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F.C. Valdelavilla

Settling the English vs Spanish debate once and for all
Started on 10 December 2019 by HeadCoachFM
Latest Reply on 6 April 2020 by HeadCoachFM
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2022/23 Segunda División Preview


Our title odds have improved from last year's 35-1 to 25-1 this season, putting us in 13th out of 17 in the Season Preview. It seems the Season Preview leaves out all of the B teams such as Barcelona B and Real Madrid Castilla, so I'm not sure exactly where we stand. The minimum board expectation is to finish mid-table but I'm aiming to finish in the top half and push for promotion next season.

Tactics


I've decided to stick with the positive custom wing play tactic that I used toward the end of last season, but rather than using a ball-winning midfielder I've switched to a deep-lying defensive playmaker to partner the box-to-box midfielder as this has brought me more stability and success in the midfield. We've got a very young squad, so I'm hoping as our team develops we'll be able to grow into our attacking tactic and become one of the better sides in the league. I've struggled to get the more cautious counter-attack approach to work against the better teams. It seems we just play better when we take the game to the opponent, regardless of how good they are. Obviously we had to park the bus when we played Real Madrid in the Spanish Cup last season, but overall this approach brings more success and some surprise upsets against the better teams in the division, so I'm sticking with it.

Notable Signings

Kieran O'Hara


I brought in former Manchester United prospect Kieran O'Hara to replace the departing Ivan Buigues after an impressive League One campaign with Gillingham in which he kept 15 clean sheets with an average rating of 7.09 from 34 appearances, conceding 29 goals. I believe he's got the quality to help us get promoted within the next couple years but after that I'll likely need to recruit a La Liga-quality goalkeeper. However, the door's always open for players to change my mind!

Jake Clarke-Salter


Former Chelsea prospect Jake Clarke-Salter has been on my shortlist since the beginning of this save, with my scouts constantly pressuring me to sign him with extremely high recommendation ratings (90+). Despite the strong partnership formed between O'Connor and Akinola last year, I decided adding the left-footed center back to the squad would only make us stronger and push our top defenders to play and train at their best as the Valdelavilla veteran Efe Ambrose nears the end of his career. He has the potential to reach a La Liga level according to my coaches and scouts, so hopefully he can step up and cement his place in the starting lineup.

Renat Dadasov


I signed Azeri target man Renat Dadasov for a club-record £750,000 to replace the departing Marcus Barnes (more on that later) because my scouts claim he has the potential to reach a good La Liga level. He will partner Victor Campuzano up top, who's already good enough to play in La Liga, so this striking partnership will hopefully last several years to come. Dadasov has previously played for esteemed clubs such as Frankfurt, RB Leipzig, and Wolves, though he lacks first team experience and as such he'll have to prove himself when he arrives.

Notable Departures

Marcus Barnes


Marcus Barnes' fine form over the last 2 seasons earned him a massive £500k (plus ~£600k in add-ons) offer from Reading in the summer. Though I originally had no intention to sell him, I realized when the offer came in that Barnes was unlikely to improve any more and given ambition of the club, selling him for that price at that time was my best option. Hopefully Barnes can kick on and earn a starting role at Reading in the Championship, though it's likely that he'll be used as a backup for them.

Jerome Sinclair


As I feared, former Liverpool and Watford starlet Jerome Sinclair failed to impress last season, scoring just two goals in 6(18) league appearances with an average rating of 6.69. When the summer transfer window opened, I decided cashing in on him was the best option to gather enough funds to properly strengthen my frontline, though he only ended up selling for £56,000 (a significant drop from his previous £4,000,000 price tag when he left Liverpool years ago). Maybe he'll prove me wrong by tearing up League Two with Carlisle, though I doubt it at this point.

