January 24, 2022

Football Manager Journeys: FM22 S5 Villa S2  

Football Manager Journeys: FM22 S5 Villa S2  


Hello, you join us on the heels of my first season with Aston Villa where the midtable midlanders made a Quantum Leap into Champion’s League football by finishing in fourth. We needed to win on the last day of the season and a favour from Arsenal. We got both. So, it’s time to build ourselves a Champion’s League squad. First up is Arthur Theate (I gave you a preview of him last time) to solidify our central defence. Next up is Luka Romero.  

A small problem is our lack of home grown players. UEFA like you to have at least four trained at club. We don’t have any because the club’s youth system is shit. I asked them to upgrade it and they refused saying it was fine. Well, it clearly isn’t because we can’t make UEFA’s registration rules.  


What’s happening elsewhere?  

Stevie G has gone to Liverpool, to the surprise of nobody. Klopp is managing Portugal. Simeone left for Inter. Tottenham has been laughable. They fired Conte first season, replaced him Bielsa, who got sacked after 281 days. Klopp went there and lasted longer before being fired inside two years. Roberto Mancini lasted 157 days and it’s currently Julen Lopetegui*. Over in Spain, Henrik Larsson replaced Xavi and promptly won the league the same season. Pep was at Juve but got sacked after two years.  

*By the end of the season he would also be fired.


Back to transfers and in comes Luka Romero (see above). £33M is the deal. He’s fucking great though. I am paying him an obscene amount in wages.  

I’m aiming to help local teams out, well ones I like anyway, with Big Bad Villa and Walsall* could use a leg up. So, they’ll be getting my youth players. Having lent them three players, it’s pretty clear this will be mutually beneficial. As for loans in, I signed Adnan Januzaj off Everton. He should have signed for me last year and didn’t enjoy it at Goodison. The good thing about Januzaj, other than that he rules, is that he’s home grown as he was trained by Man Utd. I love Januzaj. I have a Real Sociedad shirt with his name on the back. He’s great in FM and I’m thrilled to have finally got him in. Plus the board aren’t angry with me for signing an old player because he’s only here on loan.  

*Walsall were in relegation trouble but thanks to loanees finished comfortably mid-table in L2.


Other recruitments include Angelino, who spent half the season on loan last year, and Albert Sambi Lokonga. The latter available for just £6M as a big money move for RB Leipzig hasn’t panned out. Not content with that I snag Andre Onana on loan. My third choice keeper is mad as hell about it, although I sold Alphonse Areola to push him up the pecking order. You can’t win them all.  

Here’s our starting line up, more or less. Theate is in to partner Sergio. Onana just gets the nod over Martinez. Angelino being here on loan is a bonus because my Korean guys loan back to the club I signed him off runs their season, not ours. So, he’s not back until January. Januzaj and Buendia are both options from the right. Tshibangu, Lo Celso and Zalewski can play the left. Luka Romero is a star player but his position is covered by Buendia, Lo Celso and behind them McGinn and Sambi Lokonga are good back ups. Ings and Mara proved a reasonably effective front two but Ings is rapidly approaching retirement.  


NOTE: Looking back on this is weird. Luka Romero didn’t work at all in AMC and ended up a star on the wing. Buendia played AMC and got 21 assists, breaking the Premier League record in the process. Lo Celso didn’t play at all in central midfield with Sambi Lokonga being a far better fit. It’s odd how things turn out.


I pick talented young players. Erik Sergio was a roaring success last year and Luka Romero is favourite to be young player of the year. I actually tried to sign both Stroeykens and Garcia too! We’re still projected to finish P10. Having won our opening two games we get the Champion’s League group draw. I’m hoping to avoid a lot of the heavy hitters.  

It goes great! Inter are big dogs and no mistake but Lille and Dynamo Kyiv? I couldn’t have hand picked a better group. As fourth seeds we could have been in some really tough groups. Bayern and Man City in Group A, Chelsea and Real Madrid in Group D, Liverpool and Juve in Group H? Inter are definitely going to be tough to beat. They have Nicolo Barella, who is an outstanding midfielder. Lautaro Martinez will be hard to keep subdued as well. De Vrij and Skriniar is a top centre back pairing. We will find it hard to beat them. Lille have kicked on from their Ligue 1 win. But their second best player is Divock Origi. We are comparable, if not better. They will be worried about us. Kyiv are not the pushovers you might think they are. They’ve got Tsygankov and Shaparenko. I like my chances though of escaping the group stages and earning some coin for the Villa coffers.  


