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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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I consider myself pretty knowledgabe when it comes to football and tactis, both in FM and in real life.. but when I see the way some people, to be more precise author of this thread in this case, have in depth tactical analyiss.. I realize I am a petty amateur. 

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1 hour ago, TelcontarTargaryen said:

I consider myself pretty knowledgabe when it comes to football and tactis, both in FM and in real life.. but when I see the way some people, to be more precise author of this thread in this case, have in depth tactical analyiss.. I realize I am a petty amateur. 

Woah, quite a compliment here!  I really appreciate how much you appreciate my post/content!

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A New Year, a New Me!

[I’m going to be real and admit that this title has nothing to do with the post, but I just couldn’t help myself.  It just goes so well with the Finding Myself in Tuscany/self-help vibe]

 

Overview

2021 had been a good year for Livorno, and Verdi couldn’t help but wonder if 2022 would continue in the same vein.  With Livorno still near the top of the table, they had to be considered amongst the top teams in Serie B, and the struggle Verdi faced was not letting that get to his head.  He couldn’t go into each game with fear in his heart or with the expectation that he must win any game.  He needed to keep his head clear and calm.

 

After their so-so October form, a few tactical tweaks and the re-introduction of Pallecchi to the starting line up had led to an excellent run of form in November and December.  They’d won seven in a row and had not lost since early October.  The question on Verid’s mind, as always, was whether they could keep it up.  Even as they continued to win games, Verdi could never shake the feeling that it was too good to be true.

 

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The new year started with a trip to Turin to play a very good side in Torino - Verdi expected to lose but held out some hope that they could produce a miracle like they had in Parma.  Then came a chance at revenge against Reggina - the loss in the reverse fixture having spurned Verdi to sign goal machine Galan and play his 3-4-1-2 as his primary formation.  SPAL would hope to get revenge after Livorno’s stoppage time goal robbed them of a point, and then the month was rounded out by a visit from arch-rivals Pisa.  Even though it was at home, Verdi had every expectation that Pisa would give his side a harder time than they had in Pisa.

 

Putting aside the game against Torino, Verdi felt as if his side had a good chance of coming away with 3 points in the league games. He really wanted to beat Reggina and Pisa, but wouldn’t argue with a point away to SPAL.

 

Though Verdi had appreciated the tactical tweaks he made late in 2021, he now had a selection headache, though it was certainly of the good kind.  Ranocchia was coming along in leaps and bounds and had played very well in the three games he’d started near the end of the year, but that would mean dropping one of his three very good midfielders in Piccinocchi, Palumbo, or Bruns.  Piccinocchi was, in many ways, the focal point of the team, Palumbo was arguably the club’s best player - though on loan of course - and Bruns carried with him a threat from distance and an aggressive edge that could help them win tough games. It was a tough decision, and Verdi decided to rotate between the four players depending on the game and the opponent.

 

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The transfer window was open, but Verdi wasn’t planning on buying any players unless a great deal became available.  It was, however, a chance to offer contracts to players who would be out of contract in the summer.  He went after two players in Serie A players, both of which seemed interested, but Livorno couldn’t come close to matching their wage demands - with the maximum allowed salary (€5.7k) only half what the players expected (€10k+) so Verdi admitted defeat.  Like the previous year, he found that players that he could afford weren’t an improvement on what he had, and what he did have was challenging for promotion to Serie A.  It was annoying to miss out on quality players, but Verdi understood that he club’s finances were not especially stable and he wouldn’t want to gamble the long term safety of the club.

 

Thinking about the future, he also went about tying up a lot of the promising youngsters in the U20s and U18s, especially as some other teams came sniffing for some of the better ones.

The Games

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Like the Parma cup tie, Verdi entered this game feeling no pressure, and he wanted his players to feel none as well.  Tornio hadn’t started the season that well, and between that and playing in the Euro Cup, they’d fallen to 10th place.  Their form to end 2021, though, had been strong, and Verdi was under no illusions about his side’s chances.

 

Torino played a 4-2-3-1 that could cause Livorno problems if they could get their wide forwards behind Livorno’s wingers.  He sent out a strong squad, but lined up in the cautious 3-5-2 formation, hoping to nick a goal somehow like they had at Parma.  He was, however, ready to pull the wingers back a bit to cover the flanks, but he would see how the game went first.

 

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There was no shame in this defeat.  Torino attacked early and often, and it wasn’t long before Verdi pulled back into a 5-3-2.  However, a dubious penalty on the very edge of the box (awarded by VAR) gave Torino the lead early.  With encouragement from Verdi, Livorno did not roll over and die.  They fought hard and only ten minutes later they equalized after Palumbo led a counter following a Torino corner.  He beat a defender and sprinted up the field with the ball before finding Piccinocchi in nearly the exact same spot where he’d scored against Parma - in the upper right/center of the box - for the midfielder to score with a powerful shot.  Torino were certainly the more dangerous side throughout, but Livorno defended well and Mazzini came up with some brilliant saves to deny Torino. Then, deep in the second half, VAR again went against Livorno - Galan was taken down in the box (with the score still 1-1) and the referee gave the penalty...only for it to be overturned via VAR.  It was a cutting blow, and one which Livorno did not survive.  Only a few minutes later, Torino striker Bellotti engineered himself some space to meet a cross and give Torino the win.  Still, once again Livorno had gone toe to toe with a good Serie A team away from home and they could hold their heads high on the trip back to Livorno.

 

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The xG was skewed by the penalty given to Torino and the penalty not given to Livorno, but Torino were certainly deserved winners...just not by as much as xG would have you believe.

 

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Along with wanting to return to their winning ways, Verdi really wanted to win this one after feeling like Reggina had stolen their first meeting.   Reggina came to Armando Picchi having fallen down towards midtable after a very strong start to the season, but they were still a good side and came into the game in 7th.  A new manager had taken charge, and rather than the 4-2-3-1 that Livorno had faced in August, they now played a 5-3-2.  This, plus a minor knock in training to Ranocchia, made Verdi decide to play the Original 3-4-1-2 and leave Ranocchia on the bench, returning Bruns to the starting line-up as the AMC.

 

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It was a bit nervier than the scoreline suggests and Reggina got themselves into threatening positions with reasonable regularity, but they couldn’t quite find the final ball, much less get the ball in the goal.  Livorno didn’t look as sharp in attack as Verdi would have liked and Reggina did a good job of pressuring whoever was on the ball. Galan, though, came through, finishing a knockdown from Tripadelli after ten minutes and Bruns ensured all three points with an unstoppable rocket from nearly 24 meters with fifteen minutes left.

 

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A comfortable win according to the analysts, but Reggina’s direct passing and pressing did cause Livorno problems.  However, being in dangerous positions without being able to get a shot off doesn’t show up in xG.

 

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Livorno traveled to north-east(ish) Italy to take on SPAL. They’d beaten SPAL with a stoppage time goal on Galan’s debut at Armando Picchi, and Verdi expected the reverse fixture to be decided by similarly slim margins.

 

That said, SPAL had been disappointing compared to the preseason prediction of promotion contention. They’d suffered a bad string of form in October and November and had dropped to 9th in the table. Half the pre-game press conference questions were about the pressure on SPAL’s manager, which Verdi didn’t like to get drawn into.  Verdi still felt they were dangerous, though, and being away from home he sent Livorno out in the 3-4-1-2 Tweak alla Ranocchia.

