Just a quick mid-season post from me as nothing much has happened beyond what has already been posted from last season. We remain inconsistent in a league that doesn't have much between the teams placed fifth to ninth. Neuchatel Xamax aren't very good and, even at this stage, look all but relegated. At the other end of the table, Young Boys continue to dominate. We've gone eight matches without a win against them, but we won't come much closer than we did this season with only a 94th minute equaliser giving them a point.
A real topsy turvy season, rescued by the final five games where I finally, FINALLY, seem to have developed a consistent tactic that plays good football and gets results. The winter break is never good for us and it's starting to become a problem. I have hastily put together a (hugely amateur) table comparing our points hauls both before and after the winter break, over the past four seasons, and shown the average points per game:
Okay, so I've not quite got Ben's ability with Excel, but you should get the jist of what I was trying to clarify. Ignoring the fact that we've also got progressively worse, we have also taken less points after the winter break in each of my four seasons in charge. I'm at a loss as to why. I've documented that I've struggled with tactical consistency. It's also the busier half of the season, being a month shorter than the first half. Perhaps fatigue is playing a part? I do treat the break as a mini pre-season once the players return from holiday. Fitness focused training and at least four friendlies to get everyone match fit again. It's something I need to carry on keeping an eye on.
As you can see above, just 21 points in the second half of the season, but that number, and our position in the league, is skewed slightly by the fact we picked up nine points from our last five games. And boy did we need it. Our run-in was tough. Actually about as tough as it gets:
We've settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation that looks to control possession. Whisper it quietly, but we actually played some bloody good football is those last five games, and I'm suddenly very excited for next season.
It was a lot closer than I had wanted. Despite our good form, we went into the final game of the season in ninth position, needing a win and other results to go our way in order to avoid going into the playoff with Lugano, who themselves got to the final of the Swiss Cup. We went to St. Gallen, a team the media told me we hadn't won again in our last right attempts. It's true, they do feel like a bit of a bogey team. They have Nassim Ben Khalifa up front and ex-FM wonderkid, Yannis Tafer, out wide and they both just tear me apart. Not this time. Andrea Consoli is a player that I somehow managed to overlook in my season preview, but he's been here on loan from Fiorentina for the season and is clearly too good for us. He scored an absolute banger into the top corner to open the scoring and then set up the second goal to retain our Super League status. Unfortunately, La Viola want to give him a chance in the first team (why wouldn't they?) so I don't think we'll get him back again next season, which is a massive shame. Even more of shame is that it took me until these last five games to get the best out of him. One thing is for sure, he'll be a star, and I definitely want to try and manage him again in this save. Either for Servette or for Italy, who I've no doubt he'll go on and play for. Continuing the Italian theme, special mention to Nicola Danieli, who excelled in his first season at the club and has fast become one of my favourite players. He played as a Regista for a while, but while it was a role that benefited him, I couldn't make it work for the team, so he's now my supporting midfielder.
This year's youth intake was largely disappointing, with only centre back, Eric Kante, having any real potential. I like the look of him to be fair. He's not very tall for a central defender, but he's good in the air (even if he can't jump), he's brave, is pretty quick and has good decision making. There's a player in there.
Summer plans then? There's about £4m in the bank, but I can't imagine I'll be seeing much of that. I plan on a similar transfer strategy to last summer. Offer trials to anyone that looks half decent to uncover their attributes and take it from there. It seemed to work last season. Basic but effective.
Neuchatel Xamax really had a bad season. One win in 36?!?!?! What happened there?
The honest answer mate, is that they just weren't cut out for this level. They'd come up the year before, but just didn't have the funds to improve their squad. They were the only team paying less in wages than us and just didn't have the quality. They only picked up one point in the second half of the season, and guess who that was against? Yep, my Servette team after a 0-0 draw!
A really quick turnaround in Switzerland this season - the players had literally one day off(!) - due to the scheduling changes from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. That means I played through pre-season and the first round of matches.
