A nice gentle reminder of what playing games of football is as we warm ourselves up for the Super Cup curtain raiser against PSG.
July is, arguably, my favourite game month of the year. Whilst I have now really taken to the tactical adaptations and in-game management, I simply cannot hide my love for the squad building element that I think FM does a great job of allowing me to immerse myself in. With a relatively settled first team, I only had two new players to welcome and, given the skin that I’ve developed, had seen neither full sets of attributes before.
To note – all player thumbnails in this post are hyperlinked to show you a full screenshot of their profile.
Andrea could be an absolute superstar and I think I’ve done really well with this one. When compared with Amey, he’s going to hopefully provide me with a slightly better end product: both his Dribbling and Crossing are better and he’s got much more Flair, too. I’m also impressed that he’s quite solid defensively; an upgrade in terms of Positioning ability and Marking. He’s considerably less physical than Wisdom but I truly believe that, at €8m – essentially working out as €1.5m when subtracting the sale of academy player Speranza- he’s a great asset to the team and a step up on the Uruguayan who we had before. I like Aaron but I’m a little less sold on him. When compared with Pilenga, he’s pretty well matched defensively and has the aerial advantage too. There is also the element of his forward-thinking play that, as expected, is better than Cristian’s. The issue comes – and I already knew this – around his versatility to develop a new position at twenty-six years old. I do have the experience of Douglas Luiz to rely on and the potential situation that he impresses me so much that he becomes an eventual successor to Ederson in the BBM/CAR role but this one certainly feels more like a risk.
I also was able to strengthen the youth side with three players that outgoing Head of Youth Development, Franco Palmieri, pre-arranged:
Diego, at €150k from Empoli, feels like a bit of a second striker and really not the type of player I necessarily use at the moment. There is a thought in my mind that, eventually, a False Nine type of player could be useful to help unlock deeper, crowded defences that an AF(a) cannot penetrate so I’ll see how he goes. Eros, another Empoli purchase, this time for €250k, is a classy ball player and is quite unusual for a playmaker in his build. Yuri cost €170k from Spezia and is another creator, but I do like the complete two-footedness and the combination of Flair and Vision that he has. With the poor ball carrying ability and, similarly to Martino, tall-ish stature, I think that a move to the Wide Playmaker role may be on the cards for him.
In my only staffing change this summer, I brought in a new HoYD – Jose Manuel Sevillano – after I was most impressed with him out of those that I’d shortlisted. I like the fact that he’s worked in the Basque region – well known for its talent acquisition and development and has overseen the role at it’s two biggest clubs: Athletic and Real Sociedad. Jose’s ability to spot a talent at a young age and work with them is second to none and I’m delighted to have him on board. I immediately gave him the freedom to sign some youngsters and he, along with Spanish scout Guillermo Amor have been very busy, identifying four youngsters for a combined €275k.
Mba is already a senior international, whilst Uria is a two-footed defender, Moreira fits the bill in terms of what I like in my AF role and Cesar looks like quite a nippy ball carrier who, if used centrally, could be a threat. I have no idea if any of these will go on to make the first team but the potential to reimburse the spend is almost guaranteed and there could be a good chance of bringing in some profit a few years down the line, given the world class facilities and coaches that they’ll have access to here.
With little focus on the first team right now, it does allow me to look ahead at those players whose contracts are expiring in twelve months time:
Riccardo is the only one of these three who holds any sale value, so I see no need to move them on at this point.
At left back, Luca performs – arguably – the hardest and most complete job of all of my players, contributing in every phase of the game and, as such, I do feel that I could and maybe should make this position available for the best player in my team. In a years time, I have my doubts that Rodriguez will be ready to be that man and certainly Pacifico won’t be ready. I have, therefore, had a look round and players like Joao Roberto would be perfect: a complete ball player being retrained to do a bit of defending is probably my best option to get this top, top player but, unfortunately, my interest has alerted Man City, who are now lodging a bid. Move on to the next target, I imagine. Hopefully, the Douglas Luiz situation will be a smooth one, where Aaron Ciammiglechella steps into the role across the season and leaves me with two solid, senior options. Sottil’s role is up for grabs and, after a brief look at Luciano Costa as a the IW(a), I may have found an option – at least whilst Moise Kean is still around and I further explore the roles that Fontana and Bisio can play at the club.
I’m in no rush to make a decision on these three; it’s likely that, as the weakest member of the squad, Dougie will leave but I have no qualms about keeping Luca and Riccardo on if a) their demands are not too high and b) the coaches aren’t indicating drastic degradation. I think that keeping them both injury free this season will be more important than ever.
It then also allows me to think about those who will be in the last year of their deal this time next summer:
Costa, Ferrigno and Ferraroli are playing for, essentially, the rest of their careers, here. Don’t impress this season and it’ll likely be a mediocre move – a profit sale – in order to see me strengthen their roles with a non-homegrown player. Do what is expected and I’ll have saved €50m+.
The next group of players that I need to explore is those that are close to first team football – whether it be at my club or elsewhere. There’s two very separate categories within that though: those who have had experience and those who have not.
The three returning loanees, who I explored in the update last month, will all be heading out on loan again. Whilst Filippo Fontana did gain experience at Serie A level, the other two didn’t, so moves to SPAL – my feeder club – are ideal for the both of them, as they impressed at different ends of Serie B last year. Fontana opted for a move back to Udinese, which is fine as he’s used to Daniele De Rossi, the style of play and the facilities on offer for him. With Moise Kean turning 32 this season, I think that this will be a really important season for both strikers – as at least one will come back into the fold and, given the potential retraining ability of Costa, both could feature next year behind Zenga in what would be a very exciting front line. I’m not entirely decided on the future for De Zerbi and where he fits into the plans: Carvalho is the first choice in the central winger role that he plays, or, at least, I want him to play, but he’s not good enough at present to usurp him or to fill the role that he may leave if is sold. I don’t really have a true backup in that role and, as such, a full season at Serie A may leave him wanting more than that next year. Hopefully, he’ll be able to give me that headache.
The next group are three players who, I feel, will really need to impress in order to get into the first team. I like Cisse the most out of any of them and he’s joined Serie A Salernitana under the guidance of a good youth developer, Lionel Scaloni, whose three at the back shape will continue to aid the potential aerial-issue in Cisse’s game. We are currently one centre back light but have been really fortunate with injuries last season but there may be a case, this season, where I do need to recall him. Memaj, his team mate last year at Modena, had the choice of Belgian clubs before settling on Cercle Brugge. He’s the oldest of all of these players and, in my opinion, the least likely to get a chance with me. I am hoping though that this spell will allow me to enhance his value and bring in more profit next summer. Lastly, Drzewiecki, off the back of a torrid time himself at Cercle Brugge, moves to Vizela – a top tier club in Portugal predicted to finish mid-table, who currently have Nelson Verissmo, once of Benfica’s first team and a regular throughout their reserve and youth sides, at the helm. He needs opportunities for first team football and hopefully, he can then develop his personality. Right now, he’s way down the pecking order but, as a €70k signing, he’s virtually all profit for me.
The last group is comprised of players looking to take their first steps in the adult game and, this time around, it’s only two members of staff: my starting centre back pairing from the U20 squad. Whilst this’ll leave a significant hole for manager Kaka to fill, both players are really promising and definitely deserve the opportunities they’ll get. Andrea De Zerbi completed a slightly risky move to Jupiler League side Sint-Truiden, who will play in the UECL this coming year. It’s always tough for a young man to move abroad so I’ll see how he copes early on in his spell. Tommaso has the choice of top half Serie B clubs, all of whom occupied the playoff spots last year, before choosing Palermo in a much safer deal.
