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GreyedOutMan

[FM19] Rebuilding Arsenal

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are you managing to get work permits for the south american regens?

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Not at first, no. And many never will, but the ones who are going to be good enough will eventually.

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Season Report: 2022-23

This was a weird season. The league started in July, paused for a World Cup for the whole of November, and for some reason Liverpool spent a long period with six games in hand over us. So whilst I was top throughout April, I always knew that we were unlikely to win the league, despite kicking it off with a convincing 3-0 win against the Anfielders to reach my first FA Cup Final. But then from 8th April to 6th May, I had games against Chelsea, West Ham, Man City, Liverpool and Spurs, so it was a really tough ask. I'll return to that shortly.

In the Europa League, which we dropped into after suffering our only defeat in Europe this season, going down in the 92nd minute at the Wanda Metropolitano, the first knockout round was one-legged. I didn't know this so I was cagey in what I thought was "the home leg", only to see it go straight to extra time and penalties. We lost. Which means I'm still unbeaten in the competition, having won it in the first year and lost on penalties in the final last year! (I did lose a first leg in 2019 but we won the second so it wasn't really relevant). And actually, given the title chase development and my first full FA Cup run, it was probably a good thing.

So that tough league run started really well. I beat Chelsea 1-0 and though I disappointingly dropped 2 points at the London Stadium, I then beat City 4-2 back at home. By the time I played Liverpool on 29th April, they were sitting 4 points behind us with 3 games in hand so whilst I knew even a win would not put the title in our own hands, I did feel that anything but a win would probably end any chance. The game was cagey, with very few chances. Just before the hour mark, Eddie Nketiah, who by then had already scored 36 goals including 28 league goals, was through, albeit without much space, but could only shoot straight at the keeper.  With 15 minutes left, I knew I had to go for it so I brought on fresh legs in youngster Ben Beechey (home-grown), and though Alexander-Arnold ran the length of the pitch in nearly beating the entire team, when he failed at the last, Liverpool broke fast up the field and Federico Chiesa all but sealed the title for Liverpool. To rub salt in the wounds, the excellent Alexander-Arnold was then sent off in injury time against his former side. Talk about kicking us when we were down!

We did make up for it. A smashing 4-1 win at the Toilet Bowl with a hat-trick from Reiss Nelson, and two assists plus the other goal from debutant Gael Brun on the left wing, combined with a 3-1 win for Leeds against Liverpool (two days before they beat Villarreal 7-2 in the Europa League Semi to win the entire tie 12-3 - not sure why they played a full side there given their fixture pile-up) gave me real hope. But their 3-0 win against Stoke four days before the final day meant that our realistic title hopes were over as a huge goal difference swing was required with Liverpool as well as United. Although we did our part, with three goals in the first 26 minutes, both United and Liverpool also scored in the 26th: Liverpool going 1-0 up and United mirroring us with their third.  This was how it ended up. Liverpool did lose the Europa League Final to Leverkusen, which made me feel a bit better.

Our first FA Cup Final followed, Arsenal v Man Utd for the first time since Patrick Vieira's last kick in an Arsenal shirt won the last trophy in the Highbury era. Arsenal have won 6 FA Cup Finals in a row since our last defeat to a Michael Owen-inspired Liverpool in 2001, so I was very keen to continue this run. But despite a missed penalty from Pogba, Orbelin Pineda got a goal in the 89th minute, and Joel Lopez rounded off the season with a bizarre own goal, whacking the ball off the line...the wrong way! So close but so far.

Transfers
We started the season by SMASHING our transfer record on Trent Alexander-Arnold. Honestly, I wasn't sure. It felt like I overpaid for a position that didn't matter too much. I was wrong. Alexander-Arnold was brilliant, as you can see, and made the difference in many games, ultimately breaking the club record with 17 assists. Michael Schreiber was last year's breakthrough youngster. This year, he was consistently linked with a mega money move to Man Utd. Sadly, I think it will happen at some point but I'll focus on the incomings...One or two extremely promising youngsters in the list, too. In terms of other outs, this season I managed to offload Auba for £5m, so 15 goals after he turned down an £80m move, he leaves for a fraction of that. Annoying. The big sale, though, was Emile Smith-Rowe to City for £43m. He was decent but not elite, and I had better options coming through.

