After the hectic start to the month where some transfers were concluded, we were able to continue winning matches as we did in August during this month – which we did in style!
Champions League, Group H
The main match this month was against Russian Champions Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League. As 3rd seeds, this away match would be the most likely one I could register some points in, and I hoped for a draw.
Zenit’s attacking 4231 has some enviable names in it – Kerzhakov, Danny, Witsel, Bruno Alves, Criscito. But in Hulk was a real threat! Thus I lined up with a 451 Counter Attacking style, not expecting to see much of the ball.
The match started with Zenit having the vast majority of possession and I was forced to move out a little, adopting a Standard and eventually Control style to push their attackers further away from my own goal area.
We scored first before Zenit had a man sent off. They also changed shape numerous times, putting two strikers up against my two centre backs. They were rewarded with a goal for their efforts.
My assistant asked for me to be more attacking with my man advantage, but I didn’t feel right doing so – they were looking very dangerous on the counter attack. Instead I opted to use the width I had in the team (Zenit were playing a narrow formation after the sending off). This resulted in the cross which Gary Hooper connected with to score.
With Chelsea beating Juventus in London, we are in 2nd place after the first match.
In the SPL I rotated the squad quite often to allow for the fact we had matches midweek. Firstly against Ross County I played a mix of 2nd string and youth players but the introduction of Charlie Mulgrew with an excellent performance by Liam Polworth won us the match after going 1-0 down.
Against Dundee it was a straightforward win but against St. Johnstone I again played a mix of 2nd string/youth, due to a match against Chelsea the following mid-week, but we needed two late goals from McGeouch and Watt to seal the win.
The month ends with us top of the table, and our lead dramatically increased to 8 points.
Scottish League Cup
Although unimportant, I’d like to win this tournament at least once. So with a match against new club The Rangers, I opted for a strong team. This would also keep the senior players match fit, and allow them to rest against St. Johnstone (as described above).
We started dreadfully, losing two goals in the first half, before pulling one back on the stroke of half-time. This was despite us clearly dominating the game.
It was truly a game of two halves though – an assertive team talk to kick the players in the backside allowed us to score not long after the restart, and our quality shone through when Liam Polworth scored deep into added on time.
We shall play Hearts (away) in the Quarter Final.
The Reserves have won 4 out of 5 of their Reserve (U20) League games. They are third, three points adrift from the top, but have two games in hand.
The U19s are struggling in the NextGen Series, having lost twice and drawn once. I’m feeling a little guilty about having loaned out a number of their players now.
The excellent performances against Zenit have only improved the Continental Average Ratings for the team. Special mention to Samaras, Mulgrew, Hooper and Izaguirre who have been consistently over the 7.8 mark!
Overall too, the ratings are excellent. Samaras and Hooper, with ratings over 8.00 are notable, but Polworth, McGeough, Fraser and Watt are all showing their worth despite their young age.
Forrest and Kayal have returned from injury however Jacob Barrett Laursen has a fractured arm and is out for 5 to 10 days.
We made a huge loss of £12.1m last month, but it is interesting to note that only £7.6m of this is due to transfer spending! In fact, looking closer, it appears, the lack on income over the course of last month is to blame for the other £4.5m. We had only two home matches.
But I’m not worried because we made such a large profit in August, where most of my transfer income was and more home matches.
Our projected profit is £19m, which is greater than the actual profit of £15.9m from last season. It’s miles down from the £33.85m profit projected at this time last year, which does concern me. Though maybe the latest patch has corrected financial projections.