We return to Italy and Serie B with Salernitana in the midst of a bit of an overhaul of an under-performing squad. However, old difficulties are arising even at the halfway point of the season…
So, when does this become tiresome?
Let’s be honest here, I’m into the sixth season of this save and we’ve spent five of those seasons in Serie B. I’m the first to admit I suck at this game but even this is a new low for me. I managed to get Osasuna into Europe for Christ’s sake despite nearly getting relegated twice.
So, after dragging myself through season five’s dull and infuriating series of events, I decided that many of the regular names and faces you’d gotten used to were of no use to use anymore and that we needed new, fresh players in the side.
So, here’s how we ended up right back where we were before…
We’ll start with the outs first because there are quite a few. The major news is that two of our regular starters have finally left after four/four and a half seasons on loan with us. Nicola Dalmonte and Shaqir Tafa have been mainstays for the longest time but eventually this day had to come and, despite my attempts to sign them permanently, they have indeed left. Dalmonte would leave Lazio permanently for Empoli in Serie A while Tafa would head to Turkey on loan with Bursaspor. Another loanee leaving was Alexandre Pato who left with less goodwill having been one of the worst players to have ever played for me on Football Manager ever.
The first regular owned by us out the door was none other than Alberto Barison to ESTAC Troyes in France for a fee that could rise to £250,000. A great player initially for us, he was obviously changed by his horrifying Serie A experience and never truly recovered. He became such a liability that he played just seven times for us in his final season but, despite that, I’ll still remember his contributions to the club fondly.
The releases this season also saw a number of notable first teamers leave including David Silva (another pointless signing as it turned out), Luigi Vitale and Pietro Terracciano. Leon Kern also left, his disastrous spell after arriving as a panic buy in March ranking him alongside Menno Koch and Israel Puerto as one of my worst ever signings. Young midfielder Luigi Bevevino left as well, two and a half years after I took a punt on him when he was transfer listed by AlbinoLeffe in the league below. One appearance about sums that up.
The next first teamer to depart was the disappointing Nikos Vergos to Sheffield United for an initial £750,000 that could rise to £1 million. Our big signing in Serie A and the man to solve our goal issues struggled to make any impression in Italy and, while he did manage six goals last season, his return of 7 goals in 66 appearances is absolutely shambolic. We’d have been better off with Joao Silva.
He was joined through the exit door permanently by another horrendous striker, King Udoh. The Nigerian joined Serie B champions Catanzaro for £160,000 as they embarked on their maiden Serie A campaign (they’re currently winless and have 3 points). One goal last season is simply not good enough especially when it just hit him in the face and went in and he was just getting a wage by this point.
Another youngster I signed as a punt early on has also gone. Nicola Casini cost us £16,000 back in the first transfer window of this save and while he did play 22 games for us, his development by the age of 23 and performances meant he was never going to make it any further with us. We recouped £4,500 from German Third Division side SW Rehden and moved along.
There were also our usual smattering of loan departures. Notable names included Fabio Monti on loan to Ternana in Serie C, Riccardo Franchini on his fourth loan spell away from the club and Mattia De Chirico heading out to join Barison in Troyes for the season.
Our final departure was a major one and a huge blow. Our captain Max Busellato came to me at the end of the season and told me he wanted to move on after five seasons at the club. This was massive as he and Moses Odjer were the real linchpins of our midfield and with Moses now gone, I didn’t want to lose Max. However, I couldn’t stand in his way and I managed to get an initial £2.8 million from Chievo that could easily rise to £3 million. Goodbye Max and all the best.
First in through the door was young goalkeeper Giancarlo Deriu from Arezzo for an initial £40,000. With our coffers overflowing with cash, I can afford to take a little punt ever now and then and Deriu seemed worth the punt. If he does come good, it’ll only cost us an extra £100,000.
He was joined by another keeper in the form of Thomas Romboli who made his loan from Lazio permanent for just £60,000. With Terracciano leaving I needed a new backup and Romboli will do the job at that price.
We also signed a replacement for Luigi Vitale in the form of Latvian Aivars Krizanovskis from AEK Athens. For £1 million rising to £1.6 million, he could be the long-term future at full back for us. He’s physically good, mentally solid for his age and fairly decent technically. Looks set to be a top player.
