Everywhere Else – 2 – U Craiova 1948 SA

“We had a youth intake that didn’t produce anything worthwhile, and why would it? Our facilities are woeful.”

It’s the end of season one, so WTF happened?

Cut to the chase, Robert Vonsen‘s U Craiova 1948 were promoted as champions of Liga 2 in Romania at the end of our first season.

Unbeaten in the first phase, losing just once in the second. Finishing the overall campaign as winners by 14 points. Joy.

We were tossed out of the Romanian Cup 4-0 by domestic rivals CS Mioveni in the 5th round, but the board weren’t bothered since we bagged promotion.

How did you do it?

Although we stuck to the aggressive and relatively direct 442 I had envisioned for the team, I was completely wrong about the players I would select, mainly because of the painful registration rules.

Something I posted previously but clearly didn’t properly read.

I famously said in blog post one alongside the above screenshot, “There are also some non-EU and homegrown player requirements, which I am sure I will get used to in time.” It turns out that this was an ambitious lie.

Attribute strengths and weaknesses analysis that proved ultimately meaningless, as better players aged 21 and over had to be sacrificed in favour of younger, lesser players; in order to meet the registration requirements.

I played pre-season, got my preferred team all lined up and ready to go; only to realise that you need 14 players under the age of 12 with double-barrelled names and dual Romanian-Egyptian heritage in the starting 11 in order to play in competitive matches (<- exaggeration).

To be fair, pillar of the community and Romanian football delegate FM Pressure then said to me, after the fact. “You should’ve asked, I’d have told you the pitfalls.” I guess I’ll know for next time.

As a result, predicted key man Marian Anghelina (Jolie) had to drop out of the “first choice” starting eleven, and young and aggressive but otherwise underwhelming midfielder Dragoş Albu had to play most of the time instead.

Lineup requirements meant that old and good had to be swapped for young and untested.

In a similar extension of this narrative arc, I had predicted Valentin Munteanu to be our key source of creativity down the right-hand side. Nope. He also had to be largely displaced for a younger model, the more handsome but lesser footballer, Samuel Zimţa.

Lineup requirements meant that…you know the drill.

I had previously called out that we needed a new goalkeeper, so in came Ismet Kisyo, a promising young Bulgarian. On a free of course. Unfortunately it turned out he wasn’t young enough. So to satisfy the u18 rule, I had to play our existing youth keeper, Robert ‘Big’ Popa instead. I didn’t misunderstand his age, just the league rules. I’m not a (complete) moron.

Thankfully Popa is actually a really good prospect and improved immensely across this first season. What you see below to the right is him after an entire season of small but steady attribute improvements. A happy accident.

Kisyo and Popa. Popa improved so much I may actually keep him as our first-choice stopper next season in the top tier.

I made one other signing. A wonderful Uruguayan man. His goals fired us to the title, and I hope he stays here until the end of time. I love him. Introducing Williams Peralta.

What a man. Look at him.

After 25 goals in 27 games coupled with 9 assists and an average rating of 7.54, Peralta‘s initial nine month deal signed as a free agent (obviously), turned into a no-brainer decision to offer a three year contract to a man who will be 36 years old when it expires. I hope he plays (and lives) forever.

Tactically, as I’ve mentioned, our aggressive 442 worked well for us. The deep-lying playmaker knocked timely lofted forward passes at the right time whenever the marauding wingers weren’t an attacking option. The full backs focused mainly on their defensive duties and a pressing and an advanced forward partnership complemented a generic central midfielder who regularly moved into the channels to create “pockets of space.”

I particularly liked the spread of assist types, a penchant for placed finishes exhibiting good technique, a tendency to start games on the front foot by scoring early and the team creating just under 2 clear cut chances every 90 minutes, while conceding just over 1.

These numbers are taken from the in-game analysis. They are nice and useful when thinking about what works well and what doesn’t in your tactical approach, even if the numbers can be inconsistent due to known FM issues.

Look at the analysis with your eyes, now, below. The SciSports polygon and graphical plots from the end of season review are at the end of the article. Because that’s a more logical place to put them.

Stats the way to do it.

Worth mentioning too was that U Craiova 1948 captain William Baeten also loved a long-range driver. I say loved; he only scored three goals all season, and two of them were in one game. They were both so good, however, that it was worth immortalising them below. The second goal and the Baet-man‘s player profile are in the comments of the Tweet if you use your mouse or trackpad, hover your arrow somewhere specific and do that clicking thing I’ve read about.

