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Aston Villa F.C. - Looking for direction

Started on 22 October 2022 by ippe
Latest Reply on 12 April 2023 by Binky
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2022-11-02 09:05#289914 Harleygator : That's a desperately unlucky end to the season, but I think you can be happy that, realistically, you would be a top four side but for a single error from a defender in a high pressure situation. I would look at players in the summer who have some experience and calmer heads to deal with that.

As to your English, it is very good, so keep it up, eh. What's your native language?

Thanks for the comment. I agree with the idea of bringing in more experienced guys but I found that rather difficult. More about that in a sec.

I'm from Finland, so therefore Finnish is my native language, but I did a degree (sports business management) in UK. I don't use English on daily basis anymore, so this story is important for me as it gives me a reason to write and think in English, if that makes any sense.
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Aston Villa F.C. Season 2024/25 - Summer transfers of 2024 and which tournament did we qualify for, again?

Let's start with a statement about our European qualification as misunderstandings on this department have become a recurring theme of this story.

As you saw we finished 5th, but apparently Uefa has made rules that in the future (starting from the 24/25 season) UCL will increase to 36 teams' tournament and some nations will receive an extra spot for the tournament. And this time, we received the spot, so instead of Europa League we qualified for Champions League instead. To be fair, it feels kind of cheap to make our UCL debut by this way, but what can you do.

I'm ususally quite up-to-date with these kinds of things but I totally forgot this one.

Anyway, here are our UCL fixtures for the season:



Apart from Juventus we will face the toughest opponents at home, but to be fair I have no idea what to expect from these games. I guess we try to beat Nice, Porto, PSV, PAOK and Ajax and see where it takes us.

Transfer window of summer 2024

The plan for the transfer window was to bring in some experienced players as we already have pretty young core in place. This wasn't an easy task as most of the players weren't either good enough or willing to join Aston Villa.

Let's go through our new signings by position as we have done before. Starting from the goal and in defence. We signed a new back-up keeper as Giorgi Mamardashvili joined from Valencia for £20m. Crystal Palace made a £50m offer for Emiliano Martinez which I accepted and already had a deal in place to sign Bazunu from Southampton to replace him, but Martinez didn't want to go and I didn't want to bring in close to £50m goalkeeper to compete with Martinez, so I had to cancel the Bazunu transfer for this time.

In defence we made two signings as Ashley Phillips joined from Blackburn for £15m and right back Wilfried Singo from Torino for 500k more. I needed some cover to right back area and during the last summer I wondered whether to sign Rensch or Singo and since I already signed Rensch, I thought it was fine to sign the other guy as well. Phillips will be a 4th choice center back with a great potential and cheap wages.

Profiles of the defensive signings below:


I wanted a dominant midfielder and my first choice was Enzo Fernandez from Benfica. I had a bid accepted for him but he didn't want to even negotiate with us and joined Chelsea later in the summer. Instead we signed Lucas Paqueta from relegated West Ham for club record price of £47m. Paqueta can play as CM or AMC and has since turned 27 and offers us some experience and hopefully he can perform well from day 1.

I wanted to sign a back up for Caicedo for our defensive midfielder spot. I took a long and hard look for players like Manuel Ugarte but he demanded weekly wages of over £150k and I didn't want to pay him that. So, instead of plug-and-play experienced option, I opted to sign hugely potential Warren Zaïre-Emery from PSG for £15,5m.

Profiles of our midfielder signings below:


I wanted to sign a striker who offered us something different compared to options we already had. I wanted to sign a tall physical striker and identified 29 year old Aleksandar Mitrovic as a target. Our scouts told us he would be available for £20m, but before I had a time to put in a bid, Leverkusen had offered £40m for him and he was gone. So, once again I went for the younger option in Chelsea's Armando Broja who joined our ranks for £29,5m. He is tall and physical guy who can finish a bit and he should be an okay option as long as we don't need him to pass the ball to our guys, with passing of 7 and vision of 9.

Our scouts have been raving about Roony Bardghji from day 1, so I finally bended and bought him as well. The £8m signing will spent the season on loan at Copenhagen.

Profiles of our forward and midfield signing below:


We made a great deal of money by selling some unwanted players as well.

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Aston Villa F.C. Season 2024/25 Q1 Report - Unrealistic expectations?

I have finished around one fourth of the new season, so let's see how the team has done.

Let's begin with the late transfer news as I made one signing on deadline day and brought in Manuel Ugarte (£33,5m), who now agreed to lower his wage demands to £85k per week.



Our Premier League campaign has started relatively well but I'm still disappointed. I'm used to overperforming as a Football Manager and it feels like I can't create a successful system with this team. Most of the time our games seems to be a total crap shoot.

The game against newly promoted Norwich City is a perfect example of this. Just based on the result we had a great win but when you look at the stats it could have gone either way. I don't seem to be able to gain control of the games. If we create chances, so does the opponent.



We still win these kind of games which is of course great but in order to win trophies we need to develop our game and so far that hasn't happened. Maybe I've bought too much young players and too many players in general and just need to give the players some time to develop and learn the system.

Just for the reference my main tactic looks like this. Nothing too special I think. I've toyed around with the instructions, mentalities and roles and haven't quite found the working formula yet. But then again I've finished 7th and 5th with a team that isn't super great.



I've struggled to find the best role for Caicedo who is perhaps our best player. With the passing of 16, dribbling of 15 and excellent physicals it seems like a waste to just use him as defensive midfielder. So, I've tried to use him as box to box midfielder, carrilero and segundo volante and then set the roles of other midfielders based on that.



Well, anyway back to the fixtures. P8, W5, D1, L2 isn't a bad run. In fact it's the 3rd best run in PL so far. Its not a tittle winning form but should keep us in UCL qualification picture for time being.





8 goals conded in 8 games isn't that bad either, so maybe my expectations aren't realistic and we aren't doing too bad after all. Its a new FM after all and I tend to have my best runs later in the game's life cycle.

One thing I'm sure about is that our UCL form has been p*ss poor. I debuted a three centre back system against Real Madrid and had a decent result against them. It remains to be seen if the formation is here to stay or not. Maybe I keep using it in Europe at least.

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Aston Villa F.C. Season 2024/25 midway season report - finding our stride?

During the series I've been asking questions such as what's our identity, what's our formation, how could we limit the scoring chances our oppositions get and so on. It feels like I've finally started to find those answers.

Since the last update we have palyed 11 games, won 5 drawn 3 and lost 3 games. On the surface the record doesn't look that great but we are performing better on games than before.

And if we look games like Middlesbrough Home and Spurs Away, you can see we dominated the games and I can easily say that it wasn't our tactics which costed us the wins in these games but it was more of a bad luck and poor individual performances that prevented us from winning these games.





What this all means is that we are 5th in the league during the mid point of the season. We have two points less than what we had at this time last season, but I think this is fine and hopefully we will have strong 2nd half of the season.



Our performances in the UCL have improved as well with the wins over PSV and PAOK after a narrow loss against Juventus.

At the moment we are 22nd on the 36 team UCL and 24th is the last place that progresses to the play off rounds. I reckon we will get there if we beat the 33rd placed Ajax at home.



What it comes to tactics, I've changed our wing backs to inverted wing backs. I think this offers a solid base for our team and the 2-3 formation with two centebacks, DM and wingbacks can stop many counter attacks and win many 2nd balls before they even become a problem.

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I wouldn't worry about a couple of seasons hanging around outside the top four, 7th, 5th, and maybe 5th again is nothing to wrinkle your nose at considering the struggling squad you inherited. Considering that you're looking to oust Manchester City and Liverpool, Chelsea, a resurgent Arsenal, and other sides like Manchester United and Spurs who always aim for the top 6, two 5th placed finishes with Aston Villa is progress. Might be a few seasons before you make a genuine challenge for the league, but that's fine, just be patient and it will come.
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To be doing so well so quickly is nothing to be sniffed at! Of course there is the 4-6 clubs who are always fighting for top 4 with the likes of Newcastle who also want to join in, so it'll be hard to take the next step and challenge for the title.
I wish i was a little more daring with my tactics, actually moving away from my boring 433 DM or 4231 Gegenpress. I like to see you're using the inverted wingbacks and stuff, good luck in the rest of the season!

