In the last update “Liberating the 5-3-2” I looked at the tactical tweak which had gotten us back on track in Serie B after a bad run of form saw us drop down to 7th place. We signed two central defenders and a ball winning midfielder, all on loan, and we left off in 3rd place with 7 games to go.

Could we make one last push for automatic promotion or was playoff hell awaiting….?

Let’s get straight into it.

THE FINAL SEVEN

April 2024

The final two months of the season kicked off with a game against Sudtirol in which we went 2 goals up inside 20 minutes thanks to goals from Alexander Jallow and Gennaro Borrelli. The visitors pulled one back on 51 minutes before TWO disallowed goals by Bianchi made the ending a lot closer than it should ever have been.

Elsewhere, Palermo drew with Venezia and we were now up into 2nd place.

Bianchi had another two goals disallowed in the next game, against Modena (and their lovely kit! Potential future save alert!) – Luckily Bjarnason and Moncini both came off the bench to score a goal each in a 2-0 win.

Up next came a tactical battle against table toppers Cremonese. The Opposition Report showed their two Central Midfielders were their most dangerous players, so I switched up my midfield and put my most combative duo, Ndoj and Boudjemaa in to man mark them and give them a physical battle. It worked as we nullified them and came away with a 1-1 draw from this nice Borrelli goal

Unfortunately, that draw dropped us down to 3rd behind Parma on goal difference.

Switching up the forward line roles to an Advanced Forward and Pressing forward (for no reason other than experimentation), we steamrolled past Lecco with a 3-0 win thanks to a Borrelli hat-trick! (He’s really finding his feet at a vital time and I’m going to make a play for him next season, either back on loan or permanently).

In a crunch clash elsewhere, Cremonese did us a favour and beat Parma, putting us 3 points clear in 2nd place.

The scouts highlighted that Ascoli score a lot of goals from through balls down the centre of the pitch. With this in mind I switched to the 5-2-2-1 so I’d have two defensive midfielders covering the middle. It didn’t work and we lost 1-2 in what was a terrible performance, not helped by the strikers squanderinf chance after chance and we couldn’t make a 18 shots to 6 advantage count!

Luckily, those around us all slipped up! Reggiana beat Cremonese, Parma lost to Como and Palerma drew 0-0 with Cosenza.

We had a crunch game upcoming with an improved Sampdoria side who were going strong in 6th. With Parma putting the pressure on by winning the early game to move back into 2nd place it was a nerve wracking approach to the game.

Sampdoria played a 5-3-2 so in order to take advantage of their flanks I reverted back to a 5-2-2-1 and instructed the AMs to Stay Wide when in possession in an attempt to cause overloads and get in behind their Wingbacks. It worked a treat and we went into half time 2-0 up.

Cordella pulled one back for them immediately after the restart and not long after they won a penalty.

Midfielder Yepes sent Lezzerini the wrong way…

But luckily his shot flew over the bar and into the safety of the crowd behind the goal. 

They continued to pile on the pressure, finally playing how you’d expect Sampdoria to play and we struggled to even get a touch. Esposito scored a goal on 74 minutes which was disallowed for offside and finally the levy broke when Yepes made amends for his penalty miss with a thunderbolt from the edge of the box in injury time. Full time: 2-2.

Shit.

Going into the final game against Venezia it was still a three-horse race for the second automatic promotion spot. Two days before the game, Venezia, announced the arrival of new manager Ronaldo Maran, formerly of Pisa and Genoa

New manager bounce… just what I need!

Who’s got the “grinta” to hold their nerve?

The Final Game

Sticking with the 5-2-2-1, I went into the game knowing that NOTHING BUT A WIN would suffice as both Parma and Palermo had much easier games. 

We got off to a dream start when Bianchi, reinserted back into the lineup after a baron spell, gave us the lead with a headed goal after just 3 minutes from an Olzer free kick. 

Twenty minutes later Bianchi scored his second after a nice 1-2 with Dickmann and we were absolutely cruising at 2-0.

If we could get into half time we’d be ok…. but we didn’t. In injury time Cheryshev scored from close range and we went into the break at 2-1.

The momentum had swung.

With left Wingback Fares on a a yellow card I decided I couldn’t risk him getting sent off so bought on Frenchman Huard for what would very likely be his last game for the club as his contract is due to expire. 

On 54 minutes Candela scored from the edge of the area to make it 2-2 and we were chasing shadows.

To make it worse, Parma had taken the lead and were now above us in 2nd. 

To say we couldn’t get a kick would be an understatement. Venezia were incredible. 

To make matters worse, when we finally did get a chance (in the 84th minute!) Gennaro Borrelli, on as a Shadow Striker, missed an absolute sitter!

The playoffs were calling. 

That was until 2 minutes later when Ndoj won the ball and laid it off to Borrelli midway inside the Venezia half. He turned, dribbled past three defenders and smashed a shot into the far corner!! 3-2. We had 4 minutes plus 5 minutes of injury time to hold on…. and hold on we did!

Borrelli goal vs VeneziaThe Borrelli goal which clinched us promotion!

14 points from the final 21 on offer was good enough to see us promoted to Serie A!

And what’s more, I’ve passed the first challenge of the save by equalling Urs Fischer and Franck Haise in getting promoted at the first attempt!

Looking at the final table, you can see we were well behind Cremonese, who according to the xG table accumulated a massive 18 points more than expected. By the looks of it this was due to either an excellent goalkeeper or tremendous amounts of luck! The xG table also had us finishing in 1st place, which is nice!

Sampdoria beat Spezia 3-1 on aggregate in the Playoff Final and will reclaim their Serie A status. Well deserved.

I suspect Venezia will be one of the teams to watch out for next, judging by their performance on the final day of the season.

Dropping back down to Serie B will be Genoa, Lecco, Salernitana and Cittadella. 

TEAM PERFORMANCE

Aside from our late heroics in gaining promotion, I wanted to dig a little deeper and see how we performed in various metrics which make up the way we (want to) play. The Board will be pleased with us ranking 4th for overall possession, averaging 53%, and 3rd for pass completion ratio (90%) as that was one of their playing style demands this season. We ranked 5th for Headers Won ratio with 50%, which I’d expect given we’ve used three central defenders all season. Any lower than that I’d be panicking. 

Our 68 goals ranks 2nd, behind Palermo, whilst the 38 goals conceded gives us the 3rd best defence in Serie B. Both promising signs. I’m also pleased we managed to rank 3rd for tackles won percentage with 80% without once selecting “get stuck in“. 

We wanted our Wingbacks to be aggressive and their 190 crosses (2nd) were completed at an average of 17% which ranks 3rd. I think its safe to say they fulfilled their mission. The good crossing stats will also have been a contributing factor to use scoring the most goals from corners (14) and indirect free kicks (6).

PLAYER PERFORMANCE

Goalkeepers

As soon as the season finished, starting ‘keeper Luca Lezzerini came banging on my door asking for an improved contract. Naturally, before responding to him I checked his stats for the season. What I saw doesn’t make me believe he’ll be a good goalkeeper in Serie A:

I know he’d conceded a lot of long range effort but he did make some excellent saves throughout the season so I was surprised to see him in the wrong quadrant for both of the above charts. I think I’ll be looking for a new #1 next season and hopefully I can get £1.5-2 million for Lezzerini. 

Wingbacks

Starting on the left, Mohamed Fares played a vast majority of the games and notched up an impressive 7 assists. On loan from Lazio, he’s now progressed to be classed as a “decent Serie A player” and I’m tempted to try to to either extend his loan or sign him for the sake of continuity. However, his £18k wage might be too much for us. However, I’ll see what I can do. 

Over on the right, it’s been pretty much an even split between SPAL loanee Lorenzo Dickmann and Alexander Jallow. Despite only playing half the minutes available, Jallow was voted the Fan’s Player of the Season, and scored 5 goals whilst serving up 6 assists, which speaks a lot for the high standard of his performances. However, my coaching staff don’t think he’s good enough for Serie A. It’s going to be a touch decision as to if I give him the starters role next season. 

Central Defenders

It comes as no surprise that AC Milan loanee Pellegrino tops the charts for most of the metrics. I’m definitely going to try to get him in on loan again next season. The original trio of Mangraviti, Cistana and Papetti all performed well and should be around next season, whilst loanee Pacheco proved my fears that he’s a luxury player which we can’t afford. Whilst be looked after the ball well, he failed to flatter when it came to actual defending. 

Midfield Destroyers

With no clear Ball Winner in the squad, I bought in Mehdi Boudjemaa on loan from Hatayspor. As you can see, he’s performed well and managed to win 2.51 tackles per game despite being on a defensive role in the Defensive Midfield strata. Like Fares, I’ll try to sign him permanently, and if not will see if I can get another loan deal. I’ll give him the starters role next season unless someone else comes along who I can’t turn down. 

Midfield Creators

It’s been an interesting journey for the Creator role this season. Olzer started poorly so the mantle was handed over to the veteran Bjarnason who performed admirably. However, as his physicals started to decline he looked more and more off the pace so Olzer was phased back in. This time the youngster took the opportunity and performed well, as you can see below. Besaggio joined late and had a few niggling injuries which stopped him getting a prolonged run in the side, until right at the end where he slotted into the Shadow Striker role whenever we deployed a 5-2-2-1. 

I’m going to be brave and give Olzer and Besaggio the nod for next season, again, unless someone too good to turn down appears. Bjarnason’s contract hasn’t been renewed so he’s moving on as his physicals dropped way too much. 

Midfield Linebreakers

It’s hard to really judge this role as the three players involved have had to spend time as the Ball Winning Midfielder so the results could be skewed. The Linebreaker is someone I want to get up and down the pitch and contribute (effectively) at both ends. Ndoj played the most in the role in the 5-3-2 as a Box to Box and a Mezzala, with Van de Looi coming off the bench. Club captain Bisoli missed the last 4 months of the season but still lead with assists as the other two failed to make an impact when it came to the attacking phase. 

