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[FM10] Rebuilding Liverpool


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This is my first ever career here, so let's see how things go! If people have suggestions for how to make these updates better, etc, please do let me know!

The setup:

Football Manager 2010, latest update.

The database: 10.3.0, with some tweaks I've made, trying to bring the database up to date with player movement etc, to be roughly correct. I did this manually so I may well have missed some of the smaller moves or stuff going on overseas. So Man City have Silva and Yaya Toure, Barcelona have Villa, etc. I also downgraded the ratings of some Liverpool players who I thought were unrealistic, e.g. Babel.

Although the game starts in July 2009, I'm treating it as being July 2010, and have updated the database accordingly. So not only are the players at the clubs they "should" be now, but so are the clubs. So Liverpool are in the UEFA Cup, not the Champions League, Portsmouth are in the Championship, Newcastle are in the Premier League, etc.

Particularly relevant moves were putting Jovanovic, Shelvey and Raheem Sterling at Liverpool, making Fabio Aurelio a free agent, Benayoun at Chelsea and Benitez at Inter. I should also mention that I made Thierry Henry a free agent as at the time he was available on a free transfer. Since I started the game he has signed for New York Red Bulls, but it's too late now.

I am running England, France, Italy, Germany and Spain on the foreground, plus a vast number of leagues in the background (all the ones that the game starts with, plus a lot of leagues I've taken from the downloads area of this site especially Arabic and South American leagues.

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So, what are my aims, goals, etc?

My aim is to rebuild Liverpool into a dominant European force, while being responsible financially, such that we are able to build a new stadium. And my aim is to be successful enough that that stadium be named after me! I will also of course have season-by-season aims.

I am starting at Liverpool manager, with "Automatic" past experience.

For my first year:

My minimum aim is to qualify for the Champions League, I will resign and seek to rebuild my managerial career at a lesser club if I cannot manage this.

My more general aim is to put up a good effort at the title. Not necessarily win, but be in the general vicinity.

I will not be taking the FA Cup, UEFA Cup, or League Cup particularly seriously. I will mostly send out backups in those.

My board's expectations:

League: Europa League qualification - as stated, I will resign if we don't make the CL.

Europa League: Reach the final - I predict they are very disappointed in this one.

FA Cup: Reach the final - oh dear.

League Cup: Not important.

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My first decision was to play a 4-4-2, putting Gerrard as a central midfielder and making Aquilani as his backup. This would mean bringing in some strikers.

My transfer activity looked like this:



I brought in Joe Cole to play on the left of midfield, and also to provide flexibility. He has low stamina, but I also have Riera there. Henry is in to partner Torres, as a Deep Lying Forward. Cabanas, Andrade, Aurelio, Antonini and Grisales are all there purely for squad depth. Criscito was my one expensive signing, a player I love. He appears twice in the transfer list because I had to buy both halves of his ownership (for some reason Genoa demanded more than Juve!) so the total cost was £16.25m. As you can see, that was almost all my spending. Late in the transfer window I noticed that River were offering Archubi on a free transfer, so I signed him. My assistant warned me of a global ban of some sort, but I don't mind that. He can provide some squad depth and hopefully I can resell him at a profit when the ban is over.

On the sales side, £47.5m looks impressive, but unfortunately most of the offers were of the "over 48 months type" which is why I could only spend £19.25m. I was particularly sorry to sell Skrtel but I had to in order to raise funds to buy Criscito. I am also paying Babel £13,750 per week until June 2012, to get him to move on. I have "50% of future transfer fee" clauses on all the players I sold on free transfers, plus Insua.

I have also bought Alex Smithies from Huddersfield for £1.2m, but he will be coming to the club at the end of the season. I thought this would be cheaper and simpler than buying him and loaning him out. I have also signed Jadson from Shakthar Donetsk, he will arrive when his contract expires in January.

On the staff side I got rid of almost everyone and brought in my own people. I would post a screenshot, but the Staff Out doesn't fit on one screen! The only significant people I've kept is Sammy Lee as assistant manager, and Kenny Dalglish as scout. The staff I've brought in are mostly just because they have good training ratings etc, but I did bring in Steve McManaman just because I loved him as a player.

The squad looks like this:


Mavinga and Itandje, both out on loan, are the only ones earning real money outside the first-team squad. I will get rid of them at the earliest opportunity. I view Aquilani as horribly overpaid, but won't be able to get rid of him for a while.

My take on the squad is that the depth is reasonable, but we are missing a proper backup to Mascherano. The first team, however, is really pretty damn good, which is why I am focusing on the league over the cups. If we don't get too many injuries, I feel like my first XI is the best in the league and should have every chance of success.

As said, I'm playing a 4-4-2. If you're interested in my tactics I can give you a copy, but essentially it is quite basic. It looks like this (with first choice players in the positions):


Torres is Advanced Forward - Attack

Henry is Deep Lying Forward - Support

Gerrard is Advanced Playmaker - Attack

Mascherano is Ball Winning Midfielder - Defend

Cole and Maxi are Wide Midfielder - Attack

The full backs are on Support

Carragher and Agger are Central Defender - Defend

The devil is in the detail and I have of course tweaked their individual instructions/mentality/etc but by and large it is a simple formation. I know that you can use "uber-tactics" but I prefer not to, I like to use realistic tactics that reflect my IRL football preferences. The Philosophy is Balanced, the Style is Control and the Passing is Shorter.

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I didn't pay much attention to our friendlies, allowing Sammy Lee to take charge of them, but as we got ready for our first competitive match I noticed we had won them all! I rested our good players for our friendly with Olympique de Marseille as we had our first UEFA Cup match the next day, and as a result we suffered our only defeat of the preseason, but I was encouraged. Clearly the squad was as good as I thought.

We destroyed Rijeka 6-0 in the first real match of the season, scoring 5 goals in the first half, including a hat-trick for Torres. This allowed me to play backups and youngsters in the return game, which was a slightly disappointing 0-0 draw, but that's what happens when you don't send out the best team. This led into the first Premier League game of the season, which was at home to Wigan. We completely dominated the game, and the inevitable breakthrough came after 21 minutes. Henry and Cole combined down the left, which led to Cole dribbling past his man and slotting home from the edge of the area. After that we had chance after chance, but couldn't seem to put them away, and I was starting to get a little worried. But just 23 seconds into the second half, Thierry Henry curled in a beauty from 30 yards to end the game as a contest. There was no further scoring after that, but our dominance was complete, with 60% possession and 21 shots, 10 on target to their 1. It was an excellent start to the season.

Next up was the final preliminary round of the UEFA Cup, where we faced IFK Goteborg, also at Anfield. They'd had a very busy summer, signing several good new players and I was slightly concerned, particularly as the game was midweek and I was playing my backups. At first I thought my fears would be confirmed, as Goteborg had the better of the first half-hour, and deservedly took the lead through lightning quick ex-Sunderland striker Tobias Hysen. Fortunately, we improved after that, and took the lead when Dirk Kuyt scored a bullet-header from a Fabio Aurelio cross. In the second half Goteborg continued to shade the match, but had a strange reluctance to actually shoot, and when they did, they found Reina having a great game. Then Salvador Cabanas picked the ball up 35 yards from goal, dribbled past two men, and slotted past the keeper. Goteborg continued to press but after that we had the better of the game, and ran out slightly fortuitous winners.

On the Sunday we entertained Spurs at Anfield, and my God, but we were brilliant! We exploded out of the blocks and killed the game as a contest in the first half hour, with two goals from Maxi Rodriguez, and one from Joe Cole. All three were largely created by Gerrard, who had yet to score but was putting in some brilliant performances. After that I told the lads to take their foot off the pedal and although Crouch did pull one back, Spurs were never really in it. On Thursday it was the return leg against IFK Goteborg, and this time we did show our class and outplayed them. Cabanas scored a header from a Fabio Aurelio free kick after 40 minutes, and Goteborg barely created a chance, even after Kyrgiakos decided to get himself sent off. Bah. But with that we are through to the group stages of the Europa League, no doubt much to the pleasure of the board.

On Sunday it was time for the first-teamers to play again, in our first away game in the league, at Villa Park. Once again we absolutely dominated the game, but unfortunately Brad Friedel played like a maniac (9.3 rating) and kept us to just one goal, a nice close-range finish from a beautiful Gerrard pass. In the final 20 minutes Villa got a few chances, but thank heavens didn't punish us. A good win, but some alarm bells there.

The next game was at home against Blackburn, and once again we were totally dominant, and once again we could not score. Blackburn didn't create a chance of note the entire game, but it looked like we weren't going to be able to put them away, despite our many chances. Fortunately, Fabio Aurelio scored a second-half screamer from 25 yards, and we took our third successive 1-0 win - and second consecutive game where the man of the match was the opposing goalkeeper. I was actually much happier with this game than the Aston Villa one though, because of our defensive solidity.

In the Europa League we were drawn against Lazio, Dinamo Bucuresti and NK Dinamo (i.e. Dinamo Zagreb). Our first game was at home to NK Dimano, and I decided to use my first-teamers in this game, as we had no match at the weekend. And the quality was just too much for the Croatians. Like in the Spurs game, we were 3-0 up after half an hour, and could cruise for the rest of the game. This time the destroyer was Fernando Torres, with two phenomenal goals where he dribbled past the whole defence, and setting up the other for Maxi Rodriguez. Torres has been excellent for me this season but has not been able to finish, and so it was great to see him get his name on the scoresheet.

There was no game at the weekend, but on the Tuesday we played away to Leicester City in the League Cup 3rd round. I gave the backups and young players a run-out, and it was a pretty close game, but fortunately another bullet-header from Dirk Kuyt proved enough.

Our first Premier League game in 15 days was at home to Sunderland, and it started in disaster as Matthew Kilgallon bundled in a fluke goal from a corner. Henry picked up a beautiful Gerrard pass to score on a breakaway after 31 minutes, but we went into half-time at 1-1 and I told the players exactly what I thought about that. Fortunately the second half was a different story - we really turned on the class and ran out comfortable 5-1 winners, with goals from Gerrard, Torres, Cabanas and Henry's second. Unfortunately my joy was tempered by an injury to Torres. After the match Dave Galley told me that my star striker would miss the next 2 weeks, which was a bitter blow. This meant I would be relying more on Salvador Cabanas - who, to be fair, had been playing very well.

The season so far:


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I was very happy with our performances so far - essentially a 100% record - but I knew that I would struggle to keep it up, particularly without Torres. I was pleasantly surprised by Henry's impact - he had drifted in and out of games, to be honest, but kept popping up with the goals - but slightly disappointed with Joe Cole, who seemed unable to last the full 90. Our other major signing, Criscito, was playing very well as part of a nigh-impregnable defence.

Our biggest game of the season so far was next - at the Stadio Olimpico to face Lazio in the Europa League. However I resisted the temptation to play my first teamers, preferring them to save them for the upcoming league game against West Ham. While Lazio had the better of the game, we gave a reasonable account of ourselves. Unfortunately, some pretty basic defensive errors led to two Lazio goals, and there was no way back after that. To add injury to insult, Cabanas twisted his knee and was out for 2 weeks - at exactly the time I needed him to carry the load for Torres. Unhappy as I was, this is the inevitable result of a slightly thin squad, so I knew I would have to make do and mend.

