seasonEleven.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!
It is the final season at Ennio Tardini. Our famous stadium of 104 years will be demolished as we move into our new home over the summer. We deserve a good run this year.
After beating Atalanta for the second time this season, we then suffered an unexpected defeat to Fiorentina, losing 2-0 after left-back Sekuluc got himself sent off. We managed to overcome that with a series of wins, including a 2-1 victory in the Coppa Italia Semi Final Leg 1. AC Milan (3-0), Chievo (1-0), Sassoulo (5-1), and Roma (4-1) were dealt with, and I was optimistic for our Champions League game.
However, when it came to the Champions League match–remember we drew Manchester United–we decided that we would switch off on the 92nd minute and let Poirier score to give them a 1-0 lead into the second leg. That will hurt us.
We followed that defeat with a 0-0 draw against Udinese and all of a sudden things were not looking so rosy. Juventus were hot on our tails and the guys were looking like they were no longer up for the fight.
Sampdoria (5-0) didn’t bother to turn up for the second leg in the Coppa Italia Semi Final fortunately and after sending Bari back to San Nicola after a 3-0 victory I was sure we were back on track ahead of our next fixture against Perugia.
Perugia 0 – 0 Parma
Great preparation for Manchester United, where we then had a 1-0 deficit to overturn in the Champions League first round. A team who seem to get all the luck and win everything every season.
On three minutes we get a penalty. A push in the box on Andrejic who himself stepped up to take it. I shouted for him to give it to Mackay because Andrejic cannot hit a barn door from the penalty spot these days.
Of course, Mackay misses. Naturally, United score three minutes later. And then if needing three goals was not enough the now outgoing Biasoli decided to hack down Podba on 28 minutes and get himself sent off.
When United scored again on 67 minutes I left for the tunnel. I got on the phone to Coelho and told him to find Biasoli a new club immediately. He is not wearing the shirt again. Who makes a two-footed challenge in such a big game and so early on?
Apparently, we scored in the 91st minute, but I was already back in my car by now on my way home.
When I got home there was a text message from Vicente. Apparently pissed off that I’d not kept my promise to win the Champions League. I resisted the urge to inform him that had he not let in three goals over the two legs, we might have made it through. I’ll deal with him another day.
The next few weeks seemed a blur, we’d eased past Pescara (5-2), Spal (3-0), Inter Milan (4-1), and Napoli (3-0). But at the back of my mind was the loss to United. Another Champions league failure.
Ahead of our match against Juventus, I was informed that we could win the league if we won the fixture. The fight, the spark, the desire to win it wasn’t there.
I picked my strongest 11, the fans deserved that much at least after I’d let them down again, and within the first minute, we were 1-0 to the good, with Cristini setting up his strike partner Andrejic for a goal. A combination that had served us so well in the league over the past couple of years.
On 13 minutes it was 1-1 after our defence took a nap and let in Moise Kean to slot home. Rubbish.
With 10 minutes to go, Juventus made it 2-1 and the lack of fight shown against United reared its ugly head once again. The game finished and we suffered our third loss of the season.
The title win eventually came against Cagliari. A very convincing 4-0 victory. Up next a doubleheader against Empoli, one in the league and then the Coppa Italia final.
For the league match, I picked a reserve 11, I didn’t want any more injuries to my already depleted squad, and it showed. On 36 minutes we were a goal down without having registered a shot on target. At halftime I gave them a few choice words, questioning their desire to fight for a first-team place, and it worked. Cristini scored on 66 minutes to level the match.
Things were looking good until the 70th minute when Empoli scored again to make it 2-1 and suddenly the lack of depth was apparent. This second string struggled. We should have comfortably won, but we struggled to get even a shot on target.
It will be a changed side for the final. I just hope the guys’ heads don’t drop too much.
It was as strong as I could make it, baring a couple of injuries. No excuses.
The game started precariously. Empoli had much of the ball, but most of their shots from outside the area. We were tentative and looked nervous.
We broke the deadlock on 28 minutes, with a team goal that has become synonymous with the way we play. This time it was Andrejic crossing for Cristini to slot home. 1-0. GET IN!
By halftime, there had been 14 shots and just two on target. It wasn’t a classic by any means, and something had to change.
I decided to try slow things down. We were rushing too much and snapping at our chances. We went a bit more direct but with a slower tempo to make out play more considered.
