The Ideal Replacement For Arsene Wenger Is Closer Than You Think.

Howdy, folks.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well… usually I pour out a few words at this juncture to explain why I’ve not written for such an elongated period of time. I could, but I’m not going to. Words of excuse seem trite at this stage and a little pointless.

Maybe you haven’t missed me at all…

Anyways. What have I been up to recently? Well, I’ve been trying my hand at football management. Granted, I’m talking the simulated variety here and not the pursuit that sees me caterwauling at youngsters whilst patrolling a touchline with ideas far above my station. In the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to receive a complimentary copy of Football Manager 2015 from the good folks at Cash Generator – they also deal in Nintendo DS.

Before I get into my exploits at the helm of Arsenal, I figured a few words about the game itself wouldn’t go amiss. Growing up I was very easily addicted to what was then called Championship Manager. Although many of my friends referred to it as simply, “a bunch of numbers on the screen”, I was hooked and could easily fret away the hours choosing tactics and trying to nurture the unknown Bolivian wonderchild I’d paid mere pennies to recruit.

It was a totally immersive experience. The modern variety, however, makes those memories pale by comparison. In what I call “death by statistics” everything you could possibly imagine is here; whether that be the ability to hold lengthy, often arduous, meetings with the board to the updated realism of ‘player power’ – it’s all meticulously recreated for you to explore. The most notable change from those games of yesteryear is the addition of a 3D match engine that allows you to watch your players as they scamper about under your direction. 

During games you can communicate with the team both collectively and individually and tinker with a plethora of tactical options. To say the game is all-emcompassing is something of an understatement. I’ve played for 30 solid hours and don’t feel as if I’ve accomplished more than scratching the surface of potential. In short, it’s truly wonderful.

So, how did I do at the helm of the greatest team the world has ever seen? Woefully, that’s how…

Tactics seemed simple enough. I’ve been to a football match and own a Twitter account so I’m obviously qualified to send the players onto the pitch in a winning line-up… My choice was a 4-1-2-2-1 with a “regista” deployed in the holding position – I still have absolutely no idea what one of those is and believe any football hipster credentials I may have had died alongside that fact.

My first game in charge was a friendly against Arsenal’s U21s. I went into the fixture brimming with confidence. A humiliating 5-1 defeat later and I was beginning to question myself, my management abilities and the very fabric of space and time – the latter might have a significant amount to do with my recent adoration for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.

After the lacklustre display I was offered the opportunity to talk with my players. Needless to say I was seething and decided to vent my fury on Szczesny who had, to be quite frank, been bloody awful – In my imagination he was so despondent afterwards he progressed from cigarettes to shooting up heroin in the shower. Perhaps it was a touch knee-jerk, but he was immediately dropped and put on the transfer list.

More poor performances in meaningless friendlies followed, including a bizarre 4-4 draw with the mighty Darlington in which a full strength Arsenal contrived to blow a 4-1 lead in the final 30 minutes.

At this point, I could picture myself on the receiving end of a Twitter meltdown. Arsene Wenger faces cacophonous howls of derision the moment he so much as passes wind in an unsavoury manner, so it seemed fit that an unknown jackass blundering through pre-season would get both barrels.

My head was filled with the images of Tweets along the lines of:

“Another defeat. Stokes is clueless. George Graham wouldn’t have allowed this to happen. Sacking Arsene was the right move, but Stokes has had 2 weeks and enough is enough. #StokesOut”

Or:

“STOKES IS NOT THE CHOICE TO SUCCEED AT ARSENAL. HE MUST BE SHOT IN THE FACE AT CLOSE RANGE AND FIRED DIRECTLY INTO THE SUN. ARSENAL MUST SPEND ALL THE MONEY ON FAMOUS PLAYERS AND WIN TITLES AND GET MAN IN CHARGE TO WIN GAMES”

Things were not going well at all.

At this stage, the media began to get involved. This brings us nicely onto the one small complaint I have about the game. Whilst fielding questions from various journalists, there was no option that allowed me to roar, “Fu*k off, you catastrophic bellend!” to a representative of The Daily Mail. You can make both friends and enemies via you interactions and I fear I would have made immeasurably more of the latter given my propensity for being a touch hot-headed.

By now I imagined the board must have been looking at their appointment and questioning the sanity of my employment. I was expecting to be sacked very swiftly, even if the results occurred away from competitive football.

Then something magical happened.

As time progressed, and coupled with the signing of Geoffrey Kondogbia, the team slowly but surely began to gel with one another in the new formation and started to perform. Firstly we battered a hapless Barnsley 6-0 and then more than held our own against the mighty Barcelona – Neymar equalised on 87 minutes in a game Arsenal dominated and should have won.

