Season 10

With season 9 flying by, and only an ill-fated spell in charge of Italy to speak of, I had to get back in the game. I enjoyed the media work but it’s nothing compared to the day-to-day running of a football team. I also wanted a challenge. I was offered jobs at West Ham and Liverpool but I’ve done the Premiership and conquered it. I also wanted a club where I had work to do. Build up the coaching and scouting staff and earn money to improve the facilities. So here I am. In the German 2nd division. With Union Berlin.

The press were aghast and my drop from winning the Champions League with Arsenal to a team that are expected to finish in the top half of 2. Bundesliga but I’m looking forward to the task at hand. First issue is pretty much everyone in my squad wants to leave or is wanted by another club. It’s a fairly big first team squad with not a lot of potential talent so I’ve trimmed it down and allowed 14 players to leave. That also raked in £2.9m so I’ve a wee bit to spend and I’ve also got a bit of leeway with the wage budget now.

Next task was the backroom staff. I tried to tempt Marius Stankevicius, my number 2 at Arsenal, to join me but he clearly didn’t have my sense of adventure so I’ve filled all available slots in the backroom team but only on one year contracts so I can improve them if we get any success.

As for transfers in I’ve reverted to my old Siena days and relied primarily on loans and frees. Aniello Capuano (RB Salzburg, winger), Ian Boisson (Juventus, DMC), Cedric Gorgelin (Lyon, MC) and Ellis Keen (Southampton, AML) all came in on loan and Heimo Schicker arrived on a free from Kaiserslautern. My main striker, Felix Weber (who had scored 6 in 6 at the start of the season), was then targeted on transfer deadline day and although I rejected an initial offer from Admira Wacker he went in a right huff and I had to sell him. Therfore I splashed out on 21-year-old Cesare Pellegrino, a striker from Juventus. He looks the business and has a potential rating of 5 stars, not bad for £600k

So, onto the games. My board expect us to finish in the top half of the league and reach the second round of the German Cup, seems reasonable. The first thing I notice is we don’t have a lot of games to play. It’s an 18 team division so only 34 league matches (compared to 38 at Siena, Lazio and Arsenal) and only one cup competition. We start the league season in fine form and have so far won our opening 5 matches. We also dispatched a lower league team, the delightfully named Sprockhovel, in the 1st round of the German Cup so we’ve already reached our target for that competition. So far, so good.

You always hear people go on about attendances in Germany and rightly so. We have averaged a little over 20,000 (although we’ve only played 2 home games) so far and that only ranks 10th in the division. For context that would rank

  • 14th in Serie A
  • 3rd in Serie B
  • 16th in Ligue 1
  • 3rd in Ligue 2
  • 18th in La Liga
  • 6th in La Liga 2

Our city neighbours Hertha currently average around 62,000. As a wise man once said ‘we’re going to knock them off their fucking perch’. However, given Union have won pretty much fuck all in their history that’s going to be easier said than done. Still it’s my job to get the Stadion An der Alten Försterei rocking. We are definitely gonna need a catchier name than that. Our nicknames are (according to Wikipedia):

The nicknames of the club are Eiserne (The Iron Ones) or Eisern Union (Iron Union), both of which are used to refer to the club from Berlin. Their nicknames evolved from the earlier sobriquet Schlosserjungs (metalworker boys), which was in reference to the blue kit the Union played in, as it was reminiscent of the overalls worn by local workers.

I think I like Schlosserjungs best. It’s such a beautiful language.

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Union’s ‘honours’ list

Now the challenge has been completed with both of us winning the big ones I’ll probably just update at the end of each season from now on. Having said that I really like this save so if I get caught up in any good moments I may record them for posterity.

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8 Seasons to Glory

As the famous anthem goes:

Die meister,
die besten,
les grandes équipes,
the champions

And Arsenal finish season 2023/24 as all conquering champions.

