So the real stuff has kicked off and here is the (hopefully shortish) update for roughly the first third of the season.
Transfers / Staff Changes
We concluded a deal for Clayton, 6m up front, 1.4m after 50 games and a further 1.7m paid over 12 months. Pleasingly we were able to move him back to Brazil with Palmeiras so that we weren’t facing him in the future. We had further players who were looking to move. All apart from Lanzini were happy to shelve their plans as no clubs were willing to come in for them. Manuel will wait until the January window.
We also made a change to the backroom staff with Timm Klose coming in as assistant manager.
The pick of the performances was the final performance away to Cagliari. Going into the game there wasn’t much to split the two teams. The team went in without its regular anchorman Erik van Driel, suspended for the third time in five games. The game was taken away from Cagliari in the first half with a goal each from Juan Iturbe and Tim Ehnert. Alex Sekyere was involved in the build up with both, attracting the attention of the centre halves and providing space for his midfielders to fire home.
Other shortlisted games – Carpi 1-1 away with the opponent on top of the table, Bologna 2-1 away in the cup to Serie A opposition.
Our long trip south to Lecce was made even longer with a poor showing losing 4-1. We were missing a few players on internationals and suspension (Alex Jones starting GK, Tomas Wagner starting CB, Erik van Driel starting DM suspended). Their replacements didn’t provide the hardened edge at the back as three goals were coughed up in the first half. Manuel Marchetti was able to pull one back but we’d gone down 4 by that stage.Ben Gibson, Giuseppe Grande and Nicola Ciccone being the real players in the gun for their performances.
other shortlisted games – Ternana 2-3 at home down to ten men then scored twice followed by conceding three, Empoli 0-2 at home creating all the chances.
Juan Iturbe just gets the nod. He has appeared in 13 of the 15 games, notching six goals and two assists with an average rating of 7.63. His experience has been invaluable and his preferred moves in running with the ball and knocking it past opponents has been noticeable. Further his left footed inside right role is clearly providing plenty of support for the sole striker.
Other players considered – Tim Ehnert average rating 7.68, 2 goals 3 assists from the CM/A role, Alex Sekyere average rating 7.62 in 7(3) games, 3 goals 4 assists with 2G and 3A coming in his last three games.
Player performing below expectations
Generally speaking performances have been good. Ben Gibson is one who has struggled, firstly getting injured in preseason and then struggling as match fitness is regained. He’s started twice and been subbed on five times for an average rating of 6.61. One of his starts was the horror show against Lecce. It would be great if he could settle and find some form.
Other players considered – Giuseppe Grande average rating 6.86 but ever present. Antonio Fiordilino average rating 6.85 and also working back into fitness.
Objective for next block
The next 15 games will see us go through to early February. This will include hosting Latina in the 4th round of qualifying for the Italian Cup. In the league, the key will be to continue the strong performances. From us in third down to 12th is only 4 points, so it would be nice to start to put a gap on some of these teams. Serie B has three automatic places if 3rd is nine points clear, otherwise it is off to the playoffs. 2 points a game from the next block would leave us with approximately 50 points. That’s promotion form, the aim and the expectation from the board, bookies and fans.
Changes to team & tactics
Alex Sekyere has come into the team recently and played well. I’ve changed the role to an advanced forward from a deep lying forward and this has seemed to work well. It’s his role until form drops off.
The shape has developed into this at the moment. The focus on possession retention has been reduced. This hasn’t changed the possession numbers too much, but has seemingly got the ball moving up field in a slightly quick manner allowing us to get into clearer positions.
I’m considering developing a 4-2-3-1 alternative, effectively shifting the anchorman to the AMC strata and changing the roles in the midfield. We have the flexibility in players to change this throughout games. Something to keep the AI on their toes perhaps.
I’ll also need to keep an eye on Erik van Driel and his ability to pick up yellow and red cards. The plan is to PI him to back off as soon as he is carded.
Changes to squad
The next block will also see a transfer window. The scouts are out and about roaming the globe to find us some options. The challenge is not so much finances but rather the need to meet the weekly wage cap. What we didn’t consider previously was appearance fees etc and whether they are included in the cap.
Regardless, unless it is a player that will improve us this year and potentially next in Serie A, I think I may roll the dice with this squad. We’ll of course keep an eye out for any youngsters with potential that we can bring in.
Transfer strategy in a second division is a real challenge for mine, trying to identify players that will move but also make an impact at a higher level. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has a transfer policy or scouting approach that they use in these types of situations. Do FM managers rely on buying young and developing or are there other ways to build a team on the edge of promotion?