The Chronicles of Charsenal: Chapter Five

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 Five: October 2011

As the month of October begins, Charsenal and manager Alexander Singer hope to continue the good work of September. With three big matches against Zenit in the in the Champions League, Manchester United in the League, and Manchester City in the League Cup, this month could have a big effect on Charsenal's season. The Londoners' injury list is looking better, with the return of Spaniard Juan Mata from a groin strain suffered after the first match of the season against Liverpool. He should feature in the month's first game, away to Bolton, where the Londoners are expected to win easily to take them into the international break atop the Barclays Premier League.

Charsenal v Bolton

For the Bolton match, Singer selected a strong line-up, not taking any chances against a Bolton squad capable of springing a surprise or two. He selected Cech, Sagna, David Luiz, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Rakitic, Neymar, Ganso, Mata, and Torres in their customary 4-2-3-1 formation. The biggest surprise will be Lampard only making the bench, with the set play skills of Rakitic seemingly preferred by the Singer. Bolton lined-up in a narrow 4-2-3-1 with Jaaskelainen, Ricketts, Cahill, Boyata, Robinson, Holden, Muamba, Tuncay, Mark Davies, Petrov and Kevin Davies.

With many expecting a cricket score, Charsenal didn't disappoint. They opened the scoring on the stroke of three minutes through Neymar. Ashley Cole found Ganso in the left side of the box, fifteen yards out. Ganso charged to the end line, and put in a cross, which Jaaskelainen could only manage to deflect. It fell to Robinson, who took a touch. Neymar seized on the defender's hesitation to pounce and put it into the empty net. Charsenal should have made it two five minutes later as the Finnish keeper spilled Ramires' long-range shot from a Rakitic corner, but Terry couldn't get the shot on target. In the eleventh minute, Petr Cech was made to work as Tuncay timed his run perfectly, but the Czech stopper did well to prevent him shooting. Cech quickly threw the ball out to Ganso, and the Brazilian nearly found Mata on the left wing with a beautiful fifty-yard pass, but Ricketts got to the ball slightly ahead of him, drawing a foul in the process.

A bad mistake by Terry allowed Kevin Davies to equalise in the seventeenth minute. The Charsenal captain dawdled on the ball, allowing Stuart Holden to steal it and find Kevin Davies, who evaded David Luiz to finish past the diving Cech from the edge of the area. The fault for the goal will rest solely with Terry, who hasn't been convincing this season. The Londoners replied just three minutes later as Rakitic found Terry's partner David Luiz at the back post from a corner. The Brazilian finished just as comfortably as his countryman earlier in the match, and from similar range. Charsenal scored two in two minutes through another Brazilian, this time Ramires. Fernando Torres was caught in possession thirty yards out, but the ball fell to Ramires, who sped past two Bolton defenders before scoring well past Jaaskelainen from fifteen yards out. Three minutes before the half, Rakitic again found David Luiz from a corner, and Brazilian powered his header past Jaaskelainen for his second, and Charsenal's fourth.

Ten minutes after the break, Sagna found Neymar on the edge of the area, who in turn found Torres six yards out, unmarked by the Bolton defence, and there was little Jaaskelainen could do as The Spaniard scored with ease. In the sixty-third minute, Singer replaced Rakitic and Mata with Lampard and Sturridge, who slotted in on the right wing, while Neymar slid across to replace Mata on the left. Bolton should have had their second in the seventy-third, as Petrov found Cahill at a corner. John Terry left Cahill free, but his header was just over the bar. They did get a second as John Terry again let his man go free, allowing Tuncay to run onto Bolton substitute Marcos Alonso's pass. Cech dove, but couldn't get a hand to his shot. There was nothing more in terms of action, except Singer handing Ramires a few minutes' rest, replacing him late with Arteta.

Charsenal won 5-2 at the Reebok, and will be very happy with the result. There will be plenty of questions asked of captain John Terry, though, who played poorly. With Thomas Vermaelen and man of the match David Luiz playing well recently, both individually and as a partnership, Terry's place in the side may be in some doubt. He will feature in Charsenal's next Champions League game, though, as David Luiz' red card was upheld, and he will miss the match. Following the weekend's results, Charsenal remain in first place, with a one-hundred-percent record, five points ahead of Manchester City, who are three ahead of Manchester United and Liverpool.

