Rickie's Back Again

SaintMotbot

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After some much needed time away from FM, I have decided it is time to crack on with a story before FM17 comes out!! Following the success of my 'Cracking the top 4' story, It is time for a certain man to return to management!

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Rickie's Return!

So you probably all know the drill by now, the premise is that Rickie has had to retire through injury and is now taking his steps into management. I fancied a challenge at a club that I have never managed before, and following their relegation, busy transfer window and extremely recent managerial replacement, there was only one place to start!

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Hope you will follow and enjoy!​
 

SaintMotbot

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So as I am sure everybody is aware, Aston Villa is a club in a fair bit of trouble. Player recruitment has been simply awful in the last few years and in my own opinion the club was left with a squad of players that were unable or unwilling to fight for the cause. Now the club have been relegated, not only have they been left with a fair few of these players (even after a massive summer overhaul) but these players are also on premier league wages in the championship. Now that I am at the football club, we need to put a plan in place to create a club identity and try and attain promotion back to the Premier League. So what is that plan?

1. Try and shift some of the players on higher wages (Agbonlahor & Richards for a start). I am positive that this money can be spent in better ways, and its not even like the players on the big wages are deserving of them!

2. I want to create a hard working, team work based philosophy within the club to ensure that all of the players are playing for each other as well as for themselves. I will be taking a very careful look at every players team work, work rate and determination attributes before deciding who I am going to sell and buy in the transfer market.

3. Create a new staffing structure at the club with an experienced Director of Football and Heady of Youth Development to handle the clubs affairs while I deal with the football. If the club is to be both sustainable and successful then it is essential to have a high quality academy and scouting system.

Simple right? what could possibly go wrong?

So this is the first team squad that I am confronted with upon my arrival.. (sorry for the complicated view!)

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Instantly I can see a few players that need to go, and it is also quite apparently that we are fairly light in the midfield area. I am going to try and implement a fairly fluid 4-3-3 system which will require a steady and reliable midfield so there is going to have to be some money spent there. Also apparent is that for a formation with one true striker, having 6 front men in the squad is a bit of a stretch! cuts will be made and the money invested elsewhere. While I am extremely pleased to see players like Jedinak, Chester, Elphick and Adomah join the club, there is more work to be done! and what, I hear you ask is my budget for this makeover?

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SaintMotbot

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Two out, one in

The rebuilding job began with the departures of Leandro Bacuna and Libor Kozak who both make the move to Burnley for a combined fee of £5.6 million. Bacuna I didnt feel was going to cut it in the middle of the park, and his defensive stats are too shaky to be trusted at right back, leaving him frozen out of the side. Kozak is the first of the clubs numerous strikers to be axed as he just wasnt going to get anywhere near the first team.

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I also make my first signing for the club in Chelsea youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek who joins on a years loan deal. Ruben is young, hungry and has plenty to prove. At 6'3 he also can provide us with a physical presence in the centre of the park which can be vital at Championship level. Welcome to Villa Ruben!!

New staff structure

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In staff related news, Glenn Hoddle is appointed as the clubs new Director of Football, Ex Blackburn man Phil Cannon joins as our new Head of Youth Development and Martin Wilkinson joins the club from Nottingham Forest to become the new head scout. I am going to entrust these three to make the rest of the changes to the backroom staff and develop their own coaching and scouting teams. In other news Steve Clarke will remain at the club as my assistant manager.
 

SaintMotbot

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Two more in as pre season starts well

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The squad is starting to take shape now as we finalise two more signings. Alex Tettey arrives from Norwich for a fee of £5.2 million. I am really pleased with this signing, he provides us with yet another physical presence but is also surprisingly comfortable with the ball at his feet. Both his physical and mental stats are very good and I am confident that he is a premier league level player.

Also brought in to the club is Junior Stanislas who arrives from Bournemouth for £875k. We were very light on the wings with only really Grealish and Adomah as comfortable options so Junior can give us some depth and experience to get us through a long championship season.

The downside to this transfer window so far is that I am really struggling to shift the players I dont want. There is absolutely no interest from anywhere in Agbonlahor, even when offered out for significantly lower than his value and with the offer of us paying some of his wages. Same story for Rudy Gestede so they will both have to stay in the squad and settle for rotation and backup places.