 

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It was a tough, even game, with Livorno dominating possession but not the run of play.  Cavion was largely responsible for the three points during a ten minute period in the middle of the first half. First he put Pallecchi through on goal as the forward charged towards the box, the perfectly weighted ball finding the forward in stride allowing him to hit it first time, low and hard, into the far corner.  For the second, Cavion made a dangerous run into the box before chipping it over the SPAL defense for Galan to head in at the far post. It should be said that SPAL caused Livorno plenty of problems throughout.  They managed to work the ball in behind Livorno’s backline one time to score with an easy finish to give them a glimmer of hope in the second half, but weren’t able to get a second that would have given them a share of the points.

 

Though Livorno left with the three points, it was an even game and a draw probably would have been a fair result.  Livorno’s hot strikers and Cavion’s creativity made the difference, though, and Livorno returned to the top of the table, having been knocked off temporarily by Salernitana who’d played the day before.

 

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The post game analysis shows just how even the contest was.

 

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Livorno’s run continues.

 

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Then came one of the highlights of the season, the rivalry clash against Pisa - this time at the Armando Picchi.  The reverse fixture had seen Livorno crush Pisa 3-0 as they started off on their stunning September run, but this time Verdi expected Pisa to be ready for them.  He was expecting a tough fight. 

 

Pisa lined up in a conservative 4-1-4-1 formation, and had lined up in a deep block in Pisa despite having been at home and considered favorites at the time.  Verdi was expecting more of the same and knew his side would need to be sharp and incisive to cut through Pisa’s packed defence.  With the three CBs more than capable of covering one striker, Ranocchia returned to the bench and Verdi sent out his Original 3-4-1-2 with his more attacking trio of Piccinocchi, Palumbo, and Bruns.

 

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With Livorno challenging at the top of the table and a rivalry game, Armando Picchi was anticipating its largest crowd during Verdi’s time as manager.  A bit short of a full sellout, but there would certainly be an intense atmosphere about the ground.

 

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It was a spineless, gutless, shameful display by Livorno and Verdi had never been so disappointed in his side.  After carving Pisa apart in the reverse fixture, Livorno created nothing.   It reminded Verdi of the Oliba game in December of 2020 but it was so much worse considering it was at home and Pisa were arch rivals.  Pisa sat very deep and dared Livorno to break them down, and Livorno played fearfully and without focus.  Neither team registered a shot on target until the second half, but that suited Pisa just fine.

 

The one chance of the game was squandered by Galan, who hit the ball right at the keeper after Pallecchi had put him clean through on goal in the 74th minute. One minute later, Pisa got a free kick deep in Livorno’s half that was turned into the net by their enormous center half. 

 

Even more than the team’s performance, Verdi was disappointed by the players that he would have expected to lead. Galan and the normally imperious Bruns let the occasion get to them. They looked and played nervous throughout and were both especially disappointing.  Piccinocchi and the defense played well, but otherwise the team was very much subpar.

 

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The analysis shows just how poor the match was in general, with Livorno only beginning to come alive in the second half but still not deserving a goal.

 

So the run of seven wins in a row, and twelve unbeaten total, came to an end at the hands of Livorno’s fiercest rivals. It was a bitter blow but one which Verdi was keen to put behind him. At least he could say that Livorno got the better or Pisa overall after their 3-0 win at Pisa, but it was a small consolation.  Verdi only hoped that this was a blip and not a sign of things to come.

 

Transfer Alert!

Livorno agreed to terms with two young players, who would arrive in Livorno over the summer when their contracts expired. Both would probably be below first team quality when they arrived, but in Argentinian Miguel Turco Verdi hoped he had a future star. 

 

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[Hello South American Wonderkid! I normally don’t go in for them, and especially didn’t expect to in this save due to Italy’s restrictive rules for non-EU players.  But this young man has Italian as a second nationality so he can play.]

Only 17, he was already quite good in the air, was fairly intelligent for his age, and was even decent with the ball at his feet. He needed to get stronger and develop his tackling technique, but he had plenty of time to develop into a potentially top player.  He was a bit of a risk considering that Argentina was well outside Livorno’s scouting range so they couldn’t watch him in person, but he was much sought after in Argentina and highly rated by the scouts so Verdi decided to take the risk.

 

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The other player set to come in over the summer was Nigerian midfielder Hamdi Akojobi.  He looked like he could turn into  a good midfielder, and in the meantime could be depth or be loaned out, especially at the mezzala position.

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Summary

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The first month of 2022 was bookended by losses, but Livorno had also managed to grind out two tough wins against quality opponents.  The loss to Torino was nothing to be ashamed of, and in derbies anything could happen - though that didn’t make the pill any easier to swallow. 

 

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There were many reasons for optimism.  The loss to Pisa had been painful, but they were still second in the table. Ranocchia was developing well, giving Verdi interesting options in midfield. Pallecchi and Galan were both in good form and Raicevic’s recovery seemed to be ahead of schedule - he was slated to return in February to give Livorno another dimension up front. Crucially, his four defenders and especially Mazzini were all performing well and rarely gave up easy goals.

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Mazzini had to be a contender for signing of the season.  More than halfway through the season, he’d pulled out some incredible stops and was simply solid.  It was an incredible relief to be able to completely rely on the young man between the sticks and know that he wasn’t going to let in silly goals like Branescu and Ramboli had so often in Serie C.

 

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Cavion also deserved recognition, especially for his contributions in January.  Verdi had brought him in expecting him to play a lot in the center of midfield, but he’d been so good on the wing that he’d made that his home and Verdi liked being able to put all his best players on the field at once.  He was an all around good player and led the team with nine assists - and would chip in with the odd goal as well. 

 

Despite everything, he was beginning to feel a drop in form coming on and feared that the Pisa game would be the catalyst.  They simply hadn’t been all that sharp in January, and while Reggina and SPAL had been tough opponents, there was a feeling of drag about the club.  It was almost as if they were still hungover from the winter break and were taking a while to get back into the swing of things - or maybe the pressure of challenging for promotion was getting to them.

 

If his premonition proved correct, Verdi would have to keep himself grounded. Livorno were performing well above expectations and even if their form took a steep dive, their season was already a resounding success. All but mathematically safe from relegation, Livorno could dream of back-to-back promotions, but shouldn’t feel pressured by their position in the table.

 

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The defense continued on as one of the better in the division, with goals rarely going in, but their attacking efficiency was going dropping much as it had in Serie C.  They were consistently outperforming xG though, possibly by the sheer volume of shots they took.  Verdi did wish they could be a bit more efficient, but their patient possession approach didn’t lend itself to clear cut chances as much as constant pressure that would eventually lead defences to crack.

 

With 6 points from 9 available, it had been a good month from a results standpoint, but Verdi couldn’t help but feel a bit pessimistic.  Maybe it was just that he wasn’t used to losing half of games, or maybe it was just the Pisa game, but Verdi went into February feeling less than confident.

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Nice work. I enjoy your minimalist style with some depth to writing.

Hopefully those two youngsters  workout for you the Argentinian looks good. I generally favor raiding Argentina for may regens/wonderkids than Brazil.

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Posted (edited)
On 28/04/2021 at 13:58, Hootieleece said:

Nice work. I enjoy your minimalist style with some depth to writing.

Hopefully those two youngsters  workout for you the Argentinian looks good. I generally favor raiding Argentina for may regens/wonderkids than Brazil.

Thanks for the kind words!  I think the Argentinian could be quite a signing...but we'll see.  Livorno don't have the best scouts so it's a gamble, but he will have to improve some being only 17 and all!

Edited by 13th Man
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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Muttley84 said:

Good luck in seeing you struggle in Serie A soon 😀

Livorno still has every chance to botch promotion, though things are still progressing well (as you'll see soon) but yeah, I think it'll get real tough if they make it to Serie A!  I could see the top teams putting 4-6 past Livorno.  Survival might be possible, but it might be just a cash grab before dropping back down and building a more solid foundation with that Serie A €€€ and the challenge will be not losing the core due to relegation.

Edited by 13th Man
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Posted (edited)

The View

[I had quite the scare a few nights ago. I opened FM after a long day and had a truly terrifying message come up as I tried to load this save this save cannot be loaded...or something like that. It’s GONE!!! Was all I could think.  I didn’t want to start a new save!!! I’ve grown attached to Verdi, to Livorno, to all the players!!! Would I ever know if Pallecchi would keep playing so far above what his attributes would make you expect?  Would I ever know how the season ended???  I check the backup saves (3 file rolling) and got the same message.  More panic.  Then I tried the initial ‘what’s different about fm21?’ saves...same message.  Finally I figured it out, and realized it wasn’t a save corruption problem.  I remembered that I’d just downloaded a bunch of very sizable files and that had caused problems in the past.  I moved the files to an external drive, restarted and...sweet relief.  It opened! You better be sure I did a backup cloud save as well! And now back to the story...]

 

Overview

The loss to Pisa had left a bad taste in Verdi’s mouth to end January, but he planned to make every effort to ensure that the result was a one off and not the first game of a bad string of form. 

 

But if it was? It didn’t hit him until just before the first game of February, but Verdi noticed that his Livorno side had hit his preseason target of 50 points after the win against SPAL...with 14 games to go in the season.  It was pretty safe to say that, 31 points above 17th placed Triestina, Livorno were safe from relegation...

 

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The next five games were a good mix [and yes there’s a narrative reason I haven’t stuck to the monthly template I’ve been using lately]. A Crotone team in good form would be looking to avenge their thrashing at Armando Picchi. Benevento’s visit was the toughest of the lot, on paper at least, and the game would potentially have big implications in the promotion and title race. Livorno had soundly beaten Bari in September but had given them all sorts of trouble in their previous two meetings, and then came games against relegation threatened teams in Triestina and Vicenza. They were all winnable games, and other than Benevento they were all games that a title/promotion challenging team should win. It was crazy to think they were in that race, but with the top sides starting to pull away from the pack, Livorno had to be in the discussion. He didn’t expect to win all of the games, but he was hoping to win most.

 

The Games

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The next stop on the reverse of the September stomping fixtures tour was a trip to the ball of Italy’s ‘boot’, to the southern port town of Crotone.  After beating Crotone 4-0 at Armando Picchi, Verdi expected Crotone to put up more of a fight than they had in September.  They’d had a disappointing season so far, entering the game in ninth, but were on a six game unbeaten run that included three wins.

 

Verdi felt their 4-3-3 would be well countered by the 3-4-1-2, but away from home against a team in good form and still with many Serie A quality players, he played the 3-4-1-2 alla Ranocchia which had been serving them well since December.

 

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Livorno played a good, solid game and Verdi was quite satisfied.  Cavion's opening goal after ten minutes was well worked, with Chavarria surging deep into the box before chipping it to the far post for an easy finish.  The own goal was unlucky for the Crotone defender (keeper's fault), but it served as insurance that no late game lunacy would prevent Livoro from returning home with the points they fully deserved. What Verdi appreciated the most, however, was how solid his defence was, giving up almost nothing despite being put into some potentially tricky positions by Crotone’s direct attacking play.

 

-ntvTVAxjcoiFjr9fursmG45bcc7lbCCZQdQ_Z1Hmz3VEwjZYwB84SD-2fH8NrgLC-zZLGQTBpcVcV_QWcLIWEc07-WT9ewY5MjRUjN-2Jv5l5VsgerI0Gm6WZ-9_5fikvSCisQN

 

TRANSFER ALERT!!!

With Mazzeo and Maiorino both disappointing as backup strikers, Verdi had been unable to even think about replacing Galan or Pallecchi if they were having off games - though surprisingly Pallecchi had become quite consistently solid to good.  Still, the Pisa game was on where Verdi would have liked to change things up a bit and add a different sort of threat.  In comes Michele Marconi on a free...

 

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A big tall target man/pressing forward who could add some brawn to Livorno’s front line.  He’s also a step up from Raicevic in many ways, except that he was four years older.  Still, he was only on a one and a half year contract and was happy to agree to be used as a squad player so Verdi was willing to bring him on. His last team had actually been Pisa, so he would have been especially to have along for that game!

 

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Livorno’s visit to Benevento had been an undeserved loss, and Verdi hoped to be able to ‘right that wrong’ at Armando Picchi.  Along with his desire for revenge, Benevento and Livorno were in a tight race for 2nd place in Serie B, and Verdi relished the chance to put a bit of distance between them.  Of course, if Benevento won they’d be in the driver’s seat for automatic promotion, but Verdi was trying to think only of the positives. Either way, this was a big game.

 

The 3-4-1-2 had played well against Benevento’s christmas tree 4-3-2-1 away, so Verdi decided to stick with it at home.  Considering the strength of the opposition, though, he continued on with the Ranocchia variation.  Verdi was a bit worried that Bruns would start to get annoyed with his lack of starts, but he planned to start the veteran in the following fixture against a Bari team that only played with two central midfielders and so Livorno wouldn’t need cover in the central areas.

 

The one tactical tweak Verdi made for this game, though, was to revert his wingers to their pre-November instructions to get wider and dribble more.  With Benevento’s packed middle, he wanted to isolate their outside backs and get them 1v1 with his wingers to cross into the gap that he’d seen between Benevento’s midfield and defence.

 

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Another solid game from Livorno (though once again the headline would become outdated the next day when the seemingly unstoppable Salernitana beat Lecce handedly).  They absolutely dominated the early stages, especially after Verdi noticed early on that Ranocchia was actually sitting too deep to help with the build up.  After asking him to win the ball back a bit further forward, Livorno truly began to click.  Benevento’s keeper was in good form however, to deny decent chances from both Pallecchi and Galan, as well as a few headers from set pieces.  Finally, in the 27th minute a well worked corner routine saw Ranocchia gather the ball in the top left of the box straight from the corner, one touch it to Gozzi, who laid it off to Palumbo for a one time scorcher from distance to break the deadlock.  Five minutes before the half, Verdi’s tactical plan of attacking the flanks paid dividends as Chavarria beat the Benevento right back to put a cross into the six yard box. Galan backpedaled to meet the ball first time and guide into the far corner.

 

Benevento struck back right after with a simple ball over the top for their striker.  Gozzi came over to cover after Bodgan was beaten, and he even got a tackle in, only for the ball to bounce back into the path of the Benevento striker, who kept his composure as Mazzini rushed out. It was a bit unlucky, but also just one of those goals that will happen when you play a high possession, high pressure style with a high line. The fact that Livorno conceded so few like this was actually quite a feat. 

 

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The big news from the match, however, was losing Bruns for the rest of the season with a hip injury.  He may have dropped to the bench for most games after the emergence of Ranocchia, but he was still an important player and had earned Livorno a handful of points on his own.  It also meant a nervy end to the game as Livorno were forced to play the last five minutes reduced to ten men.  They defended well, however, locking everything down as they had all game - save for the one blip for the goal - and saw the game out to gain the three points which put four points between them and Benevento.

 

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The analysts, for once, agreed with the scoreline!
 

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Livorno returned to the south, this time to the heel of the boot, to face Bari in the enormous (especially for Serie B) San Nicola - with a capacity of 58,270.  Bari weren’t about to fill it, of course, but they had been getting the highest average attendance in Serie B.

 

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After their 5-1 humbling at Armando Picchi, Bari were out for revenge.  Their manager tried to start a spat with Verdi by calling them ‘easy to defend against’.  ‘If we’re so easy to defend,” Verdi mused to himself, ‘how’d we get five past you last time?’  Instead, Verdi praised Bari’s direct style even though it had only gotten them about five points above the relegation zone…

 

Still, Bari were a team that caused Livorno problems, the game in September notwithstanding.  Things would be even harder after he lost another key player to injury, though only for a few weeks.

