The Chronicles of Charsenal: Chapter Four

via cdn2.sbnation.com

The Chronicles of Charsenal are back! Remember, this a fictitious account based on the video game Football Manager 2012. If you're not into that, or the thought of a Arsenal-Chelsea merger horrifies you, you don't have to read it. If you're just going leave negative comments, please don't. You're not going to change our minds, and you risk the laser.

Chapter Four: 01 September - 30 September

In his press conference this morning, the Charsenal manager unveiled his newest signings, Ivan Rakitic and Willian. The Rakitic and Willian deals were confirmed as £23,000,000 and £8,000,000 each, spread over 48 and 18 months respectively, with no fee in this window, and salaries of £65,000 and £36,000 p/w each. Due to their status as late window signings and Charsenal's previous transfer plan which involved no signings, Rakitic and Willian will wear the numbers 37 and 35 respectively, though they will likely change next season. In the squad, they have taken the places of Tomas Rosicky, who is no longer viewed as having enough quality for the squad, and will probably be sold in a future window, and Michael Essien, who will be out injured until the registration window opens again. When asked about the mystery signing who was announced with minutes left in the window, Singer responded by gesturing to the attendant...

[This is a long one, so be prepared. I'd also like to apologise to the SB Nation servers.]

...who left the room briefly and came back followed by, to everyone's surprise, 19-year-old Brazilian winger Neymar and 21-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder Ganso, both from Santos. Somehow, despite the past twelve hours' speculation, nobody had suggested the young starlets as Charsenal's new signings, assuming they were staying at Santos. In fact, most were prepared to see Belgian winger Eden Hazard. Several prominent papers even published stories about sightings of the youngster in London. As with the club's other signings, Ganso and Neymar will wear the number 32 and 33 shirts temporarily, until permanent ones can be assigned in the future. Due to his age, Neymar is "free" squad-wise, and doesn't take up a senior roster spot, but Ganso replaces Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles in the squad. English defender Kieran Gibbs also replaces Johan Djourou on the home-grown list. Again, as with the earlier signings, the deal for Ganso and Neymar will see Charsenal pay Santos nothing up front, but £87,000,000 over the next four years. Their salaries haven't been disclosed, but are said to be about £100,000 p/w. Both are expected expected to slot into the team immediately, and should see their debuts in Charsenal's league game with Norwich, following the international break.

When asked how the signings would affect the club's ability to spend in the future, Singer was equivocal, saying, "I don't really know what effect it will have on spending. Obviously, it's a big financial obligation, but the way the deals are structured, and the squad and prospects we have, we shouldn't need to make too many big moves in the near future. We'll have the money to buy when we need to buy, but the hope is that we don't need to do much buying. We will also have players who leave, and that will bring in some cash." He concluded, with a wry smile on his face, "And we'll hopefully be winning a few trophies, and getting some prize money."

Charsenal made it through the first round of international fixtures without significant injury, though uncapped keeper Manuel Almunia, who is on the transfer list, suffered a broken finger in training which will keep him out of action for a minimum of five weeks. The second round of fixtures, though, brought injuries to young, Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi and out of favour Swiss defender Johan Djourou. A wrist fracture will keep Lukaku out of action for around a month, Djourou will be out for three weeks with a hamstring strain, and Ryo will miss a few days with a dead leg. None of the players was expected to play a big part in the near future. Also announced were the loans for a number of youth players to lower-league teams.

