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Everything posted by Dong21

  1. So it seems four day Bank Holiday weekends are the perfect time to finally make progress on an FM career... Charlton Athletic - Season 7 - Part 2 November was a frustrating month at Charlton Athletic. Defeats against Man City and league leaders Liverpool were expected and therefore not the source of frustration, instead it was draws against Real Sociedad, Brighton and Basel that drew my irritation as in all three games we had superior possession and shots on target. The blame for our inability to convert chances can be shared across our team, but I have been particularly disappointed in Diogo who has not replicated his goal-scoring form of last season. We seemed to be returning to our early season form at the start of December, with a hard fought victory at the New White Hart Lane being a particular highlight. Our away victory against APOEL was one of my favourite games of the season - this was not because we won 4-0, but because I gave full debuts to academy graduates Jones and Miller and they both made it onto the scoresheet. That result completed our Europa League group stage phase and meant that we topped the group. We take on Feyenoored in the First Knockout Round, who will be without forward Iuhas as he is on loan from my club. A narrow 3-2 loss at Old Trafford commenced our worst run of form of the season, as we lost four games in a row (see I was right not to get carried away @warlock! ). Man Utd and Arsenal are tough opponents and we never ever beat our rivals Palace, but I was still upset with this run that saw us tumble out of European qualifying places. We headed to West Ham hoping to turn things around, but found ourselves in a tough match where we were seemingly the worse team. I switched things up in the second half, changing to a 4-4-2 and pumping the ball in the box and we were able to snatch a late equaliser. I hoped this could be the catalyst for a change in fortunes. A resurgence in form has been seen in January, I am relieved to say. Admittedly some of the results were morale boosting trips to lower league opposition, but you can only beat what is put in front of you. These games were good opportunities to play fringe players, so this helped appease many players who were looking for more playing opportunities. Our performances in the league have improved recently and I hope I can carry that into the final months of the season. Our current position is no disaster, but I was aiming for better. Out Besides a number of loans, the notable outgoings in January were the sale of unused squad players such as Abraham and Schurrle. Both had played useful roles in the past but were now deemed surplus to requirements. In The January player sales, combined with my frugality in the summer, meant we were now in a position to enter the market in January if the right opportunity arose. In my last post I mentioned how I had decided on not making signings on the wings in order to give youth prospects the opportunity to play. This had been working fine but I decided that if we wanted to push on this season, we needed to add some quality. I have found over my seven seasons at Charlton that the success of my 4-2-3-1 formation is dependent on the quality of the inside forwards / wingers. First I brought in Shoya Nakajima who I found transfer listed for £37m. When I realised I could sign him on loan for no fee and only 30% of his wages, it was a no brainer. Secondly, on deadline day United's Tahith Chong came available and I moved to make him the club's record signing. Chong has great all round attributes and at only 25 still has room to improve. Chong came on loan to us in January 2022 and scored three goals in seven games. I wanted to keep him then but United had flat out refused - now I have finally got my man.
  2. @warlock Good work with the clear out! I’m sure your finances look much healthier now. All the best with your quest to reach the playoffs
  3. Thinking of finally getting round to starting my annual United save. When I do, I want to focus on developing players from within after clearing out the deadwood (today’s result IRL has reignited my desire to do things better!). I was wondering if any of you had any advice on how you have had your best results developing players. Have you found it as simple as just giving them first team playing time, or have you had results sending young players on loan or keeping them in the reserves? Interested to hear different perspectives.
