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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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Aston Villa F.C. Season 2026/27 - Look at the tactics and player profiles

Having finished 7th, 5th, 2nd and 4th with a team that has been predicted for mid-table and has only recently grown to have 7th largest wage budget in the league is a decent achievement and probably tells us that our tactics haven't at least held us back.

Still, there is always room for an improvement and I'm still in search of a tactic which allows us to score regularly and limit the scoring opportunities of the opponent. I often take inspiration from real-life and as mentioned, this time I have taken some inspiration from Jürgen Klopps Liverpool (well prior to the current season).

So, at the moment my tactics looks like this.



And as I stated, this is not an attempt to copy tactics, but to gain inspiration from them as Roberto Firmino couldn't be described as an Advanced Forward no matter how hard you tried. I like how the midfield forms the foundation of the whole team. BWM (S) seems to be the best role for the Caicedo as it allows him to use his ebrgy in the best possible way for the team.

Instructions such as being more expressive, tempo and working the ball into box could be tailored to slightly alter the playstyle. The MCL could also be DLP (S) in big matches.

As this will be our 5th season with Aston Villa, I'll insert the profiles of the players on the first XI and their substitute players below on the spoilers.

The attackers

The main attacking threat from our team comes from the youngsters Billingsley and Endrick. At times, I've deployed them as striker partners up-front but I think that despite his great attributes, Endrick is better suited for AMR position as an IF (A). João Pedro was my 2nd signing with Aston Villa and while he hasn't been able to take the number 9 role to himsellf as I originally planned, he has transformed into attacking wide player, who has been good for 10 league goals and assists in his past two seasons, which is not insignificant. And this is all after posting an avg rating of over 7.00 in 3/4 seasons.

Profiles of the attackers and their back-ups below:


The midfielders

I spoke about Caicedo and his energy above. He feels like an older player in our young team but with only 24 years of age he is still developing player himself. The BWM (S) role allows him some freedom and with his great mental attributes he knows how to best support the team. Khephren Thuram has been the unsung hero of the story as he was signed on my 2nd season for just £14m to offer some competition for places. He has an avg rating of above 7.00 in his first three seasons and he is truly a great player whose excellent physical attributes are supported by his equally great technical and mental skills. Manuel Ugarte offers a solid base for the midfield as an Anchor. To be fair he is perhaps the first player in our starting XI who could be replaced but he is a great defensive mifdielder nevertheless.

Profiles of the midfielders and their back-ups below:


The defence has seen the highest amount of change during my reign at Aston Villa and none of the defenders were with the team when I took over 4 years ago.I reckon I've also spent the highest amount of money on defence. I spoke about Josko Gvardiol on my latest post and he offers us something we have missed. Esmond Tabsoba will be his preferred partner, although Tangou Nianzou and Leandro Morgalla are great players on their own right as well. Luca Netz and Wilfried Singo have taken the starting full back roles to themselves as Tyrick Mitchell and Devyne Rensch offer decent back-up options. My wing backs aren't as attacking as Liverpool's, but they offer something going forward at least and I can tailor their roles going forward.

Profiles of the defenders and their back-ups below:


Last but not least let's look at our goalkeepers. Emiliano Martinez has been our starting goalkeeper more or less for my whole managerial career. His avg ratings for season have been between 6.96 and 7.04, so he has been good for us. However, at the age of 34 we need to have some continuity plan and that plan is Justyn Loder, who has been given the starting role at the beginning of my 5th season with Aston Villa. As Loder isn't as comfortable with the ball on his feet as I'd like him to be, the GK role is currently set at SK (S) instead of (A)

Profiles of the goalkeepers and their back-ups below:


I've built the squad with a net spend of £85m over the course of 9 (?) transfer windows, which I think is a pretty great achievement.

Aston Villa F.C. Season 2026/27 - Q1 report - What happened to our Mani?

We have started the season and played our first 9 PL games, so let's see how it has gone.

We started the season well and for the first time during our time with Aston Villa won the first three games. I wanted us to score more and allow less goals, and so far that has been the case.

I'm especially pleased with our defensive record as we have conceded only 2 goals in 9 games and our goalkeeper Justyn Loder is having a tremendous start to his Villa career with an avg rating of 7.31 in his 9 PL starts.

