seasonTen.episodeThree | Ritorno
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!
Yet again another season of tremendous highs! Could we have another fairytale ending to our season…
Read more to find out…
The team are performing spectacularly. The new 4-4-2 systems are working better than expected. Our standard system is still continuing to dominate teams, and our direct system is working against those who come at us.
The results continued in the green as we hit a four-match winning run to start the second half of the season, however, we suffered our first defeat in the Coppa Italia (previously known as the Parma Cup) Quarter Final. We raced into an early lead through Piercarlo Cristini and were coasting until the 74th minute when Inter equalised through Belotti.
We took the lead again in extra time through Cristini again on 104 minutes but before we could shut up shop and hold on for the win, Inter equalised again through Maier. We had 37 shots in the match to their 6 and we really should have come away from this with a very comfortable win. Inter beat us on penalties to send us out in disappointing fashion.
Following that defeat, we struggled to overcome a Chievo, coming away with a narrow 2-1 victory, but it was the catalyst for us to get back to our winning ways. We went on to win the next couple of games against Atalanta and Frosinone before our Champions League First Knockout Round match against Atletico Madrid.
Time to roll out the direct 4-4-2. It worked. We came away from Metropolitano de Madrid with a 2-0 victory.
Milan, Lazio, and then Napoli crumbled before us as we came away with another three wins. However, Juventus were still hot on our tails and showed no sign of letting up!
By the time Atletico Madrid came to Ennio Tardini, we were just four points ahead of Juve, so I needed to play a slightly weakened team, given that we had Juventus in the next match. They didn’t disappoint. We won 5-2 in a match that was a perfect example of our direct 4-4-2. Long balls over the top and five excellent goals see us get through with a 7-2 aggregate score. Our reward is a quarter-final tie with Arsenal, with both Manchester clubs still in it, along with Chelsea, Barcelona, Benfica and Dortmund.
Juventus next, and we are only just ahead of them, with our undefeated record still intact. under Unai Emery, Juventus play an attacking 4-2-3-1 system where they man mark and press heavily. Perfect for our direct system.
We wasted little time in taking the lead, Mario Bazan with his 24th goal of the season. Cristini and Bazan finished with a brace, each, but there was a late scare when Juventus scored two goals in two minutes to bring it back to 4-2 with 10 to play. We held on to finish the match and give us a 7 point lead at the top.
After beating Udinese and Empoli it was Arsenal in the Champions league at Ennio Tardini. I had hoped for a better game from them, but when we left the field at 4-0 I had already cast an eye to the semi-finals.
Before the second leg, we came away from Luigi Ferraris with a 4-1 over Genoa. I played a much-weakened team in the second leg against Arsenal, since Juventus were not letting up in the pursuit of the league, and we came away 2-0 down to ease through 4-2 on aggregate.
It really is a two-horse race. The closest team to us is Lazio on 60 points. Juventus have been relentless in their pursuit of us. Ahead of the match against Fiorentina, we received notification that it would be Manchester City in the semi-final of the Champions League. A very tough match for us.
Was fought on through Fiorentina and Spal, taking advantage of the game in hand and extending the lead at the top to seven points. Surely we have enough to finish the season as champions.
Inter Milan. Manchester City. Roma. Manchester City. Our next four games.
Against Inter Milan we had Vicente to thank for the win. Our goal was absolutely peppered, but Vicente kept everything out. Fortunately, we were clinical up top and managed to walk away with a 3-0 victory to bring our total points this season to 99, which if you’ll remember from last season is just five off our total then. I also remember saying will never be topped. We have nine points to play for.
With Manchester United beating Benfica 3-2 at home it was time for our trip to the City of Manchester Stadium for our semi-final first leg. Man City are managed by Ancelotti, so I know it’ll be a tough game. He plays a 4-2-3-1 with no man marking so we’ll go with a more direct-based 4-4-2 to try and work around their players more.
City get an early goal, that wasn’t in the game plan. But I have confidence in the players and within 25 minutes we’re 3-1 up thanks to some quick passing and killer through balls by the midfield. At halftime, I plead with the guys to not get complacent. We’re 3-2 on the hour.
We miss more chances to take a bigger lead back to Ennio Tardio. Normally so composed, Advanced Forward Cristini misses a couple of sitters. It finishes 3-2 and I cannot shake the flashbacks of Real Madrid. We’re going to have to be at our best if we’re going to progress.
Stick or twist. I have a lot of thinking to do ahead of the second leg.
Roma are 12th currently. They’ve lost their way over the past couple of seasons. But they give us a tough match which we were fortunate to come away with unscathed. Three points, a 1-0 victory and no injuries to speak of. The win also secures the league title. Our third and one which solidifies our position as one of the teams to look out for!
