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[FM21] Finding Myself in Tuscany - A Recovering Savescummer's Story of Redemption and Glory! (Or maybe just redemption)


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  • 13th Man changed the title to [FM21] Finding Myself in Tuscany - A Football Manager Story of Redemption and Glory! (Or maybe just redemption)
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Onto Preseason!

It...did not start well.

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Livorno suffered a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of the in town affiliate Pro Livorno who play in Serie D. Verdi hadn’t picked his top squad, and even tried to experiment a bit, but he was horrified to see that the team created nothing, was as secure as an open door at the back, and generally looked horrible. At first, he figured he was asking too much with his tactics - forgetting that most of these players don’t have his tactical intelligence. He decided to simplify things a bit in the hopes of just letting his players play.

 

But the next two games saw Livorno barely squeak victories over even worse opponents. Again, Verdi wasn’t as worried about the results or score lines, but the play by his team was horrible.  From back to front, defense, offense, and transitions...all horrible.

 

With the season fast approaching Verdi was getting worried.  He wondered about trying to be more progressive, but worried what that might mean for his already leaky defence.  He also felt like the upcoming friendly against a strong Brescia team was not the time to test out an attacking tactic.  For this game, he lined up with a 5-1-2-2 with wing backs and a defensive midfielder.  He hoped that this would give his team a very solid defensive shape but might also allow his two new midfield signings a bit of freedom to shine.

 

In his first days in charge Verdi noticed that the squad only had three central midfielders, and quickly sprung into action to find some more depth or, hopefully, some improvement.  He was very pleased with both the midfield signings that he managed to get a hold of.

 

First was a high quality loan from Udinese by the name of Martin Palumbo.  A good passer, finisher, tackler and all around midfielder, Palumbo added a lot of quality to the meh midfield.  He’d be an attacking mezzala in the 5-1-2-2 and work in support with the standard 5-2-1-2 that Verdi expected to use as his primary formation.

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The other signing, a free agent, was the one that pleased Verdi even more.  Mario Piccinocchi is a good compliment to Palumbo, as he operates best in a slightly deeper role.  A good passer, Piccinocchi came in on trial and impressed Verdi enough to get a contract.  The more he saw of the player, the more it became apparent that this was a very good piece of business.  A solid Serie B level  player on a free? Fantastic. The trainers warned that he had a history of hamstring injuries, so Verdi made a note to be careful with him.

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So how did the game with Brescia go?  Despite losing 2-0, both goals came from individual errors and Verdi was generally happy with the defensive work.  He didn’t like how deep and narrow his wing backs were, and they gave up chances on the wings, but most of those were dealt with comfortably by the tall center halves.

 

His main concern, though, was that the team still looked completely useless going forward.  He hadn’t expected to win, but Verdi had hoped for chances.  Instead, Raicevic never got a hold of the ball, Marsura was apparently off getting pizza for most of his time on the field, and the wing backs didn’t contribute to the offence or really even the defense.  The only bright spots were a few occasions when the midfield trio of Palumbo, Piccinocchi, and club captain Agazzi combined well together.

 

With real, competitive games approaching in only a week, it was clear that Verdi needed a rethink.  As he lay awake that night, he struggled to unlock why his tactic was failing so miserably.  Where they should be solid at the back, quick in transition, and deliberate but progressive in attack, he was opposite on all fronts.  He began to fear that his foray into management would be short and painful.

 

It was only in practice two days later that he had a revelation during the 5-a side games. There he saw  was crisp, quick passing, and the players enjoying themselves.  Suddenly, he realized that he had a squad that had the technical and mental abilities to play a quick passing game, especially with his two midfield signings. In fact, as he thought about it, it became clear that other than his center backs, he did not have a squad with the physicality, speed, or aggressive mentality to play a counter attacking, direct game.

 

His desire to be solid at the back and keep things simple had led him to devise a tactic that didn’t at all suit his players, even if at first glance his strategy had made sense.  Worse still, he hadn’t thought to adjust his tactic after bringing in his midfield duo who’d elevated his midfield from a weakness to a strength.  He was furious with himself, but he was equally excited to go back to the drawing board that evening. Mostly he was glad he’d caught his mistake before the competitive games began.

 

He came in the next morning and sat the team down.  He put the skunk on the table, admitting that his tactics had not been working.  Some of the players were annoyed that this rookie manager was about to start over from scratch, and he thought he  but when Verdi explained the new set up, the squad was already beginning to buy in.

 

Gone were the instructions to lump it forward to Raicevic, or to sit back and invite the opposition onto them.  Rather than a target man, Raicevic would play as a deep lying forward, linking up with the attacking midfield, but also getting on the end of crosses from the wings.  Livorno would, from then on, be playing a high tempo, probing passing game.  They’d defend high with a solid shape and force the opponent to either work their way slowly up the field, or lump it up where the big defenders could eat up the long balls.

 

The other shift was the outside players.  Until then, the wing backs had been passengers in each game - too passive in defence and too deep to support attacks.  Instead, Verdi would be going with defensive wingers in the midfield strata.  The squad was a little less convinced by this, and in truth, Verdi shared their reservations.  Still, playing it safe had been the wrong route before.  He planned to drop the defensive wingers back if things got too leaky or if he was holding onto a lead, but after overthinking things initially, now he was going to go with his gut.

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As he returned to his office, Verdi made some calls.  For his new formation, he needed defensively solid wingers and/or good attacking wing-backs.  He had one left wing-back that fit the bill, but he’d need at least two per side to ensure freshness considering the running they’d be required to do.  Pouring through his scout reports he found two players listed for loan that were exactly what he was looking for.  Luca Vignali, a decent all around right winger/wingback with an option to buy (though at €750k, Verdi didn’t expect to be able to afford him even if they were promoted).  The other was a very handy left wingback/winger from Caliari, Alessandro Tripaldelli.  Verdi also gave a call back to Luca Rizzo who’d offered himself as a free agent.  A fast player with good dribbling who could play on the left, right, and middle of midfield, Verdi had passed him by before due to his newfound depth in midfield and lack of plans for outside players in the midfield strata.  But he’d be perfect as a defensive winger. So Verdi called Rizzo, who agreed to come in for a trial which saw him earn a 2 year contract.  He’d also be getting training as a right windback to get him used to the role and solidify his defensive technique.

 

The team ran out in the new formation for the final friendly of the preseason against fellow Serie C team Ternana, though they played in Serie C/B.  With the first competitive fixture only days away, Verdi picked mostly backups. They may have lost 4-2, but Verdi was pleased with the play he saw on the field, especially when the third and fourth Ternana goals came in the last third of the game when the real dregs of the squad were on the field.

 

The best part of the game was the link up play between Mazzeo and a young winger/forward named Matteo Pallecchi, a duo he’d originally planned on using as forward depth.  For the first goal, Pallecchi pounced on a clearance/pass from the left winger and found himself a yard of space to turn and face his defender right in the middle of the center circle.  He quickly turned and sprinted towards the opposition goal.  Just as the defender committed to closing him down, he sent a pass into the path of Mazzeo who’d gotten inside his marker.  Mazzeo picked up the pass in the middle of the D, took a touch and slotted into the lower left corner from just inside the penalty area.  It was the kind of counter that Verdi had been looking for all through preseason, but had never seen before.  The second was a variation on that theme.  Pallecchi, running from left to right, picked up a lofted ball from the right CB and turned to run into the space afforded him by the retreating defenders as they tried to reorganize.  Just as the opposing left back moved to close him down, Pallecchi saw that Mazzeo had just lost his defender, who was trying to get tight at just the wrong time.  Another well weighted through ball put Mazzeo one on one with the keeper.  Mazzeo hit the ball first time, low and hard, to the keeper’s right for his second goal.  Pallecchi had a few decent opportunities for himself too. 

 

Verdi suddenly realized that the young forward might be unpolished, but with his solid pace, dribbling ability, and finishing, he was good enough to play now and could turn into a very useful player - especially under Mazzeo’s tutelage.  Immediately after the game, Verdi called to cancel his loan deal.

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Now, overstocked with players with a last name starting with P and containing many double c’s (Piccinocchi, Pallecchi, a backup midfielder named Piccoli to go along with Palumbo and a winger named Porcino), Verdi finally felt confident going into his first competitive game in charge...

 

Transfer Sagas that Weren’t Really Sagas

...Until he was hit with a gut punch. Serie B side Cremonese came in out of the blue with a transfer offer for one of his big, tall, and aggressive center backs, Matija Boben. The offer was not unreasonable, though for some reason Verdi felt as if it was far too low, especially when he didn’t want to lose a member of his physically formidable back line. Worse yet, he hadn’t seen any center backs worth signing to replace him, and there was a steep drop off in quality in the defenders after the top three.  Problem was, Boben was determined to move back into Serie B, and Verdi’s attempts to convince him otherwise fell on deaf ears.  Verdi dreamed of the day when could just tell his players to shut up and get on with it, but he wasn’t there yet. He negotiated a slightly higher fee and retreated to lick his wounds...and try to find a replacement on short notice and without the scouting knowledge he would have hoped for.  The only consolation was that he would no longer mix up Boben with his other big, tall, aggressive defender by the name of Luka Bogdan.

 

It was about this time that Verdi felt that, with his handful of signings, he needed to reduce the squad a bit and hopefully bring in some money.  He arranged a transfer for a right back that couldn’t play wing back or center back as well as a so-so left winger that didn’t fit the system.  The biggest departure however, was Marsura.  He’d been essentially useless throughout preseason, he was the club’s most valuable asset, and Verdi just plain didn’t like him.  There was one year left on his contract, and while Verdi had originally planned on keeping him around and seeing how things went, Verdi worried about Marsura’s effect on the dressing room atmosphere if he didn’t play as much as he wanted, and feared his value would plummet too.  It was time to sell him.  For his part Marsura was open to a move, and so he was off to Reggiana for €105k.  It was less than his ‘value’ but more than Verdi would expect to get for him when he was close to the end of his contract and/or way down the pecking order.

 

After a bit of scrambling, he also managed to find a very good center back loan from Caligari (to go along with the left wingback that he’d already brought in from Caligari on loan).  The young man, Amadeo Carboni, took his sweet time deciding if he wanted to cross the Tyrrhenian Sea, but Verdi was able to delay Boben’s transfer long enough for him to arrive several games into the season.  Verdi didn’t like that he had four loanees that would be starters, or at least first team regulars, but he vowed to spend the season scouring the region for players to sign on a permanent basis. 

 

Competitive Games at Last!

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  • 13th Man changed the title to [FM21] Finding Myself in Tuscany - A Recovering Savescummer's Story of Redemption and Glory! (Or maybe just redemption)

Great write up and details. As a man who ventures each season into Italy will be following this closely. I even played with Pistoiese once and only tried signing players with Tuscany. Safe to say I failled miserably. What seems to me is that you are overcomplicating the tactics a bit, considering the level of players in Serie C. Pretty sure the standard 3 dc, 2 wb, 3mc and 2 st is the perfect combo for this level, but looking forward to see your succes (struggles) with Livorno. The fans seem a bit to far left to my liking, but that wont impact your game. Forza Ragazzi!

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Thanks for the reply!  Glad to have you aboard. I'm guessing many won't be into the level of detail I go into, but I'm a total tactics and transfers/team building nerd so it's fun for me.  And yes, I'm totally over-complicating things.  As hard as I try not to, I can't help myself.  I'm a good bit ahead of this write up in-game, but you'll see all that later.

Kind of reminds me of my playing days (after I'd gone as far as I could competitively and was playing in the Sunday leagues) when I'd suggest a strategy to my teammates, and get met with blank stares.  One example was to suggest maybe, just maybe, that we restrain our press a bit considering we were losing shape and letting in goals left and right.  Maybe we could do a bit of pressing at the front but keep compact and together in the back?  Instead, everyone agreed we needed to press more across the team, with no thought to shape or where we wanted to funnel attacks.  Cue nine headless chickens running frantically about, leaving me - filling in at center back even though I'm a attacking midfielder/forward - stranded against two to three opposition forwards over and over.  We finished rock bottom of the table, with a horrible goal difference, and I was cut for not being a good enough center back (again, I'm an attacking midfielder/forward).  Not that I'm bitter about that at all.

On the Livorno fans - yes, sounds like they're a bit extreme.  I live in an area and work in a field that sometimes makes me (generally a leftist) feel like I'm reactionary in comparison, so I'm used to that type of environment.  Maybe Verdi can temper them and use his 'community outreach' sessions to push the ultras to back up their words with action and do tangible good in the community rather than go looking for fights with hard-right Inter ultras or whatever.  Of course, I'm pretty sure fan violence or behavior never comes up in game - I've certainly never come across it!

 

 

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On 10/03/2021 at 18:59, 13th Man said:

Finding Myself in Tuscany

A Football Manager Story of Redemption and Glory!

(Or maybe just redemption)

 

Why write up this save?

 

What will you find in this save write up beyond its overly long title? Will there be nerding out on tactics? Absolutely! Will I tell you about my team building and transfer strategies? Most definitely! But this is also about writing a story. So if you’re not into that sort of thing you can just scroll to the tactics/team building parts (there will be screenshots that make it easier to see while scrolling) or just not read on (goodbye everyone!).

 

Football Manager is most fun (for me) when I immerse myself enough to get to that ‘suspension of disbelief’ point and forget that it’s a game of spreadsheets and little blobs running around kicking a fake ball.  I love a good narrative, and while this may or may not be a good narrative, I’m enjoying beginning to write it up, and that’s really all that matters. I'll be doing a long term, third division to glory (hopefully) save here, but that's not anything unique, and for that reason I don’t really expect anyone to care. But that's not the point. I’m doing this for myself. I'm leaving myself beyind and somehow, at the same time, finding myself. In Tuscany. This is a story of redemtion!

 

“Hold up,” you interrupt, "you're using the word redemption again! So far this sounds like it'll just be a standard, if extra wordy, save write up. But you keep mentioning redemption. What's that about?"

 

Right, okay, there’s a second reason (maybe the most important reason), and that forces me to make a confession.

 

I’m a bit of a savescumer. There, I admit it. I’m not proud of it, and I don’t do it that often (maybe 2-3 times a season) and there’s always a good reason...I swear!  You know, like when I forgot to set up my tactics the way I planned, or I forgot to replace/rest a player, or...well, okay, yes sometimes when the result just seems so unfair. I keep promising myself not to do it, because even if I have fun, when 3-4 points can mean the difference between Champions League and Europa places or even the title, the accomplishments always felt hollow. Every time I tell myself that this time or this season I won’t do it, and I'm good for a while...and then comes a game such as when I had 12, quality shots on target from good positions and hit the post three times against Man U, compared to their 2 shots on target and still drew 0-0 (won the savescum 4-2 btw).  I mean, come on!

