SeasonSeven.EpisodeFour | Dernière ligne droite
We’ve come to the home stretch; dernière ligne droite. The seventh season comes to a close. This season more than ever I’ve been feeling the FM Pressure to have won the league by now. Jibes on twitter and slack about going seven seasons without a title are starting to take their toll.
Stories of other overachieving makes me wonder what more we could be doing to get an advantage, but having looked back over out last four finishes: 81 points, 92 points, 94 points, 97 points and 106 goals. In almost any other league in Europe we’d have won the league by double digits.
As the seventh season finishes, the itch to try something new kicks in. But for now, we have another fight for the title on our hands and we’re in a great position to win it.
It’s 17 April 2026 as I write this. Let’s see how the season goes.
February 2026 – May 2026
PSG had overtaken us again in January, as you will have read. Another season where we’re chasing the impossible. We had to keep winning, non-stop to keep the pressure on them and hope that they would slip up.
At 20:00 on the night of Saint Valentine, PSG had kicked off against Nice, one hour earlier than us.
Just a week ago we had battered Monaco 8-0 on their patch with five goals coming from Camavinga’s replacement, Jacky Rault. It was a signal of our intentions. We will not go down without a fight.
I don’t know if it was nerves or a lack of fighting spirit that got to the players, but we just couldn’t take advantage of Nice getting the most unlikely of results, a 2-0 victory. A draw would have put us top on goal difference, but no matter what we tried, and we did try if the 39 shots are anything to go by.
We couldn’t find a way. Sochaux had scored with two of their three shots on target. We had squandered 39 shots, including a missed penalty. Second place we would remain.
The Europa League was a welcome distraction, but my thin 21 man squad was starting to feel the effects of competing in three competitions. Something had to give.
By the time the second leg was over, a 4-0 victory to take the aggregate score to 7-0, I knew we needed to make a decision; chase the European cup or follow our dreams for a league title.
March was the month for us. Just the single goal conceded against Pep Guardiola’s Tottenham Hotspurs.
Everything we touched turned to goals. Malo Boyer finally started to shine in the Inverted Winger role. It was unnatural for him at the start of the season but training his weaker left foot has improved his performances out there. Schmitt and understudy Ayari were scoring every game they played. It was a dream.
We had even gone through in the Europa League against all odds with a 5-1 aggregate victory over Spurs.
The dream was made better thrice over:
- PSG lost against Nice again, this time in the Coupe de France, meaning we wouldn’t have to face them in this years final
- PSG drew against Lille in the league to allow us to go ahead of them in the league!
- PSG then lost against Monaco 5-3 in the league.
We had surpassed PSG and stretched a four point lead, meaning we could still afford to lose a game and still be ahead, should we need it we also have a far superior goal difference of 84 compared with theirs of 67.
I decided to rest the first team for the Europa League match against Napoli. Even if it meant going out, I couldn’t afford any injuries to my already small squad. We weren’t equipped to be dealing with this situation.
April started just as March had finished. A thumping 3-0 victory over Montpellier and a 5-0 hammering of Lens. We were unstoppable.
Duvnjak was feeling jaded so he was sent on a weeks holiday, My pivotal Deep Lying Playmaker was going to be key to any success. I needed him fit. I played an almost fully rotated squad for the following three games. The eventual 2-1 aggregate loss to Napoli in the Europa League and the 3-0 victory over Angers.
The final two league games of the month before a Coupe de France final against Nice saw us scrape past Bordeaux 2-1 and then hammer Marseille 5-0 with Jérémy Gélin taking full advantage of the lack of heading ability in the Marseille back line by bagging two goals.
The league title is within our grasp! After the final we just have to navigate the final four fixtures to cement our place in the history books. The only team who worries me here is Lyon. On paper we should be winning the other three, but as so often happens with us, we struggle against the smaller sides.
Before that, though, there’s the small matter of the cup final.
Coupe de France Final
(This was the second time I had to play the match, the first time around my mac crashed about 38 minutes in after we had just scored our third excellent goal of the match)
At the pre-match tactical briefing we reminded the boys to focus on keeping their high line and focussing their play through the middle. We had been working on attacking set pieces during the week as we feel we can take some advantage here.
We expect them to play a 4-1-4-1 with a lower mentality. They like to try to control possession away from home so we were going to press hard on their back-line to try to force mistakes.
