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47 "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"

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  1. April 2022 If Champions League qualification is what we’re after, then there should be no easier way to nail it than with a home game against SPAL. In seventeenth position but probably having racked up just enough points to avoid the drop, this has all the makings of easy pickings. I field a lot of my back-up players here, keeping my powder dry for the trip to Anfield in midweek. That means starts for the likes of Izzo and De Sciglio, and Lozano making his long-awaited return at last. The Mexican scored five goals in a 10-0 demolition of Nicaragua during the break, and that would suggest
  2. April 2020 - A Dead Parrott As always the international break represents a unique opportunity for my players to get themselves injured. Tom Huddlestone leads the charge with a twisted ankle, which is worth up to a month’s lay-off. This could have come at a better time. The Derby veteran may be far from a regular starter for us, but he’s useful to have around and when we are in need of someone composed to come on, take control and put his foot on the game there are few better. Next up is Matt Phillips, the on-loan winger who we lose for two to three weeks with pulled knee ligaments. Ouch!
  3. March 2022 Twelve fixtures remain in Serie A, three of which will be played in March as the international break cuts into the schedule. As it has been for much of the campaign the title’s destination remains a tightly poised affair. We’re in control of our destiny. Win them all and there’s nothing anyone can do, but Juventus are lurking on our coattails to take advantage of any slip-ups. We’ve conceded four fewer goals than them, however they have scored eight more, and this may end up counting when it comes to the final analysis, even though ultimately I believe we will be sorted on how
  4. March 2020 - On Top of the World Eight league fixtures remain. Derby are number one in the table, but ours is a slim lead and plenty can happen between now and our final commitment, which will be against Birmingham in early May. As far as this month is concerned, we have two matches to play before the last of the mid-season international breaks. We start with a tough one, entertaining fourth-placed Reading at Pride Park. There’s close to a capacity crowd for this encounter, which is what we would expect as everything is now on the line and the supporters are anticipating a fascinatin
  5. February 2022 It’s Juventus at home in the cup first, and with an away day at Cittadella to follow at the weekend I choose this as my fixture for which to select the best eleven. Before any of that happens I am asked to register my changes for the rest of the Champions League. It’s not possible to include Gabriel Martinelli. The Brazilian was brought in as ballast and there simply isn’t the space to add him, however his youth means he can play in Italy without the need for labyrinthine registration rules. Clearly, the Coppa Italia is a massive deal for us. Win it and I can leave Ita
  6. March 2020 - Focusing on the League I confess that the title of today’s piece is a pretty big spoiler alert for the result of our FA Cup tie, but honestly did anyone think we would get very much further? March opens with our Fifth Round meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion, played before over 30,000 supporters at the evocatively named American Express Community Stadium. In terms of league placing there are only about five positions between our teams. We’re near the top of the Championship and the Seagulls are fighting against relegation from the Premier League. Despite this apparent
  7. January 2022 - Part Two The month wraps up with two away league ties before Udinese at home. The first is against Benevento, trapped in nineteenth and with only SPAL keeping them from the absolute bottom. I fend off a transfer bid from Guangzhou for Lobotka, who will need to play in this one as Tonali is suspended. Playing in their weird yellow stadium, with palm trees invitingly just outside, the first half is far from a classic. When Politano is playing as disinterestedly as he does here, you know this is going to be a motivational challenge. He ends up being subbed off for Riccardo Ors
  8. February 2020 - Fixture Pile-Up Heading into the crunch encounter with Fulham I am advised that Andre Wisdom is no longer concerned about his playing time, having been deployed much more regularly since the start of the year. Time to put out those club flags, Chris. Things have changed a bit since I made that promise to the Jamaican full-back. We now have Ivan joining in the summer, a direct replacement for Andre and a new contender to challenge the rise of Jayden Bogle… However, with so many matches still to play I’m going to need to keep as much of the squad as I can sweet and onside. I
  9. January 2022 - Part 1 The New Year opens with some promises to keep and awards to announce. Fabian and Grimaldo have both complained to me that they aren’t playing as often as they would expect. I agree to give both more time in the field, as they are fair concerns to express. Of course, they are talking to the newly re-inaugurated Manager’s Manager of the Year, though that counts for nothing. Alex Meret wins the World Golden Glove, a recognition of the outstanding number of clean sheets for which he’s responsible. Both he and Kalidou Koulibaly are named in the year’s World Team, rubbing
  10. February 2020 - Robbing Robins I have been asked about how I go about scouting players, particularly in reference to the number of dudes I have tapped up to join us on free transfers in the summer. At the risk of losing any respect from the thread's reader(s) I will confess that I use the Player Search facility in Football Manager as a matter of course. I know to some people that this almost constitutes cheating the game, that I should rely on scouting reports alone, and perhaps if I was managing in the lower leagues I would do just that. My justification is it would be easy enough f
  11. December 2021 Just three league games this month, along with the completion of our Champions League group schedule, before the winter break kicks in and we all get to enjoy Christmas with our families. Beyond that is the opening of the January transfer window, a number of Napoli players on other teams’ radars (more on this below), all taking place during a packed, New Year schedule. We open with a home game against Cagliari. Going into this one, we know that Juventus have travelled to Lazio and been forced to a 0-0 stalemate, so it’s an opportunity to put a little buffer room between
  12. February 2020: Three Teams Called City The transfer window is closed. We spent nothing and brought in close to £5 million from the sales of Anya and Buchanan, and I can only cast envious eyes at some of the megalithic deals being struck elsewhere. Spurs made a rare show of strength, lashing £35 million on Dynamo Kyiv defender Vitaliy Mykolenko, the biggest splash made in January. Alfredo Morelos made a £30 million move from Rangers to PSG, while Manchester City lavished similar amounts in Celtic’s direction for Odsonne Edouard, and Croatian striker Bruno Petkovic’s goalscoring feats in th
  13. November 2021 Lorenzo Insigne is currently considered to be the highest rated player in Serie A. I agree. In the goalscoring stakes no one comes close to Luis Muriel’s nine strikes for Atalanta; Orsolini and Osimhen lead our path with four apiece. Like last season we are the division’s leading scorers, but those goals come from a variety of personnel, which is exactly how it should be. I’m still in awe of Sebastiano Esposito, Inter’s young gun who is on loan with Sampdoria and has scored five goals in seven appearances. He will be mine, oh yes… November features six matches, and two
  14. January 2020 - Deadline Day Doings We are entertaining Cardiff City in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Reaching this level means we have satisfied the board’s requirements, but obviously we’d like to do better than that, try to reach the competition’s latter stages and bring some real money into the club. The Bluebirds are a relegated team and have only just parted ways with Neil Harris. Steve Morison is working as the interim gaffer when we meet them. Everything is lining up nicely for a victory, and of course it’s exactly in these moments when the gods of football find fresh ways to bit
  15. October 2021 Another international break looms, but before that we are playing Genoa at home. Vincenzo Torrente’s side are doing better than last season, when they flirted throughout with relegation, but this has all the makings of a sound home win to complete a strong start to our Serie A title defence. As it turns out the match is an exercise in frustration. With many of our regular starters rested and the likes of Boga, Lobotka, Elmas and De Sciglio taking part, we’re fluent enough without ever finding that final cutting edge. Osimhen is notably wasteful, Schick little better. The visi
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