 

(No? You’re not convinced that I was in the right?  Really? Come on!  Okay, yes! Fine! Cheating is cheating no matter what, I get it.)

 

BUT, if I’m doing a write up? I’ll have to tell the truth! Otherwise I’d be lying to my imaginary audience! I can’t do that.  Lying to myself?  Why, that’s one of my favorite things to do.  I love to lie to myself!  Lying to other people?  That’s despicable and I won’t stand for it.  So we’ll have none of that going forward!

 

So my big rule for myself on this save - NO SAVESCUMMING.  Is it weirdly hard for me to write that?  I’m ashamed to say that it is. I’m sure that for those of you with more moral fiber than me, this would be nothing, but for me it’s something.  I’m super competitive and hard on myself, so I will admit the ‘do over’ button has always been tempting and one which I sometimes (read, often) wish I could push in real life.

 

So, dear imaginary reader, now that you know I’m a bit of a cheat, how will you know that I’m actually past that? How will you know that when I fly up the divisions and win the champions league in my fifth year (fat chance) that I’m not savescumming my way to victory? Well, half the point of this write up is to stop myself from doing any cheating. Whatever mental gymnastics I'm capable of when lying to myself (olympic level, fwiw), I won’t lie and act like success gotten through cheating is worth writing about!

 

So yes, now that that is out of the way (and, dear imaginary audience, let’s just never speak of that again, okay?), let’s move on.

 

I want 4 things out of this save (in order of importance, but not the order which I'll address them) -

  1. Manage an Italian team
  2. Create a cohesive culture at the club
  3. Bring a team from Serie C into Serie A and maybe, hopefully beyond
  4. Try to make a 3 CB formation work.

(And yes! No savescumming! I thought we agreed not to talk about that anymore!)

 

Why 3 at the back?

 

I’ve mostly set my teams up in either a 4-2-3-1 or, more recently, a 4-3-3 for years now.  I used a 5-2-1-2 formation as a backup a bit near the end of my FM19 save that I really liked in a lot of ways that was inspired by the Atlanta case study that SixPointer posted in the tactics forum. I liked the movement, the space created, and the constant threat of two up front without sacrificing the defense. In that save, I also had the players in my starting 11 to shift seamlessly from my standard 4-3-3 into my 5-2-1-2.  My DM did a good job as an outside centerback, my left inside forward was a converted striker that I played as an attacking inside forward, and my right forward was a natural AMC that I played narrow as a AP(s) already. The problem was that my wingbacks couldn’t handle the workload and the players outisde the best 11 weren't generally suited to that 5-2-1-2.  So I’m going to set up this team (hopefully) to play with a 3 at the back system.

 

So why Italy?

 

I’ve been signing a lot Italian players in my recent saves.  It might just be happenstance, but I’ve found a bunch of smart, hard working, determined, and well rounded players in Italy - often with a little extra edge that is always nice to have. So, after playing nearly exclusively in England with Southampton for a while, I felt like it was time to try something a little new. 

 

So rather than importing half a team from Italy, I figured I’d just manage an Italian team.  If l was really going to go realism, I’d start unemployed and wait for a Serie C team need a manager, but I don’t feel like waiting or going the journeyman route for reasons I’ll go into next.

 

What team?

 

I wanted to do a long term save guiding a team up through the divisions, like I’d originally done with Southampton back when they were in League 1. In Southampton, I saw a team that played a brand of football close to what I wanted to do, had a great youth set up, a strong core, and a stadium that could support a Premier League team.  They’d only been down in the leagues for a few years after all. I had a great time taking them up to the top of the game (I didn’t save scum until I started to break into the top spots, for what it’s worth…but yes, for real, I’m done talking about that). I’ve been doing a Southampton save in every edition I’ve picked up since and I felt it was time for a change.

 

But this time I didn’t want a team that was completely set to shoot right up the leagues. I want to earn it. At the same time, I’m not ready to go full on Sunday league to Champions League. So, Serie C is where I landed. (Plus, that’s as low as it goes in Italy without downloading some database that may or may not exist.)

 

Next step was to find a team in the third division which 1) was in a city that could support a Serie A team and 2) didn’t have a horrible history of racism and violence.  As silly as all that sounds, I wanted some realism for the first part, and I just can’t bring myself to try and accomplish things with a team with super right wing or super violent ultras.  (Of course, that’s assuming I’m up for the task in the first place and will actually be able to bring success. Other than that FM11(?) Southampton team, which was full of Premier League potential players, I’ve yet to have much success outside the top divisions.)

 

I considered Pro Vercelli because of the history, plus a classic jersey scheme (yes that’s important, okay?), but along with finding it was a fairly common team to pick, the town is also had a population of only 50k. That’s barely enough to properly fill a top stadium even if nearly every man, woman and child and all their mothers attended every game. Cantania was another choice, and I think I FM managed them back in FM 08. Turns out they have had a lot of issues with fan violence, I didn't really like their color scheme and, well, Sicily is quite hot and dry. Same problems with Palermo, not to mention I have a daughter who has an all encompassing infatuation with pink that drives my wife and me nuts. By the way, yes, I know those two are rivals but I’m not affiliated yet so it’s not like I have any loyalty either way.

 

Finally, after an exhaustive, exhausting search spanning several days (really, just two-three minutes here or there when I should have been watching my small kids) I found Livorno. Not unlike Southampton, it’s a medium sized port city though a good bit smaller 150k vs 250k. But with nearby cities like Pisa and the metro area of Florence etc, I figured there’d be enough fans locally to support a proper Serie A team, if not pack a Camp Nou sized stadium.

 

So - the city of Livorno.  The place is a beautiful Tuscan city, with hills behind it, beaches, and a very cool looking 17th century fortress. Historically, it’s been one of the larger ports in the region, and as such it has a diverse population.  Turns out it even welcomed many Jews expelled from Spain during the inquisition. Bonus points for having a history of tolerance...at least according to my thorough *cough* Wikipedia *cough* research.

 

AS Livorno Calcio

They’ve been yo-yoing between Serie A and C for a while, including a stint in the Euro cup in the mid 00’s. Lately, things haven’t been great, and they were relegated from Serie B last year. In real life, they look like they’re headed for relegation from Serie C/A (Serie C is split into 3 regions) so I figure I’ll have quite a challenge. In game, however, they’re predicted to finish 2nd - maybe because they have a decent reputation due to their recent stints in Serie A?

 

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Livorno doesn’t have a specific style (from what I could tell) or a storied history, but that means I’ll (hopefully) be able to mould it in my own image and create my own culture, which is an added bonus. The stadium’s capacity of about 14,300 is very  small for a (hopefully someday) top flight team, but it should support us just fine in Serie B and will hopefully be enough to tide us over in Serie A while we (hopefully) build a new stadium.

 

The supporters? It seems as if their ultras do get into some fights, but primarily with far right ultra groups. So a minus for regular fan violence but a plus for going after far right groups - I won’t get too political, and ultras getting in fights is never a good thing, but I will say I’m really not a fan of fascists and leave it at that.

 

Color scheme? Pretty cool. I’m not normally into red, but I think that dark red is really smart. The crest is pretty cool too...for me anyway.

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The manager

 

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His name is Giuseppe Verdi (yes, I’m an opera fan. And yes, Verdi was very much a Milan icon, but I’m not overly concerned with that). Verdi will be loosely based on me and my philosophy, but I plan to give him his own personality too and see how it develops.  Like his namesake, he’s generally a warm and passionate leader, but he is also prone to fits of rage on occasion.  The avatar?  I hit random appearance until I found one I didn’t hate.

 

(Warning, some made up narrative incoming, so if that’s not your thing skip ahead to tactics. It kind of describes my own 'career', though leveled up from near the top of the amatuer game to the low levels of the professional game where Verdi played. It will impact things later to a small extent...)

Verdi was a journeyman as a player, mostly in Serie C.  He started out in the Livorno youth system, but came up when the team was at his height in the mid 00’s and couldn’t make the cut, so he headed elsewhere. He was fairly fast, tall, and strong, tactically aware and hard working, and he was able to do a job in any position, though he was most comfortable as a pressing forward in a two striker system or a left sided inside forward in a front 3. Though his technique was known to let him down and he lacked natural flair, he scored at a decent rate and could pick a pass too. Across the five teams he played for over his 12 year senior career, managers always appreciated his versatility, but he found himself consistently used as a stop-gap. Once a more specialized player was brought in, Verdi often found himself down the pecking order or out of the team completely. Towards the end of his career, he found an unexpected home as a center back, finding that the Libero role quite suited him - a place where he could use his physical and mental abilities but also had more time and space to pick a pass or do a bit of dribbling...until he tore his ACL. He came back only to injure his knee again in his first game back. He was thirty two, so decided it was time to hang up his boots and shift into coaching.

 

Knowing early that he’d never make it into the top of the game as a player, Verdi started studying for his coaching badges in his mid twenties. By the time he retired as a player he had a continental B license.

 

Preferred Tactics

Having played on various teams with various playing styles and formations he is not a dogmatic follower of any specific style of play. He does have ideas of what he’d like though. Ideally, he’d want a team that defends high, using a split block to put pressure on opposing defenders when they’re on the ball, while still retaining a compact shape. He wants the opponents to have to earn every forward pass or dribble, to make them inch up the field. Transitions should be quick, looking to catch opponents out of shape. If the opportunity isn’t there, Verdi would like quick, simple passes with lots of movement, creating overloads to exploit or space off the ball for a defense splitting diagonal. Being partial to 3 at the back he might set up something like this in an ideal world - though he might also do a formation with a Libero instead of the two BPDs if he could find the right player(s).

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That said, Verdi won’t try to jam a square peg into a round hole, and will adapt his tactics to meet the personnel and opposition.  As a young manager, he’s more determined to win than to play pretty and perfect - though that also might cause it’s own problems as we’ll see soon enough.

 

So it begins!

 

Verdi steps in as Livorno manager after the team has been relegated from Serie B. The board doesn’t care about a style of play, but they expect the team to be competitive in Serie C/A by making the promotion playoffs. (Turns out that in Serie C that means finishing in the top half, though the higher up you go, the less games you have to play in the promotion playoffs). Verdi feels that this is doable, and though he knows that he doesn’t need to take the team directly back up to Serie B - the board’s given him two years to gain promotion - he will be bitterly disappointed if he does not get back up at the first time of asking. After that, the board only expects Serie B for the foreseeable future. For his part, Verdi has more ambition. While he’d be happy to build a solid platform in Serie B for a few years, he won’t be content until Livorno is in its rightful place in Serie A.

 

The Team

 

(A quick caveat - I did have to go into the pre-game editor to ‘recall’ two players that were for some reason sent out on loan to a team below Livorno in the leagues.  These players might be garbage in real life, but in my game they’re some of the better players on the team and I wanted to keep them.  They didn’t get sent on loan until October in real life, so I felt it was okay to do. I also undid a loan with a future sale of another CB for 500k, but that actually turned out to be a bad move as he forced a move anyway, and for only a fraction of that 500k)

 

Looking over the team in his first training sessions, Verdi finds a team that has some tall and strong central defenders, some decent forwards, and a bunch of players that are just kind of fine across the board. Those players remind him somewhat of himself, without (he tells his wife in private) his intelligence or top physical traits. (His wife humors him, but thinks to herself that her Giuseppe might not be as self aware as he thinks he is). Overall, though, Verdi thinks he can work with this team. The players are generally versatile, so they’ll likely be flexible.

Still, he scours Italy and neighboring countries for a few loan signings and free transfers.  He doesn’t want to rely too heavily on loans, but at the same time...he does want to win, so he won’t avoid them either.

 

His first plan is to set up a direct passing style with a lower block - he thinks that the big tall center backs should be able to handle the inevitable crosses, and that he should just bypass his pretty meh midfield and wing backs and try and get the ball to the forwards as fast as possible.  Still, he doesn’t want to go full on defensive - after all Livorno are one of the top teams in Serie C - so he opts for a balanced risk tactic.

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From the beginning, along with the defense, he likes the look of a Montenegrin striker by the name of Raicevic.  He’s tall, strong, okay on the ball, and while his finishing leaves something to be desired, it’s not terrible.  Verdi plans to use him as a Target Man, the focus of the direct plays.

 

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Another player that the staff seems to rate highly is David Marsura.  Best as an attacking left winger, he’s got pretty good ability for this level.  With no wingers in Verdi’s system, he’ll play up front.  The current plan is for these two to play off each other while the meh midfield come up in support.  However, something about Marsura rubs Verdi the wrong way from day one. He seems a bit cocky, a little too sure of himself considering his only decent ability.  Still, he’s got the tools he needs to do well in Serie C and maybe even B, so Verdi will try to make it work.

 

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Last of the notable strikers at first glance is Mazzeo.  Verdi likes this guy from the start.  He’s composed, intelligent, and, as a big bonus, very determined. Verdi wants Mazzeo to be a team leader.  The problem?  He’s 37.  His already only okay physicals could drop off a cliff at any moment, so Verdi doesn’t want to rely on him.  Still, he’ll be made co-captain in the hopes of having his personality rub off on the rest of the team.  Maybe he’ll take some coaching courses and join the staff when he’s retired in a year or two (max)?

 

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Speaking of the backroom staff, it’s hot garbage on a sunny summer day. This is no surprise. Still, Verdi knows that if he is to bring sustained success to his hometown club, he needs to build the club from the ground up, and the staff will play a large role. He spends lots of tedious time comparing available coaches, scouts and other staff to those he has, and replaces everyone he can with those that fit his future vision (defensively sound but progressive football). Within a few weeks, Livorno has the best coaches in Serie C and are pretty decent in other areas as well.

 

Onto preseason! (future posts won't be this long)

Thanks for the hit up about my Atalanta post. Glad it’s gave you tactical inspiration for your save! 

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On 17/03/2021 at 11:28, SixPointer said:

Thanks for the hit up about my Atalanta post. Glad it’s gave you tactical inspiration for your save! 

If course! Really enjoyed that thread. I’ve liked the idea and potential at 3atb, and that thread gave me a great jumping off point.  This Livorno side is nowhere near ready for those Atalanta tactics (or my adaptation of it), but the seeds are there...


I’m still getting used to how to exploit and protect space with this formation, but it’s been a fun exercise.

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A Stellar Start

But it started well, very well!

 

The fixture list was intimidating - two games a week, every week until December due to the late start - but Verdi was hopeful, not to mention excited to find out if his new tactics would improve performances and translate into points.

