Du Malone writes: My concern here is with the question of how to navigate one specific scenario on FM — a scenario akin to a game within a game.
I call it the Locked Room scenario.
To be precise: it involves starting a save with (a) zero space funds and (b) a squad that is not fit for purpose.
To my mind, such a scenario is both intriguing and tense. Escaping from it requires, above all, timing on the part of the manager.
The case of Chernomorets Balchik
This was the scenario confronting Grigor Pasha when he recently became manager of Chernomorets Balchik.
The squad was in adequate, not so much in terms of quality of players as in terms of balance.
The defence, in particular, exhibited a lack of balance.
Pasha found on the books just one left-back (LB), namely Mitev.
There was one other player who could play LB, namely Nachev — but he would surely be required as a centre back (CB), since there were only two other CBs, one of whom (Taushanov) was a youngster who you’d need to brave to select (balance 6; jumping 5; composure 5).
In addition, there was an ageing defensive midfielder (DM), i.e., Daniel Georgiev, who could allegedly play as a CB. But pace 6, acceleration 8, heading 8…
Besides, he’d likely be needed as an anchor man.
On the right, there was one player (Alberto-Lugo) who could play in advanced position, i.e., in the wing back position, but there was no genuine right-back (RB).
In effect, Balchik lacked a defence.
At first the position seemed hopeless. The only available cash was £250 in the wage budget, less than half the annual wage of a player on the lowest youth wage (£525 p.a.).
Escape from the Locked Room
Here is how Pasha sought to extricate himself from the Locked Room.
- Find the formation that represented the least bad fit. For Pasha, that was a version of what I’ve called my Stoke City formation (asymmetric 3-2-2-2-1).
- Seek to convert players so that they can play in positions where there was a shortfall. For Pasha, there was one such candidate, namely Doni Donchev, who could perhaps make the transition from DM to CB.
- Bring in triallists so that you can at least field a balanced team in the opening pre-season friendlies.
- Seek to acquire loanees on zero wages. Only a few clubs in Bulgaria offer much of a supply of youngsters on loan at no cost and the good prospects get snapped up fast. Pasha had to watch the loan lists like a hawk and be prepared to snap up players unscouted. In the event, he sourced four from Botev Plovdiv and one from one from Slavia Sofia. But note that there are non-financial costs involved: the risk to squad dynamics and the lack of carrot and stick (you can’t incentivise loanees with bonuses or with the threat of fines for poor performance).
- Once Pasha started getting players in, a spiral of benefits began to accrue. Specifically:
- He had greater capacity to staff the chosen formation. Specifically, two of the players he brought in were CBs.
- Additional formations gradually became playable — specifically my 1960s Inter Milan-inspired version of catenaccio.
- He could start shipping players out via loans and transfers. There are constraints on this option though. Specifically it can be difficult to get players to leave — it is crucial here to survey the dates at which players’ contracts commenced, since those who have only just signed contracts will be difficult to budge. There is also again a risk to squad dynamics. Pasha did in fact upset the captain, Alberto-Lugo, by shipping out the aforementioned (and surely useless) Taushanov. The captain’s unhappiness sparked a chain reaction through the squad. But only through such moves could Pasha free up some funds. Sometimes, there’s no perfect solution.
- Eventually such funds could be used to bring in players — Pasha has just signed, in time for the start of the league season, the speedy Brazilian full-back, Brendo, on a free.
- The gain in funds could also be used to mutually terminate contracts. This ploy, which in the event Pasha chose not to activate, would free up still further funds.
By now, Pasha could be said to have freed himself from the Locked Room.
But, as always with this scenario, it was a bit hairy. There’s a sequence that has to be gone through and it has to be implemented with rapidity.
Even now, Pasha’s lacking a RB. If you happen across one, could you send him up to Balchik asap?