FM Journey’s: FM22 S6, Aston Villa S3
Hello, and welcome back to Villa Park. Season three here at Villa and we’ve finished P4 and P3. Is it time to step up and fight for a title? I think we might be able to do just that.
First things first. I left the last season needing a goalkeeper. Well, we’ve extended Andre Onana’s loan so that’s one less thing to worry about. Right back is somewhat of a concern still but we have Emerson Royal and Matty Cash along with Pablo Corti as one for the future (at 21, hmm) and James Simpson from Bristol City. The fans don’t like him but he’s good and homegrown. It would be fair to say I have no issues with squad depth in any position now.
Seeing as he’s available for £16.5M I go ahead and sign Camavinga. I now have three excellent central midfielders. Camavinga, Tzanakakis and Sambi Lokonga. Poor John McGinn is besides himself. He’s asked for a transfer the poor bastard and I can’t say I blame him. His chances of kicking a football in anger at this club have been dramatically reduced. I also spend silly money on Simphiwe Moloi. He’s South Africa’s starting left back. He’s also 19 and is already better than Angelino.
Departures; John McGinn is John McGone. He’s signed for Sporting Lisbon in a £6.25M move. He’s into his 30s and wasn’t playing. He’s still a good player but with Camavinga coming in his game time will be even more severely reduced. Marco Carnesecchi leaves for Sampdoria where he’ll be on loan for a year with a mandatory future fee of £2.4M. Marco was signed with the idea that he could grow into a first teamer but he got his knickers in a twist whenever I signed another goalie so he can fuck off. Ollie Watkins is off. West Ham gave me £14.75M and I took it. It’s only half what we paid for him but he’s 30 years old and hasn’t been great for me. You’ll be nothing without me Watkins. NOTHING.
And here’s the big one. Sekou Mara is off to Man City. They offered me £51M and he wanted to go. He’s really not worth that much and I don’t need to replace him. Lagadec and Ings are fine. Unfortunately, that creates that ‘lack of depth’ issue again. To replace him I try and sign Benjamin Sesko, from Man City, and he doesn’t want to move. The fix is Bobby Adeyemi, a 20 year old newgen from Man Utd. He’s here on loan.
I’ve been keeping an eye on the World Cup. I think I might take on an international job. I’ve not done that since…I can’t remember. FM19 I think? Maybe. Serbia beat Sweden and England lose on penalties to Senegal. Get ready to be burning effigies of John Stones in 2026.
Senegal won the World Cup! Everybody gets sacked! I apply for Spain, Italy, Germany, England, Argentina and Brazil. If I can’t win anything at club level, I’m scoring me some international bonus points.
Germany and Argentina can sense I have historical hatred for their nations football teams. I could have gotten over it lads. So, the choice is Brazil, Spain, Italy and England. Brazil have lowballed me with the smallest wage package. Just £49k p/w. It’s also a tough ask. Their best players are all aging out. Allison is the best keeper at 33. Marquinos the best defender. Neymar is still their best outfield player and he’s 34. They do have Brenner, who has the holy trinity. Antony is a great winger. The squad depth is alarmingly poor.
Spain have offered me the most at £105k p/w. Their squad is fantastic too. Ansu Fati is a star in this game. Pedri is elite. The defence is rock solid. You’ve got Rodri, Yeremy Pino and Mikel Oyazarbal and 20 year old newgen called Marco Martinez, who’s one of the best midfield talents in the game. Italy have a less consistent squad than Spain but they do have Donnarumma and Bastoni, who’s a top defender and Barella and Chiesa are both excellent. The rest of them? Probably not on Spain’s level. Spain are actually ruled out though because they play in red*.
*I have two rules on this save; don’t manage a team I’ve managed before and I can’t manage a team that plays in red. Due to hatred. Seeing as Villa play in a kind of red I’ve basically broken all the rules already but who’s counting.
So, is it England? Kane, Trent, and Foden are the only top talents but Mason Greenwood* is nearly there. I sneak into the editor to see about squad depth and England has that over Italy by a mile and Spain by a bit. They’re offering me £82k p/w. I’ve not managed England in a long, long time. It’s a chance to end Harry Maguire’s International career. I’m taking it.
*This was before the allegations and subsequent arrest. I’m removing him from the game so you won’t hear from him again.
Trent is an ideal IWB. Declan Rice in the middle on his jack jones? He’s fine. Foden playing in behind the front two. Vicious. [REDACTED] and Tammy terrorising defences? Yes mate. Keeping Rashford and Sterling further away from goal so they can’t fuck it up? Yeeeah. These lads are going to terrorise some smaller nations. I pity Wales, who we play in September.
