Sidenote 2: How naive I was. How optimistic I was about my chances of having enough free time last week to sort this bad boy out. Sadly I’ve not so it’s going to be another week before we can kick off 23/24. I’ll try and fit an extra mini-sode in this week but again it depends on how busy this week is!
Sidenote: I had the last minute idea of doing self-assessment scores out of 10 for the season (One each for club and country) but at the risk of demolishing my self esteem I’d also like you to cordially invite you all to RATE US. Let me know how you’d rate our performance this year and maybe we’ll make a yearly thing of it. Also daily episodes back on Monday!
I open the door to my Auxerre flat, sling my trusty grey coat on the nearest armchair, step over the stagnant paddling pool, walk into my bedroom and collapse on the bed. This season has been interesting, frustrating, gratifying, but it’s been fucking exhausting at times. Losing Ba straight off the bat was a headache, losing Aguilar a short while later wasn’t ideal, Aidir’s lethal goal-drought/broken-leg combo had me on the ropes and losing Andre and Doucouré to broken ankles and Crouch to Hull had me on the verge of meltdown. Was there a point where I doubted my team’s ability? Yes. Was there a point where I doubted my own ability? Absolutely. But in the end, I can call this season an unquestionable success on both the domestic and International fronts. Let’s have a look back on year 7.
Honours: European International League Champions
Record: W8 D1 L1
Key Players: Djibril Sidibé, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Thomas Lemar, Paul Pogba, Kylien Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann
Highlight: France 5-1 Portugal in the EIL Final
Lowlight: Netherlands 3-1 France in the EIL Division A Group 1
It’s weird, here we are a year down the line and I’m still not sure that the magnitude of having the France job has hit me yet. I mean, it’s France! Reigning World Champions France! And yet my mind has been 90% on my club side this year, with the National Team job very much playing second fiddle. All in all I can’t complain with the year I’ve had with this team of global all-stars. We drew a friendly against Austria with the second string in my second game in charge and we lost against the Netherlands, which taught me that I might not be able to attack in every single game we play, but apart from that most of the year’s been a breeze. I think we can agree that the Italy game was our toughest challenge, but in my opinion 2023/24 is going to be much more educational, when we’ll presumably have to let some old favourites go, bring through some fresh blood and top it all off with a trip to the Euros. I can’t wait.
Franjo’s Self-Assessment Score for France 2022/23
8/10 – Pretty much did as well as we could have, albeit with very few actual hurdles. Probably could’ve done better bringing through the next crop of players.
Association de la Jeunesse Auxerroise
Final Position: 17th
Record: W15 D7 L23
Key Players: Xavier Lenogue, Baptiste “Captiste” Aloé, Mamadou Doucouré, Loïc Goujon, Arturo Vidal, Abdoulaye Sissako, Lamine Fomba, Phil Foden
Highlight: Getting a penalty shootout away from the Coupe de la Ligue Final is up there, but for me it’s the fightback from 1-4 down to draw 4-4 with Zlatan’s Lyon
Lowlight: Auxerre 1-5 FC Sochaux-Montbé
Winning the EIL was fantastic, but keeping Auxerre in Ligue 1 is the achievement that I’m most proud of from this season. Goal droughts, tantrums, some tactical… Snafus… And a couple of horribly unfortunate injury pileups looked certain to drag us straight back to Ligue 2, but a few performances of pure class towards the end of the season inspired by the likes of Captiste, Zoun, Brahim Ferhat and big Phil Foden lifted us just 3 points clear of the mire with an entire game to spare.