Ollie Palmer


Some of you may remember the Palmer saga from years ago, when he threw several tantrums as a result of a lack of playing time and I failed to terminate his contract, further exacerbating the problem. This resulted in him being relegated to the Valdelavilla B team, where he's remained ever since. He spent the 2020/21 season on loan at Bradford City, but he spent the entirety of last season on the B team playing the the Third Division, two tiers below us. He did alright there, scoring 11 goals in 29 matches, but once his contract expired I was happy to see the back of him. He's since signed for Crewe in League One.

Luke Garbutt


I decided to release former Everton prospect Luke Garbutt after he struggled to maintain his form once we were promoted to the Segunda División. He was a fantastic player for us during our Segunda División B campaign when we were promoted, finishing the season with an average rating of 7.14, bagging 6 assists and a goal in 25(5) league appearances. Last year he mainly provided backup for my left back and left wingers, and he's now back in the Segunda División B with Cordoba.

Other News

Loyalty Before Royalty


After fending off several low-ball bids from Sevilla for my promising right winger Ethan Beck (a product of our impressive youth academy), they decided to meet his £4,500,000 release clause to enter contract negotiations with him.


Unlike his old pal Ben Foster, Beck agreed to renew his contract with Valdelavilla, signing a new 3-year deal with a release clause of £10,000,000. He stated the reason for re-signing was his "long-held passion for the club," which is interesting considering we're only in our 4th season as a club. Regardless, I'm pleased with his loyalty and as such I offered him quite a large loyalty bonus despite him originally only asking for a slight raise.
Good to see him sign a new deal, hopefully he can live up to the hype surrounding him.
2022/23 Segunda División Review


Due to my hectic recent schedule with the new semester starting I haven't had as much time to play FM or post on here so I've decided to stop doing the mid-season reviews for now. In spite of my busy schedule I managed to reach the Segunda División playoffs with Valdelavilla! We started the season off reasonably strong, getting 30 points from our first 21 matches which put us in the top half, where my board originally intended. We then used this as a platform to take our game to the next step and get 41 points from the final 21 matches, catapulting us into the playoffs.


Not only did we reach the playoffs but we won promotion with flying colors, coasting past Leganes before a close 3-2 aggregate win over Girona. We had some bumpy patches here and there but once we picked up our form and consistency towards the end of the season I felt pretty confident that we would achieve promotion in the end. A great achievement nonetheless!

Standout Performers

Nikolai Frederiksen


Marcus Barnes' replacement turned out to be Nikolai Frederiksen, a former Juventus prospect signed for £235,000. I originally intended for Renat Dadasov and Victor Campuzano to form a formidable partnership up top that Frederiksen could try to break into, but when Dadasov struggled to put a run of form together and Campuzano completely lost interest, Frederiksen was there to carry our attack. Frederiksen scored 14 goals in 30(4) league appearances, maintaining an average rating of 7.02. Campuzano only managed 12 goals this year, with most of them scored in the first half of the season. As a result, Frederiksen played a massive part in our successful 41 point tally in the second half of the season.

Jake Clarke-Salter


I have to admit I wasn't sure Clarke-Salter would end up being a good signing despite extensive recommendations from many scouts, but I'm very happy with his development and his contributions this season. Clarke-Salter maintained a highly impressive average rating of 6.97 from 31(3) matches as my left center back and was instrumental in our promotion push.

Jake Cain


I snapped up Liverpool youngster Jake Cain on a free transfer before this season, expecting him to be a squad option and a potential future starter but he immediately staked a claim for a first-team place, demonstrating incredible vision by getting 9 assists in 31(4) appearances as a deep-lying defensive playmaker in the center of my midfield. His vision attribute is his highest attribute (15) and his efforts last season have drawn interest from a number of clubs, so I'll definitely need to start negotiating a new deal for him soon.

Youth Intake


Our youth intake was incredible this year, producing an absolute wonderkid in Aleksandr Kubarsepp. I signed him immediately and within a week of his existence he was my starting left back. I had struggled with quality options at left back for some time and Kubarsepp seemed like a Godsend. And then..


After making just 8(1) professional appearances, Manchester United were the first to activate his £10,000,000 release clause. This infuriated me, knowing I probably could've made it a 20-40m release clause and the lad would've still signed the deal. Regardless, a successful youth intake!

