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Pressing Football Blog

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home grown @ liverpool 4. SEASON 2

Season 1 was a rather quiet one. We finished 6th, saw all but a few of our International first team members leave and replaced them with British talent. We survived a tough spell of 6 league games picking up only a point and started to settle on a tactic. Now to run through Season 2.

Transfers

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Firstly, it is worth noting that my transfer budget was large. Nearly £100m. But I never spent a penny of it.

 

Roberto Firmino eventually was snapped up by Bayern, who got the player for nearly £25m less than his value. This was compensated however through the inflated prices we received for Balotelli and Markovic. Allen and Carroll, two home-grown players left the club. Allen was rarely featuring and due to my real life love for the guy, I had to set him free. Carroll on the other hand started in most of my cup games, consistently scoring a match rating of 7, but I decided that I would rather have U21 players in this squad role this season as I have realised that this is going to be the best way to get quality into my first team. Bids for Stones and Kane would have had to be over £100m each to even get the player to talk to us, Walcott would have cost £75m and The OX another few million on top. The elite players do not want to join and their clubs price us out of trying. Rather annoyingly, Matip joins the club after Klopp signed him up. I will have to loan him out this year and cash him in next season, as I don’t think he would be willing to leave as early as January.

 

My big money signings were midfielders. Drinkwater was snapped up to play in the holding midfield role, and Delph was prized away from his dark season in City’s U21s. I have high hopes for these adaptable midfielders. Young prospect Cook was bought and loaned to new affiliate club Reading whereas Hendrick will stay and rotate with Henderson. Heaton was purchased to be Butland’s understudy which allows us to loan out Ward to play first team football at the Madjeski too. He will be followed south by new signing Hause, a versatile defender who can play CB or LB comfortably. Excluding any youth players, my cheapest purchase was Andy Carroll for £1.7m. I would say this is a risk but due to the financial situation of the club, there really isn’t any risk involved. Some games last season I felt I was lacking another option, as Wilson and Sturridge are very similar and the thinking is that off the bench, Carroll gives us a second option to mix up our style. Considering we have a minus net spend and I have strengthened the positions I wanted to (in goal, in central midfield and a striker), I am very  happy with the window, knowing we have a small fortune to take with us into January, if any top players want to join us.

 

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Premier League

Board’s expected finish: Euro Cup qualification

Mid summer and the fixtures drop. Leicester, United and Spurs and Liverpool’s bogey team Palace were the first four games. 3-0 win at Leicester, 2-0 win hosting United and a comfortable home win against Palace (plus the 3-0 drubbing handed to us by Spurs) set us off to a good start. City and Chelsea both lost at Anfield before the New Year, leaving us in a healthy position to achieve European qualification. Our home form against the big teams was not replicated away from Anfield. Loses to United, City and Arsenal were tough to take.

Below is the league with just two games to go…

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Neck and neck. It all ultimately came down to one think. The fixture list. Whilst City played two bottom half teams, our penultimate game was against Chelsea. Our title hopes slipped away in a 3-1 defeat which even saw John Terry score his only goal of the season. A win on the last day left us in 3rd.

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Chelsea did it. City and Guardiola took maximum points too and we stayed in 3rd. If you had offered me third at the start of the year I would have taken it. Champions League football returning to Anfield and the Board are delighted we have overachieved. For me, the worse results of the season were the consecutive away defeats at Sunderland and Bournemouth. Dropping 6 points against two mid table sides is the difference between third and first.

 

Europe

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Yet again, we finished top of our group with maximum points. This year however we did concede one goal in the group stages. What should have been an easy tie against Lokomotiv Moscow, well, wasn’t. It came at a terrible time with injuries, as I’ll explain later. The Russian team sat back, and gave us no space to exploit behind their flat back five. Plan B (Andy Carroll) was deployed in both legs but it didn’t work. We shouldn’t have lost to a team like this. The Board were happy with our performance however as they only wanted us to reach the 1st Knockout round. I however was not happy.