Somewhat surprisingly and pleasingly, Lamine Fomba is voted the Fans’ Player of the Season with almost half of the votes. I almost expected Ruben Aguilar to be voted the top dog once again in some kind of protest, but Lamine is probably as worthy of winning the award as anyone. He’s not had as much game time as he might have as we’ve been quite flush with central midfielders that have performed well, so he’s been behind the likes of Vidal, Goujon and Sissako in the pecking order. When he has played he’s been good and he’s even helped us to a couple of key results, with his equaliser in our 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain the obvious example. Trailing behind Lamine by some way are Goujon and Foden, while Sissako scoops the Goal of the Season award for his piledriver in our 1-0 CDLL Quarter Final win over Sochaux. Phil Foden wins the Young Player of the Season award and I’ll get behind that. He’s one of these players that I sometimes forget is as young as he is, because he’s become so crucial to this Auxerre side at just 22. What I can’t quite wrap my head around though is how Fabian McCarthy picks up the Signing of the Season award. Granted he had a 50/50 chance, with only he and Vidal being signed this season, but I don’t mind admitting that my record signing, from what I’ve seen so far, might be my worst in all my 7 years as a manager. In 25 appearances, 11 of which were off the bench, he’s registered a single assist and has offered little to the midfield going either backwards of forwards. Yes he had a period of decent form before Christmas but then AFCON got in the way, then his injury and he never really got to carry it on. The good news is that he’s 20 years old, so hopefully he’s not even begun to show me what he’s capable of and will prove me wrong in the coming season. The Team of the Season holds a couple of surprises too: Vidal’s left out in favour of Goujon, who has been terrific to be fair, and Zoun makes an appearance on the left wing with Ferhat picked as the central striker. I’ve heard talk among the backroom staff that I might be a bit harsh on my evaluations of Zoun from time to time, but there’s no doubt he’s put in some important performances for us this season.
Nathan Andre finished as our top goalscorer with 9 goals, 8 of which were scored by the end of November. How long ago that France call up seems now. I’ve still got high hopes for Nathan though and now that he’s back from his broken ankle, I want to get him a full pre-season and really watch him flourish next year. Lamine Fomba was our highest rated player, so good choice fans, while Phil Foden registered the most assists with 6. Bizarrely, Florian Ayé was our tidiest passer in the 12 fleeting appearances he made, while Sissako, Captiste, Fomba, Foden and Andre all picked up 3 Player of the Match awards apiece. Goujon and Samba were shown 12 yellow cards each but they’re tough tackling lads and I’ve got no problem with that. Faouzi Hikem however is still in my bad books for his 2 red cards, the latest of which might have cost us our Ligue 1 status.
Last year I had a lot of fun pouring over the league’s stats and seeing where Auxerre ranked in each category. My inner nerd delighted in seeing which particular areas we’d beaten the competition in. This year I’ve had less fun with that, but let’s start by looking at the positives: We’ve actually had the 3rd most possession in the league (54.34%) behind just PSG and Monaco, we’ve completed the 4th most passes (17421) and had the 4th most shots on target (254). Also just like last year we’ve been quite good in the air, winning the 4th most headers (1970) and scoring the 5th most goals from corners (7).
There is however a flip-side, as you’d expect. Some of these stats I don’t mind too much because as we’ve covered, I prefer a certain type of footballer and this certain type of footballer commits a metric shit-tonne of fouls, so true to form we’ve committed the 5th most fouls (475) and received the 5th most yellows (73).
Then you’ve got the less excusable stats, such as:
Goals conceded – 20th in the League (71).
Goals conceded from corners – Joint 18th in the League (8).
Goals conceded from indirect free kicks – 19th in the League (7). Remember when I said we’d been quite good in the air?
Clean Sheets – Joint 17th in the League (5).
But in my defence, we did have the smallest net transfer spend in the League, actually making £587k in transfer fees thanks to certain individuals that have run the club into the fucking ground over the last decade or so and made signing players a rarer occurrance at Auxerre than Halley’s fucking Comet. We were also the team with the 3rd smallest wage budget (£9.54M), above Ajaccio and some way above Bourg, who managed to finish 15th on an absolute pittance. Fair play to them, they keep impressing.
There’s not much to speak about with regard to individual stats – It’s been hard for me this year to pick out a single player who’s had the most impact on the team as it really has been a kind of “All hands on deck” season with everyone mucking in. I have however scraped the barrel enough to pick out a couple of stats worthy of recognition: Brahim Ferhat, who I’ve been irresponsibly reliant on for a lad of his age, has made the 7th most key passes in the league (37) and the man who I’m starting to think could be my assistant one day, Captiste, has made the 3rd most key headers (109).
