Football Manager - The Fergie Challenge Part III

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It’s been a while hasn’t it?

We left off our journey at the end of 2014/15 with our plucky Swans finishing a very respectable and very mid-table tenth. So, how could we progress on? Would I be able to shift on the players I wanted to? Could I keep hold of my best players? Would Charlie Adam ever leave Swansea?

Sadly, the answer to final question is no but not for the want of trying. It was tantalisingly close at one point until the big man decided he was going to be too expensive for Sheffield Wednesday. Ugh. So, we’re stuck with Charlie for the foreseeable future.

I did have success offloading a couple of players I definitely didn’t want. Kyle Naughton was sold for £2 million to West Brom in quite possibly my favourite transfer. I have no idea why I hated Naughton so much but I did and he’s gone. Ashley Richards also left for Burnley for £750,000, meaning I needed a new right back to compete with an unsettled Angel Rangel (he wanted to join Napoli then QPR).

Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne was my pick (mainly influenced by him playing for my favoured team in real life) and I snagged him for a pretty reasonable £11.75 million up front, with a couple of million pounds in add-ons. I thought it was a solid deal and my wheeling and dealing didn’t stop there.

Celtic strike Premier Sports deal - is this the "additional value" we've been waiting for?

The departures of Alan Tate, Kyle Bartley and Giancarlo Gallifuoco for being not very good at the end of the season, I needed another centre back.

Fortunately, West Ham had contrived to get themselves relegated and I had mentioned that I was looking to snap up Winston Reid, so I did. A free transfer for a player entering his prime and with Premier League experience is a pretty good deal, I’d say, and it’s not the only value transfer I managed either.

Wayne Routledge ended up joining Naughton at West Brom, while Nathan Dyer departed for £7.5 million to Everton meaning I had a gap or two to fill on the wings.

Luckily, Jese was unwanted and unloved at Real Madrid and he only set me back £3.1 million for a highly rated player with bags of talent. It also meant promotion to senior football for Kenji Gorre and Bakary Sako staying, but you don’t always get what you want.

The departures of Tom Carroll and Nelson Oliveira at the end of their loan deal necessitated the arrival of cover and I got that in the form of the transfer listed Benat from Athletic Bilbao (£1.9 million) and Russian striker Artem Dzyuba (free), both of whom have plenty of big game experience  domestically and in Europe.

I also realised late that I only had Neil Taylor at left back and that wasn’t OK so in came Ashley Cole on loan for the season from Roma. Meanwhile, my head of youth development also decided to sign Daniel Bond from Swindon for £59,000 which wasn’t the worst seeing as he was reasonably quick and a decent finisher.

Sadly though there are things that bug you in Football Manager and one of these has reared its very ugly head. The board are marking me down because the fans are mad that Napoli decided to use Michu’s buy-out clause at the end of his loan and bought him. Like I had a chance to get more money for him. Ugh.

Still, with all that business and shake-up over the summer, you would expect some kind of second season slump right? Wrong.

We’re sitting relatively comfortably in seventh and it’s a good place to be. There is a tinge of disappointment though as we were at one point in mid-December sitting right on the cusp of the top four after some scintillating performances (which I will cover since they are worth it) but a couple of defeats to big teams have impeded our progress. Also, props to Everton for giving me £7.5 million for Nathan Dyer and still being in the top four.

The last two iterations of these posts have been sparse on details because I was, frankly, just trying to get to the end of the season to revamp the side and make it my team. Now, though, it’s my side and you can expect plenty to be covered. Like, for example, the fact that we started the season slow but kept picking up wins over sides we were losing to last season.

A win at Southampton, a win against West Brom, a win against Burnley, a draw at Stoke, a 1-1 at the Etihad. They began to pile up and after ten games we had only lost three (all three away from home), despite not exactly setting the world alight. We’d also been blown out of the Capital One Cup by Manchester City in the fourth round 5-0, but we’ll gloss over that.

