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  1. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    END OF PRE-SEASON: Pre-season continued in a reasonable fashion, there were very few injuries and training seemed to be going well. On the transfer front: We got an offer for Barkley, from Tottenham. It was 25million rising to 33 million. Barkley was refusing to budge on the contract issue, an indicated that he wanted to talk to Spurs. My scouts had found a player that could potentially replace him, so we accepted the bid. We then launched a 20million bid for a young player from Serbia that was plying his trade at Lazio over in Italy. He was called Savic, and his agent was a hard nosed negotiator. The bid was accepted, and Savic played hard ball, aiming for a key player status among other things. I relented, because I really rate the lad; As you can see, he was tall, strong, and had exceptional off the ball movement, and vitally he made better decisions than Barkley did. The Barkley deal was wrapped up first, and we delayed it until Savic signed the dotted line. Then both transfers went through. Savic's arrival was well received, but there was some serious backlash for the sale of Barkley. Niasse would be sent on loan to Genoa, this decision was made after watching Tarashaj in the friendly matches during pre-season. A risky decision, but I felt I had a good history with injuries and could get away with a two striker limit for now. We had lots of other transfer bids, but again, most of them were reliant on us paying the wages. =/ That said, we did secure loans for the following people: Matty Foulds would go to Eastleigh, Anthony Evans to Macclesfield, Liam Walsh would pop over to Bradford City. Callum Connolly would stay with MK Dons and Beni Baningime would stay at Cambridge for a while. We also offloaded youth prospect Chris Renshaw to Millwall for 22k. Aston Villa also bidded for Lennon on loan, they refused to pay his wages, but I secured a 20k per month fee from them, negotiations were ongoing still by the time August hit. PRE SEASON FRIENDLIES: LAVAL 0-2 EVERTON (Deulofeu 9, Tarashaj 25) 12th July, Line Up: Zoet, Pennington, Holgate, Rojo, Baines (C), Grant, McGeady, Cleverley, Gueye, Deulofeu, Tarashaj. (Subbed: Garbutt, McCarthy, Barkley, Lookman, Bolasie.) Bit of an odd game really, both teams cancelled each other out, and lots of long shots flew around all day long. Our two goals were well worked however, with both my inside forward and centre forward getting on the score sheet. CHATEAUROUX 0-1 EVERTON (Barkley 12, McCarthey s/o 75) 15th July, Line Up: Zoet, Kenny, Holgate, Galloway, Garbutt, Grant, Bolasie, Barkley, McCarthy, Deulofeu, Tarashaj. (Subbed: Coleman, Gueye, Cleverley, Lookman, Savic, McGeady, Williams) Essentially, Barkley's final game for us, and he got on the score sheet. This game was one of complacency though, as we should have won by a greater margin. The referee sort of ruined the friendly nature by throwing about some cards, inevitably resulting in one of ours being sent off. Otherwise, we won... EVERTON (CHI) 2-3 EVERTON (ENG) (Carrillo 51, Reyes 74 / Dolberg 5, 15, Bolasie 21) 19th July, Line Up: Robles, Kenny, Holgate, Galloway, Garbutt, Grant, Bolasie, Savic, McCarthy, Deulofeu, Dolberg (Subbed: Pennington, Coleman, Rojo, Baines, Gueye, Cleverley, Lookman, Tarashaj, McGeady) Dolberg would prove very classy in this game, but would eventually go off injured. Fortunately, a minor 2 day injury. We dominated from start to finish thanks to Everton (CHI) playing an aggressive 4-4-2 diamond that left so much space for us to exploit, hence the rapid 3-0 lead. We blew so many other chances though, and eventually, we got complacent and let in two very soft goals. A concern. SOUTHPORT 0-4 EVERTON (Garbutt 6, Grant 11, Tarashaj 36, Lookman 86) 22nd July, Line Up: Robles, Kenny, Holgate, Pennington, Garbutt, Grant, Bolasie, Cleverley, McCarthy, Deulofeu, Tarashaj. (Subbed: Coleman, Baines, Gueye, Savic, Lookman, McGeady, Williams) Eh, a walkover really given the gulf in class. NURNBERG 0-3 EVERTON (Dolberg 31, 37, Lookman 39) 26th July, Line Up: Zoet, Kenny, Galloway, Rojo, Baines, Grant, Bolasie, Cleverley, Gueye, Lookman, Dolberg. (Subbed: Coleman, McCarthy, Savic, Tarashaj, McGeady, Williams) I was happy with this game as Dolberg was proving very, very clinical. I was also finally seeing the winger act more like a winger. I was feeling a bit more confident in our tactics as the results went our way. SOUTHPORT 1-8 EVERTON (Allen 30 / Bolasie 4, 10, 23p, 61, Deulofeu 22, Tarashaj 31, 40, Dolberg 82) 31st July, Line Up: Robles, Kenny, Williams, Pennington, Garbutt, Grant, Bolasie, Cleverley, McCarthy, Deulofeu, Tarashaj. (Subbed: Gueye, Dolberg, Lookman, Savic, McGeady) Again, walkover. That was it for pre-season. In other news, the game's over-reliance on reputation meant that because of my transfer business, we dropped down in the prediction stakes! The media now predicted we would finish 11th. We were given odds of 55-1 to win the league and 9-1 to be relegated. Mid table was considered an 'ambitious' target. Psh. I think we'll be fine, our new signings are young, but they're very well rounded and quality players. Of course, friendlies can't really tell you much, so our first few fixtures would lay down the marker. With no injury concerns, all eyes were up against the Southampton match. Oh, Tom Davies is missing from the above matches. He was with the England youth team until around the 26th of July, upon which I gave him a two week holiday as he had no holiday at all! So, it was likely he would miss the opener of the season. On that note, Arsenal won the shield, thumping West Ham 3-0. Not much new there I suppose. Onwards to the new season. (EDIT: I forgot to mention. The board came calling to ask about raising the wages for our physio department. We had a bit of a falling out, as apparently my suggestion that the money would be better off invested in the youth academy was delusional. Gee, cheers for that! So, er, they kept the money I guess? I don't understand this board at all. Demanding I focus on long term goals and yet not backing me on the foundation of long term youth goals? Pft. They're not broke either, not with all the money I've dragged in. We've a transfer net of 76 million in our favour. Plenty to throw about, alas.)
