So here we go. Can we get one step further and qualify for the Champions League this season. Well to do that, I had to make some moves in the transfer window.
What a transfer window it was, as i looked to not only overhaul the first team but also strip back on the legions of players in the U20's and U18 squads. I will start with the outgoings first and then explain the new faces that have come through the door. So firstly i need to give you the scale of what we did over the summer. In total 45 players left the club either permanently or out on loan and that is still only a portion of what i wanted to get rid off with there still being unwanted players in the U20 side that i will look to move on again in the Winter Window
There were 11 players released at the end of the season with their contracts expiring with the only notable name being Veteran Borja Valero. Borja had an injury plagued season last year and was mainly an unused substitute when fit and with him being 35 it was time for him to go. On top of that we had 8 players move on free transfers at the end of their contract all of whom were either out on loan last season or in the youth sides and not deemed good enough to ever compete for a first team spot. So that accounted for almost half of the sales.
We did though sell some players with 14 players leaving the club for real money. A few will stand out and these are the ones that i will cover. So the biggest exit of the window was Luiz Martinez Quarta who left to join Arsenal for an initial £19m with the fee rising to £23.5m based on appearances and some payments over installments. I didnt't want to sell the Argentine as he was our best defender last year but his agent made it clear he would kick up a stink if i rejected Arsenal's advances and I think the deal we got was fairly strong. The other and only other big exit that was not pre-planned was Sofyan Amrabat who again made it clear with his Agent that i would be causing issues if i rejected advances and so the Moroccan midfielder joins Monaco for £15m now and rising to £19m. Amrabat to be fair had an OK season last year without really excelling and with some of the midfield reinforcements i have added i think his exit will be fairly easy to cover.
So onto the planned sales. Alfred Duncan (£3.9m to Lyon) and Giacomo Bonaventura (£2m to Shangdong) were the only players from the first team squad last year to leave. Both played large portions of the season on the bench anda i felt we could get younger and cheaper players in to take their spots and help move the team onto the next level. We also saw the sales of many players who were out on loan last year with the most notable being Marco Benassi (£2.5m to Porto), David Hancko (£2.4m to Club Brugge) and Federico Ceccerini (£1.3m to Hellas Verona). All in all we raised £49.5m in sales to help fund the team.
So that left the final 11 exits all being Loan deals, some of which will be made permanent at the end of the season whilst others are designed to get the player some much needed game time in the hope they can compete for a spot next season. The biggest names to go out on loan were Christian Kouame who joines Union Berlin for the season. The Ivory coast International is predominently a winger / Striker and with the options we have for this season he just wasn't going to get games so a starting spot at a Bundesliga side i hope will allow him to improve a little more and come into replace probably Ribery once the Frenchman decides to retire. Pol Lirola is a good right wing back but Callejon is still a tad better and i have a youth player (more on that later) that i want to shadow Callejon this season and rather then sell a perfectly good player i have loaned out Lirola to Granada.
Lorenzo Venuti's loan deal has a mandatory fee at the end of it and so the Italian wing back will join SPAL at the end of the season for a nominal fee whilst Czech Winger Graciar has the option to go to Empoli at the end of his loan. The rest of the loans are for youth players who need a little more game time with the aim to getting them integrated over the next few years.
Now onto the more interesting incomings. Before i showcase who i have signed i thought i would explain some of the aims for this market. Looking through last season it was clear we needed work in the midfield as none of our central midfielders were really providing the level of performance we craved. Creativity was also crucial as we needed more ways of unlocking the oppositions defence. With the exit of Martinez Quarta we needed a new centre back to come straight into the first team which i am pleased to say we secured whilst i was generally looking for players under the age of 23 that we could nurture through the formative years and if need be sell for huge profits to help fund that next tier of superstar players.
Now there were two pre-arranged transfers hardcoded at the start of the save which had to go through. Brazilian Igor was here on loan from SPAL last season and joins for £4.8m whilst Patrick Cutrone completes his £13.75m move from Wolves. Neither covered themselves in glory last season but there was nothing i could do about it and so in they came. Igor is an interesting player as he seems to be equally adept at playing as a centre back as well as a wing back. I see him as predominently a centre half and as a left footer he gives us a good balance across the back 3. He will likely start the season as a sub but will get his opportunity as he will the first person to step in should any of the starters get injured or not perform. Cutrone really struggled last season and it was only in the last 6 weeks of the season that he finally scored a goal for us. Again like Igor is going to be used on the bench more often then not and will get game time in the Europa League where hopefully he can impress and show me he can actually score some goals for us.
My first real signing of the window was though someone who was here on loan last year. Antonio Barreca joins for £5.5m from Monaco after i elected to pay the optional fee to make his move permanent. At the back end of last season he was incredible and by scoring 4 goals last season he was also a goal threat from wing back. He will compete for the starting spot with the one loan move i made this season but i see Barreca being the mid term first choice whilst i try and find a young prospect to play second fiddle. Now as you may have noticed from the outgoings there was some big holes to fill in the midfield area and this is where most of the money went as we signed 4 new midfielders, one of which broke the clubs transfer fee. In price order, the cheapest incoming was 20 year old Spaniard Sergio Gomez who joins from Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer. I think he has bags of potential and although he is lacking from a physical stand point, he has strong vision, technique, first touch and flair and i see him playing behind the strikers trying to unlock the tough Italian defences for us.
From there we moved to Denmark as we signed Magnus Kofod from FC Nordsjaelland for £2.5m. Kofod will be the back up midfielder this year but at 22 has time on his side and will get game time as we will need to rotate to compete on three fronts. Not a superstar but a solid allrounder that can be used to give us fresh legs where needed without weakening the team too much. Carles Alena is the next one i want to introduce to you and i suspect you have all heard of him. At £5.5m i think he is a bargain as he leaves Barcelona to get some first team football. Another highly creative player who just needs game time and one i suspect i can sell for a good profit if needed. The final man through the door is the new record signing for Fiorentina and that is 19 year old Ryan Gravenberch who joins for £20m (Rising to £22.5m). He barely played for Ajax last season instead finding himselves in their reserves and i think he could be a future superstar. Great stats and with the much needed game time that he will get here, he could end up being a player that we build our whole team around.
I wasn't finished there as we added two more players to the defence. Bukayo Saka is a name you probably all know and as an Arsenal fan i am delighted i have managed to get Saka to join for the season on loan. We are fronting his £30k per week wages and unfortunately there is no fee linked to the deal but for one season we get to delight in Saka being here. He gives me options should we go with wingers at any point but he will mainly play in the LWB slot to give us a very attacking wing back option and also our first Wonderkid of the save. He will mainly start against the weaker sides where we should dominate whilst Barreca will play against the bigger sides when we need a more defensive option. The last first teamer for the season is Kristoffer Ajer who joins for £20m from Celtic and will replace Martinez Quarta at centre back this season. The Norwegian is big and versatile and can play the ball which all meets what i am trying to achieve. I am actually going to experiment and see if i can get Ajer to play as a Libero due to his midfield experience as well.
The only other signing made was one for the future as i signed Italian U21 International striker Alessio Rosa from Atalanta for £2.5m. The 18 year old has solid all round stats and will player for Livorno this season to get more game time as i hope to integrate him into the first team either next season or the year after. So far his 6 goals in 6 league games for Livorno are showing he can easily play at a higher level.
On top of this we have three new faces into the first team swuad. Albin Lafont has finished his loan spell at Nantes and will be back up keeper to Dragowski this season whilst we promoted both Christian Dalle Mura and Davide Gentile to the first team. Gentile in particular could be an incredible player as long as i can retrain him as a RWB.
