July 2028: US Sassuolo Calcio takeover report

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We are in!

Sadly, no staff other than Gianluigi Buffon were interested in coming with me to Italy. But that is ok; I used the three million Euro budget to cipher the poor staff from the Sassuolo backroom and will be able to, over the coming months and years, build my own squad.  The contract offered is a nice one but I do have reservations about a board takeover; I don’t think I’ll be sacked but funds may be cut or changes to the culture may take place. Speaking of the culture – the club want Italians, which I’m happy with, but it’ll also see me shift towards South American talents. With the non-EU rules to abide by, I’ll specifically be looking for South Americans with EU passports because, based on the quality of those nations – I’m more likely to be able to spot higher quality players. For comparability, here are the numbers of players available to me when changing my own shift:

  • 2271 South Americans with EU passports
  • 7007 African based players

Obviously, it won’t just be South Americans, like it wasn’t just African based players. But that will form a core policy as will the continued use of the DoF to create Transfer Target lists and use of the controls to limit wages or incoming deals. Every player will be thoroughly scouted and I also now have my slight twist that I’ll still not be able to see all of their attributes when they sign. The recruitment that I do make, like previously, will be heavily driven by statistical data.

As well as that, there’ll – obviously – be huge intent on developing youth, as Sassuolo have brought through some very strong players in real life over the past few years.

The city of Sassuolo, however, is not a lot to shout about. I don’t mean that in an offensive way – the images I’ve seen on Google look beautiful and very central Italian. It’s a town of just under forty-thousand people (one eighth the size of Trabzon and one, one hundred and twenty-fifth of the size of Ankara’s metropolitan area). There is a football stadium in the town though – the Stadio Enzo Ricci, but Sassuolo don’t even play in it any more. Instead, they play in Reggio Emilia – at the Mapei Stadium, which they share with Reggiana (not to be confused with Reggina) – joining a select group of teams not belonging to a provincial capital city: Empoli, Legnano, Pro Patria, Carpi and Casale. With excellent youth and good training facilities, some 1.1m social media followers, this little club is built on some strong foundations.

But, I can’t help but shake the fact that Sassuolo are a small side. I can bring back my own love of Calcio to the 98/99 season but, back then, Sassuolo were in the fourth or fifth tier of Italian football. There’s no Ronaldo, Batigol, Vieri, Zanetti here but there is a team that have continued to punch above their weight for many, many years. They’ve been on a steady road but have a completely empty top-level trophy cabinet to show for it. I’m really hoping that I can improve on their recent finishes: 12th, 15th, 10th, 9th, 14th and 12th again and propel them into Europe and beyond. My job will be to change the culture of the club from top to bottom, bringing through players in a particular way that fit a particular style. A club the size of Sassuolo – who, on reputation alone, are bigger than Trabzonspor – feels the ideal place to do it. Get this right and it’ll be my last stop in Europe for this career. Get it wrong and I could be mixing with the likes of Palermo, Pescara, Bari, Brescia and Udinese in Serie B…

With a handful of pre-arranged deals, I will find myself with a squad that is smaller than I’d have wanted but, just by looking at the total wage bill, will have some wiggle room.

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The biggest concern for me though is the ridiculous 111 players that are on our books! I like to run with a squad of around 25 first team players and 10-15 high quality prospects in each age group, which, here in Italy is at u18 level and u20 level. A big part of my plan with squad management will be about handling the finances as a secondary source – my plan is to not actually engage with contract negotiations myself but only instruct others to do so when I am sure they make financial sense for the longer term running of the club. With the wage bill trimmed, I’ll also be able to call on some adjustments to my transfer budget by cashing in on deals such as below, for ex-player Manuel Locatelli.

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There is not a lot better than taking an extra €7m for a 30-year old from Juventus with absolutely nothing weakening us. All in all, there are fourteen clauses, which I will likely try and cash in on as well as trying to see just how much we have incoming and outgoing for various transfers across the seasons – always something that can come back to bite a manager if not managed properly. Financially, we are ok – it also appears that we’ll be due a payment (probably TV rights) very soon, which will further boost the bank balance and hopefully be recycled into new playing staff or retention of current players.

With a tiny first team squad following the shifting of the departing players, I’ve really got to get the analysis correct so that I can properly plan and prepare for the season ahead. As always – links to the full profile can be found by clicking on the thumbnail.

Goalkeepers

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Timo Horn left the club in the summer and that has left me with, in my opinion, two below par keepers. Daniel Naumov appears to be a decent Sweeper Keeper – Composed and not too bad at Passing but he sheer one-footedness will almost certainly come back to haunt us in playing out from the back. He also was not first choice last season so I really don’t have much up to date data to deeply analyse him on: there’ll be some interrogation during pre-season. Adessa looks like he could become a top keeper but is just not anywhere near ready yet. Ideally, he’ll need to spend time out on loan, honing his skills and experiencing mens football, but – right now – he’s the second best keeper we have at the club.

Full Backs

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Liberato not only had an amazing name but also looks to be pretty decent. I do like inverted wing backs and I think that his ability on the ball and trait – Cuts Inside – will be of benefit to our build up play. He could be a little more creative in his play but there is certainly a player, at his peak, who can definitely fit into my systems.  I think, purely attribute wise, that Brighi is also not too far off. He’s not appeared for us at this level yet but he’s pretty strong on the ball and decent with both feet. He’ll need to work a little defensively but is certainly one for the future. I quite like Sampsted also but he’s certainly more of a conventional full back/wing back type than a player who is comfortably in creating that triple pivot that I’ve achieved with the defensive midfielder.

Centre Backs

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The two Argies are likely to be the first choice here. Quarta is well rounded and has good quality but is aging and Valenti is only marginally weaker than he is with maybe a little less quality on the ball. My concern is that Lautaro has barely played – eight and six league games in total – over the last two seasons and there must be a reason for this. Martin Erlic looks an able backup but lacks pace and a first touch, which may be a problem for us. Jose looks promising but, at 21, is running out of time to develop his poor Positioning and Acceleration – although most other things are relatively in line for him. I also worry about his lack of Consistency and one appearance at this level.