  2. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    EARLY PRE-SEASON: Some players were unhappy with a 5 week pre-season, bit of a shame but I figured we needed practice in a non international tournament year. The Everton board presented their expectations for this season: Premier League: Top Half. FA Cup: 5th Round. League Cup: 4th Round. I thought that was a bit of a tough ask, given that they were in a relegation fight last season. Mid-Table would have been a nicer target. But I think top half is 10th and above? So really, just two places up from where I eventually took them. Who knows, maybe we could have a cheeky attempt at landing in the European qualification sections? We released a staggering 27 players from the club on release day. And er, I was alerted to the fact that we might not manage to comply with FFP on the wages front. That was because, apparently, a lot of players had 10-20% pay rise clauses. Oh boy. On the transfer front, the following deals updated: Mirallas to Newcastle - Collapsed. This one confused a lot of people, myself included *and* Newcastle. He rejected them on the basis of wages, but this was ridiculous as he basically has demanded a move, had one right there, was being given first team terms and he turned it down to stay home and pick up a wage packet at Everton? What a moron. Funes Mori to Watford - Confirmed Off went Funes Mori, a nice 8.5 million fee. He walked straight into their first team, and I hear they'll be playing three at the back this season. Besic to Swansea - Confirmed Besic left to Swansea, no problems there. Barkley to Manchester City - Bid rejected. City low-balled at 10 million, Barkley is refusing to discuss contract terms, and I can't even talk to him to persuade him otherwise (Why not SI?) so we'll probably lose him for free, but there we go. Schneiderlin to Manchester City - Confirmed. They put up a 30million bid for Schneiderlin though. (Actually 20 up front but 33 on clauses). He'll get hi 120k per week as a rotation option there, and I wish him well. On the contract front... Robles - accepted a new contract as a backup goalkeeper. Surprising this one, but I sweetened the deal by offering a release clause for european competition clubs at 5 million quid. I would be very surprised if a top four team wanted him, but stranger things have happened. Robles acceptance of his downgraded position really helped me out, especially with the new lad Zoet coming in. McGeady -Accepted a new contract as backup. Maybe a touch high on wages (40k) but Everton fans were very happy with it, and I really didn't want to be dipping into the market for another position, given that I was looking for a CM and FWD as it was. Transfers In: That Dutch 'lad', turned out to be Danish, but yeah. Dolberg joined us as a first team option, although social media viewed him as a rotation option (rotate with who?) That's Kasper Dolberg, who is 19 years of age. He's got good height and is rather well rounded. I've bought him as a long term option. I also got surprised by my U23 loan returns (again) and spotted this lad: Tarashaj: I had completely overlooked him, he spent all of last season on loan, and he's 22. His attributes are alright, his off the ball movement and his finishing are phenomenal though, so I think he might even give Dolberg a run for his money in the rotation stakes? Still, I think that solves our striker problem, we now have two, young strikers, both able to do a job for me. Despite the outlay of players, we still were predicted to fail the FFP. Fiddlesticks. Well anyway, our first pre-season game would be a home game: EVERTON 3-0 FC NANTES Line Up: Zoet, Coleman, Holgate, Rojo, Baines (C), Grant, McGeady, Barkley, Gueye, Deulofeu, Dolberg (Subbed: Kenny, Pennington, Galloway, Garbutt, McCarthy, Cleverley, Lookman, Tarashaj) (Barkley 6, Deulofeu 11, Dolberg 63) Despite predictions of a close game, we pretty much battered Nantes, which gave me some hope for a successful season. I know friendlies don't amount to much but we saw a lot of positives. Firstly, Holgate made a good return from his injury, managing to last the entire match. Secondly, Dolberg linked up well with our front three. He created an assist for Barkley's goal, missed two sitters, hit the bar, and then pounced on a difficult chance in the 63rd minute to come off with a goal and an assist. Fantastic performance all around. Deulofeu fitted in superbly at the Inside forward role, scoring a goal that was assisted by Grant, playing his first game as the playmaker, and it was a very good pass indeed. Lookman came on as a sub, and was the provider for the third goal, despite being on the pitch for literally a minute! Our post match statisticians noted that Dolberg and Barkley were pairing up a lot in the passing front, and we had such a solid game that the only person making a noticeable mistake was our keeper Zoet, which is amusing as we signed him to stop doing that. Everyone looked very solid. Only one problem, on the right wing I elected to go for a W/S to combat the long shot problem. For this match we didn't have many long shots, but the winger basically acted as an Inside forward anyway, cutting in and playing so narrow I wondered why we even bothered having a winger role? Alas. The rest of pre-season would be away games against: Laval Chateauroux Everton (Chile) Southport Nurnberg Southport As for why Southport is twice? Blame the assistant for that one. >_> Our opening fixtures for the league though are: Southampton (A) Huddersfield (H) Brighton (A) Manchester United (H) A weird mix, I'm not sure how we'll start from that. The league cup will be inbetween, obviously and our final game of the season is at home against Stoke. I noticed one or two runs of games where we have three home games on the bounce, which is great, as that should kickstart some winning streaks if we end up in a rut of bad form. Hopefully though, we don't have bad form!
  3. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    EARLY TRANSFER BUSINESS: Tom Davies popped into the office early on, asking for a new contract to reflect his good season. I politely declined, but his agent came around a few weeks later when we rejected a transfer bid from Stoke. Again, I declined. We had a variety of bids for our transfer listed players, but they were sneaky types that weaselled in a 'club pays the players wage' sort of bids, and they were all non-negotiable, so I declined them. Chelsea tabled a 33 million bid for Lukaku. The offer included a structured deal that added another 33 million (for 66 total), but I rejected it on the basis that I didn't feel they would honour the structured deal. They had only recently bought Troy Deeney, and he was their star striker since January. Suddenly Lukaku was the top target, and I doubted they'd stick with him for long. They re-bid, choosing to activate Lukaku's release clause of 59million. With that out of my hands, I had no choice but to accept. Immediately, I sent scouts out to find a replacement. We had some ideas of who we wanted to get, but before then we had one deal we wanted to tie up. A new goalkeeper. One particular Chelsea player had demanded a move away. Asmir Begovic, their backup keeper. Chelsea were playing hard ball though, despite him being on the list, they wanted a staggering 30 million for him. I sent an enquiry, they asked for 60 million. Lukaku for Begovic? Eh, Begovic was good, but old, and I wasn't content to dish out that much money. So that move got canned very quickly. We had an eye on a wonderful Brazilian goalkeeper, Neto, and an interesting Eastern European lad, who was flawed, but had such skewed abilities that I was sorely tempted to have a gamble on him. In the end, it was our Dutch 19's scout that picked up a lad, presumably playing in a one off non-competitve match. That was PSV keeper Jeroen Zoet. I sent a scout to watch him more thoroughly over the season just gone by, and I re-assessed him when the Begovic transfer fell through. We estimated that Zoet was a consistent performer, a current international player, he relished big matches, knew the language, could adapt well abroad, and was a professional guy. Absolutely no skeletons in this guy's closet. On top of this, PSV were willing to sell, we were estimated a maximum fee of around 12 million pounds. We put in an enquiry, and spent a few days at work on this one. We haggled a few down to around 9.5million pounds, with a 1million bonus after 50 league games. PSV accepted, and the player was keen to sign on, offered up a reasonable contract and boom. First signing done and dusted. Jeroen Zoet: This guy is 26, and as you can see, is rather much more 'well rounded' than Robles. His positioning, decisions, composure, anticipation and concentration are all up there. We trade the aerial prowess for a bit more roundness. For me, I reckon he could be a Peter Schmeichel sort of signing for the club, because 10 million for a good keeper in this day and age is an absolute steal. Maybe I'm overstating it though. We also got some news, Gareth Barry and Arouna Kone, both didn't take too kindly to being transfer listed. They both recognised they had no chance of getting into the team, and thus, both of them announced their retirements. Barry quit early on and became a Manager. Kone would quit later on in July (I'm at June at the moment), so that would be something. On the rest of the transfer front: Lukaku was dragging his heels with the contract negotiations as he expected Manchester City to bid any day soon. Swansea put in a 4.6 million bid, with a further 1.6 million over 12 months, and some structured bonuses, including 800k for avoiding relegation AND a 20% profit clause for Muhamed Besic. I thought that was reasonable, the total came to 8.25million, and he was valued at 9. We had some other bids but all of them wanted his wages paid for, so Swansea was his likely destination, contract talks were still ongoing. Nottingham Forest put in a loan bid for Browning, which we rejected on the basis that they would only offer him rotation status. Burnley came in with an odd bid for Cleverley. They offered 150k per month, with a 5million fee after 15 games. I negotiated for 100% wages instead, and they countered with a non-negotiable free loan. Erm. I'm not senile yet! Bid rejected. Funes Mori had plenty of attention. Burnley chipped in with a very nice 10 million package, but demanded we pay his wages... In which case, I told them to jog on. Watford came in and matched the bid more or less, without the wage contribution, so I accepted that and again, he's in contract negotiations now. Aaron Lennon got an offer from Krasnodar, which we turned down as they wanted us to pay him 20k a week to play there. Aiden McGeady had a bizarre offer, again from Krasnodar, it was like a 500k cheeky bid. But to add insult to injury, they didn't ask us to pay his wages? Kevin Mirallas got a lot of attention. Betis bidded 6million, as did Hull and Swansea. All three clubs demanded we pay him his wages, so I turned them down. Newcastle United put in a flat 9million bid, and I snapped their hands off. Besiktas put in a bid to loan him, but I'd rather he'd be off the books at Newcastle. In light of the Lukaku situation, I fired off some enquiries. One went to Crystal Palace and Christian Benteke. That one was dismissed out of hand. The second enquiry went to Southampton's Charlie Austin, and they said 'sure, pay us 60million'. I don't think he's that good, but we put in a 15m offer anyway. The third offer, went to another Dutch team, over in Ajax this time. One of my scouts caught this lad, he's a baby, but he looks very very good. Ajax were up for a deal, so I put in a cheeky bid and we'll see how this one goes. I think my priority is to get this Dutch lad in... And, the reason for that? Well, the worst kept secret should be revealed; So anyway, Lukaku came into my office. And said he wanted to leave for Champions League football. (Did he not realise he's talking to Chelsea?), so I asked him flat, 'would you stay if I can promise you Champions League football next season, by getting into the top four?' "Yes gaffer" says Lukaku. "Jolly good." It is times like these, I wish SI had implemented a 'promise' feature for players, and they were punished for breaking it. The next day, Lukaku buggered off to Chelsea without so much as saying goodbye. What was all that about? So, we were without our striker, who if you look back at the other post, suddenly instead of being a 'powerful striker' was now being touted as a 'world class striker'. Stupid media, he was world class with us as well y'know! Alas. Oh, I hadn't been lazy on the staff side of things either. Our physio room was expanded, and we pulled in another three world class scouts. Mostly Italian, and so we made it a priority to seek out Italian youth players on top of our scouts in the English youth leagues and the Dutch youth leagues. Our other scouts were covering: England, Scotland, France, Scandinavia, Italy, the Premier League, and a roaming one in the UK and Ireland. We had lots focusing on England, and in spite of that, were still finding our best transfer options to be abroad, where prices were lower in terms of ability. Such is the way football goes I suppose. Hopefully, we'll have a lot of transfers sorted out in July as we build up to the pre-season fixtures.
