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Everything posted by sjg11

  1. Hi, I've been a huge fan of FM for years but there's one thing that consistently bugs me a little bit about the game. After a certain amount of time the AI teams and clubs start to blend together a little bit. Moreover, particularly in the Premier League, I find that often the mid-table sides are a little bit too stable. It occasionally feels like, in the game, an established Premier League side is a bit more established than they would be in real life. I find this a particular issue with the PL where the gap between a mid-table side and a struggling side, in the long-term, is bigger than it is in real life. Finally, the procedure for sacking AI managers often feels a little bit formulaic when, in reality, managers do get sacked for... more random reasons occasionally. So, this is my suggestion to help combat some of these issues. I don't want to over-exaggerate this stuff either, I'm aware that club philosophies are already a thing and obviously it is possible for a mid-table side to slip into a relegation battle. It's more a matter of degree rather than any attempt to suggest that the AI clubs on FM follow a completely set template and are innately stable. My first suggestion would be to have chairmen and DoFs take a more active role in determining how an AI club runs and operates. What I mean by this is increase the importance of club philosophies for AI clubs. For example, some clubs could sign players from certain countries (eg Wolves could sign a lot of Portuguese players), or could bring in managers who play a specific style of play or could focus on signing younger players or more experienced players or could focus on signing players who have strong physical stats or technical stats or mental stats or whatever. Basically, make club philosophies more varied, more common and make them have a bigger influence on how AI clubs operate in the game. This would help to allow the game to feel more varied and flexible if you're doing a long-term save when, at the moment, after a certain point the AI gets kinda samey and the opponents start to blend into each other a bit. These philosophies could change as a result of a new chairman or DOF coming in or could even change because the club is performing badly and the chairman wants to "freshen" things up a bit. Tied to the above, there could be a new feature on the club information page called "Identity and Stability". This would outline what a club's identity or strategy is. It would also have two bars on the page. The first bar would show how strongly a club is wedded to their identity. Initially when a new chairman or manager or when a club embarks on a new strategy, they would be strongly wedded to their identity. But after a bad season or two an impatient chairman may become less wedded to a specific identity or strategy. The second bar would indicate a club's stability. This would deal with another small issue with the gameplay I've noticed. Often clubs are able to sack managers fairly regularly in game without feeling any obvious negative consequences for that or the consequences aren't as negative as they would be in real life. Obviously though in real life if a club starts getting through managers regularly it has an impact on the club and the club becomes a visionless mess with no strategy and no identity. I would also tend to suggest that these changes should NOT apply to the player's club. Simply because a lot of these changes involve the chairman or the DOF playing a more active role in the game and that would get really frustrating really quickly for a player. In particular if you were to introduce more "random" sackings into the game for the AI that go beyond simply looking at whether results meet a minimum level that would be a terrible idea if it happened to the player as it would just be REALLY frustrating. Effectively some specific suggestions are above but what I'm really trying to get at is that, in terms of tactics, the AI is fairly well-developed when it comes to FM but the AI often seems to lack a coherent long-term strategy. Part of this is due to the structure of the game. As the game is about managing a football club, the manager has all the power. And although this obviously makes sense for the player's club, for the AI clubs it's problematic. As plenty of AI clubs get through managers at a fairly reasonable rate and the managers effectively control the club's strategy, the clubs never develop a coherent strategy. In order to combat this it might make sense to move the AI's strategic decisions to a chairman or a DOF and away from the manager as chairmen tend to last longer than managers do. It might also more accurately reflect how many actual football clubs operate. And obviously you could have variety to this, some clubs will have a strong identity and strategy while other clubs will float around looking for short-term fixes, as in real life. This could make for a more dynamic and challenging AI that thinks ahead and could also lead to more instability. Newly promoted teams tend to do worse on FM than they do in real life and this is because newly promoted teams often have a strong identity and strategy (hence why they got promoted in the first place) which some clubs in the division above lack which makes up for their comparative lack of resources. Anyway I'm rambling and I think my point has probably been made at this point so...
  2. Sadly I cannot describe any side which draws a game 6-6 having been 3-0 up inside 30 minutes as completely competent...
  3. You're lucky. You're avoiding some top quality opposition there. By the time I left our side was almost competent...
  4. Hehe, having just finished American Samoa with the mightly Lion Heart today to move to the heights of Papua New Guinea, I'm gonna enjoy this. Try not to take me supporting Lion Heart against you too personally but I'm still in the midst of FM attachment to the club . But seriously, good luck. And if you ever manage Lion Heart you may just about earn my backing.
  5. Urrgghh, I found Tonga dull with 7 teams yet alone having that reduced even further. Plus they're all generic blue-badge teams with one exception. To be fair things have been a bit more open in my save, only one all New Zealand, only one all New Zealand final in 8 years and one non-New Zealand winner. Fiji, Vanuatu and Tahiti have all had sides that reached the final. Auckland were dominant initially as always. I was a little bit glad to only lose 2-0 tbh.
  6. I'll admit I'm enjoying Oceania. Tonga was a bit lame but the other 3 countries were all pretty enjoyable. Particularly Samoa as it felt like a couple of sides were a cut above everyone else there whereas most of these leagues are pretty even. Have only spent 2 seasons in the Champions League, both with my Samoan side (Strickland Brothers). First year got knocked out of the prelim group thingy, second year reached the quarters and then drew Auckland City which put a swift end to any thoughts of competing for the title. I normally tend to leave the year after I win the league which tends to mean I miss out on the following year's Champions League. A Tahitian team won it last year though so the New Zealand teams aren't unstoppable.
  7. Following... good luck with this. Actually doing something similar right now inspired by your saves from previous years. Differences being I'm using 18 not 19 and I intend to only win every League and the main continental competitions and I'm only including all nations who are FIFA recognised. Plus using last year's claassen database. Currently won the league in Tonga, Samoa and Cook Islands. Currently expecting to complete American Samoa sooner rather than later (aiming to start in Oceania then move across the continents rather than doing it alphabetically). But yeah these saves are a yearly feature now. I fully expect to see it completed one day!
  8. Hi, does anyone know how to change the maximum number of teams in a League? I've already changed it under Stages in Advanced Rules and I feel like I'm missing one of the places you need to go to to edit it. Using the FM18 Editor...