 

The season opener was an Italian Cup qualifier against Serie C/C side Avellino.  Avellino scored early, and while Verdi was internationally terrified that his new tactic was just as bad as his first, he put on his best poker face and pretended to shake it off with a quick shrug. The players themselves took the setback in stride, and after that it was all Livorno until a late flurry by the Avellino striker.  Livorno dominated possession, were a consistent threat going forward, and had come back to take the lead by halftime with a goal from each of the new midfield duo.  After the break, a second from Palumbo and a powerful header by center back Di Gennero from a corner gave Livorno a commanding lead and Pallecchi added a fifth in the 72nd minute.  While Mazzeo didn’t get on the scoresheet, his partnership with Pallecchi was clicking already, and they created a lot of good chances.  Two late Avellino goals were a bit worrying, but they came after Verdi knew the game was in the bag and, with an eye on the first league game at the weekend, had taken off a bunch of the starters and gave a run out to some players low on the pecking order.  He’d also pulled his wingers back to wing backs, which seemed to invite more pressure rather than add defensive solidity.

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A dour away draw against a Pro Sesto team that very much parked the bus dampened the mood a bit, but after that, Gli Amaranto (the Dark Reds) truly took flight.   After comfortably beating Serie B side Reggina in Italian Cup qualifying, the next five games saw them score three or more, winning comfortably home and away.  Mazzeo was on fire, scoring 7 in 10 games. Pallacchi was scoring as well, Raicevic was providing assists if not goals, and the midfield was controlling games and even chipping in with goals too.  Even better, most of the teams they beat were, by the 9th/10th game of the season, in the top half.  Even better still, they won even while Palumbo and Raivevic were on international duty.  Verdi was annoyed that they couldn’t keep clean sheets, but with his aggressive formation he wasn’t especially surprised.  

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A draw against bottom feeder Renate was frustrating after their good run of form, especially when Renate’s goal came against the run of play after a quick counter.  Verdi began to suspect that he’d need to find different ways of breaking through teams set up in a low block.  Worse, when they were getting off the bus upon returning to Livorno, they found Raicevic hanging out at the training grounds posting workout selfies on his instagram - apparently having returned that day from international duty without telling anyone.  Verdi felt like they’d missed his physical presence against Renate, and wondered what could have been.

 

[This, dear imaginary reader, is a time I might have scavescummed in the past when I realized Raicevic was actually available for this game.  But my time in Tuscany has already brought me both the inner peace to accept my flaws and the determination to push through and better myself.]

 

After the Renate game, they won two close, hard fought games.  The Como game featured their first clean sheet in six games, which pleased Verdi greatly. 

 

The Novara game was one Verdi had a bad feeling about. They were a strong side that had started the season poorly but had found a good vein of form in the previous few weeks.  Veridi set up in the more defensive 3-1-4-2 DM lineup and it seemed to pay dividends as Livorno took the lead early on when a well worked move found Piccinocchi at the edge of the area with space to blast the ball into the goal from 20 yards out. However, Novara scored twice before the half on two devastating counter attacks which saw Livorno’s backline running around like chickens with their heads cut off, tackling air and chasing imaginary friends in a game of tag instead of marking the opposition strikers.  Verdi struggled against his deepening sense of dread, but soon after the break he switched to the more attacking 3-4-1-2 formation, and pulled a few underperforming starters, surprisingly including Palumbo and Mazzeo.  He felt as if his side were just as likely to let in two more as score two of their own, but he had to try to get back in the game.  Slowly, Livorno turned the tide.  Pallecchi, who’d come on for Mazzeo in the 68th minute, once again repaid his manager’s trust in him within five minutes, pouncing on a bouncing ball in the six yard box to power a shot home with his weaker right foot.  The game seemed set for a 2-2 draw, but then another sub, the right wb/winger loanee Vignali, found himself in acres of space after the team worked the ball from left to right.  He charged at the keeper and blasted a low shot across the face of goal and into the left corner in the 92nd minute.  Verdi only barely restrained himself from doing a knee slide of his own in celebration.

 

Finally, after ten games unbeaten including 8 convincing wins, Verdi suffered his first competitive defeat as a manager.  Traveling to Serie B side Salernitana in the Italian Cup qualifier, Verdi knew the odds were against him.  Though at first Livorno held their own, any chance of stealing a win evaporated just before the half.  Salernitana scored a goal following a very good passing move. Then, right on the stroke of halftime, his left sided defensive winger picked up a second yellow.  Verdi tried to shut up shop, largely giving up on winning in the hopes of not getting embarrassed. Salernitana scored again with another good move before a late screamer from 25-30 yards sealed the 3-0 defeat.

 

In the end, Verdi felt the 3-0 scoreline was a little unfair and he couldn’t fault his side’s efforts, especially after being reduced to ten men.  His assistant manager suggested he chew the team out after the game, but Verdi chose a different route. He felt like they’d done better than the score line suggested.  Rather than lay into the team, he told them that as nice as a cup run would have been, the league is where they needed to focus anyway.  Don’t get your heads down, remember what we’ve done so far and where we’re trying to go.

 

The squad was motivated, and washed away the foul taste of defeat a few days later with a convincing 2-0 victory against Lucchese.  Of course, it was fortunate that they faced a bottom side after the midweek loss, but the ease with which Livorno cut through the opposition defense was very pleasing after their previous struggles with defensive teams. If anything, the scoreline flattered Lucchese, as Livorno could have won by 4 or more if Pallecchi hadn’t  forgotten his shooting boots back in Livorno.

 

Overall, Verdi was exactly where he wanted to be with a quarter of the season gone - top of the league, scoring for fun, and winning in style.  Little did he know, dark clouds were just over the horizon.  Could Verdi keep the ship on course as the rest of the league figured out how to play against his side?

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Coming up...The Storm

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On 20/03/2021 at 07:53, Hootieleece said:

Great start! 

PS. everyone has savescummed at one time or another (some admit it, others don't).....just keep up the good fight. 

Ha! I don’t doubt it. Mine was just too consistent, getting me 2, 3, maybe even 5 league points a year, which makes a huge difference.  Writing this thread has helped though - I was so close to savescuming a game that comes up, I even had the backup save loaded (3 week rolling save) but remembering this thread made me stop. It just makes the game more exciting when there’s no do-over button!

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Posted (edited)

"The Storm"

 

It was near the end of November, and Verdi was once again ranting about his struggles with Livorno when his wife just couldn’t take any more.

 

“Guiseppi, my love,” she asked, exasperation and pity in her voice, “why do you keep saying that you feel like you’ve been struggling to navigate through a storm? I don’t understand! It seems like things are going well!”

 

“Were you listening?” Verdi looked at his wife with a weary sigh, “We can’t score and we can’t defend, we’re just passing, passing, passing all day with no penetration.” As he spoke his pointer finger became the ball ping around the outside of an invisible penalty box. “We barely create any chances and whenever the other team gets the ball forward they score!”

 

“Did you expect to beat teams 3-1 every game?”

 

“No! But…”

 

“Are you still winning?”

 

“Most of the time, but…!”
 

“Are you still top of the table?”

 

Verdi nodded with a sigh, then looked away, thinking that she just didn’t understand.

 

“So,” she asked after a moment’s pause, “why are you saying it’s been a bad month?”

 

In many ways, she was right.  It was probably more accurate to call November ‘the doldrums’, but that wasn’t dramatic enough for Verdi.  While late September and October had sent him down an unexpected path of highly attacking, possession based football which had seen his team play with joy and freedom, November was a slog. They only dropped two more points - two losses instead of two draws - but the overall quality of play had been far worse and their off days saw them let in two or three rather than simply not score enough of their own.

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The warning signs were there in the 1-0 win over mid-table Pondetera - a game where centerback Carboni scored the only goal of the game from a corner and they didn’t create much beyond that.  Verdi initially figured it was an off day, but it turned out this kind of game was to become the new normal.  Endless passing around the box...but with hardly any chances to show for it.  It was the kind of game that Verdi hated to watch, but the goal came and Pondetera hardly threatened.  In fact, Pondetera didn’t get a single shot all game.  That’s not just zero shots on target, that’s no shots at all.  Verdi put it down as an off day for his attack, but one in which Livorno got the three points they deserved, so he wasn’t concerned.

 

Then they traveled to a strong Pro Vercelli side which came into the game in good form, especially at home.  But lots of teams had been in good form until coming up against Livorno!  Better yet, Pallecchi scored within the first minute. A few minutes later, a good spell of possession by Pro Vercelli bamboozled the Livorno defence and somehow the Vercelli left winger was left completely unmarked in the box for an easy finish.  Verdi, however, remained confident that his team would score again.  After that, the game followed a similar pattern as the Pondetera game, with Livorno on the front foot and controlling possession.

 

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In the end, the scoreline was Livorno’s favorite 3-1...only this time they were on the losing side.  A long ball in behind the Livorno defence from a throw-in and a late counter by the hosts was enough to hand Livorno their first league defeat of the season.  The game was played mostly in the Pro Vercelli half, yet Verdi had to admit it was a fair result. The Pallecchi goal came from one of their few decent chances, and Pro Vercelli defended well and was crisp and incisive when they sensed an opportunity. Verdi was frustrated, but two poor games wasn’t enough to concern him too much, especially when they’d won one of them!

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As the month wore on, however, he began to realize that a pattern was emerging. Livorno began to keep more clean sheets, but largely that was because teams were parking the bus against Verdi’s previously free scoring team, and Livorno were struggling mightily to break down teams that didn’t feel the need to attack.

 

The three games after the Pro Vercelli loss saw Livorno scrape past teams they should have beaten comfortably.  They squeaked past the Juventus U23s (Sorry, I mean Zebre U23s) with a late penalty in a dull game.  They barely beat a very poor Giana team. Some good attacking saw them  3-1 at the half, but Livorno spent the rest of the game sleep walking, allowing a goal in and giving Giana plenty of chances to snatch a draw too.  Finally, they needed a bit of late game magic from Marco Rizzo to beat Pistolese - a curling shot into the top right corner after cutting in from the left.
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Verdi was frustrated and going into each game with a lot of anxiety. They were still winning, still on top of the table, but the trends were headed downwards and the margins tighter. He watched in horror as Livorno’s offensive efficiency plummeted, steadily dropping from far to the top right, “aggressive, clinical” into “aggressive, wasteful” while their defensive efficiency remained the same; “quiet, leaky.”  When they were scoring for fun, Livorno could afford to let in a few too, but now they weren’t creating, much less converting chances, while their backline remained just as vulnerable to the counter.

 

Still, he didn’t want to change much when they were still winning games, and they’d even grown their lead at the top to four points. They weren’t scoring at the rate they had been, but they were winning.

 

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Then came the game away to Pergolettese.  It was awful.  Again, Livorno had over sixty percent of the possession.  Again, they produced nothing.  In possession, Livorno followed a pattern.  Pass it around in the midfield, then out to the flanks.  The wingers would dribble forwards, get stopped, and either cross at their defenders, leading to a throw-in, or pass back to a nearby midfielder or the center backs.  Then it would start again.  Endless useless probes down the flanks.  Endless useless sideways passing in midfield.  At least in this game, Verdi joked miserably to his wife, there was variety in the way they conceded - both goals came from chaos following free kicks rather than counters.

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The local media blamed the loss on his decision to play his 3-1-4-2 (DM) formation, and they may have had a point, but it wasn’t as if his 3-4-1-2 formation had been lighting things up lately.  Verdi had hoped that giving Palumbo license to attack, and pulling Piccinocchi into a deep playmaking role where he could take his time and pick a pass would open up space and make his team more unpredictable in attack...but it didn’t. It looked just like every other November game, only in this game the other team took their chances.  Still, that game made Verdi seriously reconsider the 3-1-4-2 unless his team was trying to hold onto a lead and being specifically threatened through the middle.

 

Alessandria, who had emerged as the main challengers to the Serie C crown, won their game bringing them level on points with Livorno (but behind on goal difference), with Pro Vercelli four points behind them.

 

Verdi wondered if the brutal schedule was playing a part - they’d played two games a week, every week, for two months straight - but he couldn’t blame that for his troubles.  Everyone in the league was in the same boat. Still, the lack of quality depth meant he’d played his primary back three in all but a few games and they were getting jaded.  His second choice left winger/wingback had been out since mid-October and with the amount of running the outside players did, he felt like he needed two players to be ‘starters’ when the games were coming twice a week.  Rizzo had done the job on both the right and left, and Verdi had come up with a good rotation scheme between the three players available, but they were still all running on fumes by the end of November.  He also felt that the team was mentally tired after being forced to unlock so many low block teams, twice a week, week after week. Still, he couldn’t blame it all on that. He needed to find a way of breaking down stubborn defenses that didn’t involve being an open door at the back. He wished he could dial back the throttle and be a bit more defensive, maybe try to draw teams out, but he didn’t know if teams would be drawn out against his side, and worse, he didn’t think they had the right mentality or physicality to pull it off.

 

Part of the problem was that while he had a very technically gifted squad, the workrate and determination across the team left something to be desired.  When things weren’t going well, his players often didn’t rise to the occasion. They didn’t put in that extra ten percent that would get them to those second balls a step sooner, to get to that ball in the box before the defender did, or hustle back when needed.  He’d begun his long term overhaul by bringing in players who were mentally tough and determined, but as a group they were still a long way off what he’d like.  He’d known that since his epiphany in preseason, and that was part of the reason for switching to the attacking 3-4-1-2 and implementing more possession based tactics. Those tactics, however, seemed less effective as the opposition parked busses in front of their goals.

 

When Verdi thought about it, November had not been a disastrous month by any means, but the frustration came from dominating games while always being one mistake away from dropped points.  While off days were unavoidable, the consistency of the struggles meant that something needed to change or he’d lose control of Serie C.  So, after entering November thinking he had everything all but figured out, Verdi neared the end of the month with many, many questions. 

 

Should he end his experiment with defensive wingers in favor of more traditional wingbacks?  Would that both help on the counter and give them space to run at their defender rather than being closed down the second they had the ball?  Or would it pull them back too deep and tight like they’d been in preseason?  Those tactics pre-dated his two wingback/winger loan signings, so the players he’d asked to play wingback had been well below his current options.  Had the preseason problems been tactics problems or personnel problems?

 

Should he ask his team to take more risks in their passing and defending?  Would that mean pointlessly losing the ball and being even more exposed on the counter? Or would it end the dullness of the endless passing and actually lead to some chances?

 

Should he slow down the tempo?  Would that give his players a chance to pick better passes? Or would that make his side even easier to defend against?

 

To start, Verdi decided to make only one major change, at least at first. He would revert back to the 5-2-1-2 that he’d originally planned to use, but to encourage his wingbacks to both close down more and to get forward whenever possible. Even if all the change did was to avoid the endless, hopeless dribbles down the flank and the endless sideways passing around the 18 yard box, Verdi would call it a success.

 

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Up Next - The Sword of Damocles

Edited by 13th Man
Added all the screenshots I meant to put in
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The Sword of Damocles

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Rather than see the early season form as a boon, Verdi felt only the weight of expectation. While things were still mostly going well in terms of results, Verdi just knew that their position atop the table was very much threatened if they couldn’t improve their play. 

