Best in Series #1 – Relive Past Wimbledon Glory With Virtua Tennis 2

Welcome to a new regular feature entitled Best in Series. Expect analysis and reasoning behind my personal favourite entries across entertainment medium franchises. This first edition revisits a truly classic sports simulation celebrating its 20th anniversary of release both in the arcade scene and at home.

Wimbledon is so quintessentially English. With the worlds most distinguished Tennis gland slam tournament returning following its pandemic-induced cancellation in 2020, tennis fever is gripping the British isles once again. For two weeks of every English summer, come rain or shine, everyone becomes a tennis fan. Throw in the nation’s fondness for queuing, along with strawberries and cream, and you have the complete Wimbledon experience. There’s the matter of some actual tennis in there somewhere too. And be on the lookout for Cliff Richard if rain disrupts the occasion. You’ll thank me later. Probably not.

What, no strawberries left?!

The Queue, as it is officially known for Wimbledon, is often half a mile long or more, full of potential punters trying their luck for entry tickets. Why wait three hours or more in the current searing SW19 heat, with no guarantee of any entertainment? Why indeed, when the greatest video game tennis experience has been in the palms of our hands for the best part of 20 years.

Sega’s Virtua Tennis series laid the marker for tennis simulations in both the arcades and at home for the majority of the 2000’s. I won’t bore anyone with yet another Sega Dreamcast history lesson, but the console’s significance and popularity was largely due to arcade-perfect home conversions such as Virtua Tennis and in particular its sequel, Virtua Tennis 2. The Dreamcast delivered what the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation simply could not; arcade-level visuals and gaming in the home. For the home console market the Dreamcast served as the biggest corner turn for arcade-quality entertainment, and the industry has never looked back. And Sega’s now-absorbed Hitmaker development team were one-time masters of it.

The clue is of course in the name. Hitmaker did just that: make hits. Hits that easily still stand up today. Despite two sequels coming in the years and gaming generations after, nothing has touched the tennis scene better than the first sequel in the series. Released in 2001, Virtua Tennis 2 was quickly ported to Dreamcast on the back of the original’s success. It is arcade-perfect both aesthetically and mechanically in every way, a concept none-too-common at the turn of the century. Hitmaker added bucket loads of content, particularly for the single player, to an already coin-grabbing classic.

In today’s sports simulations, a.i-reliant single player modes sometimes prove to be a drab, soulless affair (I am literally staring at my copy of FIFA 21 right now). No sign of that here, particularly in career mode where you create your own tennis pro. The matches are in a calibre of their own, with increasingly-challenging CPU opponents thrown in. But it’s the developmental mini games that really serve up the aces. One such mini game sees you practice serves across court into bowling pins to reach a target score. It’s simple, it’s challenging, and most importantly, a lot of fun. In FIFA, the would-be cute mini-games and training set pieces offer little more than a meaningless preamble for the most part. Virtua Tennis 2 began using such training regimen to better your player before it was cool. Today realism may be the demand, but often at the expense of the concept of fun; you know, that feeling a game is supposed to bring to our fingertips and brains.

Mastering the career training paths, multiple match wins and rank-climbing culminates at Wimbledon, or the “English Championship” as it is referred to here. Sega may not have acquired the licensing for the Grand Slam occasions, but they certainly made up for that with its roster. Anyone with a historical knowledge of tennis past would recognise such names as Tim Henman and Pat Rafter, names synonymous with my own tennis-crazed years. Rafter, the Australian heavy hitter was a personal favourite of mine, such a joy to watch. Now-legend Serena Williams, sister Venus and Monica Seles, all Wimbledon finalists, form part of the female roster, a new addition to the series.

This game is almost twenty years old and still remains the greatest nod to the world’s greatest tennis championships. It’s better than its sequels and predecessor largely due to its more balanced roster, but mostly because as a tennis sports sim package it is perfect in style, content and the most importantly, the tennis. The female roster added a new dynamic to the tennis video game at the time; mixed doubles matches, more base line play, less serve and volley, more ground-strokes and decisive rallies. The male and female attributed differences also means two different dimensions to career mode. You’ll engage in hours of entertainment regardless, and is also perfect to dip in and out of between matches and mini games.

In today’s world of online sports gaming, sports simulations are frequented by players hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. There is no such option here, as Virtua Tennis 2 is from a different era. People, actual people, need to attend somewhere physically for the multiplayer experience. Imagine that. Actual banter in your face. Or someone else’s. Plus you don’t look like a tit like many a Wii Sports player often does, as if the more wildly the arm is swung the better the shot will be. It won’t, mate. Have a lie down.

Fans of queuing, strawberries and/or cream will of course be disappointed with the lack of digital equivalent. Don’t judge us Brits, we’re weird like that. We queue, then we die. If it were possible, the English would probably queue to die. But there is a solution. Only got 2 controllers between your friends? Why not make those waiting their turn queue at the door? Maybe while stuffing their faces with – you guessed it – strawberries and cream. Problem solved.

You see, any sports fan, maybe even players of the sport, needs to realise that Virtua Tennis 2 is as pure a sports gaming experience as they come. As far as the real thing goes I have sparsely watched a single rally of tennis since the 2012 Olympics in truth, but just 30 minutes of Virtua Tennis 2 pulled me right back in. I might even dust off my old racket and have a rally myself. Who says video games aren’t good for you?

Virtua Tennis 2 serves as a perfect reminder of a time when sports games were more immediate. No installation times. Miniscule loading times. Huge fun. And best of all, no queuing required. Sure, you won’t see centre court for real. But for a third of the queuing time you could have a blast with the best tennis players of yesteryear. And, most importantly, you won’t have to keep an eye on the weather in case Cliff Richard shows up.

Luftrausers Review (PS3)

With the recent announcement of the PS3 PSN store due to be shutdown, then Sony reversing that same announcement, the provocation has resulted in clearing the dust on Sony’s seventh generation console. Starting with this Sony console exclusive, Luftrausers, a war-themed shooter that dared to dream with its release, competing with an already-released PlayStation 4 just a few months earlier.

War, never been so much fun. You sunk my battleship. Both those memorable phrases detail the quality Luftrausers provides, albeit from a high level. When you first load up Luftrausers’ cartoon retro-style title screen, a simple instruction is given: Press ‘Up’ on your D-Pad. You soon realise you have been thrust into the cockpit of a plane as a complete novice, not knowing where to go or what to do. Instinctively though, you quickly find yourself flying back and forth, projectile barrages and small planes coming at you at breakneck speed, with a simple goal: Kill or be killed.