 

Domestic Cups

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Let’s put it this way… We had two brief encounters with cup football. After scraping through against Championship Newcastle, we faced David Moyes’ Chelsea in the 4th round. Our habit of attracting big teams in this competition continues. Normally being knocked out of a cup by the champions to be is understandable, but this result really got to me. Have a read of the news story…

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This is it. The epitome of this whole challenge. A purely home grown side could not beat a purely international team. Is this a sign to say that we will never win anything? It certainly feels like it could be. We have never been good at penalties, have we.

 

Injuries

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I am not a sore loser… but I am certain we could have won the league had it not been for a few key injuries. Ibe had been a key performer for us, winning various player of the month awards and consistently scoring over 7.5 in the big games. Sturridge was our second choice striker and as a result of him being out for 4 months, Wilson looked very tired in parts. Clyne was our best full back and was integral to the success we had down the right flank. With no attacking option to replace him, we did lose the threat of his overlapping runs. It’s easy to say that if X had happened then we would have achieved Y, but when you best left winger misses 40% of your season, results suffer.

 

Review

This season was a success. Yes, we don’t have any trophies. But we overachieve in the league, something Liverpool haven’t done in a long time, we brought through lots of exiting younger players and we were consistent. We pushed on from last year’s league finish and put ourselves back on the map as a Champions League team.

 

From a personal point of view, I (finally!) received recognition for using a home-grown squad. From the Swansea manager. Hardly life changing…

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After Pep was sacked for finishing second (ironically it was Barca who knocked him out of Europe this season), City offered me an interview which I respectfully declined. Eventually Moyes jumped ship from his title-winning side to the other blue side.

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Callum Wilson had an unbelievable year. With so much pressure on him to score consistently, what with Sturridge’s injury, Callum stepped up and then some. Finishing top scorer on 32 goals in the league, he scored 38 goals in 40 appearances all season, averaging a fantastic 7.49. After a slow start last year, scoring 11 league goals and 18 all season, this improvement is remarkable. His understanding of his role in the team is much better, but credit should also go to the wide men. Redmond, Gray and Ibe have all improved dramatically and between them they must have set up at least 75% of the goals Wilson scored. The offers for Wilson are bound to come in, but the boy is going nowhere any time soon.

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My other stand out player is again, Nathan Redmond.  Averaging 7.91 in the league, Redmond is potentially the best player in my squad. His improvements have lead to him doubling his goals scored and assists made figures from the previous season which is an astonishing feat. He made the Player’s Team of the Year and was their Player of the Year. I see a new contract being offered very soon indeed.

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Other notable mentions go to full backs Clyne (averaged 7.78) and Cresswell (7.47) and midfielders Hendrick (7.39) who settled straight into the EPL alongside JWP (7.38).

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England…

I want to really briefly talk about the England set up. This is where more Liverpool success can be seen. The main squad currently features 7 Liverpool players, including the still uncapped Wilson. The U21s is home to 6 Liverpool stars, 5 of which are key first team players at Anfield and the U20s features 5 of our youth prospects. This is really pleasing and can be seen as a measure of success for this challenge. Numerous news stories this season have mentioned the ‘Liverpool Bias’ of the England squad’s but they can be seen as a testament to our project.

 

 

My plan now for the save is to holiday for a few years to monitor the outcomes of this challenge. I have had plenty of fun playing this save, but I am interested to see how another manager fares with my home-grown squad and with other commitments creeping back in, this seems like a good compromise. I will holiday one full season as manager before resigning and then we will give the incoming manager a season or two to evaluate his performance. I am aware that the new manager is more than likely to buy in foreign players, but I am hoping that by then our current players will be such a well oiled machine that we will not feel the need to add too many new faces. Either way, we can evaluate the success of the home grown players and assess the challenge. Thanks for reading as always.

 

home grown @ liverpool- 3.

