04|03 RITORNO: EUROPEAN FOOTBALL FOR PARMA?

seasonFour.episodeThree | Ritorno

It was a busy January for us. We needed bodies if we were to make a late push for a European place. We placed an objective to better our 9th place finish last season so I needed something extra. I made a tactical adjustment and some new signings to fit it.

Tactical Adjustments

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Firstly, I pushed up our wide defenders. We were too conservative, and while this was adding support down the flanks it was isolating my wide players in attacking transitions. I changed my midfield two to play as central midfielders. Nothing fancy here, win the ball and get it forwards. The wide men are my prime creators and key men in the system; their job is to score and to create. Centrally, my attacking midfielder is charged with supporting the striker in the box.

We up our mentality from defensive to standard and move to a more fluid shape. We want goals and we want attacking football. We will drop deeper and play narrower to keep some defensive solidity, but we will look to get the ball into the box quickly with fast attackers crossing early for the two central attacking players.

New Player Acquisitions

To fit this new style, I needed some players to come in and help out in the attacking phases.

We signed two attacking midfielders on a free, Dalibor Komes from FFA COE and Khama Billat.

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To offer some much needed creative quality on the flanks, Hernâni came in on loan from Mainz. He will be our main creative outlet on the left. He is unhappy at Mainz so I will look to bring him in permanently at the end of the season if he settles.

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Finally, one for the future but backup to Maffeo is young Marques. We’ve been tracking him for a year now, and finally made the signing. We beat off competition from Chelsea with an extortionate wage offer, but I couldn’t risk losing someone who will be key for the future.

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Oh, but to then throw a spanner in the works, we lost our only central defender rated good enough for Serie B. Inter Milan meeting Nedelcearu’s release clause. We didn’t have enough time to replace him, so defensively, we’re a bit screwed.

The League Results

We had a bit of work to do if we were to push for a European place.

Things started well. But our inability to close off games and nick the odd goal when it mattered was still looming over us. We scored 7 goals in the next four games, 5 points from 3 was not a bad run and we managed to book into the quarter-final of the Coppa Italia.

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We then had a tough run and some tough luck. Napoli should have been buried. We were 1-0 and cruising with 60% of the ball. We were awarded a penalty but Siligardi, who is normally so cool under pressure missed. Napoli hit us with 2 goals in the last 15 minutes to knock us out. It was a deflating defeat.

We would go on to win just 1 game in the next 4. We were dropping points and league position fast. But the team were playing well, we were creating chances and we were dominating proceedings. Our defensive frailties were letting us down. I could see the summer priorities would have to be in defence.

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Hernâni began to settle and became the key player I had hoped for. Billat and Komes were also playing well with Iemmello spearheading our attacks. The points were adding up and we were flirting with European places. Just a couple of points outside as the others began to drop points.

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Then, in typical Parma fashion, we showed the best and worst of us in the next three games. We hammered Juventus, and by hammered I mean we had 4 clear cut chances to their 0 (they had 19 long shots!) Frustratingly we then drew against relegation-battling Salernitana before hammering Spal. If I needed a screenshot to sum up our season it would be this.

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However, we had put ourselves in a great position. With just three games remaining (including a crucial match against Roma), we were 3 points off Europe (I call it three because of goal difference). The dream was alive.

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And then crushed. Where had the team gone who had so comprehensively dismantled Spal and Juventus? We threw away 3 points against Genoa. However, as is synonymous with our season we turned it on against Roma to give ourselves the slimmest of chances.

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Our final league game was away to Sassuolo. Atalanta host Torino. Roma host Fiorentina and Inter host Chievo. Obviously, we had the tough task of needing to win, and everyone else losing against opposition they should so clearly beat.

It wasn’t to be.

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Then something magical happened.

I’d completely lost track that Inter had won the Coppa Italia, earning themselves a place in the Europa League, thus, pushing down entry one place in the league! We had done it. Roma’s 5-7 home defeat to Fiorentina while we won away to Sassuolo meant we had literally crept in at the back door.

Parma will be playing European football next year. Albeit at the Second Qualifying Round.

Final league table

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Juventus walked the league in the end. Lazio putting on a good defence but it wasn’t enough. Some big teams will be leaving this season, too.

We set a target of 15 wins, 60 goals scored and no more than 50 goals conceded. We won 16, scored 65 and conceded 50. So not a bad call at the beginning on the season and something to build on.

PLAYER STATS

It was another fantastic season for Iemmello. 24 goals scored, 0.81 per game which is an improvement over last season. His understudy Alagna performed well when called upon, with better goals per 90 record than Iemmello managed last season. He has the potential to be a great player for us.

Billiat, Hernâni, and Komes chipped in with 17 assists between them since arriving in January. Komes really has exceeded all expectations with his performances. Hernâni has also been instrumental from the left.

Defensively, we need to improve. Our central defensive pairing are rated as ‘good players for most Serie B sides.’ Losing Nedelcearu to Inter was a big blow and we’ll have to find suitable replacements in the summer.

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The key for next season will be to strengthen the defence and try secure Hernâni on a permanent deal. We will use more youth to cover the extra games we might have with the Europa league. We could also do with more options in the middle of the park.

AWARDS

Well, this is the first time that I’ve had to do this. But we won some awards this year that I’m proud of and wanted to share.

Personal Awards

  • Oliver Jensen named Serie A Manager of the Year
  • Oliver Jensen named Managers’ manager of the Year

Team Awards

  • Parma named Serie A Best Club of the Year

FINANCIAL RESULTS

Cash in the bank is up again this year. We have another round of youth facility upgrades ongoing, too. We’ve controlled the transfer and wage budgets, relying on youth, loans and free transfers.

I’d like to try to keep the expenditure under a little more control, there has been a steady increase in what we spend, but with the youth products coming through in the next couple of years we should have a lower average salary.

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Commercially we’re still improving. European football should help us push our sponsorship deals further.

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PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON

I’ve just received news from Mads, my personal assistant, that Italy has lost two qualifying places for the coming seasons Champions League. That makes next season more important for us if we’re to maintain our European presence. I’m eyeing Sassuolo as the team we need to compete with.

We have to strengthen as well. No doubt about it. We will have more games on top of a hectic league season. I might have to sacrifice the Coppa Italia to keep players fresh for the more important games.

Until next time, arrivederci.

O.Jensen

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