Aswijan Assignment: Part 6 – Into Liga Principale

Welcome back to the Aswijan Assignment, a Football Manager 2020 save in the fictional country of Aswijan – using a database created by @Chilled_Moose.

Zagora Athletik’s unexpected first season success took the club into the second tier of Aswijani football. A decent amount of rebuilding was required but nothing too major as I kept faith in the players that had earned us promotion.

That said, we did sell and buy six players and there’s been a fair overhaul of the backroom staff, so there has been a little bit of movement in the second summer at Ard Pinnacle.

But before we get into all of that, pre-season began with me landing a job interview with Liga Regale side SCM, who selected Inter’s assistant manager instead, then an interview with Sorrun, who were bottom of Liga Dukh and pointless after a few games – which seemed utterly pointless.

Record transfer sales

Record transfer fees might sound impressive, but it’s not saying much given we’re a brand new club! However, we have done a good job of starting to get the club’s finances into better health – with the bank balances now creeping over £4 million.

The biggest sale of the summer was backup striker Metello Ardito moving to fellow newly promoted side Ouarrik Oskat for an impressive £1.1 million. He did OK last season but only had a year left on his contract so I cashed in. However, the sale has left us with only two strikers at the club.

We also sold hot prospect right-back Geng Chardin for £450k to Talat, who dropped down from Liga Regale last season. He looks decent but got his knickers in a twist about us rejecting bids and had only had 12 months on his contract.

Several backup players also departed, in goalkeeper Daniele Chunso – who was heroic in cup games, less so in the league – left-back Gokay Pappano, centre-back Abdull’ah Dong and winger Isacco Rastegar, who was really poor.

Zagora signings!

This summer saw our first full signings as Zagora boss, including what I think could be four great free transfer signings. We picked up a new goalkeeper in Rune Azevedo, who comes in as our first-choice, and left-back in Acrisio Aberg, as well as young right-back Millano Ruiz, who has plenty of potential.

But the player that I’m most excited about is right winger Tryfon Tahani, who was released by Liga Dukh side Bhayid last year. He only scored 4 and got 5 assists in the league, but I think there’s much more to come from him. And, he’s already by far and away our most expensive player at £5.25 million (Arkadios Gram is our most valuable player at £1.1 million).

We also brought in three loanees, including extending the deal for left-back Eden Rose. We also tapped into our senior affiliate Mufala Malikiy to get centre-back Ray Belloumi and centre midfielder Mirco Bjerg without having to pay a penny in wages. And I think both could be excellent at this level.

We still hadn’t spent a penny as Zagora boss, but that all changed on deadline day. Firstly, we finally brought in a backup right winger in Toninho Tramonte for £80k from Hamjar Oskat. Then, one for the future with 14-year-old striker Einar Abilgaard, who cost £50k from senior affiliate Mufala Malikiy and could be a special talent.

Elsewhere in Aswijan, champions Aswijan Malikiy sold midfielder He Cheng to Chelsea for a cool £99 million in the biggest transfer deal across Europe. In his place they bought Ilkay Gundogan for £36.5 million.

Kicking off life in Liga Principale

The season review for Liga Principale predicted that Zagora would finish in 7th place and had us at 9-1 to win the league. Which I think is massively ambitious.

However, our first-choice starting eleven looks a little bit like this… I’ve tweaked the roles of the midfield trio while the five of the new signings do come in as starters to strengthen the team somewhat.

And three of these new boys played a key role in a positive start to the campaign. We were at home to Sidi Oskat, a side about whom we knew nothing other than they were predicted to finish 23rd. But the visitors made a solid start as they took the lead in the 23rd minute.

However, one of last season’s stars Martin Goronda pulled us level 10 minutes later, heading home from a Tahani cross. And that man Tahani was at it again as he swung a free-kick into the box for fellow new boy Belloumi to head home a 79th-minute winner. Belloumi earned player of the match but another newbie Bjerg – who looks like he could a bit of a God at this level – also impressed with 6 key passes earning him an 8.0 rating.

Our first away game in Liga Principale was at relegated Qashid, who’d just hired Italy legend Alessandro Nesta as manager and were second favourites to win the league. But there were plenty of positives for us to take as we not only held them to a 0-0 draw but actually had the better of the game, with 57% of possession and 13 shots to their 9 but just couldn’t put the chances away.

Another clean sheet followed as Tahani scored his first goal for the club from a Goronda cross to seal a 1-0 win over Ashab. But he also picked up an ankle ligament injury that would see him out for 6 weeks. Nevertheless, the wide boys were at it again as Goronda crossed for Fokionas Caito to score the only goal at SSAC, who only narrowly avoided relegation last season.

That made it 10 points from 4 matches in an unbeaten start to our first season in Liga Principale.

But that unbeaten start came to an end with a 2-1 loss at home to Bennaria, in which Caito scored a screamer and Bjerg had a blinder playing an 8.9 with an assist and 6 key passes. A 1-1 draw at followed, then a really boring 1-0 win over Haswara, managed by another ex-Italy international Massimo Oddo, thanks to Tiberius Olivero’s first goal at this level, followed by another creditable 1-1 at El Gena, who were 7th last season.

Another huge cup away day

Last season saw us defeat one of the biggest sides in Aswijan in the Copa Azore. Now, in the first round of the Copa Populare, we were handed a trip to the national champions Aswijan Malikiy, who’ve won Liga Regale in 15 of its 20 seasons to date.

Malikiy play at the 100,000 seater Ard di Malikiy in the capital Aswijan City. They have 18 players valued at more than £40 million and have 24 players earning more than our highest earner of £10,000. They also have Ilkay Gundogan high-earning on £140k per week (although he has torn knee ligaments, so won’t play) – while our monthly wage budget is £86k. It’s safe to say we were up against it with this draw!

And the bookies confirmed it, putting the hosts at 1/8 to win and us at a fairly unlikely 12/1. And this time there was to be no cup shock as they absolutely dominated us 4-0 and by 24 shots to 1, with Viktor Fischer bagging a hat-trick.

Back to the league action

We’d started well in the league but we weren’t scoring too many. Indeed, after 8 matches going into a home game against Sejebla, only Caito had scored more than once. And he only had two. However, he doubled that tally as he stood in for the injured Olivero to earn us a 2-0 victory.

And we reached 10 games in Liga Principale with another draw. However, this was in an away game to league leaders Al Aragha Athletik, who were still unbeaten in the league. That saw us an impressive third in the league just three points off top spot but, more importantly, 11 points above the relegation zone.

Join us next time as we push ahead with Zagora Athletik’s first season in Liga Principale!

I’m really enjoying managing in this fictional nation of Aswijan and I hope you are too! If you have any questions about the save, the database or want more info on specific players in the squad, just let me know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter.

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