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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.

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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

bdRHW76bOzasiX6aXkkcq62fRwKeP8FA6h6dhWxaUN6hOaxLDg1Dmeoak9CUWvE_808IwmRfc4yVmARXrPvYZMw3TeviG4_ul50_jU42RstWchmCN8-YImPAqh8NUv7jWuNZXvZS

 

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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Posted (edited)

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.

 

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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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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!

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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:

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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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The Impossible Dream (Offseason/Summer 2022)

Their domination of Serie B gave Verdi some confidence heading up to the top level, but there were no teams that could compare with the powerhouses that awaited Livorno in Serie A.  Verdi knew that Livorno would struggle against the top teams and might not get many points at all against the top half, but he thought they might be able to hold their own against the bottom half, and at least and had a good chance of doing better than three other teams.  Verdi was nervous but not overawed. He was simply determined to do everything in his power to keep Livorno in the top flight.  Unlike in Serie B where Livorno were about average in terms of size, in Serie A they’d certainly be a small club.

 

He’d be working with a payroll that was nearly seven times smaller than Christiano Ronaldo’s salary alone.  Juventus and few of the other top clubs were in a world of their own, but more to the point, his highest paid players made only squad player salaries for even the lower teams in the division.  Even still, the money that they’d receive would be a massive boon from previous years, dwarfing their previous revenues.

 

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(The fans loved Palumbo and it was no wonder!) Verdi was happy the board was able to bring in an additional million Euros in sponsorship money. Obviously the €2.5m Livorno received after getting promoted was a nice bonus, and the Serie B TV money was a big step up from Serie C.  But nothing could hold a candle to the €41.5m that awaited the club in Serie A TV revenue. If Verdi could keep Livorno up, it would go a long way towards stabilizing the club’s iffy finances - though even one season was likely to leave Livorno with a profit of at least €20m! [For reference, they’d been starting each season with €1-2m in the bank.]

 

If Verdi could keep the team in the top flight, though, he could really start to build the team up.  It was in dire need of proper investment, and though the training facilities were pretty good, the rest of the club’s infrastructure was very much in need of updating.

 

First he needed to keep Livorno up.  With a transfer budget of nearly €10m [forty times bigger than his 21/22 budget of €250k] he could pay real fees for good players Verdi could actually make moves rather than relying on free transfers. Verdi wondered if his current squad would be able to compete right away after a very successful 21/22 campaign, but that would require actually keeping the team together.   That’s why when the board first gave him initial budgets, his thoughts turned inward, to three players already at the club.

 

The Loans

 

When Verdi first brought in four loan signings at the beginning of the 20/21 season, he expected them to be stop-gaps to help Livorno push for promotion to Serie B.  After winning Serie C/A, he couldn’t afford to replace four starters so he decided to try and consolidate their position before replacing so many key parts. While right winger Vignali had done a job for Livorno, he was allowed to leave at the end of 20/21. Verdi felt that he could probably sign permanent players to fill that role just as well, and he’d been proven correct, with Cavion and Zampano both coming in, and Rizzo providing adequate cover.

 

The other three loan players, however, had turned into key players for Verdi’s Livorno.  They’d all taken the step up to Serie B in stride and, if anything, their performances had improved as they matured as players.

 

With all three players worth at least €2.5 each, Verdi had never had any realistic hope to sign them all permanently, though he expressed his desire to do so to the media at every opportunity.  He thought that there was some chance he could sign one of them, but even that was unrealistic before.  With Livorno returning to the top flight, however, Verdi suddenly had funds at his disposal, and with all three players close with Verdi and enjoying their time at Livorno, he thought he might just have a chance.

 

Palumbo

Palumbo’s form had gone up and down in Serie C, unsurprising for an 18 year old, but in Serie B he’d taken a huge leap forward.  He was an all action player - dribbling, passing, moving, and often scoring - who was a perfect compliment to Piccinocchi’s more cerebral passing game.  Cavion did a decent job in the mezzala role, but there was a noticeable difference when Palumbo wasn’t in the team. When Ranocchia had earned a starting spot and especially after Bruns had gone down, Palumbo performed even better in the attacking midfield position, chipping in with a lot of goals and his link up play was excellent.

 

Palumbo was the player Verdi felt was the least replaceable, so he called Udinese first. The young man's contract had been up at the end of the 21/22 season, giving Verdi brief hope back in December that he might be able to sign the young man on a free, but Udinese had extended his contract for an additional three years only a week or two before Verdi could have offered a contract. Not to mention that Udinese put him on €22k/w which could pay for half of Livorno’s starting 11 at that time. With Livorno’s wage structure (at the time) only allowing for a maximum €5.7k/w salary, they never could have competed. Now that they were promoted though…?

 

His value had gone up to €5m, which Livorno could actually afford, though Palumbo’s agent warned Verdi that Udibese would demand a lot more than that for the talented young player. And so it turned out, with Udinese countering with €28.5m. Verdi tried out a few offers with longer term payments and future incentives just to see if a deal could be struck..but Udinese pretty much just laughed at him. Verdi was disappointed but not surprised, so he switched over to extending the loan for a third year. In the end, he agreed to pay 50% (€11k/w) of Palumbo’s salary - a huge step up from the €500/w that they had been paying, but that had always been a steal. Verdi didn’t love continuing to “rent” the player, but he was a truly Serie A quality player and Verdi felt it was worth keeping him another season if he could help them survive - €572k over the course of the year seemed like a reasonable bet to place when the tens of millions of Euros were in the balance.

 

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Palumbo was also happy to stay another year in Livorno so the deal was finalized pretty quickly.

 

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Another year with the young man on loan, but maybe, just maybe, Verdi could figure out a way to sign him permanently in 23/24…

 

Tripadelli and Carboni

With Palumbo settled, Verdi turned to the duo on loan from Calgiari of Tripadelli and Carboni.  Both were not only established members of the first team, they’d also grown into leaders in the locker room, despite their young age (Carboni was 21 and Tripadelli was 23).  They were players that Verdi felt he needed to keep hold of.

 

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Tripadelli could do a job defensively, and had enough pace and class to be a threat going forward.  He hadn’t scored much in Serie C/A, but had chipped in with some crucial goals in Serie B and had a lot of assists to his name.  He excelled at attacking the box and finding the right ball to give the forwards chances.  Chavarria was an excellent rotation option, but Tripadelli was just a bit classier. 

 

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Then there was the large, in charge, and actually very intelligent for his age Carboni. The challenge of Serie B had forced more mistakes out of the young man, but he’d actually improved a lot when put in the cover role while the also left footed Gozzi took his former place on the left side of the defense. He read the game well, and was usually in the right place at the right time - he had an incredible amount of blocked shots, especially considering how few shots Livorno allowed over the course of the season.  Verdi felt like he  was even less replaceable than Tripadelli, especially at a reasonable price.

 

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There was some back and forth between Livorno and Calgiari, but in the end it was pretty straightforward business. Both players had come to see Livorno as their home, were close with Verdi, and Cagliari were willing to sell.  Both included profit from next sale clauses and future payments in installments, and Tripadelli’s also had a €500k after 50 games clause, but those allowed the initial costs to be much lower.

 

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[not sure why his salary didn’t show up, but it’s not a continuation of his loan…]

 

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Both were risks, it had to be said, but they were both decent to low Serie A level talents with room to grow, had been at the club for two years and were important members of the squad. Verdi also felt he’d negotiated reasonable enough fees for both.  If they weren’t able to remain in Serie A, Livorno might not be able to afford to keep both, but Verdi felt that they’d at least have a chance, especially with the club’s coffers improved by their year in the top flight.

 

The Rest

With ‘the loans’ taken care of [this was all finalized even before the Monza game at the end of the 21/22 season], Livorno could enter Serie A with a settled team and €5m still in the transfer budget - though the €140k/w wage budget was beginning to come under duress. Some of that would have to be addressed by clearing out a lot of the players that simply wouldn’t make it at the Serie A level (a lot), or who’d been in the first team but hadn’t played enough to justify their wages, even in Serie B (Agazzi and Maiorino) and the rest would probably come through reduction of the transfer budget.

 

The question now was how aggressive to be in the transfer market. His side had gelled well during the 21/22 season and their domination of Serie B made Verdi think that they could do well at the next level too.  At the same time, there were still question marks.

 

Keeper

Priority number one was to give Mazzini a contract closer to what he deserved.  He was on only €1.2k/w, despite being a solid, Serie A level keeper and there were a few clubs sniffing around.  Verdi wanted to make sure that such a key player in such a key position was settled at Livorno so he offered Mazzini a new contract.  An agreement was struck at €8k/w, which Verdi thought was more than fair for a player of his quality.  He also asked for a release clause of €20m for Champions League clubs.  It was the kind of fee that Verdi would have trouble turning down at the moment, but he also felt that he had something special in the young keeper, and he didn’t want to be held to that fee if Mazzini kept improving.  The young man was Verdi’s player of the season and would be critical to helping Livorno survive at the next level.  Happily, Mazzini’s agent agreed to drop the clause, but they kept the €3.5m relegation release clause.  Verdi felt this was fair, knowing that Mazzini was a Serie A quality player and he wouldn’t force him to stay on if they were relegated.  

 

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Backup keeper Branescu had agreed to terms with another club.  Having been demoted to the bench Verdi couldn’t blame him and he wished him well - Branescu had done a good job the second half of the 20/21 season, and deserved to be a starter somewhere.  It did leave Livorno in need of a backup. There were several promising young keepers in the youth teams, but none were quite ready. There were plenty available on a free, though, and Verdi was able to grab one fairly quickly.

 

Defense

The defense, with the permanent addition of Carboni, was as good as Verdi could hope for.  A starting trio of Gozzi on the left, Carboni in the center, and Bodgan on the right should be solid enough, with a capable backup in Di Gennero and a promising youngster in Argentinian Miguel Turco as further depth.

 

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The Wings

On the left, Tripadelli and Chavarria would be a capable duo with Cavion and some promising youngsters available in an emergency.

 

On the right, however, Verdi wasn’t as confident.  While Cavion had been excellent in Serie B, and Zampano was a very capable backup, Verdi expected to need more pace and defensive cover and to need Cavion more in midfield as he planned to move Agazzi in the summer.  So he went in for a rightback named Paolo Farago on a free, once again from Calgiari [who were becoming a bit of a feeder club for Livorno…].  He’d bring in a lot of experience, a bit more pace, and, as an added bonus, good leaping ability for a winger. He would be one of the higher paid players at the club at €11.75/w, but he was taking a pay cut from Calgiari, so Verdi felt it was a good piece of business, and it would free up Cavion to play more across the midfield.

 

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Between Farago, Cavion, and Zampano, Verdi felt this part of the team was set.  There were also some promising youngsters who might be able to come in and play as emergency backups on both wings.

 

Center Midfield

Verdi had gotten a look that he really liked as the season progressed with Ranocchia playing in a slightly recessed role in the 3-4-1-2.  He also had a group of players that could play in at least two and often three of the roles in Livorno’s midfield.  The deeper role (when used) was well suited for the defensively sound but still technically and mentally capable Ranocchia, but in Bruns and Cavion, he had two other players who could perform that role as well.  The more creative Carrilo role that Piccinocchi had made his own (and earned Serie B player of the season playing!) could also be filled by Ranocchia, Palumbo, or Bruns.  The attacking midfield role is where Palumbo had shined towards the end of the season, but Bruns’ all around game made him well suited for the position too, and Cavion had filled in admirably when asked.  Incoming player Akujobi would provide some added depth in midfield - though Verdi was strongly considering loaning the young player out to gain first team experience.