For the home match against Norwich, Singer selected a relatively strong team, and opted to give two of his signings their debuts. Willian only made the bench, and Rakitic is still recovering from a broken finger suffered with Sevilla. Charsenal began the match with Cech, Ivanovic, Vermaelen, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Gervinho, Ganso, Neymar, and Torres in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Norwich lined up in a 4-4-2 of Ruddy, Naughton, Zwaanswijk, De Laet, Zanev, Crofts, Fox, Hoolahan, Johnson, Holt, and Morison. Both Neymar and Ganso could easily have scored less than a minute into their Charsenal careers, but for a brilliant save by Ruddy, and a last-ditch tackle by Fox. Just four minutes later, Ganso found Gervinho wide, and the Ivorian powered past Zanev, and forcing an excellent save from Ruddy. In the eighth minute, a Lampard free kick deflected to Neymar, who forced another top-class save from Ruddy. The Brazilian's wait for a Charsenal goal lasted only three more minutes, as the Norwich defence ignored Neymar at a free kick on the edge of the area. They allowed him to drift off the pack in the box, expecting a direct free kick, but Lampard found his young teammate in yards of space. The helpless Ruddy could do nothing as Neymar lashed a shot past his diving frame and into the net. In the twenty-second minute, Ramires picked out Torres with a defence-splitting header from halfway on a Ruddy goal kick. Torres ran past two Norwich defenders and onto the ball, and scored in a one-on-one with Ruddy from the edge of the area. With that, Norwich shut up shop, and Charsenal struggled to make any impact. In the second minute of first-half stoppage time, though, they found their third through John Terry. The chance began as a corner, taken by Ganso, which was headed out by Zanev, but only as far as Lampard, who took a shot into the crowded penalty area. The ball deflected, falling to the Charsenal captain, who finished into the top corner from yards out. Ten minutes after the break, Ganso tested Ruddy with a twenty-yard shot from wide, which the Norwich 'keeper did well to tip over. In the sixty-seventh minute, Singer made his first substitutions, swapping Daniel Sturridge for goalscorer Fernando Torres, and Mikel Arteta for a tired Frank Lampard. With fifteen minutes remaining, Singer removed debutant Ganso, replacing him with fellow Brazilian Willian, who was also making his debut. The substitutions had little effect, as Norwich sat back in the second half, giving Charsenal nothing to work with. Petr Cech recorded his first clean sheet of the season, and captain John Terry was given the Man of the Match award. Charsenal did, unfortunately, drop to second in the table behind Aston Villa, who boast a superior goal difference.

Just three days later, Singer led Charsenal into their first Champions League group match against Italian giants A.C. Milan at Regent's Park. Hours before the match news came that young, English midfielder Josh McEachran suffered a dislocated shoulder in a reserve match which will rule him out for up to two months. McEachran isn't in serious contention for a starting place this season, and is yet to make an appearance, but he was expected to make an appearance in the coming weeks, as Charsenal's fixture list becomes more congested. The young manager made just four changes from the team that beat Norwich 3-0. Torres, Ivanovic, and Vermaelen drop to the bench, and Lampard isn't included in the squad. Replacing them are van Persie, Sagna, David Luiz, and Arteta. Milan began in a 4-3-1-2 of Amelia, Abate, Thiago Silva, Nesta, Taiwo, Ambrosini, Flamini, van Bommel, Aimar, Robinho, and Pato. The first half-hour of the match was delicately balanced, with both teams having arguments for having had the upper hand, but the deadlock was broken when Cech fumbled Nesta's header from a corner, allowing Pato to poke home the opener. In the fortieth minute, Milan defender Alessandro Nesta was injured in a clash with Robin van Persie, and forced to go off. Despite a late spell of positive pressure, Charsenal could find their equaliser and went in down a goal. Twenty after the half, still on top, but a goal behind, Singer took off the generally ineffective Ganso and van Persie who was on a yellow card. Replacing them were Torres and Willian. Still needing a goal with ten minutes left, Singer shifted his team, moving Neymar alongside Torres and Willian wide on the left. He also replaced Ashley Cole, who had taken a knock, with Thomas Vermaelen. Torres nearly equalised two minutes from time, but the Milan 'keeper did well to save his shot. The rebound fell to Gervinho on the edge of the area, who was tripped by Thiago Silva. Torres took the resulting penalty, sending Amelia the wrong way to equalise for Charsenal. Gervinho should have won it for Charsenal in the first minute of extra time, but could only find the post with his effort. Just a minute later, A.C. Milan's desperate defending was all that kept Charsenal from winning the match, with no fewer than four blocked shots within thirty seconds before Amelia held on to a shot from Willian. That proved to be the final act of the match, which ended seconds later with the score still 1-1. Charsenal will have felt they deserved more from the match, but on reflection, a draw was probably the fair result.