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE


Academy product and my personal protege Ethan Beck decided to stab me in the back halfway through the season, despite having been handed a massive loyalty bonus 6 months earlier. Real Betis tried and failed to sign him in the past to reunite him with another former Valdelavilla academy product, Ben Foster, but Beck reaffirmed his loyalty and his desire to stay. However, when Atletico Madrid came calling and met his release clause, there was no stopping him (believe me, I tried).
2023/24 La Liga Season Preview


We aren't the worst team in the league! Despite being predicted to finish low-to-mid-table in the Segunda División just a year ago we now look set to compete in La Liga with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid! With 1000-1 odds to win the title we're looking at a difficult season ahead of us. Hopefully our unique playing style in relation to the rest of the teams in the league will be enough to keep us up!

Notable Signings

Rhian Brewster


Despite having an overstocked frontline (and seriously considering switching the formation to have a lone striker) I couldn't resist signing Liverpool prospect Rhian Brewster for a cut-price £6.75m when he was transfer listed by the club, likely for a lack of game-time. Incredibly, Brewster agreed to take the leap to Valdelavilla and he's now our star striker (among others).

Joe Willock


Another fantastic signing, I managed to snap up Joe Willock on a free transfer as his deal was expiring and he was unhappy at Arsenal. It took a lot, and I MEAN A LOT of money to convince him to join us but he did! He will add a more advanced creative option to my midfield as I look to potentially transition to a 4-3-3.

Rekeem Harper


I don't wanna toot my own horn too much but at this point I should honestly become a Director of Football because my transfer record this summer has been on POINT. I signed Rekeem Harper for £5.25m from West Brom after he struggled to hold down a first team role in the newly promoted Premier League club. I think he'll provide a similar midfield option to Willock as an advanced playmaker, so we'll have to see if I can actually fit them in the same starting set-up. To be honest, Brewster, Willock, and Harper were not signings that I intended to make and certainly weren't the types of players I was looking for in the market but when they became available for such small fees I decided I had to pounce, at the very least because of the future profit I'll gain if they don't fit in my tactical set-up as well as hoped. Only time will tell.

Aidan Fitzpatrick


I signed Norwich starlet Aidan Fitzpatrick for just £1.9m to replace the outgoing Ethan Beck. Fitzpatrick presents an immediate improvement on Ethan Beck, and with an enormous amount of potential (though likely not as much as Beck), he was a fantastic signing. Fitzpatrick spent the last season on loan at Portsmouth in the Championship, where he only made 10(3) appearances, and he'll now be placed on a much bigger stage in La Liga. Hopefully he can handle the pressure!

Leighton Clarkson


With the additions of Joe Willock and Rekeem Harper, I decided I needed to sign a more defensive-minded midfielder in preparation to switch to a 4-3-3. I decided to sign Jake Cain's former Liverpool U23 teammate Leighton Clarkson. He made his professional debut at just 18 years old while on loan at St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership, featuring in 31(1) league appearances of a possible 34, with an average rating of 6.84. He had another successful loan spell with Grasshoppers in the Swiss Super League last year where he made 30 appearances and maintained an average rating of 7.07. I signed him for £240,000 and I think he'll make an excellent CDM, with enough potential to be a good La Liga player in the future.

Tactics


I've retained my original positive 4-4-2 tactic as well as my more defensive, counter-attacking tactic with the same formation, but I've now added a third to the mix. I spent quite a bit of time working this system out as I normally like to create an ideal system first before finding players that fit that specific setup, rather building my tactical set-up around the players that I already have.

Over the past couple of seasons I've primarily recruited players who I know will fit in the roles that I prefer. This all went out the window when Willock, Brewster, and Harper became available at the same time for astonishingly low sums right after my chairman handed me a fat bag of cash ahead of the transfer market opening. As such, I've created a somewhat tactically fluid (meaning our system will change quite a bit depending on the players on the pitch) 4-3-3 formation. I think this system represents the more modern English game, with high intensity pressing to break up the technical possession play heavily utilized in Spain. I've retained many of the ideas from the previous tactics, such as playing with a high tempo and using more direct passing, and I think I've managed to piece together a pretty cohesive team as a result.

