Last season was a great success. Winning Ligue 1 at the 4th attempt was miles ahead of what I anticipated when I started the save. This season the aim was to get out of our Champions League group and retain a top three position in the league. Let’s see how things went.
I stuck with the 4141 formation I was using towards the end of last season as I enjoyed how we played once we switched.
With success, comes recognition. My big players were being courted by big teams around Europe. Usually I’d be firm and not let them leave, but on this save, I’ve softened my stance a little and I’m quite willing to let them go if we can turn a reasonably good profit on them. This year I made £105m (plus clauses) in transfer income. It did come at the cost of some of our best players from last season.
We made a £24m on Gauld. A £37m (+£11.5m clause) on Markovic, Carvalho left in January for a £12m profit. Huge money to a club like Auxerre. All good deals for us.
I made a few signings this year.
Touré was signed as a replacement for Aguilar and the earlier departed Agobian. Lozano/Gautier came in to replace the outgoing Markovic. Mac Allister replaced Gauld. Lafont was a goalkeeper I really wanted to sign earlier in the save, but Bayern were wanting far too much. I had money this time when I saw him on the transfer list and snapped him up. Eizmendi was joining our youth setup.
All incoming transfers totalled £55m, so we were £50m in profit on the transfer front by the end of the season.
Quite a bit to report here. We’re just one step away from getting maximum on all training and youth facilities. Training facilities should get upgraded again next year to take us up to State Of The Art.
We sold over 13,000 season tickets this year and our average attendance was over 20,000. Big steps in the right direction if we’re ever to get that elusive new stadium!
In other club news, the Chairman has decided he’d be willing to sell the club. I don’t recall getting a notification about that, but the question came up in a press conference and true enough, he’s willing to listen to offers. No bids for the club yet. As such, the option to build a new stadium has disappeared.
We were drawn in a tough group with Valencia, Sporting CP and APOEL, but I thought we had enough about us to qualify. Things started with a 3-1 defeat at Sporting. A 1-0 win over APOEL was followed by a 1-1 draw and 2-0 victory over Valencia. We drew 1-1 at home to Sporting before a surprise 2-0 defeat in Cyprus to APOEL. We finished the group tied with Valencia on points, but due to us beating them, we went through to the knockout round.
We were up against Palermo in the next round, which I thought was a pretty easy tie, but I was wrong. They came from behind to beat us 2-1 at home and put in a good defensive shift at home as we beat them 1-0. Disappointed to go out on the away goals rule, but such is life.
The season started well, three wins out of our first four. We followed that up with two defeats, losing 3-1 to PSG and 1-0 to Nice. We kept conceding silly goals as our new keeper settled in, but we were in great form as we went on a 12 game unbeaten run, winning 9 and drawing 3. We became a bit inconsistent from February. Not winning for three, winning three, not winning for three again.
We were top of the table for long periods, but it was slipping away from us towards the end of the season and with PSG spending big in the summer, they meant business. They reclaimed the Ligue 1 title with two games to spare. We still had to try and claim 2nd place as Lyon had been in good form all year, however, final day defeat to Lorient meant that Lyon leapfrogged us and claimed 2nd.
Not a bad season overall, but our inconsistency cost us towards the end. Third place means that we’ll have a tough qualifier for the Champions League next season.
With French teams not performing that well in Europe over the past couple of years, next year, only two teams qualify for the Champions League. Pressure is on!
Prior to the season kicking off, we had the Trophée des Champions, or the Super Cup to you and me, against PSG. We came from two goals down to win 3-2. We only actually scored one goal as they managed to bundle two own goals in. Not complaining though, another trophy.
I never really rotated the squad that much for the cups this season. We have a lot of young players in the first team, so it was more a case of sharing the load between everyone.
The Coupe de la Ligue was over at the Quarter Final stage for us, losing to rivals PSG, 3-2 in extra time.
The Coupe de France was a different story though as we marched all the way to the final having only conceded one goal along the way. Toulouse were the opposition as Hirving Lozano grabbed two goals in a 2-0 victory, to see us lift this cup for the second time.
I’m claiming that as a cup double!
The squad took on the feel of a youth team this season as the average age of the team dropped to just 20 years old. The signings I made were adequate, with Lozano and Gautier scoring and assisting plenty. Touré was assured at the back and Mac Allister was rotated with another youngster, Vigier. Lafont took a while to settle, but ended up winning Goalkeeper of The Year in Ligue 1.
I decided that with our great youth setup, there was no point in holding the youngsters back so I have a lot of youth players in the first team. A couple were enforced due to injuries/international call ups, but the youngsters really stepped up and held their own in the first team.
Vigier won player of the year for us at only 18 years old. He never assisted many, but he was controlling games for us. Bruni and Raynaud had really good years as they made the move to the first team. Azevedo was injured for a couple of months, which opened up space for both of those players to make progress. Björn Engels picked up a cruciate ligament injury in pre-season, so Hassan Ayyouch claimed his spot at the back.
I had a chat on Twitter with a couple of people and they gave me the idea to just throw the youngsters in. I usually wait a bit and introduce them slowly, but game time has really pushed on their development this season.
I was thinking about doing a little post about the youth setup at the club, so that might pop up at some point in the next couple of weeks.
A pretty good season overall. I knew it would be a big ask to retain the title and that was proven. We can’t match the spending power of PSG, nor do I want to. We’re a developing club. We’ve only been back in the top division for 5 years now.
Next year we’ll continue with our youth plan. Big clubs are again sniffing around the big name players in my team and if the offers are big enough, the players will move on. I’m not going to refuse big money for players if I can replace them. Youth will get first option, but if I need to spend, I’m happy to do that.
I plan to shift a couple of players out. Walace was getting less game time this season, so he’s likely to be first out the door. With Engels missing most of last season, I’m likely to cash in on him as Ayyouch has claimed his place.
We need to finish in the top two to claim a Champions League place, so that’s going to be a bit of a challenge this season.
On we go!
Cheers for reading.