No sooner had I completed our Serie A/Europa League double than I began to think about next season. The first time either Ronnie or myself will actually compete in the Champions League in this challenge. I was going to need investment in the squad. I felt I was going to need a world class midfielder and centre half. They were not going to come cheap and my budget was set at £16m. Not a lot I could do about that. Except leave.
Even before the EL final Luis Enrique had been sacked by Barcelona and I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I was delighted to get an interview but they went with Leonardo Jardim who had just won the Champions League with Monaco. I decided not to bother applying for the Monaco job cause, well, it’s Monaco. Crappy wee stadium, passionate-less fans. Then Arsene Wenger decided to retire as Arsenal manager and become Director of Football. I’ll take a punt on that. Got an interview, got the job. Boom!
It doesn’t actually move me any closer to winning the UCL as Arsenal finished 6th the previous season so I’m back in the Europa League. Straight away I can see why they finished 6th as their defence is piss poor. Still at this stage it’s nice to be dealing with players that you actually know; Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey, the Ox. It’s also nice to be dealing with money. My transfer budget this season is £96m. Time to go to work.
Backroom staff first. I’m not sure if their was an exodus following Wenger’s retirement but I have no assistant manager and only 1 first team coach (I’ve also given Wenger absolutely no responsibilities as DoF). I bring in my old captain and coach from Siena Marius Stankevicius as assistant and fill out the backroom staff and scouts. The first problem I notice is that there will be no wheeling and dealing. No getting players on the cheap anymore. I prioritise the goalkeeper position and go after AC Milan superstar Gianluigi Donnarumma but stopped after Milan rejected a bid of £70m. I ended up buying John van Huelen, backup goalkeeper at Man City, for £35m. Admittedly he’s only 20 and is a wonderkid but still a hell of a lot for someone who didn’t spend a penny for the first 4 seasons of this save.
The other problem is Brexit. Having left the EU all players are classed as foreigners now so I have to limit the number in my squad to 17. That seems like a lot but I’m right on the limit. This is the reason I haven’t bought a defender. I couldn’t find any British ones that were:
- Better than what I had and
- Had a selling club willing to negotiate
So I’m having to make do until January at least. We have a lot of talented youngsters but not many are defenders. So we have a ridiculously unbalanced squad with loads of excellent promising midfielders and wingers but very little established talent in defence and centre forward position. Nevertheless we’ve started the season well with 3 wins and a 4-4 draw away to Man City and been drawn in a pretty easy Europa League group which should allow me to blood the youngsters.
The scouts will be working overtime in preparation for January.