Serie A: Survival or slaughter?

In my previous post I wrote an analysis of Trieste’s first five games in Serie A, and how we had got off to a very disappointing start and lost each encounter. I looked at a couple of matches in-depth and saw some worrying patterns that led us to struggle in matches, and made some restorative attempts to tighten up and concede less opportunities.

In this post I will look at:

  • Progress of the full Serie A campaign
  • A quick overview of club finances
  • Adding a philosophy
  • Upgrading our backroom staff
  • Scouting improvements to give better quality to targets
  • Summer recruitment

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Our campaign in Serie A

I wrote about our bad start to the season, having lost all five games and consequently rooted to the bottom of the table:

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However, I made some tactical adjustments after analysing our matches and discovered that we were far too open, especially against teams with much deeper squads with superior talents. We had to devise a way to deny them space and become harder to beat. The alternative system that I developed was a 4-1-4-1 Counter variation of the 4-1-4-1 DM Wide but with the inside forwards moved back to the ML/MR areas to make the midfield more compact. The emphasis here was on soaking up pressure and then we would aim to launch counter attacks when the opportunity arose.

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In addition, the following changes were made to team instructions:

  • A shift to a Defensive Mentality
  • Be More Disciplined (when previously set to Be More Expressive)
  • Frequent time wasting (previously set to rarely or never)
  • In transition, regroup rather than counter press
  • Much More Urgent pressing (previously Slightly More Urgent)
  • Narrow defensive width, in order to be more compact

The roles however did remain the same, as I wanted to retain a Playmaker, a Mezzala and two wingers alternating between attack and support duties so that we still had a threat.

Our most commonly used formation remained the 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, but the above instructions were also used in this system. I would use this against weaker sides at home and away.

Here is our progress up to the winter break:

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Our first point was secured at home to Udinese with the 4-1-4-1 Counter, and then there were two frustrating home games in which we led but were pegged back by Empoli and Sassuolo. The first league win was a long time coming against Carpi, but it was a performance worth waiting for as we dominated possession, created several chances and scored three excellent goals.

We were able to secure consecutive league wins as the winter break approached, with a very fortuitous backs-to-the-wall win at Cagliari, followed by a very convincing win at home to Parma.

This is how the league table looked at the halfway point:

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However, despite the transfer window opening in January we lacked any resources to reinforce the squad, aside from a loan signing of Alessandro Cortinovis who featured prominently in our Serie B and C campaigns.

Our results continued to ebb and flow as the season progressed, with a superb 2-2 draw away at Napoli to erase memories of a heavy 0-3 home defeat to them earlier in the season. This was due to the 4-1-4-1 Counter, and it was a much more evenly balanced contest. Napoli had more shots than us, but most were outside the box as we frustrated them. We took a 2-0 lead incredibly, but were pegged back by a superb Dries Mertens free kick and a Simone Verdi header.

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Our fixture list was quite unkind as we had to pay the better sides early on, with the obvious benefit being an easier run in than our relegation rivals.

Unfortunately we had slipped into the relegation zone ahead of the final match at home to Verona. We were in 18th place and relying on other results to guarantee survival:

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Carpi had a home match against the champions and lost 4-1, meaning that our 1-0 win against Verona kept us safe for one more season.

I was delighted with this, when our objectives were to battle against relegation. The final league table is shown below.

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The league table showed that we only scored a paltry 26 goals, and conceded 52 giving us a -26 goal difference for the season. However, our goals conceded was markedly better than our relegation rivals and probably owed to our improved solidity.


Finances

One very pertinent statistic followed the next week, with a summary of the wages to turnover ratio for all Serie A sides:

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A turnover of £40m compared to £386m for Juventus meant that the odds really were stacked against us. A wages to turnover ratio of 16% meant that we were in a superb position financially, with ample room for increased spending in the Summer transfer window. Survival meant another opportunity to improve our finances, build a better squad and invest more into the club infrastructure.

The graphic below shows the importance and magnitude of being in Serie A to our finances:

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We ended the season on a balance of £21m in the black, having been around £1m in the red in each of our previous two seasons.


Planning for next season

I was very pleased that we avoided the drop, to give ourselves a chance of consolidating over the summer by addressing weaknesses in the squad. Earlier in this post I highlighted that we only scored 26 goals in the season, so this would be an area that I would look to address. I have a couple of promising options in attacking midfield, giving me the option of tinkering with some formations in the AM strata.

