Football Manager Journeys #8: Glory Hunter Season 3 (Real Sociedad)
Welcome to Sociedad! Sunny northern Spain is our third location on this jaunty trip around Europe collecting trophies. Sociedad had a rough campaign last season and finished outside the major European places in 7th. My task is to push on towards European football and maybe unsettle the big boys in the process
MAN UTD, SONS OF BITCHES
Things start brilliantly as my best player, Mikel Merino, is unsettled by Man Utd who come in with £75M for him. I had literally just rejected £91M from Barcelona for him, which seemed fine. Maybe Merino hates Barca. Who knows? But he wants to go to Man Utd so he’s off. Honestly, the squad needs serious rebuilding so maybe it’s for the best? David Silva has also gone, having refused to sign a new contract.
Then something weird happens. One after another just about everyone in my squad comes to see me to ask about leaving to play Champion’s League football. I must get a dozen players in my office. Just about all of them are deterred by me just meeting with them so it’s a series of meetings where nothing happens at all. One after another.
I start to sense this is going to be a sizeable challenge. One good piece of news though; in comes Marco Asensio on loan from Real Madrid. He’s a very capable attacking midfielder. Now we’re lining up like this;
It’s…not good. Januzaj and Oyazarbal are both good, as is Asensio. The rest? Wank. So, I’m going to borrow some more players from good clubs!
LEND ME YOUR EARS, UH, PLAYERS
Sergino Dest comes in from Barcelona. He’s young, dumb and full of…running. All the other full backs are old and useless. He and LB Munoz, who’s 24, should have the requisite energy required. Also in is Joel Matip from Liverpool because I need a 6’5” central defender with jumping reach of 17 to replicate the goals that Zouma scored last year. Plus Sociedad require me to go after set pieces so this is my guy to aim at. Re-joining me is Memphis Depay. He didn’t play a massive amount of games at PSG but he’s a goddamn baller and he’s better than all the other strikers here.
And I signed Arturo Vidal on a free. What of it? So currently profit of £75M. I also loaned in Ander Herrera, so I could hit my “sign Basque players” thingy, only to realise afterwards I’d agreed a fine print £7.5M loan fee. Oops. Good job that big Merino sale went through huh? I also spunked £30M on Matias Arezo without realising Duvan Zapata was fantastic.
Here’s how the starting lineup changed* and it paid off, big time. First game versus Real Valladolid finished 4-0. Zapata and Januzaj both got braces. Not the kind that hold up your trousers. We crushed them. I even took players off to rest them for the last half hour. IN MY FIRST GAME.
*I may have lost the screenshot of this, apologies
One of my aims is to knock off this bad boy this season. The draw is not particularly kind as I get Heerenveen. Some of the other teams being pulled out of the hat are absolute dross. Probably the second hardest team I could have drawn (after Schalke, who are still good in this).
August 18, 2022
REAL SOCIEDAD vs. HEERENVEEN
I did a lot of tweaking during this game. Principally because of injuries but also to allow shape changes so I could make the most of my substitutions. I’m developing a lack of fear when it comes to changing during games. It’s something that used to bother me a bit. I felt like I was breaking stuff by moving people around. Anyway, we went one up thanks to a good volley from Ander Herrera. One of many dangerous Asensio free kicks. Most of our highlights started with Asensio standing over the ball. Januzaj scored the second with a great finish from the wing. Asensio himself got number three with a screamer from outside the box. We gave away a stupid goal at 90+1 but Matip headed in a corner at 90+4 to maintain our three goal lead for the second leg. I’ll take it.
Final Score: 4-1 Sociedad
August 25, 2022
HEERENVEEN vs. REAL SOCIEDAD
For the second leg I thought I could get away with resting most of the team. Keeping in mind we face Real Madrid the weekend afterwards. The result is…not good. Veerman heads in a cross after 2’ and Heerenveen have us rattled from there. Da Cruz blasts home a second and after a lot of yelling we come out for the second half 2-0 down. Da Cruz scores and I’ve had enough. On comes Asensio and the game changes. He bosses things. Roberto Lopez scores twice and Barrenetxea (pronounced Barra-net-zi) adds another. After 50’ we were out of this tournament at the first bloody hurdle but we pulled our collective shit out of the fire.
Final Score: 3-3 (7-4 on agg)
August 28, 2022
REAL SOCIEDAD vs. REAL MADRID
This is our first big test. Madrid are a giant club. They have world class players in every position. I can’t play Asensio because he’s a Madrid player. It’s a big challenge. We start out playing the possession tactic and it backfires. Madrid score early through Hazard and we’re just too defensive. We’re allowing Madrid onto us. I made a bold substitution, putting on a forward for a defensive midfield player after 20’ and eventually it pays off. Bobby Lopez fires in a sensational volley on 46’ and Kimpembe, who we tried to sign and refused to talk to us, gives away a late pen. Koopmeiners takes it and bests Courtois. What a sensational win this was. We proved we could hang with the big boys.
Final Score: 2-1 Sociedad
REAL SOCIEDAD vs. LAZIO
This is the first game in the UEFA Europa Conference League. We start strong and Asensio is feeling it. He blazes a shot past the Nazio keeper. Full on laces through it. I’m starting to think Real Madrid might recall him because he’s having a brilliant season so far. Arezo nets after some cunning build up play from Oyarzabal and the playmaker nets himself in the second half to finish Nazio off. Denzel Dumfries gets them a consolation, having been their best player from right back, but we well and truly spanked the best team in the competition. Great turn from the boys.
