Good evening all and welcome to my latest update on the Alphabet Challenge. A quick update on my progression, we are currently on the final leg of “B”. Last time out we won the Brazilian Top League with Atletico Mineiro, at the end of my previous post I had updated that I had taken over the reigns at AA Gent in Belgium. We took over at the end of the 22/23 season. AA Gent had ended 10th in the league and were also guaranteed a place in the Europa League due to winning the European Playoff stage at the end of the domestic season.
10th place is clearly an under-achievement for AA Gent, they are most definitely a top 4 or 5 team so that’s where I was hoping to end in the 23/24 season. There were some serious gaps that I had to fill in the squad. There were lots of loanees that were leaving. The main area for improvement was in defence. We were desperately short of CBs, we also needed a new RB and a decent striker was imperative. We also have an affiliation with Roma so I hoped I could steal a few up and coming players from them.
Here are the transfers that I made. There were quite a few but I’ll run through the main ones below
Elias and Ashour were both Centre Backs. Elias is a strong tall CB and Ashour is an up and coming Defender who can play RLC. Erick is a striker who as you will see below had a pretty decent season.
As you can see I also made a few signing in the January window, this was due to players moaning and wanting 1st team football so I let them go. I also lost the best player in my squad to Anderlecht as they matched his £2.3m release clause, he was a RW, I replaced him with Scotta, for £170k it was an absolute steal and a tidy profitable replacement
The other 3 January window signings were all defenders. The amount of goals conceded was terrible and also I lost 2 CBs due to them constantly complaining about lack of football!
The domestic season overall was a success, we couldn’t keep up with Anderlecht in the end and they romped away with the league title. The League season finishes after 30 games then separates in a Championship Group (Top 6) and European Play Off Stage (7th-14th). We ended the season 2nd, a really good achievement but still way too far off Anderlecht to push them in the Championship Group
I’m not sure how they work out the points entering the Championship Group but we were on 29 points while Anderlecht were on 36. With 10 games left it was going to be struggle to catch them up. In the end we were nowhere near, we won 5 of our 10 games but defeats home and away to Anderlecht, a 5-1 defeat to Lommel and a 2-1 defeat to Charleroi scuppered any hope of catching Anderlecht up.
We ended the season in 3rd, good enough for a Europa League spot. It was a disappointing end but 3rd is a massive improvement on last season and I’m hopeful we can challenge Anderlecht next season
By far the most pleasing part the season was our run in the Europa League. We entered the competition at the 2nd Qualifying Round stage, 3 rounds from the Group Stage.
In the 2nd Qualifying Round we beat Helsingborg 4-1 on aggregate, in the 3rd Qualifying Round we beat Shakhter 8-0 on aggregate including a 6-0 home win! We then drew Bursaspor in the Play-off for the Group Stage
It ended 6-2 on aggregate to us
The Group Stage was sensational, we had a tough group but somehow ended top!
We beat Feyenoord 3-2 home and away and Kyiv 4-0 home and away. It was a fantastic few results and way above my expectations!
Our run continued, we beat Spurs in the 1st Knockout Round and AC Milan in the last 16. Our run was ended by our nemesis Anderlecht! I’m really beginning to hate them!
We went out on away goals after a ridiculous 2nd leg where we lost 5-4 at home!
It was a really pleasing campaign overall and has given me confidence for next season.
Now to the players I feel contributed most to our successful season.
Olivier Van Damme although spending most of the season wanting to leave was by far my best player, He grabbed 25 goals and by the end of the season he requested to be taken off the transfer list
Ray Sandoval played most of the season at RW, he was our most consistent player and contributed 14 goals and 18 assists
Finally Erick, he had a fantastic season for a loanee and will be one player I try and re-sign for next season
I have just received the budgets for next season, We have a decent transfer budget and around 40k spare wages so I can hopefully strengthen significantly
Thanks for reading, I welcome all feedback good or bad, please comment on here or via Twitter @thatfmregen