My love affair with Newcastle United on FM14 (strictly just on the game, mind) is still in its honeymoon after not even two seasons.
I think it’s the most successful time I’ve had at a club though due to the speed at which we’ve become a very good team, won trophies and competed at the highest club level.
As I write we’re on the verge of a win against league-leaders Chelsea which would see us cut the gap between us to three points.
Even after winning the FA Cup and Capital One Cup in our first season and finishing fourth (level on points with Man City in third who pipped us by a two-goal superior goal difference) qualifying for the Champions League First Knockout Round, it still amazes me in our second season we could win the Premier League.
I’ve struggled to win trophies on FM14. My hours played to trophies ratio would be embarrassing for most fans of the game to have I’m sure.
[We have just beaten Chelsea 1-0 at St James’ Park to put us on 69 points after 34 games while they are on 72 after 33.]
I should mention we’re only three points ahead of Manchester United who also have a game in hand but to be competing with the big boys after nearly two seasons and with most of the players I started with, it has to be my most successful save.
John Stones, now a ‘wonderkid’, was the Player of the Match against Chelsea. His passing and positional play was top class and his headed goal gave us the three points.
Stones was an undoubted bargain. He cost £8.75m from Everton. This season he has an average rating in the league of 7.22 in 17 (3) and 7.16 in 27 (9) overall. He has still to make his full England debut which is very strange. The same goes for our striker Facundo Ferreyra who Gerardo Martino continues to ignore for the Argentina side.
Ferreyra has 26 goals in 46 (4) games this season including nine in the Champions League (he’s only second to Lionel Messi in the competition’s goal chart).
Reason’s to be cheerful
Before I go over my tactic and why I think it’s been so effective (if I even know) let me tell you what I’m most pleased with at Newcastle United:
- I have a young, improving squad with competition in most areas. We sold Santon and I was worried he’d be a big miss at complete wing back. Daryl Janmaat/ Sam Byram (right CWB) and Bryan Oviedo/ Alberto Moreno (£10.75m)/ Shane Ferguson have softened the blow of his loss (for £27m). After a shaky first six months, Moreno is looking very good and even has 18 caps for Spain, highlighting what a bargain he is proving to be.
- Almost every player is performing well. The lowest average rating for anyone who has played more than 10 games for us is 6.89 from Franco Zuculini who, although free, was a rash signing. It’s hard to pick out our most consistent player.
- Another thing the above graphic shows is who has so far scored the most goals for us. I’m not complaining about a thus far 49-goal partnership while the selfless Siem de Jong has 16 goals and 10 assists despite being a rotation player.
- We have a stadium capacity of 60,000 up from about 52,000 when I started the save. A sign of board backing, a metaphor for progression, a reward for the fans’ support.
- We have a balance of £15.85m and are projected to make a profit of £2.4m – we haven’t spent that much on wages and players. You don’t win by making profit but it’s nice that we have been successful on the field as well as being financially sensible.What has surprised me
- I’d usually suggest getting the right coach for every training category but I haven’t taken as much care on this as in previous careers.
I stuck with John Carver as assistant manager even though I think he is a hot-head in real life and I don’t think I would get along with him.
I even have Terry McDermott has a fitness coach and he only has two-and-a-half stars for that category (I’ve just found out). Just sacked him.
- Although Dani Parejo is an FM god – hail Dani – his performances in the Champions League this season, including two goals, eight assists in 11 (1) appearances and an average rating of 7.72 in the competition have been awesome and put him in the running for Champions Cup Best Player – another achievement that makes this a dream FM career for me. What’s also surprising about Parejo is his preferred role has quickly gone from CM AP (S) to CM DLP (S). I’ve been training him for the deep lying playmaker role, however, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a player’s preferred role change despite training. Maybe Parejo is very versatile.
I thought my first season’s formation was the bee’s knees but as we ventured in to season 14/15, it seemed to lose steam, maybe due to a lack of a great half back. Although Massimo Ambrosini was 36 years old in 13/14 it seems he was the ideal player for that role and we apparently didn’t replace him well enough.
Even loan signing, Nemanja Matic, can’t seem to perform in the role – maybe we’ll try to sign a defensive midfielder in summer.
As well as our slow start with the 3-5-2/ 5-3-2, Manchester United’s real life 4-0 win with a 4-4-2 diamond against QPR, inspired a formation change so I simply changed to that shape.
The much higher defensive line has been a revelation for me. It seemed to work a treat in our 1-0 home win against Chelsea.
They didn’t know where to go. They couldn’t play through us and were caught offside numerous times and our full backs didn’t give Willian and Hazard an inch of space.
As you can see in the image above taken during our 4-0 (6-0) home win against Lyon in the Champions League Quarter Final, their left winger/ inside forward Yohann Gourcuff has drifted to the right flank and tries to play it inside to AM (C) Clement Grenier but my players are set to ‘hassle opponents’ and our aggressively high line gives half back, Nemanja Matic, the ability to intercept the ball with my deep lying playmaker, advanced playmaker, attacking midfielder (trequartista), deep lying forward and advanced forward ahead of the ball ready to counter.
I used to think to make good use of the ball not only did you have to use the ‘retain possession’ shout but you’d be best off using the ‘lower tempo’ shout too.
I wanted to play exciting attacking football too so I use ‘higher tempo’. I don’t know how using ‘much higher tempo’ would work.
That’s all for now. I’m so looking forward to the summer transfer window. My main targets are a top quality attacking midfielder who will perform all season long, especially when Remy Cabella isn’t, and possibly another centre back to replace the aging Fabricio Coloccini, 33. He makes mistakes even though his attributes are getting better if anything.
I’m also sending my scouts to look for strikers who can play in the deep lying forward role as all of my seniors are best as advanced forwards. If we can get an even better striker partnership than Juanmi & Ferrerya, it could move us up to the next level.
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