  4. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    SQUAD ASSESSMENT: ATTACK There might be one, unsurprising spoiler in these images, but we'll soldier on. Right Wing: Aaron Lennon: I like the lad, he's hard working but he's very vanilla for a player that requires very few attributes to be successful. He's getting on a bit as well. Aiden McGeady: The guy has a wicked cross, and good dribbling skills. His pace and work rate is suspect though, or on the decline really. I'm not sure how much use I will get out of him, but he's a decent wing option. Kevin Mirallas: Not that bad a player. He doesn't think he will make it here though, so is transfer listed by request. Yannick Bolasie: I think this guy is the most well rounded out of my wing options. He's also very rapid, which is a bonus. Injury is proving a problem for him at the moment, but I suspect he'll be back to form soon. Inside Forward: Ademlola Lookman: Now, this guy is a talent. I only played him for half the season, but as you can see, he's become a wonderkid, and his ability has shot up. He's got a good personality, reasonable determination, and he's fast. His decision making will come in time, but I think we have a gem of a prospect at the club with this lad. Gerard Deulofeu: Thrown out on loan when I arrived, this guy is a phenomenal player. I kind of wish he stayed on loan now because Lookman should be getting games ahead of him. I think these two will have to rotate. On the bright side, Deulofeu has no stamina, so is gassed within minutes. This might be of use for me to start using either him or Lookman as an impact sub option, much like Manchester United are doing IRL with Rashford and Martial. Strikers: Romelu Lukaku: Yeah, 'world class' apparently, funny that. Great player, prime striker tbh. Oumar Niasse: Lacks a lot to be my main striker, but could do a job as a backup I think. Arouna Kone: Hmm... Just doesn't do it for me. Summary: So, my trio up front would primarily be Bolasie on the wing, with McGeady as backup. Mirallas and Lennon would be shifted on. On the other flank, Lookman and Deulofeu would be the main strikers. The centre forward role would go to Lukaku, for as long he stayed. And Niasse would be the backup. Next up, the early transfers!
  5. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    SQUAD ASSESSMENT: (MIDFIELD) I play a triangle midfield, with a holding midfielder in the DM role. He is expected to simply shield the backline. Ahead of him, I have an attacking midfielder, who last season was mostly Ross Barkley. And next to him is a playmaker, but I've been struggling to pin down a specific role. At the end of last season, I elected to put it down as a deep lying playmaker, in an attempt to open up the play for the attacking trio. Here are my options: DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Idrissa Gueye: Phenomenal player here. Cracking personality, fantastic tackling, anticipation, teamwork and work-ethic. And he's got some stamina on him as well. Anticipation is the bonus really. It isn't counted as a key attribute, but I think it should be, sort of, because he needs to anticipate where the play is going to go, what might develop and so on. I really like this guy. James McCarthy: Another corker of a player. I tell you what, it is close, but objectively McCarthy should probably be the starter here. That tackling ability is phenomenal, and he's better at positioning. Gueye only just about shaded it on the basis of his superior anticipation and slightly better pace. But to be honest, I'm spoilt for choice between these two lads. Morgan Schneiderlin: An odd one out here. Morgan is very useful as a DM, but his lack of composure makes him the weakest of the lot. Unfortunately, that also makes him a poor canidiate for the deep playmaker role, and he lacks the off the ball ability to be an attacking midfielder on a regular basis. He's on phenomenal wages mind, so shifting him might be an issue. Muhamed Besic: So, this guy stole a wage all of last season with his injury. He's miles off being good enough for us, especially with McCarthy and Gueye in the team. Besic, thus went on transfer list pretty quickly. THE PLAYMAKERS: Tom Davies: I have a lot of time for this kid, he's superb potential-wise. He has the technique, and is very composed for his age. He is competent at more or less everything to be honest, and I figure we could probably make a decent playmaker out of him. He won't set the world alight, but he'll do a job. (He's 18 btw.) Conor Grant: This lad was on loan when I arrived, but he's 22, so a bit late to develop keenly. But he is a composed player. I think he could do a job in the DLP role, but his bad habits of taking long shots and dribbling often kind of set him back. A backup option possibly? Tom Cleverley: Tom's a good lad, but I have trouble with him actually. His balance is an issue, but there's no denying he's a team player. At 27 years of age, I don't think there's much more we can do with him. It is for those reasons I'm leaning towards favouring Grant as the backup player instead of Cleverley. ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Ross Barkley: Bit of an odd one, so I'll explain. While he has all the necessary attributes to play as the playmaker, one thing really kills his performance. His ability to make the right decision. I don't mind if a player makes the wrong shot selection, so much as I do mind a player making the wrong passing option. But other factors include, his slight weakness in defensive areas. He's also, quite quick, and keen to get forward. I figured he'd do a job in the attack being a nuisance, in fact his composure is so good, he should be scoring more often than his reasonable finishing and poor decision-making would indicate. He was the only real attacking midfield option to be honest, and looking at the squad, I figured I needed to work out who could play in that area. The other options were Morgan or Cleverley. Now, Morgan was awful in the offensive positioning side of things, he couldn't shoot and he had poor long shots. Cleverley was better, but Morgan was on a staggering 120k a week wage until like, 2045... Who the hell made that decision? Hrm. In the end I went for this: Gueye as first option over McCarthy. Davies as first playmaker with Grant as the backup. Barkley as first option, with Cleverley as the offensive backup. That meant Besic and Schneiderlin were the options to evict in order to trim down the squad. Next up, our forward options.