Transfer deadline day arrived and I suddenly had an issue. My third choice keeper was mad as hell when I signed Andre Onana on loan and won’t talk to me. I’ve literally sold Areola (£15.5M to Zenit) and Emi Martinez (£31.5M to Juventus) so now he’s my second choice. He still wants to leave. So, I went and bought Chelsea’s youth keeper, Martin Origi. He’s like…really good and will get better. To finance this move, which comes on deadline day, I’ve had to offload a few players. Angel Gomes goes back to Germany with Koln for £4.1M with me admitting he was never good enough. Dor Peretz, who I inherited, is off to Nice for £5.25M. And Gladbach came storming in with £13M for Jaden Philogene-Bidace. I can’t pronounce his name and that’s a lot of money so he’s gone too.  


Incoming I’ve gone wonderkid heavy. We’ve got Eric Akerman from Brondby. He’s a towering Swedish central defender with sick aerial stats. He’s 6’ 5”. This dude is going to score so many near post goals. However he’s very young and can’t get a work permit so he’s out on loan again. We’ve got Martin Origi from Chelsea. He’s also 6’ 5” and has gold four star potential, which would make him better than Andre Onana, who’s a top ten goalie on this game. I have also signed Giannis Tzanakakis for £14.5M. He’s a specimen (16 stamina at 19 years old). He’s already the same ability level as Albert Sambi Lokonga and I’m preparing for a post-John McGinn world. He’s a solid central midfielder/defensive midfielder and he’s got a lot of potential to improve into.  

As you can see my coaches think I’m creating a golden generation of players. Akerman, Sergio, Tzanakakis, Origi, Corti, Min-Hyeok, Palacios, Luka, Mara, Tshibangu and Zalewski all have considerable potential. I’ve included down to Danny Ings to give a demonstration of where the current squad is. Ings is arguably our best outfield player. If everyone nails down their potential we’re going places. One final bit of deadline day business is the departure of Tyrone Mings to Zenit for £12M. We’d been trying to get £15M for him all window and it wasn’t happening. Tyrone is 32 and in the final year of his contract. He’s also gotten noticeably worse over the past 12 months. Time to call it a day.  

We’re six games into the season. This is the second time we’ve scored seven goals. It’s safe to say, this Villa team is starting to fire up. Whether we can compete with the big boys remains to be seen.  

We rejoin at eight games played. As you can see, everyone is beating everyone else. We managed to lose to West Ham and Arsenal but drew away at Man City. I don’t want to bring attention to it, because players form atrophies when I say they’re doing great but Emi Buendia has 4 goals and 9 assists after 8 games.  

As for the Champion’s League…apart from Inter it is plain sailing. We lost 4-0 in the San Siro but beat Lille convincingly, twice, including in France after our left back got sent off at 1-1. Qualifying with two games to spare is not what I expected but we crushed it. Hopefully reaching the knock out stages will increase our coefficient for 25/26.  

The whole group stage is mad. Atletico and Real Madrid are both out in the group stage and Barcelona have to win their final group game or they are out too.  

Holy shit. I didn’t even ask! Has that ever happened to anyone? Normally I have to beg for extra funds.  

As the year end approaches Villa have been decent but once again behind the big boys. We lost 3-1 at home to Liverpool but had a higher xG and were 1-1 and aggressively looking for a winner until 88’. Meanwhile Man Utd have sacked Ole finally. He actually won a league title so I can see why they kept him around for so long but they have not been at the races this season.  

First knock out round of the Champion’s League and we could have drawn Feyenoord but instead it’s PSG. This season I was hoping to kick on in the league a bit we find ourselves in the same place. In the chasing pack with Arsenal, Leicester, Chelsea, Southampton, Newcastle and Tottenham. Liverpool and Man City are different class. The good news is Man Utd have been shit this season so P3 is up for grabs rather than P4. Dragon Stojkovic has taken over as boss. If you watched Red Star and Marseille in the early 90s you’ll know that name. Before he disappeared off to play for, and later manage, Nagoya Grampus Eight.  


The most frustrating thing about this save is the sheer number of times we step up to the big teams, fight with them tooth and nail and then give away a late goal and lose anyway. It happened against Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool and most guttingly against Man Utd in the Carabao Cup QF. Away at Old Trafford. We gave them one hell of a game. Fought for a 2-1 lead and four minutes later thrown it all away again. If we could turn this performances into wins we’d boss this league.  

Luka Romero is the FIFA U-21 player of the year. An award that gets handed out to only the top, top, guys. Look at the winners; Bellingham, Fati, Musiala, Haaland, de Ligt and Mbappe. All of those are world class. Luka Romero was a player I broke my pay structure for because I knew how good he was. It’s taken him a while to settle in but he can be unplayable.  


We hit January and I have transfers to talk about but it’s also FA Cup R3 and I’ve decided we’re winning it this year. I want a fucking trophy. R3 goes insanely well. Leicester win at Anfield and then Everton dump Man City out. That’s the two best teams in the competition gone. Sadly Man Utd beat Burton Albion 2-0.  


