Andyp's End Of Season Review - 2012/13
So season 2 is out of the way, and what a season it turned out to be! A tremendous unbeaten run that began at the start of December 2012 and lasted right until the end of the season led us to that most holy grail of achievements: The Treble.
We were breathing down Barca's neck all season, but they were just that little bit too good and despite reducing the gap to 4 points in February it didn't seem like they were going to lose, so I was preparing for a happy 2nd place. That is, until we met in the league in mid-April. We ran out 2-0 winners and that defeat seemed to leave a huge dent in their confidence, dropping 9 points from the next available 18. It all came down to the last day. We were tied, both on 92 points. They had Betis at the Nou Camp, we had Grenada at La Rosaleda. We went 1-0 up thanks to a bit of Cazorla magic, then they went 1-0 down. Tremendous scenes. Messi did pull one back for them but it meant nothing as Rondon (who else?) came off the bench to finish a wonderful team move and guaranteed us the title. It was no less than we deserved as we were undoubtedly the form team in the second half of the season - beating both Barca and Real, and dropping just 8 points since the turn of the calendar year.
Copa Del Rey
Superb performances from my 'cup team' confirmed us as Spanish domestic double winners with a hard-fought victory over Valencia at the Bernabeu. Another two goals from the competition's top scorer Rondon further added to our joy.
Despite playing (and beating) the two bookies' favourites Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Quarters and Semis respectively, this was fittingly the toughest game of the lot. Tevez was a silly boy, diving in recklessly at the end of the first half after Kameni saved a Taiwo penalty. However it was a scrappy finish from Afellay and a deflected Cazorla free kick that gave us a 2-0 lead until Pato got AC a consolation with a neat finish in injury time. Again, a deserved win. Despite being so good defensively in the league, we were purveyors of exciting, free-flowing and open games in Europe - conceding 22 in the competition overall. This didn't matter however, as we plain outscored the rest of our opponents and ended up unbeaten.
Goalkeepers: Carlos Kameni, Rui Patricio, Ruben (First choice: Kameni - for now)
Started the season with Kameni, who was as always a superb reaction stopper however I wasn't convinced by his aerial ability and high eccentricity rating. As a result I bought Rui Patricio in January for £11.5m. Patricio slotted straight into the team and did very well, however as he had already played in the Champions League with Sporting he was ineligible to play in the competition with us. Kameni took full advantage of this and put in a string of world class performances in Europe, and established himself again as first choice in the league. Patricio became my cup keeper, and did a sterling job. I'm satisfied to now have two world-class goalkeepers in the squad. Ruben has been solid when he has been called upon. Provided he doesn't get frustrated by lack of action, I'm happy with him as my 3rd choice.
End of season ratings:
Kameni: 7.22 from 41 apps
Patricio: 7.15 from 17 apps
Ruben: 6.90 from 2 apps
Full-backs: Ivan Bandalovski, Martin Montoya, Jose Angel, Naxto Monreal (First choice RB: Bandalovski, first choice LB: Angel)
Started off the season with Gamez and Sanchez rotation as RB. I was never fully convinced by either of them, as Gamez seemed to switch off too often and be left wanting in defensive positions, and Sanchez had a bad habit of collecting needless yellows, which turned into reds all too regularly. I let Gamez go in July as he frustrated me too much in the first season and I brought in Kyle Walker on loan to rotate with Sanchez. Unfortunately, the bad discipline which was a feature of Sanchez's season last time again reared its ugly head this season, and eventually I lost patience with him and loaned him out in January. As means of replacement, I went in for the deeply unhappy Montoya from Barcelona (FOR FREE), and stumbled across Bandalovski. I was quoted £3.8m for Bandalovski, which I couldn't say no to. Walker was sent back to Spurs, and after a few games Bandalovski had firmly established himsef as a superb RB.
For left back I knew I needed someone in July to challenge with Monreal. I noticed Angel, who was at Roma at the time. He has all the base stats to make a very solid LB, and 23 to boot. When I was quoted £7.5m I snapped him up without a second thought. Some brilliant defensive performances quickly made him my first choice. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be the fittest of players, so Monreal was still at hand for when he got tired (normally after 4 or 5 consecutive starts).
End of season ratings:
Bandalovski: 7.25 from 22 apps (2 assists)
Montoya: 6.8 from 10 apps (1 assist)
Angel: 7.17 from 36(1) apps (3 assists)
Monreal: 7.24 from 24(1) apps (2 assists)
Centre backs: Sebastien Bassong, Nicolas Otamendi, Joris Mathijsen, Danny Wilson (First choice: Bassong, Otamendi)
A solid defence that was the base of our wonderful league performance. Bassong and Otamendi were my first choice centre back partnership from the off, both putting in commanding performances in all competitions as well as chipping in with a combined total of 23 goals to boot. As further testament to their performances, they were not only named as the two CB's in the league best XI, but also the Champions League best XI. Mathijsen hasn't been affected by his fall from first-team regular to backup, and has been brilliant whenever he has been called upon. Unfortunately, Otamendi didn't take this fall from grace quite so well, and demanded a move - which I was more than happy to facilitate. As means of replacement, I bought in Danny Wilson on loan until the end of next season. Wilson has performed admirably when played as well, and forged a good partnership with Mathijsen in domestic cup games. I'm hoping to eventually land Wilson permanently.