 

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Palumbo would be out for the Bari game and the visit from Triestina as well.  Tripadelli was out with a virus and Ranocchia had gotten himself a knock in training - though he at least, would be ready to go by game time.

 

Having hoped to play Bruns, Palumbo, and Piccinocchi in this game, Verdi found only one of the trio available.  Ranocchia would have to continue in midfield, and Verdi once again leaned on Cavion’s versatility, and would start him in the attacking midfield role.  Zampano came in for a start on the wing and Chavarria would continue his good work on the left in place of Tripadelli.  WIth three of the starters out, Verdi was a bit nervous, but still felt they had enough about them to beat Bari, though actually doing so would be another story.

 

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Verdi couldn't help but feel that it was two points dropped, even if a draw was probably fair.  They dominated the early stages and Pallecchi’s sweetly taken goal from his new favorite spot - right around where the D meets the outside of the box - from a Cavion through ball was no less than they deserved.  They weren’t able to capitalize on their superiority though, with Galan missing a few very good chances and two towering headers from Bogdan going against the post from corners.

 

A simple mistake from Ranocchia let Bari in.  He couldn’t control the ball under pressure after a knockdown from Pallecchi and a Bari center mid nicked it off him before charging at the box.  He let fly a rocket from just outside the box that gave Mazzini no chance.  That was it, and after that Livorno actually looked second best for the rest of the game and could, in that sense, be relieved to leave Bari with a point.

 

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Livorno created a lot early but trailed off as the game went on.  Bari could have easily grabbed the three points. Verdi still held that they should have been up by two in the first half.

 

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Triestina came into Armando Picchi languishing in 20th place in the table. This made Verdi nervous, however. Not only had Triestina given them a tough game in the reverse fixture, but he expected them to pack the box, but with their 4-3-1-2 formation, still be a threat on the counter. 

 

With their two high forwards and attacking midfield Verdi kept Ranocchia further back, but asked his team to play with more urgency. He also would try to funnel Triestina outside and force them to push their backs forward to open up space behind. Tripadelli returned to the side after recovering from illness, but Palumbo was just short of fitness so Verdi kept Cavion as the attacking mid.

 

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It was a bit of a slog but Livorno just about managed to get the points they deserved. Livorno weren’t close to their best, and weren’t able to score from open play. Luckily for them, one of the Triestina defenders was apparently such a big fan of Pallecchi that he couldn’t wait until after the game to swap shirts, and tried to pull it off while Pallecchi was in the box. Galan stepped up and made no mistake from the spot and that was enough to earn Livorno the three points. They certainly deserved the win, but it also felt like one of those games where Livorno could have played for hours and not scored if it weren’t for the penalty.

 

Triestina rarely threatened, though their two high forwards did a decent job of challenging Livorno’s backline on occasion.  However, they forced Livorno into a major adjustment after switching to a 4-2-2-2 midway through the second half and switching from overloading the central areas to overloading the flanks, leading to a few half chances. After some momentary confusion, Verdi changed his side’s shape back to the 5-2-1-2, and after that Triestina hardly threatened again.

 

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The analysis shows that Livorno were simply not sharp. They created a lot of chances but had trouble finishing them. As Verdi knew, they should have won by at least two, but they got the three points and that’s all that really mattered.

 

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The trip to the foothills of the alps in north eastern Italy would see Livorno play their second game in a row against a relegation threatened side. In 18th place, Vincenza could score but struggled to defend well. The reverse fixture had ended 2-1, with Livorno clearly the better side, but with Vincenza able to stay in the game until the end. 

 

While their wing backs liked to get forward, with their 5-3-2 shape, Verdi had no qualms about his 3-4-1-2, and even asked Ranocchia to push a little more forward than he had in recent games. Palumbo returned to the starting lineup but Tripadelli was demoted to the bench after a poor week in training, and after Chavarria had impressed while Tripadelli was out sick.

 

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Finally, the headline was true!  With Salernitana’s draw against SPAL, Livorno reclaimed the top spot - level on points but with a goal difference of +30 to Salernitana’s of +25. It was the slimmest of margins, but after falling 5 points behind after the draw against Bari, Verdi had figured Salernitana could not be caught. A loss to Cremonese (again!!!) and the SPAL draw allowed Livorno to catch up.

 

To the game, it was another where Livorno were not at their sharpest, but Verdi had to admit that he was at fault as well. Vincenza came out of the gates quick, leaving their two forwards high to challenge Livorno’s wide back three. They found inroads too, until Verdi pulled the right and left center backs in closer to help support each other. Livorno then took control of the game. Cavion got free to head in a Piccinocchi free kick. A Chavarria cross/pass found Galan who accurately tucked it away for the second.

 

Verdi then made the mistake of taking his foot off the gas. He slowed the pace, and played it safe after that. Vincenza were fairly capable attackers, and they came alive for a spell in the second half. Their right sided forward got hold of the ball, drew two defenders before finding his parter with a nice diagonal to put him through on goal. Shortly after point, Verdi saw the error of his ways and upped the pressure again. Neither side created much after that, but that suited Verdi just fine.

 

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Another okay but not great performance from Livorno, but like their lady meeting, Livorno did the job.

 

Summary

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It had been tough going, with no easy games, but like December, Livorno just kept winning.Verdi was glad that the loss to Pisa had proven to be a one off, and they found themselves once again at the top of the table.

 

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Crazier still, Livorno had put six points between themselves and Benevento in 3rd with nine games to go in the season. It had only taken two bad results for Livorno to catch up to Salernitana, so Verdi knew nothing was certain, but those six points gave them a bit of margin for error. And the worst case scenario?  Benevento overtook then in 2nd place and Livorno lost in the playoffs? For a team that had only hoped for survival, Livorno had climbed to dizzying heights. 


Still, Verdi quite liked the view from the top of the table [ah, so that’s why he called this post ‘the view!’] and he wasn’t going to be satisfied until he saw how high his team could go. He’d find out over the next few months if they could truly make the climb to the top.

Edited by 13th Man
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Quite a ride! Continue ruling Serie B!

Save game loss and corruption is never really a problem if you save to the cloud or OneDrive. I never had a problem with FM, but EUIV recently whole different ball game!

 

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Following this save has made me realise how many huge historic clubs are lingering lower down in Italian football. 
Verdi is on cusp of Serie A and doing it with some real tactical detail 👏🏻👏🏻 Long may it continue. 

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17 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Quite a ride! Continue ruling Serie B!

Save game loss and corruption is never really a problem if you save to the cloud or OneDrive. I never had a problem with FM, but EUIV recently whole different ball game!

 

Fair enough. I don’t trust “the cloud” which is weird because I’ve had more issues with local saves.

In game, the battle with Salernitana continues. It seems like it’ll go down to the wire.

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17 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Following this save has made me realise how many huge historic clubs are lingering lower down in Italian football. 
Verdi is on cusp of Serie A and doing it with some real tactical detail 👏🏻👏🏻 Long may it continue. 

We’ll see if Verdi can get the team over the finish line but it’s looking good!

It is crazy how volatile Italy’s system is. There’s a lot of yo-yo-ing, and it seems like the finances are a lot of it. But yes, it’s crazy that teams like Palermo, Catania, etc are languishing in Serie C or worse. Real life Livorno are heading for Serie D too!

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Posted (edited)

Can They Do It?

[I got through a more games than usual in this post, but I decided I needed to see how the season turned out before I did another post.]