Charsenal v. Newcastle

The international break brought news that Branislav Ivanovic suffered a bruised rib in Serbia's match with Italy, but shouldn't miss any significant time. England have qualified for Euro 2012, despite drawing 0-0 with Montenegro. Charsenal escaped the second round of fixtures in the window unscathed. In fact, both Wilian and Romelu Lukaku returned from injury the day of the match against Newcastle, though neither is yet ready to return. Singer did, however, go with a 4-3-2-1 of Cech, Sagna, David Luiz, Vermaelen, Cole, Ramires, Rakitic, Gervinho, Mata, Neymar, and van Persie, with John Terry's poor recent performances not deemed worthy of a start against Newcastle. The Magpies lined up in a 4-3-2-1 with deep midfielders. The team was, Krul, Simpson, Taylor, Coloccini, Bridge, Cabaye, Tiote, Krohn-Dehli, Vuckic, Jonas, and Ba.

Newcastle provided the first chance of the match on six minutes, when Jonas was played in, but Cech did brilliantly to save. In the twelfth minute, Rakitic nearly scored the goal of the season from a free kick, which hit the bar from fully forty yards. Krul was beaten, but the rebound fell to Taylor, who cleared for Newcastle. Three minutes later, Rakitic nearly scored again from range. Following a corner where he nearly found David Luiz, he struck the cleared ball from thirty yards, but only found the side-netting. Michael Krohn-Dehli was the next to come close in the thirty-second minute on the counter, but he too only found the side-netting. From the goal kick, Cech found van Persie, but the Dutchman was pulled back and booked for a foul on Tiote. In the forty-second minute, van Persie played in Mata, but the Spaniard's shot was straight at Krul. The rebound fell to Mata, but he couldn't get another shot, instead passing to Gervinho. Eventually, the ball found Rakitic, but his third long shot was just as successful as the first two. Neither side could make another chance before the half, and they went into the break at 0-0.

Whatever Singer said must have had an impact, as Charsenal put their noses in front inside thirty seconds of the second-half through their young, Brazilian star, Neymar. Gervinho found him with a cross from the right side, and Neymar headed coolly past a diving Krul and into the bottom corner. Four minutes later, Cabaye nearly equalised from forty yards, with a fabulous strike that dipped wickedly, but Cech was able to tip it over for a corner which Charsenal defended easily. On the stroke of fifty minutes, Ashley Cole was sent off for a reckless challenge on Ba. Singer sacrificed to the relatively-ineffective Gervinho to bring on left back Kieran Gibbs.

Juan Mata moved to the left wing, while Neymar slotted in on the right wing. Two minutes after going a man behind, Charsenal nearly lost their lead, but Cech was equal to Ba's shot and Vermaelen cleared. In the fifty-sixth minute, Singer replaced ineffectual and booked striker Robin van Persie with Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge's first touch wasn't a good one, though, as he skied a chance from six yards out. He did link well with both Neymar and Mata, though. Just after the hour, Rakitic tested Krul with another long shot, but the Dutch keeper was up to the challenge and saved easily. In the sixty-ninth, Neymar notched his second, after Sturridge crossed Gibbs' long free kick to the Brazilian waiting on the penalty spot.

There was nothing an unlucky Krul could do to prevent him finishing in the bottom corner and seemingly sealing the three points for Charsenal. In the seventy-second minute, Singer used his final substitution to bring on Mikel Arteta for Mata, who had taken a knock. Arteta slotted in on the right wing, with Neymar moving back to the left side. In the eighty-fifth minute, after ten minutes of fairly-strong Newcastle pressure, Charsenal got a chance on the counter. Arteta found Sturridge in space, but Coloccini fouled him on the edge of the area, and earned a straight red to even the teams again. Arteta put the free kick into the grateful arms of Krul.

