Do You Believe in Miracles?
After finishing 12th and then 11th we were entering our third season in the Premier League. The board would have been pleased with a mid table finish, but I wanted more. I wanted to compete for Euro League entrance. I can accept that we probably won’t make it, but I wanted to at least compete for it- finishing at worst 8th was my goal. It was, as my Great Grandmother would say, time to shit or get off the pot. While on some level 10th would still have been forward progress, my fans deserved better!
Well, better they got!
Here’s how it went down………..
I started to get a feeling that this season was different after West Ham got relegated. Declan Rice, a target of mine who had never given me the time of day, all the sudden was interested. Done! Easiest deal I’ve ever made. For the same price I also picked up Francisco, a Spanish teenager who was born to play attacking midfielder. Pavel Mojdl is another youngster with high potential, as is Jose Ruiz. These transfers got me into the season.
The pre season and early fixtures were electric. We were clicking on all cylinders and my diamond central midfielder tactic was looking genius. Then, we encountered a bad case of the draws. After bumbling through most of November, I switched tactics back to the counter attacking defensive midfield pair tactic that had won me the Championship. I was on pace for another mediocre season and as I was confident I could do as the board wanted (mid table) I took a chance on the old tactic (which I did still train every once in awhile to stay sharp), What happened next surprised even me. We won 7 straight including United and Arsenal.
Then, we entered the transfer window and things got kind of scary.
Octavian Popescu, one of my three best players, was being courted by City. Well, we all know how that ended. Shame on me for not having a better sense of his value. I had not given his $60 million release fee a second thought. Well, obviously City had- away he went. I am not sure what I am doing wrong with my filters as he is not there, but I took that money and signed Joe Bursik (English and better than Farinez). Then Farinez felt threatened, rightly so, that I had signed Joe as a replacement. He then demanded out and I was able to squeeze $40 million out of Blackburn- delicious! Ugarte wanting out also hurt, but what can you do I suppose. Omar Richards, now that my two young left backs were playing at Premier Level was excess and he was wanted. After making a decent profit he was also gone.
Luckily, we were not without reinforcements!
David Feldman is an absolute monster. He’s a young Columbian striker would would have cost at least $50 million had he been at a bigger club in Europe. Despite only playing from January on, he finished with 16 goals. As a fun and related fact, Lautaro Ovanado, Reading fan favorite, finished second in Europe to only Haaland in the Golden boot. (I will try and start to include some stats and roster info to give a better sense of things to you, my gentle readers.) Verheyden was twice as expensive as Ugarte’s fee out, but is much younger and higher potential, so I liked the move. Spence was unfortunate. It’s fine, he provides some WB coverage, but as you may recall from twenty seconds ago, I had just sold Richards, a comparable player. I’m not sure what I was thinking other than he could also play on the right. Chergui does not fit into this story, but he is an 18 year old French keeper who will be my backup next year.
So, after some transfer forced roster reshuffling, we ride out once more.
We did well, not otherworldly like before, but we did well. We remained between 3rd-6th, but by very tight margins with constant back and forth depending on results with Man United and Arsenal. Chelsea and Liverpool were 1 and 2 and City was oddly around 10th.
With 4 games to go, United was 6 points up (finished 3rd) and Arsenal was 1 up, but with a significantly better GD.
After losing to United and Arsenal back to back, all seemed lost. We needed some help and we needed it badly. Wolves beat Arsenal and we beat Bournemouth to take us to only 1 point back going into the last game. We took care of business and it came down to Leeds at Arsenal. Leeds gave up an early goal but equalized before the half. They held on for a draw and we snuck in! What a feeling!
I know people in these forums do amazing things and get amazing results, but for me, taking a mid tier Championship team and setting myself up to begin Champions League in the 6th season, is by far my most successful save ever, very excited for next season!
I finished playing last weekend and have not played another game since. Instead, I built a spreadsheet for player analysis and have really been trying to make the most out of this transfer window going into the Champions League. Now, the challenge is not only to provide a respectable showing in the Champions League, but also qualify again! Next post will be a breakdown of my personnel moves! Onward and upward!