Moreover, it’s a league win that prompts Adrian Biasoli to drop his concerns about playing for a bigger team. Which also allows us to begin contract negotiations with him. I get Lourenço on the case right away.
Attentions turn to the Champions League. I lower the training intensity for the week ahead to try to give the players a little more juice going into the City match. We have to come through this one.
Three minutes in and City are given a penalty which Dybala puts into the top corner. For the second match in a row against them, we concede early.
On 21 minutes we hit City with an awesome counter-attack. From their corner, we clear it, smash it forwards for Cristini to round the keeper and put us back on level terms for the match.
On 40 minutes it’s 2-1 to Parma. Our full-back wins back possession from Dybala on the wing who plays a long ball into Cristini for the Advanced Forward to get his second of the game.
2-1 at half-time, 5-3 on aggregate. I assertively tell the lads not to get complacent. Cristini isn’t happy and sits there confused and demotivated. I give him a little cuddle and explain to him that there’s no option for me to exclude him from the overall team talk and that I’m actually very pleased with his performance. He listens keenly.
Finally, I passionately tell the lads, one-by-one that there’s a lot more to come from them and that I believe they have what it takes. They all gain focus. Except for Cristini who now seems confused again.
On 62 minutes we get a penalty. Andrejic had scored 4 in a row, and then after missing one, proceeded to miss the next three. I bellow from the sidelines for him to let Cristini take it, but I don’t click the button in time. He misses his fifth in a row.
Six minutes later and we have another penalty. This time Andrejic gets the instruction to leave it for Cristini, who is looking confident.
He hits the crossbar.
It doesn’t matter though. Four minutes later Andrejic makes up for his missed penalty by smashing in a goal from outside the area from a corner. Surely it must be game, set, and match.
It’s enough to secure the win. We’re in the final at Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadyumu! Hoping for Benfica. Expecting to face Manchester United.
The 7-0 mauling of Sassuolo was dampened by the six-week injury to leading scorer Andrejic. Bazan bagged four goals this game, who is his understudy, so he now gets the chance in the Champions League final. One match of the season left, it’s away to Torino and then we have a week to prepare for United.
Torino was a simple 3-0 victory. But we lost another striker. Cristini this time. I’ve asked him to take an injection ahead of the United game to get us through that at least. He will have the summer off to rest afterwards.
With Juventus losing their final game of the season, this league title looks all the more impressive. It’s our third Serie A title win, and bloody hell did we smash it.
Second half results: Click here!
Given the season Juventus have had this is all the more special. Record goals scored and points gained again for the second season running.
We’ve had a lot of awards, and some quite surprising ones.
Mario Bazan set a new Serie A record for average rating in a season with a 7.92 average.
Cătălin Ștefan won the Serie A player of the year at the tender age of 20, having played just 19 games. He did score 10 and assist 5 with an average rating of 7.75, though.
Miroslav Andrejic won the Serie A top goalscorer award. 26 goals in 30 appearances. Mario Bazan came second with 25 goals.
The Serie A team of the year was a little one-sided. That strike force, though. They have 117 goals between them this season.
But now our attentions turn to the Champions League final. And again it’s Manchester United who beat us three seasons ago on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Managed by Antonio Conte they are a different proposition to Jose Mourinho.
He has them playing a 4-4-2 similar to us, but I expect them to sit deeper and counter us. I’ll make sure my full-backs aren’t as adventurous as they usually are. I expect to get some joy down their right, so I’ll be looking to take advantage of them using an Inverted Winger on that side by pushing my full-back up further.
The focus of their attacks seems to come down their right so I’ll look to kill off as many attacks down there as I can. I’ll go with a supporting full-back.
So, to the Champions League final. My 500th game in charge. I would be lying if I said there were no nerves.
We’ll go with a standard/fluid system. No instructions. Keeping it simple. I assertively tell the lads that I expect them to come back with the trophy. I know I’ll see them at half-time, but they know what I mean.
On 12 minutes, we break away following a United attack. Bazan playing a lovely through-ball into the path of Cristini and he slots home his 43rd goal of the season. That injection certainly not holding him back! 1-0 Parma!
It was very nearly 2-0 on 14 minutes. This time Cristini turning provider for Bazan, but his shot bounces agonisingly off the foot of the post.
The half flys by with chance after chance being squandered. We’re restricted United to long shots, all the while we’ve lost our shooting boots. For a team who have scored well over 100 goals this season, we picked the perfect match to forget where the goal is.
