Reigning Champions…Nine points clear at the turn of the calendar year…It seemed things were shaping up to be anything but a challenge in retaining our Ligue 1 title and we looked full of confidence, but did we manage to maintain our run? First of all let’s run through the January arrivals…
First up is a player I’m sure many of you are familiar with in the shape of Mexican wide-man Hirving Lozano, the former Pachuca player joins us for a fee of £7.5 million as we look to strengthen in the wide areas going forwards. Bernardo Silva was influencial out on the right side of the pitch and I’ll be hoping for similar performances from Lozano who can operate out on either wing. Generally I’m happy with the transfer, he’s young and adds a lot of quality in depth for us.
The final January arrival see’s Florentino Luis make the switch from Benfica to Monaco with the young Portuguese midfielder arriving for a sum of £6.5 million, although this may eventually rise to £9 million. Fabino and Bakayoko have been attracting a lot of interest from bigger clubs and I’m only going to be able to resist the tabled bids for so long, and so Luis gives us a bit more security in the central midfield areas. He became unsettled at Benfica and we swooped in for him, almost like vultures.
The turn of the calendar year saw us sitting unbeaten and nine points above our closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain and having won our first title last season (Under my reign), it was looking all but certain that we’d be reclaiming the honour come the end of May.
However, Football Manager is an absolute bastard when it comes to maintaining a run of form throughout both halves of the season. Both our defensive and attacking prowess went to garbage and we managed to lift the title on the final day, pipping PSG to the trophy by a single point (Although we did set a new record haul of 99 points!). The unbeaten run lasted up until the away fixture in Paris where a sole goal from Javier Pastore was enough to end our hopes of an ‘invincibles‘ season.
Back in December we’d only conceded 5 goals in the league but ended May with 22 conceded, which pays testament to how poor we were in the second half of the season. Some strengthening and some tactical tweaks will hopefully get us back to our best as we’ll be looking to lift our 3rd French title on the bounce.
We entered the second half of the season competing in only one of the two domestic cup competitions, that being the Coupe de France, a trophy I haven’t yet managed to get my grubby fingers on. Could we do it this year?
No, no we couldn’t. We managed to make it all the way up to semi-final stage before being beaten thanks to a Moussa Sissoko strike away in Lyon. I’m a bit gutted, but I like to think we’ll be lifting the trophy eventually, it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ after all…
It’s quite demotivating when the board don’t really care for the cup competitions, I feel like it transmits to the players who often put in more of a lazy, lethargic performance and this means that teams who are more hungry and bothered about the cup competitions just breeze past us. Pretty frustrating.
UEFA Champions League
The 2017/18 season was one in which we managed to make it into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League before bowing out thanks to a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Mourinho’s Manchester United, and having been drawn up against Arsenal I was already feeling quite pessimistic, I bloody hate English teams.
The first-knockout stage? That’s as far as we could make it and to be quite honest I’m a little bit upset by that, it’s a real backwards step for us. But let’s talk a bit about the two matches, shall we?
First of all, we had SIX clear cut chances away at the Emirates and didn’t manage to score a single one before that sod that is Mesut Oezil put one past us in the dying embers of the match and in my head we’d already lost the tie by that point, you could just tell…
We brought them back to Stade Louis II where we started off being the better team by a country mile, that was until Wesley Hoedt decided to lunge in two-footed on Sanchez to earn himself an early bath, we were doomed. However, Jemerson managed to get us on the score-sheet and I threw my hand up in excitement, were we going to pull off the biggest upset of our season? You better well bloody believe we wouldn’t, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain almost instantaneously went up the other end and scored, knocking us out of the Champions League in the process.
I’m writing this post up before we’ve even hit June meaning the Europa and Champs League finals haven’t yet been played, but honestly does it really matter? Arsenal went one stage further before falling to Barcelona, who themselves have made it to the Final where they’ll be facing Bayern Munich. Shock. At least PSG didn’t win it…
The Youth Section
Generally the youth intake has become one of my favourite days in the entirety of the seasonal cycle, we get to see which youngsters come through those big, pine academy doors, and usually there are some bloomin’ good ones too. What makes it even more exciting for me is that we’re a selling club, so these players give us a glimpse into what sort of future transfer activity we may be conducting, it’s pretty interesting!
Odair Delgado (RB) and Serge Cols (AMC) are the best of the bunch for the 2019 intake with both players having real promise and potential while the rest of the youngsters are average, if not below it. They’ll both join an already stacked youth side who have gone on to become the best in France in recent years and as such I’ll really be looking for these two to add more quality and depth to that developing side.
The U19’s won the league again although this time they didn’t manage to go the year unbeaten. The reserves on the other hand finished in 4th place but with most of their players being loaned out, I can’t say I’m too surprised by it.
But the U19’s managed to go one step further this time and won the UEFA Youth League, beating Barcelona U19’s 2-0 in the Final! Absolutely delighted, we currently have the strongest youth side in Europe, although they did lose in the U19’s French Cup Final as well…
Despite lifting less silverware our team has generally managed to do very well in terms of performance on the pitch, and development off of it.
Rulli managed to keep 19 clean sheets in the league which for him has been very good for his debut season in France while Mbappe and Calleri continued their fantastic partnership picking up 33 goals and 22 assists between them throughout the year. But it was Thomas Lemar who really shone brightly for us this season, the Frenchman led the way with 22 goals, 19 of those coming the league while also picking up 9 assist points along the way, he’s a fantastic talent and I really do hope we can keep him around to be part of our future success.
But with top performances and top performers there also comes those who have failed to live up to expectations. Maximiliano Romero laboured to a 6.98 average rating throughout the season although I’m going to put this down to him being young and inexperienced, but will be hoping for much more next season if he’s to stay at this club. Adrien Bongiovianni once again struggled to break into the first-team and with no clubs wanting to loan him he’s beginning to put me in quite a difficult position, something to think about during the off-season. Although I’m happy to say almost every player managed a 7.00 or higher average rating.
I’ve already noted down a few names of players I’ll be possibly looking to move on. Captiain Valere Germain is getting older and playing less and less often, so keeping him at the club for sentimental value is becoming less and less viable for us. Francisco Geraldes is another player who really hasn’t given me a reason to think he’s a good fit for the club, he gets good ratings but doesn’t seem to have any end product and is quite wasteful during matches. Finally, German Pezzella found himself on the bench more and more often throughout the season, so it’s likely he’ll be moved on as well in a bid to raise more funds.
The budget for the transfer window currently sits at £71 million.
Well, it’s the same goal as it was last season. We need to look to retain our title for the third successive season but we’ll also be looking to progress more in terms of our competitiveness in Europe. This season has been a fairly disappointing one in places and it’s led to me coming across quite angry, so I’m hoping for a better, happier time next season. More youth will be promoted as we look to bring through the best young talent at the club.
Once again I’ll leave you with the commercial summary and the seasonal review. I’d like to thank everybody for reading and although this post is less information and a bit grumpier, I felt the need to keep you all informed on how we’re doing.