The remaining minutes offered little for either team, and the match ended 2-0 to Charsenal, though Newcastle will feel they deserved something from the match. The man of the match was Charsenal's Neymar, who scored both goals in the match. Left back Ashley Cole was issued a warning for his thoroughly-deserved red card, and Charsenal will not appeal his three-game ban.

Charsenal v. Zenit St. Petersburg

For his side's important Champions League Group F match against Zenit, Singer went with what is becoming his first-choice line-up with the exception of David Luiz, who is suspended. Cech started in goal, with Sagna, Vermaelen, Terry, and Cole ahead of him, Rakitic and Ramires in midfield, and Neymar, Ganso, and Mata behind Fernando Torres. Zenit lined up in an identical formation with Zhevnov, Hubocan, Bruno Alves, Lombaerts, Lukovic, Semak, Denisov, Bukharov, Alex Texeira, Criscito, and Kerzhakov.

The first chance of the match came in the tenth minute as Ganso found Torres, who found Neymar, on the counter, but Zhevnov did well to save the Brazilian's shot. In the seventeenth minute, Mata found Torres in the area, but before he could shoot, the Spaniard was tripped by Bruno Alves, who was booked. Torres took the resulting penalty, which was saved brilliantly by Zhevnov. Neymar's follow-up shot was blocked by the Zenit defence and cleared. The Belarusian keeper again saved his side, stopping Rakitic's vicious long-range shot, and not allowing another shot. Though Charsenal was possibly the better team, the first half finished 0-0.

After the half, both sides struggled to create chances until the sixty-second minute, when Cech had to produce a world-class save to deny Bruno Alves from a Zenit corner, though Charsenal managed to clear the ball. With his side's fortunes flagging a bit, Singer used the sixty-ninth minute to introduce Sturridge and Willian for the unlucky Torres and Ganso. Before the ball went out of play so the substitutions could take place, Torres had one last opportunity, which was saved well by Zhevnov. The rebound, however, fell to Ramires at the edge of the box, who finished well to give Charsenal the lead. In the seventy-fifth minute, with Zenit pressuring Charsenal, Singer replaced the tired Neymar with John Obi Mikel, moving into a 4-3-3, with Willian slotting into Neymar's right-wing spot, and Mikel his customary defensive midfield position. In the eighty-third, Juan Mata nearly won the match for Charsenal, but his shot went just over the bar. In the final ten minutes, both sides produced periods of good attack, but neither could turn them into shooting opportunities. In the final chance of the game, Alex Texeira crossed dangerously for Kerzhakov, but Cech did well to gather it.

Charsenal got their win, which leaves them top of their group, on the verge of qualification after A.C. Milan's shock defeat to Maccabi Haifa. While both sides could had chances to win the match, a Charsenal win is probably the fair result.

Charsenal v. Manchseter United

Just four days after their match against Zenit, Charsenal faced their biggest game of the season so far, at home to Manchester United. Singer had a dilemma due to the short turnaround between games, but delivered a strong team, as expected. He made just three changes, with Mikel Arteta replacing Ramires, David Luiz reclaiming his place partnering Thomas Vermaelen in the centre of defence, and Kieran Gibbs replacing the suspended Ashley Cole. United lined up in a 4-4-2 of De Gea, Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Giggs, Park, Rooney and Berbatov.

The first chance of the match came in the seventh minute, but Arteta's free kick was saved well by De Gea for a corner, which United cleared. Torres was unlucky not to score in the nineteenth minute as Neymar found him alone in the area. Ferdinand did well to get a deflection which took Torres' shot just wide of the post. Just three minutes later, Charsenal were made to pay for the miss as Nani cut back for Berbatov to finish past Cech. Several Charsenal players felt the goal was offside, and the decision was a marginal one.

United nearly doubled their lead five minutes later when Berbatov's audacious forty-yard strike could only be parried onto the post by Cech. Charsenal were able to clear, though. On the ensuing counter, Neymar found Torres, but Patrice Evra did well to cut down the angle, and the Spaniard only found the side-netting. Moments later, the Park intercepted well and found Rooney with a fifty-yard pass into space, but Cech saved brilliantly to keep Charsenal in the game. Despite being arguably the better side, the home side went into the half a goal behind. Charsenal were better, but United looked more dangerous in the final third.

In the opening minutes of the second half, Charsenal looked a renewed side, with Mata finishing inches wide in agonising fashion. Ten minutes after the start of the second half, Charsenal were level as Arteta found the top corner with a thirty-five yard free kick. It was a magical strike and was the goal Charsenal deserved. At the hour mark, Charsenal were ahead through Fernando Torres. Rakitic found Mata on the edge of the area, who drew Vidic off Torres. Mata found his countryman with a perfect pass, and Torres finished well past a diving De Gea. Moments later, Singer took off Rakitic and Mata, who were tiring quickly, replacing them with Ramires and Willian, who slotted in on the right, while Neymar replaced Mata on the left.

Torres nearly won it moments later on the counter. Neymar stripped Ryan Giggs after Charsenal had cleared a United corner. The Brazilian found Torres with forty yards of space, but the Spaniard's shot produced another world-class save from De Gea. In the seventy-seventh minute, after a spell of United pressure, a mistake by Vermaelen allowed Rooney behind the defence. He squared to Berbatov, who equalised past the stranded Cech. Five minutes later, as Alex Song was preparing to come on for Ganso, the Brazilian dove two-footed into Ferdinand, and was deservedly sent off.

Song was instead brought on for Arteta as Singer looked to preserve a point. United failed to take advantage of their extra man, with Torres forcing yet another brilliant save from De Gea in second-half stoppage time. From the resulting corner, Giggs nearly put the ball in his own net, but just managed to get it over the bar for another corner. It was to be the final action of the match, which finished 2-2, ending Charsenal's one-hundred-percent record in the Barclays Premier League.

2-2 was probably the fairest result, but both sides will feel they should have done better. With Manchester City's draw at home to Norwich, however, Charsenal's five-point lead at the top is preserved, though a surprising Aston Villa can move within four points if they win their game in hand.

Charsenal v. Manchester CIty

Just three days after the United match, Singer had to lead his team into the third of three important matches in the space of a week. Despite a few players playing in all three matches, he again fielded a strong line-up of Cech, Sagna, David Luiz, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Ramires, Rakitic, Gervinho, Mata, Neymar, and van Persie. Man City lined up in a narrow 4-2-3-1 of Hart, Zabaleta, Rekik, Kolo Toure, Kolarov, De Jong, Barry, Milner, Tevez, Adam Johnson, and Balotelli.

City came close to opening the scoring in the eighth minute when Milner's long-range shot grazed the top of the crossbar. Three minutes later, Balotelli wasted a gilt-edged chance by firing wide. In the twenty-third minute, Gibbs played a one-two with Neymar on the edge of the area, and the Brazilian flicked Gibbs' cross beautifully onto the head of van Persie who finished coolly past Hart for the opener. City hit back almost immediately, though, as Vermaelen's mistake let Balotelli through. The Italian didn't waste the opportunity this time, equalising into the bottom corner. On the stroke of half-time, Rakitic found Vermaelen from a corner, but the Belgian's header was inches wide. The game went into the break even at one. City had looked more threatening, but Charsenal had the better of the chances in the first half.

Moments into the second half, City won a free kick twenty-five yards out. Kolarov's effort rifled against Cech's post, but Tevez' shot from the rebound was disappointingly wide. Charsenal began the second half looking much less threatening, but ten minutes in, Mata found Neymar alone in the penalty area, but the Brazilian's shot was inches wide of the far post. In the sixty-ninth minute, Singer replaced van Persie, who had taken a knock, with Sturridge, and made a tactical swap, taking off the ineffective Mata for Alex Song, Changing the formation to 4-3-3. As the substitutions were waiting to be made, Gervinho got a clear shot in the area, which Hart saved. Mata's shot from the rebound was deflected wide by Toure for a corner, which came to nothing. In the eightieth minute, David Luiz took a knock and had to be replaced by John Terry. Neither team could find the winner in the remaining ten minutes, so the game went to extra time.

