Season 1: The same, but different.

Season one ends here in Messina after an enjoyable but a mightily tiring tactical journey. Whilst very little has happened off the pitch, Carlo Pinsoglio – a high level number two keeper with a successful career – joined and I was somewhat underwhelmed with my youth intake. January saw me becoming somewhat disgruntled with the hands off recruitment – players such as Metafonti, Edwing Malpon – completely unknowns to me – or offers for players like Nieuwpoort, where they’d planned on giving him a wage of over €3k per week, 50% more than my next highest earner, just felt wrong, so I’ve gone back to the drawing board on this one, temporarily.

However, in twenty-eight league games, I’ve learnt an awful lot about the group of players I have at the club and have and what our next steps are. Our results were significantly up and down – no wins in eight to three straight wins, including a demolishing of Cerignola, when, going into that game, I’d have expected to be on the other end of the 5-1 scoreline. Youngster Lucenti scoring his first and then second senior goals within minutes of making his debut was another high point in my quest for youth development here.

We’re absolutely nowhere near the finished article, or, to be honest, even an article. Our play is choppy and inconsistent, I’m yet to properly settle on roles, styles, development plans and the like. But, at the end of the day, we’re still in Serie C next year, just about. Playing Altamura on the last day needing just a point for survival from the Playout was a bit of a blessing. In the end, our win, combined with a victory for Potenza, saw the gap open to an amount that, given these Italian rules, just relegated the bottom three, cancelling the playout and making our twelfth place feel somewhat more comfortable than it really was. Twenty-nine points (compared to fifteen) in the second half of the season is top half form and that’s certainly what I’m looking at next year.

I think that a lot of my excitement comes from my latest tactical adventure:


Sometimes, there are just too many moving parts. Initially, I thought that I wanted to defend in two banks of four, pressing higher through two central men, then building up in a 3-box-3 formation with complete fluidity of a centre forward, here, positioning as a deep lying forward alongside a shadow striker. However, given the quality of player at my disposal, I’ve really struggled to replicate this idea on the pitch and, regardless of any of the pressing (or none pressing) structures I’ve tried, I found that we were really susceptible to being caught out of position. Therefore, a move to a 3-4-2-1 (the 5-2-2-1 in game) shape felt like a strong option and has worked nicely for me. Despite only having three senior centre backs at the club, I can build up with the same shape that I defend in, pulling the wing backs back to make a nice 5-4-1 shape, pressing through more well-thought out triggers and becoming even harder to break down. Centrally, I have created a box without having to add in any additional lateral movements, ensuring that we can progress the ball and overload central areas where possible. There is lots of work to be done with the roles and the players that fill them, but this feels like a nice opportunity to explore a tactic that seems pretty well used here but also one that I’m not too experienced with.

As always with my first season, there’s no full run down of stats – both player and team – given the fact that this is neither my team nor a team that has played this way this season. All eyes, for me, are on what I want to do with this summer. The majority of this squad is for sale, if anyone wants them but I hope that our financial woes – nearly €500k in debt – don’t restrict any incomings over the summer as there certainly won’t be a built-up surplus of cash to use.

Forza Biancoscudati!


  • 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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