Notable performances from youngsters
He isn't a youngster any more, but I can't not mention Eddie Nketiah. 30 league goals: only the 9th player to achieve this feat in Premier League history - and I think the first two or three were when the league had 22 teams! He scored 8 goals more than his nearest rival, Kylian Mbappe! He has also now scored over 100 goals for the club, the first to reach this landmark in my tenure. And to think, I came SO close to selling him a few times! Reiss Nelson won Player of the Season but clearly doesn't qualify. Gael Brun came in for Barco when he was injured, scored and assisted twice at the Toilet Bowl on his debut, got the only goal of the game in his second match, and, whilst a small sample size obviously skews it, got the highest Average Rating in the squad for this year. I was thinking of getting a left winger in this year: not needed now.

Breakthrough youngster of the year
A tough one this year. I considered Mariano Erramuspe, but he was just a little bit too old to qualify. Schreiber stood out again but obviously won it last year. Gael Brun shone brightly but briefly in just four games. Ben Beechey managed four goals in not a lot of time. 

But I think the only person it can go to really is Tiago Sa. He only just qualifies: in the league this was NOT his best season, but it is overall, and he also played twice as many games as he ever has before in a season.

Previous years:
2019 - Ainsley Maitland-Niles; 2020 - Eddie Nketiah; 2021 - Kristoffer Ingelsten; 2022 - Michael Schreiber

Season     League (pts)   FA Cup   League Cup   Europe                   Youth Signings (non HG)  Marquee Signing          Achievements/Notes               
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2018/19    4th (82)       R5       R3           Europa League Winners     5                       Milan Skriniar           First European TROPHY [1-EL] in 25 years, CL qualification.
2019/20    3rd (81)       R6       R3           Champions League SF       16                      Joao Felix               CL qualification.
2020/21    5th (77)       R6       R4           Champions League KO1      18                      Santiago Ascacibar       None.
2021/22    2nd (83)       R5       R3           Europa League Finalists   13                      Ezequiel Barco           CL qualification.
2022/23    3rd (81)       R/Up     R4           Champions League Groups   18                      Trent Alexander-Arnold   CL qualification, FA Cup Finalists.

Links to previous years:
2018/19
2019/20
2020/21
2021/22

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did the world cup year have a positive or negative effect on the season?

Did it highlight a potential marquee signing or some youngsters you otherwise wouldn't have thought about?

How did it affect form?

Overall a decent year, another domestic season where you were right in the mix! Surely its not going to take much to tip you over the edge into winning it all.

How are you doing with expectations from the club and fans? You've made 3 finals in 5 years but only 1 trophy, do you feel secure? or are you looking over your shoulder?

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Posted (edited)
On 11/07/2019 at 21:31, Mandy42 said:

did the world cup year have a positive or negative effect on the season?

League-wise, hard to tell, to be honest. Obviously the fact I hadn't realised the Europa League was single-legged had an effect!

Did it highlight a potential marquee signing or some youngsters you otherwise wouldn't have thought about?

I can't say I paid much attention to the world cup, I use my scouts for all that! But also, the youngsters wouldn't qualify. I can't believe there would've been any players at the world cup within three months of generating. And other than marquee signings, that means I can't buy them!

How did it affect form?

Well, we won eight domestic games in a row after the WC, only punctuated by a CL defeat at Atletico. And we didn't lose for nearly three months after the WC.

Overall a decent year, another domestic season where you were right in the mix! Surely its not going to take much to tip you over the edge into winning it all.

Here's hoping.

How are you doing with expectations from the club and fans? You've made 3 finals in 5 years but only 1 trophy, do you feel secure? or are you looking over your shoulder?

Currently "secure". I don't think there's any expectation of title wins, and I'm getting into the CL most of the time. I'd like to win a major trophy soon, though.

 

Edited by GreyedOutMan

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I went for it. Slight concerns over crossing and dribbling, but I don't really need those attributes to be front and centre.

