Crazy Gang | Part 19 | More Final Day Drama

These were exciting times at AFC Wimbledon as The Dons backed up up their maiden Premier League title by finishing runner-up in both the league and the Champions League and winning their first-ever domestic cup.

The summer saw centre-back Daniel Pacheco and midfielder Gary Bazerque become the 2nd and 3rd AFC Wimbledon players to represent England. And Bazerque scored on his debut, despite only scoring 2 in 83 games for us!

We didn’t need to do too much work in the transfer market. The main objective was to keep our best players, which was tested by Chelsea bidding £100m for star striker Eli. But we eventually tied the Brazilian down to a new 5-year deal on £250k-a-week. We did move on right-back Carlos Alves, who was 28 and in the final year of his contract, to PSG for £19.5m and Benjamin Sesko, who was always injured, to Rennes for £6.75m.

We then smashed the club transfer record to replace Alves, spending £79m on Bilbao’s Javier Santamaría. And we added another Brazilian wonderkid to replace Sesko as 18-year-old Alan Kardec signed for £17.75m from Botafogo.

And this is how the 4-4-fucking2 looks with the new-look Crazy Gang team. We have slightly tweaked the tactic with an inverted winger on the right and Santamaría playing as a wing-back.

Another tough Premier League start

Despite coming 1st and 2nd in the last 2 seasons, the media still only have us to finish in 9th, at 50/1 to win the title. For some reason, Leeds – who had a tycoon takeover in 2028 – are favourites at 5/2, followed by Chelsea, Liverpool, Man UFC and Man City. And our board still only wants top half.

We again had a really tough start to the season. We began at Chelsea and played superbly with Eli scoring early on, Díaz making it 2 before the break and Eli doubling his tally for a 3-1 win. Captain Valentin Schumann-Blaschke nicked a 1-1 draw at home to Man City before Díaz scored twice in a 3-2 loss at champions Liverpool. Then winger Dan Grayson and a late strike by midfielder Paulo Vinicius – just his 2nd in 56 games for the club – downed Spurs 2-1.

Theo Hernández became the oldest goalscorer in Wimbledon history when he scored a penalty aged 37 years and 358 days in a 2-0 win over Southampton. At the other end of the spectrum, exciting winger Luciano Da Luz scored his first goal to nick a 2-1 win over Norwich. That was part of a strong start to the season that saw us 2nd after 10 games – but 7 points back from Liverpool, who’d won 9 and drawn 1!

Our form was also pretty relentless, only losing at home to Newcastle in the run-up to Christmas – including a 1-0 home win over Man UFC in mid-December. And we finished the year with a 2-0 win at West Ham courtesy of Vinicius and Viní Jr.

That left us still in 2nd with just 2 defeats, but 4 points back from Liverpool who have a game in hand. And there’s a close battle behind as Leeds and Newcastle have also only lost 2 games and there’s just 7 points separating 2nd from 7th.

Champions League group

As beaten finalists last season, we fancied our chances against anyone but were still only rated at 50/1 to win the Champions League. And we got a relatively favourable draw alongside Porto, Dortmund and FC Midtjylland.

We began with a trip to Denmark and eased to a 3-0 win led by Eli and Díaz goals. But that was nothing compared to a 5-1 thrashing of Porto with goals by Díaz, Bazerque, Eli, Pacheco and midfielder Juanjo Hernando. That was backed up by Viní Jr. rescuing a 1-1 in Dortmund then Eli, Díaz and Alan Kardec’s first goal for the club sealing qualification with a 3-1 win over the Germans. I fully rotated in Portugal and we lost 2-1 but sealed the group by beating Midtjylland 3-1.

The year ended with individual honours as Pacheco was named FIFA Best U21 Men’s Player, maintaining our dominance of the award after Eli and VSB won the previous 4. While a more unexpected honour saw Andrés Araújo – who we signed for £3.5m in 2028 – come 3rd in the FIFA Best Men’s Goalkeeper award behind Chelsea’s Donnarumma and PSG’s Costa.

Chasing down leaders Liverpool

2036 began with a huge game as we welcomed 3rd-place Leeds to Plough Lane. And we came out on top as Pacheco celebrated his latest award followed by a Hernández penalty, with Leeds only mustering 1 shot on target. We took that into a 4-2 thumping of Norwich, with Pacheco scoring again alongside an Eli hat-trick, and Pacheco (a centre-back!) scored for a 3rd successive game to nick a 1-0 over Everton, in which Hernández became the oldest player in club history aged 38 years and 105 days. And the veteran left-back celebrated that with both goals from the penalty spot in a 2-1 win at home to West Ham!

A strong run of 9 without defeat unsurprisingly ended with a 3-1 loss at Man City. But we bounced back in style by thrashing Villa 5-2 away led by another Eli hat-trick that took him to the top of the league goals chart. And that proved to be the only defeat through to the start of March, when we sat just 4 points back from Liverpool with 10 games remaining.

Champions League knockouts

Our mission to reach another final was dealt a tricky blow as we faced Atlético in the first knockout round. We went to Madrid first and drew a pretty dire game 0-0 with Hernández getting sent off. But an early Pacheco red card us as we lost the home leg 2-1 to exit the competition early.

