Season 2 saw chairman Nicola Cortese have to open his chequebook in order to push on for his target of a mid-table finish. I saw this as a chance to get in to Europe though, after a solid 10th place in my 1st season. To do this, I would have to spend big on new faces and shift a lot of deadwood in the squad.
My first signing was Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster, a bargain at £4m. Kelvin Davis had retired and Paulo Gazzanigga just wasn’t good enough, and as Artur Boruc was ageing, I thought a new 1st choice stopper would do no harm. I then brought in wingers Seb Larsson and Kevin Mirallas for £4.5m and £7.75m. To bolster numbers in the centre midfield, Andreas Ivanschitz, an Austrian international, came in on a free. In order to bolster the defence, centre back Neuton came in from Udinese for £5.25m, youngsters Alessio Romagnoli and Richie Davison came in on loan and £725k. Left back Ryan Bertrand came in as cover for Luke Shaw.
We started the season at home to Man United, but a late Ivanschitz penalty was the only consolation in a 3-1 defeat. A Jos Hooiveld brace helped us to our 1st win of the season, 3-0 at QPR. Wins against Stoke (2-1) and Wolves (5-0) were followed by a 3-2 defeat to Norwich. After a win against Villa, we then went 4 games without a win, followed by 3 consecutive victories. After losing out in a thrilling 4-3 to West Brom, a 3-0 win at Hull at the start of December led to only 2 more victories until mid-January. An FA cup run brought inconsistency to our league form, only winning 6 out of the next 12 league games. 6 goals and 6 points from the next 2 games were aided by Mayuka’s 2nd hat-trick of the season. A Lambert brace was unable to make up for a poor defensive display in a 4-2 defeat at Chelsea, where we conceded all 4 goals in 13 second half minutes. Our season ended with tough games, as after that Chelsea game, we played Spurs and Liverpool at home. After a dull 0-0 with Spurs, an 89th minute winner from Lambert saw a 1-0 victory in the season finale.
Yet again, we failed miserably in the COC, with a rotated team struggling through 2-1 against League 2 Burton Albion. We exited the competition 2-1 to Stoke. After going 2-0 down early on, J-Rod’s 70th minute goal gave us hope, however it wasn’t to be.
As I mentioned earlier, we had a good run in the FA cup. Mayuka score all 4 goals in the 3rd round against Fulham (1-1 and 3-0). Youngster Calum Chambers and Mayuka sunk Nottingham Forest in R4. After Bale opened the scoring in R5 for Spurs, Mayuka equalised and Kevin Mirallas scored a late winner. A Lambert brace and a late own goal saw us fly past Arsenal 3-1 in R6 and Wigan equalised late on to send the semi-final to extra time and penalties. An intense shoot out began with all 7 of the first 7 penalties were either saved or missed. Neuton scored the winning (9th) penalty to go through 3-2 on penalties. The final saw a state of deja-vu with plucky underdogs Southampton taking on giants Manchester United. An 83rd minute Jay Rodriguez goal settled a tense match, sending us in to next season’s Europa League as FA cup winners.
A quick summary of the league table is: Man United champions; Spurs, City and Chelsea in the CL; QPR, Burnley and Hull relegated. We finished 7th in the end, as our inconsistency towards the end of the year punishing us.
Emmanuel Mayuka’s 24 goals in all competitions attracted Inter Milan, but we would need him for a charge on Europe next season. As you will be able to see from the team of the season (will put up later), I switched from 4-5-1 to 4-2-3-1 to get more from Ivanschitz and Ramirez, although the ‘best 11’ played Jack Cork in that advanced role.
As always, feel free to comment or tell everyone how you are doing. I’ll put up the results, transfers, table and best 11 in a bit, and will see you at the end of our first European season since 2003/04.