After "The Double?"
Since the miraculous end to last season, where we celebrated the double in our wins of both the Premier League and the FA Cup, a great number of things have changed. First and foremost, we have lost 4 key players from last season's campaign. Also, I am becoming a coveted manager, and attracting the interest of clubs such as Barcelona in seeking my service. Finally, Leeds now ranks as the 14th richest club in the world. This can only be thanks to the money from winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup. The value of the club has tripled since I first took over 3 seasons ago in the Championship. With this firm financial standing, the facilities at the club have been upgraded to be state-of-the-art. Also, an expansion project has been begun on Elland Road, as we were consistently selling out the stadium last season.
To start this off, I suppose we should talk about the four main players who we have seen leave during the window.
1. Predro Pereira ($67M)
2. Adnan Januzaj ($45M)
3. Joel Pohjanpalo ($40M)
4. Nathan Ake ($34M)
Now, both Nathan Ake and Pedro Pereira, our starting fullbacks last season, forced their way out of the club due to perceived interest from bigger clubs. Ake went to FC Porto, a club that is not even in the Champions League, for double what we brought him in for. Pereira went to Manchester City, and would not have gone had they not offered me nearly 10 times what I originally brought him in for. Then both of our top attacking players last season were snatched away from us due to release fee clauses that were forced into their contracts by their agents. Joel Pohjanpalo joins Pereira at FC Porto for a good chunk of money. Adnan Januzaj joined stoke in a deal that took exactly 2 days to be completed, and just like that we lost the Premier League Player of the Year to a release fee clause.
For the other transfers out, Keepers Benoit Costil and Axel Werner have been judged to not have the quality to stay and have been moved on. Young defenders Tyler Denton and Paul McKay were released due to a lack of quality. Many midfielders also left, having been replaced by superior quality in the position. Alex Mowatt goes to Sheffield Wednesday, Nampalys Mendy goes to Bordeaux, Nathaniel Chalobah goes to Atalanta, Diego Poyet joins QPR, Kalvin Phillips joins Sheffield United, Sean Goss goes to MK Dons, and Jack Byrne goes to Reading. Two stikers have left, as Aron Johannsson has joined FC Bari, and Frank Mulhem joins Rotherham United.
In order to fill the massive hole left in the team by the players who departed, I had to spend some money. First, we will cover the direct replacements for the 4 main players who left.
1. Mitchell Weiser ($35M)
2. Akadiusz Milik ($17M)
3. Ryan Sessegnon ($15M)
4. Federico Bernardeschi ($14.5M)
Mitchell Weiser is the big-money replacement for Pedro Pereira. He comes from Bayern Munich, where he was the prodigy to step of for Bayern legend Philip Lahm. He was our biggest first-team investment due to the quality that departed with Pereira. Akadiusz Milik is Joel Pohjanpalo's replacement at the forward position. He joins from Borussia Dortmund, where he was failing to see out his full potential due to being second string to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Ryan Sessegnon comes in to replace Nathan Ake, who never really fit perfectly into our team. Sessegnon has been Fulham's starting left-back in the Championship for a while, but I feel he has the quality and potential to make it big in the Premier League. Federico Bernardeschi comes from Bayern Munich to replace Adnan Januzaj. Bernardeschi was their answer to the retirement of Frank Ribery, and he has so far done an excellent job. While I think it will be hard to fill the shoes left by Januzaj, Bernardeschi certainly has what it takes to try.
Of the rest of the players to come in, Timo Horn is probably the most important due to him coming in as our new starting keeper. He has been FSV Mainz' starting keeper for several seasons now, and has so far done an excellent job of it, and at 26 he still has a long career ahead of him. Sven Ulreich comes on a free transfer from Bayern Munich to serve as our back-up goalkeeper after having played back-up to Manuel Neuer for many seasons.
