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Aapo Virtanen: Don’t Look Back In Anger

Started on 6 November 2018 by Jack
Latest Reply on 5 September 2019 by Justice

A fantastic defensive display against Veikkausliiga title contenders Seinajoen led to an unexpected win for top-flight new boys Oulu in the Finnish Cup today.

The preview for the upcoming league season usually comes in the form of the Finnish Cup preliminary phase and the group stages, and from what we saw today at Seinajoen Jalkapallostadion it seems that Aapo Virtanen's AC Oulu are set for another good season as they came away with a 2-1 victory over last seasons runners-up.

The match also gave Oulu fans an exciting first look at their new arrivals in what has been a busy transfer window so far for the club. New Australian left-winger Dylan Romein was an obvious mention as he bagged both of the goals which gave Oulu the victory in the end.

After Seinajoen's Baath took the lead in the first ten minutes through a close-range header by midfielder Anders Baath, Dylan Romein converted an equaliser just six minutes later. Jair picked out a pass to the right flank as Lassi Nurmos ran onto the through ball before squaring it to the 19-year-old Romein who slotted home with a simple finish.

Just two minutes later, the defensive midfielder Jair had an opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot for Oulu, but Seinajoen's Mihkel Aksalu was able to deny him from 12 yards.

However, Oulu didn't lose hope despite the Seinajoen attacking onslaught from start to finish. Just four minutes after the second-half restart, Dylan Romein delighted the travelling fans with a sublime finish. Mbae fired a ball over the top of the high Seinajoen defence from the halfway line and with precise anticipation, Romein unleashed an absolute thunderbolt of a volley that went firing past the goalkeeper without him even getting near it. It was an incredible way to introduce himself to the Oulu faithful.

Throughout the game Seinajoen absolutely dominated Oulu, with statistics showing that the 5/1 title favourites had 24 shots to 5 of Oulu's. On the other hand, the result exemplified the talent that Virtanen has brought to the club, as with five shots, not one of them was off target which highlights the prolific nature of the players brought in during the winter.

Despite the joy experienced by fans and the team, Oulu faced some bad news after the game which overshadowed the events earlier in the evening. Firstly, the physios at the club discovered that Lassi Nurmos - who assisted Oulu's first today - have suffered broken ribs in the 38th minute of the game, leading to his substitution early in the first-half.

On top of this terrible news was the reports emerging from Brazilian media outlets stating that fan favourite and arguably Oulu's biggest star performer from last season Jair has had an offer from Santos accepted by Aapo Virtanen. The 24-year-old midfielder signed a new contract until December 2020 just four months ago but reports state that interest from big clubs has unsettled Jair and he has asked for a move away from Finland. Three-time Copa Libertadores champions Santos have reportedly had an offer in the region of £150,000 accepted by Oulu after hearing of his unhappiness at Raatin Stadion.

The club have refused to comment on the rumours that have been initiated from this report which leaves fans of the club tense over the future of one of their biggest talents.
Some cracking signings there and a very promising victory over SJK. Romein looks to have settled in quickly, he'll surely be a big hit!
Some great signings there that she really improve the squad. A fantastic result in the cup to begin the new season too. Losing a player of Jair's quality would be a blow, however a positive is the fee that could be received.
Justice: Some really good young prospects coming in with Romein and Cabezas for definite alongside some good experienced players.

Scott: I'd hate to lose Jair but he has major influence over the squad so it might be that he has to depart and make way for some of our other midfielders.
Some very good signings and a very good result, onwards and upwards from here!

It's been another fantastic preseason campaign at Oulu as we played five matches in the Finnish Cup group stage phase and five friendlies. We didn't lose a single game as we balanced some tough Veikkausliiga teams alongside some relatively poor opposition in the friendlies. This time we had a 90% win percentage, with the other 10% consisting of just one draw against predicted title-challengers Mariehamn.

We qualified for the Second Round of the Finnish Cup as we topped our group, leading Seinajoen by four points after playing five games and we play our group rivals IFK Mariehamn in the Second Round in our last game of April.

