Actually this post is more of a 1.2/2.0-ish, as I will need to tell you about pre-season transfers of 17/18.
The 16/17-season has ended, there're no more matches to be played, no more goals to be scored. As mentioned on twitter, the end of the season became extremely thrilling.
With only one game left, and at least the promotion play-off spot secured, we could still win the Ligue 2 title, if we won our last match, and Havre stumbled and either drawed or lost. Things were looking good at half-time:
And things kept looking good. Riiiight up until the 72nd minute when Havre scored to 2-1.
Which is how the season ended. But hey, we got the promotion! And set a club record for most points in a season along the way. Promotion was indeed the goal during this first season, so I'm definitely not complaining.
As you will see below, we put in a mixed performance during the last half, however, mostly positive results. Although, we did put in a streak where we lost 4 out of 5 home games, but won the away games. Which is very odd for me, even in FM. We even lost 0-2 to Havre at home, which some people might boil down to being the very moment we lost 1st place.
So hey, we're (back) in Ligue 1! Right where this proud club belongs. Or, that's what I think but my opinion might be slightly biased.
However, during this last half of the season, I've studied where this team needs strengthening. And my conclusion is that we need people in everywhere but the back 3. This wasn't helped by Tristan Lahaye and Pieter-Jan Monteyne both chose to retire after this season, which basically left me with Kenny Lala as the only wingback of the team. And I was planning on using him as backup only, and planned to let Anthony Scaramozzino's contract expire.
Which brings me to transfers
Good news is I managed to keep Unai Bilbao permanently. He was a solid rock during the entire season, and he even managed to snap up a nomination for "Best Player" in Ligue 2. He didn't win though but he was selected in "Team of the Year". His contract was expiring at Athlétic, so it was easy as pie.
As goes for Abdelhak Nouri, who turned out be a key player for us, I've only managed to extend his loan deal. His shitty agent won't negotiate a contract with me, so I went for the next best thing: let it be up to the player. So his loan deal is extended with 2 seasons which is also when his contract at Ajax will expire. Did you see what I just did there? :)
Beyond that, there're 11 new faces at RC Lens this season! A whole new team! So we probably need to gel a little bit before everything can really settle. However I've managed to get some pretty good names into the RC Lens shirt. This is without a doubt due to the RC Lens board handing me a €29m transfer budget and they were well spent.
Benoît Costil (GK)
Why this fine 'keeper in his prime was released from Stade Rennais is beyond me. My guess is that he was seeking a new challenge, but that guess is as good as any. He was picked up on a free transfer, and has immediately become first choice. He's one of those 'keepers who almost made it to the national team. I know he's been called up several times but have never been offered the chance. But that's more than good enough for my little Lens team.
Angelo Fulgini (WBR)
I spotted this fine talent during our first meeting with Valenciennes. He's quick, he can cross a ball (saw that several times), and he can mark and tackle. So I decided that if we were promoted, and if Valenciennes weren't, then I'd try and sign him. I had to part €4m for this fine French U21 player.
Sergi Palencia (WBR)
Current captain for Barcelona B, and it's not the first time I've signed him. I signed him on loan several times on FM16, so I know what he can do. As always, he needs some work but with some patience and game time, and he'll become a leading star. Barcelona didn't think so, though. I only paid €350k for him, so we practically robbed them. I'm planning on playing him in every cup match, and in selected Ligue 1 matches spread out during the season. Fulgini is still my primary choice.
Alessandro Longhi (WBL)
Picked up for €2m from Pisa, this is one for the scouts. I have zero knowledge about this guy, but stats-wise he seems like a perfect match. And he's proven that he's very capable during pre-season, so I'm pretty happy about this one.
Mamadou Ndiaye (WBL)
Sadly, Montpellier HSC were relegated so there was a slight exodus from their first team. This made me snap up this young defender for €1.7m, whom I will retrain as a wingback. He looks like he could use some work, and he'll probably be used in the same way I'll use Palencia.
Aron Gunnarsson (MC)
We all remember the charismatic, Icelandic captain during the Euro's, clapping along with the crowd that started this whole "HOO"-wave. That's Aron Gunnarsson. He's running around in Cardiff doing whatever, so I signed him for €8m. His media description is "Tireless midfielder" which is definitely not a lie, and he'll be perfect for my midfield where he'll be rotating with Adama Guíra in the BWM position.
Gerard Gumbau (MC)
Another Barcelona B-reject, probably because there are strong competition in this role at Barcelona. However, his contract expired and, like Palencia, this is not the first time I've managed Gumbau, so I know what he can do. Picked up for free, Gumbau is now my primary deep-lying playmaker. Mostly because Sergi Samper, Adrien Rabiot, and Morgan Sanson didn't want to come to Lens, and I was too late signing Mikel Merino on loan from Dortmund.
Raphael Guzzo (AMC)
He's developed a lot since I first saw him at Benfica a few years back. He was apparently signed by Reus in the Segunda, where he had done a good job. However, he's needed at RC Lens to fill in for Nouri when he's rested or whatever. He did a fine job during pre-season, so Nouri will have a bit of competition. Signed for €2.2m
Julien Romain (AMC)
Even though Jakob Novak is our primary shadow striker, by lightyears, I still needed a backup should Novak get injured. Julien Romain is young, keen to learn, and he was available on a season-long loan deal. So that's all he is; cover for Novak.
Bafétimbi Gomis (SC)
This is where it gets interesting. Gomis was available at half price from Swansea, who apparently didn't want him anymore. I know what Gomis can do, however, so €4.8m is a freaking no-brainer of a bargain. This signing has made me very positive we can achieve at least a mid-table finish, if not better, in the first Ligue 1-season. And I can also remove the "Low crosses"-instruction from my tactic, as Gomis can head the ball. Gomis is, however, a bit wage-heavy so there isn't much room left in that account.
Shani Tarashaj (SC)
Another one for the scouts, and perhaps a loan-deal that didn't need to happen. But I've been pressured a bit by Costil to "Strengthen the attack", so I've signed Tarashaj on a season-long loan from Everton. That means my usual striker Cristian Lopez won't get so much play time this season, and Kévin Fortuné won't be getting any at all. Nevertheless, Tarashaj here, and hopefulle he'll score some important goals. I might even send Julien Romain home, and use Tarashaj as a shadow striker. It's still early in the season - who knows.
To be fair, Gomis wasn't my first choice. I initially tried to sign Neal Maupay on loan but he didn't want to be a key player at Lens. The bench at Saint-Etienne seemed like it was the only thing on his mind, so I had to give him up.
Surprisingly enough Mathieu Debuchy was transferlisted at Arsenal, and I did slot in a €1m offer that got accepted. But he was definitely not worth the €100k/week he demanded. Fancy Premier League primadonnas and their high wages... For fun, I also tried to sign Bastian Schweinsteiger on loan from Man Utd. But they demanded I'd pay 100% of his €250k/week wage. My wagebudget is at ~$300k/week so that was a no-go aswell.
My goal with this team is to etablish a good foundation for 18/19, where we should be going for the title. If this team can click and work together, then we only need smaller adjustments, maybe only a player or two.
Info about our pre-season will have to wait until the next post. But I think it went well, in my rather biased opinion. Now if we can only use that and get a good run in the start of the season then I'll be happy. Gomis needs to bang them into the net, and hopefully Gunnarsson's "Gets into opposition area"-trait will provide some assists for either Gomis, or Nouri and Novak, or pile on the pressure by simply being there.
Hopefully the first half of the season goes well, and I'll see you in the next post.