For the rest of the players coming in, Ciprian Boghitoi marks the biggest investment. He is a 19 y/o center-back who has the potential to be the highest-rated center-back in the world. The big money move for him was heavily researched, and I feel that he will be a starting player for us in a couple of years time, and for a decade still beyond that. The other players are as follows: Defenders Damian Brizuela, Luis Pinalla, and Gorka Fidalgo come in to offer depth and development options for the future. Midfielders Kristoffer Ajer and Josh Mcginn will come in as potential first-team options. Wingers Adam Ounas, Emad Hossam, and Memphis Depay come in as first-team and depth options. Strikers James Wilson and Kaj Sierhuis come in as back-up and development options.
For this season I decided upon a more difficult schedule to see how we would fare against stronger European rivals. Olympiakos are a team that we very much should have beaten. We conceded two goals in the last five minutes of the game, but were controlling the game for the other 85 minutes so I will consider it a success. Bayern Munich absolutely demolished us, and we were not in the game at all. Quick fact: the only other time Leeds United has played Bayern Munich was in the European Cup Final in 1975, the score ended with Bayern on top 2-0. We then had a solid game against Greek giants A.E.K.. We played our tactic really well, and they couldn't do anything to stop us. The game vs. AS Saint-Etienne was another that we played rather well and came out with the win. FK Krasnodar at Elland Road was the last game that Joel Pohjanpalo scored for Leeds United, and also the last game he played at Elland Road. We then played in Hoffenheim, were we came away with a generally mediocre result. Pohjanpalo had one of his worst games ever as the last game he played in a Leeds United Shirt. He was one of the greats, and he will be missed. We then played Olympique Lyonnaise in Lyon. It was an awful showing from the boys, and we found ourselves falling flat at nearly every turn. Overall, it was a solid preseason that saw many of last seasons key players plucked away and replaced, so some of the shakier games can be excused.
FA Community Shield - 8/4/19
Going into this game, we had a very different team from that which lost our last game against Tottenham at the end of last season. Akadiusz Milik starts up top, Memphis Depay, Oliver, and Federico Bernardeschi line up behind him. Kristoffer Ajer and Alberto Grassi make up the midfield. Nathan Ake, Antonio Rudiger, Pontus Jansson, and Pedro Pereira make up our back four, while Timo Horn stands between the posts.
While we did maintain the advantage in possession, we had little business winning the game by the margin that we did. Arkadiusz Milik scored right before the half to give us the lead, and Pedro Pereira equalized for Tottenham with a rather unfortunate own-goal. Memphis Depay and Oliver both scored in the second half to seal the win for us, and earn us some more silverware to add to the cabinet. With this win, we collected three of the four possible trophies we could have won.
In the interest of time and space, I have omitted the starting line-ups for these three league games.
League Game 1 - 8/9/19
Sheffield Wednesday fought back against our tactic better than I have seen most teams. They maintained equal possession with us, and had just as many shots on target. Unfortunately for them though, our midfielders were on a mission to show Milik how he should be scoring this season. Kristoffer Ajer and late sub Filip Krovinovic scored solid goals, while Adam Ounas scored a simple header due to an error from Sheffield Wednesday's keeper.
League Game 2 - 8/17/19
Arsenal would be our first test of the season, and though they had many more shots on target than us, we maintained the edge on possession during the game. Both of the goals they scored were very late, which is a problem we suffered early last season that I hope does not come back. Again, Milik did not score, our 3 behind him are starting to really get off the mark.
League Game 3 - 8/24/19
Sunderland were promoted from the Championship after winning it last season, but I didn't expect they would be a problem. Akadiusz Milik got off the mark on scoring, along with the 3 playing in behind him as we truly showed Sunderland how we can control a game. They made less that half as many shots on target as we did, and we held the majority of possession in what must be a demoralizing loss for them just as much as it served as a boost for us after a tough start to the season.
For this years Champions League, we were given the privilege and benefit of being one of the 1st seeded teams meaning we wouldn't have to square off against any of the other major European league winners. Despite that we were still drawn a tough group with the likes of Atletico Madrid from La Liga. They are always in the fight for the title, and will serve as our toughest opponent. AS Monaco are another team that we will be worried about, as they are one of the teams consistently trying to knock PSG off of their perch in Ligue 1. Finally, there is Sparta Praha, the Czech Champions. I feel like they are the wild-card in this group, capable of getting a surprise result from any of us other teams in the group.
FM fanatic and football pundit