“So, San Marino kick off. Remember Holland on this very ground. Oh! It’s a mistake by Pearce! And humiliation here! Gualtieiri! I was going to say San Marino conceded a goal in the opening seconds against Holland but it’s England that have conceded the goal here.”
It’s strange how a goal can really be the most momentous achievement for a footballing club, let alone a country and let alone when that game ended 1-7. Yet, little San Marino, whose team is regularly ridiculed for having players who are teachers, bankers, carpenters somehow are.
N.B – the night never actually took place in Serravalle, instead it took place 125km north west in Bologna, Italy. If that has already ruined where this story is going – I am sorry.
First saves on Football Manager are always, for me anyway, the learning curve. A new game brings me a new chance to immerse myself in another part of the world, bringing wanderlust, cultural understanding and footballing knowledge to my ever-growing list of hobbies. It also brings an eagerness to throw as much into the save as possible. This rule, into this new rule, then scrapping that rule, reverting to this rule and so on.
I normally play very long term games – my Beira-Mar save, 'Not all the glitters is gold’ lasted into the 2040’s and probably had several years left in it, had I not started to notice some slightly strange things that had ruined my long term goal for Portuguese dominance and then even Baixo Vouga (the local region) dominance. Plus – I didn’t get a son and I have had a son in the last three long term games.
Now I’m in to my second save, which, if it runs anything like my first, should take me through the dull summer months whereby most of the community are shuffling between games having ‘done’ their main thing and could potentially see me through until 2020. First Vienna. Lyn Oslo. BX Brussels. Barracas Central. FM 17 and FM 18 – two long term saves per game and each was as successful as the last.
San Marino Calcio, an ex-patriated club playing in the lower leagues of the Italian system.
Italy feels like home to me – a lot of my early games were here, when I was cutting my teeth with long term saves. I’ve taken Milazzo from the Prima Categoria, Calcio Catania (the other one) up the leagues over 20+ years, Treviso, a trip to re-invent the miracle of Castel di Sangro, managed San Marino’s rivals – Bellaria and Rimini and then had an obsession with the southern tip – managing Palermo, Messina, Citta di Messini and even gone over to Sardinia for Cagliari and Torres. In the earlier versions of FM, particularly when the lower leagues were first accessible through the editor, I lived a virtual life in this country. However – I’ve not made it to San Marino, yet.
The club was founded in 1959, if you believe FM, or 1960, if you believe Wikipedia and is, unsurprisingly, the only professional club from the tiny country. They have floated around between the third and sixth tier of Italian football for most of their history and their most famous moment is probably the signing of FM legend Andy Selva at the start of the 21st century. Over the previous years, the lower echelons of Italian football have changed humongous – largely due to the massive influx of clubs that get liquidated, come back with new names and, normally, get liquidated again. Despite this- San Marino can only boast a runner up in the 2012 Serie C2 as their highest honour but have won Serie D, the fourth tier, twice.
In this year’s Serie D, San Marino currently sit 16th in Girone D, with six games left to climb to 12th and out of the relegation zone. As mentioned, there are lots of clubs that refuse or are refused entry for the following season, so Titani may get lucky. However, there is a good chance that they may be, in real life anyway, playing in the fifth-tier next year.
This is where real life ends.
To get San Marino into a playable position – I have holidayed for 2 years. The date that I commence my managerial stint in 30th June 2020.
Winning Serie A will pretty much make me a top team within the world, something that I didn’t seem to see shifting over twenty years in Portugal. I wanted to take the local region to the top and, no matter how hard I try, I won’t be taking
Born in Aveiro (the location of Beira-Mar) with a dual Brazilian/Portuguese nationality (in game he went on to win over 50 caps for Brazil) and he likes Beira-Mar as well as Barracas Central – a memento to manager German Burgos, who played for my Barracas Central side in FM18.
Not my favourite player from my Beira-Mar save. But a player whose sale maybe was the catalyst to our performance over the years. The £32.5m came at a point where I had no money and had to rely on sub standard youth players. We used this to install new facilities, scout the world for cheap South American and Portuguese talent and increase the capacity of my stadium. He’s not going to be remembered by me in the same way that Andre Folha or Cristian Medina will be, but maybe he was more important.
One bug bear that came from my stint in Portugal was that I did not receive a single dual national or non-Portuguese youth player, regardless of my affiliate or standing with youth recruitment. Clearly, an Argentine in Portugal didn’t work. Let’s see if a Brazilian in San Marino does. Of course – not a single player that is eligible for both of those nations would ever be good enough for Brazil, you’d assume – so maybe down the line I could add some samba to the European minnows.
If ever I get to the point where I can choose my youth affiliates – I will look to choose Palmas FR, from Palmas, Tocantins, Brazil. This is the actual in-game birthplace of Teles. They are in the Brazilian lower leagues but it is another memento to an old save.
As I said – first games on FM tend to be all about getting to know the game. I got stuck in with Beira-Mar and I thought that it’d last me through. With that in mind – I went youth only, then wanted to see what the transfer market was like by restricting myself to a limited pool, then I removed that, then I went back to youth only.
Rule 1: Youth Only.
This will be youth only exclusively. No grey players. No signing from affiliates. No changing my mind half way through. No signing from sister cities (yeah, Vienna – I’m looking at you and your massive list on FM17).
In FM17, I first got the idea of using a squad DNA. I wanted to build a team around a certain style of play and stamp that on the dynasty I built. I went a step further in FM18 by ticking the box to show only bars instead of attributes. They got rid of that in the vanilla version of FM19 but a cheeky download has given me back that panel.
Rule 2: Attribute bars.
I will use the attribute colouring: 0-4 = poor. 5-9 = average. 10-15 = good. 16-20 = excellent. All of my players will then be judged on roughly how good they are at something within the bigger picture – not how good their shooting is, as a number out of 20. When I judge players more holistically, I feel like I am dealing with them in a much more realistic way and I can see past the ‘x player has 9 for dribbling and I want it to be 11.’
FM19 was the introduction of this rule for me, although I have been slightly disgruntled at them for a few years. When my team got to a stage where they are good – star ratings got skewed. Would you really class an elite forward as a 3* player? Maybe, when there is an even better midfielder behind him but the whole ‘x player is a decent rotation option’ got at me.
Rule 3: No PA and CA stars.
I want to be able to judge the player on whether I think he is good. The assistant, and his backroom team are fine to ‘list’ the order of them or tell me that someone is doing well in training – but it is my job to decide who has 4* or who has 2*. I want to create a team that is picked on form, suitability overall for the role – my defensive minded midfielder is good at work rate, decisions and tackling, so I may pick him for a match against an opposition MC who could over run us, even if the stars rate him as inferior to another option.
As with any save – I want to try out a few new things. Below I have a list of various things I want to try out in this save. Some are things I’ve learnt from the last save, some are tactical ideas and some are new experiments that will help keep my immersion.
· I want to play a patient possession system, focusing on a really solid defence. My gegenpressing mentality was good but it’s always good to mix up my playing style and learn about the match engine in different ways. This will also see my normal high block change to a much lower block.
· I want to develop and build a side around a classic 10. He, ideally, will be the Engache in a 4411 formation but also a Regista when I need to play a 4141. He’ll hopefully be Sammarinese.
· I want to experiment with different positional options – I played two fairly advanced full backs in my last save. Now I want to have one whose primary job in defence will be an added number but will pose an attacking threat – either on the outside or cutting inside.
· I want to put a real focus, from day 1, on versatility and having players reach accomplished in at least two areas of the pitch. Particularly useful for purely youth only saves.
· Squad numbers will be big. Because I want them to be. My Beira-Mar team had first XI players with numbers 56, 51, 47 and I had no clear number 9 or 10.
· I want to keep my first team squad full of experience and only introduce young players when they are fully ready and have match experience at my level. The loan market and affiliates will be used extensively.
Some overall game challenges:
· To get into the top flight.
