Football Manager - The Fergie Challenge Part IV
All hail Derby County!
The poor Rams have taken Charlie Adam off my hands. It’s a glorious day that will live on in the virtual hearts and virtual minds of the virtual Swansea fans as Adam departs the Liberty Stadium. Glorious. Less glorious is the fact that Southampton will be playing Champions League football despite finishing 14th but I’m getting ahead of myself. First we must see how our plucky Swans have done…
Seventh place is not bad at all. Everton had an absolute shocker at the end to slip below us while Man City had a dismal season in sixth even after replacing Pellegrini with Tottenham’s Roberto Mancini (I’m not even making this up) when they were fifth. There’s no European football for us this year though because the fates have conspired against us.
First, Huddersfield managed to win the Capital One Cup by defeating City in the semi-finals and then Arsenal on penalties in the final. So there goes our hopes of sneaking in right there. Secondly, we managed to get knocked out of the FA Cup in the Fifth Round by Ipswich despite having beaten Preston and Crystal Palace before. This was right in the middle of our run of defeats that destroyed our ambitions of Europe and made we want to break my laptop in anger. And Southampton? They won the Europa League. Yeah…
So this second half of the season has been a bit backwards and Swansea results have really followed that trend. Our solid yet unbeatable little runs were ended by our away form. Since the last update we have won a grand total of two away games and one of those was in the FA Cup. We lost at Burnley, Spurs, Liverpool, Manchester United (6-1 as well), Stoke, West Brom and, worst of all, 6-0 at Leicester. Genuine relegation form that. Fortunately, only Southampton (2-2) and Arsenal took points off us at the Liberty to keep us in the hunt for Europe. That meant sweet, sweet vengeance on City and Everton for earlier defeats and doing the double over Chelsea. Beautifully inconsistent.
Wait, wasn’t there a January transfer window? There was, well remembered. I’d previously mentioned the arrival of Argentine defender Walter Kannemann from Mexican side Atlas and he was joined at Swansea by unwanted Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez. As you can probably guess, I had begun to give up on the Jordan Rhodes experiment by this point and £2.5 million for Hernandez was a no-brainer.
And so it proved, as Hernandez would go on to outscore both Rhodes and Artem Dzyuba in half the time. Eight in fifteen is a good return for a striker and I expect that to continue. Meanwhile, Dzyuba managed 6 in 24 despite missing a good chunk of the second half of the season with injury while Rhodes’ four in 28 mean I’m showing him the exit door this summer. I don’t tolerate that level of performance. Kannemann’s adaptation to the English game wasn’t smooth either, with a 6.76 average rating in 11 games but I have a thing of giving them at least a full season before judging.
Player performance overall was down but the usual names stood out – Sigurdsson was top scorer in the league with just 10 but was superb throughout. In the back-line, Ashley Williams was the heart of the defence, Neil Taylor was solid at full-back and on the other Nathaniel Clyne was excellent. Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Cork ran the midfield while in goal, Lukas Fabianski was in superlative form with 15 clean sheets and joint second in the Golden Glove award at the end of the season.
Special mentions go to youngsters Stephen Fallon and Daniel Bond who made their professional debuts for the club in the second half of the season with Bond even managing a goal in our FA Cup win over Preston. Both have decent potential and I expect Bond to see more game time this coming season.
The main concern for me was in defence as we shipped far too many towards the end of the campaign (though those two isolated 6 goal drubbings didn’t help). Therefore, I experimented and used a tactic I devised in a previous save to test out. It’s a 3-6-1 of sorts with two defensive midfielders set to be half backs, essentially meaning they will drop into the defence and push the outer two centre backs wider when we have the ball. The two wide men will have lots to do and cover while the man in the centre will be crucial to recycling possession. The idea is based on the simple principle of: they can’t score or really hurt us when they don’t have the ball. Hopefully it will work and solidify us and early signs are promising.
And that’s it. 2015/16 is done and recapped. That surely can’t be it right? You’re right, it’s not. See I thought I would add in some transfer business from this summer up until the opening day of the season to whet your appetite for next term.
So, with seventh secured and a solid £13 million made available to me, I set about trying to add depth and quality to the squad. My first stop was the transfer list where the giants of European football tend to put some real quality footballers for sale at dirt cheap prices. I saw the likes of Antonio Valencia, Josip Drmic, Nani and Ryan Mason going in the small millions but the one man that caught my eye was Juventus’ Yann M’Vila. £3.4 million is nothing for a 25 year old French international with big game experience and we snapped him up early. With our new system requiring more depth in the middle of the park, he was an obvious and cheap addition. My next port of call was in attack where it was brought to my attention that Manchester United had released Chilean youngster Angelo Henriquez. A quick contract offer was accepted and I had my second signing. The third and final purchase I made was to buy QPR goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. Gerhard Tremmel’s move into my backroom staff had left me a keeper short and Slovenian Gregor Zabret wasn’t going to cut it so I spent another £4.5 million on the Irish international who has Premier League quality and experience.
Those heading out of the Liberty Stadium were actually nothing too major this time around. Leon Britton and Angel Rangel were the biggest names that were out of contract this summer while the usual spate of rubbish young players left as well. Zabret actually joined QPR for £200,000 after McCarthy signed which was a nice round-about transfer interchange, while young full-backs Liam Shepherd and Stephen Kingsley left for Swindon and Barnsley respectively. Shepherd left for £120,000 off the back of an impressive loan spell at Gillingham while Kingsley’s time at Kilmarnock was good but he has no place with us so he was loaned to Barnsley with a £60,000 future fee involved in the deal as well. Other than Adam, Britton and Rangel the only other first team players to leave were Rhodes and Kenji Gorre. Rhodes has been loaned out to West Brom who have an option to buy him for £3.8 million while Gorre will spend a season in his homeland with FC Utrecht. The other notable loanee is Matt Grimes, who did well for an Oldham side that lost in the League 1 play-off final. He is off to Championship side Swindon for the season and I hope to welcome him back to south Wales as an improved player. This is his final loan before he moves into the first team next season and it’s a good league to play in for the young midfielder.
And that’s really about it. We have Chelsea at home on the opening day of the season which is a tough start but we look like we’re going to have a pretty good season again. We’ve retained quality and added more to it so hopefully the wheels don’t come off. And with Charlie Adam gone, we can rest a little easier as well.
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/
If you missed out on Part III, find it here: https://tbrfootball.com/football-manager-fergie-challenge-part-iii/
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