Maribor: Moneyball Style

Alienman

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Back on Football Manager 2014 I had a very successful, and enjoyable, long term save with Maribor in which I tried to turn the Slovenian club into a European powerhouse while developing talent for the national team. After 10 seasons I even tried to turn it into a story. But unfortunately I had reached my limit for Football Manager that year (I normally don't play past the end of the domestic seasons) and the story came to an end without me reaching my goals.

Bringing the story to an end at that time was a little disappointing. My goal of winning the Champions League had not been reached despite one trip to the finals (thrashed by Manchester United). I was at my tactical best, taking time to prepare for matches, and my youth team was beginning to develop future stars. I was probably only a couple seasons away from reaching my goals with the club and potentially within sight of international success for Slovenia.

After spending hundreds of hours on FM14, I really never go into FM15. I couldn't take a save past 1 season normally because my bad transfer policies after season 1 would basically result in me destroying the team on the pitch and financially.

But I'm back with a new energy for Football Manager 2016 and after reading Alex Stewart's Moneyball Series from FM2015, I am motivated to once again have a go with Maribor.
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Maribor: Moneyball Style

What is Moneyball? Here is a run down of the rules:

1. Net wage spend is more important than net transfer spend 2. Don’t needlessly splash out on new players or sell old ones when you take over a club – the New Manager Syndrome
3. Don’t buy players who impressed at international tournaments: they’re likely to be overvalued and past performance is no indication of future performance, especially when they’re playing with a different team – there are different incentives and a different tactical set-up at tournaments, and it’s a super small sample size.
4. Some nationalities are overrated, like Holland, Brazil, and England
5. Sell your players at the right time: when they’re around 30 years old, goalkeepers aside
6. Use the wisdom of crowds: ask all your scouts and a Director of Football if you have one
7. Buy players in their early twenties, which avoids the problems with not developing properly, and means previous statistics have greater value
8. Centre-forwards cost more than they should
9. Sell any player if a club offers more than they are worth and try to replace them before they are sold
10. Don’t buy players if you don’t need to: develop a youth network and try to develop your own players


On top of these Moneyball rules, I will be adopting two other rules that Alex Stewart used in his long term save with Bristol City:
  1. The best way to improve a team is by identifying and replacing the weakest links, rather than by splashing out on making the best links even better
  2. A clean sheet is worth just over two goals scored in terms of points across the course of a season. The corollary to this, then, is a focus on defence over pushing too hard for a win.
With those rules in mind, here are my goals for this long term save:
  1. Turn Maribor into a European superpower with the aim of winning the Champions League
  2. Turn Slovenia into an international threat by developing Slovenian talent through the Maribor system

First off, can it really be described as true Moneyball when you are forced to adhere to the values out of necessity? Maribor is a small club from a small country where money is not exactly in abundance. So in order to create future success at the club it will be important to keep the club's financials healthy and use available cash to improve the youth system so that you can develop replacements for when bigger clubs come calling for your star players.

Luckily Maribor starts off with healthy financials and no debt which means all profits can be re-invested into the club, particularly our youth set up. Creating a world class youth set up that will develop world class Slovenian talent is the main goal of this save. This will allow me to maintain tight control on finances by reducing the need to purchase players.

As defending league champions, Maribor also begins the game in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League. Our goal in that competition will be to reach the group stage which will bring an influx of cash which will be used to upgrade facilities.

So I've laid out the rules and goals for this save. In the next post I will evaluate the club in greater depth and look at the squad before diving into tactics.
 

DreamTempest

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Jun 19, 2015
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Totally agree with the your philosophy mate! Its just what I do in my own games (Except for the Brazilians are overrated part which is completely wrong since we are the football master race/ Just kidding :D )
 

Alienman

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Totally agree with the your philosophy mate! Its just what I do in my own games (Except for the Brazilians are overrated part which is completely wrong since we are the football master race/ Just kidding :D )
Brazilians are great footballers but are over priced. Mostly because they top teams actually have money so they don't have to sell for every offer that comes along. Can hold out for/demand a lot more. But young promising Brazilians are a dime a dozen, with supply and demand their price should be a lot lower.
 

DreamTempest

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Brazilians are great footballers but are over priced. Mostly because they top teams actually have money so they don't have to sell for every offer that comes along. Can hold out for/demand a lot more. But young promising Brazilians are a dime a dozen, with supply and demand their price should be a lot lower.
I know ;) You can get some great ones at good prices but you need some excellent scouting over here so you can see them in lower league clubs before the big clubs ****** them away and their price goes up. And that is very difficult to do unless you have extensive scouting knowledge.
 