This campaigns Player of Preseason has to go to Felix Orishani despite the very hard decision to choose between various fantastic performers through from January to April. The Nigerian midfielder really impressed yet again, staking his claim for the starting position in this season's midfield spot. He scored two in five in the cup games as well as great performances throughout the friendly fixtures.

Other names in the running for this award were new signing Dylan Romein, Lassi Nurmos and Safwan Mbae.

Over the course of the winter break between the two seasons, we announced our new kits for the 2019 return to the top-flight. The new home kit displays the traditional navy shades of colour that Oulu have donned ever since the club's 2002 formation. The kits are manufactured by German super-brand Adidas after years of Nike and the majority of the chest area is coloured in the darker shade of navy meanwhile the top-right side of the chest is coloured in the lighter shade of navy which also incorporates the main colour of the sleeves. The collar and the Adidas sleeve stripes are coloured yellow.

However, for the first time in our history we will wear a red away shirt. In the identical design of the home kit, the majority of the front of the shirt will be plain red, with the darker shade of the traditional blue in the top-right chest position and also down one of the sleeves.

For the goalkeeper kit, it is just a plain yellow with a hint of pink as well as black collars and sleeve stripes.

Alongside the kit release came the new shirt squad numbers, with one major absence in the list.

32-year-old English goalkeeper Matt Jones will once again wear the number one jersey in the yellow goalkeeper kit, with his understudy Juuso Sarkela wearing the number 23.

For the defenders, Belov, Lappalainen, Nurmos, Mbae and Hautala all keep hold of their numbers from the 2018 season, meanwhile new arrivals Arttu Hoskonen and Antto Tapaninen will don the number 4 and 18 numbers respectively. 18-year-old Swede Johan Carlsson trades his number 23 shirt from last season to the number 20 jersey.

Lots of number changes in the midfield this season, with Josue Soto and David Ramadingaye only keeping the same numbers from last season. Player of Preseason Felix Orishani swaps the number 8 for number 6 - last worn by the now retired Markus Heikkinen. Aleksi Gullsten also gives away last season's #7 shirt to the new arrival Joni Makela. Promising Colombian youngster moves straight into the first eleven shirts, with him taking his preferred number 8 shirt for 2019. Romein will take #11, Jyry will take #12, Kemppainen swaps to #13 after Walter Moore's retirement, Kabashi takes #16 and Aallikko will take the #22 for the coming season.

At the top of the lineup, it is Antti Ulmanen will take the coveted number nine shirt following the departure of Jhonatan Donado at the end of last season. Back-up striker Toni Tahavanainen will take the number 21 shirt this season.

However, fans noticed a blatant omission of fan favourite Jair who last season wore the number 4 for the club, but has not even taken a number this term which will only add fuel to the fire of the rumours that the Brazilian is on the way out of Raatin Stadion, with a reported offer on the table from Brazilian club Santos.

We begin our return to Veikkausliiga with a trip to FC Lahti's Lahden Stadion on the 14th April after defeating them earlier in preseason with a 3-2 victory at Raatin Stadion in the Finnish Cup group phase. We play our first televised game of the season against title-challengers IFK Mariehamn later in the month before taking them on again in the cup later in April. Our first match-up with Helsinki will take place in mid-May time as we travel to the capital to take on the current holders of the top-flight title.

9th April 2019

In the interest of communicating with our fans the club wishes to make a statement on the future of our midfielder Jair.

After months of speculation over the player's future in the media, Oulu would like to confirm that a deal worth €165,000 in transfer fees has been accepted by the club from Brazilian First Division side Santos FC.

The Brazilian midfielder was a key part in our title victory last season with 26 league appearances and he has signed a two-year deal, with an option of a further year with Santos Futebol Clube.

It is with regret that the club wanted Jair to remain an AC Oulu player and some compromise was reached with the agent over promises made to Jair but the player no longer wanted play for Oulu and desired to return back to his home country of Brazil

Jair made a total of 85 appearances for the club and scored 13 goals for Oulu.

The club would like to wish Jair all the best for the future.

