In the previous article, I looked at the midfield players who would define the way we play season 1, as well as the tactics of Union Berlin and RC Lens which we’d base our tactical system on. Analysis helped establish the attributes which will make up the loose ethos of our player recruitment and I touched on how I’ll be using the Recruitment Analysts more prominently in my recruitment strategy. 

Before I head into what’s been a very exciting first half of the season and the players who made good things happen, I first need to talk about those involved OFF the playing field.

STAFF RECRUITMENT

It’s about this time of year when I have my annual read of FM Athlete’s excellent article, Mimicking Moyes

When recruiting staff I always try to choose ones whose preferred tactical formation matches the one I’m using. This is especially important to me when it comes to coaches. If I’m struggling, I’ll also accept preferred secondary formation. 

As I’m not yet sure if I’ll be using a 5-3-2 or a 5-2-2-1, I’ll look for either. If a coach has good adaptability and tactical awareness they should be able to switch between both.

Naturally, there’s less staff to choose from with these two formations and as such, the quality I can attract may not be as high. But, to echo the words of MustermannFM, if I’m using a 5-3-2 would I trust the words of an Assistant Manager or Coach who has 12 for attacking and possession coaching or one who has 14 for each but only coaches a 4-3-3?

Hanging around

Being wary of the club’s finances, I don’t want to fire every member of staff at the club. If they’re good, or even mildly decent, at what they do, they can stay for a while. 

This means that the following can stay and give nice continuation for both the players and remaining staff:

Renzo Castagnini has JUST returned for his second spell as Director of Football at Brescia. He was in post before I took charge and as such is too expensive to get rid of. He’s not as good as I’d want in the role but he’ll do for a while. Plus, he looks like he might be “connected”.

Paulo Migliorati – The Head of Youth Development is actually pretty damn good so I’m in no place to replace him anytime soon. He favours a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 but at youth level I’m not worried about this. 

Massimo Lotti is fresh into Brescia but is an experienced coach. He’s previously been a GK coach at Ascoli as well as Venezia during their spell in Serie A. As a result he’ll have an existing relationship with first choice ‘keeper Luca Lezzerini.

Salvatore Sciuto is a 4-3-3 kinda guy, but he’s a fitness coach so that’s fine. Also, he’s terrifying looking and damned good at his job.

New faces

It’s nice to be able to keep some staff around, however, there are obviously some key positions which I need filling with the right people.

The most important hire, for me, is the Assistant Manager. I want someone who is a good judge of talent and also can coach the team to a high standard. My first staff hire can do exactly what I’m asking. Good tactical knowledge is desirable but not essential (yes, I can see we’re being overrun in the middle of the park!)

Edorta Murai is a 60-year-old who I’ve tempted away from the ASPIRE Academy, where he held the role of Head of Youth Development. He’s an excellent defensive coach with a tremendous eye for judging players. He’s also spent several years at Athletic Bilbao. He doesn’t have great People Management skills but I can handle that (hopefully). 

Ivan Moretto comes in to take a very important role. He’ll be the Possession-Technical coach where one of his key tasks will be developing the weak foot of our promising youngsters who are all very one-footed. He likes to play an attacking 5-2-2-1 so should be a great fit. 

Daniele Fornino is a young coach who favours a 5-3-2 and will help Murai coaching the defensive aspects of the tactical structure. Cristiano Lupatelli (5-3-2) joins as a Goalkeeping coach. Italian-speaking Ludwig Kauffmann, who’s secondary formation is a 5-3-2, is a talented first-time coach joins the backroom and should have a good career.

I’m pretty pleased with how the staff recruitment has gone, especially considering we’re in Serie B. All my Coaching staff are Italian, apart from the Assistant Manager (Spanish) and Kauffmann who is German but speaks Italian. Furthermore, all but two (Head of Youth Development and a Goalkeeping Coach) have a 5-3-2 or 5-2-2-1 as their preferred or secondary formation. 

CONTRACT NEWS

I’ve managed to tie a few players down to longer contracts. Most of them were due to expire at the end of this season, but as my coaching staff think they should be able to perform at Serie A standards I felt it was important to keep them around. Even if to just cash in when the time is right. 

Midfield playmaker Giacomo Olzer has signed a new 3-year deal on £4.5k per week, meaning he’ll be a Brescia player until he’s 25. He’s joined by another midfield prospect, Riccardo Fogliata who will earn £3.4k per week for the next 4-years. 

