Football Manager Journeys #5: PSG (I know, I know)
For Season 2 of Glory Hunter I had a few options. Job offers came in from Hoffenheim, who finished 7th in the Bundesliga but had a substantial war chest to make matters better. I was tempted for two reasons. One being Hoffenheim’s presence in a lesser European competition, which I need to win at some point, and two being the chance to actually make something of a lesser side. However there was another interested team; Monaco. Which was built for more immediate success. Albeit in a harder league to win. As good as Bayern are there is no team in Europe more dominant in their domestic division than PSG.
However, things happened. I quit the Inter job and Tommy Tuchel decided he wanted to do that. Thus freeing up PSG. I went in for it, not expecting much, but to my surprise I was offered the gig. This is the same game that thought I wouldn’t be good enough for Atletico Madrid, a club that spurned me in this window. So here we are in Paris.
SPEND, SPEND, SPEND
My first task was to spend the entire transfer budget of £134M. That’s “required”. They want you to spend money every year or they want to know why? How do you even improve PSG? I went for splurging silly money on Jadon Sancho.
Plus bringing in experienced hand Sergio Ramos for name value and Angel Correa to give me more depth on the flanks. The club had already spent a tonne of money in the summer; signing Memphis Depay, Danilo Pereira, Cesar Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma (£44M!!), Dani Carvajal, Florenzi from Roma and combined with my spending they’d chucked £240M at the wall in this window. Players sold amounted to £9.25M. The economics of that is astounding.
This is how we’re lining up. There’s a nice mix of experience and world class young talent. There’s depth on the bench and quality everywhere. Di Maria, Neymar and Sancho are all capable of moving around those three big attacking positions and the league should be a fucking cakewalk to be honest. The real challenge will come from the Champion’s League. This is a team that not only can win the Champion’s League but flat out demands to make at least the semi-finals as a bare minimum. Expectations are incredibly high.
OH CAPTAIN, MY VICE CAPTAIN
Recruitment caused some unexpected issues. Jadon Sancho was demanding to be made vice captain if he signed. It was blocked out, wouldn’t let me change it. Ok, how bad is that? Well, I was in for Ramos at the same time and he also had a blocked out “make me vice captain” demand. O….k. Why? Surely I should be able to just say no? Anyway, Ramos signed first. Got made vice captain and in comes Neymar Jr. Into the office hot. WHY? He demands. I tried explaining to him that it’s just a game and he should chill out. He hates me. Then Sancho signed and it instantly stripped Ramos of the captaincy so he hates me too. Then we got to the ‘pick your captain’ screen and I just put Neymar back in. He still hates me. At least Sancho was cool with not being vice skipper. I mean, who gives a fuck anyway? Bunch of bloody children.
August 6, 2021
MARSEILLE vs. PSG
This is a prime demonstration of how easy this division is going to be. Marseille are one of the better sides and expected to finish fifth. We beat them 4-0 in the Trophee de Champions and then played them away opening day of the season. It almost went wrong and Dimitri Payet won a penalty but Keylor Navas saved it and we never looked back. Sergio Ramos scored on his debut courtesy of a cheeky long throw and Mbappe, who is basically a walking cheat code, scored after a run from inside his own half and the shot was unstoppable. Neymar wasn’t even here as he’s still playing in the Olympics.
Final Score: 2-0 PSG
So we skip all the domestic games, which are all easy wins. 3-0 vs. Strasbourg, 4-1 vs. Stade Rennais, 3-0 vs. Lille, 4-0 vs. Toulouse, and move on to Europe. With this incredible heavyweight line up and a favourable group draw that sees us play Liverpool, Braga and Salzburg. Is this my year in Europe?
September 14, 2021
RED BULL SALZBURG vs. PSG
Because there has been no off season Mbappe and Neymar are being rested. I rotate quite a bit too; allowing Danilo Pereira to start in central midfield. He promptly plays the worst game of his life and gets a 5.9. Fares scores for RB Salzburg with their first shot. Icardi quickly cancels that out. Then early in the second half a free kick is nodded down and Tuanzebe makes it 2-1. A minute later Fares is in again for 3-1. What the fuck? I make a lot of substitutions, Jose Mourinho style, and Kurt Zouma smashes in a second but time just ticks away. We lost. Shit. This is not what I had planned this season.
Final Score 2-3
After selling a few players in the lead up to deadline day I found I had a bit of spare cash. I tried, and failed, to parlay a move for Bruno Fernandes. Apparently £150M is too much to spend on one player. Having failed there I poached Aouar off Lyon on deadline day, leaving them no time to spend the money. Turns out, he’s a fucking great AMC.
We are now playing this formation, which is absolute FILTH. Look at that starting XI. Admittedly it’s not very defensive minded but fuck it. It’s a farmers league, we’re going to walk it.