Final Score: 3-1 Sociedad
I abandoned this months ago (three to be precise) but I loaded it back up and played it a bunch without really thinking about it. So Real Sociedad have had a brilliant season. We rejoin things in May!
As you can see there are four games left and Sociedad are top of the league. We did the double over Real Madrid and have only lost three games this season. However, Barcelona are breathing down our necks and the next game is at the Nou Camp. This is the season. In Conference League action we’ve made the final. We knocked out Lazio and Kobenhavn in the last couple of rounds and we’ve looked like the best team in the competition. Final is against Monaco. Oh, the Copa del Rey? We don’t talk about that.
Loanees Dest, Matip, Depay and Herrera have all come in handy. Arturo Vidal? Less so. I’ve loaned him out to America de Cali and don’t expect to see him again. I also spent all the transfer money by bringing in Matias Arezo, who I really didn’t need, and Amine Gouiri for a combined £65M. Most of my transfers have been meaningless and just added depth to the squad, which turns out was actually really good. My initial assessment was way off base. Obviously we don’t have a squad to rival Barcelona or Real Madrid but I’d argue it’s as good as anyone else, barring maybe Atleti.
May 13, 2023
BARCELONA vs. REAL SOCIEDAD
My nerves are rattled early as Richarlison hits the bar for Barca. In the same highlight we break and Zupata is denied by ter Stegen. 14 minutes gone and an Asensio cross is blocked but it runs loose to the edge of the box; OYARZABAL! He’s Sociedad’s best player (Merino? Fuck off mate) and he’s placed it bottom hand corner. 1-0 Sociedad. The game goes very quiet and I’m getting more and more nervous and Marcus Rashford pops up to head in Gundogan’s cross. 1-1. We attack from the kick off MEMPHIS DEPAY!!! 2-1 Sociedad.
We get deep into the second half a 2-1 until Richarlison decides to hurl himself to the floor in the box. The ref is conned and Messi scores the penner. 2-2. We get so much drama after that. Chances at both ends. Januzaj is clean through at one point but kept out by ter Stegen. Five minutes left and Zapata turns in the box, ZAPATA!!! 3-2 SOCIEDAD!!
Final Score: 3-2 Sociedad
May 16, 2023
REAL SOCIEDAD vs. SEVILLA
It feels in the bag after the Barca win but Sevilla are fifth and tough opposition. Wait, no they’re not. Memphis Depay, who’s been mostly useless this season, scores after ten seconds (yes, SECONDS, not minutes). Igor Zubeldia adds a second and Marco Asensio decides to start taking shots at goal of the season, scoring not one but two absolute pearlers.
Final Score: 4-0 Sociedad
May 21, 2023
EIBAR vs. REAL SOCIEDAD
All that’s required is a draw here and Sociedad win their first title since 1982. The first half is a complete disaster if I’m honest. One of their lads dives for a penalty, which the ref gives despite looking at VAR. In my head my little avatar fella on the sidelines is on the fucking pitch at this point and I’m pretty sure would have been sent off for calling the ref a coño. He awards us a penalty to level things up, and because he doesn’t want me screaming at him again, and Oyarzabal misses the target completely. Oh no, is the FMing I’ve been waiting for? 1-0 HT.
It takes an hour but Oyarzabal finally flashes into life and scores a wonderful goal before teeing up Asensio and in six minutes we’ve turned it around. I’m celebrating like a lunatic knowing this is the title. Oyarzabal adds another with time running out. La Liga belongs to Sociedad!
Final Score: 3-1 Sociedad
May 24, 2023
UEFA Europa Conference League Final
REAL SOCIEDAD vs. AS MONACO
My original aim for this season was to win the Conference League because I’d probably never get another good shot at it. Then La Liga happened and Conference League has sat on the back boiler. I was aware we might end up with nothing though so I kept fielding good teams. Here we are in the final! Koopmeiners wipes my nerves out with a sixth minute opener and we coast, sort of, from there. Zapata and Januzaj make it three and with 60% possession it’s a tidy win.
Final Score: 3-0 Sociedad
We round out the season with a win over Levante and the best streak of results I think I’ve ever had on Football Manager. 16 wins in a row. If it hadn’t been for that goddamn Almeria game it would have been 22 wins in a row including wins away at Barcelona and Real Madrid. What a fucking season.
A reminder of my achievements so far:
INTER (Serie A)
PSG (Champion’s League, Ligue 1, Coupe de France)
REAL SOCIEDAD (La Liga, Conference League)
On a save like this it’s essential to keep moving. If I stayed another season with this remarkable Sociedad team what would happen? I’d be in CL, which I’ve already won. I’ve already won La Liga so I’d play another season in search of Copa del Ray (we lost to Villarreal in comedy circumstances – 5-3 after leading 3-0 at HT). I’ve deliberately put certain goals into this Glory Hunter to avoid that. A reminder of those:
I need to win Champion’s League, Europa League, Conference League, The Big Five league titles (Prem, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga) plus five other domestic leagues and five domestic cups for a total of 18 trophies in 20 seasons. Ideally I want the big five leagues done first so next is either Bundesliga or Premier League.
NEXT: RB Leipzig