A.J. Auxerre: Season 2

To say our first season was a success would be somewhat of an understatement. We finished 8 positions higher predicted, winning Ligue 2 on the final day. I was looking for a 5th or 6th place finish. We were top of the league at the winter break so I had to aim higher. Now we’re facing a big step up in terms of opposition, Ligue 1 will be a bigger and tougher test.

Transfers

With us gaining promotion a couple of years earlier than expected, we needed to do some serious strengthening. We may have won the league, but we lacked experience and quality. I was handed a £2.5m budget for summer transfers. We were a couple of million pounds in debt, so I had to accept that I wasn’t going to get anymore money. I also had nobody that was expendable and/or worth a decent amount of money that could boost that up a bit. I was going bargain hunting. I wanted to try to not spend all of that money.

My priorities were centre back, left back, attacking midfielder and a striker. Defence was the big one as I thought we switched off easily last season. I have a set of attributes that I always look for in centre backs. Anticipation/Concentration/Positioning/Strength/Jumping. I need all of those to be of a good level. Everybody has their own preferences. Some like to focus on the main blue highlighted attributes, that’s cool, but these are mine. I found a few centre backs, but this guy fitted the bill and was well within budget. Josué (CB) was my most expensive signing of the summer at £800k.

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Finding another left back seemed more of a struggle. In hindsight, I probably paid over the odds for what I got. Especially on wages. Mavinga cost me £550k.

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My final transfer was an attacking midfielder. I use a Trequartista behind my strikers, so I needed someone quite technical, but with good vision and decision making. I think I lucked out with this guy as his technical attributes are really quite good. He only cost me £550k from FC Porto. Josué (AM) could end up being one of the guys that I sell at some point for a nice little profit. Time will tell.

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Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, there wasn’t enough money to bring in a striker. I tried to sign Maupay from St. Etienne on loan, however, they couldn’t loan anyone else to other domestic clubs. I wanted to sign Kevin Bérigaud from Montpellier, but he was out of our price range. One or both of these guys would have been great additions. I scoured the free transfer market for a possible bargain, but I was foiled. Nobody was out there that I could sign to improve the team. I stuck with what I had and crossed my fingers.

Club

Last season we were averaging attendances of around the 6,000 mark which left our stadium pretty empty for most games. It was the second division though, so I expected things to improve once promotion was achieved. In pre-season, we managed to sell 7,778 season tickets, over three times as many as last year when we sold 2,580. I know that doesn’t mean I should expect the stadium to be three times as full… but it did! In fact, our average attendance was nearly 18,500 a game. The long term aim is to increase the capacity of the stadium, if we are successful, that is a real possibility.

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Financially, we started the season a few million pounds in debt. Not a something I’m happy about. The board gave me a small budget to work with. I tried to keep spending down as best I could. It makes staying in Ligue 1 all the more important.

We’ve been unable to improve any facilities due to the financial situation. I think they’re good though and when we have money, that should push them towards the top categories.

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I’ve not been able to fill out my youth coach allocation just yet due to a few factors. Reputation and finances dictate it mainly, but not finding the right calibre of coaching staff is another reason. I want a particular kind of youth coach and none are available, so I’ll play the waiting game with that.

Ligue 1

We were predicted to finish 17th in our debut Ligue 1 season. Our transfer activity and pre season had given me hope that we could do slightly better than that, but my goal was to retain our status in the top flight.

Our campaign started well, winning 4, drawing 2 and losing 1 of our first seven matches, We managed some great victories, beating PSG 3-1 in Paris being a particular highlight, but we found consistency a problem over the course of the season. Injuries were also not to kind to us at times. We were in among the European spots for a lot of the season, peaking at 3rd in the league.

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In the second half of the season, our threadbare squad really suffered. We lost 8 games in the second half of the season which put a real dampener on things. We did manage a couple of good results, 3-1 against Marseille and 2-0 over Lyon, but these sort of results were sandwiched between terrible defeats to Troyes and bottom of table Nancy.

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Overall, the campaign was a great success. We managed to finish in 6th position and in the end, we claimed a Europa League spot due to someone above me winning a cup.

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Our record wasn’t bad, but defensively, we weren’t the best. Something that will need improving next season. We conceded a lot from set plays this season, 8 from corners and 4 from indirect free kicks. I never really worry about direct free kicks as I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do about them. I’ll look at our set piece setup for next year.

Team/Players

We had a decent youth intake again this year. Bruni has been singled out as the star, although I’m not so sure yet. I decided to keep this bunch though.

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I mentioned Loïc Agobian in my last update. I had a lot of teams chasing him during that summer and I decided I’d keep him. The highest offer I had was £7m from Arsenal. The money was very tempting, but I think in time, he’s going to be the captain of this team. I left him in the U19’s for a while last season, but I eventually moved him into the first team and had him tutored by Gael Givet who had a Resolute personality. It worked well and helped Agobian improve. His mental attributes for a 16 year old are scary.

He made his debut on his 16th birthday in Coupe de France game against MDA Chasselay. 25 days later in the 3-2 defeat at Nantes, he became the youngest goalscorer in Ligue 1 history.

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He ended up making 6 starts and 10 substitute appearances, scoring 2 and creating 2. Comparing him to last year really shows how much he’s come on in 12 months. I’ve included his growth chart as well.

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Aguilar was our best player again this season, with Courtet bagging top scorer for the second season in a row. Courtet was second highest scorer in Ligue 1.

Josué and Josué performed well in their first season. Josué (CB) was an assured performer, which was lucky as Givet’s performances really dropped off. Josué (AM) was great, creating 13 goals and scoring 5. A couple of more goals next season would be great.

Milevskyi managed 13 goals this year as Adama Ba broke his leg early in the season. A striking reinforcement is a must this year though.

Mavinga was a bit of a disappointment and he was sold on.

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Conclusion

We massively overachieved this season. I think that’s an understatement, especially considering the lack of signings we made. There’s definitely room for improvement next year. I think hitting these heights next year will be difficult, I suspect we can improve other aspects of our performances, set pieces especially.

Some players are reaching the end of their time here, Diaw and Puygrenier are retiring at the end of the season, while I suspect Givet will be allowed to leave.

Due to our financial situation, it’s unlikely that we’ll have a big transfer budget. Again I’ll be looking for some good free transfers and players that can improve the first team. There’s a couple of players from the youth squad that I can use to supplement the first team if needed. A centre back is top priority along with a new striker and centre midfielder.

Hopefully our financial situation will improve over the course of the season and we can get out of debt as we’re currently £2.8m in the red.

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