Risto Ihalainen
Chairman of AC Oulu

After a great start to the season, AC Oulu now head into the final four of the Finnish Cup

Sitting in fourth place in the Veikkausliiga with three wins from five games, Aapo Virtanen's Oulu team have now soared into the semi-finals of the Suomen Cup 2019 with a 5-0 away trashing against Finnish 2nd Division outfit FC Aland.

After originally steamrolling Group A in the group stage of the Suomen Cup with thirteen points - four ahead of runners-up Seinajoen - Virtanen's team ended up with a Second Round tie with title-hopefuls IFK Mariehamn. However, Peter Lundberg's team were stunned at Idrottsparken as Dylan Romein and co. ran riot with a 4-2 win, setting up a relatively easy quarter-final match against FC Aland.

The scoring started thanks to winter signing Antti Ulmanen in the sixth minute of the game as he finished off a low cross by Joni Makela to put Oulu one goal ahead. Oulu doubled their lead in the 15th minute as Antti Ulmanen grabbed another goal from a scuffed shot that rolled slowly past Aland goalkeeper Anton Lepola.

It was Colombian attacking-midfielder Jorge Cabezas who added a third goal to finish off any hopes of a comeback from the lowly team in the 40th minute as the 18-year-old powered a shot from the edge of the box into the back of the net.

Things went from bad to worse for FC Aland on the hour mark as the 16-year-old loanee winger from IFK Mariehamn was sent off after second booking of the game due to persistent fouling.

It would be fair to say that Oulu capitalised on the additional man advantage just two minutes after the sending off as Safwan Mbae struck a powerful effort past Lopela to add Oulu's fourth goal of the game on 61 minutes after a scrappy six-yard box battle until the ball fell at the Frenchman's feet.

The final goal of the game came in the 65th minute from the unlikely source of Oulu's academy graduate full-back Aleksi Lappalainen who placed a shot into the bottom-right corner to score just his fourth goal of his entire career.

After the 5-0 hammering of FC Aland, Oulu were drawn against Vaasan Palloseura for the semi-final tie. Their upcoming opponents defeated Ykkonen outfit Ekenas IF by two goals to nil in their quarter-final fixture and they will have the home advantage over Oulu, who will have to travel to Hietalahden Jalkapallostadion for the game. The tie will take place in between two very tough away games as Oulu have to face Seinajoen on the Thursday before the cup tie and current Veikkausliiga holders Helsinki the Thursday after the Vaasan game.

After what was a promising start in the league, taking us up to a league position of 4th place after 5 games, a five game losing streak in the middle of May in both the league and cup meant we sit in a lowly eighth place at the end of May. Starting the season with a 3-2 close loss to Lahti, we redeemed ourselves for the rest of the month with a 5-1 win and a 3-1 win in the league straight after.

Our semi-final finish in the Suomen Cup meant that the board were happy. After our exit by penalties, it was Seinajoen who went onto win the cup eventually, defeating our semi-final victors Vaasan 2-0 in the final at Vaasan's stadium.

Our poor losing streak through the middle of May sent us way down into 8th place, but we are above the drop zone by an adequate margin at the moment. The 4-1 drubbing by Kuopion and the 4-0 hammering at the hands of Seinajoen sent our goal difference plummeting for this month to a -4 level.

At the top of the league, Kuopion have asserted themselves as the dominant force this season as they currently have a 100% win rate and with 23 games to go, it is a great start for Jarmo Korhonen's team who are definitely now seeming like the favourites for the title after this start as they build up a nine-point lead on 2nd place already.

However, at the bottom end and rock bottom are Kotkan who have only gained one point and are yet to win a game this season. This is a huge positive for us as we lead them by 11 points already so if we are at any risk of relegation towards the end of the season, the likelihood is that Kotkan will occupy the automatic relegation spot all season at this rate. This means our main chance of a relegation will come in the form of a relegation play-off at the end of the season, but hopefully we won't even have to worry about that.

