How are people's games going?
I've been trying a Leicester save, plucky old Felix Pulverkast on a mission to turn a one-hit wonder into a lasting powerhouse. It's actually a nice setup from a gameplay perspective - you start with some good players that can easily be unsettled and think they're too good for the club, you have to deal with the mostly overpriced duds Ranieri has brought in for the new season, and you've got a lot of aging players to replace on a good but not unlimited budget.
First season, finished 7th but that was flattering, with only 3 points separating us from 12th. (Missed out on UEFA Cup though, as Sunderland won the FA Cup - which, to be honest, is a relief.) We did manage to reach QF in Europe, then to be flogged by Barcelona. Jamie Vardy carried the team from start to finish with a ridiculous shot-to-goal ratio, bagging the Golden Boot; we typically played a disciplined counter-attack 4-4-2, relying on the team's exceptional work rate to cover ground and Vardy to get on balls into space.
One piece of drama was Nempalys Mendy, Ranieri's signing to replace Kante. Not only was he rubbish, he got himself sent off 3 times in 5 games across 3 different competitions!
When I fined his sorry ass he dared to complain to the media, at which point I flogged him on January 1 and spent big to bring in Danilo Pereira (Porto, 25m). I was delighted to see him bring back some defensive stability to the team - and even more delighted to see Mendy, now at Southampton, utterly tank his career.
Really began the surgery from second season, often bringing in young players not given a chance at bigger clubs - the likes of M'Baye Niang (Milan, 14m), Angel Correa (A.Madrid, 13m). Funds were raised through the sale of Riyad Mahrez (R.Madrid, 45m) - good money, I thought, and obviously he became the new Hleb over there - while I managed to resist Vardy's efforts to force a move. Also gave a chance to one local boy in left-back Ben Chilwell, who seems to developing decently. Luckily, perhaps reflecting last season, FM17 seems to show the bigger teams to be more prone to occasional collapses - Chelsea or United at midtable - leaving plucky little Leicester with a shot at returning to the Champions League. With more heroics from Vardy, we just squeeked into 4th place - as Arsenal won their second title in a row. Hey, if this is the only place we can do it...
Champions league money provided impetus for further reinforcements, especially to upgrade the aging team for consistent European finishes. (With Leicester, 4th place really is a trophy.) With players often tapped up by big clubs some departures were inevitable: Danny Drinkwater left for Monaco, and Danilo Pereira, after only 18 months, wouldn't shut up - and was flogged to Bayern at a very good price (42.5m). Now the squad looks quite very different, and the team is having to transition from a defensive, counter-attacking underdog to a team that has to handle the challenges of having more possession, higher expectations, and diversifying beyond "hope Vardy scores today". Current Squad
GK: Schmeichel took his place back from Zieler, recovering from a broken hand - and surprisingly they are both quite good enough for the Champions League.
DR: Elseid Hysaj (Napoli) is the upgrade from Danny Simpson, though the latter remains a very serviceable backup.
DL: There's a real shortage of proper left backs for sale, and Faouzi Ghoulam (Lazio) has once again proven an expensive mistake-ridden flop for me. Local boy Ben Chilwell is looking a promising prospect.
DC: The big buy here was Stefan de Vrij (Lazio), who helped steady the ship and introduce more pacey, ball-playing elements. Morgan and Huth are still around at age 35, but now I am getting real joy out of 20-year-old Argentinian wonderkid Maximilian Ruiz (Some Argentine Club). 8m pounds and straight into the first team.
CM: Following Danilo and Drinkwater's departure, the preferred duo is now Corentin Tolisso (Lyon) and Sergey Savic (Lazio). The latter's 20 strength, and decent defensive stats all round, help as they constantly run about screening the defence. Andy King is still around, and again, surprisingly good whenever called upon. Currently breaking into the first team is a certain Fran Villalba (Valencia), 20 years old but already a fearless and creative No.10.
MR/L: Demarai Gray and Marc Albrighton remain stalwarts from the Ranieri days, now supplemented by Angel Correa (A. Madrid), with whom I did the 'No.10 into inside forward' Wengerish move, and Son Heung-Min (Tottenham). For me Ahmed Musa was an absolute flop.
ST: I consistently made heavy investments here, especially to make up for the lack of any midfield creativity in the early days. Jamie Vardy's lost none of his pace at age 32, and is now accompanied by M'Baye Niang (Milan), youngster Fabricio Colidio (Some Argentine Club) - and the real star, Miguel Borja. He was a 24-year old scoring big in the Colombian league in 2018, and so I thought at 500k he would be a cheap backup. It turns out he is a fantastic all-rounder far outperforming his stats: a target man who thinks quickly and releases the ball cleverly, as well as finishing well himself. He will constantly pick up forward balls in air or on ground, putting in gentle first-time passes to the onrushing Vardy, then making himself available for the return. Real quality player, at least in this save.