Constant death is an inevitability in Luftrausers. But this is glorious, unpredictable, addictive and even productive death. Every plane or battleship you destroy tops up your overall score, levels you up, and bumps your multiplier within each run too. Levelling up means better weapons, armour and the like, and thus, this is how you progress in Luftrausers. In-game side objectives, such as destroying 6 planes in a single run unlock further parts and modifications; homing missiles, reduced melee damage, even protection from the water below. You’ll need that last one should you dive in for temporary cover. All these elements bring variety to the feel and power of your craft. As you toughen up, the opposition gets tougher, and more frequent, which serves up more breath-taking moments of near-kamikaze brilliance.

Although this may not sound as appealing as it is in practice, there is quite the tactical element to Luftrausers to cap off its addictive brilliance. Any damage you do take slowly recovers with ant brief respite, indicated by a circle that closes in the nearer you are to being blown out of the sky. You are also more manoeuvrable should you ever release the fire button, which is great for healing and a temporary reprieve, but those going for the big multipliers will see it reset in those precious recovery seconds. Then the waves begin again, meaning it really is a case of who dares wins.

The wonderfully simple and symbolic nature of holding ‘up’ to fly and rotating using left or right for direction becomes second nature almost immediately, as intended, by throwing you into the action head on. I guarantee a few seconds later you’ll be throwing yourself head-on towards countless merciless targets. Granted, you may well escape some rounds by the skin of your teeth with more luck than judgement, but regardless, the sense of momentary relief is ever present.

Visually, Luftrausers offers a unique semi-retro style, akin to an HD Atari 2600, should such a thing ever have existed. When in battle, it can be similar to a typical bullet hell shooter, with enemies left, right and centre, a la Asteroids, but with the freedom of movement, of course.

As you progress through the various waves of increasing difficulty, Luftrausers succeeds in retaining the thrills and spills of those initial bedding-in runs throughout. For those with a PS Vita, you may miss a train stop or two if you’re not careful. While some runs may be over in mere seconds, the action is consistently heart-stopping, merciless, and seriously addictive. And it all begins with the touch of a simple command: Up.

Sega Mega Drive Mini – Top 5 Games

In a world before the Covid-19 pandemic (yep, I barely remember either) there was something of a retro videogame revival taking place. We’ve had the NES mini, and the SNES mini, cataloguing some of the most beloved releases to grace either platform. The Sega Mega-Drive Mini (Genesis mini in the US), released in 2019, aimed to do the same. Forty-Two titles came included, 13 of which were exclusive to the west. Sega division M2 handled the conversions, and the console itself, arriving at 55% the size of the original home classic, certainly looks the part. But what about the games?

Thankfully the choices are not as generic as expected heralding quite a few tasty surprises. Castlevania: Bloodlines, Mega Man: The Wily Wars and Contra: Hard Corps are among the rarer and desirable classics on offer, as well as a very welcome return of Road Rash II. Who knew Sega and EA even still talked?

On the downside, many of the titles are a case of same old, same old. Sega have been releasing various Genesis/Mega Drive collections since the PS2 era, with the latest edition only being made available on Switch last December. No less than 24 titles (57% no less) make a reappearance on the Mega Drive Mini. But no one can argue that regardless of how many times they are released, many of these titles were key to the Mega Drive being a success. From Alex Kidd to World of Illusion, The Mega Drive Mini certainly is worthy of our money and time. And so, in no particular order, here are my top five picks.

Castlevania: Bloodlines (1994)
The inclusion of Castlevania: Bloodlines is certainly one of the best inclusions for many reasons. Firstly, it is the only Castlevania game for Sega’s platform, and was also exclusive at the time. Thankfully, the version included matches that of the recently released Castlevania: Anniversary Collection for PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch in that it is uncensored; its original 1994 release felt the wrath of the censors, much like Mortal Kombat did for the SNES. The end result is a traditional Castlevania adventure that is also among the most violent in the series.

Eternal Champions (1993)
Not an obvious choice for many I’m sure, but a pleasing one for me nonetheless. Sega’s answer to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat was better than neither of them, but could easily be considered the cultists choice. Sega developed Eternal Champions for the Mega Drive, and not an arcade port like its more successful counterpart giants of the genre.

Its unique characters from different time zones, including caveman Slash, futuristic Muay Thai fighter R.A.X. Coswell and 1920’s mobster Larcen Tyler, are unlike any other fighting franchise. They certainly could not have had names that were any less memorable if they tried. Weapon-wielding, an Art of Fighting-style special move meter, even its own take on fatalities make Eternal Champions a unique, if a little clunky, fighting experience.

Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition (1993)
On the back of Capcom developing Street Fighter II: Turbo for the SNES, Sega made the wise choice of delaying their own version of Street Fighter II to improve its content. Originally intended as a port of the namesake arcade, this newly dubbed “Special” edition includes both ‘Champion’ and ‘Turbo’ modes, the former of which the SNES version never had. In addition, this was the first console port of the famous arcade fighting introduction sequence, which is noticeably absent from all SNES versions of Street Fighter II.

It’s incredible to think that a decision to originally stick with Nintendo as its home console base, then to come full circle and over-compensate for a rival console, would result in such a console-defining moment. Special Champion Edition became a revolutionary move for the Mega Drive, paving the way for production of the 6-button controller that would resolve the initial issue of toggling between punches and kicks with the 3-button pad start button. This inevitable shift is a decision that transformed a title that was originally unworkable to arguably having better control than its SNES counterpart. Depending on your taste in controllers of course.

Although it trumps the SNES Turbo title on feature inclusion alone, what of the action itself? Everything is intact, plus the additions of tournament modes and both ‘Champion’ and ‘Turbo’ modes give the Street Fighter II Turbo a run for its money. As ever though, the Mega Drive just isn’t up there when it comes to the sound quality. The slightly muffled tunes and voices let the side down just a tad. Nevertheless, this is the best fighter the Mega Drive ever had to offer until the arrival of its sequel, Super Street Fighter II.

Road Rash II (1993)
Although boasting an incredibly baron Wikipedia page, Road Rash II is easily one of the greatest racing games on the Mega Drive. The core elements of racing with dirty fighting tactics to take out your rivals makes for challenging-yet-brilliant entertainment. Use chains, clubs or even punch/kick your way through multiple obstacle-riddled tracks at breakneck speeds. Road Rash II is simply an insane amount of fun.

Childhood memories of Road Rash include unlocking several of the nitro bikes, such as the black nitro addition. It would often be too fast for any race with any collision catapulting your rider through the air, hilariously defying gravity, and still have enough time to gather your bike and win the race. Ah memories. Road Rash II also introduced the split screen 2 player mode, whether against CPU opponents or head to head, which is presumably what gave it the nod over the original’s inclusion.

