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Mandy42

Back to the Future because I'm cheap

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Posted (edited)

So my Valencia "Nemesis" died a death, this might seem stupid but when I reread my previous Chelsea thread (where I had first come up with the idea) I noticed that I should have taken over Sevilla not Valencia and getting it wrong bugged me... I lost all interest in the save and just couldn't motivate myself to continue, thus back to the drawing board!

After at least 10 minutes consideration and a trawl through the forums I have decided upon 2 saves, running concurrently to try keep my interest and variety up. Yes I hear you cry, I struggled to keep my teeth into 1 save, how will I manage with 2, well, you may well be right but lets see what happens shall we. You can all shout "I told you so" at the end of the thread :P

So save number 1, yes I am returning to Chelsea, I fancied a self imposed transfer embargo save, but didn't intend on buying the FM20 game when it came out (because I'm cheap) and because I don't always buy every years edition, and because I didn't really want to wait for the game to become available to jump into the save. Thus I have taken advantage of This update by Lazylen in order to use the current Chelsea squad in FM19, hence using the future squad, but in the past! 

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I figured I wasn't going to play as myself in this save, that manager portrait is taken from a 3D generation of a real portrait picture, it looks somewhat like him but there you go. 

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I obviously gave him International Footballer status, when it came to the badges, I found an article indicating that Frank started his Pro license in March 2018, thus as I am starting in June 2018 I have only given him the A licence, will be interesting to see if this stops me from being able to manage European games like it would in real life. When it came to style I bumped up attacking and dropped defending, increased working with youngsters, determination and motivation. I am sure he knows not very much about goalkeeping so they all got dropped. 

When it comes to goals for this save I really am not sure but some possibles are:

Play and develop youngsters, must have at least 1 academy player in the match day squad for every game.

Survive the transfer embargo without getting sacked

Stay and be successful as Chelsea manager as long as possible, getting sacked would end the save

Only job I would consider taking that would make me leave the Chelsea managers job is an England national team job at any level

I may take a concurrent International managers job if offered one to build experience and reputation.

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My dislike of David Luiz has not dissipated and I am very offended by this indication from my backroom team! 

 

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Also turns out that the transfer embargo didn't need to be self imposed after all! Fantastic editing

This save is being run concurrently alongside Around the world, hitting it from the back, nice and slow

 

Edited by Mandy42

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So having played a month in Zimbabwe I came back to my other save and already I am looking forward to the contrast in experience that comes from playing two complete polar opposite saves concurrently. One has already influenced the other, seen as in Zimbabwe I am successfully on the path to picking up my 1st coaching badge, so figured I would see if Roman would let me do the same at Chelsea

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no dice, I didn't push the matter on my 1st day.

 

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A couple of interesting things here, firstly, for the 1st season sans Hazard it's (in my humble opinion) maybe a stretch to want to reach the quarter final of the Champions League. Also, why do I have a transfer budget, when I can't make any transfers, but more importantly where is all my Hazard money!! This could be a relatively short save if I don't make it to the respected milestones in all 3 competitions, but we will see.

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So the squad, that will see my through the next two transfer windows, unless they all leave! I'm surprisingly upbeat, it's liberating to not have cover in a position and instead of going scouting or going straight for a big name, instead I have to go and look in the U23 team or below. Obviously because it's Chelsea we have a plethora of rising stars that I can hopefully plug in to make this work. I haven't moved Hudson-Odoi up from the U18 squad in the above screenshot, but he will likely nudge Kenedy out of his place before long.

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Our 1st game is a friendly against our own U23 team, and the same problem that arises with every new save started in summer 2018 at a big club, most of your players are on holiday following the world cup. Most notably in this selection both my goalkeepers are away hence we picked up Nick Sheppard at the bus stop on the way to Aldershot and he's going to play in goal. I am gritting my teeth at the fact that David Luiz is my captain, though I am happy that he's far and away the oldest player in my starting line up, and that I have 5 Englishmen in the starting 11.

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The U23 team is sporting my 2nd choice formation, with the potential to be my shut up shop formation if I choose to play Kante and Bakayoko in front of my back 4. Speaking of potential this starting 11 is brimming with it, Blackman, Sterling, Tomori, Maddox, Pantic, Ugbo, Chalobah and Palmer all have the building blocks to become very respectable players.

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For some reason this game is being played at a neutral venue, so both teams hop on a bus and head down to The Ebb Stadium in Aldershot, at least it allows my team to pick up a goalkeeper!

 

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Straight from kick off I was concerned that Jamal Blackman had a bee in his bonnet about my bus stop goalkeeper and was going to be on an absolutely blinder, he made save after save and I thought it was going to be "one of those days" However I looked at the clock and saw we were still in the 1st 10 minutes. The game was over as a contest on 11 minutes when Tomori was sent off for his 2nd bookable offence! I moved the mentality from positive to attacking to see what my players could do to make the most of this.