Lastly, I need to ascertain who merits a contract extension and, furthermore, the amount of free money I may be able to gain by moving some of these players on. So, whilst the players are not of the same standard, their immediate future is arguably more important in terms of any financial predictions I can make for next summer.
Young winger Miserocchi opted for Palermo, whilst Cremonesi moved to Crotone. These two are likely to be the most reputable and I do, therefore, have reseverations about the above players being able to bring in any kind of money, more than €2-€3m. However, they’re not going to spend any further time out on loan and will, instead, remain a part of my setup this season. It feels a bit counter productive but clubs aren’t willing to take a hit on their wages and the clubs at the correct level for them have poor training and youth facilities. My intention with these, more than ever, is to get them into the spotlight – giving them chances to make the senior team bench and train with the first team if they are doing well – raising their reputation, training performances and, overall, ability, which could lead to a suitable buyer being found.
These dealings leave me with the following U20 squad, U18 squad and loaned players. I know I’ll get called out in the press for my loan farm but this, to me, is so much more than that as I’ve got pretty specific plans for each and every player away from the club and have chosen their destination carefully. Furthermore, the first team squad depth is starting to look stronger now, as well, although I feel that I could be a centre back and centre mid light following the departures of Monea and Moleiro, who haven’t actually been replaced. With a month until the window closes, I will keep my eyes open but wouldn’t expect anything particularly rash.
I feel that we are in a strong position to ascend to this dynastical paradise that I dream of.
August 2031 (Part 1)
You can’t win them all…
Our season started with the Uefa Super Cup, where we faced off against Champions League winners PSG and their star-studded line up: Giovanni Reyna, Benjamin Sesko, Ruben Neves, Gabriel Jesus and Khephren Thuram alongside original starlets Hakimi, Nuno Mendes and Mbappe. An average wage of just over €150k p/w is triple of what we have and, at times, this expensively assembled squad looked superior. Initially, I felt that the physicality of Wisdom Amey would be enough to stop Kylian – a man with 112 international goals to his name – but, it just wasn’t to be. We started slowly and a diagonal ball beat my full back allowing the winger to score with a lovely volley. We clawed our way back without ever really asserting ourselves on the game, before slipping two behind not being able to deal with PSG’s aerial presence at a corner. However, to make things interesting, we did strike right back with a simple finish from Zenga that somewhat evened out the xG story. That is how it ended.
No shame in losing this one and a reminder that we’re not the best team in Europe and will face some very tough tests this coming season. We’ll also be doing that without one of the three players who I relied so heavily upon last year…
In the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t not say yes to this offer for Gabi, whose screenshot can be accessed by clicking the above image. I had always mithered about the fact that, in twelve months time, I’d be paying him an extra €67k p/w on top of the €40k in his contract, which, surely, would not be enough for a player of his calibre. Remembering that I paid just €14m for him, to turn this into a potential €81m in the space of eighteen months must be considered good business. The future fees on the deal, particularly the €9m next summer, will go a long way to help me secure my first-team-squad targets and build a team whilst maintaining a tight hold on budgets, something that has not been adhered to in Greece, when looking at AEK’s spending power.
Again, not to sit and sulk for too long, I quickly replaced him with a player who I am really excited about.
Joao Roberto, whose, again, profile can be accessed by clicking the above thumbnail, joins for €9m from Santos, as I quickly moved to activate his release clause. The youngster holds a Spanish passport, too, which really helps me get over the stringent registration rules and vindicates the time I’ve spent putting in the work devising scouting focuses for my team. His strong performances across the season, primarily in the Advanced Playmaker role for Santos makes me feel that he’s an immediate replacement for the outgoing Gavi and I’m not losing much, if any, quality whilst doing so. However, my long term strategy for this lad is to actually use him as a wing back. Retraining midfielders to this role is not something new to me – I successfully re-trained Batuhan Kaya whilst at Trabzonspor, although that was for an Inverted Wingback due to his creative outlet, whereas this one will utilise his technical ability a bit more. The best part of this though, for me, is how he fits into the jigsaw. An immediate replacement and extra body in the midfield, he can play there whilst learning his new role and awaiting the return of De Zerbi – who’ll come back from his loan and foray into Europe – will hopefully step into the Mez(a) role and allow Pellegrini to leave at the end of his deal.
Two games to come in August and I really think we need six points from them:
Forza La Dea!
August 2031 (Part 2)
Another one of those months. I’ve had the screenshots prepared and some of the words written for some time but, as has happened several times across the save, I’ve got lost in the world of skinning. For those who don’t venture in that area of the board and for context around my future updates., this is what I’ve come up with.
The full profile remains pretty similar to before but I’ve experimented with creating descriptors of the attributes to give a really realistic feel to how I assess the opponent. In my own players, I can click on an area of the pitch and see the key attributes for that area, which will help me with player development and the like. It’s how I write about my players, particularly youngsters, and feel that this is a strong step towards finishing the bulk of my skinning work for this year.
Laser sharp focus, once again. Serie A has got stronger, if anything. The transfers being made appear to be precise and well thought out, if a little on the old side. Just one managerial change as Tata Martino’s deal ends and he moves upstairs (never seen this before) and Milan poach Vincenzo Montella from Italy, where he leaves with an 83% win ratio from his thirty-six games but does have a World Cup final defeat, on penalties to the USA, on his CV as well as a UEFA Nations League final defeat, also on penalties – to the Netherlands. A good manager, or a man who can’t motivate his side when it matters most? Time will tell. Serie A’s top four look pretty much set in stone but, with Inter’s Simeone and Juve’s Conte entering the last year of their deals, there is surely pressure on them to leave their mark before they, with it being European Championship year, enter the managerial merry-go-round.
Despite being the third youngest manager in the league, I do have the pedigree from winning previous league titles but there are some big hitting managers here too: Ruud van Nistelrooy at Lazio, Unai Emery at Napoli, Gerardo Seoane at Lecce, Andrea Stramaccioni at Bologna and Lionel Scaloni at Salernitana. Thirty-nine year old Isco, winner of promotion in his first year Sampdoria, joins Pietro Orru of Pescara and Jodi Ferrari of Chievo Verona – back in the top flight after their latest financially induced rebuild – as managers without experience here.
But, with the correct choices and playing to our strengths, I am confident. We’re competing on three fronts, again, although European competition is tougher than last year but I feel that the squad is probably stronger and more suited to my style, despite the loss of Gavi, and the transitional process is well underway with talent being identified and coming through the ranks.
Two very strong games to start the season off – you can see the full reports by clicking on the thumbnails above. Both results were expected and very necessary to get us off to the start that we need. I’m happy that we’ve only conceded 0.11xGA from those two games, with Carnesecchi being worked just once across the two ties, especially after some slightly dodgy keeping against PSG, where we looked uncharacteristically wobbly. With three goals from my centre backs, it’s clear that the pre-season work on set pieces have paid off, too.
With us being 34th in Europe, I must say that this is a really tough set of fixtures but absolutely what I expected when we qualified for Europe’s premier competition. I’ll be targeting wins against Basel and Rennes, both at home as well as Red Star – although a journey to Serbia is never going to be easy, nor is a trip to Holland to face PSV, who are now managed by my successor at Genclerbirligi – Erol Bulut. Arsenal, favourites to win the competition and 2030 winners will be a real acid test of where we are; Luis Enrique has a strong squad with Saka, Salibia, Tomiyasi, Smith Rowe, Odegaard and Martinelli remaining but has complimented them with the likes of Caicedo, Camavinga, Raspadori, Musah and Buonanotte.