Early signs suggest that this could be a very competitive season, in what is already a hugely competitive league. We do, however, have ourselves a whipping boy. FC Thun haven't had the best of starts since their promotion back into the Super League. They brought in nine players this summer, including Nassim Ben Khallifa, but they just don't have the quality or depth elsewhere. They also have a chap called Urs Meier in charge, whose preferred formation is this. Needless to say, exploiting space caused by a lack of wing backs is probably the easiest way to take advantage of the AI and we did exactly that, visiting Thun in game seven and hitting them for seven. We've started well. I'd even go as far as saying that we should probably have more points than we do. We conceded 95th and 91st minute equalisers in the opening two games, plus a 90th minute winner to Zurich. Those five points would have us third. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves though - we're only nine games in and three points ahead of the playoff spot, despite being fifth. Lausanne might be experiencing a continental hangover due to participating in the Europa League. I definitely expect them to climb. Thun are as good as down already, while each of Sion, Zurich and St. Gallen are similar in strength to us. I'd be amazed if 40 points was enough this year. I think that'll be closer to 45.
The recruitment drive went okay in the summer, but we missed out on a couple of players to other sides. As expected, Andrea Consoli returned to Fiorentina and signed a new deal worth £30k per week. He's only played twice this season though, so I'm monitoring that situation, just in case he becomes available. The first two deals I made were loan signings. Erik Majetschak clearly has no future at RB Leipzig - he joins for the fourth consecutive year. I wanted him permanently, but didn't want to spend the £2m Leipzig wanted for him. His contract runs out next summer, so I'll go again then. Gobe Gouano is the other loanee, joining from Monaco for the season. He's big, powerful, quick and has good all-round attributes. First touch off eleven suggests he could be our Romelu Lukaku. Simone Santoro is a familiar face, having spent last year here on loan. He's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, and I mean that positively, despite being unsure of his best role. Two free, permanent signings, the first being German, Niclas Stierlin. He comes in as more of a ball-winner, something we've lacked since I took over. Another one that's big and physical, has a positive personality and good attributes in the right places. Young enough to improve and offers good sell-on value, should we need to cash in. Nicholas Pierini was last in as we missed out on our first choice target. Nevertheless, he's a solid option and an upgrade on what we have. Good vision, passing and dribbling with oodles of flair - I think he'll be a solid contributor.
We're still an attacking midfielder lighter than I initially wanted, but I couldn't find anyone with the required attributes, and at an age and price we want. I'll look again in January or try and get through to the end of the season. It's the one position that stands out for an upgrade.
Our out-going transfers are as you'd expect for a club that has focused on developing young players, but finds themselves caught between needing quality to stay in the league while giving players match experience.
It's worth noting that, after their relegation, Neuchatel Xamax are looking like they're going to bounce straight back up, being five points clear after eleven games. I'm not sure what that says about the level of quality in the second tier. Our feederc lub, Stade Nyonnais, also play in that division and I'd like them to become a nice little side project. We've sent them a few players this season and I'd like to continue this theme and see if we can help their progression.
No threat of relegation - safety secured with eight matches remaining
Highest points total since promotion
Best goal return since promotion - 58
Best defensive record since promotion - 42
Capable of big wins
When we're hot, we're scintillating
Improved second half of the season - points total higher than the first half for the first time
Woefully inconsistent - capable of 4/5 winless games
Slow starters - the majority of our goals are conceded in the first third of matches
Capable of conceding goals in clusters
Terrible home form - only 20 points from 18 home games. Eighth best in the league and ten points fewer than our away record
Happy. Not perfect, but this was the most comfortable we've been since we came up. Tactically, we're settled and play some really decent football. We still have a few issues in switching off at the back, and can obviously improve, but we're heading in the right direction.
The training facility upgrade went ahead as planned and now stand as good, while we end the season with £3.2m in the bank - as healthy as it's been at this stage of a season. We have the lowest wage bill in the league by £600k per year, but our average attendance of 6,436 is only 21% of capacity and a bit of a cause for concern. That number is 359 down on last season and 187 down on the season before that.