Road Rash II is simply a riot of a racing game, and a very welcome surprise to the Mega Drive Mini.

Mega Man: The Wily Wars (1994)
A unique inclusion given it is its first ever rerelease, Mega Man: The Wily Wars is unique to me in that I’ve never had the pleasure. All the more reason for looking forward to it then, in this 16-bit take (a la Super Mario All Stars on SNES) of the first three NES Mega Man games.

Unlike Nintendo’s Mario compilation however, there is a story behind this Capcom collection; Dr Wily seeks to change the future by going back in time, to the first three adventures, to eliminate Mega Man. Once you’ve conquered the graphically-enhanced adventures, it’s on to an original stage, Wily Tower, for a final showdown.

Given its sporadic release back in 1995, particularly in the US, it’s no surprise that Wily Wars at one time sat at the £200+ mark on eBay and other gaming markets. Which in turn makes it all the more pleasing that it is included here.

How about you? Did you buy the Mega Drive Mini? What are you favourites?

Retroreflection #4 – Foray Into Football’s Arsenal (FIFA)

Football: it’s a funny old game, a game of 2 halves, and many other obligatory clichés that lead us to question the IQ of the football world at times. But at the end of the day football is fun, or should be, and there have indeed been some frankly fabulous fun football games (try saying that three times fast) from years and gaming generations past. 

 

Before the original FIFA Soccer for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, there were little if no football simulations to speak of; most were arcade interpretations of the world’s most popular sport. The SNES never truly had a great football sim until Konami’s International Superstar Soccer came along. The port of the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis FIFA was weak and frankly didn’t fit in the catalogue, which is a fair reflection on all of EA Sports’ simulations for Nintendo’s 16 bit beast. But of these arcade efforts were a few fun gems, and that’s why this edition of Retroreflection is doing what many nostalgic football fans do: look to the glories of the past.

Fever Pitch Soccer (SNES/Mega Drive/Atari Jaguar)

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Unlike today’s FIFA/PES same old year-in-year-out efforts, Fever Pitch is a much simpler affair; just switch on and enjoy 1-2 hours of pure fun.

Fever Pitch is hardly a simulation, but ironically simulation itself is one of the many ‘skills’ on offer in what is a superbly slapstick football/soccer video game. Your team is made up of rough and ready ragamuffins, each with a dirty skill (diver, banana shot, fireball shot) that can (or will) be use, as desired with the touch of a single button, to win at all costs. In practice it makes for some frankly ridiculous scores on the board, but you’d be too busy laughing at players diving all over the place to even notice.

It may now be well over 20 years old, for me it is still a great example that football video games shouldn’t have to take themselves so seriously. As the saying goes, its a funny old game, and if nothing else, Fever Pitch Soccer achieves that perfectly.

Football Manager (PC/Mobile/Nintendo Switch)

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Wrecker of relationships, destroyer of social lives, all for the chance to live the dream: to see your team win, all achieved by your hand and yours alone. I’ve known girlfriends be bribed with presents just to secure a day of play on Football Manager. A somewhat unimpressive feat for sure, but not to a Football Manager player.

Forget all the depth, the fact you can train each single player individually how you wish, manage any team in almost any league imaginable, do the unthinkable (yes, even Spurs winning the Premier League).

Football Manager takes itself as seriously as you desire, leaving it open for the most dedicated of football managers, or for those who prefer to keep it simple. Not many video games can lay that gauntlet down and succeed. I am a semi-retired Football Manager Player myself, but it is a series so consistent that I would easily be able to jump back in any year if I so wished. Maybe just one more month before bed won’t hurt. What’s the worst that could happen?

Sensible World of Soccer (PC/Xbox Live)

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Holy hell I lost a lot of my youth on this game. Perfectly balancing the core features of football management with arcade football only the 90’s could provide, Sensible World of Soccer was/is indeed the best of both worlds; either manage a team, train and buy players and watch the games, or same again but play out the outcome. Using the old-school up and down pitch view, the football on offer is fast and fun, and while it will never compete with FIFA for realistic gameplay or Football Manager’s exhaustive stat-heaven, the beauty of it is that it doesn’t need to.

Despite being released in 1994, patches are still being released for PC for the latest Premier League squads, which is a testament to the games legacy as quite possibly the most fun football game in existence. No sequel could improve SWOS. Still available on Xbox Live also, enhanced in HD goodness, it’s a bargain at under a tenner. And although it is the last game in the series in almost 10 years, it’s still top of the league, and any football fan would be mad not to check it out.

How about you – outside of FIFA/PES, what football games are close to your hearts?

Return to Championship Manager 01/02 Season 2 (19/20 Data) – Conclusion

The end.

THE OBJECTIVE: Chelsea want their title back. As all entitled Premier League clubs do.

THE CAVEAT: Any transfer bids must be accepted.

Greetings one and all, especially faithful readers of this series. Firstly, I owe everyone an apology. The last instalment of this Championship Manager challenge was back in June 2020. At that time, tragedy struck. The device running the game, as well as completed screenshots at the time, went kaput. With three months left of the season to go, it was a season derailed. However, a few weeks ago, said device was finally recovered. Given this challenge used data from the 19/20 season, I have no intention of riding the wave of that season, like Liverpool FC are at the moment week after week. Instead, and with the intention of a new season with more recent player data, I bring to you a round-up of the remainder of this challenge. Enjoy.

March

Premier League:- 

February ended with Chelsea improving in the Premier League, yet still twenty seven points away from runaway leaders Manchester City. Even the possibility of Champions League qualification is a longshot unless a near flawless final ten games is achieved. Or winning the competition itself. Sounds familiar….

March’s fixtures are as follows: Man Utd (H), Liverpool (A), and Newcastle (H). Ouch. Here’s the results.Transfer Ban mar 2

Transfer Ban mar 9

Transfer Ban mar 10

Not too shabby. The win against Liverpool a particularly impressive one. Although, they are used to losing at home these days. Boom boom. Here’s the table after those results:-

Transfer Ban mar 12

Man if only five of those eleven draws were wins, eh? Still, with twenty-one points still up for grabs the Champions League places are still possible, just. Speaking of the Champions League, lets see how Chelsea faired there.

Champions League:-

In group stage phase 2 (I really don’t miss those days), there is a home tie against Shakhtar Donestsk and a sure-fire battle at the Bernabeu against serial Champions League winners, and general shithouse team Real Madrid.

