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Dan - Olympique Lyonnais


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I decided to take over Lyon as a bit of a treat save, really. I've given myself some tricky ones lately and this I felt was a save where I had quite a nice set up already in place for me, so I feel like I can do something decent pretty quickly, whilst there's still a challenge involved. Lyon are a club I've a lot of time for - one who really did build themselves up the right way, through clever business and gradual building which would eventually take them to 7 straight titles in France in the 00's.

I recently did a save at Rio Ave in Portugal, and I did well there I think, but it became apparent pretty quickly that building something there is basically impossible - I moan about fundamental structures of football in the main leagues of Europe but this is something else, you can't even convince players to sign for more than a year and if you do then you've done well - seeing my team of relatively expensive (for Portugal) youngsters being poached away for less than I bought them for was the sign that I was basically wasting my time there, although I used a tactic at Rio Ave that I'm going to carry to Lyon as I think the squad fits it, and it brought some seriously impressive results.

4-3-3 narrow is the way I'll go. I've read a couple of guides on how to use it effectively and then given a couple of my own twists to it so it isn't a downloaded tactic or anything, although I'll admit there was guidance, but haven't we all done this at some point?

My first year's aim is to qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the top three places (with third having a play-off), something that's attainable but ultimately we aren't predicted to make as the game rates both Monaco and Marseille slightly above us, and PSG obviously above everybody.

Once again, the save is done on FM17, but with the squads for the 2017/18 season, which admittedly is a bit of a mess and not something many will use, but I prefer 17 to 18 and 19 and I'm sticking with it. It's all gotten a bit much now I think on the recent versions.

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SQUAD

Goalkeepers:
Anthony Lopes (Portugal, 25)
Mathieu Gorgelin (France, 25)

Fairly well covered in this area, Lopes is steady for this level but I do think there's better and there is a particular target I have in mind for the long term but that's not something I expect to happen this year. Gorgelin will just about do for cover, and 3 appearances for Lyon since 2006 shows he's pretty content to just be back-up.

 

Defenders: 
Marcelo (Brazil, 29)
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (France, 27)
Mouctar Diakhaby (France, 19)
Rafael (Brazil, 25)
Kenny Tete (Holland, 20)
Marcal (Brazil, 27)
Ferland Mendy (France, 20)
Dylan Mboumbouni (France, 20)
Jeremy Morel (France, 32)

I think we're again quite nicely covered here but I do want some upgrades in the next couple of years as Marcelo is ageing and Diakhaby, whilst a strong prospect, isn't hugely suited to the way I'm intending to play and I think he's a bit more of an old-school centre half. Again, I have a particular target in mind here but this is going to have to wait. Sadly with the game not being on updated squads it doesn't appreciate how big a prospect Mendy is and while he's steady, he's nothing too special, which is a shame. Right back we have two very good options in Rafael and Tete and it's right at the bottom of my areas to strengthen list. I think left back is an area we can improve upon really. One bit of good news (for future) is that Nicolas Nkoulou is only out on loan, although god knows why as I think I'd just about favour him over any of my centre halves. It's good enough for this season though.

 

Midfielders:
Jordan Ferri (France, 24)
Clement Grenier (France, 25)
Lucas Tousart (France, 19)
Danilo (Brazil, 20) | Braga, £6mil
Tanguy Ndombele (France, 19)
Pape Cheikh (Spain, 18)
Houssem Aouar (France, 17)

This is the area above all where my database fucks me over as again, Ndombele and Aouar are only steady youngsters rather than potential elite players like they are in real life, which is a real shame, Ndombele in-particular I just don't see any future for and I won't make his move permanent. Ferri and Grenier are a solid start to my midfield and both are a stylistically good fit, which is good for us, but I think we do lack a defensive midfielder despite Tousart's presence (he's a genuinely very big prospect on this) and in came Brazilian midfielder Danilo, my first signing for the club. I intend to play Danilo or Tousart in the middle of my three holding things together, with Ferri and Grenier either side playmaking. Bizarrely, yet again I find my best player in this position, Sergi Darder, out on loan.