  9. Hey guys, sorry for the lack of updates recently, was busy and then got swept up in World Cup fever. Will try to post more regularly from here but that may have to wait until the World Cup is done. Anyway, continuing with the first weekend of Football League action: English Division Two Saturday 11th August Bournemouth 2-1 Chesterfield Brighton 2-0 Colchester Cambridge United 3-3 Reading Cardiff 4-0 Oldham Huddersfield 2-0 Bury Notts County 1-2 Swindon Peterborough 1-1 Blackpool QPR 2-2 Bristol City Stoke 2-1 Wycombe Tranmere 3-1 Port Vale Wigan 3-2 Northampton Wrexham 2-0 Brentford QPR's draw against Bristol City was probably the standout fixture of the opening weekend with both sides gaining a point at Loftus Road. Looking at other potential challengers, Huddersfield, Stoke, Cardiff and Wigan all picked up wins. A Brighton side containing Bobby Zamora also picked up three points and could be a dark horse to challenge at the top end of the table. Wrexham, Tranmere, Swindon and Bournemouth also picked up three points. Oldham stood out as the worst side on the opening weekend after being battered by Cardiff. 1. Cardiff (Alan Cork)- 3- +4 2. Tranmere (Dave Watson)- 3- +2 3. Brighton (Micky Adams)- 3- +2 4. Huddersfield (Lou Macari)- 3- +2 5. Wrexham (Brian Flynn)- 3- +2 6. Wigan (Paul Jewell)- 3- +1 7. Bournemouth (Sean O'Driscoll)- 3- +1 8. Stoke (Gudjon Thordarson)- 3- +1 9. Swindon (Roy Evans)- 3- +1 10. Cambridge United (John Beck)- 1- 0 11. Reading (Alan Pardew)- 1- 0 12. Bristol City (Danny Wilson)- 1- 0 13. QPR (Ian Holloway)-1- 0 14. Blackpool (Steve McMahon)- 1- 0 15. Peterborough (Barry Fry)- 1- 0 16. Northampton (Kevin Wilson)- 0- -1 17. Chesterfield (Nicky Law)- 0- -1 18. Notts County (Jocky Scott)- 0- -1 19. Wycombe (Lawrie Sanchez)- 0- -1 20. Port Vale (Brian Horton)- 0- -2 21. Brentford (Steve Coppell)- 0- -2 22. Bury (Andy Preece)- 0- -2 23. Colchester (Steve Whitton)- 0- -2 24. Oldham (Andy Ritchie)- 0- -4 English Division Three Saturday 11th August Carlisle 3-3 Rochdale Cheltenham 4-2 Halifax Darlington 2-1 Plymouth Exeter 0-1 Bristol Rovers Hartlepool 1-2 Scunthorpe Hull 2-3 Luton Leyton Orient 1-0 York Lincoln 1-2 Rushden Macclesfield 1-3 Shrewsbury Oxford 2-3 Mansfield Swansea 2-1 Kidderminster Torquay 2-0 Southend Luton's win at Hull was probably the standout game between two likely challengers for promotion, an excellent start to the season for Luton. In other news, Cheltenham-Halifax, Carlisle-Rochdale and Oxford-Mansfield stood out as particularly entertaining games while Cheltenham, Mansfield, Scunthorpe, Leyton Orient, Bristol Rovers, Darlington, Shrewsbury, Swansea, Torquay and the division's moneybags Rushden all picked up wins. 1. Cheltenham (Steve Cotterill)- 3- +2 2. Shrewsbury (Kevin Ratcliffe)- 3- +2 3. Torquay (Roy McFarland)- 3- +2 4. Luton (Joe Kinnear)- 3- +1 5. Mansfield (Billy Dearden)- 3- +1 6. Darlington (Gary Bennett)- 3- +1 7. Rushden (Brian Talbot)- 3- +1 8. Scunthorpe (Brian Laws)- 3- +1 9. Swansea (Colin Addison)- 3- +1 10. Bristol Rovers (Gerry Francis)- 3- +1 11. Leyton Orient (Tommy Taylor)- 3- +1 12. Carlisle (Roddy Collins)- 1- 0 13. Rochdale (Steve Parkin)- 1- 0 14. Hull (Brian Little)- 0- -1 15. Oxford (Mark Wright)- 0- -1 16. Hartlepool (Chris Turner)- 0- -1 17. Kidderminster (Jan Molby)- 0- -1 18. Lincoln (Alan Buckley)- 0- -1 19. Plymouth (Paul Sturrock)- 0- -1 20. Exeter (Andy King)- 0- -1 21. York (Terry Dolan)- 0- -1 22. Halifax (Tony Parks)- 0- -2 23. Macclesfield (Gil Prescott)- 0- -2 24. Southend (David Webb)- 0- -2 Ligue 1 Friday 10th August Lyon 2-3 Troyes Saturday 11th August Auxerre 2-1 Rennes Bastia 1-2 Lille Bordeaux 3-4 PSG Guingamp 0-0 Marseille Lens 0-0 Metz Lorient 1-0 Sedan Monaco 1-0 Nantes Sochaux 1-0 Montpellier Sochaux are the only side who still have a 100% record in Ligue 1 after a 1-0 win at home to a struggling Montpellier side. PSG got their season back on track with a spectacular 4-3 win at a Bordeaux side who had started the season excellently. Guingamp dropped points for the first time after a 0-0 draw against a Marseille side who are still winless while Rennes lost at Auxerre. Troyes gained a spectacular 3-2 win over a Lyon side who are having an awful start to the season while the holders, Nantes, lost 1-0 to Monaco to complete a poor start to the season for them. Bastia still have no points after a 2-1 loss