Catch-Up: F Is For… FA Cup, FIFA, and Fulham

I see you driving around town with the girl I love, and I’m like F-you, ooh ooh ooh! Part six. We’re up to F. Time to take a look at three seasons of the FA Cup, the latest wacky world of the FIFA World Rankings, and whatever every neutral’s favourite football club – Fulham – are up to.

Man City won the 2015 FA Cup last time we reported on the competition, but only made it as far as the Quarter-Finals the following season. 2016’s final four were Tottenham, Arsenal, Wolves and Championship side Reading who’d beaten Southampton, Liverpool and Man City to reach the Semis.

Spurs beat Arsenal 2-0 in the North London derby, while Wolves needed extra-time to see-off Reading, who were cruelly outdone by a last-gasp own goal despite being two-up inside 20 minutes. Wolves then beat Tottenham at Wembley, 56 years after their last FA Cup Final appearance, thanks to  first-half goals from Admir Mehmedi and Artur Sobiech after David Alaba was dismissed for Spurs.

Three Championship sides made the Quarters in 2017, but Hull, Bolton and Leicester all fell to top-flight opposition as Norwich, Liverpool, Southampton and Man City made the final four. Marouane Fellaini and Jérémy Ménez scored as City downed the Saints, to set-up a Final against Norwich City who beat 10-man Liverpool.

Goalless after 90 minutes, Fellaini gave City the lead before Ricky van Wolfswinkel equalised for Norwich shortly before the break in extra-time. With just four minutes top go until the dreaded shootout, Ángel got his head to a cross to nod home the winner as Norwich lifted the trophy in their first-ever FA Cup Final appearance.

Once again, 2018 saw the final four as an all-Premier League affair. Swansea, Sunderland, Arsenal and Manchester United would head to Wembley looking to book their place in the Final. Sunderland saw off Swansea to make their first appearance in the Final since 1992, and a brace from Wayne Rooney saw Man United through at Arsenal’s expense.

The 2018 Final was an enthralling watch; a seven-goal thriller with a dismissal inside the first ten minutes. David Domej picked up a booking after just 90 seconds before he clattered through the back of Nick Powell and saw red with just six minutes on the clock.

Pedro put United in front, before a Fernando Matos equaliser midway through the first-half. Andriy Yarmolenko and Moritz Leitner scored within two minutes of each other to put United 3-1 up at the half-hour mark, but Steven Fletcher pulled Sunderland back into it right before the break.

United weren’t done in the first-half though, as Siyanda Xulu crashed a volley in off the bar in stoppage time to restore the two-goal advantage. Rodrigo added a fifth ten minutes after the interval, and United went on to collect their 13th FA Cup.

We’re eagerly awaiting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with 32 nations heading to Russia for the biggest sporting event on the planet. 2014 champions Brazil are currently ranked #3 in the world, with Argentina in the number one spot ahead of Italy. Cameroon were the highest-ranked side to miss out, with Senegal, Nigeria, Portugal, the Netherlands, Grecee, Mali and Sweden the other sides in the top 32 not heading to the tournament. Chile at #81 are the lowest ranked side going to Russia.

FIFA World Rankings, May 2018:
    1. Argentina     16. Nigeria         31. Egypt
    2. Italy         17. Ivory Coast     32. Serbia
    3. Brazil        18. Portugal        33. Benin
    4. Cameroon      19. Colombia        34. Slovakia
    5. Germany       20. Wales           35. South Korea
    6. Croatia       21. Bosnia          36. Zambia
    7. Spain         22. Netherlands     37. Scotland
    8. Chile         23. Tunisia         38. Belgium
    9. England       24. Morocco         39. Iran
   10. Ghana         25. Mexico          40. Czech Republic
   11. USA           26. Greece          41. Australia
   12. Senegal       27. Australia       42. Cape Verde
   13. Uruguay       28. Mali            43. Slovenia
   14. France        29. Sweden          44. Peru
   15. Ireland       30. Japan           45. Poland

11th in 2015, Fulham finished 13th the following season before tumbling out of the top-flight in 2017 by a single point despite a final day win at Sunderland under the management of Neil Lennon. The Irishman remained in charge, and Fulham surged to the Championship title in 2018 after just a season out of the Premier League.

Fulham made the Quarters in both domestic cup competitions last season, losing 1-2 at Stoke in the Carabao Cup before going out at Swansea in a 3-2 extra-time FA Cup thriller in Wales.

