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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
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2025/26 - Transfers and Plans for the 4th season at the Villains

As I mentioned before, left back was our number one priority on the transfer market. I scouted few players but I couldn't get over Luca Netz. I said spending closer to £60m on a left back might not be the best option right now, but I ended up buying him for £67m as he had a clause for that sum.

He has everything I want from a left back and I genuinely believe he is one of the best if not the best young LB in the game. £67M for a left back is an awful lot of money but realistically he can be our LB for a decade.

Netz was our only summer signing and I sold few players, so I actually made a profit of £1M on the summer transfers.

Leonardo and Susic didn't develop as I wanted or expected them to do, so it was time to sell them. Digne was on high wages and had only 1 year left it his contract, so it made sense to move him to make way for Netz.

I signed few wonderkids before the summer, so let's go through their profiles as well. I'll insert their profiles on the spoiler below to avoid posting too many pictures in one message.

18-year-old Colombian defensive LB Juan Daniel Portilla joined from Club Deportes Tolima for mere £950k. He already has great physicals and work ethic and I expect him to be a part of our team going forward. He can be more defensive LB whereas Netz is more attacking one. I loaned Portilla to Benfica for the next season.

I also signed a goalkeeper wonderkid in 17-year-old Scot Justyn Loder. He joined our ranks for £6m from Motherwell, where he'll play the next season on loan. Despite his young age Loder is already their number one goalie and he is one of the best wonderkid re-gen goalies I've ever seen. Am I over-hyping him or is he actually something special? Take a look at his profile below!

Plans for the 2025/26 season

Realistically, it will be difficult to improve from last year's second place finish. I absolutely hate going backwards, but I think realistic goal needs to be yet another top 4 finish.

But I'd like to win some silverware during this season. I don't mind if its just the EFL Cup or something like that, but we need to learn the winning ways. I'd like to progress bit further on the UCL as well.

Our intangible goal could be developing our players and finding out who will be part of the team when we take our next step. I feel our first goal of the series has been (at least somewhat) achieved as we will play on the UCL on second season in a row.

The next step is to win the Premier League and UCL. I feel we already have many pieces in place to achieve this but we still need time and probably some new faces as well.

I mean just look at our two best centre backs:

They have very similar profiles and have been extremely valuable part of our rise to top a 4 side, but are they really defenders of PL & UCL winning sides? I'm most bothered by the fact, that both of them only have a tackling of 13 which is quite low for a centre back.

They have both given away some easy penalties and N'Dicka's marking of 13 and positioning of 12 has lead to some easy mistakes as well. If we want to challenge the likes of Liverpool and Barcelona who have both battered us in the past, we simply can't make mistakes like that.

Our 3rd choice centre back Leandro Morgalla has a similar profile as well. Good at passing and quite fast for centre back but he too has a tackling of only 13. Come to think, I've probably never had a centre back grouping with this poor tackling abilities while managing this good team. One of them might need to go during the next summer or in the future to make way for a dominant Centre Half. Finding a defender like prime Virgil van Dijk shouldn't be too tricky, right?
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2025/26 - Q1 Report - Domestic struggles and European glory

Let's continue to report the progress of the season in four different phases starting with the performances in domestic competitions.

Our 4th season started with two wins and one loss as it has started in all of the past four seasons as well. This time we continued with poor form by going 1-1-2 in our next four Premier League games..

After the poor start to our season, I made a tactical switch and shifted to 4-2-3-1 system with two DM's. This allows our full backs to attack more and the two DM's offer a great protection for our central defenders. Caicedo and Thuram are both physical players, so they can cover the midfield area between the two of them.

Our four attacking players should at least in theory cause havoc on opponents defense and fairly narrow formations allows them to link-up quite nicely.

After the tactical alteration our results improved and we have won our last two PL games and progressed to the EFL Cup quarter-finals as well.

Despite the shaky start, we are 6th in the league after 9 games and well within a reach of the precious UCL qualification spot. Man City are finally on a roll after replacing Pep Guardiola with Stefano Pioli. They have bought the likes of Nkunku, Kimmich, so it'll be rather difficult to beat them.

I'm especially pleased about our European form as we have started the campaign with 3 wins in three games. Athletic Bilbao, Shakhtar Donetsk and Bodø/Glimt aren't the toughest possible opponents but 3 wins is three wins. Our next opponents in the UCL are Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munchen, so we'll get to test ourselves against pretty good teams as well.

I gave Endrick a run of games upfront but sometimes he can be an incredibly frustrating player with his team work of 8 and decisions of 11. He is still only 19, so he has time and plenty of potential to realise. For time being, I'm training him as False Nine to increase his team work, vision, and work rate attributes amongst the others.
A good start to the season mate, and I'm sure you'll only get better as it progresses. It's not like you're losing to 'easy beat' teams, and although the draw against Leeds is less than ideal... there's still a long way to go in the season yet. I've never played with a 'sweeper keeper' on 'attack' before, so you're doing things tactically that I've never even considered!

Best of luck :D
ippe's avatar Group ippe
1 yearEdited
2022-11-13 04:00#290194 J_ames : A good start to the season mate, and I'm sure you'll only get better as it progresses. It's not like you're losing to 'easy beat' teams, and although the draw against Leeds is less than ideal... there's still a long way to go in the season yet. I've never played with a 'sweeper keeper' on 'attack' before, so you're doing things tactically that I've never even considered!

Best of luck :D

Thanks J_ames!

I guess as a Liverpool fan I'm used to seeing Alisson rushing out and making miraculous 1-to-1 saves and I've started to expect the same from my goalies on FM.

To be fair I'dont think there is much difference between SK (S) and SK (A). I can recal 1-2 occasions from last few seasons where Martinez has rushed out and neither he or defender got the ball which allowed an opposition to score an easy goal. I'm not sure that has anything to do with the Sweeker Keeper's mentality (S or At).

At least for me, the most important thing with goalkeepers is to instruct them to distribute the ball short. I hate nothing more than when they make a poor mid-range pass straight to opponent on 40 yards and they get an easy goal. I'm sure that by instructing them to distribute the ball short, we miss out on few great long balls which could have led to counter attacking goals but at the same time we eliminate the possibility of giving away the ball easily.

I think that's kind of how I view defending in general. I'm not that posession orientated manager but the less we gave away the ball, the less we have to defend. That's my mentality in our own half, when we are attacking its okay to take risks and even if we lose the ball, we can apply a quick counter-press and possibly intercept a ball on a dangerous area.

And yeah you're correct about the losses. All three losses have happened on away games against top 5 sides, so maybe I over-reacted a bit.
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2025/26 - Half of the season report - UCL winning streak grows to 6!

After playing 19 games on the Premie League, we have achieved the mid-point of the season 4 with Aston Villa. Let's start the report by looking at our European fixtures since we have beaten pretty big teams on UCL.

Since the last update we have faced Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munchen and Real Sociedad on UCL and have beaten them all.

Atletico was surprisingly toothless and they weren't troubling us at all with their 5-3-2 DM formation. We won the xG battle at the Metropolitano by 2.19 to 0.12, so the 0-2 away win was well deserved.

However, one of the biggest results of the series came on our next UCL match as we beat the German giants Bayern Munchen 4-1. Bayern has won the Bundesliga 13 times in a row on FM and despite having sold Kimmich to ManCity and Musiala to PSG still has one of the better squads around. They have bought Camavinga from Real Madrid and funnily enough re-signed Renato Sanches as well, but they had nothing against the mighty Villains on a November evening at the Villa Park. I think this win was a massive statement of intrest from our side.

Our next and latest victim on the European pitches was Real Sociedad who we defeated 4-0. Thanks to our 6-0-0 start we lead the Champions League league phase after 6 games.

Our next two UCL games are away at Juventus and at home against Benfica. It would be an amazing achievement to win all 8 of our league phase games but certainly the goal has to be top 8 finish in this phase and then win our round of 16 tie and progress to quarter-finals.

The domestic affairs

Our league form is no match to our European heroics but we aren't doing too badly on home soil either.

Since the last update we have played 10 games on PL, won 5, drawn 3 and lost 2 of them.

