Welcome back! My first full season in Bulgaria is over and I won’t lie, this has been the most fun I’ve had on FM in a very long while. How come? I hear you ask. Well it revolves around me actually making a tactical tweak after a poor run of results and it working…..this doesn’t normally happen!!
But before we go into how the season has gone, let’s firstly take a look at transfers.
I didn’t expect much business this Summer, mainly because our squad is pretty big, we had an amazing youth intake last time around and I really want to blood these young lads. I did however have the issue that nearly my whole squad was wanted, unfortunately I couldn’t hang on to everyone and a few of my key men left.
The biggest out was Right Winger Pavlov, last seasons player of the year asked for a move and when a £1m bid came in from Qatar I had to let him go.
We also lost top scorer from last season Marcel Mbock, he was constantly down with niggly injuries whilst I’ve been here and that bid was too good to say no to. £2.3m? Massive.
The other 3 players to leave were Striker Petrov, Midfielder Trenchev and Winger Lapeyre, all 3 weren’t in my plans.
So with those players leaving I really needed a new Striker, I also needed to improve my defence as that was where we shortest. I did want a Right Winger as well but there was just no one recommended to me that was any good.
Leon Gregurina – Striker – £165k from Botev Plovdiv
I actually started the season without replacing Mbock, with Budinov, Dmitrov and Intake star Aleksandrov I thought we had enough, the tactical tweak however meant I had to bring another forward in and this lad fits the bill. A cheap deal for someone who looks real quality.
Ruben Oliviera – Central Midfield – Season Loan from Tondela
A central midfielder wasn’t exactly needed but I just felt we could do with another option. This lad comes in on a free loan.
Idriss Muller – Central Defender – Free from AC Arlesien
I really struggled to find a new defender to bring in, this lad took my eye in the Summer but Arlesien wouldn’t sell. He ends up joining after his contract expired in the Winter window. A really good addition.
Transfers complete it’s now time to take this league by storm!!!
A Major Wobble
The season started with a raft of Europa Conference games and actually it started well, we dispatched Tobyi and then Sfinful Gheorghe to get through to the 3rd Qualifying Round with some really good wins, the 41221 was working well and as the league campaign started we looked on fire. We opened with 2 really good wins and then we pulled off a major shock in the Europa Conference dumping out FC Zurich to get into the Playoff Round.
This is where it went majorly downhill. We had already lost to Beroe in the League in between the Zurich games, players were shattered, way too many games. After the 0-0 against Zurich we went on one of my worst runs in this save so far. 4 games, 4 defeats, we lost home and away to Austria Wien to go out of Europe, I kind of expected that but what I didn’t expect was the back to back league defeats, both 1-0, the Ludogorets game I kind of take, they are decent but the defeat to Septemvri Sofia was unacceptable.
With us out of Europe games started to slow down but bar a 3-1 win over Cherno more we drew 2 and then the worst result so far. We faced lower league side Svetkavtska in the Bulgarian Cup 1st Round, 34 shots we had, THIRTY FOUR!!! Their keeper was amazing but we were so wasteful, awful in fact, the game went to penalties and we managed to miss 3 of our 5 to be dumped out.
An absolute shocker, we were terrible and something had to change.
That was the tactic. At the time the save was pissing me right off, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to blood the young lads, I didn’t want to throw money about so I had to look at my players and build a tactic to suit them.
I knew our left side was really good with Lejuene or Milev at Full Back and Radev on the Wing, it was our right side that was the issue, Right Wing was shocking, there was just no one producing, at right back Obiogumu was decent but he needed more chance to get forward.
The final issue was upfront, although we had started well, goalscoring fell off a cliff, I needed to try and play 2 up top, so I decided to bin the RW and go with a lobsided tactic.
It looks a bit off but it as you will see it worked a treat. Obiogumu now has the freedom to get forward on the right but it was on the left where the majority of our goals came from. With Pinto sitting in as a HB, when we attacked we formed a back 3 with both our Wing Backs able to get forward. Budinov, playing as a F9 with the instruction to move into channels dragged defenders out of position giving the freedom to both central midfielders to get forward.
Instruction wise it’s just the base gegenpress and it works really well. We dominate possession, getting the ball forward quickly, dragging players out of position and exploiting gaps.
The only downfall is in defence, we are susceptible to the break but overall we were absolutely stunning, as you will now see.
The Turnaround of all Turnarounds
The tactic was plumbed in and oh my god it was sensational. I have never witnessed a turnaround as good, September ended with a 4-0 win, October ended with 2 wins and a draw but it was November and December where it really clicked. 6 games, 6 wins, only 3 conceded, we were playing out of our skin. This was what I wanted, the kids were getting a chance and, with the older heads around them they were playing sensationally.
The Winter break then came around but we came back in just as good form, January ended with another 2 wins and a draw but then came February, we had so many injuries it was untrue, we had no right backs, we had no defensive midfielders so after 2 wins and a draw from our opening 3 games we faced Slavia Sofia at home, I went with a mental tactic with 3 at the back, a LWB, no RB, 3 in midfield, a RW and 2 up top. It didn’t work, we were woeful and got punished, losing the game 1-0.
I went back to the old tactic and instantly it kicked in, we ended the regular season with 4 wins, we were scoring some stunning goals as well. As we went into our final game of the regular season we sat top of the table, 3 clear of Levski and that’s who we played. It was a don’t lose game and we defended for our lives to draw the game 0-0.
