Football Manager Journeys FM22 S4: Aston Villa S1
Hello, it’s season four of FM22 and I’ve just joined Aston Villa after a successful stint at CD Mafra in Portugal. Finishing in P4 felt like a great achievement but I couldn’t resist the lure of Birmingham. First things first; my staff are half missing. I assume they all quit with the last manager. We’re short on medical staff, scouts and coaches. West Ham’s Kevin Nolan is my pick for assistant manager. He’s better as a coach but the assistant manager I really wanted, a Brazilian dude who we could have whispered tactics in Portuguese to each other, refused my contract offer because he wanted to coach U18s. Nonce.
I recruit some experienced medical people and add in Marcelo Bielsa as a scout. Hey, he’s easily bored. I can keep him amused by sending him all over the bloody planet. He’ll love it. The coaching staff is hugely bolstered by the recruitment of Pepijn Lijnders. He used to be assistant manager at Liverpool* and has fantastic stats. I’ve actually paid Norwich £600,000 to take him away. He’s worth every penny.
*While I was playing this, he took over on the touchline when Klopp had Covid.
As for the playing staff; they’ve retained just about everyone of value. There’s not much money so I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got. However the transfer window becomes a bit crazy. Basically Leeds come in for Matt Targett and I sell him for £11.25M. That’s enough cash to sign another forward, as we’ve only got two, and I signed Lorenzo Lucca. He’s not ideal and is not as good as Watkins or Ings but he gives us another option and works as a target man. I thought that was it but in come Frankfurt with £30M for Ferdi Kadioglu, who I wasn’t going to play anyway. £30M!! I use the money to bring in another striker and this time it is someone better than Watkins; Sekou Mara from RB Salzburg. But, BUT, we’re not done because in comes Atalanta with £50M for Leon Bailey, who has a year left on his contract and won’t renew. Off he goes and my transfer budget is suddenly enormous.
With Bailey gone I need a replacement and dip into the market for Anderlecht’s Isaac Tshibangu. I fully accept he’s worse than Bailey at just about everything (including pace 17 vs 18) but he’s taller. So, we win on that trade. Plus, he cost less than half what I got for Bailey.
I’m pleased to see Mara and Tshibangu on the best young player lists at the start of the season. It’s how I’ve clearly improved the squad’s average age. I have a lot of…how to be polite about this…senior players. The opening transfer window is not very successful. I try for a number of talented young players and get nowhere. I end up snagging Emerson Royal on deadline day, which is a great addition. It allows Matty Cash to play in front of him and Buendia to play in a more natural AMC role.
Our first window ended up being a bit busier than expected. The sales of Bailey, Kadioglu, Douglas Luiz and Said Benrahma allowed a budget for new players. Tshibangu was an essential replacement signing but I’m thrilled with Emerson Royal and Nicola Zalewski looks like a decent wing option too. Sekou Mara is a really good forward and Lorenzo Lucca is my first mistake. He’s a big gangly target forward who can’t pass. Not ideal for my needs. He does give me something different off the bench but for £22.5M (mostly in instalments) I’ve overpaid.
We have a great win against Arsenal. Finishes 3-1 after Buendia is sent off for some bullshit. He clearly tackled a player. Didn’t even leave his feet. I appeal it and Buendia gets hit with an additional two game ban. Fuck off Football Manager! I watched it. With my eyes. Anyone who saw it knows it’s not a red. It’s not even a foul. Either sort your animations out or sort your appeal process out. Cheats.
My frustrations almost boil over next game. A cup tie with Blackpool. We dominate the game. 3.63 xG vs 0.83xG. Blackpool somehow score twice, and we lose on pens.
The clue is in my name Daniel. This isn’t even from the Blackpool game. It’s from the Wolves game that follows it where we completely outplay them from start to finish, make two defensive mistakes and lose 2-1. Ings missed three one on one chances. Like missed the target completely. I am literally furious. This is supposed to be a relaxing management simulation. I’m not supposed to be getting mad in my spare time. I get plenty mad at work!
Our form could be politely described as rocky. Patchy. Inconsistent. There’s a 0-0 at Newcastle where we show we can actually defend. Followed by a 5-2 win against a very bad Sheff Utd team, where we show we can score goals. Interspersed are games where we completely boss it and somehow don’t win. Regularly conceding stupid goals. Like Emi Martinez coming for a through ball, stopping, diving onto the ground for no reason and leaving an empty net. Or Alphonse Areola punching the ball straight onto the opposition striker’s forehead. Teams are not earning wins against us, we’re giving away stupid goals. The luck modifier is fucked.
Things are going so badly I try a different formation for our away games. I mean, shit, it can’t get any worse than losing every time. I have three central defenders, two wing backs and three up with inside forwards. We lose 3-0 to Everton. They have 21 shots. I persist at trying something different and we get robbed at Old Trafford from 1-0 up and lose 2-1. Back to basics we thrash Leicester but I’m desperate to get into the January transfer window. I have my eye on some huge transfers!
Yes, I signed Lionel Messi. The club were not as thrilled as I was hoping for and reminded me that we’d now spent a lot of money on wages and they were taking away my transfer budget before I made matters worse. And they’re right. I would, 100%, have spunked £30M on Arthur from PSG because he was available. Turns out I snagged him on loan instead.
