2055 Open Thread – Malmö FF
January / February 2055 – Odds & Ends, Squad Review.
I thought our incoming transfer business was done in December, but when Napoli came in for Mathias Nautrup (a player who was not going to be in our 1st XI), we had to let him go.
Especially because we’ve had our eye on Burkinabe youth international Oumarou Salou, and could quickly lodge a bid. He’ll arrive in March.
Which means that we’ll kick off the campaign with a 20-man squad. I typically want to have two full XIs when my teams are competing in Europe, but I was willing to let players go even though: (1) I don’t expect us to progress far in the Europa Conference League knockout rounds; and (2) we missed some of our transfer targets, after players opted to sign for clubs in more prestigious leagues.
It isn’t ideal. But I would rather proceed with a slightly thin squad, than keep players around who have no future.
Per usual, our primary tactics will be the strikerless and inverted strikerless versions of PM Haaienkanon, with PM Haaientand available if needed against superior opposition in continental competition.
So, what does the squad look like, on the eve of our first competitive match of the campaign? Let’s take a quick look.
Our starting goalkeeper will be Elvin Hansson, with Alban Moluku as his understudy. Andreas Wikstrom remains the gem of our youth academy, but he isn’t quite ready to step up to the 1st team just yet.
I’m not convinced that any of these three are good enough to be in the 1st XI for a Champions League winning side, but Moluku and Wikstrom have time (and room) to grow. This group should be more than good enough in the first phase of our tenure at Malmo — reasserting our domestic dominance.
Brighton Letsholonyane is our starting libero, and has no designated backup. We will look to sign someone to support him in the summer transfer window (as one would expect, several of our targets opted to sign for clubs in more prestigious leagues).
Our starting centerbacks will be Joacim Nyberg and Joakim Englund, with Axel Helkamo and Joakim Sundin in the 2nd XI. Helkamo is the eye-catching player here. Lots of promise, and I love the thought of targeting him on our attacking free kicks, especially against domestic competition.
Fotis Pasialis and Carlos Alberto will be the wingbacks in our 1st XI, with Christian Andersson lined up to take over on the right flank in the next year or two. Ludvig Jonsson provides depth on the left flank, but is not much to look at. Andersson is the eye-candy at wingback — if he can develop, we’ve got an extremely strong player on our hands.
Former Panathinaikos youth prospect Tasos Kakiousis will be our starting roaming playmaker, backed up by Fredrik Akesson. A solid duo — Kakiousis will also provide depth at libero, and/or at mezzala as needed.
As noted in the 2054 Open Thread, our starting mezzalas will be Karl “William” Isaksson and William “Isak” Karlsson. I know. I get them confused, too. Robert Carlsen is the primary backup here, until Oumarou Salou arrives in a few weeks’ time.
Attacking Midfielders / Forwards.
Up top, Gorka Garcia and Patrick Lindegaard will lead the attack. You’ll note that both are converted wide players, and that neither is a natural goalscorer. My hope is that, for our immediate purposes this will suffice — after all, players don’t need a high “finishing” attribute to put the ball in the back of the net. It doesn’t hurt, though.
Amund Lochen needs time to settle in, but he could be that goalscorer for us. Orhan Polat has been promoted from the Reserves to see if he can earn a spot in the squad — he isn’t going to lead us to a continental title, but he might have a role to play.
I’m not going to make any bold predictions. We aren’t ready to march on Europe. Yet.
This is a squad that should be capable of holding its own domestically, though. And that’s the first step.
We need to win the Svenska Cupen as the campaign kicks off, to earn a spot in the 2055/56 Europa League. Fail to win it, and we’re looking at no continental football until the summer of 2056, at the earliest. That’s grim.
Full credit to Mathias Jorgenson’s men who are having an incredible campaign, still sitting 3rd, one spot above Julian Nagelsmann’s Sevilla who have claimed an incredible 17 straight La Liga titles following their 2027/28 Champions League title.
Our attention now returns to the Svenska Cupen…our only chance for European football in the fall.
This is what it all boils down to. Whether we play European football over the next 12 months hinges on 90 minutes against Shkodran Mustafi’s IFK Norrkoping in the Svenska Cupen final.
