On the pitch the air was cold. Thunder rumbled, like a giant moaning far, far away. Gianluigi took it all in; the rain, the wind, the storm. “You only ever get one first match”, he thought.
He was bluffing. He did not care. But he was more nervous than he had ever been, so making up stuff to try and calm himself down was the best he could think of. A result, a result was the only thing on his mind.
“Come on you fool”, he said to himself, “Get excited, get emotional…cry!”. Nothing.
It had been a long month and a half. He certainly hadn’t made things easy for himself. Signing the sale of some loved players, bringing in new staff…and that loss at the cup, that stupid loss. Three times had the ball hit the post, and they still lost. Surely the board wasn’t all that worried about it, right? The season had just begun, a good patch of form in the league and all would be forgotten…right?
“Mamma, cara mamma, make the ball go in this time…”
Someone called him. It was time for the team talk.
“A result, just a result”, he thought, and walked into the dressing room.
Project and Squad Assessment
It is here! The ball has rolled, the bugs have been crushed (or have they?), and the continue button has been pressed (and then ceaselessly punished). First of all I want to thank everyone for been so receptive to this clumsy first foray into the world of FM blogging. Some really special people have given me a vote of confidence and I hope I don’t dissapoint. Thank you all! So, back to FM.
The first thing I do whenever I arrive to a new club is take a long and detailed look at the squad; what are our strong points? what are our weaknesses? where are we short of personnel? what style could we be playing? I check at every single one of the players screen, and then the youth squads. The team report hasn’t earned my trust, being always a bit vague. I also like to keep myself from making any big overhauls of the squad on the first couple of seasons, so I get to feel the “flavour” of each team, instead of playing always with an assortment of strangers. So, what did we find?
Thirty-four year old Andrea Luci is going to be the heart of the team. The captain has been part of the Amaranti for 10 years now, making him quite a key figure. Footballistically speaking, he’s also our best midfielder. The moment I saw him I had an idea…park him at the center of the midfield and have him distributing the ball, taking long passes to the runners. As I said previously I’m looking to build a counter-attacking side and this just plays into my hand.
Speaking of said runners, winger turned wingback Antonio Porcino will be provinding some width with his deep runs into the opposition half. His (relative to the league) high stamina, passing, crossing and vision will come in handy to play one-twos and find open crosses.
Aaaand looking to send those crosses into the net we find newly-arrived veteran Fabio Mazzeo. I was shocked to find such good physicals for a 34yo, Serie B striker. His determination will also come in handy helping our youngsters get their careers on track. Spoiling me a bit for choice, 26yo montenegrin Filip Raicevic will fight with Fabio for his spot on the starting 11, though the old man edges him for now.
Making sure everything holds on, we have 23yo Luka Bogdan. Liked him from the start, decent mentals (hope that doesn’t come back to bite me with that 9 decisions), excellent physicals and a good enough feet. Will be playing him as a BPD in order to get those long balls, plus it will give Luci an extra hand should he find himself surrounded.
Regarding what I lack, options on the full-backs seemed underwhelming and/or straight up not there, while a flurry of loanees in the midfield left me wanting for an option for the future, should we not be able to hold on to the current starters. Sadly, also, I found no feasible youth team candidates to spice up the squad from the get go. A few are out on loan, so there’s hope for the future, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath for now.
On to the staff. I tend to take the opposite approach when it comes to the staff. Sack them all, sack them fast. Better suited replacements are almost always available This time though I kept quite a few of them. Assistant Manager Simone Baroncelli offered a balanced assortment of skills, while fitness coach Donatello Matarangolo and GKs coach Pietro Spinosa felt adequate enough. The team lacked any general coaches so I brought a few in. I was happy that the limit was set to 6 but very quick the board lowered it to 4, so that’s gonna be that. The scout team felt a bit limited, with a bunch of average guys mostly focused on Italy, so I looked for a couple of scouts well versed in close countries we could poach some useful players form. Star man acquisition was HoYD Lorenzo Lelli, with his favouring of direct counter attacking football hopefully provinding me with fast wingers and fiery centerbacks for years to come
When it came to making some moves on the transfer market I looked mainly for the missing pieces, as most positions were well covered and money wasn’t precisely abundant.
First to arrive to these fine shores was promising left back Manuel Nicoletti, from Catanzaro. At 51k he seemed too good of a deal to pass on, as he also was the best of my options. Just 20yo and a lot of road ahead of him.
Also from Catanzaro, 25yo Daniele Celiento provides me with a solid backup to starting RB Michel Morganella. Can also play CB so he checks the versatility box too. At 300k he was a bit expensive but first-choice freeby Joel Untersee decided to go to Spezia (and we’ll never forgive him for it).
Last but not least, former Brentford bee Jaakko Oksanen gives us some extra cover in the midfield while also fitting our “buy young” philosophy. He’ll get some minutes here and there and hopefully develop enough for season 2. At 205k I think it was a shot worth taking.
And with that comes to an end our first ever transfer market. Sales of players I could not find a spot for were a bit on the cheap (ok, a lot in some cases, but I desperately needed the wage budget) and the board isn’t thrilled about it but at least I got to take the first steps into shaping “my” team.
Tactics and Preseason
As I said, while assessing the squad an idea started taking shape in my head. Contrary to what I usually (were I tend to shape the tactics after the squad and then progressively moving to what I want), this time I had a “tactical agenda”: I wanted a fast, direct, counter-attacking, physical side. So how could I achieve that with the squad I was given? I settled for this.
The idea is to wait deep(ish) for the opposition and the use Luci’s eye for a pass to lauch forward. Porcino and Brignola will make the runs with the Segundo Volante the arriving late. Murilo gives the DLF a partner with whom to play inside and Viviani is mostly there to give some balance to the midfield. It has worked so far, with us making it difficult for creative sides to find space around our box and still having enough creative qualities to hit them on the break or dominating the ball against weaker sides.
Preseason went mostly all right, finding our feet against weaker sides before competing against stronger ones. The losses against Trapani and Alto Adige are the most hurtful. Both times we had the better opportunities but failed to capitalise. Specially in the Cup match, as the only clear chance for them came from a poorly defended set piece (forgot to adjust that, always did, always will) and that hurt our reputation with the board. The 4 – 1 battering of us at the hands of Virtus Verona came at the from 3 penalties inside the first 35 minutes (it was fixed, they said; no more silly penalites, they said) and a fourth one for good measure; other than that, they failed to manage a single chance.
And thus, we look forward to the first match of the season. As Gianluigi said, a result would come a long way. The board isn’t in love with us right now having failed one of the season objetives inside the first 6 weeks of taking the job, so a good league run would feel really good.
Once again I want to thank you all for the kind words and the support!
Thanks for reading,
One Man Press.