After Manchester United were dispatched 5-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals we were given a relatively good draw in Benfica for the semis. It was actually much closer than expected. We won the first leg 3-1 at home and Benfica took an early lead in the Estadio da Luz (which means Stadium of Light but it’s a long way from Sunderland). They then proceeded to pass up two great chances and John van Heulen was at his best to deny them the 2nd goal that would’ve put them through on away goals. A late equaliser from Isaac Adam gave us a 4-2 aggregate win. Then, the final.

Manchester City were our opponents, who had lost to their city rivals in the previous seasons final. After a cagey first half, with few chances, I decided to read the riot act to my players at half-time and it had the desired effect as an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain double and Mathias Simoncelli’s 53rd goal of the season sealed a 3-0 win.

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The Champions League was added to the FA Cup, which we won the week before with a 4-0 win over Everton, the Premier League and the Community Shield to complete a memorable quadruple.

Simoncelli cleaned up at the player of the year awards, winning:

  • FWA Footballer of the Year
  • PFA Player of the Year
  • PFA Young Player of the Year
  • Barclays Team of the Season
  • Barclays Top Goalscorer
  • Arsenal Fans Player of the Season
  • Arsenal Fans Young Player of the Season

And I assume he’s going to win the European Golden Boot as well.

What to do next? Well I’ve enjoyed the save, and the challenge, so I’m going to keep going. My contract is about to expire at Arsenal so I’ll leave the Gunners as there’s not much else to achieve here. I think I’d like to take a smaller team to glory. The dream would be to return to Siena and win Serie A (or even the Champions League?) but right now they have a ‘secure’ manager. I think I may just kick about and see what comes up. Maybe wait for a nice little challenge in Germany as I’ve never managed there before.

The Meaty End of Season 8

As Ronnie safely negotiates the group stages of his first crack at the Champions League I find myself in my 2nd consecutive UCL quarter final. Since my last update our record, in all competitions, reads:

WWWLWWWWDWWWWWWLWWWWW

It’s been a remarkable run that has seen us move 9 points clear at the top of the Premier League although, disappointingly, that second defeat was in the final of the League Cup. Man City got revenge on the 4-0 pumping we gave them in the final last season by deservedly beating us 2-1. I was undefeated since joining Arsenal in the League Cup so it was a shame to lose that record, I was also surprised to learn that Arsenal have only ever won the LC twice in real life. Who knew? I have a chance to rectify the loss as we will play Man City in the FA Cup semi-final.

The league form has been relentless. The run includes victories away to Liverpool (who were 2nd at the time) and away Man Utd and the gap we’ve established, with only 7 games to go, means we can fully concentrate on the Champions League. In the Champions League we dispatched Celta Vigo 6-1 on aggregate and were rewarded with a QF tie against fucking Manchester United.

I’m updating after the first leg which we won 4-0 at home so revenge for last seasons semi-final defeat is definitely on the cards. By the end of this season we’ll have played United 12 times in only 3 seasons, this isn’t Scotland, by the way. The current record stands at:

P10 W6 D1 L3 F14 A7

So that’s where I’m at. Mathias Simoncelli has now scored 46 goals in 37 appearances this season and broken all Arsenal single-season scoring records. I’ve, so far, refused to sign a new contract and I’m likely to leave the Gunners at the end of the season. Hopefully, as a Champions League winner.

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Season 8 – 1st Half

So, another season, another stab at the Champions League. The summer transfer window saw little action. As champions I felt the squad was pretty good with a few ‘wonderkids’ ready to step up and get more game time. Alex Kalisse was the subject of a £105m bid from Atletico Madrid but I see him edging out 33-year-old Aaron Ramsey this season so the bid was rejected and a new contract agreed. Fending off interest from other teams was the biggest challenge of the summer as Isaac Adam, Nathanial Cook, John Moore, Mathias Simoncelli, Lucas Digne, Hector Bellerin and Alain Mbia were all targeted by clubs so we had to renew most of their contracts to keep them. The only major transfer in was 18-year-old wonderkid Andres Guerrero from Cruz Azul for £18.75m. He can play D(C), DM, M (C), ST (C) so is an excellent, and useful, prospect to have in the squad. There were £53m worth of transfers out but mostly talented youngsters you I couldn’t find a place in the squad for.

