2001: An Ace Squad-yssey – Part 22: Shuffling the pack | @NTR9798

Hello! and welcome back to Italy, where Nick’s CM01/02 Aces desperately need to find some form from somewhere after getting off to a terrible start last week, but with upcoming games against some of Serie A’s top sides, it won’t be easy. Here’s Nick…

It seems as good a time as any to shuffle things and make a tactical tweak, so I’ve dropped a centre back for a defensive midfielder in another one of Nikolai’s creations, called “The Single Arrow 2332”. I don’t know if it’ll make any difference at all, but I’ll give it a go…

We begin in Europe, and a trip to Monaco. We ride our luck at times, and have Frey to thank for keeping us in it, but it’s three more points and another £750k in the coffers.

We’re back in league action at the weekend, and it’s a splendid return to winning ways at home Bologna. West and Aghahowa are back in the side due to the injuries and suspensions, and the Nigerian duo enjoy themselves.

We squeak past Roma in the cup. Victory gives away a penalty, which Frey saves. Selakovic puts us ahead, but our lead lasts all of two minutes. Thankfully we hold on though, and progress on away goals to face Torino next.

Off to Florence next, and we dominate the first half, but only go in for our oranges 2-1 up. The second half is a better one though, and the dynamic duo fill their boots to cap a five-star performance.

The next day, Fredrik Risp departs for Venezia on loan. I’m thinking a squad of 28 players may have been too many.

Anyway, another European night rolls around, and it takes us almost an hour to break down a stubborn Dinamo Kiev defence, but that boy Tsigalko seals a solid 2-0 win.

Just fantastic. Well, back comes Bakircioglü from his loan at Napoli. Maybe I’ll take back what I said about 28 players being too many.

Our resurgence continues against Parma, with Madeira making it nine goals in five games, and a solid man of the match performance at the back from Hofland. The win puts us seventh, but the board expect much higher.

We’re outplayed at Bari, but still manage to score against the run of play, and get a win. This was a midweek catch-up game, and the three points now moves us up to fifth, and on the same number of games played as the rest.

And then Lazio bring us back down to earth with a bump. On the plus side, Kennedy B gets a goal on his first start since returning from loan, and I mustn’t complain too much though, after the position we were in a month ago.

A hard-fought win at Old Trafford keeps us top of our group, three points ahead of Monaco and we play them next in our last game. West is man of the match again, and the fit-again N’Diaye will have a job getting his place back.

This’ll do nicely considering I was worried about losing my job not long ago…

Back to the Coppa Italia, and we run the first leg against Torino, but suffer two disallowed goals after Hersi’s strike. Just as well Torino didn’t bring their shooting boots with them today. We’ll face Napoli in the semis…

We play out a belter with table-topping Sampdoria. N’Diaye makes his first start after returning from injury, but lasts just eighteen minutes. We go behind, and then lead twice, only for the hosts to equalise both times, but Kim Källström finally gets the decisive strike fourteen minutes from time – a massive win.

Back to the treatment room for N’Diaye…

We’ve a better goal difference than Monaco, so as long as we avoid a heavy defeat, we’re ok. They’ve managed to hold onto all their prize assets in this save, two of which combine to send us to our only defeat of the group games.

That goal difference sure comes in handy in the end, as we get Zaragoza in the quarters, and Monaco get Juventus…

The tough league games keep coming, but so do the wins, as we get revenge on Inter for the Super Cup defeat. They may have Ronaldo, but we have a striker who’s so good, he doesn’t actually exist…

The second leg with Torino is a nervy affair, as they keep coming back at us, but Madeira and Tsigalko just keep on scoring, and our very own Duff Man chips in with one as well.

Another month, another award, and there’s further cause for celebration as Selakovic returns from three months out injured.

The old lady rocks up to round off the week’s action. The Hof gets us off and running before Hersi adds a double to give us a deserved win after a dominant display, in which N’Diaye gets man of the match on his return.

So after a somewhat disastrous start, we’re up to third after beating pretty much all of the big boys, we’re the top scorers, and our goals conceded is about par for the course, so there’s plenty to be i positive about. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much to change after making that tactical tweak, but I’m amazed at how much of a difference it has made.

So that about wraps up the second instalment of this season, do come back next week, as we reach the halfway point in the league season, and we’ve also got that cup semi final with Napoli, and champions league quarter final with Zaragoza. Ciao!

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