Let’s Try Not to **** this All Away: A Burton Albion Story

Pre-season was going to be a busy schedule with 2 cup competitions and numerous friendlies including a mini tour of Portugal were we are apparently we are very popular, who knew. That was something we decided we would do yo try and integrate new players and have a look at a few of the younger guys who are now looking to make the break into the 1st​ team.

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A fairly successful pre-season were we only lost twice and both of them narrowly to pretty good opposition in PSG and Chelsea. What was most pleasing was that when we played ‘Europa League’ type opposition we were winning comfortably. Overall very pleased with pre-season and the fitness levels of the whole squad going into the season. You may have noticed a few unfamiliar names among the scorers so lets get on with the transfers.

The outs first of all. In the main they are players who have slipped down the pecking order and weren’t going to get any football, with the exception of Jack Grealish who just kept whinging about not playing enough and wanting to leave, it was less hassle to sell him and as he was free the previous it was all profit.

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Now the ins. We needed bodies in the centre back position, what with Spurs not loaning us Filip again this season and the departure of Monteleone, so that was were we spent the majority of our money. Like the strikers last season I think I may have brought in 1 too many, but in my defense I was expecting another to leave after I had accepted a £20m for Bonacic only for him to reject the move, by which time I had spent the money and bought in a replacement.

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So a couple of big money buys, we made Batista loan permanent, a couple of youngsters with a bit of potential and yet the three signings I’m happiest with are the 3 bargains who I expect to make an impact in the 1st​ team this season. Anyway here are all the new faces:

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So our 1st​ big money signing. Brought in to replace Filip after Spurs wouldn’t let him go. £21m from Man City seems a bit high but already a physical beast and team that with decent mentals and the key centre back skills and we will hopefully see him improve over his time with the club, especially given that he is only 21. Was a nailed on starter until I thought I had sold another defender.

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So this is the guy that I had no intention of buying but as mentioned previously I had thought one of my CB were on their way out. Physically and mentally very good and decent in all the technical areas you would want in a CB. Will fight with Pavel for the starting position, though with Europe I’m sure both will get plenty of game time.

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So another centre back and one that I definitely didn’t need, but when my scouts finished scouting him and advised of his £1.9m release fee I couldn’t resist. One for the future who will probably get a few games in the cups assuming we can progress. That said already a solid defender who can easily do a job if called upon.

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Batista was our top scorer last season and finally joins full time after I had messed up last season and only managed to get him on loan. Can play in all of the roles we play in midfield and very well rounded and if I’m honest a snip at £10.5m.

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Another midfielder and again well rounded. Fernandes can do it all in midfield which will probably plenty of games. Impressive stats all round make him a very good signing and at £1.8m an absolute bargain. Will start as a back up but could very easily push his way into contention for a starting place very quickly.

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Cisse appeared on a scout report and once I had had him completely scouted I had to buy him. At 22 he has time to improve but with his stats how they are already I’m not sure there are too many areas he needs to improve. He will also start as a back up but will definitely be in the Europa Legaue and cup teams. Could easily force his way into the 1st​ team.

So with new faces on board and a decent pre-season behind us we would head into the new season full of confidence and with the fixture computer being kind to us we would face 3 winnable games against Fulham, Bournemouth and Wolves in the first month of the season. I would like all 9 points but would settle for 2 wins. I have to be targeting a similar season to last year, though the bookies still think we are more likely to be involved in a relegation fight than a title challenge!

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So a good start with 2 wins and a draw and if I’m honest the wins were pretty routine whilst the draw with Wolves was pretty lucky as we rotated the sqaud and very nearly payed the price. Still good form to carry into September were we would face Champions Man U, West Ham and Newcastle in the league, EFL cup action against QPR and also our first Europa League game against as yet unknon opponents.
So a couple of bits of news before we move onto the football. Aug saw our player win both Young Player and Player of the Month. Good to see our youngsters performing well and getting the recognition they deserve.

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Then of course we had the draw for the Europa League group stages. I also selected my squad were I took the decision to concentrate on the league and left a few of our bigger players out of the squad, that and the Home Grown rules meant that we were never going to be able to fill the squad. This decision did not go down well with a few of the lads we left out and morale took a bit of a hit.

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That said I’m fairly happy with the group and confident that we can hold our own against these teams and would be very disappointed if we did not manage to get out of the group, even with a rotated side playing every game. Anyway on to the games we actually played in September.