As a result the next match away to West Ham necessitated some tactical rejigging. I kept the formation the same, but shifted Henry to the Advanced Forward role (on the left of the two), and moved Maxi to the Deep Lying Forward. I brought in Kuyt to the right side of midfield, and also played Riera on the left (Cole was too tired). We didn't set the world alight, but we did create a fair few chances. Unfortunately, Gerrard squandered the best of them when his penalty was well-saved by Rob Green, but he made amends with a well-taken goal from a Thierry Henry cross. Our finishing in this game was terrible - 15 shots, including 3 clear-cut chances, but just 6 on target - no doubt the result of missing both our real finishers, but fortunately 1-0 was enough to win this one.

The West Ham game was followed by an 11-day break for internationals, which both gave Torres and Cabanas a chance to get fit, and gave everyone else a chance to get injured. And Daniel Agger obliged, picking up a dead leg on international duty to rule himself out of the upcoming Chelsea game. Fortunately he was the only one to get injured, but a number of people came back very tired, and so I went into the crucial game at Stamford Bridge with far from a first-choice lineup. Antonini came in for Johnson at left back, and Andrade was in for Agger. Riera stayed in the team in place of Cole, and Gerrard wasn't properly fit but I decided I needed him anyway. Henry couldn't play, so Torres partnered Maxi up front, with Kuyt keeping his place on the right.

It turns out I was right to risk Gerrard because he scored an absolute screamer of a free-kick. Unfortunately Chelsea's new signing Chinedu Obasi rather shredded our defence to equalise, and at times Chelsea threatened to overrun us. Gerrard was exhausted at half-time and I replaced him with Aquilani, but if anything things only got worse. Fortunately Chelsea couldn't beat Reina, who played a blinder, and the match ended 1-1. Incredibly this was the first league game we hadn't won. I couldn't be entirely happy with the performance in this game, but I had to be happy with the season so far.

And this happiness was just reinforced in the next game, a comfortable 3-1 home win over Dinamo Bucuresti. A fit-again Cabanas was at the heart of everything, getting assists for the first two goals - a close finish from Kuyt, and a long range shot from Aquilani. In the second half Jovanovic nodded in an Aurelio free-kick - like Aquilani, his first ever Liverpool goal. Varga scored an injury time consolation but that was meaningless.

On the Sunday we played Stoke City at home, and unleashed a masterclass on them. A hat-trick from Torres, two from Henry, and Stoke's misery was complete when James Beattie missed a penalty. Gerrard had a hat-trick of assists - playing in this deeper position, he is not scoring as much, but he is absolutely running the show. The final score was 5-0 but would have been more if I hadn't told the players to ease up in the second half.

On Wednesday we had yet another home game, this time against Man City in the League Cup. I played my backups as usual and Man City played their first team - frankly, I was scared. But I needn't have been, because for all City's expensive firepower, they just couldn't beat Jose Reina, who was man of the match. Man City had more possession and more chances, but in the end we ran out comfortable 2-0 winners, thanks to slightly scrappy goals for Kuyt and Cabanas. I was starting to think that fate was with us!

The next game was in the league, away to Birmingham, so the first choice team came in again. Everyone was fit and raring to go so it was my ideal team, to recap:


Unfortunately, we didn't play all that well and it was a fairly close match. Fortunately my defence was solid and Torres fed Henry for the only goal of the game - his 7th in just 8 games for the club. He was proving to be a sensational signing.

Next was away to Dinamo Bucuresti in the Europa, and Cabanas absolutely shredded them, with a hat-trick of sensational goals, and also found time to set up Jovanovic as we ran out easy 4-1 winners. It's true that we've been slightly lucky in some of our results but it's also true that we are always creating lots of chances and dominating possession, so when things do click, we just look unstoppable. And that unstoppability continued in the league at home to Wolves. It ended 5-0 but it could have been 10 - two goals for Gerrard, and one each for Riera, Torres and Henry. I had to take Gerrard off as a precaution for an injury but I got to breathe a huge sigh of relief when it turned out he wouldn't miss any time.

Next up - Man City again, this time in the Premier League. With just 3 days gone since the Wolves team, I could only send out a patchwork team - a first choice defence, but Aquilani in for Gerrard, Shelvey in for Cole, Kuyt in for Maxi and Jovanovic in for Henry. Things got worse after 11 minutes when Carragher had to be carried off, to be replaced by Andrade. And it looked like City would get revenge for their cup defeat when Adebayor put them up 1-0 after half an hour, thanks to great work by Tevez. However, that was the only chance they created in the entire 90 minutes, and at half-time I not only laid into my underperforming team, I brought on Steven Gerrard, who proceeded to turn the match on his head, completely bossing the midfield. However, it was actually Criscito who set up both goals with lovely deep crosses from the left wing, which were headed in by Kuyt and Cabanas to give us a much-deserved 2-1 win.

So as we head into the international break, we see us still in the FA Cup, in reasonable position in our Europa Cup group, and still undefeated in the Premier League. Looking good!



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Jod123 - thank you for your kind words. As I mentioned above, this is my first career I'm posting here, if there are extra screenshots or informations you think would be useful, please do say.

* * * * *

My next opponent, Arsene Wenger, has compared international breaks to a joyride - the international manager takes runs your players into the ground then dumps them back on your doorstep, out of fuel and possibly banged up. As a fan I don't agree, but as a manager in FM, I think he's too moderate! Fortunately none of my players picked up injuries, but they did come back very out of petrol for the huge game at Highbury. Aquilani came in for Gerrard and Riera came in for Cole, but otherwise it was a first-choice side, as Carragher had recovered from the injury he picked up against City. We were facing an excellent Arsenal side without our best player, but the fact that they were playing Chamakh out of position on the right wing of their 4-3-3 gave me hope.

Arsenal had the best of things early on, and we simply couldn't complete our passes, a completion rate under 60%. However we fought our way into the game and by half-time were clearly on top, although the match remained goalless. I sent on Gerrard and Cole for Aquilani and Riera at the break, but the match continued its first-half pattern, with my boys dominant but unable to create many chances. Then with 3 minutes to go, Robbie van Persie scored on the counter, bursting through the left channel and slamming his finish past Reina. Torres had a great chance to equalise in injury time but he couldn't do it, and Liverpool sank to the first league defeat of the season. We've had some fortuitous wins, so it's hard to complain too much about an unlucky loss, but this one really felt like a kick in the teeth.

Next up was the midweek game away to newly promoted Blackpool, who've had a disastrous season so far, scoring 6 and conceding 29. But this game was overshadowed by far more exciting news - we'd been taken over! The Hicks/Gilette reign of terror was over, and the Jim Fagan reign of terrr....ific management had begun! And instead of replacing me with Juande Ramos, as was first mooted, he allowed me to stay at the club, and even started work to upgrade the youth and training facilities. Hooray! They also injected some money into the club, but more worryingly they restructured the debt, such that we now owe £180m, and are paying £815k per month until 2034. Frankly I'd prefer the debt to be paid off sooner, because the sooner we're out from under the debt the better. But hey, new owners, can't complain.

In the match itself I used my backups, as my first choice team were exhausted after the Arsenal game, and I figured Blackpool wouldn't be able to cope anyway. Aquilani scored with a header(!) in the 6th minute from an Aurelio cross, but unfortunately had to be carried off shortly after. The bad news for Blackpool was that meant Gerrard came on, so it got no easier for them. 30 seconds into the second half Cabanas capitalised on some real comedy defending to make it 2-0, and end the game as a contest. Cabanas got his second in the 53rd minute, at which point I felt confident enough to take Gerrard off the pitch to save him for the weekend game against West Brom. Kuyt made it 4-0 in injury time, and it was no less than we deserved. Not that my backups had played that well - just that Blackpool were ferociously bad.

Next up was a Saturday evening game against West Brom, in which I was able to play the full first-choice lineup. Despite outplaying the opposition, we only managed one shot on target in the first half, and I got angry at the team at half-time - which worked, Torres danced through the defence to put us a goal up just a couple of minutes after the break. Unfortunately Nando had to be carried off shortly after, and Rodionov then equalised for West Brom despite being clearly offside. Henry had had to go off earlier, so I was relying on a makeshift strikeforce of Cabanas and Maxi to make the breakthrough - which they did, thanks to an incredbile goal from Cabanas where he picked the ball up in the centre-circle and went all the way. Then Mascherano split the defence with a 40 yard ball and Gerrard ran through to slam home. Mascherano then got himself sent off but my defence was far too solid for West Brom to get back into the game. 3-1 the final score.

I got some good news on the Tuesday when the new board gave me a couple of million to play with in the January transfer window. After thinking about the matter carefully, I decided to transfer the money to my wage budget, and try and sign some Bosmans for the following season. I had entirely tapped out my transfer budget in the summer window and without that leeway I wouldn't have much to tempt the players on expiring contracts.

Thanks to the red card against West Brom, Mascherano was of course suspended for the next domestic game, as was Gerrard (5 yellows) so I started them both in the midweek Europa game against Dinamo. The rest of the team was backups. Gerrard scored a free-kick, Reina saved a penalty, and it looked like we were cruising until Igor Biscan scored from a corner. I can't say I was surprised - he hurt our chances so much when he played for us, why should he stop just because he's an opponent? Unfortunately we couldn't respond and the game petered out to a 1-1 draw - a slightly disappointing result, but one that nevertheless ensured we would qualify from our group, and with one game to spare.

Sunday found us away at Bolton. With Gerrard and Mascherano suspended, Grisales filled the ball-winning role, and Riera came in on the left, with Cole switching to the middle. In addition, Cabanas came in for Torres, who had picked up an injury against West Brom and so started on the bench. Early on we were dominant, with Cabanas hitting the bar and Cole hitting a shot that came off the post and then came to a stop on the goal-line (!), so it was no surprise when Riera thumped us into the lead after half an hour. Unfortunately we then condeded a penalty (for the second game in a row) and this time Reina could not save. Then just after half-time Carragher got caught out of position and Klasnic scored his second - we were behind despite having been much the better side. I brought on Torres for Cabanas but Bolton were able to suppress our attacks without a huge amount of difficulty, and we tasted our third loss of the season. I was extremely frustrated, and I let the players know.

The quarter-final of the League Cup saw us drawn at home against Aston Villa, but with the derby game just 3 days later, I decided to persist with my policy of saving my first choice team for league games. What with one thing and another, Dani Pacheco got his first start of the season. His only previous appearance was as a sub, when he'd been terrible, and he wasn't much better this time. But that didn't matter - we took the lead when Cabanas found Kuyt in space, then Cabanas scored the second himself, and we went into half-time up two and cruising. Cabanas scored again just after half-time (Curtis Davies letting him through hilariously) and completed his hat-trick after an hour, although Villa had their chances they were never going to come back from four goals down. It finished 4-1 and we could look forward to a semi-final against Arsenal (gulp!).

Archubi had been struggling to settle in the area, and missed training, so I fined him a week's wages then sent him on leave. He's still under a global ban so the leave doesn't affect anything, may as well.

What does affect things though is the derby against Everton, who were flying high in fourth place. I was able to send out a first choice team, and they set out to batter the blues, creating chance after chance, while Everton could barely get out of their own half. It took less than 15 minutes for Torres to give us the lead, but it felt like forever, so well had we been playing. Completely against the run of play, Everton got the ball in the net but it was ruled offside, then immediately afterwards Torres nodded in a Gerrard free kick for his second. Just after half-time Torres sashayed through Everton's defence for the hat-trick, then turned provider on the hour as Henry headed home a Torres cross to make it four. Torres scored his fourth in the seventy-fifth minute, once again making Yobo and Heitinga look very foolish indeed. It finished 5-0, one of the most lopsided results ever in the Merseyside derby, thanks largely to the magic of Torres, who fully earned his 9.9 rating in this one.