The league continues to be a cakewalk. We roll Nice, Lens (6-1) and Reims before clashing with Liverpool at the Parc des Princes.
September 29, 2021
PSG vs. LIVERPOOL
This is the biggest challenge this team have faced so far and we’re so rattled that Alex Isak scores after 5 minutes and we’re behind. However when this PSG team plays well, they score a lot. Neymar and Mbappe promptly went after Liverpool here. Mbappe got a hattrick and Neymar scored twice. Absolutely ran riot. It was glorious.
Final Score: 5-1 PSG
Bizarrely the performances fell off a cliff after that game. We struggled against Montpellier before a late glut of goals gave us a flattering 5-2 win. We then just about edged out Monaco 2-1. A crunching 4-0 over Braga in Europe put us in a great position in the Champion’s League, only to blow it with a 1-1 in the second game in Portugal. We barely eeked past Stade Brestois; Kurt Zouma heading in a corner against 10 men to win. 2-0 vs. Lorient was followed by a battling 3-2 win over Caen in a game where Azpiliqueta was sent off after 20 minutes. The good news is that PSG won every league game despite the shaky performances.
November 20, 2021
LYON vs. PSG
Which leads us to the biggest game of the domestic season. With a perfect record going into this and Lyon in spritely form, something was going to give. Icardi gave us the lead but we blew it immediately in a hectic minute before half time. Lyon dominated the second half. We never got going and were xG’d 1.85 vs. 0.63. They couldn’t find a goal though so I’ll take the point in our hardest league game of the season.
Final Score: 1-1
November 24, 2021
PSG vs. RED BULL SALZBURG
We followed that with a game against RB Salzburg. The only team to beat us so far this season. Naturally I used the ‘revenge’ motif to give us the edge. Despite it being a competitive game with chances at both ends…we took ours. Basically, all of them. Icardi scored with our first shot. A minute later Depay scored and the game was dead and buried when Neymar netted after 23 minutes. All of those boys scored again and we snatched one from a long throw too. A complete destruction of Salzburg. If we’d taken our chances like that in Austria we’d already be in the knock out stages. As a bonus Liverpool drew with Braga so we only need a point at Anfield to win the group.
Final Score: 7-1 PSG
Having played with the same formation for ages, I thought I’d give a different one a try. It’s based on controlling possession and it’s a secondary, less intense, way of playing than my standard attack. It’s medium intensity, has a lot of playmaking going on. Basically the four lads above control the ball and the wide men are inverted wingers and score the goals. Add in two inverted wing backs and you’re controlling the entire middle of the park. Played it against Amiens and won 6-1 with 69% (nice) possession. I intend to use it to crush smaller more insignificant teams while keeping the main formation on hand for when I need to push the opposition.
December 7, 2021
LIVERPOOL vs. PSG
With PSG needing only one point to top their Champion’s League group I send the lads out to hold onto the ball and defend. Which they do in impressive fashion until giving away a penalty. Odsonne Edouard, of Celtic fame, hits a tame penalty kick right into Keylor Navas’ hands. He literally holds onto it. Then Icardi turns in a headed on near post corner and we’re ahead at Anfield. Dreamland! They score an equaliser in 90+1 but fuck it, a draw is enough and a 90+2 highlight merely skims the bar. We’re through as group winners!
Final Score: 1-1
CL draw is a worrying time. We managed to get Bayern Munich last year. We can potentially play a load of underachieving big guns including Barcelona and Juventus. Or potentially some smaller sides like Gladbach, Club Brugge or Krasnodar (who edged out Ajax and Lazio).
JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW
I immediately offload Rafinha to Ajax, who won’t play anyway, and replace him with…wait for…Cristiano Ronaldo. Juve want his enormous wages off the books so here he is!
This happens to coincide with a run of easy results. The more laid back, possession driven, tiki-taka formation has less effect on fatigue and we’re just coasting. Plus there’s hardly any risk-taking so for the first time in the entire of FM21 I manage to get the five games without conceding in a row achievement. I have joined the many Park the Bus officianados.
This is my current starting lineup. Good lord. We face Nantes in the Coupe de France and win 5-0. We follow that with a 3-0 win against Lille at their gaff. Lille are third in the league. I don’t feel invincible but PSG are such a dominant force that it’s easy to relax. Especially as didn’t concede a goal in January.
FEBRUARY: THE MASSACRE CONTINUES
We kick off with a 2-0 over Toulouse to set down a marker for our clash with them in the Coupe de France QF. Then 1-0 over Nice. Then, ONE GAME SHY, of 10 straight without conceding Toulouse score against us and we go on to utterly smash them 7-1. Fuck you, Toulouse. Fun story; Toulouse is the first team I ever managed in France and I had such a bad time I quit after 6 weeks. 6-0 vs. Lens follows. It’s Champion’s League knock out time baby!
