Trotters Talent: Part 48 – Cruel Injury Hampers Brilliant Left-Back Signing

The summer of 2042 began by bidding farewell to two long-time Trotter Talents. Luke Johnson, who made 281 league appearances since coming through the Bolton Wanderers academy in 2030, and Luca Godden, who made 127 since 2033, both left the club when their contracts expired as they hadn’t performed and wanted ridiculous money.

We also had plenty of interest in our players as Chelsea came in with a £100 million for Martial Diaby. I demanded £200 million… and they offered it! So I was tempted but eventually decided to reject as he’s just too good to lose for any amount of money, which we don’t even need, especially to a divisional rival.

We did cash in on some players though, including academy product defender Logan Holtz, who went to Lille for a whopping £30.5 million. Temperamental left-back Edmundo Júnior kept demanding a new contract then refusing to sign one, so I flogged him to Juventus for £43.5 million, which made most of our squad angry. And centre-back José Jesús Martínez wasn’t as good as some of our other talents so he went to Stuttgart for £18 million.

Our focus on snapping up talents from youth intakes saw Benfica’s exciting winger Bruno Santos arrive for £800,000. We replaced Edmundo by signing AC Milan full-back Marco Brunori, who looks outrageously talented. I foolishly sent our best young striker, Myles James, on loan to Pisa then realised we had no backups, so I loaned in Atlético’s Jesús Garrido and AC Milan’s Andrea Lupi on deadline day and, to be fair, both look decent!

Away from the team, the board keeps removing money from our balance and placing it into “reserve investment funds.” This summer it deposited £318 million after depositing around £240 million two years ago, on top of the current balance of £849 million. Which seems a bit shady.

The major change for this season sees centre-back Juanjo Latorre return from his loan at Catania as the best defender at the club. So he’ll become a starter ahead of captain Lasse Hermansen or Gonzalo Pereyra, who turns 30 next summer when his contract expires and he wants £425,000-a-week! However, I’m undecided about whether to play one or two up front, so may jump between our 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-1-2 formations, but I’m leaning towards the latter.

The season began with the Charity Shield, in which Onur Kocaaslan gave us a great start with a brilliant header from a cross by Jack Barlow, now at right-back. West Brom levelled but right-back/winger Casemiro Gallas scored, created Kocaaslan’s second then got injured. And we lifted the trophy with a 3-1 win.

7th Premier League defence begins

For the third time in five years and fourth time in seven years, our Premier League season began away to Wayne Rooney’s Everton. Additionally, we began the season away from home for the ninth time in the last ten years! But no problem as Brunori got his first assist for the club by teeing up Diaby, who then created two goals for Kocaaslan in another 3-1 win.

Our first home game saw us miss a penalty and have a goal disallowed before Arsenal scored on 17 minutes. But another Kocaaslan brace turned things around before the break. He wrapped up a hat-trick with an outrageous chip before Dragan Andric, playing as an inside forward on the left, bagged his first of the season to seal a 4-2 win. That took our unbeaten home league run to 40 games!

We then visited Villa Park, which was the only ground we lost on last season. But not this time as Diaby scored four minutes after the break, Villa equalised with nine minutes remaining but home grown midfielder Jack Bickley sealed a dramatic late win in injury time. But we were poor at Derby, who’d also won all three games, as Kocaaslan rescued a 1-1 draw late on, which prompted a move to 4-3-1-2. In that new setup Bickley was at it again with a goal and assist as we breezed past Palace 3-0 with two assists from Brunori, who’s started life in Bolton superbly.

Star midfielder Germán Martínez had missed most of the season opening with injury. But he announced his return with two assists for Kocaaslan and an Adam Nolan screamer to down Leicester 2-0. And a third clean sheet on the bounce saw both strikers Andric and Kocaaslan score to ease past West Ham 2-0 away.

The week building up to Man United at home – in early October 2020 – saw me pass £100 million in total career earnings, which bagged me the “the Rich Get Richer” badge on Steam, which only 2.1% of FM21 players have! A tight game between the top two saw us edge it with 2.07 xG compared to their 0.64, but the game swung on Kocaaslan winning and converting a 74th-minute penalty. Another tough game followed as we went to Chelsea, who’d climbed above United into second. Kocaaslan scored early only for Chelsea to score twice against the run of play. But Bickley teed up Barlow for an absolute screamer of an equaliser and we were unlucky to draw 2-2.

Our strong start was rewarded with a bumper new £300,000-a-week contract that will keep me at Bolton until 2047. And we celebrated that by battering Wolves 4-0 led by a genius performance by Martínez, who scored, got an assist and racked up 16 key passes for a 9.9 rating. He is phenomenal. And that win took us to a club record 25 games unbeaten in all competitions, going back seven months to March 2042.