Transfers time! Owen Wijndal is off. Real Madrid offered me £25M (Sevilla £30M but he wanted Real) so he’s off to warm their bench instead of mine. The lads were getting reckless about a lack of forward depth so I’ve signed some forwards. Ali Kite comes in from Bristol City to increase my homegrown numbers. He’s good but will need to grow into the role a bit. He’s actually further along than Remy Lagadec, a Benfica forward, who I spend big on. But Remy plays his first game in the cup and scores twice and he looks the part. Victor Emerson is in from Brazil. He’s an AMC who can play on the wing and will provide competition for places with Luka Romero and Emi Buendia. That’s three very good players.  

I know the finishing doesn’t look great but I’ve watched him play and it doesn’t seem to be an issue. He scores in his first three Villa games but then doesn’t net in this game… 

We’re at the end of January and, as you can see, we’ve moved up to second in the league. We have some pretty tough fixtures in our final 14 games and we also have an FA Cup to win and PSG in the CL. Our aggregate win over Norwich this season though? 14-1.  

Just before we get to deadline day we hear that yet again a Villa player is the young player of the month. Look at that for domination. We’re set for a while here. Heading into the transfer deadline I have a peak at transfers for this window and Bayern Munich has spent £166M on Oyazarbal. That’s not a typo. Pretty sure that’s the most expensive player transfer since the game has started. Haaland was £140M. Anyway, we survive January and no one leaves. Emi Buendia had a massive offer from Inter come in but they wanted to take him on loan first the weird Italian pricks. So, I said no.  


FA Cup time. We beat Coventry 5-1. Up next…Brighton away. Fuck. Why am I upset? We drew 2-2 at Brighton in the league. We were shit. Damn it. That weakened field is suddenly feeling very big.  

In the Champion’s League we stuff PSG at Villa Park. It’s a top performance. We got caught out by Adeyemi for their goal but apart from that we bossed it. The Januzaj offside goal was so, so close to being onside as well. I actually celebrated it and was gutted to find out we’d not gone 4-1 up.  


FA Cup. R5 day. Brighton away has me nervous because we can actually win this trophy. It’s doable. Man City and Liverpool are out. The two teams I don’t think we can beat under any circumstances. It’s a tense game at Brighton. We go ahead through Sekou Mara but Brighton peg us back and it’s that swine Zeqiri, who always scores against us. Always! Ollie Watkins, who is MOTM, teed up Mara and then scores for 2-1. Luka Romero scores an absolute worldie for 3-1 and I start making defensive substitutions as Brighton batter us for the final ten minutes and score on 90+4’ to make me even more nervous. 3-2 Villa. We’re through a tricky tie. Who isn’t through? Southampton. They’ve come a cropper at Palace. West Ham are out, bested 3-0 by Leicester. Arsenal get through against Burnley but there’s good news.  

Everton beat Chelsea. They’ve already knocked Man City out, now they’ve added another impressive scalp. Down the bottom of the screenshot you’ll notice another big name gone; Spurs lost 4-1 at West Brom. Haha. Tottenham get battered everywhere they go. It’s really starting to feel like we have a shot at this trophy. It felt that way when Man City and Liverpool went out but with Chelsea and Tottenham gone too we’re down to Arsenal and Man Utd being the remaining big guns. There’s Leicester and Everton too but it’s a less intimidating field than any other FA Cup line up I’ve seen at this stage in recent years.  

The Quarter Final line up has us away again, at Leicester, while Arsenal vs. Man Utd eliminates another of the big boys. I’m more optimistic than ever (fast forward to us losing at Leicester and Newcastle winning the cup, sadge). Champion’s League I was never optimistic about and despite a 3-1 first leg win over PSG we collapse in France and lose 4-3 on aggregate. We just couldn’t get anything going and got overwhelmed. Still, Villa made it to the knock out stages of the Champion’s League. I’m sure their fans would take that. Even if PSG did treat us like a bunch of little bitches.  


Quarter final day arrives and Leicester are IN THE MOOD. I’ve played Leicester several times before and they’re generally a door mat. Not today. We are completely outplayed. Victor Emersen manages to score two goals but Leicester get three and deserve the win. We’re out of the cup in the quarter finals and this was a competition we could, and probably should, have won. It’s very disappointing. Although the scoreline was 3-2 we could have lost by more and we were dreadful.  


I’m so annoyed I call a team meeting to criticise our form, which is bad. We’ve been outplayed by Leicester and fluked our last two wins in the league. My criticism doesn’t go over at all well. I’ve never had such a bad team meeting. The season is imploding around me! In three games we’ve got knocked out of all our remaining cup competitions and our form has gone completely to shit. Ideal going into April!  

