Thanks for joining me for the 4th of my Glory Hunter series, if you missed the last chapter then please catch up here.
Our first season had been a success, not a massive one but a success all the same. We hadn’t won any trophies but we had grown as a club, got closer to the big 2 and left those around us behind. The only major disappointment was our quarter final cup exit against a second tier side when we had a real opportunity to go on and win it.
Onto the summer transfer window then and like in the previous window some of our main assets were wanted by sides across Europe. Spurs did a Newcastle and bid for both of my centre backs but again they didn’t come near to my valuation for either Tapsoba or Tah so all bids were rejected and by the end of the window both players had signed new 5 year deals without release clauses in them, happy days!
Things weren’t so rosy with my main central midfielder Kerem Demirbay who was wanted by Bundesliga and Europa League champions Bayern München. In recent times Bayern have had the pick of their domestic rivals players but I wasn’t going to play along with that and aimed to upset the apple cart. An initial bid of £10m upfront followed by a further £10m further down the line was rejected. They increased this offer by £5m which I rejected again before increasing it by a further £5m but again I turned it down. This left Demirbay far from happy but I didn’t really care. A team meeting was called where senior players asked why I wouldn’t let him go, I pointed out that I didn’t want us to become a weaker side and they soon backed down. Demirbay didn’t, he handed in a transfer request on deadline day but I stood firm, he was going nowhere.
Now onto the business that I wanted to make. In the previous chapter I mentioned 2 signings had already been agreed and those deals would go through on July 1st when their contracts expired. Further to them I wanted another 2 signings, a first choice left back and a back up attacking midfielder. I had £27m available to go and get it done and get it done I did.
I went big on the left back, my biggest signing to date in value by quite a considerable way. Marc Cucurella signed from Brighton for £27m up front, rising to £34m after 12 months. It was a big upgrade and I’d spent my entire budget on him, plus a bit that I’d raised via a few sales which I’ll cover off shortly. I was happy for now with Luca Pellegrini as my back up option but he wasn’t good enough to start as his development had suffered by missing the second half of last season with injury. His replacement Tsimikas had returned to Liverpool after his loan spell had come to an end, he’d done ok and I’d have been fine with him as back up but it was a first choice left back I wanted. I mentioned last season that I didn’t rate Mitchel Bakker and he joined AZ for a measly £2.7m.
Andrija Živković had been a flop, he hadn’t played well on the wing and although he’d been better since switching to attacking midfield, he still hadn’t been very good. He left for Fulham for £7.5m making me £1m in profit having signed him for £6.5m last summer. With no money to spend I dipped into the loan market and Donny van de Beek, the forgotten man at Manchester United, signed on for the season. There was no loan fee, I had to pay 70% of his wages and had the option of making it permanent next summer for £27.5m, a good deal. I’d only been after a back up but he could definitely compete with Wirtz for a starting berth.
Piero Hincapié had been a youngster I’d thought would develop well when I first took charge but despite being given plenty of opportunities he hadn’t improved and had continually played poor. I let him join Rubin Kazan for £3.9m with James Tarkowski arriving on a free from Burnley, a transfer that I’d arranged last January. Tarkowski would only be back up, but I had more confidence in him stepping up when called upon.
My final signing was another one that I arranged last January and was mentioned in the previous chapter, Sam Johnstone arrived from West Brom on a free to be my new back up goalkeeper replacing Lennart Grill who joined Dynamo Dresden for £100k.
Before we turn our attention to the football I’ll give you a quick update on my rivals. Bayern have lost Robert Lewandowski, he’s joined Real Madrid for £35m which is great news. Over the last year they’ve also sold Tanguy Nianzou, Kingsley Coman, Niklas Süle and Benjamin Pavard but they’ve been equally active bringing players in. Their mayor incomings have been Gonçalo Inácio, Anthony Martial, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Luka Jović, Matheus Nunes, Marcos Senesi, Luiz Felipe and Wendel so they still have a very good squad. Dortmund on the other hand have kept hold of their prized assets, only selling Thorgan Hazard to Spurs out of their first team squad. Haaland, Bellingham, Reyna, Moukoko and Malen have all improved to. They’ve also added Yusuf Demir, Brenner, Yussuf Poulsen, Marin Pongračić and Kiril Despodov, they are definitely in a better position than at the start of the save and the team to really look out for. Haaland is the best player in the division and the sooner someone signs him the better, providing it isn’t Bayern!
