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  1. The Wild Cards

    March First things first, we had the Youth Candidates coming through this month... And they were all pretty much useless. Which is sad because I normally expect Everton to produce good young players and it's definitely something which could, in the long term, allow us to compete with the top 6. We start the month with a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool. Our game against them at Goodison earlier in the season was one of my favourite games of the season so far and I was hoping for a similar result here... This was a little bit frustrating as we put in a good performance but were undone by a late Roberto Firmino goal to give Liverpool the points. Still the performance was good enough that I was feeling confident as CSKA Moscow travelled to Goodison. They were 3rd in the Russian League and were definitely a side who were capable of ending our Europa League run. And our excellent Europa League form at Goodison continued here. Kelechi was magnificent, scoring two headers in the first half from a pair of Mirallas crosses either side of a Georgi Milanov tap in for them. Michael Keane then tapped in (well more accurately the ball hit him and it went in before Rojo laid the ball off to Idrissa Gueye who thundered home after two attempts to seal an excellent result for us to take to Moscow. After this game CSKA actually sacked their manager. A trip to Leicester followed and, with the two Moscow ties either side of this game, I decided to play the reserves. I was, honestly, just hoping to avoid another thumping against Leicester here... And, as predicted, Leicester were better than the XI I fielded, Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani heading in twice to give them a routine win. After this we travelled to Moscow in a comfortable position but not comfortable enough that the tie was a done deal. Good result, solid performance. Kelechi's head provided another goal here from a Coleman cross and our passage to the quarter-finals was secured. Sevilla are our next opponents in what will definitely prove to be a testing tie. The international break followed this before Swansea travelled to Goodison to finish the month. The trip to Stamford Bridge was postponed because of their FA Cup run. Yannick Bolasie tapped in early on to give us the lead before Kelechi's head got another goal a few minutes later. An Idrissa Gueye then deflected in off M'Bengue for another before Roque Mesa was sent off for a dreadful foul for them. Bolasie then found space in the box again to complete the rout just before half-time. To be fair they were better in the second half, Bony pulling one back but it was too little too late for them. In terms of the League, our season is petering out a bit as we turn our focus to our Europa League campaign. In terms of the Europa League, Lyon did us a bit of a favour by eliminating Arsenal from contention but there are still plenty of dangerous sides knocking around. Slightly irritated that Ajax and Celtic drew each other as I think they're the two sides I would have wanted to face in the next round. Sevilla give me an interesting tactical dilemma. The first leg is at home and I'm really not sure whether to attack or not as they are slightly better than we are on paper but I also feel like I really need to take a lead back to Andalucia to go through...
  2. The Wild Cards

    February We have an important run of fixtures this month, with Spurs and Arsenal coming to Goodison in the League and our Europa League tie against Hertha to play. First up, Spurs who are in the 4th Champions League spot under Pochettino. A win here could maybe allow us to launch a top 4 challenge... Sadly this was one of those games where we maybe deserved to win it but got undone by poor finishing at one end and Harry Kane at the other end, as he managed to score two scrappy goals to get Spurs the points. Siggy tapped in to pull one back but we weren't clinical enough to win the game. And that probably puts the final nail in the coffin of any top 4 hopes we may have harboured. Oh, and Rafa Silva got injured for about a month meaning that he'll miss the tie against Hertha... Arsenal are the next side to come to Goodison, hoping to stay on City's coattails at the top of the league. Overall a decent point, Ozil slipped Lacazette in to put them in front. Fortunately Kelechi fired home to net the first goal of his loan spell at the club. The Europa League starts again next. From this point the Europa League is probably the most important competition for us. Plus this tie was around the fifth round FA Cup ties so we had back-to-back games against Hertha allowing me to really go for it without having to worry about tiring my players out too much. Hertha were just above the relegation zone in the Bundesliga so I expected to win this tie. However, the first leg did not go according to plan. Seamus Coleman got into a wrestling match with Salomon Kalou allowing him to convert from the penalty spot. From then on the game was roughly even but we never really built up a head of steam to equalise. To be fair that was partly intentional, a 1-0 defeat isn't too bad in the first leg but 2-0 would have made life really difficult so I went for the low risk option. Hertha did the same, clearly figuring that taking a lead to Goodison was a good result so the game kind of petered out a bit. Rooney picked up an injury too in between the two legs. In the second leg, though, we put in the best performance of my reign so far. In fact we were unlucky to only score 5 goals, this could easily have been 8 or 9. The United win is the other main contender but, whereas that was a performance characterised by a very solid defensive performance and rapid counter-attacks, here we took control of the game from kick-off and slowly pounded Hertha into submission. Mirallas converted a Baines cross to give us the lead before another Baines cross eventually fell to James McCarthy who thumped it home to double our lead. Mirallas then turned provided for the third, finding Kelechi who converted before Ross Barkley played Mirallas in for the fourth. Lennon was then taken down in the box allowing Baines to net a deserved goal to seal a brilliant win. A performance that really shows what we can do as a side. CSKA Moscow will meet us in the last 16 of the Europa League which should be a very interesting tie between two good teams. Sadly a late injury to Kelechi put a slight dampener on the Hertha win and forced me to wheel out Dominic Calvert-Lewin for his first start of the season at home to Bournemouth. Which, of course, was a game I expected to win. Routine win overall. Bournemouth didn't really create any chances all game and we were clinical enough to punish them. A corner fell to Davy Klaassen who fired in a shot which deflected off Begovic, the post and then Jordon Ibe to go in before Calvert-Lewin slipped in Ross Barkley who fired home to seal it. A nice win that keeps us in a good position in the league. We're 10th which remains a decent enough position for the moment. Sadly next month sees successive away games against Liverpool, Leicester and Chelsea in the league which I can't say I'm looking forward to. In other news, Tony Pulis was sacked by West Brom this month too, but they haven't replaced him yet. And as you can see. plenty of good teams floating around in the Europa League.
  3. The Wild Cards

