In the previous instalment I left you off with us sitting atop the French league heading into the January transfer window, although things were beginning to look far from comfortable for us as Thomas Lemar has been ruled out for the entirety of the season meaning there was a gap in the AM role of our front 4. With £15 million set aside for a replacement we advanced into January.
Francisco Geraldes was the name put forward to me by my scouts to be a potential solution for the void left by Lemar’s injury. A talented, skillful young Portuguese U21 international Geraldes looked to be a player fit for the role. Sporting originally held strong with the Lisbon based club refusing to lose someone they labelled to be one of many talented players at the club. However, the lure of stepping into the French league had attracted Francisco who quickly submitted an official transfer request allowing us to snap him up for a flat £10 million. With Moutinho ageing it’s also possible that Geraldes will be fit to move into the DLP-D role once Lemar recovers from injury, but for the remainder of the season he’ll look to open up opposition defences from the front line.
This signing left us with £5 million in the transfer kitty heading into deadline day, and it was only then that my attention was brought to Velez wonderkid Maximiliano Romero who was subject of a £5.5 million bid from Sporting; triggering his contractual release clause. Having already signed one of their players, we once again looked to frustrate the Portuguese club as we pipped them to the signing of Romero with the young Argentinian preferring the move to the principality.
Romero himself was quickly shipped off to Hoffenheim where he’ll spend the remainder of the season on loan as we are unable to fit him into our squad due to the maximum number of 4 non-EU nationalities already being met, but he certainly gives us options going forwards.
With all contracts extended and our budgets exhausted, Monaco were officially done in the market for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.
Having been 8 points ahead of Paris Saint-Germain at the turn of the calendar year we were favourites for the title, and it is with great pleasure to me that we lived up to the tag and were able to lift the Ligue 1 title for the first time since 1999/2000, the 8th in total. In the end things weren’t so comfortable as we ground out the results and manage to end up with a 4 point gap between ourselves and PSG, although with the title already won we did opt for youth players towards the end which caused us to drop a couple of points.
Lyonnais will be joining us in the Champions League while Rennes and Nice occupy the Europa League spaces. Bordeaux were relegated with a meagre 29 points while a late goal allowed Marseille to leapfrog Ajaccio into the play-off place, where they beat Ligue 2 side Troyes 5-2 on aggregate to retain their top flight status.
Most disappointing for us was the fact that we conceded 11 more goals in what proved to be a less concrete defensive unit although the attacking half of the pitch did see us find the net an extra 16 times meaning we took the title of being the top scorers in the division. Despite the extra goals conceded we did manage to lose one less game (4) and beat last season’s record of points (87) by securing 94 points throughout the season, breaking the club record for the second year in a row.
A net spend of only half of our closest competitors and yet we still managed to pip them to the title, tactics reign supreme!
The 2017/18 campaign proved to once again be a frustrating one for us in the Coupe de France as we slipped to a penalty defeat against A.S.M Belfort (1-1) despite bringing on our “big guns” in an attempt to overturn the deficit, it was a particularly poor performance and one that our board were justly upset about. PSG eventually went on to win the competition, beating Angers in the final 2-0.
The Coupe de la Ligue on the other hand proved to be ours once again as we beat Angers in the Final 4-1 to lift the trophy for the second consecutive season. Prior to this season Angers had never appeared in a major Cup Final and now they’ve lost two in a row, devastating. Germain lived up to his experience and found the back of the net three times in the Final to give us the honours at the Matmut Atlantique on a warm March evening.
UEFA Champions League
Last season we faced the humiliation of picking up only 3 out of a possible 18 points in our group stage before sliding into the Europa League knock out places. This season was a much brighter one for us in Europe as we overcame our group stage with ease before beating Bayer Leverkusen in the opening knockout round. Manchester United faced us once again in the Quarter-Finals although the English side were far too good for us as they romped to a 5-0 aggregate victory, extremely disappointing for us but generally a much better run in the competition.
United went on to reach the Final where they lost to Bayern Munich on penalties following a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes of play. This result may not seem significant for us at first glance, but the loss meant that we missed out on a £6.5 million windfall due to a transfer clause in Anthony Martial’s contract that I previously had no knowledge about. So close!