Next was Lazio in the Europa League, but with both teams having qualified, this match was largely meaningless, so I played a very weakened side - not just backups, but backups to backups. I didn't want to throw the game, but we have a very congested fixture list in the second half of December and so I want to give my players every possible chance to rest. The Everton result was tremendous but one game does not make a season and the key games are coming thick and fast. As it happened the youngsters and fringe players held Lazio to a goalless draw, which put a smile on my face.

Next up was Fulham, which started a nightmarish run of 5 games in 10 days, all in the Premier League. Clearly, this would be make-or-break time for my title challenge - we currently stand 5 points clear of Arsenal with a game in hand, but a bad run now will change all that in a trice. We dominated the first half, but it took until the 51st minute for Torres to give us the lead, which he quickly doubled 3 minutes later, latching on to a long clearance from Reina. Just 2 minutes later Fulham failed to clear a shallow cross from Gerrard and Torres had his hat-trick - all in the space of 6 minutes! After more insane defending from Senderos, Cole made it 4-0, and despite an Andy Johnson consolation in the last minute, the Fulham fans went home miserable. A hat-trick for Torres and a hat-trick of assists for Gerrard - perfect.

Rather less perfect, however, was the prospect of a visit to Old Trafford to face third-placed Man Utd. My team are apparently favourites, but I can't see it. Not only do Man Utd start with a great team, they have spent more than £40m on new players, including Mesut Ozil - whose stats I pumped up in the database before starting the game, and then he decides to sign for Manure! Typical! With the match coming so soon after the Fulham game, I had to make some changes - Kuyt replaced Maxi, and Henry dropped to the bench, with Aquilani coming into midfield and Gerrard moving into the "hole".

Man Utd started in dominant fashion, and it was no surprise when Park Ji-Sung gave them the lead in the fifth minute, latching onto Cabaye's ball into the channel. But quite against the run of play Aquilani thumped home a piledriver from long range, and the game seemed to change. Gerrard and Torres were combining well and for a while we seemed to be getting the better of it... until in almost an instant replay of the first goal, Cabaye played a ball into the right-hand channel and Park latched onto it beating Criscito. This time, however, Criscito pulled Park down, and Cabaye stepped up to tuck away the penalty. Torres then missed the easiest of chances to equalise, and Ozil scythed through our defence to give Berbatov a tap-in. 3-1 to Man Utd at half time and I was furious.

The second half started dully by comparison. I soon reverted to a 4-4-2 to try and force the issue, bringing on Maxi and Henry, but Man Utd defended quite easily, until with 12 minutes left Torres danced through their defence to make it 3-2 and game on. Then with two minutes left a quick break and a laughable offside trap saw Fernando Torres through on goal. He must score... 3-3, and the away fans go mad. We continued pressing for the winner, but it wasn't to be.

Domenico Criscito got a 3.6 rating for the game, and even that was generous. I fined him 2 weeks' wages for that shocker. Some might say that to come to Old Trafford and get a draw is a good result, and there is some truth to that. However, I have to be deeply unhappy with the defending - all three goals came from balls played from deep into the channels. Does that mean my tactics are at fault? Or was it a combination of poor performances from my defenders, with the fact that I was up against outstanding attackers? Either way, it's highly unsatisfactory, as I base my teams on a solid defence. Prior to this game we'd conceded 9 goals in 17 league games. To score 3 goals and fail to win... it's unheard of.

With all due respect to the Toon Army, Newcastle at home is not the same challenge as Man Utd away, but with the games coming so thick and fast I was struggling to get a team together for this one. Aurelio replaced Criscito, Kyrgiakos replaced Carragher, Antonini replaced Johnson, and the midfield, right to left, was Kuyt, Maxi, Mascherano, Riera. Up front, Cabanas partnered Henry. Far from a first choice lineup, and with the game played in a downpour, the quality was very low. Fortunately, that was true of both sides, and when Coloccini mindlessly tripped Cabanas in the early going, Kuyt drilled home the opener from 12 yards. The rest of the game was dull, punctuated by progressively more disastrous misses from Thierry Henry, and an injury time sending off for Coloccini. However, no incident meant that our lead held and the game finished 1-0. A poor performance but an important win.

The Newcastle game was on Saturday, but Monday saw us in action once again, this time away to Wigan, as the nightmare run of games continued. The squad was down to its bare bones, with starts going not so much to the fit, as to the least unfit. As against Man Utd, I went with Torres alone up front and Gerrard in the hole. The midfield was (right to left) Shelvey Aquilani Grisales Cole. Surprisingly, I was able to field a first choice defence, with the exception of Andrade in for Agger. With 20 minutes gone Wigan hadn't mustered so much as a shot and we had twice their possession, so it was no surprise that the pressure told and Torres curled a beauty into the net from the edge of the area. In the 24th minute the home fans gave a disconsolate cheer as Wigan managed their first shot of the match - horribly off target. After 34 minutes Torres made it two from a Shelvey cross, and there was no way back for Wigan after that. To be honest with only one man up front our attacks were not very penetrating, but Wigan simply could not get hold of the ball and so were never at the races. The second half was as lopsided as the first, and Torres completed his hat-trick in the 69th minute from the penalty spot, after Bramble had needlessly hacked him down. Torres earned another penalty in the 86th minute, but this one was taken - and missed - by Kuyt. 3-0 was how it finished, with Wigan managing just 3 shots the entire game - of which two were blocked. By contrast we had 21. Also worth noting is that with that hat-trick, Torres has now scored 23 goals in 19 games for us - as well as 4 in 5 games for Spain. Absolutely lethal, and a large part of why we sit atop the league.

The final game of this fixture congestion - and indeed the final game of this update - was at home to West Ham, just two days after the Wigan game. The Newcastle game I could understand - that's the Boxing Day fixture. The Wigan game I could understand - that was on the bank holiday Monday immediately after Boxing Day. But then to play again on the Wednesday evening? That's just the FA taking the ****. I suspect it is because of issues with the Europa League - the game seems to have difficulties scheduling Thursday games sometimes and this season I've missed out on a weekend fixture because of it, and I suspect this game is the catch-up game. But moaning won't get me anywhere, and there is no longer a button to ask for a fixture postponement, so nothing to do but play the game. I went back to 4-4-2 and played the first choice team, except with Torres, Maxi, Johnson, Criscito and Carragher replaced by Cabanas, Kuyt, Antonini, Aurelio and Andrade.

The preview said that they expected us to have the game won by half-time but it really didn't work like that - we created very little and at half time it was goalless. However, Kuyt scored an excellent team goal on the hour mark and with West Ham barely threatening, that was always likely to be enough. With 5 minutes left, Ilunga hauled down Cabanas in the area and Kuyt tucked the penalty away, to make the game safe. A good enough win, and so the year closes with Liverpool top of the league and still in all the cups. An excellent first half of the season, but with the January transfer window about to open, things can change in a flash.




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My god man your doing a lot of writing :D I'll do the inevitable and suggest that maybe you look into putting this into the story's forum. I think it would actually slot quite nicely over there if you did individual posts for the games or months or whatever. You have a very nice informative style of writing.

But anyway cracking season so far anyway. Do you think you would have done as well if Theirry Henry had gone to New York?

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Your better than Rafa Benitez, well that's not hard.

I'm going to do that but as I have an updated database with Henry as a free transfer I'm going to use that but I'm going to bump up Liverpool's finances. So I'm going to cheat.

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But anyway cracking season so far anyway. Do you think you would have done as well if Theirry Henry had gone to New York?

It's impossible to say for sure, of course. But as you see I'm spending £60k per week on his salary, and although he scored a lot of goals early he hasn't actually been THAT good. If I hadn't signed him I'd be using Maxi in that role, Dirk Kuyt on the right, and I'd have the £60k per week to get a proper backup for Mascherano - and likely some other squad depth too. I think results would be about the same, what I lost in first-team firepower I'd make up in depth, so I don't think the Henry signing was make-or-break.

The key hasn't been Henry, it's been Torres and Gerrard, who have both barely been injured. That's just pure luck on my part.

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Your better than Rafa Benitez, well that's not hard.

I'm going to do that but as I have an updated database with Henry as a free transfer I'm going to use that but I'm going to bump up Liverpool's finances. So I'm going to cheat.

Don't cheat. I actually made the game harder for myself by downgrading the Liverpool squad, and look how I'm doing - and I'm no great player. Winning with Liverpool is not so hard that you need to cheat to do it.

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With the January transfer window about to open, it was time for me to take stock of my squad and where I hoped to be next season. Up front, I was planning to ship out Jovanovic, and Henry too if a replacement could be found, and move Maxi to be the backup second striker. In midfield, to ship out Aquilani, Grisales, and one of Kuyt and Riera, and bring in Gourcuff to play on the right side of midfield, someone good to play on the left, and a solid backup for Mascherano. In defence, I would want to ship out Antonini, Kyrgiakos, Andrade - and also Aurelio if a good replacement could be found. I'd also shift Carragher to a backup position.

So my needs were:

Starting Second Striker

Starting Left Midfielder

Backup Ball-Winning Midfielder

First Choice Central Defender

Backup Central Defender

Backup Left Back

Backup Right Back

Now, realistically, I was not going to find all this with Bosmans, but the more I could pick up like this, the more money I would have to spend on the first team in the summer. In addition, any other shiny pieces I could look for would be very welcome.

With this in mind, I offered contracts to veteran central defenders Burdisso and Rivas, and also a trio of youngsters based in France - Feghouli, N'Diaye and N'Koulou. As more luxury moves I went hard after Kim Kallstrom, Jose Paolo Guerrero and Amr Zaki, and made a bid for promising Canadian youngster Stephen Gauss of Toronto FC. I didn't necessarily expect to sign them all, but I bid for more players than I would need, in the expectation of being disappointed here or there. In the end, they all agreed terms with us, except Guerrero.

As the new year opened, Torres won World Footballer of the Year, European Footballer of the Year and World Player of the Year, with Gerrard coming third in the first two awards and second in the final one. Torres also won European Striker of the Year, Gerrard came second to Messi as European Midfielder of the Year, and Reina came third in Goalkeeper of the Year. The powers that be were recognising our tremendous start to the season, and Gerrard and Torres both made World Team of the Year.

Of more direct importance, however, was the signing of Brazilian star Jadson on a free transfer, to be the backup to Gerrard. This left me in something of a quandary - what should I do with Aquilani? In the end I decided to keep Aquilani at the club until the end of the season, as I would surely benefit from the squad depth. Unfortunately Jadson came in jaded so I sent him on a week's holiday.

The first game of the new year was in the FA Cup away to Watford. I decided to play my first choice team in this game, as the midweek game was the League Cup. However I did give runouts to Pacheco, Shelvey and Palsson, as the squad was not recovered from the gruelling December slog. Fortunately the youngsters were up for the challenge, and Pacheco fed Shelvey for a lovely goal from the edge of the area, then Carragher bundled in a corner to make it 2-0. Torres scored a beautiful third in the second half, but then ruined a perfect day when he had to go off with a knock. Fortunately it turned out not to be serious, he would only miss 6 days.