When the more attack-minded, creative midfielders like Willock, Harper, and Jake Cain are playing, I'll likely try to utilize my more defensively-adept wingers with higher work rates to cover their forward runs, with a deep-lying defensive playmaker such as Rossiter or Leighton Clarkson sitting at the base of the midfield. However, with an abundance of first-team striking options, players like Renat Dadasov and Nikolai Frederiksen (both strikers) may be occasionally forced to play on the wing as inside forwards. This would weaken us defensively, which is something we cannot afford considering our current level in relation to the rest of the league. So while my full-backs will normally make forward runs, over-lapping the wingers and getting crosses into the box to create chances as often as possible; they may need to be much more defensive when I'm playing with inside forwards rather than wingers. That weakness also means that I may need to sign a new box-to-box midfielder to add into the rotation mix, possibly one that can fill in the CDM position as well.

Most of my central defenders are instructed to remain relatively rigid in the middle, marking their opponents tightly and tackling harder without taking any risks with the ball. However, Jake Clarke-Salter has demonstrated impressive vision and tends to try through balls so I've personalized his instructions to reflect that. This tactical setup is sort of like a watered-down Gegenpress, with not quite enough quality in the squad to dominate other teams at this level but with the work rate and intensity to play exciting, physical football.


Notable Departures

Liam Walsh


I was a bit sad to see Liam Walsh go, as he had formed our greatest-ever midfield partnership with Jake Cain, operating as a box-to-box midfielder on the right side on the midfield duo. Originally signed for £650,000, Walsh went on to make 24(5) league appearances in our promotion-winning season, maintaining an average rating of 6.93 and pitching in with 2 goals and 5 assists. When Deportivo offered £1.9m for his signature, it was hard to turn down and I decided to let him. Looking back at the transfer I slightly regret it as it seems we may be losing our other box-to-box midfielder to another Spanish club in January (Luke Amos). I'll let you know how that goes with the next update!
2023/24 La Liga Review


Our unexpected promotion from the Segunda División last year lead to a disastrous survival battle in our inaugural La Liga season, finishing last in the league with just 30 points from 38 matches. I made the mistake of building a squad that was too young, with a lack of consistency and cohesion costing us greatly throughout the season. We now look set to lose some of our most promising players through relegation release clauses, with the sharks already circling just days after our relegation.

Standout Performers

Tunji Akinola


Tunji Akinola has attracted interest from several Championship clubs after impressing in La Liga this season, finishing with the highest average rating in the squad with a 6.91 from 20 league appearances. I rotated my center backs quite heavily so Akinola didn't have quite as many starts as he did last year, but he did well with the chances he was given.

Leighton Clarkson


Clarkson provided some much-needed stability to our midfield, making 33(2) league appearances primarily as a deep-lying defensive playmaker at the heart of my midfield, finishing the season with an average rating of 6.85. He was one of my most consistent players after joining for £240k in the summer and I think he'll be massively important for the long term success of the club.

Rhian Brewster


Brewster is one of the players that will likely be leaving in the summer, with his criminally low relegation release clause (£7.5m) attracting interest from 13 different clubs after an impressive season as my star striker. He started 36 of a possible 38 matches, scoring 13 goals and getting 3 assists in a struggling side.