    This year the goal is to finish in the top half and see how far I can go in the Europa League. Of course winning the Europa League would net me a CL place which would be nice but I have to get past a good Arsenal team and an Atleti side who are running away with La Liga to do that so... Next season depends on various factors, I'm hoping to actually launch a top 4 challenge or to win one of the Cups next season alongside finishing like 6th/7th.
  4. [FM18] The Perfectionist III - A sucker for pain

    To be fair you're in a slightly better position this time compared to the same stage of last season...
  5. [FM18] The Perfectionist III - A sucker for pain

    Solid first season, good recovery in the second half of the season.
  6. The Wild Cards

    January First things first, as you may have realised by this point in time, I've been having some... defensive issues this season. So when the board gave me an extra £15 Million to spend in January, there was only one area of the team which I was going to strengthen. Thankfully, Jose was letting another decent defender go for peanuts so Marcos Rojo joins us for £12 Milion. £27 Million combined for Blind and Rojo seems like good value to me, as I'd probably value them both at about £25-30 Million individually. So yeah delighted with Rojo as a signing and it means that there is one more body that has to go down before I'm forced to resort to Williams or Jagielka. This month also saw the return of Yannick Bolasie from an extended spell on the sidelines. Another good month sees us move up to 9th in the league. We're also 7 points off a Champions' League place so... maybe? Or am I being a bit ambitious there? If we are to sneak into the CL next season maybe the Europa League is the better route and that kicks off again as we face Hertha Berlin next month. Oh and Roy Hodgson was replaced by Roberto di Matteo at Palace this month. Our first match of the month was at home to Port Vale in the FA Cup. Not a competition that was a priority this season but I've had more than my fair share of embarrassing results this season (*cough* 6-0 defeat to Leicester *cough*) so I could live without having to suffer another one here. Fortunately this was the definition of a routine win. It took us longer than I would have liked to break them down but when Ross Barkley scored there was only ever going to be one result. Vlasic sealed it a few minutes later. We host Arsenal in the Fourth Round Next up Palace travelled to Goodison. I fully expected three points here... We started well. Sandro putting us in front after 10 minutes after Hennessey had already made a magnificent save to deny Idrissa Gueye. Sadly we then let Palace into the game and, to be honest, they probably deserved to win it. Connor Wickham heading home to net an equaliser for them after Pickford saved a Yohan Cabaye penalty. Very frustrating result and definitely two points dropped. In more bad news, Mirallas went down injured and is now out for just over a month. West Ham were the next visitors to Goodison where, to be fair, we'd only lost once all season. Too many draws at Goodison was an issue though. I also really wanted to revenge that 4-0 defeat from earlier in the season.... Vengeance is a dish best served cold. Rafa Silva was magnificent all game, scoring twice and the West Ham defence just could not cope with him. Marcos Rojo finished off after a goalmouth scramble from a free-kick to get his first goal for the club. Chicharito caused some late nerves by pulling one back but this was a good result as we managed to ruin David Moyes' return to Everton. Next up a trip to Turf Moor. Can we do it on a wet Tuesday night at Burnley? Kind of is the answer to that. Chris Wood headed home to put Burnley in front and leave me feeling very worried about our potential ability to break down Burnley's inevitably stubborn resistance. Fortunately Rafa Silva was buzzing around and Ross Barkley played him in to equalise. Sadly, Marcos Rojo then decided to show the negative side of his game and got sent off for chopping down Wood when he was already on a yellow card. Fortunately we held on to claim a decent point. Next up we had Arsenal in the FA Cup. Since both of us are still in the Europa League I imagine that both sides were dreading the potential fixture congestion which could result from an extended Cup run. I would not be too upset with a defeat here... And indeed we lost. The first half was insufferably dull. Thankfully we had Williams and Jagielka at CB and they can always be relied on to make mistakes, as shown by all three Arsenal goals which were caused by their chronic lack of pace and mobility. Iwobi and Welbeck were the beneficiaries. In other news, Davy Klaassen scored a screamer to equalise, thumping home a first time effort from about 30 yards, Still, not too upset to lose this one. We ended the month with a trip to Southampton who were 4th at the time. Definitely a test for my new and improved Everton side. Fortunately Mario Lemina decided to give us a late Christmas present and get sent off in the first 10 minutes. Our first goal was somewhat fortunate, as a Ross Barkley free-kick took a massive deflection beyond Fraser Forster to put us in front. Santiago Arias then scored his second stunner of the season against us to equalise and leave me fuming. Fortunately Rafa Silva continued his recent fine form, tapping in from a Yannick Bolasie cross to restore our lead. Bolasie then sealed the points with a great finish from the edge of the box for the third. A very good result. Sadly Sandro's hamstring went twang meaning that he would be out for 3 months. Also bear in mind that the Southampton game ended on 9:45 during transfer deadline day. This left me with a dilemma. Did I really want Wayne Rooney to be my first choice striker for the rest of the season? No I didn't. I recalled Calvert-Lewin from his loan at Brighton to provide depth and then frantically started chasing a striker. Thankfully, after failed attempts to get Michy Batshuayi, Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente, I managed to persuade Leicester to send Kelechi Iheanacho to us on loan until the end of the season. Which is definitely a significantly better option than either Rooney or Calvert-Lewin. Another good month sees us move up to 9th in the league. We're also 7 points off a Champions' League place so... maybe? Or am I being a bit ambitious there? If we are to sneak into the CL next season maybe the Europa League is the better route and that kicks off again as we face Hertha Berlin next month. Oh and Roy Hodgson was replaced by Roberto di Matteo at Palace this month.
  7. [FM18] The Perfectionist III - A sucker for pain