On the field
We had a very short pre-season as went to New york on a training camp. We beat the likes of Mainz (5-2), Napoli (3-1), New York Red Bulls (1-0) and Chicago Fire (3-1) whilst playing out a chaotic 5-5 draw with New York City.
We have also opened our season with a 5-1 smashing of Crotone in the league with Alena scoring on his debut in our best performance yet leaving us top of Serie A as the transfer window shut. Can we stay there well the month of September will be a true show of how good we are as we play back to back league games against Lazio, Milan and Juventus. Meanwhile our Europa League group was drawn and we were 3rd seeds and placed in a group containing Feyenoord, Braga and Krylya Sovetov. It is certainly a qualifiable group and this year sees the rules change a little as the winner of the group goes straight to the 2nd qualifying round whilst 2nd and 3rd go to the 1st qualifying round. With that in mind i fully hope / expect us to be playing in Europe post Christmas and if you are in it, you have a chance of winning it.
Well there are some positives to our start of the season and in some ways we have improved quite a bit from last season. Our matches are certainly more interesting, we are creating more chances, we are creating better chances and against the smaller sides we are putting them away. They were the matches last season that we were disappointinly drawing. The lack of draws is also a positive. At times last season we couldn't get away from them but this season we have had just the one as our matches look to have a decisive winner.
However, on the other hand against the bigger sides, the teams we are needing to compete with for a European spot, we have struggled. Last year our performances against the big sides was a minor highlight as we rarely lost and often nicked a victory with the 4-3 against Milan a real highlight. This year we are 1 point from the 5 games against the bigger sides (Juventus, Lazio, Milan, Napoli & Atalanta). We havent been outplayed other than in the Juve game but we are sloppy at the back. In fact defensively we have regressed and maybe that is because of the loss of Martinez Quarta with Ajer taking a little while to settle into the life in Italy.
So with the positives and the negatives lined up, it leaves our league position after 9 games like this.
So sitting in our predicted 8th place and already facing a gap for the Champions League spots. To be fair Juventus, Lazio and Atalanta have been in a different league and right now they look a good step above us. We need to find some more consistency and i am hoping as the season goes we will get that as we have had to bed in a lot of new faces in a short space which i think is hampering us a little. Also our start has been tough with 5 of our matches against teams above us in the league table. A run of games against some of the smaller sides could do us a world of good in the confidence stakes and get us back in the hunt.
It hasn't just been in Serie A where we have been a little inconsistent, it has also followed us into the Europa League. Patrick Cutrone bagged a good brace in the group opener against Russians Krylya Sovetov in a 2-0 win. However, in Portugal, we took the lead to only go on and fall apart in the defence as we lost 3-1 meaning we had a must win game against Feyenoord and the boys stepped up with a 3-0 victory with Bakayo Saka looking like a world beater scoring his first goals for the club. It means at the half way stage it is looking like this.
Still very much in this and essentially if we can beat Braga and Feyenoord we should be home and dry for a top spot in the Group and a space in the 2nd qualifying round. Either way, even if it goes against me, i can't see us finishing bottom whih means we should have European football after the Xmas break which is the main thing.
As i have highlighted, lots of positives with a few negative niggles to iron out but i certainly feel like we are a better side. Up top, Dusan Vlahovic, Pedro and Patrick Cutrone are all scoring more goals than they had done by this point last year. Bukayo Saka is incredible at left wing back and his 5 assists is just 1 behind Ribery's season best haul from last year. In fact we have pretty much played most of the season without Franck Ribery and Jose Callejon showing that the youngsters can do it and with some more game time we might have a really good side over the next couple of years.
In terms of the new boys, Saka has been the star but as he is only here for a year, i can't get too excited. Kristoffer Ajer is starting to play his way into some form and is now a Libero for the side, joining into the midfield when we have the ball. There have been some good individual performances from the likes of Gravenbach, Gomez and Alena but we haven't quite had the consistency but i think that will come in time.
Now our main aim over November and December is to close that gap to Bologna and the last Champions League spot. It is currently 8 points and i want to get that down to around 3 or 4 as a worst case. From there i think we can build some form. With a top spot finish in the Europa League Group stage to boot and we could probably say the 1st half of the season has been a success.
Is that Frank Ribery btw? Apologies if I have missed where you covered him. What age is he right now in your game and how is he holding up physically?
It is indeed Franck Ribery. He is 38 in the 2nd season. In the first season he was effective but struggling a little this season. Physically he is declining a little and he has this recurring injury of ankle ligaments which means he is very injury prone.
Seven more league games played out as we close of 2021 with a fairly decent run of form picking up 14 points from the possible 21. Our only defeat coming against Inter, completing our awful showing against the leagues better sides as we were out played and our fought. We even blew a 2-0 lead over Roma to draw 2-2 to leave us with just 2 points from the first 7 games against the sides predicted to finish above us.
It is that form that is going to hurt our European prospects next season as we beat Hellas Verona (3-1), Pisa (2-0), Cagliari (2-1) and SPAL (3-2) with only the 0-0 draw with Torino being a minor disappointment. To be fair against Torino we were running on empty with the games coming fairly thick and fast and knocks, injuries and suspensions leaving us a little thin. Still we are in a slightly better position in the league as we have closed the gap to the Champions League spots to 5 points.
So not quite where we wanted to be and right now it looks like we are going to have a battle to make the Europa League again. Juventus have effectively won the league whilst Lazio and Atalanta feel too far away to catch and so we have to look at the games against Napoli, Milan and Inter as crucial. Bologna are up in January but i think they will slowly drop down the league after a solid start. Meanwhile the Europa League has seen the side qualify for the knockout stages as we drew 2-2 in Rotterdam before smashing Krylya Sovetov 5-0 to seal our passage into the knockout rounds. We just needed to beat Braga by two or more goals to win the group and despite domination we came away with a 1-1 draw allowing the Portuguese side to win the group.
Our reward.... A trip to Germany to take on Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig. Not an easy tie and one i fully suspect to fail at especially if we cant find a way of playing against better sides than us.
Again, it has been a much better performance on the pitch with either the patches (most likely) or the new formation / players really starting to tick. With that i feel good even if our league position doesn't show it yet. Vlahovic (10) and Cutrone (9) are doing a good job getting the goals with a much improved performance all round in front of goal. Defensively we are certainly leakier and i might use January to look at a defensive reinforcement. We will likely sell Erick Pulgar as a year long saga of will he / won't he hopefully coming to an end for the Chilian with a Chinese side taking the plunge to buy him.
Other than that i am looking to keep things as settled as possible as we try and throw ourselves in European football for a 2nd straight season. Onwards and upwards
Well that was a slightly busier window than i expected as we unexpectedly sold two first teamers when some big money came in for them. Nikola Milenkovic was the first one out as the Serb Centreback attracted the interest of Chelsea and moved for £30m. In hindsight, i probably didnt take enough money from the club but he was going to kick up a stink if i didnt let him move to his dream club (Who knew all Serbs want to play for Chelsea) and off he went. The second to leave was Pedro. The Brazilian striker on paper is our best striker but he doesnt really get among the goals and Borussia Dortmund put in a £25m bid for him, I couldnt really say no
On top of that we finally sold Erick Pulgar as he goes off to China for £8.5m whilst Daniel Sturridge left on a free to go play in Kazakhstan whilst we also sold some reserve players in the process. A massive window for incomings but there is one new face coming in this window with another two joining in the Summer. So to replace Milenkovic i went back to London and signed Juan Foyth in a £12m deal. At 24 he has age on his side and he is a tidy ball player which suits the style we are going with down here and he will likely rotate for a little bit until he is fully settled but i suspect he will be a full blown starter next season.
