Feralpi Salò’s first ever campaign in Serie B is now complete as we fought all season long to ensure that we wouldn’t slip straight back down into Serie C. In the end, we managed that comfortably – far more comfortably than I would have predicted possible before the season began.
When you look at some of the big teams that we faced in Serie B this season, including a hugely unexpected relegation, you can begin to understand just how happy I am with our performances this season.
Once again, we’ve used the counter-attacking, strikerless 4-1-2-3-0 throughout the season. Although I have started to develop a more possessive, attacking version I don’t think that there is any value covering anything else to do with the tactic in this update. Instead, I’ll again look at our results and players of the season; before going into a little more detail on transfer targets – why I’ve identified certain positions for investment and why I’ll be targetting certain types of players for these positions.
Oh, and if you’re interested, I’ll also link you to an upload of my save where you can take over that fallen giant who will be playing in Serie C1 next season.
As ever, the most logical place to start would be to look at the final league table:
Really can’t be anything other than absolutely delighted with that. For such a small club spending their first season in Serie B, our only aim was to avoid relegation and that was achieved rather comfortably. In the end, we only finished 5 points outside the promotion playoffs, although only 8 points clear of the relegation playoffs. It’s a tight old league.
By the way, if you want to download the save and take over the relegated Lazio, then you can download it here.
In truth, we were never in any real danger of relegation. From week 4, we never left the mediocrity of mid-table – getting no higher than 8th but no lower than 13th.
Of more pressing interest, however, are our on-pitch stats.
Whilst we maintained the third best defence in the league, conceding just 48 goals in 42 games, 13 teams kept more clean sheets than we did. This is an odd coupling of statistics and made me take a closer look a our defensive performances.
We kept 9 clean sheets and conceded more than once on 13 occasions, meaning that there were 20 games where we conceded a single goal. 9 of these games ended 1-1, our favourite scoreline. We also lost four games 1-0.
All of this is reasonably dull but when you start to think that we would have qualified for the playoffs by conceding 3 less goals in those 1-1 draws it starts to get more interesting.
Yes, I could look at it from the other side of the coin – if we’d scored 3 more goals then we’d also have qualified but have a look at the table. Both teams who were automatically promoted scored the exact same number of goals as Feralpi – they just had a better “spread” of conceded goals.
Therefore I had already decided my first transfer priority – the defence. More on that later.
Other standout stats that will be considered later: we scored just 3 goals from corners, the 3rd lowest in the league; we conceded just 4 goals from corners, the 3rd best in the league; and we had no single player in the top 25 goalscorers for the league.
What we did have, though, was an increase in average attendances of over 400%, with the ensuing increase in our gate receipts and a little hope for financial stability in the future. Also, isn’t she just lovely…
I may well have moaned when the board announced its development and it may well be crippling me in the transfer market but if we can stay in Serie B, at the very least, then the additional income should give me something to build on as we push towards the top tier.
Of course, the money just isn’t coming in quick enough and during the course of the season our bank balance has sank to another £2.1m debt, this despite the money I’m putting out in wages actually dropping over the course of the season. With just one player in my under-20s squad and nothing in the reserves, I’m now working with a total squad of 23 players (plus one loan that I terminated with 3 games to go when he got injured).
One further loan player will return to his parent club and there are two players I would happily sell (Luperini and Cernuto) but other than that it’ll be a case of selling to buy. Or co-owning to buy, something which saw us bring in £700k after my last update with Sampdoria and Atalanta buying 50% of Magliano and Pinna respectively.
There are a few viable options for these types of deals – mostly likely Bonetti, Piacenza and Gramaccia – but, whilst clubs seem to have been interested in these 3 since they’ve been at my club, there hasn’t been a sniff of a concrete offer. Watch this space.
We do, however, need investment in the playing staff. Whilst there’s no doubting that we did well this season, we need to kick on if we are to build a side that will be capable of promotion within the next 3 years. Given the financial restraints which I’m sure you are now very bored of reading about, I need to once again prioritise our signings. In order to do this, I needed to first assess my current squad and identify the weakest areas most in need of signings.
This really shouldn’t take long given the fact I only have 23 players but the team report seems like the most logical place to start – a crude analysis of your squad based on your assistant manager’s impressions of each player.
Of course, I don’t play a striker so this can be ignored but, looking at that chart, it would appear that we need a new right back and new wingers… something I do not necessarily disagree with.
As I’d identified above, I want to improve my defence and my initial aim for next season is to bring the goals against column below 40. I reckon that we can afford one, maximum two, new defenders so simply replacing the entire back four is out of the question.
First things first then. I don’t feel that we need a new ‘keeper. Felice Bonetti, signed of a free last summer after a loan spell from Milan, is really quite good and is only going to get better. At 6’8” he dominates his area (usually) and has only made 2 mistakes which costs us a goal this season, not a bad return for such a young goalie.
With 6’9” Shpetim Agolli backing up, I’m comfortable with my options unless I’m forced into selling either.
