Well, if you thought the ending to last season was dramatic, things really took a turn this time. There's finally some proper silverware in the cabinet, but there's been heartbreaking disappointment too. There's plenty to talk about, so let's get started with our usual...
“You know he is a specialist in failure. I'm not. So if supposedly he's right and I'm afraid of failure, it's because I don't fail many times. So maybe he's right, maybe I'm not used to failing. But the reality is he's a specialist because, eight years without a piece of silverware, that's failure. If I do that in Chelsea, eight years, I leave London and I don't come back.”
~Jose Mourinho explains the differences between himself and Arsene Wenger.
You know what? I'm not used to failure, either. It's taking a long time, but I will achieve my mad ambition!
It has become a real frustration for me that my results with Aston Villa continue to be patchy. I've just completed season 2022/23. That's five seasons complete. I've normally won the Premier League after five seasons - or at least qualified for the Champions League - in previous iterations of FM. But then, for the last few years, I've always managed the club I support in real life - Sheffield Wednesday - taking only one season to get promoted. This time, I started with lowly, lovely Swindon, and arrived at recently-promoted Villa via Peterborough and Norwich. So I'm behind where I'm used to being. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. But still, the lack of consistency in results is a bit alarming. But it's not all doom and gloom as you'll see...
The pre-season friendlies left me feeling optimistic, as did the 10-2 aggregate win over Kalju. But ever the voice of concern, I worried a little about the Euro Cup. I'd qualified by finishing seventh in the league last season ,which meant I had to go through more qualifying against minnows like Kalju. Couple this with a mid-winter break coming up to accommodate the Qatar World Cup (don't get me started) - a break in which I would have to organise friendlies to keep players match fit - I could expect to play a huge number of matches this season. As good as I was looking in June and July, I would be handling exhausted players come the end of the season.
As you can see, August was a fantastic month, with some good solid wins, albeit against modest opposition. September was tougher. However, West Ham would prove to be one of the surprise packages of the season, finishing 4th, so that was a good draw, as was the result against Arsenal. Man city continue to be almost irresistible.
The October to December period again saw some great results, although the 3-0 defeat to Leicester set some alarm bells ringing. After a routine 2-0 wine over Larne, it was World Cup time, and a series of meaningless, annoying friendlies for me!
Incidentally, England didn't exactly pull up any trees in Qatar, but England manager Gary Rowett (you heard me) is still in a job at the time of writing.
When the season resumed, I knew I was facing trouble due to fixture congestion. The Euro Cup had taken its toll, and I had four games in hand on most other teams in the league, and was languishing around 10th position. I knew my best chance of a trophy this season would be in the League Cup, and I also wanted to go as far as I could in Europe. Something had to give. I made the decision I would blood U18 and U23 players in the FA Cup, and not really give a crap if I got knocked out. I also decided that if I won the Carabao, I would go on to occasionally play weakened teams in the league to help offset exhaustion. It wouldn't be U18s and U23s in the league; just second-choice first teamers occasionally.
As you can see, the fixtures came thick and fast. I got battered as expected in the FA Cup against a good Bournemouth side. But then glory, as I unexpectedly beat Manchester United 2-0 in the League Cup Final!
March felt like a disaster, with only one league win, although the Euro win against Genk represented important progress. Then on 17th March, my star striker Juan 'Cucho' Hernandez suffered a torn ab, and would not play again for the rest of the season. While I'd added Lacazette inJanuary, Cucho couldn't really be replaced, and it would be a telling blow for my League and European ambitions.
April was memorable for an amazing second-leg comeback against the mighty Bayern Munich in the Euro quarter-final and I did wonder of fate was going to smile on me after all. I picked up some league wins, but they were difficult and not a little bit lucky, as my team's performances were starting to falter.
May saw an away-goals win over Valencia in the Euro semi-final. My tried and tested approach when playing better teams in a two-legged tie is to keep it tight at home, and go all-out away, trying to make away goals work to my advantage, and it paid off brilliantly this season. In the league, I kept the fans happy with another win over local rivals West Brom, but tough games against Liverpool and Manchester United, along with an infuriating draw at struggling Southampton, meant I could not capitalise on my games in hand. I finished 9th; two places below last season. But maybe it's not too disappointing considering the League Cup is cosily ensconced in my trophy room, and I got to the final of the Euro.
Normally, I would find the Euro Cup fairly easy to win. But this season, not only did I have to overcome Bayern and Valencia, but I had Barcelona - yes Barcelona - in the final! Just my luck that the season I get into Europe, these giants are out of the Champions League! Well, I'm no stranger to giant killings, so I gave it a go...
