Welcome back to the Football Manager 2020 story Taking on the World. This FM20 story is a classic journeyman save as we attempt to travel around the world and ticking off as many countries as we can.
The aim of this FM20 story is not to stay at the same club for more than one full season. I am not allowed to accept a job offer from another club in the same country if I am already managing a club in that country. There are no limits on how many times I can manage in one country – but I cannot return until at least two seasons later.
From America to China to India, we’re trying to cover the globe!
Last time we met, I moved to China to become the new head coach of Chinese Super League outfit, SH Shenhua. At the time of me being coming their new head coach, they were sitting 13th in the table, and were battling relegation.
For a team that had stars like Stephan El Shaarawy, this was not acceptable for a club of their stature, so whilst the short term aim was to steer them away from the relegation zone. The long term aim was to get them back qualifying for the Champions League.
In this installment of Taking on the World, we review the season and a half in China. We also have news of both a new international job and a club job…where will I move next?
After my first season at SH Shenhua, we finished 13th out of 16th, finishing with a record of 10-3-17. We managed to score just 32 goals, whilst conceding 42 which gave us a negative goal difference of 10.
Our points tally for the season was thirty-three. This was enough to ensure survival, but I was disappointed to not have taken them further up the league.
Even though, I came in half way through the season, I felt I could have done better with the team. Especially given they were predicted to finish 7th by the bookies.
Stephan El Shaarawy topped the appearance chart with thirty-one, whilst Liu Ruofan and Peng Xinli came in second and third. El Shaarawy also topped the goalscorer chart with 9 goals, also taking the top assists with 3. Ruofan and Peng Xinli came second and third in the race to clinch the club Golden Boot, falling two and four short respectively. In the assist race, the runners up were way behind the pace as both Ruofan and Xinli got just two which meant they clinched second
Even though, this meant that the goals were split between the team, we aren’t scoring or creating enough chances. This is something I will have to address in the next transfer window, as scoring a lot of goals is vital to my attack minded philosophy.
It was clear after my short time at the club last season that drastic changes were needed, so I made them. Given a budget of 900M CNY, I spent a total of 620M CNY, whilst bringing in 5M CNY. This brought the transfer net to 615M CNY.
Starting with the players joining us were Dax McCarty for 11M, Yannick Carracso for 390M, Luke Chambers for 62.5k, Salomon Rondon for 215M, Roy Krishna on a free, Igor Sergeev for 13k and Khang Yu on loan, with the option to buy. Carracso and Rondon were vital to my tactics for this season, and whilst the price tags were not cheap, they will get me 30-40 goals combined this season.
There were no majoroutgoings to talk about as and most of these players were sold by my Head of Youth Development as per club structure. The only real major outgoing was the departure of former captain, Zhang Yi for 1.3M. A smattering of players also went out on loan to help aid their development.
Tactically this season, I decided to go with a 4-2-3-1 after messing around with a route one tactic in pre-season. I thought a Route One tactic would fit better with Rondon’s style of play, but it had no real effect. In line with the club culture, I decided to play a more positive approach to the game.
The front three were pretty much the first names on the team sheet whenever possible simply due to the quality of them. Followed by the right back, Tiago Cameta, who is an exceptional crosser. He assisted his team-mates sixteen times during the course of the season.
I very rarely changed the instructions, simply due to the success the tactic was having. The only change I really made was taking off the ‘Distribute to Central Defenders’ if we only had a one goal lead towards the end of the game, instead choosing to take a long kick to the target man to take pressure out of our half.
New signing, Salomon Rondon topped the chart for the most appearances, tallying 32. Central defender, Mohamed Konate, came in second place as he tallied 31 starts, whilst two apperances down from Konate came Yannick Carrasco in third place.
Along with top appearance maker, Rondon also came second for most goals, hitting the back of the net 20 times, just two behind the Golden Boot winner of both the club and league, Yannick Carracso, on twenty-two. Right back Tiago Cameta topped the assists chart, with sixteen, whilst Carracso came second with 10 followed by Cao Yunding in third with 8.
In my first full season, we finished the season in third place. Finishing with a record of 15-9-6. We scored 65 goals and conceded 44, giving us a goal difference of 21. A much better improvement on our negative goal difference last season and much more suited to my philosophy. The final points tally was 54, eight points behind the champions, Guangzhou.
This was a huge improvement from last seasons disappointing 13th place finish. Moving up 10 places and finishing third meant we qualified for the Asian Champions League which we will begin play in February 2021 in the Knockout Rounds.
National Team Head Coach!
Following the conclusion of the 2020 seasons, I began looking for a new job, as I felt I had achieved everything I could in China. Whilst I was looking for a club job, a unique opportunity arose when the Uzbek FA offered me the national team head coach job.
Interestingly, they had qualified for the 2022 World Cup, before their head coach retired from football. I decided to take the job just to take them for the World Cup before I will resign from the job.
Taking on the World….okay, back to England…
Fish and chips. Roast dinners. Two things I’ve missed since leaving England. Just like football, I’m coming home…
The opportunity arose to become the new head coach at Luton, and it was too good to turn down. The chance to further my career and possibly move to a bigger club if I made a success of it at Luton was just too good to ignore.
Luton are currently 23rd in the Championship. They are only two points from safety so I’m confident I will be able to ensure survival.
After joining Luton on the 6th February 2022, with just over 10 games remaining, I lead the Hatters to Championship survival. We finished 20th, three places higher than when I joined the club. We also finished a place higher than where the bookies predicted us at the start of the season.
As I said above, we finished 20th after we played forty-six games, and finished with a record of 11-15-20. We only scored just 41 goals, conceding 59, giving us a negative goal difference of 18. I will be looking to improve the goal scoring in the upcoming summer transfer market to better suit my philosophy.
I was unable to make any transfers due to the window being shut which meant I had to rely on the players already at the club. There is a lack of quality and some players will be leaving in the summer for sure.
I transported my 4-2-3-1 tactic I used at SH Shenhua, with no real changes. All the players fit reasonably well into my tactic. A particular highlight is how well James Collins became at leading the line and finished the season with 14 goals. I feel with a few better quality players next season, he can reach 20.
The only change we need to make in the summer is a new midfielder who is up to scratch as a DLP. We went through a number of different players in that position due to inability to perform as I need in that position.
For my first pre-season at The Hatters, we’re heading across Europe for some warm weather training.
This will be a good opportunity for me to evaluate my players and make any further changes in order to push Luton further up the table. I am aiming to take Luton to at least midtable. If it all goes well, possibly a top 10 finish.
In the next instalment of Taking on the World, we’ll go through my pre-season at Luton. Along with transfers throughout the season, and the review of the season. Can we possibly go on a cup run? We’ll also take a look at my future career as my contract will be up. Will I stay at Luton or take another step up on my football journey.
Find out next time on Taking on the World on 11th May at 6PM BST.
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