Alienman

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Which wont be for a while with a small club like Maribor. Maribor's star player is Brazilian, Marcos Tavares. I'll be highlighting his profile in the next post and talking about how I plan to use him in my tactic.
 

DreamTempest

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Which wont be for a while with a small club like Maribor. Maribor's star player is Brazilian, Marcos Tavares. I'll be highlighting his profile in the next post and talking about how I plan to use him in my tactic.
No worries man I am not taking offense or anything just being humorous about it ;)
Maribor are a good side and following the sort of principles you've set you can go far with it.
 

Alienman

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Welcome to Maribor

With the traditional "Welcome to the Club" meetings out of the way its time to evaluate the club. What sort of shape are the finances, how are the facilities, what players are available to me, and what sort of tactic will I be employing.

The Club

NK Maribor was founded in 1960 and has been the most successful Slovenian club with 13 Slovenian First League titles and 8 Slovenian Cup wins. In fact, Maribor has won the last 6 First League titles, and 7 of the last 8. So obviously I will be expected to carry on that success and am inheriting a squad that is more than capable of doing so. The club hasn't won the Slovenian Cup since the 2012/13 season and although silverware will be nice, that competition will be an opportunity to give some younger players playing time.



The club is currently valued at 6 million pounds, has no debt, and 2.7 million in the coffers. Overall, the club is in a stable position financially but that could all deteriorate quickly if I don't manage things well. Despite the stability, the board has only made 357k available to purchase new players but we are already spending close to the 14.5k weekly wage budget. This situation will help ensure I remain true to the tenants of Moneyball with no option but to rely on what I have.

Maribor's facilities are in great shape. Our stadium holds close to 13,000 spectators and was recently rebuilt in 2008. Our training grounds are rated as Impressive while our youth facilities are considered Good, a situation I plan to improve on. I will also be looking to improve on our Average junior coaching but am pleased with our extensive youth recruitment.

Overall, the club has a great foundation on which to build.

The Players

Maribor has the strongest squad in the First League and should have no problem retaining the title for a 7th straight season. The difficult bit might be holding onto some of the key pieces which may be impossible thanks to the rules of Moneyball. If I receive any offers above their value I must accept.

All of the teams attributes rank near the top of the league. We are one of the biggest and strongest teams. Our midfield rank 1st or near the top in all categories related to ball control so we will be looking to play to our strength and play a possession based game. Unfortunately our forwards are the slowest in the league but they are big, strong and smart off the ball, which will be great for my planned tactic.



Marcos Tavares: club icon, team captain, 4 time fan's player of the year. The Brazilian is the star player in the squad and his technical abilities will be important in our attack. Can play either striker or attacking midfielder. Has scored 102 goals in 248 league matches at Maribor. Club's all-time goal record holder and fast closing in on the appearance record. Should retire at the club as a legend.



Damjan Bohar is a pacey winger with good technical skills, our main threat on the flanks with plenty of potential. Currently has some interest in him but hopefully he wont be leaving anytime soon.



Petar Stojanovic, the wonderkid right back, is the future of the team. Already an international at the age of 19 and has played 34 matches for the club already. I will be hoping to hold onto this gem.



Marko Suler will be expected to use his experience to keep our defense organized. Although past his prime, he will still be very useful.

Tactic

I have settled upon an asymmetrical 4-2-3-1, something I don't normally do. We will be looking to play with a Controlled approach aimed at retaining possession so Team Instructions for Short Passing and Retain Possession have been turned on. Winning back possession quickly is also an important part of possession football so the team has been instructed to close down more. The team has also been instructed to be patient working the ball into the box.

I like to get a lot of movement out of my players, both on and off the ball, in order to draw defenders out of position to have a teammate to run into space. Therefore the team will have a Fluid team shape and the Look for Overlap team instruction has been turned on.



Wide players: The goal of the Inside Forward-Wing Back combination is to have the IFs to cut inside while the WBs overlap down the flank. This movement can have a number of results. First, if the defending full back follows the IF in field, the WB will run into space and be unmarked. Second, if the defending full back stays wide, the IF's infield movement will create an overload in the center field. And third, if the IF stays wide while the WB overlaps they can overload the defending full back allowing one to get open.

