Track 11 – Half the World Away
So what do you say?
You can’t give me the dreams that are mine anyway,
You’re half the world away..
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Welcome back! If you took the time to read the above, you read correctly – we had our highest ever league finish last season and although we probably should have taken 2nd place, our 3rd place finish means that we qualify for the Champions League playoffs where we are drawn against Sporting Lisbon who also finished 3rd in the Portuguese Primeira Liga NOS. On the back of this we were directly offered the Switzerland international job without even having to do an interview, and after much deliberation I decided against accepting it – I play Football Manager slow enough as is, and considering this is a Homegrown save we will settle for nothing less than getting the France job (which may also help our quest to have an Angers player start for France in a World Cup 😇).
As mentioned, money is definitely a self-inflicted challenge as we are still paying annual installments for the likes of Amine Gouiri, Lillian Brassier and Michael Olise and what we lack in financial ability, we had to make up for with a bit of shrewdness in the free agent market.
To this day I still remember my first experience of the Bosman rule in what was then Championship Manager 3. As an 11 year old kid in the West of Ireland I was perhaps not so versed in the rules of football as I am now (writer’s note: debatable), and it was during one of my many Newcastle saves over the years that I suddenly realised one could sign a player for free at the end of their contract rather than paying a fee. I even remember the two players I brought in, both of whom were (a) positions I didn’t need to fill and (b) playing in the same position. Standard free-agent behaviour right?
The Glory Days
Nowadays we don’t see as many players running down their contracts, with clubs much more proactive and firm with regard to ensuring players are on long term deals and thus hold value either playing for the club or in the transfer market. Having said that, there is nothing sweeter than picking up an absolute bargain for zero transfer fee and watching their value skyrocket as soon as they arrive at the club right?
Despite bringing in close to €10m in player sales, we still only receive 20% of transfer revenue thus we have very little to spend in the transfer market. Overall I am pretty happy with the quality of our squad however a bit more depth is needed, and there is one player that I have been monitoring for the past 3 seasons straight after originally hearing him mentioned on the Scouted Football podcast on numerous occasions (along with Isaac Lihadji who we also bring in on a season-long loan from Tottenham). In real life Koné has just recently secured a move to Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach however in our save universe he is still turning out for Toulouse in Ligue 1 and with just one year left on his contract, we manage to pick him up for a steal at €2m.
You’re probably thinking “Decent signings, shouldn’t be too hard to improve on last season” right? I too share these sentiments at times, however news items like this have a habit quickly bring me back down to earth…hard.
But enough moping about – we have a Champions League qualifier to tend to as we take the short flight to what is hopefully a Covid-free Lisbon in the year 2024. Can we overcome the Portuguese giants and take our place in the group stages?
We made life very difficult for ourselves, never even getting started meaning we went into the return leg at home needing to win by three goals to be in with a chance of qualifying.
After all that and a year of graft and slog to reach the qualifiers, we crash out before the race has even begun! Mega disappointing, and we take solace in the fact that we will now take a place in the 2024/2025 Europa League group stages – possible trips to Russia, Norway, Israel and Azerbaijan await as we look to fly the Angers flag globally and commence the Don’t Look Back in Angers World Tour, let’s head to London for the draw shall we?
2024/2025 League Season
We start well going unbeaten in our first 5 games, and continue some decent form all the way up towards the winter break which culminates in a 2-1 home victory over PSG – WE F*CKING DID IT AGAIN!! After going almost 4 years without a win against the 7 time consecutive champions, somehow we have beaten them twice in a row and by Christmas we sit in 4th place after 19 games played.
Despite dropping a few silly points in the league, for some reason we are indestructible in the Europa League as we pretty much smash all around us to take top spot and finally we are given the “Have boots, will travel” licence as we set up a trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar in the knockout stages.
Back home in the league things are going marvelously as we kick off 2025 like a house on fire – the most pleasing part of which is that our front 4 are all chipping in big time in terms of goals and assists rather than solely relying on one player to win us games. Gouiri in the AF role continues to lead the goalscoring charts, with Theo maintaining that consistency in terms of assists and wide-men Mo-Ali Cho and Manu Kone both chipping in their share of goals scored and created. Previously our seasons have been defined by one-man shows (see Mathieu Cafaro, Rachid Alioui or Amine Gouiri in the last few seasons) so this level of squad effort and impact is a very welcome sight indeed.
As you can see however, it’s not Angers stealing the headlines – a rejuvenated Lyon side decide to make a play for the league title and after 30 games are in pole position to do so. All our energies, focus and hatred has been for PSG in this save and in doing so we overlooked the fact that Lyon have built a ridiculously strong side with an attacking line containing Jadon Sancho, Rayan Cherki, Patson Daka, Hossem Aouar and Moussa Dembélé – that is until we beat them of course, leaving things wide open at the top with 8 games to go. 😎
If the Lyon result was the highlight for March, it’s easy to choose the lowlight. After seeing a huge improvement in our Youth Intake last season with a potential French wonderkid arriving in the form of Damien Blanchard (who is progressing nicely by the way if you look at the year-on-year comparison below), we receive our worst EVER intake in our 5th season and arguably the worst I have ever seen in Football Manager. It’s not just random is it?!
All eggs are in the Blanchard basket
Further afield – we find ourselves in a Europa League Quarter Final against none other than Europa League specialists Sevilla, knowing that the likes of Tottenham, Lazio and Arsenal are potential Semi-Final opponents. Despite starting the first leg in Spain well and taking the lead twice, a Lucas Ocampos hat-trick condemned us to a 4-2 defeat and once again we were in a situation needing to win by two goals or more to progress. Deja-vu struck hard as we failed to score in the return leg, and we bid farewell to European football once more albeit with our heads held high in comparison to our crash out of the Europa Conference last season.
End of Season run-in
Eight games to go including fixtures against both PSG and Monaco and though it is highly unlikely, we find ourselves in a three-horse race for the Ligue 1 title with PSG on 70 points, Lyon on 67 and ourselves on 66. We need all the luck we can get…
Who needs midfielders right? 🤦♂️
We proceed to drop 7 points in our next 3 games and quickly rule ourselves out of contention, however 3 wins from the next 4 means we seal 3rd place in Ligue 1 for the second season running – that’s 7th, 6th, 8th, 3rd and 3rd which for a homegrown side we are pretty happy with! The league is far from over though as we reach an epic final day climax with both PSG and Lyon tied on 86 points apiece (PSG with the better goal difference). Having won the league for the past 7 consecutive seasons the odds are very much in their favour, however Lyon knocking them of their perch will make life very interesting going into next season. I’ve never had so much anticipation for a final round of fixtures considering our own final game is irrelevant!!
Outrageous scenes – Lyon do their best to bottle it with a 1-1 draw away to Nantes, however PSG go one further by losing 1-0 to Brest. Lyon have dethroned PSG! With all eyes on these two fixtures our somewhat embarrassing defeat to Reims is missed by many – overall it’s another really good season for us, Amine Gouiri again topping our scoring charts with 20 goals and 4 of our front line hitting double-digits. The icing on the cake is that, due to our limited spending this season combined with that sweet sweet €14m prize money, we finish the season with a positive bank balance for the first time in this save which hopefully bodes well for some summer signings especially if we can do one better than last season and actually qualify for the Champions League Group Stage 💰💰. Things are heating up in Angers 👀.
What to do when you are PSG and you have just lost the league on the final day of the season for the first time in seven years?
Thanks for reading,
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