And as far as your English goes, it seems completely fine to me (another foreigner, I'm from the Netherlands), so you still got it! It is indeed nice to read/write in English just to keep the vocabulary up to date and stuff!
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Great to get caught back up with your story and even better to see you still going strong with it! The progress you are making is clear. Even if you feel like the performances and success isn’t coming as quickly as you’d have expected, you have built a strong but more importantly young team who are only going to get stronger over the next few seasons! I don’t think it’ll be long before you are challenging the top two or three! As you say performances are improving and it’s great to see!
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2022-11-07 08:57#289984 Harleygator : I wouldn't worry about a couple of seasons hanging around outside the top four, 7th, 5th, and maybe 5th again is nothing to wrinkle your nose at considering the struggling squad you inherited. Considering that you're looking to oust Manchester City and Liverpool, Chelsea, a resurgent Arsenal, and other sides like Manchester United and Spurs who always aim for the top 6, two 5th placed finishes with Aston Villa is progress. Might be a few seasons before you make a genuine challenge for the league, but that's fine, just be patient and it will come.

2022-11-07 17:39#289996 NTBgaming : To be doing so well so quickly is nothing to be sniffed at! Of course there is the 4-6 clubs who are always fighting for top 4 with the likes of Newcastle who also want to join in, so it'll be hard to take the next step and challenge for the title.
I wish i was a little more daring with my tactics, actually moving away from my boring 433 DM or 4231 Gegenpress. I like to see you're using the inverted wingbacks and stuff, good luck in the rest of the season!

And as far as your English goes, it seems completely fine to me (another foreigner, I'm from the Netherlands), so you still got it! It is indeed nice to read/write in English just to keep the vocabulary up to date and stuff!

Yeah, absolutely Premier League is a tough league to compete in, especially in real life. However, in Football Manager it seems like one of the top 6 sides always disappoints and in my save game it has been Spurs who have finished 8th and 7th and aren't doing too well in season 3 either.

In addition, I think that my team should always finish 1-2 positions higher than expected because as a human manager I have an advantage over the AI. This advantage should only become bigger as the save game progresses, as I should do better than AI in transfer market as well.

My tactics aren't that adventurous either. In fact 4-3-3 with inverted wing backs has been kind of my go-to tactic in few of the latest Football Managers. In the future saves or maybe later in this save I'll make an effort to try something completely different.

Absolutely agree with the point of reading/ writing in English NTBgaming!

2022-11-08 00:48#290004 TheLFCFan : Great to get caught back up with your story and even better to see you still going strong with it! The progress you are making is clear. Even if you feel like the performances and success isn’t coming as quickly as you’d have expected, you have built a strong but more importantly young team who are only going to get stronger over the next few seasons! I don’t think it’ll be long before you are challenging the top two or three! As you say performances are improving and it’s great to see!

Thanks for the kind words and I agree with the point about young squad. For example, Armando Broja has been great for us this season but he was surplus to requirements at Chelsea and now he is one of our best assets to combat Chelsea.
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Aston Villa F.C. Season 2024/25 Q3 report - We're on a roll baby!

I haven't quite finished three fourths of the season yet but we hit an international break and have other news to report, so I thought this is the perfect time to provide a little update about our journey.

Let's start with the transfer update. I sold two players in Douglas Luiz and Emiliano Buendia and received little over £60m for the pair. One could argue that selling two such players in the middle of the season was a mistake, especially as I didn't replace them but both Douglas Luiz and Buendia had made 3 appearances for us during the first half of the season, so I don't think we'll miss their contributions too much. Their contracts were also expering in two year's time, so I felt now was the perfect time to cash in.

I only made one signing in January and it was for the future as well. To be fair I mainly signed Assan Ouédraogo from Schalke 04 for £10,5m, because I had so much money in the budget and I've had the board to take away this money before, so this time I wanted to spend at least some of it, should this kind of thievery occur again. I loaned the youngster back to Schalke for the remainding of the season.



Premier League fixtures

Since the last update we have played 7 games, and won them all! As you can see the games have been close affairs, but somehow we have found ways to win. Broja has found form as he has scored 7 goals in 7 games. He has clear limitations in his game but he can finish a bit and can dominate opponents with his excellent physicals.

Besides Broja we have been getting goal contributions from multiple players. Joao Pedro and Lucas Paqueta have 6 goals a piece, Mudryk has 5 goals, Nianzou and Bailey have 4 goals etc.

