Welcome back to Sampdoria! It’s been a funny season so far in Serie A, with the traditional powerhouse clubs underperforming, whilst a number of the more unfashionable clubs (ourselves included) are making a strong run for European football.
The league table at the start of January makes for bizarre reading, with the top 8 separated by just 6 points, and Juventus, Lazio and Roma all outside even that group.
It’s at this point I would usually make a self-deprecating and/or expectation lowering statement about how “this cannot possibly continue”, but history suggests it can, and we haven’t lucked into these results, on performances, we’ve deserved them.
My aim for this season is now European qualification, and the only reason I haven’t specified Champions League is because Italy’s coefficient is on the wane and coming under heavy pressure from France.
There’s a vast array of potential outcomes to this season, so let’s get to it, starting with one of my least favourite parts of modern football, the January transfer window…
January Transfer Window:
The main headline is that Lazio have returned to pilfer another of our first team defenders:
Much like the transfer of MDM in the summer, Bostjan Ambrozic really wanted to leave, and the price they were willing to pay was enough for me to accept, even though I didn’t want to lose him. We signed him for a mere £200k, so it’s a big, big profit. Also like MDM, there’s a 25% sell on clause attached that should yield more cash for us down the line.
Nuno Barbosa really hadn’t developed at all in his time at the club, and after a good start, found goals difficult to come by on his sporadic appearances for the first team. We’ve turned an £84k purchase into a £5.25m sale in just under 18 months though, so I’m not too downbeat. 10% of his next fee will be coming our way too.
We picked up our replacement for Ambrozic a full eight days before he even left:
I’m pretty sure I’ve overspent on Christopher Matta:
The market for Italian centre backs wasn’t helpful to us, with no players appearing in that sweet spot of both “good” and “affordable”. In the end I pulled the trigger on the Matta deal because we’re doing so well, and I don’t want a lack of CB depth to end up costing us. He’s decent enough, has traits I like, and there’s still time for a little growth.
Tomas Zorzetto is one for the long term. Our youth intakes so far have featured no good CB’s, so getting him in at 18 means we have at least one future homegrown CB in the youth squads.
The scouts came to me with a report from Algeria, with a promising 18 year-old Pressing Forward available for £100k. You can’t turn that shit down. So Djamel Ouali joins, and will undergo some intense training to raise his technicals towards the level of some of his impressive other attributes.
January belonged to Carmelo Colonna:
Udinese once again nabbed a 2-2 draw from a game that could’ve finished 6-0. They’re on my list.
February was massive, and the two wins over the Milan clubs could prove absolutely enormous. We outplayed them both (again) and Simone Barcucci scoring the winner against the team that allowed him to leave on a free is very satisfying.
Atalanta and Lazio proved to be more of a challenge, both sitting deep and challenging us to break them down. We were not very successful, but it’s another unbeaten month as at the other end of the pitch, our defence largely remained untroubled. Our draw total is getting big…
European football is looming large:
Another month, another series of great results. We were assisted by a couple of penalties as we were helped out by a spot of luck.
Luca Biglieri has continued to look dubious for us between the sticks and as a result, Ibrahim Nsajigwa has been sharing the starts. He has been performing the better of the two and will be our number one for the run-in.
Also in March, our first homegrown debut to mention for quite a while, with Dimitri Agozzino appearing off of the bench against Benevento. The wee lad has some potential.
Early in the month, we salvaged a couple of draws from a pair of our worst performances this season:
After what could have been two defeats, I decided it was time to turn to our change-up formation from the start of games:
I’ve used it a fair bit when closing games out in the past, and/or when teams have been getting at us through the middle. It’s also an attempt to get around the teams that have been sitting deep against us. Hopefully the introduction of a central midfielder that gets forward more will help to break the lines.
Early signs were good, with Palermo and Bologna being convincingly brushed aside. The Cagliari game was more of a battle, but they’ve had a great season so far themselves. A draw away in Sardinia is a fine result from a game that I had circled as a potential banana skin.
With injuries hitting our midfield, another promising homegrown prospect made his debut in April, with Andrea Corrente making an instant impact with a goal against Palermo.
With regular playmaker Simone Barcucci out injured twice in April, Giuseppe Olivieri stepped into the side and performed very well. He hasn’t had much of a crack since I’ve been his manager, he was on loan at Siena when I arrived and spent last year as an understudy in the squad, appearing sparingly. But he’s really come on. He’s trained hard, done well for the under 20’s, and is now putting pressure on me to give him more first team reps. Kudos to you Giuseppe, you’ve made the blog:
Marco Mercurio is ablaze!
Eight goals in just three games from the right wing is incredible stuff, with everything he touched turning into goals.
Our games against Sassuolo so far have been festivals of attacking football, end to end stuff with goals aplenty. Injury time made it look more comfortable than it really was. They’re a very good side indeed, along with Torino, the toughest sides I’ve faced this year. So weird.
Nine points from twelve is a great end to the season, and Juve robbed us, scoring from their only shot on target whilst we wasted several golden chances. It wasn’t enough to save Uwe Rösler though, he was sacked at the end of the season.
One last homegrown debutant to mention, with Nicolò Demontis coming on in the end of season thrashing of Chievo. He’s being trailed by a handful of Italy’s elite clubs, and though he’s got some work to do on his mentals, he looks to have potential. Fantastic traits at such a tender age.
It’s table time:
The only time we haven’t been top since 2030 rolled around was when Inter won their game in hand in mid-January. They lost their next two after that, and we were untouched at the summit thereafter.
A weird season in many, many ways. Lots of draws for us, it seems like loads of goals were scored throughout the division and the lowest points total for a Championship winning team in Serie A since the start of this save. I said on Slack before this part that there was a bit of a Leicester title-winning season feel about this, and so it proved, a perfect storm which my brave boys navigated with aplomb.
I think this season is my most surprising in this save. In a similar way to season one (all those months ago) with Frankfurt, a large portion of the “blame” for our success has to be placed at the door of the big clubs and their failure to put together any consistent runs of form. Winning the title with a mere 78 points is indicative of this, but 78 points is still an amazing haul for a club new to the division.
I’m still loving the save, and in particular the restrictions of building an Italian/homegrown side here at Samp. However, should our ridiculous ascent continue in a similar vein next season, I can see these updates becoming less frequent. We’ll see, if next year’s more of a struggle, in a sick sort of way, I’ll enjoy writing it more and likely continue with the save updates. If we look to be heading for repeat glory, I’ll have to consider a new approach.
I’ll be back for sure, but you might have to wait a bit longer than usual… If you want to keep more up to date with the save, I regularly update on my Slack channel (#from_eleven_one) and can heartily recommend FM Slack for Football Manager interaction.
Thanks for reading!