THE MISSION: Return to Championship Manager 01/02 and win silverware with Everton.
THE CATCH: Everton are in financial trouble. There will be no Cherno Samba for you. Not for a few years anyway…
PREVIOUS EPISODES: Pre-Season ’01; Pre-Season ’01 Pt2; August ’01; September ’01; October ’01; November ’01; December ’01; January ’02; February ’02; March ’02; April ’02; May ’02; Pre-Season ’02; Pre-Season ’02 Pt2; August ’02; September ’02; October ’02; November ’02; December ’02; January ’03; February’03; March ’03; April ’03; May ’03; Pre-Season ’03 Pt1; Pre-Season ’03 Pt2; August ’03; September ’03; October ’03; November ’03; December ’03; January ’04; February ’04; March’04; April ’04; May ’04; Pre-Season Pt 1; Pre-Season Pt2; August ’04; September ’04; October ’04; November ’04; December ’04
Here at The Set Pieces, we take great pride in our almost total lack of reader complaints. Someone called the brilliant Harry Pearson a shit writer once, but we all had a good laugh about that. We sailed close to the wind with Nick Miller’s piece on poppies. Some of you were a bit twitchy, but it’s an emotive subject and that’s fine. But generally, we don’t get complaints because we don’t seek to rile people for hits. But that all changed on Monday.
@thesetpieces Iain, I haven't been following too closely but whenever I do have a peak… Are you a bit shit at this game?
— Joe Entwistle (@Prophet4Profit) February 22, 2016
@thesetpieces Three years of excuses and it's still crap.
Ta ra Macintosh.
— EPM (Till I Come) (@eoinpm) February 22, 2016
@thesetpieces For someone who wrote a book on all the hidden gems on the game, his transfer business is shocking
— Jordan Doyle (@_jordandoyle_) February 22, 2016
That’s just a small selection of the mail we had this week and that is why this is the last time I take advice from spirit guides. It is clear that the 4-4-2 tactic was a disaster. It is also clear that spending on £700,000 on two shit wingers and a talented coward was a catastrophic misjudgement and a scandalous waste of resources. I want you to know that I have considered my future at Kings Dock. But there is no easy way out of this, and nor should there be. I accept that spunking £10m on Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a mistake. That money should have been invested in the midfield, where it was desperately need. This summer, we will correct that error. Until now, it’s a simple case of avoiding relegation and perhaps restoring some kind of dignity.
And so a new plan is a devised. A plan inspired, not by the ghosts of the Holy Trinity, but by reader Robert Warwood who says:
“I suspect you don’t need telling this, but you must ditch the 4-4-2. It only works with the right players. Alas, your team does not have the right players. Don’t let your mysterious visions involving Howard and Alan misguide you. Try a 4-1-2-2-1 fit your players in accordingly. Just because you have four strikers, doesn’t mean you should play more than one. Re-train Zlatan (and/or Rooney) as an AM/Forward and use them behind Samba. Zlatan had dribbling, flair, creativity, team work and passing that would suit this role perfectly. Good luck!”
So here it is: The full backs, Tony Hibbert and regen Scott Byrne (thanks to injuries), will get up and provide the width. The centre-backs will defend zonal and not tit about. Lee Carsley will provide protection. Thomas Gravesen and Gary Fisken will provide the base. Federico Magallanes and Cristiano Ronaldo will both have free roles and Cherno Samba, our only fit striker, will lead the line. The football will be fast and fluid. I like it. I like it a lot.
Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. We battered them. It was an absolute bombardment. They have four shots on target and three went in. Richard Wright is poor. Li Tie is poor. They have no excuse. They could not have had more protection. We were everywhere, tearing Newcastle apart. If we’d have won that 2-0, I would have thought it a travesty. And yet we come away with nothing. Nothing at all. We’ve played worse than that and qualified for the Champions League.
And so to the FA Cup, the last chance of silverware for the season. It’s a home tie, but against a Sunderland side reinvigorated by the capture of Pablo Aimar and our old friend-turned-traitor Li Weifeng. We gave that boy a year in the reserves so that he could master the English language and settle into life on Merseyside. He betrayed us by walking out on a Bosman. New full backs come in, fitter and fresher, but the team remains the same. Let’s see if this new tactic pays dividends this time.
I just…what is this? This is ill fortune. Look at the numbers on those Sunderland defenders. We can’t repel firepower of that magnitude. Everton was tremendous again, they made piles of chances. But an early injury to Danny Senda left us with an out-of-position Richard Rufus, the only thing worse than an in-position Richard Rufus. And so we depart the last competition, once again, at the first hurdle. I need to be alone.
To make matters worse, we’ve lost Senda for the bulk of the rest of the season. Hibbert and Konchesky are also injured, as are both the regen fullbacks acquired in the summer as emergency options. The best laid plans etc etc. That means Scott Byrne will have to play out of position until a loanee can be secured. Brilliant. That will help.
Do you want to know about the ten chances we made or the world class defending we faced, or would it be quicker just to say that Sergei Rebrov put three past us and we lost again. I don’t think I can recall a time when three good performances have brought three straight defeats. It’s hard to know for sure without actually seeing the game, but I suspect that the full backs are being overloaded here. It was a nice idea, that 4-1-2-2-1, but I don’t think I can afford to continue with it. I think, given that we can feel the hot, fetid breath of the relegation zone on the back of our necks, it might be more sensible if we just stopped fucking around and went back to the 3-5-2 that worked last season. This is getting very, very bad now.
We’ve got Gary McDonald in from Kilmarnock. He’s not particularly good, but we need someone who can actually play on the right. I’m open to new fangled ideas, but I do think that’s important for a right-back. It’s Fulham at home and we’re going back to basics. Stubbsy’s back. Stubbsy’s got the armband. I should never have dropped Stubbsy. He makes me feel safe. Hold me, Stubbsy. Hold me close. Hold me, Stubbsy. Put a baby inside me.
A battering. Twelve shots, ten on target and, naturally, their goalkeeper is outstanding. But it matters not. One of them went in and that’s enough for me. Stubbsy, bless him, had a passing accuracy of less than 50% here, which is staggering given that he wasn’t asked to do anything out of the ordinary. Rustiness? I’ll let him off. We should have had five or six. I think, in future, we’ll just play with this formation all the time, eh?
It’s all about a recovery now. We have 14 games to get five wins and to avoid the drop. We should be able to do that. In the meantime, we need better midfielders. We’re okay for strikers, I think that’s fair to say. We’re good for attacking midfielders. We’re okay for centre-backs, though we could strengthen if the right name came up. It’s central midfielders and full backs we need now. And points, obviously. We still need points.
Championship Manager 2001/02 is freeware. If you want to replicate this challenge, or make one of your own, or even just indulge in some nostalgia, you’ll find all the links you need here. We’re running leagues from England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, France, Portugal and Scotland and we’re using the 3.9.68 patch that uses 02/03 data, but doesn’t crash. Hopefully…