ST-AMC Pairing: The goal once again is to create space. My lone Striker will play as a Deep Lying Forward with additional instructions to Roam from Position, Move Into Channels, and Dribble less in order to get him to drop deeper into the midfield and hopefully bring a defender with him. The Attacking Midfielder has been instructed to take advantage of any space created by the Forward movement, basically a False 10. The Advanced Playmaker role has been instructed to Get Further Forward, Move Into Channels, and Roam from Position.

Central Midfield: With so much movement everywhere else on the pitch, the central midfielders have simple instructions and will be asked to be more stationary and recycle possession.

There you have it. A short introduction to NK Maribor, the squad and how we plan to play. I hope you enjoyed reading and don't worry, future posts will be much shorter and more to the point.
 

Alienman

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Stojanovic Signs for Man City

Just a quick transfer update as I am sad to announce that Slovenian wonderkid Petar Stojanovic (who I highlighted in my team evaluation) has signed for Manchester City for a deal around 1 million pounds that could eventually rise to 1.8 million.

Stojanovic had only managed to make 1 appearance for Maribor at right back before moving to England to join the wrong team from Manchester due to an injury. He was out for a couple months with a leg gash at the start of the game, it must have been one **** of a cut.

It was unlikely we would have been able to hold onto Stojanovic long term due to the fact that, at the age of 19, he was our starting right back and full international. Potential like that was always going to draw attention from the big clubs and we received bids from all the top clubs in England. Once a reasonable offer was made, with enough cash up front, it was accepted.

Although Money Ball requires you to accept all offers above a players value, it doesn't say anything about negotiating to get the best price.

A replacement was found for Stojanovic as his departure left us light at right back but that will be covered in the next update which will look at Maribor's transfer business and early season matches, including Champions League qualifying.

Can Maribor make it to the promised land of the Champions League Group Stage? Stay tuned to find out!

 

Alienman

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Kick Off!

The first season at Maribor is officially underway!

Pre-season did not go as plan with some poor results in our three matches. Unfortunately do to other commitments, there was not enough time to get more than 3 matches which was a bit of a bad omen ahead of the First League season and important Champions League qualifiers.

Fortunately any concerns were unfounded and we hit the ground running. Despite not dominating the league like I had over confidently expected we find ourselves top of the table through two months. We are playing good football, controlling possession and moving the ball well but probably not scoring as many goals as I would like, particularly against weaker opponents.




As you can see from our league results, we have been on a good run since dropping an early game in which we performed poorly and they we fortunate with an own goal. The ball was crossed into the box and under no pressure a defender turned into the net. They literally had no players in the box. Infuriating kind of mistake. Luckily things have improved and we are now top of the league.

In the Champions League, we had three rounds to make it through if we wished to qualify for the Group Stage. A tough ask but if we were successful it would mean a substantial amount of income. The extra matches along with some poor scheduling (Wednesday CL games and Friday league games) plus some injuries meant that our team was stretched to its limit already.




Unfortunately our dream of making it to the Champions League Group Stage this season came to an end in the final round against Celtic. We were always going to be in tough against the Scottish champions and after a 1-1 draw away, the home match was a difficult fixture. A late goal from Marcos Tavares equalized the tie and sent it to extra time but an unlucky own goal by our keeper (ball hit the post then bounced off his back) sent us crashing out.

The most disappointing thing about missing out on the Champions League Group Stage is losing that extra income. At least we made a substantial amount of money for participating in qualification and the club balance is now up to 7 million.








Instead of the glitz and glamour of the Champions League we are relegated to Thursdays instead and make our well to the Europa League Group Stage. We are unlikely to make an impact in that competition as well but hopefully it will be another source of income.




Tough draw in the Europa League. The goal will be to not get embarrassed and maybe snag a result or two to build our reputation.


Thanks to the influx of cash from our qualifying campaign, the board has agree to invest in improving our youth facilities. The first step on our way to developing home grown talent.




I know I promised a transfer update, but this post was long enough already. I promise it will be in the next post even though its not that exciting.
 

th3king

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This looks great mate, I'am doing a very similar save with Fortuna Sittard in Holland that I was going to story about!

Good Luck, I'm sure you'll have Maribor challenging in Europe very soon.
 

Alienman

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2015 Transfer Update

As promised, here is a look at my transfers for the first transfer window at Maribor. Not a lot of activity as I didn't see an opportunity to improve the team with the available budget and reputation. Hopefully come next summer we will be able to make a couple signings to strengthen the squad for Champions League Group Stage qualification.