The transfer window closed, leaving us with some strong dealings and a reasonable position with our wage bill. The deadline also means that the loan dealings will stop for now – with a sense of evaluation coming in based on who the HoYD, in his HoYD report, has recommended for first team action. For now, we have the squad that I’ve assembled to take us through to January and that’s fine as I feel we’ve got a relatively kind start with only Inter being a really difficult tie this month, aside from Villareal in the Champions League.
Forza La Dea!
Instead of pressing ‘Submit Reply’ I closed my browser and, therefore, a lovely, wordy post getting me back into my save after real life was completely lost. I have salvaged the screenshots, below, that can be clicked on to show some more game details, but, sadly, a lot of the words have been lost in the ether. Nevertheless, I’m back playing the game…
☑ Unbeaten start to the season.
☑Opening win in the Champions League.
☑Scoring at two goals a game.
☑ Not conceded a goal in the league so far this season.
☑ Playing time for youngsters, including an assisting debut for Lorenzo Pierno.
Life is good. It’s early on in the season and the giants of Inter, Juve and Milan are all there but we’ve done everything that we needed to. The draw on the road to Inter is going to be important later in the season, too, I feel.
My initial post had a big section on the appointment of my new Director of Football, but, sadly, this one will be somewhat briefer..
Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo. Monchi to most. A key figure in Sevilla’s form over the last decade to most Andalusians. In a lovely Wiki copy and paste job, here’s a bit of extra if you didn’t know about him:
In 2000, after Sevilla were relegated from the top division, Monchi was appointed their director of football. He was given two objectives by the board: develop the club’s youth system and implement a vast scouting policy inside and outside Spain. Monchi helped discover Diego Capel, Alberto Moreno, Jesús Navas, Antonio Puerta, Sergio Ramos and José Antonio Reyes, and he also created a network of over 700 scouts around the world. Within this setup, he sourced a number of profitable bargains (including Adriano, Dani Alves, Júlio Baptista, Federico Fazio, Seydou Keita and Ivan Rakitić), making a profit of around €200 million in the transfer market, as the club established itself in the top half of the top division in his 16 years there.
In terms of FM ability, our very own @MattyLewis11 wrote a fantastic piece about how to implement his methods into the game and, most recently, my own team – Aston Villa – have been linked with his signature. For me, this kind of move is the one that’ll take us to the next level. The four images below are why.
In this FM-gameworld, Monchi moved to Spurs and spent seven years in London before I was able to sign him. He’s worked with Ernesto Valverde for the past five years and I certainly feel like the deals that have been made are synonymous with the Spaniard. He’s obviously made some mistakes but the €150m spent on these four (Silva: €57m, Fernandez: €50m, Cuadros: €22.5m and Roque: €19.75m) have yielded four players, who, at minimum, could be sold for €700m, given their market values. All four players are now elite (whether they were before is another matter).
If I take a look at my recent recruitment of younger players:
- Jonny Rodriguez – €1.6m
- Daniel Ferreira – €6m
- Cristian Pilenga – €9m
- Joao Roberto – €9m
If I were to sell these, I’d make €40/50m profit – some 10% of what the Spurs players would have sold for. Whilst appreciating the initial outlay of them, I do feel that the talent acquisition, negotiation of deals and then moving players on at the right time needs to improve at Atalanta. With our positively-growing financial situation, I have taken the steps, below, for the first team and the youth squads:
I’ll still approve or deny the deals if I’m not in agreement with Monchi but I feel that I can really tap into his player ID skills and build the next set of stars at the club that compliment those that we are working really hard to develop.
I signed a new contract to end the month, although the wage is still far from at parity with the likes of Conte – €170k p/w, Simeone – €160k p/w and Montella – €120k p/w. Given the speed that I’m playing at, it’ll likely be the last contract I sign at Atalanta with a move to either the MLS or South America on the cards for this point of the save, all being well.
Forza La Dea!
October is done despite way more real life stuff getting in the way. More information is available on each game, below, with the thumbnail linking to a full statistical match report.
A rout of the Swiss side started our month off as I gave Antonio Pacifico his first start of the season. I remember watching Italy a year or so back and being incredibly impressed with Leonardo Spinazzola, a right footed left back who was fantastic going forward. I think that the reason I’m drawn to Antonio is because he’s somewhat similar. At 18, his key attributes for a wing back are pretty good and I’m sure that there’s significant room for him to grow. What it does do, however, is create a log jam as he joins the queue behind Jonny Rodriguez, Joao Roberto and Luca Pellegrini. I envisage a loan move for either he or Rodriguez in January before Pellegrini departs in the summer. Luciano Costa, another player pushing for more football this season, got us off to a great start with a lovely finish after cutting inside from the right wing before he turned (unofficial) provider for Kean as his cross clattered off the post and into the path of the in-form frontman. Ferrigno continued his fine form with a header from a corner before Pacifico, cutting back on to his right foot, lofted a ball in for Ragatzu to nod in. After half time, we did ease off but the damage had been done by then. Another three points and €2.8m.
Against Bologna, we were much the better side but really failed to capitalise on several really good opportunities that we had.
At home to Fiorentina, I really decided to dig into body language. I come and go with this but don’t really ever give it the time that it deserves. Whilst it was a compressive win – Ederson and Carvalho netting from pull backs by their respective widemen and then the Portuguese interior then finding the net with a direct free kick in injury time – I had concerns around performances of a couple of players:
I gave a positive team talk to all – saying that they’ve been good but can definitely find another gear. I then, accidentally, told the defensive unit that I was furious with them (not sure why it says I told Okoli I was angry whereas I was furious to the others) before making amends for me error and telling the rest that I have trust in them – again, there is that slight disparity between what is recorded there, which may be worthy of investigation. By full time and my ‘I’m delighted’ teamtalk, things were great, but there was some things to consider in between that and that is the reactions to this and how I can continue to really build this ultimate team that are, to quote Mr Klopp, mentality monsters. The easiest comparison is between the two centre backs, Fusari and Okoli:
- Michael Fusari.
- Personality: Resolute
- Media Handling: Level-Headed
- Determination level: At least good
- Full time rating: 7.3
- Caleb Okoli.
- Personality: Resolute
- Media Handling: Level-Headed
- Determination level: At least good
- Full time rating: 6.8
In terms of them as people, they are very similar. I’m not going into the micro-management of personalities but Resolute is – from memory – pretty professional, at least good Determination, not amazing under pressure and a good sportsman whilst their Level-Headed descriptor tells me that they aren’t terrible when it comes to controversy or temperament. Therefore, should be pretty easy to handle. Yet, throughout the second half, Caleb Okoli shifted between ‘unconvinced by the feedback,’ ‘overwhelmed by the feedback’ and ‘looked stressed’ whereas Fusari just looked ‘pleased’ throughout. I purposely gave both players feedback as frequently and only altered in terms of what type, giving Okoli a ‘No Pressure’ when he presented as stressed (as well as removing him from marking Fiorentina’s tallest centre back at corners, and used ‘Encourage’ on Fusari when his rating had dipped to a 6.5, which, as you can see by the end rating, worked really well.
What have I learnt from this? Well, I don’t really know! But I’d suggest that Pressure – the attribute that I know both of them aren’t great at, could come into play here. Fusari played better and was on the ball more than Okoli and therefore, the shouts, combined with his on-the-ball actions, possibly allowed him to develop his match rating and feel better about the game. Clearly, looking at the wider team, the fact that there are strong relationships has a big impact on player reactions but it’s not like either of those, above, are new to this team. Obviously – I said the wrong thing so there is, realistically, an understanding of why he reacted like that but I found it interesting that two players who are so similar (clearly, Okoli had mentored Fusari before I joined), have reacted so differently across the game.