Transfer Ban mar 3Transfer Ban mar 6

The final group games include a first defeat in this stage for Chelsea against Madrid, just, but it has no bearing on the final group table. Chelsea power through the knockouts. Against the other Madrid.

Transfer Ban cl table

Transfer Ban mar 7

FA Cup:-

Finally for March there’s the next round of the FA Cup. This quarter final is an away tie against the runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City. Yikes.

Transfer Ban mar 4

Ah well. A good effort but ultimately a defeat, and another competition draws to a close for Chelsea this season. Only the Champions League remains for a chance of silverware. And now, onto April.

April

Premier League:-

Chelsea are nine points off of fourth place in the Premier League, but have played a game more than most. Results need to start going their way for any real chance of climbing the table. Four games await, with two at home and two away.

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Wow. Just wow. Four wins on the spin throughout the whole month. Maybe a manager of the month award is on the cards? And what about everyone else?

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Those four wins have really closed the gap on nearest rivals Leicester City. Just one point in it now. The upturn in form is so strong that only Manchester City have lost less games than Chelsea. Considering where they were as the January transfer window approached, this is a run only Frank Lampard could have dreamed of. Speaking of City, they of course wrapped up the title despite just their second defeat of the season, almost mirroring their historic 2018-19 campaign. For now though, its Champions League knockout football. 

Champions League:-

Chelsea powered through to the knockouts alongside Real Madrid, but its to the other end of Madrid for the quarters.

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A 90th minute hammer blow from Joao Felix means Athletico take three away goals back to Spain for the second leg. Never say never, but its a uphill task.

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And by half time, Chelsea are rising to the task! Batshuayi going off is of course a concern, but so far they are on course for a great knockout victory.

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They have done it! After Kovacic made it 0-3 on the night, Athletico burst back with two goals in seven minutes, which would level the tie and bring extra time. That is until the Chelsea midfielder completed his hat-trick with ten minutes to go for a famous 6-5 win on aggregate. Phew! Next stop, Barcelona!

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May

Premier League

This is it, the final fixtures of yet another Premier League season. A tough away day at Arsenal, followed by a home tie with already-relegated Sheffield United, ending the season with a home tie with Everton. Lets do this…

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That’s one down. A late win but comprehensive in the end. But how does that affect the table?

Transfer ban May3

With two games left it couldn’t be much title, with even second place a possibility. None of which no one would have predicted at the start of the year. Done, done, onto the next one.

Transfer ban May7

Batshuayi’s goals are what have ignited Chelsea’s form this season. These FOUR, including a seven-minute hat trick, means he is on 35 goals for the season. Incredible.

Transfer ban May8

But elsewhere, Leicester leapfrog Man Utd and Liverpool into second place by beating both of them consecutively. A big statement there with leaves Chelsea now just goal difference away from Champions League football guaranteed. And here is how the final fixtures ended.

Transfer ban May9

Sadly, Chelsea’s 4-1 victory is not enough. With Liverpool narrowly beating West Ham 2-1, and Leicester claiming a last-minute victory at Watford, it means Chelsea miss out on Champions League football with an inferior goal difference. By one goal. Gutted. Here’s the final table.

Transfer ban May10

Norwich, Newcastle and Sheffield United drop to the Championship once again. Chelsea’s championship form in the last three months just wasn’t enough in the end. And now, the small matter of the Champions League semi-final.

Champions League

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Oh dear. A disastrous start thanks to Christensen’s red card, and Barcelona take full advantage. They will get one hell of a fight at Stamford Bridge, but is this a mountain too tall?

Transfer ban May4

Ultimately, it is. But Chelsea’s performance was superb, with only coming short in the goals department. They can hold their heads high after that. It’s a Liverpool/Barcelona final.

Transfer ban May11

And it’s Barcelona’s once again after an extra time winner. An all-English final in a British stadium might have been a bigger spectacle, but this was a tight, competitive final.

FA Cup Final:-

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The closing fixture of the English season is always the FA Cup final. Manchester City were going for a league and cup double against the 2006 finalists West Ham United. A spirited 2-goal comeback from the Premier League champions triggers extra-time, but West Ham have the final say, restoring their 2-goal lead for an unlikely victory.

And that’s the season wrapped up. I do hope you enjoyed it, I am certainly pleased to get it finished so those of you who followed can savour

And that’s the season wrapped up. I do hope you enjoyed it, I am certainly pleased to get it finished so those of you who followed can savour the end. If this is your first instalment, please take a look at the previous monthly segments and let me know your thoughts. Maybe I’ll do another season with 2020-21 data. Cheerio!

Catch-up on what you’ve missed here:-

August September October November December January February

Championship manager and its fan made updates are available as freeware from http://www.champman0102.co.uk/  

For this blog the October 2019 data update was used.

Covid-19 Lockdown: the Sequel – Video Game Picks for Survival

Like an inevitable movie sequel, the UK, among many other countries too, are back in Covid-19 isolation. As the virus continues to spread across the globe, many have been told to work from home and isolate where possible. Restaurants, bars and most non-essential shops have closed once again, and many people’s lounges have become their office. For others that may mean not being able to work at all. Staying indoors for long periods can of course take its toll in different ways to all of us. But don’t fear, as in between those Zoom/Teams/Skype meetings there is a plethora of incredible video game across a variety of platforms to catch-up on. Here is a list of suitable candidates to sink your teeth into.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

There isn’t a soul in the world who doesn’t like Studio Ghibli, is there? Whether you have seen just one of their movies or the whole collection, it is easy to see why they’re loved unanimously around the world. So imagine the excitement of many when Ghibli decided to lend their talents to the video game industry. The recently remastered first Ni No Kuni entry, Wrath of the White Witch, adopted the standard JRPG style of open-world adventure with an active-time battle system. Revenant Kingdom retains the open-world aesthetic but with free-roaming battles, for a more action-RPG affair. Add to that a completely new set of characters and story, all animated by the Ghibli team, and you’ve got yourself an adventure well worth your time. It took over 100 hours of mine, and that was before lockdown.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is available on PS4/PC.

Vanquish: 10th Anniversary Remastered

One of Shinji Mikami’s lesser-known titles, Vanquish is an action tour-de-force that is short but oh-so-sweet on the fingertips. You play Sam Gideon, an agent of DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), as he teams up with an army of US space marines to retake a Russian-occupied US space colony. Armed with the prototype Augmented Reaction Suit, Sam can wield three weapons of varying types at a time, from assault rifles to sniper rifles and laser cannons. Against the backdrop of an almost exclusively greyscale colonial fortress, you guide Sam to shoot, run, roll, duck, cover, even slide through six acts of intense, robotic-destruction action. A quick flick of L2 while rolling initiates a slick slow-down feature, which is critical as swarms of sentient soldiers breathe down your neck. Whilst a little dull in appearance, the 60fps upgrade to the speed of Vanquish is a real highlight. And if you’re a trophy/achievement hunter, this is a really fun and often-challenging title to exploit. And for less than £20, its a tough one to ignore if you need a few hours of unadulterated entertainment.