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Posted (edited)

Season Report: 2023-24

We had a frustrating first half of the season, dropping points we shouldn't (Watford, Bournemouth and Leicester away, Chelsea and Everton at home). In December, we got a good draw at home to United from 2-0 down after 80 minutes, but then let ourselves down by losing 1-0 at Middlesbrough and drawing with West Ham at home. When we lost 4-1 at home to Watford, with Manchester City and Liverpool to come within the next 6 days, I feared the worst. But the wingers stepped forward: Nelson and Barco got us first-half goals which saw us over the line at City and Nelson scored again at home to Liverpool to give us six very good points. With City then awaiting a week later in the cup, it was a really tough ten days. That cup game proved a step too far, with a limp display: we created pretty much nothing, and though we held City at bay until the 80th minute, we deserved no more than the 3-0 defeat that we eventually slumped to. Then we had a St Mary's hangover, with a limp 1-0 defeat leaving us eight points off the top.

A flawless February followed, and were it not for three defeats against Villa at home, then Everton and United away between mid-March and early-April, we would've been right in the title race. As it was, I had to put focus on the Champions' League and a terrific 3-1 win at the Emirates against Real Madrid was followed up by a nervy 3-2 defeat in the away leg to see us into the semi - an 81st minute Nketiah goal the key moment, of course. 

The run-in saw two home games (Boro and Blackburn) followed by two away games (Leeds and West Ham). The Blackburn game saw a disappointing draw, but we got wins either side of that one, before the second leg at home to Dortmund after a 1-1 draw at Signal Iduna Park. But it wasn't enough and we went into the second leg knowing that if we lost, then CL qualification was out of our hands. When we took the lead I felt optimistic, but an equaliser followed by a red card to Ascacibar, a key man in this side now, and a Dortmund goal immediately after killed us off.

In the last game of the season, I had to win and hope that Middlesbrough could take points off Liverpool. Paddy McNair saved my season. It's the lowest points total I've achieved (3 fewer than the year I didn't make the top 4), but I do feel that I've made progress because most of my squad is on an upward trajectory now; making the CL was a big deal.

Reiss Nelson won the Fans' Player of the Year for the third consecutive year. 

Transfers
I broke my record for a youngster this year, splashing out nearly £50m on Steve Healey from United. A long term replacement for Joao Felix. He cost more than my marquee signing, Filip Benkovic. Not a huge name, but he was the best centre-back available to me and I was really worried about losing Schreiber. I kept hold of him during the summer window, though he was unhappy that I priced him out of a move to United, so I was preparing to lose him in January, but interest was less urgent as his form had dipped significantly and indeed I dropped him for a bit. Benkovic won signing of the season so that's good.

On the outgoings, I made my first mega-profit. This will form a big part of my philosophy: selling off the players who don't quite make it. There will be some who completely don't make it, and I end up either making a loss on or not much of a profit. But it will be so important to ensure that I make mega profit on some of them like Kristoffer Ingelsten who I sold for £28.5m, three and a half years after buying him for £925k. It's the first time I've made any significant profit on one of these players, but there should be many more to come. It's why I have been buying so many of these players. A lot of them I know will never be first-choice players, but they all have the potential to bring in tens of millions when sold on.

Notable performances from youngsters
The £50m 16 year old (who was 15 when we agreed the deal, by the way) Steve Healey produced a virtuoso performance against Leeds in December. 

Breakthrough youngster of the year
Doesn't get much easier than this. I knew when I splashed out £50m than he would be good, and Steve Healey didn't disappoint. Joao Felix had a really disappointing year until January, and with Ozil also never hitting any real heights I was having doubts about using an AMC at all. I think Healey will lead me to retain the position. But Willock hadn't done all that much either so I gave Joao Felix a go a little deeper. It seemed to work, so Steve Healey has solved a big problem. He dipped a bit from those high standards as the season reached the spring, but for a player who was 16 until the last fortnight of the season, that's still a really good average rating. He has done enough to convince me that he's the long term solution here.

Previous years:
2019 - Ainsley Maitland-Niles; 2020 - Eddie Nketiah; 2021 - Kristoffer Ingelsten; 2022 - Michael Schreiber; 2023 - Tiago Sa

Season     League (pts)   FA Cup   League Cup   Europe                   Youth Signings (non HG)  Marquee Signing          Achievements/Notes               
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2018/19    4th (82)       R5       R3           Europa League Winners     5                       Milan Skriniar           First European TROPHY [1-EL] in 25 years, CL qualification.
2019/20    3rd (81)       R6       R3           Champions League SF       16                      Joao Felix               CL qualification.
2020/21    5th (77)       R6       R4           Champions League KO1      18                      Santiago Ascacibar       None.
2021/22    2nd (83)       R5       R3           Europa League Finalists   13                      Ezequiel Barco           CL qualification.
2022/23    3rd (81)       R/Up     R4           Champions League Groups   18                      Trent Alexander-Arnold   CL qualification, FA Cup Finalists.
2023/24    4th (74)       R4       R3           Champions League SF       19                      Filip Benkovic           CL qualification. 

Links to previous years:
2018/19
2019/20
2020/21
2021/22
2022/23

Edited by GreyedOutMan

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Season Report: 2024-25

This was a bit of a nothing season, to be honest. We went on good runs in September through to October and again in November/December, but really only had a few good wins in all of that time (a late Nelson winner at home to United, 2-0 against Chelsea spring to mind). But in the CL, we did impressing, winning five and drawing one in a group involving us, Bayern, Valencia and Ajax! A ridiculous defeat at Leicester by four goals to one totally ended our title challenge, but a convincing 4-1 aggregate win over PSG saw us go into April with little to play for domestically, but a huge Quarter Final in the CL against Man City ahead of us. They had also knocked us out of the FA Cup, so I was keen for revenge. I didn't get it, and instead was torn a new one by Silva, Sane, Mbappe et al.

Transfers
I agreed my marquee signing well before the end of last season (and the same is true of this season, more on that next year!). I ummed and ahhed about it, but Adrian Lomonaco was easily the best left back available to me, despite the astronomical price of over £100m. But then again, with over £500m in the bank, I guess the prices matter less, especially since that is only going to grow, realistically, given the nature of this challenge. The year before, my wingers had been my star players, so to have Lomonaco and Alexander-Arnold supporting them from behind did excite me. They didn't do quite as well as I hoped but Lomanaco will be 24 next season, TAA nearly 27 - they should be peaking soon, so improvement can be expected.

Notable performances from youngsters
These are starting to become fewer and further between now, because I'm getting together the spine of a team of youngsters who are growing up together and so most of them are no longer youngsters. Jiri Zeman impressed, along with Gael Brun,  with a top showing against Watford, whilst Brun got the winner against Bournemouth. Screve Bembo-Leta (I always hum Bamboleo whenever I say his name) did likewise at Stoke.

Breakthrough youngster of the year
Had he been just six months or so younger, Stephen Hunt would have walked this one, with a huge step up that is making me wonder about selling one of my first choice wingers. And the winner of this is a bit odd because I think there's a player who was out on loan this year who will be ahead of him when he returns, so you may not see much more of him, but Jiri Zeman, a signing from January 2024, was so impressive in a position where it seems almost impossible to have an Average Rating over 7, that it had to be him.

Previous years:
2019 - Ainsley Maitland-Niles; 2020 - Eddie Nketiah; 2021 - Kristoffer Ingelsten; 2022 - Michael Schreiber; 2023 - Tiago Sa; 2024 - Steve Healey

Season     League (pts)   FA Cup   League Cup   Europe                   Youth Signings (non HG)  Marquee Signing          Achievements/Notes               
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2018/19    4th (82)       R5       R3           Europa League Winners     5                       Milan Skriniar           First European TROPHY [1-EL] in 25 years, CL qualification.
2019/20    3rd (81)       R6       R3           Champions League SF       16                      Joao Felix               CL qualification.
2020/21    5th (77)       R6       R4           Champions League KO1      18                      Santiago Ascacibar       None.
2021/22    2nd (83)       R5       R3           Europa League Finalists   13                      Ezequiel Barco           CL qualification.
2022/23    3rd (81)       R/Up     R4           Champions League Groups   18                      Trent Alexander-Arnold   CL qualification, FA Cup Finalists.
2023/24    4th (74)       R4       R3           Champions League SF       19                      Filip Benkovic           CL qualification. 
2024/25    4th (74)       R6       QF           Champions League QF       11                      Adrian Lomonaco          CL qualification.

