After securing promotion at the first time of asking and in my first full season in charge, thoughts pretty quickly turned to dealing with the challenge of staying up.
Earlier in the save – but not on this blog – I’d managed to steer Barnsley to the Premiership only to be sacked after the January window.
It felt important to reflect and use the learnings of that experience, particularly as the Barnsley experience was my first in getting a team into a First Division in the modern FM (let’s say back to somewhere in the 2000’s).
Without any science I feel like I did two things wrong;
- Trusted the squad who got me there
- Went away from the tactical instructions trying to play conservatively
The focus of preseason therefore attempted to address those two failings.
In actual fact it was going to be difficult to make the same mistakes here as the squad was never really permanent to begin with as covered in the last blog.
As a result we were settled in only a handful of positions. Yannick Essomba was going to be ok as a right back, I was really comfortable with Ciccone, Ehnert and Iturbe to carry AM strata. Other than that, we were off shopping. we had about 17m in transfer funds and 300k a week to invest.
Continuing to complicate matters was the Serie B wage cap that stuck around until the league rolled over. Players coming out of contract were not interested while we still had this hanging over our heads.
Still at the time of writing, on the eve of our first cup game, I am quite confident we were able to bring in a group of players that will allow us to compete.
The first couple of transfers in, Francisco Soares and Andrea Nadalini were youth signings that went straight out on loan.
The next two through the door will be the starting central midfield options. Kristian Girke will intially slot in as a box to box midfielder but is naturally a deeper option as a DM which does give us flexibility. Carvalhinho or Jose Diogo de Carvalho to his mum will play as the deeper playmaker. He leaves Portugal permanently for the first time and should hopefully be a solid first team player.
Alex Bruneel and Federico Cardelli were next to be welcomed into the Mastini family. Bruneel will be the back up left back whilst Cardelli has the ability to spell both midfield positions as well as the DM role if required.
After welcoming in a couple of free transfers we opened up the cheque book. First in was Genoa and Moroccan keeper Moussa Shassah.
At points during our chase of MoSha, it appeared we were no chance and in fact wasn’t keen to even negotiate. With plenty of room in the weekly wage budget, we went hard after our man.
Greek left full back Christos Karamanos was the next player poached from a Serie A rival, this time Palermo. Based on his attributes he is going to be a really solid little player and should mean we don’t need to call on Alex Bruneel on too many occasions. He’ll be clear first choice and a potential leader of the Club.
It was then time to chase an understudy to Tim Ehnert. Enzo Hussey had come through Manchester United’s youth system without appearing and was willing to come across as the back up option. His ability to play MC as well as AMC adds a nice bit of depth at a relatively inexpensive price.
One of the jewels in the off-season crown was the next man in Fabio Acampora. The central defender was on the transfer list at Juventus and we were happy to bring him across to anchor our back four. The fee and wage cost are at a seriously premium level but one I reckon is worth it.
The next jewel came in much cheaper but looks like a young superstar. Bernhard Reiß. I love him. 160k in from 1860 Munich. 18 years old means he can play without registration. Biggest test for me will be developing him.
The final piece of the puzzle was someone to play upfront. It was another off the transfer list, Richie Talbot joined from Everton. Only one season with double figure goals but he should hopefully dine out on the service provided by our wingers and Ehnert. The attributes look sound and he’s also able to move back into the hole if Ehnert isn’t available.
The only sale of any note was Domenic Bitteto who only played the 5 games for us in the previous season.
A couple of younger types that will provide depth and who have also performed really nicely in preseason are Francisco Rossa and Auerlien Rehman. Rossa tasted first team football in the previous season whilst Rehman spent the season on loan. Both offered plenty by ways of goals and assists against weaker opposition which hopefully means they will be well positioned when we need to rest up the first choice options.
Those preseason games saw us focus on playing the 4-2-3-1 that saw us go up. Due to the changes in the squad the familiarity is only competent. Only time will being the squad together so we’ll expect to see some early struggles and then hopefully the results trend upwards from there. The promotion season saw us play with high tempo, pressing hard. We’ll try that early doors and maintain for as long as we can.
The bookies are backing us to stay up with Frosinone at 201 sharing 15th and 16th. I’d take that.