I probably wouldn’t have decided to write another update so soon but there’s been a fair bit of re-jigging in the squad as I aim to balance the books whilst still improving the squad and I think it’s probably worth recording.
When I say there’s been a fair bit of re-jigging, I’ve actually taken some fairly significant gambles in both player sales and purchases although surely the biggest piece of news is that we no longer have the smallest wage budget in the league – lowly Nocerina knocking me from my coveted perch.
So this way for all the moves and our early fixtures…
So there’s been this underlying theme to all my posts on Feralpi so far… we’re broke. Flat broke. We’ve been in the red for 3 years, not to mention the £7.75m stadium loan (now £6,5m) that is hanging over our heads. I’m sure you’re all very bored of reading about it and, quite frankly, I’m more than bored of writing about it. So I decided to do something about it.
The bank balance was doing me absolutely no favours whatsoever. It limited my wage budget for the last 2 years to the point where I couldn’t afford to target any Bosman signings until almost a month before the end of the season. I decided that clearing as much of the debt as I can as soon as I can was going to be of more benefit than scratching by for another season and accepting that it’ll be just the same the year after that.
Besides, there were several players coming to the end of their contracts at the end of this season and, no great surprise, not enough cash to give them all the new deals that they were after. Hence, I decided that it was time to take a few chances and think about selling a few.
Incidentally, those 12 free transfers represent the entirety of my remaining youth team and so I was able to save further cash my not replacing my out-going youth team manager or coach.
In order to bring some money in, though, 6 players were sold for a combined £1.1m. Luperini and Cernuto were very much on the way out the door all last season, barely getting a sniff of first team action, but the other 4 were first team regulars – racking up over 100 appearances between them last term with Francesco Lisi being our most potent attacking option in each of my 3 seasons.
But when I can get rid of that fecking red ink on the balance sheet, it should be worth it. Besides, I’d have lost them for nothing next summer anyway, not that the fans seem to understand that.
To appease them somewhat, I had to make sure that the replacements were up to scratch, at the very least the equal of the players leaving but preferably younger and with potential to improve.
Essentially, I was looking for more transfers in the mould of the excellent Jan van Duren. We picked the left winger up for nothing, a Bosman signing from Ajax, and I have every confidence that he will go on to be a crucial player for us in years to come.
In fact, it was the form of the young Dutchman during our friendlies that convinced me we could allow Lisi to leave and after that things started falling into place.
With Gramaccia injured during pre-season, Pinna played the majority of games in the trequarista role and surpassed all my expectations. So much so that I now consider him to capable of sharing first team duties with the younger man. One extra asset he gives me is his aerial presence: evident in arriving late in the box, proven by his 3 headed goals in the ultimate game of last season and the first game of this; and the pseudo-targetman role he provides from goalkicks and defensive clearances.
Gramaccia, though, is potentially far too good to sit on the bench so I started to consider alternative roles that he could perform. Capable of covering either at inside forward or box-to-box, my preference being the latter, it meant that I could sell someone else comfortable in the knowledge that we have cover.
This directly resulted in Alberto Gerbo moving on as Gramaccia could cover MC, meaning that Piacenza could cover Zappacosta at DMC. With loans at less than half Gerbo’s wages providing additional depth to the squad, it’s been a good move all round.
In my last update, I’d identified defensive improvements as a priority and I found the perfect signing – an experienced Italian centre half with great attributes in all the right areas – heading, marking, positioning, strength, anticipation. Great. Only for Serie C1 side Grosseto to beat me to his signing, giving him nearly triple the maximum I could offer in wages.
Not only is this indicative of the troubles I have attracting the right level of player to Salò, it also left me in something of a quandary. I’d already sold two centre halves to service the debt and now I was left with Omic, a clear first teamer, plus Plebani and new signing Kaba.
Kaba was another piece in the gamble – a signing for the future that may start costing me points in the present. It went against the general ethos of my last update and what I had originally planned for the summer but he really does look like he will be excellent and I simply couldn’t turn down the offer of picking him up on a free.
With no suitable experienced candidate on the cards, at least one I could afford, I decided to take a different approach – take a chance with my defence as is and invest a little in someone I think I can sell on for profit.