  6. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    SQUAD ASSESSMENT DAY: (Goalkeepers and defenders) Here we go, squad assessment time! Goalkeepers: Robles: All in all, a decent keeper, very strong in the air, I actually do rate him quite highly, but there are three or four serious issues for me. First, he has poor Anticipation, though he is improving, which means he won't always be anticipating what is happening and getting himself in the right areas to exploit his wonderful dominance in the air. This is further compounded by the fact his decision making is a bit low, as is his concentration, and more importantly, his positioning. As such, while he is my first choice, I do want to go into the market for someone who is slightly more well rounded, even if it meant we had to go without such aerial dominance. He is 27 though, so he has room to improve. Stekelenburg: Stekelenburg is my second choice keeper, he's 34 now, and the reason I picked Robles over him was the fact that not only are my coaches telling me that Stekelenburg is on the decline, but he has serious weaknesses in terms of communicating with his backline. He's also weaker, comparably in the air, and is poorer in terms of his handling ability. He's not as agile either, even if he will be in the right position more often than Robles. Really, they're almost opposites, I did think long and hard about considering Stekelenburg as the first team choice, on the basis that he would be in the right place to make those important saves, but I felt Robles needed experience to improve those awful mental attributes in the first place. Still, for now, the status quo would remain, Robles is first choice, and the (currently injured) Stekelenburg would remain as backup. DEFENCE: RIGHT BACK: Coleman: 28 year old Seamus Coleman is my first choice right back (playing WB/S next season). He isn't anywhere near world class, but he is in my opinion, a rare breed at this level, in that he is a well rounded wing back. His fitness levels are exceptional, and he can do a bit of everything. I'm a lot more lenient on attributes with wing backs, because they're a very complete role, needing to defend, attack and support in equal measure. As such, it is rare to find a player that can do it all very well, especially to join Everton at the moment! Still, Coleman has the necessary attributes to do well, he's determined, he's a team player, he's willing to put in a shift and he's got the stamina to see it out. He's passable defensively, but we do play with a defensive midfield shield, so that's okay. Kenny: Jonjoe Kenny is the the backup option on right back. Not quite anywhere near Coleman's levels, but he's still rather young at 20 years of age. Worryingly, he has absolutely no pace, or strength, and his off the ball movement is dire. On top of this, he can't cross, and he can't dribble. He's okay-ish, defensively. In normal circumstances, I would be inclined to sell this guy as he's got too many weakness to be a starter. But, I think he'll do an okay job as a backup player, so he'll stay in and around the first team squad. Left Back: Baines: He's getting on a bit now, but Baines is still a very good player. I have serious questions about his commitment to the club, however. He has already made demands that we sell him to American clubs if they come in with an offer (no one is interested), but he also has long term plans to be captain at Everton. Some people are in two minds forever I guess? Still, this guy can take a mean freekick and penalty in addition to his well rounded attributes. For me, as long as he remains at the club, he'll be first choice left back. Garbutt: Luke Garbutt is 24, so in my eyes his development has mostly been completed in terms of rapid growth. It is unfortunate, because if he was younger, I would relish training him up. His personality is negative for me, but his attribute spread is solid, this is a guy who can do a bit of everything, and could very well be a top talent if I had got ahold of him earlier and tutored into him a better work-ethic and professionalism. Still, he could do a reasonable job as a backup player. In light of these two, I decided that as long as Baines was at the club, there was no great priority to upgrade the full back positions. Not yet. Soon though, probably within the next season, because Baines is getting older and there's no guarantee Garbutt will improve much more than where he's at. But there were other, more important positions to upgrade first. CENTRAL DEFENCE: Important position this one, we had a glut of options now that people had come back from loan. I'll go by order that it pops up on my fancy-screen: Ashley Williams: Here we are, Ashley Williams. A bit older now, Williams is actually a rather good player in my opinion, he's very strong, he's got good heading, tackling and positional sense. He's also very brave, with fantastic anticipation. His only downside is his pace, and his decision making. He's also, old. This presents a bit of a conundrum for me, because I have plenty of younger players vying for what is two spots in the middle. A possible backup/squad option here though. Brendan Galloway: This guy was on loan, and I wished he wasn't. He's only 21, is pretty damn tall, and is more or less ready for first team action in terms of his technical abilities. That heading and positioning needs work though, and his mental attributes should improve with time. I don't mind that low aggression value, I don't always want my defenders seeking the action, sometimes it pays well to sit back and let it come to you. As a 21 year old, he is a prime option to throw in as a rotation option. Experience will cause the mental side of his game (that sounds wrong), to improve, and I'm sure my coaches can iron out his technical issues. Marcos Rojo: My first transfer signing, and for good reason. Left footed, a great personality, and very well rounded. He can head it, he can mark players, and he knows where to position himself. He's also tall, and he's determined, brave and with fantastic anticipation. His downsides? Concentration and decision making. But these are things that will improve with time and match experience, both of which he will get a lot of at Everton. So I'm reasonably confident that he'll blossom into a power-house of a defender if he stays here. On the face of it, him and Williams looks like a good partnership. Mason Holgate: This guy is out injured at the moment, but he's a baby at 20 years of age. This was the guy I elected to play alongside Rojo over Williams. Several reasons for that. He's got a good spread of the necessary skills to be a good defender, and secondly he's so, so, young. He desperately needs the experience and matches *now* rather than later in order to improve. In fact, I felt he was doing fantastically well until he got injured. In my opinion he has another 3-4 years to grow rapidly, and another 10+ years to build on the mental side of the game. Although Williams is the better defender now, I feel Holgate is the better long term prospect, and it would be negligent of me not to play him. Matthew Pennington: Ah, Pennington. Well, he's rather equal (almost) to Holgate. But where Holgate wins out for me is in the age difference. Pennington is 22, and thus just at the end of his 'peak' of development. Again, if I had got my hands on him earlier, this lad would be a world class player. He's actually on the loan list, because it was agreed he needed more game time to achieve his potential. That was put on the back-burner because Holgate got injured. He conducted himself well in the final few games of the season, but I'm unsure if it is sensible of me to retain him as a backup, or if I should send him out on loan for much needed experience. Phil Jageilka: I like this guy, I really do, but he's very old. His ability is only let down by his lack of pace, and his concentration issues. I felt that we had better prospects that were of an equal level to him technically, and so with regret he was listed to move away. In the meantime I would use him as a tutor and ambassador for the club. Funes Mori: Oh this guy. Some of you might disagree with me on this one. I think he's a phenomenal defender, he's rather 'world class' almost, if he sorted out his positional sense. But... I cannot abide a defender who can't concentrate, or make the right decision. And these are two issues Funes Mori suffers from. Plus, at 26 years of age, I felt I would simply not be able to coach his positioning up to scratch quick enough. So for me, this guy was simply a flawed player that needed to be shifted on. So onto the transfer list he went! Tyrias Browning: Another player that was stuck out on loan. Again, extremely frustrating, he's 23, so well out of the ideal age to train hard, and well within the age of needing matches. Unfortunately, he was way below the pecking order for me, but yet again, had I got my hands on this lad... SUMMARY: I felt Everton had a wonderful squad here. I don't know why so many of these talented defenders were shifted off on loan, when they had the necessary ability to play a rotation shift right now. My decisions defence-wise were: In goal, Robles was my number 1 and Stekelenburg my number 2. However, this was a priority area for me to improve, and I would be looking to do so immediately. In defence: At right back, Coleman was the first option, with Kenny as the backup. On the left, Baines would take the spot with Garbutt in the backup role. In the middle, I elected to go with the youth prospects over the older, more experienced heads. Marcos Rojo would be the 'experienced' player, a fixture on the LCB position. He was older, well rounded, and could still improve a little as we went along. Next to him, I wanted Holgate, who is young, and full of potential and was a player I envisioned as being a permanent fixture in the spine of Everton for some ten more years. As backup options, or rotation if we got a rough run of fixtures, I elected to go for Galloway and Pennington. Both were still young, with room to improve. Ashley Williams would be a distant option in emergency, but Jageilka was on the way out, as was the flawed Funes Mori. I also put Browning on the loan list, because as the fifth-sixth choice, he was not going to get much of a look in, barring an injury crisis. Next time, the midfield assessment.
  7. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    A quick little update to show the end of season awards. Lukaku would actually secure the Premier League golden boot award, which was a fantastic achievement for both him and for the club. Ross Barkley took a clean sweep of the player and young player of the season awards, which was unsurprising as he was very, very good in our attacking midfield role. Marcos Rojo was signing of the season, but this was sort of a given as he was my only signing, and Koeman hadn't been able to recruit anyone before I joined. The 4-3-3 Big Sam match was the fans match of the season. You can see the shift in fortunes once I took over around the halfway point on the league position graph. Expectations had been revised to make us serious relegation candidates when I joined, hence the'over performing' tag not just from the board, but from the players and media. Oh yes, West Ham went on to win the FA Cup, defeating Chelsea 3-1. Hell of a result that, and I can claim we were knocked out by the eventual winners! The board set initial budgets to include a 35million transfer kitty. It was going to be used up, if only because the vultures were circling. Chelsea, Manchester City and even Spurs were all hovering with intent to pull away Lukaku (has a release clause) and Barkley (doesn't), and there were smaller clubs looking to poach Tom Davies (Stoke), Lookman (various), which would give us cause for concern over the summer as these four were the spine of the team for me. A huge swathe of loan options were coming back, including Tom Clevelerly, Grant, Deulofeu, McGeady, Niasse and Galloway. All were viable first team options that had, for whatever reason, been frozen out by Koeman. I also had transfer business of my own to conduct. We were on the lookout for a new goalkeeper, and a Chelsea lad was looking a possible option, on the transfer list at his own request. But that's a bit further along. Next time, it is squad-assessment day, and a list of the 22 players we intend to keep on for next season in the first team, along with confirmations of who is going on the transfer list and who will be staying for the time being.