· To produce talent for the San Marino national team that will allow them to progress.
· To use affiliates and staff nationalities to bring through some dual national players
· To be analytical of performances and look at trends from other teams as the seasons unfold.
Below is my new home view and the best XI at this moment in time. I will go through some of the tactical thoughts over the next few posts.
Firstly – the first few columns are key here. I want my happy players who are performing well on the training pitch and match pitch to be in the first team. The next couple are self-explanatory with position selected, name and positions. With my ideal aim to be supplying players to the San Marino national team, I want to track how many are playing senior international football so have included that. The current squad is thin on Sammarinese players and even thinner on those born in Serravalle, so I will be able to track that and, one day, be able to put out a fully HG squad. Lastly, I want to build an experienced team and put out players who know what the game entails – therefore I want to track their all-time appearances and goals, but obviously none of those will be from other clubs once my own youth players fill the team up.
In a first for me, I will also try and track a lot of players using the below approach, Microsoft Excel. I’ve done various bits before to supplement but these will be an imperative view of my squad as screenshots do not include things that you can find on the coach report.
As you can see – our squad is average for this level but very weak in some areas and one defining factor is that the best players are massively inconsistent. This, when we are fighting relegation, is a real worry for me. Salcuni and Battistini (who is being trained to play as a highly offensive IWB(a)) look to be my key players although Pellini has a good balance of attributes and will by my ‘first’ #10.
Behind this, there is a very large group of poor players. My aim, as with any save, is to try and make the best of them before allowing them to move on. With the Sammarinese league loaded and my necessity to try and develop players for the national team – I will ensure that all young Sammarinese players spend time attempting to be developed before moving on, however poor they look.
The hierarchy shows me that I have no team leaders. This gives the squad a clean slate to move up or down in the expectations of others. Hopefully, those with good determination and better personalities will rise to the top but it is early days.
An important part of my setup long term is getting the right team behind me. I was playing around in the pre-game editor a few months back and there are many many attributes for the non-playing staff that feed into their playing style, but are not visible. Obviously - some of them overlap to form playing style, pressing style and the like but I was previously unaware of the depths they go in to.
Initially - I want to fill out my back room to assist as much as I can with the development of the squad. Whilst I envisage the room will change as these staff reach their PA ceiling, I want to set the ball rolling and get this team set up how I want it to be. I have, therefore, looked for a variety of styles (more emphasis will be placed on technical skills when I am allowed that freedom) but a pretty rigid setup in terms of mentality, formation and playing style - mirroring what I want to play.
(The managers mentality etc are always really skewed, particularly as I haven't played a game as of yet).
This leaves the comparison looking reasonably solid:
Luca looks a reasonably solid midfielder but, with some other decent depth there, and the want for a tactical 'challenge' - Luca will be re-trained to left back. He's currently ineffectual there but has put in some solid performances in pre-season. Luca brings some height to my back line as well as being ok at tackling, marking and heading. Whilst his positioning is poor - it's his offensive attributes, namely passing, technique and first touch that will suit the IWB(a) role. He works hard and makes good decisions, so, when he comes in to play as an extra body as we look to patiently move the ball in the final third, he'll make good choices as to when to go and when to stay. He is pretty pacey too and that will help should he ever find a chance to take on his man.
2. Matteo Gasperi
Remarkably well rounded and 'good' at most things, Gasperi will be a box-to-box styled player who can function in either box, even if he lacks the ability to finish (offset by good composure and technique hopefully). I would, nitpicking, like him to be a slightly more vocal leader in the middle of the park but he's certainly a player I can build around.
3. Stefano Pellini
Pellini will be my first #10 and will either play in the engache role (highlighted) or the regista role - depending on the opposition. Good technique, passing, first touch and vision with ok decision and composure mean he'll be a thorn in the side of the opponents, either from deep or further forward. I intend to get him to look for a pass rather than a shot to help with the awful finishing and I hope that some divine inspiration sorts out his atrocious determination.
4. Matteo Salcuni
A monster in the backline and I'm hoping his physicality and excellent bravery will make up for his slightly dinosaur-esque technical ability. He's already taller than most of the strikers which will allow him some grace with his average heading ability and I'm hoping that his good anticipation means he'll not have to make too many tackles. I want him to become a bit more accomplished on the ball as he develops due to the fact that there is nothing really 'poor' about him - just not a lot that is great, either!
We have had to scrap for every point that we have earned this season, and I absolutely love it! We really are a poor team and we have had to attempt to develop a style within this division as well as making sure we pick up enough points to stay afloat - 19th is my goal this season and then we give it all in the playouts. At home, we've been great - keeping Livorno to a draw, a draw with high flying Pordenone and a good win over relegation rivals Gubbio. Away from home, we have been appalling and, if we hadn't scored three times from our two shots against Cesena, wouldn't have recorded a win away from our country. Never the less, just shy of a point a game should be more than enough to keep us afloat and in a good position come the end of the season.
I have been meticulously planning training for the week ahead based on what I have seen in the previous game and the scout reports for our next opponents - I will detail that further at a later date.
This is the polar opposite from how I ended my time in Portugal - we have literally are scraping the barrel for any kind of quality. Here, initially, are my best two - I will further profile them if and when they make any strides into the first team.
Not 100% sure on what I want to be looking for, yet, with this but here is my first youth intake in San Marino. We are still far too small of a club to really have anyone that can make a long term difference, I don't feel, but below are the players I have picked out as the 'better' ones.
Again, more to follow once I've got a bit more into the game and feel more immersed with each player.
A quick turnaround from Beira-Mar, Ben, and a challenge that is befitting of the way you play the game. Hats off to you for going one further by removing the star ratings and attribute numbers as well. It's not something I can ever see myself doing, but I'll be following with interest nonetheless. Do you have any intention of managing the national side, or are you just wanting to influence it from afar?
I am still very much coming to terms with the side that I have taken over: learning about their style of play, assessing the development options and seeing how I can generate the next level of performance. As such, this review will tend to be a bit shorter.
Firstly, here is the final league table:
We narrowly escape the playouts with a game-week 37 victory over Prato and a final day draw with Fano - stopping the latter from making the overly congested playoff system. All the while - we only mustered seven wins, making ourselves out to be draw specialists. Something that I am ok with in the short term - as long as, season on season, we can start converting those to victories. Some of the draws were a complete mismatch whereby we hung on for 90 minutes and I want to look at ways to be better prepared for these games. Below - I have created a simple Excel document that will monitor our head-to-head performances with teams in this division:
Currently - we are incredibly inconsistent and there are really no patterns in play. We have fared pretty well against a couple of the teams predicted higher in the league, Vibonese (H), Livorno (H), and Sambenedettese (H) but then again have only picked up two away wins, albeit both against teams predicted considerably above us - Renate (9th) and Cesena (6th). There is a nice range of formations within the league - although most favour the wingers with one up top and there is no direct correlation really with the 3 man defences. We took nothing from either tie against Suditrol but I don't necessarily think that was a 'tactical' defeat to their narrow 4-3-3 - more just two poor performances against an over-achieving side. Also - we don't seem necessarily more susceptible to a style of play - direct football did seem to cause a few more problems but we are quite slow defensively, so I can understand this.
My plan is to keep running this for the length of time we are in each division and see if I can notice any trends. I will look at the manager in charge for the majority of the season when looking at their style. Firstly - we need to build our own. That is very evident in the player performances:
Sorted by minutes played - you can see that two out of the three bottom players are my initial youth players. It has to be said that it is very hard to afford minutes to young players when you are scrapping around at the bottom of the division. I foresee Manca, at least, to get more minutes next year as he has developed quite well in the six hundred odd minutes he's played. Going up - we really relied on three of the four previously mentioned players - Gasperi, Pellini and Salcuni with the first two definitely being too good for a club of our level. Positively, Gasperi has become a team leader and his good determination should be passed on. The 4-1-4-1 DM formation we tend to favour has its upsides, noticeably a solid defence - but this year that has come at the expense of my strikers - with Pompili and Spadafora netting 8 between them and nobody reaching double figures nor looking red-hot in front of goal. Despite pre-season talk of Battistini being an all out attacking full back, my necessity to often just put out a strong team led him to move back to midfield, despite training to accomplished this year, and use Marconi instead - who has gone on to achieve our highest average rating.
