Back in Post Two I set out a whole range of expectations and plans for youth development, including a limit on the ages of players I brought into my senior squad. I felt good – everything was laid out well, and I had a plan.
But plans don’t always come good, especially not in Football Manager.
At the start of the season, I’d promoted Yan Dhanda to the senior side, as he was my best option for depth on the wings, and – importantly at the time – he was 18. The plan was, that he would offer depth on the left wing for Sadio Mane and Correa and he’d get game time in Cups games, with Mane playing the majority of League Games, and Correa bringing home the bacon in Europe.
That is 100% not how things played out. First, an injury to Salah meant that Mane was now filling in on both flanks occasionally, rotating with Chris Cadden, and giving Correa more game time, with Dhanda quite often on the bench. Then, Roberto Firmino succumbed to injury, meaning Mane now had 3 roles which he rotated through, with Correa now first-choice on the left wing, and Dhanda on the bench. As my injury crisis escalated, Correa also took a knock, and although I returned Mane to his left-wing slot, relying on Ings, Solanke and Cadden to cover the striker and Right-Wing positions, Dhanda was getting more game-time than i’d initially planned on.
Now, I feel like I should be clear: giving him game-time isn’t the problem here. The 18 year old racked up two goals in 4 games, with an average rating of 7.20, and a pass completion rate of 80%. For all intents and purposes, he’s been developing incredibly well:
The issue isn’t his development, or even his performances. The issue is his broken ankle, and my resulting injury crisis on the left wing. We’re already way past the transfer deadline, and A cursory glance through my Under 23s (which is where my plan would suggest my replacement should come from) reveals a grand total of one left-winger: Bobby Adekanye.
Now, with all due respect to Bobby, he’s not exactly been lighting it up with the Under 23s – 1 goal in 4 appearances, an average rating of 6.53, and a pass completion rate of 79%. As well as that, his attributes are not what I would expect them to be for a player about to hit the first team. However that being said, he is able to cover all 4 positions which I need cover in: Striker, Right Wing and Left Wing.
Sticking strictly to my policies from Post 2 would mean Bobby gets his first-team chance. But i’m acutely aware that there is a better option in my Under 18 squad:
Ben Woodburn is also capable of covering all 3 positions which I need, and despite only being 17, has much better attributes, and also better performances across the board: 11 goals in 11 games, an average rating of 7.85, and a pass completion rate of 79%.
Dilemma. Do I stick to my structure and promote Adekanye? Or do I go with my gut, break my structure after just 2 months, and give Woodburn a promotion to the Senior squad?
The comparison screen seems to give me my answer, but I decide that this time, i’ll trust the process, and it is – controversially – Bobby Adekanye who gets his senior call-up, and a chance to earn himself a contract extension.