Central Midfielders

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Gedson is the first and only player who can play in the holding role, even if his traits don’t suit it at all. A true box-to-box player which could see my style adapt slightly – he’s a player that I never had in Sarr and Boudjemaa so it’ll be interesting to see if that kind of Roaming Ball Winner would work. Ahead of him, the trio of Bruno – not the best but loves a big match and is super Consistent and Edson Jose – a youngster who I feel is much more suited to a deeper role – play second fiddle to Berardi, who I feel could be a diamond in the Mez(a) role I use. At 33, his legs are going and he’s going to get kicked about too much on the wing or up top but this role will make use of his great Off the Ball and Vision as well as his Shooting and Long Shots. As a leftie – I’ll want to see how he works on either side, as, previous to this, all my Mezzalas have been right footed…

Wide Midfielders

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Trossard, Doan and Mor are all inverted, which may cause me a problem with some crowding but I will watch and analyse how that plays out but there is some quality here – even though Trossard is, like Berardi, the wrong side of 30. He moved to Fulham for €35m and then onto Napoli before joining us and has a season or so left in his legs and I think that the Supporting role out wide will place less onus on the physicality, which is dwindling. I think Mor (not Emre Mor), with some work on his Dribbling, could fill the role here in a few years. I like his physicality but also admit that his Decisions would make him a liability elsewhere at times so think that I’m trying to develop someone for another club, essentially! Baldinelli is all Pace and no Finishing ability so could be useful as a late threat out wide.

Forwards

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Pinamonti is great and I think his traits – Plays With Back to Goal and Play One-Twos – could be amazing at getting the likes of Trossard and Berardi into goal scoring positions. The youngest Simeone (doesn’t he look like his Dad!) is actually a decent option as his trait to move right would then further allow either an numerical overload or create space on the left, again for Berardi or Trossard. Well-travelled Kouame will score goals in this style, I’m sure of it. I just need to find time to get him on the pitch.

I’m delighted to be in and have had a look at the first team. I still have many jobs left to get done this summer:

  • Fill the spaces in the backroom team
  • Analyse and trim the youth squads
  • Allocate individual training to all players
  • Set up team training for all three squads
  • Set up recruitment focuses
  • Analyse data from last season and beyond to try and spot any talent to strengthen the first team
  • Organise a pre-season schedule and analyse performances of the players I have.

Then, and only then, will we see if I do have enough about me to take this club to the next level or whether this was a jump too far or too soon…

Early July 2028

Meet the Team:

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Quite the lineup of mugshots that is!

Since I’ve turned my back on the days of ensuring 5* coaching and, instead, look to ensure I have the right backroom staff at the club, I’ve felt like I’ve taken another step towards the realism I crave. Four of the backroom team remain from previous management. Baldini is the Head of Youth Development and, despite not being too Disciplined, is great at Working With Youngsters and has an eye for picking out young talent. He’s Fairly Determined and, just by looking at the players that have come through here lately, has been doing a good job. Riggio is the man in charge of analysing the opposition and, despite also lacking some Discipline, gets tactics (probably has a niche Twitter that I would definitely follow, too!) as well as knowing how good a player is and could be. Giovanni Rossi has overseen a lot at this club over his twelve years and, when asked at the interview if I’d work with him, it felt like a no-brainer. Moving to a new country without the support of a man who knows the club was an ideal move. He also drives a hard bargain and that’ll come in handy when he links up with myself and Davide Cangini, my Head Scout. Another one lacking in discipline but really good at Judging Ability and Potential who can build on the eight years he’s already been here.

I did make one new addition to this Core TeamFabricio Coloccini. It is important to me that I both surround myself with countrymen, for language purposes if nothing else, and ex professionals, who can inspire the youngsters in the dressing room. Whilst not the best coach, yet, the Argentine was the leading candidate to respond to my advert and brings with him a strong Disciplined persona and a want to develop Youngsters. The ex-Venezuela youth coach has immediately started a coaching course, too, which further vindicates my want to sign and develop staff, too.

I then used adverts to bulk out my other staffing needs, leaving me a rounded coaching team, including famous ex-players Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi as, like before, there is an onus on developing the staff too.

Assess the whole squad:

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I utilised the opportunity to spend time with the squad, looking at the squad depth as well as assigning every player a training schedule, position and focus. Whilst I am not dealing with world class youngsters, yet, there are some players who could absolutely go on to make a living somewhere in the professional game and, if not for us, they could fetch some income for the club. This is one of the most satisfying areas of the game – developing youngsters, regardless of whether they are the most known wonderkids or whether they are 5* potential and I will dive deeper into the individuals as I go on, ensuring that they have enough – and appropriate – game time to develop.

With the €7m for the Locatelli clause, I decided that using nearly €4m to release players would make sense in the long run: the time I can now dedicate to their development will surely pay off in future sales, offsetting this cost. We now have 55 players on the books, cutting over 50% of the playing squad – both reducing the wage bill by over €300k p/w but also providing space and opportunities for the players above to get game time and develop. I much prefer running with smaller squads to lighten training loads, prioritise game time and – obviously – save money.

One potential issue that will now arise, though, is the match conflicts, as seen in the calendar, marked in grey:

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A lot of U20 and U18 games will take place on the same day, meaning that I can’t use the same twenty players to get two games per week and need two squads of fifteen, at least. I have nineteen and seventeen in the U20 and U18, respectively, and I envisage that they’ll get quite full on seasons, which implicates the depth of training that they receive.

That leads, nicely, onto the area where I talk about training. However, I have recently had my work life turned upside down by the introduction of AI technology and ChatGPT, so I’ll let that explain to you how my ideologies work:

“Tactical periodisation is a training methodology in football that was developed by Portuguese coach Vitor Frade in the 1990s. It focuses on organizing training sessions in a way that mimics the tactical demands of a game, with specific attention paid to the physical, technical, and psychological aspects of the sport. Tactical periodisation is used by many top coaches, including Jose Mourinho, who is known for his success with teams like Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid. In this report, we will examine the principles of tactical periodisation and its effectiveness in improving team performance, with specific reference to Jose Mourinho. 

Principles of Tactical Periodisation:

The core principle of tactical periodisation is that training sessions should mirror the tactical demands of a game. This means that drills and exercises should be designed to improve the team’s ability to execute specific tactics and strategies that will be used in a game. The key is to break down the game into its component parts and design exercises that focus on those parts. In tactical periodisation, the training week is divided into several phases, each with a specific focus. For example, the first phase might focus on physical conditioning, the second on technical skills, and the third on tactical drills. Within each phase, specific drills and exercises are designed to achieve the desired outcomes.

Jose Mourinho and Tactical Periodisation:

Jose Mourinho is a well-known proponent of tactical periodisation and has used it extensively throughout his coaching career. Mourinho is known for his tactical flexibility and his ability to adapt his team’s tactics to the specific strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. Mourinho’s approach to tactical periodisation is to focus on a few key principles. First, he emphasizes the importance of defensive organization and compactness. This means that his teams are designed to be difficult to break down and are organized around a solid defensive structure. Second, Mourinho believes in the importance of set pieces. He believes that set pieces can be a significant source of goals and that they are an excellent way to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses. Finally, Mourinho emphasizes the importance of team spirit and psychology. He believes that a team’s mental preparation and psychological state are just as important as their physical and technical abilities.