There is some good news though. Erik Akerman, Giannis Tzanakakis, Juan Torres and Remy Lagadec all make the NxGn 2026 list. Form has been shaky so we desperately need a win against struggling Wolves. 

HOLY SHIT. All three of my strikers scored hattricks. Including Remy, who I brought on because he was the only sub that wasn’t looking complacent. Biggest win of the season. 9-1. It’s a result that leaves us P3 with 7 games left. Liverpool have 70 points, Man City 65, Villa 63, Southampton 58, Chelsea 56, Leicester 54. We scooped CL with 69 points last year. Two more wins and that might be enough. Next league fixture we lose 3-0 at home to Leicester in a game where we concede two penalties. Honestly. This game. The next match is at Chelsea for fuck’s sake and somehow we win 2-0 with two shots on target. Hey, I’ll take it.  

Five games left and we are going to finish above Man Utd. Our worst place finish is still P7 thanks to Arsenal having a game in hand. Considering our wobbly form looking at guaranteed European football is a relief. Aston Villa are generously included in the “title race goes to the wire” email. Our next game is Liverpool (A). If they win at Anfield the gap is 10 points with four games left. Appreciate being technically capable of winning the title but come on fellas.  

WE WON AT ANFIELD!!! Astonishing stuff. Big Theate scored another near post corner. He’s into double figures now. It’s probably too little, too late for the league title but it does give us a huge boost for Champion’s League.  

We’re now assured of Europa League and our worst finishing position is P5. Third looks likely and a one position improvement on last season. CL qualification is secured after Leicester draw with Brighton.  

We draw 2-2 at Man Utd, after outplaying them yet again, and do it with an incredibly satisfying last-minute penalty. Literally last kick of the ball. Bruno Fernandes committed the foul too. Glorious. Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Brighton leaves the gap still at four points. Two games remain. Penultimate game of the season we’re away at Southampton. We need to win if we have any shot at the title. We draw 2-2 and have a perfectly good goal ruled out by VAR when they DRAW THE LINES IN THE WRONG PLACE. Art reflects life. Liverpool smoke Norwich 4-0 and Man City draw. That leaves Liverpool needing one point in their final game to secure the title and we are going to finish third. Unless City lose at home to Leeds. Then we can nick second.  

How did the FA Cup go I hear you ask? Well, Arsenal won 3-0 against Newcastle in the final. Lots of really sad Geordies here as they have two sent off and concede the first through a penalty before conceding two more in the last five minutes. I have no doubt Newcastle will win something in this save but I also can’t help but think that could have been us…losing 3-0 to Arsenal.  


While we don’t advance any further up the table on final day we do get this steam achievement for scoring the most goals of any team. We scored 99 goals. 99! That’s ten more than free scoring Man City. It probably helped we put 14 past Norwich and beat Wolves 9-1.  

So, here it is. The final table. We move up a place and once again secure Champion’s League football. Qualifying for CL means we have a transfer budget of £60M. There’s cash to spend but increasingly it’s tough to improve on what we have. An example; we could probably go and get Jeremy Doku but he would cost our entire transfer budget and is only a marginal improvement on Tshibangu and Zalewski and would certainly block their progress as footballers by taking their spot.  


Instead we should probably look at our problem positions. There are two.  


Goalkeeper. We loaned Andre Onana from Ajax last year and he was great but will he want to actually sign? Should we sign him as he’s already quite old? Martin Origi cost £30M but isn’t the keeper we thought he was and hasn’t developed at all this season. Do we look at loaning in a top keeper or do we need to buy a talented young keeper? Available keepers, who want to play for us, are all less talented than Onana. Wuilker Farinez is a possibility as Palace would probably sell for £25M or so but he’s not as good as Onana.  


Right back. I fixed right back pretty quickly into the save by recruiting Emerson Royal but there’s no ‘future’ right back in the squad (every other position has this). My one for the future was Pablo Corti but QPR have fucked his development by not playing him. He’s still not good enough for me but if I loan him out again, he’s getting too old to develop. Basically, if QPR had played him LIKE THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO I wouldn’t have a problem but here we are. Jorge Palacios can play there and he’s not far off being first team ready. He’s spent his entire teenage years learning to be a central midfielder though so that’s not ideal. I could probably go and get Tariq Lamptey but he would cost £35M or so.  


Anyway, that’s the season done. I think we can call P3 a success but it’s frustrating we didn’t make greater in roads into Liverpool and Man City, although I can take comfort in closing the game significantly. We were six points better off and still in the title race until the last few games. Next season I want to be in the mix with Liverpool and Man City. Contending for the title, not just watching it from afar. The squad is strong and dynamics are great. Our young players are improving. Summer transfer window will be interesting. Hopefully we can do better next year. 

NEXT: Aston Villa, champions?  

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