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So two league defeats and two wins couple with cup progression and a win in Europe mean a month that’s ok I suppose. If we had manged to get a result against Burnley I’d have been pleased but to lose to a side who are struggling as well is not good enough, it was made worse by the fact we had dominated and Burnley weren’t even in the game until they scored. That was in complete contrast to the Man U game were we were outclassed and only managed one shot and not even on target. Our wins were all in games that we dominated and we the better team.
October was set to be another busy one with Europa League games with Krasnodar and Club Brugge, whilst in the league we would face Watford, Arsenal and Liverpool. Another 2 wins in Europe would almost see us through to the next round and I would expect a minimum of 1 win but the Arsenal and Liverpool games could go either way.

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Good performances in Europe have seen us top our group with a 100% record and 9 points so far, however we are really suffering from a European hangover with defeats in both our games after Europa League. A credible draw with Arsenal was the only highlight of a poor month in the league. The 1 point from a possible 9 has seen us fall down the league and we now sit in 10th​ and six points off 4th​. Maybe Europa League isn’t doing us any good, either that or all the rotation is hurting us, but whatever it is we need to sort it out and fats if we are to make the top 4.
Sorry for the lack of updates, but I loaded an old save just as a bit of a change of scenery and have been totally sucked back in! I will get back to Burton soon though.
Another busy month beckoned in November. EFL Cup action against Arsenal would kick off the month, throw in Europa League games with Club Brugge and Utrecht and league games with Spurs at home and trips to Chelsea and Stoke and this could be a very challenging month. If we can pick up a few points in the league and try and secure our way into the knockout stages in Europe and I’d be happy don’t really care about the EFL cup.

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So not exactly what I’d hoped for. A good cup win over Arsenal is about the only bright spot of the month well that and the fact that we are through in Europe. It would appear that the are really struggling with the amount of games and seem to struggle after mid-week games. I;m beginning to think that my decision to leave out half of the 1st​ team squad from the Europa League squad was a bad idea, as the lack of consistency in team selection seems to be hurting us.

December as always would be busy and add a EFL cup quarter final and the last of the Europa League games and it would add up to 8 games in December. The cup games would mean nothing as EFL isn’t a priority and topping the group in Europe was already guaranteed. In the league we would entertain Leicester and Southampton whilst we would be on our travels to Man City, Norwich, Crystal Palace and Fulham. Given our poor form in the league and the fact that it is beginning to look more like a scrap to stay up than a run at the European places, it could be either a very good month or very bad.

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Not a good month, though I suppose it could have been worse. Too many draws in games that we should be winning and as mentioned we could be sucked into the relegation picture very quickly, being only 5 points off the drop zone at the turn of the year. I have played about with the formation and made it more defensive from the Norwich game on and I suppose 1 goal conceded suggests that it has worked, however as none of our strikers seem to be able to hit any sort of goalscoring form we are still struggling to pick up points not helped of course when you get a player sent off in 21 seconds!

January would be a chance to concentrate on the league with only FA cup games to consider apart from the league and a they are played instead of the league we can finally get a full week between games to recover and prepare for the next. I fully expect to beat Fleetwood in the cup and with games against some of the teams at the wrong end of the table to come I hope to pull away from danger and move towards the safety of mid-table.

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We also sent a couple of players out on loan and sold a few who weren't playing. Wasn't looking to bring anyone in and didn't though did have a long look at Julian Drexler but could afford to pay him £155k per week nor did I want to pay him that.

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4 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats in the league has seen us shoot up the table. I am a little annoyed that we didn’t beat Bournemouth though full expected top of the table Man U to spank us, but overall a very pleasing month.

More of the same in February please.

February would see further FA cup action against Newcastle in the 4th​ round and the return of our European adventure, lets hope we can get to grips with it and keep our league form as it was in January. With Watford and Arsenal in the league and a 2 legged affair with Feyenoord in the Europa League it would be a busy enough month.

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So comfortable wins against Newcastle and then Villa in the subsequent round of the FA cup sees us through to the 6th​ round where we will face Chelsea. Progress in Europe with a 3-1 aggregate win over Feyenoord will see us face another Dutch club in Ajax in the 2nd​ knockout round, however all the cup success is offset by our continued poor league form, only 1 point this month and we slip back down the table and start to look over our shoulder again.