What else happened?

We had a youth intake that didn’t produce anything worthwhile, and why would it? Our facilities are woeful.

Mostly lies.
The best of a disappointing bunch.

The board inexplicably decided to build a new stadium despite our financial situation being what could kindly be described as “in freefall” but I did manage to bag a coaching badge before the board realised there was literally no money left.

Onwards and upwards.
One step ahead of the inevitable financial collapse.
But why? Relocation desire aside, how are we paying for this?

We hired a new Director of Football who used to play for Paris Saint Germain so therefore must be brilliant, and hired a new coach and chief scout. One I vividly remember playing for Real Madrid, Chelsea and Newcastle, and the other played for Sevilla and was capped a million times for Mexico. We pay absolute buttons to these staff members, but more fool them if they are happy to do the job.

PSG – 2003-2006.
Geremi (Kyle) and a Mexican legend.

What’s next?

Actor Mark Wahlberg acting as Robert Vonsen in a scene where he is “thinking.” A snippet from the upcoming ‘Journeyman’ biopic.

Now this is where it gets subjectively interesting.

My thinking was (because I am a realist) that when we get promoted to the top tier, there will still be absolutely no money in the bank. The guaranteed wage rises that already feature as part of the vast majority of player contracts in the squad (pretty much everyone will be paid 25% more when we move up) will kill any hope of having a transfer budget of any description. Plus, there’s the new stadium still to pay for. This in turn will destroy any chances of me being able to tell the board of any prospective new club we may move to in future that I am “good” at managing in situations with a limited budget. Merrily skipping into bankruptcy was not on the agenda, nor is it a good look.

Then something crazy happened that confirmed to me that it was definitely time to leave.

I was offered the opportunity to be interviewed for the Cluj job, arguably the biggest club job in Romania. I hadn’t applied, it was nice to be asked. My stock must have been high.

This little invite ultimately led to an absurd over-confidence in the ability of the manager to move up the career ladder and get a better job this early on.

How dare they?

Ultimately, Cluj chose to hire Cosmin Contra instead. A 72-times capped former manager of the Romanian national team who previously played for both Milan and Atlético Madrid. How that was preferable to a German with less than 30 matches on his CV along with a National B licence and not a single attribute yet near 10, I’ll never know.

With my contract expiring (and moving to a rolling one) I effectively applied for EVERYTHING. Semi-professional teams in Denmark’s lower tiers? Check. A Finnish team who are solely made up of part timers? Check. A South Korean team with 7 players in their first squad? A Colombian second tier side adrift at the bottom of their table? Check and check.

It wasn’t looking promising. I’ve never been “laughed off” so often in my life.

Effectively I chose gambling to stay at U Craiova 1948 for at least another season over unemployment and applying for roles for months. A three-year deal was signed, and we soldier on.

We do get to play against bitter (and much, much better than us) rivals CS Craiova next season, so I guess my situation this early in a journeyman save is nothing to “Crai ova” (thanks Ed, I didn’t think you’d mind if I shamelessly stole that one).

You could say that failing to find the next step on the ladder after a strong first season is a horrible failure (like my good friend Rock’s End FM suggests), or that another season in Romania might just do our job prospects the world of good.

Only time will tell.

Strong foundations, but not yet strong enough. Clearly.

End of season (1) review

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

Everywhere Else – 1 – U Craiova 1948 SA

“Was this really a good idea?”

What is this all about?

This new series, which I’m calling Everywhere Else, is going to be a bit different for me. Since finishing the more serious (as serious as it can be when it is about a computer game) writing of my recent La Sombra Rayo Vallecano series, I wanted to take a more light-hearted approach to another batch of FM21 writing. Casually put together, I’ll stick to shorter posts tracking progress, tactics, players and results.

I’ll be thinking out loud, so I’ll pivot from scouting to player comparisons to performance statistics, and whatever else comes to mind as I work my way through the series.

This new save is a journeyman, starting unemployed (obviously), but with no set end goal(s) or conditions, other than that none of the so-called ‘big’ leagues are loaded up this time, as I wanted a break from the ordinary.

Therefore, the initially available leagues are as follows:

South Korea to Iceland via Belarus? Why not.

The manager

Meet Robert Vonsen. He’s a 39-year-old German with a decent grasp of English. Loves Augsburg, a classic 442 and likes his players to be aggressive and brave. Typical.

