Often when teams survive the first year after promotion, the second year can be more difficult. It’ll be a tougher year for us as teams have a better idea of what to expect compared to when we were an unknown commodity.
I decided to change a couple of things about our style for this season as I don’t want to become a bit stale and predictable. Our shape is the same, but I’ve changed a some roles and instructions around.
Just like last season, we were in debt. It was clear that if a good offer came in for one of my players, I’d have to sell. I was given a £1.3m war chest and £30k p/w wage budget! Woohoo! I was scouring the free transfer market quite hard though and managed to find a couple of players that could help my cause. Unfortunately, Dennis Praet had other ideas about his career and decided to join West Brom. I was pretty gutted about missing out on him, but such is life. I did manage to land my other free transfer target though.
Thomas Heurtaux had let his contract run down at Udinese. I’d spotted him in the free transfer section in January, but had no money available to offer him a deal. He turned down a couple of offers from other clubs to sign for me. Being French was a bonus and at 28 years old, he’s getting into his prime defensive years. He’s not the tallest, but he’s got the attributes I look for in a centre back. Done deal!
After I’d sealed the Heaurtaux transfer, some bids came in and a couple of players were sold. 22 year old François-Xavier Fumu Tamuzo was sold for £925k. He’s a winger and since I don’t use wingers, he was expendable.
The next player to leave was my goalkeeper, Zacharie Boucher. Watford had bid earlier in the summer, but I declined their £4m offer. Another Premier League team, West Brom I think, put in an offer of about £2.5m which I also rejected. I had no real wiggle room in the transfer market though, so I decided if another offer came in, I’d accept. Watford came back and offered me £8m. There was no way I could turn that down. I’m also due another £825k after he makes 10 international appearances. He’s already the Réunion first choice, so I should get that by next season.
I only got to keep 35% of that money, but it gave me some cash, it took us out of debt and it also gave me another player to sign.
There’s actually a few good young French goalkeepers. I narrowed it down to two that I could afford and settled on 20 year old, Bingourou Kamara from Tours. He was their first choice last season. He’s young and has plenty of developmental years ahead of him. His attributes are pretty good for his age. He’s also been my most expensive signing at £2.4m.
With centre back and a new goalkeeper sorted, I moved onto midfield. As I said above, Praet rejected me for West Brom. I found a Polish midfielder at Sparta Praha called Mateusz Klich and decided I’d snap him up. He should be a bit more assured on the ball and give our midfield a bit more stability. He’s going to play as a deep lying playmaker and his skills suit the job I think. He’s 27 and cost me £900k.
I was short on money now and still wanted to get a new striker and another midfielder. It was time to search the loan market. I had no luck with a midfielder, but I did manage to sort out a striker in the form of Patrick Bamford. His last two loan spells were pretty unspectacular, so it was a risk, but I had little choice.
The season was under way by the time Klich and Bamford had signed. I’d all but given up hope of finding a midfielder, but I gave the free market one last push and found someone. Romanian, Omer Atsili was available after leaving Beitar Jerusalem at the end of his contract. He can play in the middle or behind the strikers, so it was killing two birds with one stone really. Looking at him, he’s pretty decent too. Surprised nobody else snapped him up.
Chris Mavinga left the club as I decided his wages weren’t worth the performances. He joined Nantes for £150k and I promoted a youngster to take his place.
Artem Milevskyi and Gaël Givet also left the club on free transfers as they were surplus to requirements. They certainly helped when they joined but I’d rather blood some of the younger players I have.
In January, Wolfsburg came calling for Samed Kiliç and he wanted to go. They offered £14m, which was a very good deal indeed. It lifted out financial situation. I had to sign a replacement, so I bought the best man I could find for the job, which was Lucas Romero. He cost me £5.5m as he’d been injured for 8months prior and had just come back. A risk, but I honestly hadn’t noticed his injury situation.
My transfer dealings cost me £9.5m and I raised over £22m through sales. I’ve beefed up the squad with some quality and trimmed some of the fat (Kiliç excluded).
With us having a little bit of money in the pot, I had to try and move things forward off the pitch. I made a couple of requests and the board agreed. The cost would be small to the club, but beneficial to the philosophy in place.
Our training and youth facilities definitely needed work, so once I’d qualified for the group stage of the Europa League, I made another request.
I also decided to hire a new assistant manager this summer. Yves Colleu joined in place of Alain Ravera. No other staff were replaced this year although I’m still looking to improve the U19 staff members.
Financially, we started the season £2m in the black, which is mainly down to the departure of Bouchard. Thank you Premier League TV Money!
I made new strips for the season, FM Samo mentioned that he loved the old Auxerre Kappa kit, so I made one with a modern look to it that I thought we’d use for a couple of years.
On the season ticket front, we sold 7,891, a slight improvement on last season’s 7,778. Average attendances did drop slightly though, down by about 2,000 this season.
Finishing 6th last season really blew my mind. I was expecting a tougher time this season though. Teams will know what we’re about now and will respect us a bit more. I was still aiming for a top half finish though.
Things started very well, shutting up the very outspoken Roberto Mancini by hammering his Marseille side 4-0. We were a lot more consistent in the league and results were really good.
We had some good victories, such as the 3-0 win over Monaco but we also had some disappointing defeats, the 5-2 against Bordeaux being really bad. We were 2-0 up and then we went down to ten men and they just smashed us. I thought it was going to be 6 or 7-2!
As things got closer to the end of the season, we were challenging for a Champions League spot. We went into the final game having pretty much wrapped that up, unless Monaco won and we conceded 16 goals. Neither happened.
Again, we’ve overachieved, but our play over the season certainly merited another European adventure, just this time, we’re at the top table with the big boys. We’ll need to get through the qualifiers to really have arrived though!
I’ve not mentioned the cups in any of my previous updates as it’s not something I’m currently focussing on at all. This season we went out of the Coupe de la Ligue after losing 5-2 to Monaco. We were knocked out of the Coupe de France by Saint-Étienne in the 11th round on penalties.
This was our first season in Europe after claiming a Europa League spot last season. We had to play two qualifiers to get into the group stage. We overcame St. Gallen 5-2 and Anderlecht 4-0 over two legs.
We were drawn in a group along with Olimpija, Villarreal and Ludogerets. We somehow snuck through the group but were dumped out in the first knockout round 1-0 to Red Bull Leipzig. It was a good experience and the money we made was beneficial.
We had another good youth intake, but none of those players will likely be in the first team for a couple of years unless we have some serious injury problems. Nobody of the Azevedo/Agobian level of greatness yet, but I have confidence in the youth.
The team was much better again this year. We seemed to create chances a lot better and we were certainly a bit more efficient as we finished as the top scorers in Ligue 1 with 71 goals. Again, we were vulnerable to crosses, but this is due to our narrow system. I’m trying to address it, but it’s proving a challenge.
I was very impressed with Rui Azevedo who managed to score 13 goals, despite his very young age. My three main strikers managed to score 59 goals between them.
Romero, who joined in January settled in very well and I expect him to be much better next season as he’ll have a full pre season behind him. Brahim Konaté was also superb in midfield. He’s developing quite nicely.
Aguilar and Agobian were masters of the assist followed by Courtet who was close behind.
We improved our conversion from set pieces, scoring from 11 corners, 1 direct free kick and 6 indirect free kicks. Conceding from set plays was about as bad as last year.
The young players in the first team are improving rapidly. Agobian came to me towards the end of the season and requested to leave, I refused and the players support me. I’m hoping that Champions League football will convince him to stay.
Another terrific season. Finishing third was really good and next season, I’ll be aiming higher than a top half finish. I’ve got to be challenging for the top three spots in the league now.
A couple of players will be leaving this summer, Gorius and Fontaine are both out of contract. I’m going to be shopping for some players with a bit of experience to help tutor the young players as well as beefing up my midfield. However, despite qualifying for the Champions League, it looks like we’re no better off on the transfer funds front.
Nevermind, bargain hunting is really quite fun!
On a personal level, I was offered about eight jobs over the course of the season, Marseille, Monaco, Napoli, Leicester and Newcastle among others had offered me a change of scenery, but I opted to do this instead.
There’s a long term project here, better get on with things… I’m just starting pre season!