An instant response, Emerson overlapping on the left to deliver a deep cross for Pulisic to volley home from the right. I am hopeful that the 19 year old American becoming the 1st player to score during my reign (all be it in a friendly) is a portent of things to come. I don't think I am alone as a Chelsea fan when I can't wait to see what this young man can do, and struggle to temper my hopes that his the answer to us loosing Eden Hazard.

At halftime I swapped like for like in the positions I could, it turns out I had another bus stop goal keeper so he played the 2nd half. Alonso for Emerson, Zappacosta for James, Bakayoko for Jorginho, Kenedy for Hudson-Odoi, Pedro for Pulisic, Barkley for Mount. To say that it stifled our progress is an understatement, we had 16 attempts at goal, 13 on target in the 1st half, which means we managed another 9 in the 2nd half, with only 4 of them on target.

Most shocking revelation of our friendly game, Mark Clattenburg refereed our intra squad friendly, I guess we picked him up at the bus stop too, he's probably on his way to get a tattoo done!

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Posted (edited)

A quick (or at least that's the plan) talk about tactics.

I don't think I am alone as a Chelsea fan when I say that I went to look at videos of how Napoli played under Sarri, both just after he had been announced, and then later, when things had started to go wrong. I also don't think I'm alone as an FM player where even if it's just on a subconscious level, I like the idea of "righting the wrongs" of the real world. I loved watching Napoli play "Sarriball" and I was distraught when it didn't work as well for us in England, but I've read quite a few articles and pundits views suggesting they don't know why, or that Jorginho was marked out of games, as the reason it wasn't successful. 

I don't think it's that simple, Napoli seemed more direct than we did, which seems counter intuitive to my next point, they played out from the back, but they moved the ball forward quickly, efficiently and effectively. Chelsea were direct as well, however our direct play was a hoofed David Luiz cross field pass, otherwise we would take too long to get into the final 3rd and the short intricate passes would be required to be perfect to get through packed defences. When we could employ the same principles on the halfway line, short passes that created space for us to move the ball vertically into space, we were deadly.

So, my 1st formation is a variation of Sarri's 4-3-3, his tactic called for his width to be provided by his fullbacks and thus his attacking "wide" players to play in a more narrow position. My formation has them out wide, hoping to spread defenders out so that my advanced playmaker and box to box midfielder can surge into the space. I still intend to play out from the back, and I still intend for Jorginho to be the focal point of playing the ball about, however I want to get back to moving the ball vertically through the lines rather than side to side and retaining possession for the sake of it.

My 2nd formation uses a pretty standard 4-2-3-1 as it has been proven to be quite successful, my 3rd formation is a 4-3-3 which uses 2 wide central midfielders, 2 shadow strikers and a centre forward, it is basically there to allow me to play 2 of Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount in the same formation. This interestingly might mean that my Sarriball 4-3-3 might be my most defensively sound formation, unless I pull my 2 midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 back below the halfway line, I guess time will tell.

Edited by Mandy42

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Well that was June, it flew by! probably because I wasn't spending time scouring the transfer market and looking for signings! I  halfheartedly wonder if the transfer ban means I can't bring players in on loan, but at the same time I must admit I probably have more players than I need anyway. 

With nothing much else to do I set about cracking on with the pre season friendlies, along with my inability to sign new players I have another reason to use my younger home grown players, my likely 1st team regulars are not back from the World Cup (or the holiday after the World Cup). They all return in dribs and drabs, but some of them, including 2 of my 3 senior squad strikers don't come back till after the Community Shield. I can only hope that Manchester City will be in a similar situation!

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1st friendly was a money spinning merchandise game tagged onto our pre season training camp in Singapore.

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13 and a half hours at around 737 quid for the flights alone! 

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No bus stop goalkeeper this time, still 5 Englishmen in the starting 11

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not surprising that only 139 fans made the trip!

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Not at our most prolific, the penalty looked soft, but overall a decent run out and we put together some decent passages of play

 

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This was the 1st game I was properly interested in, as they had the potential to set the bar for possible Champions League group stage opponents

I was also feeling sorry for Marco Van Ginkel, I don't want to look at him being unavailable for the next 8 months!

 

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Under 4 hours and under 200 quid, cheap at half the price!

 

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For some reason I don't have a screenshot of our team against Moscow

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Bet if we do draw them in the Champions League we will get more fans there!

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We didn't create as much as in Singapore, but we were more accurate with what we did.

We had two goals (correctly) ruled out for offside, I was glad to see us battle back and we deserved at least a draw

 

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not expecting much support here, no flights! A 37 hour coach journey

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So Bayern Munich came in for Toni Rudiger which was fine in and of itself, but I had already told both Trevor Chalobah and Kenneth Omeruo that they could go out on loan. In the end Kenneth's loan was the worse deal for him and the club, so I kept him and he went into the starting line up, but not before he got unhappy while still on holiday and fired off multiple pot shots at the media!

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Upto 6 Englishmen in the starting 11

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Guess the fans like the Ukraine more than Russia....