On a brighter note, Micah Richards has come alive during the start of pre-season and has impressed me so much playing at right back that I have removed him from the transfer list (not that he was getting any offers anyway!).

Speaking of Pre-season we have played our first three fixtures and there are signs that things are starting to come together despite the calibre of the opposition.

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Three games, three wins, and some barnstorming performances from midfield, in particular from Tettey and Westwood who have locked down the two central midfield placings just in front of Jedinak. Three clean sheets in a row is also a promising sign for a defence that is just starting to get to know each other.

In terms of future transfer plans I am still on the look out for another wide player to challenge Adomah for his place and for another central midfielder to add some depth to the squad as I am not overly sure about the qualities of Gardner or Tshibola yet.​
 

SaintMotbot

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And it was all going so well


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We managed to complete our transfer business (barring any outgoings) before the first official game of the season, with the arrivals of Matty James from Leicester for £2 million and Max Clayton from Bolton in a deal that could potentially reach £4.5 million. Matty can provide us with some real quality in the centre of the park and for a young, English player with excellent stats he was a steal at the price we got him for. Max is going to be a bit of a gamble. He is not a player I know an awful lot about but he looks like he could be quality and my scouts are raving about him so he joins as backup to start with but who knows how far he can go.

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Our pre-season finished strongly with good results against Chester and Oxford in which we bossed possession and attempts at goal. The Benfica game is not something I am going to worry too much about, it was a scrappy game and Jonas scored their only goal with a screamer from 30 yards, which is unavoidable sometimes.

but then this happened...

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This is absolutely gutting. Undoubtedly the star of our pre-season, Alex scored two and assisted another in the five games he played. To lose him like this for so long is just plain unlucky and will lump a whole load of pressure on the incoming Matty James to replace him in the side.

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So let me just recap pre season quickly for you with some positives and negatives.

Positives
  • The squad seems to have taken well to the tactics that I am asking them to play (will be covered in a following post) we have managed to control possession and create chances on goal and deny our opposition chances which are the three most important aspects of our game.
  • Our pre-season results have been encouraging, only conceding one goal in six games and winning the other five matches. Hopefully this can give us some momentum moving into the start of the season.
  • I am really happy with our transfer dealings in terms of who we have managed to bring in. Tettey, James and Loftus-Cheek give us real power and options in midfield, while Clayton and Stanislas can offer us some width. We have managed to do this by spending only £12.6 million, £5.6 million of which has been recouped by the sales of Bacuna and Kozak.
  • Mile Jedinak is our new Captain witch Ashley Westwood appointed his deputy. These appointments epitomise our new look, hard working squad and hopefully their influence can show in others performances.

Negatives
  • As good as our pre-season was, the majority of our games have been against really poor opposition. While we have generated momentum we are still virtually blind going in to the first game of the season in terms of where we expect our performance levels to be.
  • Alex Tettey's injury has really soured the beginning of the season for me. He was set to be such an important player for us and now we are going to have to find a way to cope without him.
  • We have really struggled to shift the dead weight in the squad (probably due to their high wages). Agbonlahor and Gestede are still stubbornly sat on the transfer list while there was no interest in Richards or Hutton either.
  • There is a really worrying lack of goals from our strike force. All of them combined have only managed one goal during pre season (that goal belongs to Jordan Ayew) with most of our goal chances coming from central midfield. I am certainly very worried that we have so much value tied up in our squad in the striker position and none of them can find form.
 

SaintMotbot

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So with the first official game of our season just around the corner, now seems as good a time as any to take a step back and have a look at our squad, tactics and what is expected of us this season.

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I am really pleased with how the squad is looking now. We have cover in all the positions we need and some top quality players throughout the pitch for this level of competition. A couple of names out might not go a miss however!

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This is the tactic that I have been working on though pre-season, playing short passing and exploiting the flanks whilst looking for an overlap. Again I am quite happy with how it has been progressing and the team seem comfortable playing in this style.

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So the board have not been too pushy this season in terms of what they expect, but everybody knows how tough this league is to get out of. I am quietly confident in our ability to stay in and around the play off positions as a minimum, and with some friendly draws we can perhaps look at going on a cup run.
 

SaintMotbot

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SaintMotbot

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Aston Villa Vs Derby County
15th August, 2015.