Central Defender Andrea Cistana signs on for a further 4-years on £9.5k a week, which should help bring stability to our defence as we hopefully grow as a team and various players come and go. 

A player not on an expiring contract but one I wanted to keep around was another Central Defender called Andrea…

Andrea Papetti – a Brescia player until 2027… fingers crossed

Once touted as a wonderkid, he’s yet to kick on and find that big move. Hopefully, should that move come I’ll get some good money for him. At just £6.75k per week he’s a great player to have around to develop. The only downside was a non-negotiable clause in his contract stating he can move on should a larger club bid £3.4m for him. Which I’m sure will happen. I just need to get promoted and tie him down to a new contract before that happens…

The next player to sign a new deal was Dutch midfielder Tom van de Looi. The 24-year-old is in a critical season in terms of his development and if done correctly he can be a Serie A standard player. As such, I wasn’t willing to let him leave for free at the end of the season. He’s signed a 3-year-deal on £7.5k per week. 

The club was already spending the entire wage budget so these deals have put us over that. Hopefully I can move some players on in January and also lower the weekly wage commitments by sending some players out on loan. 

THE SEASON COMMENCES

After taking over the role in mid-July, I only had a month until the first competitive game.

In terms of friendlies we have some good results, albeit against a lower class of opponent than I would’ve like. The highlight was a win over a very strong Wolves team. We also put up a spirited performance against Ligue 1 team Montpellier, but fell to a last minute defeat.

Overall we played 5 games, with 4 wins and 1 defeat. We scored 17 goals and conceded 9. Positive signs.

The first competitive game was a rivalry game in the Coppa Italia versus fellow Serie B side, Ternana. Obviously, I caused grief with their manager in the press conferences both before and after our 3-2 victory. Goals from Right Wingback Alexander Jallow (2) and Birkir Bjarnason helped make sure the two league games against them would be a little spicer. 

Fresh off the news that Central Defender Andrea Cistana would miss 3 weeks with a pulled hamstring, Jallow found the net again as we picked up a 1-0 over Como in our first Serie B game. I managed to give some minutes to young midfielder Patrick Amoako Nuamah who, at 17, became the youngest player ever in Serie B. 

Disaster struck in a 1-1 draw versus a good Pisa side containing promising winger Lisandro Tramoni and ex-Brescia striker Stefan Moreo, when goalkeeper Lezzerini broke his arm and would miss 7-8 weeks. Adding to the injury woes, midfielder Tom van de Looi pulled his hamstring and, like Cistana, will also miss 3 weeks. He’d been playing in the Destroyer role and had won 100% of his tackles and racked up 1.94 tackles per game and 1.94 interceptions. 

In more positive news, Michele Besaggio joined on a prearranged free transfer from Genoa (remember I’m playing on the Real World setup). He’s another good, young Creator option, although opportunities may be few as he’s also in competition with Olzer (who’s struggled early on) and the veteran Bjarnason.

We battered Ascoli 6-1, with FOUR goals came from striker Bianchi and the others from Left Wingback Federico Pace and youngster Riccardo Fogliatta.

I’ve played a 5-2-2-1 in all of these games and it’s worked well, averaging 1.89 xG per 90 in the 4 competitive matches so far.

Despite the good results, it’s concerning that we’ve only won the possession battle once (51% vs 49%). Across those 4 games we’ve averaged 48% possession, so The Board aren’t happy. I’d banked on the box midfield of the 5-2-2-1 (or 3-4-3) being good at maintaining control of the ball due to the passing options it offers.

However, I refuse to play on low tempo so we’ve been playing on standard with short passing.

Something to work on.

Bianchi’s good start to the season earned him the Player of the Month award for August. He’s performed well as an Advanced Forward in front of the two attacking midfielders and has bagged 5 goals in 3 games. Although 4 of those came in the game versus Ascoli. However, as he was the only striker in the squad he played every available minute and was running on fumes at various points. 

Fogliata came in and impressed when given the opportunity, with a goal and an assist in three appearances in the Shadow Striker role, 

NEW SIGNINGS

Bianchi wasn’t to be the only striker for long, as two more joined on Deadline Day. I’m excited by the prospect of getting Borrelli involved in the team. He’s 6’4″ but has good mobility and strength. He’s on loan from Frosinone but has a £3.4m option to buy, which could prove to be a bargain. Monchi lacks finishing ability but is a hard worker who plays with a tough edge to his game so could be a good option to bully defenders and wear them down.