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The summer also saw me interviewed for the Barcelona job but for the 2nd time in 2 years they decided to go with someone else. It’s beginning to become quite clear that they don’t like the cut of my jib.

Domestic

The season started with another trophy as we retained the Community Shield with a 3-0 win over Liverpool. The league campaign started reasonably well with 6 wins in our first 7 games, our only blot coming in a 2-1 defeat away to Chelsea. The run ended when Newcastle beat us 1-0 but so far they have been our only league defeats of the season.

At one point it looked like the title race  might be much closer than last season with 6 teams separated by just 5 points after about 15 games but it has stretched out a bit in the last few matches. We currently sit a point ahead of Liverpool with a game in hand and Manchester United are a further 4 points back but they have played two less than us due to their participation in the World Club Championship, again. Although not miles back, none of the teams below United have shown the consistency to make a charge in the second half of the season.

In the League Cup we are into our 3rd successive semi-final after a pretty easy run of fixtures that saw us defeat Brighton, Burnley and West Brom. Swansea await us in the semi and we have an FA Cup 3rd round tie against Scunthorpe coming up pretty soon. I’ve yet to get past the 4th round of the FA Cup so hoping to improve that unimpressive run this season.

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Europe

Our Champions League group was one full of narrative as I was drawn alongside my old club, Lazio, and my boyhood heroes, Celtic. Atletico Madrid were the 4th team in what looked like a horror group for Celtic. We made heavy weather of the group and put ourselves in trouble by losing 2 of our first 3 matches. A 3-2 defeat to Lazio and a 2-1 defeat to Atletico, both away, sandwiched a comfortable 3-0 home win over The Bhoys. Although we had a lot of work to do we knew we had Atletico and Lazio at home and that made the difference as we beat them 3-0 and 3-2, respectively. We still had to beat Celtic in the final game to win the group as Lazio and Atletico played in Rome to see who would join us in the last 16. Both ourselves and Atletico won 3-0 to wrap up qualification for the knockout rounds.

Even before the draw was made there were not a lot of potential opponents that would worry us. We couldn’t draw Atletico or Chelsea which basically left Napoli and Borussia Dortmund as the teams to avoid, and avoid them we did as we were drawn to play Celta Vigo. Looking at the draw though the next round is likely to be full of the big boys but, if you want to win the cup with the big ears, that’s who you have to beat.

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Mathias Simoncelli has been the stand out performer so far this season. As I play 1 through the middle I like to have 2 strikers and rotate them as much as possible with, hopefully, a youngster available in emergencies. Unfortunately Andrew Smith got a bad injury on international duty with England and was out for 4 months and Simoncelli has really stepped up. He’s currently on 30 goals from 23 starts with 22 of those coming from only 16 Premier League starts. He’s bang on course to beat Thierry Henry’s league record of 30 goals in a single season. It is also the Arsenal record for goals in a season within the save and it’s still only December. Smith is close to full fitness but he’s really going to struggle to get anywhere near the pitch.

As always I don’t expect much transfer business in January but, again, plenty of our players and attracting interest from the vultures. Shkodran Mustafi, Daigo Miki (he can go if he wants), Lucas Digne, Andres Guerrero, Adrien Silva, Alex Kalisse, and Simoncelli are all wanted by other clubs so I’ll probably spend most of my time renegotiating contracts again.

Can a quadruple be disappointing?

So in the end season 7 finished ended on a high, but not the high I had hoped for. With 7 league games to go we locked together on 70 points with Man Utd with a home game against the Red Devils looming on the last day of the season. At that point we also had a Champions League quarter final against PSG to deal with.

