The season in Serie B has progressed along and we’re now about two thirds of the way through the season. I’ve gone on past the end of the transfer window (02/02/2026).
There were only two transfers of note with our first choice fullbacks having their heads turned by larger clubs.
Antonio Milic was first to move on halfway through January to Palermo for 450k straight up. The 31 year old had been a strong contributor at fullback but had also shifted across to his natural centreback position as other options struggled for form. He left playing 18 games in the season with an average rating of 7.43.
Lorenzo Dickmann was next out the door. We managed to rebuff my old club Barnsley but when Club Brugge came calling we couldn’t convince him to stay. I’d liked Dickmann in our squad given his versatility being able to play all positions across the back and in central midfield. However injuries had impacted his season with 9 weeks out of action through back and ankle injuries. 500k was enough for us to accept his time was over with the Mastini.
So we needed to bring in replacements for these two. Yannick Essomba had done a great job filling in at right back but we needed another option to compete with him. On the left, Miguel Angel Galiana had stepped up with Milic moving inside to CB but at only 18 we needed a potential experienced head to support.
First in was an old face from my Barnsley days. Reece James came in on a free from Huddersfield with a contract to the end of the season. He was a reliable option in our Championship years and will provide a safe pair of hands for us without being locked into a long term deal or fee.
Dickmann left late in the window, so we had to take a bit of a punt. Again we went an experienced option in Rafael Ramos. Whilst not highly recommended from our scouts, he had some attributes I wanted to try and bring out in our wide defenders in crossing and dribbling. His physicals are still standing up as well so should provide a sound option. He’s also comfortable on the left as well which is handy. In the end the deal was a similar value to what we received for Dickmann and only committed to the end of next season.
I also wanted to add some depth centrally given Milic was playing through there. Our scouts and searches couldn’t reveal a permanent option that would provide the value we were looking at, so the loan market was used again bringing in Samúel Kári Friðjónsson from Newcastle. Another with flexibility Sam can play centrally either CB, DM or CM.
We also added an option between the sticks snapping up OL reserve keeper Nathan Besson for 25k upfront and 25k over the next four years. He compared favourably to our current loan keeper Alex Jones and was too good to pass up at the price.
The other two deals were for a couple of younger options but with the potential to push for first team options. Both came from our affiliate club in Portugal, Feirense.
The first in the door was Ricardo Ferreira who turned 19 not long before his transfer. He’s a good back up option but will play mostly with the Under 20’s. 55k upfront and 55k over the next four years.
The second is the better of the two, Francisco Rossa. His physical attributes place him highly in his age bracket at the club and combined with good finishing and composure should hopefully get some time off the bench towards the end of the season. 150k upfront and 150k over the next four years.
Overall the focus was not to lock in too many players that wouldn’t be up to scratch if we go up. With the amount of loan players we are relying on, if we do go up there will be a massive scramble to build a squad worthy of staying up. Certainly the challenge I wasn’t able to meet with Barnsley.
We basically met the objective set at the end of the first block which was to be at 50 points. However it would have been preferable to not have to win the last five games of the block to do so.
The first half of the block was inconsistent and it came to a head after the loss to rival Venezia when I was confronted by the senior players (Milic, Lanzini, Ciccone, Fiordilino, Dickmann, Iturbe, Wagner and Bitetto) with concerns about my management. I acknowledged the inconsistent form and committed to changing things up.
This change came in the form of changing up the formation, essentially running with a couple of options. We moved to a 4-2-3-1, removing the DM and playing an AM. Inside Forwards turned to Wingers with the fullbacks not expected to hit the byline but rather cross from deep. We also decided to go slightly more direct to try and get into the defence before they were set up.
From the Perugia game we used this and the original 4-1-2-2-1 formation interchangeably, occasionally switching in the match depending on situations.
The last game of the block saw us absolutely pull Carpi to bits. Carpi had been top of the table but went into this game fifth to our third. 4-2 at half time, we put the foot down and completely crushed them, Ehnert, Iturbe and Ciccone all with braces and Bilir with one. Iturbe had three assists for a 9.7 rating.
Other shortlisted games – Catania 5-1 away from home, Juventus loss in the cup away but dominated possessions and created same number of chances.
We welcomed the TV cameras to our stadium and then proceeded to embarrass ourselves. Ex Man United man, Federico Macheda scored twice and Adama Diakite once before Juan Iturbe got one back late. Giuseppe Grande was particularly poor.
Other shortlisted games – Como 0-1 at home, Venezia 0-1 away, on TV to a rival.
Juan Iturbe is the man again. Not the highest rating but in 14 appearances he’s notched 9 goals and 5 assists to take his totals to 15 and 7. An absolute star and vital to our promotion chances.
Other shortlisted players – Nicola Ciccone highest rated player in the block with 7.98 5 goals and 4 assists, Tim Ehnert 7.87 with 5 and 3.
Player below expectation
It’s another centre half, last time Ben Gibson, this time Giuseppe Grande. After being ever present he’s played about half of the games and only one of the last five. An average rating of 6.79 in those games, it’s actually been Ben Gibson who has picked his form up to partner Tomas Wagner
Other shortlisted players – Manuel Lanzini, mostly injured and not worth the pay packet, Thalles has only now returned from a 12 month loan, offering very little.
Objective for next block
It’s all about promotion. 81 and 80 points were enough for promotion last year and a similar number has been there and thereabouts for the last four as well. With 16 league games to go that’s another 31 points so basically two a game. Three of the next four are against teams in the bottom five so exploiting the current strong form will be vital to the promotion push.