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.

March – Season 7

As I’ve reached the March international break I thought this would be a good time to post an update. Back in December Man Utd were running away with the title but we were in the Champions League 1st knockout round, League Cup semi finals and an FA Cup 4th round tie to lower league opposition to look forward to. Here’s where we are at now.

Premier League

Basically Man Utd have heavy shat it. Since that update their record reads:

P16 W8 D5 L3

It’s not shocking form but it’s not great either. In the same time we have played 14 games (United had games in hand due to the World Club Championship):

P14 W10 L0 D4

The result is we are now neck-and-neck in the title race with 7 games left. The toughest game in the run in is our away trip to Liverpool so both will be confident of taking it right to the wire and just look at the final fixture of the league season!

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You may notice that Tottenham result. That was a pivotal day in the league season. In the early kick-off Man City thumped United 5-0 so we went into the North London Derby knowing a victory would put us top. A goal by top scorer Matthias Simoncelli after 1 and a half minutes put us in control but defensive midfielder Dariusz Bartosiewicz was sent off for a horror tackle after 8 minutes. Simoncelli doubled our lead after 14 before having to go off injured just before half time. Incredibly the Ox put us 3 up before the Spurs fight back began. Ried Zarabi netted a double to make the score 3-2 with 12 minutes remaining. Then the chaos really began. Youngster Andrew Smith restored our two advantage after 79 minutes before Zarabi got another double and heading into injury time we were locked at 4-4. Reiss Nelson scored in the 92nd minute to give us an astonishing 5-4 victory. Absolute scenes at the end. Zarabi got 4 goals and still ended up on the losing side, like a modern day Dariusz Dziekanowski.

You may also have noticed a 7-3 victory over Leicester. Basically those two results have taken the shine off our excellent defensive record. The two of them, and a 2-2 draw with Spurs earlier in the season, are the only games we have conceded more than 1 in the league. In fact our 3 games against Spurs this season (we also played them in the League Cup) have an aggregate score of 13-9 in our favour.

So with 7 left this is how the table looks, I’m hoping those draws don’t come back to haunt us:

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The Cups

We successfully defended the League Cup. Bournemouth were dismantled 6-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals before we destroyed Man City 4-0 in the final. The FA Cup was more disappointing. Drawn away to Championship side Aston Villa we were perhaps guilty of over-confidence, especially as the game came in the middle of our great run in the league. Unfortunately, Hector Bellerin was sent off in the first half and we never recovered, ultimately losing 3-1.

Anderlecht in the Champions League was as comfortable as you’d expect. We won 2-0 in Belgium before wrapping it up with a 5-0 home win to progress 7-0 on aggregate. The next round will not be so easy as we’ve been drawn with Paris Saint-Germain.

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Squad

Pretty happy with how everyone is playing. Young RB Diego Filho made his recovery from ligament damage recently so we have no major injuries right now. 3 of our players were named in the World XI. Full backs Hector Bellerin and Lucas Digne were joined by goalkeeper John Van Heulen which I’m especially pleased about as he was one of my young signings.

For Arsenal 2022/23 see Man Utd 2016/17

Due to work commitments I haven’t even turned my laptop on for 2 weeks so I’m now way behind Ronnie in game time. As he finishes off season 8 I’m currently at Christmas in season 7 and embarking on the first Champions League campaign of the challenge.

Premier League

In the previous 6 seasons of the save our title victory last season was the only time Man Utd haven’t won the league, and they clearly didn’t take it too well. Our stats are pretty good as well; we’ve only conceded 6 goals in 17 matches, scored a league high 36 goals and only lost 1 match. Unfortunately, United have been sensational (and they have 2 games in hand due to World Club Championship commitments).

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Like United in real life draws have been our downfall. It’s way to early to give up on the league but I certainly think we need United to drop points from their games in hand and then beat them in the upcoming clash. The board expects us to qualify for the Champions League via the league so if we can’t win it then I don’t really care if we finish 2nd or 4th.

Champions League

Ultimately the point of this challenge is to win the Champions League so, frankly, if I finish 10 in the league but win the UCL I’ll be happy. With that in mind I’m delighted to have qualified for the knockout rounds.

The group was pretty straight forward with Fenerbahce, Dinamo Zagreb and Inter Milan alongside us. After winning the opening game away to Inter I played mostly back up players which I think accounts for the 8 goals conceded in only 6 games. Nevertheless we won 5 of the 6 games and progressed with ease.

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So the next big moment was who would we get in the First Knockout Round and there were big teams lying in wait. Juventus, AC Milan, Lyon, PSG, Man Utd & Inter had all finished 2nd in their groups (although I couldn’t draw Inter or Man Utd) but if you’re going to go far in the tournament you’ll need to play the big boys. I drew Anderlecht. Best draw I could’ve hoped for and if we can get through we’ll have met the board’s expectations for the competition.

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So that is where I’m at. As usual I don’t expect any major business in January although world class left-back Lucas Digne wants to leave to join PSG so I’d need to replace him if he goes. We’re in the semi-final of the League Cup but, let’s be honest, no one cares about it, I’d rather resurrect and win the Tennents Sixes. I’ll try and post regular updates as the season progresses, assuming I’m making headway in the UCL.