And to be fair we have been little lucky at times too. We were clearly the 2nd best against Chelsea and had an xG of 0,03 before we equalised at the 80th minute and eventually won on 83rd minute penalty by Mudryk.





As things stand, we are sensationally 2nd in the league just 1 point behind league leading Liverpool. I don't think we are ready fot the title challenge yet as our wins have involved great deal of luck as well but top 4 finish should be well within our reach.



Champions League

As predicted, a victory against PAOK and draw against Inter were enough to earn us couple more games in the UCL. After the group stage, we were drawn against Barcelona on the Knockout stage and the match-up was pretty much over after the first game as Barca beat us 4-1 at Villa Park. We managed to end our UCL campaign with a 2-1 win at Camp Nou, so I can't be too disappointed about our first trip to UCL.

We had 11 different goalscorers during our UCL run, which I think is pretty impressive record.

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Be interested to hear your thoughts on what "11 different scorers" means. You can interpret that in multiple ways, either that it means good squad depth and a successfully varied attacking approach, or that your attacking approach is a bit scattershot and desperate. My experience is that it'll often only be 3, perhaps 4 players in my squad responsible for 90 to 95% of all the goals. So it'd be interesting to hear what you do, as a comparison to the approach I take tactically.
2022-11-10 08:13#290082 Harleygator : Be interested to hear your thoughts on what "11 different scorers" means. You can interpret that in multiple ways, either that it means good squad depth and a successfully varied attacking approach, or that your attacking approach is a bit scattershot and desperate. My experience is that it'll often only be 3, perhaps 4 players in my squad responsible for 90 to 95% of all the goals. So it'd be interesting to hear what you do, as a comparison to the approach I take tactically.

Oh, this is very interesting topic! To be fair, I hadn't really thought about this before your message.

How goals are shared can depend a lot about your formation. Formations such as 3-4-3, 4-4-2 or even 4-3-3 with specific instructions (Like LFC irl) can see goals to pile-up on certain players. Or maybe even one player can change how you view things. If you have player like prime Messi or C.Ronaldo in your squad, then you'll want them to get the lion's share of the chances.

In case of my Aston Villa team in FM23 you could say that we don't have a settled starting XI, so that automatically means opportunities for multiple payers and therefore multiple potential goalscorers as well. If I had a dominant striker or winger with 19 finishing in my posession, I would tailor my system around them. In that case most of the goals would come from them.

After few tweaks here and there my tactics looks like this:



I expect regular scoring from my three forwards. In addition I've always had one more advanced midfielder in either Mezzala or Advanced Playmaker and while their main task isn't scoring, I still expect some goal-contributions from them. The other midfielder has been either BBM or DLP (S), neither role is attacking, but they can still get an occasional goal. Same goes for Wing Backs and Central Defenders will always get a goal or two from set pieces.

And if you consider I have a squad of two players per position, that means there are total of 6 players, who I expect to score regularly and two players I expect to do something semi-regularly. Then more defensive midfielders and actual defenders will also get an occasional goal, so that explains the wide range of goalscorers.

So far this has happened because I'm still searching for the best team and have a pool of players with somewhat equal talent. If I had one or two superstars, I would use less rotation and they would likely get more goals because their talent as well.

Its interesting to see how the distribution of goals changes over time. If Endrick realises his potential and becomes a global superstar, I might build my team around him. In that case we could have one 30 goal per season guy instead of few guys who get around 10 goals.
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2024/25 End of The Season report - How high did we get?

We ended our last report with a 7 game winning streak on PL and with an outside chance to winning the league, so let's see how our 3rd season with Aston Villa ended.

We didn't do too badly, but sadly we pretty much lost our title hopes with two draws in our next three games. We responded with three wins but Liverpool were winning all of their games too and 0-2 loss at the Etihad Stadium was the final nail to our coffin. Once again we responded with few wins to show our character but 0-4 loss at Anfiled on second to last round showed that despite the great fight and spirit we have shown, we still have some growing to do before we can take one of the bigger trophies home. We ended our league season with 1-0 win over Leeds and finished 2nd in the Premier League with 81 points improving our last season's point record by 6.



All in all, I think our 3rd season with Aston Villa was a great success and clearly a step to the right direction.



