#FM17 : Hapoel Hope 1.23 : Wagner in the ring

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Hapoel Ashkelon FC’s third pre-season friendly (don’t worry: I won’t be commenting on every match) was against Ironi Kiryat-Gat. We won, which was to be expected since they’re only A League: on other hand, they were at home.

But the result can be forgotten. Which I can’t afford to say about their goal. As with Rostock’s in our first game, the opposition didn’t have to do any work. Simple through ball, again a striker left unmarked centre-left of our box; simple finish. If our centre-backs keeps switching off like that, my secret wager on us going down will prove a wise investment.

But the focus of this post is not the match, but some decision-making. I’ve described in a previous post the method I used for searching for the second left-back that we unquestionably need. So how’s that turned out?

We scouted scores of prospects but shortlisted only six. One of them we can’t really afford; one of them costs more than I want to pay; one you’d sign only if you had to; and one is a 35 year-old with a great name (Dundee Okongo – I like Dundee) but some worrying injury history.

That leaves two hot leads, both of whom I’ve signed on a trial basis and both of whom have now had game time. Performances in friendlies don’t tell you much about the quality of players, but they do at least allow you to see what kind of players they are.

In one corner we have Ofek Bentulila (24), who looks a good all-round player: unfortunately, he’s right-footed. He’s also quite aggressive and not very composed: might there be a flurry of cards and penalties? He’s affordable, but not bargain-basement.

In the other corner is Manuel Wagner (20). The good thing about Manuel is that he’s fast and can tackle. The bad thing is: that’s about all he can do. As an Angolan he’d take up one our foreign-player slots. He’s very affordable, if for a reason.

What I’ve liked most about Wagner in the friendlies is that I didn’t much notice him. As the stats tend to confirm, he didn’t do much wrong.

I decide to save money and go for Wagner. He’s only back-up; the contract’s for one year only. And a bonus, equivalent to 25% of his annual wages, for avoiding relegation should incentivise the lad.

The search process has yielded rather what I was expecting: an underwhelming but very affordable back-up who, I hope and in part believe, can do a job for us, if and when required.