So how did season one finish? Can we say that the first year was a success? Did I keep my job? Let’s find out…

First things first. My internatinal cleansing continued and I have finally got rid of Benteke for a measly £15m to Juventus after turning down bids of £7m from multiple EPL clubs. Firmino stays however as no club wants him. Liverpool’s best player has been offered to clubs for half of his value, as well as a wage contribution from us, and no one wants him. Looks like he will be with the U21s for another few months.

How did the team perform across the competitions?

Premier League…

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Last time round I spoke about how crucial the next few games, starting at Swansea, would be and as the schedule shows, they didn’t go well. At all. No wins in 6 games. We went 3-0 down to United in the first half hour, conceded late goals to Chelsea, Arsenal and West Brom and yet again delivered a shocking performance against Sunderland. I was convinced this was the end for my tenure as Liverpool manager but the Board showed mercy. Actually, they didn’t even speak to me. Must have been on holiday from New Year till March with my side taking 1 point from the first 6 games of 2016…

Things did turn around however, with our real run of form starting at home to City. We managed to counter attack a Man City counter attack and snatch a big 3 points. The season ended with four, nerve-wracking 1-0 wins in a row, with new signing and midfield maestro JWP scoring a world-class winner on the stroke of half time away at Stoke. But where did this leave us in the league?

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6th. Not too bad from where I’m sitting. To turn our league form around as we did, I am relatively proud of our position. We met the Board’s expectation in a season where we saw a major overhaul of first team players, with most of our best players leaving to other clubs, some of who were divisional rivals. The crazy thing is we were only three points of Spurs in 4th. We should have easily picked up another four points on the turn of the year in that dreadful spell of form and that would have got us into one of those top four positions. Maybe I should just be happy to have kept my job! Either way, Euro Cup qualification was secured much to the Board’s delight.

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Cup competitions and Europe…

Well let’s look at the Capital One Cup firstly.

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We comfortably dispatched Leicester over two legs, and the Foxes have become a team I love to face after beating them four times this season. But it was Arsenal who delighted their fans with the trophy, edging what was a tough game that was ultimately won on penalties. For me, the game was lost in the 72nd minute when Scott Dann was sent off and we didn’t have the legs to push forward over the next 50 minutes of game time against a frighteningly good Arsenal side. Penalties is a tough way to lose but considering the teams we faced in each round we can be proud of our performance in this cup.

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The FA Cup however didn’t go to plan. Clearly all our luck was used up on the Capital One competition. We beat Villa in the 3rd round before drawing to Cardiff in the 4th, who eventually beat us in a replay. On penalties. Again. Bottled it. We did play a weaker team but this isn’t an excuse. If anything, maybe our late league form was helped by only playing once a week and being able to rest more in between games.

We left last time ahead of our First Knockout round tie against Sampdoria. We beat the Italians 2-1 over two legs, and as expected faced Athletic Bilbao in the next round and it was here that our weaknesses were first exploited in this competition. Tournament top scorer Raúl Garcia did the damage. Our young central defenders couldn’t stop him and we were unable to take the chances that came our way. Bowing out at this stage was one step further than was expected, and again may have been a factor in our late season league form.

It would have been nice to win a trophy here but there’s always next year.

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End of season review…

8.pngSo here are the awards sent to my inbox. As you can see, Redmond cleaned up making the team of the season and winning theyoung player of the season and signing of the season awards. Redmond was awarded Player of the Match 6 times from 25 league starts and scored 5 goals and made 6 assists in this time. With an average rating of 7.35 I agree he had a fantastic year.

For me however the signing of the season was JWP. In what was his first season as a first team regular in the EPL, JWP made 34 league appearances and averaged 7.18 in the league. He had a habit of scoring or finding an assist when we most needed it and was the player I always looked to when we needed something special. It surprises me that he doesn’t feature in the top 3 for the Fan’s Player of the Season.

