As you might recall, my summer recruitment business was below average to say the least. Let’s see whether or not I shot myself in the foot.
I’ll keep it short. DFB-Pokal was dead last in my list of priorities. I decided to only play squad and youth players. Unexpectedly, they took us far into the competition and into the semi-final, only to lose against RB Leipzig. Not bad for rotational and youth players.
Our first Champions League campaign was off to a tough start drawning against Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Shahktar in the group stages. My aim was third place, as long as we beat Shahktar twice then we were good.
We began with a 4-0 win against Shahktar in the opening game. Then we faced Atletico Madrid at home but that was too much for us, losing 3-1. Tottenham just about edged us losing 1-0. Things changed in the return fixture, Paul Glatzel and Matthew Hoppe proved to be a bit much for Tottenham, they teamed up on to finish this superb counter attack, winning the match 2-0. We brushed aside Shakhtar 0-2. A Krüger penalty was enough for us to beat Atletico and qualify for the knockout rounds.
We were drawn against the mighty Real Madrid in First Knockout Round. I’m not big believe in home advantage but somehow the team came together and surprised Real Madrid in a feisty 4-1 win. In the second leg, Madrid completely dominated us, we only were able to have four attempts on goal. Vinicious Junior and Jadon Sancho decided to come to play. By the beginning of the second half both had a scored a goal each and we were down 2-0. In the 73rd minute Sancho scored his second goal after catching our defense off guard. Tied 4-4 on aggregate and Madrid with the away goal advantage, we needed a miracle. Who would come to our rescue… none other than supersub Matthew Hoppe, scoring from close range after Elanga’s fantastic ball carrying. Helping us move to the next round.
Our trips to Spain were not finished as we were drawn against Barcelona. Once again, the first leg was played at our home. The players ran them selves to the ground and we were able to keep our hopes alive for one more game, tying 0-0. Unfortunately our luck had ran out. Barcelona wanted to avoid the mistake of their rivals. Goals from Coutinho and Greizmann sent us back to Germany.
Although our efforts didn’t pay off, it was great to see us go toe-to-toe against Europe elites. Let’s see how the rest of the season went.
I knew that it was going to be hard to top last season’s achievement but with a smaller than expected squad plus the addition of the Champions League it became even harder. Maybe it was the though of being in the CL but I smashed my space bar through more of the first half of the season.
We began the season with back to back wins against Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen, followed by back to back loses against Dortmund (1-4) and Stuttgart (0-2). That followed with a seven game unbeaten streak, which included FMing RB Leipzig 1-0. The last six games of the first half of the season is where the effects of the Champions League began to show. Winning two, tying two and losing two. We went into the winter break tied in 3rd place with RB Leipzig.
January Transfer Window
Transfers – Out
January came and so did the offers from the big boys such as PSG and others. I was afraid that they would raid squad in the middle of the season. Fortunately, I rejected all offers that came for key players.
FC Köln activated Jens Castrop‘s £8.25m release clause to bring him back to his boyhood club. Castrop played 56 (21 sub) scoring 7 goals and providing 6 assists in the two and half years with us.
Transfers – In
Thomas Amang was transfer listed for £1.8m by Sevilla but I had to remind myself that I’m not supposed to be buying any players so I figured I tried something different. Instead, I offered them £0 and 30% of the transfer fee when sold. Somehow that worked and Sevilla accepted the offer. Same story with Isak Hansen-Aarøen. He was transfer listed for £100k by Manchester United. I offered United the same that I did for Amang. United accepted and we were able to bring two versatile squad players. #FMHackz
As I mentioned in the transfers-out section, we were receiving a lot of bids for some of key players. I brought in these two young internationals on pre-contracts as a backup plan for rest of the season with the intention of playing them more next season. Iván Perera made his way from Peñarol, he refused to sign a contract unless he was a star player. Kentarô Azuma joined us from Sanfrecce.
Back to the league… a mixture of the Champions League, the rotation of players and two long term injuries kept us from staying consistent. Between January and February we only managed to win two games out of six, taking us from 3rd to 6th on the league table. In March, we recovered 12 points from four games helping us rise back to 3rd on the table.
April came around and so did the Champions League. The rotated squad was not good enough to guide us to a Top-4 finish. A 0-0 tie against RB Leipzig kept us in 3rd, followed by a 1-0 lost to Schalke then a 0-2 lost to Eintracht Frankfurt. These loses brought us back down to 6th place. We finished the month on a good note by beating Augsburg 1-3 rising to 5th place.
The last three games of the season were against Bayern (who had already qualified for CL), Hertha (who were two points behind us in 6th place) and Wolfsburg in 12th place. An early goal from new signing Iván Perera helped us get one over Zidane’s Bayern. Hertha were not going to give up their Champions League dreams and beat us 1-2 from by late goal by former Verl man Wang Zhijiang
It came down to the last game of the season, four teams having a chance to qualify for the last CL spot. We were leveled on points with Mönchengladbach at 60 points, only ahead on goal difference. We needed to beat Wolfsburg and we needed Mönchengladbach to tie or lose, thankfully for us they were playing against champions Dortmund.
We’re back in the Champions League!
Best of the Bunch
Matthew Hoppe finished the season with a 7.23 from 19 (10) games. He was also the team’s top scorer with 21 goals and 5 assists. He was outstanding when coming from the bench. He’s catching a lot of attention from clubs in Portugal, England and France. Supersub for sure.
Florian Krüger continues to be solid goalscorer and has now become Verl’s record goal scorer with 64 goals. He finished this season with 17 goals and 5 assists in 30 (6) games.
As you can below, our defense performed quite well even when rotating heavily throughout the season. Seven of the eight players with a 7.0 or higher avg rating were part of the defensive line.
Pascal Skibbe is this season’s only standout player from this season’s intake. He’ll be added to the list of youth players to keep an eye on.
- Ian Robinson continues to impress. The Ireland international finished the season with an average rating of 7.03 from 34 (2) games. Along with 1 goal and 2 assists.
- Billy Jones our first “wonderkid” didn’t do so well averaging a 6.84. Jones played 17 (8) games with 3 goals and 3 assists.
- Joshua Embers had an outstanding season on loan in the 3rd division with Viktoria Koln. He scored 8 goals from CB in 43 apps and averaged a 7.23 rating
- Roald van de Bosch was loaned to 3rd division side Türkgükü. He scored 9 goals, assisted 6 and averaged a 7.03 rating in 42 apps.
- Gabriel Sanclemente spent the season in the Bundesliga with Paderborn but was not able to help them in their relegation battle. He finished the season with 1 goal and 1 assist in the 24 games, mainly coming off the bench.
- Sattar Mousavi spent half a season in the Bundesliga 2 with Dynamo Dresden scoring 2 goals in 5 games.
Another year goes by without plans for a new Stadium. Even with £200m in the bank the Chairman doesn’t want to risk building a new stadium. At least the he is willing to invest in our youth. Our youth recruitment and youth coaching are now regarded as Exceptional. Upgrades for the training and youth facilities are also in the works.
With my silly little transfer restrictions coming into full effect this summer, I’ve been pushing the board to add a foreign recruitment affiliate. Finally, we’ve been able to add the first one in, PEC Zwolle. I will keep an eye out for future Dutch players in the upcoming intakes.
End of Season Review
I love how much impact international players have on your merchandise sales, Azuma and Perera sky rocketed to the top selling shirts.
This is the last year that I can bring players from outside the club, I’ve gone ahead and signed a couple of players on pre-contract. Let’s hope they can make a difference moving forward.
I created a slack channel if you’d like to talk nonsense and see a bunch of screenshots that won’t make it on here. Thank you for following along.