February 16, 2022
KRASNODAR vs. PSG
Five minutes in and Neymar takes a tumble in the box. He dusts himself off, it’s snow so that’s actual dust, and tucks it away.
The poor weather conditions seem to effect our style of play and it’s a real struggle. Mbappe is shredding defenders but his finishing is dire in the snow. We end up with an xG of 3.21 and should have won more comfortably.
Final Score: 1-0 PSG
With this win I unlock the “Top Form” achievement on Steam. No losses in the last 30 games for us. That’s impressive, even with PSG. Solid form continues with wins over Reims, Montpellier and Guingamp in the Coupe de France. That’s sets up a final against Marseille. Drawing Man City in the Champion’s League is an absolute bummer though. It couldn’t be harder. Oh, I should probably mention we got that far! 7-0 vs Krasnodar in the second leg. The fixture drops into the matches against Lyon and Nantes as well, where the league will be decided.
We move ahead to April and the dreaded City game.
April 6, 2022
MAN CITY vs. PSG
Tactically this is tricky because I switched to a lower tempo, ball controlling tactic that’s been incredibly successful. Do I go back to Aviator here? Or stick with my “Pass2Death” formation? I opt to stick with Pass2Death. It starts well as Sarabia fires one past the City keeper for 1-0 on 12 minutes. Great, I can go defensive. Shut up shop and take 1-0 back to France! It’s quiet for about 15 minutes and then Laporte heads in a corner. The trouble with playing against City is KDB. His distribution is frightening. Things go horribly throughout the rest of the half. Sarabia picks up a knock and I take him off to be safe. Switching in Danilo Pereira so I can go to a more defensive formation. No need to take risks at this point. Then Mbappe goes off on a stretcher, swiftly followed by Carvajal and that’s all my subs gone before half time. I end up nicking a goal through Jadon Sancho and then going mega defensive. Slowly moving people back down the pitch. Switching off various attacking duties one at a time as players get more tired. Ultimately I end up with 4-1-4-1 with a knackered Ronaldo up front on his own. It pays off though and we see out a 2-1 win. It’s the most work I’ve done tactically all season. I’d almost forgotten how to do the job!
Final Score: 2-1 PSG
We immediately switch our attention to the league. A win against Lyon will see us as Ligue 1 champions. I mean, shit, it’s already over but winning the league by beating literally the only team who can beat you? That’s how you want to win a league. Not with a 1-1 draw against Nantes a week later.
April 9, 2022
PSG vs. LYON
A win sees us home and dry as champions with six games to spare. We don’t fuck around and pin them back from kick-off. We’re a far better team, loaded with Galacticos. Neymar opens the scoring and we ship one from a corner soon afterwards only for Sancho to take advantage of the goalkeeper not knowing what to do with a long throw. I take off Neymar, Ronaldo and Llorente in the second half and switch us a bit defensive but Icardi puts it beyond all doubt soon after the substitutions. Lyon have nothing left and we win the title!
Final Score: 3-1 PSG
April 12, 2022
PSG vs. MAN CITY
Good god we were shit here. We were so bad. We scored a goal that was well offside and that was it. The only highlight we had was in 90+2 when Llorente had a shot from outside the box. City had 14 shots, 5 on target and a load of highlights. I was going out of my mind here. I stopped to tweak every minute or so (real time, not game time). Absolutely terrifying.
Final Score: 0-0 (2-1 PSG on agg)
CL Semi Final draw:
PSG vs. Man Utd
Benfica vs. Real Madrid
Yes, Benfica. They smashed Barca 5-1 at home. Man Utd drew their away game and I’m very aware my excellent Inter team had their European dream ended by Man Utd.
April 23, 2022
Coupe de France Final
PSG vs. MARSEILLE
I tried to rest a few players here, with Man Utd looming, and it backfired. The game was a colossal struggle. We finished with 17 shots, 9 on target but at full time we had 4 shots, 0 on target. Marseille went ahead just before half time in a game where there was literally one shot in the first 45 minutes. It was garbage to watch. I kept changing and making us more and more attacking until a comedy clearance gaff from Sakai hit Manolas on the arse and flew into his own net at 90+4. Fuck me this was hard work. Into extra time, all my players are fucked, and we squeak it when Zouma heads in a Neymar free kick on 99’. Terrible game. We should have scored three or four in ET but everything before that was a nightmare. We came so, so close to losing here. Honestly, this was an absolute shambles. My reoccurring thought was “thank god I’m not streaming this, I look like a complete asshole”.
