The January transfer window is upon us, a time for all European soccer clubs to buy and sell players midseason. And the soccer media, ever keen to sell copy by preying on fans’ hopes and dreams, has a field day with the occasion, linking any and all players to a move to random big name clubs. Arsenal’s media watch page has 22 different players rumored to be signing for the club this January. As a service to my favorite team, I thought I’d see how some of the players they’re rumored to be interested play in the English Premier League. How good are they compared to their competition? With so many players, though, the only way this was going to work was to make a whole new team. Please welcome to the world Arsenal Rumored Transfers, a new side based out of the north of London. A side coached by the Queen of England.
We replaced Queen’s Park Rangers. Sorry QPR but this town ain’t big enough for the both of us! It’s funny because both ART and QPR are from London. I was a bit sad I couldn’t get my custom crest into the game and had to rely on a generic crest the game made, so I’ll share it here:
I feel it really captures the pride the fans of such a historical side as ART have. Our side was a strong one:
For those of you unfamiliar with Football Manager, the star rating of a player adjusts based on their importance to the club. Four star players are the club’s key players, three stars decent starters, 2.5 and lower backups. This is of course a relative scale, a four star player for Manchester United is going to be much better than a four star player for Yeovil Town. This doesn’t tell us the absolute quality of a player, but does help up make some important decisions for how our squad play. I wanted to try to get Edinson Cavani and Jackson Martinez on the field at the same time, so that meant a two-forward system. A two forward system would also make it easier to rotate Munir El Haddadi into the squad, something I wanted to do to develop his world-class potential. We were also split fairly evenly between natural center midfielders and natural defensive midfielders, and our most creative players in the middle (Busquets, Carvalho, Silva) were in the defensive midfielder role. So I decided on a formation that looked like this:
It’s an unconventional shape, but it allowed us to put our best players in their natural positions and should be balanced between attack and defense. I was going to be simulating the games, so I didn’t have much feedback to how well the formation worked, so I built a traditional 4-4-2 as a backup.
At this point, a couple of problems with the squad hit me:
1. We didn’t have a goalkeeper.
I did a cursory scan of the players Arsenal have been linked with and saw that there were forwards, wide and central midfielders, center-halfs, and fullbacks and thought we had all positions covered. It should have been obvious, but for whatever reason I always forget about goalkeepers, and Arsenal don’t need a goalkeeper. So we were playing with one of the scrubs from our youth team the game automatically generated in goal. I felt like our back line was strong enough that he should be protected, but having a high school kid in goal was going to be a huge hole.
2. Nobody spoke a common language, and everybody would have to adjust to living in England.
Football Manager puts a lot of effort into making things like team chemistry and player happiness matter in the game. Players can have difficult times moving to new countries, fitting in with their teammates, and this affects how they perform on the pitch. Of the players Arsenal are linked with, only four speak English, and only three are currently playing in England. So our squad of mercenaries from across the globe were all collectively going through culture shock all at the same time while being asked to perform at a high level, without an established locker room culture of leader among the players to help them adjust.
Nevertheless, the bookies were fairly confident in us.
Predicted for fourth in the league, level with the actual Arsenal! I was confident the actual talent of our team would overcome some of the growing pains I feared. We headed off on a preseason tour of the USA to help develop some chemistry and work out how we were going to play aOH GOD
I… what? How did this happen? These are some of the best players in the world, I understand there may be some iffy performances in the beginning but did they forget how to kick a soccer ball or something? Surely things won’t be so bad once we start the season…
OK, so Spurs are a tricky side and I could see them snagging a lone goal on a counter or something. But to be dominated in possession and number of shots…
A Mats Hummels red card right after halftime didn’t help, but by now I was in full panic mode. Maybe my assumptions with my tactics were off? Were we missing some creativity? I decided to shift to the 4-4-2 formation, hoping that would get us back on form.
WELL AT LEAST WE GOT OUR FIRST GOAL GOOD FOR YOU JACKSON MARTINEZ I’M SO PROUD OF YOU.
The owners seem nonplussed by our form of ass.