 

Could Livorno manage back to back promotions? Could they win Serie B along the way? Could they keep up their habit of winning close games? Livorno had a tough remaining schedule with five out of the remaining nine being against top half teams. Verdi expected Salernitana to get back on track after their little hiccup in early March, and he also expected Livorno to suffer at least a hiccup or two of their own. He expected Salernitana to win the title, but hoped that Livorno could manage to stay in second and gain automatic promotion and maybe push their southern title rivals to the bitter end.

 

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Cittadella had squarely beaten Livorno at home, and had used that win as a springboard to jumpstart their season. Chievo joined Cittadella as the “best of the rest” (sitting 4th and 5th, tied for points) now that Livorno, Salernitana, and Benevento had formed a bit of a breakaway group at the top of the table. Spezia were having a disappointing season, but were still dangerous. Then came “easy” games against two teams that had stonewalled Livorno in October - 18th placed Sudtirol and 14th Entrella. The final stretch started with a potential title decider against Salernitana at Armando Picchi, followed by flagging but still dangerous Lecce, a team that should have beaten Livorno in Reggiana, and the season finale at Monza. 

 

While the Serie B crown would likely go down to the wire, Livorno had to be considered favorites, along with Salernitana, for automatic promotion with Benevento slowly falling behind the top two.

 

The Games

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The schedule had Livorno returning to north-east Italy for the second week in a row, this time for a visit to Cittadella, which was only about thirty minutes down the road from Vincenza.  Cittadella’s visit to Armando Picchi had spelled the end of Livorno’s golden patch in September and early October, so Verdi came into this game nervous.  Cittadella had started the season poorly, and Verdi had underestimated them, not realizing that they were actually a quality side.  He wouldn’t make the same mistake again, especially with Cittadella coming into the game in fifth place.

 

They played a 4-3-1-2 that often caused problems for Livorno’s 3-4-1-2, but with Ranocchia covering ‘the hole’ [see tactical interlude] Verdi hoped that Livorno would fare better.  With their narrow formation, Verdi started with his wingers playing wider and encouraging crosses [defensive wingers], seeing if they could replicate the success of the Benevento game.

 

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It was a very good win in Verdi’s book.  The first half was a grind, with neither side creating much.  The wingers were isolated until Verdi pulled them back in, but still that didn’t lead to many more chances.  Cittadella had the better of the half chances, and Verdi decided to pull his wide CBs in narrow to counter their two strikers. After that, neither side did much for a while. A bit impatient, Verdi made the unusual move, for him, of telling his players to push forward.  He couldn’t stand just playing the game in the middle third, always worried that Cittadella would suddenly win a ball and surge forward, he wanted Livorno to push for a goal.  But that too didn’t improve things much.  

 

Verdi noticed in the second half that Cittadella had largely taken Palumbo, playing as the attacking mid, out of the game by changing to a 4-1-2-1-2 and man-marking him.  Verdi decided to switch to the 3-5-2, but along with encouraging Palumbo to attack the left channel and get forward, he also had Piccinocchi do the same on the opposite side, though a bit less aggressively.  He would attack their flanks and force Cittadella out of their shape even if, at first, it seemed like Livorno were taking a more defensive shape.

 

He was readying the change in the 60th minute when Cittadella scored.  After forcing a good save from Mazzini from close range, Cittadella earned a corner.  One of their forwards got the better of Bogdan to head the corner past a helpless Mazzini.

 

After that, though, Livorno came alive.  Chavarria was having a poor game, so Verdi pulled him after the goal and put on Tripadelli on the left.  Within minutes, the move paid off.  Tripadelli was in the right place at the right time to pick up a loose ball after Galan had the ball tackled away from him in the box.  He blasted the ball into the far corner to equalize.  Less than two minutes later, Tripadelli picked up a return ball after throwing the ball in, attacked the box, and sent in a cross that Palumbo guided into the net with a cushioned header.  Cittadella couldn’t answer, and the best chance of the rest of the game actually fell to Palumbo, who put the ball just wide under pressure.

 

A feel good moment came when Raicevic made his long awaited comeback from injury to put in a good shift in the deeper forward role for the last fifteen minutes.

 

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Salernitana won their game the next day to keep pace with Livorno, but Benevento lost to lower mid-table Entrella to fall 9 points behind the top two.  Verdi could almost taste Serie A, but Livorno still had a job to do, and a lot of tough fixtures left ahead.

 

Squad Building

After he'd been playing very well all season, some teams had begun to sniff around about Cavion.  He’d insisted on a €2m release clause when Verdi had signed him, and he was inching close to that value.  Verdi entered discussions with him, and was thrilled to find that Cavion’s agent was happy to remove the clause and replace it with nothing other than a team of the year bonus, while keeping his wage the same.  It was all wonderfully easy, and Cavion signed a new deal that was essentially just a two year extension without the release clause.

 

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Verdi was ready for another tough challenge in Chievo. Beating Chievo away had been the highlight of October, and Verdi felt good about his chances at home. Of course, anything could happen and while Chievo weren’t in great form, they were still a good side and Verdi wasn’t going to underestimate them.

 

Chievo was a defensive team, playing a fairly cautious 5-1-2-2 (DM) and with one of the strikers usually sitting deep. It was the type of formation that Livorno had done well against. Verdi would send his team out in the Original 3-4-1-2 but had a plan B to pull Palumbo back to a left sided Mezzala and play an attacking version of the 3-5-2 like he had against Cittadella. Truth be told, though, even though logically he felt as if his side could and maybe  even should win, he had a bad feeling about this one. 

 

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It seemed as if the city of Livorno was finally catching up to the fact that there was something special going on.  The 11k that showed up for the game were still short of Armando Picchi’s 14k capacity, but attendance had slowly been rising throughout the year, starting at around 7k home fans.

 

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It was becoming Livorno’s favorite post-game headline.  Livorno go top of Serie B.  Simply because due to the schedule, Salernitana kept playing the day before Livorno and they too kept winning, so when Livorno won they’d retake their place atop the table. Salernitana though, won by 4 shrinking Livorno’s goal difference advantage.

 

To the game itself - Livorno simply did the job here against a decent opponent.  They scored early through Galan, who was technically assisted by Chavarria, but his goal was all his.  He received a simple pass, turned, beat his marker one on one and cooly finished past a diving keeper.  Chievo tried to make a game of it after that, but Livorno’s defence held up well and Mazzini made a few decent saves.

 

In the second half, with Chievo’s defensive mid keeping Palumbo from being as effective, Verdi switched again to his aggressive 3-5-2, and from there he not only nullified Chievo’s threat, but Livorno became more threatening too.  In the 80th minute, Palumbo found himself with time and space a little ways outside the box and blasted home a curling rocket from 25 meters to secure the win.

 

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Chievo made a game of it, but Livorno were on top other than a spell in the middle of the game.

 

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One piece of bad news would be the loss of Chavarria for the rest of the season.  It hadn’t been in his reports, but the young man seemed to be rather injury prone. While Chavarria was a rotation option, he’d been playing nearly as much as Tripadelli and performing well too. 

 

The Children Are Our Future (Youth Intake)!!!

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Director of Football Matteo D’Amanto seems very excited about his youth intake, and smuggly brags about bringing in several players…

 

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...But only five of them are decent enough to be signed, and none look like making the first team, especially if they make it to Serie A - though two more would be signed later.

 

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After several trips to the northeast, the short trip north along the west coast was a nice change of pace.  Livorno last played Spezia in the middle of their injury crisis during October when four wingers had been out injured or suspended, and Verdi was looking forward to playing them with a relatively full strength squad.  The 2-2 draw had been a relief to Verdi at the time, but he hoped to show Spezia who Livorno really were this time around.  Especially after their new manager claimed Livorno tried to walk the ball into the net, as if he hadn’t seen their brutal counters on tape!

