Moving up the Match of the Day order

We return to action after the shock result before the international break.

Date: Saturday 21st October 2017
Opponent: Aston Villa (13th)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=6/4, Draw=2/1, Aston Villa=13/8
Weather: Drizzle, 13C
Referee: Mr. Keith Stroud
Exeter City Lineup:

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Aston Villa Lineup:

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Bertin Matip makes his 75th career league appearance. Three minutes in, Federico Cenci passes to Rainer Breu; he turns and fires low from 12 yards out. Loach dives, but can’t reach it. Unfortunately, it goes just wide of the post. Three minutes later, an inswinging Matip corner is met at the near post by Cenci. He heads downwards. Unlike Breu, he’s able to get his effort on target. However, a diving Agbonlahor header clears the ball off the line and keeps the scores level.

19 minutes in and Johansson passes to Agbonlahor. He’s 12 yards out and, like Breu, elects to shoot low. Amos dives, but can’t reach it. Unfortunately, it goes in and the visitors take the lead.

We look to hit straight back. One minute later, Cenci snaps a shot from 12 yards, but it’s straight at Loach who holds on to the ball. The 22nd minute sees Fabio Mora cross from the right. It gets deflected. To Cenci. 12 yards out. He makes no mistake, firing a low, powerful shot past Loach for his 5th goal of the season.

Cenci’s evidently got the taste and goes looking for more. Three minutes later, he’s 25 yards out and lets fly, but it’s no danger to Loach’s goal as it soars well over the crossbar.

Aston Villa go close to retaking the lead in the 31st minute when Agbonlahor crosses from the left; Kovacic meets it 10 yards out and hits the post, with Nathan Ake on hand to remove the danger. We go close to taking the lead in the 35th minute when Breu shoots from 20 yards. Loach saves on his line.

A goal before half time seems inevitable and it comes in the 40th minute. Muamba hits a free kick down the middle and Agbonlahor flicks on. The defence watches Amos come out, but no-one has gone with Bent, who gets to the ball first and finishes from 8 yards out. A straight free kick and no-one tracking a runner is a disappointing way to concede, especially with half time so close.

Whilst Villa’s second goal is disappointing, their third goal is outstanding. It comes two minutes later. Ku Ja-Cheol is 25 yards out and curls an effort into the top corner, putting Villa in complete control.

My half time words seem to have little impact and Villa start the second half the stronger of the two sides. Agbonlahor shoots wide from 16 yards in the 48th minute. Three minutes later, he’s 12 yards out and fires into the roof of the net, extending Villa’s lead further. Things are starting to get embarrassing now…

I make a straight swap substitution in the 53rd minute:

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With little happening, I make another like-for-like substitution in the 62nd minute:

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Aston Villa make a change of their own in the 67th minute:

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With 74 minutes on the clock, Breu cuts the ball back from the right byeline. It reaches the penalty spot, where Cenci volleys in his 2nd of the game (and 6th of the season) for what can only be a consolation goal.

Aston Villa make two changes before restarting the game:

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I make my final substitution a minute later, moving to a more defensive formation as I look to ensure our goal difference gets no worse:

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Agbonlahor comes close to ruining this plan in the 79th minute when he hits the post from 8 yards. With three minutes to go, he enters Mr. Stroud’s book for a foul on Ilica Perak.

We win a corner in the 89th minute. Matip takes an outswinging corner and Breu flicks the ball on at the near post. It reaches Ake at the far post. He’s two yards out. He heads the ball. He scores! His first goal for the club! Surely we can’t snatch a draw…

The first minute of stoppage time sees Bent hit a ferocious shot from 16 yards as he looks to secure the points for Villa. Amos makes a wonderful save, diverting the ball behind for a corner. Kovacic shoots from 18 yards a minute later and Amos parries the ball. Although we clear the ball, it’s enough for all three points to head to the West Midlands.

Result:

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Man of the Match: Federico Cenci
Ratings: Amos (5.9), Mora (6.7, A), Ake, 7.2, G), Vukovic (5.6), Riccardi (6.3), Matip (6.9), Johnson (5.9, sub 62), Hayes (5.7, sub 53), Michel (6.6, sub 74), Cenci (9.2, 2G), Breu (7.3, 2A). Subs-Gazzoli (6.9, on 53), Norwood (6.9, on 62), Perak (6.9, on 74).
Attendance: 8,105
League Position: 13th
Match Stats:

Villa #FM12

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Cenci’s two-goal stormer sees him make the Premier League Team of the Week.

Fabio Mora goes down with the flu and will be out for 5-7 days whilst he recovers. That means my top two right backs are out for our next game.

Kevin Bjerkestrand moves to Hereford United on loan for one month after an offer is made and all parties agree. I receive loan extension offers for Erik Stage and Bruno Pierrat from Yeovil Town and Carlisle United respectively. I agree to both; Stage agrees, but Pierrat rejects.

Our stadium expansion is completed and we will have an extra 4,000 seats for our next home match. We’ll have a five figure attendance!

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Aston Villa 1-0 Birmingham City

Aston Villa claimed victory and bragging rights over Birmingham City in the third round of the League Cup last night. The first half saw a fairly equal game, with Birmingham arguably looking the slightly stronger of the two teams, although neither goalkeeper was really tested. There were some heavy tackles, but the referee looked to play advantage where possible and keep the game going.