We then had a really strong showing against Renne, maintaining our perfect start to Champions League football before a hard fought draw against Juventus saw us maintain both the lead in the league and our incredible defensive record.
The new reign of Monchi is well underway and my first signing may well be a player identified by him. As we go through, I want to build shortlists of players that I can ask him to sign but Jose Cristiano – full profile linked in thumbnail – is a potential replacement for Ederson, who, at 32 and declining, now wants a new deal. The comparison tells me that I’m getting a player who can potentially be just as good as the Brazilian but, given the Palmeiras lad’s EU-passport, another player who can assist me with my wider goals for the club’s registration needs. A strong market value for Ederson, which is likely to fall quickly, means that I may actually be able to make a profit in this transfer and I’ve already submitted a bit of €20m – his release clause – and had the deal endorsed by Joao Roberto, who recently made the move over.
Forza La Dea!
Another hugely interrupted month with real life absolutely taking over again. When I’ve had chance to play, it’s largely been focused on finishing a few little things off for my skin – of which you’ll see showcased in this report, beyond. I’m really going to try and put my attention back into playing, rather than skinning but, with the new announcements, there does feel to be an opportunity to be had by keeping the pace, engagement and enjoyment, knowing that I could – if I wanted/needed to – take this save into FM24. However, in the meantime, a further five matches played, with some good progress being made on both fronts.
More information is available on each game, below, with the thumbnail linking to a full statistical match report.
With the time between games played and fragmented playing time, I’ve been poor at saving screenshots and remembering much actual game action from this month. However, I do remember the gulf in class between the starting XIs in our tie with Arsenal. Obviously, my plan is to build a team of players who can compete at the top of Europe and beyond but it was a stark reminder that my methodology – both tactically and recruitment wise – is very different to the bigger clubs around at the moment. November has also seen us drop points for the first time this season – firstly in a tie away at Lecce where we failed to control Marko Milavanovic, once again, as the big Serb netted the winner before a Tammy Abraham double – his second coming from a shockingly misplaced backpass from Aaron Ciammaglichella – consigned up to defeat.
One stand out this month has been the form of youngster Daniele Ragatzu.
My new statistical landing page really shows how he’s growing into the role vacated by Gavi. Consistent in all areas of my game as a supporting midfielder, his passing types show that he gets the ball and makes things happen – progressing it, creating opportunities and really good chances, being rewarded with three assists so far this season. Furthermore, 0.85xG and 0.73xA in 3(1) Champions League ties shows that he’s not scared by the big occasion, either.
I am pleased with the link up play between he and Joao Roberto, who is growing into his role as an aggressive wing back. It does feel that this left hand side could very much now be a constant for the coming years. Neither player here is world class but they are both doing what is required of them on the big stage, as the form this month, below, shows:
From sitting atop the table at the end of October, we’ve dropped back a little, losing to a struggling, managerless Roma side and a Lecce side that are really starting to become a threat to many teams. Inter play Juve in the first round of December fixtures so that could either see us trail by three or four points once the games are evened up – by no means an unassailable lead but one that I know we’re going to have to work very hard to close. Next month provides some further opportunities but the quality of opposition is tough with all four league games against top half teams, although I only have to travel to Milan. They sandwich a tough trip to Belgrade but against an opposition I should be beating.
In transfer news, we were paid another installment in the Gavi deal. Given the form of Ragatzu this season, I feel that this was a real masterstroke to sell him whilst he was playing well at such an inflated fee compared to what we paid for him. With his value at over €200m, he won’t go anywhere else in his career and this is that example of what I spoke about in an earlier update – I need to spend more to sell for more. The €1m deals are great, but they’re less likely to lead to a €50m sale simply because clubs know the potential that these players have so I must be uncovering an absolute hidden gem – and that is not happening each season.
With that thought, and that cash in my pocket, I instructed Monchi to swoop in and seal the deal for Jose Cristiano, meeting his €20m release fee.
I then was able to recoup €16m of that, moving Ederson to money-bags AEK. At 32 and quite rapidly declining, I felt that this was a good time to cash in and, given the form of Ciammaglichella, felt that I had enough depth to go without a transitional period.
However, speaking of those hidden gems, my scouting team unearthed a man that my statistical side absolutely loved. Granted, FC Motown are in an unplayable and un-modelled league, but the outputs that Matias Ledesma has put in this season and his scout report give me hope that this lad could become pretty decent and, certainly, worth more than the €0 that I’d have to pay for him. Unfortunately, he does not hold an EU-passport so this risky deal takes up one of the slots which I could be using for first team recruitment. However, given Cristiano’s Italian passport and a relatively settled first team squad combined with the sale of non-EU Ederson, I do have a little bit of wiggle room right now.
Forza La Dea!
Another month spread over a significant real life time frame. I’ve kind of lost my mojo a little for playing and for writing, but, history tells me that this will return in time. All it takes is a clear mind and a session where I can get my teeth into the time I’m having at Atalanta – which, to be fair, isn’t all quite sunshine and rainbows. We opened with a draw against Udinese in a game of little quality but one where I felt we were, overall, better. Obviously, as the FM23 engine seems to do, our players all rated really poorly given the lack of possession we had but all of our visitors ball time was in front of both of our banks of defensive lines. The same nearly happened against Sampdoria as a pretty profligate attacking display was saved when Fusari nodded in his first of the season to give us the win. The goals flooded in on the road in Belgrade as we wiped the floor with a poor Red Star side; the most impressive part, for me, was how we acted when we were given way more of the ball than we are used to. A late defeat to Milan, who scored with their first shot on target before a comprehensive win over Verona to see the month out.
Full match reports can be accessed by clicking the thumbnails, below.
A little down on where I wanted to be and, interestingly, unable to distance ourselves from the chasing pack. Inter have started really strongly this season and hold quite a commanding lead over their Milanese rivals with Juve back in third. Once again, it’ll be any one of those four, I’d imagine, but, at this point, we have work to do if we want our names to be considered in any way. Fiorentina and a Steven Gerrard led Roma continue to struggle whilst SPAL have dropped back a little from their first season at this level, probably due to the fixture congestion that a Conference League trip brings. Udinese, Lecce and Verona dare to tussle with the big boys and Verona, with league top scorer Alvarez leading their line, do look strong.
January is nice. We start against bottom side Salernitana before moving away to my old club Sassuolo and then to Sardinia. With us flying in the Champions League, the games against Athletic and Leipzig (not in below image) may well see some rotation as I look to ensure a perfect haul of fifteen points come back to Bergamo in the new year.
Full profiles can be accessed by clicking the above thumbnail.
One of the biggest successes, for me looking holistically at the club, is the development of players on loan at other Serie A sides. I currently have four players plying their trade elsewhere in Serie A and, as is expected, there is a mixed bag performance wise but a good spread of growth. Lassina Cisse is struggling at Salernitana but, to his defence, is playing in the weakest team in the league. As he’s developed, I’ve always kept an eye on his below average Heading ability, but that is seemingly becoming less of an issue for him now. I’m in two minds as to whether to recall him in January and try and find another loan at a club where he’ll taste some – on pitch – success. Filippo Fontana is currently leading Udinese’s charts in goals scored and red cards but the twenty-year old is having a great second season under Daniele De Rossi. He’s the ideal complete forward, with good statistical outputs in both passing and finishing metrics and I’m sure he’ll return to the first team next year, maybe to replace Moise Kean. Another one who may also do that is Luca De Zerbi, who’s having a good season at SPAL and enjoying European competition. Playing in the same midfield role as I see him doing for me, he’s returned nine assists already. Lastly is teenager Federico Bisio, also at SPA. Twelve of his fifteen goals have come in Europe, making the wonderkid the UECL top scorer so far but I’m concerned he’s struggled on home soil.