 

Forwards:
Nabil Fekir (France, 22)
Memphis Depay (Holland, 22)
Mariano (Dominican Republic, 22)
Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso, 20)
Maxwel Cornet (France, 19)
Andrei Ivan (Romania, 19) | CS Craiova, £4mil
Amine Gouiri (France, 16)

This was the really exciting part of my side, youthful and genuine quality as well. Everyone knows about Fekir and what a mercurial talent he is, Depay is another who struggled with his big move to Man Utd but Lyon seem to have brought the best out in him again. Mariano is a steady centre forward while Traore and Cornet are promising options to bring in too. Andrei Ivan joined the club as my second signing but he's been loaned back to Craiova for the year where I expect him to develop massively. My front three initially is going to be two false nines (Depay on the left, Fekir on the right) with Mariano as an advanced forward.

 

 

TACTICS

As stated a few times, my intention is to play a 4-3-3 narrow, and those of you who play the game (if you don't god knows why you're reading this) will know what the abbreviations are for the roles...

 

GK (D)

WB (A) - CD (D) - CD (D) - WB (A)

AP (S) - CM (D) - AP (S)

F9 (S) - AF (A) - F9 (S)

 

The aim of the formation is simply to dominate. It's risky but I think with time and with well-rounded players it will be a success, as plenty have had it with similar set ups. I play an aggressive game, we intend to force teams long by cutting off short passes using the positioning of the front three - the width is provided by the full backs which means there is no room for any kind of defensive minded full-backs in my team, which is likely to result in us conceding a few but I'm hoping that we're that dangerous going forward that teams will struggle to commit to throwing players forward against us. The midfield can control the games and I want Depay and Fekir to drop a bit to help them, but ultimately link the midfield to the attack.

It's a demanding system and it's very attacking, so expect us to score and concede a lot of goals, but ultimately I think the real elite sides play on the front foot and that's what I aim to become one day - unlikely it may seem, but so much at Lyon is set up for success. It wasn't built in a day though so this year it's about trying to qualify for the Champions League, and using the money from that to upgrade on the calibre of players. The likes of Marcelo and Marcal are steady, but I want better, I want this club eventually challenging for titles and European honours.

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August 2016

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An unbeaten month and two impressive away wins - Strasbourg you'd have to say we expected the win but in their first game as a Ligue 1 side it was a banana skin. Nantes was disappointing but I'm putting it down to teething problems. Monaco have started their title defence appallingly and it could easily have been more than it was.

Unfortunately, our season was dealt the ultimate blow just before the season got underway as Nabil Fekir picked up a 9 month injury. Simply a disaster that I think could swing the season against us. I tried and failed to bring in a suitable replacement, with Dario Lezcano of Ingolstadt not accepting my wage offer. A huge blow.

We're in the Europa League as well and landed a group of Hoffenheim, AEK Athens and Ludogorets - I'll be very surprised if it's anything other than a comfortable Lyon Hoffenheim qualification, hopefully we top the group.

 

September 2016

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You've got to say another very good month, meaning that we've beaten Marseille and Monaco already. We look pretty much guaranteed of Europa League group progression too. The two draws were both a bit disappointing but I can't speak highly enough of the Marseille win - we were missing something like 6 players.

 

October 2016

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Our unbeaten run came to an end, and my god it was a hard one to take after we'd gone into the game very close to PSG in the table. This shows to me we're still some way off but ultimately, we should be making the Champions League places as Marseille & Monaco have both started dreadfully, and the biggest threat to this actually look to be OGC Nice - a team we beat this month as well. We continue our excellent away form as well. The AEK draw was disappointing but I think it'll prove meaningless.

 

November 2016

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What an absolutely superb response to our first defeat, making it 7 wins on the bounce in all competitions - 17 goals scored this month and qualification for the next round of the Europa League secured with two games to spare with the AEK win. I have tweaked the formation to play three false nines now as I think we were struggling to get the centre forward (usually Mariano) into the game. So many players have stepped up it's unbelievable, Bertrand Traore having a fantastic season in-particular. Our away form continues to be staggering, with only one failure to claim 3 points away from home all season at Dijon. Hammering our rivals at home as well was brilliant.

 

December 2016

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Our league and Europa form is frankly astounding and if it wasn't for one last gasp equaliser and a piss poor effort in the penalties against Nantes we'd have won 13 on the spin in all competitions. The Nantes game was infuriating as they played a youthful side, but we lost Marcal to an early red card and I sacrificed one of my front three to left back. Even despite this we should've won the game but we just let them in late on and paid the price. Our away form continues to be staggering. Kudos to Houssem Aouar, the 18 year old midfielder who played in my front three in a tough game at Toulouse due to injuries and netted twice as we won the game. The table makes for some very interesting reading as I get onto the Eurostar for the Christmas break back at home!

 

Table

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Simply amazing how well we've started the season, better than I could ever have imagined it would go, even more so given we lost our star man and have been without him all year. I can't tell if this formation is simply a game-breaker of if we will eventually tail off a bit and PSG will romp the league as expected.

We're almost certainly going to finish in the top 3 this season which is all I asked for, but it's hit the point where I'm going to want more. In truth I expect us to dip a bit and for PSG to eventually run away with it but I think we can definitely finish 2nd, although you never know, PSG are stumbling a bit lately. Nice shouldn't be overlooked here either, they've been phenomenal and their over-achievement eclipses ours for me.

It's tricky knowing what to do this window really but I'm already having offers for Rafael from Atletico, he wants to go due to the Champions League but I've promised him we'll make it and I'll sell him if we don't (which is fair enough all-round really).

In a totally predictable Europa League tie I've been given CSKA Moscow - a team I seem to draw no matter who I manage. It's ridiculous. We should win that though.

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Time for a random update, we're into April now.

January 2017

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We returned to action with a couple of away wins but we finally hit our slump, with Claude Puel of all people ending my winning run with his Monaco side taking maximum points. The Bordeaux 'bounce back' ended up being further frustration in what was our poorest month of the season to date. Haris Seferovic joined the club on loan from Benfica for the rest of the season but no other business took place. He is simply an interim as I don't think Cornet's quite ready for the football he's getting, Mariano's pretty inconsistent and Traore was off to the cup of nations.

 

February 2017

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But what a way to bounce back this was, with maximum points taken in all competitions. Stade Rennais away was a massive win as we spent most of the game with ten men and grabbed a goal on the break right at the death, but the biggest result of the month and for me our win of the season came away to OGC Nice - sitting 3rd in the table unbeaten at home, Balotelli sees a penalty saved before Depay slams in a free kick from 35 yards. CSKA Moscow were easy pickings and we're given another long journey in the round of 16 to Galatasaray. We maintain our position as genuine title contenders, but we're probably going to have to win in Paris.

 

March 2017

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Guingamp was a banana skin that we avoided as they were flying high going into that game and took a very early lead. Galatasaray at home was hilariously easy and I named a very changed XI for the away leg which saw us blow a 0-2 lead - Nabil Fekir making his first appearance of the season from the bench, lasting a whole 6 minutes before picking up another unrelated injury ruling him out for a further month. I've never been so sure of a player getting injured in my life, even despite him not being rushed back. Sadly the crunch game was lost and PSG are quite simply too much for us at the minute - Neymar missed a penalty at 0-0 before we took the lead. I went for it at 1-1 with 5 minutes to go and it backfired spectacularly as Draxler hit a late winner. No regrets really as a draw wouldn't gain anything, it rules us out of the title though bar a shock swing.

 

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The table is really quite impressive for us and it looks pretty nailed on we'll finish 2nd - above our predicted finish of 4th and giving us immediate group stage football in the Champions League. We also have a very generous run-in too with 8th placed Lille and 9th placed St Etienne away being our trickiest remaining games. We now have a 17 day break until our French Cup quarter final at home to Sochaux (again, only us and PSG have turned up of the big boys) and hopefully by then we should have Fekir back once and for all, although sods law, I've just lost Depay for 6 weeks which is a huge blow. My other focus is the Europa League.

 

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Napoli knocked out Arsenal, who are over-powered to fuck on this game so that really opens the tournament up. I think it's probably going to be an Italian winner but I think other than Spartak Moscow and possibly Feyenoord, there's not a single side there I think have no chance of the trophy. Everton are having a hideous season in the league but have delivered so far in Europe, but I think if I play the squad properly we'll knock them out and we are that bit better. I see this as an attainable trophy and I want to win it. With the league campaign looking like a nailed on 2nd placed finish I'm going to be focusing on this. We've rarely played our best XI anyway this season so I think we can cope with a little bit more rotation.

Exciting times though. I think we can go so far as a club. It's been a brilliant first year.

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Everton hideous in FM, shock horror :D 

Think you've got a shot mate. Hopefully you don't botch it up in quarters like you often did with Las Palmas!

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@Grizzly21

I do think I made the semis once with Las Palmas but got binned out by Marseille. I don't think I've ever actually won the Europa League but this is a really good chance I think as there's no superpower side left in it. Arsenal are a bit of a joke on this version as they're really over-rated I think, but start the game in the Europa League so are easily the standout side to expect to win it. Napoli who knocked them out are probably your biggest threat and I think over two legs we'd do very well to get past them, but I'd back us in that more than I would against Arsenal.

An interesting side note is that no French club has ever won the UEFA Cup / Europa League since it was created in 1971.

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The conclusion...

April 2017

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Absolutely hideous month and by a distance my worst as Lyon manager. The Everton games were a disaster, and one of those where you just feel you're damned no matter what you do on the game. We controlled the first half without scoring, took the lead in the second half, saw Everton go down to 10 men with 25 left so I decided I'd aim for another goal - weirdly, this isn't what cost us, in injury time Everton had a free kick on the half way line which was tossed into the box, Rafael decides he'll pull their forward down and the ensuing melee sees Ferri sent off for a second yellow - totally decimating my already weakened midfield and meaning that we'd have a weak side for the 2nd leg. Baines stuck the penalty away and Everton picked up quite frankly one of the least deserved draws you will ever see.

The second leg went exactly how I thought it would, I felt if we got 2 goals we would go through but despite an excellent start, that 2nd never arrived and we succumbed to two goals that would see us knocked out. Just one of those I can't even explain, a tie we should never ever have lost even based on the balance of play as well as the form of the two teams, but we completely bottled it. I just can't crack this competition, I'm damned at the quarter finals whatever I do.

The rest of the month was also a huge cause for concern. Troyes away was poor but it was half expected as I named a shocking XI in the hope nobody got injured for the Everton 2nd leg, which they didn't. Toulouse was frustrating and the cup semi final at Angers was absolutely disgusting, we were lucky it was only 2-0. The only redemption this month was the win at Lille which mathematically secured us 2nd, and what should be a nice easy May to end the season.

 

May 2017

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This month was nothing short of an absolute disgrace. Four absolutely pitiful results - the first slightly understandable, if not gutting as we bizarrely had 4 players suspended for the game and Depay still out. Fekir's return seems to have hindered us if anything, he's been really poor to the point I wonder if him being out was actually a blessing in disguise.

The other three games were disgusting. The Metz draw sent them down but we bottled a 2 goal lead to a struggling side, before the most laughable result of the season saw us somehow draw at home to already relegated Strasbourg, conceding an equaliser in injury time. Disgrace.

 

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So there we have it, the final table sees us finish 2nd which is definitely a good season, but the way we finished it was disgusting and I don't care if they were dead-rubber games, there was no excuse for such utter rubbish and it gives me very little hope ahead of next season to be honest unless we have a very good summer. Monaco and Marseille both got their act together but just couldn't topple Nice who had a really poor second half of the season themselves.

In a pretty extraordinary situation, Everton went on to win the Europa League, but were relegated as well meaning that next year they will be playing in the Championship and the Champions League xD what's even weirder is they beat Bilbao in the final, who also got relegated out of La Liga - it's extraordinary as neither side had ever been relegated before this.

 

Squad analysis - How did they perform?

On 17/05/2019 at 02:23, Dan said:

SQUAD

Goalkeepers:
Anthony Lopes (Portugal, 26) - Steady season and not a priority to be replaced, although I do have someone in the long-run I want in this position.
Mathieu Gorgelin (France, 26) - Happy to remain back up and did fine when called upon.

Defenders: 
Marcelo (Brazil, 30) - Think he had a good season but I feel he's someone I need to upgrade on as he's a bit too robotic a footballer.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (France, 28) - My best centre half this season and I intend to start him next year too.
Mouctar Diakhaby (France, 20) - OK when called upon but expected him to be slightly better.
Rafael (Brazil, 26) - Really good season, fended off interest from Atletico Madrid in January and promised him CL football, which we've delivered.
Kenny Tete (Holland, 21) - Bit disappointed by him, attitude was dodgy early doors and he hasn't really played well when called upon.
Marcal (Brazil, 28) - He's done well but his discipline is a worry, and I think he's one of these who benefits from the system rather than him being particularly good, I aim to upgrade.
Ferland Mendy (France, 21) - Steady cover but will never be good enough to start.
Dylan Mboumbouni (France, 21) - Not good enough.
Jeremy Morel (France, 33) - Not good enough now and think he'll likely retire in the next year or two.

Midfielders:
Jordan Ferri (France, 25) - Had a steady season but really let me down against Everton sadly.
Clement Grenier (France, 26) - My best midfielder. I think I need another playmaker option though as well as these two.
Lucas Tousart (France, 20) - He's a steady player but I get the feeling he's not ever going to be a lot more than that, despite some pretty impressive attributes.
Danilo (Brazil, 21) - Impressed by him and his value is already £14mil following a £6mil transfer. He did go off the boil towards the end though.
Tanguy Ndombele (France, 20) - Barely played, not good enough and won't be making his move permanent.
Pape Cheikh (Spain, 19) - Steady but I think he was again, a system beneficiary.
Houssem Aouar (France, 18) - Impressed me he did for a youngster, versatile as well which is handy.

Forwards:
Nabil Fekir (France, 23) - Out pretty much all season but pretty awful when he came back to be honest. I'm a bit torn.
Memphis Depay (Holland, 23) - I didn't realise quite how important he actually is - he's a talent but so greedy to the point I want to drop him at times, but seeing how we got on without him was quite telling. Even the Strasbourg game we were noticeably poorer when he went off.
Mariano (Dominican Republic, 23) - He had a pretty good season really with 15 goals in the league and 24 in all competitions.
Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso, 21) - Really good season, surprised me a lot, 22 goals in all competitions.
Maxwel Cornet (France, 20) - He did OK but wasn't quite ready to feature as a starter, but he could be one day.
Andrei Ivan (Romania, 20) - He has developed no end out on loan back in Romania and I actually think he could start a lot for me next season in the front three.
Amine Gouiri (France, 17) - Struggled but he did very well in the youth team and it's easy to forget how young he is, he's a decent prospect.

Transfer targets:
- New left back as a starter.
- New centre back as a starter.
- New central midfielder to rotate with Grenier & Ferri - this could be Darder when he returns from Espanyol providing they don't buy him permanently.

 

Next year

Very hard to determine my aims because I don't see us really bettering this year - in-particular given how we finished, so I think the aim has to be to improve the team in key positions as stated above and then hope I maintain a Champions League place. We aren't toppling PSG next year and Monaco have become a threat again.

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Great review Dan. Shocking form near the end though but at least you did enough to comfortably finish second. Everton winning the Europa and going down is hilarious.

Any players you've got your eye on for next year? I'd start searching for regens personally and then a few first teamers.

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These are the kind of youngsters that get produced if you have good youth academy...

image.png

Genuinely don't think I've ever had a youngster rated so highly and so expensive.