The two other deals we wrapped up are two youngsters who will join in the summer. The first is a real coup as Dominik Szoboszlai was snapped up on a free transfer at the end of the season after he got into a contract stalemate with Salzburg. A real talent in real life i think he could be a superstar here and adds to our already young squad full of talent. The other to join is Italian Martin Palumbo who will make a £5.5m move in the summer from Udinese and is a little rawer than Dominik but will be a squad player next year as hopefully we compete on three fronts again.
Now you may have noticed a little bit of optimism above and that is because we have had largely a great January bar a Cup upset from Cittadella who beat us on penalties (They also beat Inter in the next round on penalties as well so i dont feel quite as bad). The reason for the great January is we finally got over our habit of being crap against the bigger sides as we put aside Lazio 2-0 and AC Milan 3-0 in cracking showings which have really started making the European race a little more interesting.
We have least got ourselves back into the European spots and we could if we keep the form going and pick up some victories over our league rivals make the Champions League. As it stands right now it feels like we have finally clicked into a nice rhythm with the new players really starting to shine as well as some of the original players playing at a higher level. Dusan Vlahovic has 16 goals already this season, one more than what he scored in the whole of last season. Carles Alena has 5 goals and 6 assists and is really starting to come into his own at the AMC slot. Even Ryan Gravenberch whose average rating is under a 7 is starting to find his feet with 5 assists to his name.
The basis is there. Can we take it to the next level is the question?
Things have been looking pretty good in Florence as our good form continued through February and March as we now sit in a Champions League spot for the first time this season. It didn't start that well with Juventus beating us 2-0 with two late goals but it is obvious that they are miles ahead of everyone this season and the thought of toppling Juventus to become Champions of Italy is looking like a much bigger ask then i had originally thought. We bounced back well though in the next game as we smashed Sampdoria 6-2 with Carles Alena and Patrick Cutrone both bagging two apiece.
Monza were then dispatched 3-0 in another routine win with Patrick Cutrone bagging another double as he rivals Dusan Vlahovic for the honour of being top scorer. It was also the game where we saw young centre half Christian Dalle Mura bag his first goal for the club. However the next match has to be the match of the save so far as we traded blows with Napoli in an up and down game where one minute we were winning and the next we were losing. In the end we came out winners with Dusan Vlahovic bagging a hat trick and the killer winner in the 95th minute to really propel us into the European spots.
Moving into March we had just the three league games with 4-1 victories starting and ending the month against Spezia and Pisa with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Atalanta in the middle stopping our hopes of catching them and making it a slightly bigger race for the Champions League. Our run in isnt too bad with the next two games against a struggling Roma and Inter Milan being the most crucial. After that we have 7 very winnable matches and based on how we are perfoming this season we should hopefully carry on picking up victories. Our 50 point haul is just 10 points off what we hit last year and we have already won more matches and scored more goals this season. If we can avoid defeat against Inter in particular we hopefully have the edge in race for the Champions League.
Meanwhile we also had the Europa League to contend with and as I mentioned in the last post we had RB Leipzig in the 1st Knockout rounds. A very tough tie on paper as they were in the Bundesliga hunt themselves. I suspected a tough tight affair and i couldnt be more wrong as we blitzed them 3-0 in Germany and then came back to Italy and won 2-0 in what was the most one sided of affairs. That set up another tough tie against Valencia with the first leg in Florence. Carles Alena and Dusan Vlahovic bagged the only two goals to give us a 2-0 lead going into Spain. The second leg saw a completely different Valencia as they bombarded us time and time again and we were lucky to come out as 3-1 losers. Lucky because we had the away goal and we will now be in the quarter finals where we have been rewarded with a tie againt Bayern Munich! Great! If we get through that we will play the winners of Napoli and Ajax with Tottenham probably being the most likely finalists if we survive two more hellish rounds.
It has been some turnaround as we have really clicked into gear from December onwards and the victories over the larger sides allowing us really get ourselves into that European race. Foyth has slotted in really well at the back and Ajer was coming good before the fractured leg in the early parts of February. Carles Alena has been a revelation with 10 goals and 11 assists capping off a good season. Hell we have a 43 goal strike partnership in play with Vlahovic and Cutrone really stepping up this year after relatively poor seasons last year (Their combined goals last year was just 18!).
We have some problems in defence with Ajer's injury and also suspensions and injuries popping up to the other centre backs meaning we have had to really play some makeshift backlines with another U20 prospect called up to sit on the bench as we have had to give injections to players to keep us with a team. This save is really kicking off and now its time to go clinch.
If we can finish 4th and not get embarrassed by Bayern Munich, I will be more than happy.
There were two questions coming into April and May.
1) Could we get past Bayern Munich in the Europa League and go onto win our first trophy 2) Could we keep our form in the league up and take the final Champions League spot.
The answer to the first question is no as we agonisingly went out to Bayern on away goals after losing 2-0 in Munich in the first leg before putting a valiant effort at home to best the German giants 3-1 in Florence but unfortunately end our campaign there. The second question though did have a happy answer as it went to the wire and the very last game of the season to seal our spot with a 2-0 win over already relegated Parma with goals from Telles Magno and Dusan Vlahovic bagging his 30th of the season to give us our first Champions League spot for 13 years!
In the end we did enough to not only break Fiorentina's club record for the number of victories in a season but also haul in the biggest points total of the clubs history in what was a great season all around as we managed to play some decent football. We did nearly throw it away with a 1-0 loss to Inter but when it comes to the so called smaller teams we were always good, very rarely losing and it was these performances that carried us. If we can get a few more wins against the bigger sides then we might even be able to mount a challenge on a title at some point. In the back half of the season we did start doing that so there is hope.
Juventus were runaway leaders and they are going to take some catching but i think we can leapfrog both Lazio and Atalanta as their nearest challengers with a good window.
End of season awards
The team of the season pretty much picks itself as you can see from the average ratings with only 3 players not averaging above a 7. Bukayo Saka was incredible all season and our player of the season as well as young player of the season. The wonderkid will be sorely missed as i can't afford or justify the £80m it will cost to make his move a permanent deal but luckily Antonio Barreca also had a good year so we are hardly short of quality at LWB. Dusan Vlahovic was our top scorer of the seaosn with 30 goals doubling his tally from the year before and ended up the leagues 2nd top goal scorer. Attribute wise he isn't improving but performance wise he went up a massive gear and a 52 goal partnership between him and Patrick Cutrone completely took me by surprise but was a massive reason for our improved performances.
In goal Bart Dragowski was a force to be reckoned with and i think for the 3rd straight window i will be fending off bids. He was voted the leagues best keeper and made the leagues team of the year. Whilst Carles Alena needs a mention. His average rating wasn't the best just hitting a 6.99 but double figures for goals and assists showed how well he adapted to the league. With a little more consistency he could be another superstar for us and a snip at £5.5m. I was also awarded the Manager of the year for the 2nd straight season adding to my growing reputation. All i need now is a Champions League medal
Manager Musings & next seasons plans
So its going to be a big pre-season as i look to add that extra little bit of quality into the side to help us challenge on three fronts. Our Champions League group is going to be tough as i suspect we will be 4th seeds, maybe 3rd at best meaning we will do well to get into the knockout rounds. The main aim is to be playing some form of European football after Christmas even if that is back in the Europa League. I have had a look through the squad and hopefully there won't be too many changes to the team and the current plan bar any vultures coming in for players looks like this.
