Yup, that’s right. My board, in their ultimate wisdom, have decided that we need to build a brand new 10000 capacity ground – at the cost of £11m. This, whilst they cannot afford to let me have another scout, give me zero transfer budget and cut my wage budget by nearly 30%. Excellent.
Thankfully for the decision makers, it appears that I finally know what I’m doing on the pitch and, following the tactical change detailed in the last update, we put together a solid second half to my first season in charge.
This update will therefore look at how we got on last season and the changes I’m looking to implement as we head into my second campaign in charge of Feralpi Salò, including a number of transfers that I’ve brought into the club.
First of all, let’s look at the second half of last season. When I last updated, we’d hit a bit of form by utilising a strikerless counter-attacking formation. I kept this as the basic starting tactic for the rest of the campaign and, as I alluded to, it served us well. So well, in fact, that on the final day of the season we were in with an outside chance of qualifying for the promotion playoffs.
Alas, a 2-2 draw with Portogruaro just wasn’t good enough and consigned us to a second year in Serie C1A.
We ended up well clear of relegation which was my first priority. With the 4th best defence in the league, we actually lost the second fewest number of games but too many draws cost us a playoff place. Thinking back, the 8 game winless streak with the old formation is what really stuffed us. Turning just one of those six draws into a win would have got us into the playoffs.
Having said that, another year in Serie C probably isn’t the worst idea in the world. We’d get royally stuffed in Serie B without a massive change over in personnel and that just wouldn’t have been possible given the financial constraints imposed by the new stadium.
Thankfully, a chunk of the cost will be covered by sponsorship but a £7.75m loan is ludicrous and means I’ll be paying off £43k a month until 2032. It also means that stadium expansions are my only hope until 2038 due to the “20 year” rule on new stadiums. So unless there’s some serious expansion possibilities, this new stadium will still prove too small if and when we get up the leagues.
It also makes very little financial sense. We averaged just over 700 supporters at home games last year, in a ground that could host 2300. We’re already in debt, currently just under £0.75m, whilst losing around £100k a month… not counting the loan repayments. How is this a sensible choice?
Nevertheless, I’m stuck with it and will just have to plod on.
The board and the fans were delighted with our 8th placed finish, 3 places higher than predicted and, to be fair, so was I. The squad really isn’t that good but there were a few standout players such as left-back Mattia Desole and our two box-to-box midfielders, Alberto Gerbo and Gregorio Luperini; whilst loan signing Niccolo Galli allayed any fears after Bytyci’s injury by outplaying his predecessor.
There were two real stars of last season though, one for his performances and one for the promise of years to come.
Player of the season, without any doubt, was left inside forward Francesco Lisi who, at times, seemed to be carrying the team all on his own. Averaging 7.51 in the league, he scored 19 goals and set up another 13 – having a direct influence on 32 of our 56 goals which is a ridiculous effort.
If Bonelli had stayed fit on the other flank, or Tripoli had lived up to his attributes, then we could well have gone up but, sadly, no other player reached double figures for goals. Whilst selling Lisi would clear almost all of our debt, I’m delighted that no club has made an offer as I simply don’t think I can replace him just now.
The second, and perhaps more important, player worth mentioning is a stonking newgen that came through our academy in March – Filippo Adriano Gramaccia. Awesome name and potential to be absolutely brilliant, my coaches rate him as having enough potential to be a “good Serie A attacking midfielder”. In complete contrast to my time at Rapid, we’ve not only produced a possible star in our own academy, he’s also available in the perfect position – a trequarista.
At just 15, I gave him his debut last season, where he did this with his first two touches in professional football:
Meanwhile, he laid on 3 assists in 2 starts and 2 further sub appearances. During our friendlies before this season, he’s scored 7 goals in 114 minutes.
I am sorely tempted to play him from the start of the season but have decided to ease him in a little, picking up a loan player to share the load with him. Frankly, I think he’s going to be brilliant and it’s just a case of trying to keep the big clubs from nabbing him early and on the cheap.
Two players, however, do not make a squad and I really needed to strengthen if we are to make any sort of promotion push this season.
Considering these are all going to in and around the first team, it’s more transfers than I would usually be comfortable with. However, needs must and boy was I in need.
As you can see, we’ve really played the loan market – picking up two a-piece from Inter, parent club Brescia and Fiorentina. As these are temporary signings, designed to plug a gap, then I won’t provide time-consuming screenshots of them. It is important to note, though, that once again I’ll have to rely on a loan ‘keeper with Milan’s promising shot-stopper Felice Bonetti destined to be between the sticks all season.