 

The Livorno game would be the first under a new manager after the sacking of their previous one.  It hadn’t been a great season for them, but they had some dangerous players, including their left winger who was the second leading scorer in Serie B (after Galan!).  They played with a 4-3-3 that could cause problems, but which Livorno usually handled well.  Verdi sent out the 3-4-1-2, but once again was ready to change to the attacking 3-5-2 if there was trouble with penetration due to their defensive mid.

 

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The same headline again!

 

Much like the Citadella game, Livorno went behind in the second half after a rather dull first half.  Verdi pushed his men forward, but Livorno couldn’t manage much of note.  Once again, Verdi decided to change to the 3-5-2 to free up Palumbo and again the opposition scored as he was making the change.  This time the Spezia right winger used his pace to get in behind Gozzi - who was no slouch when it came to pace - and tuck it between Mazzini and the near post.  It was one of the first times that Verdi had been disappointed with a goal that Mazzini let in.

 

The Livorno reaction was immediate, and Spezia didn’t get the ball back until they were kicking off after conceding.  After Livorno worked the ball down the right through Cavion and Pallecchi, Piccinocchi delivered a low cross from inside the box that Palumbo turned in to equalize. Only minutes later Tripadelli met a crossfield ball from Palumbo, chested it down and blasted it into the top left corner of the goal before the Spezia keeper could get across.

 

Spezia responded by switching to a true 4-3-3 with three central forwards, but that only meant more space for Livorno to operate in. Galan finished the scoring with a penalty after Bodgan was dragged down during a Livorno corner and while Livorno could have easily scored another goal, the 3-1 scoreline suited Verdi just fine...especially after going a goal down.

 

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The xG graph shows how it was a game of two halves, the first dull and the second coming to life after Spezia kicked the hornet’s nest and woke Livorno up from their slumber [to casually mix metaphors].

 

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More good news followed the next day, when Benevento could only draw in their game, leaving Livorno with an 11 point cushion between them and promotion playoffs.

 

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Verdi really wanted a win here. Sudtirol had stonewalled them in their previous meetings, despite Livorno’s overwhelming dominance in both. At home, Verdi wanted to break the streak of 180 minutes without a goal against this strange side from the Alps.

 

After switching mid game to his 3-5-2 in the previous games Verdi looked at Sudtirol’s 4-3-3 and decided to start with it, and replace Pallecchi with Racievic who was better suited to the much recessed second striker role in that tactic. Considering the low block he expected, he asked his team to play with much urgency than usual and to really push for an early goal.

 

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Livorno finally did manage to score against Sudtirol...but not before Sudtirol scored two of their own. The first was a blast from distance after their midfielder was left too much time and space on the edge of the box after only three minutes. Verdi was disappointed, obviously, but figured it was a fluke and that Livorno would get back into the game. But they didn’t.

 

Sudtirol seemed ready for Livorno’s 3-5-2, and didn’t give an inch in the face of Livorno’s attack. In fact, they scored again twenty minutes later, this time from a simple ball over the top. On the far side, Gozzi kept their striker inside and neither Bodgan nor Carboni could recover in time.

 

Verdi lost his temper at halftime, throwing a water bottle as he laid into his players. Seeing their heads drop, though, tempered his rage. He let his words sink in for a moment before changing course. He went around and told the players that they were better than this and that he had faith in their ability to turn it around.

 

They almost did too, and maybe should have. Verdi sent them back out in the original 3-4-1-2, told his outside banks to play as stoppers and aggressively close down their wide forwards.  Livorno began to put a lot of pressure on Sudtirol, and finally Pallecchi broke through after a nice throughball from Galan. Livorno peppered the opposition goal, but couldn’t find a way through the mass of bodies flinging themselves around (so many blocked shots!).

 

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There were no more flying water bottles after the game.  The performance was poor but the team made a game of it the second half. Verdi had to take a share of the blame too. He got too cute with his tactics and Pallecchi had again showed Verdi why he should have started him.

 

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Verdi was very disappointed in the end, but couldn’t truly complain with the outcome. He just hoped that he wouldn’t have to face Sudtirol again, with either Livorno moving up to Serie A or Sudtirol going back down to Serie C...

 

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While Verdi was more concerned with promotion than the title, it was still nice to see Chievo do Livorno a favor.  They went ahead against Salernitana in the 3rd minute and then defended their lead. Verdi had gotten the news of the Chievo goal, but had been too focused on the game to think of it again until afterwards.

 

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A trip to Scicily to play a struggling Entella would seem like a good game to get back to winning ways, but Entella had, like Sudtirol, held Livorno to a scoreless draw in October. Verdi definitely felt a bit if anxiety going into this game, especially as it was one they should win.

 

They’d be down their two starting center mids too, with Ranocchia serving a suspension after getting his fifth yellow against Sudtirol, and Piccinocchi pulling up with a minor injury in training. Verdi decided to keep Palumbo where he was and move Cavion to the mezzala position with Agazzi replacing Piccinocchi. Despite Entella’s 5-1-2-2 (DM) Verdi learned his lesson from the Sudtirol game and sent out the Original 3-4-1-2.

 

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This was much more like it from Livorno. Cavion scored early with a powerful volley straight from a Zampano cross.  A second Cavion  goal from a similar position was inexplicably ruled offsides despite him being six or more meters behind the opposing backline [actually think this was a bug! If the game had gone differently, the temptation to savescum would have been very strong…]. 
 

Livorno were simply a better team, and while Entella were able to hold them for periods, they also offered very little attacking threat. At 1-0 it was always a worry that they could score a fluke goal, but Galan put any fears to rest when he pounced on a loose ball following a parried Pallecchi shot.

 

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A crazy thing happened though… Salernitana lost again.  This time, they followed in the steps of Livorno to lose to Sudtirol, who cemented their giant-killing status and dragged themselves three clear of the relegation zone. Suddenly, Livorno was ahead by 3 points and their goal difference was again five better than that of their title rival.

 

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The media tried to hype up the promotion race, but with four games to go it was nearly a done deal that Livorno and Salernitana would be in the two automatic promotion spots - with the two having 11 and 8 point leads on third placed Cittadella, Benevento having apparently forgotten how to win games.  For the title, only Salernitana and Livorno had a realistic chance, with the former having the easier run in.  The key game though? All eyes turned to the potential title decider the following weekend at Armando Picchi. 

 

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Livorno were in a strong position. A draw would keep them three points ahead of Salernitana, and a win would increase their lead to six with three games left. A Salernitana win, though, would put them back in control of their own destiny, especially as head to head is prioritized over goal difference.

 

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Livorno had escaped with a point away to Salernitana thanks to a stoppage time Pallecchi goal, but had otherwise been second best throughout. Verdi hoped that they’d be stronger at home but he was ready for a tough game. He did everything he could to take the pressure off his team, reminding them of what they could achieve, but not what was expected of them. He said the same to the media.

 

With Piccinocchi fully fit and Ranocchia returning from suspension, Verdi was happy to be able to send out his best 11 in the Original 3-4-1-2. Though Salernitana were strong, they played a 5-3-2 that didn’t usually take advantage of “the hole” and with Livorno in such a strong position and at home, Verdi wanted to see if he could strike a killing blow.

 

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Unsurprisingly, the city of Livorno was coming out for this one, nearly filling the stadium despite Salernitana’s disappointing traveling fan base. 

 

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The fans at Armando Picchi did their part to spurn their team onto victory, it was the best atmosphere that Verdi had seen since taking control.  With the stands nearly full, flares going off, and songs ringing out from the curva, Livorno overwhelmed a hapless Salernitana side that seemed to be letting the pressure get to them. The game was played entirely within Salernitana’s half, especially in the opening stages. They weren’t a possession team, but they couldn’t get the ball to their strikers at all and barely even threatened on the counter.