End of season ratings:
Bassong: 7.55 from 42(2) apps (10 goals, 4 assists, 5 MoM's)
Otamendi: 7.49 from 51(1) apps (13 goals, 3 assists, 2 MoM's)
Mathijsen: 7.13 from 19(2) apps (2 goals, 1 MoM)
Wilson: 7.52 from 6 apps (1 goals, 1 MoM)
Central Midfield: Jeremy Toulalan, Adam Vass, Emmanuel Badu, Ignacio Camacho, Axel Witsel (First choice: Toulalan, Witsel)
The unsung heroes of my system: one surges forward and breaks up the opposition midfield, the other sits back and sweeps up any misplaced balls. Toulalan has been wonderful as the more defensive member of this duo, despite not getting much of a chance behind Vass last season. Witsel was brought in in January; a player with great mental attributes and an eye for a pass, his positional sense and willingness to run has been much appreciated. He's also a very confident penalty taker, and has stepped up a few times for us. Badu and Camacho are continuing their development as good break-up players, even if Camacho does get on my nerves sometimes with his demands of regular first team action; Vass is always reliable to step up and do a good job when Toulalan is out.
End of season ratings:
Toulalan: 7.08 from 42(2) apps (2 goals, 2 assists)
Witsel: 7.04 from 16(2) apps (4 goals, 4 assists, 1 MoM)
Badu: 6.89 from 15(10) apps (4 goals, 1 assist)
Camacho: 6.88 from 16(1) apps (1 goal, 2 assists)
Vass: 7.00 from 15(3) apps (3 assist)
Attacking Midfield: Santi Cazorla, Mateo Kovacic, Ibrahim Afellay, Carlos Tevez, Julio Baptista, Gio dos Santos, Adam Johnson, Sidney Sam (First choice: Cazorla - Tevez - Afellay)
The headline-grabbers of the team. With my central midfielders acting so defensive, these 3 creative players are allowed the run of the pitch and aren't required to use up too much energy by bothering with stuff like defending. Cazorla has been in the form of his life - pulling the strings from the left wing, scoring wonderful goals, and taking pinpoint free kicks. His fairly pedestrian form last season has been well and truly forgotten about now, and he has also been named Champions League best player as well as in the best XI both domestically and Champions League. Tevez was my big buy of the season (£25m), but his industry and crafty touches have been instrumental in our build up play, and he's also provided some very important goals for us in the big games and joined Cazorla in the Champions League best XI. My right wing is reserved for the more penetrative attacking players, and is why Adam Johnson and Sidney Sam were bought in January; their job is to get the ball, cut inside and use their trickery to unsettle defences. Afellay is first choice here, but if we are in need of a goal 70+ minutes into a game then Sam/Johnson/dos Santos are more than capable of coming on and causing chaos.
Cazorla picked up an injury near the end of the season, allowing Kovacic a run in the first team. He was phenomenal, dictating play every bit as well as the little Spanish wizard. Baptista was out for a few months about 1/3 of the way into the season, which unfortunately dropped him down the pecking order, but has always given his all when he has played. As much as I love him, I can't see him appreciating having so few chances .
End of season ratings:
Cazorla: 7.77 from 40(1) apps (13 goals, 26 assists, 10 MoM's)
Kovacic: 7.53 from 19(12) apps (4 goals, 13 assists, 2 MoM's)
Tevez: 7.34 from 44(3) apps (19 goals, 14 assists, 4 MoM's)
Johnson: 7.33 from 14(2) apps (5 goals, 7 assists, 1 MoM)
Afellay: 7.30 from 35(12) apps (7 goals, 20 assists, 2 MoM's)
Sam: 7.18 from 5(12) apps (4 goals, 3 assists)
dos Santos: 7.03 from 15(13) apps (6 goals, 5 assists, 2 MoM's)
Baptista: 6.99 from 18(12) apps (6 goals, 6 assists, 1 MoM)
Forwards: Moussa Sow, Salomon Rondon, Wilfried (First choice: Rondon)
Unstoppable. That's the only way I can describe Rondon's performances, and another Malaga player named in the Champions League best XI. If I need a goal in an important game, I can always rely on the deadly Venezuelan. His pace, strength and balance means he effectively just walks through the opposition defensive line. I got Moussa Sow at the start of the season, and he started impressively, but injury and international duty gave Rondon the chance to reaffirm himself as the best striker at the club. Sow is capable of scoring very big goals against very good defences, and I can't think of a better second-choice. Wilfried has been the one to unfortunately make way for Rondon and Sow. Always a threat thanks to his imposing physicality, he is too good to not be first choice and I'm sure he'll realise that sooner rather than later. Juanmi is getting frustrated at not playing in the first team, so I may consider letting Wilfried go and giving him some chances to improve and impress.
End of season ratings:
Rondon: 7.35 from 28(11) apps (24 goals, 5 assists, 5 MoM's)
Sow: 7.03 from 26(13) apps (10 goals, 4 assists, 3 MoM's)
Wilfried: 7.27 from 5(7) apps (6 goals, 2 MoM's)
Not sure what to do next season. I'm very happy with the squad I have, but would like to give more chances to my Spaniards. I'm considering letting go of Baptista (with a heavy heart), Badu and either Wilfried or Sow; which will allow me to give the likes of Recio, Isco and Juanmi a chance in the first team.
Wow, that was a long update.