The season gets underway and one of the earliest big events is the Champion’s League draw. It’s not been quite so kind this season. Bayern are the champions. Roma have Nicolo Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Tammy Abraham. Porto are beatable. They’ve got Diogo Costa in goal and I’m surprised he’s not moved in this window. Also, midfield playmaker Vitinha, who has had offers in on him but hasn’t moved. Beyond that we should beat them. I looked at Bayern’s team but it just made me cry. In particular Kimmich, de Jong and Ansu Fati are among the best players in the entire game. Eight of their starting eleven would stroll into my team.
Here’s the update at 10 games in. Everyone is beating each other in the league and I’ve had a few horrid results including an FMing at the hands of West Ham. In the Champion’s League we blew a 3-0 lead at Roma and were 2-0 down at Porto with 12 minutes left and won. Bayern are unplayable. We’re not in their stratosphere. Carabao Cup we’ve made it to the Quarter Final again and we’ve got a better chance at home to Wolves. I’d love to win something this year. It’s a bit worrying we don’t feel any better than last season and we’ve been less prolific in front of goal.
It’s disappointing in game when you ‘turn the corner’, as we did, in a 5-1 win at Tottenham. Only to lose three games on the spin against top teams. A 5-2 home loss to Man Utd wasn’t ideal but it felt like a blip, not a disaster, and then we were humbled by Bayern 3-1. Next game is City away and we played them off the park. They scored from every highlight they had. We did everything to not score. Hit the woodwork repeatedly. Missed five one on ones where our player hit it straight at the keeper. That xG tells a tale of our total domination, especially in the second half. And yet, we lose again. Every season it’s Same Shit, Different Day. The temptation to quit is luring its head.
Things improve and we win against Liverpool to stop the rot. Roma are despatched in Europe and we’re into the knockout stages for the second year running. As the draw is happening I start the ”please not PSG again” mantra but they are first out against Real Madrid.
We’ve got Dortmund. I reckon we can do that. Dortmund don’t have any terrifying players. Thiago Almada is probably their best attacking player, creating stuff from AMC. Jude Bellingham is still there and I know how good he is but considering the level we’re playing at…that’s fine. Honestly, looking at the squad Bellingham is the only player they’ve got who’s better than what I’ve got. In every other position we’re better. Things are going great, honestly. Like 6 wins on the bounce. What could go wrong?
Oh bollocks…it’s the bloody AFCON. January is busy too. We’re have FA Cup (West Ham) and Carabao Cup SF (Leicester). It increasingly feels like my starting XI is good enough to win things but my squad is probably too shallow, which was intentional because I was aware of European registration and how I couldn’t have more than 21 players.
Halfway through the season and a spectacular December leaves us 3 points behind the erstwhile runaway leaders Man Utd. A win in the following game, combined with Mason Mount’s late winner for Chelsea against Man Utd puts us top at year’s end. An added bonus is signing on loan striker Bobby Adeyemi from Man Utd on a permanent basis. The fee is a whopping £70M with £8M in add ons. However he is nailed on to be the next big thing for England. I would know, I’m England boss. I’ve seen the reports. Also, I’ve seen him play this season. He’s a beast. Ezri Konsa is off to partially fund the move, signing for Porto for £20M.
My pre-season aim was to win something and with a semi-final in the Carabao Cup, we might have a shot at the first major trophy of the season. It’s looking a little better after we scored EIGHT against Leicester in the first leg. Bit of a breathing room there. In the other semi, Man City beat Peterborough 7-0. Despite a 2-0 loss in the second leg we’re through and it’s Man City in the Carabao Cup final. Our first final! It’s taken 7 years but I’m finally in a final.
The January transfer window is a bit mad. Man Utd come in for Emi Buendia and offer £52M. Er, ok then. He’s hardly played and was complaining about a lack of game time. So, he’s gone. Real Madrid decide they want Matty Cash and he’s gone, for £30M. £30M for a player who’d started 3 games this season. Finally, we offloaded Giovani Lo Celso to Juventus for a whopping £15M. He’s barely kicked a ball this season and was almost out of contract.
Incomings are Arsen Zakharyan, who I’ve loaned off Newcastle. I don’t think he’s actually interested in a permanent move. Newcastle are putting together quite the squad. Yusuf Demir joins for £25M from Man City. He’s a direct replacement for Lo Celso and doesn’t expect to play much. He’s got potential to improve into. Taylor Harwood-Bellis joins us as my centre back cover is a wee bit thin. He’s better than Francisco Sierralta, who’s my current #5 central defender. We also snag Brazilian keeper Clovis Alberto but his loan move to Barnsley, to get UK game time, falls through on deadline day, which is a bugger.
In the league, it’s all a bit mad this season. Everyone is losing games. Man Utd with five defeats would traditionally be out of any serious title race down the years and they have the least amount of losses. It shows how fiercely competitive the league is this season. As we hit February it’s Champion’s League time and Villa have Dortmund.
