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Darren – Ultimate European Challenge, At Madrid’s storming start 15/16

Hello friends and welcome back to another update from my Ultimate European Challenge. After sharing Atletico Madrid’s pre-season signings, we are now ready to kick-off the season. Last year brought some major success with the La Liga title and Spanish Cup, however this year could be even better. After bringing in two of my Argentine stars and an ex Barcelona striker, I am expecting to challenge on all fronts. Just five or six games into the season, Barcelona seemed to be struggling. What followed was no surprise.

How did Garrido even get offered such a huge job in the first place. After finishing last season in a disappointing 3rd, the Barcelona board lost patience with the Spaniard. They sacked him, and then the media started their usual speculation. My name was heavily mentioned and I decided to deny any interest in the vacant job. I have a great thing going with At Madrid and don’t see any benefit from moving elsewhere in Spain. Still nice to get a mention though. :)

La Liga results: August-September

My first two months seemed good on paper. No fixture congestion and mainly matches I’d expect to win. My new signings struggled to settle quickly though. This showed with a complacent performance against Deportivo, the 1-0 scoreline could have been 0-0 on another day. This wake up call led to a demolition of Getafe away, Aguero banged home four goals as we won 5-1. Athletic then put up a good fight, if not for a great performance from Sanchez, the 1-0 victory could have been a draw. The nerves and inconsistent performances then seemed to vanish. We finished September with the 3-0 thrashing of Villarreal away from home and 4-1 romping of Espanyol. My centre back played a big part scoring five goals during these two games and all from set pieces.

La Liga results: October-November

What followed during October and November was just crazy. I decided to use my 4-5-1 in every game until it let me down. Problem with the 4-4-2 is all my wingers prefer an attacking role, and the 4-4-2 limits them to an ML or MR position. The tactical risk paid off though, as my boys won all 7 matches. Some of the best results were 5-0 away at Almeria, 6-1 at home to Zaragoza and 4-1 away to Sevilla. During these 7 games my boys scored a whopping 27 goals and only conceded 3.

La Liga table

11 points clear after just 12 games, this is not a fair reflection of how the season could pan out. Barcelona had a manager way under par and that is the reason for their demise. While Real Madrid have thrashed most opponents, but then struggled away from home. I am still predicting some stern competition from the big two, but just want to keep winning. We can’t be caught if I avoid losing more than 3 games and drawing one. If my form is any better than that, the title is mine. Of course, the La Liga will be wrapped up with far less, but this is what I’m aiming for.

Champions League results

As you can see, Atletico Madrid were drawn in an extremely easy group. This provided the perfect opportunity to rest my stars and give first team football to Bojan and a few other stars like Gonzalez and Barocelli who have struggled to overturn Vella and Alexis Sanchez. My first five games provided five easy victories, and qualification to the first knockout round. However, top spot is not guaranteed as I still have CSKA Moscow to play within a cluster fixture list. The main downside so far has been Bojan. The striker has really struggled and not found his scoring boots. I will keep the faith though and hope to see an improvement soon.

So despite winning all five Champions League matches, top spot is still in debate. I can’t see CSKA beating my side by two or more goals, but you never know. Hopefully my players won’t crack and miss out on the so called easier draw.

Best At Madrid performance so far

This was a no brainer for me. The old 4-5-1 worked some magic again and my side dominated this match with more than 25 shots and almost 65% possession.

Sergio Aguero was perfection and the long ball just killed Getafe all day long. In fact Aguero wasn’t done after scoring his fourth goal, the Argentine then went on to assist Alexis Sanchez.

Squad stats

Toprak’s rating is due to the opponents quality, he has featured mainly in the Champions League. However, Aguero deserves massive praise as his 18 goals and 6 assists have been simply stunning. Vella has also been vital with 8 goals and 6 assists, while Alexis Sanchez has scored an impressive 11 goals from the left. Assigning Dzagoev the corner duties has paid off with his 12 assists. I have also been impressed with Millemaggi’s start of 4 goals and 8 assists.

Now we’ve covered all the At Madrid news, its time to look at Argentina. After winning the Copa America, I mentioned bringing through the next generation of players. Well I have already begun the search and below are the best of my new players. All of these have been brought straight into the first team. Hopefully I can offer plenty of game time to prepare the youngsters for World Cup 2018.

Juan Manuel Chena (Valencia) – right winger

Chena is someone I have had my eye on for a year now. He’s always fallen just short, but last seasons improvement inspired me to call the 22 year old up. He’s become Valencia’s best midfielder and had some serious interest from the top clubs around Europe, including Atletico Madrid :)

Hector Avila (Sevilla) – centre back

This lad is a huge prospect and could already waltz into my back four. Last year saw me so focused on the beasts Otamendi and Galeano that I missed this wonderful regan. I honestly think Argentina have the three best centre backs in the world. Avila will be rotated until fully comfortable within my starting XI, then form will pick between the three.

