Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the brand new country of Aswijan for a Football Manager 2020 save that’s a little bit different. If you haven’t read the introduction to this series then go and give it a read here. If you have, then let me introduce you to our new life in Aswijan.
As previously discussed, I wanted to begin my managerial career in Aswijan at the lowest footballing tier available. And that meant starting out in the Liga Dukh, which is the third tier below the Liga Principale and the top tier Liga Regale.
My other team selection policies were very personal ones: a team name, colour scheme and kits that I liked. A few teams jumped out, including Hesef Kaduqni, which is one of the most popular teams in the country but has fallen on hard times in recent years and, more importantly, has this sexy third kit…
However, I wanted to take control of a club that was a little less fancied and my eye soon caught Zagora Athletik.
Who are Zagora Athletik?
Very good question, as there’s very little that we know about them thus far. But the key thing that caught my eye was their deliciously mind-blowing home kit and the purple colour scheme. I was immediately in.
What we do know about Zagora Athletik is that they were founded in 1954 and are more affectionately known as El Erronka. We have one rival team Rabaqa Kuduqni, who also play in Liga Dukh alongside us and against whom we compete in the Mitsetse Derby.
Zagora Athletik are the only football team in the city of Zagora, which is situated in Aswijan’s easternmost state Elisha. The city has a warm and wet climate and is largely covered by the dense Marinna rainforest.
Zagora play their home games at the 3,145 capacity stadium Ard Pinnacle which, strangely considering its size, is an all-seater. The stadium was built in 1977 and has good corporate facilities but not a lot else. We have basic youth facilities and youth coaching and limited youth recruitment, all of which are a concern, poor data analysis facilities and basic training facilities.
Life in Zagora begins
My manager for this save will be Trebor Mahtal (my name reversed, which I think sounds fairly Aswijani). He is a 6-foot 6-inch monster of a former Brazilian professional footballer with dual Mexican citizenship, as I was unable to select Aswijan as his home nation.
We’ve signed a one-year deal in Zagora and have been tasked with playing attacking, entertaining football with the aim of finishing in the top half of Liga Dukh. I think that’s do-able. The club also want us to develop young players despite the aforementioned lack of youth facilities, which could be more tricky.
The minimal facilities mentioned above don’t look like being addressed any time soon as we have very little in the way of spare cash to address this lack of infrastructure. We currently have €300k in the balance, but we’re losing around €200k a month. Oh dear… I guess we’d better hope there’s some decent talent that could help us bring some money in.
Meet the Zagora team
The first thing that grabbed my eye about the team was that we had several very exciting young prospects. 17-year-old right-back Arkadios Gram is already considered among our top three players and has plenty of room to improve. While I also have particularly high hopes for 16-year-old midfielder Michalis Saivaldsson, along with several 17-year-olds in left winger Martin Goronda, goalkeeper Caelan Mukulu and centre midfielder Navneet Timsit.
A little older but very much ones to keep an eye on are 20-year-olds midfielder Vladimiro Mashashi – whose name I love and is widely considered the second most talented player at the club – and centre-back Tackin Bourdon.
But the player considered to be our best player is our lead striker, the also brilliantly named 31-year-old Tiberius Olivero. Interestingly, Olivero was named as the second favourite to finish as the Liga Dukh’s top goalscorer, which was a promising early sign.
Another key factor to keep in mind is that I plan to ONLY use Aswijani players, so I’ve switched off any scouting of players outside the country.
While we have several exciting young talents and a few players of good quality, the squad as a whole doesn’t feel that strong. And, furthermore, tactics have proven somewhat of a conundrum, largely because of a few holes in certain positions and the squad being overloaded with players of similar quality in some areas.
But the main problem is that I have absolutely no idea who our best players are. For example, the star ratings differ every time I look at them. Then the assistant manager’s automatically selected best eleven is drastically different to the one that is advised in the Team Report section. So it’s become a little bit of a trial and error mission over the first few games of the season.
Of course, the other major issue was not knowing who any of the players were and how good they were in comparison to other teams in the league. While the Liga Dukha Season Preview seemed fairly misleading.
I had wanted to play a new style and trial a couple of new positions I’d never used before, but of course it would depend on the players available to us. I initially toyed with playing a 3-5-2 but, while that had us looking decent defensively, there was zero creativity and our full-backs – or rather, Gram – can’t play at wing-back, so that’s going on the back burner. I even thought about a weird asymmetric formation that only succeeded in giving me a headache. Instead, I’ve settled on a variation of a 4-3-3 that looks like this:
Trial and error pre-season
The pre-season friendlies saw us face three matches against good quality opposition. First up was Swiss side Young Boys, in which we took the lead but lost 4-2, then we managed to beat Basel 2-1, before losing 1-0 to Liga Principale side Haswara Knights. I trialled various formations, tested out several players and eventually settled on the formation above.
The pre-season also saw a couple of sales but no incomings as my scouts weren’t quite quick enough to make any worthwhile recommendations. The major outgoing was left-back Male Di Muzio moving to Liga Principale side ACAT for €575k. Two more players left for minimal fees.
Liga Dukh expectations
As mentioned earlier, the Board wants us to finish in the top half of Liga Dukh this season. Whether that’s realistic or not I have absolutely no idea but I’m basing my view of the league on the Season Preview outlined below. The media predicts we’ll finish in 8th place and, interestingly, puts Hesef at the very bottom of the table.
In terms of how the competition works, there are 24 teams and each team plays each other twice (like The Championship, League One and League Two in England). Two teams get promoted automatically then there’s a four-way battle for the third promotion slot via the end of season playoffs.
I’ve not had too much of a chance to really compare our squad to others in the league. But one thing I have noticed is that the best player in the league is supposedly Azzibira Sport’s striker Amico Antonius, who is valued at €37 million and even has his own bio! That said, he is on loan from Liga Regale side Wabani. But our most expensive player is Olivero at €2.1 million.
I think that gives you a relatively good overview of this new project. The only left to do is see how the team fares in the first few games of Liga Dukh.
So, join us next time as we get down to some competitive football with Zagora Athletik. I’m excited by the prospect and I hope you enjoyed this brief insight into beginning life in Aswijan!