The Journey to Christmas
We half-stumbled, half-cruised to Christmas with contrasting home and away form. At the Angelo Massimino - Cibali we were unbeatable, but on our travels we were never quite as efficient infront of goal.
I wasn't really sure why this was. We didn't have the same flow away from home and almost looked like we were playing within ourselves. My team talks perhaps?
We'd climbed to 7th in the table, but without more consistency in our play, we weren't likely to be any higher. It's worth noting though, that without the 11-point deficit, we'd be top of the league.
Christmas and Beyond
January was a bit rough. We had a mini-break over Christmas and I didn't arrange any friendlies to get us back into the swing of things, so we were probably a little too rested when we re-started.
From then on, we played really well, settled into a rhythm and just went quietly about our business. The gap between ourselves and the playoff/promotion places gradually got smaller, but three draws in a row (Matera, Ischia, Casertana) slowed down a progress a little.
Defensively, we were sound. The three at the back system was working how it was intended. The extra man in the middle stepped into the midfield to cut off attacks, and when he was bypassed, we still had a secondary wall to get through. Naturally, our 'weak' point was the flanks, but what the wingbacks give is in attack balances out what we lose defensively.
Offensively, it was only really Caetano Calil that consistently scored and this was a worry all season long. Andrea Russotto sat in the hole perfectly and ended the season with 12 assists, but I need more from the box-to-box midfielders. With the team doing well enough, I didn't want to change too much, so it's something I'll look at in pre-season.
We went into the last two games with promotion a real possibility, especially as we still had to go to table-toppers Cosenza on the final day of the season. A 0-0 draw at home to Juve Stabia ruined our chances of automatic promotion, but we were still favourites for a playoff spot.
A goal and a man down away at Cosenza, I made the decision to change the team shape from 'flexible' to 'fluid'. I don't know why. It's not a part of the game I really understood and the decision was probably born out of frustration at not scoring against Juve Stabia and being a goal down here. The difference was immediately noticeable and we got the goal we needed to give us a playoff spot. In truth, our ten men probably could have nicked the win.