  4. *Cautious* "We can't get ahead of ourselves; we'll take it a match at a time and build on each positive result as and when it arrives"
  5. Charlton Athletic - Season 7 - Part 1 After spending a lot of time contemplating starting a new save and a fresh challenge, I eventually decided I couldn't yet walk away from The Valley. I am still getting a lot of enjoyment from this save and want to see how far I can take the young players that I brought in. I took the England manager job during the summer which is proving to be an interesting side project, however it is time consuming and means it is taking me even longer to get through a season! Staff Improvements Due to the club's growth in stature the board granted my requests to increase the size of our coaching and scouting departments. I also decided to conduct a full review of my current staff and make changes where better replacements were available. This resulted in a busy period of comings and goings, which should hopefully prove beneficial in the coming seasons. Transfers Last season I signed a lot of high potential players at relatively bargain prices, most of whom went on to play important roles in our season. This summer, therefore, I had to offer many of them new contracts on improved terms to better reflect their value to the team and to fend off interest from other Premier League sides who were circling. This took up a large chunk of my wage budget and, due to FFP rules, I was unable to move transfer budget across to the wage budget. This meant I had a lot less flexibility in the transfer market and resulted in one of the quietest windows I have ever had as a manager. As a result we made a net profit and the transfer window closed with us having £70m in the transfer budget unspent. Hopefully I get an opportunity to spend it in the future. I decided to focus my limited resources on the centre-back position as although Jemerson and Phil Jones had formed a good partnership and played well last season, they are both 32 and at risk of starting to decline. Understudies Bielik and Antov were also not quite good enough so I decided to cash in on them. My coup of the window was signing Victor Lindelof on loan from Bayern Munich. He was transfer listed for £38m however I was delighted when they accepted my loan offer in which I am covering 0% of his wages and only paying a loan fee of £200k per month. I also signed Dortmund defender Boubacar Kamara for a bargain price of £4.1m. At only 24 years of age he is one for the future. Lindelof and Jemerson have quickly established themselves as my first choice partnership. I considered signing some wingers as I let Al Ghazi go after receiving what I thought was a fair offer from Burnley and released Pacheco as age had caught up with his physical attributes. In the end however I decided to go without in the hope of giving some of my youth team some competitive minutes on the pitch. You will notice I have loaned out a lot less players than in previous seasons as I would like to try and play some of the players and also I have not been seeing great returns in terms of development from the loan spells the players have been having. The signings of Frantisek Silhavy, Christian McDonald and Adie Higginson (CM, DM and CB respectively) are all players aged between 18 and 21 who seem to have potential. The final notable signing is that of central attacking midfielder Samuele Mulattieri on a free transfer from Inter Milan. My scouts rate him as one of the top five players at the club, however unfortunately for Mulattieri the player who is rated my best player, Christian Frydek, plays in the same position as him. I could not resist signing him though and he adds great strength in depth to the team, which will be especially useful as we once again compete in Europe. Promising Start Pre-season went without a hitch as we racked up seven straight morale-boosting victories. We were without Diogo and Guacui as they were at the Olympics with Brazil, although this was not a problem as it presented opportunities for some of the reserves to integrate with the squad. We then began the season in a fine manner, beating Man Utd to lift the Community Shield. The stats suggested we were the better side although it was fortuitous that Pogba missed an early penalty for United. We did lose to Arsenal on the opening day of the Premier League season and I worried that this may start a run of bad form to start the season, as we had tough fixtures ahead. This was not the case though and we delivered a great performance to beat Chelsea 2-0 at The Valley. Our form since that Arsenal defeat was terrific as we went fourteen games undefeated in all competitions. That run included a dominant victory over Arsenal in the Carabao Cup and a 100% record against our Europa League group stage opponents. I have been particularly pleased how high scoring many of our games have been. Our most recent result, which saw us exit the Cup, was quite frustrating as we were the better side and only conceded after Spurs pounced on a rare mistimed back pass from one of my defenders. Our performance was not particularly poor though so I remain confident we can get back to good form. League Standings So at the end of October things are looking good, however there is a long way to go so I am not getting carried away with thoughts of the Champions League football just yet! Diogo, who missed out on a pre-season with the squad, has only got 5 goals so far and I am hoping he can contribute more in the months to come. Tasdelen and Frydek have been my key performers in the early stages of the season. Just after the transfer window closed AC Milan came in with an offer to loan Frydek, with the loan becoming permanent for a fee of £40m after he had played 5 games for them. I rejected him as he is worth much more to us and also I do not wish to lose him, however their interest remains so it will be interesting to see what happens in January.
  6. Just catching up on this thread - two really interesting updates @Jogo Bonito, as always. I enjoy reading managers’ transfer strategies. Unlucky missing out on Bowen (sorry to bring up what I’m sure is a sore subject!) but things seem to be going well and I’m intrigued to see if you pick him up or another in January.
  7. Welcome @Ronaldo Beckham! 🙋🏼‍♂️ I am about to start my seventh season with Charlton and absolutely loving this save. Feel free to look through this thread where I have been posting regular updates. The starting squad is strong, the core of which was sufficient to get me from League One to the Premier League. Lyle Taylor’s goals were a key factor in my promotions. One thing I would recommend is that I managed to renew Bielik and Cullen’s loans until their contracts ran out at their respective clubs and I was then able to bring them in on free transfers. As you will probably know, finances aren’t great so shrewd free transfers and loans were essential to me in the early days. When I got to the Premier League I did have to make wholesale changes to the squad to ensure safety. At first I looked for ready made players, who could come in and make an immediate impact, however now we are more established in the League I have turned my attention to high potential regens. The only player who now remains, and plays, from the first season is Joe Aribo who has been a stalwart for me. Bielik is also still at the club, however I think this is finally the season I move him on. Premier League finishes have been solid if unspectacular (9th, 11th, 7th) however we have found real success in the Cups winning the FA Cup twice, the League Cup once and reaching the Europa League Semi Final in the last three seasons. Enjoy your save and interested to hear how you get on!
  8. Every year I always do a Man Utd save and also an Oldham one too, so I will need to get round to that eventually! I would also like to manage outside of the UK soon, although I have not decided on a specific team yet. Also just starting from scratch again with another random EFL side appeals to me! That said, I am still enjoying this Charlton save so it is going to be hard to give it up... @warlock I wish I had the time mate! Congrats on your successive promotion by the way - good luck in the Championship! I've just had an interesting development at Charlton: They have a decent side as they've only just lost the European Championship Final (to the Germans of course) - so I'm taking this as a decent compliment to how I'm getting on at The Valley!
  9. Thanks @warlock! However, as much as I am enjoying this save, the temptation to manage another team is starting to creep in! I don't think I've owned a version of FM this long without managing more than one side @DefinitelyTaylor Thanks for the kind words! Making additions is already proving difficult, despite having a £60m transfer budget! I had to offer greatly improved contracts to many of my young players who had played important roles last season, to reflect their contributions and to fend off the bigger clubs that were circling. This meant the wage budget went under water but the board will only let me move a small proportion of the transfer budget over to the wage budget. This means that after I get transfer bids accepted for players I can't offer them any wages and so have to just walk away. May just have a rare quiet transfer window or may resort to player sales, however I'm hesitant to do so as I'm enjoying developing these players. Thanks @Jogo Bonito! May have to take after the great man and buy all the team pizza to celebrate
  10. Charlton Athletic - Season 6 - Part 3 Going into February we had just lost goalkeeper Henderson and midfielder Fran to serious injuries that would see them both ruled out for 2-3 months. We had a tough run of fixtures ahead, so this would be a real test for my side. Our undefeated run immediately came to an end at the hands of our rivals Crystal Palace - it seems however good our form is, Pochettino always seems to have our number. A heavy defeat to West Ham had me fearing that our season was about to capitulate, however we followed this up with a huge victory against AC Milan which filled me with hope once again. We were on course to progress to the next round on away goals in the second leg, until Milan scored in the 89th minute to end our hopes. Milan went on to win the Europa League, so there was no shame in losing to them by such fine margins. We had two more significant victories during our busy month, winning away at Arsenal in the FA Cup and bettering eventual league champions Man Utd. From January onwards we were battling back and forth with Everton as to who was going to finish in 7th position in the league. Victory over Leicester and a battling draw with Everton themselves, courtesy of a brace from Charlton stalwart Aribo, were important results in the battle for 7th. Our most disappointing result of the season was a 4-0 defeat against Tottenham. I was placed in a difficult and infuriating position whereby I had to play a limited 19 year old goalkeeper as 'keeper Abdel Latif was called up for international duty during the season by Egypt, and Henderson was still injured. Adding to the frustration, forward Cannavo also went off injured and was ruled out for 2-3 months, putting an end to his run of good form. In more positive news, we thrashed both Fulham and Hull to make our way to the FA Cup Final. We had a really good run of form in April, picking up 10 points in the league. Diogo went off injured against Fulham (luckily he was only out for two weeks rather than months like the other injuries I had to key players) so the wins against Newcastle and Bournemouth came without our two first choice strikers. Calvin Stengs, operating in the inside forward position, stepped up with two man of the match performances. I was pleased with a clean sheet and draw at Anfield, however the two defeats that followed were not how I wished to finish the league campaign. We achieved what we had been battling for in the second half of the season by finishing above Everton, albeit on goal difference. The season ended on a huge high though as we pulled off an underdog victory beating Liverpool in the FA Cup Final. 