The only major transfer is the departure of Petar Stojanovic to Man City which brought in a nice transfer fee allowing us to make an additional signing. Apart from the sale of Stojanovic, I also loaned out most of the B and Youth team so they could gain match experience. There are some promising youngsters in the system so I am hoping they will see some growth this season. In hindsight though, I might have wanted to keep a couple players at the team because it has left the squad lacking some depth, especially with the number of injuries at the moment.

The players coming in are both young Slovenian players with an eye to the future.




Ziga Kous comes in to replace Stojanovic and add some depth at right back. The plan was for him to rotate with Ales Mejac this season but Mejac has suffered a long term injury and, at the age of 32, has likely seen his chance to be Maribor's number one right back disappear. Between his two teams this season, Kous has been very good so far averaging 7.66 in 8 league games with 3 assists and two Man of the Match performances.




The second player signed this window is Mitja Lotric, a 21 year-old attacking midfielder. He was right away loaned back to Koper where he will get more playing time than he would at Maribor with Marcos Tavares holding down that role. Also capable of playing striker, he possess great attributes for a 21 year old and has the makings of a future star.

Approaches were made for a couple other important parts of the team but fortunately none of the others matched their valuation which allowed us to reject the offers.

Our movement this transfer window has also meant that we have freed up 4.3k p/w in wages which leaves us in a very stable position financially.

Expect the next update to come at the midway point through the season. By then we will be well into the league campaign, finished with the Europa League Group Stage, and perhaps some cup action. Stay tuned for that and more.
 

Alienman

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The Struggle is Real

As expected we struggled in the Europa League, finishing last in our group, but unexpectedly we struggled in the league over the last couple of months. First, let's look at how we faired in Europe.



We managed to earn 4 points in our Europa League group thanks to a shock away win against the Bulgarian side Vorskla and dull draw at home against Valencia, which my assistant manager took control of because I was frustrated with the team. More on that later.



Although I would have like to earn a little more prize money in the competition by getting some more results, I am pleased that we kept everything respectable. Only conceding 7 goals in 6 matches against stronger opposition is a good result and shows that our defense has been doing well. But only managing to score 1 goal is an indication of what has been going wrong. Also, losing 2-0 to Vorskla at home is disappointing as I believe we were pretty even in strength.

We have successfully made it to the semi-finals of the Slovenian Cup, a competition we are expected to win. Things have not gone too smoothly for us, having to over turn a 1-0 first leg home defeat to Second League side and one of our feeder clubs, Aluminij. We managed to pull out a 2-0 win in the second leg to advance.



Now the real problem has been the league. We started out well and had built a 6 point lead atop the table early the season. Things looked like smooth sailing. And then the goals dried up and so did the wins. We weren't scoring but we also weren't conceding so most games were ending in boring draws. Luckily we didn't lose too many matches and have only dropped down to second at the winter break.




What's more worrisome than not scoring goals is the fact that we haven't been creating chances. That means its not the players fault as much as it is the tactic. I've been trying to control possession, which has worked, but have limited creativity and options in the final third. Teams can just park the bus and make it difficult for us to break through.

One of the oddities of the Slovenian season is the winter break. We now don't have any competitive matches from mid-December to the end of February. The squad takes a holiday in January which will allow us to recover form some injuries before playing some friendlies in February. The goals of these friendlies will be to improve moral, regain match fitness, and tweak the tactic so we start scoring goals again.

Originally I did not plan on being active in the winter transfer window but due to our poor performance and the sales of some players, we have had to make some emergency purchases. Hopefully they will pay off and we will retain the Slovenian First League! Look for a jammed pack midseason post next with winter transfers, friendlies, and a new tactic.
 
Dec 26, 2015
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The Bristol City money ball story was the thing that got me first interested in fm, and now that I'm hooked I am looking forward to following your story. Good luck! I'm excited to see you turn Maribor into a European power!
 

Alienman

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Winter Transfer Update


As promised, here is the winter transfer update. As I said in the last post we needed to be active in this window, despite original plans, due to our league performance.

Out:
Marko Suler, the experienced central defender who I had hoped would be an important part of the team, was sold to Sion. At 32 he was declining as a footballer and Sion made a good bid for him. I also wasn't too disappointed to sell him because his match performances had not been good.