at home to Lille while Lorient recorded a win over Sedan. Lens and Metz played out a 0-0 draw. 1. Sochaux (Jean Fernandez)- 9- +32. Guingamp (Guy Lacombe)- 7- +43. Auxerre (Guy Roux)- 7- +24. Troyes (Alain Perrin)- 6- +15. Bordeaux (Elie Baup)- 6- +16. Monaco (Didier Deschamps)- 6- +17. Rennes (Christian Gourcuff)- 6- +18. Lille (Vahid Halilhodzic)- 6- 09. Lens (Joel Muller)- 5- +310. Lorient (Angel Marcos)- 4- 011. Sedan (Alex Dupont)- 3- -112. Nantes (Reynald Denoueix)- 3- -213. PSG (Luis Fernandez)- 3- -314. Marseille (Tomislav Ivic)- 2- -115. Lyon (Jacques Santini)- 1- -216. Montpellier (Michel Mezy)- 1- -2 17. Metz (Albert Cartier)- 1- -218. Bastia (Robert Nouzaret)- 0- -3 Bundesliga Saturday 11th August Koln 2-2 1860 Munich Cottbus 1-2 Leverkusen Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Kaiserslautern Bayern Munich 2-1 Wolfsburg HSV 0-1 Stuttgart Hertha Berlin 3-2 Monchengladbach Werder Bremen 3-1 St. Pauli Sunday 12th August Nurnberg 3-2 Schalke 04 Freiburg 1-0 Rostock Werder Bremen maintained their perfect record with a 3-1 win over St. Pauli, ending St. Pauli's perfect record while doing so. Bayern picked up their first win of the season with a 2-1 win over a Wolfsburg side who are still winless. Dortmund and Leverkusen both won to continue strong starts to the season while Schalke were the victims of an upset against Nurnberg. Gladbach and Cottbus are yet to pick up a point after defeats to Leverkusen and Hertha Berlin respectively. Freiburg continued their good start with a win over Rostock while Stuttgart beat Hamburg and Koln and 1860 Munich drew. 1. Werder Bremen (Thomas Schaaf)- 9- +42. Bayer Leverkusen (Klaus Toppmoller)- 7- +33. Freiburg (Volker Finke)- 7- +24. Borussia Dortmund (Matthias Sammer)- 7- +25. Stuttgart (Felix Magath)- 6- +36. Hertha Berlin (Jurgen Rober)- 6- 07. 1860 Munich (Werner Lorant)- 5- +18. Schalke 04 (Huub Stevens)- 4- +2 9. Bayern Munich (Ottmar Hitzfeld)- 4- +110. Kaiserslautern (Andreas Brehme)- 3- +1 11. Rostock (Freidhelm Funkel)- 3- 0 12. HSV (Lothar Matthaus)- 3- 013. St. Pauli (Dietmar Demuth)- 3- -1 14. Nurnberg (Klaus Augenthaler)- 3- -515. Koln (Ewald Lienen)- 2- -116. Wolfsburg (Wolfgang Wolf)- 1- -317. Monchengladbach (Hans Meyer)- 0- -3 18. Cottbus (Eduard Geyer)- 0- -5
  10. @Makoto Nakamura: Your contract negotiations seem to going about as well as any Arsenal contract has gone for the past decade...
  11. Charity Shield 12th August 2001 Manchester United 3-1 Liverpool Fergie's last season as United manager ended with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Gerard Houllier's Liverpool. An impressive result against a team who are as defensively sound as that Liverpool team were. English Division One Saturday 11th August Barnsley 3-0 Grimsby Birmingham 2-1 Crewe Burnley 1-0 Stockport Crystal Palace 2-2 Sheffield United Gillingham 0-3 Coventry Millwall 0-0 Sheffield Wednesday Nottingham Forest 1-1 Rotherham Preston 2-5 Wolves West Brom 0-1 Norwich Walsall 3-4 Portsmouth Watford 2-2 Bradford Sunday 12th August Manchester City 3-1 Wimbledon Of the three recently relegated sides, Coventry and Manchester City gained comfortable wins over Gillingham and Wimbledon while Bradford got a point from a tough trip to Watford. In other news, the most exciting game of the day saw Portsmouth win 4-3 against Walsall while Wolves' thrashing of Preston was also notable. 1. Wolves (Dave Jones)- 3- +3 2. Barnsley (Nigel Spackman)- 3- +3 3. Coventry (Roland Nilsson)- 3 -+3 4. Manchester City (Kevin Keegan)- 3- +2 5. Portsmouth (Graham Rix)- 3- +1 6. Birmingham City (Trevor Francis)- 3- +1 7. Burnley (Stan Ternant)- 3- +1 8. Norwich City (Nigel Worthington)- 3- +1 9. Bradford City (Jim Jefferies)- 1- 0 10. Crystal Palace (Steve Bruce)- 1- 0 11. Sheffield United (Neil Warnock)- 1- 0 12. Watford (Gianluca Vialli)- 1- 0 13. Nottingham Forest (Paul Hart)- 1- 0 14. Rotherham (Ronnie Moore)- 1- 0 15. Millwall (Mark McGhee)- 1- 0 16. Sheffield Wednesday (Peter Shreeves)- 1- 0 17. Walsall (Ray Graydon)- 0- -1 18. Crewe (Dario Gradi)- 0- -1 19. Stockport (Andy Kilner)- 0- -1 20. West Brom (Gary Megson)- 0- -1 21. Wimbledon (Terry Burton)- 0- -2 22. Preston (David Moyes)- 0- -3 23. Gillingham (Andy Hessenthaler)- 0- -3 24. Grimsby (Lennie Lawrence)- 0- -3 The rest of the weekend's action will be updated tomorrow, just wanted to get something out today.