That quandary leaves the door open next year for which type of player to bring back into the squad. Potentially, if Kean does move on, there are two slots free and I think that’s something I’d like to explore. Fontana is a lot more rounded in his outputs, creating some goals for others, whilst Bisio is the fox-in-the-box striker that matches the profile of my first choice, Marzio Zenga. Feels like a nice issue to have…
Inspired by Squawka’s latest tweet idea, I’ve decided to dig into my midfield three, seeing both what they offer now and seeing what Joao Cristiano will need to offer as he steps into the shoes of Ederson in January. In my trio, I have a clear three roles – Ederson is the all-rounder, Carvalho is the attacker and Pilenga is the retriever. I think that this is why two of these three – Ederson and Carvalho – worked so well in conjunction with Ragatzu and, last season, Gavi, coming off the left as the supplier.
What it does show is just the scale of the job that Ederson does as he leads every midfielders in Europe in terms of the amount of dribbles he completes. Giving him the ball in a slightly deeper area and allowing him to progress it, as well as giving him the license to progress with passes, sees him become the cog in our transitional play. Whilst Cristiano’s season at Palmeiras has not indicated his is a particularly top level dribbler, he does progress the ball well and completes huge distances per game as well as creating a lot of key passes. Pilenga is somewhat limited and, whilst doing the defensive stuff well, does not really contribute any further up field than that – hence my want to bring Aaron Ciammaglichella into the fold a bit deeper and utilise the all-round ability of Joao Cristiano to win the ball back more, an area that nobody really excels at.
I really like these little dives into things as it both invests me in the game and my tactical and recruitment thinking again but showcases how far I feel I’ve come as a tactical manager.
Forza La Dea!
Back into the swing of things a little bit more and enjoying posting and playing. Each match report in the update below directly leads to a more detailed breakdown of the game if you click on it.
We were dominant in our first game of the new year against bottom side Salernitana. A rocket from Jose Cristiano was the pick of the goals, as there was a dominant performance from the debutant – six dribbles and nine progressive passes in his Player of the Match performance. Fabio Carvalho scored a rather dull goal – for him – bundling in a ball that was bobbling around the area before Ferrigno nodded in a corner taken by Marzio Zenga, as the rest of my takers had been removed at this point. For a man who rarely takes one and a man who makes his money from goal scoring not goal creating, this was pretty pleasing. Whilst our visitors are clearly the weakest team in the league, I was impressed with our shape, particularly in the midfield. Going forward, however, with ongoing moans of a new deal for Fabio Carvalho, I wanted to explore a slightly different midfield five:
With Pilenga – from my graphic in the previous post – demonstrating that he excels defensively but lacks the offensive prowess, I wanted to try Daniel Ferreira in the pivot role and move Francesco Lanzo into the central role, as a Mez(a) – with the likeness to his normal IW(a) role. This would allow more game time for someone like Costa, who has relished his conversion to the wide midfield role and also allows Lanzo, as a left footer, to progress the ball better into the half spaces. However, my plans to do that were short lived:
To try and be as realistic as possible, I have a price for every player, which, for Daniel Ferreira, was probably lower than his in-game transfer value, given his lack of game time so far this season. Juve entered with a fairly derisory offer but bit at my stupid counter offer. For me – in terms of value to my own squad – there is no way that the Uruguayan is more valuable than Gavi was before his move to Man City. Not only that, but there is the fact that the deal will bring the club a staggering €76m in profit after I brought him in from Nacional last summer, with him playing just 41 times for the club since then. Even if we have strengthened a direct rival in this league, I don’t feel that we’d have been able to command such a fee to move him abroad. I’ve been impressed watching him develop – particularly mentally – and turn himself into a full international with Uruguay and, when he played, he did give us a nice offensive output from deep but, to be fair, is not a massive loss to us.
Especially when I moved as quickly as I could to replace him with the lad below:
A €4m signing from Universidad de Chile, I have barely scraped the surface of the money from the outgoing transfer but, given our strong squad depth, felt that this role was not a necessity to fill now. Pablo is a full Chilean international and holder of a Spanish passport, easing our non-EU options, too. Registering two goals and seven assists in the Chilean league (which just rolled over before I completed the deal), he’s performed admirably, albeit at a much lower level than ourselves. What does impress me though is his attribute spread; a player who has the necessary ability to win the ball and pass it on, as well as being able to get up and down for the entirety of the game is key to me in the role that he’ll play, and, combined with his trait, could see him before somewhat combative.
I was also able to let Douglas Luiz move back to Brazil to see out the remainder of his career.
I did not name the Chilean in the starting XI – opting for Pilenga at the base of the triangle that, as intended, included Francesco Lanzo on the left hand side of the central midfield role. It was the combination between he and Daniele Ragatzu that was key, as our number eight registered 102 touches in his new role, ending with an assist and an 8.5 rating, second to only Ragatzu himself, who ran the show from the left wing assisting the other goal for Zenga. Sassuolo opted for two Mezzalas, which gave us a little more freedom centrally and – whilst I made a point to try and take advantage of that – I liked the slightly higher position, closer to Zenga, that Lanzo took up. A slightly quieter game for Joao Cristiano but already impressing me with his overall contribution across all three areas of the game and seemingly allowing the others around him to perform well. As the game progressed, I brought Navarro on for his debut as well as youngster Matias Ledesma, who just moved over from the USA.
Another relatively simple game for us although we did squander a lot of chances and should have won far more comfortably than we did.
Armed with my new panel that shows the attacking, defensive and possession contributions in one place, I knew that I’d have some issues against possession-hungry Cagliari. In the end, the scoreline was a fairly comfortable one but we were made to work hard for our points, not going ahead until Bruno’s cross was put in by Marzio Zenga, who moved to twelve goals for the season after a slow start. Joao Cristiano provided the assist for Luciano Costa, slotting a lovely ball diagonally into the half space for the striker-cum-winger to finish well from. It was the Brazilian who recorded his second Player of the Match in three games, carried by his dribbling ability and leaving me safe in the knowledge that, if the opportunity for him is not there to progress it with a pass, he’ll be able to do so with the ball at his feet. I must say that I’m already very impressed at his dynamism in the heart of my midfield. The Ragatzu/Lanzo match up was not quite as pertinent in this game as previously but, when my side attempts just over fifty percent of the passes of our opposition, it’s easy to see that those little one-twos and delicate moves down the wing have gone missing.
Still, three more points: an unbeaten start to the calendar year with no goals conceded.
Jonny Rodriguez was also allowed to leave, again, owing to our squad depth and meeting of what I consider to be his market value. With Pellegrini here for another year, that should further allow the development of Pacifico, rated as the best youngster at the club, into the role with Joao Roberto there, too. Again, an example of my previous incoming talent identification but this Uruguayan was nowhere near as profitable as the previous, with us only making around €3m on him. However, he’s never set the world alight and has struggled to hold down any kind of permanent place this season, despite making a total of twenty four appearances last time around.