    Following, interesting start to the season...
  8. The Wild Cards

    December And so we enter December in a run of terrible form with a defence which is Keegan-esque at best. Oh, and we also start the match with successive away games against Newcastle and Watford. We actually looked defensively competent in this one but Dwight Gayle wriggled free once to fire home and condemn us to yet another defeat. In between Newcastle and Watford we hosted Celtic in the Europa League, Nikola Vlasic and Sandro firing in the goals to get us three points. This allowed us to top the group above Celtic and progress to the last 32. And it was a little bit satisfying being able to avenge the collapse at Celtic Park earlier in the season. Sadly though the Watford game saw a return to type as our defence was carved open whenever Watford crossed the halfway line. We looked dangerous going forward but when you're conceding sloppy goals you make life really difficult for yourself. Andre Gray and Carlos Carmona scored twice before a Gylfi Sigurdsson shot went in off Sebastian Prodl. Sadly we then failed to clear a corner and Christian Kabasele had a tap in to seal the points for Watford, After the Watford game we were 19th in the table. We had won once since our win against Burnley in early September. Our defence was abysmal and we were, on average, conceding two to three goals a game. As a result the board called me in for a meeting. I managed to beg them to give me another month to turn things around and proceeded to try to figure out how to shore up our defence. My eventual solution was to switch to a back 4 of Baines-Blind-Keane-Coleman, with Blind as a ball-playing defender and Keane as a regular CB. I also switched the away formation from Standard to Counter. Put simply, I felt that Williams and Jagielka were leaving us constantly exposed so the only solution I could come up with was to drop them and change the entire defence. Oh, and just to complete my misery, our next game was against United. And the media were predicting a defeat would lead to my sacking. I went for the new away formation in an attempt to at least give us a chance... How the hell did we go from losing 6-0 to Leicester, 3-0 to Celtic and Huddersfield and 4-0 to West Ham to this? We were magnificent. We didn't just win. We slaughtered them. They didn't have a single highlight all game while we had 4 or 5 golden chances. Rafa Silva seemed to be possessed by the spirit of Lionel Messi. He slipped Kevin Mirallas in for the first after 8 minutes before playing Sandro in on goal twice in the last 15 minutes to seal a brilliant win. This, for the record, was our first clean sheet in the league since the Burnley win and only our second win since then. It also took us out of the relegation zone and may well have saved my job. However, the media were still predicting my imminent sacking as we hosted West Brom. Well the positive is that the new defence seems to be a huge improvement. The negative is that we got Pulised. Still, a point is a point and I'll take it. Particularly since we only seem capable of beating the top 6... A trip to table-topping City followed with the media still predicting my imminent demise. Our good record against the top 6 continues. And don't let the stats fool you, we deserved to win this one. Sandro tapped in at the near post to put us in front which was followed by us keeping City at arms length for most of the rest of the match. They eventually found a way through as a Bernardo Silva pot shot from the edge of the box beat Pickford at his near post. Rafa Silva then missed an open goal in injury time which would have allowed us to get our first away win of the season. Still, the recent improvement continues. A trip to Brighton next who were marooned to the bottom of the league. The media were still predicting that I would be sacked with a defeat... Our first away win in the league all season. We also played excellently and Brighton didn't have a highlight all match. We worked a free-kick to Ross Barkley who fired home to seal three more points and move us further away from trouble. We then travelled to Stoke under their new coach Tata Martino. Stoke were also struggling so this was a great chance for us to put more distance between us and the relegation zone. In more positive news, the media were no longer predicting my sacking. In some negative news both Sandro and Rooney were injured forcing me to play Kevin Mirallas up front. And another win. For seventy minutes we were excellent, scoring from two corners which were poorly cleared which were then worked towards Mirallas and Barkley respectively. They slotted home to give us a 2-0 lead. Sadly, in the last 20 minutes, Saido Berahino became a world-class footballer and proceeded to tear our defence to shreds, managing to pull one back on 71 minutes. Fortunately though we managed to cling on for three more points. And I also don't know why Berahino always seems to turn into an incredible footballer against us... Only two days later on New Year's Day (which I'm including in December as it's really the end of the Christmas period) Huddersfield came to Goodison. I remembered our 3-0 thrashing at Huddersfield earlier in the season and really wanted to set the record straight. Sadly though I had to break up the new defence due to tiredness and had to put my faith in Ashley Williams at CB. We won but our defence reverted back to its form from earlier in the season. Williams and Jagielka really are dreadful on this game. Anyway, Aaron Lennon slotted home to give us an early lead before Steve Mounie and Tom Ince took advantage of our inability to clear crosses to give Huddersfield a half-time lead. To be fair though we were excellent in the second half, creating 5 or 6 chances without giving Huddersfield anything in return. Sandro hit the bar and the rebound fell to Vlasic to equalise before Sandro found space in the box to fire home the winner and take home three more points. Overall our upturn in form puts us in the top half. The board are now pleased with me having spent most of December holding an axe over my head. We also face Hertha Berlin in the last 32 of the Europa League and we host Port Vale in the third round of the FA Cup. Oh, and there were four managerial changes this month (I was tipped to be the next to go after all of them but managed to cling on for the entire month). Chris Hughton was replaced by Slaven Bilic at Brighton, Marco Silva was replaced by Paul Lambert at Watford, Antonio Conte was replaced by Luis Enrique at Chelsea and Mark Hughes was replaced by Gerardo Martino at Stoke. Also, Chelsea appear to be repeating their 2015/16 season in this save. Who knows, they may actually get relegated this time.
  9. The Wild Cards