The Youth Side
Last year we saw players such as Pickeu, Heloise and Vieira come through our intake, all of whom have gone on to start their development very well with the recent exception of Heloise who suffered a horrendous leg break, but this year was another year in which we hoped to see some bright talent come through the academy doors.
Once again, we weren’t disappointed. Two players in particular caught my eye with both Romain Fontaine (GK) and Timothe David (DM) looking like they are capable of growing into exceptional young talents. We’ll get straight onto developing them as we look to bring through the very best youngsters to maintain a bright future for the club.
Away from the intake, our U19s and Reserves both went on to win their respective leagues with our U19s managing to go unbeaten throughout the entire season. They were knocked out of the UEFA Youth League following a 4-0 loss to Barcelona, but the future looks bright for our young lads (I took the reserves screenshot too early but they did win it).
With the end of the season having been reached we were brought to the annual awards ceremony in which the best and brightest talents of Ligue 1 are rewarded for their fine form. While I’m not going to talk you through all of the awards, our lads did well and we were able to take home a bunch of awards with yours truly being awarded ‘Manager of the Year’ for the first time in my short career.
Above is a slideshow that will show you through all of the annual awards, for those of you who are keen to see who won each of the respective awards for the league.
Apologies for the poor cropping, but here’s a look at the fans ‘Team of the Season‘ for us alongside our seasonal stats. As you can see, we had no red cards throughout the entire campaign although several players did serve suspensions for an accumulation of bookings. Mbappe led the line with 24 goals and a 7.52 average rating while West Ham reject Jonathan Calleri assisted 15 times from the CF-S position. A great season.
During the transfer windows we moved on several players and brought a few in. Overall I’d say the signings we made were hugely successful, especially Jonathan Calleri who really shone in the CF-S role, linking up excellently with our attacking midfielders. Between the sticks Danijel Subasic only managed to keep 12 clean sheets compared to 23 last season and is already a position I’ve identified as being ‘weak’ compared to the rest of our squad, although he still had a good season with all sides considered. Stefan de Vrij who joined in the Summer had a superb season with the Dutchman averaging a 7.39 match rating from his 34 appearances. A grumpy Bernardo Silva managed to maintain a good record of assisting and scoring in virtually every game he appeared in while Valere Germain recovered from a 3 month injury to finish the season with 16 goals.
Above is an image where you can view the statistics of our first-team squad when organised via positions, with every player managing no less than 724 minutes for the first-team throughout the season as we aimed to rotate on a regular basis.
A few players failed to impress me throughout the season. Above I mentioned that Subasic had a poor season in comparison to our runners-up campaign, but there was also players like Sebastien Haller who failed to find the net and generally put in a poor shift when called upon. Moutinho and Romero both struggled to find goals and assists from the DLP-D role which is leading me to rethink my tactical approach going forwards.
We’ll also be looking to move on the likes of Boschilia, Glik and Jorge with the latter not developing as quickly as I had hoped for while also taking up one of our 4 Non-EU registration slots. Boschilia is slowly finding himself lower down the pecking order and with youngsters like Bongiovianni coming through I really want to focus on giving him more game time, while Glik has reached the ripe old age of 30 and will be moved on before he begins to decline (With Moutinho looking nervously over his shoulder). We’re a selling club after all and we have to think about the future.
Bernardo Silva is still giving me plenty of complications. He has spent the entirety of the season moaning and looking for a move but has been good when called upon, so good that his value has risen to £46 million. At first I hoped he would ‘get over’ his teenage-esque strop but it seems we might have to consider moving him on, with Manchester City circling like a shark.
Going into next season we’ll be looking to retain our status as Champions while hopefully doing equally well, if not better in the Champions League. Our Under 19s and Reserves have been playing very well and I’ll be looking to promote the best of the best, potentially to give them a shot of proving their worth in the first-team. A couple more signings and I feel we’ll have a good enough squad to compete on all fronts while looking forward to a bright and prosperous future with our academy going strong.
I will now leave you with a commercial summary and seasonal review to round off this long, drawn out post about the second half of Season Two. The Summer will see both the World Cup (Russia 2018) and a busy transfer window. I hope you’re looking as forward as I am to seeing who we’ll be signing and who will be leaving the Stade Louis II.
Thanks for reading.