The only clear chance in the first half of extra time came at the death, when Kolo Toure misplayed his pass out of defence straight to Daniel Sturridge waiting six yards out. Joe Hart saved spectacularly to keep Manchester City in the game. With both sides pushing for a winner, late on, Ivan Rakitic stuck out a leg and tripped City's 18-year-old midfielder Joan Angel Roman for a penalty. Gareth Barry converted it, though Cech guessed the right way. Charsenal had one final chance to equalise in stoppage time, but Sturridge couldn't get his shot on target, and the Londoners were left to rue his miss at the end of the first half of extra time as they suffered their first loss of the season, and were dumped out of the League Cup. Despite the loss, Charsenal's Neymar was named man of the match.

Charsenal v West Bromwich Albion

With October's final fixture against West Bromwich Albion just days after the heartbreaking loss to Manchester City in the League Cup, Singer made several changes to give the top players some rest and some others a chance. He went with a 4-3-2-1 of Szczesny, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry, Bertrand, Arteta, Lampard, Gervinho, Willian, Mata, and Sturridge. West Brom lined up in a 4-2-3-1 of Foster, Jones, McAuley, Dawson, Shorey, Scharner, Mulumbu, Long, Dorrans, Molina, and Odemwingie.

In the seventh minute, West Brom keeper Foster did well to save from Juan Mata twice, but the second rebound fell to Sturridge, who couldn't miss from two yards. Ten minutes later, Arteta nearly found the net from a free kick a few yards outside the area, but Foster managed to tip it out for a corner, which was defended well. In the twenty-fifth, Foster again saved well, first from Gervinho, and again from the resulting corner. Having had almost nothing beforehand, Peter Odemwingie hit from the edge of the area, and Szczesny could only tip it onto the post. The ball then trickled down the goal line, where David Luiz was able to clear it before it could go in. A moment later, Ivanovic found Mata with a fifty-yard cross-field pass, and the Spaniard's cross found Sturridge in the area, and the England striker finished past the helpless Foster with a diving header. Charsenal went into the half with a deserved lead

After a quiet opening ten minutes of the second half, John Terry let Odemwingie drift off him, and West Brom substitute Somen Tchoyi found him with an inch-perfect cross, and the Nigerian headed past a stranded Szczesny. In the sixty-third minute, Singer replaced the hurting Arteta with Ivan Rakitic, and replaced the poor Willian with Theo Walcott, who was returning from injury. Mata took Willian's place behind Sturridge, Gervinho moved to the left wing for Mata, and Walcott took his place on the right wing. Juan Mata probably should have won it for Charsenal in the seventy-third, but his shot was well wide. With three minutes left, after fifteen minutes of stalemate, Sturridge had to win it, but he lashed his shot well over the bar.

The chance kicked Charsenal into action, with Lampard's long-range shot tipped onto the bar and out by Foster. Gervinho, Walcott, and Rakitic each had shots saved well by Foster in the closing minutes, and Bertrand saved the two points for the Londoners, winning the ball from Odemwingie, who had got free on the counter. WBA would have a few more chances, though none were seriously threatening. Mata wasted another chance to win it, when David Luiz found Sturridge with a long pass, who crossed to the Spaniard, whose shot was disappointing and yards wide. Charsenal were fortunately not made to rue the miss, as it was the final action of the match, but Singer won't be impressed by the manner in which his team struggled to kill off the game. He will be glad, though, that such a poor performance didn't lead to dropped points.

Conclusion

The win ensures that Charsenal finish the month with a five-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League, on the verge of qualification from Champions League Group F, and, unfortunately, out of the League Cup at the hands of Manchester City. Singer will be happy his team won four games from six, drawing one, and losing one unluckily in extra time. He won't be happy to have dropped points to their rivals Manchester United, and to be out of a competition already. November brings just five matches for the Londoners, away to both Zenit and Milan in the Champions League, away to Everton and home to West Ham and the surprising Aston Villa in the league.

[Update - 19 March 2012: In an act of utter pillockism, I lost the FM save file in a move to a new computer. Just assume there was a nuclear war or something, caused by David Luiz returning to his home planet or something.]

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