 

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Like in defense, Verdi expected his midfield to have struggles in Serie A, but he felt that his starters could at least compete.  He would keep his eyes open, but not actively look for reinforcements especially as new faces would likely mean having to move more players out.

 

Forwards

The partnership of Galan and Pallecchi had vastly exceeded Verdi’s expectations.  They’d scored a 31 between them in 38 games, which was an incredible return, especially when Pallecchi only started in just over half the games.  However, at 33 age was catching up with Galan and he had faded as the year went on.  His pace had dropped off by a lot, and while he’d scored 10 in his first 10, he’d ‘only’ scored 10 in his last 23 appearances, with three of those coming from the spot.  That was still a fantastic scoring record, but as he continued to decline Verdi didn’t expect him to trouble Serie A defenders.  In fact, he’d been largely absent in the games against Parma and Torino, and those had been midseason.

 

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Pallecchi was another story. He was progressing well and had performed even better in the deeper role in Serie B than he had as an advanced forward in Serie C.  He had a good turn of pace, his dribbling skills were almost elite level, he had decent off the ball movement, and his passing was actually quite accurate as well. At 22, he still had a few years to grow as a player as well.

 

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While Verdi wanted to see what he could do at the next level, he wasn’t confident that Pallecchi would have the ability to perform consistently in Serie A with his general lack of intelligence.  His pace, movement, and dribbling had bamboozled a lot of Serie B defenders, but he expected Serie A players to be less easily beaten. If that sounds familiair, it was exactly what Verdi thought about the young man heading into the 21/22 season...but Pallecchi seemed to just have something about him and both years he’d cemented his place as a starter after Verdi had doubted him.

 

In the end, Verdi decided to look for a replacement or upgrade for Galan, and a different option to challenge Pallecchi - or just a player who could give the team a different look.  In house options, Verdi felt, weren’t quite up to the challenge.  Veterans Mazzeo and Maiorino had disappointed in Serie B, so certainly wouldn’t have what it took to compete at the top level, and Mazzeo was retiring at the end of the year anyway.  Young forwards Caia and Pinas weren’t ready for Serie A, really even as depth.  They’d both been loaned out to Serie C clubs during 21/22 and while Caia had done well in spurts, Pinas had generally disappointed.  Neither were mature enough to trouble Serie A defenders.

 

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Raicevic was the other senior first team player and he was out of contract at the end of the season. It was time for a decision to be made, and while he’d done very well before his injury, Pallecchi offered more of a goal threat and, with his passing ability, contributed to the build up quite well too. Raicevic offered more physicality, but was that enough?  Verdi had also noticed that Raicevic wasn’t all that willing to get stuck in and use his physicality as much as Verdi would have liked, especially not in the box where it was most needed. To tip the scales further, the Montenegrin was also expecting a fairly sizable pay raise. 

 

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Last up was Marconi.  He’d come in during the year and hadn’t impressed all that much, but had only gotten limited game time.  He was relatively cheap, strong, and hardworking, though and Verdi wondered if he might be of good use at the top flight where Livorno wouldn’t be able to dominate possession the way they had in Serie B.  His technical ability was pretty limited, but sometimes it would be useful to have a battering ram and/or a player to hold up the ball.  He could potentially be a useful backup.

 

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Should Verdi keep the faith in his front two, hoping that his current options would be good enough to keep them up, or should he go in for a player or two that could go a long way towards guaranteeing their safety?  €5m wasn’t a ton to work with, but Verdi might be able to buy a decent forward with the payments spread out over several years.  With Tripadelli and Carboni’s payments already on the books, though, Verdi would potentially be putting a huge strain on Livorno’s future finances if they were relegated.

 

So how much to gamble? Or rather, which gamble would he make? Would he gamble with the financial future of the club in an attempt to secure survival in Serie A, or would he gamble their future in the hopes that Livorno could make do with what they had, even if it made their fight to stay in in the top flight an uphill battle? Both were risky propositions in their own ways.

 

Verdi spent a lot of time mulling it over, but he ended up going with his gut.  He would go in for at least one, and maybe two forwards if they were significant upgrades.  If Livorno couldn’t afford anyone or if his targets choose not to come to Livorno, then Verdi would extend Racievic and roll the dice with what he had.  He wouldn’t pay for players just for the sake of it.

 

The advanced forward role was the trickier one.  Pallecchi had done well there in Serie C/A, but had been disappointing when played there in Serie B.  He could serve as depth for that role  but Verdi wouldn’t expect him to be able to get free and clear often, or to keep his composure when he did.  He might have kept the faith in Galan if his pace wasn’t deserting him, and Verdi still felt the Spaniard would make a good backup, but he decided to make a move on a player he’d been keeping tabs on by the name of Giacomo Radspadori.

 

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The young forward from Sassuolo was a clear upgrade on Galan right away, and at 22 he still had time to grow. He wasn’t as good a finisher as Galan, but he was close, and he added a little more spark, grit and even a bit more intelligence.

 

Sassuolo’s negotiations started at €12.5m, which was obviously far beyond what Livorno could pay.  Verdi wasn’t deterred so easily though. Their response told him that Sassuolo were willing to sell the player, but also rated him enough that Verdi would have to make a decent offer. They went back and forth, but a deal was struck for €7.5m with €3.4 up front and the rest in installments, along with a 35% of profit clause.

 

It was the biggest gamble of Verdi’s admittedly short career, and it was one he hadn’t taken lightly.  He’d only been truly tested at the Serie C level, where he’d helped old foe Novarra win the 21/22 Serie C/A title, but he had made a handful of Serie A appearances in 20/21 and performed fairly well then too.  He’d also simply the kind of player that Verdi wanted on his team.  He had a good all around game, complimented by solid mental strength and a decent turn of pace.  He was lacking a bit in the height and heading department, but his role would be to score more with the ball at his feet anyway.  The cost was a lot, and he wasn’t a finished product yet, but Verdi expected him to be able to score some goals, and if he continued to progress beyond his already Serie A level quality, Verdi felt he’d be a good piece of business.  He’d be on the reasonable wage of €8k/w and his relegation release clause was also €7.5m which would at least cover his transfer fee if they went right back down.

 

Verdi then went in for another striker, this one on a free.

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Moreo was big, strong, hardworking, and with  decent speed for a big man. He’d be joining from Empoli, who were headed back down to Serie B after only a year, but he’d played well despite their bad form. Verdi hoped he’d be like Cavion (who’d joined from relegated Ascoli the year before) and bring some quality and experience to the side.

 

Verdi expected Moreo to compete with Pallecchi for the deeper forward role.  He wasn’t as quick or good on the ball as the young Pallecchi, but he would be a formidable physical presence in the box and in transition and he’d work hard defensively too.

 

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With the Moreo signing, Racievic’s fate was sealed, he would be released at the end of this contract. Verdi wished him well, but felt he simply wasn’t good enough for the top flight when he had other options available.

 

So Verdi headed into the new season very happy with his options at forward. He expected Raspadori to slot right into the advanced forward role, with Pallecchi and Moreo competing for the deeper forward role - with form and opposition dictating who got the nod. Galan would serve as reliable depth, with emergency backups in former Pisa striker Marconi and possibly Caia (especially as he was still young enough for the U20s) in reserve. Pinas, he planned on loaning out again, hopefully in this time in Serie B, though he’d have to see if there were any takers.

 

The Team (at the start of preseason)

 

Mazzini 

Bogdan - Carboni - Gozzi

Farago/Cavion-Piccinocchi-Ranocchia-Tripadelli 

Palumbo

Pallecchi/Moreo-Raspadori

 

Keeper

Mazzini

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Excellent in Serie B, would be called upon to help keep Livorno in games in the top flight.  Verdi had every confidence in his man between the sticks.

 

Defense

RCB

Bogdan

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Solid in Serie B, he’d done well both on the right and as the covering centerback.  Serie A might be a struggle, but he was well rounded enough to compete.

 

Cover CB

Carboni

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Solid enough already, but hopefully would continue to progress as he played against top class opposition.  Verdi expected him to struggle early, but hoped he’d improve as the season went on.

 

LCB

Gozzi

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Made steady improvements in Serie B and, like Carboni, Verdi expected struggles but progression from the fast, strong center back.

 

Right Winger/wingback

Farago

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Verdi expected the experienced rightback to start on the wing, with Cavion challenging when he wasn’t needed in midfield and Zampano as a backup.

 

Left Winger/Wingback

Tripadelli 

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Tripadelli would continue his good work on the flanks, with Chavarria a capable backup/rotation option.

 

Midfield

RCM - Carrilero

Piccinocchi 

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The 21/22 Serie B player of the year simply made Livorno tick.  He’d also become a leader in the dressing room, though in a “lead by example’ sort of way.  It was crazy to think that he’d come in for a trial with Livorno during the summer of 2020 considering his stature within the club as they headed up to Serie A.

 

LCM - Mezzala/Ball winner

Ranocchia 

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Ranocchia had made amazing progress during the 21/22 season and had pushed Bruns out of the starting line up. He was simply a solid all around midfielder who could play a lot of roles, from the destroyer/protector, to a more box-to-box role, to even the mezzala role. Verdi hoped he’d continue his rapid progress in Serie A.

 

AMC

Palumbo 

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Palumbo had played very well in the mezzala role, but seemed to truly come into his element in the attacking midfield. He was a good finisher with a decent strike from distance too, and his more advanced role put him in better positions to score. He was a decent passer for linking up play, and his solid defensive abilities added effectiveness to Livorno’s counter press and split block.

 

Forwards

Deeper Forward (right)

Pallecchi/Moreo

This was the only position where Verdi didn’t have a solid idea about who would start. 

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Would the young forward continue to impress and surprise? Or would Serie A finally be a step too far, at least in the short term?

 

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Moreo brought a lot of good things to the squad, and Verdi expected him to be used frequently even if Pallecchi was able to keep up his excellent form.

 

Advanced Forward

Raspadori 

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Verdi hoped the young Italian could pick up where Galan left off, and then maybe go to even higher heights...though he was not expecting a repeat of Galan’s 20 Serie B goals in Serie A of course.
 

Depth

Di Gennero (CB)

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He was solid center back depth in Serie B and there was very little drop off when he was in the team.

 

Turco (CB)

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The young defender was raw and not quite ready to be a first team regular, but Verdi wanted to keep him at the club to develop. He’d train with the first team and play in the U20s but Verdi would look for opportunities to play the youngster in competitive games.

 

Cavion (midfield)

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Verdi expected to need Cavion much more as a utility man across the entire midfield. Though Verdi expected Farago to be the starting right winger, Cavion would probably play nearly as much as before  - filling in for injuries or fatigue across the midfield. He might not be starting most games as he did in Serie B, but he’d make a lot of appearances.

 

Chavarria (left wing)

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Only a slight step down from Tripadelli. He’d play plenty between injuries and the running required of the position. His added aggression and drive  might get him a few extra starts too.

 

Bruns (midfield)

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Ranocchia’s progress had been slowly pushing him out of the starting 11 even before his serious hip injury, but the veteran would likely still have a role to play, even if it was mostly from the bench.

 

Galan (forward)

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The veteran Spanish striker would likely make way for the young Raspadori but he would serve as a solid backup that Verdi would have no qualms about playing should the need arise.

 

Transfer Overview 

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All in all, it was a very different looking summer than 20/21 or 20/22.  Livorno spent €13.25m on players - though spread out over a few years - after spending a grand total of €86k over the previous two years combined.  Along with now permanent Carboni and Tripadelli and likely starters or regular first teamers in Raspadori, Farago, and Moreo, Verdi added depth in midfielder Akujobi, two for the future in defender Turco and Inter academy product Ballabio (midfield), and a backup keeper in Albertazzi.  Out the door went Raicevic (released), Maiorino (€155k), and backup keeper Branescu (free), along with a lot of other youngsters that couldn’t cut it and backup players that barely featured in Serie C, much less Serie B.  Verdi expected several more departures before the end of the transfer window, but it would not be a year in which they’d break even in the transfer market. 

 

Verdi had also spent the summer bringing in new faces in the backroom staff.  While increases in the amount of coaches and scouts allowed by the board had allowed Verdi to bring in better coaches and staff, there were still a lot of backroom members that weren’t nearly good enough to work at a Serie A club.  Having signed most of them to two year deals in 20/21 it was time to clean house and bring in quality staff.  It was tedious work, but it had to be done, and Verdi knew the club would reap the benefits over the coming years.

 

With the summer additions, Verdi headed into preseason cautiously optimistic about Livorno’s chances in Serie A. They weren’t a team with any exceptional playmakers, but almost everyone could pick a pass. They didn’t have a special striker that would make defenders quiver with fear, but they had a lot of capable finishers and a lot of ways to score. They didn’t have great dribblers, but most of the players were comfortable taking in a player if the situation called for it, and the tactic was about passing and movement, not dribbling.  Their defense would surely be breached more regularly than it had before, but they had solid all around players that were especially good in the air which would allow them to sit deeper when the need arose and a very good keeper in Mazzini.

 

Overall, Verdi had a team that was stocked with solid, flexible, all-around players and no massive drop off between the starters and the depth. He had a mostly settled squad that was used to Livorno’s style and well suited to executing it.  The sheer gap in quality between his players and the top teams would surely lead to a lot more losses than Verdi and his side were used to, but there were no glaring weaknesses.  Verdi had certainly taken a chance with some of his signings, especially young Raspadori for €7.5m, but he felt that he needed to gamble a bit, and he figured that the €20m in the bank that Livorno would end the season with should be more than enough to to keep them afloat should their 22/23 season end in relegation.

 

UP NEXT - Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

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25 minutes ago, Hootieleece said:

Great update. Very in depth with reasoning for keeping or letting go players.

 

Thanks!  I've actually found that doing this write up has made me think those kinds of things in much more depth.  If I'm being honest, my worst savescumming was when I would regret signing/not signing or selling/not selling a player.  Doing this write up as I went along really helped me work through everything!

Time will tell, of course, if Verdi found the right balance...

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Live by The Sword, Die by the Sword

After handily winning Serie B with the 3-4-1-2 formation, Verdi was once again faced with the tough choice of whether to keep with the same, very aggressive and attacking tactic, or to become more conservative against better opponents. His use of the cautious 3-5-2 had led to poor results at the beginning of the 21/22 season and his switch back to the 3-4-1-2 was the catalyst for their incredible form in September. Later in the year, the 3-4-1-2 Variazion alla Ranocchia with Ranocchia playing a slightly deeper role in midfield had helped retain solidity from December on, and given them a different look while keeping the same general shape when playing teams with aggressive attacking midfielders.  Verdi even wondered if he should have just gone with the 3-4-1-2 against Parma and Torino. In retrospect he wished he had, if only to see how it would have gone.  Oddly enough, the 3-5-2 shape had been effective against teams that parked the bus and played with a defensive midfielder, allowing Palumbo to attack the left channel and pull the opposition out of shape, but on those occasions Livorno had played with aggressive passing and a high defensive line. Not to mention that Livorno weren’t likely to be facing as many low blocks in Serie A.

 

During the post season break, Verdi thought a lot about how to approach the next season. He came to the decision that Livorno would not cower in fear in the face of Serie A. He expected to use the deeper midfielder most of the time, to need to pull his wingers back regularly, to often go with a flat three in midfield, or to have to drop his lines in the face of teams with elite pace, but he would stay with the 3-4-1-2 as his base shape and tweak based on opponent and in game events.  Time would tell if that would prove a wise choice and he planned a tough preseason schedule to test out his tactic against some quality opposition [which turned out to be mostly German] with a few easy games mixed in.  [I had actually scheduled several more friendlies such a trip to Club Brugge, but I forgot about the abomination which is the Qatar World Cup happening in the winter, so the season would start in July and those friendlies got cancelled…]

 

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The up and down results were about what Verdi expected, but they still didn’t give Verdi a solid understanding of how Livorno’s style of play would fare at the top level.

 

The demolition of Greek champions and regular Euro and Champions League participants Olympiakos was a pleasant surprise.  5-0 was probably a bit much, but Livorno’s domination was no fluke.  The Greek side’s 4-4-2 was easily handled by the 3-4-1-2, with Livorno funnelling Olympiakos inside.  Raspadori showed promise in his ability to both get into dangerous positions and to score when he got there, with two goals and a few more good chances.  New arrival Moreo also scored with a towering header. 

 

Hoffenheim’s destruction of Livorno in the next game brought Verdi and Livorno back to earth.  They also played a 4-4-2, but with two inverted wingers they overloaded the central areas and Livorno simply couldn’t keep up.  That said, Hoffenheim were among the top teams in Germany, finishing 5th in the Bundesliga, and Verdi had sent Livorno out in the original 3-4-1-2 with Ranocchia playing as a mezzala as an experiment, and they’d been found out defensively.  Still, Verdi could take some positives from the game in that Raspadori was again clinical with his two chances and Livorno were generally very dangerous on the counter.

 

The bad news came, though, when Cavion was ruled out for months with a broken foot.  Verdi would be without his utility man and one of his best players for a large chunk of the season, with his return likely just before the World Cup break in November.

 

The game against FC Koln, recently relegated from the Bundesliga, shouldn’t have been an even game.  Even with a completely rotated side comprised entirely of depth options and trialists, Livorno was in control and had scored a goal before Bruns decided to go in with a two footed challenge in a friendly and got sent off after only twenty minutes - though Verdi was glad he’d chosen to do it in a friendly rather than a competitive game.  In the end, the 3-3 draw was especially satisfying.  Verdi was able to see that his tactic could defend well when the need arose, even down to ten men, and he hadn’t even changed that much - and once again they were deadly on the counter.

 

Next came poor Pole Espoirs Ajaccio, who were put through the ringer at Armando Picchi.   It was supposed to be one of the easy games, but when a bunch of guys with beer guts got off the budget rented bus at Armando Picchi, Verdi realized a mistake had been made. Verdi had hoped they'd be playing French Ligue 2 side AC Ajaccio, but with someone scheduled a game against an amateur side from the same city instead.  If nothing else, it was a good chance to get more used to the 5-2-1-2 that Verdi still expected to use more in Serie A.  While the poor sunday leaguers certainly didn’t enjoy their time in Livorno, their sacrifice would probably fund the club for years, if not decades after they received a hefty sum (for an amateur side) for the privilege of being humiliated…

 

The trip to Schalke, a mid-level Bundesliga club, was a good test.  Though it ended a 2-2 draw, Raspadori scored twice and Livorno looked dangerous.  Schalke’s two goals came in the 79th and 90th minutes when the back-ups, trialists, and rotation players were on.  However, in Verdi’s view, the game was a disaster.  In the 62nd minute, Palumbo sprained his knee and would be out for at least the first month of the season - likely missing six games.  Livorno would be starting the season without their best player. It was not the start Verdi had in mind.

 

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With a tune up against Serie C Pro Sesto filling out the preseason and giving depth and youngsters a chance to show their stuff, it was time for the big show - Serie A….

 

Livorno is Watching...

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The city of Livorno was hitching a ride on the bandwagon now that the team would be competing in Serie A.  Who knows how many of those 12,610 fans would claim to have been there at the 4-0 thrashing of Pro Vercelli in 2021?  Or the 4-0 win over Cremonese the next September?  Probably around 12,610.  But Verdi wouldn’t argue with the €s...

 

A Wanted Man

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During the off-season, Verdi got no less than three requests for interviews from Serie A clubs. First Parma, who’s form had fallen off a cliff since the start of 2022 (maybe reeling from the Livorno defeat in the cup?) and falling from the Euro spots all the way down into the relegation fight. Then Calgiari, but why would he join them after signing three of their players? Both of them had ended the season dangerously close to relegation so it was no surprise that they’d sacked their managers and might be taking a look at Verdi. The shock came when Lazio approached. 

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Finishing the league in 6th place, only a point back from Atalanta in 5th and Napoli in 4th, a club of their stature might otherwise have tempted Verdi.  But not Lazio - he could never leave Livorno for a club that was not only a rival, but had a fan base so diametrically opposed to that in Livorno.

 

Regardless, Verdi couldn’t imagine leaving his club with so much unfinished business. He would take his club as far as he could, and after that?  If something else came up, maybe then he would listen. For now, he was committed to his home town club.
 

We Want More!

Though Verdi had most of his incoming transfers wrapped up early in the offseason, he added two decent young prospects at center back and goalkeeper on free transfers and unloaded a few players. He’d hoped to clear more of the deadwood on full transfers, but while he managed to get a few decent fees, he was forced to send many players out on loan, but at least their wages were fully or mostly covered.

 

With the rise into Serie A, and with the contracts he gave to several incoming players, there were a lot of members in the squad who started agitating for new contracts.  Verdi was generally open to discussions, but negotiations kept getting stuck when squad players started demanding bigger roles in the team.

 

Pallecchi had been asking about one since late the previous season, which was reasonable given that he was still basically on a youth contract of €800/w, but the negotiations kept hitting a sticking point with his agent demanding that Pallecchi be considered an important player.  Verdi knew he wouldn’t be playing nearly that much, especially with the arrival of Raspadori and Moreo, but he did want to give him a new contract.  Finally, after several breakdowns in talks, they got past the ‘squad status’ point with the agreement that he’d be a squad player, and they managed to agree to a deal.  He’d get a huge raise to €5k/w, which seemed about right for a young player who was playing at a good Serie B level and had potential to keep improving.

 

Next up was left winger/wingback Chavarria.  Verdi really liked the player and he had proven to be a capable backup to Tripadelli, but, like Pallecchi, his agent kept demanding that he be given a higher squad status than his play deserved.  Verdi didn’t want to make any promises that he couldn't keep and talks broke down on multiple occasions.  It was annoying, but Verdi also guessed that Chavarria would be looking for ‘important player’ type wages, which he wasn’t going to be getting as a rotation option.

 

Like his counterpart on the left, backup winger/wingback Zampano started getting grumpy about a new contract.  Verdi challenged him to up his play if he wanted to earn a new contract, and the player agreed.

 

A bunch of starters also started thinking about asking for new contracts, but all seemed to be satisfied with Verdi benign kind enough to speak to them about it, and dropped their concerns.  It was funny to think that the people Verdi would be happy to give new contracts were the ones who were fussing about it the least...Once they really needed new contracts, or at the end of the season, Verdi would be happy to reward his better players, but until then he’d be saving the club tens of thousands of Euros by waiting.

 

Summary

Preseason was tarnished by two major injuries and Verdi also hadn’t been able to come to any firm conclusions on how his tactics would work at the next level.  The Original 3-4-1-2 had dominated Olympiakos and performed well against Schalke, but had been destroyed by Hoffenhiem.  As Verdi expected, the 3-4-1-2 was a dangerous formation - but it was dangerous for Livorno too as the Hoffenhiem game showed.

 

The unqualified positives were that Livorno were wonderfully dangerous on the counter and the new signings seemed to be slotting right into the team.  Raspadori especially, was looking like the real deal, scoring twice in every game that he’d started.  Verdi didn’t expect him to score for fun like that once the season started, but he seemed to have the pace, movement, gile, and finishing ability that Verdi had hoped for..

 

It would be tough going into the season without their best outfield player, but Verdi remained cautiously optimistic about their chances.

 

UP NEXT - Welcome to the Jungle!

Edited by 13th Man
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Welcome to the Jungle!

After a decent preseason, it was time for the real deal.  It would have been a big challenge anyway, but Livorno were starting the season without their best outfield player in Palumbo.  Verdi figured that alone would lead to less points than otherwise, but he still hoped for a solid start.  If they were able to remain competitive and win a few, then he’d be very happy.
 

One big decision lay before Verdi - who would captain Livorno in the new season? Out of favor midfielder Agazzi had been captain for the past two years, but he wasn’t playing much anymore and Verdi was trying, unsuccessfully, to sell him. It seemed like the time had come for a new captain. With previous loanee Carboni now signed permanently and tending to play in the center of the defense, Verdi decided to honor his importance in the locker room with the armband. Veteran Bruns was made vice-captain - a move which Verdi would end up regretting shortly thereafter.  To his credit, Agazzi took the change in stride.

 

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The fixture list to start the year could have been much worse - poor Salernitana hosted Juventus to open the season - but it certainly wouldn’t be easy.  The trip away to Udinese would be a tricky first test, then Parma came to Armando Picchi for the home opener in a game that Verdi felt he could possibly win. Napoli away would be a tough ask, with a midweek distraction [maybe in a good way?] of the Italian Cup after that. Salernitana at Armando Picchi would be a relegation six-pointer.  Livorno could expect to struggle against Roma in Rome, but at home to mid table regulars Genoa was a chance to see if Livorno could win against middling sides.

 

Verdi still wasn’t confident that his progressive tactics would work in Serie A, but unlike his first games in Serie B, he decided he would stay true to the style that had brought them so much success so far and adjust based on the opposition and what happened in the games.  He would test out to see how the 3-4-1-2 fare against teams that tended to be in the middle of the table or lower and reserve his more defensive tactics for protecting a lead or taking on the big teams.

 

The Games

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In an echo of Livorno’s Serie B game away to Pordenone, Livorno’s return to Serie A would start with a trip to Udine in northeast Italy.  Udinese were a generally mid table Serie A team, though they’d finished in the top half in 21/22.  It would be a good test, but a game in which Verdi felt Livorno could compete.  Without their loanee Palumbo - who’s loan agreement would have allowed him to play against his parent club - it would be tough, but Verdi hoped for a draw, though he wouldn’t be disheartened by a loss.

 

Udinese played a 5-3-2 and Verdi was torn between sending out a more cautious 5-2-1-2 or going with Livorno’s traditional 3-4-1-2.  He settled on the 5-2-1-2, but would push his wide players forward if he felt like there was a chance to take the game to Udinese.

 

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It was a game of set-pieces, with all three goals coming from free-kicks, and Udinese came out on top.  It was frustrating both because Livorno had the better play, created more chances, but most of all because Verdi focused a fair amount of attention on set-pieces in training.  It was doubly frustrating because both Udinese goals were scored in the free-for-all following Livorno winning the first ball, while Carboni’s header was direct from a Piccinocchi free kick.

 

Still, while Raspadori was kept silent by Udinese’s backline, Livorno looked the more dangerous side, especially after returning to the 3-4-1-2 after fifteen minutes.  Moreo especially, had several chances to level the score, but none were clear cut and Verdi couldn’t be too frustrated that he didn’t hit the back of the net.

 

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The xG shows that Livorno more than held their own and how Udinese only really threatened from set pieces - which is what accounted for all their xG jumps.  Livorno didn’t exactly create a lot of clear cut chances, but overall, Verdi couldn't be too disappointed in his sides’ efforts away from home against a solid team - even if they weren’t able to get anything from the game.

 

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The home opener at Armando Picchi would pit Livorno against the side they’d knocked out of the Italian Cup the previous December - and a club which had approached Verdi after sacking their manager at the end of the 21/22 season.  Both teams had lost their first game of the season, but the oddsmakers had Livorno as the underdog.  Verdi, however, had confidence in his side, and felt they had a good chance at getting their first Serie A win.  Even more so after the newly appointed Parma manager tried to play mind games with Verdi, saying that Livorno couldn’t handle Serie A and that he didn’t think much of Verdi.  In his own press conference, the media tried to bait Verdi into a war of words, but he wasn’t having any of it.  He was quietly confident, and didn’t want to say anything that might be a distraction - and hoped that his lack of reaction might anger his Parma counterpart who was clearly hoping to get under Verdi’s skin a bit.

 

Parma was expected to play a 4-2-3-1, and Verdi expected them to attack.  All the same, he went with the 3-4-1-2, though with Ranocchia as a covering midfielder.  At home, he wanted to take the game to Parma and give his side a chance to play on the front foot.

 

There was a bit of a worry when Piccinocchi’s hamstring tightened up in training, but he ended up being ready to go for the game - though Verdi would have to keep an eye on him.  If either of Palumbo or Cavion had been fit, he might not have risked Piccinocchi, but Verdi felt he had little choice but to play his key midfielder.

 

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It was a clinical win by Livorno and Verdi couldn’t have been more pleased.  They defended well and took their chances when they came.  Raspadori opened his Livorno account with a goal in the 32nd minute.  A through ball which would have found him one-on-one with the keeper was deflected, but Raspadori was still first to get there.  From a tight angle, Raspadori tucked the ball between the post and a diving keeper who was struggling to recover.  Tripadelli was then felled in the box just before half-time, and, after a VAR check, the penalty was confirmed and Bruns absolutely smashed the ball into the goal - it was only just to the keeper’s right, but the ball flew through his hands.  Tripadelli was again responsible for the third goal after 64 minutes, driving into the box and blasting a cross through the empty space between Parma’s backline and midfield to find his opposite winger.  Zampano - having come on for Farago - blasted the ball first time into the far side of the goal.

 

Parma swarmed forward after the third goal, but it was far too late for them to get back into the game.  With the game well under control, Verdi had no qualms about pulling his wingers back a bit to protect the flanks - which Parma were overloading - and also pulling Bruns back into central midfield so that Ranocchia could corral Parma’s attacking midfielder.  Parma’s pressure did tell, but only seconds before the final whistle.
 

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Another important player goes down with an injury, but luckily it was a minor one and Verdi hoped he’d be back for the Napoli game the following weekend.  His injury late in the game showed Verdi how important the player could be, with Galan getting on the end of a nice counter move in the closing stages, only for his pace to let him down which allowed a Parma defender to get a block in. Luckily, the game was won by then.

 

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Verdi was surprised that Parma edged the xG, and that Mazzini had saved thirteen shots. None of the shots, other than the goal obviously, seemed to trouble him and it seemed it was only the quantity of shots that gave them the high xG. Either way, it was a very good win. Parma’s goal was a textbook case of Livorno knowing the game was won and letting their concentration levels drop in the final minutes.

 

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Up next would be a visit to south central Italy to face a very strong side in Napoli.  They’d destroyed Sassuolo 6-2 on the first day of the season but drawn away to Calgiari the next game.  Still, Verdi had this one down as a very likely loss, he just hoped Livorno could stay competitive.

 

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That hope took a further blow when Raspadori re-injured himself upon returning to training, ruling him out of the Napoli game.  Until…

 

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Livorno would once again host Bari in the Italian Cup Third Qualifying Round in a repeat of the 21/22 season’s fixture.  As the Napoli game was scheduled for Sunday, and the Italian Cup ended up being scheduled for Tuesday, the Napoli game was pushed a week and a half so that Livorno wouldn’t be forced to play two games in three days.

 

Verdi wasn’t pleased with this turn of events.  It would likely give Raspadori time to recover, but it would mean playing Napoli at the end of a run of three games in seven days rather than at the beginning.  It would also mean two tough away games in a row with Livorno playing away to Roma in the following fixture.

 

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But there was nothing to be done except get the side ready for Bari. 

 

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They were a side that had done well against Livorno in their four meetings - other than the 5-1 drubbing which Livorno had given them the previous September. Bari had drawn twice with Livorno and dominated them 3-0 in the Serie C Supercup in 20/21. Verdi hoped that his newly reinforced side might make easier work of them, but it was also be a chance to play some depth and rotation options to keep the starters fresh for the ‘must win’ game at home against Salernitana over the weekend.

 

Verdi decided on a heavily but not entirely rotated side. With Raspadori out, Verdi was faced with the choice between Pallecchi and Galan in the advanced forward role. The nod went to Pallecchi, with Verdi wanting to give the young man game time. He also gave Chavarria and Zampano starts on the wings and brought in the young Argentinian Turco in for his first start on the left of Livorno’s backline.

 

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Maybe the signing of two new forwards in the offseason lit a fire under him, or maybe he just remembered to put on his shooting boots, but Pallecchi was unstoppable as Livorno easily dispatched Bari. It was a first hat-trick for the young forward, and it was also the first time that a Livorno player had scored a hat-trick under Verdi - which was a bit surprising considering how many goals they’d scored! All three goals were also assisted by Moreo. The first was a smart through ball ‘around the corner’ from the top of the box to put Pallecchi clean through on goal. The second was an excellent ball behind the Bari defense from deep inside Livorno’s half when Bari were pushing forward for an equalizer. The final goal came from a Moreo flick on from a deep Zampano cross that gave Pallecchi a tap in at the far post.

 

Bari’s goal late continued Livorno’s worrying habit of conceding from opposition free kicks - which was something that Verdi now needed to look into.  Still, the game was never really in doubt, and Verdi pulled Ranocchia and Piccinocchi for the final third of the game to keep them fresh for the weekend.

 

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The analysis shows a game that was completely dominated by Livorno, making Bari’s goal that much more annoying.  Still, a strong performance from a rotated squad and Verdi couldn’t complain.

 

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Salernitana came to Livorno in a relegation six pointer. It wasn’t truly a ‘must win’ but Livorno needed to win these kinds of games if they were going to establish themselves in Serie A. Points weren’t going to be easy to come by, and with two away games to top clubs to follow, Verdi really wanted a strong performance here.

 

Though he expected more of a fight than their spring meeting when Salernitana were collapsing under the pressure of the title race, Verdi felt his side were the stronger one. Like in the spring he decided to send Livorno out to attack Salernitana from the first whistle, their 5-3-2 not concerning him too much. He welcomed Raspadori back into the lineup, but also wanted to acknowledge Pallecchi’s excellent game midweek. 

 

A Squadbuilding Aside...

The answer came with Bruns suddenly demanding a massive raise, his sense of self importance apparently over inflated by being named vice captain. Though he was starting these early season games, Verdi very much expected him to return to the bench when Palumbo recovered from his knee injury, yet he was demanding to be considered an ‘important player’ and the highest paid player at the club.  His agent’s opening offer came in at €15k/w - he was, at that point, on €3.2k.  Verdi countered at €5.5k, which was more than he’d like to pay, but not a bad wage for a backup player.  After a bit more back and forth, Verdi called off negotiations.  He was not going to be overpaying for a bit-part player who was near the end of his career!

 

Back to the Game...

So after Pallecchi’s excellent game against Bari, Verdi gave him a start, but moved Moreo back into Bruns’ attacking midfield position.  Another change from his planned starters was forced by Tripadelli going down with a gashed leg in training, forcing a tired Chavarria to play again.