Vanquish is available for PS4, Xbox One, PC. Please check out my full review here.

Fall Guys

If you have access to a PS4, and a PS Plus membership, the likelihood is that you’ve had at least one round of Fall Guys. Visually a vibrant, multicoloured Gang Beasts meets Takeshi’s Castle (including the wacky costumes), Fall Guys pits round after round of sixty online players across several challenge games until just one remains to take the crown (By the way, that first victory crown still eludes me). Simple, fun and on the right side of frustration, a round of Fall Guys is the perfect way to pass on a few minutes.

Fall Guys is available on PS4/PC.

Streets of Rage 4

There are some positive events amongst the shit-cloud that is 2020. The announcement of one of Sega’s most beloved 16-bit franchises receiving a sequel over twenty-five years on was initially met with mighty scepticism. However, all those fears were crushed as publisher Dotemu, on the back of the excellent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, teamed up with Guard Crush Games to deliver the finest scrolling fighter since Streets of Rage 2. Ex-cops Axel, Blaze and crew are back. Ten years on from the death of criminal overlord Mr. X, his children have taken over as the new masterminds of crime. Streets of Rage 4 not only delivers top fighting action, it is a sequel that always has its predecessors at heart in all the right ways. Intuitive, challenging, exciting, wonderfully animated with an absolutely masterful soundtrack, Streets of Rage 4 is a retro-revival everyone should experience.

Streets of Rage 4 is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Spider-Man is the most accomplished comic-book-hero video game ever made. Developer Insomniac Games have come a long way from platforming series Spyro the Dragon. Honing that platforming with a narrative adventure in the Ratchet and Clank series has led to this, a licensed comic-book adventure that is, at times, a storytelling masterpiece. As a long-time Spider-Man comics fan I needed to adjust somewhat to these new takes on Peter Parker and supporting cast. But Insomniac certainly stuck with the courage of their convictions to deliver an excellent Spider-Man tale that is a unique and universal experience for anyone willing to pick up their gamepad and play. It’s open-world Manhattan environment contains seemingly unlimited tasks and missions to complete, and that’s outside of the main storyline. Visually it ranks among the greatest looking games on Sony’s console, with a ton of top action and storytelling that makes Spider-Man an absolute must.

Spider-Man is available on PS4, with a remastered version available for the PS5 also.

There is still a fair amount of time left in this current lockdown, if it even is one (don’t go there now – ed.). If you’re having to isolate or stay home for any reason at the moment, hopefully these suggestions will keep the spirits up as we head towards Christmas and the next generation of consoles. Stay Safe.

Five Fearsome Horror Games of the Last Decade

“just because the 31st of October has passed, it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t remain for a few days thereafter. Enjoy my Halloween horror videogame picks”

Hands up, I’m a little late with this one. But just because the 31st of October has passed, it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t remain for a few days thereafter. After all, no matter what the supermarkets show you, it ain’t Christmas yet! So without further ado, enjoy my Halloween horror videogame picks.

The Walking Dead Telltale Series

Telltale’s The Walking Dead follows zombie apocalypse survivor Clementine across four emotionally gripping episodic games. Growing up and evolving from a little girl hiding in a tree house through to adulthood, as a more than capable survivor, The Walking Dead offers a new and refreshing perspective to the hugely successful TV and comic franchise. From an emotionally provocative perspective it is arguably better than its parent’s narrative. As you make your own informed decisions as the story progresses, Clementine’s world develops around you as a result of these choices. Some choices literally play with people’s lives. The series began in 2012, and really put Telltale Games on the map. The Final Season however, marked the final chapter of Telltale as a development entity altogether, before it was even completed. Thankfully, Skybound Games saved the license, and Telltale has since been reborn. The Walking Dead is a perfect harrowing tale, perfect for Halloween, that few will ever forget.

The Evil Within

The Evil Within is Resident Evil-creator Shinji Mikami’s latest horror franchise. As expected, it is a highly-crafted, horrifying and intricate and immersive story that invokes tension and anxiety.. Whilst investigating the scene of a gruesome mass murder, detective Sebastian Castellanos encounters a powerful force that allows him to wander amongst the dead. The Evil Within is not for the faint of heart. Mikami has created a horrific, twisted world, as well as a formidable challenge. Halloween doesn’t get much more interactively harrowing than this.

The Wolf Among Us

Another entry from the ill-fated but now resurrected Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us is a very different tale to The Walking Dead. Based on the DC Vertigo comic series Fables, this episodic adventure pits you as Bigby Wolf as he investigates the murder of a woman in the mystical enclave location of Fabletown. As the investigation develops, the choices made not only progress this very dark fairy tale, but also lay out the difficult path of Bigby as a protagonist. Nothing is as it seems, and there is more than enough horror-laden mystery and violence to satisfy any Halloween urges. More good news – A sequel is on the way.

Dead Space

Another ill-fated developer tale, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Visceral Games perfected the third-person survival horror formula with the original Dead Space. Engineer Isaac Clarke and team venture to a mining spacecraft after a blackout in communications, only to quickly discover it has been overrun by monsters. The monsters, who turn out to be mutated versions of the ship’s crew, require Isaac’s various nifty, upgradable cutting tools in order for them to be eliminated.

Before Alien: Isolation hit our screens, Dead Space was the perfect substitute for old-school survival horror. The required limb cutting instils both panic and preservation in equal measure. There are jump-scares and uneasiness aplenty, set against a bleak yet fantastic looking visuals. Possibly its greatest success is all this comes with a minimal plot, as the action does all the talking.

Zombi U

Zombi U was an early pleasant surprise for the Nintendo Wii U, and arguably the best non-Nintendo title to use the second-screen dynamic. Inevitably, it received a much bigger audience when it was ported to PS4 years later. Set in a zombie-apocalyptic London, you guide survivor after survivor through a Zombie-laden English capital with the hopes of escape. As you scrounge for weapons and health, you soon realise that to survive you need to avoid zombie combat as much as possible. When you die – and you will – you pick the trail up as a new character, with anything collected left where you previously bit the dust. Its a bleak, slower paced affair, with the feel of a George A. Romero movie. Only this time, you’re in it.

Oh, what’s that, no Resident Evil 2 remake, even with the featured image as a nod? Red herring! I am still yet to play it. What are your Halloween horror choices for this past spooky season?

Shenmue is Back (Again!) and Coming to a Small Screen Near You

The announcement comes after the release of Shenmue 3 only last year, which is unprecedented in of itself given the 18-year gap between Shenmue 2 and Shenmue 3.

Shenmue, Yu Suzuki’s revenge-driven, slow-burn saga that oddly encourages capsule toy and gambling addictions, is getting an anime adaption, courtesy of Crunchyroll and Adult Swim.

For Shenmue, this new production will only serve to boost a franchise popular both yesterday and today. The first Shenmue was released in 1999 for the short-lived but excellent Sega Dreamcast console, as did its sequel two years later. The demise of the Dreamcast, as well as Yu Suzuki’s departure from developer AM2 years later, meant the future of the franchise was up in the air since 2001. The successful Shenmue 3 Kickstarter campaign began back in 2015, the highest-funded video game project in its 11-year history, and was released in November last year.

The series tells the tale of teenager Ryo Hazuki, who, after witnessing his father’s murder at the hands on Lan Di, wishes to avenge his father’s death. It is an 1980’s-set journey that traverses the Far East, from Yokasuka in Japan, through Hong Kong and Guilin in China. Shenmue served as an open-world schematic for many video games that followed, and continues to do so to this day. The enveloped environments, including a day and night system, interaction with NPC (Non-Playable-Characters), daily schedules and free reign to explore at will, brought a living, breathing world at your fingertips.

This unprecedented animated project comes with series creator Yu Suzuki serving as executive producer, with One Punch Man’s Chikara Sakurai in the directing hot seat. The planned 13-episode series will be produced by Telecom Animation Film, responsible for the latest Lupin the Third series. The announcement comes after the release of Shenmue 3 only last year, which is unprecedented in of itself given the 18-year gap between Shenmue 2 and Shenmue 3. The announcement came out of Crunchyroll’s Crunchyroll Expo (CRX), which took place September 4-6. This will be the third collaboration between Crunchyroll and Adult Swim, following the announcements of both Blade Runner Black Lotus and Fena: Pirate Princess.

What are your thoughts on this one? To be honest, if there are forklifts, I am so on board with this.

Return to Championship Manager 01/02 Season 2 (19/20 Data) – February

“And so, to the transfer market. I think it is time to target the indifferent midfield. It needs an injection of attacking flair and sharpness”

THE OBJECTIVE: Chelsea want their title back. As all entitled Premier League clubs do.

THE CAVEAT: Chelsea are back in the transfer market.  But as before, any transfer bids must be accepted.

February. That treasured month of the year that was long associated, for all non-Arsenal fans anyway, with many a season’s demise for the Gunners. The Champions League is back. The League Cup final looms. The FA Cup hits crunch time. It’s all happening. For Chelsea, a new look side will enter the fray as the league season also enters the final third. And after all, its the final third that determines the outcome for all.

January Manager of the Month: Pep Guardiola

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Pep does it again. 4 wins and 2 draws (1 of which was against a certain plucky Chelsea side) resulted in City keeping top spot throughout January, as well as progression in the FA Cup. Pep’s side are as currently devastating as they are decisive.

December Player of the Month: Sadio Mane

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Liverpool’s Senegal forward has 18 goals for the season going into February. 7 of those came in January alone, including 2 in the 7-2 romp of Manchester United. Oof. An award never in doubt.

Premier League Fixture #25 – Wolves (Home)

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Boom. February starts with a bang. Batshuayi continues with his fine form, netting his 21st and 22nd goals of the season in just 25 games. I think Chelsea have found their star forward. Olivier Giroud continues his fine form also with his 15th of the season. Both target men are hitting top form at a great time. Ruben Neves, one of many January transfer dealings for Chelsea, namely from their opponents here, nets his first goal for the club, crowning the victory in the final moments.

Its another defeat that, with Sheffield United pulling off a much-needed victory of their own, pushes Wolves down into the relegation zone in their place.

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And that is the final action of Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo. In his place comes one of Barcelona’s most decorated players and manager – Luis Enrique!

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That storming win in the West Midlands means Chelsea keep up the pace on Bournemouth, who also win. What a season they are having. That aforementioned victory for The Blades means they leapfrog Aston Villa as well as Wolves. And while that is a massive step towards Premier League survival….

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…It appears that a new prospect was more tempting for manager Chris Wilder. Football can be a ruthless and opportunistic world. At the top, City have a tight one against Sean Dyche’s Burnley, but a win is a win. And it’s a win that puts them 7 points clear at the top as all sides reach their 24th fixture. 14 games to go, 42 points potentially up for grabs.

Speaking of ruthless, another manager loses the fight to keep his job. Mauricio Pochettino, with Spurs languishing in 10th on a mere 30 points, has been replaced with…

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..someone who has at least had a better season thus far. Bournemouth are currently 4 places higher, and 7 points better off. Howe’s win rate is among the top 6 for the season. But, they have also lost almost as many matches as they have won. The problem for both sides is defending, so it will be interesting to see how this develops. Given that the now-abandoned Bournemouth were in a much better position for a European place.

Premier League Fixture #26 – West Ham (Away)

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After an unbeaten January, it feels surreal enough to go a further 2 games unbeaten. Let alone win 2 in a row. This Chelsea side is hitting top form perhaps a little too late in terms of the Premier League. However, its perfect for the remaining cup competitions. The only blemish is the injury to top scorer Batshuayi. Nevertheless, this is away win number 5 of the season.

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So, its 2 weeks out for the Chelsea top scorer at such a key time. He will miss the home game against Spurs and the FA Cup 5th round tie against Aston Villa. But far more significantly he will miss both Champion’s League group stage ties against Borussia Dortmund.

Premier League Fixture #27 – Tottenham Hotspur (Home)

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Unfortunately, nothing to report here. Any dropped points at home can be considered a failure of sorts. Given Spurs were on the back foot throughout, with Hugo Lloris literally saving them from defeat, that narrative rings true once again. Looking on the bright side, its another point added to the tally. Next up is Dortmund at home.

Champions League Phase 2 Group A: Fixture #3 – Dortmund (Home)

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Unprecedented. Unthinkable. Unbelievable. What. A. Win. Dortmund are completely dominated from start to finish. Even with it being pulled back to 2-1 at one stage. Any other outcome simply wouldn’t have been right. It almost eclipses the 5-1 drubbing of Real Madrid, but this performance was better. 7 points from this tough group so far. Amazing.