An undiluted display of German Cholismo. That’s a thing, right?

Unemployed, barely a coach, but on the lookout for a manager’s job. There is a handful of jobs available at the start. Interviews are coming thick and fast, but where will we take our first steps? PFK Montana of Bulgaria? FK Blansko of Czech Republic? Rapid București of Romania?

I am afraid to tell you that they all said “no.”

The team

Someone did say yes though! Robert Vonsen successfully interviews for the U Craiova 1948 job in the Romanian second division. I told myself I’d accept whichever team accepted us first, to get playing as soon as possible; ideally with the chance of managing a decent pre-season spell before the first campaign kicks off in anger.

Founded in 2017 and valued at £23.4k, don’t confuse U Craiova 1948 with their bitter rivals CS Craiova, four-time winners of Romania’s top division, Casa Liga 1.

It’s a complicated story between the two teams as to why both exist in parallel. Sort of Wimbledon / MK Dons-esque but more confusing and controversial.

Looks a lovely place, to be fair.

I landed in Romania mostly by chance, after applying for all the available jobs and seeing who said yes first; but for a more focused Romanian save (he begins there), have a look at fellow angry Scottish blogger FM Pressure and his website.

The beginning

First things first. No disrespect to Romania’s second tier, but the quality of players isn’t of the same level as the ones in the heady heights of 2026’s LaLiga that I’ve been used to seeing recently, so I choose to adjust the attribute colour thresholds accordingly, so I can better judge talent relative to our level.

Next, I review the squad’s strengths and weaknesses, build a system, then sort out team and individual training for every player and age group, because I’m a masochist who can’t bear the thought of it being automated. The 442 is going to fit in well here and with this group, I reckon. There are a few players who look capable of playing actual football, but a few glaring issues to address too. As I always like to do, I keep attribute masking on and close the first transfer window.

This way I can identify the team’s problems, but realistically can’t address them until the next transfer window. Even then, my manager has such a low experience level, I won’t be able to see 95% of any player’s attribute profiles outside of my own for the first few years anyway, until I improve. Every signing will therefore be a risk/educated guess. I imagine I won’t have much (or any) funds to build a decent scouting system.

Was this really a good idea? I guess it will be challenging if nothing else.

The board expect us to get to the fifth round of the Romanian cup. We enter at the third round, so fingers crossed that is ticked off.

We also need to be promoted to the top tier. There is an unusual system where everyone in the division plays each other once (20 matches) then the top six go into a playoff group where everyone plays each other twice (a further 10 matches) then the top two sides gain promotion.

There are also some non-EU and homegrown player requirements, which I am sure I will get used to in time.

The players and system

As I mentioned earlier, there are a few players who seem fairly decent. One in particular I like the look of is central midfielder Anghelina (Jolie, presumably).

For the second tier in Romania, these three look fairly solid.

On the other hand, some of the team’s challenges are obvious. Our goalkeeper needs replaced, our best striker is hardly clinical, and there is no strength in depth whatsoever.

It makes me deeply unhappy that our first-choice goalkeeper is so poor. Striker Bălan isn’t terrible, but we could certainly do with an upgrade.
Trusty old faithful 442.

442 is the system. Anghelina will be expected to run the midfield, while Munteanu on the right will be our main creative outlet. The full-backs will be asked mainly to defend, and while Raducano can’t finish or run, he is reasonably strong, decent in the air and can pass a bit. If he can occupy defenders, perhaps Bălan can get in behind and grab a goal or ten.

Former captain Costinel Gugu has this year passed the Baeten to William. (Sorry)

Baeten isn’t the most creative player to set as our playmaker, but he is a decent all-round midfielder and our new captain. I need Anghelina to be everywhere at once in the midfield, hence asking him to move into channels as a central midfielder on support duty, but these two partners may switch roles if it doesn’t work on the pitch as I intend it to.

The priorities

We know why we are here. It’s the first step in a journeyman. My aims are to get promotion to get that all important reputation boost that comes with silverware. Hopefully, we can complete a couple of coaching badges along the way and then a bigger team comes calling.

Before that happens however, we need reinforcements when it becomes technically (because the first window is shut) and financially (because we are poor) possible. Otherwise, I can see my laptop being fired out of a window when we inevitably ship a hell of a lot of silly goals to teams we should really be beating.

Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag