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


13th Man
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4 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

You now have to deal with "Great Expectations"!

 

Fantastic Season.

Verdi will probably need to get out the checkbook to keep the team together,,,,,

Verdi’s definitely expecting a lot knocks on his door “hey boss, I was thinking…I know we agreed to €10k/w a few months ago, but now that we’re really in Serie A, I think €50k/w isn’t too mich to ask…”

A lot of the transfer and wage budget is likely to go to players already at the club…

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Magical season! Record finish always means a massive amount to me. You’ve already progressed the club more than anyone IRL. Sad to see the UCL slip away as I felt you had done enough after the World Cup to warrant a place. Hopefully watching Milan lift it has the desired effect and in the not so distant future Verdi has his time. 

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6 hours ago, deltablue said:

 

Good work getting into Europe.

 

Thanks!

4 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Magical season! Record finish always means a massive amount to me. You’ve already progressed the club more than anyone IRL. Sad to see the UCL slip away as I felt you had done enough after the World Cup to warrant a place. Hopefully watching Milan lift it has the desired effect and in the not so distant future Verdi has his time. 

Livorno would have likely been slaughtered in the CL, though maybe finishing in 3rd in a CL group would have been the best of all worlds. But it was not to be - your Atalanta ended that  dream - so Livorno will just have to deal with the EURO Cup...

4 hours ago, haier_fm said:

Wonderful stuff! Just now got to reap that sweet TV income that comes with playing in a continental competition :lol:

Verdi suddenly had more money than he knows what to do with. Soon enough though, players are going to start needing bigger wages and Livorno’s tiny stadium and sponsorship deals will start to catch up with them…

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Posted (edited)

What?  No Trophy This Year???

[For some reason, this site has decided this whole post must be in bold.  I tried to fight it, but I was defeated.  It also messed more with the formatting than I would have liked but my fixes only seemed to make it worse.  We'll just deal with it for now...]

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Beyond the obvious and glaring failure not to win a third successive title, what was there to remember about Livorno’s 2022/2023 season?

THE NEW GUYS!

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Verdi was surprised to see young centerback Turco at the top of this list rather than the red hot Raspadori, but time would tell whether he would live up to his potential.  [I think the average rating was all that went into it, and Turco did well in the ‘easy’ games he played, or when brought in as a sub in games that Livorno had already won.]

A Season to Remember!!!

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Verdi found it a bit galling that even though the board gave him an A+ rating, they still put in a pot shot about losing hold of 4th place after their only expectation was for the side to “fight bravely” against relegation!  He guessed the suits needed to find some way of trying to feel important.

THE…Best Games…? [Really? These ones?]

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The thrashing of Sampdoria was definitely a nice, big win for Livorno, and Raspadori’s goal against Salernitana was fantastic even if the result wasn’t…but the 1-0 win over Genoa in August as the game to remember??? They’d underperformed statistically in a dull game and only just beat a team that would end up being relegated…

THE LINE UP!!

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It was funny to see Raspadori and Moreo’s positions swapped up front, but otherwise the graphic reflects Livorno’s pretty settled, and nicely balanced, first 11.

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Raspadori was clearly the player and signing of the season - though Turco’s average rating in limited game time got him that accolade.  Verdi had been nervous about spending €7.5m on a player, but he’d felt he was the right fit and Verdi had been proven more right than even he’d imagined.

TOP KEEPER!!!

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Mazzini is recognized for his contributions to the side, winning Serie A’s best keeper!

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The Table!!!
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A final look at the table.  After being neck and neck with Juventus, AC Milan ended up running away with the title, ending Juventus’ string of 11 consecutive titles.  AC Milan were the last team to win the title, way back in 2011, but at least it was some variety.  Juventus’ suffered an embarrassing collapse towards the end of the season which saw them drop to a shameful third place.  Lazio and Rome filled out the Champions League spots, while Inter Milan managed only a sixth place finish behind Livorno.  Napoli beat out Atalanta for the final European spot by two points.  Neither Benevento or Salernitana could engineer a way to stay in Serie A for a second year, with Genoa to join them in the second tier after Sampdoria finished the season strongly to escape the drop.

A Little Bit This, A Little Bit of Stats!