  12. Ligue 1- Matchday 2 Friday 3rd August 2001 Lille 3-2 Monaco Lyon 0-0 Lens Marseille 0-1 Auxerre Metz 0-1 Bordeaux Montpellier 0-1 Guingamp PSG 0-1 Sochaux Rennes 1-0 Lorient Troyes 4-1 Nantes Saturday 4th August 2001 Sedan 2-1 Bastia 1. Guingamp (Guy Lacombe)- 6- +42. Bordeaux (Elie Baup)- 6- +23. Rennes (Christian Gourcuff)- 6- +24. Sochaux (Jean Fernandez)- 6- +25. Lens (Joel Muller)- 4- +36. Auxerre (Guy Roux)- 4- +17. Monaco (Didier Deschamps)- 3- 08. Troyes (Alain Perrin)- 3- 09. Sedan (Alex Dupont)- 3- 010. Lille (Vahid Halilhodzic)- 3- -111. Nantes (Reynald Denoueix)- 3- -112. Montpellier (Michel Mezy)- 1- -113. Lorient (Angel Marcos)- 1- -114. Lyon (Jacques Santini)- 1- -115. Marseille (Tomislav Ivic)- 1- -116. Bastia (Robert Nouzaret)- 0- -217. Metz (Albert Cartier)- 0- -218. PSG (Luis Fernandez)- 0- -4 Well another interesting set of results in France. PSG's shocking start to the season continues with a defeat at home to Sochaux who make it two wins from two. Both Marseille and Lyon also continued their stuttering starts to the season, Lyon dropping points at home to Lens while Marseille lost to Auxerre. The champions, Nantes, got thumped by Troyes in the week's biggest shock. The most exciting game was Lille's win over Monaco, a result that really kicks off Lille's season. Guingamp continued their excellent start to the season with a win at Montpellier while Bordeaux and Rennes also maintain perfect starts to the season. Sedan picked up their first win of the season while Metz and Bastia join PSG in being pointless, Metz haven't even scored a goal yet. Bundesliga- Matchdays 1 and 2 (Matchday 1 was actually the last week of July, I just thought the Bundesliga started a bit later than Ligue 1) As ever in the Bundesliga, Bayern start as favourites for the title. The German and European champions are widely expected to retain the Bundesliga this season. Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Leverkusen look like being their most likely challengers. As ever in Germany, there a plethora of clubs with potential such as Hamburg (who appointed Lothar Matthaus as their manager in the save), Stuttgart and Werder Bremen. Whether that potential will actually be fulfilled remains to be seen... Saturday 28th July 2001 Cottbus 0-3 Kaiserslautern Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Schalke 04 Leverkusen 3-1 Wolfsburg Nurnberg 0-3 Stuttgart Freiburg 3-3 1860 Munich Werder Bremen 2-1 Monchengladbach Sunday 29th July 2001 HSV 1-0 Koln Hertha Berlin 3-1 Rostock Bayern, for some reason which I cannot figure out, were not in action this weekend. Their opponents should have been St. Pauli who also weren't doing anything else. Anyway, onto the actual results. Bayern fans would have been delighted with Dortmund's draw against Schalke, as neither side looked particularly likely to challenge them based on that performance. Of course the fact that they both dropped points helps. Leverkusen looked more dangerous with a comfortable win against Wolfsburg. In other news there were wins for Kaiserslautern, Hertha, HSV, Stuttgart and Bremen, all potentially dangerous sides. Oh and Freiburg and 1860 clearly decided to forget about defending in their game. Saturday 4th August 2001 Kaiserslautern 0-1 Werder Bremen Monchengladbach 0-1 Borussia Dortmund Rostock 3-0 Nurnberg Schalke 04 3-0 Hertha Berlin St. Pauli 3-2 Cottbus Stuttgart 1-2 Freiburg Wolfsburg 1-1 Koln Sunday 5th August 2001 1860 Munich 1-0 HSV Leverkusen 2-2 Bayern Munich Overall, a very interesting second matchday. Bremen and... errr... St. Pauli are the only sides to have a 100% record so far. A few of the teams that started well returned to their state of presumed inconsistency and fell back down to earth with HSV and Stuttgart in particular losing games they should have won. Bayern started their campaign with a solid point at a Leverkusen side who have made an encouraging start to the season. In other news, both Dortmund and Schalke picked up wins to strengthen claims that they will be serious challengers this season. At the other end of the table, Nurnberg and Cottbus stand out as being particularly bad so far. Particularly Nurnberg who have been thumped at home to Stuttgart (who couldn't even beat Freiburg at home) and a weak Rostock side. 1. Werder Bremen (Thomas Schaaf)- 6- +2 2. Schalke 04 (Huub Stevens)- 4- +3 3. Bayer Leverkusen (Klaus Toppmoller)- 4- +2 4. Freiburg (Volker Finke)- 4- +1 5. 1860 Munich (Werner Lorant)- 4- +1 6. Borussia Dortmund (Matthias Sammer)- 4- +1 7. Stuttgart (Felix Magath)- 3- +2 8. Kaiserslautern (Andreas Brehme)- 3- +2 9. Rostock (Freidhelm Funkel)- 3- +1 10. St. Pauli (Dietmar Demuth)- 3- +1 11. HSV (Lothar Matthaus)- 3- +1 12. Hertha Berlin (Jurgen Rober)- 3- -1 13. Bayern Munich (Ottmar Hitzfeld)- 1- 0 14. Koln (Ewald Lienen)- 1- -1 15. Wolfsburg (Wolfgang Wolf)- 1- -2 16. Monchengladbach (Hans Meyer)- 0- -2 17. Cottbus (Eduard Geyer)- 0- -4 18. Nurnberg (Klaus Augenthaler)- 0- -6