    November We kicked this month off with a trip to Vitesse in the Europa League. At the start of play we were level on points with them so any type of result in Arnhem would be a huge boost to our hopes of reaching the last 32. Overall this was the perfect away performance, we kept Vitesse at arms length for most of the match before Rooney slipped Kevin Mirallas in for an easy finish at the near post. A win that put us in a brilliant position to reach the knockout stages. After Vitesse we travelled to 2nd place Bournemouth who were in brilliant form going into this one. Our defence really is useless. Defoe and Callum Wilson both ran rings around our CBs to put Bournemouth 2-0 up. Thankfully our attack is at least competent, Rafa Silva headed in to pull one back before Davy Klaassen thumped in to seal a decent point. We then travelled to Swansea, another team who were surprisingly high in the table for this point in the season. Sadly Michael Keane was injured just before this match so I had to play Jagielka and Williams at CB. We were good in the first half and sealed a half-time lead when Sandro tapped in at the near post from a Mirallas cross. I then went to Counter in the second half hoping that dropping deep would suit Jagielka and Williams. Sadly Williams was beaten in the air by Tammy Abraham who headed in to equalise before Abraham ran past Williams and slipped Jordan Ayew in to seal three points for Swansea. Jagielka was nowhere to be seen. We then had an opportunity to seal a last 32 place in the Europa League if we could beat Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal. A good performance and a good result, Ross Barkley and Wayne Rooney securing a place in the next round of the Europa League. If we beat Celtic at Goodison we'll even manage to top the group. We then hosted Leicester, a team who had lost 4 of their last 5 games and who were in terrible form. Surely this had to be a win... Umm... our defence really is useless. Of course I forgot to account for the fact that Vardy was about to destroy Jagielka and Williams while Coleman and Blind just seemed to be allowing Mahrez and Gray to run past them at will. Oh, Pickford was useless too. Gueye also did nothing as a holding midfielder. Oh and Rafa Silva missed an easy chance in the first 10 minutes which could have changed the entire game. This was the worst result of my FM career. Ever. With no exceptions. Chelsea then travelled to us in midweek. Chelsea scored from their first attack as Jagielka and Coleman failed to deal with a routine ball into the box allowing Pedro to tap in at the far post. We then showed our offensive ability, Sandro tapping in to equalise before a corner rebounded to Morgan Schneiderlin who drilled home to put us in front. I immediately switched to our more defensive system to hopefully stay vaguely solid. Sadly, just after half-time, we conceded a goal which will haunt me for years to come. Gary Cahill hoofed it downfield. Williams and Jagielka stopped. Pickford stopped. Morata nipped in and was left with an open goal to equalise. Cue yet another sigh of resigned and weary frustration as I glare furiously at Williams and Jagielka and their consistent ineptitude. Our league position is now worrying. For some reason the board are pleased with my performance but our defence is shockingly poor. We're conceding over two goals a game at the minute and only Burnley have failed to score against us. In particular we have huge issues if Michael Keane is injured. We're making multiple individual errors every game and it's really hurting us at the moment. In more positive news, things are going well in the Europa League. So that's good news. And we are entertaining to watch. You've got to give us that at least...
  10. The Wild Cards

    Yeah, hopefully the last few performances/results are sign that we've turned a corner as a side and not just a couple of good results before we revert back to poor form...
  11. The Wild Cards