Links to previous years:
2018/19
2019/20
2020/21
2021/22
2022/23
2023/24

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same points and same league position as last year, is the gap to the other teams the same as well? are you gaining or falling back? Back to back seasons in the latter stages of the Champions League is not a insignificant achievement, especially with that starting group. Keep working away :)

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1 hour ago, Mandy42 said:

same points and same league position as last year, is the gap to the other teams the same as well? are you gaining or falling back? Back to back seasons in the latter stages of the Champions League is not a insignificant achievement, especially with that starting group. Keep working away :)

Marginally bigger gap this season, but it's very marginal. I think I may have hit a bit of a ceiling at the moment. I need a few more Schreibers!

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Little update - I've been offered (and accepted) the job of Brazil manager. I'm hoping that this could help me secure a few Brazilian wonderkids soon!

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OK - so I'm at a point where I'm feeling like I don't really know how to take that next step with this side, so I've decided to put together a comprehensive report on the state of the squad.  I probably won't get this current season finished until Sunday at the earliest so it gives me a chance to ask you lot for any ideas and also do some detailed scouting to try to fix a few issues in the squad. So here goes.

The Tactics - shown here with first choice XI and subs selected
Hasn't evolved too much lately. As you'll see, there are a few positions where the role depends on the person picked. This is true in DM, on the right wing and in the AMC position, although the keeper is also a bit fluid - when Blake plays, I tend to have him on SK(De). I'm open to tweaking this if you have any suggestions. In each of the categories below, click on the position name to see a list of players who can play there, then I've got player profiles in the section beneath it.

Goalkeepers
As you can see, I have two good keepers followed by three decent up-and-coming ones. I'm not too worried about this position currently. Erramuspe is currently the first choice whilst Blake is a more than capable deputy. Blanco, Barros and Costa are the current up and comers, but with the top two aged 24 and 22, I'm not too concerned with their development currently as I doubt they'll ever be required. Also, on writing this report I've realised that the bottom five are utterly pointless and I've released them!

Left Wing-Backs
Despite the long list here, there are only really four players on the list I'm ever likely to use in this position. Adrian Lomonaco was a marquee signing from Barcelona. Joel Lopez did a decent job there for a while but is now back-up. Ainsley Maitland-Niles broke through as a left back in season one, but is now a utility player. Ozgur Uzun was signed on a pre-contract (i.e. as a Youth) from Leverkusen. Nothing special, but I'll keep him around until I've got someone better and then look to sell for a healthy profit.

Right Wing-Backs
Another position currently occupied by a marquee signing in Trent Alexander-Arnold who I paid obscenely over the odds for! He started off well, averaging 7.30 in his first season, but has been on a steady and relatively quick decline since. I might be looking to improve this area soon, but there are no players coming through suggesting they could do that job, so I'll probably be trying very hard to find promising right wing-backs coming through youth academies this year. Maitland-Niles is the back-up currently.     

Centre Backs
Michael Schreiber was the first newgen to break through and is now one of my best players. Though Benkovic was a marquee signing, albeit a cheap-ish one, he isn't great shakes any more, and it looks like Christop Witt will now form a long-lasting partnership with MS. If he develops as much as my coaches think he will then great. If not, I might be looking for a new player in this position soonish. Simon Cahill is a rare example of a product of my own academy who could just step up.

Defensive Midfielders
A problem position for years but two really good youngsters now which gives me real hope that this could be a good era. Mukov only just got a work permit, and though he is good, I don't think I agree with the 4.5* CA rating my coaches give him. Zeman was a breakthrough player last year and these two should be in a battle for the DM spot for a few years.

Deep Lying Playmakers
This is one area where I might be thinking about tweaking the tactic. Willock is my current first choice player, and DLP is not his best role. Any thoughts? Jaouhari is the up-and-comer in this position, though...and DLP, for him, IS the best role...so I'm tempted to stick with it.

