Past and Present #6

Dave Black (@CM9798) continues with the sixth 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

Hello and welcome back to part 6 of my FM19 journey. At one stage, a part 6 looked optimistic. But last time out, something clicked, games were won and relegation fears were banished. For now. As the calendar turns to December, will that famously frantic festive period cause us problems?

It’s West Ham at home. They are frankly terrible and prop up the division. All the pre-match chat is about if I think Pellegrini will get sacked. Leave me alone. Mind you, you wouldn’t know who was worse for an hour. Two bald men fight over a comb until Muto gets on the end of Yedlin’s cross and that is enough for the three points. Not vintage but I don’t care. No extra points for style, which is definitely a blessing.

We only have three days to recover and in that time we have to get down to Bournemouth. If we were walking or even getting a bus that would be tricky but I’d like to think we’d fly. We’re actually playing really well but can’t score, whilst Bournemouth offer minimal threat. I throw Rondon on for the last 20 to try to get their better of their defence but it looks like it’s all for nothing. Until the 93rd minute that is. Yedlin floats a ball to the back post and Rondon powers a head towards goal. Begovic claws it out but it hits Nathan Ake and rolls in. Limbs all over and three more points on the road. We might be doing more flying next season at this rate.

A slight negative there was Ritchie coming off with a slight injury. He can’t be risked against Liverpool, who much like their real life counterparts are top of the table. His replacement Jacob Murphy has proven an able deputy on a few occasions recently and he gives us a surprise lead, finishing off a fine counter attack. That just angers Liverpool though and Dan Sturridge profits from a missed header from Schar to run through and score. Grumble. In the second half, Lovren needlessly hauls down Muto and with Ritchie not in play, Fabien Schar picks the ball up. I swear I set my penalty takers and…he’s got 16 for pens. I did set them. Good. He strides up and confidently hits his pen straight down the middle. Alisson saves it. Boo indeed.

To make matters worse, Salah gives them the lead four minutes later and a lesser side would crumble. Not us, apparently. Muto equalises with a rebound from a free kick and it’s all square. I know this game pushes the boundaries sometimes but Nathaniel Clyne, on at left back, cuts inside and curls one into the top corner. For goodness sake. A chaotic match looks like getting away from us but Murphy has the last word, arriving at the far post to tap in a Sessegnon cross. A very, very hard-earned point.

Several of the players are jaded so it’s not exactly a joy to have to head down to Southampton. I wish I trusted more of these players so I could rotate a little but what’s done is done. Muto gives us the lead – he’s really proving useful – as he powers onto a ball over the top and smashes it beyond the keeper. The lead doesn’t last as Lascelles bundles over Charlie Austin and Nolito, whoever he is, scores the pen. The game drifts from here and I’m starting to think about settling for a point when Wesley Hoedt heads in a free kick on the near post. I need to look at that, I set up the defensive set pieces but I might as well leave the whole team up front. Anyway, our good run looks set to come to an end but Kenedy rams in a leveller in stoppage time. No wonder we’re jaded.

We probably should have won but we’re scraping by at the moment. Crystal Palace are struggling and they are our next visitors in the last game before Christmas. Lads, do it for Santa. To be fair, we’re absolutely rampant from the first whistle. Ritchie, fit again and loving life, gives us the lead and Schar volley in from a corner to put us 2-0 up inside 17 minutes. Things are never easy and our sheet is rarely clean so it’s no surprise when Palace pull one back. Having said that, conceding to Jordan Ayew is always unpleasant. A bit of a half time gee up seems to work as Muto makes it 3-1 and then it’s party time. Former idiot Moussa Sissoko gets a second yellow and he trudges off to the delight of the home fans. Perez adds a fourth with a stunning long-range strike before young Murphy adds a 5th. The circumstances allow me to rest a few players for the final 20 minutes or so and everything is good in the world. We’re 7th!

7th! What a run we’re on. It’s Cardiff away next too so a real chance to solidify that spot. I should maybe rotate a bit but Ki has gone off to the Asia Cup and I’m worried about making too many changes. Ritchie goes off injured after less than 15 minutes and it’s downhill from there. Camarasa scores from a free kick before Joe Ralls latches onto a loose throw in to make it 2-0. I didn’t see this coming.

The kitchen sink is in play for the second half but Smithies is equal to everything we throw his way. It’s a rare blank and our first bad result for as long as I can remember. Boo.

I hate when Neil Warnock is happy. With Ritchie out for 3-4 weeks and Kenedy unable to play against Chelsea, the last thing I want to hear is that Sessegnon has a tight hamstring. With Murphy in on the right, Atsu is nowhere near ready to play a full game so Sess is just going to have to manage for an hour or so. The physio says he will and I believe him.

We actually play quite well but fall behind to a great header from Morata. Perez levels just after half time and Sessegnon puts us 2-1 up…but the flag is up. It didn’t look offside but who am I to argue if a fictional linesman adjudges one circle is in front of the other? Hazard scores and we lose 2-1. All the questions afterwards suggest it was a bad decision but moaning will not help.

Those two losses see us slip to 10th at just over the half way stage. It’s a recovery but it’s Man City away next. That famously generous Mike Ashley has given me £12m to spend in January and the chances are I’ll shift a few of the moaners, so that’ll be the next challenge.

Join me next time to see if I can make the most of that money or if we’ve already peaked. There’s an awful long way to go yet…

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