On the whole it was a decent first season in the Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday. I managed to secure a 9th place finish which was way above anything the board, media or players expected. However, I felt that the squad was capable of more and I finished just four points off the European qualification places. I mentioned in my previous post that there were two matches I drew, despite leading by two goals into the final minutes of the game. One of those matches was against Newcastle who finished three points above me.
Looking at the teams above me in the final standings, I did not have a bad record against them. In sixteen fixtures against the top eight sides I had a return of fifteen points including a memorable double over Chelsea, as well as draws in both games against Manchester United. The other Manchester club hammered me in both fixtures though with an aggregate score of 9-3.
Here is an overview of the results from the second half of my season:
Although there were a few disappointing results through the season, the one that really stung was the 5-0 defeat away at Crystal Palace. I had a strong line up and seemingly a good reaction to the team talk, but my team just rolled over and let Palace dominate from start to finish. It hurt even more as Palace were struggling against relegation for most of the season. A complete fluke of a result on the face of it, but there was one factor that I did not account for.
The Importance of Goalkeepers
A good goalkeeper is so important, it really cannot be overstated. I had signed Declan Rudd at the end of the first season to replace Westwood and at just £200,000 he was a great signing. In the January transfer window of this season, Everton came in with a bid of around £4M for him. I sent back what I thought was a crazy negotiation but Everton came back with an offer I could not refuse; £11M up front, rising to £15M depending on appearances. A fantastic deal. However, the transfer was going through as the Palace game was being played, and I did not want to risk injury to Rudd so I placed Cameron Dawson in goal for this match.
The thing is, Dawson's stats on the game have improved a fair bit over the seasons. He has spent time on loan where he has played regularly. I figured that a full strength outfield team would be more than enough to face Palace who had lost all eight Premier League fixtures before our match.
I was wrong.
The day after the Palace humiliation I used the £11M from the Rudd sale to purchase Erik Lamela and a young goalkeeper from Barcelona B:
I was able to sign this 'keeper for £2.4M which I felt was a good investment. His stats are good but not exceptional, however he is still young and with some quality coaching his stats could improve. For a while I wondered if my tendency to concede heavily in some games was due to my 'keeper but I think it is also due to a lack of quality in the full back areas. I will be shopping for a more established 'keeper and some new full backs in the summer.
I have noticed that in the Premier League most of the goals I concede are when I am hit on the break from wide areas. Teams will get their wingers to the touchline and send in a cross which is then converted. I dominate possession easily even against Manchester City, but their goals all came from fast counter attacks. I need pace at full back and some quality defence stats. Some part of me does wonder if there is a hidden mechanic in the game where some 'keepers have good stats but poor "presence" for lack of a better term. We have all seen goalkeepers who have all the technical attributes, but lack a certain something. It is clear that the outfield players have no confidence in the last line of defence and the whole team looks brittle. For all his potential on screen, I am not convinced by him.
The two images above are for two of my more successful signings. Julian von Moos was signed in my final Championship season from Dortmund for £7.5M. He has scored fifteen goals in the Premier League and is still only 20. I can see this player developing further within the game and I am surprised clubs have not shortlisted him yet.
The second player was something of a punt. Diego only cost me £200,000 and he was one of those signings where you can't quite see all the stats, but what I could see looked promising. I also liked that he was a right sided attacking midfielder who was left-footed; I like my wingers to cut in and shoot. He was initially behind Iheanacho (signed on loan from Leicester) but he injured himself early on. This allowed Diego to nail down a first team place and he more than delivered. I don't think he is good enough to help Wednesday on to the next level but at £200,000 I stand to make a huge profit when I come to sell him.
There are some players that play FM and do not worry about the financial health of the club. They will spend everything possible to buy as many players as possible, even if that involves spreading transfer fees over as many instalments as possible to reduce the impact on the current transfer budget. I don't like this approach.
My philosophy is that I like to make sure the finances of the club are in good order. This is not just a point of pride, but also a way of keeping the board happy and making it more likely that board requests will be granted.
I'm pretty happy that I've managed to make a profit in each of the three seasons I have managed Sheffield Wednesday.
In order to turn Sheffield Wednesday from a lower Championship side to 9th in the Premier League has cost me a net spend of £19M. That's not a bad return, I think. If I was to be a manager in the real world I would like to think my approach would be somewhat similar; sign players who I can improve and then sell for a profit whilst as the team time improving the club as a whole.
I have not moved the game on since finishing the season. I am going to wait and see how much money the board give me to spend. They are already improving the training facilities which will complete by October. Realistically, I need £60M to improve the defence and 'keeper and I have some targets shortlisted. If I don't get enough money then I will try and get a job elsewhere whilst my stock is high.
I hope you've enjoyed this update. I will post another as my save progresses. For more Football Manager related content, please check out the Football Manager Ambition blog on Now We Live.
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Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.