Happy new year!
We enter uncharted territory in FM18 as I make it past Christmas and into 2019 and there is lots to report on. With 21 games played we sit on top of the pile with 16 wins, 4 draws and a solitary defeat to Man City. Our 43 goals scored is bettered only by Arsenal whilst only Chelsea can beat our 11 goals conceded. Somehow we are 6 points clear of City in 2nd and a whopping 15 clear of 5th placed Arsenal. Champions League qualification at this stage appears a certainty and we are in pole position for a tilt at the title.
Elsewhere Man City await us in the semi final of the Carabao Cup whilst a trip to Shakhtar beckons in the UCL knockout round. Our cup exploits are rounded out by a visit to Sheffield United in the FA Cup.
Our recent form has been exceptional. Our sole league reversal to City has been followed by (to date) a 10 game unbeaten run, including 7 wins on the spin. Our last game was a 4-0 rout of Brighton, which was a particularly impressive team performance. After an early season dry spell Roberto Firmino has hit 10 league goals whilst also providing 7 assists. Salah meanwhile can match Firmino’s goal output whilst also contributing a further 5 assists, his total goal output across all competitions increasing to 18 in 24 starts. Elsewhere Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to impress, either as a central midfielder or out wide, contributing 6 goals and a mighty 11 assists. Nabil Fekir is equally dangerous, chipping in with 9 goals and 7 assists.
At the back, Alisson has been a strong acquisition. Although not particularly reflected in his average rating, he has made some crucial saves. Van Dijk has been quietly consistent whilst all our fullback options have lodged healthy match ratings.
Whilst sticking to the 433, I have tinkered with the roles to try and get the best out of everyone. I like to play with 3 attacking duties and struggled to understand where to put them. I started with Salah and Mane attacking from wide and one of the midfielders given an attack duty, then switched the midfield attack role to Firmino. I have now switched to make the wide left player a support role, with the striker, wide right and one centre mid role on attack. I think this offers me some variety and potentially offers me some greater flexibility in terms of roles.
Interestingly having actually got underway with the save I have completely ditched my hesitation over using inverted wide players. I may still end up with a traditional winger on one side but I am all in at least one of my wide roles cutting across the box to create scoring opportunities.
Yep, things are going pretty well. It’s just that…
…Salah is scoring but he isn’t anywhere near replicating his real life form. I still don’t quite know how to set his role so that he starts out wide but offers a central attacking threat. I feel like I’m underserving him…
I also feel like I am micro managing every game. It will take me a month to get through a season at this rate. Is there any prospect of a long term save? When is it ok to let go and just play?
…I remain terrified of transfers. The scouting system has been rejigged for this version and I don’t really get it yet. True to form, faced with something I don’t understand I have turned my back on it, hoping it will go away. I understand that the only way to slay this demon is to confront it but for now I am intent on managing us to glory, which brings me back to my concerns over micro management…
…Similarly I worry about the size of my squad next season. Will I have the mettle to sell players and overcome my fear of ‘getting it wrong?’