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Again we created chances but they were blocked or we simply blasted them wide, we were defensively solid but that isn't saying much against this opposition, I am slightly concerned.

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Our 1st home friendly and our biggest opponents so far by far.

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Kepa, Azpilicueta, Christensen and Willian returned from holiday to get some much needed minutes into their legs, there is only one more friendly before the Community Shield.

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I have developed, a probably irrational, fear of Icardi over my various FM careers, I don't think this will go well at all.

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suppose 36,000 home fans isn't bad.

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After the game it was described as a polished performance and that the two sides on paper were evenly matched and this result would hurt Inter. We played well, my concern dragged into the game, neither side created much in the opening 20 minutes and it looked as though Inter might have quietened the crowd and begun to gain ascendancy when we broke from a corner. A long clearance across the halfway line up towards the left touchline. Abraham looked second best to the ball but managed to get his foot on it and drag it back, avoiding a reckless sliding challenge which would have seen him dumped into touch. He pushed halfway into the Inter half before he played a looping cross field ball to an on rushing Willian who pushed the ball forward towards the right wing. As the Inter defence streamed back, Willian delivered a return cross field ball back to Abraham, he had ghosted to the edge of the area, chested the ball down and drove it straight and low across the keeper into the bottom corner, fabulous counter and a great goal. 

The second was a simple header from a corner, rising and heading the ball back the way it had come, past the keepers diving outstretched hands. We saw out the rest of the game with little to no problems, I was impressed, and my hopes for the coming season improved, though an injury to Kurt Zouma putting him out for up to 5 weeks soured my mood slightly.

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That didn't help either, at the beginning I did wonder if expecting Champions League qualification via our league position might be a tall order due to our transfer ban and the loss of Eden Hazard, it seems the bookmakers agree. I know I have heavy hitters due to return, but they will take time to become fit to play in the 1st team, I do worry that we haven't played the hardest pre season games and at times we have been looked like we did in real life, lost without the Belgian magician. There is only one friendly left, then the Community Shield, which I might have to chalk up as another friendly in order to get the squad in shape for the season proper.

 

 

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And so we enter August, I'm born in August, the Premier League returns in August, I usually like August

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Don't think I will enjoy this August! All I can hope is that everyone elses World Cup players are as rusty as mine, otherwise this isn't going to be a fun start to the league!

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Before we get carried away we have our last friendly to play, and wow we are considered underdogs when I give our pre match briefing...

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Under 200 quid round trip apparently, I might have to start going to more European games, though I bet the ticket will equal if not cost more than the flight

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They told their back 7 they could be anything they wanted, so they made themselves into a poker table

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Kovacic is back, to get his 1st outing since I became manager, technically his 1st outing for the club ever seen as in 2018 we had only just loaned him, though now I'm using the 2019 squads he is actually a fully fledged Chelsea player. Abraham still remains my only actual 1st team striking option, Charlie Brown is his understudy until Batman and Giroud return from holiday

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Not much happened for the first twenty or so minutes, hell for the first 10 minutes we had all of 12% possession and I worried those calls for us being underdogs were correct. We slowly asserted ourselves as we built into the game, however with their wing backs being pushed back to form a back 5 and their two defensive midfielders dropping in as well we had little success inside the box. They offered nothing on the attack as they sat deeper and deeper. We had some joy from outside the box, most of the shots were blocked or trickled through for easy saves to the keeper, but into the 2nd half our initial cross was cleared high and not very handsomely to the edge of the box. Mount latched onto it and angled his run away from the nearest defender before curling a beauty into the bottom right hand corner. I switched the players around to make sure everyone got at least some running in their legs and nobody got too tired. I'm trying to stay positive and see this as a good win akin to an away game in the Champions League, but I can't help think that we have an up hill battle against 3 other top 4 teams throughout August.

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So it begins, 1st competitive game of the season, if we win it's a trophy, if we lose it's a friendly. What a load of rubbish, it's definitely a competitive fixture and it's going to be an indicator of just how far behind we are compared to one of the top teams in the country.

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Here we go!

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The bookmakers seem to share my assessment that we are indeed a fair way off the pace. What the build up picture doesn't show is the list of internationals who are still missing on their holidays. Kevin de Bruyne is the most notable for them, while N'golo Kante will be sorely missed in our midfield.

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Much less of a journey for us than our rivals, though with those roadworks we best not be late!

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It's a fantastic team, the internationals they are waiting to come back don't really stand out as holes in their starting line up

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I would like to be able to say the same for us, however Mount and Abraham are very much unproven and not guaranteed to be 1st choice. Bakayoko, as much as I like him and want to find a role for him in the team is no Kante. He sits in as a ball winning midfielder out of the necessity of having to stop the Man City tide of attacking football, which in turn means Jorginho sits on the bench likely stifling our own creativity.

