The FM17 Aston Villa Project – Episode 4

Inspired by Iain Macintosh’s journey with Everton on CM01/02, I’ve decided to boot up Football Manager 2017 and take Aston Villa back to the glory days of the 1980s.

Previous episodes: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three

It was bad, wasn’t it? No one likes losing at home, but losing like that? I can still see the horror on the fans’ faces across Villa Park as the Huddersfield strikers took turns at pulling our shorts down. That cannot happen again.

I’ve had some time to reflect, both on my own ability to take this Aston Villa side to where it should be and the players’ ability to be a part of something this special. Because it will be special.

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I know I can do it but I have absolutely zero faith in my players right now. Losing 7-0 at home to Huddersfield just Is. Not. Acceptable. But there’s nothing I can do about improving my squad until January. So the (horror) show must continue.

I couldn’t face playing the final three games of August in the last episode, so we’ve still got those to get through before September comes around. To say I’m not expecting much is an understatement. We actually need the upcoming international break to focus on tactics. Yeah, that’s how desperate we are right now. It has become so bad that we at Villa are looking forward to the two week break that every single football fan on the planet dreads.

But back to the here and now. The awful here and the awful now.

Derby County away is next, and they’re unbeaten in their opening three league games. It’s down to a clearly inept Villa to change that. And, to make things worse, morale in the squad ranges from fairly poor to poor to very poor. Christ, how did it even come to this so soon?

pre-derby

No change in tactics, per se, just a tweak in mentality and team shape. The formation remains the same. Jordan Ayew leads the line and I fully expect him to start scoring today. No excuses.

post-derby

Well, at least Ayew scored. Other than that, it was a complete and utter shambles. Matej Vydra bagged himself a pretty straight forward hat-trick and Tom Ince rounded things off with a penalty.

The most worrying thing for me, though, was discipline. Four players booked inside the first 25 minutes, with another two going in the book during the closing moments. Not only do my players look utterly disinterested, but they’re trying get themselves some time off. What’s worse is that I can’t say I blame them….

One of my colleague’s Tinder biography reads: “The biggest risk in life is not taking one.” I’m in a desperate spot right now, and clearly my normal motivational techniques are in need of a revamp. So I think I’ll nick it: the only question is, which risk do I take now? Do I stick with these tactics or do I switch them up again? I’m well and truly stuck here. My players hate me and I’m rubbish at my job. Something needs to change.

It’s Chesterfied Town in the EFL Cup 2nd round next and if I don’t win this one, then I’ll be expecting the board banging on my door asking questions. I could really do without that right now. I can barely look at myself in the mirror, let alone front up for my employers.

pre-chesterfield

Slight tweaks. Just here and there, you know, to try and stumble upon something that actually resembles a working football tactic. Thomas Edison once said that he never failed, just found a 10,000 ways that didn’t work. If it takes me less than 10,000 ways to get this to work, I’ll claim genius.

post-chesterfield

Ok, now, don’t panic. Please don’t panic.

I saw good things out there. Things were actually OK for the most part. We just couldn’t score. It took a Ched Evans free-kick to knock us out but we dominated the game, had 21 shots on goal and, encouragingly enough, got just one booking. Progress. Sort of.

It was much better and I think the board noticed. No banging on the door just yet. The next test for me now comes in the shape of a trip to bottom of the table Bristol City. They’ve lost all of their league outings so far this season. Lose this and the board probably won’t even give me the courtesy of telling me I’m sacked. I’ll probably just find out over my muesli the following morning.

pre-bristol-city

No changes. This is the risk I’m going to take. I saw enough against Chesterfield to suggest the penny will drop here. Please let it be so…

post-bristol-city

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. YES! That’s more like it! That’s what I was looking for. Fight, character, determination and, more importantly, smiles on faces. A few high fives with the fans around the dugout and I dance a jig in the tunnel on the way back to the dressing room.

Ok, so it was only bottom of the table Bristol City who went down to 10-men in the second half, but our performance was superb.

Ayew’s brace was special, Jordan Amavi’s whipped ball in from the left for his first was a thing of sheer beauty. So much so that I’ve decided to turn it in to a gif so we can all enjoy it over and over again until the end of time….

amavi-assist-ayew-goal

Stunning. If Andy Gray was commenting when that goal went it, it would’ve been as spine-tingling as when he described that Steven Gerrard goal against Olympiakos.

“Ooooh you beauty! What a hit, son! What a hit!” And all for a pin point cross from my left-back. Ayew’s finish was pretty good, too.

So this is the Villa I wanted when I took over. Ruthless. I’ve run out of superlatives. Instead of a team talk, I’m so happy that I’ll kiss every player involved delicately on the forehead. I’m a winner, and now they are too. Beautiful.

The fans are happy, too. I’m happy for them, they can see there’s still work to do but the future suddenly looks a lot better than it did earlier in the month.

positive-fan-comments

Apart from these two fans! Ayew scored two goals and we won 4-1, why are they never satisfied!?

negative-ayew-comments

I’m so happy with that last win that I can’t wait for the next game now. We’re at home to Nottingham Forest, which will be tough, but I think we’re going to be ok. Funny what a win can do to confidence, isn’t it?

Trouble is, that international break I was desperate for earlier is now upon us. Typical!

<< Click here for Episode Three | Click here for Episode Five >>

 


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