In my previous post I reviewed our first season in Serie A, in which we managed to survive by finishing in a respectable 16th place, despite the odds being against us.
My aim for the “difficult second season” was to have a more comfortable campaign, by using the increased funds to bring in better players. Our transfer business was included in that post, with a number of defensive reinforcements arriving, supported by some excellent loan signings in midfield and attack.
In the post I will look at:
- A summary of the second season in Serie A
- Brief match review of a home game against Napoli
- Club reinforcements
- Managerial approaches
- Assessment of summer signings
The second season
I was very happy with our finishing position of 12th, an improvement on last season’s 16th place. This was founded upon a more “streetwise” tactic against the division’s better teams, who could boast some of the best and most highly paid talent in the world. Our weekly wage bill of £250k was one-quarter of Paul Pogba’s salary, who had joined Barcelona in my save.
As shown above, once again we got off to a difficult start in the first half of the season. One point from the first four games meant that the first win of the campaign at home to Sassuolo was crucial, and from that point we accumulated points at approximately one per game.
Consecutive wins against Roma and Verona gave us a big confidence boost, and this was backed up by further consecutive wins at home to Spezia and away to Torino. We finished the first half of the campaign in a slightly disappointing fashion, but nonetheless we were in a fairly safe position of 15th going into the winter break.
The second half started fairly well, with a disappointing home loss to Cagliari which was nullified by a convincing win at home to Palermo, followed by a superb rearguard 0-0 away to Juventus. This was the highlight of the season in many ways, and gave us the confidence to feel that we were starting to belong in the league.
The second half of the campaign was quite comfortable, and a final placement of 12th was highly satisfying. Aside from the Juventus draw, the win against Napoli was the most complete performance, and I’ll touch on some aspects of this match now.
Napoli 2-0 (H)
Early into last season, our debut season in Serie A, we were murdered 3-0 at home by Napoli and it dealt us a very severe lesson into the big league.
This time around we were well into the second part of our second season, in a better league position.
I employed the formation and instructions shown below; I used a Defensive mentality because I was very wary of Napoli’s attacking prowess, but we would still look to counter where possible. The focus was on winning the ball back as high up the pitch as possible, trying to press the opposition into mistakes.
The midfield would play a big part in creating chances for us; I used Lo Faso as a CM(A) to support Lakay in attack, with the wingers joining in too. The other central midfielder was a DLP (D), with the wingers sharing support and attack duties. I did a consider a defensive winger role, but thought this would perhaps stifle us too much in attack.
Our full backs took up the FB (S) role because I didn’t want to leave our centre backs too exposed against Napoli’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Clearly Napoli were still going to create chances against us, but the shot map graphic below shows that we were able to restrict most of these efforts (light blue) to outside the box. Our efforts were fewer in number, but four were in very good positions from inside the box:
The video below shows our second goal, which was a very good passing move rather than a quick counter attack as I had been expecting. Nevertheless, it shows that we were able to keep hold of the ball with patience, probe for the right opening, run at the opposition defence and finish well.
Overall, a very satisfying win and it shows how far the team has evolved, from being easy prey for the big teams in our first season, to competing well and taking points from them.
I made some staff upgrades to ensure that our U20s and U18 continued to develop. Ian Brunskill has excellent managerial and good coaching skills in a number of areas.
I also requested that the Board hire more coaches, so I took advantage by hiring Wragg and Vizolli for both of our youth squads. Our coaching team is now looking very strong with excellent specialisms across all the main disciplines.
Of course, superior coaches are not much use if the facilities are substandard, therefore I agreed with the Board that they improved both our youth and training resources. This came at the cost of £3.7m, and underpins the philosophies that I had agreed with the Board, to either sign or develop young players for the first team.
During the course of the 2022/23 season, I was approached by four Premier League clubs: West Ham, Everton, Southampton and Watford.
I agreed to speak with them because I was frustrated at the lack of funds available, but even if offered any of these roles, I would have been very hard pressed to leave Trieste.
I had my eye on other clubs, with the Milan, Inter and Roma managerial positions becoming available, yet none of these clubs approached me.
I also wanted to see what the interview process was like; I was slightly disappointed by the AI because the conversations were all identical. I was told that I was rejected for the four positions above because my demands for increased transfer budget were too excessive.
Transfers and player development
I wanted to highlight the development of some key players in the squad, plus some mid-season transfer activity.
For a small club with limited funds such as Trieste, there is always a need for the manager to buy, develop and ultimately sell players for a profit in order to finance transfer activity.
Cedric Teuchert was my first major signing after securing promotion to Serie A, for a cost of £1.9m. He has impressive attributes, but I was not overly impressed with his output over the two full seasons with us. He scored 11 in 48 games, which in a defensive team is not a terrible performance, yet I felt that his finishing let us down on several occasions.
I received a £5m bid from Wolfsburg, but decided to ask for a further £2.5m for his services. I was very surprised when they agreed to this, so therefore he was on his way. The downside to this move was that it happened right at the transfer deadline, so I was unable to secure an immediate replacement. However when taking a step back, I felt that it was an excellent deal for us.
Krystian Bieliek had grown into an excellent player for us, rising in value to £2.6m from his £1.5m transfer fee. He has impressive attributes and at 24 can still hope to improve.
Tiago Andrade was signed for only £400k and was recently the subject of a £9.5m bid, also from Wolfsburg. Because I don’t believe that he is ultimately in the top bracket, I thought this represented a good deal for us, but he remained with us after rejecting their contract offer. He continues to attract attention from Benfica and Arsenal, yet I feel that his defensive attributes are slightly lacking. He is 6″6 yet only had a heading attribute of 14, and his 12 rating for Marking also concerns me.
Jordy Gaspar arrived from French club Angers for £1.1m, and has matured into a superb right back who is now worth £3.5m. He possesses excellent speed and good Marking, Dribbling and improving Crossing skills. He is also attracting interest from other clubs and still has time to develop further.
Selomon Mangiarotti operates as a CM(A) and has matured into a superb footballer. He arrived from Inter for a rather large £2.9m and he still needs to justify that price tag. However he has time on his side at 20, and has superb technical skills, supported by impressive physical attributes. I am really impressed by his development and fits the template of young, technical and physically impressive players that I want to attract to the club.
Adam Lewis finally signed on a permanent basis from Liverpool on a free transfer, and again has most things that I’m looking for in a player. He has good versatility, impressive physical and satisfactory mental attributes. He can easily become the club’s long-term solution for left-back and also provide cover further up the field.
Fabrice Hartmann has matured into an excellent footballer after signing from RB Lepizig for £1.2m. He is now a regular in the Germany U21 side, and can play in either midfield or attacking midfield on either flank. His mental capacity could do with some development, but he has good technical skills and has time on his side.
In summary I am happy with the development of key players in the squad, as we aim to evolve in a footballing sense towards a top half finish in Serie A within the next couple of seasons.
Thanks for reading
Other articles you may enjoy: