Last season we won the Coupe de France and this season I wanted to see more from the youngsters and progress to the knockout stages again in the Champions League. Retaining a spot in the top three is important for us due to our financial commitments to growing the club both on and off the pitch.
I like to get the transfers out of the way first as it gives you an idea of what I’ve been working with all season. I’ll start with the departures as there were a few this season that I’d either brought in myself or were there when I started this save.
The biggest departure was obviously Agobian as discussed in last season’s update. We made £48m from eight departures. Patrick Bamford didn’t work out last season and I thought I’d sell him while he still had a good value. £6m for a player I signed on a free was a good deal. Atsili and Josué (CB) were also moved on for £3m a piece. Vincent, Courtet and Ayé were all at the club when I joined and they didn’t feature in my plans for this season, so they were moved along to boost the bank balance a wee bit.
I changed tactic at the start of the season and needed some wide men. I can’t remember what my budget was, but it wasn’t huge, under £20m. Reasonable enough to get some quality if I was able to loan someone alongside that.
Lazar Markovic was available for transfer from Liverpool for £4.8m. His wage demands were quite large for my team, but with the low fee, I was able to convince myself it was a good deal. His versatility was very appealing as I didn’t have a lot to spend to bring in lots of options.
There were three players I lined up to play on the left and I eventually settled for João Carvalho from Benfica. He’d been playing for Benfica B for the past four or five seasons and had done incredibly well, scoring some goals as well as assisting plenty. They valued him at £8m and I snapped him up. Again, he could play in a few positions which meant I got value for money. I’ve noticed I seem to have bought a few Portuguese players in this save.
After Markovic and Carvalho, I still wanted versatility for the midfield and I managed to get Thomas Lemar on loan from Liverpool. The man could play everywhere in midfield. Just what I needed.
After that, my only other requirement was a striker that I could put in to give Azevedo a rest. Neal Maupay was French, young and could play a few different roles in the striker position to a good level. At £4.4m, he was reasonably priced and had experience in the Ligue 1.
There was no January signings this season as I didn’t find anyone that I could get that would improve the team. I brought some youngsters up to fill in the spaces that needed filling.
The big news here is that the club is getting closer to reaching maximum facility levels. By the end of January our Training and Youth Training Facilities were upgraded. Our Junior Coaching and Youth Recruitment reached maximum rating.
Still no movement on a new stadium, but this season we sold over 11,000 season tickets. Our average attendance was 19,371 (capacity is 21,379) and we had 5 sellouts this season. A higher average but fewer sellouts this year.
I also decided to update the kits this year when I had a bit of free time. Stuck with a similar theme, just a different design.
We went straight into the group stage this year and it was a tough group. Napoli, Tottenham and Atletico. I knew I’d never get out of the group and after the first three games I thought we had a chance as we were top after one win and two draws. However, three defeats in a row left us bottom of the group.
We did pretty poorly in the cups this season. In the Coupe de la Ligue, we were smashed by Saint-Étienne 4-1 in the 4th round. In the Coupe de France we made it to the quarter final before being knocked out by PSG. We played a lot of youngsters in the cup competitions and it gave them a chance to get 90 minutes under their belts. I got to see how they performed. Some good prospects coming through for sure.
The league season was an odd one actually. We were winning games, but I was never really super convincing. We started the season very well, but three narrow defeats, all to late goals, deflated me a little bit.
I’d changed tactic to a 4231 at the start of the season and I was happy with how it was going. We went through some sticky patches where we couldn’t break teams down or struggled to see out a game. We weren’t losing though, so that was good. We were being very wasteful with our chances though and that was a concern.
By mid October we were 5 points ahead of Lyon and 10 ahead of PSG who were struggling under their new manager. By mid February that lead was all but gone and PSG were on my tail, the 1-0 defeat to them closed the gap tighter.
It didn’t seem it at the time, but after that defeat, we actually had a good run. We were still being wasteful, but I changed things up and switch to my preferred 4141. We were tighter in defence and our shots on target ratio improved greatly. I needed a win over Dijon to open up a gap over PSG, but after 20minutes, we were 2-0 down. They were very stubborn and difficult to break down, so I had to draw them out and in five second hand minutes, we were level. Chances were there to win the game, an open goal in the 81st minute was missed and we drew 2-2.
I had to win my remaining fixtures and hope PSG slipped up to stand a chance of winning the league. I had Rennes, Lyon and Le Havre. I wasn’t hopeful.
We won 2-0 against Rennes. It was a nervy one as we scored an early goal but couldn’t capitalise on that advantage. We got the second in 90mins +3! This put us a point ahead of PSG and they played Monaco the next day.
Things didn’t go to plan for them. It took me three game days to notice that I was still top of the league.
What a comeback that was from Monaco!
We had to match their results in the final two games. However…
Dog walk completed, I soldiered on. Lyon away while PSG had Bastia at home. I kept the latest scores up and hoped that Bastia could nick a goal and end it a game early. Obviously we had to win our game. We went in 0-0 at half time while PSG were 1-0 up.
We managed to get a bizarre goal from Markovic, which looked like a cross, but he actually lobbed the keeper from the right wing. Nobody was near the box. Great spot! Less than a minute later, Azevedo made it 2-0. Looking back at the PSG game, it was still 1-0. Not many chances came our way, Lyon pulled one back in the 82nd minute and PSG scored 4 goals in the final 10 minutes against Bastia. Final game decider.
Le Havre in front of our own fans. 0-0 at half time, 1-0 to PSG v Montpellier. Walace grabbed a goal 5minutes after the restart after a nice assist from Ryan Gauld. We were holding on.. 80th minute and Carvalho scored the second.. 2-0!
Ligue 1 Champions. Thanks to Monaco for that 4-3 comeback!
We actually had a pretty great season, I don’t know why I thought we struggled. We definitely could have had better results along the way as we were very wasteful with chances. I think I’ve settled on the 4141 tactic for next season. I’m planning on shipping a couple of players out and blooding some more of the youngsters next year. I’ve got a reasonable transfer budget of around £15m, but sales may raise that a little bit.
All four signings I made played a big part in our success this season. It’s actually very difficult to pick who I thought was our best player, even looking at the average ratings, there’s very little between the top three, although Markovic gets it with 7.51.
Between my 4 signings this summer, they scored 43 goals and created 33.
Ryan Gauld and Adrien Rabiot both had good seasons while Steve Chauvin made the real breakthrough into the first team at left back. Rui Azevedo again finished as top scorer with 22 goals, although I expect better performances as a whole next season. Hassan Ayyouch had a decent season as he stepped in for Mammana when he was injured for two months.
Noah Vigier is a really exciting young player who I’ve been taking on in games to move his development on. He’ll be getting more game time next season to continue that upward curve.
Obviously an excellent season, but I have my concerns about our finishing. It’s something I need to address tactically, although I did notice an improvement with the change to the 4141. I’ll need to decide if I need to get new players or continue to work on the ones I have.
Teams are sniffing about my star players and I’ll likely struggle to keep hold of them all. Mammana is the most likely to leave, although keeping hold of Carvalho will be tough too. All part of the fun though.
Next season I’ll still be aiming for one of the three Champions League spots. I think retaining the title is beyond me as PSG play to such a high level. It’s great reviving the fortunes of Auxerre though. Really enjoying the save.
Thanks again for reading.