Ivan Perisic joined for £12m from Dortmund, with Ryan Bertrand (Stoke) also signing in a £8m move as the club improve their squad ahead of the 2018-19 season.


RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.
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Catch-Up: E Is For… England, Everton & UEL

A great philosopher once wrote: “Naughty, naughty. Very naughty.” E’s are good. E’s are good. Woah woah woah. Et cetera. Look, it’s part five of this three-year catch-up nonsense and we’ve got a lot to get through. Today we’re going to take a look at the Europa League, Everton, and the glorious failing of the English national team. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

We spent two seasons managing in Germany without any English players in our Dortmund squad, so updates on the England team were few and FA between, but as we last saw them in the summer of 2015 England had won three and drawn two of their Qualifiers for Euro 2016. Despite a 1-2 friendly defeat in Italy, the national side brushed aside Luxembourg and Israel before a draw in Greece to win their group and book their place at France under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers.

England won all four of their friendlies ahead of Euro 2016, dispatching Morocco, Bulgaria, Denmark and Ireland at Wembley, conceding just the once. Drawn against Greece, Austria and the Netherlands in Group A, England were at short odds to progress through to the last sixteen.

A Kostas Mitroglu goal midway through the first-half against Greece in Nantes was enough for the 2004 champions to take all three points, before England then laboured to a 0-0 draw against Austria in Paris. The group was poised with Greece on 4 points, Austria and the Netherlands both on 2, with England on 1 ahead of the showdown with the Netherlands.

Needing a win, England went ahead through Wayne Rooney in the 21st minute, but Luciano Narcingh quickly had the Dutch back on level terms before England self-imploded on the stroke of half-time. A long ball was sent straight down the middle for Robin van Persie to chase, with James Milner hauling down the Man United man and seeing red.

Two minutes after the break, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored the eventual winner against ten-man England, and the Three Lions went home at the earlier opportunity from France without winning a match. That cost Rodgers his job, and a fortnight later, Martin Jol was appointed by the FA.

His first match in charge was a 2-2 friendly draw in Ecuador, before the Russia 2018 Qualifiers began. Wins in Norway and Northern Ireland got England off to a great start, with Andorra and Finland also defeated before a tough test against Belgium at Wembley that saw the sides share the points. England then won their next five qualifiers to seal the group before a last-day defeat in Slovenia.

England, currently ranked 9th in the world, were drawn alongside Tunisia, Honduras, and the hosts Russia for next month’s FIFA World Cup. They’ve played five friendlies since booking their place at the tournament: winning in Russia, beating Italy, Egypt and Cameroon at Wembley, with a sole defeat which came at the hands of Morocco.

The 23-man squad heading to Russia is as follows – Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Alex Smithies, Jack Butland. Defenders: Kyle Walker, Nathaniel Clyne, Chris Smalling, Leighton Baines, Ryan Bertrand, Ryan Shawcross, Phil Jones, Ryan Bennett. Midfielders: Tom Huddlestone, James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Marc Linighan®, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathan Redmond, Adam Johnson, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere. Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Wilfried Zaha.

Everton finished 10th back in 2015, when we last reported on them, in a season that took them to the FA Cup Semi-Finals , but they failed to progress out of their Europa League group behind Shakhtar and Vitesse under the management of Steve Bruce.

10th turned into 16th the following season, when a run of just one win in ten cost Bruce his job as Everton crashed out of both domestic cup competitions early-on, and Pat Felon stepped-up to replace him. 2017 saw the club earn three less points, yet finish three places higher.

Everton won their first silverware in eighteen years as they made their way through to the Carabao Cup Final, beating Walsall, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Fulham and Bolton en route to a Wembley showdown against Wigan Athletic. Despite losing 1-4 at their opponents in the league just a fortnight beforehand, it was an early goal from Tarik Elyounoussi that won Everton the trophy.

European football followed in the 2017-18 season, with Everton seeing-off Dundee United and Karpaty to make the Europa League Group Stage, being drawn with Slovan Bratislava, Standard Liege, and Rubin Kazan. Three wins and three draws saw Everton top their group.

They lost 0-1 in Eindhoven to PSV, but a 4-1 win at home saw The Toffees safely through to the last sixteen. However, Arsenal stood in their way and despite winning the second leg at home, were undone by their domestic rivals as Arsenal went on to lift the trophy. A 15th place Premier League finish followed, nine points above the drop zone.

