Serie B continues: Can US Triestina avoid the drop?

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(The legendary Triestina player Nereo Rocco, after whom the stadium is named)

In my previous post I outlined the progress of the first thirteen games of the Serie B season, in which my objective was to avoid relegation.

We  made a very positive start, notwithstanding a horrible start to the season; in our opening game we were 4-0 down within 16 minutes against Bologna! We recovered to lead the table by 5 points.

Now that the season is completed, in this post I will:

  • Outline the results and outcome of the season
  • Review some defensive statistics
  • Outline plans and objectives for the 2020/21 season in Serie A

I’m delighted to share that we defied all expectations and finished the season as champions! Winning the league by 4 clear points was definitely not in the script. We had a very strong second half of the season without any additions to the squad, or changes to the tactics that we employed. At the start of the season, our odds were 350-1 to win the league; this season was certainly in the realm of fairytales.

In this post I highlighted the tactics that I used in my first season at Trieste, and I continued to use these systems throughout the season. I had a blueprint of attributes in mind when signing players, as highlighted in the post.

Season review

The winning goal that sealed promotion, at home to Ascoli in the penultimate game:

This was a far cry from the first game of the season, when we were 4-0 down to Bologna after sixteen minutes!

We had a very strong second half of the season, winning all home games right up to the penultimate match against Carpi. I arranged two friendly matches early in the winter break as a large proportion of the backup players were significantly short of match fitness.

Our away performances in the second half were satisfactory, without being spectacular. A very important win away was at SPAL 2013, in which we gained revenge for a home defeat earlier in the season.

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The final standings were as follows, with one stat that I found alarming; the number of goals conceded:

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That said, we were the league’s highest scorers by some margin with 63; well ahead of the second highest scoring team with 48 goals. Our goal difference was also the best in the league, which is a very reliable indicator of a team’s superiority over divisional rivals.  Nevertheless, I was concerned that 40 goals conceded would be too much for the following season against much superior opposition in Serie A.

 

 

 

 

I was still very wary of being too open, so I invariably went with the 4-1-4-1 DM Wide against better sides or the 4-4-1-1 when I felt I needed to be more proactive. That meant that the 4-4-2 system was largely unused throughout the season. Here is a breakdown of the formations used for the full season:

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Defensive performance

I’m going to analyse the make-up of my defence and how we compare to the rest of the division, to hopefully uncover some issues as to why we were only average performers defensively.

Firstly, the chart below underlines my belief that defensively we were liable to concede goals from crosses and corners, as we had the lowest attribute for Heading, almost the lowest for Positioning and significantly below average on Jumping Reach:

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When comparing our defence to others in the league on physical attributes, we were also short on Balance (as well as Jumping Reach as shown above). Therefore this gives plenty of food for thought when planning next season.

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The chart below shows the goal types for both goals scored and conceded; by far the most common goal type conceded (and scored) was a placed shot, which suggests sufficient time for attackers to measure a shot before being closed down and/or blocked.

Headers are the next common goal conceded, which makes sense given the attributes that I highlighted above:

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Now looking at assists; in descending order, through balls, crosses and corners are the most common assist types that we conceded. Our issues with aerial strength mean that crosses and corner concessions are inevitable, but through balls can suggest failings in many areas, such as poor positioning, insufficient pace, composure and concentration.

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Playing at a considerably higher standard next season clearly means that defensive reinforcements are required.



Signings

Following promotion, we received £2.24m in prize money for winning the league. The Board set the transfer budget at £6.2m and a wage budget at £98k per week.

This meant that I finally had some funds to tie down Bosman signings, and make some modest acquisitions. Not wanting to get into any auctions, I moved quickly for the following players:

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Christiansen: A defender or defensive midfielder, he signed on the dotted line for around £1m, of which £350k was paid immediately, with the remainder on 6 monthly instalments of £100k per month. I am a firm believer in instalments where possible, to spread around the cost, particularly for a small club such as Trieste.

Christiansen will bring some solidity into defensive midfield, is a good age and possesses decent mental attributes. He will also add some height to the team which is clearly an important issue for us to address.

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Sierralta: On loan with us throughout the Serie B campaign, he had an average rating of 7 and a successful tackle ratio of 92%. He is not quite top level but is coming on a Bosman deal, meaning that he would be an invaluable squad player at the very least. His mental attributes do require some improvement, but his height could be a valuable asset.

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Sy: I was alerted to Sy in the January transfer window and wanted to make him the top priority. The financial injection from promotion has allowed me to snap him up on a 4 year deal from Monaco. I am really impressed by his aerial dominance which should help us with our weaknesses in this domain. His Handling does need some work, but he could be the long-term solution for the club, provided that we are not relegated and he exercises his relegation release clause!

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Di Paola: I was able to move for Di Paola, he was part of our successful Serie C winning side. I believe that he could play a part as a squad player, with acceptable mental and technical attributes and with time on his side to develop.

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Di Giorgio: Not a signing as such, but by far the most talented graduate from our U20 and U18 teams. I promoted him from the U20s for the final game of the season with the title already secured, and he scored twice in a 4-1 win away at Chievo. His attacking skills are promising, but it’s clear that his mental attributes are very impressive for someone so young. I moved to give him the longest contract possible, and if I can upgrade our coaching staff and training facilities, I believe we could have a superb talent in our ranks.

Objectives for pre-season

With (hopefully) the benefit of a significantly improved reputation from promotion, I am determined to weed out the mediocre coaches in our ranks. I have highlighted a couple of staff members who no longer meet the necessary requirements:

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I am also planning to improve both our youth facilities and junior coaching, given that they are both below average at the moment. Once again, doing this is considerably easier with an enhanced reputation and financial clout from a much more lucrative TV deal.

I would love to produce good youth players who eventually make it through to the first team, and hopefully Di Giorgio will be the first of several. However, this will be difficult with the current level of training facilities as shown below:

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Obviously my main focus will be to wheel and deal in the transfer market, to give us any possibility of survival. I will look to address the following weaknesses in the squad:

  • Height
  • Jumping Reach
  • Balance
  • Agility

My to-do list in other areas will be:

  • Improve youth training
  • Improve youth facilities
  • Upgrade coaching and fitness staff
  • Contract renewals

My next post will update on progress up to the start of the Serie A season, including my progress against the above objectives.

Forza Triestina!

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Follow Dicate The Game on Twitter and Facebook.

Other articles from Dictate The Game:

Serie B: US Triestina – the battle to avoid relegation. Thirteen games down…

US Triestina – Season 1: Performance Analysis

US Triestina – Welcome to Serie C

What if Foles Played the Other Football?

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