Lining up against what I believed to be the toughest opponent I’d have to face this month – I was somewhat sceptical but had absolutely no reason to be. Without the two new signings: Jose Cristiano and Pablo Navarro, I opted for Aaron Ciammaglichella in the middle, and it was he who was one of the most creative outlets. Zenga scored twice, both from lovely through balls and should have been credited for the third: a shot that cannoned in off Vivian with no other Atalanta men around him to even call it a cross. Athletic offered nothing with the elite talents of Nico Williams cutting a forlorn figure up top, struggling to get any space inside the compact defensive line that we have. The result keeps us atop the league phase table and the media are dreaming about what is to come; although I am very much keeping my feet on the ground amid any speculation of us being able to win this thing!
My 400th game sees us brought back down to earth with somewhat of a bang. When their keeper records a Player of the Match performance, you kind of know what has happened. Pescara had a lot of the ball but I’m happy to allow that, given that the vast majority of their passes came deep within their half and nobody really showed any creative prowess going forward for them, as they mustered just the one shot that worked Carnesecchi, in our goal. Kean was somewhat isolated up front and looked rusty when he got the ball – hopefully not a sign of the start of a decline. The result was made even more infuriating as our dropped points couldn’t coincide with anything to benefit us: Inter recorded a big win themselves and surprising rivals Hellas Verona recorded a 7-1 thumping of city rivals Chievo.
Went behind from a freak goal – Andrea Bruno’s clearance across the area – which goes against everything I learned as a young defender – cannoned off the head of striker Vahid Ebrahimi, Leipzig’s €78m striker, and into the goal. Costa and Zenga combined down the right to level things up before the break but Ebrahimi netted again and that is how it stayed. Disregarding the quality that they have, we looked quite easy to exploit by Leipzig’s 4-4-2 shape, which is a worry going down the line.
I still feel that we’re a little off the pace, although the entire thoughts of a title challenge are still a year ahead of schedule after a fifth and second placed finish so far under my tenure. Once the games are evened out and we are, hopefully, above Milan, we can work trying to claw back the deficit to their city rivals, Inter, who visit us in February. Our defensive record is still absolutely outstanding and it’s nice to see that it isn’t at the expense of attacking football as we still continue to score well, although not quite as well as surprise package Hellas Verona. Themselves and Lecce occupy places not too far behind us as Udinese are starting to tail off under Daniele de Rossi but are still above the heavy-weights of Napoli and the two Rome sides with Fiorentina even further down. It’s been a torrid season for Salernitana and Chievo and, as such, I’ve recalled Lassina Cisse from his spell at the basement side, with the intention of either loaning him elsewhere or testing him in the first team. I am, however, potentially sending my €1.5m summer signing, Peruvian Benedetti, off to Chievo – where he’ll get a taste of first team football and really be able to cut his teeth in a poor side. Whether that, in the long run, will be more beneficial than a Serie B loan, I do not know. Also returning to the club is wonderkid Federico Bisio, who, despite his overall goal tally, has found Serie A tough this season. With fixtures piling up, I want to have three fit strikers at all times.
February has seven ties in total with Inter (H) and Bologna (H) missing from the above graphic. Squad rotation and management will be key here and it’ll be interesting to see how the other big sides around us fair as I am keen to push our transformation into more than just a perennial outsider.
Forza La Dea!
Very sporadic playing time has been the theme of this season so purposely keeping this one to mainly images. Match reports and further details can be found by clicking on the images in the spoiler, below:
Strong league progress as we maintain our unbeaten record, as we start to form a two-horse race at the top. Despite Zenga’s slow start, he’s now firing in the goals and, pleasingly, when he isn’t’ Bisio has stepped in and his double against Lazio showed me the potential he has. Coinciding with a drop in form for Moise Kean has also benefited the young Argentine striker as he will get plenty more league minutes with us still fighting on the European front, too.
We’ve been drawn against Lyon (full draw) in the Champions League. As always, I do like the Twitter reaction to it but actually fancy ourselves here, despite their lofty Ligue Une position. Elsewhere, there is literally no let up in the Serie A schedule as we look to keep pace with Inter.
The one transfer point of the month is thinking about replacing Fabio Carvalho, my mercurial centre mid. He’s unhappy that I won’t meet his €200k p/w demands; there is part of me that agrees we need to expand the wage budget off the back of two €70m+ sales this year but this is a longer term objective that I envisage the club will take on once I’ve achieved my own goals here and moved on. Clearly, Carvalho is a top quality player but I’ve been drawn in by the Brazilian – a product of the famed Santos academy – and certain areas that he excels in, most notably his elite Composure, Flair and Technique combined with some traits that should give me some absolute Ronaldinho-vibes when on the ball. Once again, it’s a move that matches my DNA at the club, utilising his Italian passport and meeting a release clause that is surely below his market value. All in all, this could total at a €22m incoming with a deal worth over €50m potentially for Carvalho to tycoon-owned Bournemouth. Monchi has agreed an interesting contract with the Brazilian – really focusing on his performance with a large bonus coming for a combined goal and assist bonus, resulting in what I’d believe to a lower weekly wage of just around €60k per week: a third of Carvalho’s demands.
I’ve got a couple of tickets to some Sudamerica action to see him myself but my recruitment team love him. Once the eye test is complete, he could well be the first deal of the summer window…
Forza La Dea!
A lovely Sunday afternoon of FM and nothing else! March is done and I’m delighted at our inability to concede goals at the moment – long may that last! We enter April having only conceded six times in the league. I’m getting plaudits for being a strong defensive manager, but, realistically, we are pretty strong everywhere at the moment! For a deeper look at each of these ties, plus March’s opener away at Chievo, you can click on the match reports within the spoiler, below:
We’re keeping page with Inter but those two draws have cost us quite significantly. Granted, the point away at Juve is probably what I could have expected and I should be happy we were able to keep Dusan Vlahovic quiet: a man who has scored 58% of their goals this season. I was also happy to get one over on Lecce, after they dumped us out of the cup in February but the two top performances were definitely saved for Europe – as we outplayed Lyon and earnt a double header against Spurs.
The league is taking shape now as the bottom three begin to lose touch with Pescara, who, themselves, are losing touch with the bottom half sides. There are some giants of the game down there – Genoa, Fiore, the Steven Gerrard led Roma and then my old side, Sassuolo, who have the great quality of being pretty much average. No worse than when I left them but really no better. Milan have had a shocking season this year whilst Unai Emery’s Napoli are back among the bigger teams, yet those sides are spread by three sides not really expected to be there: Hellas Verona, Udinese and Lecce. Gennaro Gattuso, the man whose departure from Sassuolo allowed me to move their, has done a great job in Verona, spending just €200k this year and still being ahead of title holders Milan. Udinese are also reaping the rewards of showing faith in Daniele De Rossi, who is working his way back up from an 11th placed finish, following his 8th placed in year one. Gerardo Seoane has shown he’s one of the top managers in this league and, like De Rossi before him, is looking good to improve on 13th last year following sixth and seventh previous to that. At €7m, Billy Gilmour has been his marquee this summer and it certainly is showing that the big money does not need to be spent to do well.
Speaking of big money, and in no way related to us, AEK have become somewhat of a laughing stock. Eidur Gudjohnsen has spent €400m over two seasons for the Spanish-led tycoon club but Olympiakos’ Roberto De Zerbi, a man with a net spend of €12m this season is sitting atop of the Greek Superleague. Again, money can’t buy everything and that is my mantra as I progress through my career – currently sitting at a spend of €124m on 76 players, recouping €320m from 105, before any summer deals are completed.
