the end of their contracts: Dominic Telford, a prolific goalscorer during our early days in League One and Two, finally leaves us after spending time on loan at Bristol Rovers. Jacob Maddox also departs, as he leaves in similar circumstances to Matt Butcher. A good player on his day and a quality player in the lower leagues, Maddox just didn’t make the cut in the Premier League. Our loanees also leave after mixed fortunes last season and 10 of our youth candidates failed to make the professional standards at Home Park.
3rd July 2023 – OUT – Adam Randell – Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors – £4.2m
This one hurt the most – I always have a soft spot for local lads who come through the ranks and make a difference. Alongside Dom Telford, Adam Randell was arguably our best player during our League One and Two campaigns and was an absolute midfield maestro. Unfortunately, he is another player that wouldn’t have made the cut in the Premier League and following our top-flight safety, I transfer listed him. Surprisingly, three South Korean sides came in for him for a great fee of £4.2m and Randell chose Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Our record sale, I hope he has a successful time in South Korea.
8th July 2023 – OUT – Zak Vyner – Preston North End – £600k
Zak left for his minimum release clause of £600k, heading to Preston after not making the cut in the Premier League. Vyner is a very good centre-back but was under-utilised and barely played, and unfortunately for Zak, youth prospect Noah Delap was already better than him and found himself in the first team ahead of his more experienced colleague.
11th July 2023 – OUT – Brandon Austin – Seattle Sounders – £120k
I won’t bore you to death by saying ‘another player who was good in the lower leagues but didn’t make the cut’ but unfortunately Brandon Austin was neither: He was a great backup goalkeeper in the lower leagues but never even threatened Mike Cooper for the #1 shirt. After the signing of Josep Martinez last summer, there was no space for Austin and he left for MLS club Seattle Sounders.
11th July 2023 – OUT – Carlton Morris – Vancouver Whitecaps – £325k
The last of our decent Championship level players left when Carlton Morris joined Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps for a fee of £325k. Morris was a great substitute striker and was an effective threat from off the bench, but unfortunately it was clear he wouldn’t make it in the Premier League.
15th July 2023 – IN – Enea Romagnoli – Spezia Calcio – £775k (£875k)
Another young prospect joins from Serie B side Spezia for an initial fee of £775k in Enea Romagnoli. The talented young midfielder will fill the box-to-box midfielder role in the U18 squad and should add some attacking and defensive threat now and in the future.
20th July 2023 – IN – Ronald Lindenburgh – AZ Alkmaar – £1.3m (£1.7m)
A traditional hotbed for young talent, Dutch side AZ sold Ronald Lindenbergh – a young ball-playing centre-back – to Argyle for an initial fee of £1.3m. Already a tidy defender at the age of 16, Lindenbergh could easily make it in the lower leagues straight away but will stay in the U18 squad as part of the back three.
21st July 2023 – IN – Ali Yazici – Offenbach – £120k (£180k)
Our final signing of the summer transfer window (and our last from Germany), Turkish defensive midfielder Ali Yazici joins from lower league side Offenbach. The main thing that attracted me to signing Yazici was his incredible RPW DNA score; a rating of 64 across the four key attributes is better than the majority of the first team squad.
As usual, our professional players who were too good to be sticking around but not good enough for the first team went out on loan to lower league teams. The only players who had not been out on loan before that were leaving for the first team were Enrico Ambrosious, who went out to Salford City; Rob Down who went out on loan to Millwall; Jaume Jardi joined three other Argyle players at Southend United; Jesús Garcia joined League Two Crawley Town and Josh Arnold went out to our Bulgarian affiliate club Botev Plovdiv.
Our aims for the season
Despite comfortably surviving in the Premier League last season, the media still saw us clearly as the ‘whipping boys’ of the English top flight in predicting us to finish rock bottom – again. The board only expects us to again fight bravely against relegation, but to be honest another mid-table finish like last season would be my aim from the start. In terms of personal goals, I would also like to avoid being trounced by the ‘big six’ like I was last season. Our aggregate score against the best clubs in the league last season was a shocking 32 goals conceded and 3 goals scored; a record that I would love to put to bed. Finally, last season we picked up 52 points and if we achieve my predicted points total, we should hit 68 (best case scenario). Last season, that points total would achieve 7th place and only 5 points off of 6th. This may seem a tad ambitious, however there is no problem in aiming high!
Another successful pre-season! We started off with our traditional match against local Cornish side Callington Town before heading off to Hungary for our pre-season training camp. It went far better than expected: a 7-1 demolition against Hungarian giants Ferencvárosi TC was a particular highlight. The only downside was a disappointing draw against second division side – and another affiliate of ours – Győri ETO. From there, we went 5 matches without conceding against French opponents in Sedan Ardennes, AS Saint-Étienne and Stade Rennais as well as hitting big wins over York City and Tavistock back home in England. Jonathan and new signings Dawid Kownacki and Hwang Hee-Chan impressed, adding many goals to our game.
The Tactical Change
Going into our second season in the Premier League, I wanted to start playing ‘Premier League’ football, instead of always going for our counter-attacking 5-1-2-2 that we have used successfully for the past few seasons. I want to push on and attack more, keeping possession and playing more attractive football.
Therefore, I decided to push my wing-backs forward to act as attacking wingers who can also act as auxiliary full-backs when out of possession. The central midfield trio would largely stay the same, however Amos/Trybull in defensive midfield would change role from a Deep-Lying Playmaker to a traditional Defensive Midfielder to cover for the lack of defence on the wings. During pre-season, I trained our normal 5-1-2-2 tactic the majority of the time, while touching upon the newer 3-1-4-2 to see how the tactic works out. Hopefully we won’t be too exposed against the bigger teams.
Next time, we begin our second season and see how our new signings and tactics work out. Can we better our last season?
P.S. Thank you for reading! As the current COVID-19 crisis goes on, posts will unfortunately not be as regular as usual as I am a teacher and will still be in work while many are at home enjoying more Football Manager. Despite this, I hope you enjoy when I do release new posts and keep yourselves happy, healthy and safe during these strange times.