We had a bit of a cup run in FA Cup as we made it all the way to the final. I'm not going to lie, I really wanted us to win the trophy as I feel it's important for the team to learn the winning ways, even if the FA Cup isn't the most glorious trophy in the World.

But once again we got bettered by Liverpool in a high-scoring final.



I will post the player stats and our summer plans on a seperate message in a few moments.
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2024/25 Player stats and summer plans

Here are our player stats for the Premier League on the 2024/25 season.



Perhaps surprisingly our best performer in the Premier League was Armando Broja, who I signed because... well I couldn't get the targets I wanted. 15 goals and 5 assists are an impressive record considering I had to rotate him due to injuries and dips in the form.

Our other new signing Lucas Paquetá had a great season as well and scored 7 goals and assisted another 10. I signed him hoping he could make an instant impact, and I think we can safely say that he did just that.

Endrick had a solid 1st season as well scoring 9 goals and assisting further 8 in all competitions. João Pedro only scored 9 goals in the league but he got 4 goals in both UCL and FA Cup meaning he scored 17 goals in all competitions and got 7 assists as well.

As the season progressed, Andreas Schjelderup finally started to perform as well and I feel AP(s) role alongside Paquetá is the way to get the best out of him. Schjelderup finished the season with overall rating of 6.92 which is a solid improvment from last season's 6.77. If he can make a similar jump during the next season as well, he will finally start to realise his massive potential.

On a negative side I'm not happy about our left back situation. Lucas Digne started the season well but his form dried down and as he has one year left on his £120k/ week deal, it might be time to sell him during the summer. Tyrick Mitchell disappointed as well as his avg. rating of 6.77 was the worst amongst our regular players.

Plans for the summer

Once again we have a healthy budget to play with as our transfer budget is £54M and we can spend over £300k/ week on wages. I think its finally time to admit that buying Luka Sučić for £19,5M in our first season was a slight mistake. He has a transfer value of around £60M, but he hasn't performed well either with us or during his loan spell at Sporting CP. His attributes looks more like an attributes of a £20M player as well, so let's see what kind of offers we can get from him.

I also loaned Marcos Leonardo to Porto as we didn't have a role for him. He did well for Porto scoring 4 goals for them and got and avg. rating of 7.08 in his 10 Liga NOS appearances. He is valued around £30m and if we can get that, I'll probably sell him.

New left back is on top of my shopping list but it remains to be seen what's out there. Spurs aren't doing too well, so maybe I'll take a look at Destiny Udogie or maybe Borussia Mönchengladbach's Luca Netz. Netz would likely be our club record signing, and I don't know if its wise to spend closer to £60M on a left back in our positio, maybe, maybe not.

During the past two summers I've raided relegated teams as I bougth Caicedo from Brighton and Paquetá from West Ham but there doesn't seem to be that kind of opportunity during this summer. As our profile increases, maybe I should take a look at other options anyway.
I know it's not a dream ending to your season, but objectively this is the best ending you could've reasonably got. To finish 2nd in the league and the cup is a major achievement for a few short seasons' work.

I suspect (but don't know) that your "fairly wide" approach might contribute to the goals thing. I always play narrow (because I have a defensive philosophy), and so my players don't tend to drift away from where they're supposed to be, whereas I imagine deeper-lying players in your squad are moving into more advanced spaces as your forward players are more likely to press or make runs out wide. Maybe. I'm not a tactical expert, though.
2022-11-11 08:20#290111 Harleygator : I know it's not a dream ending to your season, but objectively this is the best ending you could've reasonably got. To finish 2nd in the league and the cup is a major achievement for a few short seasons' work.

I suspect (but don't know) that your "fairly wide" approach might contribute to the goals thing. I always play narrow (because I have a defensive philosophy), and so my players don't tend to drift away from where they're supposed to be, whereas I imagine deeper-lying players in your squad are moving into more advanced spaces as your forward players are more likely to press or make runs out wide. Maybe. I'm not a tactical expert, though.

Absolutely. It takes time to build my own squad and form our own playing style, which itself is worth few extra points on the table.

I don't know everything about the match engine either, but I think 4-3-3 is fairly wide by default. At least the picture of the formation doesn't change when I switch the Attacking Width from Normal to Fairly Wide.

I think it was a perfect storm in case of my playes as well. Schjelderup and Paquetá are quite attacking players for CM roles in 4-3-3.

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