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It was a good year for Livorno, with the side performing better than average in almost every category.  Their xG was well below their actual goals which earned them their 5th placed finish, but even if Raspadori hadn’t been so completely dominant and Livorno had ended the season in 8th as the stats would lead one to expect, it would have been a very successful year!

ATTACK

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Livorno boasted a potent attack.  No one could come close to AC Milan’s 93 goals, but 5th in the scoring charts with 61 goals for the season was pretty good for a team of Livorno’s status.

Assists

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The success of the central overload tactics were shown in the number of assists from central areas, and with just under half the assists coming from through balls.  At the same time, the high number of assists from close to or inside their own half showed just how dangerous Livorno were in transition.  The flanks, though not emphasized, contributed a fair amount of goals too, showing the flexibility of Livorno’s attack.

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The massive predominance of placed shots showed how Livorno tended to score goals by working their way into good positions - or by getting through on goal on the counter.  If there was one element that disappointed Verdi, it was that the strong and tall Moreo didn’t get more goals, with all of the headed goals coming from corners, and only one of which was scored by Moreo.

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This graphic shows just how crucial Raspadori’s 24 goals were to the team, with Moreo only scoring seven. Still, the tactics had consistently given the advanced forward lots of goals each year so it wasn’t just Raspadori.

Possession

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Livorno were the third best team at keeping possession in Serie A, showing that Verdi’s tactic still worked quite well in that regard.

Defense

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Livorno conceded the third fewest of any team in the division, a record that Verdi could be very proud of - especially when the other two teams that came up from Serie B couldn’t seem to stop anyone.

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The assists to the goals conceded showed that there was no great area of weakness. Through balls and crosses made up the highest categories of assists, but that was to be expected. The right side was a bit less secure than the left, but deep midfielder Ranocchia tended to play on the left side of midfield so it didn't concern Verdi.

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The area from which goals were scored showed how hard Livorno tended to make the opposition work for their goals - only three goals from outside the box, though each of them seemed to cost Livorno points!  The problem though? Livorno gave up a worrying amount of goals late in each half.  Verdi would hope to work on the concentration and fitness levels of his squad, but he also figured he had a young defense still with a lot to learn.

THE MONEY €€€

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There was a lot of it. So much more than Livorno had seen before. The TV money went from €1.25m to €41m and their prize money from €2.5m for winning Serie B to €13m for their 5th placed Serie A finish.  The money would only go up with an extra year in Serie A meaning they'd recieve €55m in TV revenue, not to mention the EURO Cup!

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Serie A, simply from the TV money, created revenues that Livorno could have only dreamed of before.

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Though their bank account was still small compared to the giant clubs, Livorno ended the season with over €33m - compared to around €2.5m the season before! They’d need that money too, with the announcement made by the board just after the last game of the season...

New Stadium!!!

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Armando Picchi was a ground with history and character, but with a capacity of only 14k, it was too small for a club with ambitions. It was unclear when the club would break ground, but while Verdi would miss the stadium when it was gone, it was time to upgrade.  It was a big deal.  Verdi had been considering approaching the board about the idea, but was glad to see them proactively working on it - especially while Livorno were making such big profits and hopefully before the wages they’d have to start paying began to strain the checkbook once again.

 

UP NEXT - Laying the Foundation

Edited by 13th Man
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Laying the Foundation

Before we look ahead, indulge me as I break the fourth wall (okay, yes I do it all the time) and take a look back to the start of my save, specifically, my goals. 

 

1) Manage in Italy - DONE!!! (off to a good start)

 

2) Use a 3atb formation - it’s gone in a very different direction than I expected, but DONE!!! 

 

3) Lift Livorno up to (a) and establish them in (b) Serie A - part A accomplished! Part B? It’s too early to say definitely, but after a 5th placed finish I’m pretty confident that Livorno won’t be relegated in 23/24. 

 

So, what now for Verdi and Livorno? 3 more goals! In order of importance…

 

1)Open the new stadium (when it arrives) and establish Livorno to the point where a 5 year sim into the future would see Livorno still competitive in Serie A.  This is the only hard and fast goal.  The others will be icing on the cake.

 

2)Champions League qualification and maybe a decent run in the competition. This seems doable, at least once. Whether it happens? Time will tell.