Tactics


I tried numerous different tactics to change our fortunes throughout the season, ending the season with a 5-2-1-2 formation. Our direct and physical style of play remained relatively constant throughout the season, but our formation and tactical roles constantly evolved as we failed to gain a consistent tactical understanding. I think I may go back to a back four in the Segunda División as we can be more attacking, but once we get promoted again I'll likely use a back 5 again as it seemed to improve our form toward the end of the season.
Unfortunate to be going down after one season in the top tier, however, you were just four points off survival which isn't bad at all considering how unlikely it was you were going to stay up. In other news, Barcelona ran away with it this year. An 84 goal difference is crazy!
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HeadCoachFM's avatar Group HeadCoachFM
9 monthsEdited
2020-01-20 19:21#265583 TheLFCFan : Unfortunate to be going down after one season in the top tier, however, you were just four points off survival which isn't bad at all considering how unlikely it was you were going to stay up. In other news, Barcelona ran away with it this year. An 84 goal difference is crazy!

Yeah Ansu Fati put up some incredible numbers, scoring 30 goals and grabbing 10 assists in 36(1) apps alongside the likes of Griezmann, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, and Leroy Sane. He then moved to Man Utd for £99m over the summer window so they won't be quite as strong without him now that Messi's retired and coaching the Deportivo U19s. Here are Fati's stats from last season:

2024/25 Segunda División Season Preview


We're expected to finish 7th in the Segunda División, with much better title odds than the last time we were promoted. As a result, I'm fairly confident of bouncing right back into La Liga despite losing some key players in the transfer window.

Notable Departures

Rhian Brewster


As expected, Rhian Brewster was the first to depart when the transfer window opened with a ridiculously low release clause of £7.5m being activated by our relegation. Over 20 clubs from all of Europe's top leagues lined up for his signature and at one point he actually appeared to be close to joining Everton but eventually decided to sign for Leicester City, much to my relief. I attempted to offer him out to other clubs for an even lower fee than the release clause but with a mandatory buy-back fee, but no clubs were interested. It seems Brewster's days at Valdelavilla are over, although I'll leave the door open in case he ends up a free agent somewhere down the line.

Jake Cain


Jake Cain initially impressed in our last Segunda División campaign, proving to be a hugely important player in our subsequent promotion. However, he struggled to make an impact in La Liga and despite his young age it became clear he wasn't going to improve much more so when Stoke City offered nearly £2m for him I decided to accept the offer (after marking it up slightly, of course).

Josh Johnstone


The right back position has plagued this save from the beginning, but Johnstone seemed to be the final answer to my fullback woes. Then Granada activated his release clause. I signed Johnstone in the January window last season while we were still in La Liga for £1.2m to provide competition for Luke Matheson to spur on both players' development. We were then relegated and due to a clause in his contract his release clause was dropped to £1.1m, and he was sold for £100k less than we signed him for just 6 months after joining. I hope Granada get relegated.

Stefan O'Connor


Our all-time highest appearance-maker Stefan O'Connor joined Blackburn for £850k in the Premier League after 5 years of service to the club. O'Connor was with us from the beginning, journeying up the divisions without any noticeable drop in form. It's pretty rare that a player sticks with me all the way from the bottom division to the top in any save, but O'Connor was a stalwart in our defense from the Segunda División B4 all the way to La Liga. Hopefully he can stake a claim to stay in the Premier League for the remainder of his peak while Blackburn fight for survival as the bookies' favorite to get relegated.

Jordan Rossiter


I had high hopes for Jordan Rossiter when he joined for just £27.5k back in 2021. However, he struggled to hold down a starting role through injuries and poor form over the last 3 yeas so I decided to sell him for £375k after he spent last season on loan at St. Johnstone in Scotland.

Kieran O'Hara


Kieran O'Hara handled the leap up to La Liga fairly well, but with 19 y/o academy product Phil Robinson impressing on loan in the Segunda División B2 last year as the runner-up Goalkeeper of the Year, I decided to sell him and give Robinson a new contract with a FAT release clause of £30m. Try me now, Granada.

Tactics


I will likely try to keep training my Gegenpress tactic as that is the final evolution of the English game that I want to bring to La Liga. High intensity pressing and lightning fast counter-attacks with direct passing will be used to try to smother the more patient, possession-based Spanish teams, and I think it'll be an interesting clash of styles.