 

Rounding out November was lower/mid-table Grosseto and a top half team in Carrarese.  Against Grosseto, Verdi expected a low block, and a low block is what they came up against.  Is anyone surprised that the game ended 0-0?  Verdi wasn’t. Frustrated? Very. Surprised? No. Still, Verdi saw promising signs.  There was more penetration, more chances.  The wing backs seemed more involved going forward and did their job defensively as well.  They just couldn’t put the ball in the net.  On the plus side, Grosseto barely threatened, even on the counter.

 

The draw, however, allowed Livorno to climb one point ahead of Alessandria after they fell to Lucchese. [Note: I remembered the points wrong in the last post - edited now - the loss to Pergolettese allowed Alessandria to draw level on points with Livorno, but with a worse goal difference.]

 

Finally, against a relatively strong Carrarese side which entered the game in fifth, Livorno returned, at long last, to its favorite scoreline of the season, winning 3-1 due in large part to a tactical switch on Verdi’s part.

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Verdi had previously found that Racievic and Mazzeo hadn’t been working very well as a partnership.  Both liked to play a bit deeper and each worked well as a foil to Pallecchi’s pace and finishing ability.

 

Verdi thought about just starting with Pallecchi most games, but as talented as the young forward was, he was inconsistent. He had a long way to go on the mental side of the game and he was not mentally tough either.  When things went his way he’d light up a game, but when they didn’t, his shoulders would slump and he’d just jog around. If he wasn’t scoring he was just a passenger.  Verdi never knew if he was going to score two and be a constant threat or just disappear, especially now that teams weren’t giving him the space to use his speed nearly as much.

 

For that reason Verdi had been starting most games with Mazzeo and Raicevic, and would bring on Pallecchi when they were up in games or when they needed something different.  Raicevic started the season as an assist machine and Mazzeo had been scoring more than once every other game, so it made sense to have the big man in the deeper role and Mazzeo closer to goal.  In November, however, both had been largely neutralized and didn’t seem to click as a partnership.  For the Carrarese game, Verdi decided to switch his two experienced strikers’ roles.  He gave Mazzeo the deeper role, while playing Racievic as a high pressing forward, hoping that he’d find more use for his physicality in a more forward role.  The Montenegrin rewarded the choice with a brace, one of which was very nicely assisted by Mazzeo, who’d come deep to get the ball and slotted Raicevic through on goal.

 

Verdi entered December wondering if his side were back to their winning ways, or if it was only because Carrarese had been the one side foolish to show up and try to play against Livorno - giving them the space they needed in behind.  Still, it was a welcome relief, and he couldn’t help but hope that maybe, just maybe, his tweaks would return Livorno to the dominating team that they started their season as.

 

The first game of December crushed those hopes.

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[Forgive me for what follows but it was very therapeutic to write it]

 

It was a return to the worst of November.  Oliba was happy to invite Livorno onto their field, and were even generous enough to set up lawn chairs for them all around the penalty box so the Livorno players could pass to each other in comfort. Livorno’s players thought this was a lovely idea. 10 of the Oliba 11 spent most of the game inside their own box sunbathing in the warm ‘winter’ sun, occasionally needing to send the ball back whenever Livorno mistakenly hit pass forward rather than sideways as intended.  Sometimes Livorno’s wing backs would try and make it look like they were trying, and would charge forward and blast a cross into the traffic cones that Oliba had set up down the flanks before returning to their lawn chairs.  Livorno’s back three spent most of the game arguing with Oliba’s one forward player about which city had the better beaches.

 

Just before the half, Oliba’s players somehow found themselves in the Livorno half following a throw-in.  They seemed as surprised as Livorno’s players, passing the ball to each other in a halfhearted way, looking back longingly at their own box where their warm towels lay invitingly on the soft grass.  Livorno’s players vaguely chased the ball, whining to the Oliba players ‘give it back!’ like spoiled four year olds.

 

Suddenly, despite Oliba’s best efforts, they somehow worked it to their striker, who turned and hit a tame shot right at Livorno’s young keeper - Tomas Romboli - as if to say ‘Fine! Fine! Here’s your ball back! Please just stop whining!!!” Romboli should have been able to hold it, but instead he could only parry the ball right into the path of the opposition striker, who saw a chance to snatch a nice little goal bonus. He surged forward to tap the ball past Romboli, who had decided the soft grass was a very nice place for a nap, and that was that.

 

[Normal service resumes]

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With the loss to Oliba, exactly halfway through the season, Livorno dropped to 2nd place in the table.  Alessandria got back to their winning ways against Renate to overtake Livorno by two pointsPro Vercelli was waiting for their moment to pass Livorno as well, with only five points separating the top three teams.  It wasn’t a bad place to be on the whole, but whereas Alessandria and Pro Vercelli were in the ascendency, Livorno was regressing.  Verdi knew, on a logical level, that he had no business being as disappointed as he was.   He was only behind the leaders by two points. The frustration came from the way they consistently dominated games, at least in terms of control of the pitch, but the results didn’t always follow. He knew, of course, that the table doesn’t lie.  Something about their play wasn’t good enough, and Verdi just hadn’t figured out what. 

 

That was the worst part.  If his team just lacked quality, he’d be able to accept that.  Instead, he knew his squad was filled with top players for this level, so he blamed himself.  He knew he was missing something.

 

Apart from tactics, Verdi finally made a choice about the goalkeeper position after the Oliba game.  He’d started the season giving most of the starts to a twenty two year old Romboli, who was unpolished, but who showed a lot of potential.  Early on, they could absorb the young keepers flaws, especially when Livorno was scoring 3+ every game.  By then, however, the margins were getting tighter, and Romboli was becoming a liability.  It wasn’t that Verdi blamed Romboli for the loss to Oliba, but that was the thing about keepers - one mistake can cost the team points.  It also just seemed like many of the goals he let in were very savable.  Verdi had signed a free-agent named Laurentiu Branescu to a back-up contract early in the season, but he wanted to give Romboli the experience he’d need to progress towards his, hopefully, Serie B potential.  But with the goals drying up, Verdi began to realize that he could no longer afford Romboli’s subpar performances.  He would have made the chance sooner, but Branescu wasn’t a huge step up.  He’d had some poor games himself (Perglottese) and in many ways he wasn’t as good at being the sweeper-keeper that the tactic called for, but he was clearly a better shot stopper, could read the game better, and was mentally stronger.  Romboli hadn’t expected to be the first choice keeper that year anyway, and Verdi had never told him he was first choice, so the change didn’t bother him too much, which Verdi very much appreciated.

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The next game, against mid-table Pro Patria, saw them take 93 minutes to finally score - a corner by Corboni, who was developing a knack for turning draws into victories with goals from corners.  It was three points, but it hardly filled Verdi with confidence.

 

One relief was that the games would be once a week rather than twice for most of the rest of the season, so Verdi would finally be able to play his best 11 in every game.  Or so he thought…

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Just as the schedule got easier, Livorno’s luck with injuries went down the drain and the players started going down like flies.  First Palumbo sprained his ankle in training near the end of November, putting him out until the new year.  Then Vignali decided he couldn’t wait for the winter break for a rest and got his ankle sprained during the dismal loss to Oliba.  Marco Rizzo was, at that point, the only proper right wingback - though he didn’t like playing as a wingback -  with wingback/centerback depth Morelli backing him up.  Morelli, who’d been enjoying his time on the bench and occasional jaunts as a center back in a team that only required him to defend a few times a game, showed his lack of desire to run up and down the flank all afternoon, picking up a nice little groin strain to make sure he was out until Vignali returned. This left Verdi even shorter in quality at the back and with no backup for Rizzo.  Rizzo himself was just hitting a very good run of form both in the mezzala role center - filling in for Palumbo - and as a wingback - after Vignali went down - noticed all the fun that was going on in the physio’s office, and dislocated his jaw in training to add to the list. He was, however, he was kind enough to wait until the beginning of the two week winter break so he'd only miss a few games after the new year.

 

The one that hit Verdi hardest, though, was when Mazzeo went down with a hip injury in training that would leave him sidelined for 3-5 months.  While the prognosis was better than the ACL tear that had just about ended Verdi’s career, he wondered if, at 37, Mazzeo could come back at all.  While his form had dipped since October, the forward had helped shoot Livorno to the top of the table and his intangibles had inspired the team. Now Verdi feared Mazzeo’s career was over.  And this was just after Verdi felt like he’d started to unlock the potential of the Mazzeo’s-Raicevic partnership.

 

Adding to the frustration, in the weeks before Mazzeo’s injury the backup striker/attacking midfielder, Sven Braken had started fussing about playing time and had demanded to be transfer-listed. Verdi had liked the fellow before - a decent all-around player with good aggression and passing who had come in and done a job when asked, mostly as an attacking midfielder. However, all those happy feelings evaporated during their meeting. So, just a week or two before he would have been playing more regularly following Mazzeo’s injury, he was headed out the door instead. Braken was on a high wage, not among Verdi’s best 11, and wasn’t a great finisher, so Verdi wasn’t all that heartbroken to lose another striker who didn’t score.

 

It did bring about Verdi’s first transfer fee paid out. Feeling like he needed more than just Racievic and an inconsistent Pallecchi leading the line, Verdi decided to go in for a striker. He’d had his eye on Alessandro Marrota as a potential end of contract signing and slightly younger replacement for the aging Mazzeo, but he felt like he needed someone now - or rather, in a few weeks, when the transfer window opened. Morrota wasn’t a physically imposing player (and at 34 Verdi knew all too well that it’d only go downhill from there) but he was technically and mentally strong. Better yet, he could actually find the back of the net! Transfer listed for an affordable €20k, Verdi bit the bullet and went for it. He wasn’t sure the man would beat a speed-walker in a race, but considering how much time Livorno spent around the opposition 18 yard box, Verdi felt they needed brains and skill more than speed and brawn.

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There were still two games left until the transfer window opened, so Verdi had no choice but to go with an inconsistent Pallecchi and, if he was being honest, an underperforming Raicevic.  Along with glaring misses and tame shots at the keeper, Raicevic seemed to have spent too much time playing the crossbar challenge in training, as it felt like he hit the woodwork at least once a game.

 

Pallecchi, at first, embraced the moment by scoring a brace against Pro Sesto. The first came, wonderfully after just seven minutes. Of course, Pro Sesto did their part to help by having a man sent off in the 3rd minute, but Verdi wasn’t about to complain.

 

In the last game of the year, though, Pallecchi decided to disappear completely.  It wasn’t until another young striker replaced him that the game opened up.  Frederico Caia was a 17 year old striker called up to the senior squad after Mazzeo’s injury and Braken’s self imposed exile.   rftO0EtBPu6WGbh6_PRF4agOcfPp3qY29Cue1QXrvEWGIh2I8ckhMDBKPCeHb1DSlQQdd25UP6zVj7_iDH-sXl0lgoVAZM1HTLNePMoHrwfMQc8MR7YBDC1bJQAK7nSWBb_22mkD

Shortly after being subbed on for his first minutes of senior football, he received a throw-in in the 74th minute and crossed a lovely ball to Rizzo’s feet - more a pinpoint crossfield pass than a true cross.  Rizzo cut the ball back into the path of the onrushing Agazzi who smashed it home with a rocket from just outside the area.  Caia deserved much of the credit for the Agazzi goal, but alas, this is not hokey so the stats wouldn’t reflect his contribution.  It was only three minutes later that he got his, however.  Rizzo hit a nice cross to Raicevic, who got his head to it, but the shot was going tamely wide of goal...until Caia popped up at the far post to tap the ball into the net to claim the record of Livorno’s youngest goal scorer.  It looked as if Verdi had another promising young striker on his hands.

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As the year closed, Verdi appreciated that the form had improved, but was under no illusions that the problem was solved.  xG remained around 1 on average despite dominating possession and having plenty of shots.  Verdi didn’t like the idea of constantly being one mistake away from a loss, but he’d take the points for now.

 

Up next - New Year, Same Problems

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New Year, Same Problems

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January was the inverse of December, the performances were better but the results were worse. While they’d escaped with 9 points from 12 in December, Verdi felt they’d done so by the skin of their teeth.  In January they earned only 5, not good at all for a team trying to challenge for the title.

 

The new year began with a friendly against Serie C/C side Sambenedettese to keep up fitness over the two week winter break and to give some of the backups some game time. It ended in a 2-1 win for Livorno, featuring a lot of fast, incisive play from his team.  Verdi looked on wistfully, however, knowing that it was only because Sambenedettese came out to play real football that his side looked so good. He knew that when the league started up again he’d be facing low blocks and counters, and endless, useless sideways passing.

 

So it was. It started with a disappointing draw against inferior opposition. Livorno were creating more but still not taking their chances. Marrota scored a lovely volley on his debut as a sub, but it wasn’t enough to beat Lecco, who leveled the score in the 80th minute with curling blast from 23 meters by their right wingback (who had 5-6 finishing and 3-5 long shots and was on his weaker foot, oh how I wanted to savescum that).  Verdi sighed, feeling bad for that wingback’s future grandkids who would grow tired of hearing their grandad tell the story of his wonder goal against Livorno.

 

Three points back in the table, Livorno traveled to Alessandria with the chance to reclaim the top spot on goal difference or maybe to drop six points back. Verdi had circled a while back, hoping that it would be the game that would allow his side to break free at the top. As time went on and Livorno’s form worsened, he became more worried than excited. He feared it would be the game that killed his title hopes.

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Alessandria came out of the gates fast, putting a lot of pressure on Livorno’s back line. Verdi was very happy to have made his earlier keeper change, as Branescu kept them in the game with some good reaction saves. Those saves, as well some poor finishing from Alessandria, bought Verdi just enough time to make some changes.  After several clear cut chances, which seemed to be supplied down the wide open flanks, Verdi knew he needed pressure on their wingbacks quicker, so he pushed his own up to the midfield. The return to the 3-4-1-2 formation was just  what Livorno needed to take control of the game.  At first, it just stopped the bleeding, but for once, Verdi was perfectly satisfied with possession without penetration.

 

Then, loanee center back Carboni rose to meet a far-post free kick, and sent a looping header over the Alessandria keeper to make it 1-0. Verdi was stunned. After countless corners and free kicks had led to so little in so many games they’d dominated, here was a set-piece goal for his side...against the run of play...in a vital game. Ten minutes later a good passing move saw Palumbo hold the ball on the edge of the area just long enough to attract a defender and allow Tripadelli to surge into space to his left. The winger hit the ball low and hard and into the far corner.