Conclusion:

Tactical periodisation is a proven training methodology that has been used successfully by many top football coaches, including Jose Mourinho. By focusing on the specific tactical demands of the game, coaches can design effective training sessions that improve their team’s physical, technical, and psychological abilities.”

How utterly ridiculously accurate is that?!

My periodisation is built, right now, around the concept of attacking and defending weeks, as seen below:

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I want to further this by creating more customised approaches for teams who are stronger (we use the defending week) but also better in the air (aerial defence rather than ground defence) for example. This will come with time once I have a better handle on the opposition strengths and weaknesses.

Recruitment foci:

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One of my favourite areas to dig into…

The plan is simple here – I have set the bar low to find more players, just 2.5* potential ability. From there, I will be able to dig down into the players I have and use the statistical analysis and tools at my disposal to find the best possible players. The ideology is simple – Italians, to meet the boards demands, and South American players with EU passports. I will, obviously, be on the look out for bargain or two but I want to create a development path for cheap, young Italians and know that the lower leagues are also a gold mine for them.

It’s also important that I utilise the knowledge that the DOF has, by requesting players to sign:

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We are short of a DM, so I asked – initially – for all roles before specifying a little more to try and dig into things. It appears, at this stage, that Rossi hasn’t quite got the board’s instructions on board – these players are not young and the majority of them are not Italian:

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I have some way to go on perfecting this approach…

I now need to get some friendlies arranged and really dig into the tactical and performance side of this whilst waiting for my scouts to come back on some players. Once I’ve assessed the playing ability of the squad – I can set out foci that look for specific positions or roles to strengthen the side.

Late July 2028

Sassuolo vs Lecce

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A nice start to my tenure with a solid victory over Lecce as my new-look, and very, very thin side overcame our Serie A mid-table rivals with some nice bits of football. There is such a lot to learn about this squad and this country that I have no knowledge of the players in, so I spent a good time watching and analysing.

  • Naumov: Made a good save in the second half from close range but mostly tested from range before that.
  • Brighi: Caught with balls through his channel on a few occasions as I felt Lecce tried to create chances down their right. Looked assured on the ball though, creating a key pass.
  • Valenti: Solid but rarely tested.
  • Martinez Quarta: Solid but rarely tested. Did only manage a 66% Header Win ratio
  • Sampsted: Final ball let him down on several occasions but had the pace to get himself back into defence. Literal opposite of Brighi.
  • Gedson: Completed his passes and did what he was supposed to do – completing fourteen progressive passes but can’t help but feel that he was too deep to be of real use to us. Also, I can’t help but feel his lack of defensive ability left us more open that maybe we should have been.
  • Mor: Quiet. Two key passes and three dribbles but in and out of the game far more than I’d want.
  • Berardi: Delivered a devilishly curling corner that led to a penalty that he then converted. Ran the show from the middle of the park with everything positive coming through him. Made the second with a neat through ball. Five key passes, two chances created, four dribbles and a goal is a great return – considering he was somewhat unhappy about his new position.
  • Bruno: Very poor and looked well below the required quality for the team. Misplaced a lot but that didn’t even come from ambitious chances.
  • Doan: Quite invisible but popped up with a lovely goal, finishing from a tight angle on the left hand side.
  • Pinamonti: Took a fair few kicks in the first half but didn’t really get involved. Subbed off in the forty-seventh minute with an injury.
  • Simeone: On to replace Pinamonti and spurned a great chance as he was unable to bring down a through ball.
  • Edson Jose: On for Bruno and looked lively, finished expertly in injury time.

Sassuolo vs Chievo Verona

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I think that I’ve said this with all of the clubs I’ve been at but things do take such a long time to embed. Part of this was the fact that, given it was a friendly cup, this fixture was a day after the Lecce game and I have literally no squad depth, but I’m also asking them to play a somewhat foreign style and still expect results.

We were never second best again third tier Chievo but, also, we never were able to stamp our authority on the game in a way that I really wanted. Following on from the thoughts on individual performances from the last game: Gedson and Berardi really failed to get a grip on the game whilst Erlic was poor and Doan was, too. It is the youngsters, however, that have caused me the most issues as very few of them appear to be at the right standard, although Cagnazzo did lay on a beautiful cross for Kouame, the standout on the night, to open the scoring.

With us still being short of players, I can’t even begin to really experiment with shapes and styles. Our three strikers could allow the 4-2-2-2 shape again but I don’t have the sufficient force in the DM role and it’d leave Berardi out of his new role, too. My plan is to finalise my really, really early business and then continue to evaluate the squad – maybe even until January, before wholesale changes happen. By then, they’ll understand the concept of Baretto-ball and hopefully will be playing it!

I have used Giovanni Rossi to complete three early signings for me and I must say that I’m quite happy with both the fees paid out and the wages. I need to further this by creating Target Lists but, at this stage, with this small amount of data, decided to act upon scout and analyst reports for single players.

To see the full profile of the three players, you can click on their thumbnails, below.

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Drawn to his scout report just a few days after I arrived, I was shocked to see a man, plying his trade in Serie C who was consistent, Enjoyed big matches, naturally fit and – alarmingly – good enough for Serie A. I know that there is a lot of depth in the Italian game in terms of quality but to see a man with his quality at such an affordable – his release clause – price. Furthermore, he’ll fit into the core group of the team as I’ve gone from trying to find a rotational option to actually finding an option that would allow Gedson to operate further forward. In terms of the player he is, my newest skinning experiment gives me four years worth of data showing good or elite levels of tackles, sprints and presses. Back that up with the percentiles, as seen above, that he showed in a team fighting relegation last year and I think I’ve found myself a good ball winner – but also one who can use the ball when he has it. Digging back to his first year, on loan at Pescara in Serie C, he’s demonstrated a good ability, when compared with players at that level, to use the ball.

Just to solidify my choice of signing, I went back to watch some Ascoli games from last year. Normally, I’d do this by being able to use the fact that the matches are on full detail, but, being as they were not, went back to an old save and used that angle to examine his match to match performances. I watched a man who, whilst playing in a two, was the less adventurous part of the pivot but a man who held his shape well and was strong – but fair – in the tackle. At 5’10”, he’s never going to be immense in the air but I can look to mitigate that weakness in his game.

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At €1.6m, he’ll not be the most expensive signing I make, nor the most glamorous, but, in just two games – I’ve identified a real need within this side and I hope to have plugged it.