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3 minutes ago, Stan said:

These are the kind of youngsters that get produced if you have good youth academy...

image.png

Genuinely don't think I've ever had a youngster rated so highly and so expensive.

That's a shit ton of money for a 15 year old. 

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xD he is ludicrous. I've got a really tidy centre half come through for me too but yours there is better. That value for a 15 year old is beyond a joke.

I actually don't think I'm going to make many signings on this save relatively. I think about 3/4 a season maximum.

I'm not far off the winter break so my next update isn't too far off.

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Season two - 2017/18
____________________________________________

SQUAD / TRANSFERS

Goalkeepers:
Anthony Lopes (Portugal, 26)
Mathieu Gorgelin (France, 26) | CD Nacional (£165k)
Jose Sa (Portugal, 24) | FC Porto (£110k)

It's taken eleven years, but Mathieu Gorgelin has finally decided that being a back-up is no longer for him and he's wanted to go to get some games (obviously it's me coming in that's done it). He's been like for like replaced as Jose Sa comes from Portugal. Very small fees and I'd say Sa is an ever so slight upgrade. Lopes retains his first choice spot for this season but I don't think he's the absolute best attainable to this club, so I do eventually intend to upgrade although there are bigger priorities.

 

Defenders: 
Marcelo (Brazil, 30)
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (France, 28)
Mouctar Diakhaby (France, 20)
Marcel Tisserand (DR Congo, 24) | FC Ingolstadt (£4.4million)
Rafael (Brazil, 26)
Kenny Tete (Holland, 21)
Marcal (Brazil, 28)
Jetro Willams (Holland, 23) | Frankfurt (£10million)
Ferland Mendy (France, 21)
Dylan Mboumbouni (France, 21)
Jeremy Morel (France, 33)

I saw the defence as probably the priority to upgrade this summer because it had a few ageing players and probably the least suited to playing the way I wanted to play. I identified centre half and left back as priorities this summer because I felt that Marcelo and Marcal are both players we can improve on. In came Ingolstadt centre half Marcel Tisserand. He's a centre half who can play right back, once of Monaco that is quite an odd player - one with some quite strong attributes but still needs a bit of polishing, but really I think quite a bargain and a good fit for our system. It took a lot of looking around and attempts to sign FC Sion left back Federico Dimarco proved nowhere near as easy as I'd hoped, so I went for Jetro Willems from relegated Frankfurt. He's my biggest money signing yet but I think he'll prove to be worth it.

 

Midfielders:
Jordan Ferri (France, 25)
Clement Grenier (France, 26)
Lucas Tousart (France, 20)
Sergi Darder (Spain, 23) | Returning from loan at Espanyol
Danilo (Brazil, 21)
Pape Cheikh (Spain, 19)
Houssem Aouar (France, 18)

I saw this as another area I wanted to improve upon but did have major questions as to why Sergi Darder, with attributes like his was loaned out to Espanyol with a view to a permanent deal. Luckily for me, Espanyol weren't prepared to pay the agreed asking price of around £18million so he comes back and will be a starter. It's a big boost to us. Danilo I intend to start and the other one is likely to be Grenier who I think pips Jordan Ferri - although I do have a concern that Grenier only has a year left on his contract and is already on quite big money. I've attempted to talk about a new deal but it looks like he's going to be wanting even bigger money so it's become a quite tricky situation. I feel like he's too good to release, but not good enough to pay massive money for.

 

Forwards:
Nabil Fekir (France, 23)
Memphis Depay (Holland, 23)
Mariano (Dominican Republic, 23)
Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso, 21)
Maxwel Cornet (France, 20)
Andrei Ivan (Romania, 20) | Returning from loan at CS Craiova
Amine Gouiri (France, 17)

I feel like we're quite well covered in this position, and as stated before Andrei Ivan has really developed out on loan and I plan to actually start him to begin with to see how he gets on. I'm hoping Fekir manages to find some form this season because he didn't look much good after his injury last year.