One thing that has been on my mind this month is our transitional and offensive positioning and, most importantly, how to ensure I a) get the best out of all of the players and b) ensure that current performances are not just flashes in the pan. With our starting shape still sitting as the 4-1-4-1 shape that I’ve used for a while now, the image to the let shows our current attacking style, creating a 3-3-3-1 shape. I do this with Joao Roberto playing as a CWB(a) and asking Ragatzu to come inside from his WM(s) role. This has had its upsides, but looking at the attacking contribution of the full back, I don’t feel that it’s been completely successful. Furthermore, looking at the overall impact Ragatzu has had on the game this season, it feels quite criminal to stop him getting as far forward as he can, which may be the reason that his assists tally sits quite low. I have, by far, the best defensive record in the league so – to me there is little concern about any defensive frailty caused by the current situation, or any further changes, to this role.
By asking Roberto to become either an IWB(s) or IWB(a) – I can create what seems to be the most hipster style of them all right now: a 3-box-3 shape. This shape gives me more players between the lines, creating a split pivot with Pilenga and Roberto – with the latter being a converted playmaker himself and should provide us with more options to move the ball vertically and pull players out of position to allow my front three, who I’d actually consider as forwards despite both wide men defending as midfielders, opportunities.
It’s a work in progress, but I’ve already seen the box in action – creating more of stretched shape with Pilenga at the tip than my original diagram shows.
With the above news coming not long before the transfer window, I need to be aware of how this could potentially implicate an important summer transfer window at the club. To help me further understand the needs for reinforcements, I’ve created the below scatter graph, of one of my favourites: comparing minutes played this season to the age of the player.
There are some really interesting things to notice here – and one big concern that there is a lot of riding on the four defenders: Fusari, Joao Roberto, Amey and Okoli, who have all played more than 2,000 minutes by early March. Whilst I do have Bruno and Ferrigno – able backups – this has raised a recruitment issue for me and was in part why Lassina Cisse was not shipped out permanently following his recall from Salernitana. Furthermore, Pellegrini is the oldest player within the team and plays in the same position as both Joao Roberto and youngster Antonio Pacifico, who has nearly overtaken him in terms of minutes this season. I also have to hope that Santos – who has since confirmed his move – can replace Carvalho next year, who, likewise, has completed a pre-arranged move to Bournemouth. Those minutes should have been assisted by the arrival of Ciammaglichella, but he’s been injured for long parts of the season and looks like a transfer who is going to struggle to be a success here in Bergamo. Up top, I have the option of Fontana, returning from Udinese in the summer, to replace Kean if necessary but I am conscious of that given the slow start Bisio has, overall, made here in Serie A.
It definitely paints quite a clear picture of what I need to do this summer, and – importantly – need to start before any takeover plans begin:
- A centre back who can take the burden off Okoli and Fusari. Ideally someone who could play as either a DM as further cover for Pilenga and Navarro or the false-full back RB role to act as further cover for Amey and Bruno.
- Another central midfielder to ease the load on Lanzo playing as either a RM or CM and to potentially allow Ciammaglichella to move on in January or the following summer. I do have De Zerbi returning from a successful loan spell at SPAL.
- A right winger/inside forward who could then allow De Zerbi to play as a backup to Ragatzu on the left and Lanzo to rotate with Santos. This player could put real pressure on Costa for a starting berth.
- Potentially another top class forward if I still deem Bisio/Fontana to not quite be ready for Serie A.
I still have €30m left over from the Carvalho/Santos swap so should be able to spend a little, particularly if I can move on some academy players who, essentially, are free money. Speaking of which, my academy intake has just arrived:
Terreni and Marrucci look to be the standout players here but they’ll join an already strong youth setup, with both the U18 and U20 team doing really well in their leagues. The NxGN announcement sees two of my players on it, with encouraging opportunities for young players across the domestic and European leagues – something that I will ensure to repeat next season.
The squad/empire building is one of my favourite elements of this game and I hope that – over the next two or three years I spent at Atalanta – I can really push this to create a truly ‘elite’ squad within the style I want and without breaking the transfer or wage budget bank.
April, as you’d expect at this time of the season, is going to be tough!
More Champions League ties before a game against a Milan side who won’t be winning the Scudetto this year and are now under manager Michele Pazienza, following Vincenzo Montella’s sacking. This feels quite the step up for a man whose only experience at this level was with Benevento. However, they still have the same quality within their squad that did win them the league and I need to be very warey of that.
Forza La Dea!
Another month done and, Champions League hiccup aside, we’ve done pretty well. As always, finer details are available by clicking on the match report in the spoiler, below.
I’m still trying to find the perfect amount of squad rotation as I look to get through the many multi-game weeks that I am faced and being able to compete on more than one front. Therefore, it’s somewhat expected that our football will be a little sloppy – thankfully, I feel we have mitigated that quite well this month. We opened up with a decent win in Udine as youngster Ledesma got off the mark for us, coming off the bench late on. A strong defensive display and more than a hint of luck saw us end the first leg victorious against a Spurs team managed by Valverde and assembled by the talents of Monchi, now with us, of course. Joao Roberto, somewhat relishing his IWB(a) role, found himself free on the underlap and finished superbly. A strong showing against a ball-hungry Roma side followed that. At this level, the margins are fine. An Okoli mistake and some poor judgement from Fusari saw us crash out of the Champions League at in London despite a first leg lead. We never really looked like winning and winning comfortably but there are lessons to be learnt from this. Despite dropping points against Milan, a bit of a stutter from Inter has actually left us in the driving seat for the run in, as seen below.
With the thirty-fourth round played, there are just four games left to decide the Scudetto and, for the first time this season, I actually have some positivity. Our run in, Verona aside, is definitely the easiest, with Inter playing rivals Milan on the last day and Juve having to face Lecce – albeit slightly out of form and Napoli – currently bang in form. I reckon that three wins from the last four could be enough here, although a 100% record to end the season and to see us win our first title would be something very special indeed.
As I look ahead to the transfer window and think about the players that I need to recruit to turn next season into either a full ascent at the title or a tight ship capable of title retention, there are some statistical things I need to take into account. Whilst we have maintained an insanely good defensive record across this season, I must show some concern at our offensive record that is not quite up to scratch. Yes, I know the old adage of ‘defense wins championships’ but there is work to be done as we currently possess the seventh most lethal attack in the league, despite a plethora of home-grown and well-recruited talent that fits quite nicely into the style that I want to play.
The left hand pie chart shows goals/90 for my midfielders and forwards, the middle shows xg/90 for those players and the right chart shows the xg/90 differential across my whole team.
It’s no surprise that my three strikers lead the stats for both of the pie charts – as that is how their role, an AF(a), is designed to play. However, Bisio’s involvement has been small and, actually, would be significantly better off if he had not been so inconsistent upon his return to the team. I do question whether another ready forward, maybe of a different type to the nimble, pacey Zenga/Kean pairing could be a good option for investigating. My concerns come when I work backwards and are shown very clearly on the third graph. Three midfielders – Lanzo, Ragatzu and Sottil – are in the top four players for greatest xG underperformance per 90 minutes this season. Whilst both are in double figures for assists and, actually, both are among my top performers and key players, I think both need to improve their ability to put the ball into the net when offered the chance, which, for Ragatzu, will naturally occur less than Lanzo given his role.
We currently have four of the top ten performers in the league and Joao Roberto has shown a fantastic increase in his attacking outputs since swapping from a CWB(A) to an IWB(A) – the next job is now making it all come together. Whatever the last month of this season brings, I know that the summer will likely see the most money committed of any window, for me, and will also see me – once again – attempt the laser focused approach that I know is needed to get the results at this top level.
Forza La Dea!
