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Darren: FM 2011 Brighton couldn’t have wished for more, Aug-Dec 2013/14

Hey guys, welcome back to the south coast and my FM 2011 story with Brighton. During the last post you witnessed me build towards a brighter future, the 2013 pre-season saw a record amount of cash spent but also some quality players to warrant my bold decisions. With the squad looking strong and full of youth I was prepared to launch Brighton towards a European place. Whether that be the Europa League or Champions League remains to be seen, but there’s one way to find out. Today we’ll be learning my results from August to December, including our Europa League campaign.

Premier League results – August to October

With the opening match upon us, I started to worry about that dreaded second season syndrome. My thoughts were justified as West Brom scored two first half goals on Brighton’s own patch. However, a tough team talk and two super subs led to the Seagulls winning 3-2. We then beat Birmingham 2-1, Blackburn 5-1 and Liverpool 1-0. All these results were massive and Giuliano seemed to hit the ground running.

Brighton’s first loss of the season came in a close encounter as Arsenal beat us at the Emirates 2-1. There was no time to sulk though and my boys jumped straight back up to beat Blackpool 3-1. This result seemed enough to rejuvenate some morale as we despatched Newcastle 5-1 and Manchester United 3-0. Bakambu scored four goals in these two matches and was starting to look very, very dangerous.

Premier League results – November to December

Brighton enjoyed such an incredible start to the season I felt a little dumbfounded. Was this pure luck and misleading, or should I really be aiming for a top three finish? Either way I couldn’t let this confusion disrupt the teams rhythm and decided to keep everything the same. Brighton showed their first signs of complacency during a 1-1 draw to Wolves. We were very poor during that match but revived our form quickly beating Burnley 4-0, Everton 2-1, Aston Villa 3-0 and Fulham 4-1. Bakambu was stunning, but unavailable as we drew 3-3 to Tottenham in our next match. We then beat West Ham 3-1 but also lost to Man City 2-0 after some defensive frailties. December finished on a high as we beat Wigan 3-0 and Sunderland 2-1.

Premier League table

After the most shocking start Brighton found themselves in unknown territory. 18 games played, 44 points on the board and top of the table can only be summed up as overachieving. The top six are still tightly knit and despite the amazing form I haveno grandeurs of a title challenge and even feel pessimistic over a top four finish. To be honest I am just trying to play every game on its own merit and ignore the teams around me. On a side note Brighton were eliminated from the League Cup early on due to my weak starting XI.

Europa League results

Brighton still had one more qualifying round before the group stages. But this was little more than a formality as AEL were beaten 5-1 on aggregate. When the group stages were drawn I didn’t know what to make of my opponents. Out of the hat came Turkish side Eskisenhirspor, Spanish side Sevilla and the French club PSG. An interesting group but one I could aim to qualify from for sure.

Brighton were exceptional during five of our six matches thanks to some set piece prowess. Verkhovtsov and Spence made sure of victory against Eskisehirspor home and away, Sevilla home and away, then PSG at home after losing the away tie. Five victories from six and some very nice displays along the way. Not to mention I rested a few key stars during these matches.

The table says it all, Brighton finished top with 15 points scoring 14 goals and conceding just one. An awesome achievement and my reward is a knockout round tie against Trabzonspor of Turkey.

Squad stats and finances

A lot of players deserve praise after such a start to the season, but I’ll pick a handful to highlight. To start with, you may notice my top four players are defenders. This is slightly misleading due to Spence and Simek playing against the easier opponents. Verkhovtsov is top dog at the back scoring 9 goals and reaching an average rating of 7.93. Bakambu is starting to look more and more like Sanogo with every game, the Frenchman has scored 14 goals from 16 starts while Torres follows behind him with 12 goals from 13 starts. Charlie Adam has also done well with 13 assists while Giuliano likes to score from the right with 9 goals already to his name.

Player of the post: Verkhovtsov

Where the goals came from: John Fleck

Things couldn’t be better on the pitch, but off it is a different story. Brighton are in dyer straights financially, part of my grand plan was to get to the Champions League no matter the costs and then build from there. However, this plan has left Brighton £26 million in the red and not making much money with the months that pass. I could finish the season breaking even, but I may need to evaluate the finances before spending big again in the summer. One thing is for sure, Brighton will not be investing in the squad come January.

