Welcome back to the Salernitana Story where we had a cup semi-final to look forward to, a new formation that was working and positive momentum. What you’re about to read is the frustrating and tantalising tale of how you can come so close to glory but for the wacky rules of Serie B…
I hated rules as a child. They sucked. I was never allowed to do cool things like play football in the house because of them. Of course, as you get older, you come to accept they are a necessary evil of life. A way to keep the world ticking without descending into a chaotic civil war.
Naturally, rules are not universally beloved and some are, frankly, downright stupid and weird. And if you want weird and stupid rules then head over to Serie B, a league built on head-scratching squad restrictions and confusing play-off systems.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself a little so let me run down the run-in of 2017/18.
When I left you we were coming from two very frustrating draws so naturally my new successful 3-4-3 got us four consecutive defeats. I’m not one to pin blame on anyone but backup keeper Michalis Iliadis only played four league games this season and conceded thirteen goals so draw your own conclusions about that one. We scored seven goals in two games at one point yet still contrived to lose 5-3 then 5-4. I was on the verge of a meltdown so I rolled the dice on an old tactic – a 5-1-2-2.
And to say it worked was an understatement. With 14 games left, we were looking at a woeful lower mid-table finish but the change in tactic brought about a huge surge in form with 10 wins and 3 draws sending us shooting up the table to finish sixth in the end. Our leaky defence conceded just seven goals in that time too so we had clicked at the right time and made the playoffs for a shot at promotion.
I was feeling confident and I felt even better when we got paired with surprise package Alessandria in the prelim round. We had done the double over the newly promoted side quite comfortably and this game proved the gulf in class between the sides. We tore them apart in a first half of beautiful attacking football and were through to the semis against bogey team Benevento.
This is where it gets really frustrating. With the first leg at Arechi, we needed a good result but typically we played really poorly and lost 1-0. No worries, the second leg gives us another shot at it. Five minutes into the second half – we go AWOL at a corner and Cutrone strikes to put Benevento surely out of reach. I piled men forward and from nothing Joao Silva gave us hope with 15 minutes to go. Then, as I was piling more men forward, Silva struck again from a Nicola Casini cross. We were through, right?
No. Away goals didn’t count here. No harm, no foul. We have the positive momentum going into extra time. Chance for Stefano Pettinari goes begging. Chance for Silva goes begging. With the game heading to penalties, I settled and prepared myself for the lottery of a shootout. The full time whistle went. Game over, wait, what?
Who’s through? What’s going on? Do away goals count at the end of extra time instead?
The answer was a sickening no. We were out because Benevento had finished third in the league. Heartbroken.
Here’s the rules which I should have checked beforehand…
And the final league table…
A frustrating season despite the playoff finish. But for a poor start and a really horrid run of defeats in February, we could really have pushed the top two for promotion. It gives me hope for next season though if we can keep the majority of this team together.
If you remember from last time, we had somehow snuck our way into the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia where we would play Roma. With the away leg first, and with a backup keeper in net, I was a little scared to say the least.
And for 20 minutes, I was wrong to be. Sure, we let Gerson score but we were 2-1 up at Roma. Naturally, by half time, we were 5-2 down. By full time, it was 6-3 to Roma and we were as good as out.
The second leg was basically a dead rubber with little chance of us ever really getting through. I had replaced Iliadis with new singing Alex Cordaz who was experienced and could actually stop the ball from going in the net which is a positive in a goalkeeper I’ve found. Still, we were a goal down at half time but a late Pettinari equaliser got us a credible draw. So, we were out of the cup despite scoring four against Roma.
I’ve never really looked at this in these posts, mostly because the youth teams are regularly bottom of their leagues but I thought I may as well start to talk about my youth set-up in these posts.
Much like the first team, the youth teams had an upturn in form when I stopped playing a wildly attacking 3-4-3. There were no real stand outs in the ranks with only midfielder Giuseppe Di Lascio playing from the original crop of youngsters there were when I took over. Our only regen to play for the first team was of course Giuseppe Troiano whom we sold in the summer to Hoffenheim too.
Apart from those two and a few I’ve bought in myself, we’ve had very little to shout about. For example, while striker Pietro Maione has hit 18 goals at Under 20 level, he is simply not good enough to ever make his mark on our first team and that is a frustratingly common theme throughout. I have been lenient with some such as midfielders Salvatore Amabile and Oscar Lorefice to try and get some of our own players into the first team but it is not promising.
