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Chapter 2 – This cruel mistress of ours

Gianluigi woke up, almost jumping out of his bed. Cold sweat ran down his back. Everything was quiet, only his agitated breathing cut the silence. He realized was in his room; “It was all a dream” he said to himself.

It seemed so real though; the boos from the fans, Don Aldo’s frown as he left the stadium, the players’ laughter behind his back. It felt all a bit too real.

He got up, and slowly walked to the window. His new flat had a view of the sea, and of the stadium. He had requested as much. A large cargo ship was approaching the docks, a few kilometres north. He noticed it was soon to dawn; surely the workers were getting ready for the day. His father could’ve been amongst them. “It’ll be 25 years this March”, he thought.

He tried falling sleep again, but he couldn’t. The sacking rumours still rang loud in his head. Il Calcio, this love of ours, is such a cruel mistress.

Before we begin I’d like to thank a few good souls who have been kind enough to answer my questions and in general helped me get this going. A huge thanks to DanGear86, The Scribe, According to FM and the guys at the Sortitoutsi Discord server, particularly Schomacker who sat down and explained to me where my expectations were going wrong. I’ll link all of their work at the end so you can go check it out and read/watch people far more informed than me on this whole FM thing…

Rough Riding

Man, has this been tough…

I’ll go ahead and admit it from the get go, I’ve had to restart this save a couple of times. My first run, the one you’ve been reading about, ended in a sacking around Christmas Day, with us failling to win more than a single match and a miserable record of 1W 6D 10L, firmly stuck in a relegation battle and with dissapointing losses such as the Tirreno Derby. Simply put, I think there were two issues: 1) I don’t think the roster is as competitive as the Board thinks, our players are average or below for the league in most categories but for a few exceptions; a top half season should be an objetive for the coming seasons, not right of the bat. And 2) my tactics have just been sh*t. As I said, this was my first go at a counter-attacking side and it has shown. My first attempt was showing signs of my bielsist/wengerist backgrounds so to speak; everyone forward, try to score as much as you can. Thing is, when the rest of your tactics ask your players to launch the ball forwards with no regards, think first and foremost of covering space on defense and not commiting too much to attacks, things are gonna fall apart.

Once I understood I had to be much more cautious on my approach, it became a complicated balancing act where I had to make sure we occupied spaces behing but also attack with enough men in the right areas. It took a few tries, with rough starts, lots of thinkering and a few “AHA!” moments ending up in tears. In the end, I hit on a somewhat balanced set up and got enough good results to make sure I won’t be sent to the chopping block for now. It really felt like it clicked when (as I tweeted a few days back) we won the Tirreno Derby. It was a hard fought battle, where we managed to defend in our own third while also breaking them down when it was necessary. It felt like a sweet prize after a lot of work.

An alternate reality

So, what’s changed?

As I did not want this to be such a depart from the last episode, I tried to make the least amount of changes possible or it would feel like I was cheating. No changes were made to the Staff, as I went ahead and hired every single one of my original signings.

Tactically, here’s how we’re going:

A swap to a 4-4-2 seemed necessary as one of our biggest problems were filling up the space behind the main striker and getting the second balls. The FB-Ds hold a solid back 4 so the wingers are there provide width and crossing, while the CM-D hold his place and recycles possesion/helps the defense. The CM-S gives some support when going forward and the PFs offer some initial defensive press which facilitates quick counters leading to clear chances sometimes.

I also found that the formations more often causing us troubles were the 5-4-1, 4-1-2-1-2 and 4-3-1-2 quite a few teams were using in the Serie B. My answer was to switch in those occasions to a higher pressing, wider formation, with a bit more attacking flair:

The WB-Ss are there to overload the single wide players and that gives us the opportunity to deploy IW-Ss who can play short combinations with the wingbacks and the forwards, cut inside for a cross to the far post or look for a cutback.

When it comes to transfers, I decided to loan a few of the players I had previously sold, as that gave me a bad rep with the Board. They’re looking to sell on a profit so hopefully we’ll be able to do that going forwards. As to incoming players, I managed to pick up once again Manuel Nicoletti for a cheap fee so he was brought in. However, I wasn’t really impressed with Daniele Celiento’s performances and since he was my most expensive signing last time around, I allowed myself to diverge from my own footsteps and looked for someone who offered me a bit of an attacking outlet. My choice was 25yo austrian David Stec, who is a bit more competent on the offensive side of things and was way cheaper at 55k from polish side MKS Pogoń Szczecin.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to get my original CM signing although not for lack of trying. Brentford just wasn’t gonna let Oksanen leave for less than 600k so it was a no-go. So I asked for a few recommendations to my scouts and eventually found Vykintas Slivka

The 24yo lithuanian fits the profile the club wants, and looks like one of my best options for the CM-S, placing a good long ball from behind and offering support going forwards.

I also decided to give top academy prospect Gennaro Ruggiero a go, which proved to be a good choice as he has given solid support as the backup CM-D and is currently improving at a good rate, hopefuly becoming something more than just an enforcer

Hey, kid! Why the long face?”

Where does all this thinkering leave us? We’re currently sitting 11th with 25 points, with a record of 7W 4D 7L. Its a bag of mixed results as we haven’t been able to fully get going but a win is never too far away and we got some nice ones, the Tirreno Derby and a 3 – 1 comeback at Pordenone being the highlights probably.

Results so far. Unlike Gianluigi’s nightmare, this time around we managed to get to the 3rd Qualifying Round of the cup, only to lose then.

As I said, I don’t think this squad has it to go the whole way right now. I’ll be more than happy to have a solid season, cash in on the prize money and reassess next season with a fresher squad, new prospects, and cash to spend.

When we return we’ll check on the new prospects from the academy and see how the season ended. Livorno has not been an easy ride for me, but hopefully some smooth sailing will carry us till the end of season where we can draw a few useful conclusions, and work towards our objetives.

For now, we’ll keep on grinding, like those port workers.

Thanks for reading,

One Man Press FM.

Before you leave, I recommend you take a look at these guys’ work, who have helped me greatly and whose work I think you’ll enjoy as much as I do:

DanGear86 is part of the excellent GrassNGear podcast and currently working on giving Bolton Wanderers their own Class of ’92; you can read all about it here.

According to FM helped me understand how my tactics could be failing by using the game’s analysis tools, and currently dominating with RB Salzburg. You can read his work here.

The Scribe runs probably my favourite FM YouTube channel; a great teacher of the game from whom I’ve learned a lot. Currently bringing german sleeping giants FC Kaiserlautern back to glory, you can watch that series and all of his content here.

And of course the guys at Sortitoutsi where you can find all sorts of FM-related content and even join their great Discord server filled with great and knowledgeable people who share their experience. Find them here.

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