In the midweek League Cup game, I sent out a patchwotk team of backups and youngsters against the first XI of Arsenal - second in the league, and only just behind us. I feared for the worst, but at least we would have the opportunity to make up any deficit in the second leg. We were definitely outplayed in the first half, but we had a number of excellent chances, so losing 1-0 at the half was rather disappointing. Unfortunately it only got worse in the second half, and it finished 2-0 to the Gunners.

We stayed in London for our next match, at White Hart Lane, where despite missing the injured Torres, we were 2-0 up within half an hour, thanks to a Cabanas header and a sensational long-range free-kick from the captain. Another free-kick from Gerrard hit the crossbar, and we were cruising at half-time. But we couldnt't add to our lead, and with 15 minutes left Crouch headed in a corner, and it was game on again. Then with 10 minutes left, another corner saw Nico Krancjar (!!!) beat Criscito to power a header in at the near post, and despite our huffing and puffing we simply couldn't break the Spurs defence down. Two points thrown away in horrible fashion, and I let the team know about it.

At this time I also negotiated the sale of Agger to Man City and Maxi Rodriguez to Real Madrid, for £15m and £16m respectively, to go through at the end of the season. I felt this money was too good to turn down for pretty replaceable players, even though it would mean rearranging my transfer plans for the summer. An extra £31m in the kitty goes a long way. In the shorter term, I sold Kelly and Archubi, and brought in Hayden Mullins on a free transfer to cover for Mascherano. I even got Pompey to pick up some of his wages.

In the Premier League we now faced Aston Villa, who were never at the races. Torres and Kuyt scored the goals in an easy 2-0 victory. But all focus was now on the second leg of the League Cup semi-final. Could we overturn the deficit and get me to Wembley for the first time? With the exception of Mascherano, I put my faith in the backups, with Jadson getting his first start. A two goal deficit is hard to overcome, but when Thomas Vermaelen decided to give us a helping hand, Jovanovic was there to slot home.Then Almunia let a Shelvey shot go seemingly straight through him, and we were back on level terms going into half-time. Then with time running out, Shelvey was tripped in the penalty area, and that man Kuyt slammed home into the top corner. That's how it stayed, and we were into the League Cup final!

And the rejoicing continued, because I suddenly remembered that having already agreed the transfers of Agger and Maxi, I had that money available to spend now. So... in came Gourcuff! I'd been planning to sign him in the summer, but I accelerated things! With Barcelona sniffing around Albert Riera, I also started looking in earnest at how I would spend my money over the summer - an important central defender, such as Fazio or Otamendi, was top of the list.

We then welcomed Burnley in the FA Cup, and played what was essentially a first choice team, except Maxi and Mullins were in for Henry and Mascherano (Gourcuff is now the first choice right-sided midfielder). Our passing and movement was far too much for the clarets, and we were two goals up after only 3 minutes, thanks to Cole and Torres. Gerrard got the third, Torres the fourth, and Burnley didn't have so much as a shot on target the entire game. This was Championship opposition we should have been beating easily, but this was one of the most complete performances of the season so far.

Blackpool had scored just 12 goals in 23 Premier League games, while conceding 54, both marks the worst in the division - so I took the liberty of using my backups when they visited Anfield. The over-confidence looked like costing me when Jonjo Shelvey decided to pass to Gary Taylor-Fletcher in our penalty area, and we were down 1-0. Fortunately Shelvey made immediate amends, heading home a Jovanovic free-kick, and then in the second half Jovanovic fired home a loose ball after a Cabanas cross. Blackpool were never going to come back from that, but Shelvey's second of the game eliminated any doubt, a fine finish from a Cabanas through-ball. It wasn't a vintage performance, but it was more than good enough.

The month concluded with the sale of Riera to Sunderland, the purchase of Nicolas Otamendi, and a Premier League game away to Blackburn. Otamendi replaced Agger as a first-choice player, and Maxi stood in for the unfit Gerrard. Torres fed Maxi to make it 1-0 just before half-time, and despite our narrow lead we were looking very good, until Steven Reid hacked down Torres and forced him off the field. With that our threat was blunted, but to be fair Blackburn never looked like scoring either. An extremely comprehensive 1-0 win (11 shots on target to their 1, 4 CCCs to their 0) and fortunately Torres would only miss 4-5 days, so we could breathe a sigh of relief.

Before the transfer window, I sold Andrade to Wolfsburg for £3m (paying him £2,600 per week to make the deal happen). It was a busy transfer window for me, but all told I think we came out of it extremely well, both in the short and long term.


(Note: I also have 50% of future profit on the Kelly sale)



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Our first game of February was the visit of third placed Chelsea to Anfield. Chelsea themselves were 16 points behind us and effectively out of the race, but they had an excellent team, and any slip-up on our part would allow second-placed Arsenal to capitalise. Unfortunately Torres was only able to start on the bench, but otherwise it was a first-choice side. The luck I have had with injuries this season has been excellent, and the major part of the success we have enjoyed. Less happy was Henry's ongoing goal drought, now almost 10 hours.

Chelsea took the lead after twenty minutes when Matic hit a very strange-looking ball from long range - was it a lob? was it a normal shot? - that totally fooled Reina and went in off the crossbar. Cabanas was a constant threat but his finishing was terrible, and we went into half-time a goal down and looking in deep trouble. In the second half we hit the woodwork twice and the misfiring Henry screwed a glorious chance wide, and even the introduction of Torres could not turn the game. But then as time ticked down, who should pop up in the opponent's 6-yard-box but Javier Mascherano, tucking Cabanas's cross into an unguarded net. 1-1 was the final score and although we had slightly the better of the match, it was probably a fair result. Happily Man Utd beat Arsenal later in the day, so our lead at the top actually grew.

On the Tuesday we faced Sunderland, and played as many first teamers as I could, but it was still a substantially weakened lineup, only two days having passed since the Chelsea game. Unfortunately Agger decided that trying to mark or tackle Richardson was rather beneath him, and we went into half-time a goal down having created pretty much nowt. I threw on sub after sub in the second half, but to no avail. Sunderland's defence held firm and with the help of a great performance by Gordon, they handed us our third league loss of the season.

The FA Cup tie against League One Norwich was a chance to rebound, and to rest some players too. It was one way traffic, with Shelvey giving us an early lead we were never going to lose. Pacheco scored his first ever Liverpool goal to make it two, Shelvey added the third with another stunner, and we could take our foot off the gas knowing it was a job well done.

At this point I was offered the Ivory Coast managerial job, which I accepted. To be honest I had preferred the Egypt job, which fell vacant at the same time, but it seems Egypt didn't have enough players in the database or something. Oh well, leading Drogba, Romaric, Gervinho, the Toures, etc into the World Cup is a fine consolation prize.

My backups took on Hertha Berlin at Anfield in the Europa. We didn't play particularly well, but Cabanas kept up his lethal finishing to score a hat-trick, and he set up Maxi Rodriguez for another in a good 5-0 win (the final goal a Kuyt penalty). That's now 19 goals on the season for Cabanas, he's been a phenomenal signing at just £2.8m. I can't see us throwing this advantage away, so I will be able to give lots of players a rest in the second leg.

We had messed about in the cups long enough, time to get back to the league, as Man City visited Anfield. Unfortunately Gerrard got a straight red in the early going for a seemingly innoculous foul on Adebayor. Fortunately Torres scored a lovely goal to give us the lead, and Man City were themselves down to 10 men after an hour when Boenisch got his second yellow. Our defence was superb throughout, and by the time Maxi scored the second in injury time, City had blown themselves out. Perhaps more of a battling win than a vintage one, but a crucial victory nevertheless against an excellent team. Arsenal had been having some poor results lately and were in danger of being overtaken by Chelsea and Man Utd - so our lead was up to 11 points with 10 games to go, giving us some much-needed breathing space.

With a 5-0 lead the return leg against Hertha was a formality, so I played a very weakened team. Cabanas scored his 20th of the season, we lost 3-1, blah blah, who cares. The important thing is we're into the next round, to face our old opponents from the group stages, Lazio.

In the League Cup final, we faced West Ham. Gerrard missed the game through suspension, but otherwise the team was fit and raring to go, and we raced into an early lead when Henry finally scored his 10th goal of the season, and his first since early December. It wasn't the greatest game we ever played and both sides struggled, but Torres scored the clincher from a corner in the last minute, to make it 2-0 and win my first piece of silverware, and Liverpool's first since the Gerrard Cup Final of 2006 - ironically, also against West Ham.

There were only 6 days until my next match, Chelsea away in the FA Cup, but somehow internationals were scheduled into that brief gap, exhausting some of my players. With Gerrard still suspended, I named a mostly unchanged team, but Maxi came in for Henry and Kuyt for Gourcuff. The match started at a frenetic pace, with Chelsea having the better of things, and so it was no surprise when Michael Essien put them in front with a spectacular long range piledriver. Just before half time Ashley Cole hauled down Kuyt in the penalty area from a corner, but Cech saved the spot-kick, and then in the second half made an incredible save from a header to deny Dirk again. In the 78th minute Carvalho headed home a Belletti corner, and that was just about that. Out of the FA Cup in the 6th round - a little disappointing, but nothing to cry about. The board were very unhappy, but what do they know, they set the final as a minimum target!

Jadson had been unhappy about too much competition for the first team, and then decided to start complaining about his failure to settle in the area. I can't put up with this - my mind is now made up to sell him in the summer, and give the spot backing up Gerrard to Kim Kallstrom. It's also worth mentioning that the board finished upgrading the youth and training facilities at this point, giving us the tops in both.

With some breathing room in the title race, I sent out a strong team to face Lazio in the home leg of our Europa League clash. Gourcuff was ineligible and Cole unfit, so they were replaced by Kuyt and Maxi respectively, and it was Kuyt's cross that led to Maxi's header for our opening goal. Gerrard was back in the side - his domestic suspension not counting in Europe - and the effect was immense, he was at the heart of all our good work. We were also getting constant joy in wide areas against Lazio's 3-5-2 formation, and the second goal also came from a cross, this time Torres feeding Kuyt. Lazio had a chance or two over the 90 minutes, but by and large they were comfortably outplayed, and if anything the 2-0 loss flattered them. With any kind of performance in the Stadio Olimpico, I knew we would be in the quarter-finals.

Using a full-strength team against Lazio unfortunately meant I had to use a weaker team against Birmingham on the Sunday at Anfield. While Cabanas and Torres have been my top scorers on the season, I don't think they would work well as a partnership, but I had no choice but to try it here. After half an hour they linked up well, a fine Torres cross from the leading to a strong downwards header from Cabanas that gave us the lead. Then when Cabanas was fouled by Parnaby, it was Nando who stepped up to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot. Honestly we never hit top gear, but it was still a good comfortable win, bringing us one step closer to the title. We now have 9 games left, and an 11 point lead plus a game in hand. It's ours to lose.

Second leg of the Lazio game, we took a 1-0 lead early when Cabanas headed in a corner. At that point Lazio needed 4, which never looked likely, even against a very weakened team. They wound up winning the tie 2-1, which meant we progressed to a quarter-final against Inter Milan.

Arsenal came to Anfield on the Sunday, in a game they had to win to keep their title challenge alive. I was able to field my first-choice XI.