I’d stumbled onto the concept of taking my time to prepare and discovered that certain players react better than others to certain demands. Some blessed souls require a pat on the back and words of praise, others are motivated by a raging fire being placed underneath their ass. It takes time to get to know exactly who prefers what, but once you have cracked it the results seem to come along.

As the friendly results got better and better, I found myself ready to manage a game with at least some meaning – The Community Shield. Manchester City were the opponents and all their mega-millions. The first half was one sided and at the interval Sergio Aguero had given the blue half of Manchester a deserved lead. During the break I opted to switch Giroud for Welbeck and the results were instant. Dat Guy Welbz hammered home and Ozil cross on 56 minutes and nearly added a 2nd 5 minutes later.

As the game headed towards extra time, Kompany felled Cazorla in the box and up stepped Debuchy to take the penalty – I’d somehow conspired to select him as the taker… Fearing the ball would fly violently into the stands I peered at the screen only for glorious surprise to wash over me as the net rippled and my first piece of silverware was obtained.

Arsene Wenger, you’ better watch your back.

I’ve not quite started the Premiership season as the constraints of time have prevented me from doing so. I’d like to extend my thanks to Craig Knight at Receptional for his efforts in securing me a copy of the game and his assistance throughout.

So folks, do you have a decent FM2015 story you’d like to share? Why not pop a brief synopsis in the comments for me and a few others to read. I’ll be back soon with more blathering and fluff.

Until that time, and as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.

9 Comments

  1. barry

    Terrible to think ppl have the tome to keep reading such a long piece with so much nonsense in it before u get to your point is ridiculous.good Jo

    Reply
    1. James 'Raul' Stokes (Post author)

      @barry: There wasn’t a point. It was just nonsense.

      Reply
  2. Dave Highbury

    Arsene Wenger has steadied the ship, paid for the stadium, and is now kicking butt. Let him finish his business. He is a winner. This squad is young and at present, starting to play sum proper football, and all ya’ll so called know it all critics WILL be proved wrong. He’s done A GREAT JOB TO DATE. Now he can concentrate on a top squad and winning cups…in style. People who thought Wenger didn’t know what he was doing, or even needed sacking were impatient idiots. Show sum respect, watch Ozil closely, and shut up. He does know better than you.

    Reply
    1. Antique Gunmen

      I even started to think that if this is a big game, then Arsene must have a very sophisticated cheat on his own. How many times he had beaten me? I was wrong about Ramsey, Koscielny, Giroud, and hell, Coquelin!? I mean how could you possibly know their form now compare to what they did on the past? We were follow those guys action for years. Then why the hell we can’t figure it out. If this Tai Chi world, Arsene must be success on releasing their “yang” energy. The result today sometimes shock Arsene himself. Or does he? You were right dude, HE DOES KNOW BETTER THAN WE ARE !

      Reply
  3. Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    I would love to play the game as manager of a hated rival, and go down to the Championship after one season at the helm. It is called Fantasy Manager 2015 instead of Football Manager 2015…

    Reply
  4. Nonny

    Quite an interesting read. I was privileged to have played FM2013 and it was interesting and it gave me an insight on what managers go through even if the FM is on a less complicated scale.

    That’s why when I hear some fans insulting Managers and players and wanting them sacked/sold for the simplest of errors, it pisses me off because their reasoning goes to show they know so little about football management.

    As you play on, you will realize that certain players you would want to buy will never be available no matter how much you are willing to pay. Some because the club refuses to sell. Others because the player doesn’t want to move even if the club wishes to sell. Hence next time a fan says AW refused to by Mr. A from Madrid or Bayern or even Liverpool. it helps you to understand why such a deal fell though.

    Play on Stocks, it’s both educative and entertaining. You will discover a lot of things you never know happen in the world of football and how complex the game is.

    Reply
  5. Veer

    Hi James, welcome back! Seems like Arsenal always pick up some form in your absence!

    Reply
    1. Antique Gunmen

      I hope it doesn’t mean Arsenal will loose form when James start his usual bastard things!

      Reply
  6. Admir

    Hi, James.

    Regarding FM 2015…

    I had actually used Coquelin before Wenger did as I played Le Coq as a full-back (eh, old times when we had Djourou and Coquelin as our full-backs). Le Coq did surprisingly well so I kept him there for a while.

    My favourite game was a victory over Chelsea when I was totally destroyed by them (I went for a good old 0:0 draw at home) but a counter-attack led by Joel Campbell down the left flank ended with a near-post cross for Dat Guy who put it into the net to make it 1:0 in 87th minute. Mourinho was pissed at the press-conference and claimed I was lucky but I replied with a dead-pan “I don’t know what that psycho talk about, I brushed him aside totally!”

    Reply

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