A lot of their goals conceded come from just outside the box, I pushed up our central midfielders to try to control this zone a little better with a view to getting a view assists through the centre. Schmitt is great on the shoulder of the last man if we can find him with the right pass.
The match wasn’t as exciting this time around, but it was a good, efficient performance. It didn’t take long for the lead to come. A long throw into Gilles Schmitt and he acrobatically scored an excellent goal to give us the lead.
Nice never really got into the match with over 60% of the ball being with us.
Schmitt was in amongst the goals again 10 minutes before half-time. This time a rather scrappy goal. Tomislav Duvnjak playing one of his long range key passes into Sabiá in space on the wing, who crossed excellently for his partner on the opposite flank. Boyer couldn’t quite hit his shot cleanly but Schmitt was on hand to slide it home.
At half time there wasn’t really much to say. We’d dominated the game without really trying. We were not playing well, the goals seemed to be a little scrappy but we were winning (I am still annoyed at losing the first try at this final!)
The third goal of the game came straight from the training field. Andreas with a deep cross to the far post to Gelin, who so often wins these headers. This time I was back across goal and Duvnjak gets the goal. The work on the training field paying off.
The match was an odd one. I’m obviously happy that we won the cup for the second season in a row, but the performance was poor and I cannot get out of my own head that we’ve turned a corner of excellent form and might be on a downward trajectory.
Still, I’ll try my best to enjoy this before we move to May and finish up the season!
Four games to go.
My fears were coming true. We were shocking against Lyon. As bad as I’ve seen us this season. We were out performed all over the pitch and were lucky to come away with a 0-0 draw. What’s worse is Rault, my best CM is suspended for a match and Barry, my best right-back is injured along with my other right-back. Cracks are appearing. We have three games to go.
PSG hammered Strasbourg 4-0 to move to within 2 points of us. We could afford one more draw, but we had to win at least two more games. Dijon and Stade Reims sit 20th and 19th respectively, so they’re arguably harder than if we were facing off against mid-table teams with nothing to play for.
Ahead of the match against Dijon FCO, news broke that PSG had dropped points against Amiens. A 2-2 meant that we were top by a point with a game in hand. A victory for us would almost certainly guarantee the title; with Dijon already relegated (they played a day later than us and their relegation was confirmed), this surely has to be a formality.
I patched the squad up, putting right winger Serrano into the Wing-Back role, I had to convince Taylor to play, despite being on his last legs. The poor bloke has had to play week in and week out with no understudy back there. It was convincing. A 3-0 victory. Serrano got two assists, proving that wingers do make great wing-backs. We lost Boyer and Taylor to injury.
Two games to go. One win needed.
Stade Reims next. They’re fighting for their lives. Schmitt seemed to be less bothered about that and ruthlessly smashed home an 8th minute opener. Serrano, my stand-in wing-back then showed them less respect and did this on 35 minutes.
Jacky Rault finished up the scoring on 48 and that was it! THE LEAGUE TITLE WAS OURS!
Years of sweat, tears and twitter rants and we’ve finally beaten PSG to the league title!
The final match against Nice was a formality, a 1-0 victory and an average performance but given the circumstances it was acceptable. Stade Rennais were the Ligue 1 Champions!
Season 7 complete. Finally, the league is secured. With PSG slipping up in the final game of the season I look back with a little regret in playing the kids against Napoli. Still, I think we made the right choice. It paid off! Now for a summer of planning.
I will find it very hard to keep hold of Schmitt this summer with scouts watching almost every game we play. With 41 goals this season that’s now 81 over the last 92 matches. 107 in 162 in his career. It’ll be tough to hold him back, but with the likes of Camavinga and Ênio leaving us (and not winning a trophy I might add), we are but a stepping stone onto bigger things.
For me, it’ll be a summer of reflection. I think I’ll stick it out and go another season. I’m under no illusions that next season will be as hard and probably as dramatic as this one, but for now, we will celebrate the double, let the players leave for their holidays while Txiki Begiristain and I plan our moves in the market over the summer.
Thanks for following along with my save this year!
As always, you can get in touch with me in the comments below, via twitter @fmfutbolmanager, or my slack channel #fmFutbolManager — if you’re not a part of the Football Manager Slack community, then you can join here!
Until next time, à tout à l’heure.