It’s half-time and we’re somehow just 1-0 up. Yes, Bazan missed this chance.
At halftime, I told the players what I always tell them when we’re winning. Don’t get complacent. The majority of them look to have gained focus and appear motivated. We’re 45 minutes away from making history.
The first 10 minutes of the second half is all United. They break through after a piss poor piece of defending leaves wonderkid Alexandre Martin one-on-one. We should be three or four goals up by now, but instead, we’re level at 1-1 and already I can feel in the gut of my stomach that this is going to be another game that we’re just not good enough to finish.
I need something to happen. Sergio Domínguez, the United right-back is looking nervous so I tell the lads to exploit the left flank. He suddenly looks very nervous.
It adds nothing to the half and we go into extra time, again, with United. I aggressively tell them that I’m far from pleased with what I have seen. We should be holding the trophy in our hands already. They all look fired up.
Another big chance goes begging on 100 minutes. Konté crosses perfectly for Bazan, who is usually so cool in these situations, but he can do nothing but head it straight at De Gea.
The second half of extra time kicks off with the lads looking shattered. I can’t watch.
Two more big changes go begging and I’m starting to think this just isn’t going to be our night. And moments later, Adrian Biasoli gets sent off. We’re down to 10.
The only hope we’re going to have now is penalties. I bring off the prolific Cristini, who has been crap at penalties recently, for Dalibor Konte and drop to a 4-4-1 and try to shut up the game and waste some time. We have five minutes to get through…
United score from the free-kick. 115 minutes played. I feel sick. I hate United.
Despite my cries from the touchline for them to push forward, there’s nothing left in the tank.
Until the 120th minute! I long searching ball finds Bazan who rounds the keeper…
HE MISSES! He fucking misses!
The game is over. Another Champions League opportunity messed up and it’s now my second lost final. Absolutely distraught. What should have been an awesome end to the season feels full of disappointment.
The perfect league season. The unbeaten season feels like it was all for nothing. Again, another final disappointment. It’s going to be hard to come back from this one.
I don’t even get time to take in the events of the match and José Vicente is already asking to join PSG. You’ve picked the wrong time to test my patience!
Despite the Champions League final loss to Manchester United, it was a season to remember. Countless records were broken. So many that I stopped listing them here.
Our strikers have scored over 100 goals between them. They also have over 50 assists. It’s a key part of the way we play our game. Get the ball up to the strikers and they’ll do the rest.
The 4-4-2 very much remained the key system this season. And it will be going forward as it allows us to play two of our best players all season. I will be looking for a new striker this summer. My scouts have found me a gem, so hopefully, my Director of Football can get that over the line.
We’ve had another fantastic set of financial results. However, the €130m stadium build has taken a huge chunk of change from the budget.
Player wages have increased 43% over last season and now account for 46% of total revenue, which is a 2.2.% increase over last season.
We continue to build the brand and expand our income opportunities and have seen some healthy growth across all revenue streams.
We have seen a huge increase in sponsorship and merchandising. Helped by our youth prospects stepping up this season and showing that they’re ready to take on Europe’s best.
Player sales were healthy with €97m raised and I expect a similar figure next season if I’m honest.
Overall we are in a very healthy position. The stadium was financed with our own income, we have no outstanding debts and revenue from sales and the Champions League continue to help us grow and prosper.
The key will still be to develop from within. Sign young players and turn them into stars and eventually profit from their development.
My Director of Football has signed up some of our players to long-term expensive contracts. In order to keep their value high, we’ve had to pay them what they’re worth. I expect to lose a few high earners so this should drop next season.
Ground maintenance is for the new stadium. We’ve spent less on transfers and agents and I would expect this to fall further unless we have to go to the market to backfill due to player sales.
A €400m outlay is eyewatering for us, but continued spending on the training facilities and a new stadium make it all worthwhile.
Our annual revenue is up everywhere. Helped by another Champions League final and a fantastic league win.
The new stadium will be completed next year, so hopefully, we can have another fruitful finish to next season before we move in.
PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON
As always we have some players making noises that they want to leave so we might have to listen to some offers if we get them. I only have a striker identified as a target for transfers this season, so spending should be under better control.
If we cannot extend Salami’s loan I might have to go to the market for a left winger, but we will see if we can loan to help with the costs.
The league won’t be as easy. I know I said this last time, but I’m sure of it. We also have to do better in the Champions League. I really would like to win it at least once with Parma. Who knows, perhaps it’ll never happen.
Finally, I’ll be revisiting my backroom team over the summer to see if we can make some improvements there, as we’ve become a little too focused on the playing staff, and not the backroom guys,
Until next time, arrivederci.