Our first Premier League pre-season. I did not think I would be writing that sentence in Season 8 of this challenge but here we are! An incredible survival on the final day of last season meant that we kept our premier league status and allowed us the opportunity to do what I do best, overhaul the squad in a traditionally crazy transfer window!
In this episode I will take you through our incomings and outgoings, as well as giving you a little insight into what the media & data were suggesting should be our aims for the upcoming season. Finally I will take you through August 2027, the first month of the season.
Premier League preparations… let them begin!
Transfers & Board Disagreements
As soon as the season ended last time around the board set the wage budget at £1.8m and gave me a transfer budget of £20m. They didn’t discuss at the time what the aims for next season were but when we did get down to it they wanted to avoid relegation, which I was fine with as an aim, however they also stated that they wanted to play defensively solid, direct, counter-attacking football.
My preferred style of play is to play on the front foot, I have always believed that the best form of defence is attack, and the best way to attack and control the game is to keep the ball, move the opposition around and be patient. So these added playing style objectives were completely against my philosophy and were not on the table when I first joined the club. I tried to take them out when discussing the vision but they were having none of it. However I am not one to let pressures from above control what I do on the pitch so I will stick with my tactic, try to win games, and if they’re not happy with it they can show me the door.
Anyway, enough of dealing with the big wigs, let’s get into the transfers! As always we start with the outgoings…
The overhaul begins! We amassed an impressive £73m in total through player sales. Some more noteworthy than others, however in the cases of the big deals (£10m+) all of the players were aged 30 or over and were starting to decline in ability, so I decided to cash in whilst I could. They were all first team squad players aside from Ascacibar, who I probably would have kept but he wanted Champions League football so I let him go. Overall I am really happy with the business we did and it now makes that initial £20m budget grow to around £80m after the board took their cut. So shall we find out how I spent it?
First of all let’s start with the signings made at the end of last season. I made some incredible deals to be fair…
Now considering 5 out of the 7 players signed are newgens it wasn’t exactly household names, however you will see from the player profiles below that to sign these 7 players for around £42m is incredible business. Please keep an eye out for Linkyel in particular as at 18 years old, he is surely a future world-beater! Also yes I know, I did raid Red Star a little bit… but look at the quality of the players I signed for the price:
Some real talent acquired and for half of the price of the players I sold to fund the moves. I would say that even if I had left the transfer business as done at the point then we would have been left with a significantly better team than what we had at the end of last season. However as it was we still had July and August to utilise to our advantage and secure a few more quality players if we could find them out there!
Again some more incredible business. Lomboto (CAM/CM) & Pias (GK) are fantastic prospects for the future so to secure both on free transfers is just a win-win all round. Getting Rob Pucknell (RB) through the door from Man Utd for only £245k will prove to be an incredible bit of business I just know it, I planned to loan him out this season however he has actually ended up being my second choice RB in the first team.
James Forrest is an incredible left-back for the way I play so to get him in from Chelsea on a season long loan is a great bit of business. I then managed to sign Hugo Montanana for £6.5m, who will be our longer term first team left back after Forrest returns to Chelsea. My raid of Eastern European clubs continued with my final signing of the window on deadline day. I was convinced I wasn’t going to sign anyone, but when a 21 year old 4 star rated centre mid comes through the scout report with a £4.3m release clause what was I meant to do?
Take a look at the players below, each one making the squad so much more competitive!
Overall it was 7 players out for £73m and 13 players in for £53m. Plus keep in mind every single player brought in has significant potential so we’re bound to make very good profit on almost every recruit. As I said at the end of last season, I would need to do a big overhaul and we certainly did that. The press seemed to enjoy it as well!
As you can imagine I am very pleased with the window we had. Not only did we manage to maximise the money coming in by selling players who were starting to decline in ability, we then replaced those players with talent that are just as good if not better right now, and will only continue to get better in the future. Put it this way, I am much happier going into the start of the season with this squad than I was finishing last season with the squad we had then, so I think that has to be taken as a good window overall. You can see the roundup of the window below:
If I thought there were some teams splashing the cash in the Championship then my word the Premier League clubs just take it to another level! Wolves were the biggest spenders with an outlay of £167m, however a lot of that was offset with the £69m incoming from PSG for Pedro Neto. As you can see we were the most active team with 13 players coming in!