And how did the season go for me personally? OK, I guess. I won Manager of the Month in April and earned myself a new contract until 2019. But it took me too long to find a tactic that worked (enough) and this is probably the reason we didn’t secure a top 4 finish. The Board seem to be happy with the season, probably only because we signed a huge number of young players for the first team, one of my objectives, and finished where we said we would in the league, all with a net spend of only £63m; a figure that these days is acceptable.

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The tactic that we will take with us into our second season is a 4-1-4-1. We have found success playing a counter attacking style of football, sitting deep and getting the ball forwards quickly once we have won it back. Sitting deep often creates lots of space for the Wingers and Complete Forward to get behind the back four and this is often where our goals come from. I am really looking to add a more defensive minded midfielder, something I don’t have now, to sit in front of the back four. This tactic works well but needs to be tweaked against certain opposition.

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Season One…

We achieved Euro qualification with only home grown players. Youngster like JWP, Gomez and Redmond have become key players and maybe we could see their key attributes shoot up to 20 (a boy can dream). Going into next year, I simply want us to finish higher than we did this year. I didn’t realise how tough it would be to sign top home-grown players. The very best English players do not want to join us. So instead we will try and sign young prospects and try to develop them whilst blooding through our U18 and U21 prospects. We will try to invest heavily in our youth. This project was intended to be a quick success but I feel that actually the nature of only being able to sign and play home grown players means this is a real long term save. I have doubts whether we could every win the league without extra international players, but can we at least challenge for the top spot?

 

Join us next time where we will run through the save from the end of the first season until the end of the second season. Can we add a trophy to the cabinet? Which youngsters will become first team starters and will I keep my job?

 

home grown @ liverpool. 2

And we are back! Time to see how my mission to succeed at Liverpool with only British players is faring. We left last time only a few games into the season after a mixed transfer window. Now we are in January, it is time to look back at the first half of the season, see how the results have gone and check the progress of some of the new signings.

The first thing to tell you is that I made one last signing in the first transfer window. James Ward Prowse.

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I wanted a midfielder that offered something slightly different and paid big money to get this guy in (£23m to be precise). In the first few games I noticed a lack of quality from set pieces and my central midfielders seemed to lack the final ball on occasions to get the attackers into the right positions. And I signed JWP to fix this. He is only 21 and surely will progress to become my captain and an England starter. I didn’t want to tempt fate but I may have given him the number 8 shirt…

 

Premier League…

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We are so inconsistent. Painfully. After counter attacking so well against Man United in the second game, we hosted Sunderland and can’t kill them off. Cattermole scored an absolute wonder goal, as per usual, and we had the bulk of the possession but couldn’t score the goals we deserved. Arsenal and Chelsea showed our vulnerability in defence, with both correctly picking Robertson as my weak spot.

Before the West Brow game, I added a new tactic in a bid to change our fortunes and to get Wilson into the box even more so. We went 4411 with a Shadow Striker playing behind a Complete Forward. And against Pulis’ men it worked. Wilson got both and looked a real threat. If we compare Wilson’s heat map from the first Swansea game and this West Brow one, we seemed to find a way to get him where he is most dangerous, central and in the box.

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The City game hurt. We lost 2-0 away from home, which for a team with Europa League hopes isn’t too bad, but we played so well for the majority of the match that it felt a lot worse than it was. But City’s stars made me pay for my weak and inexperienced defence. Mistake #1 belonged to Keane who left the back line to press Aguero, but instead gifted Sterling an acre of space to float into and punish us from. For me, I would put this down to inexperience rather than a tactical issue as it really isn’t something he has done before or since for that matter. Mistake #2 belonged to Robertson, my only left back. He had stuck to Nasri like glue all game but in one moment decided he would stand still and allow the Frenchman to run unmarked into the back post for a tap in. This game really has bugged me as we deserved to get something from this game, bar those two mistakes. This however is the difference between us and City. They can make teams pay for their errors whereas we seem unable to finish teams off consistently.

