In the last update, Building a Backroom, I covered the staff recruitment process as well as the highs and lows of the first half of season 1. 

I’d mainly been using a 5-2-2-1, occasionally switching to a 5-3-2 when needed, and this approach saw us briefly go to the top of Serie B. However, a bad run of results saw us drop down to 7th, which led to a tactical tweak that allowed us to claw our way back to winning form and finish 2023 with a 6-1 resounding victory, which put us 2nd in the table.

Let’s look at the new system I’m now employing. My intention was to go into depth, but there are still a few things I need to iron out so I’ll keep this relatively high level.


After starting well, the 5-2-2-1 lost its sparkle, and we lost four games in a row. During this time, I’d tried alternating the midfield duties, including dropping the Creator role from attacking midfield back to defensive midfield, but all to no avail. I then switched to a traditional 5-3-2, which saw improvements as we stopped the losing streak and picked up a 1-1 draw against top-of-the-league Cremonese and a 0-0 draw with Bari

While the Urs Fischer-esque 5-3-2 looked promising, it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or great at maintaining possession, which I need to do to satisfy The Board. To help with this, I decided to steal the box midfield of the 5-2-2-1

The Libero

I have to admit, it’s a role I’ve never used before. But, not wanting to miss out on the positional play aspect of FM24, I decided it would be perfect for helping me create the box midfield I was looking for. 

If you’ve never used a Libero either, here’s what the in-game description says:

The Libero is a central defender role that positions like a traditional centre-back out of possession.

However, in possession, the libero looks to step up into midfield to act as a pivot.

So, when we’re defending, we should keep the defensive security of the back three or five, but when we have the ball in a 5-3-2, the Libero should step up into the defensive midfield area and form a double pivot with the DM. 

Let’s see how it looks in action:

In possession:

In the image above, you can see that the Libero, in this case, Mangraviti, is on the ball after forming a double pivot with defensive midfielder Paghera. The two centre midfielders, Olzer and Ndoj, are ahead, and the four players have formed the midfield box I was wanting. In this instance, Parma, in their 4-2-3-1, have had to pull their striker and attacking midfielders back deeper to avoid being outnumbered. As a result, this has left both central defenders completely free to act as safety valves should the newly formed double pivot get put under too much pressure. You’ll also notice both Wingbacks have been able to move into advanced positions in a lot of space.

If the Libero or defensive midfield loses possession, we still have a 4v3 advantage to snuff out the counterattack. 

As with most tactics, there are risks involved. As you can see above, we’ve left lots of space on the flanks. Most of the time, I’ll take the risk of my two “deep” central defenders being agile enough to cover the space in the event of a counter-attack. If a team plays two strikers and/or high and wide wingers, then we could easily be outnumbered down the middle or on the flanks. If opponents apply too much pressure or present too much of an attacking threat, I’ll drop the libero back to a standard ball-playing defender.

What this Libero/DM double pivot allows me to do is be more adventurous with the two central midfielders. Initially, I went with a Mezzala and a Roaming Playmaker, who’d have the freedom to find space wherever it was thanks to the safety net of the double pivot. However, this wasn’t really effective, which is maybe due to the players I have available, so I reverted back to an Advanced Playmaker on Support. 

I also want to try having a Regista alongside the Libero, but again, I don’t really have anyone who can do that role justice. 

As the libero gets into more advanced positions than a standard central defender, it requires more technical abilities. Below is how Mangarviti stands up against the attributes required to fulfil the role to a good standard. While he’s not perfect—I’d prefer someone with better first touch when under pressure, and his passing could be better—he’s done a steady job, and I could get even more out of the role with someone who is a top-notch ball-playing defender.

Out of possession

When we don’t have the ball, you can see we switch back to a standard back 5.

The Libero has dropped back to the middle of the three central defenders, and the right wingback is rushing back to take up his defensive position, while the left wingback is higher up the field pressing the fullback. This forms what I refer to as The Pendulum Defence where the defensive unit swings left and right to apply ball pressure… just like a pendulum. There may be an actual term for this in the coaching-badged community… but that’s what I call it!

The image also shows just how difficult it is for Parma to progress with the ball. The left central defender is covering the right winger, and the midfield three have the middle secured. Meanwhile, the two strikers have the defensive midfield pretty much covered. In the passage of play here, they did all they could: play across the backline and try to advance up their left. However, Ndoj (mezzala), intercepted a pass after some mice pressing and it led to a shot for us.

The Verdict?

As you saw in the last update, this tactical tweak allowed us to move back up from 7th to end 2023 in 2nd position. As mentioned previously, I still need to figure out the best positions for the three midfielders. I also have to decide how attacking to have the wingsbacks and also the best role for the deeper striker. 

But for now, I’m having fun trying to make it the best tactic it can be for the players at my disposal. 



I won’t go into goalkeepers, as Luca Lezzerini has no real competition. He’s performing well, but not spectacularly.


The left flank has been mainly patrolled by loanee Mohamed Fares, from Lazio. While his crossing ratio (10%) and tackles won (76%) aren’t as good as I’d want, he’s performing well.

On the right side, it’s not been as clear-cut. Alexander Jallow started well but an injury saw him lose his place to another loanee Lorenzo Dickmann, who has been unlucky with only 1 assist from 4.89xA. 

CONCLUSION – I’m not overly enamoured with any of the options currently at the club, especially the two loanees, Dickmann and Fares. Both are solid, but neither stands out as players I’d want to rely on against some of the best wide players in Europe if we get promoted to Serie A. However, should we fail to get the promotion I’ll probably try to extend the loan of both for another season.

Central Defenders

With Cistana, Mangraviti and Papetti being the main starting three, grizzled veteran Adorni has had to wait his turn and step in when required.  The starting three have all performed well, but what Adorni does bring, which the others don’t possess, is the toughness and willingness to get stuck in, winning 93% of his tackles and leading the clearances per game. This brute force is something which will need to be replaced when he leaves the team at the end of the season when his contract expires.

CONCLUSION – I’m pretty happy with the bunch so far. I think I need a new addition in this transfer window, and the squad thinks that too, with Bjarnason, backed by some important squad members, demanding improvements to the depth in the centre of defence. I want to keep Papetti getting regular minutes, and Mangravati has proved his worth, so it may be Cistana who takes a step back and rotates in and out, filling in where necessary across the back line.


Dutchman Tom van de Looi started as the destroyer by default (despite not really being suited) as I wanted to play Bisoli and Ndoj in more dynamic positions (Segundo Volante in a 5-2-2-1 and Central Midfielder/Box to Box/Mezzala in a 5-3-2). However, after a month, he got injured, and I was forced to rotate the other two as the ball-winning midfielders. It’s Ndoj who’s done the best there so far, although he lacks the marking abilities to be a long-term option for me. He’s won an impressive 86% of tackles, 2.16 headers per game, and wins possession 7.61 times per 90. 

The creator role is one I haven’t been entirely happy with so far. In the 5-2-2-1, the playmaker is in the left attacking midfield position; however, I generally avoid having my creative player that high up the pitch as it’s usually much more crowded and therefore harder to get them on the ball.  

Giacomo Olzer started the season as the creator, but after a great pre-season, he really struggled once the competitive games started and was soon relegated to the bench. This meant the 35-year-old Birkir Bjarnason moved over from Shadow Striker to the Advanced Playmaker role. Olzer has been phased back in as he has a longer-term future at the club than his Icelandic teammate, and he’s now performing much better and displays good ball skills with some nice turns to get away from opponents in tight areas. 

Michele Basaggio arrived a month after the start of the season and has picked up a couple of niggles, so he hasn’t played anywhere near as much as the other two, but when he’s been on the team, he’s performed well. I’ll certainly aim to get him more regular playing time in the second half of the season. 

Bjarnason has 4 assists to Olzer’s 3 and looks after the ball well (88% passing). Olzer gets on the ball more, makes more progressive passes (3.46 per 90) and wins the ball back with greater frequency. 

In the 5-2-2-1, the scorer duty was mainly assigned to Bjarnason, with youngster Fogliata taking over when necessary. Neither really fit the role well, with the former being too slot and the latter lacking the finishing abilities. In a 5-3-2, Borrelli has taken up this mantle as the deep striker, but I’m struggling to find the correct role for him, despite him having the ability to play as both a deep-lying forward, a Target forward, and a complete forward.

CONCLUSION – I definitely aim to bring in a true midfield destroyer, as none of the many midfielders in the squad fit the mould. I still think Olzer and Besaggio can develop into good playmakers so am going to stick with them. I also need to recruit a good-scoring midfielder for when a 5-2-2-1 is used. Ideally, this will be someone who can also play as a striker as this will help me switch between the two formations throughout games. 


It’s clear that Flavio Junior Bianchi is the main man when it comes to the striker position at this club. His 10 goals mean no one else has really had a sniff at being the focal point of our attacks. With a 25% conversion rate and 55% of his 1.55 shots per game being on target he’s way outperforming his counterparts. However, if we’re going to play a 5-3-2, either Borrelli (on loan from Serie A side Frosinone) or Moncini will need to step up. Borrelli is the more technically gifted and fits into the tactical system better, but he has a disappointingly low 13% conversion rate. Moncini is a hard-working forward who has the best non-penalty xG of all three (0.58 per 90). 

