FM17 Auxerre: 33/34 Perfection?

Welcome back, I know, I feel like I’m churning through seasons just now. My house move has been delayed so I’m cramming in the seasons! No long introduction here, lets just dive into the transfer business for the season!

Transfers

Starting with departures, there were a few. Honestly, I was surprised by some of the money I got for these guys.

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Eric Texier was and is a decent player, but with me signing Dédé last season, I don’t expect him to get much game time. With his value being pretty good and Filipe Teixeira (I got confused with the two for ages!) coming back after a successful loan spell, it made sense to move him on. Burnley decided to splash £19.75m on him.

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Selling Kullman Jiménez was tough. He’d been with me for a lot of years, but his game time was limited due to the upwards trajectory of Jeffrey Forde. Teams had been sniffing around Jiménez for years, I once turned down an £80m bid. It was time for him to go now as he asked for the move. I couldn’t refuse and Man Utd offered me £30m, I took it. He cost me just £13.5m when I signed him and he was an excellent servant to the club. Still a top player, but his wages were costing me a fortune and at 29, was a bit breaking my rule on trying to keep the squad young. I know, I broke that for Lamy, but he was a youth product!

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Julle Mabiala was a bit part player for me last season, making 8 starts and 7 appearances from the bench. Was never considered a long term first team option. Sold to Swansea for £2.6m where I was sure he’d get more games.

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Selling Farid Sandjak was also difficult. I mean, look at him, he’s great. He scored a lot of goals for me when Sohna was injured, but I was never totally convinced by him. There were times when he would be totally anonymous. I knew there would be interest in him and I thought I could get a big fee for him. I tend to only have room for two or three strikers in the team and Sandjak wasn’t one of them. RB Leipzig spent £45.5m (£49.5m) on a player I signed for £2.1m three years ago.

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Esteban Vargas joined Barcelona for £18m. A good player, but not one to set the world alight. Played a good number of games for me, but I had my eye on some new blood. His value was good so shifting him at this stage made good sense financially.

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Jude Fayolle left as a result of one of my arrivals. He is a rather good wide player, but I seen him more as a winger than a striker and since I didn’t use a winger on the left hand side, he was deemed surplus to requirements. Man Utd paid £15.75m to take him to Old Trafford.

There were two other departures, Ludovic Leclercq joined Stade Brest for £725k and Rodrigo Alves headed to Torino for £900k. Both players had only featured in one game each for me.

So that was £133m into the coffers.

As I said at the end of my last post, we needed just a couple of new faces to help the team.

I signed five youngsters for the U19’s side, with one expected to go on loan as he was at the older end of the scale. Not a lot of explaining required for these, but I’ll name and price them out for you.

Phillippe Nedelec, £650k from Stade Rennais.
Jürg Gmür, £425k from FC Winterthur.
Kouakou Traoré, £750k from ASEC. (Joined Nantes on loan, scored 15 goals!)
Guy Azuz, £500k from Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Amadou Sountoura, £2m from Stade de Reims.

Screenshots of all of these players.

Most of these youngsters are for the future, my scouts have recommended them or their value for their youth team has set off a trigger that makes me think they’ll be decent and I can punt them on for money in the future. Auxerre don’t make a lot of money from sponsorship etc, so the sale of players is vital to keeping the club’s head above water.

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The deal for Mathías Maidana was done in February. I had him watched quite a lot by my scouts after they recommended him and everything looked positive. At 19, he has a lot of very positive attributes and I suspect with game time, he’ll be an important player. He’ll go into the first team squad and be a rotational option. Will need to do work on his personality, but other than that, I’m really happy with this signing. He cost me £16m (£17.5m) which is reasonably cheap for an Argentine talent.

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Now for the transfer saga of the summer. Think Liverpool chasing Virgil van Dijk or Naby Keita, but worse.

I mentioned when I was chasing Bangoura last summer, I only ever use the press to be a dick. This summer was no different.

I’ve had my eye on Fatawu Gyasi for two years. I probably should have taken a chance on him sooner, but I suppose I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the side. He’d been Monaco’s key man in that time, scoring 27 goals and 37 goals in consecutive seasons.

He was my number one target. I told the press as much and I told French captain Sébastien Lamy to talk the club up in the press. Operation “Woo Gyasi” was underway. He said nice things about me back, we were flirting. It was lovely, but it was very much like chatting to a girl on social media, it’s all well and good saying you’ll give her the time of her life, but if you go floppy at the crunch moment, then you’ll look like a dick.

So bids were being made. Monaco, quite rightly, didn’t want to sell, especially to me.

£40m, no.
£50m, no.
£60m, no.
£100m, no.

Monaco were cock blocking me from my biggest transfer target. Keep bidding, keep bidding. Keep talking him up in the press, DO ALL THE THINGS!