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I’m quite excited to announce the €1.2m signing of Aldo Florenzi from another relegated side – this time now-Serie B side Brescia. Aldo was quickly snapped up when it was identified that he was a really strong ball carrier in the centre of the pitch (I checked, he played centrall last year despite the ability to play wide) and is another player who is really well rounded and, hopefully, suited to the job. Looking at his stats from Serie A 2027/28 (left) and Serie B and 2026/27 (right), I’d go as far as saying he was not far from a standout creator in the league despite his team finishing eighteenth, which really gives me hope. I often find myself looking at these stats and telling myself that a player isn’t good enough if I can’t see a 90%+ percentile bar, but I’ve got to learn to really understand that he’s in a poor team that does not attack much and is weaker than the others. So, to see outputs like that is wonderful. As a former youth international, I think that there is certainly some potential in there and I hope to be able to utilise him, firstly as backup for Berardi in the Mezzala role, to good effect. Furthermore, to snag the captain of the side feels to me like an absolute coup.

In a similar vein to Gyabuaa, I wanted to have a more detailed look at his game to game performances from last year – with particular attention to see if I could find how they utilised him to get his ball carrying numbers so polished. I know that, in my shape, the CM(a) and Mez(a) are good ball carriers so see this, potentially, as an added bonus if he’s in a different area.

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What I found was a man out of form! Whilst he was cultured on the ball and moved nicely into the spaces that I’d a player like him too, he looked bereft of confidence in the two games I viewed. Saying that, he still created some key passes and probably would have created some better chances of Pietro Pellegri wasn’t also in a massive confidence rut. Despite having a resolute personality and plenty of match experience, I think that he is a player I will absolutely need to manage really well to ensure he’s in good spirits and feeling supported throughout his time here. Bad form manifests from a variety of reasons and I hope to never have to dig too deep to find out but he’s one to keep an eye on!

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The last player joining before our short tour to Singapore is Niccolo Pierozzi, for just €110k from Serie B Cittadella – again, fitting in with the Italian ethos but also looking for bargains. A consistent, versatile player good enough for this league and in his peak who enjoys big matches makes this deal feel like a no-brainer, even if I did have some reservations due to his preferred role as an Inverted Winger and not a huge amount of understanding of his defensive capabilities. However, statistically he’s doing well up and down the pitch although has proven to be somewhat wasteful. I do not mind this, necessarily, in our high risk offensive play, but will want to monitor – especially as his trait of ‘Likes Ball Played Into Feet’ can make him a de-facto playmaker at times.

We’re still very much a small fish in the big pond of Serie A money but, at least, I’m starting to flesh out the Squad Planner, which Gennaro Gattuso left decimated. I still want a winger and a centre back, but there are two fixtures to play first…

Albirex (S) vs Sassuolo

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You can only play against the opposition that are in front of you and, given that I didn’t decide to tour Singapore, can’t really moan in what was a relatively easy fixture. What I can take from it, though, was a stellar performance from Aldo Florenzi, on debut. The midfielder created five key passes and three chances as well as getting on the scoresheet himself as he found fitness and form.

I must say that, from just three friendlies, there is a lot that needs to change in this team with just a small handful of the players actually good enough to move us forward, based on my initial thoughts.

Johor Darul Ta’zim

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First appearance under my tenure for Liberato Carcace, who had been on Olympic duty.

A tried to rotate and bring players off when we started dominating but it didn’t change the outcomes. Both centre backs absolutely dominant from corners and another walkover. One thing that I have noticed – albeit against weaker teams – is that we have a far higher ball share and press far more than we did at Trabzon. I want to continue counter attacking teams and defending rigidly rather than play keep ball but it’s not an easy metric to dig into right now given the opposition’s terrible ball retention ability.

Two more deals through the door to end the month as I feel that my hard work and research has really paid off. Again, full profile can be found by clicking the thumbnail.

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After being incredibly unimpressed with Bruno, the scouting team were quick to pick up on a peak-Italian player, in OB midfielder Franco Tongya: a dual Italian-Cameroonian from the Juventus setup and once the subject of an €8m move to Marseille. Since the game started, he’s been a regular in the OB midfield and, last season, put up some electric ball carrying stats as well as scoring a nearly one in three. As much of my recruitment has been built around – Franco is consistent, doesn’t mind big matches and is good enough for Serie A, hitting three of the four key attributes to the threshold I want.

At just €2m, he represents another bargain player in the peak of his career, coming in with strong statistics in the metrics that matter most to my own style of player. He could be quite the bargain!

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An analyst report (ignore the broken polygon – thanks 23.3 update!) indicated that I really should be taking a deeper look at Federico Torres, a man who, for me, shares a lot of similarities with Man Utd centre back Lisandro Martinez. The game rates him as a full back based on his height but his tenacity in the tackle and ability to win the ball back will add a different style to my defensive team and he’s shown that he’s among the best in Brazil, for a Bahia team that aren’t particularly strong. At €1.5m there is little risk but he’s never played outside of South America so there is a possibility that he struggles to adapt, although he becomes the third Argentine centre back at the club, which may mitigate that factor.

With that, I have potentially completed my transfer dealings, for a total outlay of €6.5m, a net spend of nearly €5m. Looking at the list, there are certainly some commonalities.

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Players in their peak who are well rounded and, given their current transfer value, have been purchased at, or below, their market value. There is nothing flashy and the total wage bill adds up to just a small amount less than Andrea Pinamonti, my top earner. Whilst there isn’t much wiggle room in terms of developing these players, I feel that, should I have the magic touch to get them to perform well, they could be sold for significant profit or become solid squad players for the foreseeable future. The moves are happening like this because I am simply being priced out of other players – either in terms of wages: take Luis Lopez, a youngster who’d be happier in Man Utd’s youth team than our first team or by asking price:

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These are the highest rated players right now and their asking prices (or wages in Valdes’ case as big clubs are interested) and we simply cannot play ball with them. It’s a million miles from Turkey where squads could be built for a fraction of this price and something I’ll have to learn. This will, hopefully, be made much easier in January onwards when I have built up a scouting database.

There is a big job ahead. Hopefully I have what it takes…

August 2028

Friendly: Udinese vs Sassuolo

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Friendly: Spezia vs Sassuolo

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Two more important run outs for the team, in order to gain tactical familiarity and match fitness. However, the issue has more been the injury list, which keeps growing:

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Coppa Italia Fanta: Palermo vs Sassuolo

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Goalscorer: Paolo Mor.