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After this game our form has been OK, dropping 11 points in the last 10 games. The only tough result for me was the Bournemouth game were we conceded from a set piece in the last play of the game. But where does this leave us in the league? Clearly way off the top 2 places, with City and our local rivals Everton, surprisingly, running away from the pack. But we are only 4 points from United and Spurs, and Watford presuming they keep up their form and win their game in hand. We are still in the running and in with a shout of getting the European qualification I will ultimately need to keep my job and carry on this experiment. I am not too concerned so far by our position. Yes, a few bad results to could see us slip away, but we only have to go away to Spurs and Chelsea, leaving some big home games that could help seal our fate.

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Europa League…

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For a competition that I have used to rest key players and try some younger ones, we have done very well so far.

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Again, we haven’t scored too many but six games in and we are yet to concede. Now I don’t see this competition as the Board expect us to qualify for Europe from our Premier League position. Sampdoria in the next round is not the worst draw, especially with an away draw in the first leg. The next round would see us face AZ or Athletic Bilbao, and I’m unsure whether we would have enough to get past that leg.

 

Capital One Cup…

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Annoyingly, this is not a tournament the board cares about, but one we have done well in nonetheless.  And against some tough opposition. United in the first round is not the draw we would have wanted, but after Lallana scored inside the first minute I knew we could beat them and we did. It was Redmond however who got the winner only a few minutes after coming off the bench. Playing in a new role for that game, as a Shadow Striker, he got the winner ten minutes before time. United only scored once from their 30 shots on goal.

West Ham were dispatched comfortably, not that the score line shows this and the Everton result was brilliant as they were, and still are, top of the league at the time. A last minute Sturridge winner has given us a good lead in the semi final and we will be hoping to finish the job in style at the end of this month. It would be nice to win a trophy, but with a second leg against a good side and with the prospect of facing Chelsea or Arsenal, who have a 2-0 lead, it may be tough.

A side note about the FA Cup. One round in and we dispatched Villa 3-1. The Board expect us to get to the semi finals but I feel that I may focus more on the league and Europa league further down the line.

 

Players…

Firstly, I want to talk about my most frustrating player. Andrew Robertson. As it stands, in January 2016, he has seen no attribute change at all. None. He starts every game as he is my only left sided full back and I really would have hoped to see progress. In my viewing of the games, he makes far too many mistakes and is at fault for far too many goals. There are no suitable tutors for him at the club because he is my only left back. Below are his attributes, which convinced me he would be worth the £15m I paid for him, but by the looks of it he will be a slow developer. I will try to sign a left back this window, preferably an older player who can tutor Robertson and provide good competition for his place but none seem available for a realistic price. Aaron Cresswell appears to be available for somewhere in the region of £15m, but other options are slim. With only £3m in the bank, I really need someone to take Firmino and Benteke from us to give us some transfer funds.

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My top goal scorer so far is Wilson. He has played far more games than Sturridge, who was obviously injured for most of the save so far, but nevertheless he has got 11 goals and 3 assists so far this season with a decent average rating to match. I’m hoping that he can push on and force me to stick with him as my first choice, as Sturridge comes back from injury.

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What is pleasing is that a fair few players have scored so far this season. Normally on FM, my teams tend to have two or three main goal scorers but this Liverpool side sees goals come from a large number of players. Lallana has scored 3 after returning from long injuries and JWP has scored three goals that have all been match winners. Hopefully this is something we can keep up. Another pleasing result for me is that Dann and Redmond have made their England debuts and JWP is already in the squad and playing more regular for the senior side. How nice would be it to see Liverpool win the league and the World Cup? If only…

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What next…

Transfers. I need to get rid of Firmino and Benteke. They are scoring for fun in my U21s but no one is interested. Ultimately I will be selling them for a ridiculously low fee just to get them and their massive wages off the books. That money needs to be invested into another left back and potentially another centre back, someone with a bit of wisdom to nurture Keane, Gomez and Holding.

