Welcome back! Whether through naivety or optimism, I’m choosing to see this new start at Sampdoria as the beginning of the second half of this save.
Today’s post will be an attempt to explain what I mean by that, with a focus upon my thoughts on where I want to get to on this journey, and ideas on the route to it’s end.
Oh, if you missed last week’s post and are wondering how the hell I ended up here, read this.
It almost goes without saying that my eventual aim for Sampdoria is to make them the best club in the world. But there are a lot of steps to take before that can be seriously considered, and it’s this potential longevity that has made this club so appealing to me.
I also want to do it with a different approach than the almost ruthless pragmatism I adopted at my previous jobs. For this role I’ll be working towards some of the aspects of Football Manager that I personally enjoy most, but have been guilty of ignoring a bit, in favour of chasing titles.
I’m going to have philosophies to focus on (eg. developing youth) and short term to long term goals, which hopefully, one day, will result in a similar level of success to that which I’ve accomplished at my other clubs.
As well as covering all that, I may just sneak in the first few matches at the end…
- Youth development.
- Maintain an Italian core of players.
- Transfer/squad restrictions.
I love developing young players, and although it’s something I always spend some time on, I’m yet to make it my primary focus in FM19. That changes now. With Sampdoria’s decent youth set-up, we should see our fair share of promising youngsters come through youth intakes, and I’ll be adding to this by signing players 18 or younger in the transfer market.
In terms of the blog, I’m planning to bring back the “season review” posts which will heavily feature youth development from the preceding year, including the youth intake. I’ll also be providing a snapshot of homegrown players when they make their first team debut.
Maintaining an Italian core of players appeals to me, as in the past “domestic player bias” has not been something I’ve thought about much:
And I suppose key to these first two philosophies is the third, which is perhaps more a set of self-imposed limitations than anything else, but sticking to them should maintain my focus.
3. Transfer/Squad Restrictions:
a) Limit of 5 foreign players over the age of 21 in the entire squad, with players homegrown at Sampdoria exempt (currently 2).
b) Maximum of 2 foreign players over the age of 18 to be signed per season, again, Sampdoria homegrown players are exempt (currently 0).
c) No signings of any sort above the age of 25.
d) All players 18 or under are fair game as they can become homegrown at the club.
e) From next season – a maximum of three players on loan.
Sampdoria’s current squad gives me a great start on this, although the reduction in loanees from next season will require some work.
- Climb out of the relegation battle.
- Work out who’s good enough to stay/sign permanently.
- Blood some youngsters.
- Bring in a few new faces.
- Finish in the top half of Serie B.
Points 1 and 5 are obvious and I won’t dwell on them.
For point 2, my initial thoughts have been made, and there are only a handful of players who I’ve decided won’t make it. The rest will have the next 8 months to show me what they’ve got. This includes all the players that we have on loan (currently 6), who have that time to convince me they’re worth signing permanently.
With a promotion challenge unlikely and a relegation fight (hopefully) avoidable, this is an ideal time to give some first chances to some young players, before deciding how active we’ll be in the transfer market next summer.
Whilst we will be giving youth a chance, there are some holes in the squad that need addressing ASAP. We need two CB’s, two defensively minded central midfielders, a left winger and a striker. Like, yesterday.
I’d prefer to recall most of the players that we have loaned out, but only one of them can be brought back, so the transfer/loan market will have to be used a little more than I’d hoped. Still, I’ll be aiming to keep the number of signings close to that half dozen so the kids still get a chance.
- Gain promotion to Serie A.
- Establish a style of play.
- Homegrown players in the full Italian squad.
- Gain European football.
- Become the best team in the World.
All of these are pretty generic “get better” style aims and probably don’t need expanding upon. I should note however that I’m in absolutely no rush! Point 2 is intentionally vague, as I’ve yet to decide what that style will be!
As I touched on last week, the club itself is in remarkably good condition (other than being in Serie B…). There’s loads of money in the bank:
Which translates to more than £12m for a transfer budget, and well over £200k per week spare in the wage budget.
The facilities are very good, in particular the training facilities, which are regarded as “state of the art”.
The staff situation was not so promising, and although I took steps to improve things immediately after the interview process:
There’s still a bit to do to plug the gaps left by my early wielding of the axe:
Grégory Coupet, goalkeeping coach extraordinaire, is the first man on my list. He followed me out the door at Barcelona and has been with me in every job so far. It’d be rude not to bring him along, once I got the board to allow me another coach…
So, the club’s pretty well set. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the playing squad. There is a reason Sampdoria have found themselves in the bottom half of Serie B, and excuse my language, but it’s because they’re shit.
Over the last three seasons, they’ve sold a lot of talent, and haven’t replaced it with much. Of course, relegation has played it’s part, but there is an incredible lack of both quality and depth for such a big club.
It’s notable that to my eye, that at least the four most talented players in the squad are in on loan:
Things looked so bad, that I actually acquired two players on free transfers within the first week of arriving. Both are former youth players from my time at Milan, and both will be vying for starts immediately, despite the fact that if I’m perfectly honest, they’re not that good…
On a more positive note, there are quite a number of decent prospects among the ranks of both our youth sides, and ten of them look promising enough that they might make first team appearances this season. I won’t spam the images just now, but if and when they do make their first team debuts, I’ll post them. This will also hopefully demonstrate my commitment to youth development to you, the reader.
I’m not going to talk about tactics in this post, as I’ll be using the first six games before the winter break (and the transfer window) to try a few things out, and give the players a first chance to impress (or not…). There’ll definitely be some tactics talk next week, for those of you that are into that.
I’ve taken care of a couple of bits of housekeeping, getting a few more staff members approved and signed, the junior coaching improved and this:
Which resulted in me cashing in on a few transfer clauses that were available to raise another £1m for the transfer budget.
So how did we start?
Not too bad. Angelo Pettinari getting injured and missing three games was a bit of a blow to our goalscoring potential, but we’ve been pretty solid at the back which means we’ve always had a chance. Adriano Mari has already achieved more than I expected by scoring three goals in two games, and a couple of them were super finishes from outside of the box.
We have our first two homegrown debutants from these six games too, with Pierluigi Lanteri and Michele Strano beginning their fledging careers (click on their names if you want to see their profiles).
I’ve tried a few tactical set-ups and am yet to decide on much, but that’s fine. Our signings in January will hopefully help me towards choosing a plan and sticking to it.
It’s a very tight league indeed!
It’s been a hectic start and there’s more to come in the new year. I’m really enjoying the more long term focus this role provides, and it feels like an entirely different challenge.
Next week we’ll at the very least cover the January transfer window, some tactical plans and some football, how much of which will depend on how much time I get to play…
As always, thanks for reading!