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I said before the season started that I was worried about not having played decent teams in pre-season and we have come back down to earth with a bump. We were without the services of Micah Richards today after he sustained a groin strain which will keep him out for 3 weeks. This was an incredibly frustrating match as we dominated the chances and played some really good stuff, we were just caught out from slips in concentration by a quality striker, which is something we are struggling to do ourselves. Ross McCormack did get his first goal for the club today which is a plus but this has been a really tough start to the season.
 
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SaintMotbot

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Blackburn Rovers Vs Aston Villa
19th August, 2015.

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Heartbreak. We played really well and were ahead right up until the final few moments when FM had one of its fine random moments. Conway squeezes in a shot from a narrow angle, Steer saves it on to the post, the ball rebounds back onto him and dribbles over the line. A draw is not what we wanted today but more signs of improvement after some subtle tweaks to the tactic and the deployment of Ayew on the left wing behind McCormack.
 
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SaintMotbot

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QPR Vs Aston Villa
22nd August, 2015.

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Thats the one we were after! A quite brilliant performance in the first half saw us 4-0 up inside the opening 20 minutes as all the goals we were promising finally came to reality. All it took was a simple change of asking the team to pass in to space, sacrificing some of our possession for some quality chances for our strikers, and Jordan Ayew didnt disappoint, netting twice to take his seasons tally to 4 in 4. The real man of the match though was Albert Adomah who claimed a hatrick of assists.
 

SaintMotbot

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Aston Villa Vs Bury
25th August, 2015.

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Two in a row as we ease past Bury and into the third round of the League Cup. Jack Grealish scored the opener before Max Clayton notched his first for the club to give us an extremely comfortable win and some more momentum to carry forward.

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A tougher draw than I would have ideally liked, but reaching the third round was all the board wanted me to do this season. A nice home tie presents a chance for some of the younger players to shine.
 
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SaintMotbot

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Aston Villa Vs Leeds
29th August, 2015.

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These draws are really starting to hurt now. Alex Mowatt opened the scoring for Leeds with a truly unstoppable effort that nobody could do anything about. Jack Grealish then burst through to level, getting on the end of an Alan Hutton cross to earn us the point. I think this has to go down as a disappointing start to the season.
 

Wigo15

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Slow start mate, but championship season is long :) by the way which data base are you using? In my one aston villa is under new china owner as a suggar daddy foreground :) so they cash rich!
 

SaintMotbot

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Slow start mate, but championship season is long :) by the way which data base are you using? In my one aston villa is under new china owner as a suggar daddy foreground :) so they cash rich!
Thanks man :) I'm using FMWhizzkids transfer update, so I do have the new owner but I dont think he is a sugar daddy!
 

SaintMotbot

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August Review

Results

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A really mixed start to life at the club, as the defensive solidity we showed during pre season has gone out the window, failing to keep a single clean sheet in the league. Ayew has 4 goals to his name though which is a positive and Gealish has goals in each of his last 3 which shows we carry a goal threat.

Table

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A slow start, but still only two points off the playoffs. Its going to be really important to start stringing some form together soon otherwise you can get swallowed up by this league making it really hard to close down point gaps.

Next Months Fixtures

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A tough run of fixtures coming up but a couple of wins could generate some real momentum!

Player of the Month

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Jack Grealish is our first club player of the month! 3 goals and 2 assists in 5 appearances have solidified the starlets place in our starting eleven. Hopefully he can live up to his enormous potential and be the catalyst that can fire us back to the Premier League!
 

SaintMotbot

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SaintMotbot

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Fulham Vs Aston Villa
19th September, 2015.

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OK, so i will be the first to admit that this game almost sent me to sleep! Fulham tried to dominate possession with a narrow diamond but carried absolutely no threat at all. Fortunately on one of our rare counter attacks, Jordan Ayew managed to bury his 6th goal of the season to wrap up consecutive wins and clean sheets! In to the playoffs we go!

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SaintMotbot

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Aston Villa Vs West Ham
23rd September, 2015.

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Out of the league cup. To be honest I didnt think we were that bad in the match, despite surrendering a lot of possession. We created chances but McCormack looks a shadow of the player he was and couldn't convert any of them. In the end we were punished by real quality from West Ham in the form of Payet and Ogbonna.
 
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