March would again see us battle on 3 fronts in FA Cup, Europa League and Premier League action. As mentioned Chelsea will be the FA Cup opponents whilst Ajax provide the European challenge. Domestically we will face Liverpool, Chelsea and Stoke in the league. We really need to pick up a few points in these games!

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So straight forward in Europe as we move into the Quarter finals comprehensive 4-1 victory over Ajax, however we exit the cup on penalties to Chelsea (we missed all our spot kicks!). Mixed results in the league with Liverpool put to the sword, Chelsea spanked us then a disappointing draw at home to Stoke, That said 4 points from those 3 games probably isn’t too bad, though relegation is still a real possibility, whilst I’m beginning to think winning the Europa League and therefore Champions League qualification is also a real possibility. Anyway onwards to April with Shakhtar Donesk in the Europa League and also a few tough league games including Man City and Spurs!

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Ok so April in the league really didn’t go as planned with 4 straight defeats with the most fustrating thing being that despite the scorelines we were in all of the games and matched the teams for pocession shots and shots on target but just can’t seem to find the net. On the plus side we did make it to the semis of the Europa League where we will meet Sporting. So as we go into the final month of the season we have 3 games to secure our premier league status, we only need a point, but given our form and the fact that we haven’t even managed to score in the league for 2 months could be difficult. On the flip side we are 3 games from Champions League qualification and being Europa League champions. Quite a contrasting season I think you’ll agree.
I would use this against when I was trying to hold a lead or against the bigger teams especially away from home.

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As you can see not a massive difference in the 2 systems, one is just a little more defensive and we play on the counter
Oh and you have just motivated me to play this save again, something I haven't done in weeks!
Thanks for that mate, i appreciate it. Which one did you use in the championship? Do you use control for all matches apart from holding a lead and against big teams? Also what training and OI's did you use?
Thanks for that mate, i appreciate it. Which one did you use in the championship? Do you use control for all matches apart from holding a lead and against big teams? Also what training and OI's did you use?

First couple of seasons in the Championship I used the counter tactic but it was the control tactic that won me the league and that I continued to use in the Premier League. I try to stick to the control tactic as much as possible but when up against the Man Us and Chelseas of this world especially away from home I will swap to the counter one.
No mate, playing as Nottingham Forest. Got to play as the team I love ;) Might give Burton a go after reading this though!
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So been away for a bit, what can I say a combination of life and a bit of boredom with FM, but after a few questions about formations etc I have been playing the save again. So having left you with us needing a point to stay up and being in the semis of the Europa League I suppose I should get on with the update.

Norwich, Palace and Southampton would be our Premier league opposition and despite our poor league form I was confident of beating the drop, though more as I didn't think any of the bottom 3 would win all their games rather than being confident that we would win ours. Among that would be the 2 biggest games in the clubs history with a Europa League 2 legged semi final against Sporting. I hoped we could get to the final and secure Champions League football but again I wasn't confident despite our European form being much better than our league form.

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So 2 draws and a defeat was enough to ensure that we were playing in the Premier League again next season. We ended up 10 points clear of the drop but not good enough if I'm honest. We really struggled to balance Europe with league football and as you can see from the results it is something we will have to do again next season.

That brings me neatly onto our European adventure. Two 1-0 wins, both with very late goals (85mins in both cases) was enough to see off Sporting and put us into the Europa League Final against Marseilles who had seen off Liverpool in the other semi. The Final itself was stressful. We fell behind to a Dembele goal early doors but managed to equalise before half time. Then despite being in control of the game we couldn't score again and we headed for extra time. I had a bad feeling we were going to be the better team and lose but in the 110 minute we got a penalty ans Sisto dispatched it to bring the trophy back to the Pirelli and secure our place in the Champions League, though we have to play a qualifier when I expected to be straight into the group stage, never mind just hope our Champions League run last longer than 2 games!

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So the Final League table looked like this. 15th place just is not good enough, but we still managed to achieve the goal of Champions League football so not all bad I guess.

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Given our poor performance in the league it would be a summer of trying to find the right signings that will allow us to compete both domestically and on the European stage. During the summer I did get a couple of offers to move into international management which I of course turned down!
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So armed with our Champions League money myself and the scouting team set about spending it bringing in 8 players for a total of £60m. We sent a few guys out on loan in the hope that they would gain the necessary 1st team exposure as well as selling a few players who had fallen down the pecking order. This brought us in £18m and a profit on every player except one.