  8. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    May 2017 - Season end. Our final three fixtures were a good chance for me to experiment, and to hopefully put some more points on the board and get up the table a little. Frustratingly, injuries robbed us of another player, Bolasie tore his knee ligaments in training and was out for the rest of the season. That meant we were now without; Stekelenburg, Holgate, Kone and Bolasie. This gave Matthew Pennington a chance to have a go in defence, and Enner Valencia would come in at right wing for the final few matches, even though he was a loan option, our alternative was Mirallas, who had already decided to leave the club, and so I didn't feel like using him for the moment. EVERTON V LEICESTER CITY 6th May, Line Up: Robles, Coleman, Pennington, Rojo, Baines (C), Davies, Valencia, Barkley, Gueye, Lookman, Lukaku. (Subs: Schneiderlin, Mirallas, Garbutt) Leicester were the favourites, despite our form recently, and I felt we were going to have a tough match. We started very very strongly out of the blocks, with several reasonable chances coming from Lookman and Valencia. Even Rojo got on the end of one chance, but blew his moment of glory. It took 15 minutes for Lukaku to net a goal, heading in a sweet cross from Coleman. Leicester could only reply in the form of some chances via set-pieces, and we consolidated our lead later on with a great combination of passes from Davies, now in his DLP role, Lookman and Lukaku, who all combined to put Ross Barkley clean on for an easy goal 2-0. A well worked set-piece in the second half finally saw Davies among the assists, as he set Lookman free in the box for 3-0. Easy-peasy! Except, maybe I should have managed this a bit better. My players took their foot off the gas, and Leicester, suddenly had a lot of wind in their sales as Jamie Vardy netted from a corner to claw one back. As I was tinkering to tell the players to defend, literally two minutes later, Vardy popped up again to make it 3-2. Rojo gave the ball away cheaply, Baines failed to close down his man, and boom, easy header. Panic stations? City were in full swagger, they had almost everyone forward down our right wing, and guess who? Jamie Vardy, having a party, hat-trick hero. 3-3. Uh-oh. I made my subs, I made my changes, but Everton were deflated, City were on the rise. Full time couldn't come quick enough. 91st minute, an Gray for City had a beauty of a chance to win it, he cracked under the pressure and skewed his shot wide. There went the full time whistle, and in went the boys for a royal bollocking. But in part, it was my own fault for not being quick enough to make defensive changes. Still, a point is a point. EVERTON 3-3 LEICESTER CITY (Lukaku 14, Barkley 34, Lookman 53 / Vardy 60, 62, 78) WEST BROMWICH ALBION V EVERTON 13th May, Line Up: Robles, Coleman, Pennington, Rojo, Baines (C), Davies, Valencia, Barkley, Gueye, Lookman, Lukaku. (Subbed: Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Garbutt) A 1-0 win last time we met, was how I started my Everton career. WBA defended well that match, but we absolutely dominated them. Still, this was an away fixture, so I wasn't sure how it would go overall. Once again, we flew out of the blocks, with several chances from Barkley and Lookman in particular. The giant Lukaku would net in the 15th minute, his 30th goal of the season, on his birthday, against his old club. Brilliant. Curiously, from a header, from Coleman, on the right wing. Almost identical to the Leicester goal. Again, we pressed on fiercely in search of a second goal. Ben Foster was in good form, denying Valencia in particular, but he became undone by a huge deflection from a Baines cross around the 28th minute, which went down as an own goal for 2-0. Brilliant. One minute later, we made a ridiculous mistake. I always advocate for playing out of the back, but this was nonsense. Robles caught a cross, and for whatever reason, instead of slowing things down, decided to roll it out immediately to Pennington, who, poor sod, was being man marked by the opposition strikers. He gave it back to Robles, who gave it to Rojo, and in a panic, he hoofed it away, straight to the WBA winger, who put it on a plate for Rondon to knock in. 2-1. Unbelievable. Lukaku would miss two more good chances, and Valencia (on a lengthy run without a goal) would force an excellent save from Foster before half time. We were looking good, and in control, despite that horrific bit of 'playing out from the back.' Straight from the restart, we nicked a goal. A poorly worked freekick rebounded to Davies, who secured another assist by playing it to Lookman. He in turn played an optimistic shot that took a huge deflection to put us 3-1 up. Foster was needing some horrific deflections to be beaten today, but I wasn't about to complain! Still. It wasn't to last. A minute later, WBA had a corner, whipped it in and bang 3-2. Our defending on these set pieces were becoming something of a liability. Lookman, Barkley and Baines all had brilliant chances shortly after, Lookman in particular, really should have hit the back of the net. The more we missed, the more our heads seemed to drop. Suddenly, WBA put an ambitious cross into the box, Chadli got on the end of it, and oh boy, did we blow a lead again? Why, yes we did. 3-3. We continued to create tons of chances, good ones, but three is the magic number, and Ben Foster was a wall in front of goal. For the second game on the bounce, we had blown a lead and drawn 3-3. The media loved it, the fans found it entertaining, but for me, that was four points dropped. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 3-3 EVERTON (Rondon 39, Jorgensen 49, Chadli 62 / Lukaku 15, Taylor O.G 28, Lookman 48) Our final game would be against relegation threatened Crystal Palace, who had just recently sacked Big Sam. No 4-3-3 this time then. That said, Lookman and Davies were called up for the French Youth Invitationals and would thus miss the game. Frustrating. I was misled, as I was told the games started on the 29th May, so I didn't withdraw them. Yet here we are, 20th of May and I'm without two key players. Fantastic! The Palace game was important, but not for us. Palace needed a draw, or a win to be guaranteed safety from relegation. The only other team that could go down was Sunderland, who needed to win at Anfield vs Liverpool in order to survive. Middlesborough and Burnley were pretty much relegated already, because Swansea had beat Chelsea 1-0 and Bournemouth won their game in order to secure safety. Going by the odds, Sunderland were pretty much favourites to go down, no question about it. EVERTON V CRYSTAL PALACE 21st May, Line Up: Robles, Coleman, Pennington, Rojo, Baines (C), Schneiderlin, Valencia, Barkley, Gueye, Mirallas, Lukaku. (Subbed: McCarthy, Kenny) Both sides started brightly, but we drew first blood. A cross from Coleman found Mirallas in the middle, who put the ball on a plate for Barkley to smash into the top corner. 1-0. Valencia would come close to making it 2-0 with an excellent shot that drew an absolutely phenomenal save from the Palace keeper. I felt for the guy as he was on a horrific run without a goal. Palace admirably, attacked when they could, Remy seized on a Coleman error, but his shot crashed against the post after a fingertip reaction save from Robles. The rest of the game was a rather dull affair, we dominated, 'throwing everything' at them according to the commentary, but they stood firm. In the 83rd minute though, Barkley found Valencia in the box, and finally, he absolutely thundered one home from close range to break his scoring duck. At this point, news came through. Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland Palace were going down. Suddenly, they had to go and attack. Townsend had a good opportunity in the 85th minute, but sent his shot miles wide. Van Aanholt hit a superb cross that Benteke got onto the end of in the 88th minute, but Robles was equal to it. Loic Remy was trying to do something different in the final minutes of injury time, but alas, there was no time left. Full time, we had won and Palace was in trouble. Of course, it wouldn't be football without some last minute drama. And so what happens in the 93rd minute of injury time? Liverpool 3-2 Sunderland. Crystal Palace are safe, Sunderland relegated. Lucky, lucky, lucky! Sunderland had shown amazing fight to pull it back to 2-2, whereas Palace had done bugger all until it was almost too late. I felt sorry for Sunderland there, but still, relegation is nasty business. EVERTON 2-0 CRYSTAL PALACE (Barkley 25, Valencia 83) That was the final fixture of the season, but no sooner had the showers been turned off, had Ross Barkley walked into my office to demand another move to City. 'It's all hypothetical Ross, they didn't bid last time and they may not bid today. Go home for gods sake.' - I think I said that, and I think he accepted it, but I knew it would be a summer where I needed to seriously buy some ready made replacements ready to compete next season. I also knew, I was bound to lose some players. Barkley would want out, Lukaku for sure. And even Baines wanted a big money move to America. Oh boy. Oh right. Arsenal would win the league. We finished 12th, not too shabby considering we were 20th when I took over. Next thing on the agenda, navigate the summer. Release an absolute ton of deadwood, and start signing some much needed quality. I hope to kick on and get into the top half of the table now I'll have a full season to flex my muscles. One step at a time though!
