Season 9 was a big one in many ways for the club. It was our final season at Stade Abbé Deschamps and we had new owners looking after us. On the pitch, we were a bit shit at times and it lead to me changing tactics and style. As I headed into season 10, I made a couple of little adjustments and I’m hoping I can stick with this for the season.
I was really disappointed with some players last season and I’ve had to put my recruitment hat on in the summer as you’ll soon see. I’ve set the boys the task of challenging for the title and I think we’re capable of doing that. I suspect PSG will invest big again, but that doesn’t always guarantee victory. Hopefully we can push them all the way and be in with a shout of a third title in four years.
I said in my last blog that there would be a couple of players heading out the door this season. Not a big clear-out as I feel most of the players can still help us. I’d also not be making sweeping changes to the first team by bringing in ten players. Just a couple of signings.
My first deal was done about 18months ago, but he couldn’t join until this summer. I found a nice Nigerian newgen by the name of Peter Orishani. My scouts recommended him and I felt that he could add something to the team in the future. A new Loucif perhaps? He obviously needs some work, but he looks good for an 18 year old. He cost me £140k.
Rafik Guitane is a player I’d thought about signing for about 4 years. He’s not been particularly amazing for Leverkusen since he joined them in 2019, but there’s something about him that I like and he always pops up in attribute searches, so he seemed a good fit. He’s mainly going to be used as a central midfielder on support, but I’ll maybe look to utilise him as an advanced playmaker if I need to. He cost me £23m, so I’m hoping he’s good enough to help our play.
Cato Mærøe was one I was looking at last season as well. In fact, I had a £10m bid accepted for him, but I pulled out of the deal when I was getting annoyed with my tactic. He’s a bit raw just now, but I’m quite excited to get him. I was notified that his contract was running out in 6months and it just made sense to slap in an offer. He accepted so he joined in January on a free transfer.
I dragged my heels with departures as I was indecisive about who to let go in the summer. A couple of youngsters departed that weren’t up to making a breakthrough into the first team.
Aurélien Muller was my first big departure of the summer. He was crying out for more first team football and with Thomas/Presse being my preferred starting pair, I had no qualms about letting him go. I had Nkoulou and Orishani as backups. Stoke offered me £13.25m(£19m) for him and off he went.
Emiliano Da Luz really annoyed me with his performances last season, he was wasteful in a lot of games, missed easy chances and gave the ball away a lot. I think he’s a good player, but he did really poor for me. Arsenal were interested in taking him on and with his value through the roof, I was quite happy to take the cash and run. They offered £40m(£44.5m) to take him off my hands which was excellent business as I only paid £7m for him when he joined. It’s a shame it didn’t work out as I hoped it would, but I suppose the financial side of the deal worked out very well.
Jean Boy was the last to leave in the summer. He’d spent last season on loan in Turkey and wasn’t in my plans, he had played a handful of games for me, but Rennais offered £2.4m(£3m) and he was allowed to go.
By the time January rolled round, I decided to move a couple of other players on. Milan Jovanovic had missed the start of the season with an injury and upon his return, got injured again. I’d promoted Mac M’Madi (2025 Ligue 1 Revelation Of The Year) to take his place and be a backup to Barone. He did very well, despite being only 17. When Jovanovic returned, he wasn’t getting into the team and he eventually asked for a move. Borussia Mönchengladbach offered me £12m, which gave me a tidy £9m profit. He was another player who did well in spells, but was quite inconsistent.
Ilies Ramos was another play who’s future was decided thanks to being injured. He spent 4months out and I promoted Jules Winnfield (real name Thierry Sanogo) to be in the first team. He was a bit raw, but very highly rated in my youth team. He only made a handful of appearances, but it was enough to convince me to move Ramos on. Bordeaux offered me £3.5m which secured his signature.
The final player out the door was Nicolas Maillard. A turd of a striker on an off day, but admittedly, of the 51 goals he scored for me, some were rather important. He’s still only 23, but isn’t in my plans at the moment. Lorient offered me £5m which was quite a bit below his value, but probably as much as I could get for him.
These games against PSG are becoming a bit of a common theme, especially in the cups. Season opener was the Trophée des Champions for the third year in a row. The last time I played PSG in this game, it ended 0-0 and that’s exactly what happened this time around. A poor match in all fairness that was won on penalties. The real surprise was that it was us that won the shoot out. First trophy in the bag for the season.
Sadly, this match also marked the return to France of one Sébastien Lamy, my wonderkid of old. He’d been under offer in the summer and PSG bid the highest, signing him for £82m! The dream of taking him back to Auxerre was pretty much over.
PSG were to be the ones who put an end to both of our domestic cup ambitions, beating us 3-1 in the Coupe de la Ligue 4th round and 2-1 in the 11th Round of the French Cup. I’d say it’s not a big deal, but I bloody hate PSG!
Straight into the Champions League Group stage again this season where we were drawn against Benfica, Red Bull Salzburg and Arsenal. Oddly enough, I’ve been drawn in the same group as Arsenal for the last three years. I had Salzburg in my group last year and Benfica the year before. Not really getting to see many different opponents!
The European challenge got under way with us hosting Benfica at home in the lovely new 29,732 Roux Arena. A sell out crowd witnessed Rubén Martinez score both goals in a 2-0 win. Arsenal brought us back down to earth with a 2-0 defeat. Two games in a row against Salzburg brought 4-1 and 1-0 victories. A defeat to Benfica meant we needed a victory over Arsenal to get through to the knockout round. A Mac M’Madi strike was followed up by another two goals from Martinez to finish the game off before half time.
Unfortunately, Man Utd were to be our opponents. We kept the scores respectable, but they run us into the ground, winning 3-1 over the two legs. Man Utd are an incredibly good team on this save, so there was no shame in losing to them.
I tweaked things tactically this season as I was really mad at the lack of attacking threat last season. We did well, but I wanted to see goals and be entertained in the new stadium. A new era shall we say?
The first five games went very well, winning four, drawing one and scoring goals. Marseille hammered us 5-1 which really got me mad. It was one of those performances where everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong. Even watching it back, I was flabbergasted at how they broke us. Nevermind, a one off. We picked ourselves back up by going on a ten game winning run, scoring goals for fun and just as importantly, only conceding twice. We picked up a 6-1 win over Rennais, 3-0 wins over Metz, Monaco and Bordeaux as well as a 5-0 win over Lille.
PSG, who had recently been added as a competitive rival, were up next. It was a tight game, which was going well for us as we were 2-1. However, in the 71st minute, left back Roberto Davila saw red for a rash challenge and we were down to ten men. I’d just used my final substitute, so I had to get creative. We defended well, but in the 89th minute, they grabbed an equaliser through Icardi, breaking down our back three with ease. A draw would be acceptable. 90+2… a winning goal, for PSG! Motherf*ckers!
I wasn’t giving up and we got back on track straight away, going on a 14 game unbeaten run, winning 12 of those, scoring for fun and only conceding three goals.
But again, we lost the plot. This time it was against Lyon and it was 5-1 again. Radu, who’d be incredibly reliable all season had a shocker of a game. I was stunned again.
This dragged PSG back into the title race with six games to go, one of which was against PSG. I wasn’t billing it as a title decider, but I got the sense that it was. It gave me hope that it was at home. We were right in the last game up until we went down to ten men, so if we could keep 11 men on the pitch, we could get something from it.
It started well as Martinez scored the opening goal after 12 minutes, but this just seemed to make PSG mad. They dominated possession and were in control of the game, despite trailing. In the 35th minute, the equaliser came. A poor clearance out from defence was hit straight back into an advancing forward line an Amr Samir finished from an acute angle. Half time came and went, for a time it was fairly even. In the 74th minute, PSG had a corner which was met by Sebastian Alarcon who headed beyond Radu to make it 2-1. Uh oh.
It wasn’t over. In the 79th minute, Rene Pressé was bundled over in the area and we were awarded a penalty. Martinez was the ever reliable penalty taker, but he hit it wide of the post to spurn the chance of levelling things up. By this point I’m losing my hair. All changes are made.
I don’t like to ruin a good story, but I don’t think I can describe how good I think this goal is. It won the Auxerre goal of the season!
As you’ll have seen in the above video, it ended 3-2 after Martinez rounded off the game with a lovely strike in the 86th minute. Mac M’Madi got sent off in the 89th minute for a crazy lunging tackle. It made me nervous for the four minutes of added time, but we seen it out and won 3-2. Quite a dramatic game. A missed penalty, a comeback and a red card in the last 10 minutes!
I’d like to say the rest of the season went off without a hitch, but a 0-0 against Montpellier meant the last game of the season vs Nancy was a must win.
That game did go off without a hitch, by half time it was 4-0 with another two goals coming after the break. 6-0 and the Ligue 1 title secured for the third time in four years!
A much better campaign and a far more enjoyable one!
We don’t win many individual player awards, so I’m milking this. European Golden Boy and Ligue 1 Revelation of the Year. Boom!
Really happy with the squad this year. The additions I made had an impact, Orishani less so due to his age and position, but Guitane and Mærøe were brilliant. My main front three of Garnier/Jeanvier/Martinez were devastating. I expected a little more from Barone but I was still happy with his contribution. Radu had a record breaking year with 31 clean sheets, 27 of which were in the league.
After struggling for goals last season, it was a delight watching us bang them in on a regular basis.
With the new stadium selling out regularly, I suspected it wouldn’t be long before I got a news item telling me we’d be upgrading the stadium. I didn’t expect it to come around this season. It did and it’s a good upgrade too.
Getting a bigger stadium will massively help the team financially. Our match day revenue doubled this season due to the new facilities and extra seating available. We’ll drop the capacity a little bit over the next 15months, but only by 2000 seats.
I hit a personal milestone this season as well by getting to 500 games in charge. I don’t quite understand why I’ve not won manager of the season yet though!
A delightful season, but we’ve got to press on for next year. I’m really happy with the make up of the squad right now and I’m aiming to keep hold of my star players as I think it’s time I made a mark in Europe. The quarter final has to be my aim in future seasons. Barone, Martinez etc are a big part of my plans. I need to keep hold of these players. We’re not in need of the cash like we once were, so prices will have to be crazy for me to consider selling.
Somehow, I don’t think that’ll put off teams trying to lure players away!