Bolton Back To Europa S6E2 – Time for a Change..

Welcome back guys, this is an episode where we really come to terms with the standard of the Premier League and learn what we’re up against. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but as you will read, the realisation when a trusted tactic doesn’t cut it right now or potentially anymore – something needs to change.

The main focus is the results of September, October & November however, a young first teamer becomes too big for their boots and for the first time in the save, Bolton become the senior affiliate of another club – how times have changed!

Lloyd Greenwood Rebels

Lloyd Greenwood was the first player I ever promoted to the first team after a youth intake way back in season 2. I have developed the lad, he’s played almost 100 matches for the club and I even gifted him the number 5 shirt in his second first team season to show the faith I had in his development and in him as a player. He can play left back, centre back and right back which is quite hard to find as he doesn’t lose star rating in any of the 3 positions.

However, due to his fickle personality he is often one to pipe up in team meetings, whether it be about season objectives or team promises in terms of areas of improvement. Greenwood is often alone when he kicks up a fuss which probably makes him a nuisance amongst the squad.

This season, he approached me to ask for a new contract. My first reaction was great, he wants to stick around and be apart of this madness so straight away I kicked off negotiations – this is where our relationship broke down. Greenwood wanted to be a regular starter however, I feel at this point of his career baring in mind he’s only 20 and for the signings we’ve made he’s a squad player at very best and even that was generous. Greenwood’s agent rejected that and then it happened two more times after the initial negotiation. Now we’re at a point where he has handed in a transfer request which is outrageous disrespect so he is now with the U23s until he is gone.

No player is bigger than the club, its funny because you can all take a look at his stats and the coach report, you’ll see why him demanding regular starter status is comical by his current ability…

League One standard with Championship potential. I could have made you more Lloyd but nobody messes with the bossman.

FC Steaua Bucharest – Affiliate Club

Now that we’re in a position where we don’t require a parent club, the board accepted my request for a feeder team and whilst they came back with a few European options, I decided FCSB also known as Steaua Bucharest. Reasons for this is they’re the most successful club domestically in Romanian Football (despite their many name changes over the years) so any youngsters that join them on loan, they may get an early taste of professional silverware.

They also have a few interesting prospects within the squad who I may invest in if the price is right.

September 2025

Coming into the months where international breaks start, the game schedule is often short and sweet. The 3rd round Carabao Cup is amongst this month as well.

Carrying on from our tough fixture list in August, the boys had Spurs to tend with. A 3-2 loss to the North Londoners but it was a tough one to take. Racing into a 2-0 lead, Spurs brought it back to 2-2 before half time and in true FM style Heung-Min Son threw down the gauntlet in the second half. An own goal following a deflected Tarrelle Whittaker strike and Uriel Antuna carried on his bright start at Bolton with another goal were the contributors from our side.

Not to be disheartened, we faced Burnley next which brought a 3-1 win. This was needed after the last 4 games against four of the big six which was a confidence boosting win. Uriel Antuna (again!) and Tarrelle ‘The Bagsman’ Whittaker scored either side of an unfortunate own goal. 3rd round of the Carabao Cup now where we travel to EFL League 1’s Newport County. This brought a straightforward 2-0 victory courtesy of a Jonathan Afolabi brace in a rotated side, it was a good run out for a few who haven’t been involved thus far.

Last of the month was Sheffield United where we battled back to a 1-1 draw. ‘The Blades’ enjoyed most of the ball throughout the game but a late counter attack allowed Jonathan Afolabi to make it 3 goals in 2 games with a clinical finish. Maybe we didn’t deserve that point but as a newly promoted team you take what you can get.

An average month, still adapting to the Premier League at this point but we need a few more wins under the belt over the next couple of months.

October 2025

Similar to last month, just the 3 league games with the next round of the Carabao Cup which gave us another team in a lower league (How Lucky!!).

Off we travelled to Leeds United but came back home with nothing losing 2-1. This was frustrating as Leeds were below us in the table and in the relegation zone at this point but they got the better of us in the second half. Lewis Bate got us an equaliser in the first half but we just didn’t look good enough to win. Similar story against West Ham resulting in a 3-2 loss. Taking an early lead through Tarrelle ‘The Bagsman’ Whittaker before falling behind, Whittaker then equalised. The kick in the teeth was West Ham going to score 40 seconds after kick off – fuming!

Following a study of the scout and analysis reports for Bournemouth it became clear that our wing play tendencies could get us goals which it did…but then we also conceded the same amount as the defence continues to struggle. 2-1 up at HT thanks to that man again Tarrelle Whittaker & Conor Chaplin, we then had a little collapse and found ourselves 3-2 down in the 65th minute. The team continued to battle and a Tarrelle ‘The Bagsman’ Whittaker equaliser saved our blushes – I don’t think I’ve ever loved a striker this much since FM 2008 when Jason Scotland was at Swansea (one of my best ever saves!)…The pre-2000 born readers will remember him!