I’m unsure if Bisoli will come back at full strength after his long lay off and as Van de Looi still wants to leave after his head was turned by Bristol City, he may be leaving soon. Someone new may have to join the midfield ranks. 

Strikers

We’ve split the season pretty evenly between 1 and 2 striker formations. Bianchi was the main guy, playing as an Advanced Forward or Poacher, whilst Borrelli was mostly used as a deeper Striker. Whilst Moncini did well when he played, he was like Besaggio in that he always got niggles which prevented a good run in the team.

 

Borrelli ended the season really well with 7 goals in the last 7 games to carry us down the final stretch whilst Bianchi went through a dry spell. I’d like to bring him in permanently, but don’t think I’ll be able to afford him. However, I’ll speak to Frosinone and see if a deal can be done. 

Taking the above into account, I’ve got the following positions covered. However, I do have a question mark over Jallow at right Wingback as he performed well over his attributes. There’s also Pellegrino, Fares, Boudjemaa and Borrelli to try to get back again on loan or on a permanent deal. I’ve initially picked a 5-2-2-1 as my planned formation as I don’t think I’ll be able to afford to bring in a Serie A standard striker, whereas an Attacking Midfielder may be cheaper to recruit. 

SHAPING THE RECRUITMENT PLANS

Of course, there are other factors which will have an effect on my recruitment plans.

Thanks, Karel

 

Firstly the transfer and wage budgets. I’ve been given an extra £60k per week to spend on wages but this doesn’t yet factor in promotion wage-rises or players departing the squad at the end of their contract and any freed up by player sales. With £200k per week available I’ve worked out the below wage structure to ensure we operate within our means in our inaugural Serie A season under my management:

These may change depending on if there’s any transfer budget remaining which I can move into the wages pot. I’ll try to stick to these but sometimes rules are there to be broken.

The transfer budget assigned is £4.3 million, which is more than I was expecting to be honest. Hopefully I can move a couple of players on (Lezzerini and van de Looi) which should give me more to play with, but I’ll need to utilise the loans market and be very careful where I splash any cash on players purchased.

The second element which will focus my recruitment is the expectations of The Board:

Whilst they still want us to play possession football (which I’m happy with) they now want us to play attacking, high tempo pressing football. 

There’s also the expectation to make the most of Set Pieces, which is fine as we did well in that area this season.  

These expectations means I’ll likely look for more emphasis on attacking abilities in Wingback as initially I was thinking about more defensive stability. Other than that I don’t think this changes my recruitment focus too much. 

Overall, I’m expecting a tough time with recruiting a team who I think can avoid relegation back to Serie B. The budget isn’t great but my scouting range was limited to Italy so there’s not much in the pool of scouted players to go at. I’ll only go for players who’ve turned up in my scouting reports for the sake of realism… so it promises to be fun…. but more likely frustrating. 

CHALLENGE UPDATES

As you’ll know, I’m pitting my managerial skills against Urs Fischer, of Union Berlin and Franck Haise of RC Lens – they even have the unfair advantage of a few season’s head start! I also aim to overtake bitter rivals Atalanta as the Queen of the Bergamaschi.

So, let’s see how they’re all doing.

Starting domestically, Atalanta had a disappointing season by their standards with a 9th placed finished in Serie A. The Europa League campaign didnt go as well as planned as they were knocked out by Young Boys, whilst a defeat to Lazio in the Quarter Finals ended their Coppa Italia dreams. Scamacca joined from West Ham and scored 9 goals, but other than that there were no big deals done. Garsperini’s job is under threat so it’ll be easy to see how this plays out. 

Inter won their 20th Scudetto, finishing 2 points ahead of Lazio.

Over to Germany, Union Berlin finished a respectable 6th place and qualified for the Europa League. In the Champions League they failed to make it out their group, finished 3rd behind Arsenal and Barcelona. Their subsequent Europa League journey was ended by Liverpool in the Quarter Finals. No players joined in the January Transfer Window. RB Leipzig won the Bundesliga title, finishing 4 points ahead of Bayern Munich

Finally, we can move to France where Haise and his RC Lens side had a terrible season, finished 10th. PSG won with a huge 25 point advantage over second placed Montpellier. They faired a little better in the Champions League, getting knocked out by Arsenal in the round of 16. Franck Haise is also under pressure and might find himself out of a job before next season starts. 

Things are going well in the save objectives as we’re able to tick off the first two challenges. It could be a couple of seasons at least before a green tick is used again though. 

Next time I’ll look at who I’ve been able to bring in to the squad and cover the first month or two of Serie A action.

 

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 – The Magnificent Seven

  1. Congrats on the title my man and another excellent break down of the squads performance.

    I did stop briefly to check out that Modena shirt (very nice).

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