Managing Expectations

nestor on 10 June, 2018

After the last save at Betis Sevilla, which ended in a quite harsh way after managing the first treble in the club history. So, I decided to start this blogging save with Valencia CF as in general I really enjoyed it so much to manage in Spain. In general there are so many interesting teams like Eibar, Vigo between many others, that I could have chosen to manage.

You may ask yourself, another save in Spain?!

Financially, Valencia, alongside with Sevilla, could still be seen as a club with a top-4 wage budget, just behind Atletico Madrid, who managed to overtake them in the last couple years. In general, I believe Valencia is currently in a similar situation as the club from the capital was, before the did decide to sign their former player Diego Simeone.

Surely there’s way more difficult clubs to manage in Spain, like Eibar or Girona who both have such a tiny budget, but in real life they managed to stay up in the Primera Division and almost qualified to continental football in the 2017/2018 season. But Valencia has always been one of the clubs in FM which is kind of a fallen „giant“, who could be easily transformed from a chronic under-performer in to a club of the stature of a club like Atletico Madrid.

There's still lots of work to do as I cannot see any real long term project in been place currently at Valencia. There’s actually no real expectations (or at least not one that I could easily spot) except the classic short terms ones „we want to qualify to continental football“. As the focus is mainly on a short term success, the transfer planning is a mess. Between tons of hectic deadline day deals, yearly loan signings, who are a key part of the team for just one year before returning to their clubs against and shady 3rd party deals that will never have the clubs best interest in mind. With all that, the Valencia CF board will hardly break the 200M loan debt, which has been assigned in FM 2018. There’s need of a big overhaul on how to manage this La Liga club.

Besides that we can find a pretty decent academy, that brought up players like Isco, José Gayà, David Silva, Carlos Soler, Paco Alcácer and Juan Bernat and clearly would allow me to build something up from there.

Analysis the wage budget

Just a few days after starting the save a journalists on the first press conference asked me: "Do you think the wage budget given you by your president is enough?". I was not sure about that, but of course I said I was happy with the money that was currently allocated. In general I feel Valencia is also one of the clubs that has actually a wage budget that is too high for what they deliver on the pitch, but the problem is that it isn’t that easy to change an existing wage structure of a whole squad. Starting the save I did not feel the budget is that big, at day 1 of the save I've seen that committed wages have already overstepped the budget by 200K per annum. So where did all that money of the 70M yearly budget go?

To start the analysis, I did change the settings of FM on how to display wages from weekly to per annum. I believe this allows me see much easier which player costs me what amount of money. Secondly i created a view which allows me to get an overhaul view on the financial costs that first team is generating, actually it’s just a improvement of the contract view. I’m confronted with an incredibly huge amount of 28 players in my first team squad - I personally like to to have my squad quite small. My idea is to have around 2 players that does not match the match squad to cover with injuries, more injuries would need to be covered by any academy players. This may give them an opportunity that allows them to prove that they’re already on a first team level.

Mismanagement: Obviously not all players of the squad were still at the club, a fair amount of 7 guys were already out on loan. Good News! But besides that 14 of the 21 players destined to play the season have a status of first team players, that’s was going to generate problems throughout the coming season as they would get unhappy about their playing time at some point during the next couple months. Besides that, not even one single player was viewed as a key player. So there was actually no reason to player like Parejo or Kondogbia to earn much more money as the rest of the moment without being much better than them

Having players who are overpaid or in other words personal with a mismatch of ability and cost is a thing you should really avoid. Because it’s so difficult to offload them, as no club will be ready to match his overpriced wage and obviously no human being is really ready to accept a cut in his salary for some unrealistic reason. Nani, Kondogbia and Abdennour are the perfect example for this mismatch. They all have running contracts that guarantee them a salary of over 5M/a at Valencia, combined these three would consume more than 25% of the complete wage budget. A complete shit that Nani and Abdennour are currently far from being a key player for the club, luckily they’re away for the first season, but Valencia still pays a combined 3M for their wages during the first season.

Real time and (long term) expectations

The board's judgement on the competition performances is a applied in such a short term manner in the Football Manager, although it's quite possible it's done quite similar in some real life football clubs.

In the first season I was given the goal to "qualify for EURO Cup through league participation". In the Primera Division this means would mean that we would need at 7th or better (a 8th place could also be enough in case a top team would we the Copa del Rey). But how do we know before the season starts if we have a team that's good enough?

Inspired of a chapter about expectations in the new season of the Book "Changing the Conversation" from 21st Club, I wanted to try to apply the system on judging performance in a morn long term way. The first task is to look at past 10 seasons and calculate the average points needed over the expected. The amount needed for a certain position will probably vary a lot over the years, but that's the point:

"The reason for this is that while league positions can be at the mercy of rivals' form, points are something within a club's control."

After that we easily check how many points we'd need in a long term to be able to exceed all our expectations (also we'll be able to check how realistic or not FM has been implemented). As seen in the below we'd need around 57 points:

Position Average Points in the last 10 years
1 92
2 86
3 75
4 67
5 63
6 59
7 57

This 57 points would mean that we'd need to manage to win around 19 victories over the whole season or an exact amount of 1.5 points/game. Thanks to this clear points/game relation it's quite easy to judge your own performances at any point of the season and rethink your approach if stuff is not going as it should. Actually, the results of the Valencia team looked (again) like a relegation candidate and not much looked like we'd challenge for continental football:

Expectations 4 games

In this couple first games the performance was but good, but the failure to convert the chances, a heavy schedule with Sevilla FC and Atletico Madrid in the first three games and to many red cards saw us staying way under expectations. With 6 red cards after 5 games I decided to get rid of the "Get Stuck In" team instruction. Only 2 players were sent off for the rest of the season after this change.

With 11 players available for the full 90 minutes and increased tactical familiarity the team managed to get some amazing results in the coming weeks, only to lose to Las Palmas and Betis Sevilla in the last weeks of the season to finish just behind Barcelona:

Expectations Season 1

We had finished with a amazing 92 points, just the same amount of points an average Campeon of La Liga had scored. In 5 of the last 10 years this amount would have secured us the title, but Barca was too good this year. What would have happened if we wouldn't have conceded the two wasteful defeats in the opening weeks of the season and we wouldn't draw the game against Levante after a two-goal lead? ...

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