At the end of the last update, the club sat comfortably in tenth. I thought we were comfortable and in the end I was right. But it could have been so much different.
The last update was the last time we sat in tenth until the final whistle.
Immediately after hitting post, the team went bang collecting 18 of the next 24 points including crucial wins against Roma and Sampdoria who were right around us in the table. After coming from behind twice against Napoli to draw 2-2 in mid March we won only once more and obtained a mere 6 points.
All the games were a series of tight contests, never feeling far out of it, but never taking the chances that were presented to us. Even late in the season against AC Milan it was 1-1 going into the 80th minute but as we pushed for a result to get closer to locking in a European appearance they cut us open.
The goals dried up, more particularly they dried up out of midfield as Iturbe went through a dry spell and the central midfielders just stopped getting into position to score and weren’t able to contribute sufficiently.
Richie Talbot carried the team and ended the season with 20 goals scoring 7 of those in the last 12.
In the end though, the expectation was to battle against relegation and as such the season can be viewed as a success. Holding on in the last game against Udinese would have seen us in 7th. We dared to dream for a period of time that the European riches would roll in and the season could potentially transform the club. But it wasn’t to be.
So the rest of this post is going to focus on the team, what our strengths were, what weaknesses we need to deal with and what that means tactically for next season.
With the ball, we had second most possession at 53.82% only behind title winners Juventus. This was via rating fourth in pass completion at 77% with fifth most completed passes.
Ultimately we need to look at how we use this possession in the next season. There is no doubt that in keeping the ball, it allowed us to control and stay in games. It’ll remain a principle of the team however we’ll need to look at the roles and movement instructions to try and generate the scoring chances our possession deserves.
This was reflected in finishing in line with our position in goals scored, in 10th notching 59 times. It was all in chances created. We finished 14th in total shots on target but 10th in shots on target ratio.
Defensively we managed to keep things tight, ranking fifth in goals conceded. Our goal difference was more than adequate and had us in the top 6. Given we had plenty of the ball there wasn’t much need to tackle (16th) but when we did we did it at a good ratio (4th, 77%). Additionally we were able to restrict mistakes that led to goals with only 4 in total across the squad.
Tactically, we’ll need to keep this in mind. We have a couple of players moving on from the defensive squad (Gibson and Essomba) so we’ll look to bring increased quality. This will be important as tactically we’ll need to look at being a bit more adventurous in setting up chances.
This will likely mean we sacrifice the Anchorman. Girke and loanee Oğuz Özdönmez sat there for most of the season. At this stage I am considering pushing that man up into a central midfield three, likely as a deep lying playmaker on defensive duty. One of the three will then be the runner. Girke is a perfect box to box man so will likely start here.
Critically we either need to get further production out of Tim Ehnert or find a midfielder who can provide that out of a likely attacking role. Early parts of the season will prove whether this come from the CM strata or whether we try and push a player further up the park.
The next entry won’t be far away which will involve looking at the squad in more detail, setting out the plan for the offseason recruiting. The board have kindly provided 22m for transfers and 220k additional per week in the wage budget.