  13. July 2001 Champions' League Early Qualifying Rounds Champions League- First Qualifying Round Barry Town (Managerless) 1-3 Slavia Mozyr (Pavel Rodnenok) FC Haka (Keith Armstrong) 3-1 Shamkir (Managerless) Fylkir (Managerless) e 2-1 Sheriff (Managerless) Jeunesse Esch (Jean-Pierre Barboni) a 3-3 Ventspils (Paul Ashworth) Kaunas (Managerless) 1-0 Linfield (David Jeffrey) Kutaisi (Managerless) 0-4 Bohemians (Pete Mahon) Shirak (Managerless) p 0-0 HB (Managerless) Sloga Jugomagnat (Managerless) 3-0 Schaan (Managerless) Valletta (Managerless) 2-3 FC Levadia (Managerless) Champions League- Second Qualifying Round Anderlecht (Aime Anthuenis) e 2-1 FC Levadia (Managerless) Dunaferr (Managerless) 2-3 FC Haka (Keith Armstrong) FC Kobenhavn (Hans Backe) 2-2 p Rangers (Dick Advocaat) FC Slavia Mozyr (Pavel Rodnenok) 1-4 Galatasaray (Mircea Lucescu) Fylkir (Managerless) 2-2 a Levski (Managerless) Gorica (Managerless) 0-3 Jeunesse Esch (Jean-Pierre Barboni) Hajduk (Nenad Gracan) 5-1 Bohemians (Pete Mahon) Inter Bratislava (Managerless) 1-0 Lugano (Managerless) Maccabi Haifa (Managerless) 0-1 Halmstad (Tom Prahl) Omonia Nicosia (Managerless) 0-5 Brann (Teitur Thordarson) Porto (Octavio Machado) 5-0 Sloga Jugomagnat (Managerless) Shakhtar (Victor Prokopenko) 3-5 Red Star (Slavoljub Muslin) Shirak (Managerless) 0-4 Steaua (Victor Piturca) Wisla (Franciszek Smuda) 4-0 Kaunas (Managerless) OK so there are the early Champions' League rounds. I'll generally start going into more detail with the Champions' League when we reach the Third Qualifying Round every year.I'll keep a note of anything interesting that happens though. So, both Barry and Linfield were knocked out fairly swiftly in the First Qualifying Round while Bohemians got through only to be comfortably beaten by Hajduk. Rangers almost had a nightmare against Copenhagen, losing 2-0 at Ibrox before turning the tie around in Denmark to win on penalties. In other news, the likes of Galatasaray, Anderlecht, Wisla and Steaua Bucharest all got through fairly comfortably. Jeunesse Esch managing to progress to the Third Qualifying Round was somewhat surprising. Shakhtar against Red Star was probably the most interesting tie, Red Star winning 3-1 at home before progressing after a 2-2 draw in the Ukraine. Intertoto Cup Intertoto Cup First Round AA Gent (Patrick Remy) 4-2 Slavia Sofia (Managerless) AGF (John Stampe) 1-2 Ujpest (Managerless) Anorthosis (Janusz Wojcik) p 2-2 Ruzomberok (Managerless) Belasica (Managerless) 0-1 Zagreb (Zlatko Kranjcar) Cliftonville (Lawrence Stitt) 1-3 Neman Grodno (Managerless) Cork City (Liam Murphy) 0-1 Basel (Managerless) Groclin (Edward Lorens) 2-1 CSKA Kiev (Oleg Kuznetsov) Hapoel Haifa (Managerless) 3-0 Gi (Johan Nielsen) iBV (Managerless) 1-2 Hibernians (Robert Gatt) Iraklis (Aggelos Anastasiadis) 2-5 Rennes (Christian Gourcuff) Lokeren (Paul Put) 0-0 p Ekranas (Virginijus Liubshys) Maccabi Petach-Tikva (Yossi Mizrahi) 1-0 Mura (Managerless) OB (Troels Bech) 4-2 Gloria (Managerless) Sartid (Managerless) 0-0 p Gyor (Managerless) Slaven Belupo (Drazen Besek) 2-1 Dinaburg (Managerless) Viljandi Tulevik (Tarmo Ruutli) 1-2 MyPa (Juha Malinen) Winterthur (Managerless) 0-2 Salzburg (Lars Sondergaard) Zaglebie (Stefan Majewski) 2-1 Rapid Bucharest (Managerless) Zwartnots (Managerless) 2-1 Carmarthen Town (Tomi Morgan) Wit-Georgia (Managerless) 0-3 AIK (Olle Nordin) Intertoto Cup Second Round AA Gent (Patrick Remy) 1-1 p OB (Troels Bech) Anorthosis (Janusz Wojcik) p 0-0 1860 Munich (Werner Lorant) Aris (Henry Michelle) p 0-0 Neman Grodno (Managerless) Basel (Managerless) 0-4 MyPa (Juha Malinen) Denizlispor (Sakip Ozberk) 2-2 a Zagreb (Zlatko Kranjcar) Dundee (Ivano Bonetti) 3-1 Salzburg (Lars Sondergaard) Ekranas (Virginijus Liubshys) 0-2 Hapoel Haifa (Managerless) Gyor (Managerless) 4-1 Drnovice (Managerless) Helsingborg (Nanne Bergstrand) 3-2 Caykur Rizespor (Karol Pecze) Hibernians (Robert Gatt) 0-1 Zaglebie (Stefan Majewski) Maccabi Petach-Tikva (Yossi Mizrahi) 2-1 Ried (Managerless) RKC (Martin Jol) 3-1 Groclin (Edward Lorens) Slaven Belupo (Drazen Besek) 1-1 p Bastia (Robert Nouzaret) Ujpest (Managerless) 3-0 Metallurg Mariupol (Managerless) Zwartnots (Managerless) 0-1 Troyes (Alain Perrin) AIK (Olle Nordin) 3-1 Rennes (Christian Gourcuff) Intertoto Cup Third Round Werder Bremen (Thomas Schaaf) p 0-0 PSG (Luis Fernandez) Aris (Henry Michelle) 2-1 Hapoel Haifa (Managerless) Bastia (Robert Nouzaret) 2-1 Zagreb (Zlatko Kranjcar) Gyor (Managerless) 2-2 p Dundee (Ivano Bonetti) Heerenveen (Foppe de Haan) 0-3 Aston Villa (John Gregory) MyPa (Juha Malinen) 5-0 Troyes (Alain Perrin) Newcastle (Bobby Robson) 4-3 OB (Troels Bech) Anorthosis (Janusz Wojcik) 0-1 Pribram (Jiri Kotrba) RKC (Martin Jol) 0-3 Maccabi Petach-Tikva (Yossi Mizrahi) Ujpest (Managerless) 3-2 Zaglebie (Stefan Majewski) Wolfsburg (Wolfgang Wolf) 4-2 Atalanta (Giovanni Vavassori) Helsingborg (Nanne Bergstrand) 0-1 AIK (Olle Nordin) Intertoto Cup Semi-Final Aston Villa (John Gregory) p 2-2 Werder Bremen (Thomas Schaaf) Bastia (Robert Nouzaret) 1-0 Ujpest (Managerless) Maccabi Petach-Tikva (Yossi Mizrahi) 0-2 Dundee (Ivano Bonetti) MyPa (Juha Malinen) 0-4 Pribram (Jiri Kotrba) Wolfsburg (Wolfgang Wolf) a 4-4 Newcastle (Bobby Robson) Aris (Henry Michelle) 2-1 AIK (Olle Nordin) Intertoto Cup Final Wolfsburg (Wolfgang Wolf) 2-1 Bastia (Robert Nouzaret) Aston Villa (John Gregory) 4-0 Dundee (Ivano Bonetti) Pribram (Jiri Kotrba) 3-1 Aris (Henry Michelle) I don't know about the rest of you but there's definitely some nostalgia factor attached to the Intertoto Cup for me. Anyway, Villa and Newcastle were the English sides involved with Villa progressing to the UEFA Cup and Newcastle getting dumped out by Wolfsburg in the semi-finals on away goals. Dundee had a good run to the final before meeting Villa while Pribram were surprise winners. Ligue 1 Our first league to start is Ligue 1, which started on the last weekend of July. These were the days where it was always interesting trying to predict who would win Ligue 1, before Lyon and PSG's