Our form over the second half of the season was actually pretty good, and this was largely down to our defence, who only conceded 14 goals over the last 19 games. I was disappointed with the offensive side of our game, especially given the chances we created, as we never scored consistently high. Palombi went off the boil (but still finished as top scorer) and Beltrame chipped in here and there, but despite having the attributes for the advanced forward role, neither looked completely comfortable in the setup.
The creative force from midfield came from loan signing, Fabio Castellano, whose 14 assists were double that of anyone else at the club. He controlled everything we did from the AMC position and I'll be doing all I can to get him back here next season.
Our form was enough to see us finish sixth and claim a playoff spot for the second season in a row. As you can see from the fixtures above, we hit form at the right time and went all the way, winning a hugely unexpected promotion back to Serie A!
We lucked out a bit against Livorno. Don't get me wrong, we gubbed them for the entire game, but didn't manage to score and only went through due to finishing one place, and two points, higher than them in the league. Small margins.
The Carpi games were tough. They finished six points ahead of us in the league, but we'd beaten them home and away in the league, so I was confident. An 87th minute equaliser stopped us beating them in the first leg and I thought that would be that. We hadn't played well against them or Livorno and I didn't fancy our chances of nicking a win there. I was wrong. An early Palombi goal, and another defensive shut-out, gave us a 1-0 win and saw us into the final.
It was 6th vs 8th in the final, but Salernitana were no mugs and we hadn't beaten them this season. They deserved their advantage going into the second leg, but 1-0 is never comfortable and we clinical in the second leg, coming out on top in an even game.
I know everyone always says they really didn't expect promotion, or a title, but I really didn't. Losing 11 games doesn't really feel like a promotion winning season, but I guess Bari won the title after losing 9 games, so I'll let you make your own minds up!
Make no mistake, next season is going to be tough, probably one of the toughest I have ever had on FM. No-one will fancy us. At the moment, I don't even think I do! We lost twice against Bari this season and picked up four points against Frosinone, and now we have to go to Milan, Juve, Napoli etc. and hope to pick up enough points to keep us in the division.
We had a very good defence this season, conceding less than a goal a game, and we'll need to be on point in every game next season. We'll take some beatings, no doubt, and I'll need to do whatever I can to keep morale high.
Tactically, I'm not really sure of my approach next year.
This was the way we set up last season and I wanted it to become the blueprint of the club going forwards. The right flank is clearly our weakness, and 17 goals conceded via assists from that flank suggests so, but it was pretty much our only weakness this season. So do I abandon the blueprint for what could be the good of the team, or do I stick to my guns and let Serie A wingers run riot?
It's interesting that, given we conceded 17 goals from that area, my right wingbacks ended the season with average ratings of 7.76 and 8.14. Go figure.
Budgets for next season look good. The board have given me £19m to spend and I have £63k per week left in the wage budget.
It's going to be an interesting summer...