Welcome back! I’ve managed to get plenty of game time in, and so today will run through the entire second half of the season.
We’re in 11th place, and basically just as close to the relegation zone as the top four, so really anything could happen.
We’ll start today with a look at the January transfer window, before tackling the final seventeen games of the Serie B season. There will be some tactics talk (eventually…) although probably not as much as I would’ve expected.
I’ll be delivering on my promise to show you a slew of homegrown prospects once they make their senior debuts (clickable names again), although most talk of youth development and the intake will be saved for a season review post, most likely next week.
I may have overspent a little…
..although in my defence, the vast majority of the potential clause monies are reliant on the players in question either being successful or long-serving. By which point I’d be happy to pay. What I’m saying is, we could get out of a lot of the risk.
Also, they both look good. Matteo Riccio is very much my sort of striker; a quick, well-rounded talent with a lot of promise:
At the other end of the pitch, we’ve spent even more money on Matteo De Martino, a defender the scouts adore, and I’m a big fan of his versatility as well as his potential:
On the other end of the transfer fee spectrum is Bostjan Ambrozic, who looks an absolute steal at £200k:
Not Italian, but he’s 18 years old, so he fits in with my restrictions. He’s big and quick and fills a real need for us at centre back.
The two loan signings are decent players, but have really just been brought in as free depth in case of a crisis.
We managed to escape January without losing anyone I wanted to keep, despite a slew of derisory offers, and only one player (Mattia Vanin) has become disgruntled by our rejecting of bids. Unfortunately, I also wasn’t able to shift any of the half dozen players I’ve decided aren’t up to snuff either.
That isn’t to say we haven’t raised any money, as quite a few transfer clauses have paid out, with these being the two biggest:
Tactics, Part One:
Confession: I’ve been absolutely all over the shop. My desire to give lots of players a chance, combined with a sudden tendency on my behalf to be overly reactionary, has led to me using five different tactics.
Largely we’ve been using variants of the 451/433, sometimes hideously asymmetric, and we’ve been focused on being defensively solid, using a cautious or balanced mentality.
This is a look at one of the more “normal” looking tactics:
It would be false of me to try and claim there was any sort of coherent plan on my part, so I won’t even try here. Over the next couple of months though, I do feel like I at least got a good idea of the players I like, which was one of my main priorities for this season…
January 15th to March 11th:
Results remain pretty positive:
Our performances have been mixed, but I’m sure plenty of that is down to me going all tinkerman. The wins against Livorno and Empoli were particularly impressive, as they are the top two in the division, and we were pretty comfortable in keeping them at bay.
Five clean sheets from eight games is encouraging, although goals are hard to come by. But we are playing fairly conservatively.
As promised, I’ll be mentioning homegrown debutants as we go, and for these eight games, we have three. First up, one of our most promising youngsters is left back Olivo Conta. He’s been performing exceptionally and consistently in training and even at the tender age of 16, is vying for the first team spot. He came off of the bench against Siena and then impressed in his first start against Foggia. Very much one to watch.
When our first choice ‘keeper went down with injury, we were forced to give a debut to Niccolò Canali. He’s OK, and in his first two starts kept clean sheets in games he had little to do in. His third appearance against Frosinone wasn’t so hot. We have a superior goalie out on loan and I expect Canali will be going on loan himself next season as our third choice.
Franco Romanengo definitely has some potential, although there’s work to be done before he can be considered more regularly. He appeared off of the bench against Empoli when we had some injury problems, and helped us to see out a tight win.
March 19th to April 8th:
From this point onwards, I no longer used any loan players. Between the Verona and Crotone games (when I made enquiries into the players I wanted) it became clear that we wouldn’t be able to sign any of them, whether due to financial constraints (Serie B has a maximum wage of £5.25k per week), excessive transfer demands from parent clubs or lack of interest. So my focus became even more concentrated on the players that would be with us next season:
We weren’t too bad in these games, but we lack any sort of cutting edge up front. Matteo Riccio has been really disappointing so far, with only two goals in eleven starts, an average rating below 6.5 and a tendency to go completely AWOL for entire games. A serious concern.
With the loan players no longer considered, we blooded three more debutants in these five games. The best of them is Mohamed Conte, who will be playing first team football until the end of the season. He’s possibly the best youngster at the club, and I’m hopeful that through considered training and mentoring, he can be with us for years to come.
Vincenzo Ciotti is another I can see spending next season out on loan. He certainly has some chance of making the grade, but he’ll need development and perhaps that’ll be best served through gaining football at a lower level.
Simone Murolo probably doesn’t need too much in the way of analysis. At 22, he’s unlikely to develop enough to make it here, especially as we have a more impressive player who’s four years his junior coming back from loan for next season.
Tactics, Part Two:
Those last two defeats were really the kick in the nadgers that I probably needed to create and stick with a tactical plan.
So a lot of similarities to my tactic at Frankfurt, albeit with the roles switched to the opposite flanks.
My main worries with our performances so far have been the ineffectiveness of the forward, seemingly irrelevant of the role they play, and the disconnect between the defensive and offensive units.
In an effort to combat this, we’ll be looking to play more positively and get the full backs more involved. As for the striker(s), the move to two up front seems essential, as from our nineteen games so far, they’ve only scored five goals combined once you exclude a couple of penalties.
April 16th to May:
A good start for the new tactic, perhaps aided by Riccio being injured…
Until Catanzaro turned us over somewhat fortunately. It was the last day of the season and they were desperately fighting relegation (insert “they wanted it more” trope here).
That’s right, we snuck in to the play-offs because:
Something to remember for next year. I’m not at all disappointed to have another season in Serie B ahead of me. We’re not good enough for that step up yet, and there’s plenty of work and growth to do.
One more debutant to mention before we go, and (spoilers) he came through this year’s youth intake. Eugenio Carbone has some great attributes already, but he also has some shocking ones, so we’ll be working heavily on his mentals methinks. I was delighted to see him score just nine minutes into his debut, becoming Sampdoria’s youngest ever goalscorer in the process.
A satisfactory position, achieving the board’s expectation of a top half finish. But perhaps a promising glimpse of what’s to come:
I’ve got a wee holiday coming up, but that works perfectly, as next week’s post will be a quick season review and a focus on how the youth development side is going so far.
I know there’s been a lot of “young player makes debut” talk in this post, but that was only natural as I’ve only just taken over. In future I imagine these will be more naturally spaced out. But at least it proves I’m taking the youth focus seriously!
Thanks for reading!