  9. Advice request for a sometimes isolated set up?

    One minor role change later and... So, I switched the AP/S to a DLP/S and on paper, from watching the highlights it looks a lot better. The DLP/S still gets up rather high like the AP, but is opening up slightly more space for the IF ahead of him, and is providing almost a second 'out' ball alongside the DM. Three games with that so far, two assists, therefore 2 key passes. Didn't quite tackle the long shots issue though. Maybe I shouldn't be complaining, we hit 8 goals in those three games, against comparable opposition, including three in an away match. Maybe I'm expecting too much from this and the long shooting is part and parcel of the set up? Of my three issues: SOLVED. By the change of AP/S to IF/S, and by changing the CM/S to a DLP/S. - Early days on that second change actually, but the CM/A does have space to drive into the box, and my IF/S is offering an attacking threat. Players are finally not getting in each others way. UNSOLVED. Frustratingly, I think I need to look back at the analysis and identify more on this. I know these shots are mostly coming from a central area, often outside the box. Discounting freekicks, it is sometimes the DLF, and sometimes the IF's taking pot shots. I wonder if maybe, I need to bite the bullet and put the right IF down as a winger, and that might stop us congesting play down the middle, maybe I need to stop being stubborn on this count? SORT OF SOLVED, NEW PROBLEM IDENTIFIED. Having a look at the analysis, 15 games in, we've scored most of our goals thanks to through balls. Our concedes have mostly happened via crosses - > headers. Our left flank is 5, our right is 8. Actually looking back, while I see a lot of attacks build on our left flank, the analysis tool says that it is relatively secure (5 conceded is still the same if we go back 20-25 matches.) That right flank rises to 8 and 11 respectively, so perhaps I've been misled by the highlights and we're actually weaker on that right flank. What is particularly troublesome is we actually have the majority of our assists on our left flank, and through the middle, with 12 (left), 8 (box) and 5 (outside) respectively but a mere 2 on the right flank. So not only is our right flank our weakest area in terms of leaking goals, but it is our weakest area in terms of creating something. What a bummer! I think, I will considering switching that flank to a W/S and potentially switching that WB/A to something of either a FB/A or a WB/S, to compensate for the attack of the central midfielder, and to hopefully widen the space a little. Maybe that will have a knock on effect on our long shots? If nothing else, it should shore up that flank defensively, and failing that, we might actually get some crosses in. Fingers crossed I guess.
  10. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    APRIL 2017 Good news. Over the international break, no one got killed! I also won manager of the month, though on Twitter, my supporter spokesman felt it was worth re-tweeting three tweets from our own fans saying how over-rated I was. Gutted. We opened the month of April up with a game against Stoke. EVERTON V STOKE 8th April, Line Up: Robles, Coleman, Holgate, Rojo, Baines (C), Davies, Bolasie, Barkley, Gueye, Lookman, Lukaku (Subbed: Stekelenburg, Valencia) This wasn't the best of games for us, it was even and gritty and Stoke were rough opposition. Statistically, we were mostly restricted to long shots, a malaise in my own tactical set up somewhere. It took sixteen minutes for our defence to completely switch off at a freekick and leave Berahino in so much space that panic set in and everyone rushed him, leaving Pablo Fornals an easy free header to put Stoke 1 up. The game went back and forth for a bit, before another set piece proved to be our undoing. This time, a corner kick that got hit by THREE Stoke players before going into the net, via Martins Indi, to put us 0-2 down and under some serious trouble. The second half only got worse. Robles damaged his wrist making a save and had to come off for the rusty Stekelenburg. I was growing frustrated with the commentators snarking on about how "Stoke were playing without much sweat". It was true, we were limp. As the game headed towards a disappointing end, Baines stepped up to smash in a 30 yard freekick to pull it back to 1-2. Sadly, that didn't ignite a fightback in the traditional sense. Still, we got a 90th minute corner kick, which was promptly cleared. That clearance landed to Valencia out wide, who crossed it. Lookman ended up on the ball and through a sea of bodies, scored the equaliser, completely and utterly undeserved. EVERTON 2-2 STOKE (Baines 83, Lookman 90 / Fornals 16, Indi 31) An utterly frustrating result. Which was particularly galling as we had Tottenahm away as the next fixture, and we were out of a keeper. TOTTENHAM V EVERTON 15th April, Line Up: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Holgate, Rojo, Baines (C), Gueye, Bolasie, Barkley, Davies, Lookman, Lukaku. (Subbed: McCarthy, Schneiderlin.) I made a tactical change to this match, which was to go asymmetrical and bring the AMR down to the MR slot. We also aimed to clear the ball wide, on the understanding that Spurs were playing a 4-2-3-1 wide and high with only one covering midfielder, as Delle Alli was going to play a roaming playmaker if I guessed right. This game turned out to be absolutely nonsense really. 3rd Minute: Sissoko gave Baines a bit of a hard time, skinning him then allowing him to catch up on our left flank. He fired in a cross, which Baines managed to deflect. Just outside of the box though, Lucas Alario just smashed in the deflection from miles out for 1-0. Panic? 4th Minute: We go route one, and mirroring IRL United Vs Spurs recently, Lukaku gets his head to the ball, flicks it on and Lookman picks it up in the middle, smashes it forward and it cannons off the bar. Lukaku grabs the rebound and see it parried for a corner. 6th Minute: From the ensuring corner, Lloris flaps at it, Holgate thumps it and it hits the underside of the bar and bounces over the line. Game on, 1-1! 12th Minute: Massive chance, a left wing cross finds Coleman and his header is saved. I get a bit optimistic here. 14th Minute: Lukaku sets Lookman free, one on one in the box, but he shanks his tame shot wide. Kids eh? 22nd Minute: GOAL OF THE SEASON CONTENDER. Bolasie gets itchy trigger foot on a counter attack, gives the ball away needlessly. Long ball into our half, we lose the header, Delle Alli picks it up around the halfway lines, runs on, edge of the box, and launches an absolute howitzer into the goal, almost taking Stekelenburg's face off. (Media reports would incorrectly say it went in off the post...) Unbelievable goal tbh. 2-1. 26th Minute: Lukaku picks up the ball on the edge of the box, lays it off to his left. Out of nowhere, Tom Davies pops up and thinks 'I'm no good at this playmaking malarky, 'ave it' and sticks it in the top corner. BOOM, 2-2. What on Earth? 29th Minute: Lukaku and Lookman pair up for some 1-2's, and eventually Lukaku splits the defence with a slightly off-set pass down the right, that Barkley gets onto and from the tightest of angles thumps a low shot past Lloris. Oh boy, 2-3. 32nd Minute: Spurs, with a corner, near post, Ben Davies, thumping header, who needs goalkeepers? 3-3. Seriously? A bit of a lull ensues. HALF TIME, 3-3. Crazy, crazy match. I spot something though. All of our players were on song, except Baines, who had, to be fair, a torrid time on the left flank. It's our right which is wide open with attack duties, yet, Spurs were exploiting the left. I immediately switched him to a WB/D role instead of his supporting role. It may kill what little offensive power we had, but I needed that flank shored up, pronto. Good decision that though. The opening few minutes of the second half was an absolute onslaught from Spurs, targeted directly at Baines. Even though he was more defensive, he still needed bailing out from the keeper catching crosses etc. Then; 54th Minute: A Spurs attack on the left flank breaks down, it gets cleared to Lukaku on the halfway line, who turns around and smashes it down the left flank. Lookman had acres of space, thanks to Spurs targeting Baines, and he went on a mazy run that drew three Spurs defenders at him, slotted in a pass - we had three players in the middle for this, which got picked up by Barkley, clean on, one on one, options either side, Lloris in no-man's land, slotted in, easy-peasy, devastating. 3-4. 63rd Minute: With Spurs suddenly in our backpocket, they started making rushed passes and mistakes. One such midfield turnover led to a hurried clearance that Coleman picked up in our own half. He launched it long and wide, for Bolasie to take down the right, a rapid cross, Lloris went wandering and Lukaku had an open goal to head into. Bang! 3-5. For the rest of the half, Spurs switched on the style in an attempt to save face at home. They had several good long shot opportunities, and even hit the bar with a freekick. In the 84th Minute though, they over-committed, and once again, in an almost identical fashion to the 63rd minute goal, Lukaku ended up clean on. His shot would be deflected by an onrushing covering defender, and suddenly the scoreline looked so ridiculous. 3-6. TOTTENHAM 3-6 EVERTON (Alario 3, Alli 22, Davies 33 / Holgate 6, Davies 27, Barkley 30, 55, Lukaku 64, 85) That result put us on the magic 40 points and broke records for highest scoring game of the season. I was stunned, it was nonsense. The media also chipped in, to point out I had *already* passed the 30 goal mark in my short stint at Everton, having gotten them "firing". They, fortunately, overlooked my defensive record! Shortly after this, Kone would be ruled out for the entire season, having crocked his knee in an U23 match. Whoops. EVERTON V BURNLEY 19th April, Line Up: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Holgate, Rojo, Baines (C), Davies, Bolasie, Barkley, Gueye, Lookman, Lukaku. (Subbed: Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Valencia) A 'relegation six pointer', Burnley was a match we could confirm safety from relegation. And, suffice to say, we did manage it! We did it poorly though, we resorted to eternal long shots! One such long shot from Lukaku gave us the lead in the 13th minute, trickling in at the bottom corner. Our second came from Bolasie going wide and whipping in an excellent cross for Lukaku to basically tap into an empty goal. The third, again came from a Bolasie cross, this time to Tom Davies, who again arrowed one in at the top corner. Bolasie took the plaudits managing all three assists for this game. Unfortunately, we ended the game with ten men, as Holgate went down due to a nasty challenge, and tore his hamstring, which ruled him out for the entire season. Gutted. EVERTON 3-0 BURNLEY (Lukaku 13, 29, Davies 40) SUNDERLAND V EVERTON 29th April, Line Up: Robles, Coleman, Pennington, Rojo, Baines, Davies, Bolasie, Barkley, Gueye, Lookman, Lukaku (Subbed: Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Valencia) Bad news to start with. Stekelenburg was ruled out for the rest of the season, dislocating his shoulder in training. Our game against Sunderland would again be riddled with long shots. On the plus side, I had got the big man scoring, and he did so again today, in the 5th minute inside to box. The rest of the game was a damp squib, and inevitably, Sunderland would equalise in the late stages as my players switched off. SUNDERLAND 1-1 EVERTON (Khazri 87 / Lukaku 5) As the month ended, Lukaku was awarded player of the month! We also took a clean sweep of the young player awards; 1st place went to Tom Davies. 2nd went to Holgate and third went to Lookman. With three games left, this was the table to go. I think we were secure from relegation. A massive turnaround considering we were 20th with only 1 victory when I arrived. Our final three games would be Leicester, West Brom and Crystal Palace. I was pretty content, not tactics wise, but result-wise. Everything was looking rather secure. I now needed to turn my attention to considering how to improve our squad for next season.