With very little time to recover from the Champions League draw with Milan, Charsenal found themselves heading to South Wales to take on Swansea, looking to rebound. With three games in a week, Singer rang the changes against Swansea, retaining only Neymar and David Luiz with Szczesny, Ivanovic, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Ramsey, Lampard, Walcott, Willian, and Torres completing the eleven. With both captain and vice-captain out of the side, Frank Lampard took the armband. The Swans lined up in a 4-5-1 of Vorm, Kelly, Williams, Caulker, Taylor, Forren, Allen, Britton, Routledge, Alexe, and Leroy Lita. Charsenal should have opened the scoring on ten minutes as Ramsey found Torres open on the edge of the box, but Vorm tipped the Spaniard's shot onto the post, and Caulker cleared. In the opening twenty minutes, Swansea held their own against Charsenal, but the Londoners slowly clawed back control, scoring in the twenty-third minute as Lampard's corner found Thomas Vermaelen with a free header. They got their second just three minutes later, on the counter. Neymar intercepted a pass in his own penalty area, and took the ball the length of the field before shooting. Vorm saved well, but couldn't prevent the rebound falling to Torres, who put the ball into the empty net. Torres repaid the favour on the half-hour, taking the ball the length of the field from Neymar's block. The Spaniard crossed to the young winger, who unselfishly passed to Walcott at the far post for a tap-in. In the dying seconds of the first half, Neymar and Torres again combined to create a great chance. The Brazilian found the Spaniard with a cross just yards out, but Vorm did brilliantly to stop Swansea losing a fourth. Walcott should have had his second seconds after the break, but shot poorly wide after being found in acres of space by Ramsey. Moments later, Willian nearly gave Swansea a lifeline by passing back stupidly, allowing Britton in on goal, but Szczesny was equal to the shot. The Brazilian was replaced five minutes later, after picking up a silly booking. Gervinho took the field in his place, slotting in on the left, while Neymar replaced Willian behind Torres. In the sixty-fifth minute, Ramsey was taken off for Ganso. With fifteen minutes left, Neymar was given a well-deserved rest, replaced by John Obi Mikel, who slotted into the central midfield spot vacated when Ganso replaced Neymar behind Torres. The Nigerian scored just moments after coming on, when the Swansea defence let the rebound from Torres' shot fall to him twelve yards out. It proved to be the last action of a match where Charsenal dominated. Neymar and Torres both put in great performances, but the Man of the Match went to Thomas Vermaelen. Singer was clearly happy about getting such an emphatic win following their unlucky draw with A.C. Milan, and the confident performance put in by young keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who kept Charsenal's second clean sheet of the season. The result also puts Charsenal top of the table, three points clear of Aston Villa, who have a game in hand.