I will also keep our old 4-4-2 wing-play tactic as backup, as this formation and accompanying tactics got us promoted last time around. This style is somewhat similar to the Gegenpress tactic as it includes many of the same instructions, but puts more focus on an expansive wing play and less on pressing/counter attacks.
A shame to lose key players like Brewster, but having been relegated it was also likely. Good luck for this season!
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Firstly, congrats on the promotion.

Secondly, commiserations on the relegation.

Shame to lose players who seemed to have the potential to take you to the next level. Time to rebuild and fight back, good luck!
2024/25 Segunda División Review


We did it! We managed to bounce right back up to La Liga despite a lack of additions to the squad after losing some key players. I decided to put my faith in some of the older backup players who originally got us promoted as well as handing opportunities to some of my younger talents in the squad as I struggled to find potential signings that would prove beneficial long-term. Hopefully that'll change now that we're back in the top flight.

Standout Performers

Nikolai Frederiksen


While Frederiksen struggled for game-time last season in La Liga, he played an integral role in our promotion from the Segunda División yet again, scoring 21 goals and grabbing 7 assists in 36(4) league appearances. He maintained the highest average rating in the squad at 7.25 and will likely continue to be a starter for us next season due to his impressive contributions this term.

Victor Campuzano


Club legend Victor Campuzano returned to the starting lineup this season, operating as a lone false nine up top and managing to net 15 goals and 6 assists in 31(8) league appearances. Campuzano suffered a hernia that kept him out for 6 weeks at a pivotal point toward the end of the season, which I believe prevented us from achieving automatic promotion. However, his return from injury coincided with the playoff matches and he played a crucial role in securing promotion.

Leighton Clarkson


Leighton Clarkson operated in a more advanced role in the midfield this season to create more chances for my frontline as a supporting mezzala, making 35(4) league appearances and maintaining an average rating of 7.11 while also chipping in with 5 goals and 5 assists. Clarkson has established himself as a key player and team leader at just 23 years old, prompting interest from Brentford, Brighton, and Celta Vigo. With 3 years left on his current deal it's unlikely he'll leave, but his release clause of £12m hasn't deterred the interest of other clubs so I may offer him a new contract following our promotion.

Joe Willock


After initially struggling to adapt to our style of play in La Liga last season and the beginning of this one, Joe Willock really stepped up his game in the latter half of the season and helped us greatly in achieving promotion. Willock made 23(8) league appearances in a very competitive midfield, maintaining an average rating of 7.1 and chipping in with 4 goals and 5 assists. Now 25, hopefully he can kick on and take his game to the next level in La Liga.

Leandro Vallejos


Peruvian wonderkid Leandro Vallejos joined during the January window for just £625k from Sporting Cristal in Peru, providing a more defensive-minded option than Clarkson to hold my midfield together while freeing up Clarkson and Willock to roam forward and create more chances for my frontline. Vallejos has already established himself as one of my best players and best-ever signings, and his £20m release clause has not attracted any interest yet. However, due to his impressive form in the second half of the season and his enormous potential, I might try to raise the release clause even more.

Tunji Akinola


Long-standing squad member and team leader Tunji Akinola made 30 league starts for us this season, keeping an average rating of 6.96 and remaining an important piece of our gegenpress puzzle. Akinola is currently our vice captain and will be hugely important in maintaining the dressing room atmosphere and leading the squad to avoid the drop next season.

Phil Robinson


20 year-old academy product Phil Robinson has continued to develop at an impressive rate following his breakout season as runner-up goalkeeper of the year in the Segunda División B1 last season while on loan at Ferrol. Robinson kept 17 clean sheets in 38 league appearances this season, finishing with an average rating of 6.82 while improving all aspects of his game. I think Robinson is going to be a special talent so I locked him down on a 4 year deal with a whopping release clause of £40m.

Notable Arrivals

Liam Delap


I acquired young pressing forward Liam Delap in January for a modest fee of £275k from Manchester City. Delap possesses the potential to be a good La Liga player in the future, so he may eclipse Campuzano in the starting lineup next season, though Campuzano will likely start the season as my first-choice striker.