 

While the overall xG seemed to tell otherwise, the minute by minute graph tells a different story and Verdi felt his side were good for the victory, though a draw would have been a fair result. While Alessandria deserved a goal early on, after Livirno’s formation change, Alessandria’s xG flatlined as Livorno’s slowly climbed.  Alessandria didn’t threaten again until a late, desperate surge after the damage had already been done and long after Verdi had slowly reduced his team’s mentality and did everything in his power to keep possession and kill the clock [play out of defence, wbib, play for set pieces, shorter passing, lower tempo, some time wasting].  It was dismal to watch but it was beautiful to Verdi.  He wished he could have just pulled his team into a shell, but Livorno wasn’t a team that could absorb pressure very well, so the best way for them to defend was to not have to.

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The following game, against 4th placed AblinoLeffe brought Livorno crashing down to earth. It was brutal - a kick in the teeth. Livorno actually played quite well, creating lots of good chances...which were constantly sent into the stands or weakly into the keepers arms. Raicevic was especially guilty, and the introduction of Marrota in the second half didn’t help. To be fair, the keeper did make a few good saves for the visitors, but Livorno really should have scored at least once, if not two or three.

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Then, just as Verdi had accepted that this would be another draw in a game they should have won, a high ball was sent forward from a goal kick in the 93rd minute. It was the kind of ball that Livorno’s back line usually ate for breakfast, but apparently they were already halfway to the locker room.  Right centerback Di Gennaro didn’t attack the ball, letting the Albinoleffe wingback beat him to it and flick the ball to the striker. Carboni and Bogan both converged on the striker, who tapped the ball first time into acres of space behind for his partner to run onto. Branescu tried to charge down the player, but it was no use.  Verdi just stood on the sideline for a while, eyes closed.  [Is this game not the definition of being “FM’ed”?] 

 

Of course, Alessandria won their game comfortably, leaving Livorno three points below once again. Worse, now Pro Vercelli were only a point behind them in 3rd.

 

Verdi could feel the title slipping from his grasp and with it, automatic promotion. They’d just wasted the perfect chance to overtake Alessandria, and a chance might not come again.  Alessandria had been scoring almost as freely as Livorno’s October run, but were also defensively stronger.

 

[Serie C is pretty different from other leagues that I know of. There are four promotion spots between the three divisions of Serie C (C/A, C/B, and C/C). The top team from each Serie C division is the only automatic promotion spot, with ten teams from each division fighting for the last promotion spot. League finish dictates how many games you have to play - 2nd gets you to the quarters, 3rd the last 16, etc.]

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Verdi considered the possibilities.  Second place in the league would still force Livorno to win three playoff games against the top sides in the three Serie C divisions.  If Vercelli passed them in the table, they were looking at four games.  While Livorno tended to play well against the top sides, all it took was one mistake or one ball bouncing the wrong way and they’d be stuck in Serie C.

 

The thing that worried Verdi most, however, was that were they to fail to get promoted that year, he feared Livorno would remain in Serie C for a long time.  The finances at the club weren’t great, and they were paying a lot of players high wages for a Serie C club.  This made sense in that a lot of the players were Serie B quality.  But that also meant that those players wouldn’t want to stick around if they weren’t promoted, and the club might not be able to afford them either.  He feared a massive rebuild could be required, and Verdi wasn’t sure the board had the patience for that.  He feared it was now or never.

 

As the transfer window closed, Verdi was at least pleased to have helped the financial situation by brining in some money and reduced the wage bill by offloading Braken, a backup goalkeeper, and a 35 year old centerback who was slow and dumb as a box of rocks but somehow on a decent wage.

 

Distracted all week, Verdi was in a bit of a daze when they played their final game of the month against Piacenza.  Palumbo opened the scoring after only four minutes with a belter of a shot from outside the area.  They controlled the game as usual, but couldn’t find the net again.  Piacenza got a free kick just inside the Livorno half.  A player was left unmarked thirty meters from goal.  Verdi watched in horror as another wonder goal cost him two points.  The only consolation that day was that Alessandria drew their game as well, and Pro Vercelli lost.  That meant that the two dropped points were only an(other) opportunity spurned.

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It was after the Piacenza game that Verdi made peace with the idea that Livorno would probably not win the title, and that they would face an uphill battle to be able to play in Serie B next season.  He feared for the future of the club, as well as his career, but he also wondered if his stress and anxiety had permeated the team.  Maybe it was time to let go?  Maybe it was time to try to remember back to October, when Verdi went into each game without expectation?

 

Ah, October!  It had been such a wonderful month. That’s when it hit him.  Why had he completely abandoned the 3-4-1-2 that had been such an effective formation?  That tactical change had turned the tide in the Alessandria game, and yet he’d returned to the 5-2-1-2 right after.  While the 5-2-1-2 had seemed to add some defensive solidity back in December, it hadn’t really changed much.  His wingbacks were still isolated, still dribbling uselessly, still...totally...isolated.

 

Why were they so isolated?

 

Verdi couldn’t believe he’d missed it for so long when the problem was so obvious. He’d tried mixing up the passing range and tempo going more attacking, changing the point of attack, changing roles and instructions, but the answer had been there the whole time, staring him in the face. He’d just been too blind to see it.

 

Up Next - (Dark) Red Tide

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Tactical Interlude

 

Verdi had known that something was wrong with his tactics since November, and really even during the purple patch of October whenever they came up against low blocks. While he didn’t have the type of players he might want, he knew his players had enough quality to win the league, but he just hadn’t been able to unlock their potential. He felt like he’d tried everything.

Everything, that is, except the one thing that could make all the difference. It was so simple really, he needed his team to play narrow instead of wide.

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Width

Facing narrow, low blocks every week, Verdi had been instructing his team to play wide, especially the wingbacks/wingers. He saw the huge open spaces on the flanks and hoped to pull teams apart by attacking those spaces. In reality, he’d only played into their hands by sending crosses into packed boxes or trying for cutback opportunities which tended to lead to blocked shots - and that was assuming the wingbacks actually beat their man.  It also meant his midfield was spread out, especially with their roles that naturally drifted wide, forcing them into longer, more defend-able balls, even within the midfield trio. Rather than isolating the winger/wingbacks out on the wings, Verdi needed them in tight to give them passing options - along with the option to surge down the flank if it was truly open.  His discomfort with possession heavy tactics had shown, and he hadn’t realized he needed his players close together, creating overloads, not uselessly attacking space that they then couldn’t do much with.  The only times that he’d instructed the team to play narrow were the friendly victory to start the year and the Alessandria game - both games he’d won and mostly looked good doing it.

 

Transitions

Verdi had only used counter pressing and counter instructions occasionally, usually in games where the other team was trying to fight Livorno for possession, but he decided to make those instructions the default.

 

The counter press would also be combined with a new split block, with the strikers and attacking midfielder pressing more intensely.  With their so-so workrate, Verdi didn’t expect to win the ball back directly in this way. Instead, he wanted to put instant pressure on opposition when the ball was lost to force more rushed clearances or safe backpasses and not allow those deadly quick counters. Verdi was generally not a fan of counterpressing, preferring to maintain shape, so he was prepared to pull the plug on that if his team got too out of sorts in transition.

 

He also decided to ask his players to counter whenever possible.  He’d wanted to avoid useless losses of possession, but with all the useless possession Livorno had been ‘enjoying’, he decided he valued quick, progressive transitions over pointless possession.

 

With his return to the aggressive formation led Verdi to ask his players to pull back the throttle a little in terms of offensive and defensive risk taking.  The formation would naturally be creating overloads, pushing players forward, and into the faces of the opposition, so he told the players not to force anything, but to try to pull apart the opposition with more patient passing.  He did want the tempo high, though, to keep the opposition on their toes.

 

Starting 11

The other so-obvious-he-couldn’t-believe-it realization was that Pallecchi needed to start every game. He was inconsistent, prone to pouting and complacency, but he was by far Livorno’s biggest goal threat. Marrota was a disappointment so far, maybe even a flop, and Raicevic seemed determined to put the ball anywhere but the net.  Pallecchi, though, with his speed and knack for timing his runs and finding space, was unstoppable on his day.  It was one of the surprises of the season - a player he almost sent out on loan was their leading scorer and one of the top scorers in Serie C/A. Verdi would be ready to pull him when he had his off days, but he would start.  So the question was who would partner with him?

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The nod went to Raicevic. He wasn’t much of a goal threat, but he was holding up the ball very well, linking up with Pallecchi and winning most of the 50-50 balls that came his way, allowing for quick transitions and for patient build up depending on the situation.  Marrota had some decent moments and he linked up well with the midfield, but his lack of physical presence did hinder him, and he was training very poorly, so he’d have to make his impact off the bench.

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About two thirds of the season gone, Verdi finally felt as if he had a settled and balanced starting 11 - the strikers having been the last piece of the puzzle - and a tactic that suited them. He couldn’t be sure until the team took the field, though.

 

Following the Piacenza game, Verdi once began to train primarily in the new and improved 3-4-1-2.  Verdi would continue to train the 5-2-1-2, with the same player and team instructions, but with a slightly more risk taking mentality to, in part, keep the wingbacks for tucking in too low and tight when the opposition was in possession.

 

Up next was Renate, who’d been among the first to frustrate Livorno back in October . They would be a good test for his narrow, split block, and counterpressing 3-4-1-2 and Verdi was excited again about a game for the first time in a long while.

 

[End Interlude]

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Good Job....playing narrow to break teams who congest the middle and the box works, but it is counterintuitive.

Keep it going Verdi.....the forums need a player like you.....

 

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(Dark) Red Tide

 

Feburary's Schedule

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The return of the 3-4-1-2 saw Livorno dispatch “we played a low block against Livorno before it was cool” Renate in a game that shouldn’t have been as close as it was.  Renate had been doing much better since their poor early season form, and had climbed up to the middle of the table, but it wasn't enough to challenge new look Livorno. The game went well from the start, and Bogdan scored from a corner to break the deadlock after twenty minutes.  After that, Renate came out of their shell at times and had a few threatening moments, but the game was never really in doubt.  Playing narrower allowed Verdi’s team to create wonderful, fluid attacking triangles and their movement and passing was cutting through Renate regularly.  The wingers, once on little islands on the wings, were now cutting into the box much higher, getting into more threatening positions. Once again, they didn’t score as much as they should have, but then Pallecchi grabbed a goal in the 93rd minute so that the scoreline reflected Livorno’s superiority...and to collect his goal bonus.

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Alessandria struggled to a 2-2 draw with Pergoletesse, reducing their lead to one point at the top of the table.  It didn’t seem like much at the time - every team slips up and Pedgoletesse weren’t pushovers as Verdi knew well after being dominated by them in November - but it certainly gave Verdi some newfound hope.

 

The next week saw Livorno beat Como. Como had given Livorno a good fight back in October, and they gave a good fight here.  Livorno played well at times, but labored to actually find the net.  A very well worked passing move saw the ball worked into Marrota’s feet in the box.  The Como defender cut him down rashly, and the man fouled stepped up to slot home the penalty.  It was a much more narrow margin than Verdi would have liked, but with Como hardly threatening, it was a very fair and earned three points in Verdi’s book.

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While Livorno was managing to beat Como, Alessandria was losing to Carrarese, and suddenly, Livorno was top of the table again after two months of looking up, bar the one week blip in January. The lead was only two points, but Verdi cherished them. 

 

Up next before the resurgent Livorno was an also resurgent Novara, the same matchup that had resulted in the 3-2 classic that saw Vignali score the 92nd minute winner in October.  Novara had hit a very good patch of form since firing their previous manager in early December, and were quickly climbing places in the league - if the season had started at the midway point, they would have come into the game in 3rd place.

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What followed was the most complete game that Livorno had played in a long time. The scoreline?  A beautiful, never in doubt, 3-1.  The first time a Novara player touched the ball was when their keeper picked a Pallecchi goal out of the net with only twenty seconds gone.  Vignali added a second in the 5th minute following a nice passing move.  The narrow play allowed Vignali to cut in from the top corner of the penalty box and receive the ball facing the goal, rather than outside the box and running towards the corner flag.  Of course, Novara managed to pull one back out of nowhere, but Pallecchi ensured there was no nervy ending in the 67th minute by scoring his second.

 

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Alessandria were held to a scoreless draw against Oliba.  Livorno’s lead grew to four. Meanwhile, Pro Vercelli won, catching up with Alessandria on points, and with a superior goal difference, took their place in 2nd.

 

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Against Grosseto, Livorno claimed a 2-1 victory. The two goals came from two penalties, but they were penalties earned by good play and the result was fair, if not kind to Grosseto, who only scored in the 92nd minute and had hardly threatened before.  Verdi didn’t love that six points out of the last nine were earned from penalties, but it was great to see teams finally getting punished for relentlessly hacking down his players.

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Alessandria and Pro Vercelli?  Goalless draws.  Livorno’s lead was six.

 

The next weekend was the same story.  Livorno beat Lucchese by good old 3-1. The game again bookended by another Pallecchi brace - one a quickly-becoming-signature and very welcome early goal in the 2nd minute and another in stoppage time - with an obligatory Lucchese garbage goal [xG 0.06???] and a penalty from Raicevic to end his long scoring drought in the middle.  Did Verdi make Raicevic the penalty taker specifically to end his scoring drought?  Yes he did.  Was he worried that Raicevic would hit the crossbar again leaving points in the balance?  Terrified.  But it all worked out.  [Note - some bug must have erased Pallecchi’s second, as the scoreline says 2-1, but the game highlights still have the 3rd goal, and it wasn’t ruled out. I’ve heard of these ‘ghost goals’ sometimes happening in FM21.]

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Vercelli and Alessandria both drew again.  Livorno’s lead grew to 8 points on March 1st, 2021.

 

Verdi was stunned and thrilled in equal measure.  Some of it had to be a team simply hitting a great run of form, but his tactical shift from attacking space to creating overloads had made his wingers far more involved and dangerous. The movement from his midfield and strikers also got more fluid and unpredictable when they were close enough to hit quick one-twos.  It actually looked like the kind of attacking football Verdi liked to watch - quick, incisive, and fluid.  Pass and move. If defenders stepped up to close down the midfield triangles, Livorno hit them over the top and Pallecchi would punish them. If they sat back Livorno would pass circles around them and work the ball into the box with the defenders disorganized and confused - see the desperate lunges leading to penalties. [Note - the work the ball into the box instruction was not usually on].

 

The transitions were also brutal for the opposition. The counter press/split block combo didn’t often get the ball back right away, but it didn’t seem to allow anyone the space and time to pick a pass. The goals Livorno gave up tended to be better worked or truly flukey but they weren’t the counter attacks that had plagued them before. Ironically, this perticular style of higher and counter press actually helped Livorno get into a solid shape when so often they’d been caught in transition before.  It wasn’t as if the counters were gone - any team playing so high and top heavy will get countered - but they weren’t giving away chances the way they had before.