18 year old forward Diogo was the man of the match as he provided a quality finish, his 18th of the season, to give us the lead. Substitute Schurrle confirmed the victory with a stoppage time penalty. Overall I was delighted with our season - we achieved our highest league finish under my management, with 13 points more than the season before, and lifted the FA Cup for the second time. The cup victory means we have qualified for the Europa League for the third successive season. I was quite amused by the fact that City missed out on Europe after Everton and ourselves both won domestic trophies. One of my focuses at the start of the season was to shore up my defence and the addition of Jemerson certainly helped me achieve that. The experienced centre-back was ever present in my side and consistently put in assured performances. Another signing who made an immediate impact was Will Hughes who dictated the tempo in my team and even contributed 13 goals from a deep lying playmaker position. Had it not been for a series of knocks, Frydek would have contributed even more than his impressive 11 assists and 5 goals from attacking mid. Special mention should be also made to Andre Schurrle who, despite being a squad player, contributed 10 important goals over the course of the season. The younger recruits lived up to the adage "If you're good enough, you're old enough". Had it not been for his injury then Fran could have also been a contender forour player of the season - he barely put a food wrong in the 30 matches he started. Winger Tasdelen had a terrific first season, providing 14 assists and scoring 6 goals. Diogo and Cannavo were joint top goalscorers with 18 goals each. After winning five trophies in six seasons, I have just received a news item declaring me a club icon at Charlton. I have taken advantage of this goodwill by persuading the club to invest in improving our youth academy to Level 1 and also to commence work on increasing our stadium capacity to nearly 29,000.
  11. Really interesting thread @Chevie! Looking forward to seeing how your tactic evolves as you continue to iterate and experiment.
  12. @warlock Congrats on winning League Two! That 16 game three month undefeated spell is particularly impressive. I fully expect you to build on your momentum and perform well in League One next season. @Jogo Bonito Good results there, particularly that 4-3 win against Everton! I'm sure it won't be long before you join warlock in announcing your promotion.
  13. @Jogo Bonito @warlock Thanks both, although just had some news which has soured my mood! Opportunity for my 20 year old Egyptian goalkeeping protegee to step up I guess...
  14. Charlton Athletic - Season 6 - Part 2 November An important victory was achieved away at Everton to start November off in a positive fashion. We had two defeats in the month, although only the loss to Tottenham was a fair reflection of the football played. Against Real Betis we dominated the game with far more shots and possession, however conceded two late goals that meant we fell to defeat. Young forward Diogo continued to impress, scoring three goals in three league games. December This was followed by a very pleasing month in which we beat Arsenal, drew with the champions and league leaders Liverpool and thrashed Fulham, Wolves and Bournemouth. Andre Schurrle proved to be an important player during the festive period, netting in four games in a row. This was particularly useful as during this time our top goalscorer Diogo was completing a four match ban for a mistimed tackle. Due to various injuries I gave several first starts to youth team players during this period, which makes the positive results even more satisfying. In Europe we concluded the group stage with another victory over Udinise. This result saw us finish second in our group and progress to the Knockouts where we have drawn the prestigious AC Milan. January The opening day of the transfer window saw us complete three deals that I had been working on in November and December. Continuing my theme from the summer, I continued to look to the future by signing three players under the age of 21. Asier Valencia arrived from Real Sociedad for £10m as my new second choice left back, following the recent retirement of Jordi Alba. Versatile Guacai arrives from Corinthians for £9.25m as the understudy full back on the opposite side of the pitch; I therefore sold Zampano to Aston Villa for £3.5m as he had become surplus to requirements. Finally, young Davie Duff joined the club from Aberdeen for £8.5m and is one for the future in the goal scoring domain. Our form continued into January and we have now gone 15 games undefeated, including achieving clean sheets in the last seven matches. Diogo and Guacai have been absent for the majority of the month as they have been competing for Brazil in the South American qualifying for the Olympic Games. Whilst it was frustrating that this has taken place during the season, it has been encouraging to see Cannavo step up and take on the goal scoring responsibility in recent weeks.