The first leg is a massacre. We hit the bar twice and had two shots blocked that were surefire goals. One of them with the keeper already out of play. Dortmund were lucky to escape with a 5-1 loss. An absolute hiding. Villa are good enough to compete this year. Dortmund were never going to win the CL with their current squad so we’ll take this. Next up is the Carabao Cup final. Our first ever final as a manager on this save.
FUCKIN GET IN! Absolutely battered Man City 4-1. 3 days later, it’s Liverpool in the FA Cup and we fucking batter them too. 4-1. We’re absolutely cooking now. The 2.5 years of grinding and slowly improving and it’s all coming together. We are four points ahead of Chelsea and Man Utd in the league too. Could this be the year? The good news keeps coming as Liverpool sack Steven Gerrard thanks to their heavy cup defeat. I’ve got Stevie G fired. I don’t feel bad in the slightest.
Champions League draw is kind to us. It’s Milan in the quarters followed by either Man City or Arsenal. We dodge Real, Bayern and Liverpool in the process. Although I don’t have a lot of fear for Liverpool after our latest encounter. The FA Cup run ends after a dramatic 4-3 loss at Chelsea. We led three times and should have won thanks to an insane volleyed goal from Luka Romero that got ruled out for offside. Mate, he’s volleyed it in from 30 yards, he’s not gained an advantage from being two inches offside.
The two games against Milan both involve one of our players getting a red card. Camavinga in the first leg, Erik Sergio in the second. Luckily neither of those stop us winning 4-3 on aggregate. The irritating part is us hanging on after being by far the better team when it was 11 vs 11. We played 80 minutes with ten men over the two legs and it nearly cost us.
The board’s lack of ambition, something I called out at the start of the save, continues this year. They wanted us to finish “top half” after two straight years of qualifying for Champion’s League. I tried to change it but was told my ambitions were unacceptable. I had a five year plan to win the league and we’re in year three. The inability to move the board’s ambitions is annoying.
Is there a better feeling in FM than getting the “title race hots up” email and seeing yourself clear at the top? Of our remaining games the one at Old Trafford stands out. Chelsea finish with three straight away from home. I should probably be worried about Man Utd, especially if we lose on 12/5. Liverpool a full 10 points behind is fine by me and Man City are currently tenth. Tenth! Bobby Martinez working his magic.
I’m not used to fighting on two fronts. It’s hard to balance Champion’s League and Premier League with this squad, which is notoriously smaller than our rivals. Especially as Moloi, our starting left back, is out injured. The Man City home tie, CL SF, finishes a dramatic 3-3. We’re not boring to watch. In the league we win 4-1 at Watford to send them down, before beating Leeds. The league is looking good. Especially when Chelsea lose at Southampton giving us the chance to win the league against Brighton.
The Champion’s League? Unbelievable 4-1 win at Man City to reach the final. Best game, ever. Not just because we won, and comfortably, but because I feel the tactics and substitutions directly effected the outcome. Luka Romero starred. He scored a big money equaliser, missed a sitter and then scored a screamer from a free kick a minute later. You can’t hold this man down. He is a world beater. Danny Ings also scored a crucial third despite being injured. I left him on because he was playing great. The feeling of dragging a team up to this level and then seeing them deliver on this level is so satisfying. We’re in the Champion’s League final. The last time I played with a non-PSG team and made the CL final was FM19 and I lost that one.
We rock up at Villa Park the following week knowing a win over Brighton is enough to win the league with two games to spare. We win comfortably. Never in any danger. 4-1. Our favourite scoreline. We are champions!
And speaking of Champions…we won the fucking Champion’s League! Beating Real Madrid 3-1 and looking like we belonged in the final the whole game. It was beautiful. The most bizarre part of this is Matty Cash. We sold Matty to Real Madrid in January and he played in the final at right back BUT because he played for me in the Champion’s League earlier in the season he actually got a winners medal. He must be the first person in history to lose the final and still get a winners medal.
What a season. The amazing part is that I don’t think this squad is anywhere near as good as it will get in a few years time. Some of the better players still have potential to age into. Erik Sergio is a world class defender and he can still improve. Bobby Adeyemi has potential coming out of his ears. Giannis Tzanakakis is a perfect central midfielder and right back and he’s scored a hattrick from full back this season and a goal in the Champion’s League final and he’s nowhere near his potential. Moloi, Victor Emerson, Min-Hyeok, Camavinga, Lagadec, Akerman, Demir…they’ve all got potential to spare. And they’re all already good. This could be a dynasty save. Even if we lose Luka Romero, who has a £100M release clause, we’re still awesome. I’m excited about the future with these lads and thrilled to win not only the league but also the CL. Something I have really struggled with on previous FM’s. It feels like a huge deal to win it this early.
NEXT: We build our dynasty (and win shit with England…hopefully).