Nottingham Forest came to town for the 4th round of the Carabao Cup, with the game going on longer than I would have liked. Confidence is quite low in the camp as the reality of the league hits hard and again we needed a late equaliser to keep us in the game. 2-2 after normal time, goals coming from Tom White & Alex Santana – off to penalties we go. Rather impressively both teams scored their first 5 penalties taking it to sudden death and then ‘Forest hit the post. Uriel Antuna makes the long walk from the halfway line and calmly dispatches meaning we advance. A 6-5 win on penalties but really we should be sweeping these games up in normal time.

Slightly concerned with how leaky we’re coming at the back, at this point maybe the 4-3-3 wing play is leaving us exposed even with a cautious mentality.

November 2025 Part 1

I’m going to split this month in half due to a change I made after the first two fixtures, you will see lower down what was changed and why.

You know, I thought either of these fixtures would bring us a win but again we are grabbing late goals to hang on to a point. Don’t get me wrong the resilience of the team is awesome but I can’t take it every match. The Everton match we were all over them, missing chances left right and centre only to be punished going 1-0 down on the 60th minute. After some pinball in the box, Jonathan Afolabi latched on to a loose ball to slam it home thankfully for 1-1 draw but a winless run is slowly building.

Bottom side Fulham came next and I thought to myself surely this is the one? Clearly not as we again the players save a late point, drawing 2-2. Alex Santana got us off to a flyer 2 minutes in but again we couldn’t sustain the lead conceding twice. Then against the run of play, Tarrelle ‘The Bagsman’ Whittaker saves us getting on the end of a through ball to finish.

It all just got me thinking, its all well and good drawing but draws won’t keep us up especially with losses popping up more than wins.

Tactical Changes

The issue is the formation in my eyes, we’re not good enough right now to play our quick football with width in this league. The midfield 3 get overrun leaving the defence with no hope. My first idea was a 5-4-1 but the more I thought about it, it just made me think of ‘Bruce-Ball’ at Newcastle and 5 at the back just screams negative football to me.

I done some research and came across a tactic made/used by @RdfTactics which I saw on the FM Scout youtube channel (video link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVZQaHE8cJA)

This tactic was a custom counter attacking 4-4-1-1 so I followed the formation and the instructions, I adapted the player roles to my squad however and it came out like this. I’ve also banked a 4-2-3-1 version also that I’d like to use when the squad progresses.

It’s all about winning the ball and getting it up the pitch as quickly as possible and with shoot on sight, when the chance opens up players won’t be afraid to have a strike and we’re lucky enough to have some good finishers and long shot ability within the squad. This isn’t something that I wanted to happen but we need to find some sort of momentum to move this team forward a bit.

November 2025 Part 2

Change of tactic it is with the 4-4-1-1 so let’s see if it can bring us better performances to end of the month but we do have two big teams to face!

Manchester United and Arsenal, two tough games against two bloody good squads! The Man Utd game was a 1-0 loss but defensively we looked a lot better even against their front four of Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Haaland & Karamoko Dembele. I complimented the boys for their efforts as they were not phased by a team of this quality despite the result.

Up next was second placed Arsenal (this is 2025 remember!), we were unlucky not to win. My side were the better team and Arsenal hung on with their centre backs making a series of blocks but on another day it could have been 3 points to us. Playing two top teams with a new tactic isn’t easy but we are definitely looking much more assured in general.

Our fans still filling the stadium to capacity as well despite the form!

I feel more confident with how we’re playing and I’m looking forward to the busy winter period as we could do something with the amount of games that will be played.

League Table

I don’t even know how we’re 15th with only two wins in 14, all them draws are keeping our head above water…just. I think the table will open up by the end of January so we need to get some games won and at least stay around the position we currently are. Then again, I’d be happen with 17th if it meant we didn’t go down!

Finances

Throughout this save, obviously finances have been the issue for the most part up until the end of season 4 but the way we’re looking now I actually couldn’t imagine it when I started this project. Safe to say Premier League is the real deal money wise, its actually something else!

Out of the two saves I’ve blogged (Bolton and Tiga Naga – Far East Express), I never thought I’d see these amounts, I wouldn’t know what to do with the big 6 type of money if I ever had it!

What’s Next?

Up next is one of my favourite parts of the season – the busy winter period! December through to the end of February to be played, the FA cup starts and the transfer window which we’ll look to get stuck into – although sneak preview, there are already two transfers agreed so make sure you look out for them!

Whilst you are exploring the DP-FM site, go take a look at Louis’ (Co-blogger/creator of DP-FM) challenge where he is embarking on his series ‘Unemployed, Unskilled & Inexperienced’ which is currently on season 8. This entails Louis starting from the bottom of his management career with no coaching badges and low attributes to add to the fun!

To go from the start – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-season-1-episode-1/

Or to go from the current season – https://dpfmblog.com/2021/03/22/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-s8-ep-1-premier-league-preparations/

Thanks all for reading, as always I hope you enjoyed and I appreciate your time to read the blogs. Take care out there and I’ll be back next week 🙂

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