    October Ok so after an abysmal September, I was not hopeful about a month that would see us face Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool. We also had a crucial Europa League game against Vitesse to focus on as well. This could well be the month that makes or breaks our season. First up a trip to the Emirates. Arsenal hadn't been at their best this season but were still a very good side and would have been expecting to win this game. I was largely hoping for something to break the continual cycle of misery that we seem to be trapped in currently... Overall, we played well for about 65 minutes. Calum Chambers scored an own goal to put us in front before Giroud tapped in at the near post to equalise. I was just about to go a bit more defensive when Ozil fired in a free-kick that rebounded around before dropping for Lacazette to put Arsenal in front. At this point I went for it and they picked us off on the break, Mesut Ozil sealing it with a third goal. Still, an encouraging performance. Vitesse was a do or die game in Europe. If we won it we'd go level on points with them in the group which would put us in a good position to qualify for the last 32. Failure to win here... and it would probably be the end of our European dream. A routine win, Aaron Lennon prodded us in front after six minutes and we proceeded to control the first-half and probably should have scored again before half-time. Sadly, and true to form, we then conceded to Bryan Linssen just after half-time after Jagielka and Williams failed to clear a routine cross and Pickford was beaten at his near-post. Fortunately we then did something competently and won a penalty when Rooney was brought down in the box. Leighton Baines converted to restore our lead. From that point, Vitesse never threatened and Davy Klaasen broke through to seal the win. That win really keeps us in the race for a place in the next round of the Europa League. After the Vitesse game we travelled to Wembley to face Spurs. Sadly this game fell after a Europa League match and, even though Spurs had not been great so far, they were still probably going to steamroller us. Overall, a brilliant result with some frustration at our failure to see it through after taking a 2-0 lead. Our front three caused havoc in the first-half with both goals coming from the same combination, Rafa Silva playing it down the line for Sandro who was running down the left-flank who then put in a dangerous cross for Kevin Mirallas to tap in at the back-post. Sadly, and as ever true to form, our defence cannot be trusted to hold onto anything. Harry Kane scored a brilliant goal to pull one back before Son put in a great cross for Christian Eriksen to head in an equaliser. Still, considering our midweek commitments I was delighted with a point from this one. Finally the Merseyside derby as high-flying Liverpool travelled to Goodison. Having seen how well the 4-3-3 worked against Spurs and considering that it produced a solid result against Arsenal I decided to see how it would fare against another top 6 side here. Game of the season so far. Our defence was, as ever, abysmal. Twice Simon Mignolet punted a long, hopeful ball downfield. Twice our CBs failed to deal with with and twice Daniel Sturridge was left with an easy finish. At half-time I changed the formation back to our normal 4-2-3-1 at home. Almost immediately Liverpool broke and Roberto Firmino fired an easy one-on-one wide. He would live to regret that miss as, fortunately, Liverpool have a defence which is almost as bad as ours is. Blind and Rafa Silva combined well on the left-hand side to produce a crossing opportunity for Blind. He put it in towards the near-post, Sandro fired it towards goal, Mignolet saved it but Sandro then poked in the rebound to put us back in it. We started to press. Eventually Kevin Mirallas galloped down the right-edge of the penalty area only to be chopped down by Dejan Lovren, who appeared to be channelling my CBs. Gylfi Sigurdsson tucked away the penalty to level. A tense wait ensued as both teams pressed for a winner. Eventually we won a free-kick on the right-hand side, it was played back to Davy Klaasen who fired in a shot. That shot was flying wide until it took a big deflection off Georginio Wijnaldum and flew in for the winner. 3-2. And we actually managed to hold onto the lead this time to claim three precious points. I was starting to forget what it actually felt like to win a game... Overall, I'm now content with how things are progressing. Good results against the top 6 have us in a decent position to sneak into the top half and the victory over Vitesse has us in a solid position in our Europa League group. Oh, and in case you hadn't realised this yet, upgrading the defence is my number one priority in the summer. Like seriously watching us defend is slowly killing me.
  12. The Wild Cards

