seasonSeven.episodeTwo | Andata
The Champions League money was put to good use. We’ve signed a few youngsters who will go into the youth system until they’re ready to be drafted into the first team. We signed a couple of good players to come in and offer more options. Especially in defence.
Let’s get this season started!
The opening game of the season was the Supercoppa Final, this year against Inter Milan. We lost last season against Juventus, but we managed to kill-off Inter Milan this year. The league started with a bang, with a 6-2 victory over freshly promoted Foggia, however, we came crashing back down to earth with a bang, losing to a long-ball over the top by the Fiorentina keeper. A sickening way to lose.
Before the Juventus game, we lost our only left back. We also lost that game, with Juventus having 3 shots, 0 clear cut chances, and 0 half-chances. The lads are already starting to grumble and the dressing room atmosphere has turned sour. But a change in starting 11 changed our fortunes, and things were soon back on track with a 3-0 win over RB Salzburg.
The victory over Salzburg spurred us on for the next few games, scoring goals from all angles. Andrejic was fitting right in, but more importantly, my wingers were also contributing to the goal tally.
We demolished Napoli and Spal before a comfortable win over Genoa. A tricky Champions League tie against Barcelona was satisfyingly drawn after a goal with the final kick of the game before we then held Lazio for another vital point in the league. Things were getting back on track.
We were conceding from everywhere. I wanted to tighten things up, so dropped my wingers back to create a 4-4-1-1 system, however, I gave them an attack duty, so they should get up as much as before, but be more defensively solid. It sort of worked, at the expense of our cutting edge in front of goal.
We hit a barren spell, winning three games on the bounce by a solitary goal without reply. I’ll take it, though. The win over CSKA Moscow almost guaranteeing that we will be qualifying from the group. Another league loss against Udinese saw us dip out of the top 3 positions in the league. Matters made worse by an injury to Andrejic. His goals would be missed. We thought.
We stayed hot on the tails of the pack with a nice win over newly promoted Brescia with all goals coming from the midfield. Iemmello is missing too many chances for me right now.
Iemmello continued to miss his chances, but fortunately, the rest of the team picked up the slack. It’s a bit of a worry considering the injury to Andrejic and rush of games heading our way. When Andrejic did return, he made an instant impact with goals in his next two games, the first of which confirmed our qualification from the Champions League group.
Champions League Group C
But the injuries didn’t let up. Andrejic got injured again, as did right-wingers Uriel Atuna and Mboula, plus attacking midfielder Escandar. Key players all over the pitch breaking down during matches. Something wasn’t right.
After the loss to Barcelona and the fortuitous win over Milan, I decided to drop the training intensity to low. I couldn’t afford any more injuries. It didn’t help. Ahead of the next match against Ascoli Dossena pulled out of training with strained ligaments. Someone is against us this season. We sailed through the cup match against Torino and then battered Roma. The 4-4-1-1 was beginning to take shape (no pun).
We rounded off the first half of the season with our scoring boots strapped on for once, demolishing Atalanta, Bologna and Verona.
It was an excellent end to the first half of the season, and despite the goals starting to leak again, we’re looking a much more solid and attacking unit.
I’ll be totally honest, I’ve not looked at the league table much this season, and I was surprised to see us leading the pack at this stage. There’s still a lot of football to be played and with the injuries piling up, it’ll be tough to maintain this.
THE PLAYER STATS
At this point in the season, I like to see how the team is shaping up going into the second half. Defensively, it is the two youngsters Wegen and Minozzi who are pulling the strings at the back with 5.02 and 3.82 interceptions p/90 in the games they have played. Minozzi also tops the percentage of tackles won at 91%.
Creatively, Messina and Komes are up there with 1.3 chances per game being created, and Escandar showing why Real Madrid want him, with 2.43 key passes per game on average.
Goals win you games, and Andrejic showing just how important he is to us, with 1.27 goals per game for us this season. The second highest is Jordi Mboula, our right winger. Iemmello is really concerning. He’s missing some real simple chances. We’ve made a decision, at 31-years-old, not to renew his contract.
An example of one of the many chances missed this season.
Nothing to see here. The boost in revenue due to Champions League football will be enough to secure our future if we can continue to qualify each year. I’ve spent a lot on upgrading the facilities and will be looking to ensure the club reinvest in the facilities.
The wages are getting higher each year, which is a byproduct of our European success so it is to be expected. However, if we can keep promoting from within, and selling players when they get too big for us, we should be able to bring these costs under control.
We have a tough second half of the season ahead. Champions League qualification is still the objective here. Komes and Escandar are both wanted by Real Madrid. If I lose them both I will probably shift from the 4-4-1-1 to a 4-4-2 system as we won’t have anyone left in that key position.
Until next time, arrivederci.