The Worst of Times
6th season and as feared we went in with a lot of new players, a new tactic and a great deal of uncertainty. The result was an incredibly poor start from a top five side in three of the past four seasons.
We could get nothing going and my tactical plan was receding. Week by week a lower block, one striker, then two holding mids, a 451 and so on. We had some wins in the Europa Cup but league form was inconsistent, we struggled for a positive goal difference and my reputation at the club went from near untouchable to satisfactory. The players demanded two meetings re perceived underperformance and Balotelli - no longer a regular - started kicking off as did Diousse, a lifelong Empoli player. I wasn't in trouble but the tea leaves were bad. Here is a graph after 24 games...we're 15th, it's something like February and the season is withering to nothing.
The Best of Times
With little to lose I then change my tactics again, not something alien to what I was doing but definitely more positive. We push up again, compact the lines, and boss the play more. I doubted I had the players to do this but it seems my lack of faith was misplaced and we had the best spell of form in my entire time here. We finish the season in a whirlwind of hot form, a lot like this...
If only it was league winning form but alas. Still the feel good factor returns once more and I somehow drag us from literally nowhere back toward European football, narrowly (yet again!!!) missing Champions League qualification as you can see from the table, just a couple more points please.
Players & A Bit of Finance
The above image is something of a spoiler but you can see Andrea Belotti carried the attack whilst Hachim Mastour was the steal of the season at £650k from AC Milan. Mastour was the fans player of the season, signing of the season, young player of the season and provided our goal of the season. Added to which he was Serie A young player of the season too.
Alain Priso can also be spotted in the screenie, he is trailed by PSG, Madrid etc etc but I am determined to hold on to him for at least another season if I can.
Money is officially the bane now of this club, this board and this save. After last season's meltdown and grand fire sale recovery we still finished about 5 or 6 mil in the red. We pay wages bigger than our support and sponsorship match right now and not going far in the Europa or qualifying for CL means we can't sustain ourselves organically. A yearly sale of a key player is for the time being our only real means of operating viably. This summer I've just sold someone called Miguel Lobo for £24m. He is our cash cow so to speak but even then I might need to add more to sustain deals inbound that we need.
Hopefully if I can get CL that may be enough to break the cycle. A new ground I doubt is yet a possibility, our average attendance remains at 11,000 odd.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed about continuing our form and may get the chance to talk up the new tactic before the b/h weekend completes.
The reason for hope is pre season which I so rarely ever mention. We've just played 8 games and began with a nil-nil against Grosetto before a 2-1 win against Schalke. The 2nd game is a nice win but so what you may ask?
Well the next six games we won a combined 46-0. Yep forty six. Anyway forget that its meaningless. But I look ahead this season with more hope than I did last.