 

AIMS

My aim really is to just kick on from last year and improve as a team. It would be nice to finish 2nd again (or even better) but I just can't see Monaco or Marseille having years like the last one so I'd probably take consolidation. It is again still unrealistic I think to expect us to compete with PSG, although I think our squad has definitely improved from a year ago and the additions of Tisserand, Willems, Darder and Ivan should all be a boost, with nobody of note leaving the club. The Champions League for me is very much a case of the draw.

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AUGUST 2017

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Our first game was due to be the Monaco away game which I was unhappy about, only to find that PSG's league and cup double combined with us finishing 2nd meant we had to jet out to Canada to go and lose to them there as well, although Andrei Ivan scored a terrific solo goal to put us ahead and he's shown some really promising signs in pre-season as well.

Sadly though it appeared we were very much picking up where we left off last year, as we threw away points for (including last year) four games on the spin. How we bodged that Bordeaux game up I will never know. The Rennais game as well we were winning with ten minutes left - not to mention of course the PSG one we did actually go ahead in. We played well at Monaco but it was a very bleak start to this year.

Thankfully it all came good at home to Toulouse and despite another scare we finally sealed our first win, and 3-0 didn't flatter us either. We then went and battered Lorient by the same scoreline and Andrei Ivan stole the show - he's been the one bright spark so far.

Our Champions League draw saw us get a very favourable one. I moan about drawing CSKA Moscow all the time, but when they're the pot one option you've got to take it all day long. Atletico Madrid is about the worst pot 2 opponent possible to counter that, but yet another repeat tie in Ludogorets is a doddle and I think we really should be getting out of that group.

 

SEPTEMBER 2017

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We then completed a hat-trick of 3-0 wins with the feeling that we had firmly hit our stride as a team after all, and hammering Marseille like that is always going to go down well, although it was blighted by a 4 month injury to Bertrand Traore. We played quite well in Madrid but they were ruthless and that pretty much killed any chance we had of winning the group as I'd imagine they will take 6 each from CSKA Moscow and Ludogorets. We showed some real steel to win at Gazelec after they went ahead and we lost Danilo to an early red card, before we went and turned over PSG with a hugely decimated side through injuries and suspensions that saw us play only one of my favoured defence, Yanga-Mbiwa, at right back! An incredible result.

The only other blot was a really disappointing draw at home to Dijon who went into that game bottom, astoundingly poor but we at least beat CSKA.

 

OCTOBER 2017

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A nearly perfect month but with one obvious drawback, Depay hitting his stride and Andrei Ivan is an absolute revelation. This is a kid who was playing on the wing in the Romanian league last season and he's come here leading my attacking trio, and is absolutely bossing it. Guingamp seem to make a habit of starting well, coming here and taking an early lead before collapsing, a bizarre trend I've noticed. Ludogorets every bit as shite as last season in their game away here, but god knows what happened in Bulgaria. We went ahead, then missed a penalty, then somehow fell 3-1 down by the hour. We absolutely smashed them but couldn't break through before the London bus effect, two goals in a minute and I thought we'd go on to win, but we never got that winner. This actually puts a little bit of pressure on us to get through, no more cock ups allowed.

 

NOVEMBER 2017

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Montpellier was a disappointing response to that shambles in Bulgaria but we really did sort ourselves out in the home game against Atletico, in a fully deserved 3-1 win. That was a win that sent us mathematically through meaning we could rest players at CSKA away. Our unbeaten league run once again came to an end in the derby as St Etienne pinched it very late on, something we shouldn't have allowed to happen quite frankly.

 

DECEMBER 2017

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The final update is December. A perfect month in the league with the last two results quite significant as we beat two of our nearest challengers in Bordeaux and Rennais. The CSKA Moscow win was amazing - we made ten changes yet still battered them which points to this system being a huge success. The only blot is the Monaco game where a very weakened Monaco scored twice in the last five minutes to knock us out. One of those games that I just could not explain.