We had the better of things but our finishing was poor, with just one of our first nine shots being on target, and Arsenal punished our wastefulness when a doubly deflected shot from Aaron Ramsey snuck over the line. The second half was more of the same, as despite our pressure we just could not score - 16 shots, 3 on target tells its own story. Finally, with time running out, Gourcuff hit a beautiful shot from the edge of the area into the top corner for his first ever goal for the club, and then deep into injury time Vermaelen and Clichy made a horrible mess of a simple clearance, allowing Maxi Rodriguez to slot home an easy winner. It was harsh on Arsenal who had held out so long, but overall it was a just result, and one that all but confirmed us as champions. We now need just 8 points from our final 8 games.



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Thank you for your kind words. I upload the pictures to photobucket.

* * * * *

I had received £1.5m for a games played clause on Momo Sissoko that I had inherited, and so I spent the money on Italian youngster Marco Verratti, who will hopefully develop under my coaches' watchful eye. With the league title all but secure, I decided that I would focus my energies on the Europa League, as slightly worse performances in the league were now irrelevant, and the Europa was there to be won.

I sent a medium-strength team out to face Stoke on the Wednesday, with Maxi partnering Cabanas up front. We took an early lead through Dirk Kuyt, who has quietly had an excellent season for us, and when Shelvey put us 2 up after ten minutes, Stoke had it all to do. Cabanas created both those goals, but it was Kuyt who set up the third with an incredible raking pass, and Maxi obliged with an excellent finish. Kuyt soon got his second, receiving the ball from Cabanas, spinning his defender, and slamming the ball home, and we went into the break with a 4-0 lead that in no way flattered us. We took it easy the rest of the match, which saw no further incident, and we ran out easy winners.

Another away match followed, this time against West Brom, and I played a weakened team, saving most of my top players for the Thursday game against Inter. Cabanas having picked up a knock in the Stoke game, Jovanovic partnered Pacheco up front. Rather against the run of play, Koren gave West Brom the lead, then on the stroke of half time we conceded one of the most bizarre own goals you will ever see. Jadson cleared the ball straight into Sotiris Kyrgiakos who was standing right in front of him, and the ball flew into the corner of the net from the edge of the area. Reina had no chance. 2-0 down at half-time despite having dominated. I'd like to say we threw everything at them in the second half to get back into the game, but honestly they coped with our attacks pretty easily, and we went down to an ugly defeat. I told the players just how angry I was after the game.

If the season is not to peter out like that last game did, we needed a good performance now against Inter Milan. With Gourcuff ineligible I played Kuyt on the right, otherwise it was a first-choice team. Benitez played his customary 4-2-3-1, and his team looked formidable.


After a pretty dull opening 20 minutes, we scored a vital away goal when Henry latched onto Cole's through ball and slotted home from close range. Inter were having the ball but were struggling to create chances, and they switched to a 4-4-2 for the second half, with Milito replacing Sneijder, but the match simply degenerated into fouling and yellow cards aplenty. In injury time Cambiasso got himself sent off for a second yellow card but with the very last kick of the game Zanetti equalised for the 10 men of Inter. Overall I suppose it was a fair result, but that didn't make it hurt any less. As Mencken said, injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.

Before the return leg, there was the matter of an away game at Wolves, so I played my backups. The match was poor, but it briefly came to life when Maxi Rodriguez finished off a beautiful move, then almost immediately Fletcher scored a great free-kick for Wolves to equalise. Kyrgiakos headed home a Fabio Aurelio free-kick to put us back in the lead, but in injury time Wolves equalised when Doyle seized on a terrible Kyrgiakos clearance to finish from point-blank range. Another poor result, and I was starting to get concerned.

I played the same lineup for the home leg against Inter as I did in the away leg. Inter brought in Maicon for Cambiasso, but were otherwise unchanged too. The Italians had the better of it early on, and it didn't help things that Gerrard had to be carried off injured. As in the first leg, however, the game descended into a mess of fouls and bookings, until with 25 minutes left Henry stepped out of the chaos to fire us ahead with a great individual goal. Then Samuel was sent off for a second yellow card, and almost immediately afterwards Cabanas headed home a Johnson cross, and Inter were down and out, while we could look forward to a semi-final against Valencia.

We had a chance to correct our faltering league form at home to Bolton, although the team I sent out was mostly backups. Bolton took a quick two goal lead, and I was spitting bullets - I did not want them to do the double over us! Unfortunately the second half was more of the same, and although Shelvey scored an injury-time consolation, Bolton got another 2-1 win over us. We had now taken just one point from our last 3 league games.

Next up, the derby game with Everton where, despite our stumbling form, a win would hand us the title. I wanted to arrest the slide in league form, and nothing could be better than winning a title at Goodison, but I stayed disciplined and played the backups, saving the strongest players for the midweek Europa league game with Valencia. We had all the possession, Everton had all the chances, and the match went into half-time goalless. The second half continued the same way until completely against the run of play, the substitute Maxi Rodriguez hit a fabulous 25-yarder to give us the lead. With 12 minutes left, however, Yakubu scored a deserved equaliser for Everton and though Shelvey and Maxi had great chances to win it, a draw was a fair result. Yet another poor performance to add to my worries.

Next up, my 4-4-2 faced Valencia's 4-3-3 at the Mestalla. Valencia were struggling in the league and on paper far easier opponents than Lazio or Inter, but in our current form there were no easy games, particularly as we were missing Carragher, Mascherano, Gourcuff and Gerrard for various reasons. And my worst fears came true when Santa Cruz fired the Spaniards into an early lead. But just before half-time Maxi set Henry free, and he equalised with a cute little lob. Early in the second half Henry added another with a delicate finish, and then completed his hat-trick twenty minutes later, heading home a Glen Johnson cross. It's been a hit-and-miss season for Henry, but the hits have more than justified the misses. Santa Cruz then pulled one back from a Miguel cross, but Shelvey fed Torres to restore our two-goal advantage and Gerrard scored an injury-time penalty to make it 5-2 and leave Valencia with a mountain to climb at Anfield.

Just a draw against Fulham would win us the league, so I felt comfortable sending out the backups. Unfortunately Andy Johnson gave the Cottagers an early lead, and though we dominated possession, the rest of the first half was spent trying in vain to beat the excellent Mark Schwarzer. The second half was more of the same, with Schwarzer's heroics denying us the equaliser, and Fulham ending up with a notable, if fortuitous, victory.

Playing the backups in so many league games seemed to be backfiring, but it was at least seeing us through the Europa League. The return match with Valencia was next, but the three goal lead made it something of a formality, so I rested a few players. Yes, it's been backfiring slightly as of late, but I believe in my backups. And this time they didn't let me down, Kuyt. Jovanovic and Shelvey scoring the goals as we won 3-1 on the night, 8-3 on aggregate.

Having played the backups against Valencia, I could now use my well-rested first teamers against Newcastle at the weekend. Once again, a draw would be enough to secure the title - but a loss would be disastrous, because our final game is against second-placed Man Utd, so that game would suddenly become for the title. So the priority was to avoid all that nonsense and wrap up the title against Newcastle - and that's exactly what we did. Torres scored twice, Cole, Gerrard and Cabanas scored the others, as we ran out comfortable 5-1 winners and secured our first league title since 1990!

With the Europa League final on the Wednesday, I played the backups against Man Utd on the Sunday. What did it matter, the match was now meaningless for us. We fought back from 3-0 down to level it at 3-3 with goals from Shelvey, Cabanas and Gourcuff, before finally losing 4-3 in injury time, but honestly I didn't care. After the match is was revealed that I was Manager of the Year, Torres was Footballer of the Year, and Shelvey was runner up in the Young Player of the Year. All nice I guess.

The serious matter, however, was Atletico Madrid in the final, with Aguero, Forlan et al. The ineligible Gourcuff was replaced by Kuyt, but otherwise I was able to select my best lineup. Atletico set up in a 4-2-3-1, with Aguero in the hole behind Forlan, and Simao and Jurado out wide. It was an open game, and Atletico took the lead when Ujfalusi fed Jurado and he slotted the ball past Reina, but a great Torres run set up Kuyt for the equaliser. On the stroke of half-time Tiago headed home a deflected free kick to put Atletico back in front, and I had strong words with the team at the half. Shortly after the break Cole played a great one-two with Henry on the edge of the area and slid a fine finish past the keeper, but Atletico scored their third almost immediately afterwards, Pablo heading home from a corner. We had plenty of chances to equalise but just couldn't take them, and in the end lost to what was honestly an inferior team.

It was a disappointing way to end a season which seemed to peter out towards the end, but really that is a bad way to look at it. We massively outperformed my targets at the start of the year, winning the league and the League Cup, and reaching the final of the Europa Cup. That's a tremendous first season, and one the club can be proud of.




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Season summary:

League: Champions

FA Cup: 6th round

League Cup: Winners

Europa League: Finalists

With the season over, it was time to take stock of my squad, taking into account the players I'd agreed to sign when the transfer window started.

First team: Reina, Johnson, Criscito, Otamendi, XXX, Gourcuff, Gerrard, Mascherano, XXX, Torres, XXX

Second team: Smithies, XXX, XXX, Carragher, Burdisso, Kuyt, Kallstrom, XXX, Cole, Cabanas, Zaki

To be loaned out: Palsson, Nemeth, Verratti, Pacheco, Gauss, Feghouli, N'Diaye, N'Koulou, Rivas (no work permit)

Extras/reserves: Shelvey, Sterling, Darby, Threlfall, Bouzanis, any of the loanees I can't find takers for

To be sold: Aurelio, Antonini, Itandje, Mavinga, San Jose, Kyrgiakos, Mullins, Grisales, Henry, Jovanovic, Aquilani, Jadson

So I needed a first choice central defender, a first choice left midfielder, a first choice secondary striker, two backup fullbacks and a backup defensive midfielder. A lot to buy, but with all those sales I was hopeful I'd have the finances to do it.

In the World Cup, my Ivory Coast squad was drawn in Group B, which looked like the group of death. Ourselves, Spain, Portugal, and Japan. Our first match was against Spain... eep! Figuring attack is the best form of defence, I persisted with the open 4-4-2 I was using at Liverpool. Spain lined up very negatively, which gave me hope.


We had the better of the first half, and nearly took the lead through Keita, but he hit the post when he really should have scored. The second half was more of the same - us on top, but not creating a huge number of chances. Overall we had 58% possession, which is a fine accomplishment against Spain, and although the goalless draw was slightly disappointing, it set us in good stead for the rest of the group.

Next up in the group of death was Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. They played a 4-3-3, with Djalo alone up front and Ronaldo and Nani on the wings. After five minutes the debutant Djalo danced through a very porous-looking Ivorian defence and Portugal were up 1-0. But 10 minutes later Keita took the Portuguese defence on single-handed and scored an early contender for goal of the tournament. Ten minutes later, Moutinho dallied in possession, and Kalou robbed him to burst clear, then beat the keeper to give us our first lead of the tournament - and it wasn't long before that lead was doubled, Gervinho and Drogba combining beautifully before the latter smashed the ball past the despairing Rui Patricio. It was 3-1 at half-time and I was thrilled. I tightened things up a little at the break, to make sure Portugal didn't get back into it, so the second half was less thrilling, but we were still very much on top, and in the dying minutes Kalou added his second to seal the rout. Ronaldo scored a brilliant late consolation, and Moutinho added another in injury time, but it was too little, too late.

