seasonSix.episodeTwo | Andata
The new season started with new kits and a new sponsor. Fresh and ready for Champions League football.
The Champions League, however, has taken its toll. The squad are exhausted. We’ve lost key players to long-term injury. We’ve dropped valuable points chasing the pot of gold at the end of the Champions League rainbow.
But boy, has it been worth it!
We were giving a nice start to the season, our Champions League group consisted of Real Madrid and Liverpool and we had the two Milan clubs up first after a trip to Cino e Lolli Duca to face Ascoli in the opening round of fixtures.
To come away from matches against AC Milan, Inter Milan and Real Madrid without a loss is nothing short of remarkable. We opened the season with a convincing victory over Ascoli, where wingers Mboula and homegrown Messina scored before Iemmello picked up where Nketiah left off. Milan were lucky to peg us back after an early goal but the real fireworks were to be found at Santiago Bernabéu where, despite being reduced to 10-men on 50 minutes, we managed to pull back from 4-2 down to draw 4-4 with an 86th-minute equaliser.
Our wingers continued to show their importance to this system, where during the attacking phase they tuck in to form a front three, overloading the opposition and causing havoc. Messina, Antuna and Mboula scoring before we, unfortunately, went two-match losing streak. I had to rest players at Genoa due to the upcoming Liverpool match. It mattered little in the end.
We rectified our impotence in front of goal with a convincing 4-0 win against Sassuolo and a comfortable 2-0 win over Fiorentina, however, yet again, before a Champions League match, we threw away points. All the more frustrating due to the manner in which we lost the Liverpool match.
The players were shot. And it shows as we struggled to a 2-2 draw against lowly Salernitana. Things were not going our way, and our lack of depth was beginning to show.
Tactically we were doing everything right. We were controlling games and creating chances, we just didn’t have the legs to see out games, with another two draws in the next 5 matches. However, we achieved a phenomenal 3-1 win against Real Madrid that meant we could qualify from the group stage by upstaging group whipping boys RB Salzburg in our final game. It was in our hands.
RB Salzburg had not won a game and had a -11 goal difference. And you could see why as we completely took them apart to secure a quite remarkable qualification from the group. I was just happy for the few million we’d earned from the group stages, but this was something else.
Iemmello with another hattrick, his second of the season. With our only other recognised striker out with a long long-term, his form came at a welcome time in the season.
We quite comfortably qualify for the next round.
Our rewards, a 1st knockout round tie against Borussia Dortmund.
After the heroics of the Champions League, we struggled to register a single goal against Roma or Lazio. Granted, these are two great teams. I decided to keep everything the same tactically but shifted Iemmello into a Poacher role. I wanted him to become more of a focal point within the side and try to shift the attacking patterns of play slightly so that we would have a guaranteed outlet in the box. Komes and Escandar, my two enigmatic Attacking Midfielders were excellent at getting into the box from deep, but moving Iemmello there should give us a better guarantee of someone being on the end of crosses.
As a result completed 23% of crosses against Atalanta, with Iemmello getting another hattrick and having 5 chances in front of goal. Compared with Lazio and Roma where we completed 9% and 6% respectively.
At this point of the season a year ago, we were second with 42 points and a plus 21 goal difference. 36 points and a plus 17 goal difference places us in 4th place, just outside the Champions League positions. I was under no illusions that it was going to be a tougher season, and I’m prepared to miss out on Champions League qualification.
THE PLAYER STATS
Simone Scuffet in goal has made a remarkable difference to our back line. His confidence and shot-stopping ability has seen him keep 11 clean sheets in 26 games.
Maksimovic is the stand out defender with over 100 interceptions at the back for us, averaging 5.14 per game. The only player to better him is young Paul van Wegen who has made just three starts this term.
Our creativity very much came from the middle of the pitch, with Komes and Escandar making 3.09 and 2.36 key passes per game, higher than any other player.
But for me, the stand out player of the season so far is 30-year-old Iemmello. The Advanced Forward turned Poacher has 14 goals and 6 assists in 21 starts.
One of my proudest achievements at Parma is being able to compete on the pitch and excel off it in terms of how we run the club. The academy is improving every season and financially, we’re self-sufficient and funcing our growth without loss.
I will be looking to try to strengthen on the left wing, outgoing Gaudio isn’t up to the Winger role, and is 34 this year. If I can bring in another quick Winger on loan I will do, to help out Messina, who himself has been excellent with 7 goals and 5 assists in his 19 starts.
The aim is to keep in the European positions, try to make a bit of money from the Champions League and if we can finish top 5 I will be happy.
Until next time, arrivederci.