The Soccer Manager 2016 Challenge: November
Posted on 09th November 2015
The term ‘World XI’ and Watford FC might appear to be as dubious a partnership as Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier, but the newly promoted Premier League outfit are notorious for their global range of players.
Loading up their squad list at the start of Soccer Manager 16 reveals an astonishing TWENTY THREE different nationalities.
There are more tongues going on than a youth disco.
Which prompts the obvious challenge – give the Watford squad a homegrown overhaul, while avoiding relegation.
Without wanting to sound like a questionable UKIP campaign, my mission is to transform the Hornets’ line-up to contain players solely from English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh or Northern Irish backgrounds.
It’s something approaching mission impossible – I’m no Tom Cruise, but I am similarly diminutive, which should qualify me for a starring role.
To read October’s diary, click here.
We start the month slap bang middle of the table in tenth, with four wins and 15 points from our opening 13 matches.
A third of the campaign down, and we’re comfortably out-performing expectations.
Next, though, is a trip to leaders Manchester City, who have won 12 games and are already five points clear.
Scary, but it means there’s absolutely no pressure on us, either.
Still, Shane Long being given a straight red card within the first 300 seconds is still not ideal.
The only surprise with what follows is that it takes City 26 minutes to open the scoring, through Samir Nasri (91).
It looks as though we’ll make it to half time at 1-0, but a Sergio Aguero penalty ends the match as a contest. He scores again from the spot in the second half and we’re almost happy to take a 3-0 defeat.
We return to home turf, and more comfortable opposition in Sunderland – after a week in which Joe Allen increases in rating – and the sole change I make is replacing the suspended Long with Troy Deeney (85), literally my only striker alternative.
He returns the, ahem, faith rapidly, opening the scoring after five minutes, heading in from a Wayne Routledge cross.
Tactical genius, me.
Our opponents, though, are bossing the ball, and are rewarded when Fabio Borini rams home yet another penalty.
They’re level for just three minutes, when substitute Ikechi Anya (85) tucks away a winner – having been thrown on in hope rather than expectation.
That earns him a starting berth in the next game, a cup clash with Championship side Leeds.
Allen gives us an early lead, and things look good, until Deeney limps off. It means I’m reliant on youth team forward Bernard Mensah (73) up top.
He looks sharp, winning a penalty for Scott Sinclair to convert and, at 2-0, and with my paper-thin squad a worry, I withdraw key cogs Jagielka and Allen.
We hold on to earn a draw against Tottenham in the next round.
Our final match of the month is hosting Aston Villa on a Monday night in front of the Sky cameras. The glamour.
Ahead of the clash, Anya increases a rating in training and Deeney returns to fitness, so I start with both – keeping flying winger Routledge on the bench, giving me the luxury of an impact sub.
There isn’t much for Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher to analyse in the studio at half time, after a dour, goalless first 45 minutes – Deeney’s shot straight at Brad Guzan the only ‘highlight’ of the half.
I make a trio of changes on the hour mark, but it is Villa who get the illusive goal, Jordan Veretout (88) on hand to break Hornets’ hearts late on.
We remain tenth in the standings, though, averaging over a point a game.
I’ll take that quite nicely.
Further, we receive a cash offer from Argentine side Boca Unidos for unwanted midfielder Almen Abdi (85).
We need to be ready for a month of death, though – our five opponents during December are: Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea, Tottenham again in the Cup, and Manchester United.
That’ll be our end of year fireworks, then.
About the author – Lee Price
Lee Price is a journalist and author with a passion for football, and crucially, virtual football management.