Wandering to Titles – A Dream Treble? (May) Episode 59

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 5, Episode 59

The final month of our season. We’ve come a long way in such a short time. 5 trophies in my first 5 seasons and we have an opportunity to add three more to that tally in just this month alone.

But I’m under no illusions that this will be tough – very tough! In order for us to successfully defend our league title, we have to rely on Manchester United to drop points. Four points must be dropped in three matches for them considering they have a far superior goal difference than us (United have +64 GD compared to our +38). Honestly, it’s not looking all that rosy.

However, we do have slightly better chances in our other competitions as we face Arsenal in the FA Cup (we beat them last year in the final if you remember) and they will be out for revenge. We also face Arsenal again in the Semi-Final of the Champions League 2nd leg after an away 0-0 draw.

But before all this, we face Brighton in the Premier League.


Wolves (2nd) vs Brighton (14th)
4/5/2024 Premier League

Our form of late hasn’t been great. We haven’t won in any of our previous three matches. Not ideal when trying to chase down lead leaders Manchester United. Prior to our 3 o’clock kick-off, we heard the news that Manchester United had beaten 3rd place Chelsea at home 1-0. Our hopes of a successful title defence is waning.

But we cannot dwell in other results. We can only control our own and we must focus on that.

And with that loss, Manchester United have all but won the Premier League. The players look emotionally drained after this long season, with expectations so high for the lads. Hopefully we can pick up our form soon or the end of this season will become a disaster.

If it wasn’t for Audero, Brighton could well of had more. A more or less nothing game for Brighton, but they played like they were the ones fighting for the title. Disappointing to say the least.


Wolves (0) vs Arsenal (0)
8/5/2024 Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg

A tough game is ahead and it’s always harder for a team when your Captain is out injured. Neves has missed the last three matches and it’s very clear we’ve missed his presence next to Tonali.

Arsenal are coming off the back of a loss as well (albeit from Liverpool, not the likes of Brighton) so both teams have had their confidence shaken a little. Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to be counted! I don’t want any of my players trying to hide. This match is what could make or break our season.

Incredible! This is what football is about, right?

An early away goal for Arsenal gave them a huge advantage. They immediately tightened up and we struggled for large parts of the game to get anything done. But it was wonder-boy Sandro Goncalves to the rescue as he slotted in a 95th minute winner after some fantastic will and determination from Jota. The Arsenal players all collapsed in emotional agony as Sandro wheeled away to the home-support in utter elation. I’ve run out of praise for the boy. He’s up to 36 goals for the season.

We now face Manchester United in the final as they beat Real Madrid in the opposite fixture, 4-4 on aggregate. The last all-English final was just three years ago where United won it against Liverpool for the first time since 2008.


Wolves (2nd) vs Leicester (6th)
11/5/2024 Premier League

Our mood is high as we go into the Leicester game. Not much can be done to stop United winning the title, but we must continue our form if we are to eventually lift a trophy come the end of the season.

My biggest issue this season is we’ve had to rely so much on Goncalves. I think in the summer we must find a consistent strike partner for him.

Our poor form in the league continues as we struggle against Leicester. Leicester have everything to play for as they battle it out for a Europa League spot and it showed. We look helpless without team-leader Neves and it’s very concerning.

Despite Manchester United losing 4-1 against Bournemouth earlier in the day, they are now crowned Champions. Not the way they would have envisaged it, I’m sure, but I doubt they care at this point. It’s their first league title since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired.


Wolves (2nd) vs Stoke City (16th)
15/5/2024 Premier League

In an effort to try to force some form of consistency, Jota continues up top with Goncalves. Stoke have nothing to play for and neither do we. It’s a bit of a nothing game, but as stated before, we need to pick up form our our cup finals. I need to see a response!

A better performance was on display today, despite only scoring one and having a man sent off. There were positives to take home. Of course, I’m disappointed in Mbabu to get sent off.

A wonder volley from Foden was enough to grab all three points which has now secured us a 2nd place finish in the league.

The reason Mbabu was on the field was because Jose Lima came off at half time with a bruised shin. No doubt he will miss the final league match in preparation for him to help us during our two cup finals.


Consistency Is Rewarded

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a number of players knocking on my door feeling disillusioned with their current contract and asking for a new one. Perhaps this is the reason for our down-turn in form? Maybe.

Regardless, I’ve sent the likes of van de Beek, and Jonny away with food for thought. Play better and you will be rewarded. Chris Mepham has been promised a new deal at the end of the season and he deserves it. A mainstay in my side, and he only earns £65k p/w. A player whose been with my ever since my first January transfer window.

Today’s knock was from Sandro Tonali. He’s always been a consistent performer, despite largely playing an unfamiliar ‘mezalla’ role over the years. However, this season, I’ve been using him as a Deep Lying Playmaker with a focus on his defensive game, and he’s rewarded me with exceptional performances and has been ever-present in my side if injuries have afforded him to be.

He’s now the club’s highest earner and no doubt others will be wanting something similar from their contracts, but that’s the price you have to pay once you become one of the big clubs challenging for titles and other silverware year-on-year.

We’ve tied him down for his best years and long may his performances continue.


Wolves (3rd) vs Everton (14th)
19/5/2024 Premier League

This is the mark of a completely ‘nothing’ game if I ever did see one. Not much is at stake here. The Champions have been crowned and the relegation places have been filled. But with 6 days between this and our FA Cup Final with Arsenal, it’s important to keep our legs fresh. I believe 10 days of no football between Stoke and the Arsenal game is too much. We need to keep players looking sharp, and to do that they must play matches. A strong team will be fielded here.

Ruben Neves is finally back on the bench. Hopefully we’re in a position to give him a few minutes towards the end of the match which may even give him the chance to start the FA Cup Final – a sight, I’m sure, all our supporters would love to see.

If there ever was a game to showcase what a ‘nothing’ game means, this is it. We were the better side, but that’s not really saying much.

A lot of the players looked awkward and shying away from tackles – no doubt with the FA Cup Final and Champions League Final in their minds. This month has been very poor (bar the Arsenal last minute winner, of course), but all will be forgiven should we take home a trophy or two.

A big week for us and our fans. We cannot wait to get started!


Award Season

It’s that time of the year again and awards have been dished out.

AwardPlayer
Top GoalscorerSandro Goncalves (26)
Golden GloveEmil Audero (19)
Manager of the YearLuis Castro (Man United)
Players’ Player of the YearYouri Tielemans (Leicester)
Players’ Young Player of the YearSandro Tonali
Footballer of the YearYouri Tielemans (Leicester)

A hattrick of back-to-back awards for us this year and I’m very pleased that Sandro Tonali has picked up an award for his incredible effort this year. To have him with us until 2029 is a dream and I hope there’s many more years of performances like this.

Team Of The Year

It’s no surprise that Manchester United dominated this year’s team of the year. They won the league by 5 points, but it was their goal difference that was most impressive. We had the 2nd best goal difference in the league with 37 while Manchester United’s was an incredible 61. Just three teams make the team of the year and I think that highlights how a lot of sides this season were very inconsistent.


FA Cup Final 2024

It’s our 3rd FA Cup Final in as many years with us being beat in the first by Manchester United, but we won with our 2nd attempt against Arsenal which came down to penalties after a 0-0 stalemate. Arsenal will be wanting revenge after last years final, but also because we just knocked them out of the Champions League.

We’ve had a strange rivalry with Arsenal over the years and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Our form this month has been pretty poor but I hope the lads have their heads screwed on and are ready to knuckle down over these next two matches. A few players could be playing for their future here at Wolves.

Team Line-Ups

It’s unfortunate that Phil Foden misses out since he is cup-tied, so Donny van de Beek steps in and his replacement. Arsenal haven’t had much of a scoring outlet this season with their highest (Suso) with just 10 goals. Young Anthony Beattie with just 2 goals to his name this season leads the line for the Gunners.

We’ve done it! Back-to-back FA Cups. The first time a team has done so since Arsenal did it themselves back in 2014/2015. We dominated the game from the off and after Vinagre’s early goal, we never looked back.

Despite missing the last seven matches, Neves was instrumental to our victory, carving out a 7.5 rating and adding an assist to boot. It’s clear to see how vital he is to this team. Not just his technical ability, but also his leadership.

Arsenal will be seething and with good reason too. A day after the final, it’s announced that Unai Emery and Arsenal have parted ways. His 6 year stint with the Gunners is over and I can’t help but feel I had quite a big part to play in that.

Our board are very delighted and with this victory we are 5 years ahead of schedule. But we cannot dwell on the victory for too long. We have another cup-final in seven days time. Manchester United are looking for their 2nd Champions League trophy in four seasons. This game is going to be huge!


Champions League Final 2024

We travel to Russia for the Champions League Final to the Luzniki stadium which has a capacity of 81,006. It’s an historic moment for Wolves as we’ve never been in the Champions League Final, whereas this might be quite familiar to Manchester United fans.

United are odds-on favourites for the match (of course), so we go in to this game will the pressure off us. It should be noted that Manchester United have lost their last 3 matches. Perhaps complacency set in.

Team Line-Ups

We have a fresh bill of health going into this one. The players are raring to go! My biggest conundrum for this match, however, is who to play in our AMC role? Phil Foden missed out on the FA Cup Final due to him being cup-tied, but van de Beek came in and put a fantastic performance in and capped it off with a goal also.

I think I’m going to have to go with my gut and choose van de Beek. He should be rewarded for his fine performance and I hope he does the business again today.

It’s an unchanged side for us. The atmosphere is electric and I cannot wait to get this game started. There is a hint of nerves about the place though.

And with that, the dream is over… for this year. A poor game in all honesty. It was a very cagey affair and we couldn’t muster up many chances.

It’s a deserved victory for United, they were the better side on the day. But our heads should be held high. No one expected us to be in the final. We have to be proud of what we’ve achieved and we’ve still lifted a trophy this season.

With that result, Jota has now gone 10 games without a goal. Our forward line (bar Goncalves) is really hampering our results and I may have to take action this summer.

While it’s a summer of rest for me and some of the players, others have the Euros to attend and I will be eagerly watching, attempting to find the next big thing in football.


Thank you for reading this incredible journey so far. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have been writing about it.

A season review will be up next with a look at the squad and ways in which we could improve it.

As always, thank you for reading. Please share with your friends, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for the latest updates; @ExtraTimeFM. Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

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