Copa América

A year in international management consists of a bunch of friendly matches, and the opportunity to go watch your squad play in various games around the World. In real life, that sounds quite enticing, but in Football Manager 17 terms, it amounts to clicking “Continue” quite a lot.

And so, I rattle through season 7 as Uruguay manager without doing much. Until the summer, when the Copa América starts.

Uruguay haven’t done much in the past few tournaments, and I take them to this one having not reached the final in 12 years. Expectations are that we reach the Quarter-Finals and we’ve played well enough in recent friendlies to suggest that that’s achievable.

The first match is against Mexico B. I’ve no idea why it’s Mexico’s B team we’re playing, and I notice that USA B are also here. We beat the USA first-team in the run-up to this so they don’t worry me.

We beat Mexico B 3-1, with a goal from José Luis Rodríguez, and a brace from Marcelo Silva. Both players are 20-odd year-old regens in the game, but I have a couple of familiar faces in the squad.

We then lose 1-0 to Venezuela, before beating Equador by the same scoreline, and qualifying from the group stages in 1st position. Our 1 goal in these matches comes real-life Uruguayan Giorgian De Arrascaeta.

The knockout stages start, and I’m conscious of the fact that Montepellier’s pre-season is underway. I have a word with Assistant Manager Pascal Baills and ask him to take control of the friendlies while I’m in Brazil. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to strengthen our squad for the season ahead.

First up is a Quarter Final against Chile, and it’s our most convincing performance of the tournament so far. 25 shots to Chile’s 3, 12 on target to Chile’s 1. It finishes 2-0, but it could’ve been so much more. Goals from Nicolás Schiappacasse and Lucas Torreira setup a Semi Final against a Mexico B team that we beat in the group stages.

This time, we don’t play as well. The game finishes 0-0 and – with no extra-time, apparently – we go straight to penalties, where we emerge 4-3 winners in the shootout. Next up, a final against Argentina.

Lionel Messi’s still kicking around, and at age 36 has over 176 caps for his country. His stats are still pretty good, too.

Marcelo Silva puts us 1-0 up within a couple of minutes, but the fun ends there. Argentina equalise on 6 minutes, and Messi fires in a superb free-kick just before half-time. We lose a further 2 goals in the second-half and it finishes 4-1.

Even though we lost in the final, the Uruguayan FA are delighted with the team’s performance, and I seem to have done a decent job.

But I don’t have time to manage a national team and Montpellier, so something has to give.

I promptly hand in my notice.

And catch the first flight to France. Pre-season awaits.

I’m back…

I’m back. Back into club management, back to France, and back to Ligue 1.

After a number of failed attempts at getting a job at the top level, Montpellier Hérault SC took a punt and offered me a contract. I joined in April of season 7, played 7 games and got them into Europe.

Not much to say, other than that. Next up for me is the Copa America – yes, I’m still manager of Uruguay, and Montpellier’s pre-season. I suspect it’s going to be difficult to manage both.

Next update in here will go over both, but I’m going to slow the pace down as I’m now a full season ahead of John. That said, the way he’s going, I might not get the opportunity to update again.

End of summer transfer window

So Sanchez and Ozil both left and the fans aren’t happy, describing both transfer deals as ‘aberrations’.

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No one seems to care that there was nothing I could do about either of them but there you have it. I only made three signings in the transfer window. Dariusz Bartosiewicz was brought in as ball winning DMC to replace the homesick Adrien Silva, who then decided not to leave the club, and Diego Filho was brought in as a back up RB to Hector Bellerin. Unfortunately for Filho he damaged his cruciate ligaments in his first training session and is out for 7-8 months.

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In other news we started the season by winning 2 more trophies, the Community Shield and the European Super Cup against Stoke and Man Utd, respectively. The league season hasn’t been a brilliant start having won one, drawn one and lost one. The defeat came away to newly promoted Brighton who played the last 30 minutes with 10 men and we still couldn’t find a way through. A bit disappointing but their penalty goal was the first we’ve conceded so far, including friendlies, so the defence is looking pretty solid.

The Champions League draw gave us Inter Milan, Dinamo Zagreb and Fenerbahce which should be fairly comfortable. Poor Celtic got Man City, Juventus and Leverkusen. Rangers were also in the UCL qualifiers, which shows the Scottish league has been doing well in Europe, but they got pumped off Fenerbahce in the playoff round. They got a tough Europa League draw, being drawn with Ajax, Bordeaux and Torino.

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Fear and loathing in Montevideo

I’m now halfway through season 7 and, as manager of Uruguay, I’ve played 6 friendly matches.

International management is so boring.

While this is going on, I’ve been trying to get a new job, but there’s very little out there. I got offered a few positions at lower league clubs, and I almost accepted, but I’m holding out for a top level club. I think I deserve it!

So far, I’ve failed to get jobs at Man City, Inter, Juventus (neither rejections very surprising, admittedly), Stoke, Southampton, West Ham, Malaga, Torino, and Atalanta. At this rate, I’ll still be club-less by the time we reach the summer, and if this continues, I’ll be looking for a second-tier job to dull the boredom that’s settling in over Uruguay.

All that said, the Copa America kicks off in 6 months. Let’s see how we get on.