The logic here is that Arthur behind Messi should create a lot of high quality passing and we should have more possession and more chances. Ollie Watkins is licking his lips. We’re just past the midway point. Liverpool are running away with the league and we can’t really compete with the likes of Man City, Man Utd or Chelsea. We’re currently bubbling under just a half step behind the likes of Leicester and Everton and hoping for European football.
*Not pictured: Tottenham
After an eventful 2-0 win at Arsenal, in which Emi Buendia was sent off…his second red this season*, I get an email saying we’ve broken a record. We now have the worst discipline of any Premier League team ever. We’re not even out of January. 68 yellows, 4 reds. I don’t even have “Get Stuck In” turned on. What the fuck is going on lads?
*For those paying attention; yes, he was sent off in both Arsenal games.
As the season progresses it becomes abundantly clear we’re a fine team but we cannot compete with the big boys AT ALL. A demonstration is the February 1 game versus Man City at Villa Park. We hold them defensively with the 5-4-1 (with advanced full backs and wingers in possession, 3-4-3) and I’m just congratulating myself when Gabriel Jesus pops up with a winner 9 minutes from time. We celebrate our failure by beating Newcastle 2-1 in a game where Tyrone Mings is sent off after 2.5 minutes. Arthur joined him later and we win with nine men.
From here we turn into an actual good team. A string of league wins, interrupted only by Chelsea and getting hammered by Man City in the FA Cup, takes us onto the brink of European qualification. I get an email saying how happy the board are that we’ve recorded a top half finish ahead of schedule.
With only May left on the calendar we sit P6 and can potentially oust Everton from a Champions League spot (if we get very, very lucky). We’ve kept ahead of Arsenal and we’re just behind Chelsea. For a first season I’ll take it.
After deploying Ezri Konsa as a libero against Burnley, and seeing Lio Messi whip in one of his trademark free kicks, we win 4-1 and are on the verge of European qualification. Two games remain; Man Utd (H) and Southampton (A). Ahead of us Everton have one game left Arsenal (A). However they’re four points ahead of us so we need something in both our games and we need to win at least one of them. We’re level on points with Chelsea, ahead on GD, and they have Liverpool (A) and Wolves (H). They also play PSG in the Champion’s League final. A game that could completely fuck up the table*. As far as league finishes go though; we are confirmed as P4-P6. I think that means we’ve definitely qualified for Europe. I think.
*Or not, as it turns out. As the CL winners qualify regardless of league position and top four is safe.
The Man Utd game was moved to accommodate their European success and now it drops into a time slot in the last week of the season. We have a major fitness crisis. I can barely field a team of fully fit players. Messi is in there without a full heart. The only alternatives are Dor Peretz and Angel Gomes. I’m not convinced either are up to it. I’ve had to play Tyrone Mings at left back because no one else is fit. We end up crushing Man Utd. Absolutely playing them off the pitch. 3.36 xG vs. 0.85 xG. Naturally it finishes 1-1. I’m gutted because we were so much better than them. We just kept missing chances or hitting the woodwork.
So we go into the final game of the season, away at Southampton, knowing that a win will give us at least P5. If we win and Everton lose we get P4 but is P4 enough for Champions League? I literally don’t know what happens if Chelsea win the CL final (it doesn’t matter, we’re all good – Future Arn). Anyway. Final day of the season. We win at Southampton and Everton lose at Arsenal and we finish P4. We do our bit in edgy fashion. Racing into a 3-1 lead after 30’ thanks to Messi scoring a sensational volleyed goal for 1-0 and then assisting on two Ings goals. He’s not always been great but when it mattered, in his final ever game, he delivered. Everton get slapped at the Emirates. If I was watching this set of fixtures I would have been horrified, frankly, but I’d rather lose out on CL to Villa than one of the big six.
It’s a huge sigh of relief at seeing the final table. Villa are in the Champions League. Our new transfer budget is £62M. I have a few ideas. Sadly it’s the end of the road for some of our troopers. Lionel Messi played for Aston Villa. It happened.
Five goals, eight assists in nineteen games is perhaps not the final season that Messi would have hoped for. His three league goals and 6.95 AVR screams “I NEED TO RETIRE NOW”. Still, he saved a goal and two assists for his last game. Basically handing us Champion’s League football like some sort of Greek god passing it down from the heavens. Also on their way out are Angelino and Arthur. Two short term fixes for long term issues. Angelino’s spot is going to go to a young South Korean left back called Myung Min-Hyeok. He’s tiny and only 19 years old but he has everything and has hard coded gold potential higher than my man Angelino. Central midfield is trickier. Jorge Palacios isn’t quite ready to take the spot from John McGinn so we may need to bring in someone. Paredes looks upset at Spurs and wants European football. Oh hey, we have that!
Looking at a list of interested players I see a few new faces including Andre Onana, Ander Barrenetxea, Jurrien Timber, Jeremy Doku and Oleksandr Zinchenko. I’m hoping when it ticks over into June we’ll see some more names to add to that. Before we hit that window I can announce we have signed Arthur Theate. He’s 6’ 3” and has great heading and jumping reach. We really struggled for goals from set pieces and Erik Sergio, while good in the air, is quite small. This signing offsets that. He’s gold starred at 3.5, which means he’s better than Mings. Better than Sierralta. Better than Konsa. £33M feels like a decent fee for a classy centre back.
Here’s a sneak peak at the future.
NEXT: Aston Villa are in the Champion’s League. UP THE VILLA JASP!