It’s time for our first cup final of the save so far, if you need to catch up on how we got here then please click here to do so or if you’re new to this save here is a link to the introduction that explains the rules of the challenge.
The DFB-Pokal final was to be played in Berlin and we were up against fellow Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart who had finished 10 places below us in 13th making us strong favourites to lift the trophy. Other than the absent Andreas Schjelderup I had a full squad to choose from, he had missed the last 3 months of the season with a broken ankle. My first 11 pretty much picked itself, the main debate was whether to play Diaby or Januzaj on the right wing, both had been under par this season but Diaby had better form going into the match so got the nod.
1 – Stuttgart get the game underway, playing it around at the back nicely allowing their defenders to get a feel for the ball. Leverkusen’s high press forces them to hurry and as they move the ball into midfield Endo tries a cute pass to Nazario but Derimbay reads it, cutting out the pass before quickly finding Kvaratskhelia in acres of space on the left hand side. The Georgian gets his head up and spots the run of Belotti who he finds with a lofted through ball, the Italian takes it in his stride on the left hand side of the area before drilling it across the goal but Bredlow is more than equal to it, palming it away before a defender clears it up field.
7 – Stuttgart have it at the back and look to move it forward quickly finding Silas on the right who cuts inside, he breezes past his man and slots it through to Tyler Roberts who is away from his man, he enters the penalty area, gets his shot away but its turned behind by Livaković for a Stuttgart corner. An opportunity wasted, it was from a much better angle than Belotti’s earlier effort. The following corner is a poor one, straight into the arms of Livaković.
12 – Frimpong gets away for Leverkusen down the right but his cross is blocked and Stuttgart look to bring it away with ball playing defender Torunarigha carrying it out from the back. A few neat passes are exchanged in the centre of the park before Endo tries a clever chipped balled which is again intercepted by Derimbay who cushions a header to Kvaratskhelia. This time the winger is much more central and he threads a ball between centre back and full back for Belotti to run onto. The Italian doesn’t need a second invitation and smashes it first time into the roof of the net. GOALLLLLLLLL!!! Bredlow doesn’t even see it. Its Belotti’s 49th goal of an incredible season! STUTTGART 0-1 LEVERKUSEN
13 – From kick off Leverkusen go to sleep and Roberts is able to play Bruno Nazario through, he has the freedom of Berlin but absolutely fluffs his lines producing what can only be described as a pass back to Livaković. A big let off for the favourites.
16 – Its a Leverkusen free kick out on the right hand touchline, Derimbay swings it in, Belotti rises like a salmon and guides his header into the roof of the net. GOALLLLLLLLL!!!
But hang on, the linesman’s put his flag up and its gone to VAR. The check seems to take an eternity, its offside. NO GOAL! It remains 0-1.
31 – Wirtz swings in a corner from the left, Tah makes that familiar front post run where he meets it and glances it past Bredlow, GOALLLLLLLLL!!! There is no VAR check this time, Leverkusen have got their 2 goal lead. STUTTGART 0-2 LEVERKUSEN
51 – Cucurella plays a one, two with Derimbay from a throw in in the Stuttgart right back area. He swings a cross in but its over everyone’s head, luckily Frimpong is backing up on the far side and keeps it in play, he swings it back in and its met by a bullet header from Kvaratskhelia. GOALLLLLLLLL!!! Surely its game over now? STUTTGART 0-3 LEVERKUSEN
75 – Inverted winger Moussa Diaby has had a quiet afternoon, he is taken off for Adnan Januzaj. Could this be his last appearance in a Leverkusen shirt?
81 – A Derimbay corner is swung in towards Tah but the Stuttgart defender gets there first to head it clear. It goes straight back to Derimbay who puts it back into the mixer, Belotti gets there first but he puts it just grazes the top of the crossbar. It remains 3-0.
94 – The referee blows his whistle, its finished STUTTGART 0-3 LEVERKUSEN.
BAYER LEVERKUSEN ARE THE WINNERS OF THE DFB-POKAL!!!
My first trophy ticked off in the Glory Hunter challenge, it’s great to have the trophy cabinet open but there is a long way to go as you can see below!
The fall out of Bayern not winning the league or cup was that Nagelsmann was sacked so it will be interesting to see who takes over there. And no I will not be applying, I am committed to winning the Bundesliga with Leverkusen. Elsewhere in Germany Filippo Inzaghi has become the new manager of Wolfsburg following the sacking off Michael Frontzeck so we may see them improve next season.
For a second season in succession the top 3 in the Premier League were Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea, in that order. Man City also won the Champions League beating Real Madrid 3-1 in the final, their summer signing Kylian Mbappé with the winner. Aston Villa secured a shock Champions League spot finishing in 4th with Liverpool down in 5th again. To add to Liverpool’s misery they were beaten by Everton in the FA Cup Final. Ernesto Valverde had been Man Utd boss but was sacked and replaced mid season by Didier Deschamps. You’ll know Thomas Tuchel is Germany manager after my reference in the previous chapter, that was after being sacked by Chelsea and surprisingly replaced by Ruud Gullit for a second spell in charge at the Bridge. Roberto Martinez hadn’t had such a good time of it after winning the World Cup with Belgium, he was appointed West Ham boss in January but couldn’t keep them up.
After a 2 year absence PSG were once again champions of France and they completed the double by retaining the Coupe de France beating Auxerre 2-0 in the final. Unai Emery was hired at the start of March to save Saint-Étienne but it wasn’t to be as they were relegated. Lyon have now got Frank Lampard in charge but he was only able to guide them to a 5th placed finish.
