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Season 1: Ten games in

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No team can survive with such a leaky and ineffective defence, so it was my first job to come in and try and sort that. I knew that, probably, this would lead to some attacking impotence but, realistically, these things will fit together and pieces that I’d identified earlier on would surely become useful bits of knowledge for the next steps.

Here is how we did:

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Full fixtures and results can be seen here.

We rode our luck somewhat against Picerno, holding on for a win and a clean sheet but then turned the tables against Foggia, conceded both of their shots on target – the latter being a 0.48xG chance when we were chasing the game. Groovj MacAnthony’s missed header allowed a 0.35xG chance find the net against Cavese. A second clean sheet of my tenure was achieved at home to high-flying Cerignola before a late rally earned us three points away at Torres, again, winning on xG. We showed a lot of grit against table topping Avellino as they peppered us with shots but, as the xG/shot data shows, these weren’t necessarily great, clear cut chances as their total of 0.12 per shot is at average for them across the season. To come away with a 1-1 draw here is a great sign of meeting this objective of conceding less and becoming harder to beat. A total of 1.46xGA across the last three games, with Altamura’s two shots giving them the highest xG/shot of them all shows how far this has come and, actually, the move back to a Balanced mentality was a stroke of genius: not too worried about our attacking threat at this point but this meant that we countered more efficiently and in greater numbers as the individual mentalities have been brought closer together. A reduction from 1.84xGA/90 in our first twelve games to 0.92xGA/90 in our most recent ten deems this objective quite a resounding success.

Our press in a 442 shape is a result of the hard working Firenze but I’m most enjoying detailing our transition – in a 3box3 shape. I’m using a IFB(d) – CD(d) – CD(s) – IWB(s) across the back four at the moment and, despite losing some of the nice positional play without a L(s)/HB(d) combo, feel that this has really sured us up. We’re the form team in the bottom half of the table at the moment – not because we are playing swashbuckling attacking football – far from it! Our four goals against Catania came from just 0.94xG and we’re still seventeenth best for our total xG this season but we are stronger defensively. Our leaky defence went from the top – the worst – of the xGA standings to seventh worst and we actually have the seventh best defence in the league with twenty-four conceded in twenty-two games, and keeper Mitu has only allowed seven goals in the last ten games in the league.

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We’re far from out of trouble but our form has seen us rise out of the playout places. The third worst offence in the league may hopefully be a thing of the past as the recruitment team made a hurried approach for Franco Bonfiglio when the transfer window opened. The former Villareal player joins on a free, having spent two years in Argentina’s top flight with fourteen goals to show for it. I think that a player of his ability is a real coup for us.  He’s far more suited to the style of play – as opposed to the big target men I currently have – and fits in much better with the squad DNA – acceleration, anticipation, decisions, first touch and technique.

The next steps for us in the remaining sixteen games are to continue to pick up whatever points I can and, should we finish in the playout – given that we’re almost certainly safe from automatic relegation – ensure that we end the season on as much of a high as we can, given the huge part that morale has to play in success at this level.

– – –

With a short term objective completed and continued development needed on the tactical pathway, I wanted to cast my net a bit further into the future and create a second objective right now. I’ve always loved player development but I want to take this opportunity to try to do things slightly different:

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As I previously mentioned, I think that five key attributes for the style of play that I want to achieve are:

  • Acceleration
  • Anticipation
  • Decisions
  • First Touch
  • Technique

These are nicely grouped to have two technical, two mental and one physical attribute. With personality – and therefore Determination – now sat separately to this, each of these attributes is something that I can absolutely impact on the training ground. Also – now being in Italy and having three teams all under the same room and all of those teams playing in their own competitions, I think that I am able to create a more clear pathway to the first team.

Step 1 – U18: These kids will be the youngest and more in need of significant development. I’ve watched my players over my previous FM adventures and I’ve found that technical attributes seem to stutter in their growth, therefore, my plan is to propose a technical heavy set of schedules for the youngest players at the club based on the evidence that I have which shows physical attributes grow pretty naturally as a player ages and mental attribute growth is often linked to successful integration into the first team. Below are my first crop of guinea pigs:

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I’m looking at hugely developing these technical attributes and have built two rotating schedules that do so. I then spent a good time looking at what sits inside each training block to work out the percentage of the focus on these areas. Even with a huge focus on technical development, I found it hard to separate this from mental attributes, so will also measure those. To ensure that players don’t moan, I will rotate through the three main physical additional foci – quickness, endurance and strength – spending a month on each. Players here will not have a specific P/R/D and instead focus on developing all of the attributes required for their specific role. There will be minimal retraining at this stage and, if there is, it’ll likely be converting left wingers to right wingers or left backs to right backs – things which I know carry little CA weighting. I’m hoping that it develops nicely rounded, technical players.

Step 2 – U20:  At 18 or, roughly, when a player reaches 2* CA (a decent rating for the first team), they’ll be moved into the U20 squad where a combination of highly focused individualised training – rotating between two P/R/D and, at least, two additional foci. I had much success with this at Halifax in the Norseman save and I’m looking to bring it through to here, too.

Step 3 – Senior: Players will be re-evaluated to identify their best/most suited roles that can be used on the pitch and will train those to ensure maximal tactical understanding, using only the additional focus to round out any deficiencies.

– – –

I already have four young academy players that I am excited about, with Caso already playing quite regularly and Signorini and Owusu on the fringes of the squad, with the latter having made significant progress since the above screenshot was taken. He has also quickly converted his competent AML position to accomplished, offering me versatility in three roles with little fuss in the reallocation of his current ability.

The goal is to ensure that players are getting first team minutes and, in two years time, I’d like to have five members of the first team from the academy. In achieving that, I’ll know that my methods are developing players well.

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Screenshots can be seen by clicking on each thumbnail.

Forza Biancoscudati!

Author

  • Ben

    Ben has been a long time contributor to the FM community previously on The Dugout and the SI Forums. He is known for his great in-depth tactical analysis and an increasing level of understanding of data led recruitment. His FM saves are always in-depth and he delivers both his knowledge of the game and great storytelling including a talent for squad building, progressing youth players and finding diamonds in the rough. His saves are really popular within the blogging community. He is also the creator of the popular skin “Statman”

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