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Tottenham Hotspur Clone League: half season update

With (most) of the database tweaks ironed out, let’s check in on how our league of Tottenham Clones is doing.

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
“Imagine a whole team of THIS!”
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Last week when I debuted the Tottenham Hotspur Clone League, I was banking on me being able to easily figure out many of the fussy details that plague many a Football Manager database editor. The idea of replacing the Premier League with a league of 20 teams populated by clones of Tottenham Hotspur players sure looked straight forward enough.

Find the player, hit <cmd-C>, <cmd-V>, right? How hard could it be?

As it turns out: pretty damn hard! I learned that you have to create clones of players pretty much one at a time, that you have to fully edit the individual clubs, and also homogenize them as much as possible if you want things to be fair. I learned the difference between the “pre-game editor” and the “in-game editor.” I spent $5 on a tool called FMRTE that looks useful but did exactly bupkus for what I actually needed to do. And I learned way, WAY more about “advanced rules” and obscure transfer details than I ever wanted.

But after several days of fervently staring at a database editor and scowling through nearly a dozen test runs of the Clone League, I managed to iron out most... MOST of the kinks. I figured out how to do end arounds past the transfer and loan rules, how to prevent clubs from signing free transfers whenever the hell they wanted, and to stick it to the number of non-homegrown players allowed to register in your side — useful when you have, say, a team of 22 South Korean internationals in an ostensibly English league.

Still, there were some foibles. With the exception of Hugo’s Old Boys, which has a team of ready and willing World Cup goalkeepers, every other team somehow managed to sign some rando crappy computer generated keeper, despite my protestations. I pretty much gave up on that issue, and it at least prevents the other clubs from sticking a clone of, say, Juan Foyth between the sticks.

I also had to figure out how to prevent clubs from taking newly regenerated youth players in January (or on loan) and immediately plonking them into the first team. That problem turned out to be somewhat pernicious, but I managed to somehow get it. I’m still not quite sure how, and I’m also puzzled how the AI would think that a 16-year old kid is better at football than a clone of Victor Wanyama, even if he is playing at left back.

Finally, I took pains to make the clubs as equal as possible. Each club had the same number of cloned players, and I maxed out all their tactical stats at 20. Each club started off with its own manager — a clone of Mauricio Pochettino — and the same preferred tactics: 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1, with shifts to 3-5-2 or 4-1-4-1 depending on personnel overall approach. After that, though, the computer made all the decisions, including which clone to play where.

But enough inside baseball, you’re here for the table.

That’s... hmm, interesting. But not altogether unexpected. Going into this project, I assumed the clubs that feature players that are multipositional and have a varied skillset would have a leg up. I also thought that playing a team of Harry Kanes would have its advantages. In that sense, I was right — Kanerminster Harriers ending 2018 tied at the top is probably the least surprising thing about this table.

I am a little surprised at the success of the clubs with cloned defensive midfielders. Dembelenton Orient, WanyaMan City, and Rushden & Diermonds are all in the top four. Their positional versatility has proven to be an asset — I guess being pretty good at both offense and defense (and REALLY good at midfield) is better than being a stud offensive player and terribad in central defense, or vice versa. That doesn’t explain Hugo’s Old Boys in the Everton role in seventh place, though.

Asteras Trippier — lol.

And shockingly, AC Lamela is solidly in the relegation zone, which really did surprise me. I expected a Lamelized squad to push for European qualification, rabona-ing their way to the top. Guess not. However, I was proven right about one preseason prediction concerning AC Lamela: they picked up a shitload of yellow cards — 54 in one half season of football. (Ironically, that’s only second in the league behind Jan-Buk Hyundai Motors’ 59 cards)

Sharp ends, friendly eliminators.

The AC Lamela situation can best be described from these FM19 “social media” posts, both of which were screen-shotted after the first match of the season. It pretty much sums up Erik Lamela’s actual career, to be honest. I always thought Lamela 19 was going to flame out.

Good Lamela / Bad Lamela

As far as the race for the golden (cloned) boot, perhaps nobody should be surprised at who’s leading the goal tally. A Kane, an Eriksen, and two Sonnys are all in the top five. A Vertonghen being up there is surprising, considering the length of Vertonghen-Prime’s real scoring drought for the actual Tottenham Hotspur until recently. And check out Hugo Lloris 13, scoring seven! I guess having your genetic “father” win the World Cup has its advantages.

Also unsurprisingly, Hugo’s Old Boys has the best defensive record in the Clone League through December, probably because he’s an actual goalkeeper and not some rando 16-year old trialist like the other clubs have.

Miscellaneous notes from the save:

Dele Galaxy became the first club to fire their Pochettino, sacking Pochettino 13 in early November and replacing him with Leonardo Jardim. Other managerial transitions included:

  • Lucastle United (Out: Pochettino 22, In: Zinedine Zidane)
  • Racing Eriksentander (Out: Pochettino 4, In: Antonio Conte)
  • Sonderland (Out: Pochettino 19, In: Jorge Sampaoli)
  • Asteras Trippier (Out: Pochettino 18, In: BIG SAM ALARDYCE LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL)

Not even Pochettino-Prime was safe, as he was sacked by AC Lamela in late December. As of this posting, The Lamelas haven’t made a replacement hire.

For some reason, in every single one of my test saves, the United States Mens’ National Team hired Marcello Lippi as their manager. Every time. So of course, the real USMNT is going to hire Gregg Barhalter.

Cristiano Ronaldo won the 2018 World Player of the Year, because of course he did.

If you were wondering what happened to all the players that used to be in the Premier League, well it was a free transfer bonanza for the rest of Europe. Take Lazio, who ended up signing the following players (among others): Leroy Sane, Wilfried Zaha, Kyle Walker, Anthony Martial, Ashley Young, Hector Bellerin, Luke Shaw, and Michail Antonio. Valencia added Paul Pogba, Fabinho, Jesse Lingard, Benjamin Mendy, and all three of David Ospina, Asmir Begovic, and Jordan Pickford, giving them quite likely the best goalkeeping corps in Europe. But Schalke might have been the big winners, picking up Eden Hazard, Ryan Sessegnon, Mo Salah, Theo Walcott, Richarlison, and Lazar Markovic, all on frees. Post-clone revolution, European football is a weird, weird place.

I’ll be back in a couple of days with the second and final report.

Note: Sports Interactive Games provided me with a complementary digital copy of Football Manager 19 for purposes of this series of articles. I would like to thank Sports Interactive Games for their generosity.