Borussia Moenchengladbach, Season '12-13
Season two opened with a remit to finish in the top half, but after last season's almost-title-challenge I felt top four was very achievable. A title challenge never materialised this time around; second-season syndrome hit, the numerous squad alterations taking time to settle. Borussia Dortmund were proving all but invincible, decimating the field over the opening half of the campaign, with Bayern just about surfing their slipstream. I was generally in 4th, ahead of a crop of teams looking to challenge for the Champions League positions. Schalke were enjoying a promising campaign in 3rd, until a run of 12 games without a win culminated in a 6-0 thrashing at Bayen and the end of Michael Laudrup's reign.
The Champions League proved a different prospect; drawn into a group with Inter, Zenit and Twente. A 1-0 win in Milan opened the group, followed by tidy home victories over Zenit and Twente. With one point needed to qualify I sent a scratch team to Holland and was promptly thrashed 2-4. A loss at home to Inter - where I dominated and did everything but score, eventually falling victim to two fluke goals - meant I need a result in Russia. Assuming Inter beat Twente, which they did, 6-0. I went 2-0 up, but that had been reversed by halftime, and a second Kerzhakov strike right after the restart put qualification highly in doubt, one of the worst collapses in Champions League history. Despite Zenit going down to ten men I couldn't find a way through, until FM decided to invoke one of its frequent moments of hero-creation. In the dying embers of the game, Neustadter surged forward and split the Zenit defence asunder. Kamarouskiy rounded the GK and slotted home. Qualification achieved with the last kick.
I avoided a raft of big names in the knockouts, earning a modest tie with Sporting. A 0-0 draw in Portugal set me fair for advancement, but I went on to lose the home tie with two quick second-half goals.
On the transfer front, my purchases had done a solid job to-date. Fernando had been instrumental, bagging 13-14 goals by the winter break. De Jong and Reynaldo had also chipped in strongly, with Abu adding some guile to the midfield. The one disappointment was £10.5m record purchase Cisse, with a paltry 3 goals and an inability to hit the proverbial barn door. The board afforded a modest winter budget, which I duly spent on Julian Schuster
for £5.25m. A deadball expert, replacing the quality I would soon lose with Arango's increasingly bit-part role. There wasn't much available on a future free transfer, agreeing Solvi Ottesen - a commanding Icelandic centreback - the only other business.
The back stretch of the season was a tremendous battle. Bayern lost form and with nine games remaining seven teams were within a point of each other. The run-in was tough; away ties at Bayern and Koln sandwiched Schalke at home, with HSV on the final day. But the team pulled it out; a 1-0 win at Bayern, victory over Schalke and a last-gasp draw at Koln sealed automatic Champions League entry. Going into the final day I was 2nd, but decided to play a scratch team ahead of the German Cup final and could only muster a tepid 0-0 draw, allowing Bayern to move ahead for a consecutive 3rd placed Bundesliga finish.
A tidy season culminating in a German Cup final and the promise of first silverware. After missing last season's final with a last-gasp defeat at Leverkusen in the semis, this time around I went one better. A 2-1 victory at Dortmund in the semi final - a tough, defensive game settled by Cisse and Reynaldo strikes - set up a marquee showdown against Bayern. They had annihilated Bremen 6-1 to reach the final, but I was quite confident, posting up three victories in five games vs Bayern to date. It proved a stunning finale; Reus' goal earned a halftime lead, but Nordtveit's dismissal - right as I was about to sub him - instantly put the tie in Bayern's favour. I went 441 and defensive and kept Bayern at bay until Boateng netted from a corner with ten minutes remaining. Somehow I retook the lead in the 105th minute through an outstanding Cisse goal, only for Landon Donovan to immediately respond before another minute had passed. 2-2 final score, but I snagged a 4-3 sudden-death shootout win to do-over Bayern yet again. Reus the hero with the decisive penalty.
All-in-all another very promising season. I've developed a difficult-to-beat outfit and a drop of 3pts to the first season was an acceptable trade-off given the numerous squad alterations. If I can keep the group together I think a title challenge could materialise for the third season. It will be tough though, as Germany have lost a CL space to Serie A due to the 5-year coefficients - despite Italy not even having a team qualifying from the group stage, in comparison to 3 German.
There has been some interesting stuff occurring around the leagues. Ferguson and Redknapp have just retired. Generally I find FM12 is modelling the real game world very well; expected teams are largely winning, likely candidates are signing for teams or becoming managers. Arsenal have been Wengerian; 4th and 5th placed finishes, the occasional big-name signing adjoining numerous talented youngsters. Wenger took the France job at the end of the first season, and Van Gaal's 5th place earned him the sack. The new manager of Arsenal? Sinisa Mihajlovic.
Imagine that, in the current climate and given his history