“To summarize, the board is satisfied with your managing of the team.” How? Why? I mean I know that, as the Queen of England, I have divine right to rule over this soccer club, but surely divine right only gets you so far?
well… at least that’s something, right? Three draws is the same as a win, so if we draw our remaining games that’s the same as winning 11 times. And without that annoying Capital One Cup, we can offer more rest to our first team players. See, I’m starting to turn this around. Come the Arsenal match in December, we’ll be firing in 3, 4 goals a game. Before we could be Butterfree, we had to be Metapod, and that’s where we’re at right now. Surely I can have some more time?
Cowards! Blaming an old lady for all your troubles.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
So here’s the plan now. This club is broken beyond repair, but we can use the whole thing as a front for money laundering. Tickets sold day-of-match are in cash, right? So we falsify some sales, say attendance is higher than it is, and legalize some dirty money. If anyone catches on, we burn down the stadium and claim the insurance money.
I never said anything about dirty money.
Buoyed by the prospect that there is finally some light, ART gave their first good performance of the season. Maybe it was my promise of signing a goalkeeper who didn’t have to leave training early to go to geometry class. Or maybe the players feared that with transfer funds I’d replace them with somebody else. Or maybe we were playing one of the worst English Premier League teams, but that hasn’t stopped us from losing before.
Our first win as a club, truly a historic day for Arsenal Rumored Transfers. So where does that put us in the league?
Nevertheless, I started making plans to right this ship. I didn’t exactly know what the problem was, but I was going to spend money until it fixed itself. That’s what being a big club is.
Our weakest link was clearly our goalkeeper. Goalkeeping problems couldn’t explain away all our issues. We were obviously struggling to keep possession and create shots, and that would need to be addressed. But that would come later. And who knows, maybe better distribution from the keeper is part of the problem? World-class keepers were out of the question — why would they want to come? So although I had the money to buy De Gea or Neuer, I didn’t have the ability to get them. I thought about Hugo Lloris or offering Petr Cech some playing time, but I decided to go with a youngster. I checked out Geronimo Rulli of Real Sociedad before choosing to go with Bernd Leno out of Bayer Leverkusen.
My next goal was to add somebody on the right who could be both a creative and attacking force. The first name that jumped to mind was Kevin Volland of Hoffenheim. He may be a forward in real life, but in game his best position is in right midfield.
And in the tradition of big English clubs before me, I wanted to overpay for an English player when better options existed in the team already. Really it was that I thought I could snatch players from a QPR team banished to purgatory on the cheap. Steven Caulker is usually a good signing — he could push Howedes for a starting spot in our central defense, and has a lot of potential — but I felt like I paid more than I should have for this player.
On field we were back to our old ways
but at least I didn’t win the sack race.
Congrats Sam Allardyce. You have done your country a service. Having their ruling monarch be the first manager fired would bring shame to the entire nation.
I just needed to get to January 1st. Then Leno, Volland, and Caulker would arrive. January is hope. January is possibility. I promise I can turn everything around as long as I get to January. It’s not that I’m a bad manager with a fundamental misunderstanding of the squad I have. I just need to bring in my players.
But it turns out that, blinded by my false sense of hope, I failed to realize how fucked I was. December had matches with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Surely those would be losses. And how much longer do the owners need to realize the problem isn’t with the players we have. The problem is with me. Maybe ART need a manager that actually goes to the matches instead of simply looking at the score sheet. Maybe ART need a manager who isn’t so old I can’t put her proper birth date into the game. Maybe The Queen, growing up in England’s most notable family, just couldn’t relate to the players on her squad. But the talent is in this team. The problem is how that talent is being used.
The writing was on the wall. Manchester United was forgivable. Drawing hosting Sunderland was not. The owner called me into his office. I had to win the next match to keep my job. It was at Liverpool. It would be tough. But I felt in my heart I’d win. It’d be a shitty story, after all, for things to start bad and get worse. That’s not the kind of story people want. No, what we want to see is a remarkable rise from the ashes as I —
… … … … well I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this at all. We were just one match away from the Arsenal game. I really wanted to make it to that game. Just please don’t replace me with David Moyes. I’ve been embarrassed enough already.
I hope you get all your hopes and dreams shattered too, Roberto. Your breath smells like farts and that’s why you’ll never be a good manager.
Oh come on you have got to be kidding me.
Verdict: Arsenal shouldn’t sign any of these scrubs.