seasonTen.episodeTwo | Andata
Welcome to the next instalment of my journey with Parma Calcio. As always, you can get in touch with me in the comments below, via twitter @fmfutbolmanager, or my slack channel #fmFutbolManager — if you’re not a part of the Football Manager Slack community, then you can join here!
If you’re new to the series, day one starts here!
Now, onto the update.
This team, despite their apparent defensive vulnerabilities, continue to amaze me. I think we skipped the part where we just got a bit better than everyone else and went straight to dominating the league.
However, Juventus seem to have found their rhythm this season under new manager Unai Emery. His 4-2-3-1 suiting the players and they look a lot better, having persisted with a 4-4-2 for the last couple of seasons.
The season started with a 2-0 win over Juventus in the Supercoppa Italia Final, the Italian curtain raiser which we’ve become accustomed to winning. It was a fairly even game, but we restricted Juventus to long shots and managed to open them up a couple of times to secure the win.
When the season started proper, wins against Bologna and Pescara with an aggregate 7-0 victory set us up nicely for our first Champions League opening fixture against Real Madrid. The first fixture in a group that also contains Celtic and Shakhtar. Despite having double the chances as us, we managed to come away with a 3-1 win at the Bernabéu.
The season was rolling along nicely and by our third Champions League match, after having beaten Shakhtar 3-0 in our second, we had also notched four league wins out of five, with a 3-1 victory over AC Milan. Going into the match against Celtic our confidence was sky high. Morale was perfect and everyone was enjoying pulling on the Parma jersey.
Celtic got the full force of that excitement as we hammered then 8-1 with Miroslav Andrejic netting six times. We were top of the domestic and European leagues and seemingly invincible, with our only slip being a 1-1 draw against Atalanta in the third game of the season.
In the following match, Lazio reminded us that we are indeed mortals, but a 1-1 draw wasn’t enough to dent confidence as we then went on to beat Napoli and Juventus 3-0 and 3-1 respectively.
The 2-2 draw with Celtic in the reverse fixture and a subsequent 0-0 draw against Udinese got me twitching a little. Juventus were just a point behind us and sometimes we were laboured in our approach. The 4-4-2 was working wonders on the whole, but I needed a new dynamic if plan A wasn’t working.
I created a slight variation to our normal standard/fluid setup. I wanted to create something that would hit teams on the break with faster transitions and more disruption to the opposition shape. The current system plays out from the back and takes things a little slower which is good for 95% of the games, as last season will show, but I need a plan B.
The change sees us adopt a structured shape with more emphasis on pushing higher up, playing with a higher tempo and passing more direct.
The changes work to our advantage and we went on to win the next three games against Empoli, Genoa, and Spal. In between those games, we beat Real Madrid again in a thrilling match which ended 4-3. Again Madrid had the better of the chances, but their propensity to push forwards and try to attack us left so much space at the back that we were able to launch balls over the top all day long.
It was around this point that no fewer than five of my players came to be within the space of a week to tell me that they all wanted to leave to play for a bigger club. I’ve agreed, as per our philosophy, that they can all leave, should their asking prices be matched.
The final Champions League match was a 5-0 hammering of Shakhtar. It gives us great belief that we might make it to another final this season. We have the players and the system to surprise Europe’s elite. We can only dream.
Topping the table earned us a first-round tie against Atletico Madrid. It’ll be a difficult match, but one I’m relishing!
The final five matches of the half were all victories, which included wins against Inter Milan and Roma. Despite the domination in the league, we still are only 1 point ahead of Juventus, who are hot on our tails. This one is going to go down to the wire!
The league table after 19 games.
I cannot wait to get the second half of the season underway!
THE PLAYER STATS
The current stats for the first half of the season and it is easy to see why so many of my players are wanted.
The first point of note is that all three of my strikers have scored over a goal a game. An absolutely phenomenal return from them all. Rotating the three has given them all about the same time on the field and the partnerships they’ve formed are tearing defences apart.
The strikers also top the assist charts as they set up their striker partners more than any other player does.
Defensively we’ve been solid, too, keeping 15 clean sheets in 26 matches so far. I need to keep hold of this team through the January transfer window, despite a few players wanting to leave. If Juventus were not so bloody good I’d say we already have a hand on the trophy, but it’ll be a difficult push to hold onto the title and keep our Champions League run going!
Until next time, arrivederci.