In the next 6 league games I will play Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Watford, all teams above me. This spell will probably dictate where I finish the season. If I cannot pick up points against these teams, I suspect that I could be set to finish in mid table and be looking for a new team to manage next season. And not only are those 6 games vital, but within this period I have the second leg of the Leicester semi final, an FA Cup 4th round tie and both legs of the Sampdoria draw. I honestly feel that if this spell doesn’t go to plan, the project may be over. It is at this point that I wish I started this challenged with a club with slightly lower expectations as it clearly won’t be a quick win.

And I’m still looking for a tactic that allows me to kill off the smaller teams whilst remaining solid at the back and I’m hoping this will come soon. However, I am not sure whether the time to test out new ideas is the next few games. Some brave choices will have to be made.

Join me next time to see if I survived the next few weeks, if I managed to sign a left back and to conclude on the season and the challenge at hand, if I am still in a job…

 

home grown @ liverpool. 1

And so it begins. Welcome. It’s my first blog post, it’s probably going to be my last save of FM16 and I’m going out with a challenge close to my heart: Liverpool. I have never done as well as I should have when managing my own club so I did what any mad FM player would do for my first blog post. I’ve made it harder. In my opinion, the best players at Liverpool, the players that win matches, are not British. Coutinho and Firmino spring to mind. So let’s sell them all and build a team of home-grown players.

The challenge…

This year, the aim is to clinch Champions League football by only playing British players. This will lead to a mass sale of my international players and a tough first transfer window where we will need to get in a number of home-grown. I will have to promote a large number of U21 players into the first team squad to be able to field pre season teams and hopefully this rushed progression will lead to a few becoming first team regulars in the near future. In the long run, the aim is to become a consistently successful team. I stress consistency as this is what has plagued Liverpool for years. You just have to look at the first two games of this EPL season to see what I mean. Ultimately it would be great to win something, but I feel that the first few years will be about laying the foundations for the future as I can’t imagine I will be able to get the best home-grown players in on transfers. It will become a development project with young British prospects.

First day…

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So it begins. When I first came up with this challenge I thought I would do OK but now I am doubting how it will work after getting to this point. Normally when taking over a club I take a long hard look at who I have in each position, scouring the U21s and U18s too but this job is different. I have to sell most of my starting 11. Not often you go into a club and put your best players on the transfer list within five minutes of meeting your chairmen. The obligatory fixture with the U21s was set up and we were off. In regards to my goals for this season, I agreed with the board to aim for a EURO cup spot. My personal aim is a Champions League place but I feel like I need to set the bar slightly lower to give me a bit of wiggle room if the odd result doesn’t go our way.

 

Transfers so far…

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Surprisingly one of the first player out of the door wasn’t one of my Brazilian midfielders. Instead, heading to Palace was Jose Enrique for £3m. I was just happy to see him leave even if the deal sees a loss of £3m for the club. The liability that is Alberto Moreno was the next left back to leave, heading to The Emirates for £17m. At this point I was convinced I could get rid of all the unnecessary players for good money. Sakho returned to Paris for £17m, Lovren was set to partner Morgan at the King Power and Mignolet was involved in a swap deal for my new incoming goalkeeper, Jack Butland.

Butland will play in front of some inexperienced centre backs this year mainly due to the fact that no top level British centre backs would sign for me without the deal being astronomical. Stones doesn’t want to join a rival, Swansea refused any offer below £30m for Williams and no one else wanted to join. Looking back this may be because the club is selling top class players left, right and centre. And this is where we paid the price for wanting British players. We managed to get in Holding from Bolton for £1.3m. Wenger sees something in him so he’s worth a punt. Even if he fails to break through to the first team we should make a profit to reinvest back into the squad. Michael Keane of Burnley was brought in as I player many I know have had good success with on the game and he was later joined by the stellar signing of Palace’s Scott Dann. We overpaid. Massively. But he was genuinely the best I could get and I was desperate. Robertson becomes my only true left back in a good deal from Hull. In the midfield cheap deals were made for George Thorne and Tom Carroll before we brought in the attacking reinforcements. Redmond and Gray were added to give us options on the wing and now with Ibe we have a real threat for the next few years. Sturridge’s injury issues have forced me to spend big on a striker and we swooped in for Wilson, taking him from Eddie Howe’s side. A solid option who definitely could score 20 goals a season.