My first competitive game in Italy ends in a rather annoying penalty defeat…

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One thing I want to become is far more tactical aware, changing the shape and style of the team to get the best against certain shapes. Palermo’s tactical shape, a 5-1-2-2, is not one that I’m overly common with. I fielded a strong line up with Berardi at the tip o the midfield triangle, hoping to use his Off the Ball ability to create space against the three defenders for the central midfielders to exploit. I’m also a big fan of the need for a spare man at the back, so have changed the DM(d) role to try and pull him back to make a three without the need for a HB(d).

As the match progressed, the idea of finding space for my attackers was an issue and largely the reason why, despite 25 shots, they were worth, on average, just over 0.04xG/shot. We could not break through, despite our attempts to stretch the play. We did break through once, getting 3v3 against the Palermo defence, which was marked by Paolo Mor’s debut goal. I set about seeing the game out, slowing the tempo down and being safer but, in the dying seconds of injury time, we shot ourselves in the foot. We were left in a 2v2 situation – not inherently dangerous but, for me, not ideal – but then a terrible decision and missed header from Martinez Quarta allowed them in to score the equaliser.

I put on Christian Kouame late into injury time, knowing he was a good penalty taker but, in the end, it was Florenzi who missed the decisive kick, knocking us out at the first hurdle. In fact, I used Chat GPT to sum up my thoughts.

Alex Barreto, who had been hopeful throughout the game, was left in despair at the loss. Speaking to reporters after the game, Barreto expressed his disappointment and frustration, stating that Sassuolo had played a great game but were unlucky to lose on penalties. Barreto also acknowledged the fact that penalties were always a game of chance, and luck played a crucial role in determining the outcome. Despite this, he was heartbroken that his team was not able to progress further in the tournament. The loss to Palermo means that Sassuolo has now been eliminated from the Coppa Italia, leaving their hopes for silverware in the season solely on their performance in Serie A. Barreto and his team will have to bounce back quickly from this defeat and focus on their upcoming league fixtures.

To be honest, I saw very little I liked from the team over the course of the two hours and penalties. Our shape was pulled apart too easily and we lack flair and urgency in our counter attacks.

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Parma

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Goalscorers: Domenico Berardi,Paolo Mor, Lautaro Valenti.

Sassuolo’s nine game winless run is over and I taste victory in my first Serie A game.

Spurred on by the pretty shambolic cup tie, I was adamant that I needed a response and, I got that. Immediately, we looked sharper in our 2-3-5 shape to build up and we took the league thanks to a cracking strike from Berardi, cutting in from the right. I’ve not earmarked him to play there but, given the injury crisis – more on that later – had little other in the way of options. Paolo Mor met Berardi’s cross and we were two up inside the first fifteen with a league debutant netting his first goal: wonderful stuff. Valenti added a third from a Berardi corner, topping off his performance as we started our campaign in the best possible way against a newly promoted side.

The bad news, as seen in the screenshot attached, is that Pinamonti has got injured again. This time he’ll miss the next three to four months, which is going to put real strain of Simeone and Kouame up top. There needs to be goals from elsewhere.

Serie A: Monza vs Sassuolo

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Goalscorer: Christian Kouame.

Another newly promoted side up next in Monza with a different shape to the usual 4-2-3-1 from Turkey: the 4-4-2. Therefore, I went with the adapted shape in order to give me the 3-3-3-1 shape with the ball and the spare against their two forwards. It also utilised a rarely used role for me – the DW(s) – in order to counter the perceived threat of a highly attacking wingback down their right hand side.

We got off to the best possible start with Kouame netting inside two minutes and then having the ball in the net again within sixty seconds, only to be ruled out for offside. Their goal came from a silly bit of play – we stood off for far too long, which, is ok usually, but, given my trust in the high line, left us way too open and the ball over the top was converted by Aaron Connolly, the PoTM. The lads will spend the week working on a lower defensive line as none are truly blessed with immense pace.

Despite the draw, I’m really happy with our overall play. xG/shot is now around 0.1, which is far more in line with the average and our OPPDA, sitting at eight for this game, is a real indicator of where I want to be in terms of the compact, strong line that – in this case, was only really tested from their goal. It’s going to get much harder but an unbeaten two to start isn’t too bad.

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Very little to see in the early season table but, looking at the names in the columns next to it shows a harsh reminder of the quality on show in this league.

Next month is genuinely terrifying. I’d love a point, or better, on the road at Sampdoria, who only stayed up by virtue of a Playout win over Brescia and I will also target the Bologna game but everything else there is just a free hit. However, it’s not like we are a newly promoted – we face off against the big boys regularly and, even if our record isn’t amazing  (three wins in fourteen against Roma, one in fourteen against Inter and two in fifteen against Juventus), I will approach the tie with the same meticulous planning as any other game.

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My tactical thoughts here:

  • I like the same tactical shape because it means that I can always defend in the same way. I don’t like wingers in the AM strata as I feel that they contribute a lot less to my defensive play.
  • The 4-1-4-1 can be adapted to face wingers (WB), Inverted wingers (IWB) and narrow shapes (CWB) – which builds a more solid rest defence, in my opinion.
  • I can create many different build shapes from the same 4-1-4-1 defensive shape – e.g. 2-3-5, 3-2-5, 3-3-4. This, again, can be altered for different opposition.
  • I tend to run smaller squads, so would really struggle to have three standalone DMs and three standalone AMs, for example. I’d rather have a player (Mac Allister is my current real life favourite) who can play the 6, 8 and 10.
  • I really prioritise rounded and versatile players: ones who can play as both an IWB (passing, vision) and a CWB (pace, crossing). Whilst I accept that having a player, at this level, who can do both will more than likely mean they’re not as good in either discipline, it allows me to run that smaller squad.
  • The only change I have is a double pivot (4-2-2-2) because I love the concept of the extra spare man in defence but don’t turn to this permanently because a) I have three strikers at the club (and they are the most expensive player and that fits in less with my recruitment policy) and b) it means that my central midfielders have to be repurposed.

Linking to strikers being expensive – that is why I have one! Also, wingers, in my experience, are also expensive, so I can get away with repurposing creative midfielders in what is – essentially – a WP role or using really attacking full backs in a DW(s) role.

September 2028

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Roma.

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The more I watch this team and learn about them, the more I am excited for what I could maybe be able to build with them. However, there is a long way to go with some of the players.

I faced up against a far more familiar 4-2-3-1 shape, although against a team considerably stronger than ours. One of the things I am learning is that, given the sheer level of ability on show, I can have no complaints about their goals, when they look like this. However, I can have some complaints about our own finishing, after Simeone missed a sitter, which, without me actually knowing, was extending his barren run. Certainly something to consider for the next match. The game then got much harder for us as Valenti was dismissed for foul on Abraham, although I’d argue that he was not the last man and, despite it being a professional trip, he deserved a yellow. Again though, an example of a bad decision being made, but more on that below. Our second concession came from a situation where, again, our line may be potentially still too high and, given our lack of pressure on the ball, Roma were able to cut us apart.

