Welcome back once more to the Salernitana Story where the step up to Serie A has been a challenging one. Lessons are being learned, defeat is being snatched from the jaws of victory and tactics are being ripped up and rewritten on a weekly basis. So, it’s standard fare then…
We’re s**t. I mean really, really s**t.
The squad we have has about three top notch players in it, a bunch of dross and then a bunch of youngsters who are at about third tier level. It makes the fact we even had a win at the end of August a bit of a miracle. It makes the fact that we’re even in Serie A is a bit of a miracle too.
So, this season has been a mixed bag. Frustration and elation in equal measure. At times, we’ve looked like we are the worst team in the league. At other times, we’ve looked like we could survive and survive well. We’re not brilliant but we’re doing better than anyone (including myself) ever expected.
Shall I stop rabbiting on and show you how we’re doing? Let’s get into it.
The only out in January was the departure of our experienced centre back Alessandro Bernardini. He came to me around November time asking to leave because he had only played a game or two and I let him go. He was a top player in the first couple of seasons for us but his last 18 months at the club were a little underwhelming due to injury and a dip in form. His contract was also up at the end of this season so we shifted him on to Modena for £22,500. It was nice to get a little bit of cash for him in the end and let one of the stars of this save so far fulfil his dream of playing regularly.
The major in for January was, as previously mentioned, the Bosman arrival of Japanese striker Yohei Kajiyama. Exciting times and, as you’ll see, a welcome arrival for a struggling strikeforce. However, there was a slight issue. You see I hadn’t realised that Yohei was away on international duty until the beginning of February and, this being Japan, they’re pretty good so he won’t be back until the latest available time. Curiously, Atalanta tried to sign him on loan almost immediately after he arrived in Italy so I think we may have found a little bit of a gem here.
The other arrival this January was a replacement for Bernardini. That came in the form of the loan arrival of Leonardo Fontanesi from Sassuolo. He’s a decent player with some Serie A experience and he’s probably the best I could do with the options available to me. He’s costing us £45,000 in total loan fees which isn’t a huge amount but hopefully he can shore up a fairly leaky defence although I have my doubts.
As you may remember we had made it into the Fourth Qualifying Round of the cup where we were to face Sampdoria. The winner would face Milan which was a potential money-maker for us but, unfortuantely, Brice Dja Djedje was too good for us.
So, the meat of this update. How are we doing in the league?
17th is fine. I’ll take 17th. In fairness, we’ve not spent much time in the relegation zone at all despite having the worst defence in the league. What about the individual results then?
A proper mixed bag then. We’ve looked great against Napoli, Juventus and Inter and should have got more from all of those games as well as got our revenge on Sassuolo for that embarrassment on the opening day. If we ignore the fact we conceded four against Palermo and six against Fiorentina then it wasn’t completely terrible.
Have I used the term ‘mixed bag’ yet?
We may only have three players averaging over a seven but some context is needed. We’re 17th. We’re not going to have our entire squad playing out of their skins. I know our limitations therefore I sort of look at anything over a 6.80 as a good season this season for us.
Using that idea then, we have about nine or ten players doing a fairly good job for us this season and, worryingly, all of them are our stalwarts. The experienced Francesco Della Rocca has really got the bit between his teeth in Serie A while both Moses Odjer and club captain Max Busellato have made the step up really well.
Unfortunately though, a number of players have really been found out at Serie A level. Alberto Barison has struggled horrendously every time he’s stepped onto the pitch this season while both Pettinari and Coda are just making up the numbers at this point. Jherson Vergara is reaching Menno Koch levels of regret the more I have to play him while young Nicola Casini is so bad, I’ve not only demoted him to the youth team but I’m getting rid of him in the summer.
The biggest disappointment however is my major signing from this summer. Nikos Vergos has just one solitary goal to his name and that came in the last update! He is on a major goal drought that may be unmatched in one of my blog saves. In fact, not since my FM14 save with Rangers has a striker been this bad (Ben Craig for the four people that may slightly remember that). To be fair to Nikos, he’s hit the woodwork a fair bit and his overall play hasn’t been too bad but his goal return and penchant for missing easy chances has cost us plenty of points.
The eagle eyed among you will spot that this threadbare squad is bottom of the Under 20 league. Partly because we have very few players but mostly because they’re facing all the Serie A sides meaning that all of the expensive foreign wonderkids they never use are, for the most part, running through them with ease. Special mention to Alessandro Tuia who has played about two minutes of first team football this season but hasn’t complained at all.
A slightly better performance from our youngsters, only being third bottom as opposed to stone dead last. There’s a couple of interesting prospects in there but, rather infuriatingly, we have had a lot of young wingers. Special mentions go to striker Daniele Gaggioli who’s got a reasonable goal return and Ruben Fusco in goal with the average highest rating in the team.
A regular occurrence throughout this save has been the consistent linking of my name to other jobs in Italy and England. Usually these jobs are a major step down (e.g. Serie B or League One jobs) but more and more of these links are coming from bigger sides in the top tier. I’ve been linked with the job at Stoke this season while Genoa offered me an interview after I managed to get their manager sacked by beating him.
Naturally, I turned the offer down however I am open to entertaining the idea of switching clubs during this save if that is something anyone reading would like to see me do.
Anyway, I think that’s about everything for this update. Things are looking relatively OK right now especially since I was sure we’d be miles off the pace at the bottom of the league this year. Here’s hoping we can stay up. Do you think we can? Let me know your thoughts on our chances or even how to get the best out of Vergos (please!) in the comments or over on Twitter.