Martin Bisbal (Real Madrid) – central midfield

With Mascherano about to reach 32 years old, I had to find some new blood for this holding midfield role. Bisbal isn’t amazing yet but the scouts think he has great potential. I want to try him out early, but he is getting played a lot with Real Madrid so this should be all the proof I need.

International results

I selected two Friendlies after the Copa America, these were with the aim of trying out the new players. I didn’t want to take too many risks while playing our World Cup Qualifiers. Chena and Zbrun showed the most potential from my newbies as we thrashed South Africa 4-0. However, the game in Russia was a worry as my side equalised late on to draw 1-1. I have enjoyed a perfect start to my WCQ, winning all 4 games including a 6-1 drumming of Brazil. You can see these highlights below.

WCQ – Argentina 6-1 Brazil

With a full strength squad, my newbies waiting on the wings and a 4-5-1 that was proving unstoppable. I walked into this game feeling confident. The lads didn’t fail to impress either. Two goals from Aguero within the opening 7 minutes set the tone for this match. Pato’s strike on the 15th minute was Brazil’s only real chance. The onslaught then continued as we ripped our rivals to shreds. I was expecting victory bit not this. Insua’s late goal was my favourite. :)

WCQ Group

After winning all our games rather comfortably, Uruguay seem the only nation up to challenging us. While Uruguay have matched my side so far, the gap to third is already 5 points. I can’t see Argentina missing out on top spot, but the game against second placed Uruguay could go along way to depicting our group. I just see the easier opponents as batting practise for my new players and hopefully a chance for them to grow before the World Cup.

That is all for today guys, I hope you enjoyed the read and sorry for such a long update. The next post will probably take us up to March. Until then please feel free to comment and I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for reading :)

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fmcrazy
10 years ago

Brilliant! You are really amazing! You have the best teams (club and international) in the world and you must look forward to every game :D

Also, how did Bob Bradley get linked with the Barcelona job!?!!?! They must have a stupid board :P

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  fmcrazy

Tell me about it, first of all they turned me down after I won the Champions League, 3 league titles and three cup trophies and hire some unknown Spanish guy instead. Then they seem interested in an American who hasn’t done anything. Crazy board indeed. :)

Sears
10 years ago

Wonderful start Darren, that’s phenomenal. I think you’ll win every competition your involved in this year. It’s just amazing how consistent your team is! Agureo is a beast, and your wingers are superb too.

ps Do you not get bored of winning all the time? :-D

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sears

I think we have the best front three in the world and this is why my squad score so many. Lets just hope the Champions League doesn’t give me an impossible draw.

ps I never get bored with winning, just doing so with the same team after winning everything available. Thats why this challenge is perfect for me, I can move on after winning with one club but still carry on the same game :)

Wazz
Wazz
10 years ago

*speechless*

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Wazz

lol, thanks Wazz…my squad is just incredible and I landed on my feet with them really.

Laxeyman
Laxeyman
10 years ago

Unbelievable Darren, it must be a great feeling managing the two best teams in the world. You should easily win La Liga and I reckon you’ve got a great chance of winning the Champions League as well. Argentina just seem to keep churning out brilliant regens, and that win against Brazil was fantastic. Good luck for the rest of the season!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Laxeyman

Cheers Laxeyman, it really is great managing the best two around. I’ve done my fav club, now I’m back packing across Europe’s best clubs and all thats missing is a lower league challenge :)

Lets hope this season will be one to remember as its my last with At Madrid I think.

Sears
10 years ago

Hey mate,

With Atletico in the domestic league, what defensive line, tempo and width do you use?

With Bilbao I beat Barce at home 2-0 using a 4-5-1 and slow tempo, deep defensive line and narrow width,yet against Sevilla I lose 5-1 which was entirely my fault because I went with a rather high defensive line.

Thanks.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sears

Hey Sears,
I always find my side play above themselves against bigger teams but become complacent at times against lesser opposition and that leads to results like yours against Barcelona and Sevilla. I too use the very deep defensive line, very narrow width and very slow tempo against Barcelona and Real Madrid. It works well bit I change this for other opponents. When I expect to win I use a slightly high defensive line, slightly narrow width and slightly slow tempo. Usually with standard strategy when expecting three points or counter when I’m not sure. Hope this helps a little mate.

Sears
10 years ago
Reply to  Darren Smith

I’dlike to use a high defensive line, but my center backs aren’t that quick. Mikel San Jose has 10 acceleration and 12 pace, whilst Amorebieta has 13 acceleration and 13 pace.

Btw, which role is more effective, ”central defender” or ”limited defender”? ”Defend or stopper”?

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sears

Having slow defenders will leave you with a tough choice. Either risk the high line and tick the offside trap box, or play deep and then risk inviting pressure and struggling to attack. I always go with high line unless against the top teams though, even with slow defenders, granted my defences have been reasonably quick so far other than HSV.