Left Wingers
Barco was a decent marquee signing in this position. Brun is the back-up here, although Reiss Nelson can play there and as you'll see shortly, my back-up right winger is better than Brun, despite Brun's blistering start to his career.

Attacking Midfielder
When Healey arrived and it became clear I'd be using him in this position, I changed from a AP to an AM in this position. The two youngsters coming through are also best suited to that role. Machin doesn't yet have a work permit, and Alke seems slightly better currently anyway.

Right Wingers
Reiss Nelson has made this slot his own and has developed into a sensational player. Stephen Hunt is his current back-up. I have a Bajan youth player from my own academy (not sure I've seen this before) in Chai Harvey who looks like the next possible big thing in this role.

Strikers
SPOILER ALERT, because this is where I played my Marquee Signing card this year. Eddie Nketiah scored 35 goals the year before, so it was harsh, but the decision was made early in the season and the season before had been his worst year. As you can see from the squad screen, though, he's still getting a fair share of game time. Samba Babacar is the £73m incumbent though. But this is a position where I am well-stocked. Mednikov has no work permit yet but surely will get one, whilst Scott Turner, perhaps not quite the player Mednikov is, should get a few games this year.

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Doing that was helpful for my thinking. 

I definitely need a right wing back, a centre back and a left winger. Of those, I don't think the right wing back needs to be a marquee signing so I'm ruling that out. But it means I'm looking for youngsters in all three positions (although in reality I'm always signing youngsters in ALL positions), and I need to decide over the next few days whether I want a new centre-back or left-winger as a marquee signing. I'm leaning towards a centre-back, with the thinking being that in the medium term, Witt and Schreiber can compete for the other centre-back slot.

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he looks like a great signing, but yeah 144 mil seems like crazy money!

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13 hours ago, Mandy42 said:

he looks like a great signing, but yeah 144 mil seems like crazy money!

Reckon centre-back is the best position to go for then?

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1 hour ago, GreyedOutMan said:

Reckon centre-back is the best position to go for then?

I would say so, Witt isn't ready yet but has the potential to be a 1st team great. Nelson has the ability to play either side, plus with capable backups for the left wing position I would suggest that Thomsen is your guy, he's as good as Benkovic with the potential to be the best you have (according to the comparison table on the right side of his profile)

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Posted (edited)

Also - thinking of tweaking my formation next year. I've found nobody is thriving in the AM position, so thinking of dropping that deeper, so going from this formation to this formation. I'm training it ready to start next August, but what do you think? Anything else you'd tweak?

Edited by GreyedOutMan

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That kid will be the best defender in the world in 2-3 years time. Don't stress over the price, send him on a leadership course and give him some ball playing PPMs.

Fun save to read, like what you've done with Nelson, Nketiah and Willock. Did Mavropanos never turn out good for you? Developed into a rock in my Arsenal save this year.

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2 minutes ago, Sysiphus said:

That kid will be the best defender in the world in 2-3 years time. Don't stress over the price, send him on a leadership course and give him some ball playing PPMs.

Fun save to read, like what you've done with Nelson, Nketiah and Willock. Did Mavropanos never turn out good for you? Developed into a rock in my Arsenal save this year.

Thanks. If you're enjoying it, then keep reading and comment whenever you can, I really appreciate the feedback, not least because (as you can probably see) I'm not the best ever. Any thoughts on the tactics above especially would be great. But the more interaction I get the better the content will become. I'm always happy to answer questions in as much detail as required...so to answer this one:

Mav was OK, but never exceptional, and I had too many better coming through. He left for Cardiff for £8.25m in 2021, and hasn't exactly set the world alight there and it was clear Schreiber was going to be a bit of a star, even if he has levelled off a little in the last couple of years.

