ElevenTen.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.
There’s a point in every football manager’s career where you start to consider your next move. Your next challenge. I think at Parma I am close to that. We’re so close to being Champions League contenders. It’s going to take a bit of luck along the way, but this could be our year.
We need to believe.
We started the season the same way we have done for the past couple of seasons, with a Supercoppa Final win over Juventus. This time a 2-0 victory.
The league kicked off against Atalanta who we beat by the same scoreline. Another two victories over Fiorentina (3-0) and Milan (3-0) ahead of our opening Champions League match against Ajax. The other teams in the group being Leverkusen and Austria Vienna, it should be an easy group on paper.
We beat Ajax 5-1 with Andrejic picking up where he left off last season and scoring four goals. He had eight in his opening five games.
We continued to dominate in both the league and Champions League, with victories over Chievo (4-0), Sassoulo (4-0) and Roma (2-1) before we broke the record for the biggest victory in a Champions League match, a 9-0 drubbing of Austria Vienna. I wanted 10, but it wasn’t to be. Another match where Andrejic scored four.
Another two victories in the league against Udinese (4-0) and Bari (3-0) before we invited Leverkusen to Ennio Tardini. Leverkusen were the team to go on to win the Champions League in 2023 after beating us in dramatic fashion with a 108th-minute winner. This match, however, was not so dramatic. It was 0-0 with just one player registering above a 7 match rating.
Before the next meeting against them, we were back to winning ways against Perugia (2-0), Pescara (3-1), and Spal (5-0). With nothing able to stop us, team morale was as high as it’s ever been and the team were playing some fantastic football. We took it into the away match and beat Leverkusen 3-1 to secure a relatively easy win.
We very nearly lost our unbeaten record, 68 games so far, when Inter Milan pulled back from two goals down to level 2-2 and very nearly winning it at the death. 1-0 victories over Ajax and Napoli followed.
And then it finally happened.
It was always going to happen at some point. We were not about to go another season unbeaten. Just wish it wasn’t to Juventus.
Extra training was ordered, and a response demanded from the guys. However, perhaps he worked too hard, but my only ‘keeper, Vicente, got injured and I began to think that this might be the start of a downward spiral.
I called up 18-year-old Armando Aureli from the Under 20’s. It was a debut to remember as we hammered Lazio 8-0 with young Scot Craig MacKay bagging four goals, two assists and a perfect 10 match rating. It was a new Serie A record win, beating our previous record when we beat Lazio 7-0 a couple of years ago.
We went on to complete our Champions League group fixtures with a 3-0 win over Austria Vienna. This was followed by a rather disappointing 6-3 victory over Cagliari. Chievo (cup 3-0), Empoli (2-0) and Genoa (2-0) were relatively simple matches which allowed me to rotate the squad to ensure we stay fresh ahead of the second half of the season.
We drew Manchester United in the first knockout round. Great.
In the Coppa Italia Quarter Final, we were paired against Juventus, a match in which I dropped a striker to use a Libero on attack duty. This resulted in a flat back five against the Juve 4-2-3-1 with two inside forwards. This allowed us to control the middle and come away with a 2-0 victory. Something I might have to do more of to keep that central area free from danger.
The final match was a 2-0 victory over Bologna, to leave us six points ahead of Juventus going into the second half of the season.
At the turn of the year, the prolific striker got the personal recognition he deserved. He was named FIFA Ballon d’Or winner, Footballer of the Year, World Player of the Year and was also named in the World Team of the Year. Quite the season!
Young Scot, Craig MacKay was named European Golden Boy.
To view the results of the first half of the season click here!
The league table after 19 games.
It is all looking so simple in the league for us these days. Focus on Europe is now our priority.
THE PLAYER STATS
The current stats for the first half of the season. We have a few who are not too happy. They’ve had their heads turned by other clubs, and so it looks like we could be losing another batch of players in the summer.
Andrejic has been phenomenal again, it’s easy to see why he has won almost every personal accolade there is. PSG must be kicking themselves for letting him go for just €14.5m with no additional sell-on clauses. 22 goals in just 19 starts.
For me, young Craig MacKay has impressed me with his 12 goals, at just 20 years of age, my coaches think he could become better than Cristini.
On the creativity front, Robert Bronic continues to dominate at just 19 years old with the most key passes, chances created and assists.
We need to keep the intensity up to finish as league winner again, but we also need to keep hold of our squad over January. And we also have a small task over overcoming Manchester United in the Champions League.
Until next time, arrivederci.