respective periods of dominance. Nantes started as champions, PSG and Lyon were both dangerous while Bordeaux and Monaco were also sides with plenty of potential. Plus there were a whole host of dark horses such as Marseille, Lens and Auxerre. Oh, and Lille were a pretty good side too. 28th July Auxerre (Guy Roux) 2-2 Montpellier (Michel Mezy) Bastia (Robert Nouzaret) 1-2 Rennes (Christian Gourcuff) Guingamp (Guy Lacombe) 4-1 PSG (Luis Fernandez) Lens (Joel Muller) 3-0 Troyes (Alain Perrin) Lorient (Angel Marcos) 1-1 Marseille (Tomislav Ivic) Nantes (Reynald Denoueix) 2-0 Lille (Vahid Halilhodzic) Sochaux (Jean Fernandez) 1-0 Metz (Albert Cartier) 29th July Bordeaux (Elie Baup) 2-1 Lyon (Jacques Santini) Monaco (Didier Deschamps) 2-1 Sedan (Alex Dupont) The standout result was obviously Guingamp's 4-1 win over PSG, an abysmal start to the season for them, particularly considering that PSG are one of the favourites for the title. Bordeaux's game against Lyon was an interesting game between two potential contenders, Bordeaux taking the points in a 2-1 win. The champions Nantes also did well in a 2-0 win over a good Lille side. Lens, Monaco, Rennes and Sochaux all secured valuable wins while Auxerre would have been disappointed to have dropped two points at home to Montpellier. Lorient and Marseille also drew. 1. Guingamp (Guy Lacombe)- 3- +3 2. Lens (Joel Muller)- 3- +3 3. Nantes (Reynald Denoueix)- 3- +2 4. Bordeaux (Elie Baup)- 3- +1 5. Monaco (Didier Deschamps)- 3- +1 6. Rennes (Christian Gourcuff)- 3- +1 7. Sochaux (Jean Fernandez)- 3- +1 8. Auxerre (Guy Roux)- 1- 0 9. Montpellier (Michel Mezy)- 1- 0 10. Lorient (Angel Marcos)- 1- 0 11. Marseille (Tomislav Ivic)- 1- 0 12. Bastia (Robert Nouzaret)- 0- -1 13. Lyon (Jacques Santini)- 0- -1 14. Sedan (Alex Dupont)- 0- -1 15. Metz (Albert Cartier)- 0- -1 16. Lille (Vahid Halilhodzic)- 0- -2 17. PSG (Luis Fernandez)- 0- -3 18. Troyes (Alain Perrin)- 0- -3 As ever too early to read into the table although PSG being in the relegation zone brings joy to my heart. Oh, and this was the last year where Ligue 1 had 18 teams in it so 2 teams drop down to Ligue 2 while 4 teams come up to Ligue 1 this season to expand it to 20.
  14. Copa America 2001 Colombia And so we move onto the first major tournament of the save, the 2001 Copa America in Colombia. As ever for the Copa America, Brazil started as favourites with the hosts following them. Uruguay and Mexico can never be discounted while Paraguay were good at the time as well. Brazil started as holders. Argentina did not participate in the tournament. Group A Colombia (Francisco Maturana) Chile (Pedro Garcia) Ecuador (Hernan Dario Gomez) Venezuela (Richard Paez Monzon) The hosts started with a relatively easy section, with Venezuela as the weakest team in the tournament, a very average Ecuador side and a weak Chile side whose only saving grace was Marcelo Salas. Colombia 2-0 Venezuela Chile 2-1 Ecuador Colombia started the tournament with possibly their dream game against Venezuela. They chalked up the expected routine win. Chile's game against Ecuador looked likely to be the key game in the group with both sides likely challenging for second place. Chile edged it, winning 2-1 and leaving Ecuador's hopes of progress hanging by a thread. Colombia 3-0 Ecuador Chile 0-0 Venezuela Ecuador were outclassed by a rampant Colombia side who were really getting up to speed in their second game. That result all but eliminated the Ecuadoreans who only maintained a faint hope of progressing in third place, a weak goal difference making that ambition relatively unlikely. Meanwhile, Venezuela exposed Chile's limitations, successfully frustrating them with a 0-0 draw. Colombia 2-0 Chile Ecuador 0-0 Venezuela Colombia completed a strong start to their tournament with another comfortable win, this time over Chile. The gap between the three weaker sides in the group and Colombia was fairly clear throughout the group stages. Ecuador, like Chile, were successfully frustrated by Venezuela who at least managed to retain some hope of progressing as one of the better third-placed teams in the tournament. That draw sealed Chile's progress to the quarter-finals and Ecuador's elimination. Overall: Colombia (Francisco Maturana)- 9 Chile (Pedro Garcia)- 4 Venezuela (Richard Paez Monzon)- 2 Ecuador (Hernan Dario Gomez)- 1 Group B Brazil (Felipao) Mexico (Javier Aguirre) Paraguay (Sergio Markarian) Peru (Julio Cesar Uribe) Group B was certainly a significantly tougher section than Group A was. The holders Brazil found themselves in a group with Paraguay and Mexico, two of the more dangerous sides in the competition. Even Peru were no slouches containing decent players such as Nolberto Solano and Claudio Pizarro. Paraguay 1-0 Brazil Mexico 2-1 Peru Brazil were stunned in their opening game, losing 1-0 to a well-organised Paraguay side containing the threat of Roque Santa Cruz on the counter-attack. A heroic win for Sergio Markarian's side. Mexico were tested by Peru but managed to come through unscathed, putting Brazil in a tricky position already in the group. Brazil 2-1 Peru Paraguay 2-0 Mexico Brazil needed a win against Peru and they managed to achieve it although they found the Peruvians as challenging as the Mexicans had in the opening game of the group. Paraguay, meanwhile, successfully managed to restrict the Mexican attack just as they had managed to restrict the Brazilian attack in their first game to book their place in the quarter-finals. Brazil 2-2 Mexico Paraguay 