Transfer ban feb 10Transfer ban feb 11

In more domestic news, Sheffield United have replaced the departed Chris Wilder with Lee Bowyer. Down on the coast, Bournemouth have hired Paul Lambert to fill the Eddie Howe void. Lambert is typically a more conservative manager, it will be interesting to see how much the Bournemouth dynamic changes at this crunch time of the season.

FA Cup Fifth Round – Aston Villa (Away)

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Phew. This was a close one. On the back of the tremendous Dortmund victory, Chelsea looked tired in this cup tie. But even with Christensen having to go off early on, Chelsea’s turn of the year resolve continues, with the incoming Pedro snatching a win at the death. We go on!

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As for the rest of the round, no replays and very few surprises. Newcastle’s woeful league campaign is masked as they proceed at the expense of Paul Lambert’s new side Bournemouth. Norwich’s rocking defeat at home to Championship side Fulham is the biggest shock of the round. Wycombe Wanderers of League One gave it a good go against Eddie Howe’s Spurs, but just lose out.

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It was inevitable. Man City are far and away the best team in the country, and are very unlikely to be caught in the league. But this is a different chance to have a small margin of bragging rights domestically. And just like that, it’s back to the Champions League.

Champions League Phase 2 Group A: Fixture #4 – Dortmund (Away)

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Another close one, with Lacazette’s second half double looking to have settled the tie. That is until five minutes from time, when Giroud pops up with his fifth goal in this Campions League campaign to salvage a point. Chelsea remain unbeaten with 2 games left and in pole position to qualify. Fuck yeah.

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Over in Spain, in the same group, Real Madrid unload on Shakhtar Donetsk after their 2 previous defeats. They could even afford for their self-proclaimed talisman Sergio Ramos to go off injured. To be fair, they were already 7-0 up, plus Shakhtar were already 5-0 down when they went down to ten men. A walk in the park for the competition’s most successful club.

Premier League Fixture #28 – Watford (Away)

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Jorginho has been in scintillating form, and this match was more of the same from him. A stunning free kick gave Chelsea the lead, and a brilliant by-line cross meant an easy headed goal for Giroud. Another man whose form cannot be understated. Batshuayi is back. His assist for Pulisic at the death capped another fine away win for the boys in blue.

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Elsewhere in the gameweek, Man City take another step to Premier League glory. Their easy 5-0 away win at West Ham is topped by Man Utd only managing a draw at home to Lee Bowyer’s Sheffield United, who are desperate for Premier League survival. Eddie Howe’s Spurs are gradually improving, and their win over Everton puts them just below his previous side Bournemouth. Liverpool maintain their chase for Champions League placing with their 17th win of the season, which keeps Arsenal at arm’s reach away from a similar placing. More good news for Chelsea, that.

Premier League Table, end of February

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Man City’s lead at the top grows to 9 points, and look unstoppable right now. February was indeed a month of some real progress for Chelsea. One place gained, with 10/12 points obtained. The Champions League placing gaps could be too much, but with 30 points up for grabs, it’s still possible. But it is certainly worth noting that Chelsea’s last defeat in the league was against Everton in December. That was 10 games ago. There are 10 games left. After utter inconsistency, we finally have consistency. Now more than ever, there is no room for complacency. See you next month.

Catch-up on what you’ve missed here:-

August September October November December January

Championship manager and its fan made updates are available as freeware from http://www.champman0102.co.uk/  

For this blog the October 2019 data update was used.

 

 

 

Return to Championship Manager 01/02 Season 2 (19/20 Data) – January Transfer Bonanza!

“And so, to the transfer market. I think it is time to target the indifferent midfield. It needs an injection of attacking flair and sharpness”

THE OBJECTIVE: Chelsea want their title back. As all entitled Premier League clubs do.

THE CAVEAT: CHELSEA CAN BUY PLAYERS AGAIN. Any transfer bids must be accepted.

Following the decision last month to reduce Chelsea’s transfer ban, we’re back in the transfer market once again. Time to refresh and replace in order to contest some silverware. Hang on tight.

December Manager of the Month: Pep Guardiola

Guess who is back, back again. How many times is that now, Pep?

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After beginning the month with a 2-2 draw against local and title rivals Manchester United, six straight wins followed. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

December Player of the Month: Moise Kean

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Dancing aside, Kean has been on fine form for the blue side of Merseyside. Key performances include, naturally, his 2-goal man-of-the-match performance in the win against Chelsea.

And so, to the transfer market. As close as November I was thinking of hunting for a new striker, but Michy Batshuayi really has hit form since then, with 6 goals just in the last month. I think it is time to target the indifferent midfield. It needs an injection of attacking flair and sharpness.

Unfortunately, and inexplicably, Chelsea have been left were a mere £1.25m to spend on players. What happened? Wages happened, along with 2 or 3 major contract renewals. £40m came in, but just shy of £40m also went out. Including recieved transfer fees.

Now at first glance this looks like a disaster. If the team cannot be strengthened, then a disappointing season is surely on the cards. However, with the squad having depth in numbers, its time to offload the stagnant for some more vibrant talent. Championship Manager style. But first, back to the football.

Premier League Fixture #21 – Leicester (Away)

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Finally some resilience. Despite being pegged back by Pereira’s penalty in the first half, Chelsea kept up the pace with the one-time leaders of the Premier League throughout. Having being second best against most sides above them this season, this is a sign of Chelsea’s capability. Now just to hopefully add some quality too.

Transfer Funds Required

The problem this season has been goals. As mentioned before, Michy Batshuayi’s place is cemented with a great run in the first team so far. But he needs help. Pedro is on and off, Pulisic only seems to have a decent game from time to time. But furthermore, some of the younger players with high value could be the key. After all, I won’t be buying anyone with just £1 million in the bank.

First let’s take a look in the reserves. Old Antonio Conte favourite Victor Moses is still at the club and I wasn’t the only one that didn’t realise it. He is rated at a cool £7 million too. Unfortunately in Championship Manager you have to be ruthless, so on the transfer list he goes. Marco Van Ginkel is one of Chelsea’s many European youth purchases, joining the club at just 20 years of age. After a career-threatening anterior cruciate ligament injury, the major of Van Ginkel’s Chelsea career has been on loan at other clubs. Again, a handsome valuation of £5m will help towards first team reinforcements. Both are listed for sale, with immediate interest from Wolves and Tottenham respectively.

But what about the first team? I look at Callum Hudson-Odoi, a great youngster no doubt, but that £12m valuation just screams ‘sale’ to me. He simply hasn’t performed to the standard required. So, on the list he goes. Ross Barkley is another under-performer who will be shown the door for the right fee. Given the current state of Chelsea’s season, the managerial position is definitely on the line. There is still Champions League qualification up for grabs. There is still an FA Cup to win. There is still the Champions League itself to win. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

And now, it’s time for the FA Cup run to begin.