 

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It was a very disappointing two points dropped, with Salernitana twice equalizing after going a goal behind, and despite Livorno dominating the run of play from start to finish.  The game got off to a very good start, with Farago scoring with a fierce shot from just inside the box after a good passage of play that had Salernitana bamboozled.  But then, after twenty minutes, Gozzi was caught napping by a cross field diagonal, unable to react in time to prevent his mark from getting through on goal for a relatively easy finish.  Five minutes before half, Raspadori picked up a throw in near the halfway line, then slalomed past multiple defenders before hitting a powerful shot from outside the area.  With their lead restored, Verdi hoped they could go on and hold the lead or maybe even score more.  Instead, they let Salernitana back in again, giving one of the opposition midfielders far too much time and space on the edge of the area to pick his spot and hit a strong shot past Mazzini late in the second half.  Livorno pushed forward for a winner, but couldn’t find a way through and honestly didn’t get all that close.

 

Verdi had to admit that his decision to go with his heart and play Pallecchi while dropping Bruns wasn’t a good one.  Moreo’s threat was mostly wasted in the attacking midfield role as he wasn’t a great passer. Pallecchi was nervous for the important game and played like it. If he was going to play with that set up again, Verdi would play a 5-2-1-2 with Moreo acting essentially as a deep forward with more conservative midfield and winger roles behind him.

 

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It really should have been three points, but the defence continued its worrying trend of letting in soft goals, allowing two despite the opposition xG being only 0.43.

 

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Up next was a very tough ask in the rescheduled trip to Napoli.  They’d continued their strong form with another win, this time over Fiorentina. Worse, Verdi noticed that several key Napoli players that would have missed the original date through injury had now recovered and they would be fielding a full strength side.  After a disappointing draw over the weekend, Verdi didn’t feel especially confident about righting the ship in this game.

 

Verdi went right for the cautious 3-5-2 against a strong Napoli side which favored an attacking 4-2-3-1.  With Livorno’s leaky defense, Verdi didn’t feel confident at all. Bruns, though grumpy and complaining to anyone who would listen, was Verdi’s best option in midfield, so he was reluctantly returned to the starting lineup while Pallecchi was dropped.

 

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The scoreline was better than Verdi feared, and he was proud of his side for fighting to the end. He felt they could take a lot of positives from the game, as being in the game until the end against a Champions League team away was nothing to scoff at.

 

Napoli went ahead early after Tripadelli was caught too far upfield, leaving his mark (Insigne) wide open in the box for a relatively straightforward finish for a player of his ability.  Verdi understood that he needed to pull his wingers back to focus on Napoli’s wingers rather than their full-backs, and that Napoli’s clinical play hadn’t allowed him any chance to see if things would work out before punishing him for being overly aggressive.  But then Raspadori equalized only five minutes later after pouncing first on a loose ball on the edge of the box and Verdi wondered if his side might be able to compete after all.  Instead, after 36 minutes, Livorno couldn’t quite clear their lines after defending a cross, and no one picked up Napoli’s onrushing right back who smashed the ball in from just inside the box.  Insigne again caused Livorno problems five minutes later when he beat Bodgan down the right hand side and put in a pacy cross that Napoli striker Osimhen turned into the far corner.  3-1 down, Verdi thought it was game over but again Livorno hit backright from the restart. Raspadori found himself in a cul-de-sac with three defenders converging around him a few meters wide of the goal on the touchline.  Somehow, he managed to poke a ball out to the onrushing Moreo, who opened his Livorno account with an easy finish from point blank range.

 

After that, it was a fairly even game, with Livorono fighting hard despite the odds.  While Napoli were definitely the better team, Livorno managed to create several chances to equalize and steal a point.

 

Verdi couldn’t argue with the result, but he did feel a bit aggrieved by the fact that this game was moved rather than the Italian Cup Qualifier.  He may well have lost it anyway, but his players entered the Napoli game tired after playing three games in seven days.  Worse, Insigne, who scored one and assisted another, and rightback Di Lorenzo, who scored the other goal, would have both missed the original Napoli game through injury.  Verdi tried not to be bitter, and their replacements may well have beaten Livorno too, but when the margins were so slim it was hard not to think about those kinds of things. On the other hand, Raspadori, with a goal and an assist, would have also missed the game but by that logic it would have been a 0-0 tie.

 

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The analysis shows that Livorno were certainly second best, but that they weren’t blown away like many had predicted before the game.

 

A Tactical Aside...

 

After the Napoli game, Verdi finally decided that Serie A would finally force him to pull his wingers back, and drop into a 5-2-1-2 as his go to progressive formation, instead of the 3-4-1-2.  After two years of excellent results, the 3-4-1-2 was getting found out by top class players.  He still would use it on occasion when the opposition was right, but he began focusing more on the 5-2-1-2 as his aggressive formation, and pulled his 3-5-2 into a 5-3-2 with wingbacks. None of this was a big surprise for Verdi, especially when he’d expected to need to make the switch a year earlier.

 

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After a tough but not demoralizing loss to Napoli in midweek, Livorno traveled to the Eternal City to face a quality side in Roma.  They were a step down from Napoli, but were regulars in Europe and Verdi was under no illusions.  Verdi would more than likely be looking at back-to-back losses for the first time in his short career.

 

With Roma also favoring a 4-2-3-1, and featuring many top class players, Verdi didn’t think twice about starting with the new cautious 5-3-2.  The one bit of good news was that Palumbo was cleared to play just before game time.  Verdi wasn’t going to risk him from the start, but he was set to come on as a sub if need be.

 

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It was a good, solid game from Livorno and Verdi was proud of his squad. Roma were certainly on top for most of the game, but Livorno did a very good job making Roma work for their chances - as their ratio of 21 shots to 6 on target shows.  In fact, Livorno had the better chances to win the game themselves, with Raspadori and Moreo both hitting the woodwork and Raspadori and Ranocchia narrowly shooting wide from good positions.

 

The early stages were tough for Livorno, until Verdi noticed that Roma’s front line were sitting in the hole just in front of his back three.  With so much space to collect the ball, turn, and dribble or find teammates, Roma were dangerous.  When Verdi upped his defensive line, he not only got Livorno back in the game, but Roma had to work harder in transition which allowed Livorno to track back better.

 

The game also saw the successful return of Palumbo, who came on in the later stages and was an instant improvement over Bruns.

 

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The better chances fell to Livorno, but it had to be said that Roma were the better side.  Verdi had been on the opposite end of enough similar games to feel for his counterpart in the Roma technical area, but he wasn’t about to complain with the point.

 

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Genoa were among the safely mid table clubs that seemed to be there just to fill out the schedule. They were good enough to stay of the relegation battle most years, but couldn’t really challenge for Europe. They were having a very average start to the season, winning one, losing one, and drawing three times, all low scoring games. These were the teams that Verdi was hoping to beat, especially at home.

 

Going up against a 5-3-2 which shouldn’t require too much defensive cover, Verdi planned to use his 5-2-1-2 with Ranocchia acting as a mezzala rather than his usual deep role. Verdi was also thrilled to welcome Palumbo back into the starting 11.

 

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It was a game that Livorno should have won by more, but it was three crucial points. While Verdi had briefed the team to play in the 5-2-1-2, as he came into the locker room he had a change of heart. With Genoa’s lack of wide players and propensity towards defensive football, Verdi told Farago and Tripadelli to push forward on the wings and pin Genoa’s wingbacks back - which they did.

 

Livorno dominated from start to finish, with Genoa creating almost nothing. When Raspadori turned a Piccinocchi free kick in with a far post header, it seemed as if it would be the first of many goals. But Livorno couldn’t quite turn their superiority into more goals. Moreo, for one, should have scored, but a good save, the post, and a shot that went just wide prevented him from getting on the scoresheet.

 

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The xG chart backed up Verdi’s feeling in the game that Livorno won easily. Though some little mistake could have always let Genoa in, even at 1-0 Verdi never really felt the game was in doubt.

 

€€€

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Livorno had only been in Serie A for just over a month, and already Livorno’s finances were all but fixed, and this was after paying all the transfer fees!

 

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The club had already received over €3m more in income than over the entire previous season. Costs overall had gone up too, but not nearly as much as income.

 

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Still, the gap between the money Livorno was pulling in outside of the TV deal and how their competitors were faring was staggering.

 

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Verdi had little hope for taking on the likes of Juventus and Inter, but to even match those mid table would mean tripling revenues! Time would tell if Livorno could manage it.

 

End of the Transfer Season

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A lot of movement in and out, but other than the five transfers in (two of which had already been at the club for the past two years) most of it was future prospects.  Verdi would have liked to have sold a few more players for decent fees, but he did get some reasonable money for a handful of backups who were no longer needed.  They even got a nice chunk of cash on the deadline day for a decent young striker who was skillful enough but not hard working, dedicated, or determined. Towards the end of the window Verdi sent out a bunch of players ‘on loan’, many of which were in the final year of their contracts, simply to get as much of their wages off Livorno’s books as he could.  In the end, the €700k that came in was nothing compared to the €7.5m that went out on new transfers (with a further €5.75m to come spread out over the following three years), but Verdi still felt as if he’d done decent business in the transfer market.

 

Last but not least, Verdi finally got left wingback Chavarria to sign a new contract for €6k/w - which seemed pretty reasonable for a Serie A backup with room to grow.  The standoff with Bruns carried on, however...

 

Summary

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A solid start to the Serie A season for Livorno - two wins, two draws, and two losses, rounded out by the easy win against Bari in the cup.  [Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.] While they maybe should have drawn with Udinese, they escaped with a point from Rome so that was about even. The only disappointing result was the draw with Salernitana, with the two losses being hard fought games away from home against top half sides.  So, in the opening stages, Livorno sat right in the middle of the table in 10th.  Verdi would be thrilled if they could stay there or thereabouts. [I also appreciated how the 'last 5 games' graphic looks a bit like a cartoon valkyrie face with a big nose...]

 

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Livorno weren’t going to be lighting up the league, but their early season form, as well as decent showings against some of the big clubs, showed that they had a good chance of staying up.  And this was all with Palumbo out!  It was tough going but it seemed like Livorno had enough about them to at least be competitive.  With Palumbo returning to the lineup, Verdi hoped that their performances would get even better.

 

Happily, the new signings were proving their worth already, before they’d even fully gelled with the rest of the squad. Radpadori had scored 4 goals in 6 games, Moreo wasn't scoring but he was working hard every game and had the highest average rating of any player in the team, and Farago was ‘merely’ performing quite well.

 

The rest of the side - now complete with ‘new signings’ Tripadelli and Carboni - was taking the step up in stride. While the defense wobbled in the first few games, very solid performances against Roma and Genoa showed a squad moving in the right direction.

 

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The data shows a team that was very much in the middle of the pack, which made Verdi more than happy.  It was a limited sample size - only six games - but considering it was Livorno’s first six games in Serie A, with Verdi and his team still feeling out the top flight, there were very encouraging signs.

 

After the Genoa game, youngsters Gozzi, Palumbo, and Turco went off to play for their national U21 squads, and then Livorno would face the very stern test of Inter (A) and Juventus (H), back to back. 

 

UP NEXT - R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What it Means to Me!

RESPECT! (Just a little bit).

 

[I guess I’ll be continuing with my unintended theme of going with song titles/lyrics this season…]

 

Verdi entered September confident in his side's ability to stay in and compete in Serie A.  He hoped to continue Livorno’s run of good defensive performances after his side had let in a lot of goals early in the year.  With Palumbo back and emerging from the international break unscathed, Livorno were in good shape.

 

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September would start with a tough test of Livorno’s newfound defensive solidity.  Could they withstand the power of Inter and Juventus?  He would happily take one point from those two games together (even if Inter hadn’t started the season all that well) and he would be very happy with two. After that came a trip away to early season strugglers Sassuolo, where he hoped Raspadori would show them at least one, and hopefully several, reasons to regret selling him.  The month would end with a trip to another struggling side in Sampdoria for the last qualifying round of the Italian Cup.  Two very hard games, and two games that would be just about as ‘easy’ as Livorno could hope for in the 22/23 season.  He hoped to pick up four points in the league - but wouldn’t be heartbroken with two - and to give a good account of themselves in the cup, where he planned to rotate heavily again.