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Not going to say too much about the outs other than in the cases of those going on loan I'm hoping that they will eventually make it to the first team. Those that were sold either didn't play too much last season or have just been replaced this season and I don't anticipate them getting too much game time this season, so I cashed in on them.

The ins were all in positions that I thought required improvement and or depth. I'm pleased with the quality that we managed to bring in and hope that the additions made will be enough to allow us to attack both home and abroad this season.

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So lets have a closer look at the guys brought in to help Burton Albion in their first Champions League campaign.

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Having let our back-up keeper leave on a free we needed a replacement. I had looked at a few 18 year olds who would hopefully progress and just to keep Jordan Pickford as first choice for the next few years, however when this guy was placed on the transfer list for under £5m I could say no. Will probably be first choice with Pickford playing cup games etc but if he was to play poorly I have full confidence in my back up, so there could be a bit of a fight on for the position between the sticks.

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One of the 2 full backs I brought in. I felt that we were lacking a bit on both sides and so looked to strengthen. £9.25m from Juventus shows he has experience at a big club. All round an excellent defender and decent going forward. At 24 we could yet see a bit of growth and will be 1st choice this season.

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Much like his teammate on the other side he is solid in defense and handy going forward. At 26 probably won't get much better than he is currently however I'm more than happy with the £8.25m spent on him and I'm sure will help us tighten up at the back, again will be first choice!

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Solid if unspectacular. Brought in on loan from Valencia just to have an additional body at centre back. I don't expect him to play too many games unless we get some sort of injury crisis, but looks like he could do a job.

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Picked up on a free after being released by Man City and then sent out on loan. I think he may have something about him and if not he was free so can be sold on for a profit. Don't expect to see him in the first team anytime soon though.

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Listed by Leverkusen and something that I wanted to add to the team was a right footed right winger so the Mexican fitted the bill. Really quick with excellent crossing and dribbling and for under £7m he could turn out to be a bit of a bargain and I do love a bargain!

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Another option on the left wing, and as mentioned before wingers have tended to blow hot and cold so good to have another option. Pretty well rounded for a winger and at the age of 20 I expect some improvement from him. May well start the season as first choice.

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The final signing and the most expensive, however at £18m I still think he was good value. I felt we lack some depth in attack and when Stevos goals dried up we didn't have anyone else stepping up. Rodrigues is quick, strong good in the air with really good dribbling and finishing. If he can hit the ground running we could have a very good striker on our hands. He will have to fight with Stevo for the number 9 shirt but may well be a starter at least to begin with.
So pre-season would be the usual mix of teams we should hammer and teams that we would struggle against. I was keen to play a few Champions League type teams to test us against some of the best teams. There would also be the usual 4 team tournaments that I organise every year to try and bring in a few quid as with a stadium that only holds 12000 we need to generate every penny we can especially as the wage budget continues to grow!

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So a mix of comfortable wins a few defeats against top opposition and a win over Real Madrid, so happy enough with how things went, especially as due to the number of games I was able to get almost all of the first team squad match fit heading into the season.

August would bring the European Super Cup against Man City before kicking off the premier league campaign against Leicester. Champions League qualifiers with Marseille would sandwich a trip to Wearside and Sunderland. We would round the month off entertaining Bournemouth. Progression to the group stages of the Champions League is a must and I'd settle for 6 points in the League. I will probably treat the Super Cup as another friendly and perhaps rotate the squad against City, though a trophy to start the season is also appealing!
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So not a bad month all in all. Against City I decided to go with my strongest team in the end and it was a pretty even game with them sneaking a 1-0 win. Not too disappointed as it is nothing more than a glorified friendly. In the league we were unbeaten so I can't really complain and happy to see my new striker in the goals, however I think Sunderland and Bournemouth will be towards the bottom of the league so it could be important points dropped. We did make it to the group stage of the Champions League winning on away goals, bit the second leg was a nerve wrecking affair. We had more possession but they had more shots. Both my centre halves scored above an 8.0 so that'll tell you everything you need to know!

Onto September were after the international break we will have Spurs, Man U and Boro in the league Portsmouth in the EFL cup and of course our first ever Champions League group stage game against Zenit. With PSG and Napoli also in the group we could do with picking up a win against Zenit as points against the other 2 may be few and far between. I'm targetting 4 points in the league and even a heavily rotated side should be enough to get past Pompey in the cup.