Dino Hotic was sold for a good profit to Malmo FF. He is a promising central midfielder but 500k up front plus another 125k was too good to turn down.

Ales Mejac was another aging player who was sold. He had suffered a serious injury and had been bumped from the starting line up by new comer Ziga Kous so it was easy accepted a bid for him.

Winger Sintayehu Sallalich was sold for 500k. The offer exceeded his value so I was forced to accept the offer as per Money Ball rules. But not too saddening as he was excess to our needs.

Overall the sales brought in a good chunk of cash for the squad as well as freeing up a lot of wages.

In:



The biggest signing of the window was Mislav Orsic. The 23 year old Croatian striker brings pace to the front line which had been lacking in the first half of the season. I signed him hoping his pace and technique would allow him to cause problems running at defenses.

Pierre Gevaert was signed for a bargain 2k in order to provide depth at right back. He's a decent right back for the First League so no fear of him challenging Kous for the starting job.

Next update will cover the all important youth intake day. In a save that is focusing on developing Slovenian talent, youth intake day is like Christmas.
 

Alienman

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Christmas!

Youth intake day is like Christmas for football managers trying to develop their own talent. You never know what you are going to get but you are hoping for that shiny new toy.

Here are the highlights from the first youth intake at Maribor.




Simon Plimon has the most potential. Touted as a future star for Maribor, he has great physical stats and hopefully with time his technical skills will improve.




Sinisa Koren also has the potential to be a very good player. His numbers look good already and as a right back he might not be too far away from a first team opportunity. Good fitness numbers and look at those sideburns!



Nino Djordjevic is the last player worth highlighting. He has the potential to be a good player but that probably wont be good enough to get into the Maribor squad. Eventually a "Good First League" player will not cut it for us. Hopefully we can make a nice profit off of him then.

Overall, the youth intake was as expected for the first intake of the save. Hopefully as our facilities improve so will the quality of the youth coming into the squad.

Up next, the final half of the season. Will Maribor kick on and take home the title? Or will the lack of scoring come back to haunt them?
 

Alienman

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End of Season #1

And here we are, at the end of season #1 of the Maribor Money Ball Challenge. At the mid-way point we were struggling for goals and had slipped down to second in the table. It looked like it was going to be a tough battle for the league, so how did we do in the final 16 matches of the season?

Rather than making you wait...



We did it! Maribor has retained the Slovenian First League title with a fantastic second half to the season. We turned our streak of draws into a 15 game undefeated run where we scored for fun. And while we were flying high, Olimpija struggled. Olimpija struggled so much that they fired their manager while still sitting in second. Thanks to our great form, we secured the title with 5 matches to go.

On top of the league title, we also won the Slovenian Cup with a thumping 3-0 win over Olimpija and the season opening Super Cup for the Treble.




A couple tactical tweaks got us flying. I realized my tactic was been too restrictive. I had something like 11 or 12 Team Instruction selected. So I simplified the tactic and used only 4 Team Instructions most of the time. Made for much more open play both offensively and defensively, so while we scored a lot we also conceded more than I like.



Mislav Orsic turned out to be a fantastic signing and did exactly what I wanted him to do: take on defenders and use his pace. 9 goals in 16 appearances was enough to earn him Signing of the Year.

Damjan Bohar was the best performer in the second half of the season and lead the team with 16 goals this season.




Ales Mertelj was voted the Suppoters' Player of the Year. Our deeplying playmaker had a 7.35 average rating in 41 appearances and completed 82% of his passes. An important player for what we did this season but I am a little surprised that he was selected by the fans as Player of the Year over Bohar or Tavares.

Marcos Tavares might not have had as good of season as he has had before in the goal scoring department but I played him as a midfielder more than a striker. At 32 there are some indications of decline, but with 11 goals and 10 assists he still contributed a lot this season. He also came up big in the Slovenian Cup final with a goal and a pair of assists.



Overall it was a very successful season with us meeting all expectations. The board has made a significant amounts of transfer funds and wages available for me to strengthen the squad and push to qualify for the Champions League Group Stage. At the moment I think the money will be best spent on strengthen the defense so that we can be solid at the back against the stronger competition in Europe.

Side note: Slovenia qualified for Euro 2016 so it will be an exiting summer for Slovenian football.
 

SaintMotbot

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Looking good.. Definitely following this. I think you have kinda hit the nail on the head with your tactic and that is FM16 in particular is all about movement and creating space. Great job on winning the league!
 
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