Now onto the football and it was imperative that we hit the ground running after last years slow start. August was jam packed with 1 cup game and 7 league games due to the mid season disruption of the Qatar World Cup. We made a better start than last season but let ourselves down on the opening day when we were held to a stalemate away at newly promoted Düsseldorf. Further to this we won 5 games but we also lost 1, it was our first defeat to Bayern München who completely blew us apart and the 3-1 score line actually flattered us when you looked at the pattern of the game. It was a stark reminder of the work I still needed to do in order to be able to overthrow them as the best team in Germany. Despite that some of our wins had been quite impressive as had the form of Patrik Schick who followed up a hat-trick away Schalke with a quadruple at home to Hertha Berlin. The surprise package so far were Hoffenheim who found themselves top and had beaten Dortmund but Bayern would go top if they won their game in hand. Our first round DFB-Pokal match was against amateur side Freialdenhoven who we steamrolled 7-0.
The Champions League group stage draw was made and it was very kind to us considering that we were a third seed. We were up against Sevilla who we knew we could beat from last season, Benfica and Krasnodar. I expected Krasnodar to finish bottom and the rest of us fight it out for the top 2. I knew we weren’t ready to win the Champions League so although I wasn’t telling the players this, secretly I’d be more than happy with third place and another shot at the Europa League.
Back to the league and top of the table Hoffenheim were up next away from home, we came away with a point which given their start to the season wasn’t the worst result. We then won 4 in a row keeping us in contention at the top of the table before an unexpected defeat away at Stuttgart after the international break set us back. We bounced back with a win against Union Berlin but in the final game before the Qatar World Cup we had top of the table Dortmund away and lost 4-3 thanks to an 89th minute winner, it was a sickener. Dortmund had won 12 out of 13, they were 4 points ahead of us with 2 games in hand, it looked like we’d have to wait another year before being able to fight for the title. Someone really needs to buy Haaland, he has 34 goals in 19 games and an average rating of 8.64, I’ve never seen anything like it. Their second best goal scorer is Reus and he only has 4 goals, if they lose Haaland it completely changes them as a team. Liverpool are showing as being interested and I pray he moves there in January, if he does they will hopefully slip and give us a chance of catching them. If he stays, I think the title will most certainly be theirs.
Our Champions League form was much better, we cruised through the group winning 5 games and drawing 1 to top the group. The highlight a 2-0 win away at Sevilla.
In the DFB-Pokal we breezed past Erzgebirge Aue beating them 5-0, the big news was that both Dortmund and Bayern were knocked out in the second round making us favourites for the competition. After last years disappointment in this competition we had to put it right this year and win it!
As per usual I’m going to call out a few key points about the season so far:
- Last season Schick ended as my first choice number 9 and he’s still on fire as I mentioned earlier in the chapter, he has 12 goals in 10 starts. Belotti however has taken it to a whole new level with 20 goals in 13 starts and has suddenly leapt to the front of the pecking order. These 2 are bringing the best out of each other and up front is an area I certainly don’t need to look to improve on. If one hasn’t scored by around 65 minutes the other comes on and keeps his place until he fails to score. Its working well and I’m going to continue managing it like this.
- Kerem Demirbay is still in a mood about me not letting him leave and is the worst in training every week. Does that bother me? No because he’s scored 8 in 17 from midfield and has an average rating of 7.49. What does bother me is that he only has 18 months left on his current deal and there is no sign of him backing down and signing a new one. This means he may have to go in January if the right bid comes in. United, Spurs and Bayern are all interested. With this being Glory Hunter you may think its best to keep him and take the risk, but I could well be here for at least 4 seasons which means I’ll have to replace him and that will be hard if I don’t get any money for him.
- My wide men aren’t contributing enough goals, I have no money to spend in January but if it carries on like this I’m going to need to make changes in the summer.
- Donny Van De Beek has been excellent, 7 assists in 14 games and an average rating of 7.26. If this continues and I have the money, I’ll exercise the option to make it permanent in the summer.
- Robert Andrich has replaced Charles Aránguiz as my first choice ball winning midfielder. Aránguiz will turn 34 before the season ends and is now starting to decline. His contract is up in the summer, he won’t be getting a new deal. I’ve identified Mady Camara of Olympiakos as the man I want to replace him with but have no money to do so at the moment. United are also interested in him but hopefully won’t make a move for him yet.
Thanks for taking the time to read another one of my posts, hopefully the second half of the season will see us improve in the league, bring us our first trophy and see us continue our good form in Europe.
The Last Throw.