  15. @warlock That's a great start to life as Colchester gaffer and those victories over Championship opposition indicate you may be able to do well at a higher level!
  16. Charlton Athletic - Season 6 - Part 1 All the posts on here over the weekend has reminded me to do an update of my own! Squad Overhaul I ended my last post by mentioning that my aim for the summer of 2023 was to overhaul my squad and move in a more youthful direction. Firstly I released the elder statesman of my squad Marek Hamsik and Ivan Perisic, deciding neither had earned a new contract after the initial one year deals I brought them in on last season. I then tasked my network of scouts with scouring the globe for hot prospects that I could build my teams around. After a lot of hard work I was able to identify three such players, all of whom were brought in at bargain prices. Diogo, an 18 year old centre forward from Gremio, Faruk Tasdelen, a 19 year old right winger from Frieburg and Fran a 20 year old deep lying playmaker from Valencia. As all three are regens I have attached printscreens of them below. I am really excited about developing these players and hope to be able to fulfill their potentials. My star signing was Will Hughes who had made a big money move to Man City the year previous (for £33.5m) but had been unable to break into the team. I snapped him up for what I believe to be a bargain fee as his all round technical and mental stats are very impressive. Hughes also offers a great deal of versatility to the squad as he can play almost anywhere across the midfield. Last season was a struggle in parts and on reflection I concluded that one of the factors was a lack of quality in defence. I therefore raided Tottenham twice, first signing centre back Jemerson, shortly followed by full back Kyle Walker-Peters. By this point the squad was now inflated in size therefore I had to move on a large number of players. I sold players that I liked such as Cullen, Bandinelli, Engels and Coyle, as sadly they simply weren't going to get any playing time. I decided to loan out forwards Iuhas and Abraham as I want them to develop and the only way this will happen is if they get minutes on the pitch. One notable outgoing where I was torn on whether to do the deal or not, was the sale of youth academy prospect Jamie Le Tissier. The young right back only currently has very limited ability but my scouts rated him as having high levels of potential. Middlesbrough came in with a high bid from nowhere and I reluctantly decided to accept as his potential was not guaranteed. I will be keeping a close eye on his development with intrigue. The final notable deals were the free transfer signings of Andre Schurrle and Jordi Alba. As previously mentioned, I had decided to move away from making experienced signings, however these deals were dictated by necessity. Early season injuries to Pacheco and Stengs meant I was short of wingers and my scouts rated Schurrle highly. After releasing James Husband in the summer I was on the hunt for a new left back, however every transfer or loan I lined up ended up falling through. With desperation setting in I moved for Alba who, although 34, still has good attributes. Before he signed he had already decided to retire in mid-November so he is very much a short-term fix. Left back is a position I will look to address in January. Positive Performances Season 6 could not have begun much better. The competitive season started early due to our involvement in the Europa League, a tournament we qualified for by winning the League Cup in the prior season. We beat FC Mattersburg 6-0 on aggregate with all goals coming from new signings, including a hat-trick from young forward Diogo who hit the ground running. We followed this up with another 6-0 aggregate win, this time over KuPS of Finland. Our final round of Europa League qualifiers in the month came against FC Viitorul in a slightly tighter affair that finished 5-3 - the star of this round was forward Cannovo who scored three. He had an underwhelming season last time around so I am hoping this is the start of good things to come for him. The only blip of the opening month was a defeat to Arsenal on the opening day of the domestic season, however we made up for this with two wins against sides we are more likely to be competing with this season. Reality Check I was feeling extremely positive at the end of August, thinking this is the season we finally push on and challenge for a top half finish. September, however, proved a stark reminder that my side is still very much a work in progress. We failed to beat West Ham, Palace and Blackburn, sides that I really think we should be beating. Palace have the unpleasant role of being both our local rivals and our bogey team - I just can't seem to get the better of Pochettino's side. We exited the FA Cup in disappointing fashion as we dominated the match but ended up losing on penalties. We drew a tough Europa League group, being paired with losing finalists from last season Real Betis and Udinise. We lost away at Betis, however I was really encouraged with our dominating victory over Udinise. We secured a huge and deserved victory when we beat Man City 4-3. It really was a thriller with one of Tasdelen's goals winning the Premier League goal of the month competition, and Hughes' goal coming second! At this early stage of the season we are not quite where I would like to be in the table but hopefully we can push on upwards as the season progresses.