The summer transfer window opened today and with it arrives Christ Obiya Manga from Montpellier. The 17 year old is already an international at U20 level, but has only made 7 senior appearances at club level. I've paid £350,000 for his services, but he has the potential for me to make ten times that on him. Clearly he's going to be a special player.
Apart from his age and his all-round attributes, I was drawn to his anticipation and positioning, both way above average for his age, my squad and indeed the league. Great stamina, work rate and balance should see him scampering around the middle of the park in no time. With decisions, first touch, tackling, passing and vision all comfortably in double figures, I'm unsure what role he'll play, long-term. The plan at the moment is to put him on a schedule that trains the most attributes. Mezzala? Roaming playmaker? Something to ponder.
He's immediately gone into a mentoring group with Nicola Danieli (F. Pro and 14 DET) and Simone Santoro (F. Det and 15 DET) to try and change his run-of-the-mill personality and improve his determination slightly. No plans at all to loan him out, he'll be in the first team squad from the off. The first regen I'm properly excited about. The save really starts now.
His year back at Fiorentina was a huge waste of everyone's time, but Andrea Consoli now finds himself back at Servette, ready to play every week and help us in our quest to break into the top half of the table. His playing time was limited to just two starts last year, despite being on a £33k per week, rotational contract. I tried to re-sign him in January, but Fiorentina were having none of it. Not now. The best bit is that he joins for no contribution to that bumper contract of his. Bonus!
When fit, he'll be the first name on the team sheet and a player I think can really push us to the next level this season.
What's this? We're predicted somewhere other than ninth! No surprise that Neuchatel Xamax are predicted dead last, although I expected higher odds, given we were 750/1 when we came up! Basel may have won the league by eight points last season, but the media still think big spending Young Boys will take their title back this season. Lausanne are the interesting ones. £8.8m per year in wages and their tycoon chairman has withdrawn his funding from the club, meaning their finance are, for want of a better word, FUCKED.
Even my board have upped the stakes. Survival is no longer the aim of the game, they now want us to finish mid-table. It's the first time we've had a bit of pressure on us, so hopefully we can start as we mean to go on and have a good season.
Following on from the signings of Consoli and Obiya Manga, we spent £185k bringing Matteo Cortesi from Alessandria in Italy's Serie C. Quite what was doing rattling around at that level, I don't know. Next in was Jimmy Chevalier from Nice for a club record £550k. I was very surprised we managed to get someone of a) his quality and b) his potential. His lacks a little bit of work rate, but given his size and physical attributes, I think he could be an absolute battering ram of a striker for us in the future. The final deal was the loan of Emir Murati from Milan for the season. Transfers out were mainly loans of young players again, with one cash deal of an ageing right winger.
I also spent £190,000 on upgrading the data analysis facilities.
Early Season Round-Up
After five games without a win at the start of the season, you'd forgive me for hitting the panic button gently. We'd actually played quite well in all the games, dominating four of the five and only losing by the odd goal. I decided to ride it out for the first round of matches and I'm glad I did. The 2-0 win against Basel gave us the belief we needed to start our season. Going five games unbeaten, including picking up four points from Basel and Young Boys, has given the table a more positive look for Servette fans.
Up next we have Neuchatel Xamax followed by high flying St. Gallen and I'm hoping for four points from those games. Basel and Young Boys find themselves well off the pace, even at this early stage, so if we can put some form together we have a real opportunity to do something special this season.
We're absolutely flying. This run makes it fourteen games without defeat and not only do we play some really good football, but we've also got a bit of a nasty streak about us too.
We started off this 'round' with what should always be an easy three points against Neuchatel Xamax. Sadly they're just not cut out for this level, but find themselves in the strange position of being too good for the league below, at the moment at least. Three goals and a clean sheet in what was only a 7/10 performance was enough to put them away. St. Gallen have been the surprise package of the season so far, predicted sixth but top of the pile when we visited them. We were riding the crest of a wave however and a good performance has us 2-1 up with only a couple of minutes left. We went down to ten men and had to come away with a point after a late equaliser. Draws against Sion and Zurich weren't ideal and we didn't play particularly well, but we benefited from a tight league where everyone is taking points from one another, and didn't drop too many places in the table as a result.