England were doing well, meanwhile, but Gerrard, Cole and Johnson all managed to injure themselves in a 1-0 win over Paraguay, which left me far from gruntled.

All we needed was a draw against Japan, and we would qualify for the next round. I didn't want to settle for a draw though, when a win would mean we topped the group (Spain having drawn with Japan). Fae came in for the suspended Yaya Toure. We didn't play at all well and just short of the hour the unthinkable happened when Takayuki Matsui put Japan in front, and us on the brink of elimination. Okamoto doubled the lead with ten minutes to go, and I began nervously watching for updates on the Spain vs Portugal game. As it turned out, Portugal beat Spain 1-0, meaning they topped the group, but we just qualified ahead of Japan, on goals scored. Phew!

Our punishment for failing to top the group, however, was that we faced Italy. Had we beaten Japan, we would have faced Togo - d'oh! Shortly before half-time, Camoranesi seized on a rebound to put the Italians ahead. Giladrino doubled the lead on the hour mark, and when Yaya Toure got his second yellow card, it was all over bar the shouting. We were out of the World Cup and despite a couple of good performances, I felt like we had underachieved. This was not a star-studded team, but I felt the semi-finals would have been very possible. Incidentally our conquerors Italy ended up winning the tournament, beating Ghana in the final.

With the World Cup over, I could get back to focusing on Liverpool. I brought in Modric for the left side of midfield, Zapata for the middle of defence, Dzeko up front (cheaply transfer listed), Vieira for central midfield, and Hutton at right back. I had a great deal of trouble finding a suitable backup left-back, but eventually settled on Cristian Molinaro. I sold everyone I wanted to sell, except Aquilani who had to go out on loan. Ideally I'd wanted to keep Nemeth, but getting Zapata was just too important. I was now extremely happy with the squad, both in the short term and for the future. Ideally I'd like to replace one or two of the older squad players, but I felt confident I could win many trophies with this group.

I'm just showing some of the transfers out because there were so many it would take 3 screenies!


First team:




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Having gone undefeated in pre-season, I suddenly threw all my carefully laid plans out of the window - my board made an extra £20m available for transfers, which added to the money I already had gave me over £50m. So out went the 29-year-old Cabanas for £8m, and in came Sergio Aguero for £52m to partner Torres, with Dzeko becoming a backup.

The first test of my new firepower was the Community Shield against Chelsea. Mascherano missed the game through injury, but it was otherwise my strongest XI. We dominated possession and chances, and took the lead when Aguero headed home a Torres cross - my new strike partnership showing instant results. Totally against the run of play, Chelsea equalised with a long range shot from Ballack, and after that despite our dominance we couldn't get past Cech. Torres missed his penalty in the shootout, and Chelsea won the trophy. Not a good start.

The first league match saw us entertain Newcastle. There were some enforced changes to the team due to the international break, but we cruised through the game, with an early goal from Cole, and two each for Aguero and Zaki. An easy 5-0 win. Three days later we travelled to Blackburn, who took the lead when N'Zonzi headed in a corner at the back post. We were having an insane amount of possession and creating plenty of chances, but our shooting was wayward - fewer shots on target than clear cut chances! Eventually Shelvey equalised with an effort from the edge of the area, but for all our dominance we could not find the winner. A second frustrating 1-1 draw in three games was not the start to the season I'd been hoping for.

We did not start well at home to Fulham, but two for Cole and Vieira's first goal for the club saw us to a comfortable 3-0 win. Next up was Wolves away, where their pace gave my backline some trouble, but Aguero was on fire and did everything but score in the first half. Torres broke the deadlock at the start of the second, and though we could not add a second to make the game safe, 1-0 was enough on the day. I then had an African Cup of Nations qualifier in Rwanda, which we made slightly heavy weather of, but ended up winning 2-0.

The normal depradations of the international break meant we sent out a slightly weakened side to face West Brom. The Baggies had the better of things early and our passing was poor, but comedy defending let in Torres for the opener. Gerrard added a penalty shortly after half time, and Aguero made it three with twenty minutes to go to wrap up the win. In the Champions League we were drawn against FC Copenhagen, Atletico Madrid and Schalke, so our first European game was a trip to the Ruhr. I sent out the reserves and it was a terrible game, but a Kuyt penalty and a Kallstrom free-kick clinched the win. Torres added another late on and it finished 3-0.

Mascherano was still missing as we welcomed Man City to Anfield, but otherwise I had my first-choice lineup. Agger started for Man City but Riera didn't even make the squad. We had the better of the match, and just when I thought we would be unable to turn our chances into goals, Gerrard powered in a 30 yard free kick. David Silva then immediately replied with a long-range free kick of his own, but with time running out Torres scored to give us the win. The pattern was the same as always this season - sturdy defense, lots of clear-cut chances, poor finishing. I figure that with so many new players, this is a "gelling" thing. Once the players have been here a while, we'll be killing it. As it is, we are nicely top of the league.

Away to West Ham in the League Cup, so I used the backups. Unfortunately they demonstrated why they are the backups in conceding an early goal to Carlton Cole. Zaki fed Kuyt for the equaliser, then Kallstrom scored a long-range free-kick to give us the lead. Just seconds into the second half Noble equalised for the Hammers - more bad defending - and Dzeko had a goal disallowed, third time that's happened to him this season. He had yet to score one that was allowed to stand, but he finally broke that duck with 10 minutes left with a fine header, and Shelvey made it safe, heading in a Dirk Kuyt cross. 4-2 the final score, with three assists for Zaki.

Ironically enough, our next league match was also against West Ham. It was no goal-fest like the cup tie, and almost petered out into a goalless draw, but a late Torres goal proved to be enough for a 1-0 win. Against Atletico in the Champions League we fell behind when Pandev tucked home from a rebound, and things almost got worse when Forlan missed a sitter. Kallstrom got a straight red, which made him so furious he had to be dragged away by his team-mates, and at half time I was a very glum manager indeed. Fortunately Dzeko hit a screamer from distance to equalise, Reina had a good game, and with twenty minutes left Zaki scored the winner from the edge of the area. With time running out Dzeko even added a third, to complete a stunning second half comeback by the ten men. A slightly fortuitous 3-1 win, but I was not complaining.

Next up an easy 4-0 victory over Hull in the league, thanks to two from Torres, and one each from Gourcuff and Aguero. Ivory Coast then beat DR Congo 3-0 in a simple win, but the international break had my players in their usual depleted state going into the big Premier League game away to Arsenal. Torres was the most notable absentee, only able to make the bench. It was a dire game, but eventually the substitute Torres fed Aguero to break the deadlock. Then the other substitute, Modric, danced through the tiring defenders to make it 2-0 and seal a vital win.

We went to wonderful wonderful Copenhagen in the Champions League, and I gave a runout to Veratti, Palsson, and some other little used players. The goals came from Zaki, Kuyt and Shelvey, and we came out 3-1 winners with something to spare. Portsmouth at home was another easy win, the game over by half-time. The team was really starting to click now, a 3-0 win with 28 shots, 5 clear cut chances, and 27% of possession being for us in their final third! The goalscorers were our three stars, Gerrard, Aguero and Torres. We played a lot of youngsters against Spurs in the League Cup, and despite a shaky performance we won 2-1, thanks to a fine goal from Dzeko and a late breakaway by Zaki. We survived a scare in injury time when Niko Krancjar had a goal ruled out for offside, but the important thing was that we were in the hat for the next round.

Back in the league, a hat-trick from Aguero saw off Nottingham Forest in a 3-1 win at the City Ground. We were poor for long periods, and a further concern was an injury to Gerrard which would keep him out 3 weeks. Nevertheless, that made it 13 wins in a row in all competitions, no mean feat. This was followed by a win over Copenhagen, which saw a debut for young striker David Parker, the outstanding player in this year's youth intake. Despite three great chances, he couldn't score, and ultimately Kuyt's header was the only goal in a 1-0 win. In more bad news for my youngsters, Shelvey tore a calf muscle in the game and was out for 3 to 4 months.

Still, a great start to the season.



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More bad news on the injury front as Palsson broke his leg in a reserve game and would miss 6 months. Things got worse in the next game, at home to Bolton, when Glen Johnson had to be carried off after 10 minutes, but fortunately it turned out he would only miss ten days. After Aubameyang put Bolton in front after half an hour, Torres soon latched onto a long ball from Reina to equalise, but then he too had to be carried off. With ten minutes to go, Torres's replacement Dzeko burst through and blasted us into the lead from close range. A narrow 2-1 victory, and the gloom deepened with the news that Torres had torn his groin and would miss 6 weeks. And then after picking up an injury in training, Dzeko would miss 3, so we were really down to the bare bones up front.

Away to Chelsea in the league, I played Vieira alongside Mascherano in midfield, hoping for extra solidity, while Zaki partnered Aguero up front. But when Mascherano had to go off injured at half time, I moved Gourcuff into the middle of the park, and this adventure paid off when Aguero fired us into the lead. But just short of the hour, Hutton brought down Drogba from behind, and Lampard made no mistake with the resulting penalty. Then fifteen minutes later we were penalised again, this time a foul by Otamendi on Anelka. With Lampard off the pitch, Ashley Cole took the spot-kick, which he hit straight at Reina for an easy save. Chelsea had a lot of chances in this match and Reina pulled off some good saves, so all in all we were fortunate to come away with a draw.

After the international break came the derby with Everton, for which we were able to welcome back Gerrard. The match had barely got going when Fellaini rose to head Everton in front from a free-kick, and although we created plenty we couldn't quite score. Happily Arteta decided to give us a helping hand, scoring an unfortunate own-goal just before half time, and then on the other side of the break Modric broke free to put us into the lead. Although there were many more chances, that was the end of the scoring, so we went home with a slightly fortuitous 2-1 win - our third poor performance in a row.

I sent out a very young team at home to Schalke, and got a 2-1 draw, the goals coming late on from Kuyt and Cole. But the next game was more serious, away to Aston Villa. I switched to a 4-4-1-1 because of the ongoing striker shortage, with Kuyt on the right and Gourcuff in the hole. Gerrard fed Aguero to open the scoring, and though Carew equalised, we were soon back in front when Gerrard beat Friedel at his near post from the edge of the area. Villa pressed for a second equaliser but our defence was resolute, and in the dying moments Gerrard set Aguero free to score his second and end the game. 3-1 the final score, and a good performance along with the result.

I sent out the backups to face Arsenal in the League Cup quarterfinal, and though we fell behind to an early Ramsey goal, Zaki equalised with a great volley. Unfortunately, right on half time confusion reigned in our defence, allowing Theo Walcott, of all people, to score with a header. Just after the break, however, Parker played a great one-two with Sterling, accelerated into the box, and scored what we hope will be the first of many goals in a Liverpool shirt, and the turnaround was complete when Clichy headed a Kallstrom corner into his own net. Arshavin got the ball into the net but it was ruled offside, and we held on for a fine 3-2 win.

Aguero scored a great early goal away to Spurs in the league, and when Gerrard burst through the middle and scored a fine finish, I thought it would be an easy win. Peter Crouch hit a sensational 30-yard strike to pull it back to 2-1, and then Zaki latched onto Gerrard's pass to restore our two-goal lead going into half-time. The scoring wasn't done, however, because with 25 minutes to go Agbonlahor's pace took him clear and it was 3-2. I tightened up in midfield at this point, bringing on Vieira for Gerrard, which killed the Spurs threat, and with time running out Aguero got clear of the defence on a long clearance from Reina and his finish made it a final score of 4-2. I wasn't particularly happy with the defending, but it was a comprehensive win away to one of our closest challengers, so overall there were many reasons to be satisfied.