Arsenal won the Europa League in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Might update this section once we’ve got over the shock of it.


RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.

Catch-Up: D Is For… Dennis Praet ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

With Derby County not troubling the Premier League during our three-season absence, there’s only one place this entry can go. Long-term readers will be fully aware of my absolutely healthy love for Belgian midfielder, and all-round complete champion of the universe, Dennis Praet.

Our last match in management was the DFB-Pokal win over Schalke, with Praet coming on at half-time and proving a match-winner as his injury time intervention deflected a likely-equaliser wide. But what’s happened since..?

Antonio Conte took the helm at Dortmund in July 2015, won the DFL-Supercup a month later, before doing the domestic double. Our boy Praet made thirteen appearances over the course of the season, scoring just the one, as midfielders Milan Badelj (Man Utd) and Alexander Merkel (BMG) were brought in for a combined £23m.

Frozen out by Conte for the 2016-17 season, Praet moved to Liverpool for £8m and scored seven in 34 appearances for his new club, mainly used as a sub in the Premier League, but three goals and three assists in Liverpool’s run through to the Europa League Quarter-Finals more than repaid his transfer fee.

Belgium missed out on the 2018 World Cup, finishing second to England in their qualifying group and missing out on the Playoffs, though Praet did score in the 2-0 win over Northern Ireland for his first senior international goal. His second came as the third in a 5-0 friendly win over Canada in March this year.


RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.

Catch-Up: C Is For… Cardiff, Chelsea, CL

Time for part three of our catch-up of the last three seasons, and we’re up to C. We’ll continue our look at the teams that have graced the Premier League during our hiatus, as well as looking at Europe’s premier club competition – the UEFA Champions League.

Cardiff City were part of our last look at the Championship back in 2015, when they lost in the Playoff Final to Blackpool following their 5th place finish. Failure to get promoted took a heavy toll on the side as they slumped to an 18th-place finish the following season, which cost Stuart McCall his job.

Former-Arsenal legend John Jensen was recruited following his success with Bournemouth where he won the EFL Trophy. He guided Cardiff to the last-sixteen of the FA Cup as well as a top three finish, where they beat Blackpool and Blackburn in the Playoffs to book their place back in the top-flight since 1962.

As the club prepared for the their first-ever Premier League season, the hot favourites for relegation spent only £450k on Marcos Alonso from Bolton in the summer transfer window. Predictably Cardiff finished rock-bottom, nine points adrift. A sixteen-match run from New Years Day 2018 which saw just one win and one draw summed-up their lacklustre challenge for survival, which saw Jensen fired.

New manager Simon Grayson’s first summer signing has been Slovenian striker Maks Barisic from FC Koper for £1.4m ahead of their season back in the second-tier.

In 2015 Chelsea finished 3rd as the title went to the final day between the two Manchester clubs, but they sealed their second Champions League trophy in four seasons with a 2-1 win over Spurs in Istanbul under the guidance of Luciano Spalletti.

He brought in Kyriakos Papadopoulos  (Schalke), Abel Hernández (Palermo), Miralem Pjanic (Roma), and James Milner (Man City) for a combined £52m in the summer. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool, £6m) and Juan Cuadrado (Marseille, £8.5m) the main exports.

Come August, they came from behind to beat Europa League winners Manchester City 3-1 in the UEFA Super Cup in Tbilisi. Heading to South Korea in December 2015, Chelsea beat Atlante and Fluminense to lift the FIFA World Club Cup for the first time. Success also came in the Carabao Cup though, with a 4-2 win over Wigan at Wembley taking the first domestic silverware of the season.

A wobble in April which saw the club collect just two points from five matches meant they missed out on Champions League football by a single point to Liverpool on the final day of the season when an 88th minute equaliser from Stoke midfielder Lee Keun-Ho denied Chelsea all three points. Their European campaign only took them as far as the last sixteen in the UCL, with Benfica scoring a crucial away goal at Stamford Bridge to eliminate the holders.

Ricardo Rodríguez (Wolfsburg) and Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan) arrived for a little over £30m between them, but it was the free capture of Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona that raised eyebrows the most. Hatem Ben Arfa moved to Man United for £20m, days before Kevin De Bruyne followed him up the M6 to join Man City in a £13m deal.

Despite progressing from their Europa League group behind Roma in the 2016-17 season, Spalletti lost his job at Stamford Bridge at the end of a seven-match run which saw Chelsea win just twice, take one point from six against Roma, and lose to Burnley.

