Episode 9 – That’s no 4-2-2-2…..

After winning the Spanish Cup and sneaking into 4th spot by the skin of our teeth, I have been invited to the prestigious end of season awards do to represent the squad. We come second in the Most Improved Team category to Sevilla, while Rong Qifel is up front in the La Liga Team Of The Year. Tiny Tim Nederburgh is among the substitutes, thanks to Player of the Year and Russian international Vyacheslav Karavaev, whose average rating of 8.28 for Barcelona is raising some eyebrows among the anti-doping committee. Not wanting to upset Barcelona, the committee accidentally spill his urine sample, and politely wait for him to swig his champagne.

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Now, the biggie, Manager of the Year. I am a surprise nomination, with Barcelona’s Frank De Boer and Diego Simeone, who’s ending his second spell at Atletico to head to Monaco, the more likely winners.

And the winner of the Liga BBVA Manager of the Year award is……. ME!!!!!!!!

De Boer gives me an angry stare, and Simeone celebrates his new job and excessive salary by making it rain banknotes over me. I’m not even on £9000 a week yet, so I stuff a fistful of notes down my top, and accept my award with a few humble words, thanking the fans, the players, and the woman who cleans up after me occasionally.

Now, onto this season ahead.

A surprise comes when Switzerland offer me a second chance at an international job. They must have missed my Dutch side’s mediocre matches on the dodgy streaming websites, no TV stations would show our games by the end. I grab it with both hands, pleasing Valencia’s Swiss keeper Yvon Mvogo, who is surely dreaming of many international caps during my reign.

In terms of transfers, I have no money to spend. I make 3.7m by offloading cup hero Ione Gomez, Kevin Friesenbichler and backup midfielder Fermin, Aymen Abdennour is allowed to wander into the wilderness of the free agent market, as is Jese. Coming in are exciting Portuguese/Chinese midfielder Wang Tang, who agreed terms in January, but had to run down his contract at Academica, and 30 year old winger Ahmed Musa, who’s been doing rather well at Koln. He is another free transfer, as are backup players Armand Pater and Nils Hossmann, who impress while on trial.

Our season begins horrifically, Barcelona spanking us 3 times in quick succession to win the Super Cup and take a lead at the top of the table, Arsenal scoring 9 goals in two games to send us crashing out of the lucrative Champions League playoff to land in the safety net of the Europa League groups. Real Madrid pop up in this early firestorm of 9 difficult opening games, winning 2-1 at the Bernabeu, while our only saving grace is a goalless draw at Malaga.

After a squad meeting and cuddles from new vice captain Timothy Nederburgh, I switch up my tactic to something inspired by an article I read on The HigherTempoPress.

Basically it works around the principle of the old Brazilian 4-2-2-2, but with two wide men and one deep lying forward. So what the hell, 1 draw in 9 games, lets take a risk!

After a bit of tweaking here and there, we go and win 8 of our next 10 games. Admittedly not the standard of opposition I faced at the start of the season, but you can only beat what’s in front of you right?

Atletico bring us back to earth with a 3-1 defeat, and we fail to beat a depleted Levante side, which does not please the fans one bit. I appease them with qualification from a Europa League group that looked simple, but went right down to the last game with Hertha Berlin, Spezia and Braga all in the hunt until the last few minutes of the last match. We go through in 2nd after Hertha beat us 4-2, squeaking past Spezia by one goal difference.

I celebrate our qualification by beating Sevilla 2-0, then breezing through to the quarters of the Spanish Cup, Burgos and Real Oviedo not putting up much resistance against my reserve side.

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So far the season’s been a tale of two halves, a shocking start, albeit Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal making up 6 of our first 8 defeats, followed by some improvements thanks to this attacking 4-2-1-2-1, or as the AI prefers to call it, a Defensive 2-4-1-3 Asymmetric.

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The idea behind this ridiculous looking formation is that as the Inside Forward and Advanced Playmaker come inside to look for the ball, the flanks will be left open for the wing backs to push up. With Tiny Tim Nederburgh and Kostas Stafylidis being two of my top players, it has benefited them immensely. Tiny Tim has responded well to my regular praise and has an average of 8.66 in his last 5 games, while Stafylidis is also on form.

The 4 central defensive players have cut out crosses as a regular weakness, crowding the box and forcing teams to cut through us with through balls rather than crossing.

35% of our goals come from crosses, which is understandable with the wing backs looking to push on. What is slightly worrying me is how little Andres Renteria is contributing. As my only real decent striker at the club, he’s been forced into the DLF role, when ideally he’d be a poacher.

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With only 2 goals and 2 assists all season in the league, 5 goals and 5 assists in 22 competitive starts, I’m starting to wonder if Renteria is worth keeping on. My wide men Rong Qifel and Pione Sisto are banging in the goals, with even new signing Ahmed Musa chipping in with more goals than my supposed goal threat. He’s worth 13.5m and he’s nearly 31, so it might be worth cashing in if any offers come in for him. Thanks to Valencia’s debt levels, I would only get 25% of any transfer fee to spend, so for now unless someone comes in with a big offer, I think he’ll be staying put.

Rong Qifel is continuing his exceptional form from last year, only needing one more goal to activate his £220k 15-goal bonus for the season. It’s only January. And he’s still improving….

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So that’s about it for this update, I’m about to end the January transfer window, in the Spanish Cup quarters, Europa League first knockout round, 6th in the league. Not as awful as it looked at the start of this season!!!!

Special thanks to Just M1ke Plays, who kindly took the time to give me some feedback on the blog, he is definitely worth finding on Twitter and Youtube! And also the guys from the Deep Lying Podcast and FM Central, who are always highlighting the best new content (including this blog!) with their hashtag #wearethecommunity

You can find me on Twitter @JDdwerryhouse, or follow this blog here on WordPress.