FA Cup Third Round – Burnley (Away)

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As soon as youngster Dwight McNeil is shown a red card for a dangerous two-footed lunge on Christian Pulisic, with Batshuayi putting away the subsequent penalty, this FA Cup third round tie is plain sailing for Chelsea. Marcus Alonso comes in and bags himself the cherry atop an easy third round victory. And now back to transfer news….

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And it isn’t the good kind. Olivier Giroud, a somewhat peripheral figure, yet useful, figure this season, could be on his way to the other part of north London. It wouldn’t be a popular move for sure, given the number of years spent at Arsenal.

Transfer ban dec 4

Or not, as the Frenchman quickly clarifies. This doesn’t happen very often in Championship Manager, but with some big games to come, it is a welcome decision by the forward.

Transfer ban dec 5

Spurs also tried a move for the transfer-listed Ross Barkley, with similar results. What a steaming pile of Hotspur.

Transfer ban dec 6

There is success for Spurs however with Marco van Ginkel. Off he goes to north London. Did Spurs have any players in the first place?

Transfer ban dec 18

Now it’s Chelsea’s turn. Time to inject some new blood and crank things up. Wolves’ Ruben Neves is hopefully one that is capable. At just over £6m, its a chance worth taking.

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Tottenham’s back again, this time for another out of favour midfielder, Danny Drinkwater. Despite winning the Premier League with Leicester, Danny’s career has nosedived ever since, and regular football just hasn’t happened for him. Hopefully this move to Spurs will work for all parties. It certainly does for Chelsea’s transfer balance.

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Another sale, this time of reserve starlet Reece James. A cool £4 million in the bank. Thank you to the blue side of Merseyside.

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Following the formality at Burnley, Chelsea next face a home tie against League One opposition in Ipswich Town later in the month. Hopefully a good chance to proceed further. And now, back to some actual football.

Premier League Fixture #22 – Manchester City (Home)

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A big fixture against the league’s form side. Chelsea were so, so close to getting the win. Man City found their saviour in Sergio Aguero with just a few minutes to go. Proof that one goal is often never enough.

Back to transfer news, a quick check on expiring contracts prompted a punt on another Wolves midfielder, Joao Moutinho. Instrumental in getting Wolves into the Premier League, and ensuring they have remained there, Moutinho has opted to move to the blue side of London from next season. Chelsea’s midfield is looking stronger day by day.

Transfer ban dec 12

Transfer ban dec 13

And what of Tottenham? Following bids on various Chelsea players, a further surpise emerged in that Dele Alli showed up on the interested transfer listings. Upon further investigation it appears Dele is having an awful time. Out of action, out of favour and now, out of Tottenham. Dele Alli is now a Chelsea player.

Premier League Fixture #23 – Brighton (Home)

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Batshuayi’s form could not have hit at a better time. Brighton might not be the strongest opposition, but putting teams to bed has been a problem for Chelsea all season. A hat trick for the Belgian secures a dominant home win. Let’s hope for more wins than draws as the season hits the final 15 games.

Transfer ban dec 17

Back to transfer developments, and it looks like more money for the Chelsea transfer kitty. Wolves have come in for the transfer listed Victor Moses. The bid was of course reluctantly accepted….

Transfer ban dec 15

…and splashed on Everton’s Lucas Digne almost immediately. The left back position hasn’t been secured by anyone consistently this season, so some major competition can only be a positive step.

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The squad is looking transformed already. Certain signings are also resonating with the rest of the squad also. Positive vibes all around. An its about to get better…

Transfer ban dec 20

Hudson-Odoi was the first player placed on the transfer market in this window. His £10m price tag seemed a bit much, and was left as a hopeful money earner. Now it has come in big. Thank you AC Milan.

Transfer ban dec 21

BREAKING NEWS: Tottenham confirm they have officially lost the plot with a counter offer of £12.25 million for Callum Hudson-Odoi. The player decides to stay in London, with close to an additional £3m going into Chelsea’s bank. Booyah.

Transfer ban jan keane

And so comes a final signing. With the departure of Rudiger earlier in the season, a cool £5m on England international Michael Keane should help bolster the defensive line nicely. I think Chelsea might be ready.

New Squad Tactics

Transfer ban Jan new tatics

Now that is looking much better in terms of balance. As the season has progressed Mason Mount has emerged as the partner for Jorginho, who sometimes steps in Kante’s role when he is unavailable. Batshuayi and Giroud are on form up front, and Alli loves the number 10 role. Things are looking up.

Premier League Fixture #24 – Bournemouth (Away)

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Blimey. What a start for Deli Alli. Within 20 minutes of his first appearance as a number 10, he is off the mark for Chelsea. Despite the topsy-turvy score-line this was a match Chelsea were always in control of, and more importantly, winning. A month unbeaten for the boys in blue.

FA Cup Fourth Round – Ipswich Town (Home)

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Another easy cup victory. Another 4 goals too. Good to see defenders getting a share of the spoils too. Onto the next round against Aston Villa!

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Transfer Round Up

To start out with the disappointment of having virtually no transfer money, and concluding with the signing of 4 key players could really turn the season around.

Transfer ban jan players out

What of the departures? With so much sale activity, the return of Ross Barkley to Everton was completely missed. £82m raised, and just £24.5m spent. I’d say that’s pretty good business.

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Elsewhere, across the globe, the Inter-American cup, otherwise known as the Copa Libertadores, came to its conclusion. River Plate came up trumps after a penalty shootout against Monterrey.

Premier League Table, end of January

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2 big wins and 2 good draws opens a gap between the top 7 and everyone else. Chelsea are by no means going to win the Premier League this season. But 5th is now only a 4-point gap. Hopefully Chelsea will also finally get that 10th win of the season.

At the top, City continue to dominate. The battle for 2nd is more interesting, with just 3 points between 3 teams. At the bottom, Newcastle looked doomed with just 2 wins all season. But somehow they are only 6 points from safety. Relegation zone mainstays Southampton and Sheffield United remain in trouble, with Wolves and Villa perilously close to the bottom also.

14 games to go. 42 points up for grabs for all. With the return of European competition also, its a make or break month for a new-look Chelsea. Until next time, TTFN!

Catch-up on what you’ve missed here:-

August September October November December

Championship manager and its fan made updates are available as freeware from http://www.champman0102.co.uk/  

For this blog the October 2019 data update was used.