My aim for the season was to qualify for the Champions League. It was one goal I had to set and one that I deemed a bit of a challenge due to the other teams that were competing for those spots. For some reason, I thought Germany only got three CL spots, but I was wrong. Fourth spot was achievable.
I like that Germany only has one cup competition. it’s something I think could be adopted in the likes of England and France. The season always kicks off with the 1st round of the DFB-Pokal. It was a bit of a struggle as we negotiated a penalty shoot-out win over Bielefeld, worryingly, I actually played my full first team as I expected an easy ride. Two months later was the second round tie again FSV Frankfurt which we negotiated with a comfortable 4-1 victory before Bayern Munich dumped us out in the third round with a 3-0 defeat at the Allianz Arena.
UEFA Europa League
I was handed a decent group in the Europa League. Trips to Serbia, France and Russia were on the cards, tough places to go, but I expected to qualify. The first game against Partizan saw us fall behind within the first 5minutes. We nicked an equaliser before half-time. A quick angry team-talk lead to three goals in five minutes to put us 4-1 up. A couple of late goals saw the tie out comfortably. Two 2-0 away victories against Saint-Étienne and CSKA Moscow were followed up with 4-1 and 3-2 victories over CSKA and Partizan respectively. Saint-Étienne spoiled my 100% group record when they beat me in the final game.
The knockout stage drew us against Bulgarians, Ludogorets. A Choupo-Moting goal secured the first tie 1-0. They capitalised on our poor home display to win the tie 2-2 on away goals and go through to the next round.
We started well in the league. Picking up victories over Köln and Wolfsburg. Bayern is always a tough game and they handed us our first defeat of the season. Defeat seemed to inspire us at this state of the season as we marched onto a nine match winning streak, which included seven games without conceding and scoring 30 goals. In amongst that streak we picked up impressive victories over Hoffenheim, Leverkusen and Dortmund. We finished the year off as winter champions, on goal difference!
The second part of the season usually starts off a bit dodgy. A defeat against Köln and a 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg were ok results considering how they were performing in the league, but it was a bit disappointing compared to how things were going. Bayern capitalised on us dropping points. A nice little four game winning streak was ended when we fell to a late defeat at Leverkusen. We made up for it by smashing Dortmund 6-0 in the Revierderby.
As we got closer to the end of the season, we confirmed our top four status and achievement of qualifying for the Champions League. We never lost another game after Leverkusen but ultimately, it wasn’t enough to finish the season as champions.
Overall, we had a better than expected campaign. Dortmund were very poor, as were Leverkusen. Both teams sacked their managers. As you can see, we managed to outscore Bayern. Always a positive.
As you’d expect, there were a couple of player points over the course of the season. Players wanted new contracts as they improved. I offered Meyer a new contract as he was playing well and had a low release clause in his contract. This prompted Goretzka to ask for a new deal to match Meyer’s. No problem.
At the start of December, Höwedes wanted a chat as Bayern were interested in him due to his great performances. I talked to him and told him he had to stay. He asked why and I said “that’s just Höwedes.”
Problem resolved and he now has a healthy £40m release clause before I have to say yes.
I signed Andrija Zivkovic from Partizan in January. Other teams were circling him and I had him targetted for the summer. I could’ve signed him on a Bosman, but I stumped up £500k to get him in January so he’d be a bit more settled by the summer. He’s quite versatile and already looks like the type of player that can help the team. He made one start and 13 substitute appearance for me.
Overall, the team played very well. Caiçara, Höwedes and Sané were the top rated players in my team. The partnership of di Santo and Ben Yedder was good as they grabbed 49 goals between them. Disappointingly, Ben Yedder dipped massively after the Winter break, so I’ll have a decision to make on him.
Goretzka was playing well before injury ended his season in early March. A pretty solid season all round.
A couple of youngsters got chances in the team. Felix Platte, a young striker did well in the Pokal and Europa League. He got 8 goals and 7 assists. Thilo Kehrer also did well in the cups and started 13 games, even grabbing himself a goal. When Goretzka got injured, Ajer stepped up and performed admirably. His attributes grew steadily. His average rating is decent considering he made almost as many appearances from the bench as he did starts.
We got a pretty good youth intake this year, it’ll take a few years before we see the benefit of that though, so I will have to sign a couple of players this summer. I suspect one or two players will be leaving. Aogo and Uchida have already expressed an interest in leaving. Sidney Sam was also a bit disgruntled earlier in the season, so I suspect that’ll come up in the summer. Choupo-Moting is a player I’ll likely cash-in on as he’s a bit average and I would demand a decent fee.
Next year I’m aiming to be top four again. I should really be aiming to challenge for the title, but I’d rather make steady progress. Finishing runner-up in the Bundesliga was probably overachieving this year. Second or third would be good for us.
I do however, need to survive the upcoming Chairman election as Clemens Tönnies has decided to step down.