We have a big 23-day break before our next fixture against Ilves which means we have a lengthy time to recuperate after the long five-game losing streak in May. However, in July we face massive fixture congestion as we are set to play eight games in 24 days. On top of this we face the three biggest title contenders of the season in a row at the beginning of July before playing arguably the worst team in the league afterwards. This will take a lot of preparation and I hope this is the period where we can develop a good run and stave away the threat of relegation in any format.
Considering how you have only just been promoted, sitting in mid table is some good going, and you've definitely got a good base to build on now!
So many updates! :O Right, good to see you do well in the cup and get to the final! Winning that will get you Europa League (qualifying) football, which is a big financial and reputation boost to the club. Sad to see Jair go but you have money in for him which you can use to boost your wage structure, and you're doing well in the league. If you can go on a good run of form, you could easily move well up the table!
Plenty of updates :P Those kits are gorgeous, may have to invest in that home kit! Can you sort me one out? Losing Jair is a shame but it had to be done, keeping him at the club would have only further upset him and then disrupted the squad as a whole. A fairly modest start to the season, but that's more than good enough considering you're new to the division.
Griffin: It certainly is, I feel like I just need to develop a big lead over the relegation spots for now.

Justice: Unfortunately we were knocked out of the cup, so our only hope of Europe lies in finishing fourth placed. Sadly I only get 15% of the transfer revenue so most of the money will be used to get the club back in the black so only a fraction can be used on wage restructuring :/ The good thing about small leagues like this is exactly what you said about it being easy to move up and down the league table.

Scott: I'll have a word with my suppliers ;) Jair is a bad loss but I agree, it's for the betterment of the team and we certainly didn't rely on him, he just was an important player.

After my first successful season at AC Oulu, I did so without any philosophies planned as I was fully focused on simply doing well in my first season. All I wanted to do was to challenge for promotion and was willing to go to any lengths to achieve that. This ultimately worked as I ran away with the title by eleven points.

However, I felt somewhat underwhelmed by this feat as I hadn't felt like I won the title in my way. As I am mid-way through my second season at the club, I feel like I want to implant my own ideology on AC Oulu rather than just achieve success in any way possible. This would mean I could be proud of my success at the club as I will have done it my way - similarly to how an actor wants a line of work that he can look back on and be proud of, rather than measuring success by financial gain - I want my success to to be down to me and my ideology.

This is why I want to introduce to you: Virtanism.

Virtanism is named after me and what I plan for Oulu in the way that I manage the club. It has six main aspects: Competitions, Europe, Finances, Squad, Transfers and Youth Policy. These are to some extent intertwined with each other, but similarly a lot of these points are independent of each other.

This aspect of my philosophy will discuss my plans for domestic competitions such as the Veikkausliiga and the Suomen Cup.

If I had implemented Virtanism upon my arrival at AC Oulu, my aim for the club would have been to achieve promotion to the top division within two seasons of my appointment as manager of the first-team squad. As we are in the Veikkausliiga now, my current aim of the club for this 2019 campaign is to maintain safety from relegation and a push for the top-half when taking into account our start to the season.

Granted we stay up this season, I would like to achieve a top four finish next season, or just outside depending on the level of competition. This would give us European football in the Europa League (which I will discuss in my 'Europe' aspect of Virtanism) and under the current Finnish coefficients, places 2nd-4th will qualify for the First Qualifying Round of that competition.

The season after, I want to challenge for the Veikkausliiga title. This would require a lot of work, and the work that I'm doing now by adding young players to the squad is preparing for that push. A gradual build-up in club reputation will bring better quality players to Oulu and therefore we can mount a title challenge.

By the 2022 season, I want AC Oulu to be prime title contenders and if I don't win the league title by that season I will start to consider my future at the club.

In terms of the Finnish Cup, it is a relevant competition as it offers European qualification but it is not a crucial competition with the plans I have in mind for the league as previously spoken about. It is a good piece of silverware, but it is not pivotal to win.

If I had designed this vision last season, it would be likely that this section would not have even existed. However, with the strong performance in the Finnish Cup - a possible route to the Europa League - where we were knocked out on penalties by Vaasan in the semi-finals, the eventuality of European football could well become a reality and with my vision for domestic football for the next few seasons, I need to incorporate this section.

As I intend to qualify for European football next season, with my vision it will be mid-2021 when we first appear in a European fixture. In season one in Europe I will be to achieve at least a fourth qualifying round finish in the Europa League as our squad will admittedly be quite weak.

