Last season we pushed the top four before falling away so I had a good feeling that the squad for the most part would be able to get a champions league spot, as the quality was there but perhaps not the depth so the first thing I did was set about selling squad players, while it may sound a bit counter productive I wanted to use the opportunity to try to blood through a few of the younger lads and in turn sign even more promising 18 yr old’s to go into the youth sides.
Outgoing saw Paddy McNair leave the club, for the most part he had been a dependable centre back but I’m at the point where I had too many centre backs and knew there was one elusive target I still wanted to sign…. but more on him later. Also joining McNair north of the border was Ryan Sessegnon, Ryan was brought in to make the left-wing back spot his own but with the signing of Itter and the emergence of Louis Shaw I felt we could comfortably move him on so the duo went to Celtic park for a combined £15.75m, business I was happy with. Then the blow hit, last year we lost Pineda to City this year Lo Celso was signed by Chelsea, again a healthy profit but again he wanted to leave so I accepted the deal. Other noticeable departures were Asoro, who just hadn’t developed as well as I would have liked he moved on to Turkish side Bursaspor for £5m, Melligan another with great promise moved to Bristol city and Ralston just failed to develop so I got a decent profit on him as he joined Fulham.
On the otherside the bulk of my dealings were youth players as Brady,Howcroft-Jones, Hanford, Taylor, Roberts, Jardine, Skinner, and Watkins all joined for the U18s. Petrovic, Jose and Larsen joined for the U23s. Murphy is an irish centre back scouts rate him potential five-star so I see £10m for him as a bargain but I dropped him into the U18s too, Prego was mainly planned as Lo Celso replacement, De Meyer was someone I brought in for left-wing back when Itter started talking about departing, but the big deal of the summer was de Ligt at £75m, he is the most expensive player at the club. but I’ve chased him for years and wasn’t going to sign him when Ajax demanded £140m but I talked them down to what I think is a very reasonable £75m he will obviously go straight into the first team and I’m hoping to build the defence around him for the most part.
So armed with our new £75m centre back we started the season with a fairly straight forward run, De Ligt even scored on his debut heading home a corner at the KC Stadium as we ran out 3-0 winners. Four goals past boro and clean sheet wins against Leicester and the derby against Newcastle got the season off to a great start. A point at home to arsenal was a great performance before leading Manchester United three times we unfortunately had to settle for only a point at old Trafford but we had come so close to taking the three it filled me full of encouragement, Arp continued his fine form heading towards Christmas as he notched three in three as we claimed three clean sheets and took maximum points from Stoke, Southampton and Everton. We were unlucky not to make it four as a late equaliser at home to Bournemouth denied us the points after Arp had given us the lead.
The defence continued to be a rock as we actually picked up 11 clean sheets in 15 games as we hit the festive period, a narrow victory away at spurs before dominant wins at home including the performance of the season as Prego and Carey were on target in a three goal thumping of Manchester city, the win left us a massive 9 points clear at the top of the table but ultimately the festive period was our undoing we gave a good performance but Chelsea edge the points in a top of the table clash cutting our lead to six points, we just best Brighton before struggling to draw at home to Burnley coupled with Chelsea’s win the lead was down to four points. and City and united were closing the gap too it was the worst possible time to have a blip in form, We did bounce back beating Hull but defeat to Leicester a few days later left the gap at a single point over Chelsea and only 3 points over 3rd placed United.
We came out fighting at home to Liverpool as we smashed them 4-0 thanks to a brilliant show from Vieira and Itter who both got on the score sheet. but Chelsea had kept pace we went to the riverside knowing we would relinquish top spot should we fail to beat boro, and despite Odegaard giving us the lead we lost out to boro and ultimately lost top spot, a derby victory as Alena unleashed two thunderbolts at St James park before comprehensive defeat to Arsenal saw us lose further ground.
We did pick up a mini run as we drew at old Trafford to kick off a six game unbeaten run but as we drew 3 and lost 3 of those games Chelsea pulled further away from us and we actually looked to be stuck in the chasing pack defeats the Manchester City and Chelsea actually left us sitting fourth but a run of three wins to end the season clawed our way back up to 3rd as Chelsea won the title if anyone had offered me top four last season id have bitten their hand off but to finish 3rd was a bit of a disappointment! depending on what the board demand im treating this as over achieving and looking again to a top 5 finish next season.