Unfortunately, neither was our intake this year.
We did get Boubacar Traore of Burkina Faso which was a curious one for a Serie B side but he’s not great. My coaches rated Lorenzo Castelleti and Corrado Golfo highly and they’re not bad but for me the stand out was wing back Domenico Signore with some cracking mentals and physicals.
End of Season Awards
Massimiliano Busellato – 42 appearances, 3 goals, 9 assists, 7.08
What a season for Max. Struggled to break into the team at the start of the season as I didn’t trust him, complained I didn’t play him and caused me to re-evaluate him. Did well as the right midfielder in the 3-4-3 then became indispensable as the BBM in our “new” system. My player of the season.
Joao Silva – 39 appearances, 18 goals, 5 assists, 7.08
Truthfully, I’ve nearly sold him three times since I took over but Silva always found a way to hold on and then he just caught fire towards the end of the season. One goal at the turn of the year was pretty poor but took up the slack when injuries and poor form hit.
Moses Odjer – 34 appearances, 1 goal, 2 assists, 6.86
Injuries and just mediocrity crept in for Moses this year. It’s not a terrible season but I had expected him to kick on after an impressive first season with me and, not only has he not, he’s left me feeling like there might be life without Moses.
Alessandro Tuia – 21 appearances, 6.83
It’s like he forgot how to defend in the summer. Very disappointing and highly dispensable if someone wants to give me money for him.
How Did The New Boys Do?
Vinicius (Lazio, Free) – 42 appearances, 1 goal, 10 assists, 7.06
A revelation on the left. Drove Luigi Vitale to play wonderfully and then outplayed when he got the chance. One of our key men already and Fan’s Signing of the Season. 8/10
Mattias Andersson (Free Agent, Free) – 8 appearances, 6.67
He’s young and inexperienced so some slack should be given but there were definite struggles for Mattias and I hesitated to use him throughout the season. 4/10
Stefano Pettinari (Free Agent, Free) – 32 appearances, 9 goals, 4 assists, 6.84
Average. Chipped in with important goals but would have dry spells. Injury hampered his end to the season but certainly has a place in the squad. 6/10
Giuseppe Troiano (Hoffenheim, Loan) – 14 appearances, 1 goal, 6.91
Solid, unspectacular squad depth. Not much else to say. 5/10
Nicola Dalmonte (Lazio, Loan) – 46 appearances, 17 goals, 6 assists, 7.05
Loved by me, loved by the fans, loves the club, Fan’s Player of the Season and my signing of the season – Dalmonte has been a revelation. Scored some beautiful goals along the way with a solo one at Catanzaro particularly special. Oh, and I’ve got him for next season as well. 9/10
Levan Mchedlidze (Free Agent, Free) – 23 appearances, 7 goals, 2 assists, 6.91
Another average signing. Did a job when required but not as creative as I hoped he would be. I’m not overly sold on him moving forward. 6/10
King Udoh (Free Agent, Free) – 7 appearances, 1 assist, 6.65
Serie B was too high a level for King and it was very apparent every time he played. He tried but a loan is looking likely. 3/10
Mattia Bani (Free Agent, Free) – 31 appearances, 2 goals, 1 assist, 7.01
Solid and unspectacular but Mattia’s transition into our defence without a pre-season was near seamless. Almost indispensable when fit. 7/10
Alex Cordaz (Free Agent, Free) – 3 appearances, 2 clean sheets, 6.93
Better than Iliadis and an extra body on the coaching staff. Excellent back-up, solid coach and great tutor. 6/10
Signings of Michael Kouame, Petter Markkanen and Marco Cesellato unrated due to not playing for the club this season.
Here’s the full breakdown of our performers this season…
And as a special bonus treat, here’s my own personal team of the season…
And that is everything. I have had some interviews for jobs at Leicester, Sunderland, Cardiff, Everton and Genoa and there is links to Hull and the likes so I must be doing something right.
Also if you are interested in the history of this save over two seasons, I’ve put together a spreadsheet that has every player to play a competitive game under me on it. It’s a little organisational thing I like doing to reminisce on the old players I sometimes forget. That can be viewed at this link.
If you have enjoyed it, let me know in the comments or over on Twitter. If you’re on Slack come and say hi on The Long Ball’s channel (#thelongballfm).