seasonThree.episodeTwo | Andata
What an odd season. In some games, we’ve been unplayable, in others I’ve wondered whether we should be in Serie C…
I think it’s safe to say the players didn’t take in the new system following a blistering preseason. After the first three games, it could have been zero wins if it wasn’t for two very late goals; call it karma paying us back for all the late goals we conceded last season. Another draw followed having been 3-0 to the good at halftime.
We scraped just one win in the opening eight games. Something needed to change. I dropped one of the central midfielders into the defensive midfield strata to try to give us a bit of defensive stability but also offering support in attacks.
We went from conceding 16 in the opening 8 games, to 8 in the next 7. Improvement. But it wasn’t to last. We had a dreadful run of fixtures against the top sides, which killed morale and put us back down at the lower end of the table.
No one gave us a chance in either of these games, so it isn’t the end of the world, however, four straight losses weren’t ideal considering our position. Defensively, we were just too lacklustre in getting back and protecting the central defenders. The opposition kept breaking the lines far too easily. Not only through the middle, but out wide, too.
From the above, you can see that my central midfielder and defensive midfielder create quite a gap between them. While this asymmetric midfield creates space and natural passing lanes going forwards, it causes defensive instability.
The lack of cover defensively forces the wingback forward to cover the space which opens up a gap and we’re easily exploited.
I decided to drop the other central midfielder back, which is something we tried last season. I wanted that two-man shield in front of the defence to stop the back four being pulled out of shape.
You can see now that my two defensive midfielders are sitting in front of a solid back four. I dropped my wingbacks to a Defend duty and asked my wide attacking midfielders to man mark the opposition wingers. Defensively, we’re better equipped to deal with some of the threats that were costing us goals early on in the season.
It improved results, but not necessarily the goal leaks.
The match against Chievo was promising so we will see if we can maintain this form going into the second half of the season.
THE PLAYER STATS
Pietro Iemmello has been the standout performer so far, with 14 goals in 16 games. An absolute bargain at €875k from Sassuolo.
Angel Gomes has played his part from the central attacking midfield position, creating a chance a game and making 2 key passes per game.
Defensively, we have been woeful which is a similar theme to last season. Nothing to shout home about here and I only expect our defensive issues to continue into the second half of the season and probably next season. I need better options, but we just cannot compete financially yet.
Financially, the club continues to prosper. The money in Italy is poor compared to other leagues across Europe, but we have just completed the upgrade of our youth facilities for a €2m outlay.
The aim is always to maintain fiscal prudence, build the academy in order that we no longer need to rely on transfers as a way to improve the squad, and survival without going into debt.
The second half of the season will be tough. If we can avenge the first half results, keep some form of stability in defence and continue to create chances in attack it’ll be another season of survival and consolidation.
At some point, we will need to progress further than we are. League survival is good, and when we’re established we will need better foundations to start challenging for top half finishes.
Until next time, arrivederci.