In season two in Europe, I hope to be competing in the Champions League and a Veikkausliiga champion enters this competition in the first qualifying round, so in 2022 or 2023, I want to achieve at least a third qualifying phase finish in the Champions League, before making our way into the group stage in the years beyond that.

Currently, it is very fair to say that our finances are not in good shape. Despite making £225,000 profit this season - heavily influenced by the £150,000 departure of Jair - we are still operating in the red by £55,000.

With sponsorships making up a good amount of our income, I want a good finish in the Veikkausliiga to expand our potential for more lucrative sponsor deals, followed by new deals when we arrive in European football. The main goal for the coming seasons is to achieve finances that are safely in the black, which includes keeping the squad to a minimum to save on yearly wages and keeping the same facilities that we have at the moment to reduce running costs.

We need to become successful domestically to have more football games televised and develop a larger fan base to gain more money in gate receipts and matchday income as well as TV revenue.

After this is achieved, we will look to either buy the Raatin Stadion from the council or build a new stadium in an attempt to bolster gate receipts and matchday income. Additionally, the stadium sponsors income could be very lucrative if we owned our own stadium.

From this position, once we are comfortably in the black we will look to splash out on our youth facilities and recruitment as well as junior coaching alongside better training facilities and potentially more staff and better wages for better players.

I do not know the exact years for these developments, but we must achieve a self-sufficient club financially before spending money on new projects and overstretching ourselves. We must get into European football and reap the prize money rewards that it brings the club.

For the squad, I have certain beliefs about how it should be and previous squads that I have had didn't fit those beliefs.

In the first-team, I do not want the average age of the squad to be over the age of 25 at any point (currently 24). This was difficult to achieve last season as both Markus Heikkinen (40 years old) and Walter Moore (34 years old) were involved in the squad and therefore brought the average age way above my desire of 25. This will allow for youth players to come through the ranks into the first-team at an early opportunity to get used to first-team competitive football.

I want no more than 25 first-team players at one time. This includes two goalkeepers, four full-backs, four or five centre-backs, five central midfielders, four wingers and three strikers with room for a couple more players filling in different roles.

In this desired 25-man squad, I would like focus on domestic players. At any point, there must be at least 12 players that have been trained in the nation between the ages of 15-21 years old (currently 15 players). However, this can be a broad term as they can be any nationality as long as they have been trained in Finland between these ages. This not only benefits us in terms of registration in Europe, but also in matchday squads. The reason I say it is not just exclusive to Finnish players is because of the general lack of quality in Finnish football which would be restrictive in our hunt for more European success.

Transfers can be a sensitive subject at this moment in time due to our financial situation which was exemplified by our sale of Jair to Santos. With transfers we must be in the black if we want to sign players in their peak.

If we are in negative financial balance, we must not spend considerable amounts of money on players, but rather sign young players on free transfers and incorporate them into our first-team and our Under 20s team.

If an offer comes in for a player involving a good fee and we are struggling to maintain our balance, we may have to accept it as has happened with the sales of Jhonatan Donado and Jair this season to make up our losses.

However, once we are in the black and are fully self-sufficient we will not become a selling club - we will become a developing club. This means that with transfers, I want to bring in players between the ages of 15 to 19 years old and developing players which could not only help our first-team squad and chances of furthering our success, but also a financial perspective if we develop players enough and then discover that they are surplus to the 25-man squad then we can sell them for a healthy profit.

With youth policy at the moment, it mainly relies on foreign talent coming across from abroad for no or small fees. This is due to the poor youth recruitment and facilities that are at the club at the moment, it would simply be irrational to bring the poor players produced by the academy through as it would be detrimental.

However in the future, once our junior coaching and youth recruitment budgets increase and improve I will be looking to hand five professional contracts to our youth graduates, as well as handing at least two graduates first-team debuts per season.

However, with foreign talent simply expanding our options for developing players it would be stupid not to dip into that market and train them the way I want as it would only be the same as having a graduate with the only exception that they would have to become fluent in Finnish which may come at a small annual cost for the intensive language course.

A really good philosophy and outlines what you want from the club and what the club can expect to get from you!

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