CONCLUSION – I’m not concerned about the strikers, so I will let them roll for the rest of the season. Hopefully, Borrelli or Moncini will step up and claim the 2nd forward role. 


One out, two in

With my mind turned towards the transfer market, I needed players to leave to allow me to bolster the centre of our defence as a priority.

The first domino to fall was Adorni. On an expiring contract and not wanting to extend his time with us, I allowed him to join Japanese side Vissel Kobe for £275k. Better than losing him for nothing!

This gave me some wiggle room with the maxed-out (and over-spent) wage budget as I was able to use some of Adorni’s transfer fee to create space for me to bring in TWO players, both of whom are as good as, or an improvement on what we already have. 

With our future still undecided, if I fail to get a promotion this season, my recruitment strategy will obviously be different than if I go up. I wanted to take advantage of the loan market. The first player to join is Marco Pellegrino. Although not the best player available, he was one of the more affordable and joined AC Milan for the rest of the season from fellow Lombardians AC Milan, with us picking up just 50% of his £9.5k per week wages. Unfortunately, it’s a straight loan with no option to buy attached. He’s a very well-rounded defender and his ball-carrying abilities make him ideal as a Wide Centre Back. 

The second player to arrive is Jon Pacheco, who joins from La Liga club Real Sociedad. Transfer-listed at his own request, for a low fee of £1.1 million, this deal is a no-brainer. He plays on loan for me this season (I think he’ll be perfect in the Libero role), and if he impresses, I can sign him for below-market value. The issue is that Sociedad is insistent I play him as a left-sided wide centre-back, so I’ll have to rotate him between the two positions. 

My issue with Pacheco is that, for me, he’s a real luxury player. He has very low aggression and poor strength and both of these are areas I want my defenders to excel in. This fear is amplified if we’re in Serie A next season, where he could easily get bullied by strikers at that higher level. 

But that’s what loans are for, right? Try before you buy. 

Outgoing loans

Nicolas Galazzi to Westerlo: I’ve not treated Galazzi very well, so it’s no surprise he didn’t want to renew his contract. As he’s not in my plans, I sent him to Westerlo who is sitting 4th in the Jupiler Pro League in Belgium, and they’ll pay 90% of his wages.

Massimo Bertagnoli to Sudtirol: After missing the first couple of months through injury, he’s barely managed any playing time. I think there’s a player in there though, so he can get some minutes under his belt at fellow Serie B team Sudtirol. Again, 90% of these wages will be covered.

Vincenzo Garofalo to Padova: He’s got the potential to be a decent player, but he’s nowhere near the first team. He’ll get a chance to show what he can do while 100% of his wages are paid.

Patrick Amoako Nuamah to Pro Vercelli – After impressing in limited first-team appearances and showing some good development I really wanted to get Patrick some regular first-team football. He’ll play the second half of the season in Serie C, hoping he can continue to improve. 

A surprise departure

With time running out on Transfer Deadline Day, I was hoping to not be involved in any late dramas, but, of course, things don’t always play out that way. I’d already received and declined a £650k bid from Bristol City for midfielder Tom van de Looi. As this upset him, I said he could move if they upped their bid to £1 million. They didn’t.

I then had a £350k bid from Serie A side Lecce for attacking midfielder Riccardo Fogliata which was swiftly laughed at and declined. Like his teammate, he wasn’t happy, so I made him a promise that if they came back with £1.2 million, Unfortunately, they must have had a case of Deadline Day fever, and they put up the cash! 

He wasn’t a player I was using a lot, but he was one I was keen to develop. However, he clearly wanted to leave, so I wasn’t going to stand in his way. As part of the sale, Lecce asked me if I wanted him back on loan—for free!

Besides, this freed up some wages to allow me to bring in something we’re lacking…

A true midfield destroyer.

From France to Italy, via Turkey

Mehdi Boudjemaa found himself transfer-listed at Turkish side Hatayspor and he’s a player that I like the look of, but my recruitment team don’t seem too keen on him. Therefore, I’ve decided to bring him in on loan. Like the Pacheco deal, it’s a win-win scenario. 

My scouts think the 25-year-old Frenchman won’t develop into anything better than a good Serie B player, but I think he’s got the attributes to be able to fulfil the destroyer role at the next level. 

