An interesting campaign to prepare for this year. With the added pressures of the Europa League and a desire to go deep into cup competitions (got to win some silverware after all!) I have bolstered the depth of the squad and kept very much to the Southampton model in doing so. The major transfer here is the outgoing Mohammed Elyounoussi for £50m to Newcastle (they've had an Italian tycoon takeover). Although Mohammed was an important player around the first team squad, I felt he was a replaceable asset with the players we have competing for that position. Incoming are Patrick Roberts, on a free from Man City, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for a cut-price £8.25m deal from Chelsea. I'm very pleased with these two, as they add versatility and quality to the squad.
It has also been a window for goalkeepers. Wolves came in for a deadline offer for McCarthy of £16.5m and with Angus Gunn pushing him for a spot I thought this was a good offer. Tom Heaton comes in to provide first team cover to Gunn. Two other keepers were signed in the window. Freddie Woodman was picked up on a free just as 3rd choice cover, as were really lacking in depth. And lastly, newgen Angel Jaramillo, from the other Barcelona! As he does not have a work permit I have loaned him to new affiliate club Excelsior for the next 5 years...
Also outgoing is Vestergaard, who I finally offloaded to Krasnodar. The last incoming of note is Gary Young, a Scottish newgen from the states. I signed him a couple of years ago but it seems that his PA has dipped considerably since then so I have slight buyers remorse (especially as we are well covered in the forward department at youth level!). Oh well...
Tyler Adams and Josh Sims return to the squad to compete for places and with that I feel we are well prepared for the year ahead.
The lop-sided 4-3-3 will still be the main approach, but I have developed two alternative shapes to play against better teams (as this is where we fell down again last year) - a 4-1-3-2 and a 4-4-2. I'll be running a counter-attacking strategy with these and tweaking as I go along. If anyone has any thoughts on player roles to use here please do let me know! I'm hoping that with the winter update now enforced we might have a little more luck with this approach.
Pre-season could have been slightly better results wise. Nonetheless I feel it was productive. Last three draws were from a mixture of playing with the new tactics and playing weakened sides. One thing I've learned is that Sims might well be suited to the CM position. He played really well here against championship opposition in Bristol City, it has given me confidence to try him there in competitive fixtures.
I had a weird bug where my board arranged a training camp in China, prior to my players returning from holiday. I'd be interested to know if anyone else seen this?
As mentioned I want to compete on as many fronts as possible this year. At least a quarter final in the FA Cup or League Cup, and getting out of the group in the Europa League would be a good season as far as I'm concerned. With regards to the league I would like to qualify for Europe again, but won't be disappointed as long as we finish at least top half.
Thankfully the fixture list seems to have been as kind as it can be again and we have avoided any run of difficult fixtures. That said, August is a rather dense period for us this year... Anything between 20-25 points from the first three months will be a good run. Obviously the Europa League draw is yet to happen, so impossible to comment on that until it has taken place.