Of the 5 free transfers that I’ve brought in, Bonacina is for tutoring purposes only whilst Romiti and Marchesini are strictly back-up for left-back and ‘keeper respectively.
Magliano and Sbordone, on the other hand, are definitely part of the re-structuring at the club – both young, both promising and both fitting perfectly into my chosen system.
Young Magliano was brought in from fellow C1A team Portogruaro and I’m astounded they didn’t give him a contract. He’s already in the Italian under-20 squad and my coaches all feel he’ll become a “good Serie A” midfielder. He has an ambitious personality (key for ensuring he develops well) and looks like he should suit my box-to-box role perfectly.
He’ll certainly get plenty of game time this season, covering for Gerbo and Luperini, as will…
1860 let Sbordone go in the summer and I didn’t wait long to snap him up. Whilst he won’t be as good as Gramaccia or Magliano, he’s definitely got potential to improve and make me some money when we do sell him on. Although he’s more suited to being an out-and-out winger, I’ll initially be using him as an inside forward.
In this, he clearly needs work on his finishing, off the ball and composure but there’s enough potential there that he should develop quickly, whilst his physical attributes are already at a decent level – something I like to see in newgens. I also have a second plan whereby I keep him as a winger and instead ask the fullback behind him to cut inside, in a Bielsa-esque approach which I’ve seen work fairly well in my Rapid game.
For now, though, he’s good enough to rotate with my loan signings on the right-wing and should prove to be a money-spinner in a few years.
As a quick aside, Sbordone is my only signing who doesn’t speak Italian. As I needed to make so many transfers, I was keen to ensure that any settling in / squad gelling problems were mitigated somewhat by ensuring everyone spoke the same language. I have no actual hard evidence that this actually works in the game but it’s something which I’ve done in previous saves and seems to work well.
Whilst Sbordone doesn’t speak Italian, he does speak German – as do 3 other members of my squad – and I was very interested to see a note under his General Happiness which reads: “appreciates being able to talk to Mattia Desole” (a fellow German speaker).
For anyone who needs to make a lot of signings, or simply wants to sign a non-native speaker, this could be worth considering.
And continuing the trend of little FM tips, here’s another two:
- You can ask loan players to tutor your youth. This can be a massive money-saver if you can get a free loan of a player with a suitable personality, even if you don’t plan to play him. I’m a massive fan of tutoring (see my guide here) and for lower league clubs like Feralpi, finding a temporary, free solution like this could be invaluable.
- If you are struggling to gauge an opposition’s width or defensive line, an easy way to spot it can be to pause your game after 20 minutes or so, go to the match analysis tool and click on one of your “defensive free kicks”, preferably a central one. By pausing the game as the player is taking the free-kick, you’ll be able to see how high the opposition’s defence are sitting and how wide they are playing.
Back to Feralpi, though, the media now predict that we’ll finish 9th. Whilst an improvement of 2 spots from last year, this would still leave us outside the playoffs which is where I really think we need to be.
Automatic promotion is almost certainly beyond us with strong sides like Cremonese, Pro Patria and Varese still in the league from last year and now joined by relegated Padova and Sassuolo. Getting somewhere amongst those 5 will mean playoffs and from there, as the cliché goes, it’s a lottery. We seem to have a stronger team than last season, though, and certainly more depth with the loans providing cover for all but the worst of injury crises.
More pressing, perhaps is the financial situation.
That does not make happy reading for anyone, whilst our near £8m debt, coupled with the club’s valuation at just £1m, imposes an “insecure” status on us. The reduction in wages that I’ve overseen is swallowed, and then some, by the loan repayments. What else can I do? Very little except hope for promotion.
To make matters worse, I can’t do anything with the club’s infrastructure. At this point I would, at the very least, like to have sourced some additional coaches and improved our scouting but the board are blocking me at every turn, understandably.
Furthermore, there isn’t a hope in hell that I can improve the facilities. I’m astounded that we got Gramaccia with the awful state of the youth set-up and there’s no way that I’ll be that lucky again.
I can’t even rely on a Coppa Italia run. After beating Mantova in the first qualification round, we were drawn against Serie B Catania. No surprises that they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners with a side that is, for the most part, still Serie A quality.
Not to worry, it’s back to the league and what promises to be a make or break campaign. It is entirely possible that, financially speaking, we absolutely have to go up this season… fingers crossed.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave any comments or questions below or on Twitter.