Past and Present #3

Dave Black (@CM9798) is back with the third part of his FM19 series. If you've not checked out Dave's past work based on Championship Manager 97/98, then I'd highly recommend following him on twitter and checking out his website dedicated to CM 97/98

After a messy pre-season, the day has finally arrived. My FM19 journey might be slightly over a month old but I feel like the opening game of the season has taken a lifetime to arrive. It’s Crystal Palace away too, a tricky game where no doubt Zaha will be looking forward to feasting on us.

My theory is that Crystal Palace will want to counter attack. They have pacey players and will probably welcome us having the ball and overcommitting. I might be wrong and despite the wing backs formation receiving tepid feedback in pre-season, I’m ignoring that. You can’t counter attack what isn’t attacking.

It’s a bold statement but the opening minutes pass without so much as a highlight. Then we have it, the pitch appears. Lascelles and Schar are knocking it round at the back. Any minute now we’re going to launch into a devastating move. Schar can’t see a forward pass and, 40 yards from goal, he turns and pings the ball past his own goalkeeper. Yep. I could cry. All that preparation undone by some stupidity.

It remains that way until half time. I tear a strip off the players and with Sessegnon struggling with an injury, he and the Swiss disaster are hooked. Dummett and Ritchie are on, 4-2-3-1 is severely apologised to and Shelvey is in the number 10 position. Sort it out, ffs.

To be fair, they do. Muto tees up Ki on the edge of the box and he makes no mistake. A fine finish. Neither side seriously threaten a winner and I’ll take a point. Draw away and win at home. Or something.

That theory is all well and good but when your first home game is Man City, I can sort of see why the fans are seemingly gutted by that opening day draw. Don’t get over excited lads. Sessegnon is going to miss a few weeks and Shelvey gets a hernia lifting weights in the gym. Damn you fifteens! A month out for him and a headache ahead of the visit of the Champions.

4-2-3-1 is back and the injuries actually alleviate any selection headaches. Man City look typically strong. We start well though and, hold the phone, take the leader when Yedlin crosses for Kenedy to put us ahead. Easy this management lark.

Sadly Sergio Aguero feasts on black and white meat and equalises just before half time. Although we’re competitive, Leroy Sane has other ideas and my word when he runs at pace even his tiny 2D circle is terrifying. He lays on a sitter for Aguero and we’re trailing.

Muto should really equalise after he ends up one on one but Ederson saves it. As is usually the case, we’re made to pay and Aguero completes his hat-trick following another burst from Sane. We can’t compete with that.

I can only clutch at positives really and the main one is that we won’t play teams of that stature every week.

In fact, our next game is the polar opposite. Brighton away. Some sick freak at Sky has put this on Friday night football. It won’t be pretty so don’t expect to be entertained.

Brighton play a 4-4-1-1 but the four midfielders are deep. It’s the old two banks of 4. With that in mind, I’m going to let Diame roam a bit and give Ki more creative license. If Sessegnon was fit I’d probably play him at left back and encourage us to double up with little risk of being countered, but he’s not.

We have all the ball. Brighton don’t want it. They want set pieces and scraps. We just can’t find a way to open them up though and most of our 14 shots are from distance. Rondon gets no change out of their centre backs and one of the worst games ever seen finishes 0-0. Ho hum.

The Carabao Cup should be the chance to draw a weaker side and gain some confidence but instead we’ve got Premier League Cardiff. It’s at home and a game we should win but it could be easier. It’s another game where we dominate the ball but we just can’t find a killer pass. Then comes the sucker punch. Bobby Reid picks the ball up wide on the left, strides infield under little pressure and slams it beyond Dubravka. That’s not good.

I’ve been far too cautious so far. I switch things to the 4-4-2 formation but push the wingers on so it’s more of a 4-2-4. Muto joins Rondon up top, the returning Sessegnon is on at left back and Murphy replaces Ritchie so we have a right footer on the right. Get it wide, get it in the box. It works almost immediately. Kenedy feeds Muto over the top to equalise before the on loan Brazilian slides in Rondon who finishes well. Ki adds some gloss as Diame tees him up on the edge of the box and the South Korean provides a typically classy finish. Lesson learnt – attack with conviction.

This fixture list is a joke. It’s Man Utd at home next just 4 days after the Cardiff game. If we’re sticking with 4-2-3-1, I’m making the wingers “attack” rather than “support” and Rondon can be a pressing forward instead of a target man. I am concerned that Mourinho likes to counter attack and this might let him, but that’s future Dave’s problem.

We are on fire to begin with. Rondon puts us in front and it’s deserved. As predicted though, Man Utd let us have the ball and try to break on us at every opportunity. Sanchez equalises before half time from one sweeping move and Lukaku misses a chance from another. Hmm.

At half time I decide to heed the warning. The defensive line is deeper and instead of short passing, we’re going longer and to the flanks. Ki goes off injured, which is a huge shame, but we get a point and I’ll take it.

A month out for Ki but it could be worse…it’s International break time. This is where the update ends for today, a tough start to the season and two away fixtures to look forward to after the break – Huddersfield and Burnley. They could be important games. See you next time!



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