So close. Damn. Yeah, heartbreak pretty much sums it up.
So, to summarise...
West Ham did ridiculously well, while to be fair to Leicester, it's still only a few years since they won the league, so they still carry some clout. Beyond those two, the teams that finished above me in the league are what I would consider to be big teams. I need to progress my career, now.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
There's no shame in losing out to Barcelona. I beat Bayern Munich, dammit!
Five seasons in the making. Happy days!
I was tempted to put the Bayern games in here, but really, there can only be one match deserving of this spot... even if there's not that much of it...
There have been a few Premier League managerial changes throughout the season, but my ambitions are now such that none of them appealed. I'm waiting for a big club, and with a trophy now in the bag, who knows?
At the close of the 2022/23 season, the job centre situation looks like this:
I would definitely take the Arsenal job. In fact, I might have even said so out loud a while back...
At the start of the season, the board had these expectations...
I matched expectations in the league. I failed in the FA Cup, but massively overachieved in Europe and in the League Cup. So where does that leave me with the board?
Meh. Whatever Mr Chairman. The lack of confidence in tactics is hilarious, as the opinion is based entirely on results, rather than actual tactical efficiency. Don't argue with me about tactics Mr Chairman. Haven't you heard Arsenal are sniffing around?
I had what is for me a very restrained couple of transfer windows. This is partly because Villa don't have huge amounts of cash to throw around, and partly because I'm getting to the stage where I've got the best players I can that are willing to come to Villa, considering the club's current reputation. I might be able to take Villa a little bit further yet, if I don't move on. But that next step would be qualifying for the Champions League, and I don't know if the right calibre of players will come. We'll see.
Net Spend: £25.5 million.
So I had some contact from another FM gamer asking if I'd had problems on the game with crosses. Apparently, he wasn't getting enough crosses in. Worse than that, when his wide players were getting into crossing positions, they would actually roll the ball back down the touchline, and pretty much do anything to avoid getting crosses in. This guy had tried all the obvious tweaks to tactics to get around this, and some less obvious ones. But the problem persisted. I had a look at his tactics, and while I made a couple of observations, there was nothing to suggest he was doing anything wrong. At times like this, it's a good idea to visit the SI bugs forum. Sure enough, it turned out this was a known problem, and at the time of writing no solution is being offered by SI.
Anyway, maybe I hadn't been paying enough attention to my game, but now the issue had been raised, I realised my team wasn't crossing anywhere near as much as on FM18. Crosses are integral to my style of play, too. After a bit of tweaking, I found some changes that have got my team back to more crosses, although not as much as I'd like. This might not work for everyone, because, as we know, everything in tactics is interlinked. But for me, these changes made the difference:
1. Instruct to play through the middle.
2: Set attacking width to widest possible.
3. Remove all instructions for crosses from fullbacks (IE, select neither 'cross from deep' nor 'cross from byline'. I do this with fullbacks because they are the only players in my tactics who regularly get into crossing positions.
Okay, I've got quite a few things to get off my chest here...
As you can see, Kohr has no current concerns. So why is it...
... that he feels alienated? I'm sure SI will have an excuse for it, but it seems to me like feeling alienated in training should be a current concern.
This is pathetic
This enforced inability to hold a team meeting came two days before the Euro Cup Final match against Barcelona. No reason? Really?
Tymon Transfer Twattery
I don't seriously use the 'transfer targets' functionality. But I'd been trying to unsettle Josh Tymon at Stoke, and decided to see what would happen if I listed him as a transfer target. This happened. Yes, my DoF made a bid of... Zero!
Which is more than a little annoying and plain stupid, considering I had this in the bank:
Apparently, I rarely communicate with my players. Despite personally holding every team talk, including drilling down to individual talks. I occasionally hold team meetings when appropriate (and if the game lets me). I also, once per game week, review team morale and have a private chat with one or more players with the lowest morale. I also hold private chats to criticise poor training with individuals every time it occurs. If any player gets a first cap, or first international goal, or wins players of the month / season or goal of the month / season, I hold a private chat to congratulate them. Every. Single. Time.
Do it again!
Apparently, the board expects me to finish in the top half of the table twice in the same season. Seems legit.
From now on, I'll be including an update on progress made toward my mad ambition. Over the coming weeks and months, we'll see how this checklist fills up!
That's all for this time. Thank you for stopping by, and may your game never crash unsaved!