PART SEVEN -
Tough at the Top
My 3rd season at the club saw our rapid on field success slow down as we scrapped to avoid relegation from Serie A although in reality this is part of the journey and still a huge success, particularly as we stayed up.
I found that our all conquering diamond formation tactic was too aggressive for our relative ability and had to find something a little slower and safer. We played the majority of games and the back end of the season in a 352. Not dissimilar to the diamond but the attacking mid is sacrificed for another defender.
Our on loan forward, Cutrone, who has led us to the promised land was not so effective in the big time but he was not alone. A lot of out players were tested leaving me most impressed with Isaac Cofie and Leonardo Blanchard - both signed for free incidentally - and the latter really was a pleasant surprise.
Here's the bottom half of the table.
A Little Piece of Strategy
Now early on last season I knew that expectation were very low and that our squad was going to weak for a top tier league. I spent what I had in the summer leading up to the season not that there was much money to invest. However as we got underway we fairly quickly started turning a profit.
Encouraged by our new money making capability I went with it all the way and decided not to spend when January came round nor renew contracts even though our 1st XI average was comparatively low for the division, and that a few would expire at the end of the season. My rationale was simply to make money come what may with the reckoning being that our barely fit for purpose squad could easily be replaced, either with similar free transfers or new players bought with the savings.
I should note this did not do a lot for morale but it did work as intended.
The captions below will show a modest spend of £4.1m (net £4m) but that's not the whole picture. I was also able to pay these new players slightly better wages; all the club's facilities are being upgraded; plus we still have £14m in the bank. You can perhaps understand now just how stingy I've been.
Transfers Dealings Up Close
Almost all of the guys leaving on a free befell what I was just speaking about. They were near the end of their contracts; they wanted Serie A wages; I refused to pay; they left.
Many people may query this business as there was some value in the group. Petermann was the best player followed by Armelino. There could well have been resale value also in Arrigoni, Pinna and Tassi. However I could equally have been left with these players ahead of what would have been another samey, difficult season.
Nicola Dalmonte is the biggest deal coming in and he's instantly recognised in the game as our key player. He'll play centre forward and replace Cutrone. In truth we've never really had our own striker in my time, it has always been a loan player.
Partnering Dalmonte will be Norbert Balogh who was transfer listed. Balogh is around 6'5 and is something of a unit, moreover a target man. I don't use that role and incidentally he has bad finishing but I'm hoping he'll be a nuisance for opposition defenders.
Tello & Mastalli could be a steals; Barak joins us full time after a loan spell; Bittante can play fullback left or right and would upgrade either. Halabrin is a regen keeper with potential whilst Radunovic will likely don the gloves until he's ready. Finally Rajkovic provides defensive quality plus experience, and both will be important assuming the 352 is the continued choice of tactic.
We need to be heading up to mid table.