Potential title showdown?

That disappointment meant we could put all our eggs into the league basket. Going into the final 10 games, the Premier League looked like a two-horse race between ourselves and Liverpool. We trailed them by 4 points and had left the rest of the top 7 behind over the last 2 months.

We began the run-in at Man UFC, for whom Ryan Gravenberch scored a 93rd-minute equaliser for a 2-2 draw. But we fired back led by the magical Eli, who scored a new club record 4 goals in a 4-0 thrashing of Bristol City only to get injured on international duty. And his replacement Alan Kardec scored in a 3-0 win over Sheffield United, in which VSB assisted all 3 goals, on the same day Liverpool got thumped 4-1 at Chelsea – reducing the gap to just 3 points.

Pacheco scored again to earn us a point at Newcastle before a brilliant late Alan Kardec double – the second a superb header from a Hernández cross – earned a massive 2-1 comeback win at Arsenal. And the youngster scored again alongside a Díaz double as we edged past Forest 3-2.

That took us level on points with 4 games remaining. But Liverpool had a game in hand due to their European commitments, which they drew 1-1 at home to Man City. Hilariously, our former player Rik Martin scored an own goal to hand us a 1-0 win at Spurs while Liverpool hammered Everton 5-1.

And that set up the biggest match in Plough Lane history as we welcomed Liverpool to southwest London trailing them by 1 point with 3 games remaining. Crucially, we had a full week of rest while Liverpool travelled to Barcelona in midweek. That showed as Liverpool looked pretty inept as did we through the first hour. But on 65 minutes, I tweaked the tactic to push higher up and counter-press, which had an immediate response as the returning Eli bounced on a loose ball to acrobatically volley home. I then made 2 subs, which also paid off as Viní Jr. cheekily chipped the keeper to double the lead. Liverpool got a goal back – to add to their 7 bookings! – but it wasn’t enough as we pulled off a massive victory.

Two games from glory

That vital win moved us top and 2 points clear with 2 matches to go. We had to visit Southampton then entertain Brighton and Liverpool welcomed Arsenal then went to relegated Burnley.

Gameweek 37: Southampton (12th, away): We got a flyer on the south coast as Pacheco headed home a VSB corner inside 5 minutes. And Díaz doubled the lead, heading home from a brilliant Grayson run and cross just before the break. Saints got one back straight after the break but Díaz swiftly sent Eli through for his customary goal then VSB crossed for his opposite winger Grayson to tap home a 4th. But our defence was all over the place, conceding 4 from 6 shots on target, but we held on for a 4-3 win. Liverpool also won, defeating Arsenal 2-0 through Alan Velasco and Youssoufa Moukoko.

Gameweek 38: Brighton (10th, home): And so it came down to this. A win at home to Brighton would confirm a 2nd title in AFC Wimbledon history.

We got a great start again as Grayson cut inside and curled beautifully into the top corner after 7 minutes and the winger doubled his tally on 33 minutes as his shot rebounded in off a defender. So we led 2-0 at the break and Liverpool were 1-0 up through a Trent Alexander-Arnold penalty. Brighton were playing well and had a couple of decent efforts threaten, only to find Araújo in imperious form. But we made sure of it in injury-time as Alan Kardec teed up Grayson to wrap up his hat-trick. While Liverpool inexplicably threw away a 2-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Burnley, making our result irrelevant.

AFC Wimbledon were Premier League Champions!!

We won the title by 4 points from Liverpool. We only lost 3 times all season and finished on 89 points, scoring 76 and conceding a joint-low 31. And we finished the campaign in stunning form, winning our last 6, 8 of the last 9, and only losing once since the start of December!

Eli was league top scorer for the second season in a row, scoring 26 in 32 despite an xG of just 14.85 – finishing 6 clear of our former striker Sébastien Gassama at Forest. He also won English Players’ Young Player of the Year for the 2nd time in 3 years.

VSB broke the Premier League assists record, as his 17 surpassed the 16 of Velasco last season, and created the most chances (30) and attempted the most crosses with a ridiculous 538, which was 126 more than anyone else. Araújo won the Golden Glove with 18 clean sheets and bossed the goalkeeping stats, including saving 86% of shots he faced. While the impressive Santamaría made the most interceptions (178) and was 1 of 7 Wimbledon players in the league Team of the Year.

Season Review

This was another amazing season for AFC Wimbledon. The European exit allowed us to take advantage of some slip-ups and romp to our second title. We weren’t the only domestic surprise, however, as Championship side Ipswich beat Man City in the FA Cup Final!

Eli led the way with 29 goals in 40 appearances followed by Díaz, who was impressive as ever with 16 goals and 12 assists in 44 games. Goals-wise, they were followed by Grayson (8), Alan Kardec and Pacheco (7), and old-timers Hernández and Viní Jr. (5). VSB led our assists chart with 19 in 43 and Grayson and Hernando chipped in with 7 each. Eli also had the best average rating of 7.39 followed by VSB and Díaz (7.35), Santamaría (7.22), Pacheco (7.17) and Araújo (7.14), who kept a new club record 20 clean sheets.

Can we defend our title and see a stronger showing in the Champions League next season? Join us next time to find out!

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