I've once again been disappointed with our finishing as we have an xG number of 17.68 and have only scored 15 goals. Great teams need to over-perform their xG numbers and its very frustrating to be under-performing on this front once again. Sadly much of this blame falls onto Mani Billingsley who after his sensational 2nd half of last season is really struggling with his finishing this time around. In 9 PL starts he has no goals and an xG rating of 5.47. That's absolutely dreafful and I don't know what I can do to fix this.

Our bad results against Crystal Palace (yet again, wtf) and Norwich are mainly down to bad finishing and I think I have no choice but to trust the process and keep doing what we are doing. Sadly our EFL title defend ended against Arsenal in a 4th round defeat.








We are still only 1 point behind league leading Arsenal but we could easily be leading the league so, I'm sligthly disappointed by our record.



At least our flawless run in UCL League Phase is still intact with three wins from our first three games in Europe. I have almost exclusively used our second XI in Europe.



Goals for the season

I haven't talked about this season's goals yet, and I think its time for us to win a major trophy this time around. We are doing well in the UCL and could easily be leading Premier League despite having already faced last season's top 3 teams, so in my mind we could win either competition.
It certainly is surprising to see the bad start for Billingsley, but to still be in 2nd says a lot about the defensive improvement! Billingsley finding back form might well get you the major trophy you're looking for!
Also nice to see the young lad in goal grabbing his chance, it's a bit of a luxury to have Emi Martinez as a back up!
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Aston Villa F.C. Season 2026/27 - Middle of the season report - Leading the league at Christmas!

The heading says it all and things have been mainly great for us but let's not get carried away as we have lost some games as well and different teams have played different amount of games.

Anyway, since the last update we have played 10 games, won 7, drawn 1 and lost 2 games. Other than the Bournemouth game we have won the games we should have been winning but the losses to North Londoners are somewhat troubling. Then again they are both doing well and we had a bad luck against Arsenal as the game should have ended 1-1 according to the stats.

In general we are doing well and as you can see Billingsley has scored few goals as well, altough he is still 5 goals behind his xG tally. Thuram (6+1 and avg rating of 7.36) and Endrick (9+2 and 7.32) have been our best performers in the league and have stepped up when needed.



Despite the heavy loss against Arsenal we still have the best defensive record on the league with only 10 goals conceded in 19 games. Our 38 goals scored is the 3rd highest tally in the league and despite Billingsley's struggles we are pretty much on par with pur xG numbers.



Champions League

Since the last update we have played three games on Europe and as per usual, have won them all!

If we can beat the 24th placed Porto away and 26th placed AS Roma at home we are looking to win 8/8 games on the UCL League Phase yet again.



Our 5th season with Aston Villa has started well and while you can't win anything in the first half of the season, you could certainly lose everything during the first half of the season and we have set ourselves up quite nicely for the rest of the season.

The January transfer window opens up soon but I have no plans to do anything at all.
Only two goals against Stade Rennais is a disgrace. #ippeout
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Aston Villa F.C. Season 2026/27 - Q3 Report - Shortcomings on Europe?

We went flawless on the League Phase of the UCL on a second season in a row, but this time around we were instantly eliminated in the round of 16 phase. Its definitely a bummer to go out this soon, but as I've learned during the season, our team is relatively young and some key players like Billingsley and Endrick are rather inconsistent at this point of their careers.

Over the two legs the xG battle against Manchester United was something like 3-3, so the matchup could have gone either way but we weren't able to finish as well as we should have and were also allowing too much defensively, so the result, while dissappointing, was probably fair.



Premier League

After the UCL exit our focus turns to the Premier League. At least we are doing well on Premier League and as you can see Mani Billingsley has found his goalscoring form yet again and at the moment has 16 goals and 4 assists in his 26 PL apps.

Our defensive record is still the best in the league, although we had a defensive meltdown against Chelsea in one of our most recent games. Chelsea were 0-2 up after 3 minutes and had another two goal lead early in the 2nd half, so escaping the game even with a point was a great showing of character by our guys.





After 29 games we are still leading the league and even have a game in hand on our closest rivals. After the relatively early exit from the UCL, winning the PL is our only way to achieve our season goal of winning a major trophy, so I'll do everything in my power to win the league.

We are undoubtetly in a great position going forward but we still have to play against all the top 7 teams in the league, so taking the main prize home won't be easy. There is no choice but to take the challenge one game at a time and win the so called easy games against Southampton, Bournemouth and Watford.