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3 minutes ago, GreyedOutMan said:

Thanks. If you're enjoying it, then keep reading and comment whenever you can, I really appreciate the feedback, not least because (as you can probably see) I'm not the best ever. Any thoughts on the tactics above especially would be great. But the more interaction I get the better the content will become. I'm always happy to answer questions in as much detail as required...so to answer this one:

Mav was OK, but never exceptional, and I had too many better coming through. He left for Cardiff for £8.25m in 2021, and hasn't exactly set the world alight there and it was clear Schreiber was going to be a bit of a star, even if he has levelled off a little in the last couple of years.

It's good stuff, no worries!

Tactic's solid I feel, good balance in the team. I'd maybe reduce the number of in possession instructions, but they don't counter each other so that's not a big problem. Maybe if you have trouble scoring against worse sides you could add another attacking role in the team, for example on the left flank (although Barco is a supporting player I feel, but if you'd upgrade that position soon you could look for a more attacking option). All in all I think it's solid and I like that you've not gone overboard and bought 4-5 big players each season as that is super easy to do as an Arsenal manager in this game.

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, Sysiphus said:

It's good stuff, no worries!

Tactic's solid I feel, good balance in the team. I'd maybe reduce the number of in possession instructions, but they don't counter each other so that's not a big problem. Maybe if you have trouble scoring against worse sides you could add another attacking role in the team, for example on the left flank (although Barco is a supporting player I feel, but if you'd upgrade that position soon you could look for a more attacking option). All in all I think it's solid and I like that you've not gone overboard and bought 4-5 big players each season as that is super easy to do as an Arsenal manager in this game.

Yes: although my premise for the save was based on the false report of such tight purse strings at Arsenal IRL, it's been really fun to focus on one area per season in terms of finished products. It forces you to really analyse your strengths and weaknesses. I've got my centre-back now, but I agree that left wing might well be a position to look at in the future. The right has plenty of options. Left, not so much. The thing is when you have a good player there, it's a position you want to try to fill with a youngster. I always have 15-20 youngsters coming in at least. Obviously most don't make it but who knows? Maybe Barco's replacement will be arriving in the summer!

Could Healey play as an Attacking Mid in the MC position, you reckon? I just noticed that nobody was doing well there. Not Ozil, not Felix and not Healey....

Edited by GreyedOutMan

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Season Report: 2025-26

It's always exciting to buy a striker as your marquee signing and this year promised much with Samba Babacar up front. It started well, with wins against Watford, Everton and West Brom. A tough run of one from from games against West Ham, Liverpool and City preceded our Champions' League campaign, but from late September we went on a great run, winning every game from then until the end of October except our only CL group game defeat against PSG - we topped the group easily anyway.

Either side of the new year we went on our best run of the season, not losing between 29th Nov (Sp**s) and 7th Feb (City), and though we stuttered a bit with too many draws (Huddersfield, Southampton, Bournemouth and Stoke as well as a defeat at Villa) to preclude a title challenge, we finished 4th fairly easily. Really, we should have been third. But we did make an improvement on last year for the first time in a while and I think I have some exciting players coming through to keep pushing up again.

The FA Cup hugely opened up for us this year after an unbelievable 5-0 win against Liverpool in the third round. We then beat Southampton, Brighton, Leicester and Bournemouth en route to meeting Watford at Wembley in the Cup Final. We played poorly. 1 down after five minutes, we equalised after 18 but then fell behind again to a penalty shortly before half-time. A Watford back-line including a player we had already signed for next year (see previous posts!) held us at bay for a long time, and they had chances.  In the last ten minutes, though, we battered at the door again and again, throwing the kitchen sink at them very hard, but couldn't get our second trophy, finishing FA Cup runners-up for the second time. It was sad.

With Brazil, it's been an interesting start. We started off with dead rubbers in the World Cup Qualifiers, with Brazil already qualified easily. England and Australia friendlies are a fortnight away as I type, followed by a World Cup group including Czech Republic and Australia (there's an extra knockout game after the groups).

Transfers
A lot of ins and outs this year. A rare occurance of a non-marquee signing who has gone straight into the first team in Witt, and Marc Alke played a bit too as did Jaouhari. Alex Calcade will be a capable back-up centre back for a while, I think. And Samba Babacar became my first marquee striker signing. The rest...not sure how many we will see flourish but who knows? Two marquee signings sold this year. Neither has been a success really, although Ascacibar did a decent job. Ainsley Maitland-Niles also finally left after so many years of being a back-up to half the team, and to get so much money for Beechey, John-Jules, Bembo-Leta and Bryggfield was good business.

