At the end of the last update we were sitting in 4th place in Serie A with 7 games remaining. However, those 7 games were all pretty tough!

To make matters worse, our top scorer Flavio Bianchi will miss at least half of these games through injury.

Let’s see how we got on and if we held on to European Football places or collapsed under the pressure and squandered our chance.

Europe or Bust?

Game 1 – Roma

The first game of the final 7 was against Roma and we got off to a great start thanks to a David Pereiera Da Costa well placed finish after a Nkounkou cross was only palmed away by the ‘keeper.  Tammy Abraham – a constant thorn in my side whenever he plays against us – equalised a just 6 minutes later but then less than 60 seconds after the restart, Nkounkou turned provider again, this time firing a deep cross to the far post for the waiting head of Stefan Freiertag.  

Zalewski pulled Roma level again on 30 minutes, slotting past Pandur from a tight angle to take us into halt time at 2-2.

A very entertaining, end to end game, continues to deliver the goods when we were awarded a penalty on 70 minutes, which loan striker Beljo scored to give us a 3-2 lead

All that was left was to shut up shop and see out the lead, and it was going well as we pretty much denied them any good changes in the final stages until a 94th minute Spinazzola goal tied the game at 3-3.

Game 2 – Inter

After sneaking a wonderful 1-0 win over Inter earlier this season, I wasn’t confident of lightening striking twice. However, we struck the first blow when a Besaggio corner was flicked on my Rugani, which Beljo headed in for his second goal in two games. 

Despite Inter’s dominance with the ball, our goal wasn’t luck, as we stuck again in the 29th minute when a lovely team move was capped off by a slide-rule pass from Nkounkou for Feiertag to slot in. 

And we weren’t done there. Just 7 minutes later, Besaggio made it 3-0 with a fantastic strike from the edge of the area. 

At half time we were beating Inter 3-0, having had just 26% possession. 

As you can guess, Inter came out all guns blazing after the break and had a goal disallowed on 50 minutes, before scoring a legal goal when Frattesi curled one past Pandur on 58 mins. Despite them throwing everything they had at us, we defended like champions. Even substitute Ozler getting sent off near the end couldn’t help them as we saw out a MASSIVE 3-1 win.

As a added bonus, I managed to give Bianchi and Corrado their first minutes off the bench on their path back from injury. 

We were now upto 2nd in Serie A. 

Game 3 – Torino

This game wasn’t as eventful as the previous ones, thankfully. We took the lead after just 6 minutes, through an Nkounkou assist (that’s now sounding familiar!) to Rugani who smashed in a header, and doubled that when Beljo (3rd in 3 games) volleyed in a Pubill cross. Both Wing Backs getting assists: I love to see it!

Radjonic pulled one back with a lovely finish which nestled nicely into the top corner, but they didn’t really threaten our lead beyond that. 

Game 4 – AC Milan

With Milan Head Coach, Brian Riemer, using the press-conference to say we were predictable, I switched things up and moved Van de Beek into the Mezzala role – where I’ve really wanted to play him all season. 

I couldn’t blame Riemer for his comments, as they clearly had a game plan for us and completely dominated throughout.

This didn’t stop it being a very entertaining game though, possibly my favourite of the save so far in terms of action and excitement. 

The very impressive Chukuweze gave them the lead after 12 minutes and we barely had the ball in their half until the 40th minute, when Van de Beek finished off a nice counter attack by smashing one into the bottom corner past a helpless Maignan from the edge of the area. 

Just 3 minutes after the break Van de Beek had an impact on the game again, but for the wrong reasons after he pushed Leao over in the box to give away a penalty which the Portuguese striker calmly scored. Trailing 2-1 and still not getting even a sniff of the ball, I was resigned to a defeat until I bought on Flavio Bianchi in the 73rd minute. Within minutes he put us level with this goal:

We were now level and confidence clearly boosted by Bianchi’s return, we pushed for a winner. 

And it came… in the 89th minute, right Wing Back Alexander Jallow fired a low cross to the near post for… who else… Bianchi to flick in. 

Out of nowhere, and whilst being completely dominated by a far superior team, we’d come away with a 3-2 win. 

With just 3 games remaining we were sat in the imaginable position of 2nd. Stop the count!!!

To continue the surprises, Fiorentina were crowned Champions and Scudetto winners.

As you can see though, it’s very tight BUT we’re now guaranteed European Football next season. 

An amazing achievement. 

Game 5 – Juventus

We next faced Juventus and their narrow 4-2-2-2 which has plagued up each time we’ve played them this season. With Nuno Espirito Santo being sacked I was hoping they’d change, but Caretaker Boss Paolo Montero has stuck with it. 

Soler gave Juve the lead before Beljo equalised. It was short-lived though, as Moise Kean danced his way into the box and scored past Pandur from a tight angle. Beljo pulled us level again, with his second goal of the game from an inswinging Jallow cross. 

And that’s how it ended. Luckily, Juventus squandered a couple of big chances in the dying moments and it finished 2-2. 

Not ideal for our hopes of hanging onto 2nd place. 

Luckily, Inter lost to Cagliari

Game 6 – Napoli

A win here would be massive in our bid 2nd place. 