 

The Games

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Inter Milan weren’t having a good start to the season, coming into the game below Livorno in the table, but Verdi wasn’t about to take this game lightly. Away from home against a team that had finished in third place the previous two seasons, Verdi would focus first on being solid at the back, especially against a team that liked to hit on the break.

 

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With the Giuseppe Meazza/San Siro expected to be packed , it would be the biggest stage, by far, that Livorno had played on during Verdi’s tenure.

 

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It was surprising to see the two teams so evenly matched statistically, but Verdi wasn’t going to let that give him a false sense of security. Inter had world class players and would be dangerous.

 

Livorno would look to defend with a mid block and a 5-3-2 shape. Rather than sit deep and invite pressure, Verdi told his team to play it safe and force Inter to work for their chances. Livorno would play cautiously, look to safely keep possession where possible, and either kill off the game or pull Inter onto them to open up space in behind. If Inter didn’t press, well then Livorno would happily pass the ball around.

 

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It was such a beautifully, perfectly, wonderfully dull game. Verdi was thrilled not just with the point, but with the fact that his side didn’t give one of the top sides in Italy anything. Livorno kept possession well, daring Inter to come out of their shells and press. Inter, used to playing on the counter, didn’t know what to do with themselves.  In the 80th minute, Livorno got a bit of a scare when Lukaku scored following a free kick which was only partially cleared before being put right back in. Verdi was pretty sure, though, that the Belgian forward was offsides, and VAR confirmed that Livorno’s backline had moved up just in time.

 

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Inter were the ‘better’ side, but didn’t create anything of note. Raspadori even came close to stealing all three points on the counter, but fired just wide from a tight angle. Overall, Livorno didn’t produce much going forward, but they all but nullified Inter and Verdi felt they were good for their point.  There was a part of him that wondered if he should have tested Inter a bit but that was a thought for later, after Livorno had established themselves in Serie A.

 

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After a worthy draw away to one powerhouse, Livorno would host another in perennial Serie A champions Juventus. They’d suffered a few surprising blips, losing to Genoa and to a Bologna team that had started the season strongly but overall, they’d started the season in their usual dominating form - only in second place due to a Lazio team that started the season absolutely on fire.

 

After playing in the cathedral of football that is the San Siro, in front of 76,000 fans, hosting Juventus at Armando Picchi felt like hosting a king and his entourage in a small village chapel. Livorno, however, was fiercely proud of their ‘vintage’ stadium, which looked much the same as it did when it had opened nearly a century before. They would not be overawed by the visitors, though Verdi would certainly show them plenty of respect.

 

The cautious 5-3-2 which had nullified both Roma and Inter would again face a stern test. Juventus played with a wide 5-2-3 formation, and were stacked with top players. Cristiano Ronaldo at 37 wasn’t the force he once was, but he was still an incredible footballer and he was just one of their stars. As they had against Inter, Livorno would play a cautious game, not retreating completely into their shells but certainly not chasing the game. Verdi expected to lose but he urged his squad to make Juventus earn their points.

 

Verdi was even less confident with Rannocchia suspended after already picking up five yellows on the season - an impressive haul for so early in the year.

 

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Verdi’s game plan nearly worked to perfection, and Livorno were only minutes away from a famous victory over Juventus. After once again giving their opponents absolutely nothing for sixty minutes, a long ball found Raspadori, who wriggled his way deep into the Juventus box before checking his run to wait for support. He baited young defensive star De Ligt into a clumsy challenge...penalty to Livorno, confirmed by VAR!  Raspadori confidently slotted the penalty home and Livorno had an improbable but well earned lead. Juventus attacked, but still Livorno gave them nothing...until a diagonal run by substitute Kasper Dolhberg was picked out in two minutes into stoppage time for the equalizer.

 

Verdi was sure the young Norwegian was offsides and furiously laid into the linesman, but it wasn’t even checked by VAR. That should have told Verdi something, and he was a bit lucky that the media didn’t ask him about it post match.  As it turned out, Dolhberg was clearly a meter or two onside - it was just that substitute Chavarria had been caught completely by surprise and left for dead by the man he should have been marking.

 

It was tough to concede so late, but Verdi would have happily taken a point before the game.

 

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Once again, Livorno held a powerhouse opponent to an xG below 1 - but sometimes quality just comes through and the fact that Juventus could call on such talent as Dolhberg off the bench showed the different worlds that the two clubs operated in.  Still, a valuable point against a top team was something to be proud of for little Livorno.

 

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After two tough games against top Serie A teams, Livorno traveled a few hours north to face a Sassuolo club reeling from a poor start to the season.  They’d been conceding a lot of goals and lost five out of their opening six. A draw and a win over the past two games showed some improvement, but they still entered the game in 19th place.

 

Though he’d been proud of his squad for shutting down Inter and Juventus in succession, he hoped that this could be a game where Livorno could play a bit more freely. He smelled blood in the water and hoped that Livorno could continue to pile on the misery. He also hoped that Raspadori might be able to give Sassoulo reason to regret selling him, and with their leaky defense the young striker stood a good chance of doing just that.

 

Against Sassuo’s 4-2-3-1, Verdi would start with his 5-2-1-2 with the plan B of pushing into a 3-4-1-2 if he sensed weakness or needed to press higher.  Bodgan caught a cold midweek, and Verdi decided to put experienced Di Gennero over the raw Turco in his place.

 

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It was an epic game.  After only giving up one goal in the previous 4, Livorno gave up three in one!  Happily, Verdi’s pregame hopes that Raspadori might do some damage to his former club were vastly underestimating what his talented forward would do.  It was needed too, as Sassuolo were determined to get their season back on track against a team they thought might be easy pickings. 

 

Sassualo started off on the front foot and their wingers and fullbacks were combining with impunity down the flanks.  Verdi decided to push up his wingbacks to meet them a little further up the pitch, and while that did help, it was still Sassuolo who struck first.  Livorno were caught carelessly passing the ball around at the back, and Sassualo took advantage, charging at the goal after a sloppy pass by Di Gennero into the midfield.  They caught Livorno out of sorts, and were able to get to the byline for a cutback to an unmarked man around the penalty spot.  Three minutes later, though, Raspadori struck back, getting on the end of a low Farago cross to turn the ball into the far side of the goal. 

 

Still, Sassualo poured forward, and Livorno struggled to keep up with their movement and passing.  They got a second in the 41st minute after Gozzi didn’t fight for an aerial ball and Saussoulo’s center forward was able to beat Carboni to the second ball and pull the central defender wide.  Attacking midfielder Shabani surged into the central space for another cutback in what was just about a carbon copy of the first goal.  A frustrated Verdi decided to up the pressure on Sassuolo - pushing his lines and telling his players to press more aggressively.

 

Maybe it was the tactical switch, maybe it was just one of those times where a player takes over a game, but in the ten minutes around halftime that Raspadori put on an absolute clinic.  First he drew a foul in the box and tucked away the penalty himself (2-2).  Still in stoppage time, he picked up the ball around the edge of the box, drove to the byline, and clipped a lofted cross for Farago to head home to give Livorno the lead for the first time (3-2).  On the other end of half time, he made a diagonal run in between the centerbacks that was picked up by Piccinocchi. Raspadori’s finish across the Sassualo keeper was cool as can be (4-2).  Three minutes later, Farago got his second assist of the game with a through ball from just about the same position as Piccinocchi’s, but this time the Sassualo defense was higher up the pitch and Raspadori only had to race onto the ball and finish one-on-one to score his fourth goal of the game (5-2).  Four goals and an assist for Raspadori, and a ten out of ten rating.

 

Ten minutes later, Verdi must have invoked Sassualo’s wrath by sending young Turco on to play the final thirty minutes. After that, the home side swarmed forward in numbers.  Verdi pulled his side back into a cautious 5-3-2, but unlike previous matches, Livorno still looked vulnerable.  In the end, Sassuolo were only able to pull one back through an unmarked man at the back post on a free kick, but Verdi spent most of the last twenty minutes of the game fearing an embarrassing comeback.

 

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Was it Verdi’s tactical shift after Sassuolo’s second goal, or just Raspadori taking over the game?  Either way, Verdi could be happy with the incredible spell in the five minutes either side of half time.  The xG graph also shows just how dangerous Sassoulo were in the final thirty minutes, but luckily they weren’t able to get more than one back.

 

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Five unbeaten in a run of games that included three of Italy’s top clubs - Livorno could be proud!

 

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September ended with a midweek trip to Genoa to face Sampdoria in the Italian Cup Fourth Qualifying Round.  Sampdoria were struggling in the league and Verdi had already met the board’s goal in the cup competition.  The league was Verdi’s entire focus and with Sampdoria’s poor form he decided to field a highly rotated squad.

 

Hat-trick hero from the last round Pallecchi was invited back to try and recreate his magic, Zampano and Chavarria came in on the wings, Turco took a turn in defense, and Agazzi replaced Piccinocchi. Verdi was still hoping for a win, but not at the cost of his side's chances a few days later.

 

Facing another 4-2-3-1, Verdi stuck with the 5-2-1-2, but would push up his wingbacks if the outside players were a bit deep.

 

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Pallecchi enjoyed another cup game, though this time it took him two-thirds of the game to score his first. Neither side looked sharp and it certainly was not a game for the neutrals. With an eye to the next league game, Verdi decided he would  prefer a regular time loss even to an overtime win, so he began upping the pressure in the second half. He still pulled Palumbo and Ranocchia after sixty minutes to keep them both fresh, and it was the subtitute Bruns who provided the through ball that put Pallecchi through on goal for his first. Five minutes later, Verdi sent on Raspadori for Moreno, and one of his first actions of the game was to pick up a ball just past the halfway line and send a perfectly weighted diagonal into Pallecchi’s path which he finished with aplomb. Sampdoria switched to a 3-5-2 formation, but while their goal in the 94th minute was frustrating, it hardly mattered.

 

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Their reward for the win? A trip to Turin and a chance to play Juventus (as if twice wasn’t enough for one season!).

 

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Summary

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Livorno had not only shown that they deserved respect from those that expected them to go quietly back down, but that they were able to compete in a variety of ways. From two defensive performances against top clubs, to a shootout, to a scrappy away win in the cup, they managed to get through a very tough month unbeaten. With five points from three games in the league, they ended the month in 9th place.

 

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With five points between them and the relegation spots with a quarter of the season gone, Livorno were in good shape.  With a goal difference of +3, compared to -11 and -12 from the other two promoted clubs, Livorno could be proud of their early season form.

 

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After a 4 goal game (plus a penalty against Juventus), and a month with only three games, it’s no surprise that Raspadori won player of the month for September. The young star was outperforming even Verdi’s expectations so far, and with only a quarter of the season gone, he was almost halfway to Galan’s 21/22 tally of 20 goals. Even if four of the nine had come from one crazy game, the young forward had certainly shown why Verdi rated him so highly. It did make Verdi wonder about his ability to keep hold of him if he kept performing at the level he’d started the season, but if the bigger clubs came sniffing around then he’d surely be able to get a very good fee for him…

 

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Speaking of €, Livorno’s bank account just kept growing, with profits of €2.5m each month - which was more than Livorno’s yearly income in either of the previous two years. With Serie A TV money flowing freely and the stadium packed for every home game, yet with a squad full of players on low to medium Serie B salaries, Livorno could pad their bank account. While Verdi knew that there were a lot of players looking to get raises, and if Livorno established themselves in Serie A they’d have to start paying Serie A wages to those that deserved it [not Bruns], he was thrilled to see the balance continue to shoot up for now.

