After "It's Working"
In the last episode, we beat Crystal Palace, lost to Huddersfield Town, and beat Derby County in a goal extravaganza. Since then, we haven't lost a game, and we have slain some giants. After Derby, we played and beat Arsenal in what was an absolute epic of a game. We narrowly beat them right at the end, but honestly, I would have been happy with a single point away at Arsenal. Then we absolutely smashed Chelsea. They came to Elland Road, but they weren't really in the game. I have so completely defeated a top-5 team in such a manner as we beat Chelsea. Then we beat Middlesbrough in much the same way that we beat Chelsea, but at this point in the season I expected it. A draw at Stoke is not a surprising result for me at all for our next game. In our 2 seasons back in the Prem, we have always struggled against them for some reason or another. Then we slew another giant in the form of Tottenham. A late brace from Harry Kane had me at the edge of my seat, barking orders for my players to close down even more and stop the crosses, but it was not to be for the English striker as we took the points anyway. Then we had a drab affair against West Ham in which our young back-up striker, Concalo Paciencia scored a brace only moments after being subbed on.
FA Cup 3rd Round - 1/5/19
We field a full-strength side for our FA Cup fixture against Dagenham and Redbridge, as we will be totally pushing a cup-run this season. Everyone is in good health, good spirits, and are confident of victory today.
The game was a dominating affair, with a bit of a scare towards the end. We held them to 5 total shots, and maintained 65% of possession during the game. We finally broke the scoring in the 63rd minute via a goal from center-back Jamaal Lascelles off of a corner. At this point, with the way the game had been going, I assumed that this would be a drab 1 goal affair. Then Dag & Red scored an equalizer in the 77th minute. I was beyond Irate, because in the build-up that led to what was only their 5th shot of the game, they cut through us like butter. Luckily, I didn't have to fret for too long, as the brilliant Adnan Januzaj scored off a deflection only a minute later.
League Game 21 - 1/13/19
The Everton game didn't have me all too worried, as they weren't doing as well as I would expect from them in the league. The one caveat that we have run into, is the fact that Pontus Jansson is out for the next 3 weeks due to a sprained ankle in training. Filling in for him with be Giuseppe Bellusci, whose position was filled at the beginning of the season by the man who he will now be partnering, Jamaal Lascelles. Pedro Pereira is also out due to a strained ankle, but should be back after the next two games. Gaetano Berardi will fill in for him at right-back.
If you told me that I would be in for an absolute epic going into this game, I would not have believed you. While we dominated possession, and took twice as many shots as Everton, that does not tell the whole story. At the hour mark, the game was 2-2, and both of our center-backs were on yellow cards, which didn't worry me all too much, as it wasn't typically a common occurrence. Then in the 64th minute, Giuseppe Bellusci was sent off for a silly foul. I took off Oliver, as his position is the expendable one on the pitch, and brought in Liam Cooper. Ronaldo Vieira then put us in the lead 3-2 only 3 minutes after the sending off. In the next minute, Jamaal Lascelles was sent off for yet another silly foul. This left me with changes to make. As we didn't have any other players who I would put at center, we were forced to play a 3-4-1, with the fullbacks in narrow, and two defensive midfielders. It obviously did the trick, as Goncalo Paciencia scored yet another goal to put us up 4-2 in the 88th minute.
Remember when I said we had a center-back problem, in that we were being beaten by too many through-balls? Well, we fixed that the day after the center-back debacle. For $9.5M, we brought in a center-back that we had been working on for several weeks in. Antonio Rudiger, a German from AS Roma, is everything we were needing. He is a strong, pacey center-back that will be able to chase down through-balls and muscle them to safety. Also during this transfer window, we sold Leroy Fer to Birmingham City for $2.2M.
Unfortunately, during training Ricardo Kishna went down while sprinting, and we can confirm that he will be out for the rest of the season after damaging his Achilles tendon. We will not have to bring anyone in, as we have solid depth on the wings.
League Game 22 - 1/20/19
For this game against Watford, Adnan Januzaj will play on the left wing to replace Ricardo Kishna, Hadi Sacko will then fill in on the right wing. In the defense, as Pontus Jansson is out on injury, and both Jamaal Lascelles and Giuseppe Bellusci are suspended, Antonio Rudiger will slot in on the left, and we have recalled Dedrick Boyata from loan in order to slot in on the right of the partnership. Liam Cooper is being held on the bench.
This was yet another 6-goal affair that saw us come out on top 2-4. They took in early 2-0 lead in the first 21 minutes, and we went 2-3 up before the half was up, with another brace from Joel Pohjanpalo, who is in the running for top goal-scorer this season. Antonio Rudiger scored a debut goal in the 83rd minute to bring the score to 2-4 and complete our victory.
How to Proceed
Looking forward, we will face Manchester United, Liverpool, and Manchester City next in the league. These will all be difficult games, but hopefully we can draw solid results from them, and continue our solid run of form. We drew Barnsley in the FA Cup 4th round, and I honestly don't see them as giving us any trouble at all. Given that, I believe that episode 16 will hopefully feather either the 5th or 6th round of the FA Cup, depending on who we draw after we (hopefully) beat Barnsley. The league fixtures that accompany the FA cup game will either be in the late 20's or early 30's, again depending on which round I decide to feature. We will have to make sure that the center-back issue was an isolated incident, as that is a bad problem to have, especially if you are lacking in equal-quality back-ups.
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