Inter Milan romped home to the Serie A title, 15 points ahead of second place Atalanta but they were defeated in 2 cup finals. Napoli smashed them 3-0 to win the Coppa Italia and in the Europa League final we had a Milan derby which AC won 1-0. There have been a lot of managerial changes in Italy. Allegri was sacked as Juventus boss after finishing down in third whilst Antonio Conte has taken over as manager of Lazio. Joachim Löw only made it a year as Napoli boss and was replaced in January by Roberto Mancini. Luis Enrique took over as AC Milan manager back in December.
Barcelona were crowned La Liga champions and made it a double beating Celta Vigo 2-1 in the Copa Del Rey final. The only managerial change of of note in Spain has seen Giovanni van Bronckhorst leave Rangers to take over at Villarreal.
Despite winning the cup there was still plenty for us to improve on as the 22/23 campaign drew to a close. Here are a few summary points as I look back on the squads performance:
- Belotti has been insanely good and keeping him is critical to future success
- Khvicha Kvaratskhelia had a slow start to the season but really came good during the second half
- Both right wingers Diaby and Januzaj haven’t been good enough
- Donny Van de Beek started well but tailed off a little, I think I can do better, I won’t be signing him permanently
- I’m happy with my first choice defenders and goalkeeper, its midfield where we really need to improve
To back that up here is a look at the squads stats for the season:
I really want to win the Bundesliga in the 23/24 season or at a minimum challenge for the title. We have come 3rd twice now, we haven’t been too far away but we’ve not really got involved in the title fight yet and this has to change. You have 4 years on average to tick a country off in Glory Hunter, we are half way through our time in Germany, its time to take things up a level. Our consecutive Champions League qualification has been rewarded with £51.44m to spend, much more competitive than the last few seasons.
Before I get into our summer ins and outs, the most important bit of business I did was a renewal. Club Captain and lead talisman Andrea Belotti confirmed he was happy to stay and signed a new contract, fantastic news!
Glory Hunter isn’t about looking after the future of your club, its about spending as much as you can, winning trophies and moving onto the next club. So far I’ve been building something at Leverkusen but now its really time to go for it and go for it I did! I went big, I sold a lot of our bigger names and bought some even bigger ones in. I loaded transfer offers with small up front fees with larger ones to follow meaning that in total I spent way over the £51m I’d been given. How much over? This much….
I wasn’t messing about, so lets get into it.
With Van de Beek returning to United, I needed a new attacking midfielder. I wanted someone who could come in and hit the ground running so I stole 4th placed RB Leipzig‘s best player Dani Olmo. A class act with great technical ability who is also fluent in German. Welcome aboard Dani!
RB Leipzig now had a of bit money to spend and rather than go elsewhere with it they came straight back to me, giving the majority of it back. In return I gave them Patrik Schick, he was no longer in my first 11 and I had found a much cheaper replacement for him so when they bid I was more than happy to accept. His replacement came from another Red Bull side, this time RB Salzburg. It was Slovenian Benjamin Šeško who has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the world.
Next I needed to sort out the ring wing, Diaby left to join Arsenal and in came Victor Tsygankov from Dynamo Kyiv, an outstanding talent who will be my first choice in that position.
Januzaj also left and to one of my main rivals Borussia Dortmund, I didn’t care that he was going to a rival as I just don’t think he’s a top player, he was good when he first signed but as we’ve moved on we have left him behind. Brazilian youngster Ângelo from Santos replaces him, another with great potential, he will be back up to Tsygankov.
On the left wing I was happy with Kvaratskhelia but back up Schjelderup needed game time that I couldn’t give him to develop. He broke his ankle last season which had knocked him back, I decided to lend him to RB Salzburg for the season so that he could get back on track. I went big on his replacement, Hirving Lozano arriving from Napoli.
In the CM attack role Demirbay is first choice but when I bring back up Nicolae Stanciu in to the side that same goal threat just isn’t there. I therefore allowed the Romanian to join Stuttgart and replaced him with Houssem Aouar, a considerable upgrade.
James Tarkowski had done exactly what I wanted as a back up defender but I knew I could do better than him so I sold him to Bournemouth and replaced him with Oumar Solet from RB Salzburg, a side I was starting to build a good relationship with.
This next deal was one I wasn’t interested in doing but back up right back Adam Marušić kicked off about game time so I let him join Schick at RB Leipzig. With Frimpong the clear first choice in this position I decided to go for a player with potential as back up, Brazilian Calegari joining from Fluminense.
I wanted to be able to pick 25 players for my Champions League squad which meant signing a former Leverkusen youngster to meet the homegrown rules. Maduka Okoye started his career with us and re-joined from Sparta Rotterdam replacing Sam Johnstone as back up keeper who went to Aston Villa.
My final signing was one for the under 19s and made out of nostalgia thanks to a previous save. For those of you who followed my Turkish Delight series you will be familiar with my love for Burak İnce, he was available for just £1m so I snapped him up and loaned him straight back to Altınordu to continue developing. If we need a 4th season here he will be useful as a squad player.
That was that and it left my squad looking like this:
|Position||1st Choice||2nd Choice||3rd Choice|
|GK – SK||Livaković||Okoye||Lomb|
|RB – WB||Frimpong||Calegari|
|RCB – BPD||Tah||Solet|
|LCB – BPD||Tapsoba||Schlotterbeck|
|LB – WB||Cucurella||Pellegrini|
|CM – BWM||Camara||Andrich|
|CM – CM (A)||Demirbay||Aouar|
|RW – IW||Tsygankov||Ângelo|
|AM – AP||Olmo||Wirtz||Paulinho (utility)|
|LW – IW||Lozano||Kvaratskhelia|
|ST – PF/AF||Belotti||Šeško||Bravo|
The squad is much much stronger than it was, especially in midfield. There can be no excuses now, we have to fight for the Bundesliga title this season. Can we win it? Find out next time.
Cheers for reading,
The Last Throw.