1-1 Peru Brazil and Mexico shared the points in a highly entertaining 2-2 draw. Brazil went 2-0 in front before the Mexicans recovered the game in the second-half. A point guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals for both sides but Brazil really had not impressed in this group. Paraguay, having beaten Brazil and Mexico, were in second gear against Peru and got held to a draw by a decent Peruvian side. 1. Paraguay (Sergio Markarian)- 7 2. Brazil (Felipao)- 4 3. Mexico (Javier Aguirre)- 4 4. Peru (Julio Cesar Uribe)- 1 Group C Bolivia (Jorge Habbeger) Costa Rica (Alexandre Guimaraes) Honduras (Ramon Maradiaga) Uruguay (Victor Pua) Uruguay looked like the team who were best placed to take advantage of Argentina's late withdrawal and replacement with Honduras. Neither of the other sides in the group looked capable of seriously challenging Uruguay or seriously challenging for the tournament. Bolivia 2-0 Costa Rica Uruguay 3-0 Honduras Bolivia started with a 2-0 win over Costa Rica. In a weak section, there was definitely an opportunity for a weaker side to sneak through to the quarter-finals. Bolivia certainly took the initiative in grabbing it. Uruguay, meanwhile, had fun against Honduras, showing that they were not a team to be taken lightly. Bolivia 2-0 Honduras Uruguay 4-0 Costa Rica Bolivia recorded another comfortable win against Honduras to book a place in the quarter-finals which they would have been delighted with. Uruguay once again showed their quality by thrashing Costa Rica and securing a quarter-final place. That meant that if either Honduras or Costa Rica won their final group game they would progress. If that game was a draw then Venezuela would join Mexico as one of the best third-placed sides in the quarter-finals. Costa Rica 0-0 Honduras Uruguay 1-0 Bolivia Costa Rica and Honduras completely failed to grasp the opportunity to progress, playing out a turgid 0-0 draw which sent Venezuela through. Both teams went out without scoring and having been thrashed by Uruguay, effectively the only quality team they played all tournament. Uruguay, on the other hand, completed a good start to their tournament by beating a well-drilled Bolivia side 1-0. 1. Uruguay (Victor Pua)- 9 2. Bolivia (Jorge Habbeger)- 6 3. Honduras (Ramon Maradiaga)- 1 4. Costa Rica (Alexandre Guimaraes)- 1 Quarter-Finals Colombia vs Bolivia Brazil vs Mexico Uruguay vs Venezuela Paraguay vs Chile An interesting set of quarter-finals. Both Colombia and Uruguay were rewarded for topping their groups with another easy tie in the quarter-finals against Bolivia and Venezuela respectively. Paraguay were favourites to beat Chile but Chile were by no means incapable of surprising Paraguay. Brazil against Mexico looked like the most interesting tie, particularly since both teams had played out a thrilling match in the group stages. Colombia 2-0 Bolivia Brazil e 3-2 Mexico Uruguay 2-0 Venezuela Paraguay 1-0 Chile Colombia and Uruguay recorded the expected routine wins against Bolivia and Venezuela, who were both fairly well-drilled and did well to get to the quarter-finals. Paraguay managed to shackle Salas and sneak a 1-0 win against Chile. Chile had a decent tournament where they pretty much fulfilled expectations. Brazil's game against Mexico was, once again, one of the games of the tournament. Mexico were bold enough to push forward and it almost paid off, the game finished 2-2 before the Brazilians scored a winner in extra-time. Brazil continued to look a little bit shaky but they were through to the semi-finals. Semi-Finals Colombia vs Uruguay Brazil vs Paraguay Colombia and Uruguay would finally provide each other with a serious test in the semi-finals. Home advantage likely gave Colombia the edge but Uruguay had the quality to cause an upset and reach the final. Brazil, by contrast, would be looking to avenge their group-stage defeat against a Paraguay side who had really impressed throughout the tournament. The Paraguayans would be looking to shackle the Brazilian attack as successfully as they managed to do in the group-stages. Colombia 2-1 Uruguay Brazil 4-0 Paraguay Well Paraguay certainly found out what happens when you anger the Brazilians. Brazil produced a phenomenal attacking performance against a very good Paraguayan defence, and were good value for their comfortable win. In the other game, Colombia overcame Uruguay in a fairly entertaining, closely fought encounter. The hosts were gathering momentum and would face Brazil in the final. Final Pre-game the Brazilians started as favourites. They had stuttered through to the semi-finals but their win against Paraguay suggested that they were gaining momentum at just the right time. They lined up in a simple 4-4-2. Colombia had, in contrast, quietly impressed throughout the tournament. They had been more consistent but they had not had a performance to match Brazil's win over Paraguay. Colombia went for a narrow 4-1-2-1-2 formation. Overall, Colombia's extra bodies in the centre of midfield made a real difference to this game. It allowed Colombia to control the game and launch wave after wave of attacks on the Brazilian goal. Eventually they found a way through, Tino Asprilla setting up Edwin Congo who managed to fire home a late winner to seal a victory on home soil that the Colombians would remember for a long time to come. Colombia 1-0 Brazil Colombia win the Copa America and they deserved it after an excellent performance against a surprisingly poor Brazil side in the final.
