So, I have played until the Merseyside Derby at the end of October, so it’s once again time to update you all on how things are going with the toffees.
The last update covered the month of September, where we defeated Middlesbrough at the Riverside, Chelsea at Goodison and West Brom at the Hawthorns. We also stumbled upon a new 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation – largely as a result of me promising Kevin Mirallas he’d be in the starting lineup when he decided to moan about being on the bench – that had helped us to those wins and brought some brilliant performances out of our central midfielders – and Mirallas. In fact, the only negative in the month was that we’d lost 1-0 to Southampton at Goodison Park. However, when you finish the month 3rd in the Premier League, you can’t complain. Of course, I’m not raising expectations just yet. Realistically, we had only faced Chelsea at that point who are really a top class side. There are many more to come.
This month we faced Swansea, Pep’s Man City and reigning champions Leicester in the league, and Crystal Palace in the League Cup. Have we managed to continue our good form? Has the 4-3-2-1 fallen to pieces? Can I list any more questions?
Well, we’ve had a decent month, but one that I really feel we could have done better in. We opened the month with an effortless win over Swansea at the Liberty, with goals through Barkley and Mirallas – I knew he was too good to stay on the bench – who are quickly becoming our dynamic duo and our most dangerous pair. We absolutely dominated Swansea, with 67% of the ball, and only allowed them 2 shots on target in the whole game – at their ground.
Next up, Pep’s – until that point – perfect Manchester City side at the Etihad. Prior to the match, Pep even said that we’re a good side. That’s nice of him. Lukaku had picked up a knock in the game against Swansea, so Enner Valencia took his place in the striker role. Apart from that, it was my usual full strength side, full of central midfielders and playmakers. That’s my kind of tactic.
Awwww, thanks Pep. Please, be gentle.
However, we surprisingly had the better of the game and the ball, and took the lead through Ross Barkley again in the 28th minute. Despite that, we never really took control of the game, and I always felt City were one good attack away from scoring. I was proved right in the 73rd minute, when we lost the ball in the centre of the park, and City countered with De Bruyne finding David Silva in the box, with Conti being forced to bring him down with a trip – somehow only getting a yellow. Fernandinho then tucked away the penalty to make it 1-1. From there, we continued to have more of the ball, but few chances came our way and the match just petered out and ended 1-1, a frustrating draw. Still, if you’d offered me a 1-1 draw before the game I’d have taken it, and it’s another match that shows the fantastic progress the team is making.
Barkley scores again, firing in from the edge of the box to make it 1-0 against City at the Etihad.
We then welcomed Leicester to Goodison Park. We came out of the traps firing, with Mirallas continuing his good form by giving us the lead in the 14th minute, arriving late in the box to tuck in from Coleman’s cross from the right byline.When we got a pelantly in the 38th minute, I pretty much thought the game was done. However solid and dependable Leighton Baines – who has actually been slightly shaky at times this season – missed the spot kick, and we failed to kill the game off. We were looking extremely passive in the second half, so I made the
stupid brave decision to increase the mentality, looking to kill the game of. Of course, Leicester then hit us on the counter in the 78th minute, and we left Goodison with a 1-1 draw that we really shouldn’t have. Leicester had 3 shots, and one of them went in. I’d say I’d been FM’ed, but it was through my own doing. I’m clearly the Kevin Keegan of Football Manager. I will love it if we beat them…Sorry.
Lastly, we played Crystal Palace in the League Cup, and with the game being 3 days before the Merseyside Derby – info on what I’m doing for that is at the end of the update – I rested everyone. With a weakened team, we promptly went 2-0 down with goals by Zaha and Benteke. Palace are like my bogey team in FM sometimes, I don’t understand why. At about 70 minutes, I decided that I wasn’t making any substitutions, and was more than happy to let the game just fizzle out. Yes, go forth my sacrificial lambs! Of course, my sacrificial lambs then scored 2 through Oviedo and Rodriguez to equalise and take the game to extra time. Lovely. Just what I needed. I decided that only Lukaku – who needed fitness having returned from injury just before the derby – would be brought on, and he came on in the 105th minute. He promptly scored 2 in 3 minutes before being subbed off, and two more from Arouna Kone gave us a 6-2 win AET. Why we suddenly exploded in extra time, I have no idea. Anyway, we’re through.
So, before the Merseyside derby, we sit 3rd in the Premier League, 5 points behind an unbeaten Manchester City in first, and 3 points behind the also unbeaten Arsenal in second. Amazingly, 4th and 5th are Burnley and Watford. Now that we’ve faced Chelsea and City, and not lost both, I’m starting to feel more confident about our prospects this season. I’m still not going to necessarily change my expectations, but I’m starting to think that maybe European football is very possible next season. However, we still have to face other top teams like United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool.
Now, speaking of Liverpool…..As I said in the previous update, I want to do something a bit more special for the first Merseyside Derby of this save. So, what I’m going to be doing before the game is an ‘interview’ with my manager. So, what I need for the interview are some questions. So, I would like you all to come up with the questions that you want my manager to answer prior to the derby. Do you want me to talk tactics? Or how Liverpool will play? Or player selection? You can send in your questions either in the comments section of this blog, or on Twitter (@JLAspey). I really look forward to seeing what you all come up with, and once I’ve got a good amount of questions, I’ll post the interview as the next update, and then the Merseyside Derby itself will form part of the proper November update, in which we’ll also play Man United, Burnley and Sunderland in the league, and we’re also in League Cup action again.
So until then, thank you very much for reading, and as always should you have any questions about the save itself or FM17, please feel free to ask in the comments section or on my Twitter (@JLAspey). Thanks again.