Well that concludes the update, I hope you are enjoying the ride and will be back to see how the season finished. Until then please feel free to ask any questions below and I look forward to reading your comments. You can also vote for who I should manage in FM 2012 below. I am now accepting votes for which two European clubs will join Norwich and QPR in the final poll. Thanks for reading :)

Darren Smith: "Which team should I be managing in FM 2012?" European poll

  • Malaga (Spain) (48%, 130 Votes)
  • PSG (France) (21%, 57 Votes)
  • Roma (Italy) (19%, 51 Votes)
  • Napoli (Italy) (13%, 36 Votes)

Total Voters: 270

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  1. Kevin

    September 21, 2011 at 10:50

    Hi Darren
    What a brilliant first half to the season losing just two games along the way. Bakambu is really on fire for you and I can see some sliver ware coming your way if you keep this form up.Good luck!!

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 11:53

      Thanks Kevin, I was shocked to go on such a run. Bakambu has been the difference for sure, its like he’s finally clicked with the EPL this season.

  2. Birdy

    September 21, 2011 at 11:16

    Hey Darren

    Very good start, you are playing some beautiful football which is great. Good luck for the rest of the season, hope you win !

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 11:52

      Thanks Birdy, must admit I’m enjoying the matches far more than last year.

  3. rolando

    September 21, 2011 at 11:28

    Hi Darren

    Absolutely stunning start to the season, have never ever seen anything like this. The squad looks well balanced, both Bakambu and Torres look like a real deal :) I certainly believe you can take your guys all the way to the top 3 now, especially when you’re already past the tough December fixtures. Hope you can grab Europa League title as well ;)

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 11:51

      Thanks Rolando, I have to agree the start we’ve experienced is brill. I was hoping to challenge the top four but certainly not this. If I keep the key stars in form and fit who knows what we could do.

  4. junior

    September 21, 2011 at 13:03

    1)darren are you still using the manchelona??
    2)are u going to use the Y2G system in this game??

    great is looking good..

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:26

      Hey Junior, I am still using the Manchelona with one adjustment…the striker is now been used as a ‘poacher’ as opposed to ‘complete forward’. I probably won’t have time to fully implement the Y2G system before FM12’s release so afraid we’ll have to wait for that. It generally takes about 5 EPL seasons before the system can start working and I will be looking to finish four.

  5. vaibhavc

    September 21, 2011 at 13:31

    Hey Darren
    Wow! Just amazing. I would never have expected for you to be first. Bakumubu is amazing and just cannot seem to stop scoring. But Granero has been ok for you, but I wanted him to be near the top of the list, not near the bottom.

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:24

      Thanks mate, we are certainly doing well and Bakambu has been very important. Granero plays well and excels in the odd game but never really stands out to be honest.

  6. Lye

    September 21, 2011 at 14:31

    Hi Darren,

    It’s always pleasing to find your team on top but that was a brilliant run by the Seagulls. Your strikers are banging in the goals and your defence looks solid. I am feeling this is going to be your year already. Keep it up and good luck for the rest of the games.

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:23

      Cheers Lye, we enjoyed a good run and the bonus is not one single side looks untouchable this season. Meaning the sky’s the limit. :)

  7. Laxeyman

    September 21, 2011 at 16:00

    Brilliant is about all I can say Darre, amazing form! Hopefully you can stay top and Bakambu and Torres can keep scoring, good luck!

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:22

      Thanks mate, those two strikers have been simply amazing.

  8. Johnny Karp

    September 21, 2011 at 16:11

    Woohoo, that’s an absolutely phenomenal first half of the season! You’re in for a title shot and that is simply amazing considering that it’s only the second season in the top flight. Well done mate and best of luck for the second part of the season!

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:21

      Thanks Johnny, it has been a ridiculous start but I’m just crossing my fingers for the second half of the season. It feels like a bad run must be on the cards sooner or later, but when and for how long will decide what we are challenging for.