So, Billingsley, if you'd like to go on a tear, now would be a good time to do so!

Aston Villa F.C. Season 2026/27 - End of the season report - A bottle job for the ages

As mentioned we had a tough task ahead but al the keys were on our own hands and boy did we s#it the bed...

We won just 5 out of the last 9 games but despite it all we only needed to win Liverpool at the last round to win the Premier League and we got a draw. That's not a bad result from Anfield but the damage was done before that game. I think it was the loss against Southampton that really finished us.

What it comes to other bad results it was really a true Football Manager Special. We had it all. Defenders slide tackling the ball straight to the opponent in our box, opponents scoring from most dangerous set pieces in FM on 5 years running being throw-ins and so on and so on.

And to top it all, we lost the FA Cup final against Chelsea too.





At the end of the day we only got 79 points and you shouldn't be in place to win the title with a point tally like that, so I can't be too angry. But to have it all on our own hands and then let it slip away like that is really frustrating.

We are still very young team with 8th highest budget in the league spending half what the top two teams are spending but I feel the special moments in FM are those when you do something unexpected. If I struggle like this 1-2 more seasons and wait until Billingsley and Endrick are literally the best players in the World then I should be winning the trophies and there is no way to get the excitement I could get by winning something with this team right now.





Well, onwards and upwards I guess. The emotions are running bit high at the moment, so its probably a good idea to take a step back and analyse our situation.

I feel I have done okay with the team (I'd give myself a grade of B ) but I haven't been able to take us to the next level yet. I mean we got more points in year 3 than we got in year 5 and there are no excuses for that. There is no need to give up or resign but I have to be critical about my actions as well. I think the recruitment has somewhat failed but I honestly think that there aren't too many players available that clearly improve us.

I'm not 100% sure on the tactics either but we scored more goals than any season before and conceded less than any time before, so its not like we are failing tactically. We had the secong best xG for in the league and the best xGa in the league, so clearly we are doing something right as well.

If we look at this as a process vs. results, the results aren't as good as I'd hope but the process seems to be working.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Here are the player stats for the Premier League. I try to sell Rensch and replace him with Livramento. I already sold Ugarte as the bastard had a nerve to complain about needless stuff in the middle of our title push and demanded to be sold. I'd like to keep using Caicedo as a RCM, so I probably try to sign the best DM I possibly can to replace Ugarte.

I absolutely don't think that when you eventually win your first league and trophy, you'll be less excited. This is a playthrough with a serious sense of realism, and you can feel happy that you've achieved so much in that space, and you will make it to the top eventually. When you do, you will have earned it, properly.
2022-11-25 08:18#290492 Harleygator : I absolutely don't think that when you eventually win your first league and trophy, you'll be less excited. This is a playthrough with a serious sense of realism, and you can feel happy that you've achieved so much in that space, and you will make it to the top eventually. When you do, you will have earned it, properly.

Hopefully you are right. I reckon the realism suffered a bit when I brought Endrick in but let's see!
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2027/28 - Q1 Report - The Lions are on a hunt

Transfers

After the dust had settled and I cooled down a bit, I thought we are still on a right path and there are no need for major changes. Therefore we had a relatively quiet summer and only made three signings including one for the future.

Our major signing was La Masia's graduate Nico, who had moved to Tottenham but we managed to sign him for £57m. Its a large sum for sure, but I feel we already have most of the pieces in place and if he is the one piece that gets us over the line, then the fee would be worth it. I think his profile looks bit like ManCity's Rodri.

I also signed young RB Eesa McMullen from Sheffield United for £21m. He is more of a defensive full back at this stage but with great physicals and personality we can surely get him to develope into a decent attacking asset as well.

I aslo signed Bosnian youngster Aljo Malbašić for £4m and loaned him back to FC Slovácko for a season. He is rather physical player and perhaps in 1-2 years could offer us little different option upfront compared to fast and technically gifted Billingsley & Endrick. If it doesn't work out, we can sell him for profit for sure.

Profiles of new signings below:


I also made few sales as Devyne Rensch was sold to Everton for £42,5m and our 5th choice Central Defender Ashley Phillips was sold to RB Salzburg for £34,5m. Neither player developed quite as well as I hoped them to, so selling them for profit was a sensible move to make.