I found Ulysee Garcia through the player search screen, filtering all players who were transfer listed and had an asking price of less than £50k. At the time he was valued at £3.3m but Monaco were willing to let him go for £5k. Yup, you read that right.
I actually negotiated them down to £4,000 and managed to get the player to sign for £1,700 a week. Even if I sold him right now, we’d recoup 100 times our outlay which isn’t a bad return. He should also do a job once he settles in with decent pace and set piece ability.
With little wage budget left to spare, I filled out the rest of the squad with 4 loan signings – a right-back, a centre-half, a DMC and an MC at a combined £1250 per week.
As I detailed in my last update, I would have preferred to have brought in a new right-back but, as I predicted, the standard of player that I would require to properly fulfil the marauding role adequately is just not available just now. Rather than waste money on a stop-gap that is only a little better than Bandini, my current right-back, I decided to hold off – backing up with a loan signing and hoping for the chance to snap up a Bosman looking into next year.
So a chance has been taken. With both eyes firmly on a promotion push next year I’m doing what I can now to convince the board to free up some funds – leaving me with a very young, very thin squad (24) for this season. My aim for this season is simply to meet the board’s expectations of a mid-table finish to ensure I keep my job whilst developing youngsters such as Bonetti, Omic, Magliano, Piacenza, Gramaccia, Pinna and van Duren with another season of first team football.
Is the gamble paying off? Well so far it is…
In my opinion, we really deserved to win this match with the bigger club requiring two goals from corners to beat us. It was more than a little bit gutting, especially as we haven’t been beyond the qualifying rounds since I’ve taken over, but our squad is so thin that we’ll barely manage to finish the 42 league games never mind an extended cup run – every cloud and all that…
We’ve hit a rough patch, or rather an inconsistent patch, lately and really need to kick on but are currently sitting 6th – somewhat higher than the 13th placed finish the media predict and more than enough to keep me in a job… in fact that would get me in the playoffs.
One unexpected thing that the first 10 games of this season has brought to the fore is the curious case of Filippo Adriano Gramaccia:
He’s clearly a very good player and one who promises to get even better; followers of this blog will have seen his attributes and performances improve year-on-year since he so unexpectedly came through our academy.
Yet I’m really not happy with his performances for one key reason – he shoots far too often.
Compared to others that I use in the AMC position, specifically Pinna, his assists ratio is very poor and, watching through the games, he picks the wrong option far too often – most irritatingly shooting from distance rather than seeking a telling pass. Why?
My initial thought was that it was simply down to his “decisions” attribute, a relatively poor 10, but Pinna has the exact same value here whilst Gramaccia’s creativity and composure are actually better by 14 to 12 and 12 to 9 respectively. The only significant difference in their visible, relevant attributes is Pinna’s superior flair – 18 to Gramaccia’s 13; whilst his teamwork is also better by 9 to 7.
I did consider hidden attributes but can’t think of any that would have this sort of impact. Is it simply down to that flair attribute? I really can’t see it.
One thing is certain though – if Gramaccia’s performances don’t become a little more “team” and a little less “Stevie G” then I’ll seriously consider cashing in on my most sellable asset. We really should be able to get at least £2m, plus future fees, for him and that would go a long way to helping develop the rest of the club.
My only remaining approach is to try and teach him the “looks for pass rather than attempting to score” PPM and I’ll be trying to do this after his is “untaught” the “tries long range passes” PPM – a legacy of a tutoring period that I’m absolutely adamant was implemented using the “off the pitch” option which shouldn’t transfer PPM’s… oops.
Either way, I just have to hope that my gamble continues to pay off for this season. The fans are slowly forgiving me for selling Lisi, one of their favourites, but that will only last so long as our good form.
Perhaps the most interesting development of the summer is that the chairman’s happiness status has now changed to “willing to listen to offers”. This could provide an alternative route of investment, I’m just praying that it isn’t some sort of sugar daddy tycoon. A nice fans group investing a couple of million and doing everything I ask of them would be nice.
As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to any comments or questions you may have. Incidentally, you can also keep up to date with new posts on here by “liking” this Facebook page.