  11. Problems with youth intake. Questions

    Dunno about PA, but I'd wager that people should read up on the youth development topics done over the years. At a club like Manchester united, you can easily end up with 5-6 first teamers within two seasons, especially if you tutor them and get them training any weaknesses straight off the bat. I regularly pull the kids 18-20 into backup slots, sometimes I've shifted out players the quality of Mata (etc) just to make room for the kids because a second one has popped up in that position and can now be a backup. Star ratings mean nothing, check the attributes, start the development, a lot of them will surprise you. Reloading immediately to get a 'good star rating' to me is pointless, you've killed off entire youth intakes on arrival just for a magic star rating instead of developing those youths into world beaters. That's the travesty here in my opinion. ;_;
  12. Advice request for a sometimes isolated set up?

    An option yes, but one I'm reluctant to try because the DLF is on fire with 9 goals in 8 games. In fact, before I made the switch he had 8 goals in 15, so he's certainly making more of an impact in the new system. Looking at the statistics, I should be reasonably content with the front three and CM/A as they're racking up tons of key passes, assists and goals, primarily through the DLF rather than the IF, but I'll take it. One stand out thing I just picked up on is my AP/S is not really connecting with play, in that he's not making any key passes, no assists either. About the only thing he's doing is making some nice interceptions. He's putting about 80 passes per match, double the amount of most players except the CM/A who is almost matching him, yet seems to be doing the playmaking better? Hrm. Something for me to look at, I wonder if the long shots and the balance issue isn't really from the front three but from the trio behind them?
  13. Advice request for a sometimes isolated set up?

    Hrm. Well, while results are okay (inconsistent), the core problem isn't getting solved. These are some of the statistics I'm getting now: Game #1: 12 shots, 3 long (Won 3-1) Game #2: 10 shots, 2 long (Lost 1-2) These two were good, more than happy with that. Then it went downhill. #3: 14 shots, 10 long (Won 2-1) #4: 21 shots, 12 long (Won 3-0) #5: 13 shots, 6 long (Drew 2-2) #6: 21 shots, 8 long (Won 3-0, but not entirely comfortably) #7: 10 shots, 6 long. (Drew 1-1.) Bar game 6, we seem to be hitting 50% of our shots from range. When the DLF and IF's combine, it is a marvel. I've excluded one game from the statistics as I went with an asymmetrical WM/S for that one, but it was geared to be a counter attacking tactic. It stuck 6 goals past Spurs, so I'm going to pretend I'm a tactical genius for that one match, but there was a very specific set of circumstances allowing me to exploit Spurs' gameplan there. (And also, my tactical "genius" created a 3-2-3-1-1 formation that put four past Manchester City - You can see a picture of it over on my Career update thread if you want to shake your head at it... I think it is this comment: but I'm awful at this forum thing, but yeah, skip the guff, look at that formation picture instead ) I'm honestly at a lost now, I guess it is a lack of options and space, but I don't know how to deal with that right flank anymore. That IF/S is also sort of blocking out the CM/A from doing his usual marvel through the middle, and in the few games he's been useful, it's been via crossing from a narrow position, but again, reluctant to use a winger here. I'm not sure WM/S will do as I need either though... Argh, help? I think I'll take a short break and mull it over for a bit.
  14. FM17 - Aiming for top five.

    MARCH 2017 Onward! March 2017, and a chance to put some points on the board with some home fixtures. I had a chance to implement my final tactical change for the year (hopefully), which was to bring the playmaker from the AMR position into the MC position. The AMR would become an IF/S. Hopefully, this would eliminate the disjointed attacking set up. We would find out first hand against West Ham. EVERTON V WEST HAM UNITED 4th March, Line Up: Robles, Coleman (C), Holgate, Rojo, Garbutt, Davies, Bolasie, Barkley, Gueye, Lookman, Lukaku (Subbed: Pennington, Schneiderlin, McCarthy). We started brightly, in what would be an unusually even game shots-wise. We both hit 12 shots, but we were the more accurate team over the course of the game. This was a much needed improvement on earlier matches, there were less long shots, and more measured attacks. West Ham went in with a gameplan to spoil things, racking up an impressive 20 fouls and 7 cautions! They lined up with an aggressive 4-2-3-1, and I feel a lot of the fouls came from them trying to destroy our counter attacks. In fact, the first goal of the game came via one such attack on the point of half-time. Lukaku got over the halfway line and switched the play for Bolasie, out on the right, to thump home for 1-0. A well worked freekick in the second half saw us patiently work the ball into the box. Unfortunately, Holgate was the one who ended up with the ball at his feet, but fortunately, he wafted at the shot and it trickled under the opposition keeper who had jumped high, expecting some venom behind it. Still, 2-0. West Ham pulled one back pretty quickly, a long ball down our right flank got crossed in and converted at the near post. Disappointing defending all around for that one. 2-1. As the game neared the end, Davies, who was pulling the stings from central midfield, teamed up well with Lukaku and Lookman. Lookman would eventually put through a lovely pass for substitute Schneiderlin to latch on to, and in the box with a one on one chance, he duly converted. 3-1. Happy days really, a comfortable win. But we had them again in a few days time for the FA Cup, and I wondered if home advantage might play a major part in the following result. EVERTON 3-1 WEST HAM UNITED (Bolasie 45, Holgate 67, Schneiderlin 81 / Calleri 69) Oh, and I finally remembered to save a shot of the league table! As you can see, it is an odd table. Burnley were actually rooted to the spot, once I had got Everton up to 18th, and they duly sacked Sean Dyche. For Middlesborough, results just turned sour and they've been well and truly left behind. My rivals, in my opinion are Sunderland, Palace and Burnley, at least for the relegation spots. Ideally, we would creep up the table and compete with the other clubs up there, West Ham in particular, but for now we're content to be out of the red zone. Anyway, next match, a replay! FA CUP 6TH ROUND: WEST HAM UNITED V EVERTON 12th March, Line Up: Robles, Coleman, Holgate, Pennington, Garbutt, Davies, Bolasie, Barkley, Gueye, Lookman, Lukaku (Subbed: Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Mirallas) I rested Rojo for this one, and as you may have figured, I've been resting Baines, to allow him to continue his pursuit of the American dream in his bed room. I don't really have a priority set on this cup game, I said as much to the board in the interview stages, and we've already exceeded expectations as it is. That said, a cup run is always nice, and West Ham are beatable. I changed nothing tactically for this one, time to see how it performs in away fixtures. United went 4-2-3-1 high and wide and attacking. This time, they didn't rack up the foul count, and indeed, they were an absolute menace from the start. Three minutes in, our defence was compressed and all at sea overloaded in the central area. That allowed them to find Antonio, in an offside position, who smashed in for 1-0. No flag given, utterly amazing! Ten minutes later, our right flank was tucked in so much, we didn't have one. West Ham went down it, pinged in a cross, and for some bizarre reason, Robles went to claim it at the far post, when it was headed for the near post. And hey presto, open goal that was harder to miss than it was to score from. Boom, 2-0. Not a good start, but we were all at sea. Antonio could, and should have made it three, he got clean through again but was denied by Robles. By half time, I was unsure what to do. On the one hand, having made no tactical changes, it was probably my own fault for not being more cautious. On the other, the players were phoning it in. Time for the hairdryer! The second half opened up with us dominating for the initial few minutes, but eventually, West Ham got another two solid chances away. We, too, had some chances, mostly half-chances (we ended up with FIVE of those), so I was very happy in that respect. In the 73rd minute, a poor freekick had to be hit back into the box. Lookman cut it back and Lukaku curled in a beauty of a goal to pull one goal back. Suddenly, the nerves hit West Ham, and we were a bit more resurgent. Lukaku had another shot saved, and an effort skimming the paint off the bar. Schneiderlin came close as well, but then