We have also progressed to the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, where we will face Liverpool. The other semi-final tie is Chelsea - Tottenham but I think we will win the tournament if we manage to beat Liverpool somehow.

We've had some bad luck and poor finishing and especially the 1-1 result against West Ham was a bitter pill to swallow but really what can I do better in games like this:

After 19 games we are 5th in the league 3 points behind 4th placed Newcastle and I believe we can overtake them and made yet another top4 finish come end of the season.

I've already made one signing in January but this post is already too long, so I'll tell more about that on the next update.

Thanks for reading folks!
My goodness, your form in the revamped Champions League is magnificent! Would you say you're prioritizing the CL over the EPL atm, or it's just good fortune? For a moment I thought the loss to Palace must've hurt, but considering they're only a point behind you on the table: it's not so bad.

It's going to be quite the juggling act in the second-half of the season to keep everyone fit and firing, and I look forward to seeing your January transfers in your next update :D
2022-11-14 05:18#290225 J_ames : My goodness, your form in the revamped Champions League is magnificent! Would you say you're prioritizing the CL over the EPL atm, or it's just good fortune? For a moment I thought the loss to Palace must've hurt, but considering they're only a point behind you on the table: it's not so bad.

It's going to be quite the juggling act in the second-half of the season to keep everyone fit and firing, and I look forward to seeing your January transfers in your next update :D

Yeah Crystal Palace has become our bogey-team during our time with Aston Villa. I think we have now failed to win them 5 times in a row losing 3 or 4 times in the process. I don't know what it is that they do that is so hard for us.
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2025/26 - January update - Flawless run in the UCL League Phase!

The headline says it all, we managed to beat Juventus and Benfica as well and won all 8 of our League Phase games on the UCL.

We won our 8 games with a goal diffrence of 24-3, so it was a dominant run to say the least. While this is great, we haven't achieved anything yet and its essential to keep the good form when the Knock-Out phase starts. We should have an easier opponent in our R16 matchup, but let's see how it goes.

I don't know why we have done so well in Europe. We are certainly a good team at this point but is it possible that our European opponents underestimate us? I watch the extended highlights of our every game and I can't see that our opponents play differently against us in Europe than what they do on the PL.

The domestic affairs

Since the last update we have played few games in our home soil as well. We have won 2 and drawn 2 games on Premier League and while it's not ideal the draws have came against ManCity and Arsenal who are decent teams as well.

I already mentioned our bad form against Crystal Palace but at least we managed to exorcise the demons of our past by defeating Liverpool at the EFL Cup semi-finals. We will face Tottenham in the final and I think its about time to win our first trophy with Aston Villa.

Transfer update

The January transfer window was surprisingly busy for us.

I brought in Edmond Tapsoba from Bayer Leverkusen for £43,5M and sold Evan N'Dicka to PSG for £39,5M.

Sometimes even a simple picture can be worth a thousand words and after comparing their profiles it's easy to see why I did the move. They are pretty identical players, except Tapsoba can actually defend.

I did another switcheroonie with strikers. After great 1st season with us, Armando Broja had fallen out of favour and since BVB showed interest, I accepted their bid of £39M for the player. I had a game against Liverpool in which their central defenders were Eric Garcia and Stefan Bajčetić who are both relatively weak in the air and aren't that fast either. I set our playstyle around Armando Broja for this game as he should have been able to dominate them but he totally no-showed and since he has been quite poor in general I just had it with him and it was time to move on.

I've extensively scouted the strikers of the World but I haven't found anybody who could make an instant impact. Therefore I signed the highest potential player I could find and that was Mani Billingsley from ManCity, who we acquired for £37,5M. He has no senior apps to his name, but I think his attributes are excellent for player of his age. I think he and Endrick will form the most feared partnership in the World of football in few years. Let's see if I move to two striker formation or if Endrick will be deployed as Inside Forward on the right side.

Your form in the CL is bonkers, and a real credit to you. Bringing in Tapsoba for N'Dicka is a great move too, as is the signing of Billingsley. Considering his age (and the 'English tax'), £37.5m is a steal, especially when you look at his new value!

