Heading into October and the league table makes pretty satisfying reading as we sit comfortably on top of the pile with 6 wins from 6 matches. Our defensive record of 4 conceded is pretty good but can’t match Man Utd’s miserly 0, however no-one can top the 15 we have stuffed in the opposition goal.
Beyond the league table things are swathed in a sea of green as we have recorded victories across the board. Wins against Southampton, West Brom and Barnsley in the cup were fairly routine (West Brom providing limited if stubborn opposition) but our first real test came with the visit of Arsenal.
After taking a handy looking 2-0 lead at half time, The Gunners hit back right after the break before drawing level just before the hour. A Coutinho strike restored the advantage, only for that pest Ozil to equalise. Not to be outdone, Coutinho popped up with a winner with just a few minutes on the clock to secure a hard fought, not to mention highly fraught, victory.
Tactically we have remained consistent. It’s funny how before the season starts I set out in my mind what our best team will be but inevitably injuries and form soon blow that out of the water. And actually I now find myself looking slightly further ahead, once I have had the chance to recruit and established a foothold in the game, to perhaps trying out some slightly funkier tactical options.
It’s funny but I had the impression that Coutinho had been fairly quiet but then when I check his stats I saw that not only was he our highest rated player at 7.91, he is also joint highest goal scorer with 5. Sturridge joins him on 5, putting paid to any concerns that a striker on a support duty cannot contribute at the business end. From the rest of the expected stars, Mane has delivered 3 goals and 3 assists whilst an injury plagued Lallana has also assisted 2 in his 2 games.
Our stars though have very much been of the unexpected variety. Eschewing Klopp’s solution of James Milner, I opted to pick the much maligned Alberto Moreno at left back and he has been a revelation with an average rating of 7.65 and 3 assists. He’s joined by perennial back up man Ragnar Klavan with a mighty rating of 7.54, keeping out Joel Matip, who has so far disappointed. Wjinaldum has also impressed when deputising for Lallana, Firmino or Coutinho, netting his 3 goals in a single game and Jordan Henderson has been quietly effective, contributing both goals and assists from midfield.
So far so good then and lots to be satisfied about. But hark, what’s that strange barking noise I can hear from yonder hill?
* Having early success makes me question, is it really me? Am I actually doing anything? I have made no signings, kept all the staff, frequently applied the assistant manager instructions and rarely had to lift a tactical finger mid match. And so a part of my mind won’t allow me to enjoy these victories, determined as it is to taint them.
* It is amazing the power of the neighbour’s garden. I just have to hear the numbers 442 and I get a pang in my guts that says, ‘you need to start again.’ I was listening to the radio the other day and the commentator noted that Man Utd had lined up in their cup game with, effectively, a 424 and I thought, ‘that’s what I should have done!’
* It’s the equivalent of flicking through the TV channels and, despite spotting several programmes you like, keeping on searching just in case the next thing is even better than that last thing that was perfectly good enough in the first place. Or when you get takeaway and you can’t decide between Chinese or pizza and you spend the rest of the night, mouthful by bitter mouthful, thinking that slab of cheese and bbq sauce topped dough would have been a better option than the chow mein and how you have wasted your money.
* So what is going on? These are not just isolated thoughts, there is a behavioural pattern.
Firstly it is worth bringing some real life context into play. I have been dealing with a particularly stressful situation at work that hits on all my triggers of self judgement and confidence. I have been coming home tired and wracked with doubt and therefore sat in front of the monitor in far from peak management condition.
Secondly are the legacy issues I battle; a overwhelming lack of confidence, the underlying assumption that I am no good, stupid, a fraud or any other judgemental, negative label I care to place on myself.
Some perspective then. These thoughts demonstrate my propensity for both black and white thinking (all or nothing, things are either good or bad) and negative bias (the ‘yes, but’ thoughts).
My mind says I am a ‘fraud’ and that I am having no influence because I use some of the game assists. Yes, but then I haven’t played it for 2 years. And as I have gone along, I have gradually started to take control over training and recruitment. I haven’t replaced the backroom staff because I wouldn’t be confident at this stage of getting anyone better so why rush in? Same with player recruitment. These are not negatives, they are positives.
There are bigger tests to come of course. October brings the Merseyside derby whilst we travel to Stamford Bridge and host both the Manchester clubs before the year is out. But my experience with FM14 showed that, once I freed myself from the shackles of inflexibility, I was pretty good at this. Maybe, just maybe, I can start to believe it again.
Enjoyed this blog series? I certainly hope so. I will continue to post regularly over on the Sports Interactive forums and will also be back with an update at season’s end but otherwise this will be the final instalment of this weekly series.
Instead, we’ll get back to normal business, taking a look at some of the great and not so great of gaming yesteryear.