Last season was another good season as we again qualified for the Europa League. Finishing 7th was a good achievement and kept us in that upper region of the Premier League.
I want to stay there so I’ve strengthened the squad with a change of tactical direction in mind. I’ve enjoyed playing direct football and it’s been a bit of an eye opener and there’s elements I can introduce into my style in future.
As I mentioned, we’ve changed style and I’m now using something different. For the longest time on FM, I’ve wanted to make a 4231DM work. I tried and failed on FM15 with Dynamo Kyiv. I had a better idea of what I wanted to do thanks to some interesting tactical info I heard on the Deep Lying Podcast’s tactical special. I highly recommend checking out the Podcast as it’s not only a good listen, it’s got some good info on it too.
So with that in mind, I setup with my tactic looking like this.
I’d never actually used a Regista properly on any version of FM since it was introduced, so I was pretty excited about that. I also thought the movement of the Trequartista would be interesting to have behind the striker. I tend not to use an attacking striker all that often. In the past when I’ve used the Advanced Forward, he’s been so hit and miss for me. The wide roles are ones I consider quite standard. I have good winger options in the team and good players that can cut inside.
With my instructions, I like to keep them simple. I had chopped and changed over the course of the season, but in the end, I settled on these.
I think instructions are usually pretty self explanatory. However, I’ll go through them.
Play Out Of Defence: I’ve had my fix of punting it long in previous seasons. Now I want the team to keep the ball and hopefully play out from the back by making use of my Regista. I’ve further enforced this by giving the goalkeeper short passing/distribute to defence PI’s.
Exploit the Middle/Play Wider: These two are linked. My best players are in the middle, so stretching the field of play will hopefully give these guys room to find gaps do the business for us.
Push Higher Up: I want to make the pitch a bit smaller vertically due to the big gap between DM and AM stratas. My thinking is that this will help that just a little bit.
Stay On Feet: I’m usually ok with being aggressive in the tackle, but I want to be sensible and try to keep things tight, I don’t need men out of position as they’re on the ground.
I sometimes change it up a little bit against bigger teams as we can sometimes find ourselves a bit penned in. In those games, I’ll turn on More Direct Passing with Be More Disciplined and remove Play Out Of Defence.
I’ve not really spoken about the club much in this save as I’ve been more involved in the progress we’ve been making. I noted that last summer we were taken over and the new owner wanted to replace me. They decided against it in the end and I’ve kept my job. They didn’t promise transfer funds when they arrived but did promise to upgrade the training facilities. Our First Team Facilities are currently at State Of The Art and the Youth Facilities are Top.
They also decided to expand Villa Park by 12,215 seats, taking the capacity up to 55,000. So next season, we’re going to be playing our games at The Ricoh Arena.
Financially we’re doing pretty good due to the Premier League TV deal, merchandising and the Europa League games have brought in a little bit of extra cash. The loan repayments will be a bit of a pain in future though.
I was aiming for a Europa League spot again this season. I’d reinforced the team to a level that I thought could challenge for fourth, but 6th has to be the aim.
With tactics changing, it meant that I’d have a bit of a bedding in period where I’d either adjust things or we’d play shockingly bad. It took a while for things to kick into gear, but we were picking away at results. A 4-2 win over Everton in October made me really happy and gave me hope that things were really working. However, in the next game, Norwich beat us 3-0 and I was back to thinking I needed to mix things up.
I did tweak a lot, but it was a run of games against Man Utd (lost 4-1), Liverpool (lost 2-1), Chelsea (won 3-1) and Tottenham (won 1-0) that really helped me hone my tactic. In fact, it also gave me an idea of how I should approach some games.
At Christmas, we were in the top four. We were performing really well. I felt I needed firepower though, which was why I brought in Callum Abbott.
February was a tough month, winning only one of our four league games and dropping us down to 7th. It was incredibly close up top though, so there was still a chance of getting back in there.
A win on my birthday triggered a very strong charge towards the end of the season. Wins over Norwich (3-1), Leeds (4-1), Stoke (4-1) and Newcastle (1-0) put me into the top four. It was really tight.
However, my next four games were not going to be easy. As far as tough ends to the season go, this is up there with one of the toughest. All four of those teams were in with a chance of claiming a top four place or even the title. We’d have to be at our best.
Man Utd at home was first. One of those games were that’s finely poised. In the 62nd minute, Marcus Rashford met a Mohamed Salah cross to put them 1-0 up. We were playing quite well, creating chances and not just sitting back guarding our goal. In the 78th minute, I threw on Rudolph Bernard, more in frustration than hope. Less than 10minutes later, a nice bit of play down the left ended with the ball meeting Bernard’s right boot and us scoring an equaliser.
We still had hope of a Champions League spot.
Tottenham at New White Hart Lane was up next. We’d done well against them in previous years. It was another close match. After 23minutes, Andre Green took down Toni Lato in the box and the Referee pointed to the spot. Eriksen stepped up, fired the ball straight down the middle.. but Lafont didn’t move, saving the penalty. My joy was short lived. 10minutes later and Spurs were 1-0 up. We can never seem to get our noses in front against these big teams.
I angrily took Green and Ings off at half time, replacing them with Roberts and Bernard. It proved to be decisive. In the 61st minute, Bernard opened up some space for Bruno Fernandes, played a lovely ball into space and Fernandes slotted it home. 1-1. In the second minute of injury time, Roberts played a ball into the box that Fernandes took under control and slotted in at Lloris’ near post. 2-1! I couldn’t believe it.
Even more unbelieveable, was that we were now top of the table with two games to go.
Realistically, if I was going to win the league, I needed two victories over Chelsea and Liverpool. We beat Chelsea earlier in the season, so I was pretty sure I’d used up all of my good fortune over them. Liverpool have been almost untouchable in the games I’ve played against them. But, we were going to try.
Chelsea up first. Things did not go to plan, we didn’t score. Thankfully, neither did they and Liverpool drew 1-1 with Norwich. Man Utd had closed in though.
The final day was complicated. Any of five teams could have won. The winner of my game against Liverpool would win the League, only a draw in that game could hand it to Man Utd, assuming they won.
Liverpool at Anfield for the title. What mixed emotions for a Liverpool fan! After nine minutes, Roberto Firmino scored. We had two shots the whole first half. We were playing very poor. I tried switching things up tactically, but ten minutes into the second half, my fate was sealed as Clyne made it 2-0. It wasn’t over, Liverpool had us on the ropes and were jabbing away at us. Coutinho (2) and Lacazette added insult to injury to make it 5-0.
I was hoping that things would go our way in the other games. I needed Chelsea to lose to have a chance of getting a Champions League spot. Losing the title on the last day was tough, but losing out on a top four place would have been a travesty. Thankfully, Stoke did us a huge favour, beating Chelsea 1-0 on the last day. Champions League football ahoy!
A very exciting season and the new style definitely paid off. I can’t actually believe how tight it was at the top of the table either.
The Capital One Cup journey ended early as it usually does. Bournemouth knocking us out in the 4th round with a late goal.
We had to get through two qualifiers in the Europa League to make the group stage this year. We got a lucky drawn, beating Anorthosi 4-1 on aggregate before knocking out Luzern by the same scoreline. In the group stage we had RB Leipzig, Bordeaux and Guimaraes. It was a bitter sweet time for us though as we won two and drew one of our first three fixtures and then lost the next three. That was our downfall as we missed the knockout stage.
The FA Cup was much better for us this season as we knocked out Rotherham, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Burnley and Man City. This sent us to our first final, and my first final on this save, against Chelsea.
Chelsea finally got their own back on us as we were still on a downer from the drubbing we got on the final day of the league season. We were firmly put in our place and totally outclassed.
A disappointing end to a very eventful season. So close to winning my first piece of silverware, but it wasn’t to be.
I was pretty happy with the new signings this season. Abbott had a good time with us when he joined in January, but him and Lewis Cook had their seasons cut short as they both broke their ankles in the game against Stoke, missing the end of the season.
The Ox did very well, scoring 10 goals and chipping in with a respectable amount of assists. I had planned for him to play on the right wing, but I eventually moved him over to the left and that’s where he ended up playing his best stuff for us.
Bulut was great, despite his low cross rating, he managed 10 assists. Maffeo was solid at right back. Süle had some odd games for us, but overall, he was dependable.
Overall, a great season. Will be looking for a few additions in the summer as I plan to move on Danny Ings and Patrick Roberts. Virgil van Dijk has already agreed to move on to Sevilla and I’m still in need of another option in central midfield.
Sorry, this was quite a long post due to some changes I’d made. Appreciate you taking the time to read. Please be sure to check out the links to other blogs at the top of this page. Some great content being created by these users and more.