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Aston Villa and Football Manager Part I: Prologue

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.

Stu Forster

I'm going to assume that most of you have played or at the very least heard about Football Manager and the way its devotees playfully rant about how it's more addictive than crack. Essentially, Football Manager helped teach me a lot of the basics about world football, league structures, random clubs, and so forth. I owe this game a lot. In fact, I give it approximately forty of my American dollars every October or so.

The idea here is to try and weekly (or weakly, if you may) report on a sim of Aston Villa's 2012-13 campaign with myself and you, the reader, at the helm using Football Manager. We're going to try out formations, get angry with players we hate, see stars in the making, or possibly get sacked in mid-December. There really is an endless number of outcomes. If you have any questions on the nature of the game please leave them in the comments as I'll be happy to answer them.

Without further ado, let's get into the basics of this sim and the setup that I've chosen to go with as we journey through the season. Here are some bullets that explain the basic framework of this particular sim:

  • I've chosen a large database but only 44,000 players with 11 leagues fully viewable - this was done for simulation speed purposes. I didn't want to have to wait 5-6 minutes just advance a single day. You can have over 125,000 players and over 40 countries but it slows the game to an unbearable crawl.
  • The sim starts in England, July 2012.
  • The actual teams on the schedule not true to real life. In this sim, Villa start out with Manchester City and Arsenal. I have just now noticed this. Oh crap.
  • The squad is basically current but the summer window is open so small changes can be made. You'll find out in a minute that there won't be much room to do that unless we get creative.
  • Nathan Delfouneso is at Blackpool and Jean Makoun is at Rennes. I'm pretty sure I'm going to loan out Jordan Bowery because at this point he's of zero use to me.
  • The injuries to start the season are Richard Dunne (groin - two months), Gabby Agbonlahor (knee - 4-7 weeks), Joe Bennett (knee - 3-6 weeks) and Marc Albrighton (foot - 2 months).
  • The scouting staff other than Michael Henke is abysmal. John O'Hare and Mel Machin are the definition of average scouts and that simply won't do. I've hired three more scouts including two Italian fellows. Let's hope this improves our outlook.
  • The preseason fixtures look like this: FC Twente (H), Bristol Rovers (A), SK Rapid Wien (A), First Vienna FC 1894 (A), SC Wiener Neustadt (A), TSV Hartberg (A).

Let's put another shrimp on the barbie: We're touring Austria. Naturally, the game has scheduled one of the matches on the tour at Rapid Vienna. What could go wrong? I should also note that I've given Ian Culverhouse control of the friendlies because I don't need to sit through them. I feel pretty confident in my knowledge of the squad so I'll breeze through the friendlies and hope that no one gets seriously injured, though someone most certainly will.

My first action item was to put Alan Hutton and Stephen Warnock in the reserves where I'd try to sell them off ASAP. I pulled them aside individually and told them both they would no longer be needed. They took the news well which was too bad - I was hoping they'd mouth off so I could yell at them.

With that said, we're about to get underway with the first of our friendlies and my intention is to start out in a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond midfield. We've talked a lot on the blog about who we'd like to see play where and in this case we can actually try it. Delph at left back? Sure! Ciaran Clark as a defensive midfielder? Why not!

Football Manager allows so much control over the team that I can actually draw up plays for throw-ins. That's right, I can tell all my little players where to be on throw-ins, who should be taking the throw, and if it should be short or long. I won't do that. I'm just saying I can.

We are on the eve of the first of six friendlies. I've got nothing for a transfer budget and Randy Lerner expects us to finish in the top half of the league. With the first two league fixtures being City and Arsenal do you think we should work on a defensive tactic? Should we go balls out? I'm hoping to take your feedback and together we will find out if we have what it takes to get the most out of this version of Aston Villa.