it was all too late, and there would be no 'Oda Time' or whatever to get us a replay. WEST HAM UNITED 2-1 EVERTON (Antonio 3, Calleri 27 / Lukaku 73) I was in two minds how to react to that defeat, it was a game of two halves in terms of our performance. Still, I had played a weakened team, and I hadn't given it a priority and we had exceeded expectations, so perhaps it wasn't something to dwell on. Besides, the next game was the derby! EVERTON V LIVEPOOL DERBY DAY! 15th March, Line Up: Robles, Coleman, Holgate, Rojo, Baines (C), Davies, Valencia, Schneiderlin, McCarthy, Bolasie, Lukaku. (Subbed: Jagielka, Gueye, Lookman.) Baines came back into the side, as did Rojo. I went with Valencia as an inside forward, going for experience over the youth of Lookman. It was horrific weather, and Liverpool were spoiling for a fight. They were damn good too, to be honest, racking up an impressive 21 shots, 10 on target. But then, 9 of those were long shots. We were doing similar numbers, 14 shots, 7 on target, 10 from range. A troublesome stat. On the other hand, this was a back and forth spectacle, both teams created chances, there were six clear cut chances on offer, three apiece, Rojo earned himself a booking in the first minute with a wonderful challenge. For ten minutes, Everton battered Liverpool, creating several great chances that Mignolet was doing exceptionally well to keep out. Bolasie was the player finding space and time in the box, but his lack of composure was showing him up. Around the 20th minute, somehow, our entire defence fell asleep, Roberto Firmino was clean through and arrowed a ball straight to the top corner, only for Robles to pull off an absolutely tremendous save from out of the bag to keep the scores level. The action swung our way again, with Baines and Bolasie managing to combine for another two great chances, again Mignolet on hand to deny us a first half lead. Then, against the run of play, Liverpool scored. Coutinho smashed in a 20 yard free kick for 0-1. Gutted. The player's wilted, the opposition rallied, and suddenly we were defending the box for a good solid few minutes, Firmino and Mane forcing excellent saves against Robles. As half time began to approach, Valencia picked up the ball on the right wing and cut inside. Lukaku was in acres of space, but unable to see or make the pass, Valencia decided to punt it. It was blocked, but fell kindly to Lukaku, who clean on, forced an admirable block from Mignolet. Luck, however, swung our way, as the block was tipped onto the post and into the net for 1-1. Fantastic! That made my half-time team talk a LOT easier. "Come on lads, you're doing well out there!" I said, "Let's do them over and win this game!" Boys rallied, we went out there and initially, everything calmed down, it became one of those tetchy periods of play where everything was going awry and not really connecting. Up popped the 53rd minute. Lukaku, in his own half, swings a ball out to the left flank looking for Bolasie. Clyne is there to nod it towards the centrebacks, Lovren goes to head it away, Schneiderlin shadows him, and promptly shoves him off the ball. Everyone stood still and looked at the referee. Foul? But the referee, had forgotten his glasses, or he bottled it, whatever. No whistle came. Suddenly, the stadium erupted. For while everyone had looked to the referee, including the sheepish Schneiderlin, Romelu Lukaku had stayed switched on, nicked the ball, walked into the box, and with absolutely no pressure on him, slotted it beyond the diving Mignolet. 2-1. Woo-hoo? Klopp, bless his heart, would have probably ran around the stadium in a fit. It was a horrific balls up from the officials in my view, but hey, it went my way, so it was a good decision. Best ref ever! >_> Feeling hard done by, Liverpool kicked it up a notch, and from that point on, we had to battle an entire onslaught of attacks. They had so many chances, but just couldn't stick the ball in the net. Every chance, skewed wide, every header, flying high. We rang the changes and dropped into a 4-1-4-1 and went on to park the bus. But the final whistle came, and we had won the derby, and we had won a vital three points, made all the sweeter because Chelsea had trounced Palace 4-1. EVERTON 2-1 LIVERPOOL (Lukaku 44, 57 / Coutinho 35) SWANSEA V EVERTON 18th March, Line Up: Robles, Coleman, Holgate, Rojo, Baines (C), Davies, Mirallas, Barkley, Gueye, Bolasie, Lukaku. (Subbed: McCarthy, Schneiderlin, Valencia.) Another game with shocking weather. Swansea lined up in a 4-3-3, much like we did, so it was a good time to see how we could do in another away game, unchanged tactically. We got off to a flying start, Bolasie got the ball on the six yard box, but was tackled and for some reason, the Swansea keeper had come out, despite three defenders ganging up on Bolasie. That left Lukaku with an open goal to slot home from. On the stroke of half time, Bolasie smacked in a long range shot for 2-0. A bit disappointing overall really as we were still taking lots of long ranged potshots, rather than working it into a good position. At half time, Swansea basically handed us the game, by switching to a 4-4-2 diamond, and effectively surrendering the entire flanks. Still, in the second half Lukaku and Llorente missed an absolute sitter in the first five minutes of the game. We created the better chances from that point on, and in the end, around 75 minutes in, from a corner, Mirallas had a lot of space in the box. His shot took a massive deflection but went in for 3-0. It went down as an own goal. Bolasie had another great chance late on, but again, left his shooting boots at home and missed another 'sitter'. All in all, there were six clear chances shared between the teams. We looked relatively comfortable, but I was disappointed regarding the long shooting, and the fact we were turning over some reasonable chances to the opposition. The Holgate-Rojo partnership needed some more work I think. SWANSEA 0-3 EVERTON (Lukaku 8, Bolasie 45, Mawson o.g 75) That was it, tentatively for March. The rest of the month was ruined by the International Break. I was drawn into a stupid media discussion on whether newly signed Rojo would need to be sold so he could play for Argentina. Jesus, come on get a grip, the ink is barely dry on the contract he's just signed! That didn't stop the Argentina manager from not picking him, and instead, picking a player that hadn't played all season. Logic eh? I'll update the rest of the month's news in the next post, assuming anything happens over on FIFA's end. In the meantime, this was the table as we went into the International Break: 14th! The board were now optimistic that we would finish mid-table due to our 'wonderful form'. Hmm. Maybe. Fingers crossed we can keep it up.
  15. "Coming out" feature

    I'm pretty sure gays can play football. IMO, it being in the game is pretty much virtue signalling, and in some way downplays the reality of the situation. I'm operating on limited information here, as I don't have 18, but I seriously doubt anything is going to be as sweet as "Player comes out as gay, merchandise boost occurs." I think in reality, it will possibly be more messy than that, there'll be a need for a clamp down on sections of fans who will react to that announcement - we already had a little controversy over Lukaku and his special weapon this season. I also think the potential political fallout in countries less accepting of homosexuality will be more than a touch controversial. I think there's very good reasons why no one wants to come out, and why people have been resisting the FA's desire to find a front man to market as the 'first to come out', - I think a BBC report touched on the fact that some players didn't want to be used as a political tool here, but also others were keenly aware that while we might be champions of gay rights in places like the UK, there are plenty of nations that vehemently hate it with undue passion. In this respect I'm divided on the inclusion of the 'feature' within the game. I hope that it'll make people basically shrug their shoulders and move on, -which should ideally be the reaction to someone declaring their sexuality, cool, who's bothered? No one, let's focus on football, though why is it even important to know a player's sexuality full stop? And yet, on the other hand, I hope the 'feature' doesn't basically downplay the issue so much that people think it is a simple thing to happen, that is long overdue, and that there would be zero downsides or fallout from it happening. Still, I reckon we'll definitely see it happen IRL football before the end of our times, and I just hope the world reacts appropriately to it and the governing body is ready to clamp down rapidly on the anti-reactionary groups that will inevitably spring up as a result. (In that respect, I'm not entirely convinced FIFA will, and I wonder if the players feel the same way tbh.)