A quick turnaround from Beira-Mar, Ben, and a challenge that is befitting of the way you play the game. Hats off to you for going one further by removing the star ratings and attribute numbers as well. It's not something I can ever see myself doing, but I'll be following with interest nonetheless. Do you have any intention of managing the national side, or are you just wanting to influence it from afar?
It was one of those that was manifesting over the last couple of seasons there, really. When I started to notice things that were not right, I put all the backstory together so I could just jump straight in. It's a shame that I never 'finished' what I wanted there but this, hopefully, will keep the game going for me for a few more months.
Yeah - stars and attributes are interesting. I have realised that there is so much more to FM than what you see from the surface so, for my sins, I want to find out! I haven't even gone into the full depth of what I want to achieve with youth intakes and the like.
There will be no national team managing, no. Not something I've ever really enjoyed. However - if and when the squad is made entirely from my players, I will be pretty much doing so anyway!
The continue game timeout button has been my friend here as I have flown through another half a season, albeit with a very late night. The notion of 'one more game' continues for me, even when we are struggling massively. The gulf in quality between ourselves and some of the other teams is huge - with a stat no more sealing than the fact we only have five players who have found the net this term - centre mid Gasperi leads with 11 (6 from the penalty spot) and then the next best is other centre mid Battistini, with a meagre tally of 3. However, we are a couple of places and three points better off than this time last season, although the run of four wins in six has really helped that - at a time where we did languish at the bottom of the table. Morale is a bit better now but we still really lack the quality to compete for a full 90 minutes - countless goals have been conceded in 90+ time, regardless of how I try to shut up shop. We are not fit enough, not mentally solid enough and don't possess the quality to keep teams out. Plus - I desperately need a striker who can score come intake time...
My HoYD was poached from me during the close season so I appointed a new member of staff -Francesco Valiani. He has, in my eyes, the best personality and his coaching and managerial style roughly match that of my own. Whilst he's not an amazing coach, he's solid at working with youngsters even if his judging of their ability and potential isn't great (remember that this is largely out of his hands though now there are no star representations of how good they could become.) I am unsure as to whether there are any stipulations with ambition as part of the M.Citizen personality - but it would appear that there is a hole within my coaching team for that as there are a large number of unambitious players coming through.
Again - at this level, current ability is probably more beneficial that potential ability. There is one player who I do like the look of:
Despite his awful determination and poor personality - he has a good base of attributes; he is good at finishing, can bring the ball down with good technique, is good off the ball and anticipating situations and all of his traits should work for us in some ways - him coming deep allows him to be involved in the build up but his first time shots will be useful in the penalty area when a cross comes in.
He is especially useful given how long I predict I'll be in this tier for and he will certainly be seeing some first team football next season.
Two seasons have literally flown by in Serravalle and we are definitely beginning the building process - I now recall names of players, have a much better understanding of what I want to achieve from this save long term and I am definitely hooked at the moment.
Firstly - the league table:
We have achieved our lofty goal of 'finishing in the Serie C Girone B' as set by the board - presumably they worried that we wouldn't see out the season. We also finished with a slightly better record and positional standing than last year - two places and four points. We improved our victory record from seven to eleven but did lose one ore game this season compared to last. Elsewhere in the league - Carpi went straight back up, but I can take solace from a fantastic 3-0 victory away from home against them, where we literally got everything right. We are still some way from the playoffs but we are pushing ourselves further away from the threat of automatic relegation and are, mostly, showing ourselves to be better than the teams in and around the playout zone.