 

I get asked in the tunnel how I feel about going out to manage in my 1st competitive game, I also get asked how much of a benefit de Bruyne's absence will be to our chances. I am delighted to be here but also have been around long enough to know the players on the pitch will make the difference, not the ones missing in the stands. My last message to the players is to tell them to win the cup for the supporters. It is a message that resonates with both the young and old members of the squad with Azpilicueta and Abraham both gaining confidence from my comments, however nobody else seems to care! The whistle goes for kick off and Man City begin as I expected, they hold 90% possession for the 1st ten minutes which in itself isn't overly a problem. However when Mahrez cuts in from the right just over the halfway line and sprays a long diagonal ball towards Sane alarm bells begin to ring. Sane beats Apilicueta to the ball just before the byline on the left edge of our area, he digs out a sand wedge style cross which Aguero rises to meet, his header looping up and over Kepa and dropping almost gently into the net from the top right hand corner. We are 1-0 down, we have played 2 and a half minutes.

I expect for this to be the start of the onslaught, for us to be brushed aside as they turn the screw, but this isn't the case. Fernandinho goes close with a header from a corner after 15 minutes but by then the game has settled down. Mason Mount pulls up limping on 20 minutes with a tight calf but he indicates he can continue so I leave him out there. Bakayoko is being effective at breaking down and preventing City from getting going, however we are offering little in way of reply and as the 1st half goes on he is tiring out fast. In stoppage time at the end of the 1st half we have a free kick from the left, level with the penalty spot, Mount stands over it. His delivery to the back post is decent if a little deep, Abraham rises and gets his head to it, the effort clips the outside angle of the post and crossbar and ricochets wide, that, and a few tame efforts directly at their keeper is the sum total of our efforts. 

At halftime I tell them I expect a better showing in the 2nd half, I also substitute the limping Mount for Ross Barkley and the tired Bakayoko for Jorginho. The change is immediate, while we don't suddenly overrun Man City the interchange of short passes between Luiz, Jorginho, Barkley and the two wing backs help create shifting triangles which enable us to keep and move the ball around much more freely. However it is clear that City seem happy for us to have the ball in this manner as we don't seem to be doing much with it. On the hour Pedro pulls up holding his groin and unlike Mount he indicates it is bad enough for him to need to come off. I had been thinking about Pulisic being my final substitution but he doesn't suit playing on the left, luckily Hudson-Odoi can go out there and play so he comes on. By now my changes for this half have been, Jorginho as a deep lying playmaker replacing a ball winning midfielder, Barkley as a Mezzala replacing an advanced playmaker and now a winger replacing an inside forward, all of those changes have come with a reduction in defensive and support mentalities and an increase in attacking mentalities. It is time to stop kidding myself and actually go for the game. I move from balanced to positive and shout at the players to push forward.

On 70 minutes we move the ball around, drifting into pockets of space meaning there is always somewhere to move the ball to, the ball goes up the right side, back through Jorginho and David Luiz to then get recycled down the left side, a cross gets cleared but only out to the halfway line and we go again, we keep the ball for 3 minutes until Azpilicueta runs out of room on the right wing, he slips the ball backwards to Jorginho who instead of turning back to Luiz, turns in field instead lifting a pass into the centre of the pitch to a waiting Barkley. Barkley advances and lays the ball to Hudson-Odoi who is very central on the edge of the area. Alonso overlaps out wide and the Man City defender is caught in a moment of indecision. Hudson-Odoi slides the ball along the floor into the penalty area, at 1st it looks like a wasted pass, like it will run closer to the corner flag than anything else. Tammy Abraham appears, latching onto the ball, wider of the post than I would like but he lashes a strike across goal and it slams into the bottom right corner of the City goal. We are level and there are 16 minutes to play.

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There were a few scares for both teams in those last 15 minutes, but in the end it came down to penalties. City would go 1st.

 

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Aguero steps up, bottom left corner, Kepa gets a huge hand to it and turns it round the post!

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David Luiz with a short run up almost bursts the back of the net off the goal

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Fernandinho as calmly as he does anything else, scores

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Jorginho, passes the ball into the top right corner

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Bernardo Silva keeps City in touch with a cool finish

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Tammy Abraham has no problems netting his 2nd on the day

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David Silva, not to be out done by Bernardo, sends Kepa the wrong way to score

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Marcus Alonso maintains our advantage

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Once again Kepa guesses the right way but John Stone's strike is simply hit too hard and it dribbles into the net to keep Man City's dream alive.

Now, we score, we win

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Barkley's hard daisy cutter of a strike goes under their keeper and into the net, some say Ross is still running now....

 

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It didn't feel like a game where we had more attempts, or where we had more possession overall, I am overjoyed to have won a trophy and gotten one over on Man City, even if it is by the tinniest of margins, interestingly the way the fixtures have worked out, they have the chance to get revenge in the league in our very next game!

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This week? same as last week, we play Man City again, this time in the Premier League

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Dunno why their odds aren't 3-2 as both are divisible by 2... and we beat them last week but they are still favourites, plus technically our last meeting wasn't a draw WE BEAT YOUR ASS

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It's a little further for us to travel this week than it was last week.

