Hello again, and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition.
Pre-season has finished in real life; the Premier League has kicked off, and the transfer window has slammed humiliatingly in the faces of both Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino.
Pre-season has also finished on my game, but I'm in season 2027-28. Nevertheless, I feel Jose's pain. It's been a frustrating pre-season for me.
But before we get into all that, here's our regular feature...
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
"What do you mean about 'your knee'? It's Liverpool's knee!"
~Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, explaining who owns what to Tommy Smith.
Football, as I often repeat, is all about money these days. And money is about ownership; players are property - or more rightly, commodities to be traded.
Success or failure in the transfer market can often be a good indicator of success or failure on the pitch. With transfer windows now an entrenched part of football culture, pre-season isn't only about players losing a few pounds in weight and sharpening up in friendlies. It's about cubs moving around millions of pounds; buying and selling.
My wife and I were talking about who might succeed and fail in real life this season. And we had ourselves a little fun wager. We each had to name which team we thought would win the Premier League, which team would finish bottom, which so-so team would do better than most people expect (a bit vague, that one), and which two teams would fill the two automatic promotion spots from the Championship. Here's what we came up with:
Interestingly, neither of us picked Cardiff as the bottom team. Personally, I think Cardiff's lowly ambitions might help them, but nevertheless they will go down. I expect the bottom three places in the Premier League to be filled by the clubs that have just come up; Fulham, Wolves and Cardiff. I think the gap between the Premier League and the Championship has grown. It'll be interesting to see which one of us will be closer to reality next spring.
But enough of real life, what about Football Manager?
So, I've said pre-season has been frustrating for me. On the field, things went okay. Here's how the pre-season friendlies panned out:
I was actually pleased my team got trounced by Roma in a friendly, as I have this feeling that a straight run of wins in pre-season can lead to overconfidence at the start of league fixtures.
Some people think I play too many pre-season games. But I have a process when it comes to pre-season; I find if I've got nine or so games under my belt before the first league fixture, I can make sure every un-injured player in my squad is fully match fit. For each friendly, I pick the player with the lowest match fitness in each position, and I try not to make any substitutions. I try to keep my squad composed of three keepers, three strikers, and two players for each other outfield position. This means most of my squad get at least four full 90-minute matches during the pre-season. It works for me, and I usually start the season proper with a bang.
The frustrations have come in the transfer market. Have a look at my transfer funds situation:
The above screenshots show the extremes of putting maximum budget into wages, or maximum budget into transfer kitty. Either way, in Premier League terms, it's not a huge war chest. I didn't have much wiggle room in terms of selling players, either, as I've got good players I want to hang onto. Here's my transfers out in the close-season:
Only one sale: Gareth Rhodes for £675k. The rest is a large number of loans with fees, totalling £36.5 million. The problem was, I couldn't get clubs to part with my top transfer targets. In the end, this is what I brought in:
All these players were immediately loaned back out (with fees), except Gillett, who is currently my third choice for the one striker position.
Regular readers of this blog will know that my main transfer target for the last couple of seasons has been Chelsea's world-class midfielder Shane Fuller:
I have tried repeatedly to sign this lad, but get knocked back by Chelsea every time:
It's not going to happen, is it? Sigh.
Things got worse for me when my star striker became unsettled. This is the guy I paid £103 million for, and then stood by while he went through nine months of cruciate ligament lay-off. Suddenly he decides he wants to join PSG. Well, sadly for him, PSG weren't prepared to pay my perfectly reasonable £300 million asking price, so they couldn't have wanted him THAT much. Now he won't talk to me, and he's injured again.
It looks like, once more, I won't be able to spend all my transfer kitty. After the win in the Super Cup, I made enquiries about all the England players not currently owned by SWFC. (For those not familiar, I explained in an earlier blog how Football Manager Ambition is all about trying to fill my Sheffield Wednesday team with England internationals, so that the England team is made up purely of SWFC players.) I had a bid for Reiss Nelson accepted but he and his agent wanted comedy fees that I'm just not prepared to go to.
I managed to get a £19.75 million bid for Liverpool's rightback Connor Willet accepted, but only after the window closed. He will join in January, and will eventually succeed Kyle Walker-Peters, who isn't getting any younger.
I've also arranged to bring in a back-up keeper from Everton for £675k.
The upshot is that I've still got over £88 million in the transfer kitty that I can't spend. I'll just keep scouting and enquiring about Fuller and the other England players. Hopefully, soon, I'll unsettle some of them.
I wonder if Mourinho does that kind of thing...
Thanks for stopping by. See you next time.