I still don't have a huge amount of data to look at here as I've only played for two seasons. One thing I do know is that I'm utterly fed up of playing against Suditrol and their narrow 4-3-3 as we still haven't mustered a goal against them, letting in 10, more than against any other team. We completed doubles over teams first the first time this year - Lupa, Prato and Rieti failed to get anything from both fixtures against us but we also lost twice to several teams - most annoyingly new promoted Santarcangelo came out on top twice against us, despite playing very poor football. One big thing for me this year is that we are beginning to find a style:
We lead the league in average possession and pass completion - not an easy feat for a team that are struggling towards the bottom end of the table and, even more pleasingly, we aren't conceding many. I know we have to work on our finishing but the basics are there defensively, and they are mirrored by the average ratings of the squad. It is most pleasing for me to see Lupa Roma, relegated in their first season at this level, going down whilst trying to play football. Marco Amelia, former Serie A goalkeeper, clearly had a plan in place but failed at the first hurdle. I almost feel that our dull football last year, where we played with little substance but stayed up, now seems to be a fortunate turn of events.
Above are the player stats for the majority of the team - however, some have been demoted to the youth squads as they simply are being usurped by players training and developing better than them. As mentioned - my defensive 5 (back four + DM) have averaged well - D'Addario 6.93, Salcuni 7.05, Manca 7.06, Muratori 7.23 and Pellini 7.13 but, aside from Gasperi, there has been very little else from the squad. Despite conceding just 36 times this season - we only found the net 32 times. First choice Spadafora netted just once, his youth team replacement Arzilli has failed to score in any of his 21 starts and only Ivan Maio, another youngster has netted - although four in 18 isn't necessarily prolific.
Above signifies my current strongest XI. A considerable worry when you notice two seventeen year olds and two eighteen year olds. Overall, the squad has very little experience and, as a result of me focusing of training performance, development and, to some extent, personality - I have cleared a lot of the older players and replaced them with newgens. Of that list, Manca, Muratori, Sironi and Maio have all come through the intakes, with the first two being at the club when I arrived. It's not ideal but, considering I foresee a fair time in this division, will be able to turn these players into 'nearly-maxed PA' within a couple of years of first team action and give us the best chance at survival when we do make the step up. It would also appear that, despite not being a set amount of days, my players are able to take Sammarinese nationality and turn out for the national team. Gasperi and Pellini are the latest to have made that step - achieving a goal of producing players for them.
Below are a selection of the better players:
Nicola Manca is actually very good. As a NCB, he is actually good in of the areas (remembering that I have identified 'good' as an attribute of between 10 and 14). Add in some good decision making and he is quite a capable centre back. Looking at the octagon - I would suggest that the outer ring is world class and players within the second ring could, potentially, play within the top division. Manca is awfully one dimension but his defending skills are not that far off where I want them to be. My backroom team rate him as a leading player for this level and potentially able to make the step up. I hope to keep him for the foreseeable.
Muratori is the only newgen who was already in the youth setup when I arrived. Originally competent at left back, I have retrained him and played him as a left back for the past eighteen months and he has now mastered the left hand side of the pitch. He originally moved their due to the strength of D'Addorio on the right but has made the IWB(s) role his own. He lacks dribbling ability but we don't enforce that from the defence and, actually, his passing, technique and and first touch are pretty good for a full back. Elsewhere, he is a really good defender and has a physical stature that belies a man of his age. A really important part of my first team squad and becoming a regular in the NT, too.
I thought I'd share an image of Maio, despite him not being a clear starter. He's probably the 'best' striker I have due to his really good finishing and good composure, anticipation and technique. He is very one footed and that does skew his attributes a little bit but was the only player last year who could find the net. He is often a passenger though, particularly when out of possession as he doesn't work too hard, isn't strong or brave in the tackle and doesn't actually concentrate on the situation. We are currently weak in the striking department but a good season should see his CA rise dramatically, probably maxing him out.