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Ederson returns in goal, Fernandinho and Rodri swap places, Angelino starts at left back, and his facial hair is ridiculous

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If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Same formation, same back 6 with Bakayoko still preferred as a ball winning midfielder to provide some bite in front of the defence. Kante returns from holiday, he isn't match sharp but he's N'golo Kante he could run from Stamford Bridge to the Etihad and still be able to play a full 90 minutes. Barkley starts because Mason Mount is injured, his calf injury that he could have played through the Community Shield with, turned out to mean he was going to miss up to 3 weeks. Pedro, with a groin strain is likely to be out for up to 5 weeks and thus Hudson-Odoi starts. Neither Giroud or Batman are ready to start so Abraham leads the line again.

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There was no growing into this game, the 1st ten minutes were even, nothing really happened, maybe with it being a league game there was more at stake and both teams were easing into the game. We seemed wise to the tactic that had led to their early goal at Wembley as Silva's raking cross field passes kept being cut out and worked back into midfield. Bakayoko was keeping it simple, winning the ball back and laying it off, nice and simple. He would also receive the ball from the back four, turn and bring it to the half way line before feeding Kante to allow him to surge forward. On 13 minutes he played such a ball forward, it looked long and Laporte stepped out of the City defensive line to get there before Kante, however the midfielder stabbed a foot in and won the ball before Laporte could clear. Abraham, alive to the opportunity angled a run and Kante slipped the ball into the space Laporte had vacated. The ball was perfectly weighted as Abraham didn't have to take a touch, steadied himself and once more fired across the City goal and finding the bottom corner, different keeper, same result. 

City came closest with a couple of Bernardo Silva free kicks, but a few Kepa saves maintained our slender advantage. On the hour mark Jorginho again swapped in for Bakayoko, who this time had made it an hour before beginning to flag. Giroud came on for Abraham and Reece James came on at right back, with Azpilicueta going to left back with Alonso coming off. With Giroud up top as a support Target Man we seemed to do more with the ball, both wingers and Barkley were able to feed off his ability to hold the ball up. Jorginho had the option to bypass a packed midfield and play the ball into the feet of the big man. In the end neither side threatened and the game petered out, massive result for us, people had written us off before the game maybe now we might be taken more seriously. 

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second game of the season, second big game in a row, home to Spurs. Some reason I don't have a team preview picture for this one, so straight onto the lineups

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Being at home I figured I could be more expressive and so Jorginho gets the nod, Kante starts and Barkley continues for the injured Mount. 

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Spurs look fairly attacking for an away game and there is no denying looking at those names that they have a strong team.

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We got off to a flyer though, Jorginho smashing in from just inside the box after we had worked some space from a throw in on the left. We kept the pressure on and had enough chances in the 1st half that I wondered if it would be one of those games where I regretted us not getting a 2nd goal. However Tammy Abraham's 3rd in 3 games gave us breathing room just before halftime. I told the lads not to get complacent and I sent them out unchanged. As it became clear as the 2nd half progressed that Spurs were not going to mount a serious challenge, I changed out my players to give the likes of Batman, Loftus-Cheek and Omerou so game time and much needed minutes in the legs. Next up is Anfield for the final big game of this big opening month

 

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Last game of the month is the simple prospect of going to Anfield to play Liverpool. 

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It's certainly not Istanbul but from humble beginnings and all that

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Am not convinced we deserve to be considered favourites away from home. Though maybe after our two wins already this season we have proved ourselves.

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That looks like a team that can challenge for the title this season

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Matched up like for like in terms of formation, I still think the jury is out on whether we are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season. One thing that doesn't help us is the fact Kante picked up an innocuous injury in training this week that sees him miss around ten days. Being picked as favourites, and how well we have moved the ball around this season has me starting Jorginho instead of Bakayoko. Abraham keeps his spot as the other two striking options are still developing fitness, plus Tammy has 3 in 3 games.

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That was a very strange game, I am definitely surprised that we came out with the increased share of possession. Only two shots on target is what killed us, and probably that we turned up (even though we were balanced) with too positive a mindset. Nothing happened for the 1st 20 minutes, for either team, then they started turning the screw, coming closer and closer to finding an opener, shots just wide, finger tip saves. However they did their most damage when they broke on us from us being high up the pitch. They scored a flowing counter attack, then robbed us of the ball from the kick off and swept up field to score again. From there it was simply a case of damage limitation on our part. The James Milner effort from the edge of the area gave them the icing on the cake though we never really looked like clawing a goal back.

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We get Huddersfield away in the Carabao cup, hopefully one for the kids to play in, did fear I was going to get Man City as we were both still in the hat with only 4 teams left to draw

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Group H for Hot Stuff! Juventus will be a pain, and kind of inevitable with Sarri being there. Celtic and Genk give us every chance of reaching the quarters as the board expect.

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Wow that was a tough start! Tough defeat to Liverpool. They are massively OP in FM this season. Its normally the opposite!