Fatih Terim joined from Hamburg as his replacement and his arrival saw Chelsea go on a stunning run: winning his first four matches in charge, and going unbeaten for 20 (17 wins, 3 draws) until a 2-3 home defeat by Norwich in the FA Cup 5th Round. However, they lost just three of their next eighteen on a run that took them to the Premier League title and the Europa League Final. An extra-time goal from Jack Wilshere won it for the Gunners in Paris.

Last summer, Aaron Ramsey and Micah Richards joined from Arsenal in a £30m+ double-deal, with half of that money coming from the sale of Romelu Lukaku to Barcelona. Sebastian Coates later arrived from Bayern Munich for £6.5m.

2017-18 saw the season start with a 2-0 Community Shield win over Norwich. An opening matchday defeat by Marseille was their only slip-up in the Champions League Group Stage as they won their group comfortably. Domestically they reached the Carabao Cup Quarters, losing at home to Arsenal, before defeat at Old Trafford in the FA Cup.

Come February, Chelsea were sat atop the Premier League but defeats to Stoke, Sunderland and Aston Villa in March saw them overtaken by Tottenham. Porto and Atletico Madrid came and went in the Champions League, before Chelsea won both legs of their Semi-Final against Valencia 1-0 to set-up a showdown against PSG in Paris.

In what was billed as a title-decided, Spurs rocked up at Stamford Bridge at the end of April and promptly the hosts away as Chelsea imploded in the first-half, being reduced to nine men following the dismissals of André Aye and Ramires, with Tottenham four-up at the break. A last-minute Inigo goal for the visitors wrapped-up a 5-0 win and the title.

All eyes then focused on the Stade de France as PSG made the short-trip across Paris for the UEFA Champions League Final, Chelsea’s fourth in eleven years. A 70th-minute Eden Hazard goal was all that was needed against the ten-man French champions as Chelsea collected their fifth European trophy in seven seasons.

Our last look at the UEFA Champions League in 2015 saw Chelsea beat Spurs in the final in Istanbul. After Gray Surman’s resignation from Dortmund in 2015, many thought it would take the club a couple of seasons to bounce-back to continental success, but they came very close at first-time of asking by reaching the 2016 Final.

Real Madrid stood in their way in the San Siro, and Antonio Conte’s side battled to take the game to extra-time against Roberto Mancini’s dominant Spanish champions. Cristiano Ronaldo put Real ahead in the 96th minute only for Dortmund to equalise straight from the restart as André Schürrle swept home a cross. 1-1 at the final whistle, it was Real who triumphed from the spot for La Decima.

The two sides met again in the 2017 knockout phases with Real winning 5-3 on aggregate, but Real stumbled in the Quarter-Final against Manchester United which saw the English side join Tottenham, Barcelona, and Marseille in the final four. Spurs’ vital away goal at Old Trafford put them into the Final where they’d face a Marseille side who beat Barça 3-1 in France.

A brace from Emmanual Adebayor and a Leandro Damião goal saw Spurs lift the trophy for the first time in their history (and first continental trophy since 1984), despite Marseille coming from two-down to equalise in the second-half. Spurs would later beat Arsenal in the UEFA Super Cup, and lose in the FIFA World Club Cup Final to São Paulo.

Last season’s Champions League saw both Manchester clubs, Juventus, and AC Milan all stumble at the first knockout phase, with PSG, Valencia, Barcelona and Chelsea making up the final four. As you’ve read above, it was Chelsea who triumphed in Paris against PSG to become the third English winner in four years.


RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.

Catch-Up: B Is For… Blackburn & Beyond

In the second part of our catch-up, we turn our attention to four clubs from the north-west of England who’ve had a rather contrasting time of it over the past three seasons. As a Wigan fan I’ll try and keep all of this completely unbiased, and more importantly, family-friendly. Let’s start with… Blackburn.

Last time we saw Blackburn back in May 2015, they’d just suffered relegation under Alan Curbishley to the Championship, after two seasons back in the top flight following their promotion behind Wolves in 2013.

That prompted a clear-out as Cheik Kouyaté (Wigan) and Fábio (WBA) were the largest deals leaving the club, as Rovers recouped almost £18m in sales. Jordan Mutch left for Sunderland in the January window in a deal in excess of £8m.

