The Football Manager Chronicles - Part Five

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

December was a bumper month in my Football Manager odyssey with 7 fixtures packed into the month and plenty of points to be won. Just 5 days on from our confidence boosting 7-0 friendly win over Liversedge we entertained Sean Dyche’s Burnley at home on Super Sunday.

The Clarets came into the game as the worst team in the division, in desperate need of

points and a performance. Let’s see how we got on…

Burnley (H): 2-2

When Chris Wood fired the visitors into the lead after just 12 minutes I had to sit on my hands to resist the urge to defenestrate my laptop. Due to my hands being indisposed I was unable to make any tactical tweaks and that worked out pretty well actually.

Jason Puncehon and Steve Mounie scored within 3 minutes of each other to fire Town into a 24th minute lead and banish the bad memories of the past few months. It looked likely that we would grab a third and kill Burnley off, but as the clock ticked down the nerves grew.

A 91st minute melee in the penalty area ended with Robbie Brady poking home and stealing a point for the visitors. It felt undeserved but on reflection Dyche’s team were well worth the point after capitalising on our fragile confidence. Next up was a trip to Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace (A): 0-4

The plan was simple for this trip, we would play a possession based game with a deep defensive line for an hour. After that we would capitalise on heavy legs in the Palace squad and push for the 1 goal that would win the game.

That plan went swimmingly well for the first 59 minutes before falling apart spectacularly as Jordan Ayew scored with the hosts first shot of the match. I resisted the urge to panic and carried on with the plan, it seemed like a solid idea pre-match…

The decision to attack blew up in my face though as Palace became rampant, hitting us on the break 3 times in the next half hour. Arew doubled his tally while Michy Batshuayi and frustratingly Tommy Smith finished up the scoring for Roy Hodgson’s side.

Luka Milivojevic was dismissed in the 87th minute but it didn’t matter, the game was lost and confidence hit an all-time low. We were now just 2 points ahead of Brighton who occupied the final relegation spot and our next game was a must-win.

Cardiff City (H): 3-2

You’ll have to take my word for it, but this game was much more straightforward than the scoreline suggests. Adama Diakhaby put Town ahead in the 24th minute with Abdelhamid Sabiri doubling the advantage in the 62 minute.

Junior Hoilett halved the deficit for the visitors with a 25 yard blockbuster in the 76th minute before another Sabiri goal put the game beyond doubt in the 81st minute. Hoilett was at it again in the first minute of stoppage time, firing a volley past Lossl from the edge of the box.

Two absolute worldies from Cardiff’s Canadian winger had made the scoreline respectable for Cardiff, who were otherwise completely and utterly outplayed.

Arsenal (A): 1-4

I matched Arsenal like-for-like with a pressing 4-2-3-1 with damage limitation in mind, but all that was undone in the first 30 seconds. Henrikh Mkhitaryan pounced on an error from Chris Lowe to open the scoring in blistering fashion.

Fortunately Town recovered well and found when Jason Puncheon guided a neat pass from Elias Kachunga into Bernd Leno’s goal. We remained level until the 74th minute when Alexandre Lacazette scored from the penalty spot.

The French forward had been upended by Chris Lowe in the box and 2 minutes later he was at it again, scoring from close range to send Arsenal into a 3-1 lead. My response was to sub the German left-back and push to a more attacking formation.

My efforts were all in vein though as we never threatened the Arsenal goal and even conceded again, allowing Matteo Guendouzi space to shoot and score in the final minute of the game. Yet again we had lost a game after playing excellently for 70 minutes and terribly for 20, something had to change.

Chelsea (H): 1-1

There was to be no repeat of the naivety against Arsenal next time out against Chelsea. I planned to stink out the game and succeeded in doing just that. Zanka headed Town ahead from a corner in the 12th minute with what would turn out to be our last shot on target in the game.

I fired the time-wasting slider to the max and dropped our defensive line as far back as I possibly could. Fortunately Maurizio Sarri seemed incapable of finding an answer to the shithouse question I had posed.

Ross Barkley found a yard of space in the 59th minute to fire an equaliser past Jonas Lossl, but no one else on his team could do the same. Whenever a Chelsea player managed to wriggle free from a blue & white marker they were faced with the imperious Lossl in goal who played magnificently to help us on the way to a much needed point.

Leicester City (H): 2-0

The battling point against Chelsea seemed to have galvanised the boys as we romped to a routine 2-0 victory over Leicester. Steve Mounie headed home crosses from Florent Hadergjonaj and Isaac Mbenza respectively to seal the 3 points.

At the other end all of the defence played their part in a solid display, shutting out The Foxes as we grabbed a crucial victory that lifted us up to 15th in the table.

Everton (A): 0-2

Our luck ended at Goodison Park as a frantic fixture list took its toll on my small squad of players. Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored twice in the first half hour to set his team on the way to a win.

We huffed and puffed but we couldn’t blow the Everton defence down, who were resolute in their task. Unfortunately results elsewhere went against us and we ended the game looking nervously over our shoulders at the chasing Brighton.

All in all it hadn’t been a terrible month. We managed to take 8 points from 7 tricky games and there was reason to be cheerful as we looked forward to the New Year. Check back tomorrow to see how we fared in January.

Read Part Six HERE

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