It’s far from pretty, but we don’t care. We’re off to the Europa League after a dire win on penalties.
Our start to the domestic campaign has not been perfect. We’ve stumbled, but are very much in the mix sitting 1 point off AIK at the top of the Allsvenskan.
I’m hoping to sign 2-3 players in the summer transfer window, to continue rebuilding and shaping the squad.
In particular, I’m in the market for a left wingback and backup libero. I’ve got my eyes on a few players. But the real question isn’t who is available — rather, the question is who is willing to join our revolution.
June 2055 – European Review.
Since the Open Thread has shifted to a calendar year format to track Sweden’s domestic calendar, we will not wait until the end of the campaign to embark on our annual look at what has happened around Europe.
In the Champions League, Matthias Kaltenbach’s West Ham defeated Hugo Lloris’ Roma, 2-1, to follow-up on last year’s Europa League triumph.
In the Europa League, Wolfsburg beat Josuha Guilavogui’s Tottenham, 2-nil.
In the Europa Conference League, Nico Elvedi’s Toulouse were ruthless against Nikola Moro’s Barcelona, claiming the title with a 4-nil win.
We’re encouraged by the excellent report from the Academy, but we’ll wait to see if our first “class” in Sweden lives up to the hype.
Zlatan isn’t holding his breath. We sign Arnel Bihorac ($1.8M, Velez Mostar), Johan David ($3.3M, Frosinone) and James Akena ($150k, Express), each of whom will join our 2nd XI when the summer transfer window opens in mid-July.
The plan with Bihorac was to sell the petulant Ludvig Johnsson, but Caen and Lille triggered Fotis Pasialis’ $2.5M release cause. Accordingly, the utter **** Jonsson will take over in the 1st XI, with Bihorac in the 2nd XI.
Orhan Polat, another complainer, is off to Proleter to make room for David.
Joakim Englund is off to Sunderland for a sizeable fee, after the Black Cats managed to avoid insta-relegation for the first time in decades. I had not planned on Englund leaving, but Akena’s arrival means that someone had to leave. And, at 27, Englund did not have a future with Di Blåe. Either Akena or Helkamo will step into the 1st XI.
The good news continues to roll in, as Sweden climb to 9th in the coefficients table, meaning that the Allsvenskan winner will be seeded directly into the Group Stage, beginning with the 2056/57 campaign.
Zlatan knows he could do a job at libero. In a different era. A different time. I would have played him there.
But that isn’t an option these days.
Instead, we’ve brought Anvar Qurvonov on board, dubbed the “Uzbeki Zlatan” by some guys who saw a highlight film on YouTube. Frankly, I don’t see the physical resemblance. He’s not fast enough to play up top for us. But if he brings Zlatan’s swagger to the pitch on matchday, they can call him whatever they want as he wreaks devastation from deep.
A tough draw for the Europa League playoffs, as we will face Dynamo Kiev.
There’s no getting around it. We were poor in the 1st leg, losing 1-nil in Kiev.
While I had no plans to make further moves in the transfer market, Patrick Lindegaard threw his toys out of the pram when I rejected an offer from Perugia.
So when Perugia came back again with a second offer, there was really nothing to do but put him on the market and hope that a feeding frenzy would result.
And a feeding frenzy did ensue, with Hammarby and IK Sirius making offers. Which gave Zlatan license to text the latter’s Chairman “r u sirius, lol no” during initial negotiations. So, we had that going for us.
It will come as no surprise to learn that we’ve been after Abrahamsson since our arrival in Sweden, with our scouts in regular attendance at the AIK Reserves and U18 matches, with ongoing efforts to tap him up. In the end, we paid more than I would want to. But he’s extremely solid — I had entertained the notion of retraining him as a libero — if it wasn’t for Qurbonov‘s arrival earlier in the window (and the need to replace Lindegaard), I would do it. As it is, he’ll pair with Johan David to lead the line in our 2nd XI.
In the end, after planning to make “2-3 signings” in the summer transfer window, we made…5. Yep, 5. I was never very good at math.
After the madness of deadline day, we had a job to do at the Malmo Stadion against the Ukrainians. A 1-goal deficit to overcome, or else fall into the Europa Conference League.
