Football Manager: Chapter III, Chilly December

Starting the month off was a confirmation of the signing of a talented goalkeeper. With João Virgínia being 19 there was no official keeper for the U18 team. They would use a keeper from one of the U17 or U15 teams. With the dominance of the U18 team in the Youth League it hardly caught my attention.

It was actually a scouting report from Sweden which caused me to look more into Jonas Petersson. He was seen as a promising goalkeeper who already behaved professional for his age.

With the team in good form we would start against Everton and have a few difficult matches from December 12th till 22nd where we would face West Brom twice and have our first derby of the season.

We kicked off with another win as Dybala was getting better and better as the season progressed.

His fourth Player of the Match

Later that day the monthly board meeting was held and they were still pleased.

The board did not seem to be all too concerned about possibly failing the FFP regulation on wages rise.

With the win against Dinamo we had the maximum amount of group points. The only team that managed that. The top scorer so far, Jonathan Calleri from Benfica had a storming game against Ajax scoring three goals which was not enough as they finished third in their group.

We learned of our possible League Cup faith as the Semi Finals opponents were drawn. Wycombe or Man Utd would play against us or West Brom. Sunderland drew Leeds.

Meanwhile Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira was having a tough time at Watford as he sats at the bottom of the league with only two wins out of 13 matches. And like his season so far his team was unlucky twice in our match. As the 5th minute goal was a clearance that hit against Jack (Wilshere). And in the second half an own goal that got tapped in as it hit the side of Bernardo’s boot coming in from a cross.

The big win against Watford came at a small cost. Late in the game Sanchez picked up an injury. It would not have that big of an impact as the next match would be the League Cup quarter final against West Brom. And the second stringers were up next.

Later in the evening the news reported that Jose Jesus was sacked at Barcelona. They were hovering in mid table and the question remained if they could turn things around.

In our FA Cup third round draw Fulham would be our opponents. There were four confirmed League Two teams with the possibility of more depending on the out come of the round two results. Vanarama National League could possibly see AFC Fylde reach the third round if they win against Oldham.

Thanks to the big win against Watford we dominated the Team of the Week with five players. Bielik had played in midfield to cover for the suspended Coquelin. Looking back at his match stats it explained a lot why he was included.

The League Cup match went without a hitch. Josh Tymon had a solid game and his assist on Santi (Cazorla) led to a beautiful goal. Cech made a nice point blank save. It feels great being able to field two completely different teams and still get a good result.

While at home watching TV I saw how West Ham trashed Watford with 8 goals. Robert Snodgrass got the perfect rating by scoring 5 goals. I could not see Vieira continue much longer now.

But I was not just watching the game, I was writing down a possible new formation for the team. Possibly replacing my 4–3–1–2 formation I hardly use. The base of the formation would be 3–5–2 but could shift to a 3–2–3–2. It would definitely cater to the number of midfielders we have. I sent it to the rest of the backroom and they agreed it was a concept worth trying out. We decided that the third round in the FA Cup would be a good moment to try this out as we decided on the roles for each position.

The Spurs game got off to a difficult start. It looked like their midfield was slowly taking control. It was was not until the 29th minute that Dybala responded the quickest to a shot from Wilshere that was blocked to tap it in. Two minutes later Kos(cielny) capitalised on a quickly taken free kick just on the outside of the penalty box to head it in. Spurs seemed in disarray. And slowly it looked like we gained control of the midfield but I was still not confident enough about this.

At half time I told the team to remain focused as Spurs could pull back at any time. I changed my formation to the trusted 4–2–3–1. I moved Ozil to the left wing and placed Dybala at AMC. Sanchez was to come inside from the right.

Minutes after the restart Ozil received a pass from a ball that was poorly cleared by the Spurs defence. He passed it into the box for an awaiting Oli(vier Giroud) who turned and shot it as it went in far from the keepers reach. A fourth goal followed after some passing between Wilshere and Ozil before he passed it on to Dybala at the edge of the box who knocked it forward and quickly moved to finish it off in the far corner.

Lucas Pratto scored a goal in the 83th minute as Spurs kept pressing forward. It was a disappointment for Giani to be beaten again but Gibbs and Kos were to blame for bad marking. In the final minute a cross was kicked in by Kane but ruled as offside.

Things got heated after the defeat in the Spurs dressing room. Dele Alli voiced his frustrations about not being allowed to join us.

The First Knockout round of the Champions League was drawn as followed:

West Brom are through?!

That’s four English teams, three German, two Dutch and one from Portugal, France, Germany, Ukraine and Italy. As we were drawn against Feyenoord the fans would see Giovanni van Bronckhorst again but this time in the capacity of manager. Last years Dutch league winners and current league leaders finished second behind Real Madrid in the group phase. For Barcelona this year will be important in the Champions League if they remain outside of the top four in La Liga.

The League match against West Brom started off difficult. We weren’t really able to push forward and it appeared that the 4–3–3 formation was not as effective as I thought. From a corner Paulista managed to score and I quickly changed to 4–2–3–1. After that it felt we regained control of the match and two more goals followed before half time. Three minutes after the restart Buitink scored his second. Before wrapping up the final score Silva scored his second in the 51st minute after which I brought on Dragomir and Iwobi to run the game out.

In another match Watford’s 3–0 loss against Chelsea costs Vieira his job. After only five months in charge he was dismissed. Later that day we received new that Iwobi would be participating in the Africa Cup of Nations. That would mean we’d lose him for almost a month.

(The Book of Gooner follows the career of a long time Championship/Football Manager player)