What an amazing turnaround, there are no more words, we were simply incredible.
One game I have to talk about is the 6-3 win over Cherno more. Although we conceded 3 we were absolutely insane. We scored 2 of the most incredible goals I’ve seen on FM and played absolutely incredibly. Both goals are in this tweet
As the regular season ended we had finished top of the table!
But there was still the Championship group to negotiate, the top 6, we all play each other once, we have 5 games between us and a possible shock first ever title win!
We started the Championship group with a home game against 2nd placed Levski and we played so well, unfortunately we just could not break them down, their keeper was man of the match, somehow they nabbed a 1-0 win, a key win as it means they overtake us at the top due to the fact they won the game.
Next up we faced Beroe away and again played really well, it looked to be going the same as the previous game as we hit the woodwork 3 times, eventually our persistence paid off and we ran out 3-1 winners. Levski won again meaning we still say 2nd.
Then came a shocking piece of news, my lovely chairman had once again screwed me over and decided to sell star midfield Riviore to Al-Nasr for £1.9m, a big amount of money but what a time to do it!! There’s only 3 games left!!! Riviore has been integral to our title push, scoring 13 goals in 38 games. A huge loss.
No Riviore, no problem! Game 3 of 5 and we face Slavia Sofia at home, a stunning attacking display means we end 4-1 winners, a hat-trick for Gregurina as well. This lad is something else. The huge news is that Levski drew their game meaning with 2 games to go we sit top by 2 points!
3 days later, the penultimate game of the season, we face CSKA Sofia at home, a must win game and we make the perfect start as Gregurina scores after half an hour, we are total control of the game, that is until centre back Toderas gets a second yellow and we are down to 10 men mid-way through the second half. Everyone is shattered so we have to sit back and try and soak up the pressure, it seems to be working but with 8 minutes to go CSKA grab a leveller and after that we have to play for a draw, CSKA had so many chances at the end, poor misses, great saves, the lot. We hang on for a 1-1 draw, a massive point which becomes all the more important when the Levski result comes in, they have drawn 0-0. 1 game to go, we sit 2 points clear but we know we have to better Levski’s result if we are to end as champions.
We’re away to Ludogorets, Levski are at home to Beroe. This is tense!!!
Queue the most bonkers ending to a season!!! 4 minutes in Levski are ahead and then a killer, a push in the box gives Ludogorets a penalty, it’s tucked away and we’re 1-0 down.
13 minutes later and we have turned it around. Radev and Gregurina scoring to put us ahead but literally minutes later Ludogorets equalise and then comes a huge turning point. Midfielder Pashev is sent off for a shocking tackle, we’re down to 10 men.
Half time, it’s 2-2 but we’re a man down. Levski are 2-0 up, we have to score, we have to go for it! This is tense. The second half starts and we are trying to push forward, then a huge moment, we have a corner, it’s swung in and there’s a push in the box. PENALTY TO BLAGOEVGRAD!!! Up steps loanee Oliveira, HE SCORES!!!!!!!!!! 3-2!! Now defend boys, defend like your lives depend on it. Ludogorets are going for it, chance after chance but they can’t find a way through. 4 minutes injury time, hang on!!!!
THE WHISTLE BLOWS!!!!!!!! PIRIN BLAGOEVGRAD ARE CHAMPIONS!!!!!
Oh my word! What an ending!!! We looked to have thrown it away but out of somewhere we pulled off the most amazing win!!!!
I’m lost for words, an absolutely incredible season capped off with an amazing final day. After 6 games we looked to be well off the pace but the change in tactic, my tactic where I actually tweaked it to suit my players worked. It worked so well we won the f*cking league!! I cannot believe it.
So the league is won but before I move on I still have the win the pesky Bulgarian Cup!! Next season it’s all on that!
Leon Gregurina ends as the clubs player of the season and top scorer. He started slowly after joining the club in the Summer but once the tactic changed he was amazing. 34 games, 24 goals and 5 assists. What a player!
Central Defender Aguinaldo Mulenese ends as the young player of the season. Signed in the Winter window last season, this lad was stunning. A rock in defence and a key reason why we won the league.
Left Winger Hristo Radev ends with the most assists, he was plagued with niggly injuries all season and only featured in 22 league games, he ends with 8 goals and 10 assists. A key man!
And here for your perusal is the whole squad.
As you will see there’s numerous of the “Class of 2041” in the squad and the likes of Wingers Kalaydzhiev and Dyulgerov and also Striker Aleksandrov all played a key part in this amazing title win.
What a season! I won’t go on much more as I know this post is long enough. Next season it’s all about the Bulgarian Cup, win that and I move on. It will be sad to leave this amazing club so quickly, I never expected a title win this quick.
Transfer wise we need to replace Riviore in midfield, the only other position where we need to strengthen is at Right Back with Xiang Pu just not good enough as backup. Once again though I’m fully prepared for a raft of offers for my key men, will they stay or will my mental chairman decide to start selling them again?!
Finally, the finances, clearly we have made a large profit this season with over £5m of sales, ths means we end the season with a balance of £7m, really good, it means the budgets for next are massive, £4.6m transfer budget and £29k per week in wages means we have a lot to use if we need to.
Anyway, that’s all from me for now.
Thanks for reading.