I have also requested expansion work to the youth facilities, and this has been agreed by the Board.


Adding a philosophy

I wrote in my youth development post that I requested a new philosophy, to be able to develop young players for the first team. This would hopefully allow me to improve the youth setup at the club, because I thought good youth development should be a core value for a club like Trieste. Our improved financial strength meant that we could also dispose of unwanted youth talent, so over the Summer I was able to give free transfers to nineteen players. The plan here was to focus the coaching on a smaller pool of talent who I felt had a chance to either make it with us, or be sold for a profit.


Backroom staff overhaul

As with the end of every season, some staff contracts came to an end and I opted to upgrade my Director of Football and a couple of coaches. They would have an important role in our more progressive youth development aspirations.

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Our HOYD would help with improved recruitment, and I was very keen for somebody with good ability to spot player potential. The quality of youth players at the club since I joined has been nothing short of embarrassing, and I couldn’t wait to wield the axe on a very poor crop, replacing them with players either I or my staff would find for me. As I highlighted in a previous post, it is critical that as manager that you have responsibility for finalising  youth signings.


Scouting improvements

I made some changes to our scouting reports to search for players under 20 with a potential ability of either 4 or 5 stars and a minimum recommendation of 80.

This meant that the quality of players recommended to me was far superior, and I’d already earmarked a couple of potential signings for next summer:

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Fredriksen in particular looks a superb talent with excellent technical and physical attributes, whilst Jeremic is in a similar mould but with slightly better mental capacity. I have already set a reminder to make a bid for them next season.


Summer recruitment

Armed with a transfer kitty of £7.5m I was keen to do some deals to improve our attacking threat next season. Naturally with such a small pot, this would involve buying young talent and once again pursuing loan deals.

We also needed to improve elsewhere with defensive and midfield reinforcements needed, as we included a large number of loanees last season.

Defence

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Bielik (£1.5m) would give us some better defensive skills, as I felt that Andrade last season was slightly roo raw for this level. Bielik is aged 23 and has plenty of room for improvement.

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Gaspar (£1m) would be a direct replacement for loan signing Thychosen who left us to join Genoa on a Bosman last season. I like his Pace and mental skills and again has plenty of time to develop with us.

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Eboa Eboa (£500k) was signed to provide defensive cover and possesses excellent aerial skills and good pace. A good age to develop with us, but with some improvements needed to make to his Marking and Positioning skills.

Midfield

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Antonucci (loan) would give us options in all attacking midfield positions, possessing good Pace, Dribbling and Technique.

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Capanni (loan) is another wide player most likely to be first choice, he has slightly better technical skills than Antonucci, with good Technique, Flair and Vision. These are all attributes that I was looking for, to make us a more potent attacking force this season.

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Mangiarotti (£1.2m) has been with us for the previous 2 seasons, and was available on a Bosman signing from Inter although there was some compensation involved. He has superb Technique, Passing and Determination skills and is an excellent age. He also possesses good pace to complement other attacking players in the squad. He can play either the Mezzala or CM(A) role, but I felt a Roaming Playmaker could be a sensible option.

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Hartmann (£1.2m) was another permanent signing with time on his side; he would compete with Antonucci and Capanni for a role on the flanks. I felt he was a good addition to the squad and has a better eye for goal than the aforementioned player, and would be more likely to take an inside forward role in the team.

Forwards

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Filipovic (£500k) was yet another signing with an eye to the future, although I felt he was good enough to compete with Teuchert for a first team slot. He has excellent Finishing skills and good Pace and Acceleration. I was keen to tie him to a long term deal and think we have a potential gem on our hands.

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Minacori (£1m) was immediately sent out on loan but I was keen to sign him because of his decent attacking skills. Had he remained at the club, he would have been placed in the U20 squad; this was symptomatic of the type of signing I wanted for my U20s.

 

 

 


Next season we’ll be looking for a more comfortable season,even though the objective for the season remains to “battle bravely against relegation”. I’m confident that we have a better squad with more attacking quality this season, and believe we’ll be around 15th or 16th in the league table.

Thanks for reading.


Follow Dictate The Game on Facebook and Twitter.

Other articles that you may be interested in:

Youth Development at US Triestina

Serie A: Into the bigtime with Trieste! Pre-season prep and tactical analysis

Dynamo Project: Improve The Odds – Guide to a Winning Tactic For The Underdog

Fresh Start For African Football

 

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