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Hoping to bounce back after the poor showing against Liverpool last time out

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Abraham didn't play well against Liverpool (though to be fair nobody did) but I had made a mental note to play him as my 1st option while he continued to score, he didn't score and thus he gets swapped out. Batman is the fitter of the other two strikers, Giroud will play in the reserves. With Pedro and Mount injured I go with Hudson-Odoi and Kovacic. Emerson is likely to be my full back of choice against "weaker" opposition as he suits a more attacking play style. James has been smashing it in training so I figured he could get a game.

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Hoping ex Chelsea players don't have a blinder against us, otherwise it is a fairly sensible looking compact set up for playing away from home, as much as we are favourites they are only 4 places below us in the table, which 3 games in is nothing.

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30 seconds in Pulisic delivers the ball from the right, Cook gets his head to it but only manages to loop it up rather than away, Pulisic is on the ball and reacts, keeping the ball in by the right by line. He delivers the ball across the box again, this time low all the way across to Hudson-Odoi, he hits it 1st time and the ball skims off the outside of the post and goes wide, positive start, just what we needed after how badly we played in the last game. But then it dries up, Bournemouth have the lions share of the possession and we don't create much of anything.

On 25 minutes Jorginho goes in for a tackle on Lewis Cook halfway inside the Bournemouth half, he appears to win the ball but catch some of the man, Cook retaliates, not happy with the physicality of the challenge and goes in 2 footed. Jon Moss sends him off. From the resulting free kick James whips the ball in, Pulisic makes a nuisance of himself and stops Ake from heading clear, the ball comes all the way through to Batman who volley's back across goal and drills it into the top left corner. I tell the players to spread the play wider hoping to make the most of the man advantage and 3 minutes later Batman rises highest to head home from a Pulisic cross to double our lead. 9 minutes later he beats the Bournemouth defence to a low cross from Hudson-Odoi at the left post, his touch hits the post and dribbles along the goal line until he reacts 1st and finishes it with a tap in.

The game at this point feels over as a contest, to add insult to injury just before half time David Luiz stands over a free kick, left of centre, he goes for goal and the ball for the 3rd time today strikes the Bournemouth left hand post, it comes out perfectly straight, Batman is following in but before he can get to the ball Callum Wilson slides in from behind, it's a penalty if he doesn't get the ball, but he does and the ball goes past Begovic who had committed to saving the initial free kick and we are 4-0 up at the break.

At halftime I don't say anything to the players, this second half seems like a free hit for us, I change the formation to the 4-2-3-1 and move us from attacking to very attacking, I've played enough games where you run riot in 1 half then switch off in the other, I didn't want that to happen here, the 3-0 loss to Liverpool had zeroed our goal difference and I wanted it rebuilding. I brought Willian on for Kovacic.

Two well worked goals exploiting the space around their area took us to 6-0 and from 6th to 3rd by virtue of improved goal difference, however a Wilson header from a corner and a soft Arter penalty saw them draw the 2nd half, and saw us finish in 5th. I told the players they had played excellently as they had, much improved from the Anfield debacle  

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After our lacklustre showing against Leicester in real life I was not overly looking forward to playing against them away in my next game.

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They only sat 2 places behind us in the table, but that was slightly deceptive as we sat 5th but only 1 point off going top. They had "shocked" the league by beating Spurs 2-0 so they weren't going to be a push over.

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I downloaded my season update before Maguire went to Utd so he is still here, looks a solid team, the right mix of experience and youthful talent that could see them do well.

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We are away, so while we are still favourites and favour an attacking mindset, my personnel choices hope to keep it tight. Bakayoko, Alonso and Azpilicueta are all more defensive options, while due to his hat trick in the last game Batman starts.

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Not sure why Sutton Coldfield gets "The Royal Town of" in front of it's name.

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Another frustrating game, a lot more like the Liverpool game than the Bournemouth game, makes me wonder what the Bournemouth result might have been if they hadn't been reduced to 10 men. Anyway, we started brightly, on the front foot, though that suited their counter attacking style and the game was very very open. I expected if they were going to score they would do so on the break, but their 1st goal came from patient build up on the right, with an Albrighton cross to the far post Grey had a tap in. I demanded more, and got an instant response. Anything they could do, we could do, Pulisic burst down the right and delivered a looping cross to the back post where Hudson-Odoi smashed in with a volley to draw us level. 

The game continued to be very open, both of us creating chances, they seemed to want to shoot from anywhere. 35 minutes played and Christensen plays a half clearance half hopeful ball forward, it looks like it is destined to sail out for a goal kick and the Leicester defence give up on it, not Hudson-Odoi who beats the ball to the byline and cuts it back. Batman has got across Maguire at the near post and easily slots home. There are a few more scares with Vardy and Maddison drifting around our defence and causing problems but they can't find a break through before halftime.