Here's hoping a strong end to the season will see you climb right up the league table :D
That Champions League run surely is impressive, but as you said, winning now is nice, but the knock-out phase is where it really needs to happen for you! As far as the league goes, I would just aim for that top 4 to re-qualify for the CL and see what you can do in the cups and the Champions League knockout-phase of course!

The team seems to be developping well, with new signings being better (or having better potential) than the ones already at the club. Also having the best potential English players is a great move, especially with him being 18 which will make him home grown at club as well!

Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the positive vibes J_ames and NTBgaming!

I was both eager to finish the season and too tired to write the Q3 report, so I've actully finished the season already.

Aston Villa F.C. Season 2025/26 - End of the season report - Uncharted territories

Let's start by seeing how far we got in the Champions League, as that was clearly the highlight of our season.

On Round of 16 phase we got drawn against Lazio, who had finished 2nd in the last season's Serie A. I was confident we could beat them but we instantly lost our flawless UCL record by drawing them 1-1 at the Stadio Olimpico. At the time of the 2nd leg we were on bad form on Premier League and I was little unsure about how we would fair in this game but my doubts were proven wrong when we scored 5 goals on the 2nd half of our home game and beat Lazio 6-1 on aggregate.

On quarter-finals we were drawn against Real Madrid who would end up winning their 3rd consecutive La Liga trophy later in the season. Players like Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior and Aurelien Tchouameni have developed quite nicely and could easily be described as top 3 players on their positions.

We started the match-up away at Santiago Bernabeu and for the first time on this season's UCL were clearly out-playeyd by our opponent. Real won the xG battle 2.12 - 1.12 and the game 2-1. We conceded the 2nd goal on the 83rd minute but I couldn't be angry as we were clearly the weaker side.

We started the 2nd leg game at Villa Park with a 4-2-2-2 formation with DM's and wingers, and I thought that if we would go out, we would go out with a bang. We started the game well and Billingsley scored on the 11th minute but we just couldn't get another goal. Real Madrid did get a goal and then another on the second half and progressed to the semi-finals with another 2-1 win to their name. This was much closer game but I think the result was probably fair and over the two legs we were the weaker team but there is no shame in losing to European Giants like Real Madrid and we can be proud of our UCL run which led all the way to the quarter-finals.

All the UCL results on a spoiler below:

The domestic affairs

We ended the last update on a verge of our EFL Cup final against Tottenham and I'm pleased to say that we won our first trophy with Aston Villa by beating Tottenham 2-0 in the final. It was a relatively even game but Mani Billingsley was the x-factor in this game like he was in so many other games after joining the team.

The EFL Cup is clearly the smallest competition we participated in but I really believe in developing the winning mentality and we treated this competition like any other competition we'd like to win. I'm therefore quite pleased about the trophy.

I'd describe our 4th Premier League season as tedious. It wasn't our best season by any means but it speaks volumes about our progression that we can achieve decent results even if we are not at our best.

The record of our last 19 PL games of the season was 12 Wins, 4 Draws and 3 Losses. Our record on the first part of the season was 10-4-5, so we made an improvment and it was enough for a top 4 finish as we came 4th on the league behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Newcastle United.

The fixtures of the 2nd half of the PL season can be seen on the spoiler below.

Summary and Stats

Before the season I wanted to see progression and win a trophy. I think we managed to achieve the goal as top 8 finish on the UCL was a statement of interest from our side and we won the EFL Cup.

With the acquisition of Mani Billingsley I feel we have the foundations of future league winning side in place. Billingsley played 20 games with us and scored 17 times and assisted another 2 goals. These were his first 20 senior apps, so I'm more than pleased with him.

I tried some different things tactically and shifted between 4-2-3-1, 4-2-2-2 and 4-3-3 formations. I think our problem with the 4-3-3 was always that we didn't have enough goals on our side. We have fallen below our xG numbers in almost every season and despite Billingsley's heroics we ended the season by underperforming our xG tally by 7.29 goals, which was the 3rd worst record in the league.

However, with Billingsley's arrival, Endrick's development and Joao Pedro's consistent although not super great finishing we have three players who should be cabable of scoring goals. For time being I have settled for Liverpool FC inspired 4-3-3 with attacking front three and slightly more consertive midfield trio.

I'll talk more about my tactics on the next message but let's end this report by posting our overall player stats.

Summer plans

Just a few words about our summer plans. I don't think we have any big holes on our team, so I don't feel obligied to buy players for certain position. I'm not actively looking to sell anybody either but if we get crazy bids for our squad players I could sell them.

We have over £70m to spend on transfer fees and close to £400k/ week to spend on new wages. I'll likely make one major signing and see if there are 1-2 potential players who we could get for a cheap price. The rest depends on if we sell some of our squad players or not.
I'm unsure where you can strengthen in order to "take the next step" so to speak, as your squad is full of players I've never used before! There's plenty of money available in both budgets to give you the flexibility to do whatever you want, and I'm intrigued to see what you'll do in the off-season.

Best of luck :)
Not gonna lie, I didn't expect Billingsley to start off the way he did! To say the 37.5 million was a bargain is a massive understatement now! With you going further in the cup and Champions League, a 4th place finish is just what you want to see, to stay in the Champions League and get that money in consistently.
Strengthening will get harder and harder when you (eventually) have a good young side with players who will only get better. Looking at your attack for instance, it seems like you're set there with 3 young talents developing like crazy! I look forward to seeing which superstars you may have been able to sign for the team!
At a glance, compared with the top 6 around you, you've got the worst defensive record - not a bad record, mind, but you're 10-20 goals conceded ahead of every team above you, which is 25-30% of the total. So, in the summer, I'd say looking at a star defender would be a priority.
ippe's avatar Group ippe
1 yearEdited
Thanks again from the comments J_ames, NTBGaming and Harleygator! It makes big difference to know that somebody is actually reading my ramblings.

Aston Villa F.C. Summer of 2026

I've definitely noted the thing J_ames and NTBGaming mentioned. Its getting harder to find players that make us better. It seems like there isn't too many talented wonderkids out there or then my scouts just haven't found them. And of course many talented youngsters are already playing in top sides and acquiring them would be tricky and require me to break our salary structure. When I started with Aston Villa our highest earner was Boubacar Kamara with his £175k weekly wages and now four seasons and three UCL visits later our highest earner gets £150k per week.

I don't hesitate to spend big money on FM, but I'm always quite proud how my teams do financially. I don't know if finances are broken in FM23, but despite getting notes after each season telling us how much profit we made over the FFP period, our bank balance has always been like £20m in red, meaning that "due to our financial situation, the board is not willing to improve the training facilities." And this is one week after the club announced it had made a profit of £300m during the last FFP cycle.

Anyway, back to the story. I've been so focused on improving our attack, that I've left our defensive issues on the back burner. Therefore, Harleygator was a big help by mentioning our questionable defensive record. 44 goals conceded was our worst defensive record since the first season I managed Aston Villa and that needs to improve. I had already planned to make our one big signing on defence but the tactics need to support our defensive game better as well.

I scouted defenders during the last season as well and there was one player who I really wanted but he didn't want to join us at the time. Luckily things change and this summer we were able to sign Joško Gvardiol from RB Leipzig by trickering his £67m buy-out clause. The 24-year-old defender has 137 Bundesliga appearances to his name and during the last four years his avg rating has fluctuated between 7.06 and 7.19, so his has been consistently very good.

Gvardiol brings us some experience and he can be a key part of our team for almost a decade. I really like his top 6 mental attributes, which are all in the green. Edmond Tapsoba didn't have the strongest start for his Aston Villa career since joining us in January as his avg rating was just 6.83 in 16 league games but I'll give him a run of games with Gvardiol and expect them to build a solid partnership.

I didn't make any other major signings and just bought two other players in 18 and 19-year-old youngsters who will join our U21 team. The pair cost little over £3m between them, so I don't have any short-term expectations for them.

I didn't make too many sales either as I mainly sold players who were either too old or not talented enough to play for our youth teams. I also sold our back-up goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili for £17,5m to Brentford. I took a £2,5m loss in him, but I want to give Justyn Loder some opportunities, so we needed to clear a space for him.

I've already written too long again, so let's go over our tailored tactics on the next post later today.

Thanks again for the comments and reading!

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