I should really be splitting these posts up into two, but I’m enjoying playing far too much right now. We did very well in our first season back in Ligue 1, although it was frustrating at times. On reflection, finishing 7th was miles above where we actually were as a club. I’ve got a lot to cover here, so less mumbo jumbo.. on with the show!
I was given a measly transfer budget of £1.94m. I needed a few players for the first team so I had to be clever about my business if I was going to cover all the positions I needed.
Zacharie Boucher left to join Ligue 1 rivals Marseille in a deal worth up to £6.75m. It was a bit of a no brainer as there were better goalkeepers available in the transfer market for less money. Our financial situation was rather poor and I thought this would boost the balance.
In January, Michaël Perret left for Arsenal in a deal worth in excess of £6.5m. I’ll not go into this transfer in too much detail as I’m likely to write a bit about this in another blog. Financially, it made sense though.
There were a lot of reserve team departures that were not fit for Auxerre and we couldn’t realistically afford to keep them at this stage.
We managed to sign four players in the summer. First in the door was an FM12/13 wonderkid. Brazilian midfielder Adryan was available on a free transfer after his contract with Flamengo had ended. Still only 23 when he joined, I had visions of him playing in the middle of the park and controlling games. This would allow me to move Sissako over into a more familiar role.
With one player through the door, my hunt continued. Strengthening of the back line was required. I spotted Syam Ben Youssef was on the transfer list as Besiktas for £350k. He covered everything I was looking for in a central defender and he’d already had experience of playing in France with Caen. Seemed like a perfect fit.
I’m not quite sure how I managed to pull off the next deal. In my hunt for a midfielder, as well as finding Adryan, I stumbled upon Paolo Sabak of KRC Genk. His contract running down was running out soon, so that meant he was available for free. Everton were also interested, but he gave no indication that he wasn’t interested in joining Auxerre, so I went for it. At the end of it, somehow, he chose Auxerre. Although he’s a central attacking midfielder, I plan to use him on the left hand side.
My final signing was a result of Boucher departing. My ideal signing would’ve been young and French, but no such player was available on my budget. Francesco Bardi fitted the bill and he was on the transfer list at Inter Milan. A deal of £725k was struck and once a contract was agreed, he joined.
A really good transfer window. I made no winter window signings, despite having some money to do so.
For anyone who follows me on Twitter, they’re likely to have read about my horror show against PSG. So lets talk about that for a second. What the fuck happened? Watching the goals back now, with hindsight, we were pretty shocking defensively, but our goalkeeper had a nightmare. Some of the goals he conceded were abysmal. Bardi wasn’t in goal for that game, he was injured, but Kanouté (19) was probably so shell shocked by what just happened that he’s probably still having nightmares about the game.
10-1.. 4-1 at half time and then six goals in the second half. If I was 4-1 up at half time, no matter what I did, we’d never score another 6 goals!
It was in fact, a new record for Auxerre. The players felt so bad that they ended up giving the supporters a full refund, which I thought was a nice touch. Still.. they didn’t give me any money!
I was worried I was going to get the sack. Worried that the team would just wander through the rest of the season, shell-shocked. But, they got their act together and managed to put together a rather successful campaign. We did lose heavily to PSG again, but we managed to keep it a bit more sensible this time.
We were still a bit inconsistent though and our away form was still very bad, especially in the first half of the season. Between December and March we had our best spell of play. The team were very good to watch at that point. Even when we lost games we were doing all of the right things, getting the ball into the box and making good choices. Things just didn’t go our way.
A 5th place finish is very respectable, unlike our goals against column. We missed out on 4th place on the last day of the season, but I’m still very pleased overall.
Both cup campaigns were reasonably successful this season. We made it to the French Cup Quarter final before being knocked out by… bloody PSG! God I hate them!
The Coupe de la Ligue was where the serious business went down though, marching to the final by negotiating ties with Bastia (3-1), Rennais (0-0, 4-3p), Monaco (3-0) and Marseille (5-1). Our opponents in the final were… NOT PSG! Hooray!
It was Lorient, a team I hadn’t beaten in four attempts. This was to be our time though! Sabak nabbing a goal in the first 5minutes, then Sissako put us 2-0 up after 17. Easy this… until 45+1 when they pegged one back. We had a nervy half-time teamtalk. Lorient came out with a bit more enthusiasm, none more so than Lindsay Rose who saw a straight red card in the 49th minute. We were in control and in the 82nd minute, Florian Ayé finished them off with a cooly slotted penalty. 3-1 and our first piece of silverware. It also secured us qualification into next seasons Europa League.
Now that I’m a few seasons in, Youth Intakes are still bloody exciting. I’m going to take a look at some of my youngsters in a bit more depth at some point, but here’s a quick overview of what I got this year and I’ve picked out two players of note as well.
Our new signings were really good. I think it was probably one of my best windows I’ve had in FM. Bardi was pretty decent, conceding 42 in 36 league games. Sabak scored 13 and assist 11 from left midfield. Adryan was also on fire with 11 goals and 6 assists. Ben Youssef had an 85% tackle rate but only played 27 games due to African Nations Cup commitments.
Sissako was a bit more creative since his switch to playing as a box to box midfielder, making 9 assists. He also managed 6 goals. Atzili scored 11 goals from right midfield as well as assisting 5.
Teenagers Romain Thiebaut and Sébastien Lamy cemented themselves into the first team and Jean Bouillot made great progress as a substitute or in cup games.
Overall, I thought we played much better and I’m very happy with how the team progressed. If we can sort out our defensive lapses, we could do much better next season.
And there we have it for another season. Inconsistency has again been our downfall at times, but our team is young. The average age is currently only 22. I shouldn’t be so hard on them or myself. They’re learning and I’m still getting to grips with FM17. Really happy with 5th in the league and delighted to have won our first trophy.