In my previous Football Manager blog I stated I would post another update at the end of my first season in the Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday. However, it’s been an eventful season so far so I am posting my next update at the halfway point of the league season, after nineteen Premier League games.
On many of the later editions of Football Manager I have struggled to keep Sheffield Wednesday in the Premier League at the first time of asking. Normally, I get relegated and then bounce back and then stabilise The Owls on my next promotion. This time around I had a little more confidence in being able to keep The Owls in the Premier League but I never expected to be doing quite so well at the halfway point. See the table below:
I was quite happy with the deals I completed in pre-season. With a heavy reliance on loans in my promotion season, I was aware of the need to get full transfers in, as the rules around loans in the Premier League is very restrictive. The entire side needed strengthening.
In defence I brought in Pennington, van Aanholt, Hector and Walker-Peters (one of the two loans permitted).
In midfield I signed Hayden, Onomah, Westwood, Tucudean and Diego.
To strengthen my forward line I also signed Ings, Wells and Gayle.
I had to wheel and deal a little to raise the funds to allow this spending spree. Barry Bannan was sold for an initial £7M. I would have kept Bannan on playing ability but his contract had just a year to run and he was a disruptive influence on the squad. It was rare that he was happy and he was always complaining. When I transfer listed him, I also dropped him to the U23s. At this point he approached me and complained about being in the U23s. After a not-so-productive discussion I dropped him to the U18s.
Another deal I was reluctant to complete was the sale of Tyrone Mings. I signed him in the January transfer window of my first season and his average rating was always over 7.0. Having signed him for £1.7M, I sold him for £11.5M plus add-ons.
Transfers so far in the 2020/21 season.
Tyrone Mings career stats.
July and August
I had a solid pre-season with some heavy wins over my affiliate clubs. I held Milan to a draw and fell to defeat against RB Leipzig. Overall, I was quite satisfied with the pre-season. Fitness levels were good and my players were familiar with my systems.
Just before the Liverpool game I had a couple of injuries, including the news that my record signing, Danny Ings, had broken his leg in training. The match itself was a disaster. After just 45 seconds Liverpool win a free-kick on the edge of my box. 1-0.
After just eight minutes Ryan Tunnicliffe is stretchered off. After fifteen minutes Liverpool win a corner. 2-0. I went in at half-time 3-0 down. The match finished 5-0. The only positive I could take from the match was that Liverpool were the defending champions and at least I got this match out of the way first.
From that point on, my form improved. In the second match I was 2-0 up with ten minutes to go against Newcastle. Then they scored a screamer from range, before Thorniley played a back-pass that only succeeded in playing their striker through in a one-on-one with my ‘keeper. The game finished 2-2. There was a similar story against West Ham.
I was dominating possession in my games but my team seemed to struggle to hold on to a lead. I realised I needed to have a system to close up shop and hold on to a lead. I came up with this:
which I would use when winning instead of my normal system:
September and October
In September I started with two wins before losing an even contest against Arsenal. Despite having slightly more possession and chances, Arsenal’s quality in attack meant they could take better advantage of their chances.
I was disappointed with the performance against Everton and Burnley. My players did not react well to the tactical briefings on those games. It seems that I have more confidence in my players than the players do themselves. I did go on to win the next two games in fairly comfortable fashion.
November and December
I was really annoyed when I lost at Stoke. This was the team that pipped me to the Championship title the previous season, despite me doing the double over them. My players just didn’t turn up.
The Manchester United match was amusing though. It was the first time I employed my park-the-bus system for an entire match. The game finished 0-0 and was fairly even; my ‘keeper was not really troubled through the game. I thought this was a cracking result. The assembled journalists in the post-match press conference kept referring to this as a poor result though. Bizarre. I tried the same system when I hosted Manchester City but went in at the break 2-0 down. I changed back to an attacking system for the second half and gave my players some encouragement and drew the second half 2-2, but unfortunately I could not erase the first half and as such, the game finished 4-2 to City.
December looked very, very tough on paper with me travelling to Chelsea and Newcastle (who are defying expectations), as well as hosting City, Spurs and Liverpool. As you can see from the first four games in December I lost to City, beat Chelsea at their place in a deserved victory and then held Spurs and Liverpool at home.
I thought it was a nice coincidence that Liverpool book-ended the first half of the season. It shows how far my team has come through the season when I was hammered at their place but held them to a competitive draw in the return fixture.
I started the season hoping to hit 36 points as a minimum. In the previous two seasons that is the points total it has taken to avoid relegation. I figured if I win ten games it should be enough alongside the draws I would be sure to pick up along the way. After 19 games I have 8 wins and 29 points. I have a game in hand on most teams and have spent much of the season in the top seven. I would be disappointed at this stage if I failed to qualify for Europe.
My contract was up for renewal and although the board is largely happy with me, they are still concerned that I am not playing enough attacking football. I was finally able to get the board to agree to bin that philosophy in favour of me playing possession based football. This should be fairly easy to achieve as I regularly dominate possession by at least 60-40.
I had a funny/frustrating scenario crop up on my game. A player popped up on my scout reports. This was a young player created by the game; a 17 year old winger who was at Oldham. He has boatloads of potential. My board were willing to negotiate the transfer on my behalf after my initial bids were turned down. Note: the player was currently injured but due to resume full training in a couple of months.
The board were enthusiastic about the transfer and got a price agreed and subsequently agreed a contract. However, the board then vetoed the transfer because the player was injured.
So, the board vetoed their own transfer for a player they were enthusiastic about signing. Come on, this should not be happening.
Thank you for reading. If you have enjoyed exploring Now We Live, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you would like to contribute to Now We Live, please refer to our submissions page.
If you would like to read more Football Manager content on Now We Live, then please check out the Football Manager Ambition blog.
Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.