Curbishley was replaced by Nigel Adkins midway through the season and Rovers just missed out on the Playoffs in 2016, finishing 8th. Inconsistency cost Adkins his job, but Dougie Freedman stepped-up from the backroom staff to take the manager’s role that he still holds today. A late charge in 2017 saw Rovers finish 4th, but they were beaten by Cardiff at Wembley.

This season saw them just miss out on an automatic spot behind Fulham and Bolton, but victory in the Playoff Final clinched a return to the Premier League after three seasons away. Jordan Rhodes and Joe Mason led the frontline for Rovers last year, bagging over 30 goals between them en route to promotion, with free summer-signing Charlie Adam contributing from midfield.

Blackpool were promoted via the Playoffs when we last checked-in on the club back in 2015, beating a Cardiff side that would go up the following season via Wembley. Despite promotion, manager Roy Keane left for Sunderland shortly afterwards and Derek Adams would replace him.

Their stay in the top flight was a short one, winning just six matches in the 2015-16 Premier League season and seeing them finish some 17 points adrift of safety, a campaign that cost Adams his job.

Under the guidance of current boss Tony Mowbray, they made the Playoffs in 2017 after finishing 6th but Cardiff took their revenge in the Semi-Finals. 2018 saw Blackpool miss out on promotion again, and a third season in the second tier awaits.

In 2015, Bolton stayed up by the skin of their teeth despite a final day 0-3 defeat at local rivals Blackburn, at their season ended in a calamitous run of eleven defeats in sixteen matches under the management of Alan Shearer. A run of just one win in ten cost Shearer his job at Xmas 2015, with Gareth Southgate filling his shoes.

They finished sixteen points clear of the drop zone in 2016 thanks to the goals of £7m signing Wilfried Zaha from Palace, and a third year back in the top flight was secure. Though the run wouldn’t continue as a run to the FA Cup Quarter-Finals proved too much of a distraction for the team – as did the departure of Southgate for Wolves – and they collapsed after defeat to Liverpool, winning just once in their final thirteen games to end six points from safety and back in the Championship.

Former Hearts manager Paulo Sérgio joined the club, and they bounced straight back to the top flight for the 2018-19 season by finishing one point and one place behind Championship winners Fulham.

Our last look at Burnley was back in May 2015 when they finished 3rd in the Championship before being knocked-out by eventual Playoff winners Blackpool. Manager Chris Powell left the club after the defeat, and he was briefly replaced by Sam Allardyce.

His reign didn’t last long as a twelve-match winless start to the 2015-16 campaign saw the former-Bolton man ushered out the door after just five months in charge at Turf Moor. Michael Appleton replaced him and the club’s fortunes changed almost instantly. January signings James McArthur (QPR), Simon Cox (Blackburn), and Jonjo Shelvey (Villa) were the backbone of a team that snatched the 2016 Championship title on the final day of the season.

Their first transfer window ahead of being back in the top-flight saw Burnley spend £23m, including the £6m capture of Nigerian defender Emmanuel Ogar® from Rapid Vienna, and a similar outlay for Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Branko Medaric®.

In their best league finish since 1974 they finished 6th in the 2016-17 season, a point ahead of Arsenal, despite losing their final four matches. That ultimately cost them, as they went out of the Europa League Playoffs to Ludogorets rather than automatically making the group stage.

Europe couldn’t have been used as an excuse for last season, however. Appleton left the club at the turn of the year for neighbours Wigan Athletic, with Roy Keane joining the club. He had to wait five matches for his first win, before a run of eight defeats in ten saw them slip perilously close to the bottom three. A crucial 2-1 home win over Wigan in May proved to be enough for survival as they condemned the Latics to the Championship and secured their own survival to finish 17th, a point above Wigan but with a much worse goal difference.


RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.

Catch-Up: A Is For… Arsenal and Aston Villa

Three seasons is a lifetime in football, but RTFM is back and we’ve simulated our FM13 save from our resignation from Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015, through to the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It’s time to catch-up on what happened where. Let’s start in the Premier League, where we’ll go through each team in alphabetical order…

When we last saw Arsenal, Arsene Wenger had just announced his retirement after nineteen seasons. Laurent Blanc took over the reins at the Emirates, but his tenure only lasted until November when consecutive defeats to Spurs, Wigan and Liverpool saw the Frenchman shuffled out the door.

Rafa Benítez, fresh from being sacked at AC Milan, steadied the ship with Arsenal eventually finishing 7th, but the focus was on two cup fronts as they battled their way to the FA Cup Semi-Finals (losing to Spurs), before winning the Europa League against domestic rivals Man City in the Final in Porto. Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal early in the second-half enough to seal the club’s fourth European trophy.

Defeat to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup started the 2016-17 season before an awful run of just five wins in eighteen matches proved the end of Benítez’s reign at Arsenal despite comfortable progress to the Europa League knockout stages. David Moyes came in to replace him following his three year spell at Bilbao.

He repeated the 7th place finish of the season before, and once again Arsenal reached the Europa League final after wins over PSV, Feyenoord, Anji and Benfica. As a year earlier, they faced English opposition and completed their second win over Chelsea in a fortnight to become the first team to win the trophy in consecutive years since Sevilla in 2007.

Summer 2016 saw Moyes splash the cash, with the £31m signing of Yann M’Vila from Stade Rennais before Philippe Coutinho joined from Inter for £39m. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left for Man City in a £20m deal, with Pedro, José Enrique and Miroslav Stoch moving to Man United for a combined £47m. That paved the way for a £32m deadline day swoop for Roma striker Gianluca Caprari.

Last season Arsenal missed-out on the top four for the fourth year in a row, but had improved to 5th under Moyes, just four points behind Man City, but it will sting at the Emirates having watched Spurs (twice) and Chelsea win the Premier League in the past three seasons. That summer, the club broke their record transfer fee with a £42m move for Sociedad midfielder Rubén Pardo, recouping most of that fee as Aaron Ramsey moved to Chelsea (£21m) and Theo Walcott headed to Manchester United (£17m).

2018 brought the club another FA Cup Semi-Final, though Manchester United ran out 2-0 winners at Wembley, but the highlight of the last three seasons came in Stockholm.

Having knocked-out Benfica, Everton, Liverpool, and Málaga on their way to a third consecutive Europa League Final where they would face Inter Milan. Swiss midfielder Göklan Inler – a £1.5m buy from Liverpool in January – scored the only goal of the game with fifteen minutes to play to see Arsenal become the most successful team in the competition’s history. Four wins in five seasons, the first team lift the trophy three years in a row, and the only ever side to win it five times.

Per Mertesacker continues to captain the club, while Álvaro® was their top scorer in all competitions last season with 27. They’ll play Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup in August.

Aston Villa have had a consistent three seasons, finishing 8th, 10th, and 8th since we last reported on them in 2015. 2015-16 saw Villa out of both domestic cups at the first opportunity with Brighton and Wigan both winning at Villa Park, and Gus Poyet was moved on in favour of  Steve McClaren after a run of just eight points from fourteen games.

Gary Cahill arrived from Chelsea, as did Jonjo Shelvey from Liverpool as Villa added some much-needed grit. Christian Benteke moved to city-rivals Wolves in a £3.3m deal.

Despite slipping out of the top six in the final fortnight of the season, English success on the continent saw the club grab a Europa League spot for 2016-17. Again, domestic cup success wasn’t remotely on the cards, but the club did progress in Europe, winning their group containing BSC Young Boys, Nantes, and Olympiakos. They met Braga and despite winning 2-1 in Portugal, came unstuck 0-2 at home to go out in the Round of 32.

That summer, Michael Dawson – the current club captain – joined from Spurs for a fee of £3m, and Robin van Persie followed shortly after from Man United for £1.5m. Jonjo Shelvey only stayed at Villa for the one season, as he was involved in a part-exchange deal that brought Kieran Tripper to the club from Burnley.

2017-18 saw a disastrous start to the Premier League campaign. Despite seven points from their opening three games, Villa then lost five of their next six and were dumped out of the Carabao Cup at the first time of asking, once again at home to Wigan. A five match unbeaten spell followed, but three consecutive defeats in December saw McClaren shown the door, with Pasquale Marino moving from Newcastle United to Villa.

The club spent big in the January transfer window, with £10m+ deals for Mateo Kovacic (Dinamo Zagreb) and Sean Murray (Wolves). Also, Dries Mertens joined from PSV, Grant Hanley from West Ham, and Jack Colback from Sunderland in a combined £15m spend.

Marino’s first five matches were all draws, before four wins on the bounce that included guiding Villa through to the FA Cup Fifth Round when – who else? – but Wigan Athletic would rock-up to Villa Park and win 2-0. The remainder of the season was inconsistent, but three wins in May saw Villa climb back to 8th where they would finish.


RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.