From there we've shown quality, grit and determination. Grasshopper Zurich are similar to us in that they are inconsistent, but have some good players on their books. We dominated them with only a late consolation making the scoreline look closer than it was. These are the games that we need to start winning on a consistent basis in order to reach that next level. We've got a half decent record against Basel, and they're having a really difficult season, but we've not beaten them away from home since our very first game back in the Super League back in July 2019. This one was fully deserved as well as we largely restricted them to long shots.
They may not be having their best season, but Young Boys are still the best team in the league and they raced into a 2-0 lead against us, barely giving us a sniff. A change of formation and a proper bollocking at half-time saw us come out a changed side, fighting back to 2-2 and even going close to winning it. The fixture list benefited us as we played Neuchatel Xamax again (due to playing Luzern twice in the opening round of matches) and a routine 4-1 win set us up nicely for a solid, professional 2-0 away with at Lausanne.
Well, we're in with a shout. Fourteen games unbeaten means I didn't really want the winter break to arrive, preferring to be given the chance to carry on this good form, but it'll give me chance to take stock of the squad and make any adjustments to contracts, mentoring etc.
St. Gallen have been on fire so far this season, but their eight point lead could have been even more had they not lost two out of their last three. The winter break probably comes at the right time for them. I, however, am hoping that they lose all momentum and revert to type after the break and squander that lead to us. Luzern don't seem to be going away, while Young Boys appear to have turned the corner and started climbing the table (they were eighth not too long ago.) The same can't be said for Basel, who still find themselves struggling down the table. They have just sacked their manager though, so should be a different beast after the break. Although in an odd move, they appointed the Neuchatel Xamax manager, Fabio Celestini.
Last season's youth intake was so poor that I didn't even post about it, and this year isn't much better. Excellent youth facilities, exceptional junior coaching, extensive youth recruitment and the best HoYD I can afford, I'm starting to wonder if we've just used up all of our youth tokens earlier in the save. Apart from the two players deemed to be resolute, the personality mix is about as bad as you can get. Karim Richard and Yohann Toutain are the highest rated, and the latter does actually look really decent, but will need that unambitious personality beaten out of him.
I quite like the look of Richard, to be fair Nick - a decent base to work on. I have, this year, noticed a difference in overall quality with improvement in reputation. Maybe a season where you finish in an around an area like you will this year could be the cornerstone to improving the rep enough to get that quality through?
I suppose you could say we reverted to type over the second half of the season. As you can see, we recorded back-to-back wins just once, right after the winter break, and I knew after those 1-0 wins that we'd struggle a bit more in this half of the season. Everything was just a bit more effort. We didn't look as free flowing, we weren't first to the second ball, we didn't move the ball as quickly and chances that were going in the back of the net were now being hit at the keeper. We only recorded back-to-back defeats once and against Basel and Young Boys, so at least those big, winless runs seem to be a thing of the past.
Sion are now officially our bogey team. We didn't win against them all season and they, along with St. Gallen, play on one of those horrific square pitches and we never seem to adjust. What makes it worse is they're our only fierce rival, so morale always plummets a bit quicker after losing to them.
The biggest disappointment of the season was Andrea Consoli. Media favourite for player of the season, we had to carry him through games as he just didn't look interested at all. In fact, had I have been paying for a percentage of his wages, I'd have cancelled his loan in January, he was that bad. A goal and two assists in 33 appearances at an average rating of 6.78. I just never got a tune out of him all season. He should be tearing this league apart.
Despite the inconsistency we managed to cling on to a position that we can call A) progression and B) our highest finish since promotion. Had we not have capitulated against Neuchatel Xamax on the final day, we'd have finished third, so I am slightly disappointed, but, looking at the bigger picture, we've had a really good season and are back in European competition for the first time since 2004, albeit in the qualifiers.
