seasonTwo.episodeOne | Preseason
We were promoted against all odds. We have no money. We are surviving on loans. It’s not a good foundation to build on. But this is the situation we are in. I am under no illusions that anything other than relegation is an unrealistic expectation. We are favourites to drop right back down.
I have been pretty calm during the preseason. My first real panic came when I saw the odds for top scorers. It reminded me of what we would be up against. Icardi, Immobile, Higuain, Bacca, Dybala et al.
With this in mind, I went about creating a new system. Based on our existing philosophy, but more geared towards defensive solidity.
Defensively, the system, in its current guise, has three main layers of function. The front three are there to block the forward passing lanes and progression of the ball. The two wide attacking midfielders are tasked with picking up the main attacking threats on their respective wings. Chasing down those wingers in an attempt to get the ball back before it is crossed into the box.
The midfield three act like a back three, we have the wide defensive midfielders closing down and tackling hard to win the ball back from anyone in front of them, with the central guy sweeping up behind them. He will likely play as either a halfback or an Anchor Man.
I am still undecided on how we will set up the defence. Preseason has been against much lower level opposition. Right now, after discussions with Deep Sleeping Playmaker on twitter, I’ve changed my central defender approach. I’ve set them to close down more, tackle harder and mark tighter. The thinking is to suffocate anyone who has the ball in and around the area. However, I fear against more intelligent players this approach might be suicide (hence its name). So, we have two systems: one where the central defenders are more aggressive in their approach, and one where they close down less.
With this in mind, the team instructions change ever so slightly from last season. Our passing will be less direct, and defensively we will be a little deeper to cater for the quicker players we are likely to face.
As always, the real acid test will come when the season starts proper. We will likely then set a key set of instructions to see us through the season.
NEW PLAYER ACQUISITIONS
We lost 5 players over the summer, as they returned to their clubs from a season on loan with us. With this in mind, we had to make some player purchases. Three defenders and a defensive midfielder.
It wasn’t the best transfer window for us. My Director of Football was given a comprehensive list of reinforcements I needed but unfortunately couldn’t pull off many of the deals. However, I’m pleased with what we have got, and it should be enough for us to put on a fight.
Riccardo was on loan with us last season, achieving a 7.04 average. He possesses all the key attributes required of a Central Defender. A prearranged transfer saw him arrive for €1.7m and he will play on the left of the defence. He also makes a reasonable backup to play as a Wingback if required.
Carlos arrived for just €925k from Real Oviedo. Our scouts rate him as a decent Serie A player, and with his high work rate and teamwork, I expect him to put in a shift for us when needed.
Gregory Van Der Wiel
Gregory represented a large chunk of the transfer budget, but he will be key on the right side of defence for us. His experience will be invaluable, too. At €1.9m it was probably more than I would have liked us to pay, but I’m hoping with his natural fitness we should get a few years out of him.
The final signing is Richard Lasik. Signing on a free, I hope Richard will be key for us in the middle of the park. Switching to three defensive midfielders I needed at least one reinforcement and I’m pleased we managed to fight off the competition.
Preseason was something of a formality for us, Mallorca and Empoli the two games giving us a real workout. We have managed to come through relatively unscathed and fitness levels are good going into the start of the season.
We welcome Lazio to Ennio Tardini on Sunday in our first test. It will be a good match and should give us an idea of how the season is likely to play out. I just hope we are not battered.
Until next time, arrivederci.