Tiago Gouveia


I signed Tiago Gouveia in January for £725k to add depth on the wings as we really struggled in this area during the first half of the season. Gouveia established himself as my first-choice left winger, though he wasn't exactly revolutionary, finishing with 17(1) league appearances, 2 goals, 3 assists, and an average rating of 6.88. I may search for a better option to compete on the left wing as I'm not sure how well Gouveia will cope with the step up to La Liga, but he still has time to improve at 24 years old.

Notable Departures

Aidan Fitzpatrick


Much to my disappointment, right winger Aidan Fitzpatrick joined Bournemouth halfway through the season for £3.4m, roughly twice what I paid for him a year and a half prior, seeking Premier League game-time. He struggled to find that, and could've played a pivotal role in our promotion and subsequent survival bid, but he took the easy route and it didn't pay off.

Tactics


I stuck with the 4-1-4-1 gegenpress system for the majority of the season, modifying the roles and tweaking the instructions slightly over the course of the season to get the system working properly. Our form improved greatly in the second half of the season after I managed to get the squad to click in their respective roles once I made the right additions. I'll likely modify the tactic to be more cautious next season when we face the much tougher La Liga sides, but the basic principles of high pressing and direct counter attacking will remain.
Promotion yet again is brilliant to see. Hopefully your time in LaLiga can be improved upon from the last attempt. It is great to see a January signing like Vallejos making an immediate impact and hopefully he can carry that into the coming season.
2025/26 La Liga Review


We were unsurprisingly named relegation candidates again following our scrappy promotion from the Segunda División, with our title odds sitting at 1000-1. However, the bottom of the table was a lot tighter this time around so I was more confident of achieving survival this year.


Despite being marked at favorites for relegation early on, we never really looked like going down as we comfortably finished in a respectable mid-table spot, 16 points clear of relegation. Interestingly, we would've actually survived with the same point tally (30) and goal difference (-25) that got us relegated last time around. We actually finished closer to the Europa League spots than the relegation zone, with just 9 points separating us from 7th-placed Villarreal.

Notable Signings

Ethan Beck


Former academy starlet Ethan Beck returned to the club following unsuccessful spells with Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, and Cagliari. I signed Beck for £6.5m, £3.5m less than what I originally sold him for. He went on to make 26(1) league appearances as one of my preferred wingers, scoring twice and grabbing 4 assists from either side. He finished the season with an average rating of 6.72, but his form began to improve once I swapped him to the left wing and began training him as an inverted winger. He also made significant progress toward reaching his potential and his raw attributes are much higher than most of my other players. At just 21 years old, it's clear that Beck will become a top quality player once he improves his consistency.

Rocky Bushiri


I signed former Oostende and Norwich prospect Rocky Bushiri from Blackburn in the Championship for £9m despite his relative inexperience for his age, as he possessed the attributes to fit into my desired tactical setup. I prefer to play with a higher defensive line, so Bushiri's pace and decent technique made him an ideal addition to my backline. Bushiri started 22 league appearances, making 2 further substitute appearances and maintaining a solid 6.85 average rating. This was Bushiri's first experience of real top-flight football, with his previous highest level of consistent play being in the MLS with DC United between 2023-24. As such, Bushiri made considerable progress as a player this season and will likely play a bigger role next year.

Gareth Doyle


Doyle was a fantastic signing for the future, possessing enormous potential and very impressive attributes as a creative midfielder. I signed Doyle from Blackburn for £2.8m in January, and he went on to make 3(11) league appearances in the second half of the season. When I signed him, my midfield was fairly established so Doyle struggled to break into the starting lineup but will likely play an increasing role over the course of the next season.