I have always struggled with the defensive roles, but this year a central defender role with defend duty has served me well for both centre backs. Although I think having one of them as a stopper could be effective too.

Sears
10 years ago
Reply to  Darren Smith

Thanks mate. I think I might retreat to a more central tactic. My wingers have been extremely inconsistent and I’d rather have 2 up front than 1. Llorente is the only person that scores, 2-3 others have scored once. Muniain plays bad as an ”inside forward” on the left wing thus I wanna try him as a ”poacher” up front with Llorente as a ”complete forward”.

Thanks for the advice, I’ll think things over when I get home, I’m hitting the town now.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sears

No problem mate, I think you are more suited to the central tactics anyway…that is where you seem to find the most success.

Have fun on the town. :)

Birdy
10 years ago

Hey Darren
Some great work with Atletico and Argentina. The regens that Argentina have are just amazing and it must be fun to watch some of your games with score lines of 5-0 5-1 and all

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Birdy

Thanks Birdy, it is pretty amazing watch my side score so many…we all love winning and I think my squad are unstoppable at the moment. :)

Albert Edwards
Albert Edwards
10 years ago

I wish my game was as easy with all those quality regens you have… they must be made in some kind of dream youth academy where messi is a coach… You should easily win La liga this year if you keep up the good form and champions league if you are given a not too hard draw…

http://www.everythingfootballandotherstuff.blogspot.com, my blog on football and football manager

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Albert Edwards

I have been tracking these regens for years now Albert. Just glad I had the funds to bring them all in. The La Liga shouldn’t be a problem but I think the Champions League will come down to luck as always.

Lye
Lye
10 years ago

Hi Darren,

There is no match for you whether in country or club. Your Argentina contingent is absolutely ruling the football world in your game. You should start looking for the French league after this season as you have completed the Spanish challenge. Great job there.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Lye

Cheers Lye, I do feel like I’m managing probably the best group of players ever, with Argentina. My Atletico Madrid side are also extremely good and it will be tough to beat them when I move to my next club.

Albert Edwards
Albert Edwards
10 years ago

p.s sorry, that is not my blog just one I follow

Johnny Karp
10 years ago

You seem to be having a quite entertaining season, both Atletico and Argentina are having fun on the pitch. You’ll surely win the Liga, well done!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Johnny Karp

Thanks Johnny, it is fun to see so many goals go in and a nice change from my close margin victories. Hopefully we’ll finish the season with a nice trophy cabinet. :)

Timmy
Timmy
10 years ago

Whoa,what a great regen,and win 6-1 against Brazil,it’s great!
Btw i have some question
What tactic do you use?(because it’s look great tactic,or it’s that your newcastle tactic?)
and,Sanchez was buy by AC Milan(they beat me,of course :( ),but i want to buy him,your prediction can i buy him in 2-3 season?
(and thanks for ansaldi pic)
good luck

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Timmy

Thanks Timmy, this game seems to be producing ridiculous regens. :)

The tactic I’m using is the same as for Newcastle, I always tweak tiny things for different players but yeh, its just the Newcastle 4-5-1 really.

Alexis Sanchez is a great player and I think most good quality clubs could buy him. However, it depends on how he is doing with AC Milan, if their in Champions League and your not, I’d so no. However, if your in the top four and AC are playing badly then I would say yes.

Will
Will
10 years ago

Darren are you ending this save at the end of the season? If you are i sincerely hope you don’t cause I love reading your stories

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Will

Thanks Will, it means a lot to know people are enjoying the read. Don’t worry though mate, this save is the Ultimate European Challenge which means I have to win the Champions League once more, the Premiership, FA Cup, French Ligue one and French Cup. Therefore I may be leaving At Madrid, but I will be staying with the same save and moving to another country. Will be a sad fairwell to Spain, but there’s still a lot to do in order to complete this challenge :)

Ana Garcia
Ana Garcia
10 years ago

Nothing much to add!

A nice spell of dominance for both club and country, both your teams are very stong and you seem to get the best out of them with the results you have got.

Good luck on your future challenge!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Ana Garcia

Thanks Ana, its been a great run and hopefully will continue. :)

Kye
Kye
10 years ago

Darren have u ever reloaded? Sometimes i get 2 seasons in then get knocked out of the champions league during the qualifying rounds so i reload but then i feel bad about it and so have to start my whole career again

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Kye

Hey Kye, I think FM brings out temptations like this and I used to do that before FM10 came out. However, I got so bored of playing that way I haven’t since. By accepting the annoying results with the great ones I learnt a lot more about the game and managed to win the way I do now…the odd temptation does come into play now and then (like in three European finals I lost), but I just remind myself how bad I would feel after reloading and push on. :)

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