So, after two seasons in the Premier League and almost making it to the UEFA Europa League last season I felt we had achieved what we could achieve with the current on-field personnel. Several of our best players had been with us since our basement-dweller days, including Iain Topley, Christian Walton, Luiz and Dujon Sterling and whlist they have done a pretty good job at the top level, they still fell short, quality wise at times.
So, huge squad upheaval, tons of new players arriving and I think 8 new starters for this season, something that will surely mean we'll have to take things slow at first, while the team 'gels together' despite our improvement in quality.
As I said above, huge squad overhaul, and I'll do the transfers section somewhat differently, naming the 8 starters that left the team, and their replacement.
At goal, Christian Walton had been our #1 for 5 seasons, arriving in the team's second season in League One for a then record €300k. He had a good performance overall, in 227 games played, but never was the stopper we needed, conceding 1.5 goals per game played. Walton was sold to Southampton, for €14M. As his replacement, we scouted several national team's to find our new GK, and finally settled for the "new Peter Schmeichel", Mathias Viggers, a Danish 23 year old GK, who was bought from FC København, for €6M. I believe we did a good job here, selling Walton for a big profit, and getting a better replacement, for a lot less money.
Dujon Sterling was our starting RB since 2021-22, when he was first brought on loan from Chelsea, then bought half-a-season into the loan, for just €160k. He was a big part of the team that got promoted from the Championship that same year, playing in 50 games that season. Sterling was sold to Southampton, for €10M. Again, I used some manual scouting to find his replacement, and I was looking for a more offensive oriented fullback and found him in the looks of Ecuadoran Luis Mosquera, a blazing fullback with some room to grow, who was picked off Mexican side Tigres, for €13.75M. Again, a good job here, selling for profit and getting a better replacement, only this time we were held hostage by the Mexicans, who refused a penny less than the MRF clause on Mosquera's contract.
This is where it starts to hurt. Iain Topley was a symbol for our team, getting here in 2018-19 for €150k, and was the team's captain for the past 3 seasons. He was our leader, and a key figure in the promotion sides from 2019-20 and 2021-22. He was sold for €17M to Bournemouth, a rather cheap price, but still a fair offer. In his place, I wanted a player who could become a top talent, and I found him in Colombia via Brazil. David Herrera is a terrific talent, with room to improve, and a great physical skillset. He was bought from Fluminense, for €20M. Another good deal, selling for a profit and not overpaying for the incoming talent.
In the left flank, Matty Downing was a fairly inconsistent player and always the target for replacement during the off-seasons. He spent 3 seasons here after coming in on a free, and struggled massively in the Premier League. His contract wasn't renewed. To cover for him, I found towering defensive fullback Azzedine Ferchichi, a 21 year old Algerian, who lacks offensive firepower, but will complement Mosquera nicely. Ferchichi was bought from Getafe, for €10M. I felt we could've done better here, but my top two targets fell during negotiations and Ferchichi was somewhat a panic buy, still he has a ton of potential.
Sezer Tekin was another great player that had to leave, one that I didn't want to let go of. The Turkish CM was a terrific low profile capture, coming in on a free in 2021-22, where he was the transfer of the season and young player of the season for the team. He then had a rough first EPL season but last season was, when healthy one of our best players. Unfortunately, he had a small MRF clause and Augsburg paid it, €12.75M. In his place, came Italian Enrico Tettamanti, a big improvement, no doubt, despite the big €20M he cost us to pry him off Torino, but he'll likely become a key player for us.
I wanted to play with 2 CM's and 1 ST, that's why I mention Luiz here, as he was the second striker last season. The Brazilian was a polarizing figure in his two seasons in Wales, after coming in for a record fee €1M. He was the best player in our first season in the EPL, scoring 23 goals in 40 games, but turned off at times and ended his season early with a big knee injury. After coming back, he re-gained his starting position, and finished the season with 13 goals in 31 games. Again, I was reluctant to sell, but a good offer from Augsburg changed my mind, as we sold him for €9.75M (plus €2.5M in clauses). "As his replacement" (again, tactic change), we shook the market, and got Yordi Versleeuwen from Man U for a record €25M, an amazing deep playmaker, oozing quality and tons of international experience, a high-priced bargain, if you ask me.
Another reluctant sale was Nuno Franco, who had a great first season as a starter last year, after a decent backup season in 2022-23, when he came from Academica, for €200k. I was counting on him to be a starter again, but Villarreal had different plans and scooped him up with a great €13M (plus €10.5M in clauses) bid. I wasn't really expecting to sell, and the market was a bit rough to buy a RW, but I found a player who could be a gem, Polish 18 year old, Andrzej Kaminski who came in from Legia, for €3M. He was being followed closely by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea, but we got him!
Finally, the 8th starter change is Ross McMahon, who still hasn't been sold, as there's not an offer to fill my palate. He'll end up most probably leaving on loan, hopefully with a fee. McMahon had 4 great seasons here, and was one of our best players in the Championship promotion season, with 12 goals and 12 assists. Again, it's a matter of quality and McMahon isn't cut for this level, and the lack of serious interest from other teams reflects that. To fill the AM playmaker role, came David Duff, from Tottenham, for €6.75M, another player with some international experience and a bit of potential, despite not being a huge improvement over McMahon. Another deal where we could've done better, but the market was tough.
The other player who came in was CM Claude-Arnaud Thomas, from Roma for €2.4M. He'll be a backup for both CM positions.
I also promoted two talented youth squad players, Gary Roberts, who'll be the backup AM and the best Welsh prospect not named Gareth Bale, 16 year-old Paul Vickers, who will be the backup LW (Man U snooped around for Vickers during the summer, and the doorslam resounded all the way through europe).
A few other players left, including Matt Peauroux, Yasar Kartal and Lewis Russell.
We bought a record €107M, while selling also a record €83M.
As I said, tactics change again, after the 4-4-2 diamond didn't quite work last season, specially as the individual performance of key players, like Tomás Mainz and Boris Bartel was somewhat off what I expected.
I reverted back to a 4-2-3-1 that worked wonders for us in the lower levels, and that suits the players we found on the market.
The back 4 will have an attacking right back and a defensive left back, plus the 2 CB's. Then a DLP+BBM combo in the middle, two wingers, an AP, and the striker.
As a backup tactic, I'll play a 4-1-2-2-1, replacing the AP, with a BWM in the DM position, for a more defensive tactical setup.
Another brilliant pre-season has us with incredible high hopes of reaching europe at last. Seven games played, 32 goals scored, 5 goals conceded, all wins. Even if we eliminate the New Brighton game, the performance was excellent. We played two low-league friendlies in Germany, to take advantage of the publicity Boris Bartel generates (marketing team recommendation), and beat three european first division sides in KV Mechelen, SV Ried and Porto.
- Facilities work has been improving smoothly for the past couple of seasons. In this off-season we improved the Recruitment Network again, and will start to improve the Youth Facilities, due October next year. The current facilities are as follow: Impressive Training, Great Youth, Exceptional coaching and Well Established Recruitment Network.
- The stadium was once again improved, getting to a capacity of 22k, which I think is the limit.
- There's a bit of interest in a few of our players, so we might still see a bit of movement if the right offer comes along.
- The bank took a big hit with the proposed improvments plus the squad overhaul. We currently have €88M in the bank, and the projections see us reaching around €120M by the end of the season.
Sorry for the big update, tons of changes, so I wanted to give a proper farewell to the heroes who left the team.