Standout Performers

Tunji Akinola


I received an offer for Akinola at the beginning of the season for roughly £3m, prompting my board to go over my head and accept the offer as it was "too good to refuse." I had to battle it out with them in the boardroom, and that is no exaggeration (I literally had to select every last argument option before they gave in), but Akinola stayed and played a key role in our survival bid. As a team leader and vice captain, Akinola's status in the dressing room was reason enough to have kept him around in this pivotal season. I wasn't sure if he would hold down his starting spot due to our impressive depth in the center of the park but he managed to make 33 league starts and kept the highest average rating in the squad (6.92). I've since extended his contract until 2029 and I'll likely keep him around as long as he wishes to stay.

Phil Robinson


Academy product Phil Robinson kept 15 clean sheets from 38 league appearances, conceding 46 goals and maintaining an average rating of 6.86. Robinson was in the top 5 on every goalkeeping statistic chart and at just 21 years old, it's becoming increasingly clear that Robinson is a special talent. He was playing in the third tier just 2 years ago and yet he's been one of the best keepers in the league at every level of the pyramid. Robinson is beginning to consider whether he should be moving to a bigger club, but with the positive progress we've made and his relatively high release clause (£40m), I'm confident of keeping him.

Leandro Vallejos


Vallejos continued his rapid development this season, featuring in 32(1) league appearances and keeping an average rating of 6.89. At just 22 years old, Vallejos is the glue that holds my entire system together, linking the midfield to the technically deficient central defenders and supporting the more attack-minded midfielders that sit in front of him with solid defensive work. Vallejos will play an integral role in the future of this club and hopefully he's in it for the long haul.

Notable Departures

Rekeem Harper


After signing Gareth Doyle, I decided to move Rekeem Harper on after 2 and a half disappointing years with the club. Harper was acquired for £5.25m before our last La Liga survival attempt as he possessed great potential and quality, but struggled to hold down a starting role even after being relegated to the Segunda División. Harper never showed much interest in training and despite the odd spark, he was very inconsistent and never showed much inclination to improve. I'm not sure if it was an attitude issue or what, but his stock has clearly fallen and he was sold for just £2m in the January window to League One side Bolton. He may have found his level, as he finished with a 7.06 average rating in the second half of the League One season.

Tactics


For home games and matches against the teams in the bottom half, I used a positive high-pressing style of play with direct build-up. With relatively high pace in my defense, I was able to set up a high back line successfully. My central defenders aren't quite as technically proficient as I'd normally like to have, so they're set to center defender roles with instructions to play short simple passes and avoid taking risks as opposed to the ideal ball-playing defender role for this tactic. However, due to the work of Leandro Vallejos to link the defense to the midfield as a deep-lying defensive playmaker, we were relatively balanced at the back and managed to keep a respectable number of clean sheets and goals conceded while pivoting and countering well. With a more compact center, our wingbacks and central midfielders were freed up to play more creative roles to provide for our struggling frontline. Clarkson and Willock started most games in the midfield, providing much of the creativity that helped keep us alive this season. Our frontline is still relatively young and inconsistent, with many of them still adapting to the system and style of play. Hopefully next season we can find more goals as I really struggled to find a reliable front 3. A high number of goals came from headers, a testament to our direct style of play and quality of our wingers and wing-backs' crossing.


For matches against the top teams in the division I opted for a much more defensive formation with a focus on defensive organization and direct, counter-attacking football. This tactic worked very well, helping us get results against Valencia (1-1D), Atletico Madrid (0-0D, 1-1D), and Real Madrid (1-0W). This tactical setup conceded most of the possession and over 30 shots every game, but we often managed to keep clean sheets or very low scores against some of the giants in the league. Hopefully one day we won't need to stray from our preferred positive pressing style against Barca and Real, but that's a distant dream at the moment.
A very strange/interesting club, long may the success continue!!
This has been a great read, rapid rise up to the La Liga and last seasons consolidation in the league was really impressive. Lots of transfers being made and some really good ones too. The release clause thing is a killer as it's something which I never give players, ever. So for it to be a rule must be a hard one as I imagine players always want it set at a reasonable level too. Good luck next season and I'm interested to see who you can sign.

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