Before I’d achieved an unbeaten season with Dortmund, I genuinely thought it was impossible.
Each year, we’d lose a game in an away game against some dodgy mid-table side and I’d whinge before not playing Football Manager for weeks. To me, anyone who achieved an unbeaten season was either ridiculously lucky or ridiculously good at the game.
But it turns out, maybe not.
Those of you who have followed my Twitter and the blog long enough will know that I’ve achieved a decent amount on Football Manager over the years. You’ll also know I’ve always struggled to achieve one thing: an unbeaten season. And this pisses me off pretty bad.
Since the last blog post, the Dortmund save has pushed on three and a half more seasons. In that time we’ve won literally everything possible; every trophy we’ve competed in, we’ve won at some point in that period. But the thing that still eludes us is the unbeaten league season. At time of writing, we’re in the 2022/23 winter break and we’ve got 39 points from 14 league games, and we’re absolutely dominating all comers. But, yeah, you guessed it, 1 loss.
Despite scoring 41 in that time (3 per game) and conceding only 4 (0.3 per game), we still managed to lose a game. Bayern are in second place, and having played three more games than us, they’re still 8 points behind already. Unless a minor miracle happens, we’ve almost already sown up the league.
In all my years of playing Football Manager, I’ve never achieved a completely unbeaten league season. Until mid-March, we remained unbeaten in all competitions and I was getting pretty excited at our chance. Then came a loss against Conte’s Bayern (who we’d battered 6-0 and 4-1 earlier in the season). We went on to win the league very comfortably, as well as adding the DFB-Pokal to the trophy cabinet.
With an average of +2 Goal Difference *per match*, it’s fair to say we destroyed the German league.
Having somehow finished the first year in 15th, I was hoping to push on and solidify our position as a top half team in 2015/16. Gabriel Barbosa and Eder Alvarez Balanta were to be key players, having spent the latter half of the season settling into life in England. They were also aptly supported by some big signings in the Summer window.
I went into the Summer with a philosophy in mind and a slightly different scouting process in order to follow through with it. In my last post, I focussed on the search for a right midfielder. The conclusion was that Joel Campbell was the man, with Adel Taarabt as the backup. We signed neither. Campbell chose Fiorentina. As for Taarabt, we agreed a deal with QPR, and then a contract with the player. As I went to confirm the transfer, the option was not there as he’d torn his cruciate ligaments only the day before — out for 8-9 months, failed medical. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad that we’d missed out on his signing, at that point.
Taking over a team at dead last is always going to be tricky, and so it proved early on. I expected to avoid relegation with ease, but it went down to the final day where any of four teams could’ve finished in the dreaded relegation zone, whilst Stoke and Sunderland had already sealed their own fate in 19th & 20th.
We were able to comfortably beat Crystal Palace at St. Mary’s, and end up in a much undeserved 15th place finish. Having spent only three weeks of the season outside of the relegation zone, there’s lots of work to do to ensure we’re able to finish top half next year, as the board expect.
Following a text-less update for the 2018-19 season, I’m somewhat re-invigorated and so you’re back to having to read words. Unlucky. I’ve still got some pretty pictures though.
A domestic quadruple was always going to be the most we could hope for as we’re still some way off making a dent in Europe. I consider us to be firmly in the ‘Continental Consolidation’ phase of the club’s development — winning every single domestic trophy suggests we’ve gone past the ‘Domestic Dominance’ phase. But this progression has been a bit of a bitch in terms of keeping player wages down. Several key players had contracts expiring at the end of the 2019-20 season meaning we either had to negotiate a new deal or risk losing them on a free transfer. The three main men were Nassir el Aissati, Kadú and Fernando Canesin Matos; all signed new deals worth £6k, £6.5k and £4.2k p/w. As manager I’ve spent very little on transfer fees, meaning our finances are excellent and we’ve got a massive wage budget; following the end of the 2019-20 season, we were spending £77k p/w on wages with a total budget of over £300k p/w. But giving those wages to guys who were happily accepting ~£1.5k p/w only a few seasons ago grates me slightly.
The season after our first league title was always likely to be a crucial one, and it ended up being so. In order to improve the coefficients of the league and of Hungary itself, it was crucial we did well in the Champions League, and that ended up being our focus. Initially, this meant our league form suffered really quite badly. But with the young squad that won the league being kept largely intact, and further improving, I was confident in our ability to catch up the leaders (who were Videoton, as you may have guessed).
The only changes to the squad were…