Start of the season

The season itself has started very well. We have played 14 games and won 13 of them, although our latest win came on penalties on EFL Cup but still. We have only lost once and considering the loss came against Liverpool at Anfield its not that big of a deal.

The team has shown great spirit in scoring late and turning draws into wins on multiple occasions. Our main guys Billingsley, Endrick, João Pedro and Caicedo have been on a great form and have stepped up when needed. Caicedo has an avg rating of 7.28 on PL and as far as BWM's go, that's one of the highest avg ratings I've ever seen.

Results per competition below:


Thanks to our great start we are leading the league by three points after 9 gameweeks. We have already faced and beaten teams like Chelsea and Manchester City, so its not like we are only playing against poor sides either.

I think we just need to keep doing what we've been doing and make little tweaks here and there to fine tune some of the elements of our game and we'll do just fine. Its still early in the season and as we've seen, everything can change after few games.

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1 yearEdited
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2027/28 - Midway season report - Leading the pack at Christmas, again

The Q2 of the season progressed mainly on the same manner as the season started, except we collected two losses in the cup comptetitions.

At first we lost at Camp Nou via 90+3 OG by Gvardiol and therefore for a first time in 20 UCL League Phase games failed to beat our opposition. The run had more symbolic meaning than anything else, so to be fair I'm not too bothered by this. We instantly bounced back with a win on UCL and after 6 games are 5th place on the UCL League place. I'm targetting a top 8 finish and an automatic place for the R16 on Europe.

Our remaining two UCL League Phase games are against Feyenoord ans PSG, who I'm especially eager to face.



We also lost against Arsenal on EFL Cup's quarter-finals, but I'm not too bothered about that either. It would have been nice to win the cup, but we have bigger fishes to fry elsewhere.

Since the last update we have played 10 games on PL with a record of 6-4-0. All the draws have come on against top sides and 3/4 of them on away games, so its not catastrophic, but perhaps our relatively poor record against the top sides is somewhat cause for a concern.

On a positive note we are winning the games we should be winning and more often than not with relative ease as well.



As I spoiled on the heading, we are leading the league on Christmas like we did in last season. This time we have 4 more points than we had in last season after 19 games, so we have made some improvement for sure. On a second half of the season we'll face all the top teams except Chelsea and Arsenal at home, which could be just what we need in order to win the Premier League.

We'll face Manchester City, West Ham and Liverpool on next 7 days, and good results from these games could go for a long way when its time to count all the points at the end of the season.



With a transfer kit of almost £70m, I'm planning to make one major signing on January to give us some boost for the 2nd half of the season. Khephren Thuram has been a key player for us during the past seasons, but this time he has been struggling with minor injuries which has surely impacted his game as well and his avg rating has dropped from 7.25 to 6.86. Lucas Paqueta has performed at similar level and I'd like to get little more from our LCMs, so that's where I'll make the signing.

I've been scouting players like Xavi Simmons, Yunus Musah and Giovanni Reyna and more than likely I'll be signing one of them.
At least our run started well, as we completely destroyed Manchester City.



Justyn Loder also continued a fine tradition of Aston Villa's Golden Boy winners as he followed Endrick and Billingsley by being 3rd consecutive The Villain who won the award.



Our youngsters have done rather well on NXGN awards, too, as our player has won the award three times in a row and last time the whole top 3 came from our team.



It remains to be seen if or when some of our guys could appear on the Ballon D'Or voting lists or even win the award.
Aston Villa F.C. Season 2027/28 - Q3 Report - Magical European night at Villa Park

Let's start by looking at the results in the Champions League. We managed to win the remaining two UCL League Phase games as we beat Feyenoord and more impressively PSG by the scores of 2-0 and 0-1, respectively. PSG deployed rather defensive 3-4-2-1 system against us but theyhad players like Mbappe and Musiala on their starting line-up, so we still faced a tough team.

After finishing 3rd on the League Phase we were drawn against AS Roma on the Round of 16 stage. The last season's 3rd place finishers on Serie A don't have a world class squad as they have recently sold players like Tammy Abraham, Ibanez and Nicola Zaniolo and replaced them by players from the mid-table Serie A sides.