Sherwood brought on Jack Grealish and Jordan Ayew at half time and it had the desired impact as Aston Villa started to control the game and look threatening, something they had not really achieved throughout the first half. Rudy Gestede broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute with a powerful header into the corner of the net from around 10 yards out following a cross from the left wing. After the goal, Birmingham started to come back into the game again and should have really levelled the scores through Maghoma, but he could only roll the ball softly to Guzan.

Sherwood’s changes at half time made all the difference, with Aston Villa looking more balanced and threatening. Clark in midfield might have limited the chances Birmingham were creating, but it was also doing the same for Aston Villa. The substitutes (Grealish in particular) were a constant threat and provided an out ball for the Aston Villa defence. Birmingham look set to have a good season, although they will need to be more ruthless in the final third; for Aston Villa, it looks as though it could be another long, difficult season.

Aston Villa 0-4 Arsenal

Arsenal cruised to victory in the FA Cup Final against a lacklustre Aston Villa side at Wembley. Arsenal started the better of the two and remained in control throughout. Aston Villa were able to successfully break the game up at times with fouls, but Arsenal started to create chances as the game progressed. An excellent reflex save from Given whilst going the wrong way and a last-ditch block from Richardson kept the scores level until five minutes from half time, when a strongly hit left foot effort from Walcott opened the scoring.

Arsenal only had to wait for five minutes after the half time break to increase their lead, with a swirling, dipping shot from Alexis Sanchez from 30 yards out wrong-footing Given and going in off the underside of the bar. Mertesacker extended the lead with a free header (although it was far from clean) from a corner 10 minutes later and Giroud completed the rout with the final kick of the game with a deft flick at the near post as the Aston Villa defence switched off completely.

Arsenal fully deserved their victory, but Aston Villa posed no threat to them at all. Sherwood was entrusted with keeping them up and it appeared as though the final was an unnecessary distraction for players who didn’t seem to see the game as important and were always a step behind. Villa’s only tactic appeared to be getting the ball wide for a cross in to Benteke, but with Arsenal able to stop this by keeping the full backs pressed back, there appeared to be no other tactic and Villa struggled to pose a threat at all. There is clearly a lot of work for Aston Villa over the summer and for a second season, Arsenal have achieved qualification for the Champions League and won the FA Cup, although they are still a few players short of a genuine title challenge.

Top 3 achievements

Sometimes on Football Manager, things go just right and the season ends in glory. Below are my top 3 achievements on the game.

3. Division 3 Champions This was on a version of the game around the early 2000s and I managed Exeter City to the Division 3 title, which was won with relative ease. Striker Reinier Moor powered us to glory, scoring 44 goals in the season. This feat was even more impressive as he missed the first month of the season through injury and in most games he played, I substituted him around the 60 minute mark to ensure he was fit for the following game. Despite 44 goals, he was still 3 goals behind Jackson at Doncaster. Plenty of goals and attacking football for the fans to savour and a lovely shiny trophy at the end of season to be admired!

2. League 1 Champions I achieved this on the 2012 version of the game and managed Exeter City. The game started with us in League 1 and with odds of 40/1 for the title, suggesting that avoiding relegation should be our priority. However, 4 signings (2 of whom were on loan) proved to be key. I signed centre back Nathan Baker and right back Chris Herd on loan from Aston Villa and both had excellent seasons – I ended up signing Baker permanently when released by Villa at the end of the season. Defensive midfield signing Seyfo Soley acted as an excellent shield to my newly improved mean defence. Going forward, attacking left midfield signing Sone Aluko wreaked havoc and set up numerous goals as well as chipping in with a few vital goals himself. Despite his jinking runs down the left, the strength of the team was in Soley shielding a mean defence and the season saw a succession of 1-0 victories along with plenty of 0-0 and 1-1 draws. Not pretty or exciting, but it paid off with the title at the end of the season.

The Double Achieved with Exeter City on the same version of the game as I won the Division 3 title 2 seasons before; the double consisted of the LDV Vans Trophy (as I believe it was then) and the Division 2 title. The LDV Vans Trophy was won in regular time and with relatively little excitement, with all that being saved for the league title. With two games to go, we were six points behind leaders Tranmere and had to go there for the penultimate game before finishing the campaign at home. Our visit to Tranmere saw a 2-0 victory, which guaranteed promotion and an outside shot at winning the title (although we would need to win and Tranmere lose). A comfortable 3-0 victory at home, coupled with Tranmere losing on the final day of the season, saw an unlikely title win (and an incredibly satisfying one!) on goal difference. As Sir Alex Ferguson would have said: Football? Bloody hell!

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool

Aston Villa are through to the FA Cup Final following a dominant display over a lacklustre Liverpool side. Liverpool drew first blood after Villa failed several times to clear a ball, with Coutinho sliding the ball nicely past an onrushing Shay Given. However, the lead did not last long, with good play down the left wing between Delph and Grealish finding Benteke unmarked 14 yards out and he made no mistake. Delph scored the winning goal in the second half by slotting past Mignolet after a fine backheel by Benteke and good pass from Grealish.

Apart from the five minutes or so after Nathan Baker went off injured, Villa were by far the better side on the day. Their play seemed to have purpose and they were constantly probing, with Delph running the game from midfield and Benteke and Grealish looking dangerous throughout. In contrast, it would be difficult to pick out a Liverpool player who had a good game; there were some good individual moments, but overall there was very little shown.