  17. Great update @Jogo Bonito - that link with Tottenham already looks like a very shrewd move! Will be interested to see if Skipp lives up to his potential. Looking forward to seeing how @warlock also fares at Colchester. Perhaps friendly competition with Jogo will light that spark you are looking for?
  18. Welcome back @Jogo Bonito, looking forward to hearing where you end up in the Football League!
  19. Thanks @warlock and @DefinitelyTaylor - I have been handed a budget of £60m and intend to spend it going in a more youthful direction. I brought in Hamsik and Perisic last season as experienced heads to lead us into Europe and neither impressed so I'm going to put faith in a new generation!
  20. Charlton Athletic - Season 5 - Part 3 It's been a couple of weeks since I was able to post an update, but I have now finished season 5. When I last wrote we had just won the Carabao Cup, were in the Europa League Knockout rounds, but sat 18th in the league with a real danger of relegation (and therefore the sack for me!). Roller-coaster campaign would be an understatement. February's good form continued into March and it begun with a victory over Shakhtar in the Europa League. You may recall I made the decision to drop Hamsik for the second half of the season and move in a more youthful direction. In this particular game I selected Castellano to play behind the striker and he rewarded me with a brace. Due to the winter World Cup this game was also a one-legged affair so we went to penalties where Henderson was the hero making three saves which allowed us to win 3-0. The game against Man Utd was a strange one, we equalised in the 84th, took the lead in the 92nd, but then conceded in the 93rd. Overall it was a good result. We won three out of the remaining four league games in the month, a feat that saw us rise out of the relegation zone and up to 15th place. The Europa League continued to be a place of great joy for us as we beat Benfica on away goals after tying 4-4. This result was particularly special to me as one of the all important goals was scored by Joe Aribo, a player who has been with me since we began in League One! In between our European legs we also achieved one of our greatest results, beating Arsenal at the Emirates in a backs-to-the-wall performance. Our form trailed off near the end of the month as we were thumped by Spurs and lost to our local rivals Palace for the second time this season. Disappointing results but our recent run of form meant this wasn't a disaster. We got the toughest draw possible getting a rampant Man Utd in the Europa League Semi Finals. The other two options were Real Betis and FC Koln and I am certain we could have beaten either of these. You may have noticed when looking at my results that the vast majority of our goals are scored by midfielders - it does not matter what formation or who I start, my strikers just can't seem to find the net. Going into the Semi Final first leg, £18.75m striker Cannavo had not scored for a ridiculous 14 hours. He scored against United and I thought to myself all would be forgiven if we could make it to the Final - unfortunately it was not to be. The four goals United scored across the ties were a penalty and then three goals all scored after the 85th minute as we chased the tie. Frustrating, but ultimately deserved as they were the better team. Our Europa League run came to an end but it was a huge over-achievement to get to that stage. United went on to be eventual winners. In the league in May we suffered a narrow defeat to the champions Liverpool but otherwise it was a series of good results. Cannavo scored in four of the last seven games which gives me hope that next season he may finally deliver on his promise. The strong end to the season saw us eventually finish 11th, something that looked impossible at the half-way point of the season. I would highlight Dean Henderson as my key performer this season, he played 57 games (10 more than any other player) and repeatedly pulled off big saves. Otherwise, my wingers deserve big credit - Stengs was top goalscorer and assistor (10 and 11 respectively), whilst El Ghazi (7 and 2) and Pacheco (7 and 3) also contributed. Bielik was voted fans' Player of the Season, however I am not entirely sure why as he was decent but not spectacular. Finally I wanted to share the above two news items as I enjoyed them. One shows that we are still operating on a small but financially stable budget and the other shows our meteoric rise in stature after our Europa League campaign. Season 6 awaits and we once again have the balancing act of Europe and the Premier League. I'm planning another squad overhaul too, so watch this space!
