Johan Cruijff

The Cruijffbal Challenge #4

Welcome to my fourth season update of The Cruijffbal Challenge.

Prologue | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

We all have principles or codes we live by. Some are indoctrinated into us, others are picked up over time. I always start with a specific tactic when I play 01/02. It’s called Mentalist and you can download it here. But it doesn’t work forever. The AI becomes privy to your motives and the exploit loses its power. I could spend hours trying to find out what the problem is, tinker, continue to lose, tinker some more, and lose sleep and sanity trying to fix the problem. Or I can use another tactic that works. You might have enjoyed the suffering and ineptitude of Iain Mackintosh’s Everton save on The Set Pieces but I refuse to join his ranks. I’m from the Alex Ferguson camp of winning at any cost.

Manifesto over. Did it make a difference? Let’s find out.

The League

After the calamity of last season, I decided to set up some pre-season friendlies. They were all at home to generate some money (it wasn’t much) and build morale and match fitness (marginal and also lead to an injury).

Preseason friendlies.
A stretch of the legs.

This amounted to nothing when we lost our first match 3-1 to Aston Villa. This was followed by a win over Swansea and Brentford but a defeat to Bristol City. I needed to take action. Out with Mentalist, in with *squints* Looper352. And things improved. Annoying defeats continued but there were more wins this time. And less draws (only 3 all season). Maybe I should have called this Keeganomics. We actually won as many games as Newcastle did in 95/96 but lost 15. Crystal Palace, the team below us, lost less but drew more. And that helped immensely. In fact, it helped so much… WE WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP! The title was secured before the final match of the season and I couldn’t believe it. We bounced between 1st and 2nd for most of the season, occasionally falling to 3rd. But we did it! And you’ll spot a team in 4th which I’ll get to later. What a turnaround!

The oldest league club in the world in the best league in the world (allegedly)
The oldest league club in the world in the best league in the world (allegedly)

The Cups

League Cup exit
What a waste of a 22℃ night.

League Cup was a bust. West Brom were in League 1 (now in the playoffs) and we should have done better.

FA Cup replay exit
WHY DO I BOTHER?

We beat Birmingham 3-0 in the FA Cup third round and were 3-2 up against Cardiff in the fourth before Ibrahim Meite scored in the 86th minute. I was gutted but more so when we couldn’t muster a goal in the replay. Another dead run.

The Players

Only 4 players were signed with three in the summer and one in February (this game doesn’t have the same transfer windows). Total spend: £1.079m. No money made so a net loss was the same: £1.079m. But, thanks to unprotected contracts (remember those?), we have two players leaving and the compensation is worth more than I paid for them (£50k spend vs. £600k comp) so I’m counting that as a victory. They’ve not gone through yet so I can’t count them towards the net loss. But yay money! Anyway, the transfers:

Callum Whelan – Signed for £325k. Played 17(8), scored 4, 2 assists, average rating 7.00. Drissa Traoré was my only DMC and had been for the past three seasons. Whelan came in from Man Utd’s reserves with good stats: 6 goals and 10 assists in 62. With my new 5-in-midfield formation, he got more playtime than he might have with my old 4-1-2-3.

David Redmond – Signed for £14k. Played 42, scored 27, 7 assists, MOMs 6, average rating 7.43. Having 4 strikers in a 3 striker tactic is risky. Almost as risky as having 1 DMC in your whole squad. I remedied this by signing Redmond for dirt cheap from Wycombe Wanderers. He’d only played 6 games before he joined but scored 3. He carried that form when we needed it. He’s only 20 and now worth £1.6m. Let’s see how he does in the Premier League.

Jay Dasilva – Signed for £675k. Played 32(5), 2 goals, 2 assists, 2 MOMs, average rating 7.03. Fun fact: I know Jay’s older brother! I grew up in Luton and knew his brother through mutual friends. I even worked at Jay’s old club, Luton Town, behind the bar under the stands! I’ve also signed Jay before on a Sporting save and he was part of a treble-winning squad. In the game, he’d been transferred to Boro and Charlton before he joined us. He’d not scored a goal or completed an assist until this season. He’ll face his old club Chelsea next season for sure.

Lee Burge – Signed for £65k. Played 17, conceded 28, average rating 7.00. It was less of a panic buy and more of a need to plug the goal. 4s and 5s were creeping into van der Sar’s performances and Ross Brown wasn’t quite up to it just yet. Burge had great handling skills (16) and he helped (even if he conceded at a higher rate than van der Sar but whatever).

The Money

£9m profit at the time of writing this. Same ol‘ story but the spread of income is wider – we made £1.6m in merchandising! I’ve walked past Meadow Lane many times and picturing the shops packed, enough to make £1.6m is unfathomable. But that’s the beauty of this game. I’m expecting mega bucks next season when we’ll be in the Premier League. That £600k from the two unprotected players hasn’t been included but 3% of my current balance is still good.

The Aims

A reminder of the goals:

  • Level 1: Finish above Nottingham Forest
  • Level 2: Win a cup competition
  • Level 3: Reach the Premier League
  • Level 4: Stay for at least a season
  • Level 5: Qualify for Europe
  • Level 6: Reach the FA Cup final
  • Level 7: Win the Premier League
  • Level 8: Win a European competition
  • Level 9: Win the World Club Cup
  • Level 10: Reach a £1bn bank balance

Forest could still go up via the playoffs again but SUCK IT, WE FINISHED ABOVE YOU! This time we finished 11 points ahead. If Forest do go up, it’ll be the first time since 1984 that both Nottingham clubs will feature in the top flight (a season that saw Forest finish 3rd and County finished 2nd from bottom). Let’s not have a repeat of that please, CM Gods!

Exciting times ahead for Season 5. Can we stay in the Premier League? Can we actually make a cup run? Join me next time to find out!

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