R24Shirt1So, it’s update time again with Aston Villa, and time to cover the month of November. Last month, we faced Stoke, Bournemouth, Norwich and Manchester United, beating Stoke 3-0 at their place before losing to Bourmemouth and drawing with Norwich and United. I was also beginning to analyse where I needed to invest in the January transfer window, and trying to figure out whether the issue was at right back (aka Leandro Bacuna) or centre back (aka any of them). We ended the month yet again in 12th place, and I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever do well enough – or indeed badly enough – to finish the month anywhere else.

November looked like a fairly quiet month on paper, with only Tottenham, West Brom – the West Midland derby – and Everton to play. However, I can say that it’s been anything but quiet, and has thrown my tactical plans into jeopardy, to the point where I’ve spent the majority of the month chopping and changing – something I would never advise you to do on Football Manager – in a desperate attempt to find something that works. Unfortunately, that search is ongoing.

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The takeover is on it’s way. Hurry up, please.

Firstly, we had these little nuggets towards the start of the month. Yes, Lerner’s shopping the club and an offer has been made. Fingers crossed this goes through, because the squad is just simply not good enough beyond the few good players who are in the first team, and we need an influx of cash to be able to make moves in the January window.

Anyway, back to the month’s results. How have things gone?

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Well, inconsistently to say the least. Naturally keeping faith with the counter attacking 4-1-4-1 that has served us so well over the past few months, we went to White Hart Lane to face title challenging Tottenham and proceeded to get absolutely battered 6-1, never even looking close to Spurs. We eventually got a consolation through Jordan Ayew in the 72nd minute, but by then Spurs were four up, and went on to score another two through Heung-Min Son and Alderweireld to complete what was an utter embarrassment, and one of the biggest defeats I’ve had in years on Football Manager.

After that utter drubbing, I then – perhaps rashly – made the decision to switch tactic, and moved to a Back 3, feeling that more defenders were badly needed. However, that idea was quickly destroyed at 1-0 in the derby when Gueye moronically got himself sent off for attempt to detach a West Brom player’s leg. I then switched to a more traditional 3-5-1 and two set piece goals gave us a 3-0 win. Of course, I was more than happy with the 3 points, but I didn’t for one minute think that it was as a result of the tactic I was using. What’s more, Leandro Bacuna went off injured, at least meaning that I could analyse performances in terms of leaking goals for the rest of the month, and try and see whether the real issue is at centre back. At the same time, it also meant I was left playing Alan Hutton at right back. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

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Grealish smashes in from the edge of the box, beginning a 3-0 victory in the West Midlands Derby.

I was proved right that the Back 3 tactic wasn’t the answer within about 10 minutes of the game against Everton, where they tore us to shreds. I very quickly switched to a more compact 4-2-3-1 with two DM’s, before later moving the wide players back to the MR/L strata. It got us a 2-2 draw, but we didn’t play well and were totally outplayed by Everton and their wing combination of Mirallas and Deulofeu. Still, one point against 3rd placed Everton isn’t something I’d have turned down before the game, but the sheer lack of quality in our performances is worrying. Irritatingly, Jordan Veretout – who had begun to regain his place in central midfield – went off injured, and will be out for three weeks. For heaven’s sake. It’s starting to feel like FM has it in for my Aston Villa.

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So as November ends, we find ourselves not in 12th! Unfortunately, we’ve slipped slightly down the table to 13th, but hey, at least it’s different. Still, a win a loss and a draw isn’t too bad for the month in terms of results, but it’s the effect that the loss – understatement of the year – to Spurs has had on morale and the knock on effect that the result had in terms of tactics that is concerning me. I’m now very unsure whether to continue with the 4-1-4-1, or whether to try to build something new. Either way, I need to figure things out fast, as December features 6 games against Sunderland, Swansea, West Ham, Watford, Southampton and Watford again, all in the league, and all crucial to how we stand going into the second half of the season. I’m also hoping that this takeover goes through quickly, because I’m now certain that we badly need to improve at centre back with how we’ve leaked goals throughout the month. Joleon Lescott has been our best centre back, but even he hasn’t been outstanding, averaging below 7 for the season. Of course, I’d also like to improve on Bacuna and his 9 tackling – we’re still shipping most of our goals from our right flank – but for now his 7.02 average rating is less offensive than the dross I get from the centre backs at times.

So, until the end of December, thank you very much for reading again. Hopefully I’ll return having sorted out what’s happening tactically, and continuing our strong push to finish 12th again. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me on Twitter (@JLAspey) or in the comments section of this blog. Thank you again.

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