Then something magical happened. Liverpool visited the Liberty Stadium and I feared the worst. We’d lost a couple recently and this was last season’s runners-up that had pounded us here before. Fortunately something clicked and with an Icelandic magician named Gylfi running the show and scoring twice we ran away with a 4-0 win.

Goals were flowing for Gylfi after that, two against newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday then two in our 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge as we flirted with the top four. Sadly, leaders Manchester United proceeded to crush us 4-0 in Swansea and although we haven’t crumbled, we haven’t quite hit those heady heights as we ended 2015.

Still, seventh is a good showing and a solid platform to launch into the new year. It’s certainly better than what I thought we’d get and I’d attribute it down to a couple of players in the middle of the park – Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Cork.

Shelvey’s form has him on the brink of an international call-up and he has run the show in a number of big games such as our pounding of Liverpool and that win at Stamford Bridge while new vice-captain Jack Cork has been incredible as the ball-winner and when he doesn’t play, we struggle. He is as close to undroppable as a footballer can be right now.

The summer recruitment drive has been overwhelmingly positive as well with most of the signings doing at least a decent job.

Jese has been superb since joining although he has a tendency to disappear from games. Six goals and four assists in 23 games is a decent return while a 7.17 average rating is not to be sniffed at but I’m looking for more end product.

Clyne has practically relegated Angel Rangel to being my virtual Jose Enrique and the amount I paid for him is looking like a nice little bargain. An average of 8.96 tackles won a game and a 7.02 average rating in 22 games is excellent stuff.

Artem Dzyuba might only have three goals in 16 games and a 6.79 average rating but he bagged the winner at Stamford Bridge and his all-round play has changed games at times.

Benat has managed to score once in his 17 appearances but nine of those have been from the bench which reflects in his average rating of 6.74.

Winston Reid has only played ten times but has a goal and a decent average rating of 6.99 while Ashley Cole has only played 9 games but a 6.97 average rating is good for a 35 year old cover option.

The main man this season has been Gylfi Sigurdsson who has been incredible. He’s our top scorer with eight (admittedly five have come from the spot) and his all-round play has been superb. The midfield triangle of him, Cork and Shelvey is pretty much the key to our progress right now as I search for the missing pieces in certain areas to fix a couple of problems we have.

The first and biggest problem is up front. Our top two scorers are Jese and Gylfi and they’re playing in midfield. Jordan Rhodes has misfired badly and only scored four while Dzyuba has three and Bafetimibi Gomis – top scorer last season – has managed nothing in front of goal and is persona non grata in Swansea now.

Secondly, defensive issues are cropping up now and again but not as bad as last season. Federico Fernandez and Winston Reid have had shockers this season while Jordi Amat is steadily moving along and Ashley Williams is just being Ashley Williams.

The problem for our progression is that we’re solid but not good enough offensively and not good enough defensively. It’s what I need to rectify.

So, what do we have to look forward to then? Remember young Daniel Bond? He’s bagged 21 in 21 in the youth team so he’s getting a shot in our upcoming FA Cup tie with Preston, while I have brought in versatile Argentine defender Walter Kannemann from Mexican side Atlas for a deal that could be worth up to £1 million with add-ons.

He was out of contract and I was impressed with his ability to be a solid rotation option at both centre and left back plus it was a cheap deal so I can always make profit on him if he bombs.

I’m also targeting a replacement for Gomis and/or Rhodes as well as Ukrainian goalkeeper Maxym Koval from Dynamo Kiev to replace Fabianski who has done well this season but is prone to letting the odd stupid goal in.

And as for Charlie Adam – he’ll be gone by the next update. Promise.

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Missed Part I of the Fergie Challenge? Catch up here: https://tbrfootball.com/football-manager-fergie-challenge-part-1/

Alternatively, here you will find Part II: https://tbrfootball.com/football-manager-fergie-challenge-part-ii/

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