Having secured the Serie C title by 16 points, my objective in the 2019/20 season was simply to avoid relegation. This post will cover the pre-season and first thirteen games of the Serie B season.
Although I didn’t have any philosophies on which the Board would judge me, I had my values that I wanted to maintain in my second season. These would be:
- Signing good, young footballers with a balance of technical, mental and physical skills
- Loaning where possible, since finances remained perilous. I would need to make heavy use of my senior affiliate Udinese
- With the ball, playing attractive football with multiple threats from wide areas and central midfield, with predominantly one striker
- Playing a high pressing, high energy game without the ball, looking to win it back as soon as possession is lost.
- Improving the quality of my coaches and scouts.
- Hire a new Head of Youth Development to improve the quality of my U-20 and U-18 teams.
I have written about the systems that I used in an earlier post and I would aim to sign players that could fit into these systems.
Overall, I couldn’t yet say that I had fully implemented my vision into the football club, but sticking to the above values would certainly help me along the way. My biggest areas of concern in the 2019/20 season would be the threat of relegation and the state of the club’s finances. Moving into Serie B with a larger income from TV revenue would be of enormous benefit to us.
Now I will look at the pre-season planning process.
Pre-season provides the opportunity to assess your squad, go through the usual process of hiring and firing staff and scour the transfer market for those priceless gems. However as mentioned above, Trieste’s finances are not in a very good shape so until this situation improves, the majority of signings would have to be predominantly loans, backed up by a small number of free agents.
In terms of staff, I had a few members retire whilst I also hired a new Head of Youth Development because I wanted to beef up my efforts in that area:
For a club like Trieste with very modest finances, working on youth development and bringing them into the first team makes a lot of sense. Bertelli has excellent skills in most of the key areas for a good HYD. I wanted him to take a proactive role in signing young players so I needed to ensure that his judgement skills were of a high enough standard to do this.
The current crop of U20s and U18 are not particularly good, with only a few promising youngsters:
Gasparini: An attacking midfielder with a nice base of technical skills. However his height may turn out to be a limiting factor for him, although I never envisage moving to a long ball style of football. His technique and physical skills are a solid base, but his mental skills need a lot of work.
De Giorgi: A forward with promising mental attributes and satisfactory technique. At 17 he has time to improve his technical skills but there is an above average skillset to work with.
Della Rocca: A left winger with excellent pace but at the moment, not much else! Plenty to work on in the physical and technical sense, and single-digit attributes in most of the mental attributes mean that he has a long way to go.
Now I’ll take a look at the signings I made to improve the first team squad, in an attempt to beat relegation.
I was able to resign three excellent loanees that spent the previous season with me, namely Rabbas, Cortinovis, Accardi. Rabbas is a superb central midfielder at Serie C level and I believe he could definitely play a role with us this season. Cortinovis is an excellent attacking midfielder who can play centrally or on the right, whilst Accardi can play at either center or right back. I wrote about those players and their attributes in a previous post so I’ll focus on the new signings only.
The defensive signings were:
Sierralta: A season long loan signing from Udinese who has performed well so far. He has average mental skills, but what impresses me most is his Jumping Reach and height. I had a problem with conceding goals from corners last season, and this is definitely an area that I need to address.
Opoku: Signed as cover and also from Udinese, he has yet to feature this season which has led his parent club to call the loan agreement into question. Time will tell if this turns out to be a problem later in the season. I like his physical attributes but his defensive skills leave me with some concerns.
Boyle: Signed on a free transfer, what I liked about him is the aerial and defensive skills. He also has excellent Determination and good Bravery, and could equally turn into captaincy material.
Lewis: A loan signing from Liverpool, intended to provide cover for Sabatino at left back and also cover for left midfield. Excellent tackling skills for this level, I also like his mental attributes with superb Determination. He also possesses good pace and acceleration. A player that I wouldn’t hesitate to sign permanently if the opportunity ever arose.
In midfield the following signings were made to complement Rabbas and Cortinovis:
Rosina: A loan signing intended to compete for a place in all of the attacking midfield strata. At 35 he is older than I would have like to sign, but my left winger from the Serie C season was unwilling to return. Rosina has excellent mental and technical skills and would provide some experience to what is an otherwise inexperienced midfield.
Garner: A loan signing from Manchester United, intended to play in the defensive midfield role. He has good technical skills and I was impressed by his Work Rate, Vision and Strength for such a young player.
Ruggiero: A loan signing from Palermo who would compete with Garner in the defensive midfield role. Like Garner he can also play in central midfield, and I liked his mental attributes, particularly his Aggression and Bravery which I believe are vital requirements in defensive central midfield for the style and system I wanted to play.
Riccardi: On loan from Roma, Alessio Riccardi has turned out to be a superstar for me this season. He has good technical skills, but this is superseded by his superb mental and physical attributes. I have given him a Mezzala role which allows him to support both our midfield and attacking efforts. He has become a regular in the Italy U-21 side and has forged an excellent partnership in central midfield with Mohammed Rabbas.
Turchetta: A free signing who has played an important role for me in left midfield. His technical skills are acceptable, but I was sold on his Determination, Flair and Work Rate. I don’t always set a high value to Flair, but I wanted to add some creativity in midfield to spread the attacking threat around midfield, and not rely solely on Riccardi and Rabbas.
In attack, I made two signings to support Pablo Granoche:
Cabral: My main striker Granoche suffered a hip injury which put him out for four months, so I needed to sign another striker to support Mark Cullen, my other forward signings. Cabral has a good First Touch and Finishing skills, and satisfactory Off the Ball skills for a forward. He also has a good turn of pace and he has made a steady start to the season.
Cullen: A journeyman English striker, Mark Cullen suffered a hamstring injury in pre-season which was disappointing. He has superb mental skills, with Teamwork, Determination and Work Rate standing out in particular. He needs a run of games to settle into the side but with a 14 attribute for Finishing I still believe that he can make a strong contribution to the side.
I was able to sell three players who were unhappy and were not contributing anything to the squad. Their training performances were poor so they were very easy decisions to make. I generated a total of £150k in player sales which, combined with my sales from the previous season, means that I have made a transfer surplus to date of exactly £300,000.
So with thirteen games into the season, time to take a look at the league table and match results:
A very pleasing performance so far, confounding all the critics. In truth, I have not noticed a huge amount of difference in quality between Serie B and C, although in my first game away at Bologna I was 4-0 down after 16 minutes! I thought that I was in for a very long and painful season, but luckily we recovered well and have performed superbly. After 13 games we are the top scorers in the division.
I have almost exclusively played the 4-1-4-1 DM formation:
All of the new signings have fitted well into the squad; my only change would be to replace Cabral with either Cullen or Granoche in a Pressing Forward (Attack) role.
My team instructions remain fairly consistent both at home and away, but I am happy to play on the counter attack and concede possession when playing away at better quality opponents.
Thanks for reading.
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