Hello and welcome back to Les Aiglons/ Bonjour et bienvenue Les Aiglons.
Last time out we saw how our second season at the helm on the south coast of France transpired. Despite what was looking to be a season where we became a top-four contender, it turned out to be a mediocre sixth-place finish, meaning no Europa League place but still an improvement on our ninth-place finish first time out.
The board very kindly allocated a transfer budget of £43 million to open season three. However, I had no intentions of spending anywhere near that much.
We spent a total of £6.4 million in the summer window, with a key area of focus being improving our wide attacking options. Coric joined from Roma for a fee of just £2.4 million after handing in a transfer request, and he would operate on the left-hand side of our front three.
Simon joins from River Plate for £3.2 million, a small fee for a player with bags of potential. He will operate mainly as a winger, to get the most out of his outstanding crossing, technique and pace.
Taibi joins from Angers for a mere £210k, unlike the former two purchases Taibi is one for the future and will likely spend some time on loan or in the second team, but think he could push to make it in the centre of midfield in the future. He possesses strong attributes across the board and could suit the role of a box-to-box midfielder.
Out of the blocks
We opened the seasons with a decent run of form, picking up eight points from twelve games in Ligue 1 and managing a 4-3 aggregate win versus Vitesse Arnheim in the Europa Conference League Best Placed Playoff.
However, September came around an Green Day once sang “Wake me up when September ends”. A terrible run of form on all fronts, where we couldn’t hit a barn door with a shovel meant we lost five straight games and failing to score in four of those.
This lead to the board issuing me an ultimatum of picking up twelve points from the next fifteen points available.
Thankfully, as you can see in the above we managed to meet their lofty expectations across the next five games. Otherwise, this blog would be coming to an abrupt end.
After spending only £6 million in the summer window, it meant we had some money available to make some adjustments in the winter transfer window, where we spent another £6 million.
After the brush with sacking earlier in the season, the main area of focus for the winter transfer window was to solidify the defence.
The first signing was that of Konstantinos Mavropanos, a big and solid centre back who joins for what I’m calling a steal at just £2.6 million after handing in a transfer request at Arsenal. He possesses brilliant on the ball skills required to be a ball-playing centre back which are then further complemented by great technical and superb physicals.
The next signing was not one that I was actively looking for, however, Larsonneur has been on my shortlist for a long while, being a young talented French shot-stopper. So when Arsenal came calling for our veteran keeper Walter Benitez on deadline day we secured the services of Larsonneur from Brest for £2.5 million.
As eluded to above, there were outgoings as well as incomings and I have to say none of these were planned. But they have happened so let’s get through them.
The first departure from the first team was our long-standing goalkeeper Walter Benitez. He departed for £18 million to Arsenal. Despite his outstanding attributes, Benitez just didn’t seem to live up to them. How much of this was to do with the defence in front of him? We’ll have to see how Larsonneur gets on.
The next departure was one I debated for a long while before accepting the transfer. Cyprien was a player I looked forward to managing when I started the save. However, despite playing well over our tenure as manager he was somewhat inconsistent and a big of a dressing room cancer who constantly wanted an improved deal which was not supported by his on field performances. He joined rivals Lyon form £13 million.
Closing it out
So, how much of an impact did those transfers make in the second half of the season? Seemingly, a massive impact.
An astonishing run from March to May saw us break our consecutive win record notching up seven straight wins and despite a few draws our unbeaten streak stretched to 13 games. This was ended by a somewhat inconsistent Toulouse team, in a game that came only three days after our Europa Conference semi-final second leg against Besiktas.
As illustrated in the above graph, you can see the impact of picking up 23 of the last 30 available point had in enabling us to finish 7th in Ligue 1. Much to the dismay of the board as we had missed out on the targeted Europa League yet again and this time there was no Europa Conference safety blanket to take our fall.
There was only one was to appease the board, and qualify for the Europa League that has eluded us thus far and that was by winning the final of the Europa Conference League Final. Nonetheless, a Sud Derby
Just the morale boost you want from your board a week out from a European Cup Final.
However, despite that lack of confidence in me, I guided Les Aiglons to their first European silverware. Courtesy of an extra time winner from no other than Kirian, the man who is making it a habit to turn up in Cup finals.
As you can see from the stats, it was an evenly contested game, but it shouldn’t have gone to extra time given their early penalty, which was converted by Borja Mayoral was pathetic.
Thanks to the Derby triumph Nice will enter the Group Stages of the Europa League in Season 4.
A minor rant from me here on the club vision, despite it adding another layer of realism to the game it is hugely flawed. The below message is frustrating, when you have maxed out the youth recruitment, youth coaching and the youth facilities are in progress of becoming state of the art.
Something I always try to do is develop homegrown talent or bring in young talent and refine them for myself. However, it’s hugely frustrating when your Director of Football sells your youth intake stars from underneath you, see Gavin Nampidranza from season two and now Anthony Campos.
Campos was the gem of our second season youth intake, operating as a defensive midfielder in our youth team. But with the attributes, he possesses he wouldn’t have been far of becoming a squad player for the first team with the aim of taking over the main role a couple of years down the line. However, he joins Chelsea for £3.9m potentially rising to £10.25m in the future.
This new feature frustrates me more than the broken club vision. The fact that Marseille, our main rival are stealing our prized talents but there is nothing I can do to return the favour. I have read that in theory our youth recruiters are doing the same in the background of the game, however, I want the satisfaction of a role reversal email coming into my inbox saying we’ve stolen Marseille start recruit.
Finally, another piece of silverware was brought home by the youngsters in our second team, who topped the Reserves Group 1 with 117 points from 34 games.
There were many players with big contributions to the reserves league win. However, I think these two were the main contributors, both of whom are home grown club players.
Mahou was arguable the star man with 17 goals and 13 assists in 28 games.
Boulhendi was responsible for 16 clean sheets in 26 league games, conceding only 14 goals in total. The remaining 6 goals conceded by the reserve team were within 8 games he was injured.
Thanks once again for joining me to recap season two of our journey with Les Aiglons. I hope that you will join me again to see how we can progress in Ligue 1 and as we take on the Europa League for the first time.
P.S – Come and join me over on Football Manager Slack at #cc-fm