 

Livorno, though, had been deadly on the counter on those rare occasions the opposition actually got into the Livorno half, especially as the counter-press had forced them to work it up the pitch against an organized Livorno. When the counter wasn’t on, Livorno would just attack with their quick sharp passing.

 

One of the unsung heroes of February was a player who’d been quietly growing in stature as the season progressed - attacking midfielder Pasquale Maiorino.  A solid all-around attacking midfielder, he’d been a consistent player but not a standout one.  Verdi had felt like there was more to come from him, and had been trying to get him more involved all season long.  In February, the veteran finally seemed to come into his own.  Though his assists mostly came from corners or free kicks, and his goals all from penalties, during February his passing and movement simply made Livorno tick.  He could constantly be seen moving into space, one-touching a pass to a teammate and moving into another space to receive it back.  Defenders didn’t know what to do with him.  He was also getting into some very good scoring positions, but he was having trouble hitting the back of the net, except from the spot of course.  If he could find his scorning form, Maiorino would truly become a force as the season came to a close.

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As the month went on, Verdi could hardly believe it as he checked the box scores after each game.  Alessandria’s form fell off a cliff just as Livorno experienced a perfect ‘month’ (the last game was on Monday, March 1st, but the rest of the league had played over the weekend in February).  They suddenly couldn’t score, only scoring 2 goals the whole month. 15th place in the form table, Alessandria got only four points to Livorno’s fifteen.  Pro Vercelli’s form also took a bit of a dip (9 points) that saw them fall well behind Livorno. [Just look the form comparison below!!!]

 

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Livorno

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Alessandria

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Pro Vercelli

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Having started the month three points back, Livorno entered March with a commanding lead in the title race. As long as their form didn’t totally fall off a cliff, Livorno would be playing in Serie B in 2021-2022. Even so, Verdi wasn’t going to back off the throttle until the title was won.

 

Up next was a visit to Pontedera. They’d only beaten them in the reverse fixture with the first of Carboni’s signature late, game winning corner goals. (Fun fact, you could say Carboni’s 3 crucial set piece contributions were responsible for their 8 point lead in the title race).  It felt like a trap game if there ever was one.

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On another day it might have gone that way.  Livorno slowly upped the pressure as the game went on, but it was starting to look like one of those games where they just couldn’t score.  Pallecchi and Maiorino were the worst offenders, both missing badly after finding themselves one-on-one with the keeper.

 

Then, in the 73rd minute Raicevic took matters into his own hands. Had Raicevic somehow heard what Verdi had said about him not scoring and decided to prove a point to him?  Or did that penalty goal take the ‘goal drought’ pressure off his shoulders? Either way, Verdi couldn’t have been more pleased with the result. After winning a 50-50 header and dropping it back to the midfield, Raicevic made a looping run behind the defender he’d just beaten in the air.  In a moment of peak February-Livorno-Ball, Piccinocchi, Maiorino, and Palumbo all had a touch before Piccinocchi spotted Raicevic’s run.  He played a beautiful lofted ball over the Pontedera backline.  Raicevic cooly chested the ball down, opened his body as he charged at the goal and tucked it into the near corner. Only a few minutes later Rizzo, playing as a left back, received an out ball by Branescu around the halfway line.  He did his best Maradona impression and dribbled past half the opposition defence before scoring to seal the win.

 

Those two great goals, one a team effort but both with a nice portion of individual magic, were both needed for the three points. Pontedera was dangerous after being forced to come out of their shells.  Just after the second Livorno goal, they pulled one back.  The attacking midfielder, hanging out unmarked in the space between Livorno’s midfield and backline, passed out to the wingback who was also in acres of space.  An early cross into the box saw the Pontedera striker put a strong header past Branescu to make it 2-1. Feeling the momentum shift, Verdi made changes.  He brought in Agazzi as a defensive midfielder to challenge their attacking midfielder and droped his wingers back to wingbacks after Vignali had been caught too far upfield for the goal.  There were some nervy moments - with Pontedera missing a total sitter near the end - but Livorno got a win that was entirely deserved. The xG showed a comfortable game, but it was one in which Verdi wasn’t confident until the whistle blew.

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The following week was a chance for revenge against Pro Vercelli.  They'd been the first to defeat Livorno in the league, and Verdi had been itching for payback - especially after Vercelli had emerged as one of the title contenders.  

 

It was a game that made Verdi deeply nervous as well, though.  Pro Vercelli had burst the bubble last time, what was to say that they wouldn’t ruin this purple patch of form?  Vercelli had lost the past weekend, leaving them 11 behind Livorno and all but mathematically out of the title race, but if they beat Livorno and Alessandria won...Livorno’s lead would down to five.  Verdi would have been thrilled with a five point lead before, but now that he could almost taste Serie B, he didn’t want to allow any doubts into his players’ minds, or give Alessandria any hope.

 

Verdi wasn’t worried about his attack - they’d been firing on all cylinders after the switch to narrow play - but he wanted to make sure Pro Vercelli couldn’t score the way they had in Vercelli.  To combat Vercelli’s wide overload 5-2-3 (with a center striker and two inverted wingers), Verdi instructed his men to funnel them into the middle where Livorno would have the numerical advantage and his wingbacks would have midfield defensive cover.  He also decided to start this game with the 5-2-1-2 formation to secure the flanks and give space for his front three to operate.

 

They avoided a repeat of Vercelli, got revenge...and more.  It was a brutal and efficient 4-0 win.

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Whether it was Verdi’s tactics or the teamtalk about getting revenge, Livorno played it’s best game of the year, by far.  They scored early and often, and they gave Pro Vercelli nothing.  They registered their first shot midway through the first half, well after Livorno had already scored twice.  Raicevic picked up where he’d left off last game and scored with a lovely looping header after only ten minutes.  Next, it was Livorno who caught Vercelli out with a brutal counter after Vercelli had overcommitted men forward.  With the whole of the pitch in front of him Piccinocchi surged into space, waiting for just the right moment to release Pallecchi with a lofted ball over the top.  It was just too far for the Vercelli keeper to reach, and he could only watch helplessly as Pallecchi buried it right in front of him. Raicevic then provided a lovely assist to Pallecchi, a 40 meter diagonal that Pallecchi also blasted into the back of the net past a stranded and helpless Vercelli keeper. Bogdan rounded off the rout with a powerful header off a free kick.  Livorno got their revenge and more, and it was sweet. And for once, they kept an entirety deserved clean sheet.

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Nicely, the win also meant Livorno laid claim to the Serie C/A record for most wins in a row with seven!

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With Pro Vercelli defeated, they were now fourteen points behind Livorno with six games left.  They were dead and buried.  Alessandria had also slipped up again, drawing against Lecco, leaving them ten points adrift.  Livorno had one hand on the title and there would need to be a drop off in form of epic proportions for them to not be crowned winners.

 

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One added bonus from the Pro Vercelli game was that Carboni had gotten his fifth yellow card of the season in this game, which meant he was out for the next game...which he’d miss anyway due to international call ups!  Verdi was a bit annoyed at winger/wingback Tripadelli for not understanding his only slightly veiled instructions to do the same!

 

Rounding out the young trio of loanee’s he would be missing for the next two games was Palumbo.  They were off for the U21 European Championship Group State which, for some reason, was happening at the end of March and into early April, though the knockout stages would happen in May (???). The two games they’d miss were both very winnable (Juve U23s and relegation threatened Giana) but that also meant they were very losable.  He had quality depth in midfield and on the wings, but not for centerback Carboni.  He was glad to have his ten point cushion in case these two games somehow spelled disaster.

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Up Next - The Jog In!

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8 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Good Job....playing narrow to break teams who congest the middle and the box works, but it is counterintuitive.

Keep it going Verdi.....the forums need a player like you.....

 

Thanks for the vote of confidence!  It definitely was unlike my normal tactics - organized defense, fast, wide, kill them with speed, physicality, and good passing.  This team is not especially suited to any but the last one, so it's been a trip trying to make them tick right.  The narrow thing really did the trick though.

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Posted (edited)

The Jog In!

 

The run-in was, everyone agreed, more of a ‘jog in’ for Livorno.  Verdi just needed to make sure they didn’t trip and fall flat on their faces and they’d be crowned champions.  Not only were they two wins and a draw away from guaranteed promotion, they also had a schedule which saw them play only two top half teams in the remaining six.  Alessandria, would face two top five teams in Pro Vercelli and AlbinoLeffe, as well as Renate and Como who were, at that moment, 2nd and 3rd in the form table.  They’d have to beat them all and somehow hope that Livorno went into a nosedive.

 

Livorno Light-Jog-In

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Verdi wasn’t going to take these games lightly, however.  After bidding farewell to the brave young Italian trio who were heading off to fight for their country, he turned his focus onto Juve U23s.  Alessandria narrowly won their game over Pro Vercelli the day before, but thie news was met with a shrug by most in the Livorno camp - but it did harden Verdi’s focus.

 

The game itself was a dire affair, just like the first meeting. Livorno struggled to break down a deep defending Juve U23, and, especially, to beat the legendary Gianluigi Buffon, who for some reason was slumming it in this fixture.  A beauty of a Maiorino free kick did beat him at his near post to bring Livorno three points closer to the Serie C/A crown.  Honestly, the Juve Jr. didn’t even try - Verdi couldn't remember what earned them even an xG of 0.11.

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Next up, home to Giana.  It was another slog, made even harder by Raicevic heading off to play for his country as well, leaving Livorno without four starters.  Marrota once again disappointed, first missing a penalty and then a sitter from a few meters out [see the two biggest jumps in Livorno’s xG].  Bogdan saved his blushes when he scored off a free kick with a thumping header.  Giana, like Juve Jr., provided almost no threat, and that set piece goal was enough to bring Livorno within a point of the title.dMUBPZw3GkCwG12Wo_rMlQ8sL1OVTBo7iIFt6__oanfJS6AHCWSEl0U3qWnstHOFYFZkHYLhKdKOhxUkqEL13zpA-6wO7K0Mmhd-iuQx7fQ4Cd6COdUm_qLNwGc8XetSoG92Dilf

Verdi spent much of both games musing on how nice it was to have such a big point cushion during these miserable games.  Earlier in the season he might have pulled his hair out, changed tactics, thrown players forward, but he was relaxed.  He didn’t shy away from telling his players that they weren’t doing the job, but he remained confident that they’d win in the end...and knew it would all be fine even if they didn’t.

 

His only worry was that he was now without any of his loan players and the squad looked much worse off for it.  Still, there were more loans to be had and more players to be brought in when he could pay Serie B wages...

 

The following week’s game against Pergolettese was both another stop on Livorno’s revenge tour and billed by the media as a ‘title-decider’ - if only in the sense that the title could be decided that week.  It really was only a matter of time.

 

That said, the reverse fixture had been Livorno’s worst defeat in that they hadn’t even really threatened Pergolettese, so to defeat them soundly would be really nice.  Still, Verdi would be pleased as long as they didn’t lose - a point would win them the title with three games to spare. The Italy U21 trio was back for the game, but were gassed after playing a bunch of games in quick succession, so Verdi only picked Tripadelli after having little choice - backup winger Porcino was out for the rest of the season after the Giana game and on the right Vignali was out too, leaving Rizzo as the only other starting caliber player who could play on the right.

 

The game didn’t start well, and Rizzo gave up a penalty in the 18th minute.  The Pergolettese player, though, lost his nerve and hit the post.  Fifteen minutes later, Pallecchi was felled in the Pergolettese box.  Marrota, in a heart-warming show of sportsmanship, stepped up and blasted the ball well wide (making him 1 for 3 on penalties).  Another defender again ensured the headlines wouldn’t shame Livorno’s disappointing striker, with Di Gennero scoring from a corner before Maiorino rounded out the win with another beauty of a free kick.  

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It was a poor game overall - both goals from set-pieces, as was the case with the previous two games - but at the end, the stage was set up at the Armando Picci and Livorno celebrated the league title!!!

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The board was pleased, but also wanted Verdi to know that they weren’t all that impressed.  The ‘past winners’ graphic served as another warning - Livorno had only survived two years in Serie B after its last promotion.  If Verdi wasn’t on top of his game, Livorno could easily fall right back down again.

 

For the moment, though, it was time to celebrate.  During those dark winter months of December and January he’d all but given up hope, and now he’d not only lifted the title, but run away with it.  To put the icing on the cake, nine wins in a row also was a new Livorno record, and the points gave them a record high points haul as well.

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On Monday, Verdi would begin to plan for the next year, but tonight was for champagne.  Of course, the champagne was mostly for spraying around in the locker room.  When he was ready to leave the boys to their fun, he was going to head home and enjoy the 2011 Masseto that his wife would have out and decanted...and they’d probably enjoy a few more slightly less fancy Tuscans as the night went on...

1682075607_ScreenShot2021-04-01at8_40_40PM.png.74b75e92f4a1df67baa50401b0db3271.png

Edited by 13th Man
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Fantastic stuff really really enjoying this! Great title win. Some huge sleeping giants in Italian football I just can’t seem to get into them. But it seems like you have certainly got into it!! 
 

what’s the tactical plan for next year more of the same or adapting for the level above?

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7 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Congrats on the Title! :applause:

Thank you, thank you!  Hopefully Verdi's Encore will come soon in Serie B!  Not for a few seasons, ideally, so they're actually ready for the big time, but hopefully soon enough.

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6 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Fantastic stuff really really enjoying this! Great title win. Some huge sleeping giants in Italian football I just can’t seem to get into them. But it seems like you have certainly got into it!! 
 

what’s the tactical plan for next year more of the same or adapting for the level above?

Thanks!  My Italian journey was a surprise to me as well - I grew up hating the Italian national team and the way they played - but (to repeat my intro) I just keep signing Italian players and I've gotten more into the Italian styles of playing lately.  Plus, getting deep into this team into a country I wasn't that familiar with (both in the game and in real life!) has been an interesting exploration after being a one club player for the last ten years (Southampton).

In terms of tactics, I'll go in depth in future updates...partially because I'm still working on it! 

Like we discussed in your Odd thread, I don't want to get too far away from what Verdi developed, but I also think the 3-4-1-2 used to dominate Serie C/A will get exposed by the step up.  Livorno did beat Reggina (at home) in the Italian Cup qualifiers with the early iteration of it, so it can certainly work as an option, but I think the top teams would eat them alive.  The 5-2-1-2 (WB) formation should be a bit more solid and might get used more in Serie B, but it's still a pretty aggressive tactic that will be less effective against superior opposition, especially away from home.  I'm going to throw up in my mouth a bit saying this, but I'm wondering if this team might need the 'defensive' tactic to be a Spain 2010, 'the other team can't score if they don't have the ball' kind of tactic, but that also might be folly with the step up in quality!  If Verdi can get a few of his type of players in, though, I might be able to do more of a solid, keep shape defensively and break type tactic...time will tell.  Certainly thinking a 5-3-2 or even a flexible 5-1-2-2/3-3-2-2 (DM + WB's) where the center mids have the freedom to break forward in support of the strikers.

