Last time you were here we dove into our new signings and pre-season ahead of our first season in the Bundesliga.
Due to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, we were handed a super crammed schedule (seventeen games in three months!). A lot of rotation was going to be needed throughout the first half of the season. Injuries would put a ton of pressure and needed to stay focused if we were going to be meet our goal of avoiding relegation. Let’s see how we got on.
Verl’s journey in the DFB-Pokal ends in the first round. Where they faced Bundesliga 2 side – Würzburger Kickers. I rotated the starting line-up quite heavily this time around, giving 17 y/o Tobias Leclerc his first game. Unfortunately that was a mistake. They hit us with three great counterattacks, two that could have been stopped if not for the young GK. This meant the team was down 3-0 by the 55′ minute. The second-half changes were not enough to help us get back in the game with the match ending 3-2.
The season started in full rollercoaster mode, a long long ride ahead. We drew 0-0 against Paderborn on opening day. Mika Schroers broke the record for “goals in a single game” when scored four goals in a huge 6-2 away win against Hannover. A 2-2 draw against Wolfsburg was followed by a 3-2 win against our fellow promoted side Bochum. Another round of draws and wins continued until we finally were beaten 0-2 against Schalke at the end of August.
The month of September was a nightmare for the physios. Mamadou Doucoure damaged his Achilles – out for 4 months, Luca Netz followed suit with a broken ankle – out for 5 months, Paul Glatzel twisted his ankle – out for 2 months. We finally were able to get back-to-back wins in the Bundesliga against Stuttgart & Freiburg. The injuries to Doucoure and Netz came back to haunt us as we could not stop letting goals in. We gave away two early goals against Hoffenheim, with young 17 y/o Ian Robinson saving us in the 80th minute to salvage a draw (breaking the youngest goalscorer in the Bundesliga!). We were not good enough against Bayern, only managing four shots and zero on target for the night.
Three long-term injuries to three of our starting eleven wasn’t bad enough for me so let’s even things out and make it four out of eleven starters. Roberto Massimo damaged his cruciate ligament and will be out for the rest of the season, leaving us to find a short-term replacement in the upcoming transfer window. Due to Massimo’s injuries, I called up veteran Justin Eilers from our B team to provide cover on the wings.
The team continued to drop points for most of October, managing one win, one loss and three draws out of 5 games. Dortmund thumped us 4-1, their new signing Pedro (wonderkid from Fiorentina, ex-Fluminense) scored a hat-trick in the first half and we were not able to recover. Ian Robinson found the back of the net with a lovely header from a corner against Mainz to give us the only win of the month.
We hit the halfway mark of the season in 7th place after 16 games with the second-best goals scored – 34, fifth-worst goals conceded – 28, worst disciplinary record – 51 yellow cards / 3 red cards, lastly the second-worst average attendance – 19k per match.
January Transfer Window
The team was fortunate to not have anyone leave during this transfer window. Most of the players wanted by other clubs were (un)luckily injured.
Transfers – In
- Nicolas Kühn (on-loan from Bayern Münich): Nicolas joins us on-loan and will slot in as our right winger for the rest of the season. His contract runs out at the end of the season and will try to sign him during the off-season.
During the off-season, I was offered jobs at Arminia Bielefeld, Union Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Hoffenheim. I, of course, declined all interviews. The board was delighted to hear that I was focused solely on Verl.
The team headed into January in great spirit after winning four out of five games during our mid-season friendlies. Then the long-term injury to right-back Angelo Brückner dampened our mood and saw us lose three games in January. One of them being against Hannover, who got their revenge on the return leg by ending the 32-match unbeaten league home run in a 0-1 loss.
After ending our unbeaten home run, the team was not able to replicate the great home form that we’ve had throughout the last two seasons. We lost three more home games after the Hannover defeat, with four ties and only two wins at home for the rest of the season. The away form was a tad better, winning four out of eight games, tying once, and losing three more times before we ended the season. A brighter note was seeing Roberto Massimo be involved in the last few matches of the season after his nasty injury.
The rollercoaster ride finally ended. We finished in 9th place, way above what was expected of us. The team is very young, the youngest in the league averaging at 22.5 y/o. I’m expecting the team to be in a better place come next season.
The Average of the Bunch
This season the team was pretty average, with only Paul Glatzel finishing the season with an average rating just over seven, at 7.01. He helped the team with 12 goals and 3 assists. Due to his midseason injury, he only managed to start 19 games and playing 7 more off the bench during his rehab. Let’s hope he stays fit next year so we can see his numbers improve.
Christian Fruchtl was in my opinion the player of the season. The 6’4″ GK made some incredible saves through the campaign. The twelve ties we had were all thanks to him. He went above and beyond to keep us in games. He was also able to get 5 clean sheets, it may not sound impressive but it’s a great achievement if you take into consideration that he plays in a team where a 17 y/o CB started the majority of games and the constant rotation of the backline due injuries suffered earlier in the year.
Florian Krüger was not able to adapt to the Bundesliga as great as I thought he would. He finished the season with 10 goals and 5 assists. He missed more than a few sitters that could have changed a lot of our results. I will be switching his individual training from Shooting to Final Third with the hopes he improves his composure and decision-making. His 6.88 avg rating was the worst but there’s a ton of room for improvement there.
This year’s youth intake was a tad better than last year’s. The standouts are Roald van de Bosch and Joshua Embers. They had the highest potential and were highly regarded by our Head of Youth. They will play for the U19 for about a year. Once they turn 17 y/o, they will either be loaned out or be moved to train with the first team while they play for our B team (Verl II).
- Ian Robinson: Our young now English man (Ian has switched allegiance, but has not declared for England) had a great debut season. After Doucoure’s injury, He managed to play 25 games all while scoring 3 goals and a single assist.
- Billy Jones: Billy was part of the rotating wingers and was decent went called. In the 20 games (including 9 as a substitute) that he played, he got himself a man of the match award, and 3 goals to his name with the perfect 6.66 avg rating.
- Bahaa Abdelhaim: Bahaa stepped in during Angele Brückner’s injury and managed to play 11 (7) games and providing 2 assists with a 6.79 avg rating.
- Tobias Leclerc: Tobias was only able to manage 1 app this season and it was the defeat in the DFB-Pokal. His injury saw him out for a long time. If able to, I’ll send him out on loan next season, maybe he can fill up a bit more.
After receiving £51.27m for achieving 9th place, the board decided to upgrade both the club’s training and youth facilities costing £3.3m. Also, the attendance record more than doubled this season going from an average of 7,597 to an average of 19,290 fans. This gives me hope that we might be approaching the time for a new stadium.
End of Season Review
The board added £15.78m to the transfer budget and has increased our wage budget to £475k a week. I will move around some of the transfer budget to increase player wages and staff wages so that the club can attract better staff members.
Since one of the goals of the save is to do my best to not spend money on transfers, I will look into bringing in some familiar and new faces this summer, for free. The team’s cohesion is excellent right now and I do not want to take a step backward even if I have to bring players back on loan.
This has definitely been my favorite season that I’ve played on FM21 and possibly in any of the older versions. There were a lot of ups and downs, sometimes the AI is having just as much fun as you.
This is it, for now. See you soon!