Sironi is one of the few players who my staff feel is good enough to play at this level. I don't necessarily agree with them but do understand that his ability is probably higher than it appears due to the fact he is incredibly pacy and fit. He is absolutely awful technically and isn't really suited to either of his natural roles but we have nothing better on the right side of midfield currently. He, like Marconi on the other side, demonstrates that we are always going to struggle to create chances for our lone forward. The only positive is that, when we can utilise his pace, he can beat a man - however that is not really how we play.
To put it bluntly, we currently have a group of players that are too poor to be given proper tactical instructions. There are a number of them that are so far behind the level of this league - that they will not be able to be successful against their opposing player, pretty much no matter what I do. With that - I need to accept that I will lose games and that my beautifully-planned football will have some shortcomings. However, I need to appease the board in the short term. Below are the philosophies we agreed on:
Whilst our tactical set up has little to influence the second one - my own game playing strategies have allowed lots of opportunities for youngsters to play and the board are very appreciative of it. It is the first one that is impacted on the pitch though. Below is how we set up for the majority of games, going in as the underdog nine times out of ten.
I have had to build this formation around the strongest players. Manca fits well as a CD (although slightly better as a NCB - but some individual instructions allow him to move the ball on quickly but short), Muratori and D'Addario are good wing backs - but I want strength in the middle and neither can cross, so it works and Gasperi, Pellini and Battistini are all good matches for their BBM(s), DLP(s) and CM(a) roles, respectively. Currently - I play with a W(s) and a W(a) out wide in the midfield strata. Both of these players, Marconi and Sironi, are full backs by trade and offer very little going forward. I have asked the team to counter-press once they have won the ball back, but I have yet to see a wonderfully sweeping move with a cross on to the head of striker Maio. Whatever I try to do tactically here will be limited by the players - move them into the AM strata will give me more bodies going forward but we will still lack the cutting edge so having them here, to form a pressing bank of four, seems to work better.
I decided to analyse the first fifteen games of the season to see whether we were truly making strides in our developing style or just paying lip service in the small amount of highlights I am watching as I try to progress quickly through these early seasons. Here is what I found:
Firstly - teams are more willing to switch to their attacking formation than ever before. I wonder what has caused that? If anything, we have grown slightly in reputation over the past two years but managers who prefer a 4-1-4-1 are now moving to the more aggressive 4-1-2-3. I can deal with that reasonably well as my IWB are both on support so pick up the wingers and we have a spare man at the back. That gives us the opportunity to pass out from the back and, as you can see, we tend to fair better with pass completion against a one man strike force, overall. In terms of hitting my objectives - aside from the one game, we have dominated possession, reaching a peak of 68%. We have also attempted over 800 passes in a game three times this season and recorded a pass completion of up to 95%. However - we aren't turning that possession into anything useful and are not creating key passes nor creating many half or clear cut chances. A huge part of that goes down to who has the ball when we are in dangerous positions and who the ball is supposedly going to.
Are we pleasing the board with our philosophy? Yes. Are we playing football in to a style that contains enough substance to get us out of this division? Not yet and, with no recruiting, maybe not for a few years.
I managed to completely forget about the review after a round of games due to us being on a fantastic run of form. We currently sit in the playoff places, and, to be honest, I don't really care where we end up from here. With 11 games to go, we are already level on points with what we achieved last year, have won and drawn the same amount of games and currently have a positive goal difference. I screenshotted the table down to Bra, who occupy the last playout position, but feel that we are not in any kind of relegation danger here, however badly our run in goes.
We are way away from being considered for promotion - my front line, post sale, is made up of two 16 year olds that tend to rotate on a gamely basis, but reaching the playoffs is a great feat this early in to the save. I set a target of five years to get out of this division, and, with another couple of decent intakes, we could be on track to match that.
Performances like this really show that we are turning a corner. A new fitness coach was hired during the summer and I have been adding in more fitness work during the season. We certainly are more likely to score than concede in the 90th minute now and the attitude of the squad is fantastic.
Thanks TTGB. Any thoughts of posting about your own save again? Always enjoyed your style of play and update.