But speaking of individual accolades, it’s time for the big one. The Second Annual Franjo Award For Unappreciated Excellence. I’ve mentioned how difficult I’ve found it to pick one outstanding candidate from this season and it seems that you’ve shared my struggle on this, with some lobbying for players like Lenogue, Fomba and Zoun to make it onto the shortlist (In retrospect, Fomba at least is a no-brainer and should’ve made it on), while poor Isaac Sohna failed to win a single vote. I’m probably going to make the criteria for next year’s vote a bit different so that people can vote for players that I personally haven’t appreciated enough, or maybe I’ll make it a different award altogether. Anyway, here’s how the votes for the SAFAFUE ended up:
0% – Isaac Sohna
2.7% – (Other) Mamadou Doucouré
5.4% – (Other) Lamine Fomba
8.1% – Arturo Vidal
16.2% – (Other) Xavier Lenogue
18.9% – Phil Foden
But the winner… Sorry, the winners with 24.3% of the votes apiece are Abdoulaye Sissako and Captiste! Captiste looked set to scoop the award but an eleventh hour vote took Abdoulaye up to level pegging with our skipper. I did actually have a trophy made this time but I really didn’t expect a tie and I think it’d be unfair to only give it out to one of them… So in lieu of that I’m over the moon to be able to present the 2 winners with… Erm… Hang on… £4.78 in loose change and a dib dab! Lads, that’s to share. OK? To share. I don’t want to hear stories about Captiste hogging the lot by threatening the hard working midfielder with force lightning or… You know… The push one.
Franjo’s Self-Assessment Score for Auxerre 2022/23
7/10 – Staying up was the goal and we got there. Eventually.
Santos Football Club
Oh Boebie. I can only really echo my sentiments from last year, it pains me to see Santos miss the opportunity they had to establish themselves as a top half club. After only spending £69k of the initial £1.5M I paid for the Santos 4 after my departure, they’ve been sell-to-buy this year, spending £160k and bringing in £200k. I imagine that last Summer’s mass exodus didn’t help either, with Sinbad, Visser, Roscoe, Diale, Lark, Gogotya and Japhta all let go on free transfers. I know a couple of them are getting on a bit but that’s half the bloody Santos team! And why aren’t they spending money on replacements?! Where’s the Arteta money gone, Bill?! I mean… No, not that. Sorry, that just slips out sometimes. Anyway, on the positive side Captain Komo still proudly wears the armband for his boyhood club, who did in all fairness improve on last year’s 12th place finish. By 1 place. I still want more though, Santos. Maybe next year.
The Principality of Liechtenstein
Does anyone want to take a guess at how Liechtenstein have done this year? They actually started OK with back to back draws in the EIL Division D against Belarus, the Faroe Islands and Armenia, before a home win over the Faroe Islands, who they actually ended up finishing above. Sadly though that’s where it all went predictably downhill for the poor Liechtensteiner squad: 6 games played, 4 goals scored, 15 conceded, 6 defeats. Their next game’s in September. In the Euro 2024 Qualifiers. Against France.
Górniczy Klub Sportowy Katowice
Tomasz Mazurkiewicz’s men have had a good season after last year’s disappointment. A completely respectable 5th place finish in the league, just behind Dennis Lawrence’s Jagiellonia, got them into the Championship Group. They finished 8th out of 8 in the end, but still. They’ve definitely established themselves as a Lotto Ekstraklasa side now after 5 years in the division and that’s genuinely good to see. Dennis by the way held his side in 4th place in the Championship Group, just barely missing out on a Europa League place. Did I mention that I taught him everything he knows?
Sport Clube Angrense
Angrense have had a bit of a disappointing season really, by the high standards that they’ve set themselves with 2 5th place finishes in 3 years. Jorge Vieira’s men ended up in 9th, which is definitely respectable but disappointing all the same. There’s few things I’d enjoy more than seeing Os Heróis climb up to the Liga Nos and entertain the likes of Sporting, Porto and Benfica but for now they’re bobbing about a bit in the top half of the 2nd tier. Let’s have another 5th place finish next year please lads, or maybe even higher.
I think it’s fair to say that Höllviken have stagnated somewhat, isn’t it… I’ve officially run out of things to say about them at this point, but again I’m hoping that they’ll some day find their way back…
In fact I do have something to say about Höllviken actually and I’m in danger of going off on a bit of a rant, because I pride myself on the success that my former teams have enjoyed since my departure. I’ve been responsible with their finances, their infrastructures and their youth set ups because I don’t want to just run a team into the ground for personal short term success, so it absolutely does my head in that Höllviken have gone the other way. So I tell you what: If they haven’t resurfaced to the 3rd tier by the time I’ve enjoyed success and achieved my goals in the World’s top leagues, I’ll go and get the bastards myself.