 

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Where Verdi hoped for improvement was only in in his own tactics. The statistics showed a team right in the middle, which was fantastic for a team expected to go back down to Serie B. However, Verdi felt like he could do better.  He’d found that his team was either impenetrable but without threat going forward or lethal but leaky. While the later suited him just fine against the top teams, he hoped to find something in between for playing the mid and lower table clubs. He was considering doing more with the 5-3-2 but making it more progressive like he had against low blocks in Serie B, but he wasn’t convinced that was the answer.

 

UP NEXT - I Learned the Hard Way 

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Glad to see you still plugging away. Livorno is going places slowly but surely. Don't become mesmerized with star ratings when recruiting. Pay more attention to the attributes especially the ones needed for position and role.

11 good players working as a team with good or decent tactics that suit their skills will beat a team that relies on individual brilliance!

 

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4 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Glad to see you still plugging away. Livorno is going places slowly but surely. Don't become mesmerized with star ratings when recruiting. Pay more attention to the attributes especially the ones needed for position and role.

11 good players working as a team with good or decent tactics that suit their skills will beat a team that relies on individual brilliance!

 

They’re hanging in there for now! Only hoping for survival this season.

Agree with you on star rating. I barely pay any attention - Pallecchi’s been at 2 stars the whole save and he was a great player in Serie C and B. I’m always been reluctant to rely on him, but that’s because his determination attribute is a measly 4!!! Piccinocchi was also only 2.5 maybe 3 and won Serie B player of the year.

 

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I Learned the Hard Way

[While I’m guessing Guns and Roses and Aretha Franklin need no introduction, this song by (relatively) contemporary soul group Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings is slightly off the beaten path - though The Dap Kings were Amy Winegouse’s backing band on Back to Black. Anyway, here’s a link to the song .]

 

There was one more month to go before the long midseason break for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar [Featuring even more bribery than usual!  Stadiums that will never be needed again that are being built with slave labor!  Other human rights abuses!  What a spectacle it will be!!!].  Verdi hoped to go into the break still safely midtable.

 

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The fixture list was quite varied this month, with games against a few teams challenging to be top clubs, two mid table teams, and one against a fellow relegation candidate.  Cagliari [a team who’s name I just can’t seem to spell right, and realize I’ve written wrong in several different ways…] at home was one where Verdi felt like he could get three points.  While Fiorentina away would be a challenge, Livorno should be able to compete, but away to a Bologna team that was in good form would be a tough challenge.  Verdi was hoping to do better in the home game against Benevento than they had against Salernitana, and the month was finished off with a trip to a very strong Atalanta side.

 

Of the games, Verdi hoped to win against Cagliari and Benevento - though there was a chance for them too against a so-so side in Fiorentina.  Against Bologna and Atalanta, he hoped his side could keep up their tendency to completely smother top opponents, but he wouldn't be surprised if they lost to either or both.

 

The Games

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It was the first game that Livorno went into as favorites to win over a side that hadn’t just been promoted - the Salernitana game being the only other exception.  Verdi also felt confident. Cagliari were in poor form - an Italian Cup win aside - and had ended the previous season dangerously close to the drop.  With Tripadelli, Carboni, and Farago all technically arriving from the club in the summer, there was an interesting side-story to the game as well.  Would the three ‘new’ signings make their mark against their former club, or would Cagliari get some ‘revenge’?

 

Once again, Livorno would be facing a 4-2-3-1 and at home with Cagliari in poor form, Verdi decided to roll the dice with the 3-4-1-2.

 

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It was one of the tougher losses of Verdi’s time in Livorno.  They dominated the game from start to finish but a combination of poor finishing and a stellar performance from Cagliari’s keeper kept Livorno from taking advantage.  Raspadori spurned several great chances early in the game when he had the beating of Cagliari’s backline but couldn’t get past their keeper.  Palumbo put Livorno in front, however, after picking up a Farago cross in the box and blasting a shot so hard that even though the Cagliari keeper got his hands to it, he could only slow it down and deflect it slightly and it dropped behind the goaline.  The game lost its spark shortly after the Livorno goal, with neither side creating much for the rest of the half. 

 

After the break, Livorno kept pushing for a second, but Cagliari hit back instead in the fifty-third minute.  Livorno looked lackluster for a spell and disorganized in their pressing, and Cagliari slowly pulled them out of position on the right before slicing through their middle to score far too easily.  Verdi was frustrated, not just due to conceding, but because it was a very soft goal overall, and nearly the whole team could take some blame.  Even though his tactics had dominated the game overall, Verdi let his emotions get to him and rather than keeping things as they were, he told his team to push forward.  It resulted in a few more chances, with Raspadori, Moreo, and Palumbo all forcing very good saves from the Cagliari keeper, but then they were carved open on the counter.  One out ball, one through ball, and [one of my favorite fm players who was great in game and terrible in life for Southampton] Manlo Gabbiadini beat Carboni for pace and made no mistake one-on-one.  Livorno kept pushing, with Verdi feeling that they surely could pull one back, but again they were hit on the counter and suddenly it was 3-1. Finally, not wanting the score to get out of hand, Verdi saw reason and told his players to tighten up and focus on keeping possession. 

 

At that point, Verdi expected it to be the first loss by more than a goal in over a year, but then substitute Chavarria got on the end of a through ball and thrashed the ball into the net to give Cagliari a nervy last five minutes of the game.  That was Livorno’s last good chance though, and Cagliari saw the game out fairly easily.

 

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Livorno were clearly the better side, but after allowing the equalizer, Verdi made the blunder of throwing men forward to try and get all three points.  Instead, he ensured that Livorno got none. Cagliari may have been struggling, but they still had Serie A quality players that could hurt Livorno. It was a tough lesson, but Verdi hoped he’d learn from it...

 

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Up next was a relatively local away game away to Fiorentina.  The game wasn’t exactly a rivalry matchup, but it was a bit of a local derby, with Fiorentina the ‘big’ established club, and Livorno being the little upstart, not to mention that Florence was also the seat of Medici power that had built Livorno up from a coastal fortress to a thriving port hundreds of years before.  Fiorentina had started the season poorly but came into this game in good form and seemed to be returning to their usual upper mid-table place.  It wouldn’t be an easy game, but Verdi hoped for a draw and maybe to steal a win.

 

They played the Serie A favorite 4-2-3-1 which had caused Livorno problems defensively but against which they were usually able to score. Away from home against a decent team, Verdi went with the 5-2-1-2.

 

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Fiorentina generally had the better of the possession but Livorno had their share of half chances too, and they were the ones who struck first. 

Raspadori’s goal after thirty-six minutes was a true solo goal.  Picking up the ball in his own half, he drove at Fiorentina’s backline.  The defender managed to nick the ball from him, but Raspadori regained his balance first, got the ball back and charged at goal from the left hand channel.  Though one-on-one with the keeper, it was from a fairly tight angle, but he tucked the ball, low and hard, just past the keeper’s left foot and just inside the far post.

 

Away from home, Verdi pulled his players back a bit into the 5-3-2, and as a result they rarely threatened again.  Still, they didn’t need to score more if they could hold the lead!  Then, only minutes from time, Farago stuck out an unnecessary foot in the box to try and win a ball from a player that was facing away from goal and with no support - penalty to Fiorentina.  After leading the game for so long it was disappointing to let two points slip away in such a silly way.

 

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The xG shows an even game (other than the penalty).

 

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Bologna were the surprise team of the year, playing very well and spending the season in and around the Champions League places, and having already beaten both Juventus and Lazio. Away from home, Verdi would treat them like one of the big teams and look to kill the game off and hope for a point.

 

The cautious 5-3-2 would once again be tested away from home against an attacking 4-2-3-1 [are all these Serie A  AI managers actually fm players? Italy is supposed to be the land of 3atb.]

 

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Once again, Livorno put on an excellent defensive performance against a top side, and once again they were denied by a late goal.  They’d defended well and though Bologna had a few moments Mazzini was never truly troubled.

 

Livorno’s goal in the 78th minute was a thing of beauty, with Cavion - making his return from a broken foot suffered in preseason as a substitute for an exhausted Palumbo a few minutes before - linking up with Moreo and Raspadori to make a neat triangle move.  They passed it amongst each other for a bit, moving in ways that left Bologna’s midfield running in circles, before finally making their move.  Cavion laid it off to Moreo and surged into the space behind his marker.  Moreo moved it up to Raspadori who took a few steps to the right, pulling his defender with him, before releasing Cavion into the space he’d just opened up. Cavion took a touch and sent a rocket into the top right corner from just outside the box.

 

Unfortunately for Livorno, Bologna managed to penetrate down Livorno’s right flank in the 86th minute to get a shot on target from an acute angle.  Mazzini was able to save the first shot, but it’s power meant he couldn’t control it and Bologna’s striker pounced on the loose ball to finish away from Mazzini before he could recover.

 

Still, in the closing stages, Livorno had a gilt edged chance to steal all three points. Raspadori picked up clearance around the halfway line, beat his man on the dribble and left the other center back in the dust. One on one, he forced the keeper to commit, knocked the ball to the right to give himself more space...and still managed to hit the ball close enough to the keeper to allow him to save low to his left.

 

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It wasn’t a great performance by Livorno, and it was disappointing to let the lead slip, but Bologna would certainly be the more frustrated team.

 

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After three games without a win, Verdi was really hoping for one at home against a struggling Benevento. They’d managed to climb out of the relegation zone, but Benevento were getting sliced open defensively and had a large negative goal difference. Verdi hoped he could pile in the misery to get back to winning ways. It would also be Livorno’s third game of the season going into a game as favorites.

 

Verdi would bring back the 3-4-1-2 against their Christmas tree 4-3-2-1 and try to attack them a bit wider than usual by asking his wingers to stay a bit wide and dribble down the flanks - which had been very effective in their previous meeting.

 

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The first seventy minutes of this game were almost without incident. The two sides went into half with barely a shot registered and the combined xG’s barely reaching 0.1.  Livorno dominated possession, but it was a throwback to their Serie C days when they were entirely toothless.  Verdi let the first half go by, hoping that his side could find a way to get through Benevento’s defense but in the second half he realized he needed to up the pressure.  He told his players to engage high up the pitch, his defensive line to push up, and for everyone to press hard.  Finally, Verdi pulled his wingers in close again, realizing that his plan of attacking Benevento down the wings from the year before simply wasn’t working - they were dribbling uselessly and too far from their teammates.

 

After seventy three minutes, Cavion broke the deadlock for the second game in a row - having come on for a mildly injured Farago on the wing just before half - with a goal that proved that Verdi made a mistake in starting with his wide players as wingers, and that he’d done right in pulling them in close.  Chavarria - who was on for a lackluster Tripadelli - tucked infield to combine with Ranocchia, who quickly fired it across the top of the box to an onrushing Cavion, who blasted the ball into the upper right and corner of the goal from 22 meters.

 

Benevento came out of their shell and tried to come at Livorno, who were more than happy to destroy them on the counter.  First Chavarria intercepted a crossfield ball and blasted it first time, high up the pitch, to an alert Moreo, who beat his man to the ball and charged at the keeper, sending him the wrong way to finish into the right corner as he ran from right to left.  Then Moreo set up Raspadori, who’d picked up a headed clearance from Bogdan and laid it off to his strike partner.  Moreo waited to attract a defender before sending Raspadori through on goal, though at a tight angle and his finish was top class as he tucked it into the far corner.

 

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Verdi was surprised to see the xG at the end of the game, until he realized that only Moreo’s goal was a truly ‘clear cut’ chance.  Truth was, while the scoreline showed a drubbing, it was a bit harsh on Benevento, and Verdi was relieved that his tactical blunder hadn’t cost them points.