    August and September 2018 And so we moved onto our home leg against AEK Larnakas in the Europa League. We went for our home formation of 4-2-3-1 while they went for a 4-4-1-1. Overall, we dominated and won 1-0 but should have scored a few more goals. Sadly though that wasn't going to happen. A trip to Huddersfield was up next. We persisted with our makeshift defence against the newly promoted side. That was... horrendous. Elias Kachunga tore us to pieces and our defence just could not cope with him. Those were words I never expected to have to type... We were 1-0 down before I switched to our home formation with 30 minutes left to try to push for an equaliser which resulted in them smashing us on the break a couple of times. We then had the trip to Cyprus to finish off Larnakas. Put in a couple of youth players into the defence and went with the away formation. Overall a very comfortable win. We have a very straightforward Europa League group of Celtic, Vitoria Guimaraes and Vitesse. A must-win home game against Stoke was on the following Sunday. Sadly our squad was stretched and knackered meaning I wasn't entirely comfortable sending that team out there for fear of further injuries... Please kill me now... they took the lead through Saido Berahino's first goal for the club. Idrissa Gueye then equalises before Mirallas scores a great goal for 2-1. Then we have a dull second half which has me thinking that we're heading for a narrow 2-1 win. Sadly, our defence has other ideas, allowing Ibrahim Afellay in to equalise. Of course we then charge off down the other end and Kevin Mirallas fires in a cross which deflects in off Ramadan Sobhi for 3-2. Of course this being FM, Stoke then immediately go down the other end, Berahino is left free to roam and he poaches another equaliser. Cue a long succession of curse words and various objects being thrown around the room for the next 5 minutes. After the international break, Burnley travelled to Goodison. A routine win, Idrissa Gueye and Sandro sealing a comfortable win. This completed a fairly solid start to the season (Huddersfield excepted). We start our Europa League group at home to Vitoria Guimaraes. A game I both really wanted to win yet also felt like I had to rest players for... We dominate. We take the lead through Ross Barkley. We look comfortable. Of course we then concede an injury time equaliser to Rafael Martins. A trip to Selhurst Park to face Palace next... We're excellent for 90 minutes. It was the perfect away performance. We soak up a bit of pressure. We stay in the game. I go more offensive on 65 minutes to get a winner. Substitute Wayne Rooney fires us in front. They get Jason Puncheon sent off. Great, game over I think. Of course they then equalise through a Jeffrey Schlupp goal in injury time to send me into another fit of apoplectic rage. We then have successive trips to West Ham, one in the League Cup and one in the League,,, the League Cup first. Ok it's the League Cup against a first-choice Hammers side, I'm not too upset with a narrow defeat in this one. But then this happens. We were terrible. They were faster, stronger and were quicker to every loose ball. We were 1-0 down at half-time and I switched to the home formation. In hindsight that was a mistake as they then proceeded to run riot for the next 45 minutes... Next up we had Celtic in the Europa League. Surely we can't lose to Celtic... Not only do we lose but we get absolutely slaughtered in perhaps one of the most depressing games of my FM career. When Dedryck Boyata gets an 8.1 against you, you know that things are not going your way... seriously we were terrible. And I'm an Arsenal fan. I know a terrible performance when I see it... We then had a game against Southampton. A win here and, despite some shocking results, we wouldn't be in a terrible position at the end of September. Lose it and we're in deep, deep