The game ends with the score two-nil, shots on target six-nil but, at the end of the day, we had one more clear cut chance than they did and really should have buried it. I’m learning about the style of the players and what they bring to the team and, given that – as a Villa fan – I’m currently experiencing our squad go through the changes that Unai Emery wants to bring in, feel I can empathise and understand this process.

Looking at the familiarity levels of my first choice back four – three of whom started in the Roma tie and the other, Martinez Quarta, would have started had he not rated poorly the week before – you’ll see that none of them are fully fluid with our style. The two centre backs are not used to being played as ball players and neither full back is quite aware of the passing demands. Sampsted has accrued a 79% pass accuracy and has completed no progressive passes, whereas Cacace has a 78% pass completion with a total of 4.97 progressive passes per ninety, the only anomalously good stat here.

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There is lots to be done in terms of developing the style I want. I know that I need to adapt to my players’ strengths, in particular their traits (e.g. Martinez Quarta plays simple passes, so, in terms of what I want, is the BPD the best option here? or do I just want a centre back knowing that the extra creativity allowance may put us in trouble, despite the fact he’s actually a good ball player?) but they also need to be comfortable with mine.

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I know it’s not as clear cut as this but, in my (realism) head, if we train our defensive areas, there will surely be some carry-over into the match. I’ve built the week around the defensive side of the game. My core defensive principle is to be able to defend disengaged, but, at this point – I just want to spend time in our positions, working on perfecting the keeping the ball out of our net side of the game!

Serie A: Sampdoria vs Sassuolo.

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Goalscorer: Domenico Berardi.

Again, we faced a similar 4-2-3-1 shape and my only change was to alter the Mezzalas, changing them to Central Midfielders, both on attack duty, in the hope we could create a central overload and penetrate centrally now I had the extra quality of Ritsu Doan, returning from injury. The tactical change worked within ten minutes as Berardi’s finish showcased a move where we made it very difficult for the defenders. There was some huffing and puffing from the hosts but that’s how the game ended.

For us to truly become a counter attacking team, we need to get used to this prolonged pressure but we then also must improve our chance quality. Each shot, on average, had below 0.06xG and we cannot afford to only get three of those on target and still win. I know that I’m missing Fernandes, Trossard and Pinamonti from the line up – three key players – but it is certainly an area to work on. I will attack it as I have done with the defensive structure, but probably not until after the Inter/Juve double header!

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Inter Milan.

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Facing up to the same 5-1-2-2 shape that caused us all sorts of attacking problems against Palermo, I opted for the 4-1-4-1, creating a 3-3-3-1 in transition – in the hope that, maybe, just maybe, we could create something ourselves. In the end, we spent much of the game defending – resolutely – until we decided that we’d rather be ball watching than defending, allowing Bastoni to finish the easiest chance of his life. We soaked up a lot of pressure, really well, actually and I’m much happier with how we are defending, although the overall ratings would not suggest that.

Serie A: Juventus vs Sassuolo.

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Back to the 4-2-3-1 formation, so I went for the same shape as Sampdoria tie, hoping to get something that would class as a huge upset against a team with a 100% record to start the season. Their first goal, from Kulusevski, started like this and ended like this: not really much to say except for better organisation in the defence. Once again, the situation would have been very different if Berardi hadn’t missed a sitter: 1-1 on the hour would have given us a springboard to have maybe done something in the closing stages but it wasn’t to be.

Three horror games with a 0-0-3 record and 0GF-5GA. Realistically, the only other teams I have to face with such daunting quality are Napoli and AC Milan, but, if we are in the game against the other fourteen teams in the league, we’ll be oK!

Interestingly, the analyst team came up with a few bits of feedback from these three games (ignoring the Sampdoria win):

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We’re getting carved open and that’s evident in where we’re conceding from. These aren’t corners, they are moves where our defenders are pulled out of place by creative forwards. I don’t think there is, necessarily, an easy option here. Likewise, the Shoot on Sight feels like a short term reaction to our lack of scoring power but I do agree that increasing our tempo in build up will hopefully get us into better positions in order to get our shot away. Of course, it runs the risk of us rushing our moves shooting with even lower quality chances.

Realistically, there isn’t a huge panic at what I’m seeing. I just need to iron out the creases and perform against the teams around us.

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Bologna.

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Goalscorers: Alfons Sampsted, Christian Kouame, Lautaro Valenti, Aldo Florenzi, Giuliano Simeone.

BOOM!

I definitely felt that we moved the ball quicker from back to front and, with the central overloads working as intended, we caused them problems throughout. I went with the same shape, with players slowly starting to return to fitness, in order to counter their defensive frailties. The game was ran by Aldo Florenzi, who secured a Player of the Week performance. It certainly feels like a weight off my shoulders given that the media have been less than polite about our poor form (three losses in four) and the average ratings of the new signings and shows what we might be capable of doing.

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I think we have, on the whole, started the season pretty much as expected and as I wanted. Aside from Napoli and Atalanta, the early season table has already started to separate the big sides from the small sides and it is up to us whether we can keep pace with the top, which includes a strong-starting Fiorentina team. At the other end, there seems to be a four horse race for relegation, wit three of those struggling to keep the ball out of their net: we play two of them next month.

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From the month we’ve just endured to the potential of seven to nine points here. I am, however, concerned about our finances as we’ve seemingly missed some rather large payments that we’ve had before. It’s not my job, per se, to manage these but I will certainly be wary of the implications of having a club that is no longer financially viable.

October 2028

Serie A: Sassuolo vs SPAL.

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Goalscorers: Christian Kouame, Franco Tongya.

First three points of the month in a game that didn’t come to life until the last eleven minutes.

Their 4-3-3 meant that I went for a tweaked shape to ensure an appropriate rest defence: a wide defender on the left and narrow on the right – forcing them both to the left hand side, where they are weaker. We demonstrated some beautiful transitional interplay as the roots of this style are beginning to become stronger. Kouame, on for the wasteful Simeone, opened the scoring with a deft lob over the keeper before a swift counter attack saw Tongya net his first for the club. Annoyingly, we conceded straight from kick off, before I was able to begin the process of slowing the game down but, to be fair, SPAL never truly looked like doing enough to get anything from the game.

Serie A: Empoli vs Sassuolo.