  9. Dan

    September 21, 2011 at 17:32

    Hi Darren,
    Amazing first half of the season, Bakambu is a goal machine and you’re exactly where you deserve to be. Keep it up!

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:18

      Thanks Dan, must admit Bakambu looks great this season.

  10. Nicholas Phipps

    September 21, 2011 at 17:36

    Ridiculous start and your young team have a serious chance of the title. Good luck and also nice run in the Europa League :)

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:17

      Cheers Nick and I agree this is a ludicrous start…I never imagined this would happen and was aiming to be around 4th or 5th.

  11. Sam Pettitt

    September 21, 2011 at 17:46

    Hi darren :)

    Wow! an amazing start to the prem mate, also looking good in the Europa League! Good luck and well done :)

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:17

      Thanks mate, lets hope the form continues.

  12. Sears

    September 21, 2011 at 18:10

    Superb start to the campaign Darren, wouldn’t be surprised to see you winning the title and the Europa League. Good luck!

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:15

      Thanks Sears, a title challenge would be amazing but I can’t help but feel like its too early.

  13. riggsy

    September 21, 2011 at 18:55

    Excellent work so far Darren! Top of the league is a massive achievement considering it is only your second season in the EPL! Verkhovtsov has been sensational so far and I’m sure you can continue this form into the second half of the season! Good luck mate! :)

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 19:15

      Thanks Riggsy, we seem to be rising through the league ladder quicker than imagined. If we can keep the form going I wouldn’t like to predict our final position.

  14. Martin - F.M.J.S

    September 21, 2011 at 20:17

    Darren that is amazing, what a start in your second season in EPL. Bakambu has settled well, Lets hope he can keep scoring and Verkhovtsov and Galeano stay strong at the back for you. Good Luck with the second half of the season.

    • Darren Smith

      September 21, 2011 at 21:26

      Thanks mate, we really have enjoyed a good start. As you said, keeping the two CB’s strong and my forwards scoring will be vital to maintain any challenge.

  15. George Dobson

    September 21, 2011 at 21:37

    Well done Darren great results great in the europa league too bakambu has been brilliant :D !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. MDTM

    September 22, 2011 at 04:38

    Great start to the season! Looks like you players are really stepping up to the EPL challenge. Best of luck for the Europa matches against Trabzonspor and for the rest of the league season!!

    • Darren Smith

      September 22, 2011 at 11:50

      Thanks mate, we should hopefully keep the form going and see where that takes us.

  17. Mikey

    September 22, 2011 at 11:39

    Well done Darren…things worked out nicely on the pitch for you. The financial status is other thing, but one – two good transfers might do the trick, also if you will finish in top 4 + CL you will get nice sum of money together with TV rights.

    I started my 2nd season in championship, changed tactics, 2-3 additions and so far so good. Didn’t conceded so far and just wins. Will see in the end.

    • Darren Smith

      September 22, 2011 at 11:51

      Cheers Mikey, on the pitch I couldn’t ask for more and to be honest I expect our debt problems to be resolved come the seasons end. Sounds like you’re in with a chance this season, fingers crossed for promotion.

  18. Martin

    September 23, 2011 at 11:28

    Wowzas! great start to the season! the title could be heading to Brighton if you keep that up and results go your way! amazing darren. looking forward to the next update.

    • Darren Smith

      September 23, 2011 at 11:48

      Thanks Martin, ‘wowzas’ pretty much summarises my reaction during each EPL match :) Love it when a team over achieves.

  19. picks

    September 23, 2011 at 21:23

    howv are you so good at football manager!!!! lol takes me many seasons to take a club like brighton to the top fair play m8 and im managing malaga atm really enjoying it 3rd season just done and finished 3rd so champs league for me next season :) im hoping ur win the league and the champ league b4 fm12 im confidient u will :) look forward to ur next post

    • Darren Smith

      September 23, 2011 at 21:48

      Thanks Picks, I had my fair share of tough seasons. In fact around 3 years ago I couldn’t finish above fourth with Newcastle over four seasons. Its a learning process and it wasn’t until I dedicated more time to the game and changed my thinking that I got better. Hopefully I can guide the Seagulls to some major honours soon but we’ll see what happens :)

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