A youth team then lost 6-3 to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, our first defeat of the season, but we had already qualified atop the group. Far more important was my 100th game in charge, at home to second-placed Manchester United. Biggest game of the season? Hopefully not, that should be the Champions League final! But this would perhaps be a close second. Unfortunately, Torres wasn't quite ready, so Dzeko partnered Aguero up front, while Vidic was Man Utd's most prominent absentee.


Ten minutes in, Gerrard and Aguero combined beautifully to release Dzeko, but his goal was unjustly ruled out for offside. Criscito came within a whisker of scoring his first goal for the club, but it was the constant thread of Aguero that caused the most damage, and he scored a lovely goal after 40 minutes to break the deadlock, bursting through the left-hand channel and scoring from an acute angle. But five minutes after the break Darren Fletcher was given too much time on the edge of our area, and he blasted the ball past Reina into the top corner. Not to despair - ten minutes later it was more great combination play between Gerrard and Aguero, Modric was played in behind Ferdinand, and the Croatian put us back in front. Man Utd came back into the game and Reina made a fine save from Rooney at point-blank range, but we held on for a fine 2-1 win that stretched our lead at the top to ten points. After the game I had something of a war of words with Ferguson, which I found amusing - I told him that he team couldn't challenge for honours, and he replied that our title hopes were laughable. Good times!

Next up, Wigan at home in the league, where Mascherano opened the scoring with his first of the season. It was a goal made on the pampas of Argentina - Aguero broke free down the right, no-one had picked up Mascherano's run into space, and the little man scored with a cushioned header. Kallstrom added the second with a volley from the edge of the area, and although we did not add to our lead we were never threatened either. It was more of the same in the early going away to Stoke, with Gerrard playing in Gourcuff for the opener, but Zapata made a reckless challenge that allowed Lenny Lawrence to equalise from the spot, and then Tuncay Sanli was the only one to react to a long Begovic clearance, and suddenly we were behind. We had a lot of chances, but simply couldn't equalise despite throwing on a number of attacking substitutes. 2-1 it finished, and our hopes of an unbeaten season in the league were over. It also turned out that Zapata would miss 6 weeks, which added to my gloom.

We had no Boxing Day fixture this year for some reason, so there was a whole week to lick our wounds before we travelled to Newcastle. Burdisso stood in for Zapata, but Torres was not quite ready, so Dzeko continued up front. We started in fine form, and took the lead when Aguero tapped in a Gourcuff cross. Then Gerrard hit a magnificent long-range shot to make it 2-0. On as a substitute, Torres headed in a corner just after half-time to extinguish and remaining Geordie hopes, and 3-0 is how it finished. We sent a youthful side out in the FA Cup against League One Stockport, but it was Zaki who gave us the lead with a shot that really should have been saved, but snuck through the keeper's body. Just after half-time he scored a more conventional goal, latching onto a hopeful pass from Palsson and finishing well. Cole set up Sterling for the third, a calm finish past a helpless goalkeeper, and 3-0 was indeed the final score.

With the transfer window upon us, I sold Kuyt to Genoa for £10.75m, Kallstrom to Fiorentina for £12m, and tied up Bosman deals for Riou, Dembele, and the Dinamo Kiev pair of Khacheridi and Yussuf. We also took Jankovic on loan as squad depth, and added two promising youngsters - French central defender Serge Coulibaly and Australian winger Danny Menechella, for £950k combined. I was also in negotiations to buy a young Argentine full-back named Nicolas Guerrero for £6.25m, but due to his age that would not go through for 18 months, even if a deal could be worked out.

In the League Cup semi-final we faced Chelsea, and I decided to depart from my SOP and use the first teamers. It paid dividends when a nice breakaway saw Gourcuff feed Gerrard to power the opener past Cech. Unfortunately that was our only shot on target of the entire game, but Chelsea only had one shot on target themselves - a tame effort from long range, straight at Reina - so it proved enough for a 1-0 win. Not the greatest game, but any win at Stamford Bridge is a good one.

At home to Wolves, Shelvey, back from injury, put us ahead in the early going with a fierce right footed shot, and then added the second with a far-post header from a Molinaro cross. Milijas pulled one back just before half-time, and then Burdisso got himself sent off for something mysterious, putting our position under further threat. Fortunately the referee evened things up when he gave Henry his second yellow card, and from there the game petered out to its finish, giving us a slightly nervous 2-1 win. Away to Man City in the league, Barry scored from the spot after Zapata backed into Richards. A penalty for backing in? Seriously? We had plenty of chances to equalise but squandered them all, and in the end succumbed meekly to a 1-0 defeat.

I played mostly backups in the home leg of the League Cup semi final, and took the lead when Zaki latched onto a Reina clearance to get behind the defence and slot home. Apart from that, the match was poor - Chelsea managed 25 shots, which sounds impressive, but less so when you realise that 17 were from long range, and only 3 were on target. With 10 minutes to go Torres, on as a substitute, burst clear of the defence, and unlike Chelsea's wasteful shooting, he made no mistake. The 2-0 win meant we won 3-0 on aggregate, and were into our second successive League Cup final, this time to face Everton.

Having used the backups against Chelsea in the League Cup, I could play the first teamers against Arsenal at the weekend in the FA Cup - apart from Gerrard, who had yet to recover from a slight injury, so Palsson deputised. After fifteen minutes Modric pulled the defense out of shape and fed Torres, who slid the finish past Almunia to open the scoring, but just a couple of minutes later Fabregas made a bursting run into the box to get on the end of a van Persie pass, and he made no mistake with the finish. At that point it looked like it would be an even match, but Torres scored two more in quick succession - both from Modric corners - to complete his hat-trick and put Arsenal in deep trouble. It could so easily have been even better - Torres and Aguero both hit the woodwork - but we went into half-time with a 3-1 lead. I switched to a 4-4-1-1 at the break, which quietened the match down. We were now more in control but creating less, which suited me fine. With twenty minutes to go Modric scored a cheeky lob, and it was all over bar the shouting. 4-1 the final score, and yet another meeting with Chelsea in the next round.

West Brom in the league was just two days later, so I used mostly backups. My worries were assuaged after 13 minutes when Zaki hit a 30-yard thunderbolt to give us the lead, but despite that early goal we did not create many chances. Our defence was solid as always, mind you, and any lingering doubts were put to rest when Dzeko got free with ten minutes left and slid a fine finish past Scott Carson. I was relieved, that was the big man's first goal in over ten hours of football. He almost added another with a bicycle kick, and Carson pulled off a great double save from Dzeko and then Shelvey, but in the end the game finished 2-0.

In many ways that game summed up the season so far - good performances at both ends of the field, without ever really lighting the blue touch paper as I'd hoped.



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Mate, what a great team you've got! I love the way you've planned it so you have a second 11 also :) Good to see your going strong in the league, after a successful season last year :thup: Dzeko and Torres is a great partnership up-front.

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Thanks for the kind comments. I'd just point out though that my strike partnership is Torres and Aguero, not Dzeko. Dzeko is a backup and has actually been rather disappointing with only 9 goals in all competitions as of April 13th. At times I've regretted selling Cabanas - he was a proper backup last year, with 25 goals and 16 assists, although to be fair he hasn't been lighting it up for Ajax this season.

* * * * *

At home to Arsenal I had a first-choice team to choose from, but the match was played in a downpour which hurt both teams. Eventually Torres cut straight through the heart of the Arsenal defence to open the scoring with an outstanding solo effort, then a few minutes later Aguero scored a surprisingly good header from Criscito's cross to put us 2-0 up, which was the way it stayed. After the game, I tied up deals for Czech striker Vaclav Kadlec and Argentine uber-prospect Nicolas Guerrero, deals to go through in July 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Three days later I used the backups away to Fulham, where we took the lead thanks to a Zaki penalty after a fairly innocuous foul on Shelvey. But we weren't playing well, even after Fulham were down to 10 men, and wegot what we deserved when the defence went to sleep and Eddie Johnson snuck in behind to head in a floated free-kick. With time running out Gerrard drove forwards and played in his fellow sub Modric, who gave us the lead with a fine finish. The same pattern did not repeat itself against West Ham, however, where the game petered out to a 0-0 draw.

A week later it was Chelsea at home in the FA Cup, and this time our attack fared rather better, Gourcuff bundling the ball in after a mad goalline scramble. But early in the second half Deco equalised with a powerful shot from distance, and I thought we were heading for another draw, until with ten minutes left Aguero took a lovely pass from Torres, made space for himself, and finished with authority from 15 yards. A great goal worthy of winning any match - and so it proved. Torres added a spectacular third in injury time, catching Cech out of position and lobbing him from inside his own half, so 3-1 the game finished.

Back in the Premier League, we faced Blackburn at home. They backed off and backed off Dzeko, until he shifted the ball to Shelvey who fired a rocket past Robinson. That was the only goal of the game though, as our attacking doldrums continued. Next game out was Portsmouth away, and we were behind withing a minute when Criscito and Otamendi each expected the other to clear the ball, both stood like lemmings, and Ritchie nipped in to score. Aguero spun his defender to equalise early in the second half, then Torres got on the end of a Shelvey pass to give us the lead. I was relieved to say the least because we'd had 6 clear cut chences without scoring and I was beginning to despair of my players' ability to finish. Fortunately we held on for a 2-1 win - far from impressive against the worst side in the division - but beggars can't be choosers.

We would need to play a lot better away to Bayern, however, if we wanted to progress in the Champions League, and it would be the backups too, as I wanted to save the first teamers for the League Cup final at the weekend. We were doing OK until Olic got the ball, sold two defenders with the same move, accelerated into the area and smashed the ball into the top corner. I had to admit it was a beautiful goal, but it was one we could ill afford to concede. Shortly after his second he seized on a careless Joe Cole pass to make it 2-0 and now we were really in trouble. I took off Cole - he had a 3.6 rating! - and his replacement Gourcuff created some chances, but they went begging and we succumbed to a disastrous defeat - two goals down, and no away goal. We would have a mountain to climb in the second leg.

In the League Cup final, nothing happened for half an hour, but the match sprang to life when Aguero made space for himself 25 yards out, them unleashed a laser of a shot into the top corner. His 21st goal of the season in just his 27th start, what a debut season. But we didn't add to the lead and Everton almost equalised twice around the hour mark, first when Yakubu missed a sitter, then when Baines had a goal ruled out for offside. I responded by tightening up the midfield, which worked, because Everton barely managed to get a shot away the rest of the game. Not that we were exactly setting the world on fire ourselves, but 1-0 proved to be enough, and so we lifted the League Cup for the second season in a row. Minor silverware, to be sure, but they all count.

Nottingham Forest had won just 3 games out of 29 when they visited Anfield, so I didn't mind using the backups against them, particularly as the match was sandwiched between that cup final we'd just won, and the 6th round of the FA Cup at the weekend. Jankovic hit a long-range free-kick into the wall but then scored a 35-yard volley when the ball came into him, and Zaki snuck between two defenders to head in a Dzeko cross. Looking good at the half, and looking even better a minute later when the defence lost Zaki again, giving him a free header from a Molinaro cross. Zaki then set up Dzeko to make it 4-0, then scored a penalty to complete his hat-trick and finish the scoring at 5-0. A great win, the kind we really needed after our recent bumpy patch.