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narrow 4-1-2-1-2 shape meant that I decided to try something new: the same shape but using Mez(a) (not new) with IW(s) in order to try and overload the channels between the full back and centre back, with no wide midfielders from Empoli to pull back. At the back, to counter their two attackers and one attacking mid – I  used a hybrid full back/centre back in Torres and instructed Gyabuaa to patrol ahead. This came off the back of the challenge to him to work on his ball winning, which he agreed to. The 3-1 defensive shape allowed me to use Cacace as a CWB again, to try and create a numerical overload on their right sided full back, Wisdom Amey.

We got a little lucky with a fortuitous penalty that Kouame converted before he rose highest from a corner – I think, our first of the season – to secure the three points. My game plan worked as we certainly exploited the flanks and it now becomes another string to the tactical bow I am trying to create here.

However, the team still appears to be made from glass:

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Highest in the league and no sign of let up! Apparently, we’re at 56% less injuries than expected and there are no real patterns: some training, some match, some muscular and some impact. I don’t think reviewing the medical staff, at this point, is really beneficial to solving it.

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I’m now through ten games at the helm of Sassuolo, so I wanted to use the league metrics to see how my style is evolving:

Possession |  Conversion Rate | Dribbles Sprints | Interceptions | OPPDA

Whilst I have clearly cherry picked statistics that I want to show here (ignoring the high possession lost), I think it tells a really strong story of the development that this club is under and why things at the start weren’t quite as rosy as I’d expected. We are the second lowest team for total possession but do complete a high number of dribbles and sprints as we look to attack quickly, converting a high number of our chances. Defensively, we sit off and look to intercept – through clever play – rather than focus on winning duels. It’s so clear to see why we were getting carved apart when I was asking my players to sit off  without a clear and concise defensive structure and shape.

The next step is to improve the quality of the players within this system, either through training or recruitment.

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Hellas Verona.

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Goalscorers: Giuliano Simeone, Liberato Cacace.

We face a 4-4-2 shape in the Simeone/Simeone matchup, although Guiliano is both unfit and massively out of form so our shape was certainly subject to change.

However, we started brightly and one of the twelve progressive passes from Fernandes led to some nice interplay and provide a chance that even Simeone couldn’t miss, despite his distinctly average form. Our second was a pure tactical victory. The use of Cacace high and wide caused all sorts of problems and he was able to break through and score from a tight angle to put the game out of reach for Hellas.

Back-to-back wins with cleans sheets and dominating performances is surely a sign of things to come!

With takeover rumours flying around and only two months left before the window opens, I feel that there is an onus on getting the deals both right and done early – maybe even as pre-arranged deals. With that, I can essentially split my first team squad into three categories.

New Signings:

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Hit and miss, certainly but I’m not able to move these players on so early into their career here.

Federico Torres, it appears, is not the reincarnation of Lisandro Martinez, having won just 32% of his headers – a shockingly low stat that I just cannot ignore. Likewise, Gyabuaa – the man who presses like no other – has really just, well, not pressed. That’s not in our style, I get it, but when he does press – he hasn’t won a great number of them. Likewise, his header and tackle success (again from purposely low attempts) are poor: 64% of tackles won puts him in the bottom 10% according to my analysis.

However, Tongya and Pierozzi have been solid and Florenzi (somewhat skewed from a couple of corking performances) has really caught my eye.

Keep:

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Given our upturn in performances and, to be fair, strong start, there are a number of players who are absolutely safe here should they not have their heads’ turned by other clubs. Likewise, there are a few players: Trossard, Fernandes and Pinamonti, who have not had the time to impress due to various injuries and, providing they can start injury free, will almost certainly feature on their return.

Fighting to survive:

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Now, the players who aren’t cutting the mustard…

Sampsted netted his first goal this month but I must say that his overall attacking outputs have been significantly weaker than those of Cacace – 0.53 key passes to 1.122, no chances to 0.20, 2.12 dribbles to 4.18 – all concerning things when I need two players who can do a variety of jobs on both sides of the pitch. At 30, he’s not getting any younger and his game, which relies heavily on pace and stamina, will become compromised.  Simeone has just been strange. Hard to put my finger on it and I can probably see why he was third choice behind Pinamonti and Kouame last year. He’s clearly bereft of confidence so a little scoring spell could change my mind here – plus, I didn’t expect him to play as much as he has. Erlic has, for want of a better word, been utterly terrible. Inside the bottom ten percent for progressive passes, interceptions, pressure wins and header success is pretty concerning. There is little wonder why he’s been frozen out by me.

I think, essentially that leaves the following areas:

  • Backup centre back
  • First choice right back
  • Right winger

However, I don’t want to completely tear this team apart – it won’t work cohesively. We saw a thirteen player shift from the first team over the summer and I cannot continue spending money and experimenting on players like that if we want to build for a brighter future. That being said – I think one or two player, with one possibly being a project might entice me in, but, my hand might be forced in terms of just what I have to play with:

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Things are looking really good. I’d expect Lazio, Napoli and Atalanta to probably overtake us, whilst Fiorentina will – probably – drop away. That, however, still leaves us fighting out inside the top ten, which is hugely realistic given the overhaul in pretty much everything since June. November looks to very much be split in two halves – two winnable ties against teams below us, both away from home and then two ties against bigger teams, at home.

I’d love five points from it – a win over Cagliari and a couple of draws, accepting that either Lazio or Milan will beat us, but I’d love it if it was only one of them.

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November 2028

Serie A: Cagliari vs Sassuolo.

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4-3-3 and a team out of form but also the 20th best team at keeping possession, faced me, so I opted for the typical formation with ‘appropriate’ wing backs, genuinely not knowing what would happen with the ball for much of the match. The pick of the goals came when Gyabuaa pressed, won and progressed the ball – three things he has largely struggled with to date.

The most important thing for me is that we have now won a club-record five games in a row, with four of them being clean sheets. The defensive strategies that I have put in place are working and we are reaping the benefits by beating the teams that should finish below us. Of course, things won’t be perfect and we will drop points against the fourteen teams that I predict we are better than – 84 points taken against them is, obviously, super unrealistic. The next job is to try and create a scoring threat against the bigger teams, whilst not leaving ourselves wide open. My personal preference, especially right now, is to shut up shop against the likes of Juve, with my feeling that a 1-0 defeat is – probably –  better than a 4-3 one.

Serie A: Genoa vs Sassuolo

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I went for the offset full back shape to combat their flat 4-4-2 but, for, the first time in a good while, we were absolutely toothless. The game was played in the middle of the park but we couldn’t break down Genoa and they couldn’t break us down either. Their 1.02xG is little padded when you looking at their shooting – two chances, 0.12xG and 0.13xG both headers, massively contributed to a game of little chances. I thought we’d done enough at the death but just couldn’t find that final ball.