 

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The final game before the World Cup break was a trip to an Atalanta team that had surged to the top of the table, recording five straight wins, and a sixth would put them back in 1st over AC Milan. Verdi knew his side were in for a tough game, especially when Atalanta were a side that Verdi hoped to emulate more and more as his side improved. Verdi had this one down as a loss, but hoped for another solid defensive performance.

 

Atalanta played a fast tempo 5-2-1-2 and Verdi hoped to counter it with his 5-3-2, but it would be a tough game.

 

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It wouldn’t likely  be the ideal day to celebrate his 100th game in charge, but Verdi was proud to be passing this landmark with Livorno.

 

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It was a disappointing loss, though there was no shame in it.  Two moments of brilliance from Atalanta were enough to ‘ease’ past Livorno, who didn’t allow any clear cut chances away to the league leaders.  The first Atalanta goal came from a well worked bit of play from a free kick after five minutes.  Atalanta caught Livorno waiting for a ball into the box, and instead two players exchanged a smart give-and-go before pulling the ball back to an open teammate to blast the ball through a mess of bodies and into the goal.  Verdi didn’t change the gameplan - he was going to stay tight at the back and force Atalanta to work through them.  The second was a piece of pure brilliance by Atalanta leftback Alex Telles who thrashed the ball into the net from an improbably wide angle near the far right corner of the box in the 41st minute.

After that, Verdi felt like he had to at least try to get back in the game.  He switched to a 5-2-1-2, pushed up his defensive lines, and told his players to come out of their shells.  Palumbo did have two decent chances to get on the scoresheet - one from a good Farago cutback that forced a good save and the other after running the length of the pitch on the counter only to blast the ball right at the keeper. That was about all they could manage though, and it wasn’t nearly enough.

Livorno and Verdi, though, could take pride in the fact that this was the first game in which they’d lost by more than one goal since August of 2021, over a year earlier, when they fell 2-0 to Reggina in their third game in Serie B.

 

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Neither side created much, but Atalanta’s quality simply showed through.  Livorno’s defensive performance was once again very good, even if their attack didn’t create anything until Verdi’s switch in the second half.

 

Summary

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It wasn’t a great month for Livorno, but it wasn’t a disaster either. It was a month of regret for Verdi, though. He cost his team against Cagliari by pushing too hard for the win, and they’d given up leads late twice against Fiorentina and Bologna. All in all, it was seven points dropped from winning positions in one month. It was to be expected to some extent, but to have it happen three games in a row left a bad taste in Verdi’s mouth.

 

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It may have been a frustrating month for Verdi, but Livorno remained comfortably mid-table and had seven points between them and the relegation zone. With almost half the season gone, Verdi remained confident about his side’s chances of staying up.

 

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Livorno remained a distinctly average side - scoring a fair amount but a bit leaky defensively - but that was nothing to be ashamed of. They were clear of the relegation scrap and on their way to achieve Verdi’s simple goal of survival if they kept up their current form. Verdi still felt as if he could do better with his tactics however, though he didn’t want to make any large scale changes. He now had a very long break to mull things over, study film, and a handful of friendlies scheduled in December to test out some tweaks.

 

UP NEXT - A Whole New World

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1 hour ago, Hootieleece said:

I like the Song title Chapter titles....:cool:

Didn’t mean to at first, but then I noticed I’d done it a few times and I just decided to roll with it.

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A whole new world!

After a strange month completely off mid season [my thumbs are exhausted from so much “continue” space bar pressing] clubs returned from the World Cup(won by Brazil) break for a strange second preseason.  Verdi scheduled a tricky set of friendlies to test out some tactical tweaks. First was whether the 3-4-1-2 could be adapted to being something more defensively solid, and the second was to see if the 5-3-2 could be more progressive.

 

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On the first question, the answer was a simple no.  Against a strong Atheltico Bilbao side away from home the 3-4-1-2 was crushed, but Verdi mostly expected it.  Truth was, Livorno looked defensively vulnerable whenever they were in the 3-4-1-2 against any quality side that played with wide forwards.  It wasn’t so much that they couldn’t compete, so much as that the formation just made it too easy for a good side to slice through them. On the second, he found that the 5-3-2 could work, but mostly only against teams with a defensive midfielder, as he’d found in Serie B.

 

Sadly, Mr Livorono aka midfielder Piccinocchi went down with a significant injury in training early in December which would leave him out for the first few games after the break. At least he did it early in the month though, so he’d only miss the first two or three games.

 

Otherwise, the action during the break was mostly about giving contracts to several first team members that deserved raises, with Ranocchia, Gozzi, and Piccinocchi all getting somewhere around €10k/w. Verdi also went about tying several promising youngsters to long term deals.  It did mean the wage budget was again under duress, but with the amount of money coming in and Livorno competing well in the league, Verdi wasn’t concerned. 

 

The Children Are The Future!

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Last but not least, the youth intake preview came in, and it looked like it could be an excellent haul - though it must be said that Director of Football Matteo D’Amato was very proud of his last one and it was mostly garbage.  That said, he didn’t put a ‘golden generation’ tag on the 21/22 group so maybe there was hope after all.  It seemed as if there would be some centerbacks, fullbacks, and midfielders coming through.  D’Amato didn’t think too highly of the wingbacks/wide midfielders, but Verdi would wait to see if the promising fullbacks could be trained to play a bit higher up the pitch.

 

Finally, after what seemed like far too long, though, it was time to get back to business.

 

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January [let’s just make Dec 31st January for now] featured the last five games of the first half of the Serie A season as well as a trip to Turin to play Juventus in the Italian Cup.  The league games featured two top teams in Lazio and Milan, two that were struggling in Sampdoria and Torino, and Verona who were a mid table team. Happily, the fixture list bounced back and forth between the easier and the harder, and the two top teams were both at home, as was Verona.  It would be a politically fueled rivalry month, with far left Livorno facing off against Lazio and Verona who were associated with the far right.  Verdi hoped for wins or at least draws away to Sampdoria and Torino, and to simply be competitive in the rest of the games.

 

The winter transfer window was open, but with the transfer budget all siphoned into the wage budget - which Verdi had even exceeded - Verdi didn’t expect to be able to do much.  He was hoping for some outgoing deals, looking to move Serie C/A hero Rizzo and doghouse dweller Bruns as well.   He had a crop of young players that looked like they could be solid depth in the next year to two, but who weren’t quite ready for Serie A just yet, so he was hoping for some loan deals to get them some playing time.

 

The Games

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There would be no easing back into Serie A, with a visit from a very strong Lazio team restarting the campaign. Not only were they a top side, but they were also a rival. It wasn’t so much the teams that were rivals as it was the fanbases - for reasons that actually have little to do with football.  Lazio are a club with uncomfortable ties to fascism and Livorno tended the exact opposite direction. Where the visitors favored images of Mussolini and too often a straight arm salute, the hosts celebrated the revolutionary Che Guevara [and sometimes even Stalin...] and might be seen with a raised fist. [Both sides eagerly whitewash the many atrocities that their heros committed.]

 

As for Verdi, he was a practical man and disliked all dogmas and extremists, and so preferred not to get drawn into politics.  He did know, however, that the Livorno fans would be expecting a showing.  They probably wouldn’t blame him for a loss, but he didn’t want to be embarrassed either. While it was hard to talk about form after an eight week break, Lazio’s fantastic early season form had hit a snag just before the break, and their last two games had been losses to Cagliari and, surprisingly, struggling Sampdoria. That alone gave Verdi a bit of hope, though he wouldn’t be surprised or overly disappointed with a loss.

 

Lazio played in a [you guessed it] 4-2-3-1, and Verdi went with the 5-3-2 to combat it. At the same time, he didn’t want to sit back entirely, and after many games against top teams without any attacking threat, Verdi decided to be a bit more progressive this time.  While he was well aware of their underdog, he would deploy a higher line than he usually did against top teams, and if that worked he might even switch to a 5-2-1-2 and try to nick a goal or two…

 

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It was a famous win against a top club, and the fact that they’d beaten a hated rival made the victory even sweeter. It was no smash and grab win either, and while a draw may have been the fair result, Livorno defended well and took their chance when it came.  Near the end of an uneventful first half, Verdi slowly began to ask more of his players - especially when Lazio were getting into dangerous positions if not especially threatening Mazzini’s goal.  First he told them to not be quite so cautious, then he switched to the 5-2-1-2. After the break, Livorno not only looked comfortable, they began to take control of the game.

 

Livorno got their goal on the counter in the 49th minute.  While Raspadori was lurking in the shoulder of Lazio's last man as Livorno defended a cross into the box, Moreo dallied on the clearance for a bit too long which allowed Lazio’s defenders to retreat. The long diagonal ball, when Moreo finally released the ball, did find Raspadori after he’d left his marker in the dust but he was far too deep and wide to attack the goal. The young man showed his intelligence by pausing instead of trying to fight his way to goal through a mass of recovering defenders. Palumbo, Moreo, and Rannochia crashed into the box, pulling Lazio’s backline with them. Still, Raspadori dallied another moment before engineering himself a meter of space to wait for Cavion, who was arriving late into the box.  Cavion blasted the ball into the net for his third goal in five games since returning from injury, which was especially impressive as this was his first start of the season.

 

Against a strong and dangerous club, Verdi pulled his team back into a 5-3-2 but retained the higher line. Lazio tried to come at Livorno, but they rarely threatened. In fact, the game could have easily been 2-0 Raspadori hitting the bar and Palumbo dragging the ball just wide after the Cavion goal.

 

The atmosphere had been electric inside Armando Picchi all game, with flares going off and the curvas ringing with song, but the explosion of sound at the final whistle drowned out all else. Especially after such a long and strange break, Verdi felt like Livorno had truly arrived. Where they’d managed to compete against even the biggest clubs all season, this was their first win against a truly top team during his tenure.

 

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Livorno were, surprisingly, at their most vulnerable early on, when they were in their cautious 5-3-2.  Once Verdi started pushing more forward, Livorno not only scored, but they nullified Lazio too.  All in all, another strong defensive performance against a top team, and this time it wasn’t by being careful!

 

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Following a famous win at the weekend, it was time for another trip up Italy’s western coast to play Sampdoria, this time in the league.  The previous game had been a bore and Verdi wondered if that was because of the rotated sides.  He hoped for a better game against a struggling side that came into the game in 19th.  Remembering Cagliari, he wasn’t going to throw caution to the wind, but he would go for the win.

With Sampdoria playing a 4-2-3-1, Verdi would send out a positive 5-2-1-2 to try and get a goal while remaining solid at the back.

 

Bad news came in the day before the game, though, with the solid centerback Gozzi again going down with a long term injury (much as he had the season before).

 

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At least against Sampdoria, the young Argentinian Turco would have a chance to get a rare start outside the Italian Cup.  Verdi was already making a move for another solid central defender, with backup Di Gennero disappointing against Serie A quality opposition, and Gozzi’s injury made the search more urgent.

 

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Verdi would take the three points, but it was honestly a terrible performance from Livorno especially after Sampdoria were reduced to ten men...then nine.  It seemed, in fact, that with each man sent off, Sampdoria got more dangerous...and Livorno forgot how to defend or make good decisions.  They created little from open play, and were lucky that Bodgan was on hand to score from a corner to gift them the three points.  Horrifyingly, they even gave Sampdoria more than one chance to equalize in the final minutes.  Still, a win is a win, especially away from home and it sent them up to 8th place - though having played a game more than several of the teams around them.  It was also Livorno’s first back-to-back wins in Serie A, which was something to celebrate at least!