Aswijan Assignment: Part 19 – Dream Debuts

Welcome back to the Aswijan Assignment, a Football Manager 2020 save in the fictional country of Aswijan – using a database created by @Chilled_Moose.

Khaliza Unidi had a huge blowout transfer window in the summer of 2023, with the club splashing £165 million on 19 new players. If you haven’t read about our transfer activity yet, then catch up here.

The 2023/24 season didn’t begin in the best way as Calvin Stengs was ruled out for 4 weeks with a groin injury. However, on the pitch, the opening day took us to Talat and one of our exciting new recruits had a dream debut to remember.

That man was attacking midfielder Ulrich Awono, who got our season up and running with a ridiculous 30-yard free-kick. Another new boy Thaaqib Solar set up Ryong Nieminen for a second then Awono doubled his talent with a fierce shot from the edge of the box – making it three goals in eight minutes. Nieminen added his second after the break after great play by 16-year-old academy graduate Adalardo Ariztia, standing in for Stengs, who himself had a dream debut with an 8.3 rating.

A 0-0 draw at home to Hadria followed, then I realised why all the teams at the top of the table were so many games behind us last season. We had a one-month gap between league games with various cup competitions and an international break.

Our first game back saw me trial an interesting new tactic that seemed to work quite nicely. We romped to a 3-0 win over Chaouka Warriors with Awono putting in a great performance, Nieminen scoring, and Ilaix Moriba scoring his first goal and grabbing an assist.

We then took the formation to champions Aldaia but didn’t get much of a chance to test it out as left-back Wilfrid Ganim idiotically got sent off after 22 minutes. That meant we had to go defensive and unsurprisingly went behind after 40 minutes. Aldaia dominated but didn’t take their chances and then, for some unknown reason, handed us an equaliser like this… And that meant a very creditable 1-1 draw at the champions with 10 men.

We then welcomed Fari to town and, after having 11 shots, we somehow allowed them to score with their first shot on 33 minutes. But we came flying back with braces from both Awono and Moriba. It was an impressive comeback and much deserved, as we had 28 shots to their 2, but the Awono and Moriba goals need to be seen!

Unsurprisingly, Moriba and Awono came first and third in Libando di la Mes (player of the month) and first and second in the Iuvento Libando di le Mes (young player) for September.

Gustavo Assuncao scored a screamer to put us ahead at third-place Wabani, who equalised with 5 minutes remaining, which was a little annoying. But we got back to winning ways with a solid 3-1 win at home to SC Marrador thanks to Nieminen, Ganim’s first senior goal and another from Assuncao – who made it 2 in 2 having never scored in his first 45 matches for the club!

We then had a mad game at Aswijan Siti, in which Ganim got injured after 5 minutes and we went behind after 8 minutes. But an Awono penalty and a Solar goal put us ahead after 26 minutes only for Siti to equalise within 8 minutes. Siti took the lead just after half-time but we somehow nicked a point through substitute Michele Mari in the last few minutes.

But we got back on track with two consecutive 2-0 wins. First, Moriba inspired a home win over Hadria Oskat with a brace then a wonderful Awono free-kick opened the scoring at Hamjar before right-back Silvan Hefti rounded off a superb team move.

Stengs had been pretty quiet this season compared to his start to the previous campaign. But he stepped up at home to 4th-placed Breche 08 with a player of the match performance by scoring the second in a 2-0 win, with the first coming from captain Adam Hemmingsen’s first goal of the season. And we could even afford for Awono to miss a penalty late on.

And Stengs was at it again with a goal and an assist in a magnificent comeback at Manouza. They took a first-half lead but substitute Mari got us level just after the hour mark. Hemmingsen got himself sent off on 81 minutes and I feared the worst, but the boys reacted fantastically as Stengs sent Mari through to fire us ahead then the striker returned the favour for Stengs to seal the deal.

In this match, 22-year-old striker Nieminen set Khaliza Unidi’s club record for most league appearances with 132, surpassing goalkeeper Nuhad Hu.

This took us to the top of the league unbeaten after 12 matches in Liga Regale, 1 point clear of Hadria and 5 ahead of champions Aldaia and Marrador FC.

Debut Champions League group

Khaliza’s first ever Champions League campaign saw us drawn in a relatively tough-looking group with Chelsea, Sevilla and SL Benfica.

We unsurprisingly lost in the opener at home to Chelsea, then our first match outside of Aswijan on this save took us to Benfica. Stengs celebrated that fact by scoring his first goal of the season inside 30 seconds and we played really well, also hitting the woodwork 3 times en route to securing a 1-0 win for our first ever points in Europe.

We lost 1-0 in Sevilla then returned the favour at home thanks to a goal from Nieminen, which put us second with two games to play. And a fantastic draw at Chelsea, thanks to Awono’s brilliant curled shot, left us a point clear of Benfica and Sevilla going into the final game against Benfica.

We struggled at home to Benfica and drew 0-0, which was a decent result as they had far more chances, but we had a goal very harshly ruled offside in the 86th minute. Annoyingly, Sevilla managed to beat Chelsea, which sent us into the Europa League.

We also played a crazy Copa Populare game in which we beat Wabani 5-3. Dan-Axel Zagadou scored twice, they scored two out of nowhere to equalise, then we took control courtesy of 16-year-old left winger D’Ambrósio Balkan scoring his first two goals for the club.

The team’s league and European performances saw the Khaliza Unidi board offer me a new contract, which more than doubled my wage to £21,000-per-week for 4 years until 2027.

Join us next time as we push on into our second season with Khaliza Unidi in the 2023/24 campaign.

I hope you’re enjoying this save in the fictional nation of Aswijan. If you have any questions or want more info on specific players in the squad, just let me know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter.

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