We started with an away trip to Liverpool, easily our most difficult game in the run-in (aside from United, obviously). A decent 1-1 draw at Anfield was made all the better as United drew away to Swansea. I’d rested a fair few players as well with the midweek trip to Paris next up and we got a great 0-0 draw over there. Bournemouth were then dispatched 3-0 and, yet again, United matched our result against Crystal Palace.

The return leg against PSG was surprisingly straight forward as an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain double and a rare goal from Shkodran Mustafi saw us into the Champions League semi-finals. Alongside us in the last four was Man City, Monaco and Man Utd. Of course we got Man Utd. That would mean 3 of our last 5 (hopefully 6) games of the season would be against the Mancunians, we would define each others season.

Back in the league Everton were dispatched 2-0 with United beating Norwich 4-1. Was someone going to blink before the big game on the last day? Yes, and it would be us. An away trip to 17th placed Palace shouldn’t have worried us but the Champions League semi was the following Wednesday so I chose to rest, well, everybody. Laurent Koscielny, who is retiring at the end of the season, even made his first league start of the season. It was a big mistake. Despite taking the lead through wonderkid Conor Ashton after 2 minutes we then crumbled. 2-1 down at half-time we ultimately lost 4-1 and Palace missed a penalty. Had they scored that penalty it would’ve been the worst result of my career, that is currently a 4-0 defeat to Juventus while at Siena. Seems like a long time ago now. Man U didn’t take full advantage though as they drew 0-0 away to Burnley but they did have the upper hand now as a draw in that final game would suit them, previously our greater goal difference was keeping us on top.

Off to Old Trafford it was the the 1st leg of the semi. We were shit. Again we took a very early lead, thanks to Aaron Ramsey, but again we crumbled, this time escaping with only a 3-1 loss. It just about kept us in the tie but I was worried our season was in grave danger of petering out. We needed a reaction and, thankfully, we got it as Norwich were pumped 6-1 at home. It was helped that they had two straight reds for horror tackles. United also won, 4-1 against West Brom.

In fairness we never looked like getting back into the 2nd leg of the semi-final and Marcus Rashford scored the only of the game after 23 minutes. The dream was over for another season. Incidentally, Marcus Rashford is the 2nd most expensive player in the save, after Bosnian Nikola Vidovic, interesting to know if that’s the same in Ronnie’s save? Also, he always scores against me. ALWAYS.

A fairly straight forward 2-1 away win against West Brom set us up for the big finale. However, big news, United had lost 1-0 away to Leicester. This put us back in pole position as a draw was now good enough for us. It was a tense opening 40 minutes before the Gunners were awarded a stonewall penalty. Mathias Simoncelli, who had missed his previous 2 penalties including one against David De Gea in the semi-final, stepped up and smashed it straight down the middle as De Gea dived to his left. As the fans celebrated Man Utd attacked straight from kick-off but Mustafi made a brilliant interception and we broke up the park and the Ox added a second. 2 goals in less than 60 seconds, the title was ours.

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Despite winning the Premier League, League Cup, Community Shield and European Super Cup it was still a little disappointing to come up short in the Champions League. Not a lot of changes to be made but I think I do want a new centre mid and we will need to replace back-up keeper Jack Butland who is off to RB Leipzig on a free.

We dominated the end of season awards. I got Manager of the Year, van Heulen got Golden Glove and van Heulen, Hector Bellerin, Nathaniel Cook, Mustafi, Lucas Digne and Gustavo Menacho all got in the team of the season. But Menacho wasn’t finished. The 22 year-old left winger finished the season with 24 goals and 12 assists from 44 apperances with an overall average rating of 7.62 and ended up winning:

  • PFA Young Player of the Year
  • PFA Player of the Year
  • PFA Team of the Season
  • FWA Footballer of the Year
  • Arsenal Fans Player of the Year
  • Arsenal Fans Young Player of the Year
  • Arsenal Team of the Season

Pretty impressive and looking at his history I don’t think he’s a regen.

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In other news I gained my Continental Pro Licence and now have a 4 star reputation. Man Utd went on to win the Champions League, their 4th win in 5 years. They’re beginning to annoy me.