So on to the FA Cup 6th round, at home to Hull, where Torres opened the scoring with a great solo goal on the break, taking it from inside his own half. Just before half-time, Aguero played in Gourcuff to make it two, and although Gerrard picked up an injury, the game was over at that point. Torres scored a simple goal for his second, then a powerful shot from the edge of the area completed his hat-trick, and made the score 4-0. Gourcuff scored the goal of the game in the 66th minute, flicking it up to himself, turning, and volleying into the top corner from the angle of the penalty area. Gourcuff completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot, and the 6-0 win meant we'd now scored 11 in 2 games, without conceding. Marvellous - but Gerrard would now miss 4 weeks with fractured ribs, which put a damper on celebrations.

Our next league match was also against Hull - funny how it always works like that both IRL and in FM. I played the backups, including a debut for Coulibaly, the young central defender signed in January. Unfortunately Coulibaly lost his man at an early corner, and Mouyokolo headed Hull into the lead. But with half-time approaching, a Sterling shot was deflected into the path of Edin Dzeko, and he equalised with a header. Despite five clear cut chances and 23 shots, that was our only goal, and so Hull escaped with an undeserved draw. It was actually an extremely impressive performance by us in so many ways, but wasteful finishing and one slip in concentration meant we threw away two points. I persisted with the backups against Bolton 3 days later, wanting to save my first-teamers for the crucial return game with Bayern. We took the lead when Zaki headed in a Cole corner, but we were creating little and struggling to retain the ball, so it was no surprise when Steinsson equalised with a fine long-range shot. Once again the game finished 1-1, once again we had thrown away 2 points, and once again I laid into the team at the final whistle.

2-0 down from the first leg, we needed a massive performance against Bayern now, and we got the dream start when Gourcuff combined beautifully to tee up Torres, who scored with a fine finish. Then after just 15 minutes we were level on aggregate when Shelvey, in for the injured Gerrard, slammed the ball into the top corner. On 20 minutes Torres tapped in a rebound, then 2 minutes later completed his hat-trick when he broke free and calmly beat the keeper. His fourth of the game arrived shortly before the break when he burst through the defence single handed and drilled in a low shot to cap the best half of football we'd played all season. To slam 5 goals past Bayern Munich without reply, and go from 2-0 down to 5-0 up - it was the stuff of which dreams are made. The second half was never going to be as good as that, but Aguero added to the Germans' angst with a header from a Criscito cross, then spun Badstuber and slotted past the keeper to make it a remarkable 7-0 win!

I'd thought the season was slipping away from us, but now with that one result we were back on for the quadruple, especially considering Bordeaux should be relatively easy opponents in the QF which, by some bizarre scheduling quirk, was set to be our next game. Not my next game, however, because first I had to take care of international business, with Ivory Coast away to Sierra Leone in African Nations qualifying. And take care of business is exactly what we did, Toure and Drogba getting the goals in an easy 2-0 win. With that out of the way I could concentrate on the home game with Bordeaux, for which I was able to field a first-choice side, apart from the still-injured Gerrard.

Aguero scored after just two minutes, on the end of a lovely move featuring Gourcuff and the ever brilliant Torres, who added the second from a Modric corner. And it was Torres again on 23 minutes, beating the offside trap from a Gourcuff pass and finishing well. We took it easy in the second half, but still managed to add two more, both times Aguero setting up Torres. 5-0 the final score, which meant we'd scored 25 goals in our past 5 games - even more remarkable considering two of those games were 1-1 draws.

We now visited Old Trafford for a crucial league encounter and scored within a minute, once more due to the Torres-Aguero partnership, but this time it was the Spaniard the provider and the Argentine with a cute finish. Rooney scored a great equaliser, shredding Zapata and finishing well. There were no more goals until late on, when Zapata got himself sent off stupidly, and Ozil took advantage in the last minute, scoring against my ten men from a possibly offside position. I was dismayed, I told my players so, and the fans told me so as well. Always horrible to lose to Man Utd, but particularly at such a crucial point in the title race, with Man City breathing down our necks.

With the huge lead from the first leg, I felt comfortable playing my backups away to Bordeaux, a game we lost 2-1 despite an early goal from Zaki. It didn't matter, we still went through 6-2 on aggregate. Much more important was the FA Cup semi-final at the weekend against Man Utd. Gerrard wasn't really fit but I risked him anyway, and Burdisso stood in for the suspended Zapata. Man Utd had no injuries or suspensions, by contrast, so they had an impressive team.


After 12 minutes Torres sucked both central defenders in then offloaded the ball to Modric in space, who made no mistake with the finish, and the little Croatian turned provider for the second, popping up on the right flank to cross for an unmarked Aguero, whose headed goal was his 26th of the season. Gerrard came off for Vieira as we tightened up for the second half, and although Rooney scored in injury time, Man Utd couldn't get going. We were through to the final to play Man City - who had now overtaken us in the league thanks to our cup fixtures. Their lead was only 2 points and we had two games in hand, but it was still disconcerting to have lost the league leadership at this late stage of the season, having been continuously top of the league for over 18 months.

As a result the derby with Everton was for a lot more than mere local pride. With Mascherano injured and Gerrard not quite fit, Shelvey and Gourcuff were the central midfield partnership, and Everton took advantage of them when Osman ran through the middle and fed Yakubu for the opener. We had dominated the game and finally took advantage in the second half when Gerrard drove into the penalty area and fired us ahead through a crowd of bodies. Then with time running out, Torres took on two men, the whole defence was drawn to him - the pass to Aguero and subsequent finish became simplicity itself. The score stayed 2-1, and we'd wrapped up yet another crucial result.



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As if I had not had quite enough of Man Utd already, we now faced them in the semi-final of the Champions League. Aguero made a fool out of Ferdinand to give us an early lead, but on the hour mark Vidic equalised, heading in a corner at the near post. Johnny Evans then hacked down Aguero to deny him an open goal - shamefully, Evans was allowed to stay on the field, but Aguero was not so lucky, having to be carried off. Torres did convert the resulting penalty, so some justice was served, but with the news that Aguero was likely to miss the rest of the season, I was far from thrilled. Still, a crucial 2-1 win in the away leg was some consolation.

Even with the title race so delicately poised, I felt I had to play the backups against Villa to save my players for the second leg with United. Delfuesno scored early, getting free of Burdisso and finishing powerfully, Zaki equalised with a beauty from range, before in first half injury time Carragher totally lost Heskey, who gave Villa back the lead. Heskey scoring an easy chance? Perhaps this game isn't so realistic after all. Early in the second half Dzeko beat Collins, went on into the penalty area, and slid in a nice finish. Then in the last minute Zaki played in Dzeko and the Bosnian scored the winner with another good finish. We'd got out of jail, to be honest, but at this stage of the season that kind of thing doesn't matter.

We took a one goal lead and two crucial away goals into the home leg of the CL semi-final with Man Utd. The game was uneventful, which suited us just fine, until with 15 minutes left Gourcuff crossed, Torres brought the ball down, evaded O'Shea, and calmly placed the ball passed van der Sar. It was the only goal of the game, and his 30th of the season. We were into the Champions League final to play Barcelona!

Next up was Spurs in the league, where we took the lead thanks to an unfortunate own goal for Aaron Lennon in the middle of an extremely messy goal-line scramble. We simply couldn't get the ball, and Spurs were unable to create anything, so it was a dire game, not helped any by a late red card for Gourcuff. Five minutes into injury time, with Spurs desperately pressing forwards, Torres played in Cole who made the game safe. 2-0 the final score.

Away to Wigan the first half was perhaps the most chance-free of any game we've played this year, but it came to life at the start of the second. First Gerrard set up Shelvey in the penalty area, he took forever despite being free, and his shot ended up being blocked, but only to Modric who broke the deadlock. Then five minutes later Gerrard set up Torres, and he didn't dally, but hit an unstoppable finish into the roof of the net. With twenty minutes to go Torres sprinted through the left channel to score his second and kill the game. In the last minute Dzeko latched onto a long Reina clearance and finished from the tightest of angles, so it finished 4-0 which, combined with City's draw with Man Utd, meant that we were champions for the second successive season.

Thanks two a congested fixture list we now had two games in extremely quick succession, so it was a good thing they were meaningless. In the first we beat Chelsea 3-1 thanks to two from Dzeko and one from Modric, and in the second Zaki got the only goal to beat Stoke 1-0.

We were now set for Wembley, with a chance to emulate the great 77-78 side of Clemence, Hansen, Souness and Dalglish by winning the Champions League in England. Our opponents were Barcelona, happily missing Villa and Messi, but still star-studded. Aguero was just back from injury, but we were missing Gourcuff and Vieira to suspension.


We had the better of the first half, dominating possession and creating the best chances, but the game was open, and both sides had goals disallowed. Modric had to go off injured, so I switched Cole to the left and brought on Shelvey. The second half was more of the same but still no goals. Then Criscito too had to go off injured, and I was forced to use Burdisso at left back. As I normally used my left-back for width, I then brought on Dzeko for Cole, and played Aguero as an inside forward on the left wing, trying to spark something. The move almost paid dividends immediately, with Dzeko hitting the bar after a fine run. Barcelona made their own changes, throwing on Bojan, Pujol and Skrtel, but it was us who continued to make the running, with Zapata clipping the crossbar with a header from a corner, and the ball scrambled off the line with Dzeko about to pounce. Finally, in the last minute of injury time, Torres played a ball through from the edge of the area, Dzeko was ruled onside, and the big man scored from point-blank range. It was the last kick of the game, and the most important of our season. European Champions!


But the season was not over - we still had the FA Cup Final against league runners-up Man City, including former Liverpool star Daniel Agger. Riera didn't even make the bench. Modric and Criscito missed out through injury, but Gourcuff returned, so Cole switched to the left wing. In some ways this was as big as the Champions League final - it was our chance at an unprescedented quadruple.


We had much the better of the early going, but Gerrard picked up a knock on one of his trademark surges into the box, and he was a little limited thereafter. Not to worry! With just 9 minutes on the clock Gourcuff scythed into the box, crossed for Torres, and one exquisite finish later the score was 1-0. City didn't get their first shot until more than quarter of an hour had passed, but it was a fine one when it came, Tevez so nearly scoring with a blast from distance, but Reina was equal to it. We were still having the best of things, but City were slowly creeping into the game, so it was good to see my defence holding very strong. With 65 minutes gone Torres stabbed in a Gourcuff corner to cap a sustained period of Liverpool pressure, and now I could relax. From then on Man City couldn't do anything, and we confirmed our superiority in injury time when Torres exchanged passes with Aguero and then steered his finish low past Given. A superb hat-trick for Fernando Torres, a comprehensive win on the day, and an incredible quadruple.

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I can't help notice that most of the updates here are a lot less detailed than what I'm giving. Should I just switch to updating once a season, and writing a lot less? What would people prefer? As I say this is my first time doing this, so I'm open to suggestions.

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I like the detail you give but I think it would maybe be better if you gave smaller updates throughout the seasons and then a big one at the end, but it's good how it is just now. It fills up spare time well. It's been a good read so far, that's some strikeforce you've put together man.

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