For the League Cup fixture with Reading, which Charsenal are expected to win easily, Singer has gone with a somewhat-lessened team with Petr Cech in goal, a strong defence of Sagna, David Luiz, Vermaelen, and Cole, and a front six of Ramires, Arteta, Walcott, Ganso, Gervinho, and Daniel Sturridge, who makes his first start of the season. He was expected to give Willian a start, but the Brazilian will miss three-to-four weeks after suffering a dislocated jaw in a training collision with Ashley Cole, who is the Charsenal captain. Reading line up in a 4-2-2-2, with Federici in goal, a back four of Pearce, Khumalo, Gorkss and Mills, with Leigertwood and Karacan ahead of them, Kebe and McAnuff wide, and Hunt and Church up top. Reading's day started out poorly, with striker Simon Church having to go off injured inside ten minutes, following a collision with David Luiz. Charsenal nearly found the opener in the thirteenth minute when Ganso found Sturridge in space with a pass. The striker ran past two defenders, but his shot only skimmed the top of the crossbar. Reading responded with a chance of their own, when a substitute Robson-Kanu got behind the defence, but his shot was well-wide of the post, which Cech had covered. In the twenty-third minute, Sturridge again nearly found the goal, shooting just wide of the far post after receiving Gervinho's cross from a free kick out of defence. Leigertwood's errant pass from the goal kick, which found Ganso free just outside the D nearly cost Reading he goal Charsenal's play deserved. Ganso found Gervinho, whose cross was tamely-headed by Sturridge at Federici, who tipped the ball over. Sturridge picked up a knock in the landing. From the resulting corner, David Luiz headed just wide. First half stoppage time saw a flurry of chances, the first of which fell to Reading, but Cech claimed McAnuff's cross before it reached Kebe. From Cech's throw-out, Charsenal brought the ball up field to score just seconds later through Theo Walcott, who slotted home into the bottom corner past a stranded Federici. The Australian keeper was up to the challenge on the final chance of the half as Ramires wrestled his way through the defence before shooting weakly. Half-time saw the injured Sturridge replaced by Dutch striker Robin van Persie. The half didn't start well for Charsenal, as Thomas Vermaelen allowed Noel Hunt the space to shoot from just inside the area. Thankfully for the Londoners, his shot was well over and well wide. The sixtieth minute saw Theo Walcott injured and replaced by Neymar, who swapped sides with Gervinho. Just six minutes into his match, Neymar ran through the Reading midfield, finding Cole out wide, whose cross Neymar did well to divert to Ramires. Ramires' shot was saved, but it rebounded to Robin van Persie, who couldn't miss from two yards out, and it was 2-0 Charsenal. With fifteen minutes left, Singer handed a debut to Ivan Rakitic, who replaced Mikel Arteta in his first game back from a finger injury. Charsenal had a good opportunity to kill the game in the eighty-third minute, but Neymar could head Gervinho's cross at Federici. Four minutes later, they did land the death blow through van Persie. Ramires found the Dutchman with a great pass in plenty of space, and he finished into the far corner past Federici, who could do nothing about it. Gervinho completed the rout on the stroke of ninety minutes, as Ganso found him lurking in the area with a beautiful pass over the top, which the Ivorian finished first-time. It was the final action of the match, and Charsenal walked out 4-0 winners in a game they thoroughly dominated. Ramires was the man of the match, with three assists.

The important news from elsewhere was that Leeds knocked out Liverpool 1-0 after extra time at Anfield, and that Everton defeated Tottenham 2-1 at White Hart Lane, also after extra time. Less heartening, however, is the news that Theo Walcott will be out for five or six weeks with a broken arm. Singer said, regarding the injury, "We will miss Theo, any club would miss a player of his quality." The young manager will feel better about the injury knowing that Spanish winger Juan Mata has resumed training after a groin injury, but won't be relishing a trip to Manchester City in the Fourth Round of the League Cup.

In their final Barclays Premier League match of the month, at home to Stoke, Singer handed Ivan Rakitic his first start since joining Charsenal at the beginning of the month, and picked Petr Cech for his 350th ever league appearance. Overall, the manager made five changes to his side, with John Terry replacing Thomas Vermaelen, Rakitic and Lampard replacing Ramires and Arteta, Gervinho moving to the right to replace the injured Walcott, Neymar replacing Gervinho, and Fernando Torres was recalled to the starting eleven. Stoke lined up in a defensive 4-4-2 of Sorensen, Woodgate, Shawcross, Huth, Collins, Pennant, Whitehead, Wilson, Walters, Crouch and Jones. There was little action in the game until the fourteenth minute when Rakitic found David Luiz with a free kick on the right. Unfortunately, the Brazilian's header was a touch too high, and it went over the crossbar for a goal kick. Three minutes later, Cech found Torres with a goal kick, and the Spaniard laid the ball back to Ganso who found Neymar in space, but the young Brazilian's shot was well wide when he should have done better. Charsenal took the lead in the twenty-second minute as Rakitic found David Luiz again, this time from a corner. The Brazilian defender's shot was more accurate this time, and Sorensen had no chance. In the thirty-fifth minute, Stoke were incredibly lucky not to be two behind. Sorensen and Shawcross combined to stop Neymar, Gervinho, and Torres twice in a spell of farcical defending. Rakitic' ensuing corner was cleared by Stoke, but only as far as Lampard, who shot from distance, but only found the crossbar, Stoke finally got their reprieve as Neymar was adjudged to have fouled Pennant. Sagna's misplayed pass fell to Peter Crouch, and nearly gave Stoke a sniff at goal, but the Charsenal defence did well to force the ball wide to Kenwyne Jones, who could only find the side-netting with Cech covering the near post. It was the final act of the first half, as Charsenal went in looking good value for their lead, and with two-thirds possession. Charsenal extended their lead seven minutes after the break as Ganso for Neymar alone in the box, where he finished neatly for Charsenal's second. In the sixty-fifth minutes, newly-returned midfielder Rakitic found Gervinho wide, who found Fernando Torres free, but the Spaniard was mistakenly called for offside after finishing well past Sorensen. It was the last action for both Rakitic and Torres, as Torres was replaced by his countryman Mata, with Neymar shifting to striker and Mata taking up the left wing, and the tired Rakitic coming off for Ramires. Both substitutes had an immediate impact, with Mata's cross from the left being half-cleared before being played to Ramires, who took the ball past several defenders. The Brazilian's shot was well-saved by Sorensen, and Stoke cleared. Moments later, though, Ramires' spectacular run through the Stoke defence was capped with a weak shot directly at the Danish keeper when he should have done better. Moments later, Lampard's long-range shot was only palmed away for a corner by Sorensen. Before the corner was taken, Ganso was replaced in the hole by Mata, and the left wing duty taken over by substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Following the substitution, there was little to report for either side, and the game finished 2-0 to Charsenal. Charsenal's man of the match was Brazilian defender David Luiz, who scored the first goal, and was a constant threat at set pieces. The result means Charsenal will maintain their 100% league record, and will take a clear lead into October, which sees them five points ahead of their nearest rival Manchester City, and six ahead of Aston Villa and Everton, though Aston Villa still have a game in hand.