No luck. I was ready to admit defeat, but I kept looking at his profile page. Hold on, is that an unhappy status? Why yes it is.

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BOOM! Gyasi was guiding me in.

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I thought I could nab him for £50m, but Monaco weren’t having it. £75m was the agreed fee, a good bit over what I wanted to pay, but it had to be done. Crazy money. Another transfer record broken.

So, £95m spent this window.

The Season

A common theme when facing teams this year has been how much respect they’re now showing my side. Even in Europe, teams are rarely stepping up and taking us head on. It got a bit frustrating at times. This is when a lot of people would likely say “my tactic has been found out” or whatever it is people say, but I’ve always thought that if your tactic is good, then it’ll still be good if teams adapt. The AI will learn ways to deal with certain threats, but if you only have one threat, then you’re going to be in big trouble. The good thing about my side is that we have goals from all over the pitch.

The addition of Gyasi to the squad added a good amount of variation to our attacking options, he’s not only a striker, but can operate as a winger and as midfield raumdeuter. It was an expensive utility player, but in the next season or so, the move will make more sense.

I’d be lying if I said we had anything other than an exceptional season. We started the season with the traditional trophy friendly, 1-0 over PSG and a trophy in the cabinet is always a nice start to the season.

Some of our performances were up and down, a few 0-0’s and games where we scored late for the victory, but I’ve found in the past couple of years that my teams start a bit slow and then hit a good run of form from mid to late October onwards.

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In the Coupe de la Ligue, we eased our way to the final with victories over Le Havre (4-1.. I didn’t realise this was a cup game), Stade Brest (3-0) and Marseille (2-0) to setup a final against PSG. It was a horrible affair really, we started well, but I knew it was going to be a tough task as we were missing our captain and vice captain from our backline through suspension. Two goals from set pieces were to be our downfall and PSG lifted the first real trophy of the season 2-1.

A disappointment, but we soldiered on!

In the Coupe de France, we also marched to the final. I wouldn’t say it was a difficult path, but I remembered to play the youngsters in this competition and at times they didn’t make it easy for themselves. We beat Evreux FC (2-1), Marseille (1-1, 4-2 on pens), Lille (2-0), FC Lorient (4-0) and Sochaux (1-0). This time it was a final against Lyon.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 15.41.53.jpgI can safely say, hand on heart that this was one of the most boring finals I’ve ever played. Red cards aside, it was a snooze fest. Yohann Pierre did totally wipe Jakub Radomski out with an elbow, but that was honestly the highlight. Lyon had three shots all game, it was more like a fight than a match. 10 yellow cards and 2 red cards in a final.

It went to penalties, we missed all three of ours and Lyon scored all three of theirs. A drab affair, but disappointingly, another final defeat.

Still, there’s always room for optimism when your team is performing well in the league. By the time the winter break had rolled round, we’d drawn 3 games and won 18, 17 of those wins were in a row. Along the way, we’d beaten Nantes 5-0, Caen 7-0 and Marseille 3-0. We’d only conceded 5 goals in that time.

Our first game back after winter was PSG. We had to be ready, and we were. 3-0 victory with Roussel, Bangoura and Sohna getting the goals. Lovely stuff. Last season I was gutted to miss out on the unbeaten season, but this year I was gunning for it. Once I’d gone passed PSG, it was the goal. Win the league unbeaten.

My players must have heard me in the next game against St Etienne we were 2-0 going into the final ten minutes. I couldn’t believe it, at home, we’re going to lose! I was furious, I did the desperate “overload” and to my surprise, it bloody well worked.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 15.53.50.jpg86mins: Goal 2-1!
88mins: Goal 2-2!

I was still annoyed, but I believed it was possible at that point. How the hell we were ever behind in this match I’ll never know.

Dédé and Orishani saved our bacon!

It wasn’t the last time we’d stumble though, as I mentioned, teams were not keen on allowing us to play. Lyon sat back with an ultra defensive setup to grind out a 0-0, Montpellier did the same. Other teams caught onto this, Nancy and Marseille added to my 0-0 woes. We were rather shocking towards the end of the season with my strikers seemingly on holiday, despite all to play for. We should’ve wrapped the title up with three games to spare, but Marseille weren’t having it.

A 3-0 win over Bastia in the second last game secured the title, but that was second fiddle to what I wanted to achieve this season. I wanted that unbeaten tag! Lorient stood in my way. The title was already won, so I needed them to be totally focused, this is usually when my teams shit bricks.

Armand Sohna heard me loud and clear. Less than 2minutes in and we were ahead. Just before half time, he doubled our lead, I was pretty certain that it was game over. Lorient hadn’t even registered a shot on target.

It was in the bag, Auxerre were invincibles! And look at that goals against column!

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That is honestly one of my best ever seasons on FM. Our defence was immense, only conceding 9 goals is quite amazing, but when teams rarely venture forward, I suppose it’s to be expected. This also means we’ve won six titles in a row now. The next goal is to get to seven in a row to equal Lyon’s record and then to try and overtake it. It’s my ninth title with Auxerre which we can add to the one that Guy Roux won back in 95/96.

So that leaves us with the Champions League. This year we were drawn against Panathinaikos, Dortmund and Celtic in our group. I don’t want to focus on the group too much, but we finished top and didn’t concede a goal in all 6 games.

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I was hoping for an easier draw at this stage, but we don’t always get what we want. For the third year in a row we were drawn against Barcelona. I mean.. come on UEFA, stop picking us together!

Nothing wrong with a challenge though. First game at Camp Nou did not go to plan, losing 1-0, but I knew I had a chance back in France. 18minutes into the return leg and we’d evened it up. Barcelona were employing the 4141, sitting deep and hoping to hit us on the break, it was a tactic I was facing more and more. They weren’t very good at it, but they were defending very well. End of 90mins, 1-1 on aggregate.

I needed to score, but I needed to not concede.

In the 101st minute, we had a free kick on the edge of the box. Rayan Martinez has been in sensational form all season, especially from this sort of range. He places it right in the top corner to make it 2-0!

Barcelona switch to a 4123 almost instantly, but the whistle soon blows for half-time. It’s all Auxerre at this point and as Barca search for an away goal, we break and grab a third, again through Martinez who slots home from 10 yards out. 3-0! I was still so excited from that goal that I missed the build up to Romantzis scoring and making it 4-0!

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Take that Barca. Who’s next?

Real Madrid? Ah, well, ok..

First leg in the Bernabeu. We’ve got this, I think? The idea away from home is always to not get a horrible score. Mission accomplished I’d say, a convincing 3-0 victory meant that we had a very real chance of making the next round as long as we were tight at home. Again, Real Madrid didn’t come out to play and only had one shot the entire game and we were awarded the softest penalty ever to win the tie 4-0 on aggregate.

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I’ve been following Ed’s save with RB Leipzig on Slack and he has a running battle with Jose Mourinho. We were drawn against Man Utd who are still managed by Mourinho. I thought, lets beat this bastard for Ed.

First leg in France, we had to win. If we didn’t win, weren’t reaching that final. Come on!

Martinez, Radomski and Dédé all produced the goods, a 3-0 victory. It was by no means over though, I lost a semi final a few years back after being 4-1 up.

Lets go full Jose, lets play contain at Old Trafford. Admittedly, this was the plan, but I like to see how things are going first. 8minutes in and I had regretted that decision, 1-0 down. The switch came, contain! And contain we did, for 82 glorious minutes. We held the ball, we attacked when we saw fit, but we went into full on bastard mode. It finished 1-0, but we were in the final!

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So, a Champions League Final for the second time in three years. Our opponents were to be group stage opponents, Dortmund. They’d seen off Chelsea, Schalke and Juventus to reach the final, so it was going to be a tough game.

A tough game indeed, but also another drab affair. Another game where they parked the bus and rarely attacked. They managed just one shot on target all game, but it was enough to still be in the tie after 90minutes. They were trying to get us to penalties by the looks of it and they succeeded in doing so.

I was about to lose my third final of the season.

I then witnessed the worst penalty shootout of my life. 9 penalties taken and only 3 scored. If Dortmund score, it goes to sudden death. Prince Mbemba did his work and I did my finger point celebration as we claimed our second Champions League title in three years and our third of the save. Lovely stuff.. but man, what a terrible game!

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Hard lines for Dortmund, but brilliant work from the Auxerre boys. We won the Champions League and only conceded two goals along the way!

Players

The players were brilliant this season. Mbemba had another phenomenal season, no doubt helped by our incredible defence, he kept 42 clean sheets in 53 games and only conceded 13 goals. Brilliant.

Six players scored over 10 goals this season. They were, Sohna (28), Radomski (21), Martinez (16), Dédé (15), Gyasi (14) and Romantzis (13). Soriano managed nine goals but I expect a better performance from him in coming seasons.

Gyasi didn’t get as many starts as I wanted, but we were on a role and it’s hard to integrate someone into a new position when the team is playing well. Still, he was excellent when he did play.

Likewise for Maidana, although I expect him to play a bigger part in coming years.

This screenshot includes one of my new signings for next season, so just ignore him for now and pretend you didn’t see him haha.

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There we go, another season another title and another Champions League trophy. We march on to try and get that seventh title in a row to equal Lyon’s record.

Back soon, unless I have moved house! Be sure to check my channel out on Slack or follow me on Twitter.

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