We didn’t get off to a good start when their danger man, Tillman, who I’d highlighted before the game to be tightly man-marker throughout skipped his way past two defenders and scored past Pandur from a tight angle.

You may now see why I’ve been using italics for each of the main instances where Pandur has been beaten from a very tight angle and should really being doing better. It’s something he needs to work on or his stay here will be short lived. He makes some good saves, but that’s no use if he’s being beaten easily from the tightest of angle. 

The Napoli lead was doubled by Raspadori on 33 minutes and we had it all to play for. 

In a more spirited second half, we pulled one back when Feiertag fired one back Alex Meret from a nice Fabbian assist. We pressed and pressed and came close to an equalised on numerous occasions. On 92 minutes, Feiertag missed a sitter 1v1… on 93 minutes Bianchi shot JUST wide… on 94 minutes Feiertag scored!! But it was millimetres offside. 

Final score 1-2 to Napoli

Game 7 – Hellas Verona

The final game of the season and all to play for. AC Milan has overtaken us and moved into 2nd on goal difference. It was so tight, a loss could see it plummet to 7th place. 

All that stood in the way of a guaranteed Champions League place was rivals Hellas Verona.

It’s been a very impressive season for Verona, having walloped us 1-5 just a few short months ago, they were sitting in 8th place. Way above expectations. 

Despite this, or maybe due to this, I gave a final start to club captain and great servant Dimitro Bisoli. At the age of 32 and after 10 seasons with the club, he came to me asking for a move where he could get more first team football and a fresh challenge, Naturally, I granted his wish, so this is very probably his last game for Brescia

To facilitate this change, I pushed Fabbian into the Regista slot – where I’ve wanted to use him all season –  which let me move Van de Beek up into the Mezzala role again – where I’ve wanted to use him all season. 

As expected, it was a very tough game. We were much the better team for the first half but failed to break them down. They came back into the game in the second half, but we finally took the lead in the 79th minute when Flavio Bianchi headed in a Nkounkou cross at the back post, for his 23rd Serie A goal of the season. Two minutes later Feiertag grabbed us a second, with what was his 13th league goal. 

We held on and claimed all three points, but was it enough for us to finish as runners up?

No.

Unfortunately, AC Milan carried on their fine run of form and beat Roma 2-0 to finish ahead of us on goal difference.

Disappointing but still, what an amazing season!!!

Clearly we have Flavio Bianchi and his amazing goalscoring feats to thank. His 26 goals from an xG of 17.34, along with strike-partner Stefan Feiertag’s 14 from an xG of 11.56, meant we finished way above our expected position: 9th, behind Verona.

Arch-rivals Atalanta should be very aggrieved with their 6th placed finish but it’s nice to see Fiorentina were good for their Scudetto. 

It also makes me very nervous for next season. If the xG result revert back to the mean, we could be looking more at a mid-table finish than the Champions League places again. Plus, my squad doesn’t have great depth, so the European fixtures could make its extra tough.

Looking Forward

I’ve only been given a £10m budget to spend on sufficiently strengthening the squad  – and £5m of that would be needed to permanently sign my two on-loan Wing Backs, Nkounkou and Pubill. Aware that new signings could demand more money due to our Champions League qualification, I really need to keep on top of the wage budget. I’ve been fairly lapse with it so far, but it could be a good opportunity to get on top of things. 

Of course I’ll have to fend off larger clubs to keep my best players! Bianchi, Besaggio, Van de Beek, Fabbian, Feiertag, Jallow and Plizzari all have more than 2 teams interested so I’ve a feeling the starting 11 could look very different when the first ball is kicked next season.

Ideally, I’d want to only make 1 or 2 additions to the starting 11… wish me luck!

So what does this mean for our long-term save objectives?

Well, it let’s me tick not one, but two achievements off the list:

By qualifying for the Champions League, we’ve achieved that goal, as well as getting European football before the third season in the top flight. Bettering the achievements of both Urs Fischer and (our now Assistant Manager) Franck Haise

Speaking of Union Berlin and RC Lens – let’s see how they got on. Neither had European football so I’m safe with my next objective!

Starting in Bundesliga, Union had another disappointing season, finishing 11th. They had no European football so I’m safe there.

Over to France, things are looking much better for Lens. A 4th placed finish in Ligue 1 sees them join us in the Champions League – how exciting!

Unfortunately, despite finishing higher than Atalanta, we lost 2-3 and then drew 1-1 so that goal is one to keep chasing. 

Team Leaders

It’ll come a no surprise to learn that Bianchi was the top scorer. Besaggio is the top creator, but only just! Considering Nkounkou only joined half way through the season, he was only just pipped to the post for this accolade. The loanee HAS claimed the top destroyer award though, winning most of the metrics shown above. What an acquisition he’s been… his £3.3m option on his loan will be an absolute bargain, even at a third of my total transfer budget.

The Tactics

Without delving too far into the details, as there’s still small improvements I want to make, here’s the system I’ve been using which saw us to a 3rd place finish in Serie A with the lowest wage budget

What Next?

In the next update we’ll look at areas of potential improvement, how the new signings have fared, the players I manage to bring in… and who I wasn’t able to keep.

Can I build for a successful Champions League campaign? 

 

 

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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