 

Tactics…

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Here’s the basic shape I am going to start with in the game. I see the strength coming from the wide players in my squad (Redmond, Gray and Ibe) and have worked something that hopes to utilise that whilst noting the attacking potential of Robertson and Clyne at full back. The defensive midfielder is going to be vital for me and his role may be changed. He needs to be able to get on the ball and move it out wide quickly but primarily he needs to support the two centre backs if we are hit on the counter. Normally I would sit high up the field but for this tactic we shall sit a little deeper which will give us room behind the opposition for the wingers and Wilson up top to run into. This tactic will evolve as I get to know my new team.

Pre-season…

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Pre-season was a mixed bag of results. The U21 game was a good result considering all my international players were in that U21 side and the win away at Lyon with a young side was encouraging. The Bejing result is disappointing as we had to play our U18 goalkeeper and he made a classic Football Manager howler to let them take an early lead. Either way we should have scored more. Dortmund came at us with a full strength team and Danny Ward seemed to concede every time Aubameyang got the ball near the box but the performance was pleasing against world class opposition. We scored in every game and kept three clean sheets, but I would have liked to see the attacking players gel together within the tactic a little sooner. I can’t help but feel this will lead to a slow start in the Premier League. Should I have organised more games? Only time will tell.

 

First league games…

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The season started at home to Swansea with the team above being entrusted to get us off to a quick start. With all the early transfers made we were easily able to name a first team squad of British players for the first game which was a relief. But the score line wasn’t. 0-0. A bore draw. Bar a Milner penalty that went at least ten yards wide, nothing can really be said of the game. What was worrying however was the performance of Wilson. The stats show he had no goal scoring opportunities, having one speculative shot which went wide. And as his heat map and average position show he really wasn’t a threat and was hardly in the game. For me his position is deep and this is seen through the little time he spent in the box; It wouldn’t surprise me if the heat map is actually showing him being in the 18-yard box for set pieces only. I will keep an eye on this but for the next game I will change his role to see if we can get him into the box more.

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And the next game was not one I wanted so early on with my team still finding their footing: a trip to Old Trafford. Still with Henderson and Sturridge out and my squad’s low tactical understanding I had a feeling this could be a big loss.

The first twenty minutes went well. Thorne in the holding role looked controlled and Redmond and Lallana were getting between the lines causing Schweinsteiger and Herrera problems.  On the half hour mark this control paid off. Allen intercepted a poor pass with our high press and after a series of quick interplay with Redmond and Lallana, the ball was played into Milner’s path who made up for his penalty miss last week. 0-1. This was almost identically repeated ten minutes later with Allen winning the ball and a quick counter attack following, this time rounded off by Lallana after Wilson’s assist. 0-2. And then we sat back and Butland earned his money with save after save. Mata was unplayable but couldn’t get past our home-grown keeper. A great three points away from home.

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What was pleasing with this game was our resilience. Local lad Scott Dann and new boy Butland were outstanding. We won the ball high up the field and played with intensity and accuracy. I just hope this isn’t a one off.

Below is Wilson’s heat map and average position again. The only tweak I made was to play him with the Attack duty in his Complete Forward role rather than Support. I have no concerns about how deep his average position is. We sat back for the last hour of the game and I am glad he showed the discipline he did. What did impress me was how central he stayed this time, which allowed Redmond from the left and Lallana just behind him to float and pick up space. This lead to Wilson being named Man of the Match scoring a 7.9.

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Next time…

Next time we shall see how well we negotiated the last two weeks of the transfer window. I will profile a few of my key performers and highlight those who are not performing. Thanks for reading my first blog post. Feel free to comment and get involved in the conversation.

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