Basel had the mother of all comebacks to take the title in the penultimate game of the season, while we managed to finish above Young Boys. I imagine they'll be back with a vengeance next year, so the next plan, and natural progression for the club, is to become the 'best of the rest' and try and qualify for the Europa League group stage on a consistent basis.
I always try and strike while the iron is hot and this off-season is no different. Small improvements to the club's infrastructure. I'm just hoping we can start getting a few more new faces through the door because we are criminally under-supported.
It felt like a long, arduous transfer window that wasn't much fun and was full of frustration. I was reminded that there is still a long way to go in my quest to make Servette the biggest team in Switzerland. This summer we 'did a Spurs' and didn't manage to bring anyone in. The board were pretty good, arming me with £2.4m to spend, but we're in that really award position where players are either a) not good enough or b) earn far more than I can afford to pay them. I've also found it incredibly hard to find scouts for some reason. We have the best coaching and medical team in the league, but scouts are a real struggle. I can't find anyone willing to come here with more than 12 for JPA and JPP, and even then, most of those want £1,500+ per week, which I can't offer. The only bit of business we did do was to renew the loan of Andrea Consoli for another season. He may have been one of my biggest ever FM disappointments last season, but he has the attributes to be a proper player in this league and I couldn't find anyone else to fill the void if he left. Transfers out remain largely similar to the past couple of seasons. Plenty of young 'uns going out to play in the division below to gain match experience.
Our Europa League 'run' didn't last past the qualifying rounds, which was the minimum board expectation. We did well to beat Krasnodar to be honest and were expected to be beaten heavily by Vitoria Guimaraes, so I guess you can say we held our own. Three clean sheets in the four games was pleasing, but we never really looked like scoring against the Portuguese.
A very slow start. Again. We just looked completely devoid of confidence in those first four games. We struggled to create chances, didn't move the ball quickly enough, made the wrong decisions when in good positions. I'd hoped the 1-0 win over FC Zurich would kick start our season, but we were absolutely rotten against Lausanne, a team we had beaten 3-0 in this fixture in the penultimate game of last season. After that we edged past a non-league team in the Swiss Cup second round (having made 11 changes) and that seemed to ignite something in us. Four against Grasshoppers, five against Winterthur, the league's new whippings in the absence of Neuchatel Xamax, and then three against a St. Gallen side that seem to have been in good form for the best part of a year now and need to be considered a dangerous threat to our 'best of the rest' title. Hopefully they fall back into insignificance again soon.
We've put a little bit of form together to climb the table but, as you can imagine, the outlook was pretty bleak a few games ago. Hopefully this is the start of another run of form, but with Basel and Young Boys in the league, it's always going to be hard, especially when they appear in two of our next three matches.
Consoli, by the way, already has three goals, three assists and an average rating of 7.20, which is light years ahead of last season, so it looks like keeping him here for another year was the right decision.
It was a solid, if unspectacular, second period, but one that sends us into 2025 in some pretty decent form and full of confidence. Our second XI also made it into the quarter final of the Swiss Cup, a competition I've largely ignored writing about due to our much changed side always going out early, where we'll play Challenge League side, Lugano. They're currently third in a congested league and look like they don't score many. Given we're at home, it's a big opportunity for a semi final spot and, with Basel the only 'Big Two' side left, chance of bringing some happiness to the Servette fans. I'm just starting to get that trophy itch and the cup looks like our best shot at the moment, so it's probably time I took it a little more seriously.
On the pitch, we seem to have that buzz back. On occasion I still have a bit of a hissy fit at our defending, and we've conceded four goals from indirect free-kicks but, on the whole, I'm a happy camper at the moment. This is FM though, so when it's good, its really good, but when you hit a rough patch, you feel like breaking things.