I just don't have the time. And although I have a very enjoyable and long term save on the go in Norway I just haven't seemed to have got into this version in much detail. At times I am just clicking through - perhaps that's because I am not writing about it and looking for little stories etc.
I am at a cross roads at the moment, enjoying Norway but following Nicks posts about big clubs I started with Msn Utd and thought about posting similar updates to him but never got round to it.
I am not sure to go back to Norway or start again. The problem I have is I just can't find a club that sticks.
My shopping list for this year included a goalkeeper, a right footed centre back, central midfielders and wingers. Below is what I got:
This youth intake is all about one man - Stefano Stefanelli. Even though he may have the Italian version of a name similar to Steven Stevenson, I still am putting all my goalkeeping hopes upon him.
First of all - he is professional. That is fantastic for youth players at this level as that, combined with his determination and level headed media handling, means he should be able to develop quickly. I don't expect him to have a huge amount of PA (although I may be wrong) so getting him to that as soon as possible is ideal as it means I can integrate him in to the first team. Furthermore - he's two footed, a rarity for a keeper but one that fits out play-out-from-the-back style, even if his passing isn't great.
There are no red flags here for consistency, injury proneness, being averse to big game situations and the like - which is excellent when you consider how inconsistent the rest of my squad is. He, like my other goalkeeper, Benedettini, is considered to be good enough to play at Serie D level, however, Stefanelli will edge this due to having potential that his predecessor simply does not. So, he'll be thrust into the first team at 16 - how does he compare now?
Quite well actually. Even in Italy, I still don't like eccentric goalkeepers (does anyone?) but he is already better aerially, which helps with our relatively small defence when dealing with crosses. His distribution isn't as good but Benedettini favoured long kicks so I don't necessarily mind this. He is already more physical, better at shot stopping and quicker along the ground. He lacks somewhat in communication skills but these are definitely things he'll grow into. What else is important is that he is two footed, whereas Benedettini is right only, and, as such, his stats are skewed somewhat, making the comparison even more favourable for him.
That brings to a close a highly successful season in San Marino where we have massively outdone any expectations I had of this team. To finish strongly in sixth place, around perennial play off qualifiers shows just how much we have achieved this season. Unfortunately, we had probably the hardest draw in the playoff - and then unfortunately lost due to finishing lowest when compared with Catania. In typically strange Italian rules, the bottom three finished so far off the pace that they were immediately relegated with no need for a playoff, so my necessity to show this mid-season was also unnecessary.
As the seasons go on, you can see that we are starting to build domestic rivalries - in fact, I cannot wait to see the back of Suditrol, who, in six meetings we managed a solitary goal and that led to our only success against them. The derby against parent club Cesena is also hotting up, with a high scoring affair this season. Unless Lupa Roma are promoted back to the third tier, both teams we have a 100% record against will be inactive next year - losing Massesse following two comfortable ties against them will potentially be a blow to our points tally next year. For the second year in a row - we have managed to beat the side promoted top, with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Ascoli. Enzo Ferrara, of Pordenone, historically a team we have struggled against, will not be in his job next year, partly due to our 5-1 thrashing of them, and I look forward to getting one over on their new manager.
In terms of player stats - it is very easy to split this into two separate parts:
The strongest XI, which is very clearly defined, have largely done very well. High average ratings for all of my back four and once again for DLP(s) Pellini. Sironi is quickly turning into the most underrated (by me) player in my team as he notched top scorer and a good rating to match. Goals, again, were a problem - with now first choice Molinari netting just three times; his counterpart Maio netted four before he left in January.
However - below lies the problem:
We are very poor in terms of squad depth. None of these players are even top players for Serie D sides and, as such, become a liability if there is an injury or enforced replacement. Similarly to striker Molinari, another youngster, Casali, has struggled and only has two goals to his name. I have to be aware that this profligacy is what is keeping us in this division but these players simply aren't good enough to put the ball in the net at any given opportunity. Elsewhere, ex-number 1 Benedettini will probably be unhappy going forward about his sudden decline in footballing time.