Notable performances from youngsters
After a pretty poor season when called upon, Marc Alke scored the equaliser at Wembley, the one bright spot on a terrible day.

Breakthrough youngster of the year
A few options here. I do think Chai Harvey has done very well for his age and I would be surprised if he isn't the chosen player within the next few years. Gael Brun has been a capable understudy to Barco, and should mean that we don't need a left winger yet. Ilja Mukov has, as predicted, ousted last year's winner, Zeman, from the first team, but has not yet fulfilled his 4.5* CA rating from my assistant. And I could easily be picking someone for the second year running who will not be a first team player next year, but Christoph Witt was the standout for me.

Previous years:
2019 - Ainsley Maitland-Niles; 2020 - Eddie Nketiah; 2021 - Kristoffer Ingelsten; 2022 - Michael Schreiber; 2023 - Tiago Sa; 2024 - Steve Healey; 2025 - Jiri Zeman

Season     League (pts)   FA Cup   League Cup   Europe                   Youth Signings (non HG)  Marquee Signing          Achievements/Notes               
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2018/19    4th (82)       R5       R3           Europa League Winners     5                       Milan Skriniar           First European TROPHY [1-EL] in 25 years, CL qualification.
2019/20    3rd (81)       R6       R3           Champions League SF       16                      Joao Felix               CL qualification.
2020/21    5th (77)       R6       R4           Champions League KO1      18                      Santiago Ascacibar       None.
2021/22    2nd (83)       R5       R3           Europa League Finalists   13                      Ezequiel Barco           CL qualification.
2022/23    3rd (81)       R/Up     R4           Champions League Groups   18                      Trent Alexander-Arnold   CL qualification, FA Cup Finalists.
2023/24    4th (74)       R4       R3           Champions League SF       19                      Filip Benkovic           CL qualification. 
2024/25    4th (74)       R6       QF           Champions League QF       11                      Adrian Lomonaco          CL qualification.
2025/26    4th (76)       R/Up     SF           Champions League KO1      22                      Samba Babacar            CL qualification, FA Cup Finalists.

Links to previous years:
2018/19
2019/20
2020/21
2021/22
2022/23
2023/24
2024/25

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with regards to your formation change to a deeper attacking midfielder, that's how I play my 4-3-3 with Chelsea. Though I like to have only the one "playmaker"

The way I see it, each of my 3 central midfielders gets given a set individual role. Jorginho is my deep lying playmaker and he controls the ball and he sits the deepest. Kante sits on the right side as a box to box midfielder. he breaks up play, drops into pockets of space to provide an easy out ball, and arrives late in the box for the odd tap in. Mason Mount plays as a Mezzala so he drifts forward and slightly wide of centre picking the ball up in the channels and drifting in field to curl shots into the far corner.

My point being each player has an area of the pitch they like to operate in and by doing so creates space for the others in the midfield to work through. Mount going wide gives Kante room to burst forward. Kante pushing up or dropping back helps Jorginho to play 1-2s and move himself and the ball up the pitch.

In your midfield I wonder whether having two playmakers side by side is going to cause them to step on each others toes? If you have to play two playmakers side by side would one being a Roaming playmaker be more beneficial? again that might create more space to allow your midfielders to operate at their best.

As always am enjoying reading, keep it up! 

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Long time reader of this and really enjoy it. I have approached my own game in a not too dissimilar fashion - currently signing a 'marquee' style player a year but then going with only academy products for the rest of it. This has really focused me on signing the best player in the weakest area of my team.

I just wanted to say that the DC looks incredible!

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Posted (edited)

Hey sorry folks, my computer's graphics card conked out but I'm back now, albeit without the skins, views and mods that I had before so apologies if screenshots look clunky for a short while. I'll gradually get it back to what I want, but if anyone has any recommended elements that might suit my style, please let me know where I can find them. Thanks for the feedback - yeah, very excited about Thomsen.

Edited by GreyedOutMan

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