With just two days between the the game with Stoke and Charsenal's Champions League away trip to Maccabi Haifa, Singer made several changes. The Charsenal lineup was Cech, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Ramires, Rakitic, Gervinho, Ganso, Neymar, and van Persie. Singer is understood to have wanted to make more changes, but his lack of attacking options, with Walcott and Willian long-term injuries, and Mata recently back from a long-term injury himself, and not yet ready to start, he was forced to field a relatively-strong attack. Maccabi started in a 4-4-2. Charsenal got off to a bright start, as Ganso found van Persie clear in the area, and the Dutchman scored just 1:14 into the match. Maccabi did a good job of shutting up shop until the thirty-seventh minute, when Neymar broke through the defence, but the Brazilian's shot was well wide. Just before the half, Rakitic found van Persie, but the striker's shot was poorly-taken, and well over the bar. The second half began disastrously, as Ami Ben-Haim was allowed to wander through the Charsenal defence, and David Luiz was sent off for taking him down on the edge of the area. Ganso was the player sacrificed as John Terry was brought on as Charsenal shifted to a 4-2-2-1. Maccabi midfielder Ze'ev Meshulam put the free kick into the grateful hands of Petr Cech. The extra man did nothing for Maccabi, as Gibbs' fiftieth-minute cross found Gervinho at the back post, who headed the ball down for Ramires. The Brazilian's shot dribbled through Haifa keeper Saranov's hands and in for Charsenal's second. The Serbian really should have done better with the shot. At the hour mark, the booked Gervinho was substituted for Juan Mata. The Spaniard slotted in on the left wing, while Neymar moved to striker, and van Persie shifted to right wing. With fifteen minutes remaining, van Persie was brought off for Daniel Sturridge, who replaced him on the right wing. With Charsenal tiring, Maccabi Haifa put their man advantage to use, pressuring the Charsenal defence. It held firm, though, and the match finished 2-0 to the Londoners. Ramires was named man of the match. Zenit beat A.C. Milan to leave Charsenal two points behind them in Group F, and three ahead of Milan. David Luiz' red card will see him miss the next group match against Zenit, should Charsenal's appeal fail.

Charsenal end the month of September with a record of five wins and one draw, with a five-point lead in the Barclays Premier League, in second-place in their Champions League group, and into the fourth round of the League Cup. Charsenal are scheduled to play six matches next month, Away to Bolton and Newcastle in the League, home to Zenit in the Champions League, home to Manchester United in the League, away to Manchester City in the League Cup, and, finally, home to West Bromwich Albion in the League.

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