 

 

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I think it's safe to say we're at worst going to qualify for the Champions League again as once again the likes of Monaco and Marseille have been utterly hopeless for large parts. Monaco have sacked Claude Puel after a disappointing start following another big summer of spending over £100million, seeing the likes of Aymeric Laporte, Suso and Hojbjerg join the club. Marseille have taken it one further and absolutely embarrassed themselves - not only have they been hammered on numerous occasions (0-4 at home to Lorient being the standout funny result) they have made some absolutely ridiculous signings. 34 year old Bacary Sagna on £105k a week and Ashley Williams on £110k a week (and a 3 year contract!!!) the funniest ones. It's just baffling how awfully they're run. I think they probably went into this save with a better squad than me but we are a comfortably better team who are improving, and they're going backwards.

Overall, we are doing really well again after an awful start and the title isn't an impossibility, although I'd rank it as unlikely. I think we've 100% improved as a team and every single signing has worked out. Tisserand has been our best defender and has surpassed expectations given I picked him as a bit of a cheap option in order to be able to get Willems. Willems has been really good. Sergi Darder is a cracking midfielder and is attracting interest from Manchester United. Andrei Ivan - absolutely sensational. 15 goals and 5 assists in 21 league games as a 20 year old making the step up from Romania is remarkable. I've already tied him down to a long contract.

 

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The Champions League draw was hard on us but at the end of the day, we had to draw a group winner and all six possible ties (couldn't draw Atletico or PSG) were horrific, and I think we've arguably gotten the best one if my Bochum save is anything to go by.

 

 

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Part 2 of 3... 2017/18
________________________________

January 2018

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There was no notable transfer business in January for us, or really anybody in the league so things stayed as they were. We returned to action by knocking Montpellier out of the cup before producing another two decent league wins, although the collapse at Marseille was awful. Given Marseille's awful form this year, their tendency to get absolutely battered, it was a major setback. We were dealt a very easy hand in the next round of the cup and a nearly entirely changed team pissed it.

It was this month where I decided to make a bit of an individual tactical switch - the formation stayed the same, however I decided that given my central midfielders are based on their technical ability and creativity, while my attacking trio tend to succeed more with pace, I decided I'd attempt to convert the struggling Nabil Fekir into a central midfield playmaker. A bit of a gamble, but he isn't working here in this system and I feel like he's too good to leave out completely. This is a final attempt to salvage something from him.

 

February 2018

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This was a very busy month for us but with a crucial few games in there. The most notable is the draw at PSG where we salvaged the most unlikely of late points thanks to yet another star showing from Memphis Depay. Fekir looked stylish in midfield in the two games following but unfortunately Bayern had a bit too much for us as they took a two goal lead, which we did come back from, but Lewandowski stole it late on and they're in a very strong position to qualify now. We rounded off the month with another two wins, and progression in the cup.

 

March 2018

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Our league form just wasn't letting off until a calamitous late bottlejob at home to Montpellier which for me just about sees us out of title contention. We have done so well again but it just isn't quite enough. The away game at Bayern produced a repeat of the first leg, again we came back from 2-0 down but again they had too much. Massively unlucky as usual with injuries going into big games as Andrei Ivan got minor injuries to rule him out of both legs of the tie which kind of summed it up to me.

 

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So this is the table, and the run ins that we and PSG have respectively. I think we've got the slightly better run in but ultimately PSG are likely to get enough points anyway.

Luckily, we still have the cup.

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PSG suffering a shock home loss to Le Havre has opened it all up and it this point, it's hard to see it not being a Lyon v Monaco final, draws permitting. There is a possibility of a lower league side in the final though which would be nice. I'd actually like to have Monaco at home in the semis if I win at Bordeaux (which is no stroll in the park either by the way) as it would give us an excellent chance of the trophy.

My major concern is that the game before the Montpellier draw was the one we secured a Champions League finish, and while it may be a fluke, the fact we have turned in a performance eerily reminiscent of the end of last season where we couldn't hold a lead to save our lives makes me wonder if we've clocked off again because we've achieved our aims. Time will tell, but I am a bit concerned by that, against a side we usually stuff at home.

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