 

3)A title challenge. This is the toughest goal, and I will still consider it a success without it. 

 

How long will this save go?

I’m imagining a likely 10 year save here to accomplish these goals. So we’re just getting started! Year four, here we go!

On with the Show...

With a promising young team, a new stadium in the pipeline, and an insatiable ambition, Verdi would find out how far he could take Livorno.  As the board entered the planning stages for a new stadium in Livorno, Verdi began to lay the foundations for the team going forward.  Now established in Serie A, Verdi could begin to put his fingerprints on the club.  He would look to sign players, from veterans to youngsters, that fit the system he was trying to build.

 

The 22/23 season had been more successful than Verdi could have imagined.  The team gelled together well, were often able to play exciting, progressive, maybe even Opera Football. They were also defensively quite sound for the most part. They were an average side until the second half of the season, and rode an incredible string of good results in February, March, and April to finish the season in fifth.  There were certainly some lucky results mixed in that possibly led to their especially high league finish, but they’d certainly shown that they belonged in Serie A. After being expected to be in the relegation fight, instead of returning to Serie B, Livorno qualified for the EURO Cup in 23/24.

 

Looking to the next season, Verdi felt he had a good side that could build on its successes in the 22/23 season.  They didn’t have any truly top players, but they had a lot of young players that were growing into their roles, some veterans with the kind of mentality that Verdi wanted, and a well balanced side for the most part.  Their first 11 was of decent quality, and could go toe-to-toe with just about anyone outside the truly top teams - though even then they’d often held their own.

 

Verdi was given a reasonable transfer budget of €20m, and an increase in the wage budget from €175 to €375k/w.  With a top allowed wage of only €46k/w though, and Livorno couldn’t exactly afford any ready made star players. Besides, that kind of player might disturb the cohesion of the locker room, and lead to a knock-on effect of everyone demanding massive raises - which might happen anyway as they established themselves in Serie A. Besides, the first order of business was to keep his current side together..

 

The Palumbo Problem

 

Before he could think about adding any players, he had to first deal with the ongoing Palumbo situation. He’d been at the club for three years and it was often hard to remember that he was still on loan - he was even considered a home grown Livorno player according to UEFA rules!

 

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Still only 21, Palumbo was one of Livorno’s best players and was such a good fit for the way Verdi wanted to play, so he really wanted to make him a permanent member of the squad.  He would even be willing to overpay, and that’s just what he tried to do.  After extended negotiations with Udinese, the two sides agreed to a €22m fee with €11m of that coming over three years in installments.  Palumbo, though very open to the prospect of joining Livorno permanently, demanded over €55k/w, and wouldn’t come down to Livorno’s max wage of €46k/w.  Verdi considered asking the board for an exemption, but he knew what their answer would be.  Plus, having one player on a wage more than double anyone else wasn’t a recipe for success. Instead, he kicked the can...again...and brought the young man back for another year on loan in the hopes that Livorno could continue to have enough success to be able to pay him what he wanted the following year - and that his value hadn’t gone up too much either.  For the moment, they agreed to a loan extension in which Livorno would pay €17k/w of his €22k/w contract with Udinese, though his parent club did wise up and remove the ‘can play against own team’ from the loan agreement.

This time it did feel a bit different from previous years, though. This time, he really did feel like he’d be able to sign him permanently, the finances just weren’t there yet.

 

The First Team Overview - End 22/23

 

There weren’t any players that Verdi was especially worried about losing - though a few mid table English Premier League clubs were showing some interest in Raspadori. Otherwise, Verona had scouted both Mazzini and wingback Farago, but at this point Verdi felt that was a sideways move for both players, so he wasn’t especially worried about either. While he very much liked Farago, if Verona came in with a good offer he’d consider it. Anyone wanting Mazzini, though, would have to break the bank.

 

Goalkeeper

Stephano Mazzini

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Mazzini had been as good in Serie A as he’d been for Livorno in Serie B, if not better, and had won the keeper of the year award.  A good all around keeper, he commanded the box well, organized the defense, and had single handedly earned points for Livorno.

 

Center backs 

 

The right center back position was the only position on the team that Verdi didn’t have a set first choice after the midseason acquisition of Capradossi. Bogdan and Capradossi both had their strengths and weaknesses and Verdi would pick one played based on the opponent. Both, however, were limited players, and Verdi hoped to replace them before too long.