trouble. Of course in a major game, Daley Blind decides that it's the IDEAL time to get a red card for two silly bookings. Just when we were starting to get on top of this one too. We then go behind to a screamer from Santiago Arias leaving me cursing everyone and everything, To be fair at that point we do actually show some spirit and Sandro nabs an equaliser. We also managed to hold on to at least get something from the game. So, yeah overall things are not going well. We need to finish in the top half and we're not doing that at the minute. We're also bottom of our Europa League group after chucking away two points against Guimaraes before allowing Celtic to have their way with us... The dressing room is also starting to growl at me. A few players are becoming disgruntled under my leadership after a few disappointing results. The second West Ham really set them off... Oh and our next three games are Arsenal (A), Spurs (A) and Liverpool (H). I think a sacking may be coming soon...
  13. The Wild Cards

    Pre-Season and Start of the Season Yeah our pre-season was pretty good, got some momentum and a couple of nice wins towards the end of that period. As ever though pre-season means almost nothing when you have the business of qualifying for the Europa League to attend to. We were drawn against Aberdeen in the Third Qualifying Round, a more challenging tie than I would have liked at that stage of the competition. We lined up in our 4-2-3-1 (I hadn't signed Rafa yet) with Pickford in goal, Ashley Williams at RCB, Cuco Martina at RB, Kevin Mirallas at LAM with Aaron Lennon at RAM the main changes to my standard formation. Oh, and Wayne Rooney at ST as Sandro had a minor niggle a couple of days before the game. They went for a 3-1-4-2 system to counter us. Overall, a good result, Mirallas thumped in an opener early on, They then equalised through a scrappy goal from Andrew Considine after Pickford spilled a shot straight to him. Fortunately Rooney was on hand to restore the lead and Nikola Vlasic wandered through their defence before slotting home a late third. The performance was decent but with plenty of room for improvement. For the second leg, I made some changes. I switched to my away system, Sandro slotted in up front and Siggy moved back to become an extra CM. They switched to a 4-2-3-1. Overall a dull game. Lennon went off with a minor niggle at half-time but Vlasic, his replacement fired in a great shot to win the game. Overall, job comfortably done and I'm content with that. Finally we hosted Brighton in our PL opener. Sadly both Michael Keane and Cuco Martina went down with injuries pre-game which left me... somewhat short of defenders. Leighton Baines came in at LB, I moved Blind to CB and had to... *shudders*... play Phil Jagielka as a roaming RB. Rafa came in for his debut, allowing me to move Mirallas to the right and everything else was as it should be. They went for a 4-4-1-1 with Pascal Gross as a playmaker in midfield and Solly March supporting Glenn Murray up front . One tactical decision on their part which I feel favoured us was their decision to play Jose Izqueirdo and Anthony Knockaert as inverted wingers. I feel like a proper winger could really have caused problems for Jagielka. Overall, an excellent 3-1 win. Sandro was magnificent, converting a Baines cross for his first, volleying home a lovely Schneiderlin through-ball for his second and finishing off a Mirallas cross for his third. Pascal Gross was allowed to stroll through our defence to slot in a late consolation for them but, overall and considering our makeshift defence, that was a good win. Sandro has just become my new hero. Oh, and we've drawn the Cypriot team AEK Larnakas in the play-off round of the Europa League. Which should be fairly straightforward. Although at this rate I may have to come off the bench to play CB so who knows...
  14. The Wild Cards