  21. Charlton Athletic - Season 5 - Part 2 Winter break and a fresh start Thanks to World Cup 2022, December saw us conduct a mid-season pre-season. We mainly played weaker opposition as, along with building fitness, one of my main objectives was to try and build up the confidence of my mis-firing forwards. Cannavo and Markovic scored five goals apiece, so I considered this mission complete. A 4-1 win against Turkish giants Galatasaray was also reassuring. The season recommenced with a trip to the City Ground in the FA Cup and I was worried all the good work in our friendlies had been fruitless as well were defeated after extra time. However after that game our form did pick up and we did not suffer defeat for six games. I've previously mentioned our result against Sevilla which took us through to the Knockouts of the Europa League. Thanks to long-term injuries to Engels and Antov, and the suspension of Jones, we only had one centre back available for this game. Second choice left back Husband stepped in and we secured the result we needed. Defensive midfielder Mendy had been trialed there against Nottm Forest and had played very poorly. Our cup form continued as well secured big wins against Forest and Watford. Interestingly the Semi Final was only one leg due to the World Cup - this is also the case for the Europa League First & Second Knockout rounds. A 2-2 draw with Chelsea is a good result on paper, but I was actually very frustrated as we had been 2-0 up before conceding in the 87th and 93rd minutes. A win against Fulham and a draw with Leicester were important points on the board. The final game of the month was also annoying as we were 2-0 up once again, before losing 3-2 (with one of the goals being a ridiculous own goal from Phil Jones...). Transfers I only made three transfers during the January window, but I was very pleased with each piece of business. The first signing was young attacking midfielder Christian Frydek, a snip at £5.5m from Sparta Prague. In the first half of the season we had played either 4-1-2-2-1 (wide) or 4-4-2. The Frydek deal was arranged in September and I had high hopes for him, so during December I switched to a 4-2-3-1 which we played in all six friendlies, which was all designed to get the best out of him. As you can see from my results, he has had an immediate impact. The next signing was Ahmed Abdel Latif who arrived from Al Ahly in Egypt for £450k. At only 19 years old he is already rated better than my backup keepers Badiashile and Steer, with lots of potential to improve. He is certainly one for the future. Finally, it wouldn't be a transfer window for me without a deadline day signing. I identified our leaky defence as a key issue and was aware that we did not have a top quality defensive midfielder in the squad to provide cover for them. With funds limited, I moved for Rui Pires who joins on loan from Porto till the end of the season at a cost of £250k per month. The only outgoings were the departure of fringe players going out on loan. Cup success The European adventure rolled on as we pulled off a huge victory against RB Leipzig at The Valley. This has set up a clash with Shakhtar in the next round. Two more league defeats meant the pressure remained firmly on us as we stayed in the Premier League relegation zone. This was soon forgotten though as we were victorious in the Carabao Cup! Considering our league form I was shocked at how straight forward this victory turned out to be. You may recall that Dahoud has been particularly poor for me this season but all was forgiven when he turned hero in the cup final by getting the scoring started. We finished the month by beating fellow strugglers Watford and achieving a late comeback against Forest. Markovic came off the bench and scored the two late important goals to secure the point. The Liverpool, Watford and Forest results were extra special because due to an injury to Jones my new midfield signing Pires was drafted in to cover and he performed admirably. Still work to do... Despite our League Cup and European success there is still a lot of work to do and my job hangs in the balance. We still sit in the relegation zone with only a few months of the season left to go. We have a few games in hand but they are never a given. Fingers crossed I am still in the job to lead us into Europe once again next season!
  22. @IndyManager I'm at exactly the same point in my career too. Played a batch of six friendlies in December to pass the time and keep the players match fit. I generally find pre-season to be fairly dull, apart from concluding transfer deals, and you can't even do that in December - so not ideal!
  23. @warlock Congrats on winning League 2 with Mansfield! Good luck in League One. @DefinitelyTaylor @smplfc123 Thanks both! I have a bit of good news - got the result that I needed to ensure qualification for the Knockouts of the Europa League. Pacheco's late goal was the difference between us exiting the competition and winning our group! RB Liepzig await in the next round.
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