Long term, Verdi wants to build a team that defensively acts like a marsh - it's not impenetrable, but you have to fight for every meter, and there's lots of chances to make mistakes.  When you do, the transitions are brutal - this is actually where I'm loving the 3atb, by the way!  If the counter's not on, he'll have the flexible, probing attack to keep the opposition guessing.  By the end of the season he'd found a way to get his team to play like that, but we'll have to see if it can make the step up.

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3 at the back is immense for recycling the ball and also give you ample cover to stop counters. I’ve been a big fan off it for the last two years. Mainly cause I go board of 433 or 4231 so I started to go 3 at the back. Plus the wide men were frustrating me alot

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My team plays alot like your vision for Livorno especially against bigger team, but I play "Bully" ball against the weaker teams if they dare and come off the bus!

 

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Posted (edited)

Why Are We Still Here?

There were still three dead rubber games left before the end of the league season, with the ‘excitement’ of the Serie C Super Cup to come.

 

He would spend those last few weeks taking stock of where Livorno was and what he could do to ensure survival in Serie B the following season.  That was his entire goal. If they could manage that, he could begin to really start to put his fingerprints on the club and then, in a few years, try to make the push to Serie A.  To that end, Verdi decided he wanted to try to keep ‘the band’ together for now.  He called up Udinese and Caligari and asked to extend Palumbo and Carboni’s loans.  Happily, both agreed to pure, unchanged extensions.  That meant that two of his key players would be on measly wages (€500/w for Palumbo and €775/w for Carboni), freeing up wage and transfer money for other areas of need.

 

Verdi’s thoughts were centered squarely on 21-22, but few more games needed to be played in the 20-21 season.  The press asked him if the players would be up for the last three games now that there was nothing to play for, and Verdi lied right to their faces and told them that the team was focused and rearing to get back on the pitch.

 

The away game to Carrarese was a textbook example of a team taking their foot off the gas.  Carrarese were one step quicker to everything, just a bit sharper all around while Livorno sleep walked through the game.  However, for most of the game both sides stubbornly refused to score.  Branescu had to take a lot of the credit, putting on a man-of-the-match worthy performance, saving 8 shots, at least three or four of which should have been goals. Livorno?  They skied a lot of very good opportunities, with Pallecchi being especially guilty, but Maiorino was the one who had a penalty saved.  Finally, Carrarese got the goal they honestly deserved, and Verdi admitted as much in the press conference following the game.  Mazzeo, in his first game back after his long injury layoff, seemed to have pulled one back, but Verdi had known before the whistle went that he was offsides.  To be honest, it was a bit worrying considering the step up in competition they were about to face, but Verdi told himself this was more of a ‘let-off’ game than a sign of things to come.

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Did it get any better after that?  No, it really didn’t.  Verdi and the squad wanted nothing more to do with Serie C and it showed.  After winning the title, Livorno wasn’t able to win any of their last three games.  Granted, Verdi gave some game time to young players and didn’t exactly lay awake at night worrying about how he was going to play.  Oliva was a game they should have won (xG 2.14 to Oliba’s 0.6) and a penalty and yet another howler from Romboli cancelled out another Pallecchi brace against Pro Patria.

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Then, after the regular season ended, it was on to the Serie C Super Cup. [Ah yes! The trophy that sits 95th place in the competition table!  Just between the Kosovan Super Cup and two whole places above the Northern Irish Cup!].  Verdi tried to get himself and his team up for the games, but he simply couldn’t care.  It showed, and it did not go well.  Still, it was another warning sign to Verdi that he needed to up his game if Livorno was to survive in Serie B.

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Livorno should have comfortably beaten Serie C/B Sudtirol, but simply couldn’t find the net.

qNZ1Q6Od4OnAJ-C0IP1NeVc9o0lqu934mUWdhXaGNIvUUpqdKcCD_S9Nb8YBFHXqZZAvglFu3mu77yIECWWiJj-zVyl2816RZ5smxB8-zPloB3ZgnTtSw6EFl5rFu3mTS8jucLwu

Then came the game against Bari.  It was an ugly 3-0 drubbing.  The scoreline was especially unkind to Livorno, but Verdi was not impressed with his side.  All three goals were essentially wonder goals, but while Livorno had a few threatening moments, they were mostly neutralized by Bari and Verdi couldn’t begrudge them their win.

 

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With the season finally over, though, Verdi could look back on a season in which he achieved his singular goal - promotion.  There had been dark times, times when he didn’t believe it would happen, but in the end, Livorno ran away with the league.  He wondered if the tough spell in the winter was the football gods' way of toughening him up for the fight that was sure to follow in Serie B.  Finally, mercifully, it was time for the Season In Review!!!

 

 

A Season to Remember!

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The New Arrivals!

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Verdi was pretty pleased with his signings.  It was ironic that the one player he paid for (€20k for striker Marrota) was a flop, while his loan and free signings helped carry the team to the title [Tripadelli’s €80k was fees for his loan, but Livorno paid 0% of his wages].  Piccinocchi was especially pleasing - he'd chipped in with some great assists and his slick, quick passing had been key to Livorno's play.

 

Best Games!

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Verdi had to agree with the press on all the above.  From the beautiful and brutal demolition of Pro Vercelli, to that key game against Alessandria during the dark winter months, to the stunning blast from Agazzi.

 

The Shirts! (And some other stuff)

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The Accolades!

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Data is Beautiful!

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The data shows that Livorno was the dominant team in the league, and while the ball may have bounced their way a few times (xpts vs actual points) they ran out deserved winners of the Serie C/A title.  It’s true that their attacking efficiency went way down once teams began to park the bus, but the only way to knock down a locked door is to hit it with a battering ram and sometimes that takes some doing.

 

The Board!

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Verdi thought that this made a lot of sense overal.  He wasn’t one to care about the possession football...but it did suit his side so he agreed to it.  Verdi appreciated the board's expectation that Livorno ‘fight bravely against relegation’.  He felt fairly good about their prospects the next season, but it was nice to not have the board breathing down his back all year.

 

Top Team!

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Verdi felt a little robbed by the formation.  If it had been a 3 at the back formation with no defensive midfielder, the team may have been all Livorno except for Ciccone (who scored two more than Pallecchi), the rightback, and the keeper.

 

Next up - Who’s Ready for Serie B?

Edited by 13th Man
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I like the way you are writing things up and the tactics are very interesting. A fair few clubs do play similar formations in Italy if memory serves me correctly so it seems the right league to experiment. Best of luck in Serie B, there's always some biggish clubs languishing in there as well. 

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12 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

I like the way you are writing things up and the tactics are very interesting. A fair few clubs do play similar formations in Italy if memory serves me correctly so it seems the right league to experiment. Best of luck in Serie B, there's always some biggish clubs languishing in there as well. 

Thanks!  Along with taking a liking to Italian players, I did feel like a 3atb exploration in Italy seemed very correct considering it's prevalence there, and not just as a park the bus/defensive tactic either.

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Who’s Ready For Serie B?

Verdi spent much of the last few weeks of the 20/21 season thinking about the next season.  Livorno had won the Serie C/A title easily (in the end) but what about Serie B?  Would domination below mean survival above?

 

The board gave Verdi a transfer budget of €250k and boosted the wage budget to €91,800k/w (€26k over what they were spending).  Before he delved into the transfer market, however, Verdi took stock of his squad to see who would cut it at the next level.

 

The Team at the End of 2020/2021

 Goalkeeper

Starter - Depth

Branescu 

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He’d gotten better and better as the season progressed, and had been responsible for a lot of clean sheets.  

-Verdi would be comfortable having him as the first choice next year-

 

Romboli

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Lost his place mid-year to Branescu due to poor performances.  He didn’t really seem to progress either, despite starting most of the first half of the season.  Verdi hopes to loan him out to a Serie C team next year to see if he could make any more progress. 

-look to loan-

Position Verdict - Need depth 

Low priority

 

Centerback

Starters - Depth

Di Gennero

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Solid all year long.  Good in the air, strong, tall and with decent pace.  

-Ready for Serie B-

 

Bogdan

OYSktRp9QStCQdzH7UC3Q5x-ZkKWKgdTsP0Nf83L5TnW6IyhkjFr89TsqHvys70wG3YanfMl-wFarrrbVgAvrFZ8oGAR74rQ46xxkleCSHCG2sZ1f5TBKT-YWtH8FmeMsCGnLhmQ

Similar to Di Gennero.  More aggressive.  Solid all year long.  Dangerous at set pieces. 

-Ready for Serie B-

 

Carboni (loan)

Bh2lIZVd41WLV5pkw2gAr8DuuO84ycL7axGSCa30l7bs01ldMmn8uyAr-t6svPK1XCT0tZ7Fl35Hmbto9dL_CTWlw04F8Q1UuJDYZJnk9woIVJofSGKnjAN4i91qLWDalg-XlS38

Player with the highest rating all year.  Defended well and chipped in with crucial goals. (Loan already extended) 

-Very much ready for Serie B-

 

Morelli

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Was okay depth at Serie C.  Has no glaring weaknesses but also no strengths. Has some decent value, so Verdi will look to sell him.

-Not ready for Serie B except as emergency backup. Look to sell-

 

Marie-Sainte

wgFdr2O8PCX43fWsKbh83iWlngrP8KrAmj0sPX_y_v9pgIp06zXDNfn7m6sunb5zrUPp7JdG1XX4xPLvzNz3KReFPrCP7wHLCuAyiayoZenjSEw20wQGYI2u-MpXJ4yvkHICd3mc

Like Morelli he wasn’t liability but didn’t impress either.  He has pace but lacks much else.  Shows some potential though.

-Not ready for Serie B, Contract up, don’t renew-

(Youngster)

 

Position verdict - Need depth and/or competition

High Priority - look for value

 

Center Midfield

Starter - Depth

Palumbo (loan)

DJiAZwpDzPaEmA0NRuRaY7o8j9rh105d1jUM9TjVq3zHbyIk_SV0LadDfgojMisLov1LoyBy1ntWMm1WBAYVPESQNcN_ATT-ViNpEEVKHhv-yInP0_fJNAZzrw_nHR9K1TPznevp

Had the dips in form that you’d expect from a young man, but overall was a regular contributor and simply a dangerous player. Loan has already been extended!

-Very ready for Serie B-

 

Piccinocchi

WLMfzijx5Dhs8cFZLIcxN2DJHhLTfyPwiK3o5L12uXxu1kwqllphMpJbNpoy7vGm10sasinwPSW5vET9iZdaau8lddrfMoUlofJWoHrrJled-YcqGLbsarfYzYhcUzTc0igFPRJW

Deadly passer and was regularly in the mix.  Verdi is worried his lack of physical presence and defensive nous may hinder him at the next level, but thinks he will be a solid team member.

-Ready for Serie B, but maybe not as effective-

 

Agazzi

ANfNqFRjkfmphT1Exo_4O7UkbBz-JkVgdVu0U_5MIX3cJBfmOrowmmt61Wi--2EQP2msUO8MN__NlBkzC9v5d8Eg9J5qJzbRuT1qYlNfc7cPj8bY_ZKn2KpxOYFgeTAN0_qys4Bq

Club captain Agazzi stepped in and played well even after he’d generally lost his starting place.  He has some grit about him and often seemed to play beyond what you’d expect from him. Might turn into a starter if Piccinocchi’s defensive frailty becomes a liability.

-Ready for Serie B-

 

Bussaglia

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A quick, fairly skillful player, he was a pretty decent backup for Palumbo in the mezzala role.  However, he’s a total passenger from the defensive standpoint and is on a very high wage for a backup.

- look to sell-

 

Rizzo

87QgXQfiBBB5mZN5iHML3-uh2-o--Yd6iI-46jxFUWIgiSIU3Mz5_JXLChBcPkAJjt9D25K5Os7qxoOqfLH-4JINqxlCobK0n4pD-kJ8DUhh_exYTIjiS3nZ2h83X-44raoqjxaZ

More the impact sub/utility man, Rizzo still seemed to just have a bit of magic about him.  He scored some wonderful goals and contributed very well with assists.  His average rating was one notch higher than Vignali’s too, but that may have been because he was so often a super sub.  For a player often coming off the bench, he got 4 man of the match awards.  

-Ready for Serie B-

 

Piccoli

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A player that seems to play above what you’d expect based on his attributes.  More solid defensively than Bussaglia and also does a good shift on the wings.

-Decent as a backup, though will probably struggle in Serie B-

 

Position verdict - Better depth would be ideal, especially a player with defensive abilities.

Medium priority - look to free transfers.

 

Right Wingback/Winger

Starter - Depth

Vignali (loan)

9HWNxAWhHNwas1ICHAbMOKpg6bPG6gKxvs_e7ULqkbiaBvwT8u7DPZc2HzaQ0A1I_M7LNChMVlF-XY97p6PZtb3GjCpPLuyRfxyni9H8dFXyuu_tue6XKmeUJbP0FHAmZxDOUiHK

Played very well overall.  Scored a fair amount of goals and defended well too.

Option to buy is €750k which is triple Livorno’s initial budget.  Loan extension would require a substantial uptick in the cost - hard to stomach when Rizzo has done quite well.

-Wait and see-

 

Rizzo

See above

-Ready for Serie B-

 

Morelli (wb only)

Was serviceable as a backup, just like he was as a CB, but that was Serie C.  Verdi still didn’t think he was ready for the step up.

-Same as above-

 

Piccoli - See above

-Decent backup but would struggle if required to start regularly-

 

Position verdict - If Vignali not extended, need another player

High Priority

 

Left Wingback/Winger

Starter - Depth

Tripadelli (loan)

LRhUxk4uYrw2T3KXg8Dn1brfyqCFGBXFEBp9jPgRWD7kEVALvq7xgMgTmELXyQ28cA79m1J9lkpK_z8vm54OnD3EhsmktyjPM3sIOKtVAaVEhfFiNIie8yiXbk0TP2PAvbW6NoxR

Was a very consistently productive player. Didn’t score as much as Vignali or Russo, but had more assists. Loan extension would require a substantial uptick in cost. Might be worth it.

-Wait and see-

 

Porcino

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Played okay when called upon. Not exceptional in any way but not seriously lacking either.

-backup option-

 

Rizzo

Played quite well here when called upon. Might be less effective as a left wingback, but his inswinging crosses and passes from the left, as well as a few goals, added a different dimension.