Dragowski is going to remain the No.1 with Lafont his able back up. Dragowski will attract offers in the summer and i suspect he could be one of the faces to move on if someone finally pulls the trigger and puts in the bid of around £25m for his services. Defensively i am on the lookout for a young left wing back to be understudy to Barreca for the season whilst i will probably be saying goodbye to Martin Cacares whose pace has left him with another centre back coming in. Jose Callejon will carry on starting next season after another impressive display with Gentile being the back up but i will be keeping an eye out for a young RWB with a view to a move in January or next summer if Callejon suddenly starts to struggle.
The midfield will see Szoboszlai join in a pre-arranged deal which is essentially the backfill for Pulgar who left in January and as the midfield went through a large overhaul last season, i can't see much movement. The likes of Kofod and Gomez are being looked at and as both are back ups i would be prepared to accept a bid and allow a youngster (either the incoming Palumbo or Bulgarain international Krastev) take their spot.
It will be in the striker department we have the most change. We need to backfill Pedro who left for Dortmund in the winter and Franck Ribery will not be extending his stay after asking for a ludicrous £50k per week pay rise to sit on the bench which I cant justify. So two new strikers to give competition to Vlahovic and Cutrone who i fully suspect performed above their ability last season and probably shouldn't be expected to repeat the feat again.
The kitty is decent and with some players coming back from loan spells as well as the exit of Federico Chiesa to Juventus finally becoming permanent we should have a decent war chest if needed. I would love a piece of silverware next season with the Coppa Italia the most likely but i do fancy us if we do fall into the Europa League this season too. League wise, i think asking for a title is unliklely but i want to be a hell of a lot closer to it and the 80 point barrier is the main aim alongside another Champions League qualifiction. I think it will be 3 more seasons before i can realistically have a chance of the redemption this club craves.
Well for the 2nd straight in game season we have a new member to the club as Lazio battled their way into the final beating Atletico Madrid, Monaco and Barcelona to get there before being thumped by Man Utd 4-1 in the final. Another option has popped up and i couldn't be happier!
As the above image shows it wasn't a great season for the redemption club with Monaco and Man City being the nearest to getting redemption both falling at the Quarter final stage with no other surprises in the knockouts (other than Lazio). So how did the rest of the club get on?
Leeds United: After being out of the Premier league for so long, their stay was cut short after just two seaosns. A 19th placed finish means its the Championship again whilst a fourth round exit in the FA Cup and a quarter final in the Carabao Cup completed a miserable season. Arsenal: 6th in the league but no european football due to the way the cup competitions went it was another poor season for the gunners. A quarter final appearance in the FA Cup, a 3rd round exit in the Carabao Cup and a 2nd knockout round defeat in the Europa League was all they could muster. Tottenham: A mixed year for Spurs who finally won silverware winning the Europa League which pretty much saved their season after finishing 8th in the League and having no success in the domestic cups. Man City 4th in the league and a Carabao Cup victory was the best the blue side of Manchester could do. Quarter finalists in the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid League champions again for the second season on the bounce which made up for their 1st Knockout round defeat in the Champions League to Lazio Valencia Lost to myself in the Europa League and were runners up in the Copa del rey before finishing 5th in a season of almosts
Reims Coupe de France quarter final and a 9th place finish in Ligue 1 in another unremarkable performance. Saint Etienne Promoted at the first time of asking back to Ligue 1. 9th round exit in the Coupe de France to fellow redemption side Monaco Monaco 4th in the league but Cup winners whilst going out at the quarter finals in the Champions League to Lazio PSG League winners again by a massive 17 points however lost the Cup semi final to Bordeaux on penalties before crashing out in the Champions League 1st knockout rounds to Man City
Fiorentina – See the above post for my efforts at bringing redemption. Back in the Champions League after a 13 year absence Roma Aeful season for Roma as they finished 11th and not even making the 1st round proper in the Coppa Italia Sampdoria Another season of averageness with a 15th place finish in the league and a 1st round exit in the Coppa Italia
Eintracht Frankfurt 13th in the Bundesliga and knocked out by Molde in the 2nd knockout round of the Europa League with an early 3rd round exit in the German Cup. Not a good season at all Borussia Monchengladbach An 8th place finish in the league and a semi final exit to Leipzig means Gladbach will be going without European football again next season, Bayer Leverkusen Lyon bested them in the 1st Knockout round of the Champions League whilst Schalke did the same in the 2nd round of the German Cup. A 4th place finish in the Bundesliga at least means European football next season.
Panathinaikos - The Greek side will be playing in the Europa Conference next season after a 3rd place finish in the league. A final 16 place in the Cup was all they could muster meaning no silverware once again
Malmo A disappointing 3rd in the 2021 season means it will be the Europa Conference for the Swedish side hving got to the 2nd Knockout round the year before.
Club Brugge A league and cup double for the Belgians whilst they crashed out of the group stages in the Champions League for a 2nd straight season.
Partizan 3rd in the league means the Europa Conference for the Serbs. They will be hoping for a better showing having gone out at the qualifying rounds
A big year for fiorentina as we see ourselves in the Champions League. Lets look at how the pre-season went.
It was certaimly a quieter window than last year but we still had a few players move on. Tottenham were the biggest bain of my life in the window as they came in for four players and really threatened to unsettle the side. Only one player has moved on but with the window still open going into the season i fully expect the scum to come back and cause more issues. Bart Dragowski our No.1 keeper was the man to go as i agreed to sell him to Spurs for £20m. With Alban Lafont at the club i believe we have a young goalkeeper who isnt that far behind Bart in terms of ability and with the increased game time of being our No.1, I am hoping we won't have weakened the side too much. The other players Spurs were after were Ajer, Pezzella and Vera. Ajer isnt happy about the big being rejected but i couldnt let the big Norwegian go for just a few million more than i paid for him.
The other big exit was one that was pre-programmed into the game as Federico Chiesa finally completed a permanent move to Juventus having been on loan there for two seasons. £36.5m seems a snip for someone of his quality but as i have never had him, i cant really complain. Franck Ribery has also left the playing squad but has come back as an U18 coach with the veteran just wanting too big a wage to sit on the bench this season. On top of that we sold Christian Kouame for £9m to Brighton with the Ivorian realistically never going to force his way into a starting spot, i thought it was time to cash in. A few other smaller sales were done of players who have either been out on loan or were sitting in the U20's without the required ability. All in all £70m was raised from player sales.
A total of seven new faces for the season with five for the first team and two designed to come in for the future. There could be more over the opening weeks of the season but i wanted to keep an air of consistency in the team. The first man through the door was the free transfer of Dominik Szoboszlai whose contract at RB Salzburg was inexplicably up and i swoooped in for the Hungarian. Unfortunately in the last weeks of his contract in Austria he broke his leg meaning we will have to do without the Hungarian for the first half of the season. Once fully fit i see him battling with Vera and Gravenberch for a place in the central midfield but his versatility at being able to play on the wing and just behind the strikers means we have a few options with him.
Carrying on with free transfers i have added two more. Eric Bailly comes in from Man Utd as another centre back option with the view that Martin Cacares will move down to 6th choice. Bailly is likely to be 3rd/4th choice CB for the season with Ajer and Foyth the guaranteed starters leaving Bailly to compete with Igor and German Pezzella for the third and final CB spot this year. He has good experience which is key and it let me loan out my young Italian CB's to get some more game time and should mean i dont have to rely on the veteran Cacares too much this season. The last free transfer was Michy Batshuyai who ends his Chelsea hell and comes here to compete at top. With Ribery going and Pedro leaving in January we were a little short of strikers and Michy provides a slight upgrade from a star point of view but also some versatility in how he can play. I'm favouring him getting a starting spot over Cutrone but i certainly now have three strikers to rotate this season.
