After an initial Football Manager break of a few weeks, I came back and started a fresh new save. I decided to go with the club that I wanted to start FM17 with: 1. FC Kaiserslautern, the “Red Devils” (Roten Teufel). This save “saved” my love for Football Manager and thus has a special place in my FM heart.
“Lautern” is one of the most storied clubs in Germany. Their title winning sides of the 1950’s were the core of the 1954 West German World Cup winning squad. Their second great period came in the 1990’s. During this decade, despite a relegation, they won the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal twice. The last ten years have been less than mediocre and the club have spent most of that time in the 2nd Bundesliga. So I decided to try and help Kaiserslautern, with its amazing supporters and stadium, rediscover long lost glories.
I’m not going to go into extreme detail as to what all has happened, but will rather catch you up in a quick season-by-season overview. I am currently still playing the save and have just finished the winter break in season 4 (2019/2020).
Season 1 (2016/17)
The first season started, as mentioned above, in the 2nd Bundesliga. I replaced Norbert Meier, who should never be allowed to manage such a great club. I needed to make a few squad changes, but with limited funds creativity was needed.
The first half of the season went well, but we were far too inconsistent for my liking. I tried building an Atletico inspired 4-4-2, but in the winter tested the very popular 4-3-1-2 Narrow formation and it worked like a charm.
At the end we achieved promotion (and championship) rather comfortably ahead of Dynamo Dresden, but the real highlight of the season was entirely unexpected.
That’s right, we won the DFB Pokal! It was anything but an easy run. We had to beat five Bundesliga sides to win the competition, including Bayer Leverkusen in the final.
Not only did promotion give us a huge financial boost, but the money from the cup and subsequent qualification for the group stages of the Europa League were much needed. We had certainly overachieved in my first season.
Transfer of the season was Lukan Haruna.
A free transfer, the Nigerian international was a key part of our success (and remains so in season 4). He was so good in fact that he won the 2017 “African Player of the Year” Award.
Season 2 (2017/18)
Back in the Bundesliga, Kaiserslautern was set to “battle bravely” against relegation. Our budgets were still tight, but we were debt free, which was important to me. Naturally following a promotion, there was quite a bit of squad upheaval.
I changed my formation from the 4-3-1-2 to a slightly more conservative 4-3-2-1 (which I will highlight in a different post). We were solid in central areas and created a decent amount of chances. At the winter break we sat 3rd in the league. After a few bad results our form dipped in the spring, but we still finished an extremely respectable 5th, which ensured another season in the Europa League.
Speaking of the Europa League, our first continental campaign was absolutely amazing!
We made it all the way to the final. Yes, there were a few tight scrapes along the way, but who cares?
At the end, Manchester United were just that little bit too strong. As you can see, however, we gave a more than respectable account of ourselves.
Unfortunately, the defense of our DFB Pokal title didn’t go so well and we were knocked out in the 3rd round by hated RB Leipzig 1-2.
Transfer of the season has to be Joel Pohjanpalo from Bayer Leverkusen for only €1.2 million.
His goals were (and still are) key to our great first season back in the Bundesliga.
Season 3 (2018/19)
Achieving 5th the previous season brought in a good amount of cash to the club. I knew that I had to invest quite a bit in the transfer market if we wanted to progress this season. We desperately needed to add more quality depth to the side.
There was no amazing cup run this season. We ran into Borussia Dortmund in the 3rd round of the DFB Pokal (losing on penalties after a thrilling 3-3) and the quarterfinals of the Europa League (4-6 aggregate loss).
The league proved to be a different story. We finished the first half of the season top of the table (Herbstmeister). Once again we had a slight dip in form in the spring, but we still managed to finish 2nd (Vizemeister) and qualify directly for the Champions League group stages! In the span of just three seasons Kaiserslautern went from a club in debt and crisis, to one considered “rich” and playing in the Champions League.
Transfer of the season was youngster Martin Kramaric, who came from Maribor for €1.5 million.
Instead of playing him as a striker, I opted to play him as the attacking midfielder (on attack duty) sitting behind our deadly complete forward (either Pohjanpalo or Colidio). Hampered a bit by injuries, he was still impressive in every match.
Season 4 (2019/20)
This is my current season. Despite qualifying for the Champions League and getting a lot of money for finishing second the previous season, I only received a relatively modest transfer budget. So once again creativity, bargain hunting and getting youngsters was the plan.
As I mentioned earlier, we just finished the winter break and Kaiserslautern once again find themselves atop the Bundesliga at the halfway point.
For the first time since season 1, we have also advanced past the 3rd round of the DFB Pokal and will face 2nd Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg in the quarterfinals. In the Champions League we barley advanced out of our group (behind Manchester United, but ahead of Celtic and Porto) and now have the unenviable task of facing PSG in the 1st Knockout Round…Yikes!
The winter transfer window doesn’t close for another week, but I am done making deals at this point. As such, I’m already confident to name the transfer of the season and it’s very clearly our new keeper Roman Bürki.
Even though Julian Pollersbeck was a decent keeper for us the previous three seasons, he costs us way too many goals and points. An upgrade was desperately needed and Bürki fit the bill perfectly. I love a sweeper keeper and he is great at that role.
Once I end season 4 I will post another update. Depending on time commitments, I’m hoping to even get a fifth season out of this save before the FM18 Beta drops. I also want to show you all my 4-3-2-1 tactics and some of the great youngsters that have made an impact on my Kaiserslautern side.