-good rotation option here, but more needed on the right-

 

Position verdict - If Tripadelli is not extended, need another player

High Priority

 

Attacking Midfield

Starter - Depth

Maiorino

VBdNTKjQdw8UI_qqHW3r7kWBpOq8rUxXs0Qf7O_p4-4LURK34fTe7j8n2GyM5bw1smyrj3L03LpJomBsGV5Ln2zcQdKOIg8M-oqaQpmRRnEWcabpmAGDi5AGwGzGBIyvrV2XM9UO

doesn’t score enough and assists mostly from set pieces, but was integral in making Livorno tick during their surge to the title. At 32, he wasn’t getting any younger.  Still, might be worth kicking the can down the road especially as the AM position may be less used in Serie B

-Maybe ready for Serie B-

 

De Man

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Great name.  A young player who has some potential. Played okay in his few appearances, but unpolished. His vision is quite impressive for his age however.

-not ready beyond a few cameos, might look for a loan-

 

Palumbo

played pretty well here when Maiorino was injured.

-good insurance-

 

Position verdict - lowest priority

 

Strikers

Starter - Depth

 

Pallecchi

1eWGWGk0EHbkkKus8cmeDoxaxzzrPa67TeeWZZtqJ2HcFRs5QnOjxD7RgS8TCA9LqUnuvkzORBEvDW-H64P4OXm-96G424xSB-yBvzH7EW3xaoo94Mngf_ZbjzDP9oLDo9oi25B_

One of the players of the season, and certainly the surprise of the season. His goals were one of the keys to Livorno’s title win. Mentally weak, though, Verdi wonders if he’ll be able to make the jump.

-might need competition, time will tell-

 

Racievic

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Had a patch of poor form but he came into his own after the tactic change. Good at holding the ball up and scored a few great goals too towards the end of the season.

-ready for Serie B-

 

Marrota

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Started well with a well taken goal on his debut. Only contributed one goal (a penalty) and no assists after that. Didn’t apply himself in training. At 34 his already weak physical attributes will only get worse.

-flop, offload-

 

Mazzeo

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Will be 38 at the start of the 21/22 season. Played very well and seems eager to come back. A good leader and role model.

-decent backup, mostly for leadership-

 

Caia

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Scored and contributed very well on his debut, he played only in cameos, but showed flashes of very good play. Has similar mental weaknesses as Pallecchi, but could turn into a good player.

-might loan out to develop-

 

Position verdict - 

High Priority

May need to open up the checkbook

 

SUMMARY

 - Highest priority - 

Wingback/winger depth and/or starters

- High -
Strikers

 (This is where Verdi figured he’d have to pay)

- Medium-High -

Centerback 

(With some appealing options with expiring contracts, Verdi hoped not to have to go much into the transfer budget here)

- Medium-Low -

Center Midfield

Looking for depth and/or defensive minded, ball winning central midfielders

- Low - 

Keeper

Branescu wasn’t the best, but he would do the job

- Lowest -

Attacking Midfield

Maiorino should do okay and Palumbo is a good backup

 

Up Next - The Transfer Season!

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1 hour ago, 13th Man said:

Thanks!  Along with taking a liking to Italian players, I did feel like a 3atb exploration in Italy seemed very correct considering it's prevalence there, and not just as a park the bus/defensive tactic either.

Absolutely, as Atalanta have shown recently! And of course Conte too at Inter.

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Posted (edited)

The Transfer Season

[This is a whole post about transfers/team building, which is a part of this game that is just too much fun for me. My wife took my two young kids out of town for an extra long weekend so I've been able to nerd out on this game for many more hours than is healthy these last few days.  Couldn't have come at a better time in game for me!

Anyway, for those who don't want to get bogged down in it, a post about the 21/22 Season Tactics will come next, and then...SERIE B!!!]

 

The summer of 2021 was Verdi’s first real transfer window.  The previous year he was just getting to know the players, struggling to figure out his system, and he and his staff hardly had any info on players outside the club.  Over the course of the season he’d found a way of turning Livorno into the dominating force of Serie C/A.  However, he was worried that his technical and lightweight squad would be bullied at the next level, especially when they played such an attacking game.  What happened when they weren’t a class above the opposition anymore?

 

Verdi went on the lookout for players that were flexible, hard working, and determined...quick with their feet and their minds.  He couldn’t have players whose heads would drop when things didn’t go their way, and he knew they’d lose many more games in the coming year.  Of course, he wouldn't expect to find everything he was looking for in every player, especially as Livorno couldn’t compete with the cash available to the more established Serie B clubs, but that was the goal.

 

Before the transfer season truly started, however, Verdi approached the board asking to improve youth recruitment.  Verdi wanted to bring in players young and turn them into determined, aggressive players, but the youth class of 20/21 had been so bad that only a few players had been signed, and even then, just to fill out the U18 and U20 rosters around the edges.  Verdi’s request was, at first, denied.  But then the board came to him a few weeks later asking if they should raise the wages for the nerds, aka the data analysts.  Verdi countered with youth recruitment again, and this time, after some pushing, the board agreed.

 

sUwWLCpSigaiFeReCivhUpR1vwoCNxei_geSlL-3eSYCCCJvHH5oopk8kT4KId-miDijJ-kba_5bJ2oA5EbZ1u7K7o4qIpHN-1ESJdYubWxOQWsg4VKj4xuiHLYOzSWDV1rjfTn6

 

INCOMING!!!

On the first day of the transfer window Verdi brought in five players that addressed many of the team's needs, all free transfers - a backup/future prospect striker, a high potential centerback, a new starting keeper, a versatile midfielder, and some defensive minded depth in the central midfield.

LL5_9cb_OE_6BEVYzlpiX1uNLHAd-E8W76hkggJH6xO-SIMPX38IoqP0ipJqMNXQiwx1lW4cOEHthdZPN5449ha7TKXDdpfgOZohRcRhHCAGAniuEYTcBqz5G_fmLEo3dQbPfwt3

 

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The young striker had a name that would have certainly gotten him teased - the Dutch generally having a good handle on English and Pinas would get you in trouble just about anywhere - but while it didn’t truly toughen him up, he still seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  He had pace, decent physicals, and a lot of potential.  Verdi hoped he might keep Pallecchi honest, especially if he couldn’t find a striker that he truly wanted.

 

8InAjOXafnjVWzUbA0a8R68oetDiSHdndNFS9i_xw8_Rlo0ZGeNFOF_mBskyzpxJYEUzg_llw0syEwNQbrEN1aqYFsHCr2FyTln2x_cCa5bIcsEoak_Gwic7jIIe7_NMzRUytPKi

Paolo Gozzi felt like a bit of a coup for Verdi.  At least a dozen teams showed major interest in him as an out of contract defender from Juventus, many of them Serie A teams.  For a while, Gozzi wouldn’t even enter into talks with Livorno, and Verdi feared he would lose out like he had on a few other prospects.  Finally, however, Gozzi’s agent took his call.  Verdi’s promise of regular football got Gozzi to come take a chance in dark red.  He did, however, show his ambition by demanding a minimum fee release clause if a Serie A team came calling.  Verdi didn’t begrudge him that, but got him to agree to a €10m instead of the €2m that he’d requested.  If Gozzi progressed as much as he hoped, Verdi would either renegotiate his contract, or get a fee that was forty times Livorno’s starting 21/22 transfer budget.

 

While he had some deficiencies on the mental side of the game, he was strong, quick, and could challenge in the air.  Verdi hoped he could progress into a player that could help take them up into Serie A.

 

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Verdi hadn’t been looking all that hard for a keeper, but when the scout report for Mazzini showed up in his inbox, he pounced.  While Bransecu was serviceable, Mazzini was a clear step up, and at 22 had room to grow.

 

QiNhagfiKx3E2vKV8MH4KZxOpaiCY4Rlqar1c2iOKiWLv2sutCWh4ov-BbpY71wTsyG0fmk6WWmXy_pafu0XLzyL_W5UrAX3i4HL6IJQcQPU6TjnMZ4ZG3O1dThvVKnUtJGblzG-

Signed from relegated Ascoli who were headed down into Serie C, Cavion was the one player on their side who shined, his 7.04 rating especially impressive considering their season.  Verdi liked his versatility and willingness to work hard.  He would likely spend a lot of time starting on the wings but would also play in the center or as an attacking midfielder.

 

7v3zj2LiMYsuo2LGGaMHuCPyEpCC-O9XKiOHFu8H4mg4N1G5c3xN0bqfcj9uCg8coFPn0_lpHWTlrln_CG8vvazJc88SUH5pqKBWJTMmno6M6yJu_Q8y2ssZo45dOOgo5ARggBoy

Another Juventus signing, Verdi brought in Ranocchia as a defensive option in the center of the park.  He was certainly not a standout player, but he had some potential and Verdi appreciated his intelligence and especially his aggression - a trait that was lacking in much of the Livorno squad.  He’d make a good rotation option and a player to bring in to see out games.

 

GET OUT!!!

Center mid/winger Bussaglia headed out the door for a cool €375k, and took his €3.2k/w wages with him.  As a player that made only a few starts, Verdi thought this was a lovely piece of business, more than doubling Livorno’s starting transfer budget.

 

NOT YOU!  You stay.

The other news was that while Vignali’s loan was allowed to expire, Tripadelli would remain at the club for another year.  Verdi had been ready to pay more when he struggled to find a left wingback/winger to replace him, but when he called Caligari this time, they were happy to extend his loan with the same terms as before.  Verdi managed to hide his surprise, wondering if being a big club meant that all the staff weren’t on the same terms. 

 

Verdi was excited about his additions, but he still felt he needed two more signings to be fully satisfied.  He’d addressed all of the team's needs, but he still was on the lookout for a player who could play both winger and wingback on the right and, more importantly, a starting striker.  He was struggling mightily on both fronts, even with his transfer budget more than doubled with the Bussaglia funds.

 

MORE INCOMING!!!!

The next player he found wasn’t either of the things he was looking for, but he was still pretty happy with the pickup.  Verdi had asked his scouting team to alert him if anything happened with a young Spanish leftback/winger from Zaragoza named Pep Chavarria. Quick, determined, well rounded and fairly intelligent, Chavarria also had a bit of extra aggression that Verdi appreciated.  Reports had initially indicated that he’d cost a good chunk of the transfer budget, but when Verdi was notified that Zaragoza were taking offers as low as €68k, Verdi got in quick.  A deal for €66k was soon agreed upon - €58k then, with €8k to come if/when he made 50 appearances.  He would compete with Tripadelli on the left, and hopefully develop into a full on starter when Tripadelli’s loan was over.

FGatCFPm8cC39XZsNNxFdg7Euk5wPpG4WCHb_t10bQGbezdHozm13Rf3wHtSmjsCG5JKq8rwIXErMu7iBLXTtlJn7PsScnLwtSkkbbrI5LV33hAF-w-PDD9ORbqSGKs0YAw2i81s

 

Trials and Tribulations!

Verdi invited tons of out of contract players to come on trial, most were duds, as Verdi expected. Three, however, caught his eye.

 

First was Guisseppe Zampano.  Along with liking his name, Verdi also appreciated his aggression.  He was probably a downgrade from Vignali, but he would provide depth and options and he was free!

u0IC81URNd65Ffe4AWLoQIW4m7yQI3i5Unq_Zz24MMI-k26HSNymI0jg3W8r_AxAT3E8j2Oa05HyTB0M3sWJcw6KA-f-ukGfUbj7BLcLPFO3hCCF1srrZIe17bSPnOaARgVqfYL6

 

The second was a center/attacking midfielder named Thomas Bruns.  He added a third member to the Dutch contingent at Livorno - joining youngsters de Man and Pinas.  Verdi was reluctant to sign him despite his quality at first.  He was overloaded with midfielders!  The more he thought about it, though, the more he realized that he was an upgrade from Maiorino, and that he was the kind of player that Verdi wanted to bring in.  He was more aggressive, harder working, and just seemed to have a bit more quality.  His willingness to work hard and his relative defensive quality would potentially make it more possible for Livorno to continue using its favored 3-4-1-2 without sacrificing solid defence.  He was also, unlike Maiorino, comfortable and well suited to playing in central midfield.  Verdi planned on using a 3 man midfield at times as he looked to protect his defence in Serie B, so the ability to switch between the two formations would be very welcome.  After thinking it over for quite a while, Verdi decided to sign him.

PiFP2p8oLFBZ8a_q5tIWsp6MqMBsXE1qXuK08PUkQ0WpelHlYvCD1jIeZxRe8Fek52q1FyF6itjIC-bqLh2JOjjJVHr0y9xlbsSe90lQ2rZ4RjbgVFxsSGVOXLPjPk6lRJoVC854

 

 

The last trialist that caught Verdi’s attention was one that he chose to pass on, even after agreeing to terms.  A Spaniard by the name of Uxio [very cool name], Verdi thought for a bit that he’d found a starter.  But while the man could hit the back of the net, and had a good turn of pace and a knack for being in the right place at the right time, he contributed nothing other than goals.  He simply wasn’t someone that Verdi wanted on his team, no matter his quality.

 

It was in that moment that Verdi decided to take another chance on Pallecchi - He wasn’t going to bring another striker in unless something really good turned up.

KYh5SAwiKpVtwpLEV21uoJ046OQcEl-uXJZEF0n1Nvj6rAntS_IE-m_xZdxnDOpedTJzUyEb0T1L4ECyH5Rkhincf3ahLxma-0ENEl9LUOjuzC_u0e5SzwFCc_5BwACXpklBi2sL

 

Verdi also went in for a centerback that would have very much improved his backline, but in the end the man chose more security at Salernitana, and Verdi had to settle for a backup centerback (Pecorini) instead, though one that was smarter and better in the air than Morelli.

 

Summary

 

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Overall, Verdi was very pleased with his transfer business as the season began.  He’d addressed the team’s major needs and added quality throughout the team with several excellent free transfers and one bargain.  It was a lot of players to bring in, but a lot of them would be slowly eased into action or played on a rotational basis. The only sure starter was keeper Mazzini, but likely cantidates for the staring roles were Gozzi (on a rotational basis with Di Gennero), Cavion (winger), and Bruns (attacking/central midfield).

 

 

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A lot of promising youngsters were sent out on loan to improve in Serie C, he got a good chunk of cash from Bussaglia, and he’d made the team stronger while hardly spending any money. 

 

In fact, by this point Livorno had banked a net profit of €507k in transfer fees since Verdi had taken the reins.  Of course, much of that € had gone into wages, but Verdi was still very happy with the business he was doing.

 

He hadn’t gotten the striker that he wanted, and he still was trying to offload Morelli - who had annoyingly nixed a deal that would have sent him to Portugal for €110k - but Verdi felt like his team was ready for Serie B.  It was going to be much harder going, but he felt like they could survive, maybe even comfortably.  Or at least he hoped so…

 

UP NEXT - Tactical Plan: Verdi’s Vision for 21/22 and Beyond!

Edited by 13th Man
Formating
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