The run in the carabao cup was short-lived as three away games as we made the quarter-final I fielded a much younger side in the cups with the aim of getting them more first team football in the early rounds they didn’t disappoint winning round 3 and four both 2-0 but in the quarter finals they were found out as a strong Manchester City side dominated from the off and despite the introduction of some of the senior first teamers we had to settle for just a single goal as Odegaard scored in the 90th minute.
We fared no better in the FA Cup as we also only lasted three rounds, we only overcame Ipswich in round three after I brought on the seasoned pros as Odegaard netted two on the way to victory. the fourth round saw us decimated by injuries as Lucas and Shankland a 19yr old Scottish striker got on the score sheet as we edged to victory over Cardiff, but again three round and your out was the order of the domestic cups this year as we failed to take our chances and the foxes scored from corners to knock us out.
In our European adventures this season I was drawn in group I alongside Polish side Leiga again! Every year in Europe we’ve had to play Legia! we also got Danish side AC Horsens and Austrian side Rapid Wien, we made light work of the group as a youthful mix of players made it five wins from six Carey topping the goal scoring charts with 7 goals in 6 games as he took home two match balls, We got a much more difficult draw in the first KO round as we took on Sevilla but we won easily in Spain with Carey, Hamilton and Almeida scoring as we picked up a big 3-0 win we could even afford to lose the second leg 1-0 and still progress.
The 2nd Knockout round got a bit more tricky as we took on Marseille, and we lost in France, but came back as Prego got a 1-0 win at home it took penalties to progress to the quarter-final. in the game with AC Milan we defended well but could nearly gave away some goals for a draw but Arp’s goal was enough to take the win to Italy, under the lights of the San Siro we took the lead through Arp again, and despite conceding we held on claimed the draw on the night but progressed to the Semis as three of the last four teams were English. and we avoided arsenal but got Man City.
Fresh off the back of a win over Manchester city in the league we claimed a 2-0 win in europe too Arp scored twice at the stadium of light to give us a good lead, the second leg was much more difficult as we fell 2-0 down and looked to be heading out when man city notched a third after the break, but the introduction of Blackman pulled one back we just needed one more goal to seal progression without extra time as we led on away goals and it was Blackman again who did it his second on the night sealed a 4-2 aggregate win and set up a trip to Portugal to play Arsenal, I fully expected to lose as Arsenal are a side I always struggle with but we gave as good as we got and held them to 0-0 arsenal then went a goal down before they went a goal up as they scored after a scramble in the box we then failed to break them down handing Arsenal the trophy.
Elsewhere in the world…..
World Cup 2022 – Biggest shocks in the group stage was USA & Sweden topping their group leaving Brazil third!the second round was full of shocks! Belgium beat hosts Argentina 2-1, Colombia beats Mexico 2-0 and USA beat Australia 2-0 into the last four Belgium continued their run defeating France on penalties, and England beat Italy USA fell to Colombia The last four saw England beat Belgium 3-1 and Spain beat Colombia before Spain claimed the world cup on Penalties so England get to do it all again in four years time in USA
In Serie A Napoli finally toppled Juventus as they beat them to the scudetto by 8 points it was a poor year for Juventus with the two Milan clubs finishing 3rd and 4th.
In Spain it was again an unlikely champion as Atletico beat Real Madrid to the title by a single point in what is Ronaldo and Messi’s final playing year.
Germany saw Bayern claim ANOTHER title by 14 points they are by far the dominant side in germany Leverkusen again came second with Leipzig third.
PSG Claimed the Ligue 1 title as they lost only the one game claiming the title by 15 points scoring 91 goals former champions Montpellier were relegated.
In the Europa League we were the surprise package going all the way to the Final and pushing Arsenal all the way and unluckily losing the final, we could very much have claimed the trophy.
Lyon was the shock in the champions league making the Quarter finals but a Joao Felix goal in extra time saw Liverpool Claim the champions league title over Manchester United
With the retirements of Ronaldo and Messi Neymar has overtaken them as the worlds best player
As normal if theres anything you want to see from my save give me a shout on @FMAcidphire21