We also added two loanee Wingbacks from Serie A sides. On the left we have Mohamed Fares (from Lazio) who’ll come into the starting line up to replace the outgoing Federico Pace. On the right we welcome Lorenzo Dickmann (from SPAL) who should be a very good option on the right flank. However, it won’t be easy for him to break into the side as Jallow has been really impressive. 

Jallow was only penned to be a placeholder until Dickmann arrived but he’s done really well so far, notching up 3 goals and 1 assist so far. He also plays the Wingback position exactly how I want. He keeps the ball well (88%) and has won 82% of his tackles. 

When he’s on the ball (5,10 dribbles per game) he does the right things and poses a threat to the opposition. A perfect example of this is his goal against Ternana, where he waits for the right opportunity to make a blindside run behind the defence and finish well. It wouldn’t be fair for Dickmann to be handed the starting role immediately, so he’ll have to earn it.

The player news didn’t stop there, as midfield work horse Bisoli signed a new 4-year-contract, which central defender Adorni announced he was going to explore his options at the end of the season. Whilst he’s not a player who has a long term future in the team, he’s still a good defender so it’ll be sad to see him go. 

BACK TO THE SEASON

September

We carried on our fine form with a dominant 2-0 win over Lecco, putting up 23 shots to their 2, before going down to 10 men and desperately holding into a 2-1 lead for the final 20 minutes against Venezia. This fighting spirit continued against league favourites Sampdoria where we went down 0-2, but fought back to snatch a late 2-2 draw thanks to Ndoj and Olzer goals. 

Now up to 2nd in Serie B, we faced the Palermo – the side in 1st place with a 4 point advantage over us. Their dashing pink jerseys were no match though, and we ran out 1-0 winners in what was a very entertaining match. This was followed up with a 2-0 win over FeralpiSalo, where I’d switched to a 5-3-2 due to Bianchi missing with food poisoning. 

A Palermo loss to Ascoli put us top. 

And it was downhill from there…

October & November

Our first defeat of the season came against Parma (a team I still struggle seeing in Serie B). Back in our 5-2-2-1, we really struggled against their 4-2-3-1 so at half time, with the score 0-0, I switched to a 5-3-2. Parma continued to be the stronger team and after Van de Looi went off injured, we conceded two goals in 9 minutes to go down 2-0.

Goalkeeper Lezzerini was back in the line up after his broken arm for a match against 19th placed Spezia. We took the lead through Bianchi before the home team equalised thanks to a deflection which took the ball past the helpless Lezzerini. Spezia then capitalised on poor defending from a long throw to score a 2nd which saw us lose a second game in a row. 

A twisted ankle suffered in the Spezia defeat put Ndoj out for 6 weeks which is a shame as he’d struck up a great partnership with Bisoli in the double pivot. 

We then lost Besaggio for 3 week with knee ligament issues and Borrelli for 2 weeks with a thigh strain. 

Our woes continued with a 2-3 defeat to Modena in which top scorer Bianchi received an injury which put him out for 3 weeks. This defeat was especially infuriating as we won the xG battle 2.67 vs 0.73!

Heading into November, an injury-ravaged team put up a spirited display against Serie A side Udinese, managing to frustrate them until they found a solitary goal on 55 mins as Lucca beat the offside trap. 

The 5-2-2-1 had clearly lost it’s sparkle despite tinkering with the midfield set up, switching from having a Creator in the Attacking Midfield strata, to a Deep Lying Playmaker and then a Regista in the double pivot. 

A game versus the Serie B leaders Cremonese saw a switch to a 5-3-2. Now languishing in 7th, we took the lead through a Papetti header from a Olzer corner, before Vazquez equalised from the second phase of a corner. A very frustrating draw and a game we deserved a win out of. Still, it halted our losing run. 

The frustration continued as we failed to score in a 0-0 with Bari despite having 7 shots on target and accumulating 1.83 xG versus their 0.29. Very wasteful finishing in a game we dominated. 