At the break I inform them we need to be vigilant now as the game is far from over, I send us out balanced but it doesn't seem to be able to halt the Leicester attacking threat and so I retreat even further to a cautious mentality. They keep threatening and probing away but it seems finally we have enough players staying back to remove the threat of Vardy running in behind and causing problems that way. On 55 minutes they have a corner, we unceremoniously lump it clear and I expect Leicester to recycle it and come again, but Batman has other ideas, he chases the ball down into the left channel and drives on towards the box. He puts a low deep cross through the area, but there's nobody there. Pulisic appears busting a gut to keep the ball in play, he doesn't take a touch and pings the ball back across the box, the defence has been pulled to the right, Batman has drifted left and has an unopposed tap in at the back post to give us daylight.

I bring us back to defensive and I have a problem, Bakayoko and Kante are knackered, Kante more so, Bakayoko goes into central midfield and Jorginho comes on as a deep lying playmaker to defend. Ten minutes later Christensen is flagging and I replace him with Zouma. The Leicester attack is now relentless, but I have zero interest in increasing our mentality and allowing them to cut through us on the break. On 86 minutes some slick passing in the midfield frees Maddison into the area, he slots neatly past Kepa and I begin to worry. I demand some more concentration from the players as I want them to see this through, however everyone is knackered and Jorginho is just not the defensive presence in front of our back four that either Kante or Bakayoko is. 

To be fair to them there was little they could do about the 3rd goal, they had kept it tight and limited Leicester to hopeless punts into the area which we continued to head clear, one such clearance fell to Mendy and with what was almost the last kick of the game, he unleashed a screamer that shot past Kepa into the top right corner. 

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Champions League time! which is the competition I am most concerned about, I think over the process of the season I will be ok in the domestic league and be able to fulfil the required expectation of getting into the Champions League next season. However to do that AND get to the Quarter Final of this seasons competition seems like a lot of work. Maybe it's just the word "final" that sets me on edge, with a kind draw after the group stages it could be entirely possible, maybe it's just that unknown of who you could get that determines whether you make the grade or not!

Anyway, that is a long way away, for now we have our 1st group game, and why not get the hardest (hopefully) out of the way 1st with Juventus away

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Not shocked that we are not favourites, and definitely cannot argue with the inconsistent form. They on the other hand have played 4 won 4 in their league.

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£127! cheap at half the price!

 

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Buffon is injured, but that seems to be the only big name missing. That front 3 is terrifying, not sure Emre Can is worthy of being in this team, at home I might be able to exploit a lack of pace in their central defence but unlikely away from home.

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So I modified the 4-2-3-1 formation to hopefully make us much more solid, Bakayoko and Kante provide much needed central cover, with my defensive wing backs being picked over the likes of Emerson and Reece James. Giroud is picked to give us an out ball, and to hopefully provide the ability to hold the ball up if we have any chance of getting anything on the break.

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This is one time I am overjoyed with a 0-0 draw, a point away against the hardest team in the group, fantastic. We held a lot of the ball but didn't do much with it, which is fine by me, a lot of the time we progressed up the field to have the ball taken off us. We however restricted them to not so many chances, Ronaldo had a few half chance headers that he put over the bar, all in all we contained them well, they resorted to fouling us in order to try get the ball back. In the other game in the group Celtic got the job done away from home against Genk winning 0-1. All to play for moving forward

 

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After the glamour of our tough European away day it's back to the normal grind of the day to day domestic season.

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Two inconsistent teams, struggling to maintain form, though I'd like to say again that I am more than happy with our last draw away in Italy

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As usual Emerson comes in for a more attacking home set up, Willian has complained about a lack of play time and so he starts. Mount, Kovacic and Jorginho and all nursing one complaint or another and thus Bakayoko keeps his holding role even though we are at home.

 

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That looks defensive!

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These last minute goals are killing me! points dropped at Leicester away and now home to Wolves, we seem less and less sure of ourselves the longer the game goes on. If we stay on the front foot we are wide open to being countered and if we are more cautious then we look a lot less tight than I would like. It smarts they scored with their only shot on target, a last ditch hail mary into the box that Bonatini got his head to.

But then it's our own fault for not making our possession and chances on target count. Right from the start when I saw their formation I switched us from narrow to wide, and from underlapping to overlapping in order to spread their defence. Our crosses into the box didn't result in much other than pushing their centre backs deeper, which freed up space on the edge of the box. For our goal Kante exploited that space collecting a half clearance and burying it in the bottom right hand corner. We tried kick on, but other than an intense 15 minute period where we put them to the sword and forced a few last ditch saves we didn't really make the most of the amount of ball we had. That is now 3 draws in a row in all competitions...

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As usual the Carabao cup is not a priority for the board but with our results the way they have been we need a win in this competition to give us a lift. That said having been drawn against Championship opposition I intend to give the second string / younger players a run out.

 

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I've been favourites in too many games where we haven't delivered but here's hoping!

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Formations wise we match up like for like, which I secretly hope means our quality will tell in key positions on the pitch. I must admit I stupidly left Kepa in for the 1st half, I intended to play Blackman from the start, I ended up wasting a substitution to bring him on at half time. Only Bakayoko and Willian keep their places, the former out of necessity seen as Jorginho is still not recovered and the later because he complained. The back four is a complete change with back up players getting a chance to shine. Drinkwater is my best reserve in the box to box midfielder role, while with Pedro injured Kenedy is my backup left winger. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been adding to his resume by training to play as a striker, the back room staff have informed me he needs more match practice in this area, so he gets the nod.

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Am delighted we won! and even more delighted that Ruben marked his first start up front with a goal. A wonderful back to near post dart from a corner and a deft flick header to finish. The inability to hang onto a lead seems to have permeated into the whole squad. Having gone ahead from an Alonso free kick I hoped that would be it, but Kachunga had other ideas, to go in level at the break was not what I had wanted at all.

Kachunga obviously got too fired up by his goal and came out with a studs up horror tackle pretty much straight from the kick off. From that point on it was simply a matter of time, we stretched the play, and Kenedy found space on the left of the box from a Willian cross field pass from the right, and he smashed home a low volley to put us ahead for the 3rd time. After that I shut up shop and the contest was over.

 

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Final league  game of the month sees us away at Crystal Palace, but before we get to that, our win against Huddersfield put us into the hat for the 4th round of the Carabao Cup, meaning I get a chance to redeem myself and start Jamal Blackman in goal. The draw looks like this

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Once again we dodge Man City by a single game. Only 5 non Premier League teams in the draw and 3 of them get the chance at a lucrative pay day against top flight opposition, only Cardiff against Leeds guarantees a lower league club into the next round. As always with the cup competitions I would take the easiest draw I could get, however West Ham is far from the hardest and is quite acceptable. This however is less than acceptable.

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I am yet to have a save where we stay in!

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I don't really want to be 7th, but the number of points we are giving away to late equalisers means if we are not careful that might be the spot we are languishing in as the teams above us begin to pull away. I am under no delusion after the spanking Liverpool gave us that we won't be challenging for the title.

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Zaha down the middle is an interesting choice, though it is Jordan Ayew who is their top goal scorer with 4. Dos Santos seems to be the main route of delivery for them to getting anything out of a game and needs to be watched carefully.

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Davide Zappacosta is the latest player to complain about game time and thus starts, my 1st choice centre back pairing returns, though I grumble that David Luiz is my 1st choice anything, however he hasn't put a foot wrong personally, of course defensively we are putting many feet wrong so far. Alonso the more defensive option comes in on the left, Bakayoko stays in to give us some bite at the base of midfield. Batshuayi gets the nod ahead of Abraham with him having scored two more goals.

 

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This season is going to be rather interesting, is all I can say after that game! A win is a win, but it didn't fill me with any kind of deep joy. We (as usual) started brightly, winning dangerous free kicks and getting good balls into the box but with no end product. Our 1st goal came from a Palace throw, the commentary staple of "It seems quite difficult to throw the ball to a member of your own team," rang in my ears as Mason Mount slipped in and chested down their throw in and cut in diagonally towards the box. He didn't get there, a good 5 yards out he released his shot, which at first looked horribly tame, which it probably was, but it was placed and curling and the keeper had no chance, top corner, beautiful goal 1-0.

Their equaliser was frustrating, I had Dos Santos and Ayew both singled out before the game for special treatment, they were the threat and it needed containing. We failed to do exactly that. Palace worked an overlap on the right and Dos Santos delivered a near post cross, Ayew got across the box and slotted home before the defender or Kepa had a chance of cutting out the ball. 1-1

At halftime I didn't like what was becoming a recurring theme, we didn't seem capable of holding onto a lead, or finishing off teams when we went ahead, talk about art imitating life... I sent them out having told them I was pissed off and they did better in the second half, but with no real break through. On 60 minutes I had had enough, I brought off Hudson-Odoi and Bakayoko who had both been booked and Batshuayi who had been poor. I swapped Willian to left wing, which he doesn't really like but he can suck it up if he wants to play and I introduced Pulisic, Kovacic and Abraham. Now I had a deep lying playmaker at the base of the midfield and some fresh legs up front. It took 6 minutes to retake the lead. Willian, who had produced little to nothing on the right, came alive on the left, he went on a mazy run from the halfway line before slotting home under the Palace keeper. From then we took our foot off and closed out the game, they didn't look like getting back into it, but then neither really had Wolves, a "trademark" Kante shot from outside the area saw the 3 points secured though I would have liked it earlier in the game than that.

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At the end of September we sit 4th, however if we don't improve there is little to stop us from landing anywhere between 4th and 9th. Arsenal have a chance to open up a slight gap between us and the top 3. Realistically if we want to meet the board requirement for Champions League football next season our most likely chance is to get their in 4th, as I don't see us getting any higher unless we really kick on and churn out results.

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October is a three competition month, which usually sees me being knocked out of the Carabao Cup as the other games take priority. Getting results against Genk and Celtic would go a long way to getting us through the Champions League group, as I am optimistic that neither of them will go to Turin and get a result. Man Utd at home is a big game, if we keep knocking down the team directly behind us in 5th then hopefully we can never drop out of 4th!

 

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