Welcome back! Its time for chapter 3 of my Glory Hunter series, if you missed chapter 2 then click here to catch up.
The business I’d managed to get done during January had strengthened the overall quality of the squad, just as the business I’d done in the summer had. The changes weren’t massive but I was managing to make slight improvements in numerous different areas. This showed in our performances during the second half of the season as they went up another notch.
At the midpoint stage of the 21/22 Bundesliga campaign we were already 13 points behind Bayern and 7 behind Dortmund, I expected these gaps to grow further, I just wanted to minimalise that growth. What actually happened was that we pulled back 3 points on Bayern, whilst Dortmund extended their lead over us by 2, almost catching Bayern in the process. It had been even closer until we dropped 5 points out of our last 9 but despite that it had been a tremendous second half of our league season. We were closer to the top 2 than we were to the rest of the chasing pack, RBL finished 4th, a massive 14 points behind us. The two results that stood out were the away wins at Bayern and Dortmund, having drawn with Bayern at home in the first half of the season we had managed to go unbeaten against them so far. If we hadn’t had that poor start to the season where I’d played about with the tactic we’d have been right up there in the title race. This gives me real hope ahead of next season, with this challenge I have on average 4 years to tick off each country and in terms of winning the title with Leverkusen I’m now confident that I can do that.
In the previous chapter I portrayed my disappointment in our European performances so far which gave me little confidence that we’d be able to turn over Sevilla in the first knockout round. I was pleasantly surprised when in the first leg we picked up a 1-1 draw in Spain, I still felt that we’d be up against it in the second leg but I needn’t have worried, an excellent performance saw us defeat the Europa League specialists 3-1 and set up a second knockout round tie against Lazio. It was another tough draw but this time we were at home first, the first leg was one of the craziest matches I’ve ever been involved in and finished 5-5. Patrik Schick scored a hat-trick but was outdone by Ciro Immobile who bagged 4. We headed to the Stadio Olimpico looking to seal a win in hope rather than in expectation but again a fantastic second leg saw us win 3-1 and we were into the quarters. Another difficult test awaited in Dutch champions Ajax but this time it was a hurdle to far. A 2-2 draw in Germany set up another tricky second leg which Ajax won 1-0. Considering how we’d played in the group stage of the competition I was really pleased with how we’d done in the knockout rounds, it was certainly something to build on in the future. Ajax made it all the way to the final where they were beat by Bayern who had finished in third in the Champions League group of death and fallen into the Europa League that way.
Having been really pleased with the first two competitions, now its time for the disappointment. Our third round DFB-Pokal match at home to Jahn Regensberg was an easy 4-0 win, we’d actually been 4-0 up with only 35 minutes on the clock before taking our foot off the gas. We were rewarded with a quarter final tie away at Bundesliga 2 side Schalke, a game we expected to win but didn’t. After taking the lead early through Edmond Tapsoba we went onto lose 3-1, I had played a really strong side to so it wasn’t a case of me having underestimated them, making mass changes. What made it worse was that the semi final saw Schalke play Freiburg. Now Freiburg isn’t an easy game but its one we would expect to win so we should’ve had a relatively smooth route through to the final. Bayern and Dortmund met in the other semi and Dortmund won. It would have been a tough final but it was one we should’ve been in and the quarter final defeat was definitely the low point of my first year in charge and I hope it isn’t a moment that comes back to haunt me in this challenge. Freiburg beat Schalke and therefore faced Dortmund in the final where they caused an upset by winning 3-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Ermedin Demirovic.
Enough about that disappointment anyway, lets now take a look at how the squad have performed and I’ll make a few key call outs:
- Patrik Schick has established himself as my first choice number 9, Belotti also improved but Schick was superb and has become a real talisman over the last few months.
- I played around with Florian Wirtz player instructions in hope of getting more out of him but it actually made him worse. I reverted him back to the default settings and his performances suddenly improved with him scoring in 4 out of our last 5 league games. He is starting to realise his potential and should be a big player next season.
- Jonathan Tah was my player of the season, 10 goals from centre back and an average rating of 7.41, his partnership with Tapsoba is one that I love and hopefully I can hold onto them both over the summer.
- Kerem Demirbay ran Tah close, 11 goals and 16 assists with an average rating of 7.31, he’s another player that I’m a big fan of.
You’ll have noticed that all of those callouts are positive and that’s because I’m leaving the negative ones for the next post where I’ll cover my summer transfer business, those that I’m not so happy with will be on the way out.
Here is a view of the squads stats over the course of the season.
Now lets take a look at the rest of Europe’s top leagues, as part of this challenge I need to keep an eye on who is doing well and who isn’t as I will be moving to those countries at some point in the future.
In England there was a title battle in Manchester with City pipping United to it on goal difference. It wasn’t quite an AGUEEERRROOOOO moment but it was the closest there has been to it since. The big news was that Liverpool finished 5th. Spurs came all the way down in 9th with Levy pulling the trigger on Conte mid season and replacing him with Bielsa. Conte will be one to look out for if I go for a job elsewhere as he is still unemployed. In the FA Cup it was Arsenal that triumphed, beating Brighton 1-0 at Wembley.
PSG were expected to dominate in France but for a second year in a row they failed to win the title, this time finishing behind Monaco, maybe I should’ve started there? They did win the cup though beating Rennes on penalties. Poch hasn’t been sacked, you may well be wondering why and the reason is that they managed to win the Champions League beating Milan 2-0 in the final.
Down in Italy Juventus stormed Serie A finishing 9 points above Inter but they were beaten 1-0 in the Coppa Italia final as Jose Mourinho secured a first trophy as manager of Roma. The big managerial news in Italy was that Spalletti was sacked as Napoli boss and replaced by Joachim Löw.
Finally in Spain Real Madrid were crowned champions by 2 points over Barcelona. Atlético finished down in 6th place but have stuck by Simeone largely due to the fact that he delivered them the Copa Del Rey, again it was Barcelona who finished runners up.
Here is a view of the finalised league tables:
It’s a good job that I’m not looking for a new job at the moment because as you can see it looks like Montpellier would be the best available move and that isn’t a very good one! More interestingly both the Liverpool and Atalanta jobs are insecure which could be ones to keep an eye on.
That’s season 1 down, 19 remaining and currently I have ticked 0 trophies off. The clock is ticking, can I pick my first trophy up next season?
Thanks for reading,
The Last Throw.