Final Score: 2-1 PSG (AET)
April 27, 2022
Champion’s League SF L1
MAN UTD vs. PSG
Tactics Man appeared out of nowhere here and said 4-1-4-1. I put Idrissa Gueye on a man marking job on Bruno Fernandes. I left Ronaldo up top on his own, not even as a striker. I had him as a shadow striker. Flooded the midfield with inverted wing backs and two deep wingers. I played Marquinos deeper as a cover BPD. It was all set up to draw at Old Trafford. Man Utd scored after 20 minutes. That fucker Bruno, being marked, crossed for Greenwood for a far post header.
I was gutted but I tweaked it. I kept making little minor changes to deal with everything and we went into HT at 1-0. I’ll take 1-0. 1-0 is ok. We lost 5-2 with Inter and still nearly won the tie overall. Surviving Old Trafford is key. I noticed we couldn’t get out of defence at all though so I put Neymar on and moved Sarabia into an AMC position. So we had at least some threat for the counter. It paid off. Neymar got tripped by Maddison, who injured himself in the process, and he got up to tuck away at 78’ pen. 1-1. I banged the lads back into a defensive shape, with inverted wingers this time, and we saw it out. Gueye had the second highest rating of any player. TACTICAL GENIUS BOYS.
Final Score: 1-1
May 3, 2022
Champion’s League SF L2
PSG vs. MAN UTD
This is one of those moments where you second guess your formational choices. Do I play the same way we did in Manchester, where we got a draw, or play the same way Inter did when they mashed Man Utd 4-1 in last year’s CL? I end up doing a combination of both. I start with the team that succeeded in Manchester, with Idrissa Gueye keeping Bruno quiet. It really doesn’t work. It’s an away tactic and Man Utd get loads of chances. So I change it and they immediately score. Marcus Rashford. Fuck. There goes the away goal advantage.
So I make a few switches, push players forward and eventually it pays off, after sticking us on Very Attacking and changing half the players to attacking roles, as sub Memphis Depay fires us level on 74’. I’m preparing for the possibility of ET and pens when Mbappe is handed the ball by a sloppy pass and he storms through to make it 2-1. He’s not fully fit and I had just spent 30 seconds debating subbing him but refusing because I need his pace in behind. If he was fit we’d have won this comfortably. Sancho comes off the bench to replace the exhausted Gueye, complete with a shuffle of personnel, and he breaks down the right to set up Ronaldo for 3-1. Game done. We’re in the CL Final!
Final Score: 3-1 PSG (4-2 on agg)
After Man Utd we decimate Bordeaux, St Etienne and Marseille to warm up for the CL final. Marseille by 6-1.
So the league season finishes like this. I’m pretty sure we broke every record and I’m gutted we lost to Salzburg in the CL group because otherwise I’d be unbeaten all season in all competitions.
May 28, 2022
Champion’s League Final
BENFICA vs. PSG
I had a few decisions to make here. Tactically I decided to play it safe. I’d seen how effective Benfica were on the counter so I didn’t want to throw too many players forward. When you’ve got Mbappe you don’t really need to attack that much. Even with Neymar injured and missing the final I felt I had enough firepower with Mbappe, Ronaldo and Sancho as a front three. I remembered how good Idrissa Gueye was against Man Utd and opted to play him in an anchor man role. The other big decision I made was playing Kurt Zouma at CB alongside Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos at RB. This allowed me two great aerial presences at set pieces.
It started off great. Marco Verratti threaded an impossible pass through four defenders and Mbappe tucked it away at the far post. 1-0 after 13 minutes. Mbappe picked the ball up 7 minutes later and rinsed Otamendi with his pace before slotting home. 2-0. Game out of sight already. I shut up shop. Second half Zouma added a third from a corner, thus seeing another slight gamble pay up trumps. His 11th goal of the season by the way. In the end it was quite easy, especially compared to the previous two rounds of slog against Manchester clubs. I’ve finally won a goddamn Champion’s League*. Now I need to win it with a smaller club to prove this wasn’t just me bullying my way to the win.
Final Score: 3-0 PSG
*My record in CL on various FM games is frankly laughable and I’ve somehow never won one despite managing at various enormous clubs during my history in the game. Finally broke that hoodoo here and I can move on with my life.
With that I felt everything I’d aimed for with PSG had been achieved. I could have hung around and played the World Club’s Cup but that’s not particularly interesting to me so I moved on and started looking for a new club.
A reminder of my achievements so far:
INTER (Serie A)
PSG (Champion’s League, Ligue 1, Coupe de France)
Ideally I’d like to go to La Liga, the Prem or the Bundesliga. I want to get the Big Five leagues done. The only interesting vacant job seemed to be Real Sociedad so I put in for it and waited. Other available jobs include Juventus (I’ve been there, done that), Bilbao (can only sign Basque players), Olympiakos (pretty much guaranteed a Greek title), Besiktas (finished 1pt above the relegation zone last season), Nantes (*shrugs*). Bilbao offer me an interview and if I can’t sign Andy Caroll under any circumstances what’s the point? Hard pass.
NEXT: Real Sociedad