seasonOne.episodeSix | Preseason
Preseason has come and gone rather quickly. With just five friendly matches and two Italian Cup games under our belts, I still feel a little under-prepared. The good news is that tactically, not a lot changed. The bad news is against better teams we struggled.
Fortunately, we come out of preseason unscathed with no major injuries to report. Unfortunately, we have missed out on all our transfer targets to far. Daniele is not top of my Christmas card list this year, that’s for sure. It means I need to do more scouting to find other targets. I still feel short of bodies in defence and attacking midfield.
In terms of the friendlies, we started preseason against three teams we should have beaten quite comfortably, and despite the score reflecting otherwise, the results were never in doubt. In the three opening games, we held on average 65% possession. We managed to hit 19 of our shots on target with our opponents managing just 8 in reply. More importantly, the team were playing as expected.
In terms of our shape on the pitch, when in possession the average positions on the pass map looking good. The structured shape is creating plenty of space between the lines, and the passing options plentiful. When passing out of the back, the goalkeeper is always passing to the central defenders, the full-backs are pushed up alongside the central midfielders, which is what we thought would happen while exploiting the flanks. A really nice shape here with plenty of passing triangles. Perhaps one criticism is the closeness of the striker and attacking midfielder in the central area. The Deep Lying Forward will drop a lot more to involve himself in play so I might look to change this to a more attacking role that stays a bit higher, like an Advanced Forward. This would also aid our pressing from the front, as they will chase down balls when out of possession.
The pass map also nicely highlights the propensity for the Raumdeuter to get advanced (number 8).
As a team, we are completing 600-800 passes a game, which is an extraordinary number. Moreover, it is a number that allows us to control possession. While we have the ball, the opposition cannot score.
The two cup games were somewhat of a formality. The match against Pescara was particularly pleasing in the end, considering we were one goal to the good until the 122nd minute when the referee awarded the home side a dubious penalty. The goal was the last kick of the match before it went to a penalty shootout. We managed to book a 4th Qualifying Round tie against fellow Serie B team Pro Vercelli by winning the shootout.
The final match of preseason saw FK Austria Wien visit Ennio Tardini. And they might have wished they stayed at home as after 7 minutes we were two goals up. Transfer-listed Frediani picking up the man of the match, which asks all the right questions of my decision to transfer list him.
One thing that was evident is my central midfielders are getting pulled out of position as they are both asked to close down more. I might have to look at changing this if it opens us up to exploits against stronger teams.
Overall, tactically, we’re looking stronger as a unit and I’m really pleased with the way we are defending together. We’re building up patiently and showing for the ball which helps with our possession game.
ANDATA TRAINING FOCUS
Now that preseason is over, it’s time to revisit training again. In Italian football, a true round-robin format is used. In the first half of the season, called andata, each team plays once against all its opponents, a total of 21 games. In the second half of the season, called ritorno, each team will play the same teams in exactly the same order. I split my training into two. The first half of the season we concentrate on ball control, to help the squad improve technically throughout the team. The second half is more tactical focussed, to help improve attributes such as work rate, decisions and teamwork. All the while, we concentrate on defensive positioning match training ahead of fixtures.
The players have all been given their individual training focusses now. Pretty self-explanatory really. Most players are training a role that gives a well-rounded development of attributes with the exception of the wide attacking midfielders who will train specifically the role I want them to play.
All the hard work has to pay off now, the season is finally here!
Until next time, arrivederci.