    Tactics Alright, firstly my home tactic is a fairly straightforward 4-2-3-1. Goal is to control the midfield with Schneiderlin and Sigurdsson acting as playmakers and Blind and Coleman pushing forward from full-back. Rafa Silv should tuck in and allow us to overload on the left-hand side while Mirallas generally stays wide to allow us to switch the play if we're getting caged in at any point. Basic plan is to draw the opposition defence to the left and keep Mirallas wide giving the opposing RB the dilemma of whether to stick with Mirallas and potentially provide space for a CM or Sandro to exploit or whether to tuck in and give Mirallas an acre of room on the right-hand side. Plus if our overload on the left-hand side works, we can get Blind into a good crossing position or even potentially present a decent shooting opportunity for Siggy, Schneiderlin or Rafa Silva. My away tactics are very simple. A 4-3-3 which is designed to be solid defensively while presenting a threat on the break. It's also why I wanted a winger to replace Bolasie. Siggy could work on the left of my 4-2-3-1 with Barkley playing as a CAM fairly effectively. I have... issues with playing Siggy as a winger on the left in a 4-3-3 though as I just don't think it would suit him. These tactics have generally served me well on FM 17 so I'm somewhat interested to see whether they work on FM 18. I am also admittedly managing at a significantly lower level in 17 so that could potentially catch me out here, although in theory I like both tactics for when I intend to use them...
  15. The Wild Cards

    Pre-Season 2017 So, pre-season was as ever dominated by transfer strategy. In this window I was largely just looking to plug some short-term gaps in the squad in order to keep me going to undergo the massive squad overhaul which I'll need to push into the top 6. In particular, Leighton Baines was my only fit LB and Yannick Bolasie's long-term injury left me with some issues with regards to wingers. As I'm sure you all know Everton have a lot of solid CMs so that wasn't a position I needed to worry about and my scouts seem to believe that Sandro can do a job for me up front this season so I was content there. However, as with the squad in real life, I am underwhelmed with the quality and depth of the squad outside of midfield. In particular, I intend to overhaul the defence next summer. My solution to this problem was to use most of my initial budget on Daley Blind to plug the hole at LB for £15.75 Million. He is also a good CB and CM so can fill in in various positions if I need him. Plus he's better than average for my squad so I was very happy to bring him in. At this point, I didn't have enough funds to bring in the solid winger I wanted to buy. So I sold Mason Holgate to Southampton to £7.5 Million and Oumar Niasse for £5 Million to Lazio. With Sandro and Rooney (and Calvert-Lewin on a recallable loan) I didn't need Niasse so selling him was a no brainer. Holgate was a slightly tougher decision. Sadly he's not really an upgrade on Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka at CB and, unlike those two, he's young enough that I could actually get some money for him. He's also not really good enough for where I want to be in the future. So he was a player who I was happy to sell to plug my winger issue. I'm also trying to sell Davy Klaasen as I have too many CMs and I think McCarthy is more useful than Klaasen for me... tough call that one though. However, as my current immediate transfer business is done, I'm willing to wait until a very good offer comes through before I axe Klaasen. I then used my newly acquired funds to bring in Rafa Silva, a winger from Benfica for £9 Million. He's reasonably cheap and is good enough to be a significant upgrade on my other options as a winger. He also has a little bit of potential to grow. He's definitely a short-term solution but he is at least a solution to my winger issue. In other news Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies and Shani Tarashaj are a few players I'm sending out on loan and will be keeping half an eye on. It's possible that I may recall Calvert-Lewin at some point if Sandro or Rooney get injured for an extended period.