(Nearly all of) May 2032
Talk about a rollercoaster of a run in! All match reports can be seen in the spoiler, below:
We very nearly started the month off in the worst possible way, being, frankly, outplayed by Hellas Verona with only a Lanzo wonder goal saving our bacon. We looked lifeless and everything felt like it was just one pass too many or one silly run that left us offside, gifting the ball back to our hosts. The issue is becoming more and more clear against teams who want to maintain possession against us as well as playing with a relatively deep defensive line themselves. Our back luck continued then as we failed to capitalise on being slightly better against Sassuolo, but could not find the net. At this point, we sat two points behind Juventus and I felt somewhat demoralised. In gameweek 37, we came back to crush Cagliari and were delighted when Lecce frustrated Juventus, in a true ‘FM-styled’ game. Neck and neck heading into the last game and, after Juventus took the lead whilst we were still level, I feared the worse, again. Yet, Zenga’s first and second put the game to bed and put us back in the driving seat. The final whilst came around and we were greeted by a lovely trophy presentation.
Season over. Success. So I thought.
Now, the rules of Serie A stipulate that a team level on points is then judged by their head to head record. Great. Except our home and away performances yielded the same scoreline so head to head could not even be used here. At home, we had the edge; away, they had the edge. Simply inseparable.
Enter game 39.
Not a playoff between 11th and 12th. A game that decides the title. Juventus – perennial winners against Atalanta: searching for their first Scudetto. A win is expected but I absolutely consider us outsiders!
Forza La Dea!
(End of) May 2032
I’m genuinely gutted.
Not a game we deserved to lose but what a day for 30-goal man Zenga to decide he cannot hit the target. We’ve come so far in such a short space of time. The next quest is to ensure that we are prepared for everything. The smallest things make a huge difference. That’s what will bring us the title next year. We’ll lick our wounds and come back, with vengeance.
No time to feel sorry for ourselves. This summer is imperative to getting the squad that little bit better and, as I’ve found out, that little bit more rounded, in order to compete on three fronts and to get one over on Juventus, after the pain they’ve just inflicted on us.
With that, it’s probably best to first introduce the three new players, who have already agreed to join on July 1st. You can see a full profile for each player by clicking on the thumbnail.
I need options for when things don’t quite go right. I think that these three moves – two Bosmans and the aforementioned €22m for Santos really display that.
I like Cristian Pilenga but he was mainly brought in as a defensive minded player and even through watching Navarro, the Chilean, I think we can get away with some more industry. Therefore, bringing in a player who I enjoy watching in real life, still close to the peak of his powers, feels like a no-brainer, especially when he’s taken a pay cut, accepted a squad role of Impact Sub and has cost no upfront fee. Alexis Mac Allister has spent the last ten years at Brighton, mainly in the top flight but has just been relegated, hence his decision to move elsewhere. Given that I started this save on the FM23 beta, I am still somewhat plagued by the youth development issue, even though I was told it was save game compatible. This means that the best players in the world are degrading much later and much slower than may be happening in other people’s saves – not too gameworld-y but important in the context of this signing. Alexis will likely play the DM(d) role, particularly against teams that do sit deeper and do require a little bit more out-of-the-ordinary to break them down.
Thanks to @Sonic Youth‘s recent post, I decided that Kean had been underused but was too similar to Zenga. Enter Lorenzo Lucca. I’ve never managed him before but in this gameworld, he’s scored seventy four times for Valladolid in La Liga and is just so different to what I already have. He’s big, strong, holds the ball up, will be a menace in the box and yet he can still finish and run off the ball really well. Obviously seeking a route back to Italy, he announced that he was going to explore his options at the end of his deal and I was then able to bring him in to provide that different option. I’m paying him less than what he’s currently earning in Spain and he’s aware that he’ll be a fringe player. I think that this is a win-win deal for me. Pre-season will be interesting: we’re not going to go long ball but if I can find a way of getting the ball to the man, rather than over the top of the defence, then we could be winning here – maybe a TF(s) is the answer…
The next job is sorting out how the squad feels:
Players in red are those capable of playing in more than one role in this tactic. Those in purple have been out of loan this season and Bisio, in green, was part of the team but I’m not willing to let him leave permanently, at this point – however, he’s not in my first team plans for next season.
I’ve identified twelve players who, with Carvalho’s departure already confirmed, can bring me potentially €70m in transfer fees and save me over €150k p/w in wages. Obviously, some of that has gone on the three transfers above, but there is scope for furthers deals, should they be needed. Of those, many are just returning from loan but also hitting that 20/21 year old mark without having made an impact on the top levels of the game. Some, like Vinicius, are likely to leave for a loss but that, in the transfer game that we are moving into (read: €76m profit for one player in January) is fine – it’s all about the risk. Most valuable in that list is Luca Pellegrini, who, at 33 and on €70k p/w, is a drain on resources as third choice full back. That money can absolutely be reinvested.
I’ve just tipped into July in the save now as I write this but it does mean that my loanees are back and I can get a better picture of what I actually think of them. Firstly, and in the area I’m the shortest, is the left footed centre back: somewhat of a luxury it seems. Fusari is the first choice here: a key player in the side but I do not currently have the luxury to rest him or give him a reason to keep up his good form. Bringing through Andrea De Zerbi, fresh from a loan in Belgium – at St Truiden – is the easiest option here. He’s just 19 and is a natural ball player but I need to balance out those loanees who have gone on to have success with those who haven’t. If not, there could be a call for a move for either Fabio Chiaroda of Sassuolo or Beraldo from Santos – although getting them in as pretty much out and out backups may be tough.
Next to consider is his namesake (but not related), Luca De Zerbi. He’s been at SPAL and has been really impressive in Europe, but, like Bisio before him, less so in the league. A total of seventeen goal contributions, but only five of those in Serie A, is still great and he’s certainly far more ready than Benedetti, who spent time at Chievo. He’ll essentially be third choice on the left hand side and can also slot in as the central attacking midfielder, too, so i feel that his versatility may pay off.
A wildcard in this is Kastriot Memaj – who is returning from a successful (9G, 3A in 31 apps) spell in Belgium with a struggling Cercle Brugge side. I’ve spoken about that different with Lorenzo Lucca and, whilst Lanzo and Costa both possess pace, neither are quite as quick off the mark as the Albanian international, who, looking at his report card – is consistent and loves a big match. He’s a product of my academy, who, right now, isn’t too valuable, and, therefore, would likely be happy to be a fringe player within the first team and used when needed. It’s very low risk and certainly not a marquee signing, but he could give us something else in the last fifteen against tired full backs.
With three first team strikers already – both Bisio and Fontana will return out on loan, for their third season, with the former already agreeing a loan to take him to Nashville, in the MLS and the latter extending his time at Udinese. I don’t like actively keeping players who are ready for this level but with two strikers past thirty and one being somewhat experimental, I feel that it is justifiable. Both of these lads like playing on the last man and getting in behind so it’s likely that they are both vying for the spot that Kean currently holds. Another South American striker is Drzewiecki, who hasn’t really impressed me – despite notching twenty goals for Vizela. Far too raw and inconsistent at the moment; will almost certainly move out again but I would very much be tempted with a future fee included.
Furthermore, I’d like to see De Toni, Di Martino, Valtulina, Uria and Giovagnoli go out on loan again whilst looking at the older players: Poli, Cangelosi, Galli, Henriques, Muratori – all of whom are 19 and are still yet to taste first team football. I’d like to leave fifteen or so players in each of my youth squads to really focus on their development with a further 10/15 out on loan. What this is doing, however, is having a huge impact on the development clubs of my first team squad. A couple of smart deals and we could be getting very close with this squad!
We’ve just reached the 1st July 2032 and I can already sit and look at two full squads with three utility players in there:
This feels good!
Forza La Dea!