Perhaps Jose Mourinho's squad were eager to prove a point against us as they beat as 4-1 at the Rome's Olympic Stadium. Statistically the match was mutch more even than that but I was embarrased with our performance and let the lads have it after the game. However, being an LFC fan I just can't give up an European match up after one leg.

I made some changes for our starting XI for the 2nd leg home game and started the match with an attacking mentality. We were dominating from the start but could only score once before the break. On the second half we ramped up the pressure and scored the 2nd, 3rd and even the bloody 4th goal and won the match-up by an aggregate score of 5-4! I think this was one of the best and certainly the most memorable match during our reign with Aston Villa.

Of course this means nothing if we don't make a deep run on the UCL.





Premier League

Business as usual I guess. We beat Manchester City and Liverpool by a wide margin only to lose against West Ham after a gutless performance between those games.

At the time of writing the report we are on a two game losing streak. The most frustrating thing again is that we are controlling these games but just can't finish when needed.

Is there a team instruction for better finishing that I'm missing?





City have dropped some points in recent games as well, so the title race between us is still open but I'm not feeling too confident. I don't know if our team is mentally weak or what but they seem to screw the pooch when they have an opportunity to push ahead.

We have exactly the same record as we had after 29 games last season, we have scored two goals less and conceded the same amount as last season at this stage, so we have found our level at least.

On the finishing tactical thing, yes, there probably actually is some setting you're missing. In my save, I had this problem with one team when I was winning 60% possession every game but creating no chances - the reason being that we were short passing for the possession, but didn't have the quality to actually break down a team in the final third. The solution to that was to put on Shoot on Sight/from Range, and that led to more chances and goals. In the more recent team, a slightly better standard, we were creating loads of chances, far more than the first team, but not scoring - the reason being that I had asked the new team to also shoot from range, even though they were more capable of breaking down opponents. So, turning that option off meant fewer overall chances, but better quality ones, so we scored more.

All of which is to say, there's definitely some reason why you're getting so many shots and so many off target. That could be a tactical thing, or it could be the type of chances you're getting versus what kind of chances your striker is more suited to taking. It's hard to tell, often, without watching closely, and hard to advise from my position having not seen your games or your players' attributes.
2022-11-30 10:11#290587 Harleygator : On the finishing tactical thing, yes, there probably actually is some setting you're missing. In my save, I had this problem with one team when I was winning 60% possession every game but creating no chances - the reason being that we were short passing for the possession, but didn't have the quality to actually break down a team in the final third. The solution to that was to put on Shoot on Sight/from Range, and that led to more chances and goals. In the more recent team, a slightly better standard, we were creating loads of chances, far more than the first team, but not scoring - the reason being that I had asked the new team to also shoot from range, even though they were more capable of breaking down opponents. So, turning that option off meant fewer overall chances, but better quality ones, so we scored more.

All of which is to say, there's definitely some reason why you're getting so many shots and so many off target. That could be a tactical thing, or it could be the type of chances you're getting versus what kind of chances your striker is more suited to taking. It's hard to tell, often, without watching closely, and hard to advise from my position having not seen your games or your players' attributes.

That's quite an insightful message, Harleygator!

And yeah I agree. I see that sometimes teams are set up just to obtain posession and then work out everything else after that. I like my teams to have posession too but I like the posession to be sort of a side product. For example, if my teams press well, avoid wasteful shooting and don't give away ball easily we will have better posession as a result.

To be fair I was joking with the finnish better instruction, but I think you got that. I guess when you manage a great team, sometimes games like that will happen like they happen in real life, too.

By the way my best finisher looks like this:



I haven't quite finished the season yet as we have 5 games to play still, but we have a chance to win a triple, no less.

Manchester City have totally collapsed and went 3-4-3 on their last 10 PL games. They still lead the league by two points but as you can see they only have one game left meanwhile we have three games to play.



Our opponents aren't the toughest teams either as we'll face 10th placed Everton, 19th placed WBA and Leicester who are 10th in the league. City can only get to 81 points, so even 1 win and 2 draws would bring the trophy to Villa Park as we have much better goal difference than the Cityzens.



And the other two remaining games are FA Cup and UCL Finals against Arsenal. We don't have the best record against the Gunners but I'm confident we can beat them in at least one final.

It's needles to say that I'd like to win all the three trophies. If I somehow end up bottling this and not winning any of the three trophies, it's time to resign, quit FM and take my talents to Farming Simulator or some such.

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