But that was tested with a trip to Anfield. A quiet first half saw us defend well and Kocaaslan stabbed us ahead three minutes after the break only for Liverpool to score a lucky equaliser after an hour. They dominated us by 23 shots to 11 but we held on for 1-1.

Major long-term injury concern

Kocaaslan bagged his 150th goal for Bolton in a 3-0 win at Stoke in which Martínez bagged two more assists. Homegrown midfielders Andrei Olesk and Iwan Sinnott’s first goals of the season and a trademark Martínez screamer eased us past fifth-place Spurs 3-0.

Southampton at home saw us thanking goalkeeper Darlan for a superb free-kick save before first-half goals from Hermansen and Bickley, who won November player of the month, and late Kocaaslan and Sinnott strikes sealed a dominant 4-0 win. However, a major blow saw Brunori suffer a broken lower leg that could rule him out for the rest of the season. That forces us to move Barlow to left-back with Gallas coming in on the right.

We came from behind to beat Watford 3-1 thanks to an Andric brace and a first league goal for Ibrahima Touré. We lined up with a homegrown midfield trio of Sinnott, Nolan and Bickley and annoyingly lost Kocaaslan for four weeks to a knee ligament injury. We then welcomed fourth-place Man City and dominated with 19 shots to three but somehow had zero highlights all match! That certainly wasn’t the case as a trip to Newcastle pitted the lowest scorers against the top scorers and we maintained that record through an Andric double and a late Garrido strike.

Boxing Day saw us make the journey to bottom of the league Fulham without Martínez, who was conveniently “hit by flu” three days before Christmas, and six additional injuries and suspensions. But a brilliant Bickley pass put Touré through for the opener on 20 minutes before they had a man sent off just before half-time. We dominated and an Andric goal in he second half sealed an easy 2-0 win.

Two days later we welcomed West Brom to the Eddie Davies Arena amid heavy snow. Andric scored again on 15 minutes, which takes him to nine goals in his last ten games, Pereyra nodded home from a corner then Diaby and Bickley scored after the break to seal a 4-0 win.

That ensured we again made it halfway through the season unbeaten and enjoyed a seven-point lead over Chelsea, who are a further seven clear of Liverpool. Derby are the surprise package in fourth and City have slipped to seventh, while the bottom four look particularly bad this season.

Kocaaslan is the league’s top scorer with 14 goals despite missing a month with injury. Diaby has the most assists in the league with nine, followed by Bickley on eight. Martínez has the highest average rating of 7.48, but he has missed six games, and Andric has the most player of the match awards with five, followed by Martínez with four. While Darlan has a league-high 12 clean sheets.

Champions League group

We got a nice draw this year, with the biggest test being Borussia Dortmund alongside Club Brugge and Gimnástic de Tarragona. On a sidenote, the Spanish league has become really interesting with the likes of Sevilla, Valencia and Real Socieded getting relegated in the last four years!

We opened the group at home to Dortmund and conceded after 30 seconds but Brunori created goals for Diaby and Andric either side of half-time. A beautiful Andric flick and a late Nolan penalty rounded off a huge 4-1 win. We then travelled to Brugge, who scored before they even had a shot through an unlucky Pereyra own goal, but another Brunori assist saw Kocaaslan get us level before Diaby sealed a 2-1 win. Game three saw us welcome Gimnástic who, interestingly, snapped up Godden this summer! I made seven changes and it showed as we drew 1-1 then drew 2-2 in Spain.

We went behind early in Dortmund, an Andric double turned things around before half-time but more dodgy defending saw us lose 3-2. And that brought a 30-game unbeaten run to an end. The final game at home to Brugge came in the middle of a crazy run of league games so I made 11 changes but Garrido’s first Bolton goal, Olesk and a late third by 19-year-old midfielder Brandon Fava sealed qualification in second place.

And, unsurprisingly, we got a tough draw against Bayern Munich in the knockout stages. In other news, our youngsters again made it all the way to the Carabao Cup semi-final. They smashed the competition’s record for goals in a match as they beat Premier League side Wolves 6-4 in the quarters, including first Bolton goals for brilliantly named 17-year-old striker Rui Jerónimo, Latorre and Lupi and a sensational Adrian Jules solo strike. They’ll play Leicester in the semis while Liverpool and Chelsea face off in the other.

Join us next time to discover if Bolton can continue their domination of the Premier League as they chase and 8th title and if we can improve on recent Champions League efforts.

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