A few words of encouragement and I sent them back out. I didn’t need to over complicate things.
The changes worked immediately. On 46 minutes we were two up and it was Andrejic setting up Cristini yet again for his second of the game. These two are quite something!
We very nearly made it three just a couple of minutes later. Another delightful through ball found Cristini, who rounded the keeper, but somehow his shot found the crossbar when he had the whole of the empty net to aim at. Still 2-0 but we clicked into gear and looked comfortable.
I hope that miss doesn’t cost us.
On 62 minutes we were done by our own tactics and our own player! A low cross from the byline into a completely disorganised penalty area allowed Venerucci, on loan from Parma, to slot home unchallenged.
Our two-goal lead was restored from kick off, Andrejic with a hattrick of assists, this time for young Craig MacKay who had come on to play on the right wing to replace the injured Antuna.
With 20 minutes to go, Andrejic got his fourth assist of the match, setting up Cristini yet again. Another cross, another goal. It’s too simple. 4-1 now and that should surely claim the win.
After a cock up in defence saw Empoli grab a second goal, Cristini finally turned provider for Andrejic, this time another low cross and Andrejic made no mistake and hammered the ball into the net. 5-2 now and there was still another 10 minutes left.
Into added time and Bénes got his second of the game for Empoli, and his third against me in the past couple of matches. I think I’m going to have to put a scout on him because he has scored some screamers against us.
The whistle finally blew! We have done it. Another domestic treble. We made it harder than it should have been. But I’m pleased with the win. Scouts deployed to Bénes.
We said goodbye to Ennio Tardini in our final home match at the 104-year-old stadium that has been a good home to us. Genoa will be the last team we welcome.
The match finished 1-0 to us. With a 90th minute winner. The fans having to wait right until the end to see, but it was a win nonetheless.
The final match of the season came against Bologna. I wished the players luck for the match ahead, told them that this one is for the fans. And off they went.
It was a resounding 4-0 victory. An almost perfect way to finish the season.
Second half results: Click here!
It was another season of domestic dominance coupled with European failure. Over 100 goals scored again, just 20 conceded, but when it comes to the European stage, we just weren’t good enough to compete with the hundreds of millions spent elsewhere.
I’m proud of the team for the season we’ve had. I’m angry at my inability to bring home a European trophy yet again.
I don’t think there’s much else I could have extracted from this squad. We’ve performed above expectations yet again.
I’m not sure what more we can get from the players. I feel like I’ve extracted every inch of potential from them and our performances are as good as we will likely get them. They’re a good bunch. They’ve done me proud.
We’ve been spending heavily trying to compete on the European stage. But it wasn’t enough this season. Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but it sure does buy you success. The final this year is between Manchester United and Manchester City. Between them, they’ve won it the last five times. Neither of those clubs got to the top of European football without a few quid being spent. €415m this season between them to be exact. We’ve not spent that in 11 seasons.
Still, this isn’t a time to be bitter. We’re going about things the right way.
A failure to get past the first round of the Champions League has seen out income drop 17% over last season. Prize money was down 45% and TV revenue 12% with total income reaching just €288m compared with €347m last season.
We are still making enough money to be self-sufficient, but to maintain the wages we pay, we need to ensure Champions League progression continues further into the competition.
We need to continue to develop youth and sell them at their peak in order to receive maximum value.
Player wages have soared to €128m per season. A huge 20% increase. We also spent €26m on agent fees as a lot of contract renewals took place over the season. The stadium development was a large chunk of change last season which brings total expenditure down on the whole.
Wages continue to rise and eat into our earnings. We need to ensure this doesn’t spiral out of control. A few high earners are trying to force their way out, so if we can replace those players with lower earners it will help turn a big profit next season.
Failure to progress in the Champions League has hit us, as it does whenever we don’t progress as far as we plan to.
PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON
We move into our new 35,000 capacity stadium this month. However, I have half the squad wanting to leave. To better themselves in a bigger league in a bigger club. The constant battle to go on is draining. The battle against players revolting to stand up for one another, before backing down when I make them realise that I have no intention of weakening the team.
We dominate Italy, but flounder in Europe. The battle against the Manchester clubs financial strength is one we will never win.
I don’t know where we go from here. I need a holiday. We will decide after that.
Until next time, arrivederci.