The impact of a point, on the road, with a clean sheet will, however, be much more significant in the long run than one game where we forgot our shooting boots.

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I am somewhat concerned at the financial plight we might find ourselves in. A historically small club, with a relatively small stadium and fanbase and a wafer thin squad does not lend itself well to a profitable club. Whilst we are still in talks about new ownership, I really am not confident that they will pump money into the coffers. With that in mind, I need to look at player who are, based on their minutes played, are earning more than they are contributing. I can dig in further with their salary commitments but that is – annoyingly – not a screen that can be screenshotted and I cannot find the data anywhere else.

Whilst I am annoyed at the injury status of Trossard and Pinamonti, they are both, currently, undeserving of the wage that we pay them. However, it is Martin Erlic – a man with 100% availability, who is the biggest drain on resources, followed by Simeone, Sampsted and Doan. These players, in my opinion, are all naturally replaceable given their lack of value for money.

I think, in the shorter term, replacing these players – possibly with shorter term loan deals, with provide us with a bit more financial security, even if it does slow down the rate of progress and increase the likelihood of recruitment not working. Something that I am considering as we near the transfer window.

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Lazio.

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Another 4-4-2 so the offset back four got a run out but I decided to keep the positive mentality given the fact that we were a little goal shy.

What we actually did was give Lazio far too much respect – allowing them to play with Chotard, in particular, causing me problems through the middle. We had far too many players having an off day. I have watched and pondered as the last few games have always had, at least, one player not perform to the standards I want but this time it was several: Doan, Kouame, Torres, Sempsted and Bruno all way below what I expect to see. Whilst I was happy with the Genoa result, this was has disappointed me…

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Milan.

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4-3-3 with a plethora of stars. I was most drawn to Tonali, though, and opted for a 4-2-2-1-1 shape in order to put a man – in this case Torres – right on top of him to kick him off his creative rhythm, utilising his Aggression, Marking and Tackling but also utilising the fact he isn’t uncomfortable with the ball. With very cautious full backs, I figured that I’d have to create deeper and went for Berardi as a WP(s) on the right, funneling the play out to him.

We went behind in the eighteenth minute, when we failed to deal with a crossfield ball, leaving players open in lots of areas but the unlikeliest of providers turned up as Torres slipped through Kouame to level the scoreline. After that we did really shut up shop, knowing we’ve been a little lethargic of late and that, should we concede again, we were unlikely to go up the other end and score. The biggest win – for me – here though was seeing Tonali hauled off after an hour. He had plenty of the ball, completing 73 passes, but rarely found himself in situations where he could change the game.

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I would be happy to just end the season now! We are doing pretty much what I wanted and more here, holding our own against the teams above us and – generally – outperforming those below us. December only has three matches but they are all tough and I’m targeting four points from them, which will, hopefully, still leave us inside the top ten as we head into the new year and the transfer window.

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December 2028

Serie A: Torino vs Sassuolo.

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I opted for the standard 4-1-4-1 shape with traditional wingbacks in order to counter their wide men in a 4-2-3-1 shape. I’ve also uncovered a few other key bits of info from this panel: that they score late but concede early and, when they go behind, they don’t win. They’d also potentially be without star left back Alex Grimaldo but I will have to watch out for defensive midfielder – and top scorer – Lorientz Rosier.

Dull. Dull. Dull. We had some chances but they were few and far between and quite low in quality. We did, on the other hand, stop Torina hitting the target at all, which is strong, but I think, however, this is just part of the bigger picture:

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Our home form is on the left and away on the right and we are just too naive on our travels – scoring at less than a goal a game and, like this one, just strangling the opposition. Whilst the latter is fantastic, and we have the best away defensive record in the league, we need to be even more clinical because we’re going to get less chances away from home and we’re going to have to sit and defend more, and defend more resolutely, too. Get that right and we’ll fly. Our home form is fine: Roma, Inter and Lazio are the home losses and they were completely expected. Time to plan how I play on the road…

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Atalanta

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The pre-match report painted the picture of a terrible record against Atalanta, one that I was determined to fix. I set about this task with my standard formation – shoehorning my most creative players into the midfield and adding Pierozzi as an extra layer of defensive stability – ahead of Trossard – against their attacking right wing back.  We started strongly, and took the lead as Berardi unselfishly laid on Kouame to net again – well and truly proving me wrong about him being the third choice defender. However, some shambolic defensive positioning allowed Duvan Zapata through to score, before we gave away the softest of penalties, that, eventually was saved, only to then concede by completely messing up our defensive organisation to allow Alberto Moleiro, one of the shortest men on the pitch, a free header from eight yards. We were to have the last laugh though as Valenti nodded in from a corner in injury time to salvage the draw that, on paper, we deserved – and more – but, in general play, we were lucky to achieve.

Serie A: Sassuolo vs Napoli.

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pre-match report that filled me with dread: the quality of players that Napoli have just shows how much they’ve underperformed this season. To counter it, I used my usual tactical shape and style. Another one of those really gritty performances, like we pulled out against Milan last month, showing that we can mix it with the bigger teams, even if we are somewhat limited in some areas. However, the draw has garnered some media attention, for the wrong reasons:

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This then resulted in an emergency recruitment meeting – an FM feature, of course, but clearly a concern when, to quote, ‘we think you should attend if you want to solve this problem by signing players.’  My job is to assess this over the winter break and come back stronger and with a more refined plan. It could be worse though…Alex Frei sacked at Trabzonspor as they are languishing down in tenth – quite the fall from grace from an invincible season a matter of months ago!

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I’d still bite your hand off if I was offered this at the start of the season. We are somewhat goal shy, but, when our defence is as resilient as ours is (despite the semi-regular horror show of positioning), we’d be at the top of the table if we were scoring two or three a game. January, Fiorentina aside, gives me a chance to rectify the winless run as I will be targeting a win at Lecce and Monza whilst hoping to take a point from Parma.

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January is also, of course, the transfer window so there’s going to be a huge financial battle in an attempt to build on the really promising start that I’ve made to my tenure here.

 

Author

  • Daniel Gear

    Dan Gear is a vibrant member of the Football Manager (FM) community, renowned for his engaging content and insightful tutorials. He illuminates complex FM concepts on "View From The Touchline" and shares engaging narratives through his unique European Journeyman save reveals. Dan's collaborative spirit shines in partnerships with fellow creators like FM Stag, unraveling new FM features. He's a co-host of the engaging "Grass N Gear" podcast, making the FM experience more enjoyable for many. With a blend of humor, expertise, and a knack for community engagement, Dan Gear's contributions significantly enrich the Football Manager community, making him a cherished figure among enthusiasts.

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