The season 2017/18 will be just the third season in La Liga after Betis managed an instant return from Segunda División in the season 2014/2015 after being relegated the season before. After the promotion Los Béticos managed to secure a 10th and 15th place. So, where do we plan to finish in our first season? My first thought would be to achieve something like the season 2015/2016 and try finish between the 8th and 10th place. So we'd challenge for one of the places after the European competitions.
On a long term I will look to fight for European football, but not for now. According to league preview we are supposed to finish 13th and the board expects a mid-table finish from me. I think it's not realistic to think about a top-six finish in this first season. In order to be able to fight for European places (and add another money income stream) we will need to grow as a club step by step. Instead of doing any ground breaking changes I'd like to achieve this with numerous of tiny changes, also known as the value of marginal gains.
Thanks to FMSamo, the First Minister of the Football Manager Slack Community, for plugging a link about marginal gains to the #recommended-content channel on FMSlack (and all the work he's done for the community).
The concept known as aggregation of marginal gains was used by Sir Dave Brailsford as General Manager of Team Sky. Brailsford believed that if they could successfully implement this concept at the Great Britain’s professional cycling team they would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years’ time - Dave Brailsford was completely wrong, after only three years Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France.
Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.
But how can we improve a football club in FM with improving small things? What areas could be used to generate the "gains"?
Improving the club's facilities is one thing we could improve and can easily replicated in the world of Football Manager. It's clearly not the cheapest solution, but the ROI (Return of Investment) will be high enough. As Tim Sparv explained in his Blog he sees the impact of the investment in to the coaching budgets (by adding more physiotherapists), training facilities (good artificial turf, new grass pitches) way more higher than use of the new 3-4-3 tactic at his club FC Midtjylland, where currently plays as defensive midfielder.
He's also talking about how the meals changed over the years at FC Midtjylland:
I’ve noticed first hand how things have improved for us players during my three years at the club. We went from having no breakfast to a poor breakfast and eventually to a fantastic breakfast buffé with scrambled eggs, smoothies, freshly baked bread, whole wheat pancakes, porridge, fruit and more. Our lunch has also improved thanks to a change of personel in the kitchen.
In my opinion, another improvement would be the availability of one (or numerous) reserve team(s) that allows the youngsters to get competitive first team football at the highest possible level. So the plan is to upgrade the facilities year by year a bit and have them upgraded to the maximum level in a foreseeable future.
The first step to allow the players that are coming through the academy (as well as the youngsters joining from other clubs) to play competitive first team football at a high level, I would like to see the reserve team playing in Segunda División, second tier of the Spanish league. Maybe later (or if we fail doing this) I'll look for an affiliated club in the Segunda División or maybe one that's a good transition between the U-19 team and the reserves, as the step between these two could get too big.
The reserves, also called Betis Deportivo Balompié, have just won the Tercera División to come back to Segunda División B, the third tier after the relegation down to the forth tier one year ago. Betis Deportivo Balompié has never managed to play in Segunda División ever whilst having played 23 seasons in the Segunda División B and 26 in Tercera División.
The Segunda División B is divided into 4 groups. Betis's reserve can be found in the group IV, alongside three other reserve teams: Granada, Las Palmas and Córdoba. In each group the best four teams secure themselves a playoff spot. Teams finished 2nd - 4th play each other in a 1st round for a place in the playoff semi-finals, where the winners of each group will join. After that the eight teams play two rounds to define which teams get one of the two spots that secure promotion to Segunda División. In every round the winner will be defined over two legs. By the way: Barakaldo CF has been in the Segunda División B promotion play-offs a record nine times: 1993-1994, 1997–2000, 2002–2003 and 2008, but has never won promotion.
So you see this will be quite a challenge, should I manage the team as well or sign a skilled reserve manager and fill the team with sufficient quality? Anyhow the plan for the first season will be, to just give some playing time to high rated prospects at the club and stay off the relegation battle. I think for the moment I'll just use a reserve manager until I get used to FM18 a bit more and have the club filled with lots promising talents.
If we cannot see the reserve promoted in a reasonable future, I will be looking for an affiliate club in the second tier, as I think the gap between the reserve team and the first team will be too much.
As already mentioned, the first team squad had quite some changes in the summer of 2016/2017 before the start of FM18. I guess the board wanted to do something after they finished only 9 points above a relegation place. Ruben Pardo returned to San Sebastian after his six-month loan move was finished after a total of 16 games with Betis Sevilla. Former Football Manager wonder kid Daniel Pacheco sealed his permanent deal to FC Getafe after playing there last year already on a loan deal. But the sale with the biggest financial impact was the sale of Daniel Ceballos for 16.5M Euros to Real Madrid. Ceballos was formed at the club and did play 105 games for the first while being still 20y old. The central midfielder could clearly be the one of the most important players of my team. Another heavy loss is the loan of club legend Rubén Castro to China. Castro, who was born on Las Palmas, player 280 games for Betis so far and scored 147 goals. So far? Yes, he'll be back quite soon as the loan deal with Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng is only for six months and he'll be on the training ground after Christmas again.
Besides that some other players did leave the team as well. You can see a lot of players leaving the squad, but don't worry Betis did not use all the money, that was generated by the player sales, to clean their debt. They did some promising signings on the transfer market right away in order to replace the leaving players.
Firstly Joel Campbell, Antonio Barragán and Jordi Amat joined on a one year loan deal from their Premier League or Championship clubs. Besides that, senior players like Andrés Guardado and Javi Garcia joined the clubs for a combined fee of 4M euros. In general Betis did buy quite some players to strengthen the midfield area. Another well know players was winger Cristian Tello, who joined from the FC Barcelona for a fee of 4 million.
The biggest two signings of the summer in terms of the transfer fee where Ryad Boudebouz and Víctor Camarasa, each player joined for a total fee of 7 million. Ryad Boudebouz is joining from HSC Montpellier and was highly productive in the Ligue 1. He scored a total of 13 goals and 21 assists in the last two seasons for La Paillade. He'll be one of the guys that we're looking into take Ceballos place.
Betis's squad is full of players playing close to their full potential, only 4 players are younger than 23: Right winger Matías Nahuel is on loan from Villareal, locally formed Fabián Ruiz who returned from a loan at FC Elche, Antonio Sanabria and colombian attacking midfielder Juan Narváez.
I personally expect only Sanabria, Ruiz and Nahuel to make big improvements this season, so I'll watch their developement closely. Sanabria is already quite classy and I doubt he'll stay at Betis for too much time:
Juan Narváez is sadly already playing close to his full potential.
For the next blog piece, I plan to show you the latest the squad mutations and how my staff looks like at Betis after playing my first hours on the final version on FM18. In the meantime you can follow my updates on FMSlack, just join me on my personal channel #nestorsubiat or follow me on Twitter