FM18 | Letou Choose | FA Cup Final Review

On Saturday my Swansea side competed in the FA Cup Final against Stoke City and there’s no other way of saying this, we lost.

Some time ago I recall that when the oft-forgotten Mike Tango (he’s doing well btw) lost in a Champions League final with AC Milan to Borussia Dortmund back in the old Rivalità Tra Fratelli on the Higher Tempo Press, he used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “at least we were there to be beaten”.

I hated that phrase.

I wanted to win the FA Cup, yet the sight that greeted me at the end of the game wasn’t one of our Swans players holding the famous trophy aloft. It was one of Shaqiri, Shawcross and Butland celebrating.

It was a tight affair, more so than the stats suggest. The majority of Stoke City’s shots were long-range sighters, which Fabianski had well covered. The one time Stoke did get in behind, it was because of an error from Martin Olsson. His pass aimed for Tammy Abraham was cut out by Diouf and his ball over the top made it harder to miss for Raúl Ruidíaz. We rallied in the second half with Wilfried Bony, on for Abraham at half-time, getting us level.

From there it was mainly Stoke chances if I’m honest and we went into extra time still tied at 1-1. Shaqiri was pulling the strings for Stoke, brilliantly as always, he had a few chances and Berahino in extra time had a couple. Jordan Ayew had one chance very late on to win it but he fluffed his lines.

We then went into penalties and I wasn’t confident, not when Stoke could call on the likes of Rudiaz, Berahino and Shaqiri on duty. As it turned out Shaqiri wasn’t required because Stoke’s four other takers all dispatched with aplomb. We had a miss from Bony, Jordan Ayew scored, then Carroll’s effort was saved by Butland before Darren Fletcher notched the winning penalty.

I’m proud of what we have done this season. Since I came in and took over from Stuart Reid in January, we found a system that works and we ended the Premier League season in eighth place. I found a way to get the best out of Renato Sanches when two real-life Swansea managers couldn’t. Tom Carroll was fantastic and I’m astonished to say that he has been called up for the England World Cup squad on the back of his Swansea season. Jordan Ayew has been a revelation up front with 24 goals and Fabianski deserves a lot of credit as I chopped and changed the central defence particularly.

It’s only just struck me that if I’d have turned a draw into a win Swansea would have finished seventh and by virtue of Stoke already qualifying for the Europa League, we’d have been in Europe next season. Instead, it’s Tottenham and Jorge Jesus who receive the gift.

I know what you’re thinking, why did I just quit without saving and restart? I couldn’t do that, well, I could have but my conscience would have eventually got the better of me and in a moment of weakness it would have been revealed on Twitter for all to mock. It’s kind of like a recent mini-golf tournament in my workplace. I ended the competition on three under par (the course was difficult, stop laughing) and went to the top of the individual leaderboard. Eventually, I ended the day second, one behind – or above, not sure how golfers talk – somebody who got four under. Considering we were recording our own scores I could well have lowered my own score before submitting but any prize won would have been cheated. In time, it would look back at me from the mantlepiece illuminating my shame.

The challenge for me personally has been to maintain a daily output of content over the season, maintaining consistency and quality of writing without dropping standards. That has been the most challenging element, the Football Manager ‘playing’ takes care of itself. In that record, I hope I’ve met expectations.

Join us tomorrow for the last time as I look around the #LetouChoose world and see what happened in the last days of the season.