It looks like Basel and Young Boys are getting back to their best, but this year FC Zurich are acting as the meat in that particular sandwich. They were also taken over by a consortium a little over a month ago and it remains to be seen whether that comes with investment or not, but they should be taken seriously until they prove otherwise. St. Gallen, and their horrible pitch, have fallen to sixth. Still higher than their media prediction of eighth, but not as high as last season's third place finish. Winterthur have struggled from the off and look doomed. They'll beat Neuchatel Xamax's total of 8 points in 2021/22, but it won't be enough for survival as the gap between Super and Challenge leagues grows ever bigger. Grasshoppers need to buck their ideas up too. A rival they may be, but everyone loves a derby match and I'd like to see them survive. If everything stays as it is, they'll play Neuchatel Xamax in the playoff because FC Thun are tearing that league a new arsehole, going unbeaten until winter.
Our training facility upgrade went ahead as planned, but the youth facilities were knocked back a bit by 'technological advances', leaving the facilities at the club looking like this. We're definitely improving and looking much better off the pitch. Making money is impossible at the moment, despite £500k from Europa League qualification. We still have the second lowest wage bill in the league, but also only the eighth highest average attendance - 6,461 - meaning we just don't bring enough in on match days.
How are other swiss teams doing in Europe and what ranking is the league?
Thanks mate. Switzerland currently sit 12th in the coefficients table, so have two Champions League places and three Europa League spots. We're edging towards tenth and an automatic spot in the group stage, but for now the league winners have to qualify. I'm hoping that we can start progressing towards finishing third on a consistent basis for an automatic Europa spot.
Basel and Young Boys have largely been carrying the flag for the Swiss. Young Boys have been regulars in the Champions League or Europa League group stage, but have never progressed past a Europa League knockout round. This season was a disappointment as they didn't make it past the qualifiers, like ourselves. Basel have never made it past the Champions League qualifiers, and have found themselves in the Europa League as a result. They've made the knockout round a couple of times, but have gone out in the group stage more often than not.
A really decent couple of months, despite the little wobble at the start of March. Luckily we end each round with a match against Winterthur and that allows us to take confidence into the back-to-back games with have with Basel and Young Boys.
I made five or six changes for the cup quarter final with Lugano - a slight risk - but one that paid off as we dominated, as expected, and put them to the sword with five unanswered goals. We'll play Grasshoppers away from home in the semi final and our recent 3-0 defeat there has left me less confident than I was when the draw was made. That game was a strange one, we dominated the possession and the chances, but never really looked like scoring and they took their chances. Hopefully we can get some revenge and make the final for the first time since my first season in charge. Basel play Sion in the other semi, so we definitely got the 'easier' draw. Sion are our bogey side, so I wouldn't be too disappointed in facing Basel, but either way we'll be considered underdogs should we get through.
Those three matches at the start of March may have killed any bit of hope we had of an unlikely title challenge, but we're still in the race for European qualification and I definitely think we can finish third and qualify for the Europa League group stage. At this point, finishing third and reaching the Swiss Cup final would be seen as a really positive season.
The youth intake was again poor. I signed anyone with a decent personality, but no-one had more than 2.5* potential which was a massive disappointment. My HoYD has one more year to prove his worth otherwise I'll be looking elsewhere.
Bloody fantastic! We edged past Grasshoppers on penalties in the semi final and we've limped inconsistently towards the end of the season, so to go into the cup final, against a rival, and dominate like that was great to see. It was all quite comfortable from the off. Sion didn't create a single half, or clear cut, chance in the 90 minutes and half their shots were from range. We've been known to defend like this before though and then been completely impotent in attack. Today was different. I took a gamble and played 18-year old academy graduate, Agron Sermaxhaj, up top on his own, and it was he that set up the first goal, although he didn't know much about it! Nicola Danieli had a shot from 25 yards, which cannoned off Sermaxhaj and right into the path of Simone Mazzochi, who smashed the ball into the back of the net. After that we kept the ball well and kept probing away at the Sion defence without really creating too many clear chances. Four minutes from time, the game was settled. Daniel Follonier pounced on a mistake from a thrown in, cut the ball back to Matteo Cortesi and he drilled into the corner to win us the Swiss Cup!