I can hear the tune

As Ronnie powers through the seasons as manager of Uruguay I’ve just completed my 6th season of the challenge at Arsenal, and an excellent season it was. It wasn’t quite the quadruple we were going for in January, as my overconfidence saw us dumped out of the FA Cup 4-3 by West Brom in a replay. However, we did win the league title, League Cup and Europa League to complete an impressive treble.

English Premier League

Manchester United had won the title in  each of the previous 5 seasons of the save and they would prove to be our closest challengers this time. We went top after matchday 16 and only dropped off the summit once before the end of the season but it was much closer than that suggests. With 3 games to go we held a 6 point advantage over United but a 2-1 away defeat to West Ham narrowed that to 3. Ourselves and United both won our penultimate games which meant it would go down to the last day.

United were away to Chelsea, we were away to Burnley. 3 points separated us but United had a better goal difference so a victory for them and a defeat for us would send the trophy to Old Trafford for a 6th successive season. The helicopter was on stand by. Burnley are managed by Alan Pardew who had a few choice words to say about me in the press. Normally I stay out of these things but Alan Pardew is a prick (have you heard the chicken story?) so I got right in about him, which only served to up the tension and a few of my players didn’t like that. Anyway the Ox scored after 15 minutes to settle the nerves but Andre Gray equalised 10 minutes later. United were winning comfortably at the Bridge and it was as tense as fuck. Barely any highlights in the 2nd half then Andre Gray went one-on-one late in the game. My big money signing John van Heulen was up to the task and denied him. The title was ours by a single point. Get that right up you Pardiola.

We finished the season with 88 points, a total that would only have been good enough for 3rd the previous season, and 88 goals, the most in the 6 seasons of the save. The Ox would be named Writers and Players Player of the Year.

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The Cups

Generally the cups were pretty kind to us. We won the League Cup easily beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in the final. The only Premier League clubs we played in the whole run were Leeds (who were relegated) and Leicester so the draw was definitely kind to us.

As mentioned we got put out the FA Cup by West Brom, who were also one of only 4 teams to beat us in the league, but we should’ve pumped them at the Emirates as we dominated the game. Oh well, that’s football, I suppose.

The Europa League was pretty straight forward from the quarter finals onward. In the 1st knockout round we drew Schalke. a 3-3 draw in Gelsenkirchen was followed up by a close 1-0 home win in the one tie we probably didn’t deserve to win. In the next round we drew Tottenham in the tie of the round. Spurs were slight favourites to go through but we won home (2-0) and away (2-1) to advance.

A lucky draw in the quarters meant we would face Anderlecht and the were dispatched 7-2 on aggregate. The semi final line up was ourselves, Inter Milan, current Champions League holders Monaco and Feyenoord. Yep, we got Feyenoord as our lucky cup draws continued. 6-0 aggregate victory put us in the final against Monaco. Interestingly the final would be played at Ibrox. Monaco were big favourites so much so that my team talk was all that “No one expects you to win lads so give it your best” shit. I expected us to win. And win we did. 6-0. Youngster Andrew Smith scored 4 as we absolutely slaughtered them. Gives us hope for the UCL next season.

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Squad

I don’t really have much work to do for next season. Alexis Sanchez is leaving to join Monaco (regretting that now?) but youngster Mathias Simoncelli spent last season on loan at Villarreal and ended up top scorer in Spain (at Villarreal!) so I think he deserves a chance. Mesut Ozil wants to move back to Germany but, again, youngsters John Moore and Alex Kalisse (mother of dragons) were excellent when called on this season so can be given more game time if he goes. Adrien Silva also wants to move back home to France (even though he’s Portuguese, go figure) so a ball winning DMC might be the one position I need a first team regular as Conor Ashton looks brilliant but is still only 18. Other than that a back-up RB would be a shout as Hector Bellerin is the only recognised RB we have and he appears to be quite injury prone.

I’ve also had to deal with a lot of contract renewals. At Lazio and Siena I had to negotiate the shit out of contracts. Constantly trying to reduce wages, agents fees and loyalty bonuses and refusing to give yearly wage increases or percentages of future sales. But when you have a transfer kitty of £140m and and weekly wage budget of £3.4m you don’t really give two fucks about that stuff. Let them eat cake. Or sniff cocaine. Or have whatever the fuck they want.

Club & Me

The board have now allowed me to study for my Continental Pro Licence and that’ll be complete at the end of season 7. I have a 3.5 star reputation and my stats are looking good although I still have a 1 for ‘Working With Youngsters’, ‘Adaptability’ and ‘Level of Discipline’. No idea how I’m supposed to improve them.

My only worries at Arsenal are my transfer dealings and club issues. Sanchez is, obviously, definitely leaving and Ozil wants to move to Bayern if they make an offer. Both are club icons so the fans are going to be raging if they both go. Laurent Koscielny is also a club icon and I’ve had to give him another contract at the age of 36, even though he won’t play, as I think losing all 3 would leave some fans suicidal. The club also want me to play possession football which I don’t do. My tactic, which works for me so I’m not changing, is very attacking (another club philosophy) but we don’t necessarily have 60% possession in matches and the board are currently disappointed with this. If I get offered a new contract hopefully I’ll be able to negotiate this out.

It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you

The new board clearly didn’t fancy me. After getting ESTAC Troyes promoted, and then more than exceeding the expectations put in front of me, the new guys clearly have someone else in mind.

Oh well, I wonder if John’s looking for an assistant at Arsenal?

More job news as I get it.

Update: My coach at ESTAC Troyes, Luis Entonado, has taken the managerial job. I told you I needed to keep my eye on him!

Takeover season

Our performances in February continued to the end of the season. Neither great, nor terrible; but good enough, it seems. And, to be honest, with the amount of failed takeover bids that we’ve been through this season (four!), I’m surprised the players have been able to focus on the games at all.

We rounded off February with a win against En Avant de Guincamp (it feels like I’m always playing them, and headed into March where our inconsistency continued. April was much the same, if even a little worse, and we started to slip out of European contention.

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By the time May comes round, we’re back and forth between 6th and 7th, and we need to face 2nd and 3rd in the league. In the end, we draw against AS Monaco, but lose to Olympique Marseille while we get 3 points against 10th place Racing Club de Lens.

So we finish in 7th place, which is a couple of places back from where I’d hoped we would end the season. It’s worth remembering (at least, that’s what I tell myself) that the media had predicted we’d finish 19th, and were 1000-1 outsiders for the title. All the board wanted was for us not to get involved in a relegation battle. All in, we can be pleased with our performances, but we have struggled against the bigger teams, and I’ll need to try and rectify that, if I stay next season.

The cup competitions were another success. In the Coupe de France, we were expected to reach the 11th round, and exceeded those expectations by reaching the semi-final and being knocked out by eventual winners AS Saint-Etienne. In the Coupe de la Ligue, we did what we were supposed to, and reached the 4th round.

Finances are not great, despite me not getting anywhere near the upper limits of either the transfer or the wage budget. When the season closes, I get notification of the fact that I will be able to spend £291k on players next season, and that our facilities have been down-graded. Quite frankly, it seems like this club is being run by crooks!

Shortly after this news, takeover number 5 concludes successfully, and a “consortium led by London-based investor Kelvin Thomas” ousts former Chairman Francesco Becchetti.

I don’t have a clear view yet of where the club might go under new leadership and therefore I’m a little uncertain about things“, is what I tell Luca Raynal of the French Football Free Press when he comes looking for a quote.

 

Quadruple you say?

So far everything has went swimmingly at the Gunners. We are sitting top of the league and are into the semi finals of the League Cup, knockout stages of the Europa League and 4th round of the FA Cup. It is probably the first time in this save that I’m pretty confident we’ll win some silverware. At Lazio and Siena we were such big underdogs I kept expecting us to falter but at Arsenal we have such a good squad we should be able to battle on multiple fronts.

We should almost certainly qualify for the UCL (we are 10 points clear of 5th placed Liverpool after 22 matches) and it’d be nice to retain the Europa League. The other three teams left in the League Cup are Leicester, Newcastle and Sheffield Wednesday so we are in with a great shout of winning that. As far as the FA Cup is concerned it’s really the luck of the draw but we have West Brom in the next round so are confident of progressing.

The squad is my main worry. As we weren’t in the Champions League loads of players moaned about it and although they seemed happy that I promised them we would qualify this season it still meant they wouldn’t sign new contracts. Therefore Alexis Sanchez has signed a pre-contract agreement with Monaco. Despite the fact that he’s 33 he is still the best player at the club and our top goalscorer this season. He’s also a fan favourite so I’m gonna get it in the neck when he leaves, champions or not.

I’ve also sold a number of other high profile players to trim the squad. Although they were high profile they didn’t actually have particularly good ability ratings but the fans are still concerned with my transfer dealings. They don’t care that I made £144m from the sales. I don’t think it’s helped that I haven’t bought anyone since my initial purchases in the summer. However, we had a number of ‘wonderkids’ in the U23 squad so I’ve decided to promote them.

Transfers

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Still exceeding expectations

At the end of the last update, ESTAC Troyes were sitting in 5th place, defying early season predictions that we would be relegation fodder. With two-thirds of the season gone, not much has changed – on the pitch, at least.

October to December saw us keep up our early season form, and after our first defeat at the hands of PSG, we saw out the rest of that first month unbeaten in the league. Wins against En Avant de Guincamp, Toulouse FC, and a 1-1 draw with LOSC kept us in contention for the European places.

November saw us hit our first sticky patch, which continued into December. A win against Stade Malherbe Caen was followed up by 7 league games that included only 2 wins. We were drawing as many games as we were losing, so we – just about – managed to keep in touch with the teams at the top. All except PSG, who are strolling away with the league title – in fact, they’ve won Ligue 1 every year in this save.

During this time, rumours of a takeover began to circulate again. Last time that happened, there was talk of me losing my job, so my mind began to wander.

At the very least, it meant that the Winter transfer window was going to be a non-event. Just as well I had already lined up a new signing, and in came Yassine Benrahou from Bordeaux for a cool £875k. Some of the squad had been moaning that the midfield isn’t strong enough, so he’d help to placate them, hopefully.

Fortunately, the takeover fell through, just in time for me to make another few Winter signings, all of them youngsters. Aurélien Tchouameni, Bruno Brochard, and Emanuele Cavallini will be stars at Troyes some time in the future.

So my job is safe. But, what’s that? Everton are looking for a new boss?

I throw my hat in, and get granted an interview.

In this save, they’re a 4-star club (versus Troyes’ 3.5) in the highest rated league (Ligue 1 is 5th). They’re also Rich (Troyes’ finances are Okay), which doesn’t sound like real-life Everton, at all. It makes sense to move.

But they don’t want me. The bastards. Instead, they plump for Roger Schmidt, who leaves Celtic to takeover the Goodison reins.

The very fact that I got an interview makes me think that others will take a punt on me, so I’m now very much on the lookout for a 4-star rated club that I can get to the Champions League.

Anyway, all that aside, we’re back in the midst of a league campaign and January looks pretty good. A draw and 3 wins takes into a bit of a mixed bag of results in February – DLWL.

Right now, we’re sitting 5th, which is good enough for a Europa League spot, albeit at some early qualifying stage.

 

 

 

 

Still no Champions League campaign

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:

  1. Better than what I had and
  2. 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.

defence
Poor defence that’ll need strengthened in January
Mid
Much stronger going forward

Table

Schedule

This time last year

While John ups the ante with his all-conquering Lazio side, ESTAC Troyes have been quietly improving from last season’s relegation escape. After 9 games last year, we were hovering around the lower reaches of the table, on 7 points. This time around, we’re doing a bit better: we’re 2nd in the league.

A bit of a dodgy start, and then we were up and running.

DDLWWLWWW

I’ve also found out that Olympique Lyonnais boss, Marcelino hates me, for some reason. Good job we went out and pumped them 3-0 at their own ground.

After that, we fall 3-1 to league leaders PSG, but as far as it goes, that’s a decent start to our Ligue 1 campaign.

I mean, look how happy the board are. 100% confidence in me. Doesn’t that mean I’m getting the sack in the morning?

As you might expect with the higher league position, the players are performing much better than they were last season. I’m particularly impressed with 23-year old DR Congo international Warren Tchimbembe, who has 7 goals in 10 games.

All that said, I’m very conscious of the fact that John is moving ever closer to the Champions League, and with it, a chance to win the bloody thing!