Welcome back to Serie B! We’ve had a great start, with only one loss in the first half of the season. We’re heavy favourites to go up now and return to Serie A where this club belongs.
The brevity is exacerbated by a wonderfully quiet transfer window (quiet in terms of completed transfers, not in terms of how many paltry bids we had to swat aside), in which our main aim was to keep the squad together for the run-in.
With us staying true to the tactics that have brought us this far, there’s not a lot more than results to talk about today, and after a quick mention of the transfer window, we’ll start off with an exciting Coppa Italia tie in Milan against Inter…
January Transfer Window:
A window pleasingly light on transfer movement. I spent an awful lot of time fending off pitiful bids for a lot of our squad players and more promising youngsters, but fortunately that didn’t have any dire consequences.
The little business we did do upgraded us at back-up CB, with loanee Franco Natalino Miraglia coming in from… you guessed it, Milan. And we sent a couple of players out on loan to get more football.
We started with a massive test of our progress and dare I say it, a taster of what’s to come next year. A trip to San Siro to face Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia.
I didn’t change a thing tactically for the game. We’ve been very good doing what we’re doing and I wasn’t going to throw a new, conservative game plan out there that none of our players would be ready for.
The following tactic has become firmly established as our “Plan A”, with the flipped version only used now when players are being rested, and this eleven is unquestionably our first team:
Did sticking to our guns cost us against Inter?
Maybe. But I tend to think if we’d sat back they’d have done us, as their finishing was class. It was a great game, pretty even throughout, and though we took the lead three times we were never comfortable. But I dare say we kept them pretty uncomfortable too, and although we’re out of the cup, taking Inter (who went on to win Serie A) to the brink in Milan has got to be seen as a very promising sign.
So we’ve lost two on the bounce. Is it the start of a collapse?
Is it bollocks. We’ve been great, and continued to stack up points. Carmelo Colonna in particular has shone in the new year, but really the whole first team is on it at the moment. We’re dangerous up front, and solid at the back. We’ve got set pieces in our arsenal as well as great moves from open play. I’m a very happy manager.
Beware the ides of M… nah, we’re fine:
We’re better than fine, we’re kicking ass. The draw was unfortunate, but two dominant wins followed by the second XI in total control against Ascoli set us up nicely for the top of the table clash with Parma.
And we stuffed them too. They had three shots, we had thirty one, and the gulf in class shown in this game can also be seen in the league table, with our points lead well into double figures. With six games left, an actual catastrophe would need to occur for us to fail to win the league.
A couple of homegrown debutants to mention, with Youssou Gassama making his first start in goal against Benevento and Antonio Macrì appearing off the bench against Bari and then starting versus Ascoli.
Whilst not a debutant (he made two substitute appearances before I joined), Simone Zanoli came off of the bench against Ascoli to score his first goal for Samp to convert our performance into the three points we deserved.
And there was no catastrophe:
If my maths is right, we’ve conceded just 5 goals in our final 17 games!
Two players worth a shout out for their form over the second half of the season are Simone Barcucci and Matteo Riccio. Barcucci had a fair first half, but he really stepped up in the new year, chipping in with a few goals and assists as well as keeping the centre of midfield solid. Riccio has allayed any fears of being a monster flop, finishing the season as Serie B top scorer (with a record 22 goals). In all competitions he scored 25 and contributed 16 assists, with his partnership up top with Colonna an effective one, and his set piece delivery always a danger.
What a year!
We’re back in the big time, and while I realise there’ll be a pretty significant step up in quality of opponents next season, we’ve done so well this year that I’m confident we can avoid any relegation talk and hopeful we can finish in the top half of Serie A.
Next time, I’ll do a quick season review and cover plenty of our player development from the past season.
Thanks for reading!