  15. Welcome to the summer of 2001. Bayern Munich are the champions of Europe, Manchester United are sweeping all before them in England, the Galacticos are slowly forming in Madrid and the first Asian World Cup is just around the corner. Legends such as Zidane and Figo are still at the peak of their powers. Clubs such as PSV, Ajax, Porto and Celtic were considered dangerous sides to face in Europe. And England still never looked like winning anything. Anyway, this is a save game where I will not be playing as anyone. The goal is simply to sit back and see what the hell happens. Basically, it's an exercise in nostalgia for a footballing world that was very different from the modern one. I'll end it whenever it feels right to end it. One quick note, I've already gone through to the start of the 2007/08 season so I'm a little bit ahead of the curve, I'll make sure I don't give anything away until you're all caught up. First things first, I'm going to borrow/steal an idea from PaulHartman71's FM15 save to try to add some interactivity to the whole thing. Plus I'll be able to sit there and enjoy you all bumbling around trying to figure out what's going to happen next. But largely the interactivity thing. The save will comprise of a "betting" market (not for real money don't worry (unless...)). Everyone who wants to join in will start with £100 worth of money to "bet" on. At the end of every season whoever has the most money left over will win for that season. You get nothing if you win. Except kudos. And let's face it, who can ever have too many kudos. Anyway, these will be the categories which you will be able to bet on for the Premier League (to start with, I may add some other leagues in in later seasons if people are up for it, the save will generally focus on the Premier League, Football League and the top leagues in France, Spain, Germany and Italy although there will be yearly updates from everywhere else) plus I'll set up some special categories for major international tournaments, excluding the Copa America 2001. I'll also have some special categories for the Champions League (from the group stages) and the UEFA Cup (from the last 32): Title Winners Champions League Qualifiers Relegation Play-Off Qualifiers Promotion First Manager Sacked Next Manager Sacked (when First Manager Sacked expires) Replacement for sacked manager Obviously you will not need to bet in every category and the "betting" will generally close at the end of August in the save, which will come in a couple of weeks as I have a busy couple of weeks which should give plenty people of time to get involved if they want to. An exception is obviously for some of the Manager Sacked categories which will occur when managers are sacked/being replaced throughout the season. So, without further ado let's get going with the individual leagues and their season previews: The Premier League Manchester United are the hot favourites to win the title in what will be legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson's last season managing the club. They are widely expected to win a fourth title in a row and maintain their recent dominance of English football. The core of the side which won the treble in 1998-99 is still intact with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron making particularly useful additions to this United squad. United expect to be judged this season on their performances in Europe, and many fans are predicting a cakewalk for United as the start of the season draws near. Their main challengers should be Arsenal who have become a great side again under Arsene Wenger. Patrick Vieira is one of the best midfielders on earth while Thierry Henry is a young, hungry striker with a lot of potential. Sol Campbell also arrives in an attempt to re-build a somewhat ageing defence. Liverpool will also be potentially dangerous. Under Gerard Houllier they have been improving for a few years now, with a rock-solid defence and plenty of offensive quality. Young midfielder Steven Gerrard is also one to watch. Leeds United do not, yet, appear to have the look of potential title winners. Their young squad should aim to keep improving and cement their position in the Champions' League places. Ipswich Town enjoyed a spectacular season in 2000-01, finishing fifth as a newly promoted side. With European distractions though this year looks set to be a little bit more challenging, they will be happy with a spot in mid-table this season. Chelsea continued to flatter to deceive last season. They have a squad with a lot of potential but they need to find some consistency under Claudio Ranieri to really challenge for a place in the top four. Sunderland are a very solid side (words never uttered before...). Under Peter Reid, they should have a comfortable season although they may not be capable of seriously challenging for a European place. Aston Villa are a side facing some high expectations. An eighth place finish in 2000-01 was viewed as underwhelming by many of their fanbase and they will be seeking to launch a serious European challenge this season. Charlton Athletic were another newly promoted side who exceeded all expectations last season. Sadly though, this year they look set to struggle and many people are tipping them for the drop this season. Southampton are another side who many people expect to be in a relegation battle this season. Many Southampton fans, though, are hoping that a move to a new stadium will allow them to really start growing as a club. One things for sure, Southampton will miss The Dell. Newcastle United have the core of a very talented squad developing. The hope is that they will put a few season of inconsistency behind them to mount a serious challenge at the right end of the table. Spurs are feeling optimistic for the first time in a while. New manager Glenn Hoddle has instantly connected with the fanbase, largely due to his previous association with the club. George Graham, in contrast, never really fit in at Spurs and the hope is that Hoddle will get the Spurs fans dreaming again. Leicester City are another side who could easily be in a relegation battle this season. They tailed off dramatically towards the end of last season and many fans are fearing the worst heading into the 2001-02 season. Middlesbrough, by contrast, are a side approaching this season with considerable optimism under new boss Steve McClaren. The new manager comes from a stint as Alex Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United and the early signs seem positive. West Ham fans have some concerns heading into the season. Last year they had an underwhelming season and the appointment of Glenn Roeder has not gone down well with the fanbase. Expectations are low but there is talent in the squad. Overall, the Hammers should be ok. There are rumours of financial issues at Everton currently. Combined with a squad which has consistently failed to perform over the past few seasons and there are many who are predicting that difficult times may be ahead for Everton. Derby are another side widely being tipped to drop out of the Premier League this season. Wily manager Jim Smith may well be their main cause for optimism heading into the new season though. Fulham swept to promotion from Division One last season. Jean Tigana has done an excellent job at Craven Cottage and, with significant funds being added to the club, most people are predicting a comfortable season for Fulham. Blackburn are another newly promoted side who many people expect to be fairly comfortable. Premier League champions in 1995, they never really built on that success and they will hope to start moving back towards the top end of the table over the next few seasons. Bolton are everyone's favourites for relegation. A yo-yo club for most of the 1990s, they have never looked like establishing themselves in the top flight and rookie manager Sam Allardyce is not widely tipped to keep them up this time around. Title Winners Manchester United- 2/1 Arsenal- 4/1 Liverpool- 5/1 Leeds- 8/1 Chelsea- 20/1 Newcastle- 30/1 Spurs- 35/1 Aston Villa- 40/1 Champions' League Qualification Manchester United- 1/20 Arsenal- 1/10 Liverpool- 1/5 Leeds- 2/1 Chelsea- 5/1 Newcastle- 10/1 Spurs- 15/1 Villa- 18/1 Sunderland- 25/1 Middlesbrough- 30/1 Blackburn- 30/1 Relegation Bolton- 3/1 Southampton- 4/1 Charlton- 4/1 Derby- 6/1 Everton- 10/1 West Ham- 12/1 Leicester- 12/1 Fulham- 15/1 Ipswich- 15/1 Middlesbrough- 25/1 Blackburn- 25/1 Aston Villa- 40/1 Newcastle- 40/1 Tottenham- 40/1 First Manager Sacked John Gregory- 5/1 Jim Smith- 8/1 Stuart Gray- 10/1 Glenn Roeder- 12/1 Walter Smith- 15/1 Jean Tigana- 15/1 Peter Taylor- 15/1 George Burley- 20/1 Bobby Robson- 25/1 Glenn Hoddle- 25/1 Steve McClaren- 25/1 Graeme Souness- 25/1 Peter Reid- 25/1 Alan Curbishley- 35/1 Sam Allardyce- 35/1 Claudio Ranieri- 40/1 David O'Leary- 50/1 Gerard Houllier- 70/1 Alex Ferguson- 90/1 Arsene Wenger- 100/1 So, I hope this is a fun start to the save and that people are interested in engaging in a bit of nostalgia this summer.
  16. 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...
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. To be fair you're in a slightly better position this time compared to the same stage of last season...
  20. 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.
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