 

Livorno seemed to have the breakthrough they deserved in the 21st minute when a clumsy challenge resulted in a penalty, but then Galan sent the ball well wide from the spot. Livorno kept up the pressure though and Pallecchi scored after making some space for himself with a nice turn near the top right of the box.  His unstoppable rocket shot into the top right corner of the goal to give Livorno the lead.

 

Livorno remained dominant but the goal did seem to trigger a bit more urgency in Salernitana, at least defensively. Midway through the second half, Piccinocchi doubled the lead with a beauty of a free kick, curling the ball into the top left corner from just outside the box. 

 

Salernitana finally began to push a bit, but against Livorno’s three center backs (narrow for this game) didn’t let Salernitana’s strikers get hold of it.  Not until a silly cross field ball from Tripadelli out towards Cavion was intercepted and played into their deeper striker. The two Salernitana strikers combined nicely to get through and score. It was game on… it only for four minutes. Tripadelli made up for his mistake by meeting a cross with a cushioned header that nestled into the far corner.

 

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The analysis showed that Salernitana were lucky to get their goal and that Livorno’s scoreline was no fluke.

 

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Livorno had achieved back-to-back promotions, and were favorites to win the title, needing only three points from three games to secure the Serie B crown.

 

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Winning Serie C/A hadn’t impressed the board much, but promotion to Serie A at the first time of asking certainly got their attention!

 

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The party spilled out of Armando Picchi and onto the streets of Livorno as they celebrated the club’s return to Serie A after nine years.  Verdi only hoped that he’d keep them up longer than the one year they’d spent in the top flight in each of their last attempts...

 

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And with promotion comes a transfer budget that Verdi can actually use!  €9.84 million!  After two years under €500k, Verdi hardly knew what to do with himself.  The wage budget too was almost 50% greater than his previous budget of €99k/w.

 

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A trip to the bottom of the heel of Italy’s boot would give Livorno the chance to secure the Serie B title with a win over Lecce.  Having already secured promotion, though, Verdi felt no pressure to win this one, and he held a team meeting to ease the pressure on his team after the media began drumming up the hype.  It was true that Livorno could win the title with three points here, but Verdi told them not to worry about it.

 

Livorno’s 2-1 win over Lecce in November had been the moment that they truly got out of their mild October slump.  Lecce had played them well at Armando Picchi, and it had been Verdi switching Galan and Pallecchi’s roles that had turned the tide, and started the run of form which had taken Livorno to Serie A and on the cusp of the Serie B title.  

 

Unlike the 3-5-2 that Livorno had faced at Armando Picchi, Lecce would line up in the [fm favorite] 4-2-3-1.  With the pressure off and Verdi out simply to enjoy himself, he sent out the 3-4-1-2 alla Ranocchia and sat back to enjoy the show.

 

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Verdi wasn’t worried at all about getting a record number of points, but it would add a little spice if they could manage it.

 

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Lecce weren’t as poor as the scoreline suggested, but it was a clinical and relatively straightforward win for Livorno as they clinched the title with two games left to play. (The result wouldn’t have mattered anyway though, after Salernitana could only draw with Reggiana.) Cavion’s header for the opening goal after eleven minutes was another one of Livorno’s wonderful chipped crosses from one winger to the other after good penetration into the box.  Cavion then turned provider with a dangerous cross that Palumbo met on the volley to double Livorno’s lead.  Palumbo scored his second after the Lecce keeper punched the ball when he probably could have gathered a Piccinocchi free kick at the far post.  Palumbo sent a header towards net, and the keeper was unable to scrabble back into the goal in time to stop the slow moving header, which would have otherwise been a routine save.

 

Zampano decided to make things a little interesting in the closing stages. Shortly after coming on as a sub, he inexplicably decided to throw a vicious elbow and he was red carded on the spot.  Livorno had to play the last fifteen minutes (really 20 with stoppage time!) a man down.  Lecce tried to attack, but between some solid defending and a few good stops from Mazzini, Livorno kept a clean sheet.

 

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The xG shows that Livorno were the better side until the Zampano red card gave Lecce some life.

 

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Livorno had  done it, winning back-to-back promotions and back-to-back titles on the way.  Verdi had thought, by March, that they had a good chance at automatic promotion, but he’d expected Salernitana to eventually be crowned champions after a year of consistency that Livorno hadn’t quite been able to match previously.  Instead, their title rivals fell apart in April, much as Alessandria had in February the year before.

 

Salernitana’s April

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Livorno’s April

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9qaJqcruoVJt-5SfUIWi-QOQUwlW7BfSiHYkF6f9ODuo6wmRRZf_pj_P1pO3vlmLVhB6YLtexIjjilO_6pkh0ruUPJM6RJPvmjz-ncyNVtTLCAssOIc2ynQX_yoEao-R7o0H_o0Y

 

The fans were really taking a liking to Verdi and his ‘Opera Football’...

 

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Two weeks in a row Verdi got the pleasure of hearing the board’s recognition of his accomplishments. He especially liked the ‘truly momentous’ occasion quote.  While Verdi was focused squarely on promotion, the trophy was also pretty nice to have!

 

Summary 

 

[There are two dead rubber games left, but I’ll tack them on to the “end of season” post that will come next.  Also, as mentioned previously, real-life Livorno ended the Serie C/A season in twentieth place and will be playing in Serie D next year.  Let’s have a moment of silence...]

 

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Despite the poor result against boogie team Sudtirol, it was another string of fantastic form including comeback wins (Cittadella and Spezia) and pure domination (Chievo, Entella, Salernitana, and Lecce), and that form had won them the Serie B title.

 

A season that began with a very real fear of relegation ended with Livorno celebrating the title with two games to go in the season. They beat teams on the counter, by smothering them with possession, by denying them clear opportunities, and, a few times, by fighting hard and stealing a win in games many might have drawn or lost.  They’d dominated from the beginning, they’d come from behind, and they’d never been completely out of any game, even the ones they’d lost. When a journalist had asked Verdi if there was a bit of luck to their run he’d been tempted to chew him out, but he kept control and  stated the truth - Livorno had won the title on merit.

 

When he’d first taken over, Verdi had hoped to return to Serie A in 3-5 years, but that plan had proved to be far too modest.  Verdi, the players, and the city of Livorno could celebrate as the team returned to its rightful place in the top flight of Italian football.  Of course, many would argue with the last bit. A team from a city 25th on the list of Italy’s most populous, with a stadium that had barely been upgraded since its construction in 1935, and who’d spent most of their history moving between Serie B and C probably has no right being in Serie A. Verdi disagreed, but he was on a mission to change all the above - though he likely couldn't find a way to massively increase Livorno’s population...at least not overnight.

 

All that together showed the size of the challenge before Verdi. The last two times that Livorno had been promoted, they’d only lasted one year in the top flight, falling right back down to Serie B in both 2010 and 2014. Their highest paid player at the time of being crowned Serie B champions was on €5.75k/w, which was less than most of the backups in Serie A. Their entire wage budget, even with its increase following promotion, would be the smallest in the league, likely by a factor of almost three. To make matters worse, they played an attacking brand of football. In Serie C, they’d had the best players, in Serie B they had Serie B quality players and a tactic that suited them. In Serie A?