I then needed new strikers. With only Stefano Pettinari on the books I needed better options. However, I was loathed to spend millions on strikers because I don’t trust them on this game. Therefore, I went on a loan hunt with the view to maybe snapping them up if they were good. It came down to a choice between two strikers – Riccardo Cappa of Roma and Simone Francheschi of Bologna – and in the end I plumped for both of them.
The departures of Barison and Tafa had also left a gap at the back that needed filled. The answer to that gap was found in Inter’s reserves where a young Belgian I’d been tracking for a while was rotting away. Zinho Vanheusden cost just £375,000, an absolute steal for a 22 year old defender with room to develop.
The looming departure of Busellato also meant that I needed a replacement in there. I may have panic bought a little though. Tommaso Arrigoni (£450,000 from Bari) is a decent midfielder that’ll float around the squad while Simone Emmanuello (£1.5 million from Modena) is a good defensive option in the middle of the park but a little bit pricey for what we’re getting.
My final signing of a busy window was a late purchase for squad depth. I noticed we were short a right winger and, while Oikonomidis and Pettinari can play there, I wanted a specialist. The cheapest and best option I could find was German winger Noah-Joel Sarenren-Bazee from Nurnberg’s reserves for £135,000.
Here’s a look at the overview of our business this summer.
As always in Italy, we open up with the Italian Cup qualifying rounds. Last season, we were embarrassed by a Serie C side in the Second Qualifying Round so would there be a repeat this time?
Not a chance. We cruised through this game against Pisa with a display of attacking football that was superb as well as solid. Cappa was given the nod up front and got a goal while Oikonmidis started to look like he could be a good player.
That victory set up an away tie against Serie A’s Empoli which was going to be tough. No Nicola Dalmonte for them though as that deal was secured late on in the window.
Easy. Empoli never had a sniff as Lorenzo Castellani and Cappa tore them apart. Our front three were looking absolutely lethal and that promised great things for us. The only downside was a knock to Gustav Olsson but it was nothing major.
It also meant that we had made it into November in the cup for maybe just the third time in our six seasons in Italy. We were given another tough test in Pescara so would we embark on another cup run like Season 2?
No. Lucas Boye eventually breaking us down after Pettinari scored one of the more bizarre tap-ins I’ve seen on FM where the keeper and defender just run into each other and Stefano slotted home. Still, it was a relatively decent run in the cup this season and about what we usually do.
Remember last season when we had trouble scoring goals? Yeah, that’s not an issue so far this season…
That being said, we’ve not quite been as defensively sound at times…
So, we’re not perfect then and that kind of hit and miss form has left us in fifth with a bit of a gap to the rather rampant front two.
Those 45 goals make us the best scoring side in the league but those 31 conceded are a little bit annoying. Seven defeats are infuriating too as we were outplayed in every single one of them. Then again, when we pull off results like this then we might have some success this season…
On the whole, form is actually quite good. The players under a 7 mostly have reasons for being so – Balasa has been dislodged by Cesellato’s form; Franceschi has been denied by Cappa’s blistering form; Capasso is young and low down on the pecking order and Pettiari is, well, Pettinari.
Highlights are definitely the form of new signing Krizanovskis, who has done a great job in place of a rather injury-prone Vinicius; Rustichelli with his ten assists and the emergence of right back Marco Cesellato ahead of Balasa. He’s established himself as the first choice with his performances and he’s performing way above what he should be with his attributes.
Some positive news from the loanees. Players I see having futures at the club – Michele Vitale (Pro Patria), Fabio Monti (Ternana) and Mattia De Chirico (Troyes) – are doing OK and playing regularly for their clubs. Monti has the lowest average rating but he’s playing and that’s the important thing for me at this point. De Chirico has a good goal record while Vitale has been solid once more in Serie C.
My big plan is to try and get an experienced head at the back. My thinking is that an old head will help guide our (admittedly) very young squad to better things and more consistency. I did try and sign former Milan man Salvatore Bocchetti in the summer but he chose the Ekstraklasa over Serie B. I’ve not yet looked as to who is available but I’m sure I’ll find someone.
I’d also like to know if you’ve enjoyed this series as much as my previous ones. It’s been way less successful than Osasuna and Rangers in the past but I’m curious to know if you’ve found it as entertaining or engaging. Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter (@LongBallFoot).