Now i did spend some money so dont fear. From Belgian football we added two new faces. New Zealand International Liberato Cacace becomes the most expensive New Zealander ever joining for £9m from Sint Truidan to provide competition at LWB for Barreca. The Kiwi has a great first name for one but has some nice rounded attributes with his fitness meaning he should get up and down the wing well for us. Decision making needs improvement but with a bit of development which we should get at 21 he could turn into a starter over the new few years. The other incoming from Belgium is 18 year old striker Romeo Vermant who arrives from Club Brugge for £1.6m. A nicely rounded striker with good off the ball movement, I am looking to either loan him out for first team football or let him play in the U20's to see some more development as i think he is probably 2-3 years away from first team football but with a relatively low price tag there is no risk.
Our biggest transfer was just £10m but for an 18 year old Italian striker plying his trade in Switzerland. Wilfried Gnonto is somewhat of a risk but the scouts rated him and possessing blistering pace and off the ball movement he adds a new dimension up top. He will be the 4th choice striker this season getting appearances off the bench initally and some cup games. The final man is another transfer i secured last season with Martin Palumbo joining from Udinese in a £5.5m deal. The defensive midfielder has some experience in Serie B and will go out on loan this season as part of the promise to bring him in but again i think provides a midfield option for us in a year should we sell anyone.
We have plenty of money in the bank and a transfer kitty of £70m and so we are well poised should we need to bring in a bigger name. With the season starting early due to the World Cup, there are still some more deals to be done. I have a couple more players i am looking to offload and i fully expect there will be a bid for one of my star players that i won't be able to resist. I am still on the lookout for a new player and I even got into contract discussions with free agent Neymar. We are just £200k per week apart from an agreement so you never know
On the field
A very uninspiring pre-season with a 3-1 loss against Verona also to be added onto this fixture list. I am hoping it is just rust as we severely misfired uptop going from clinical last season to wasteful over these games. It could be some bedding in issues with the new signings or we could just be holding back for the opening day of the season. On to Season 3 we go
There was a little bit more business done as the window slammed shut for the season. The one new face was 20 year old Italian Goalkeeper Manuel Gasparini who joins from Udinese for a hefty £12m fee. He is the Italian U21 keeper and will be our back up this season and will get the Coppa Italia and potentially some European games this season. He wasn't the first or second choice option for the role but i think he is another good young player.
We were though a little more active in the outgoings with three permanent exits for the club. Magnus Kofod was only signed last season but found himself an unused substitution on most occassion and so Nice's £5m bid was accepted allowing us to double our money on a player that rarely played. We also allowed Bulgarian International Dimi Krastev join Everton for £1.7m. I toyed with bringing him into the first team but i just didnt feel like he would cut the mustard in the end. The third exit was Simone Ghidetti who was the backup before Gasparini was signed and he is off to Napoli in a small deal.
Other than we organised a couple of loan deals for Vermant, Palumbo and Gentile so they can get some minutes in the hope they can contest for a squad position next season.
Well our league campaign could not have got off to a better start as we smashed Sampdoria in the season opener beating them 6-1 with Jose Callejon picking up 5 assists by himself. Dusan Vlahovic bagged a hat trick continuing his form whilst Gnoto even bagged a debut goal coming off the bench. Considering we were awful in the pre-season it was a welcome surprise. However, we came crashing back to earth in the next game away to Milan losing 3-2 with Leao being too much to handle.
Back to back wins over Torino and Bologna saw Batshuyai score his first goals for the club with his goal against Bologna a worldie taking the ball from his own half and dinking one over the keeper. We then went on to lose against Empoli in a game where it looked like we didnt come out of the changing room before bouncing back against Sassualo with a tidy 2-0 win to give us a fairly positive start.
A fairly close league and in another season where are predicted to come 8th (3rd season in a row... not sure if this is broken) we will do well to get into the Champions League places. My aim is to do just that and close the gap significantly with the winners with the aim of potentially being in a place we could win the league in the next two seasons. It seems bulshy but with the youth and potential we have in this side i fully believe we could have a really good side in the making
In other news, the Champions League has been drawn and predictably we were 4th seeds meaning we were in line for a tough group. Atletico Madrid, Ajax and Zenit are the teams we will face and in all honesty that was probably about as good a group as we could hope for and i quietly have belief we could get out of the group and into the knock out rounds. A Europa League spot at the very least is a real possibility and i will take that. Right now the aim is just to be in Europe post the World Cup and Christmas
Hello Everyone. Sorry for the long delay in getting an update out. Fatherhood is proving a real time kill in trying to get playing Football Manager. Who knew! Anyway the save is very much like and kicking and as we enter the extended break in the 22/23 season due to the World Cup in Qatar we have made a little more progress. In terms of the league campaign we managed to go September & October undefeated with a record of P 7 W 4 D 3 L0. The highlight being a 4-1 hammering of a woeful Roma side but a 0-0 draw with Juventus was our first point won against the Turin side whilst we battled back from 3-1 down against Atalanta to grab a 3-3 draw to keep ourselves undefeated for his period.
In terms of goals it has been a real mixed bag of where they have come from. As September turned into October, teenage striker Wilfried Gnonto hit the goals but as October was finishing Michy Batshuyai was unstoppable bagging 8 goals in 5 games across both the League and the Champions League. I said at the beginning of the season, i wanted a better effort in being in the title race and it looks like we are getting that with an incredibly tight league.
We have to be conscious there is still a long way to go but being just a point off the top means we have a real chance. All we need now is a team clicking and based on the last month we are getting there with the team starting to settle down a little after a number of unhappy players started upsetting the apple cart. Aadmittedly when i did ask to be tighter in the title race i didnt expect soo many teams to be in there so we are going to need to be on our best form to keep up with this pack.
Meanwhile our first foray into the top echelons of European football has seen the group stage completed and it was a tough, mixed but ultimately fairly successful foray into Europe. Our Group of Atletico Madrid, Ajax and Zenit was on paper one of the more manageable ones and we put in a good showing. A 1-1 draw with Zenit at home kickstarted the campaign in a slightly disappointing manner as we dominated that game from start to finish and we really should have picked up more than a point. We then went to Madrid and we found ourselves 2-1 up late into the 2nd half and looking like we were going to pick up an unlikely victory before Atletico hit back and scored two to send us toa a 3-2 defeat. I alawys thought the Ajax games were going to be the deciders as to our fate and to my surprise in Florence we battered the Dutchmen bagging a 3-0 victory with Wilfried Gnonto bagging two with Kiwi Liberato Cacace scoring his first goal for the club.
We were looking good and annoyingly for the return game i went to go change my daughters nappy leaving my wife in charge and when i came back we were 3-0 down to Ajax after just 30 minutes with our former striker Pedro having bagged two. Lesson learnt to never leave your wife in charge of Football manager and somehow we rallied in the 2nd half but we still lost the game 5-4 as it became a game of who could score the most. That defeat hurt as it now meant Ajax were in poll position for the runners up spot which meant we had to get a result against Zenit to effectively end their chances of stealing the Europa League spot. We did just that with Batshuyai and Gravenberch scoring two late goals to give us a 3-1 victory over Zenit and seal our Europa League spot. A victory over Atletico in the final round of the group stages would mean we would even get a Champions League knockout spot leapfrogging them in the process.
However, the match came during a horrendous run of fixtures in the league and we had to rotate a little which i did fear was going to hurt our chances. We didn't let up on the pitch and despite fielding a slightly weaker side than i would have liked we raced into a 2-0 lead with goals from Batshuyai and Vlahovic putting us in a great positon. Fatigue though did catch up with us and we let in two goals in the 2nd half meaning we could only take a 2-2 draw which meant it was the Europa League for us.
A valiant display and to be honest the board are very happy with the performances and i am genuinely very comfortable. We are not good enough to win the Champions League yet but i do think we could win the Europa League and right now i want some trophies. The knockouts this year are a one legged affair and the 1st round draw sees us against Red Star of Serbia. I expect a victory and lets hope the Europa League can provide a little piece of silverware.
A good start to the season in what is another disjointed year with a World cup crammed into the calendar. I'm comfortable with where we are as we seem to be competing on all fronts and the squad has done a decent job. It hasn't been without its problems though as we have had a number of players come out with various gripes in what has been the first season where i have had to have multiple talks with groups of players about unhappiness. It does mean i may have to move on a few players and bring in some replacements to make sure the morale doesnt dip. Im also expecting another onslaught of bids on some of my players which could cause some unrest.
The most likely candidates to leave are club captain German Pezzella who just isn't getting the game time and left back Antonio Barreca whose performances have been poor whilst he keeps complaining about me not bringing through enough youth. The fact most of my team is U22 (albeit bought in) seems to have missed him and the fact our youth intakes to date have been shocking (Hence no update to you guys) doesnt go without miss. The more worrying players who could be upset are Ajer (I rejected a poor bid from Tottenham in the summer), Batshuyai (Unhappy i didnt keep a promise of upgrading our strikers - He was the upgrade!), Vera (Liverpool and Tottenham have shown interest) and Castrovilli (Wants a ridiculous contract that i wont meet). Out of them i would accept a good offer if it came in for the latter two which with Vera would be a very nice profit on a player I signed a couple of seasons ago.
I've ploughed through the off season month of December with France winning the World cup and i am just navigating a tricky January with some tough games and Chinese and English Clubs causing all sorts of bother
Phew! I am glad that the Transfer window is shut as every day i was getting bids for players and after awhile it was getting a little too much. By my count we hads countless bids for Lafont, Lirola, Barreca, Igor, Pezzela, Ajer, Foyth, Vera, Castrovilli and Gomez as the Chinese clubs in particular took a shining towards us. I said we did need to do business and it was a case that 3 of the above players did indeed leave the club.
The first out was left back Antonio Barreca who joins Chinese side Jiansu Suning for £7m. He was brilliant in his first two seasons here but this year his performances have been awful which might be because he was moaning that i wasnt developing enough youth (although i get praised for the amount of chances i give youth by the press). Its a small £1.5m profit but meant we needed a new left back. In comes Juan Miranda on loan from Barcelona for the rest of the season to provide competition for Kiwi Liberato Cacace whilst i scount and search for a new player to join us in the summer.
Club Captain German Pezzela was the next one out as he wanted first team football and i couldnt guarantee it. He never really started for me over the 2 1/2 years with his performances often a little behind his team mates. It wasn't big money but £3.8m for a 31 year old sitting on the bench wasn't too bad and he will go off to the English South Coast and play for Bournemouth. Replacing him is Bosnian Anel Ahmedhodzic who joins from Juventus for £6m initally rising to £7m after a certain amount of appearances. He is a solid allrounder and is happy to be a back up and at 23 is still young enough to potentially improve. With games coming thick and fast in February and March in particular he will get some games to impress and possibly oust Bailly, Ajer or Foyth.
The final out was the biggest and it was Fausto Vera leaving the club for £23m rising to £31m after 50 league appearances. His new home is Valencia and he was the only sale that i wasn't planning but when the bids came in, he started getting unsettled and at the time he was only making the bench with his performances just not being good enough. Its a tasty profit having spent just £8m two years previous. With the money we went bakc to South America and signed Ecuadorian International Alan Franco for £10m from Atletico Miniero who is a very similar player and hopefully fits the mould of someone who can come and play a number of roles in the midfield for us.
There were a few others exits off youth players but nothing to really shout out about.
On the field
On the field it was a complete mixed bag as in the league we finished with a record of P7 W3 D1 L3 with big losses to Napoli, Inter and Lazio really hurting our chances of a title bid. It was always going to be a tricky run of games and it leaves the table like this.
Lazio look like they could run away with the league but more importantly we have a right battle on our hands with the Champions league space as anyone in the top 8 right now could potentially finish there. We have the points on our side but others have games in hand and we are going to need to produce some better form than the last month has shown if we are to remain a Champions League side. I haven't completely given up on chasing down Lazio but i need them to lose a game at some point and so far they have only done that once all season.
On the plus side we have progressed further than ever before in the Coppa Italia. Serie B side Salernitarna were easily beaten 5-1 before we got our revenge over Napoli winning 1-0 through a goal through youngster Gnonto setting up a Semi final tie against Inter. It will be a two legged affair but maybe just maybe we can get some silverware from this season. Next month also sees the return of the Europa League and and another busy few months. That run of form is going to be needed more than ever.
I said we needed a good run of form to give ourselves the best possible chance of successive Champions League qualifications and my god have we done it. In the league our record was P7 W6 D1 as we put together a truly great piece of form. We were just raining goals and to be honest even in games where we were down to 10 men after just 8 minutes (Sassualo) we still looked the better side winning 5-3 in a great game of football.
Normally with that sort of run, I would have hoped we would have pulled ourselves right into a proper title fight but unfortunately both Lazio and Juventus have been matching us point for point and we are going to need to carry on if not go even better and pull out a perfect run in through April and May if we want to win the title. Still league table wise it is looking good as we have started to pull away from 6th place Napoli meaning a European place is looking increasingly likely.
Talking of European places we might not need the league as we expertly overcame Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia Semi-finals with a 2-1 aggregate victory. Teenage striker Wilfried Gnonto (Himself an ex-Inter youth player) scored both goals to send us into the final where we will play AC Milan. Milan are struggling in the league and surely this is our best chance of silverware this season and to finally put a trophy back in the Fiorentina trophy cabinet. The last trophy being the 2003 Serie C league title with the last major trophy being the Coppa Italia two years prior.
To be fair, glory in Europe isnt out of the question either as we managed to progress through the 1st Knockout rounds by going to Belgrade and beating Red Star 2-1 in a nervy game where we had to come back from behind. Of course it was ex=Partizan player Dusan Vlahovic with the late winner which I imagined really irked the home fans even more. That set up a tie against Schalke and this time it was much easier as we raced into a 2-0 lead after just 8 minutes and scored a third later in the first half to give us a 3-0 win and to put us into the Quarter finals for the 2nd year on the trot.
There we will take on Lyon with a semi final tie against either RB Leipzig or Aston Villa. It is certainly a draw that could see us get into the final. The favourites to be there though are PSG in what would be a daunting final. However, in a one off game who knows, we might end up a Champion of Europe by the end of the season.
A great great period of positive results and one that has fully engrossed me further into this save. I am desperate to get this club ticked off the list as i want to move clubs sooner rather than later. It has got me thinking about the transfer window and what we might need to do. We are missing an elite player or two that could carry us and my current transfer policy of buying young kids with potential mixed with a couple of older players left by the wayside from larger clubs (Bailly & Batshuyai) has worked and got us this far but a reinvention to take us that one step further will be needed.
I do have an elite player in mind already to spice things up. I have also found a teenage regen striker that looks incredibly good which means i am going to have to lose one of my four strikers next season. All four have been really good but Patrick Cutrone is the most likely to get the axe unless a big bid comes in for Vlahovic who is starting to attract some serious suitors as the season has gone on.
One thing is for certain, i will need a LWB and also potentially a RWB with this being the last season of Jose Callejon and Barcelona not currently willing to talk sensibly about letting me make Juan Miranda's stay here a little more permanent. This season could be the catalyst, I just need to clinch that first trophy and we have our first shot next month.
So lets start with the league campaign where we were 8 points behind league leaders Lazio with 11 games to go. It was a very busy April and May with games coming thick and fast and in the end despite putting in a good performance of P11 W7 D2 L2 we were unable to sustain a true title challenge as we safely finished in 3rd spot. 3 Points better off than the year before and 1 place better off as well.
It was a great year but as you can Juventus were on a mission in the back half of the season and even if we had won all 11 games we were still going to fall short of a title. Toppling the might Juve is certainly a daunting task but one we are going to need to do at some point. However, the big domestic football was played in the Coppa Italia final against a struggling but still strong AC Milan. It was a tough game coming in a difficult moment in the calendar as we were fighting fatigue, niggling injuries and a few suspensions and it showed in our performance as we went 1-0 down and really struggled to break down an AC milan defence. With mere seconds to go it looked like we were going to lose the game but then sub Patrick Cutrone scored a 93rd minute equaliser to send the game to extra time. However, it wasn't the goal to kickstart a fairy tale cup victory as AC Milan scored a 2nd and decisive goal to send the cup to Milan.
Now that could have been the end of our story and success but it wasnt as we went on a great run in the Europa league knocking out Lyon (5-3) in the Quarter finals and then RB Leipzig (2-0) in the semi finals to send us to the final in Bucharest against PSG. A tense affair with only 1 highlight in the opening 90 minutes as no team seemed willing to make a mistake and off to extra time we went for the 2nd time this season. Finally in the 99th minute the deadlock was broken as Teenage striking sensation Wilfried Gnonto bagged an opener to put us 1-0 up. Then we doubled our lead just on the stroke of half time of extra time as a well worked free kick saw Carles Alena slide the ball to Eric Bailly who was in acres of space to slot home a 2nd and winning goal. PSG bagged a consolation but the Europa League was ours for the first time in Fiorentina's history!
I can't really argue with the season as we did everything i had hoped for. We were closer to a title race and we have managed to close the gap points wise with Juventus and with 5 games to go we were mathmatically still in a title race albeit not as realistically. We also picked up a first trophy, now i did think this would be the Coppa Italia but alas it was a Europa League trophy instead. A great little bit of retribution and gives me real confidence that we can compete in Europe and now it is time to step up in the Champions League and get the real redemption we are all hoping for.
So onto next season. Well we need to be a top 2 finish and to be honest, I want a real run for the title so we have to be less than 6 points from the top if we are going to finish 2nd. I would love to add the Coppa Italia to the trophy cabinet and as we are now going to be 1st seeds in the Champions League, i have to expect to get into the knockout rounds at the very least. To do that we are going to need to add and improve and i have two signings already in the bag including one big name as we really look to push on.
The key to our success this year was our strikers. All four got into double figures with Dusan Vlahovic topping the scoring charts for the 3rd successive season bagging 28 goals and 11 assists as he started to add some link up play to his game. Wilfried Gnonto and Michy Batshuyai came in and really gave us something new with Gnonto bagging 16 goals in his first season as well as making his Italian debut. I thought he was going to be a risky signing at £10m but he could be a hidden gem for us. Michy on the other hand knocked in 23 goals from just 26 starts and when he was firing, he was firing and we seem to be over his wobbles and hopefully we can get even more out of him next season. The other man that i am really impressed with is Talles Magno. My first real signing (forgetting Daniel Sturridge) the Brazilian had a breakthrough year getting into double figures, earning wonderkid status and looking to be a real asset for us.
No new members to the club this year and no teams earning redemption as Liverpool handsomely beat Ajax in the final 3-0.
Lazio were the closest to getting redemption getting to the semi-finals in another impressive display from the Italians. Also showing the challenge i have with both them and Juventus domestically.
Leeds United: It was no bounceback into the Premier league as Leeds came 4th and lost in the play-offs and it wasnt any better in the cup competitions going out in the 3rd round of the FA Cup and the 2nd Round of the Carabao Cup. Arsenal: Climbed one position in the league to finish 5th in the Premiership but it was another year with no trophies with a quarter final in the FA Cup and a 3rd Round exit in the Carabao Cup. Tottenham: Improvement in the league as they finished 6th but their Champions League effort was to get knocked out at the 1st Knockout round. An early exit in the FA Cup (3rd round) was at least balanced out by a Semi final in the Carabao Cup. The European Super Cup was also picked up. Man City 3rd in the League but they picked up a Carabao Cup winners medal, a runners up medal in the FA Cup and a Quarter final place in the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid After back to back league titles it was only a 3rd placed finish for Madrid. They did with the Copa del Rey but it wasn't a great Champions League campaign going out at the 1st Knockout round. Valencia A nothing year for Valencia as they finished 7th in the League and were knocked out early in both the Copa del Rey (5th Round) and the Europa League (2nd knockout Round).
Reims 13th In Ligue 1 and a Semi-final exit in the Coupe de France. Saint Etienne In their first season back in the top flight it was a 16th placed finish in the league. The Coupe de France run only lasted till the 9th Round. Monaco 3rd in the league, a 10th round exit in the Coupe de France and a 2nd Knockout exit in the Europa League mark a fairly forgettable year for the Principality. PSG League winners once again but they couldn't do a domestic double going out in the Quarter finals of the Coupe de France. As we know they were knocked out at the group stages of the Champions League and were losers in the Europa league final to Moi
Fiorentina – European Glory albeit in the Europa League sees us continue our journey back to the top. Roma A poor year for Roma with a late surge in the league meaning they finished 6th whilst they went out early in the Coppa Italia. Sampdoria Really struggled this year coming 15th in the league whilst going out at the first opportunity in the Cup. Lazio A year of almosts for Lazio as they came 2nd in the league, got to the Champions League semi finals whilst going out in the Quarter finals of the Coppa Italia.
Eintracht Frankfurt 11th in the Bundesliga and a 3rd Round exit in the Cup. Borussia Monchengladbach 7th in the Bundesliga and a 3rd round exit in the Cup. Bayer Leverkusen 5th in the league and they made the Semi finals of the Europa League having coming 3rd in their Champions League group. A 2nd round exit in the Cup.
Panathinaikos - Just a 4th place finish in the league and a quarter final appearance in the Greek Cup. They didnt even make the Europa Conference proper going out in the qualifiers in another year that shows how far the Greek side have fallen.
Malmo League Champions once again in 2022 but struggling in 2023. A Quarter final in the Swedish cup and a qualifying exit in the Europa Conference
Club Brugge Champions of Belgium and a semi final in the Croky cup gave Brugge a good domestic season. The Champions League was tough on Brugge as they came bottom of their group.
Partizan 2nd in the League but they won the Serbian Cup whilst like the other redemption sides they struggled in the Europa Conference qualifiers going out.
Hi JT. Good to see you going strong and good progress here. Looking consistent in the league so I took a peak at your squad through the hidden image. A very nice group by the look of it, really well done. It's so important to get things right off the pitch and recruit well, it seems you've done exactly that.
Are you managing to keep such a deep squad of good players happy? That seems to be a challenge in itself on FM21.
Blahovic got a lot of goals. I can't picture him, where did he come from and have you got a screenshot of him?
Hi JT. Good to see you going strong and good progress here. Looking consistent in the league so I took a peak at your squad through the hidden image. A very nice group by the look of it, really well done. It's so important to get things right off the pitch and recruit well, it seems you've done exactly that.
Are you managing to keep such a deep squad of good players happy? That seems to be a challenge in itself on FM21.
Blahovic got a lot of goals. I can't picture him, where did he come from and have you got a screenshot of him?
I am doing a lot of rotation to be fair with the team. With the weird schedule for the 22/23 season it was much needed. So far ive only had one or two players complain about game time so it hasn't been too bad.
If you click on Vlahovic's name in my post above you should see a screenshot. He starts at Fiorentina at the beginning of the game. He was previously at Partizan
Season 4 and we look to go one step further and start to become the best team in Italy. So it was time to spend some money
Before i get into the incomings, lets look at who left the club as that largely informed who we bought in. In total £76m was raised through player sales with 5 members of the first team squad moving on. The biggest sale was Gaetano Castrovilli who is definitely a talented player but he never really played that well and when he started asking for wages above £100 per week with his contract near expiry it was time to cut my losses and move the player on. He goes to Spain and Real Betis in a £20m deal with a sell on negotiated in for good measure. Patrick Cutrone was probably the biggest name to leave having had two pretty good seasons here since his loan move was made permanant and he is a victim of me buying a new striker and quite simply 5 strikers would be too many. He leaves for £18m to Atalanta having had a record of 1 goal in 2 appearances but it was decent money and is again another small profit on the man.
Spaniards Pol Lirola and Sergio Gomez were also allowed to leave. Full back Lirola leaves for £16.5m for Monaco whilst young attacking midfielder Gomez joins Sassualo for £8.5m. I have struggled with Lirola since the start of the save and he just doesnt provide the performances we leave and i have moved for a new wing back to see if they can become the first choice. Gomez struggled for game time since his free transfer move and despite having quite a good season last year, i wanted to bring in a new attacking midfielder and so Gomez is a victim. There is a sell on clause in there as i believe he will be able to move on for big money with some game time at a smaller Italian side.
Number 1 keeper Alban Lafont was also sold for £11m to Calgiari and this move came about due to the emergence of Gasparini as a wonder kid plus the signing of a new young Italian keeper who has all of the potential to be a superstar as well. On top of that we sold young Belgian striker Romeo Vermant for a small profit with the Belgian having never kicked a football in the famous Purple of Fiorentina.
So who did we bring in? Well i mentioned i had two deals sealed last season and i can finally reveal their names. Nabil Fekir should be a name you all recognise and the enigmatic Frenchman has been signed on a Free with his contract at Real Betis expiring. I have largely stayed away from big name signings so far instead looking to develop some younger players but I think now is the time to dip my toe in for an elite player. A free transfer means it has no risk and his free kick taking and flair should mean he is a creative force in the No.10 positon.
The next in is my first regen signing and that is Argentine Axel Larrue who came through the Atletico Madrid academy and joins for £5m. He has displaced Cutrone in the first team squad as i want to give this kid some minutes to develop and round him off. His finishing needs work but he has some great technical skills and could also play behind the striker. To aid him i have developed a tactic where instead of two strikers up top we have 1 with two AM's behind which will allow me to play Larrue alongside someone like a Fekir. Talking of regens we signed two more and both are goalkeepers. Liam Moran joins from Manchester City on a free transfer to be our third choice albeit he will spend this season out on loan to get some more game time. Whilst Andrea Aimasso has been a kid i have followed for a few years and he joins from Partizan Belgrade for £6m. He is an Italian U21 international and current understudy to my very own Gasparini for the Italians and will do the same here. Very well rounded and has the potential to go even further than Gasparini and will get game time in the Coppa Italia and also league games against some of the weaker Serie A sides.
Rounding out my transfers are some wing backs. Juan Miranda rejoins on Loan having impressed in the final 6 months of last season and will be the first choice left wing back. His creativity was exceptional last season as he picked up 9 assists and with a full season underneath him he could be the difference maker in our hopes for a league title. On the right wing back we have my biggest signing this summer at £15m (rising to £17.5m) as i signed Nordi Mukiele from Marseille. Incredibly quick he also has the flexibility to play in the centre back positions meaning we have good cover there. This will be Jose Callejons last season and Mukiele needs to be the man to finally take that right wing back slot for us.
Pre-season was incredibly short as i made the decision to go to Singapore and we beat two local teams confortably before struggling against Verona and Lazio in friendlies closer to home. The lack of games i think had something to do with our poor performance in the European Super Cup as Liverpool and Erling Haaland caused us nightmares. We came out of the game losing 4-2 but the scoreline flattered us massively. Hopefully it was just poor match fitness because if the gap really is as big as that we are not going to be winning this Champions League any time soon.
We kick off our Champions League campaign with a group of Barcelona, Shakhtar and Mainz. A qualifiable group as long as we get the better of Mainz and Shakhtar whilst Barcelona are going to be a good test to see how good we really are
Our league campaign kicked off for the 2nd straight year against Sampdoria and we didnt match the highs of our 6-1 win from last season but the 3 points are in the bag with a 2-1 victory with Batshuyai and Miranda with the goals
So far so Ok as we find ourselves keeping up pace with the league leaders and generally looking pretty good in the league and bar a couple of mistakes we could be leading the league at this point. After beating Sampdoria (2-1) in the opening game of the season we went on to beat Crotone (4-0) and Atalanta (3-1) to give us the perfect start to the season and my confidence was high especially as Atalanta have been somewhat of a bogey side for us. We then took on Hellas Verona and once again we struggled against this side. Again its a team we just don't seem to play well against and Dusan Vlahovic had to score an equaliser to keep us undefeated. Newcomers Lecce were then beaten 2-0 in a fairly routine victory and after September we were on 13 points from a possible 15 and looking good.
We needed a good start as the October games were Roma, Juventus and AC Milan and it was going to be tough. We were desperately unlucky as well as we lost to both Roma and Milan in games where we dominated but just got sloppy in defence. We did though manage to beat Juventus for the first time coming from behind to seal a 2-1 victory and so we sit just 1 point off the top having played 4 of the tougher teams in the league and hopefully with some easier games to come we might be able to pull away from what is currently a very tight league table.
Meanwhile we embarked on our Champions League journey and it has been a relatively fine start to the group. We beat Mainz 3-0 in the group opener showing a real clinical touch with the real highlight being Dominik Szoboszlai getting his first goal for the club with the young Hungarian finally settling into life in Italy after a slow start last year. We then went off to Shakhtar and we did well to get a point after a 2-2 draw with the team going 2-0 down at half time. Another goal from Juan Miranda and a Dusan Vlahovic penalty helped us avoid defeat before we went into a home tie against Barcelona who had won the both their group games until this point. What ensued was a fairly boring 0-0 draw to keep both sides undefeated at the half way mark.
A good start to the 4th season and we in places look excellent. Both Batshuyai and Vlahovic have got off to great starts on the goal scoring front and to have two goal scorers performing this early will only help us. We need to get Gnonto and Larrue as back ups firing as it was having all four of my strikers able to get a goal that helped us through the competitions. Juan Miranda could be that man having found the net 4 times from LWB in what has been a truly exceptional run of form for the Spaniard. I wasn't expecting goals but i like what i am seeing right now.
As i already mentioned Dominik Szoboszlai is starting to perform at the level that i hoped when i signed the wonderkid and alongside Gravenberch we have a really good exciting midfield partnership. Nabil Fekir is struggling a little, he shows class in games but also a real lack of consistency in his play and i need to balance getting him minutes with playing players that have performed for me in the past.
Can we win the League, on this showing, if we can remove the mistakes then yes i think we can. It seems like a tight league this year and i genuinely think Juventus are weakening a little having still got the likes of Ronaldo leading their line. Now is the time to strike but i can't forget Lazio who i think could be the side to dominate if Juventus do indeed slip up. Ciro Immobile is a god in this league consistently winning the golden boot by a margin. In terms of the Champions League we just need to avoid defeat to Mainz and from there i think we should be a good bet for the later stages