FM Experiment | Spending Saints Gold | Season 1: Building Around JWP

You may have heard the news that Southampton were recently the subject of a “tycoon takeover” from Serbian media mogul Dragan Solak. Having just completed our Spending Saudi Gold adventure following Newcastle United’s tycoon takeover, this presented the perfect opportunity to run another FM22 Experiment.

To do so, this required a little bit of work behind the scenes in the Football Manager Editor. I created the new Chairperson Dragan Solak, got rid of some of the old board, added a foreground investor, gave the club a starting budget of £500m and created a mass of additional investments over the next few years.

I also disabled the first transfer window and holidayed ahead six months, so that the “takeover” technically takes place in January 2022. And, despite an oversight in the editing process, I decided to try and prioritise signing Serbian players wherever possible.

Spending Saints Gold Season 1

This new FM Experiment allows us to recycle an existing manager profile. Geordie hero Alan Shearer now tries his luck as the new manager of another former club, moneybags Southampton. If you didn’t read the Newcastle experiment, then we’re basically acting as a Director of Football in charge of all transfer activity. We’ll either holiday through matches, if we have a half decent assistant manager, or use the ‘Instant Result’ option to ensure our tactics are being utilised.

We join Southampton with the club sitting 9th in the Premier League, which dropped to 10th as they lost 2-0 at home to 3rd-place Leicester on New Year’s Day, and in the Carabao Cup semis. The key aim for the first few seasons will be to build a team around midfielder James Ward-Prowse and, obviously, focus on his perfect 20 free-kick taking!

The January transfer window wasn’t particularly easy as there was just £2m to spend. However, Jan Bednarek moved to Newcastle for a huge £36m and Shane Long, who was on £60k-a-week!, went to AEK for free to release some cash.

We used that cash to make an immediate statement signing, bringing in “world-class centre-back” and a first Serbian in Nikola Milenkovic for £15m from Fiorentina. The defence was further strengthened with Daniele Rugani for £2.3m from Juventus before an exciting attacking option as Thiago Almada came in for £6m from Vélez and Corentin Tolisso arrived for a cut-price £1m from Bayern. While rumours of an intriguing return for Gareth Bale didn’t materialise…

First 6 months in charge

The Shearer reign began with an FA Cup win at Accrington and a victory at bottom club Brighton, in which Milenkovic played a 7.5 on his debut.

A few days later, Saints booked their place at Wembley as a 4-1 win saw them past Palace to face Villa in the EFL Cup Final! And they went on to win it, defeating Villa 2-1 with second half goals by Milenkovic and Oriol Romeu!

However, a shaky spell followed through February and March, including a shameful 3-2 loss at Norwich saw them slip down the table. But a run of three home games in April saw them beat high-flying Leeds. draw with Chelsea and Ward-Prowse inspired a 2-1 win over fellow moneybags Newcastle.

They took that into 2-0 wins at Palace and Burnley ahead of a difficult season conclusion. But Che Adams nicked a 1-1 draw at an unusually struggling Man City, who’d just sacked Pep, and Milenkovic and Tolisso earned a 2-1 win over Spurs. And they rounded the season off with a 3-1 win over Everton.

That saw Saints finish in 8th on 60 points, only 3 points back from City in 6th and above Arsenal, Villa and Everton. Ward-Prowse got the most assists in the Premier League with 15, which was 2 more than Bruno Fernandes.

Indeed, JWP was Saints’ main man this season, getting 19 assists and 2 goals at a 7.29 average rating in all competitions. Adams was the top scorer with 17 goals in 42 games, followed by Milenkovic with 6 in 20 at a 7.32 rating. Several more new signings impressed, including Almada with 5 goals and 4 assists at a 7.08 rating and Tolisso, who scored 4 in 10 starts from midfield.

The highlight of the season was obviously winning the Carabao Cup. But, in true Southampton style, the first youth intake of the save produced an absolute gem in James Faber. At 16, he’s already worth over £14.5 million and the 7th-best midfielder at the club. He’s been labelled “the next Paul Gascoigne,” but could he more realistically be the new Ward-Prowse?

Our reward for earning a top-half finish was a massive transfer budget. We go into next season with £258 million to spend!! And trust me, there are already at least two very exciting transfers confirmed for the summer of 2022!

So join us next time as we set about spending Saints Gold ahead of our first full season in charge!

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