 

Again, though, the time for planning and worrying would come later.  As he had the previous year, Verdi had went out and gotten a special Super Tuscan to celebrate with.  He hadn’t known he would win the title until he’d beaten Salernitana, but he’d known that there would be something to celebrate by midseason when he became completely confident that Livorno wouldn’t be relegated.  This year?  He went with something that broke the mold, a wine that had gone against ‘production codes’ in the 60’s that stated wines needed to have white grapes mixed in to qualify as a “Chianti Classico Riviera”.  The owner decided to go his own way without the domain name, and succeeded in making a special wine that is now famous.  That sounded about right for Verdi…

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Edited by 13th Man
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Season in Review

Two games did happen after Livorno secured the title at Lecce, a home game against relegation threatened Reggiana and a trip to the suburbs of Milan for the season finale against Monza.  Unlike the previous season, Livorno’s mentally stronger, more mature, and more determined side kept up their strong form even after winning the title. A dominant win against Reggiana was a blast from the Serie C past with it’s 3-1 scoreline and a totally garbage goal that came out of nowhere - assisted by Livorno reject Marsura to give the poor guy a bit of ‘revenge’ against his old club.  Away to Monza, Livorno had a harder time, especially as Verdi played around with some different tactics to see how they worked against Monza’s 4-2-3-1, but eventually they broke through and registered a comfortable 2-0 victory.

 

But who cares about all that.  We’re all here for the SEASON IN REVIEW!!!!

 

The Pretty Trophy!!!

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Another season, another title for Verdi and Livorno.  No big deal.

1143292160_ScreenShot2021-05-06at10_31_37PM.png.fd489b63477f1f5d46319de2d40f9bd3.png

 

 

The Table!!!

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Livorno ended the season twelve points clear of Salernitana, who still managed to fall backwards into Serie A after failing to win in any of their final six games.

 

Singing the Praises of the Signings!!!

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Verdi couldn’t have been happier with his signings for the year.  All had been key at various pointsl, from depth and rotation options to Serie B’s leading scorer (Galan).  Young centerback Gozzi came out of the season with the best average rating of the year’s signings playing very well on the left side of the defence.  Cavion had contributed massively as well, both through assists and timely goals.  Special mention had to go to Ranocchia, who may not have gotten all the plaudits in his midfield destroyer role, but who’d helped create a more solid Livorno in the second half of the season. 

 

Verdi’s personal signing of the season, though, was Mazzini. 

 

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Having a reliable player between the sticks was crucial, and he continued to progress very well throughout the season.  Verdi hadn’t been looking for a keeper the past summer, but he couldn’t be happier with his choice to go in for Mazzini when he became available. He made some great saves, bossed the box, and made all the saves you’d expect of him and some that were truly spectacular.

 

A September to Remember

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It had to be said that Livorno’s September demolition of all comers (other than Benevento) had helped propel them to, what had seemed at first, to be an unlikely title win. 

 

Oh the Memories!!!

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While Verdi felt that the biggest win of the year was the 3-1 defeat of Salernitana at Armando Picchi, but it had to be said that the stunning 4-0 win against Cremonese at home gave Verdi the idea and the confidence to start playing the 3-4-1-2 as his primary formation.  The Bari game had been a masterclass of counterattacking and set piece goals, and Brun’s rocket against Reggina had been a truly magnificent effort.

 

The Shirts!!!

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New signing Cavion did well, as reliable Piccinocchi. Verdi was a bit surprised that Ranocchia was among the top sellers, but Livorno fans must have realized that there was something about the young player.

 

The Tactic!!!

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[Well...it’s not quite right.  Galan only played one part of one game as the DLF, and didn’t play well. Zampano on the right was also a surprise, but Cavion did get used throughout the midfield, so his

 

The Awards!

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Unsurprisingly, Verdi was named manager of the season in Serie B after winning the title with a side that the bookies expected to go down.

 

Turns out everyone agrees that Mazzini was the signing of the season.  Galan getting the top scorer in Serie B was very nice as well.

 

Say it Again Now...

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A bit of a repeat of earlier posts, but the quote was nice!

 

DATA IS BEAUTIFUL!!!

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Livorno were the best offensive team, scoring eleven more than their closest rivals. While some might be concerned at the disparity between xG and actual goals scored, Verdi wasn't simply because he did want Livorno to shoot a lot and they had players who could score in various, and not always super easy ways. More surprisingly considering their attacking style and shape, they were tied (with defense first Benevento) for the best defense in the league, conceding only 27 compared to their 72 goals [a proper swapping of digits] for a GD of +45.  Their possession play couldn’t be matched by anyone either, averaging nearly 2/3s of the possession in any game (58% possession over the whole season).

 

So Many Goals!!!

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Livorno didn't actually create that many clear cut chances, but they exerted constant pressure and it told through

 

Such Possession!!!

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Just goes to show how possession isn't everything with Cremonese and Reggiana finishing in the bottom half, though both survived relegation.  Still, if you have that much more than opposition it's much harder for them to score.

 

None Shall Pass!!!

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Their defense through possession worked very well most of the time, and when it didn't, their backline and Mazzini were usually equal to the task of stopping the opposition.

 

[Side note - it's unclear why Benevento’s 27 goals conceded is less than Livorno’s 27 goals conceded but I'm not bitter about that or anything…]

 

Top Scorer!

Jorge Galan might not have been Livorno’s best player, and his role meant he was out of the game a lot if he wasn’t scoring, but he had a finishing touch that no one else in the division could match.  He trailed off towards the end of the season as his pace began to fade rapidly [dropping form 14 to 11!!!], but in the few months after his arrival he was simply on fire, scoring nearly once a game.  Even by the end of the year he was still averaging over a goal every other game and he provided a decent number of assists too.  His stats were padded by a few penalties, but top scorers often are penalty takers...

 

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Key Passing!

Piccinocchi got the most assists for Livorno but the fact that he also had the most key passes in the league shows just how important he was to Livorno’s style of playing.  He often launched counters or picked out the pinpoint crossfield pass that led to a goal.

 

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The League Awards!!!!

 

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Piccinocchi simply made the side tick...

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Livorno dominates the team of the year...again.

 

1339810625_ScreenShot2021-05-06at10_32_53PM.png.47a39bd82423d2af439541dda83f79d2.png

 

Funny that Gozzi didn't get into the team of the year, yet somehow wins 'Defender of the Year', though maybe that's because he missed a few months through injury.  Piccinocchi obviously wins the midfielder of the year, having won player of the year, and Mazzini justly gets the nod for Keeper of the year!

 

Onwards and Upwards!!!!

So Livorno signed off on a special 21/22 season, and took a break before beginning the daunting task of trying to avoid relegation and establish themselves in Serie A in 22/23.  There was a lot of work ahead of Verdi to get the team ready for the next year, but Livorono’s domination of the second tier could give them some measure of confidence going into Serie A...

Edited by 13th Man
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7 hours ago, Muttley84 said:

Well played sir! Good luck in Serie A! Irl I think Livorno got relegated to Serie D, so you are surely doing a better job!

Many thanks! Think Verdi might need that luck! Got a bunch of good Serie B players, a few potential Serie A players and a good tactic, we’ll see if that’s enough. Don’t have to be the best, just better than three other teams....

Yes, Livorno finished 20th in Serie C/A and it wasn’t even really close (funny how FM leads you to follow teams). I only have FM to judge from, but Livorno had/has a technical side, but not much pace or drive. Also lots of loans that have kept the team unsettled. 
 

 

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6 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Phenomenal season! Look at that goal difference compared to the rest! Your tactic played out perfectly! Solid at the back and potent in attack. Ready for the big boys of Italy!! :applause:

The solidity at the back was the most surprising thing! Mazzini between the sticks made a huge difference but Verdi also got the balance right as the season went on. Also, the other team can’t score if they don’t have the ball...I just appreciated that it was interesting progressive possession rather than dull sideways defensive possession.

Being ready for the big boys? We’ll see about that...I think Livorno might find themselves on the wrong end of some thrashings but also might have enough about them to stay up.

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