Looking further forward, here are the key defensive statistics from this season:
121 key headers and 284 interceptions all contributed to his 7.26 average rating although he obviously made more mistakes than I am comfortable with. Whilst Plebani and Ebner, my two options for playing alongside Omic, did fairly well, neither of them match up to the Canadian for me. Plebani has the lowest goals conceded per 90 minutes of the 3 but this is largely due to me playing him in easier games than Ebner, who I saw as the more reliable and less likely to suffer from a game-costing brain fart.
At fullback, I’m a big fan of Mattia Desole – an Italian / Swiss / Venezuelan who was finally called up by the last of those countries. However, this could be nostalgia getting in the way of better judgement as the stats show that Desole made 62 mistakes, 2 of which cost us goals, and that 14 of the 50 goals we’ve conceded in the last 50 games came down his flank – more than from any other quadrant of the pitch.
I think that graphic is misleading though. The reason that we concede more from the left flank is that our right centre half and right back are weaker than their left-sided colleagues. Therefore when the crosses are swung in from our left we are particularly vulnerable – Bandini, my first choice right back, has just 6 and 7 for jumping and heading respectively.
At DMC, I’m currently left with the option of either Zappacosta or Gerbo – two very similar players that are ok but aren’t exactly what I’d call ideal for the role. Neither excel defensively or creatively but both do a job and should continue to do so for another season. Ideally, I would like to bring in someone defensively stronger here but I’m not willing to accept the sacrifice in passing ability that my budget would force upon me.
Therefore, defensively, I’m looking at another centre half and a new right back.
Looking at the stats above for the centre halves this season it is apparent that my centre halves do two things – head and intercept. Although they do make a number of tackles per game, the average is somewhat lower than that of the fullbacks and not as frequent as their aerial duels. Combined with our deep defensive line, it is clear that there are certain attributes that I can prioritise over others:
Using the above as search criteria, I’m pleased that my former centre half Alberto Marchiori meets the requirements. Given how well he performed for me, it gives me some comfort that I’m on the right track.
Right-back is more difficult because I’ll need someone who not only meets my defensive requirements but also has the capability to bomb up and down the flank. With the wingers cutting inside, my fullbacks provide the true width of the formation and it’s important that they are capable of both running with the ball and delivering an end product when they get there. Sounds expensive.
Moving further forward, I’m pretty happy with how we’ve performed although there are a few anomalies in there I can’t quite place.
I am more than happy with our box-to-box midfielders. Magliano and Piacenza have been superb all season, perfectly providing the all-rounder roles that their position suggests. If anything is needed here, it’s depth. We may well need another option to cover for injury or suspension but it’s hardly a priority with Gramaccia, Pinna, Gerbo and Zappacosta all capable of stepping in if needed.
In the crucial trequarista position we are well covered with Gramaccia getting better and better whilst Pinna has developed better than I had anticipated he would.
Still only 18, Gramaccia just gets better and better. With 11 goals in 34 starts, he’s one of our primary goal-scoring threats. He’s also made 85 key, defence-splitting passes this season – not only the most in our team but the most in the league by almost 20. And yet he’s only made 3 assists. Why? And why has he covered more ground than any other play in the league this year – 13.7km a game?
To be honest, I really don’t know the answer to either question and it’s something I’ll be trying to figure out in pre-season friendlies, more so the former because the latter doesn’t bother me at all. For now, Gramaccia is more than good enough to start and as long as Pinna keeps doing this then he’ll be pushing the younger man for a starting place:
On the flanks, Lisi continues to produce the goods although he is incredibly inconsistent – tearing it up for 5 or 6 game spells then doing a passable impression of Stewart Downing for the next 5. With Nuccetelli on the other flank, I’ve finally got someone from the right who can match Lisi’s contribution from the left. However, I don’t feel that the contribution from either is necessarily good enough.
Of the league’s top 10 “key” pass makers, 3 of them play for Feralpi. 198 defence splitting passes, averaging 4.7 per game (not even counting the passes from other players). And yet my inside forwards, the two players who receive the vast majority of these passes, scored just 23 league goals.
I’m now fairly convinced that the quality of my inside forwards will dictate our goal-scoring prowess, almost regardless of our quality elsewhere. Therefore, my next transfer priority will be to strengthen in these areas, something which I have already started with the Bosman signing of the incredibly promising Jan van Duren.
Other than having a quite excellent beard, I see his acceleration as key. All those key passes were completed so the intended recipient obviously got the ball but then couldn’t do anything with it. I’m hoping that his acceleration, combined with his excellent first touch, will mean he can run away from the defence and get efforts on goal. That’s the plan anyway.
I have other targets in mind but, no surprises, whether I get them or not will be dictated by money and, to be honest, my priorities at the moment are improving the defence first and foremost.
I also feel like I have the foundations of a decent side already with the following players hopefully here for a few years at least:
- GK – Bonetti – 20
- CB – Omic – 21
- MC – Piacenza – 21
- MC – Magliano – 20
- AMC – Gramaccia – 18
- AMC/AML – Pinna – 20
- AMR – Nuccetelli – 21
- AML – van Duren (joining) – 18
Keep a hold of them, fill the squad out a little and add one or two pieces of quality then a promotion chase might be on.
Another busy summer of manual scouting ahead!
Yet again, thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments.