When you last saw our progress as we went into the winter break, we were sitting in a good position just behind Bayern Munich in 2nd place. After a shaky start to the season, we’d gone on a good run of form and I was confident we could go on and have a successful season. Could we topple the might of Bayern though?
In the cups, we’d sneaked through our Champions League group and would head into the knockouts to play against Benfica. We were aiming to retain the DFB-Pokal too, after bringing home that trophy last season. My first piece of silverware at the club.
It’s all well and good saying this, but what did we actually manage to achieve in season 4 at RBL?
I highlighted in the 1st half of the season post that we had decisions to make regarding the squad in January. Here’s what happened.
A few loans out to deal with first. You’ve seen already that Dorin Rotariu was shipped out to Salzburg to try and resurrect the downward spiral of his career. The Milan Tomic saga, where I didn’t realise he wasn’t an EU national so couldn’t be registered at Salzburg, so off he went elsewhere before the end of the window.
I’d decided it was time to say goodbye to one of our strikers. Dadachov’s form had forced him into being our main striker, and our switch to the new formation had negated a bit of our reliance on a big targetman up front. All this meant that Yussef Poulsen was sold to Swansea for what I’d deem as a steal of an eventual £6.5m. He’d become the top appearance maker for the club, it pulled at my sentimentality to let him go. But I did it, we have to go forward and if players are no longer needed, they’re out.
The final transfer was one I wasn’t really looking do, but Dayot Upamecano went to Bayern for £32m. The highest transfer fee received in my time at the club so far, for a player we’d bought for £9m ahead of season 2. Not a bad return at all. Especially so as we had homegrown regen, Fred-Werner de Wit, waiting in the wings for more game time.
The main transfers in over the January window were Pione Sisto and Kai Havertz. Sisto is a random one. He’s at the top end of the scale in terms of the age profile of players we’re bringing to the club, but I felt we could do with a tad more unpredictability in our attack. Sisto will give us that.
Delighted to secure the signing of Havertz. I’d actually had a £50m+ deal accepted in the summer, but decided to pull out of it (I couldn’t press accept and bottled it). But my decision to pull out of that deal was well and truly vindicated as he handed in a transfer and was majorly unhappy. To sign him for under £20m after having a £50m deal on the table earlier on in the season is just a cracking bit of business as far as I’m concerned.
Sakaguchi, Mariano and the aforementioned Milan Tomic, arrive in the hope they’ll improve in future and either challenge for a slot in our 1st team squad, or be sold on for a bit of profit. I’ve always got one eye on our commerciality as a club, so signing Sakaguchi will please our fans over in Japan.
We managed to overcome Benfica, just. Sabitzer coming on to score a 92nd minute consolation that took us through 3-2 on aggregate. One of those classic FM matches where a win in the 1st leg means nothing going into the 2nd leg. I always prefer to play the 1st legs away from home.
A valiant 2-2 draw at home to Real Madrid saw me go into the 2nd leg not confident at all. In the end, they were too strong for us, even after Burkey giving us the lead in the Bernabeu. It’s the furthest we’ve gone in the CL so far though, so I can’t complain too much! It’ll do us good when it comes to improving our reputation.
Two less than convincing performances, but wins nonetheless, against Werder and 2. Bunde side Koln, took us to the final where we’d meet Dortmund again. A dominant performance over them for the 2nd consecutive DFB-Pokal final saw us bring home the trophy again. Brilliant performances in the final from Vlad Mihalcea and Oli Burke.
So onto league business. Of course, the DFB-Pokal final came after the conclusion of the league season…but this was more exciting so I’ve left it for last!
Karlsruher inflicted our 3rd defeat of the season, but it was quickly forgotten with a run of 11 wins from 13 matches. That form, coupled with a few disappointing draws for Bayern saw us go neck and neck with them. There was a few hallmark of champion wins, the classic 1-0s. Mihalcea scored against Schalke. Timo secured the win over Werder. Sabitzer hit the net against Hamburg and the Dada downed Hertha. We could have wrapped up the title on matchday 33, but Wolfsburg spoiled the party, defeating us 1-0.
So we went into the final day of the season 1 point ahead of Bayern. The title was surely ours, we couldn’t Samo it, could we?!
We didn’t Samo it! A surprisingly comfortable 3-0 win in Gladbach saw us bring home the Bundesliga title to Leipzig!
Delighted doesn’t even cover this. We’ve finally managed to overcome Bayern and win the league. We’ve done it quicker than I’d planned too. My initial plan was aiming to eventually win the league by season 7 and we’ve done it in season 4. Yes, my initial plan was conservative, but I like to over-achieve rather than over-promise.
15 goals and 13 assists from my main man. A much better season 4 in comparison to his season 3 performance, but I’m still comparing him to what he did in season 2. He was just unstoppable. Anyway, he’s still awesome, I still love him. The posterboy of RBL.
If Timo is the posterboy, Burke isn’t far behind him at all. He stepped it up in the 2nd half of the season and ended it on 11 goals and 6 assists, mainly playing in 1 of our 2 shadow striker positions (I swear a tactical post is on the way, I’ve started writing it!)
His 2nd half of the season (5 goals) wasn’t as good or prolific as his 1st half (9 goals), but he still popped up with some important goals and performances, including that double against Benfica in the CL. Still just 21 and now worth a whopping £20m+, he’s going to be a monster.
What a season this guy had. 11 goals and 9 assists in total, but he was just so influential and really rose to the challenge in our big matches as I mentioned in the 1st half of the season too.
Mr. Dependable at the back. He’s made the RB position his own, and he’s totally dominant. Not much gets past him at all, and he’s just so reliable. 6 assists from him this season too is a good return, his best yet.
Up to 24th in European club rankings, and barring a disastrous campaign in season 5, we should break into the top 20. Our league win has propelled us into 4th spot in the most popular German clubs, which is awesome and means we can finally start being even more dastardly when it comes to stealing the other clubs players.
Now that we’ve achieved what I initially set out to in the save, it’s probably time to revisit the aims and set out a revised plan of action. Especially so now that we’ve introduced RBSalzburg into the mix too. It’s time to take things to the next level of identifying and producing talent.
In other news…
We’ll be moving to the just under 60k capacity RBL Stadium in a couple of years. We’re so rich that it’s been done without any external funding. League champions, cup winners and now getting a new stadium. Oh, how you must hate us so!