Over this six game winless streak we’d averaged 1.45 xG versus 0.85 xGA yet we’d still been unable to turn the advantage into wins. Removing the freak Modena game it sat at 1.21 xG vs 0.87 xGA which on the face of it makes us seem unlucky, but digging deeper shows an alarming stat:

The 41 shots we’d taken in these 5 game averaged at just 0.03 xG each. 

We needed more than just luck to sort this issue. So, with a weekend off it was time to try something new. I arranged a friendly game against Rapid Wein so I could try out a new tactical set up. Despite a 3-2 defeat against a team 6th in the Austrian Bundesliga, we looked much better and created some good chances. I also learned much more playing a good team than I would have playing a lesser opponent and notching up a 5-0 win… although the morale boost would’ve been nice!

Annoyingly, with two strikers picking up niggles I had to switch back to the 5-2-2-1 for our next league game. Luckily, we were facing bottom of the table Sudtirol and picked up a nice 3-1 victory, where we scored this lovely free kick:

Getting a chance to try the new system in Serie B games, we picked up back to back wins. Firstly in a rivalry game with Ternana where we wound up comfortable 2-0 winners and then scored two late goals against Conzenza to win 2-1. The good performances continued, however two disallowed goals saw us held to a 1-1 draw with Catanzaro before I was forced to revert back to the 5-2-2-1cfor a 1-1 bore draw with Reggiana

Back to our new system, the final game of 2023 came against Cittadella who we absolutely destroyed 6-2.

We head into the new year looking really good and move back up to 2nd place in Serie B. 

From 6 competitive games without a win, we’re now 8 games without defeat. 

TOP PERFORMERS

Let’s have a look at the players who have spurred us on through the good times and the bad.

It’ll come as no surprise that our top goalscorer is Flavio Bianchi. With 10 goals so far he’s way ahead of Borrelli and Monchini, who’ve both struggled in the first half of the season. Bianchi has mainly been playing as an Advanced Forward. As such, he only completes 19 passes per game, but he’s not in the line up for his contribution to the build up play. Of those 19 passes he completes them at 84% so does well in terms of maintaining possession, which is good considering most of the season he’s been a lone striker, up against two central defenders.

A key role in our midfield is the Destroyer. In order to play the possession football requested by The Board, we need to be able to win the ball back. Obviously, this is a team effort through both well executed pressing and intensity off the ball. But we need someone to lead by example and be a dominant ball winner. Whilst I don’t believe I have the right person in the squad yet, we have Bisoli and Ndoj who can both fill the role and they’ve each been the designated Ball Winner throughout the season, as has Van de Looi, but he’s more of an interceptor than a tough tackler.  The Destroyer role has mostly been in the Defensive Midfield strata, so they’re asked to sit back and break up play when it arrives, rather than actively seeking ball winning opportunities, but that may change as the tactical system develops.

Leading the way so far is Emanuele Ndoj. The Albanian has won an impressive 86% of his tackles and over half of his aerial challenges. He gets on the ball a lot (56 passes per game) and looks after the ball well, with a 92% pass completion ratio. He also does well as moving play forward, with 5 progressive passes per game. Whilst I think he is better in a more advanced role, he’s contributing to the team very well. 

CONCLUSION

The 5-2-2-1 of Haise started well but fell off in spectacular fashion. The 5-3-2 of Fischer looks solid defensively but struggled going forward. 

After switching to the new system we look much better with the ball and in terms of providing a consistent scoring threat. 

The xG table thinks that rather than being 2nd, we should be 1st with a comfortable 4 point lead. Parma are unlucky to be sat in 4th, whilst it’ll be fascinating to see if Cremonese can carry on riding their luck as they’re 7 points over their expected total.

What is the new system?

We’ll cover that in the next update. Even this guy is impressed.

 

Author

  • ThrowingCopperFM

    ThrowingCopperFM is known for unraveling complex FM strategies, often using Girona FC as a canvas to illustrate his tactical theories. Whether it's penning down comprehensive guides on mastering promotion in FM or sharing bargain player finds, ThrowingCopperFM's content is a treasure trove for aspiring managers. His active Twitter engagement further demonstrates his enthusiasm for football discussions beyond the virtual realm, making him a well-rounded and appreciated contributor in the FM community.

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1 thought on “Brescia Calcio – Building a Backroom

  1. I’m very curious to know what new system you switched to.
    Especially as I’m currently looking to start a save at Brescia too.

    Really appreciate your in-depth writing!

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