A 35th-minute goal from Gorka Garcia meant that we were in the running, but we were an XI comprised of Emile Heskeys in front of goal. 40 shots, only 17 on target…and only 1 in the ol’ onion bag. Meaning passage would be determined by the lottery of penalties. But we held our nerve. We prevailed, smashing all 5 of our penalties home.
The Europa League Group Stage awaits. We will face Corentin Louakima’s Manchester United, Corentin Tolisso’s Auxerre, and Xanthi.
Life in Malmo moves at a different pace. A slower, more enjoyable pace, one might even say. Away from the incessant furor and spotlight of the “bigger” leagues in Europe.
I don’t know if it is the excessive quantities of Knäckebröd and pickled herring we have each morning for breakfast with our customary grapefruit, but there’s something that just feels … right … here.
That being said, the youth intake was slightly disappointing. Felix Rosenberg, Abdulaziz Petros, Gokhan Aydemir and Fredrik Nablsi are the most promising prospects, but it is hard to say whether any of them will ultimately make the grade.
In the Europa League, a promising draw away to Auxerre was followed by a disastrous draw against Xanthi in Sweden. Not good enough. Certainly not with the fixture congestion that we are about to encounter, with 2 ties against United.
Why do things the easy way? With losses away to GIF Sundsvall and at home to Hammarby, we certainly made it harder on ourselves than we needed to.
After the Hammarby match, I forced Zlatan to apologize to the squad for his pre-match speech. I can’t prove it, but I think his attempts to inspire them were undermined by the sheer length of his remarks.
“The Zlatan… He is very the sorry for going on so long. But, when it comes to inspirational Will Smith quotes, how can the Zlatan limit Himself to just 10?!”
Allsvenskan champions. With a spot secured in the 2056/57 Champions League Group Stage. But our campaign is not done. We travel to Old Trafford next.
November / December 2055.
The hallowed ground at Old Trafford. A familiar venue, after all these years. We do not carve out a name for ourselves in history on Matchday 4, although a 2-nil loss is perhaps better than we had any right to expect.
While the Europa League rumbles on, we’re planning for the future. Robin Dahl ($2.3M, Orebro) and Ryszard Kotowicz ($875k, GIF Sundsvall) arrive to great fanfare, as we ramp up our efforts to secure the most promising young Swedish players in the country. Dahl will play as a mezzala; Kotowicz will train as a roaming playmaker.
I’m very pleased with both signings, but Alexander Andersson ($4.2M, Helsingborgs) is the savory part of this Surströmming. Sure, with that flair he’ll never be a libero (or bring the house down at karaoke), but he could be a brilliant centerback.
A comprehensive 2-nil win over tycoon-fueled Auxerre followed, staking our claim for a spot in the knockout rounds even though the margins are thin.
Yet, in Greece, our quality shines through. Another 2-nil win secures passage through to the Europa League knockout rounds.
December 2055 – Season Review.
A full year has passed since our arrival in Sweden. 2 trophies are in the bag, and the foundations are laid for our continued advancement in Europe.
The squad “revolution” is complete, but Zlatan will tell you the only good revolution is one that never ends.
I prefer to think of the path forward as a gentle “evolution” after the work we’ve put in, to-date, but know that if I use that word he’ll just start shouting at me again in rapid-fire Klingon. (He thinks it sounds intimidating. We just surreptitiously record him and put it on the internet.)
The plan for now is to recruit two wingbacks for our 2nd XI, as Ludvig Johnsson and Carlos Alberto have been shown the door. Joacim Nyberg has already left, to make room for Andersson. Tasos Kakiousis and William Karlsson are next…
…which makes for 5 senior players leaving.
Goals for 2056: Make a run in the 2055/56 Europa League knockout rounds. Win the Allsvenskan. Not embarrass ourselves in the 2056/57 Champions League.
If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry. The basic concept behind the Nearly Men save is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Nicolaj Bur’s story can be accessed through the Nearly Men Archive.
And if you just can’t get enough…join us for The Ballad of Toothless Bob, a series that explores the world of Nicolaj Bur, away from the pitch. What is Project Arcturus? What lies beyond the twisted redstone door, deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu?