What a season, what a run-in, what a great little save that at times had my heart threatening to jump out of my body. Yes, I am happy to tell you dear followers that we managed to do it; to leave Ronaldo’s (and Dybala’s et al) Juventus floundering in our wake as we stormed on to a magnificent league and cup double despite the relentless onslaught of the angry old lady. Here’s how the run-in went:
So much happened this season that it’s hard to know where to start. With that in mind I think it’s best to start first with how we set up for the year with transfers and strategy then go on to our performance in each competition, so here goes.
That tricky 2nd year: developing and implementing a strategy
So after falling short of Juve by 28 points last year and STILL coming second it was clear that we needed to improve in the following areas. I had a hunch that Ronaldo might be a little slower this year so their points might not be as high but still I couldn’t rely on that happening. With this in mind these were my aims with the actions in blue:
- Improve goals against: a very poor 62 goals against in season 1 had led to us suffering 11 losses and 3 draws so it was clear this needed to change. In fact, if we were ranked on this we would have only been 11th in the league so it was so poor so something had to change quickly. ACTION = STRENGTHEN THE DEFENCE AND THE GK
- Replace an ageing squad: together with this, we also had the problem that 5 of our top players were approaching their mid-thirties and 3 had already started to lose attrib points as well as costing us in fatigue when it came to rotation for the Champions League and Coppa Italia. ACTION = RENEW WITH YOUNG OR PRIME PLAYERS (CAN BE OLDER BUT MUST BE TOP NOTCH WITH AT LEAST TWO YEARS LEFT)
- Develop 2 good formations: we had no variety at all last year mainly due to the players we had, so I wanted two firm formations, possibly 1 for lower sides or home and 1 for stronger sides or away (with a preference for a 5-3-2wb)
So I went into the transfer market with quite a set focus – my first priority was a solid defence and my second was overall improvement with a focus on players either young or in their prime (oh, and if you’re wondering why I didn’t focus on youth there were two simple reasons – Napoli had literally none of any quality and I didn’t intend to stick around long enough to see them develop anyway).
After a very long transfer window with some surprising twists and turns these were the results, with me having to do some serious shipping out to fund the purchases of Harry Kane and Pablo Alcacer, who in the end proved crucial to our success.
Perhaps the biggest shock was who had to leave to fund this influx, with Koulibally, Diawara, Allan and Zielinski being the main A-list casualties, some of whom were sold in a panic for less than their value as the clock ticked on the deals for Kane, Alcacer and Harry Maguire (who was a like-for-like replacement for Koulibally but 18 mil cheaper and with more room to grow). I was also extremely pleased to pick up GK Nahuel Guzman on a free despite him being a star above Fernando Muslera my main keeper with a 7.2 avg for Tigres (ironically though it was to be Muslera who kept his place for most of the year, no doubt fortified by Mr Maguire in front of him, though it did give me a good rotation option 🙂 ). I also fortified further in January with the absolutely outstanding Marcelo, who finally gave me that 532WB option that I had so much craved.
So with the first transfer objective out of the way, on we went and by the halfway point we were neck and neck with Juve on 41 pts, despite losing 2-1 to them in October from (yet again, boring FM) a Ronaldo penalty when we were dominating the game. In fact, the only difference was that they were ahead on GD by 6 goals. I was also very happy to see that they were nowhere near on target for their titanic haul of 103 pts last year. So far so good I thought! We then went on an incredible run that included 14 undefeated in the league, leaving us 7pts clear at the start of March – oh yeah baby 🙂
From then on it was a serious roller coaster ride as first we won then drew as Juve did the same almost on a week by week basis, leading to an absolute cracker in our second meeting, when we came back from 3 nil down after spending what felt like a week preparing, including watching ALL of their last game on comprehensive highlights:
Thus we took our 2pt advantage into our final game against Torino, which we went into quietly confident in our dominating 532 that had put us into this position post-January. As you know already we won it and beat the challenge but if you want to see the video it is here:
Oh yeah baby 🙂
Now this was a surprise, one of those times in FM when you look around and just realise you’ve made it to the final because the journey was that easy. Not that I’m dissing it, but it says something about the comp when just two games will get you into the semi-final, which is a bit unfair I guess. But that’s not all, for we drew .. wait for it .. Juve in the final 🙂
Yet again I went and watched their previous game only to have it all turned upside down when they changed formation completely as Ronaldo was injured (bless him 🙂 ). Stifling a smile I pressed on with the intention of holding them until half time with my stalwart 4222 before driving home the sword with my 532WB late on if needs be and I have to say it worked perfectly, with me live tweeting the whole thing and us finally winning 2-1 to lift the trophy:
If the story of us winning the double is about winning against all the odds, then by contrast our UCL campaign was much more sobering. While we qualified well from the group despite two absolute batterings by Man Utd, and even beat Chelsea to take us to the quarter final, Atletico Madrid was a case of boys against men. In two horrendous games we were well and truly put to the sword by the head, feet (and at one time, ass) of Diego Costa, who despite having two markers on him managed to score EVERY goal in a 7-4 aggregate battering, where the 4 goals completely flattered us.
In fact, the disappointment I felt at the time is best summed up in the tweet I sent and it’s probably best if we leave it there 🙂
Onwards and upwards (or maybe not)
So there you go, challenge completed. The intention was to win the league against a Ronaldo-inspired Juve and we have done it. If I had all the time in the world I would crack on and go for that Champions League and true domination, but unfortunately real life beckons (and I need to take the missus to Ikea).
Thanks for joining me and I look forward to seeing you again in FM19 🙂
Bye for now,