When I say Premier League teams take it to another level just take a look at the below:
£1.4B… yes a B, as in BILLION! Mental. Wolves were one of 6 premier league teams to spend £100m+ in the transfer window! They even outspent Real Madrid for crying out loud. I just hope with all the talent the other teams are bringing in we can still compete and attempt to avoid the drop.
Below you will see how we rank in terms of wage expenditure compared to the other sides in the division. It’s not always the case but it’s usually a pretty good predictor of where a team should be aiming to finish.
16th. I would say that is a fair prediction for where we will finish this season, if I can get a bit higher then I would be happy but to be honest the main aim has got to be to avoid the drop, and hopefully far more comfortably than we did last season!
In terms of match day revenue the story was pretty much the same:
This time 15th. I always think if you take into account both the wage expenditure and match day revenue, the media expectation is usually an average of the two. So in this case the expectation will be for us to finish around 15th or 16th this season I believe.
Indeed I am spot on. To be fair I think anything between 13th-17th will be considered a good first full season at the helm here and will provide plenty of optimism to build upon. Anyway enough messing around, let’s get into the football!
A good pre-season to be fair against fairly difficult opponents. However as anyone who has followed this challenge will know, I never get too high or too low when it comes to pre-season, it is all about match fitness.
There were some standout performers in pre-season however, as Jeremy Antonisse looked to provide a reminder of what he could do after the new signings threatened to take his starting XI place. I also think Darko Stamatovic got off to a good start in his Palace career and I’m hoping those goals can continue into the competitive matches. Speaking of which, with pre-season tied up, we’re straight into the premier league proper!
Premier League Football
Here we are then, the start of the domestic season! August brought 5 matches, 4 in the league and a Carabao Cup 2nd Round match against League One Oxford United. Our 4 league games were against Wolves (A), Southampton (H), Sheffield United (A) and West Ham (A), so 3 away games in the first 4 fixtures.
On paper they weren’t the worst fixtures to have, however these were the games we needed to try and get points from if we were going to stay up this season. As much as it could have been worse, we could still easily lose all 4 games here and with the overhaul I don’t really know what to expect. Come on then, let’s get into it!
Great start to the season! Keep in mind the team had 24 points after 26 games when I joined last season, and after only 4 games this time around we have 8 points on the board, plus it’s an unbeaten month!
The first game of the season was away against big spenders Wolves. To be honest it was a very entertaining 0-0 draw, chances for both sides and it could have gone either way, plus with the money they have invested I was delighted to come away with a point. We then followed that up with a convincing attacking performance against Southampton at home, we just couldn’t find the breakthrough despite having an expected goals ratio of 2.14 compared to Southampton’s 0.30. Disappointed as we deserved 3 points here but what can you do?
The good thing about both the Wolves & Southampton matches was that we were creating a bucket load of chances, something which we weren’t always able to do last season. Fortunately that trend continued against Sheffield United as we ran out more than deserved winners! They gave us a slight scare in the second half but a 73rd minute strike from Marcus Edwards was enough to give us our first 3 points of the season! As you can see Marcus Edwards kept up his goalscoring touch only 3 days later as he scored a wonderful first half hat-trick to put the 2nd round tie against Oxford to bed.
We rounded off a fantastic first month of the season with an incredible performance away from home against West Ham, who were the division’s form team of the final third of last season, of which we benefitted massively as they beat Birmingham to give us the chance to stay up on the final day! However we didn’t give them a free pass here as a thank you, far from it. We battered them all game long and actually should have been 4-0 up at half time if Stamatovic hadn’t missed a penalty to claim his first Premier League hat-trick. As it was he settled for 2 goals along with the saviour of last season Terem Moffi, who got his first goals of this campaign.
Overall it was a brilliant first month. It easily could have gone the other way but 8 points from our first 4 matches, 3 of which were away and we’re unbeaten? More than I could have wished for. We even got a podium finish in the Manager of the Month award which was a nice bit of recognition for the team.
Not that it means much at this stage but I’ll give a breakdown of the league at the end of the first month.
Alright settle down, no title challenge this year I can assure you of that, but it’s nice to be at that end of the table no matter how short lived it proves to be!
Join me next time as we look to build on our good start to the league in September, October & November 2027. Will the good start give the players the confidence they needed to mount a sustained push for European places? Or will a disastrous run of results leave us in an even worse position than we were last season and have my job dangling by a thread? Find out next time!
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