It's that time of year when loved ones, businesses, schoolwork, and any responsibilities you might normally be quick to handle get tossed to the side in favor of stuffing your favorite (and sometimes least favorite) players into a tactic you're absolutely positive is going to work, throwing them into a critical league match, and watching them boil your blood for ninety virtual minutes (plus stoppage time). Yes, Football Manager 2013 has been released and the obsession starts all over again.
The preseason is upon us at Fake Aston Villa and we're hoping to get a good idea of how we fare against some decent competition (and some not so decent) while avoiding any serious injuries. I had a few suggestions from you guys last time and I'm hoping for some more this go around. Among the ideas so far were a couple of formations (Brian suggested a 3-5-2 while George suggested a Bielsa style formation) and Tom said we should sell Bent. Well, we may need Bent just yet. Remember in our game, Benteke hasn't turned into what real life Benteke is and we're going to need goals. Bent's current value is listed as 11.25 million pounds. My hope is that he plays well enough to keep that value where we flip him in the January window.
Let's find out how Villa did in their warm up matches, shall we?
In the first friendly, Villa lost 3-1 to FC Twente as 7500's beloved center back Douglas scored for Twente. I would love to acquire Douglas and so I mentioned to the press that I thought he played great and then added that he's wasting his time at Twente and should come to Villa. We'll see how he responds.
After that match, Warnock signed with Southampton who figured they'd rather spend 1.7 million pounds on the left back than light it on fire. We won't miss you, Stephen. Apparently the feeling is mutual.
Jordan Bowery left on loan to Barnsley where he will stay for the rest of the season.
Douglas found time to respond to my praise.
Not the most encouraging response but we'll just have to start winning and prove to him that we're the right club for him.
In other news, Leicester is after Eric Lichaj. If I were to sell him, as Ian Culverhouse is telling me to, I think Aaron would stop reading this series altogether. As it is, I feel like I need him on the squad since I just sold Warnock. I'm going to tell Leicester to back off.
Against Bristol Rovers I put the club in Brian's suggested 3-5-2. It seemed to have done the job as we ran out 2-1 winners.
The Austrian tour began on a high note: Norwich came in with an offer to take Alan Hutton off our hand on a season long loan. Would I prefer someone outright bought him? Definitely. Will I jump at the chance to get him off my team? Yes I will.
The matches in Austria were a different story. The first match was the dreaded Andreas Weimann Classic against Rapid Vienna and we lost 1-0 thanks to American Terrence Boyd's goal near half time. The best player for Villa was Ron Vlaar. Everyone else: distinctly average.
If losing meant the end of the Alan Hutton era then I'll take it. I'm now very much looking forward to playing Norwich and sending everyone down Alan Hutton's side assuming he even gets to play while he's there.
Next up was First Vienna FC 1894 which held us to a 1-1 draw. The only Villa goal was scored by Darren Bent who was also man of the match. Based on the quality of play and results to this point I'm going to go ahead and say that I'm glad our players are getting the chance to get match fit and that the results don't matter because that's what managers say when their team plays like ass in the preseason.
While preparing for the final two matches of the Austrian tour Millwall bid on young defender Derick Williams and QPR asked how much I wanted for Barry Bannan. While a potential Williams sale broke down over contract demands, I had told QPR to buzz off which alerted Bannan's agent to ask for a restructured contract for his client. You see he's only making 9k a week and since other clubs appear to want him, his dickhead agent decided he should be paid more. So I figured an extra year and maybe a few extra grand would keep him happy. Nope. His agent wants 300k just for talking to him and 31k a week for his client. Well, Barry - I hope you aren't mad that I bounced a coffee mug off of your agent's head. We'll see soon enough if Barry holds a grudge. I can tell you his agent certainly does.
The match against Wiener Neustadt was a great success. Villa would score three goals, two from Christian Benteke and one from youngster Graham Burke, and Brad Guzan would keep a clean sheet. Encouraging stuff, for sure. The final match of the tour saw Villa outshoot TSV Hartberg 31-7 but lose 1-0. Finishing appears to be an issue. Bent didn't play in the match and once again the only player who was above average was Vlaar. The players had finally grown tired of wienerschnitzel and Andi Weimann constantly yelling, "I've been there! I've been there! I've been there!" Aston Villa finally headed back to England to finish the preseason.
I set up one more friendly once we returned home by inviting Bradford City over to Villa Park for a roll in the hay. It was pure domination from Villa everywhere but on the scoreboard. The match ended 2-0 but likely could have been much worse.
With two weeks now from the end of the friendlies to the start of the season we have some options. I'm thinking about transfer targets, specifically. Keeping in mind the Villa squad is for all intents and purposes the current real-life squad, what areas would you strengthen? What players do you usually target and try to bring in when you play? I've got scouts constantly giving me reports but I'd also like to hear from you. If they're too expensive I'll put them on a shortlist in the hopes that Randy opens up the checkbook in January.
Leave your comments below as and get excited because next time we're going to build up to the opening fixture against defending league champions Manchester City at the Etihad as well as home to Arsenal and away to Everton. That'll take us through August.