If he does well, I can sign him for just £275k. If he fails to impress, he can return to Turkey, and I’ve not lost anything. 



We started the new year with the news that Brescia icon Andrea Pirlo has been sacked by Sampdoria, as the newly relegated team were languishing in 8th position. Not the start they’d have wanted in their bid to retain Serie A status as the first attempt. He’s been replaced by former Spezia and Cagliari boss Leonardo Semplici

Another manager making a return to Serie B is ex-Sampdoria and Torino manager Marco Giampaolo who joins Como

January & February 2024

Our first game was a promising 4-2 win over FeralpiSalo, where Patrick Amoako Nuamah scored this beauty before going out on loan. 

We then faced a crunch game with 3rd-placed Palermo, with both teams on 9-game unbeaten runs. Unfortunately, our midfield trio of Ndoj, Bessagio, and Bisoli were completely dominated by their midfield trio of Gomes, Henderson and Stulac, which meant we struggled throughout the game. It was the Slovenian Stulac, who broke the deadlock with a wonderful strike from over 20 yards out. We conceded again in the second half when Mangraviti played a really weak header back to Lezzerini which was intercepted by Brunori – an in-form striker – who tapped it in to condemn us to a 0-2 defeat.

Up next were Spezia and after initially struggling to break their 5-3-2, we cruised to a 2-0 after I made midfield adjustments by changing to a DLP in the DM slot and switched both CMs to Mezallas to basically play around their midfield. Tactical learning to utilise more often!

The bitter taste of defeat was present once again when we fell to a 0-2 defeat against 4th-placed Parma. We were well off the pace and fell behind to a long-range curling effort by Man, before Olzer played a reckless pass, which was picked off and played to Bonny, who finished calmly. 

Parma moved up to 3rd and we dropped to 4th.

And to make matters worse, midfield general Bisoli damaged knee ligaments in the game and will miss 3-4 months. I doubt he’ll play again this season.

Two losses from three games. There are positives though. In both games, we fell victim to a terrific long-range strike and a defensive error. A draw would’ve been a fairer result in both games. 

Three wins in a row then came our way, with victories over Citadella, Pisa and Como, to put us level on points with 2nd place Palermo, but still sitting in 4th.

With hopes of pushing into the top 2 once again in mind, we faced 11th placed Reggiana but fell to a 1-2 defeat after Bjarnason’s early goal was cancelled out by a brace from Jens Antiste, with the second taking a cruel deflection off Cistana and sneaking past the helpless Lezzerini.

March 2024

I need an injection of inspiration after the very lacklustre Reggiana game. I switched back to the 5-2-2-1, and we demolished Catanza 3-1, but then played very poorly against Cosenza, who beat us 0-1. They deserved it, as they dominated the second half. 

At this point, I was starting to think that a proper promotion push was beyond the abilities of this squad of players. Let’s not forget they’re one season removed from technically being relegated and were predicted to finish mid-table this time around.

Maybe losing our best midfielder and club captain, Bisoli affected the team more than I thought it would.

Thankfully, my hopes were piqued again when Olzer scored a nice low-driven shot to give us a late, hard-fought winner against rivals Ternana, and we ground out another very tough 1-0 victory over Bari

With just seven games left, we find ourselves in third position. One point off automatic promotion. 

As you can see, it’s still tight at the top and could still go anyway with 21 points left to play for. Sampdoria have picked up slightly after the departure of Pirlo and Como is in a fine run of form since bringing in Semplici.


The first crop of academy graduates entering the system is pretty decent. The “star graduate” is 15-year-old striker Guiseppe Finardi. Already 6’0,” he’s an aggressive, determined forward who has a good first touch. Another intriguing attacking player is Robert Fiori, a 6’4” rangy striker who looks to be a well-balanced player with good Off the Ball and Finishing skills. 

Who doesn’t want a 6’5″ midfield destroyer putting fear into the opponents? Well, that’s what we could have with Edoardo Gistri. His mental attributes are already good, I just need to ensure his physicals develop and I could have a good player on my hands.

The last one to highlight is central defender Andrea Filosa. He’s already an elite tackler and can use both feet. His pace and heading need some work but he could be an important part of the squad if I can develop him well. 


It’s all to play for in Serie B as it’s very tight at the top with Cremonese, Parma, Palermo and ourselves vying for the automatic promotion slots.

We’ve signed two good central defenders to rotate with Cistana, Papetti and Mangraviti and also picked up a tenacious Ball Winner in midfield.

Do we have enough talent and fight to get over the line, channelling our inner RC Lens and Union Berlin??

We’ll find out next time…


  • 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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