 

Luka Bogdan

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Bodgan was better in the air, stronger, and more aggressive. Against teams with big strong players, or who wanted to sit back and limp balls forward, Bodgan was the choice. 

 

Elio Capradossi 

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His relative lack of bravery wasn’t ideal, but Casporadossi had a bit of extra pace and intelligence that made him do well against quick sides or when Livorno might be more pressured.

 

Andrea Carboni

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Carboni did a decent enough job in the center of Livorno’s defense. Verdi was, however, a bit disappointed with his lack of progression in the 22/23 season. While he’d never been the strongest, quickest, or best tackler, his intelligence had set him apart. Now, he needed to continue to get better in all departments if he was going to continue to be in the side - or stay captain.

 

Paolo Gozzi

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Gozzi played on the left and though he had generally been quite good, he seemed strangely prone to getting caught out or making silly errors. Still, he was making good progress and Verdi looked for more of the same. Time would tell if he kept progressing.

 

Wingers/Wingbabks

 

Paolo Farago

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Farago had been exactly what Verdi had been looking for when he signed him - a solid player that had done his job at a decent to good level. His heading ability was a nice bonus at the near post on corners too. If he had one weakness, it was his stamina, with Verdi having to sub him before the end of the majority of games. He also was nearing the end of his career and Verdi would need to find a replacement before long.

 

Alessandro Tripadelli 

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Tripadelli was a player that Verdi was very pleased with, and he was especially happy to have him as a permanent member of the squad. His only standout attribute was his good turn of pace, but he also had no real weaknesses - at least in a system in which the winger/wingbacks were more offensively minded.

 

Central Midfield

 

Mario Piccinocchi 

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Piccinocchi was one of Verdi’s first signings and had consistently performed as a key piece of the puzzle without so much as a glitch as Livorno progressed through the leagues. Like Tripadelli, he was a good all around footballer and a perfect fit for Livorno’s metronomic and fluid passing game. His fitness could be a challenge on occasion with the demands of the top flight, so depth/rotation would be crucial.

 

Philippo Ranocchia 

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Ranocchia had forced his way into the team midway through the previous year and had firmly established his place in the starting 11. He read the game well, stayed focused throughout, and was perfectly comfortable on the ball too. He was great at sitting back between the midfield and defense, recycling possession, as well as protecting against a quick counter through the middle when Livorno was attacking. He also seemed to stay fit very well, missing only one game through injury, though his terrible record with yellow cards did force him to miss 3 games through suspension.

 

Attacking Midfield

 

Martin Palumbo

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A mainstay in the team, Palumbo played in just about every game that he was available and had done excellently in the attacking midfield role. His ratings weren’t especially high on average, with the opposition often honing in on him with man marking and heavy pressing, but he was often a game changer.  He was very intelligent, especially for his age, a good passer and an excellent finisher for his position.  Not only did he chip in with regular goals and assists, his solid defensive abilities made him well suited for Livorno’s split block.

 

Forwards

 

Stephanie Moreo

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Moreo had proved to be an excellent signing, even better considering he came as an end of contract signing. He was strong, good in the air, hard working, and he was even pretty fast for a big man. He was able to do everything that Racievic had done, but at a much higher level. He easily beat out Pallecchi for the starting role and combined very well with Palumbo and Raspadori. 

 

Giacomo Raspadori

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Verdi had been concerned about spending €7.5m on the player, but Raspadori had proven to be an absolute steal at that price. He’d scored 24 goals in the league, coming in third in the scoring charts, and also provided ten assists. Verdi was surprised that no big clubs had come sniffing around, with the only interest coming from some mid-table English teams. Verdi could only figure that with so many Serie A teams playing a 4-2-3-1, Raspadori wasn’t exactly suited to leading the line in a one striker system - though he’d probably make a good inside forward. Verdi wasn’t about to complain though - for the moment at least, he’d rather like to keep his star striker

 

Depth

 

Miguel Turco

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The young defender performed very well when Gozzi was out injured, and in his appearances as a sub - though it had to be said that all of the games were against weaker opponents. Still, he was making good progress and Verdi was considering whether he would be best served by continuing his development at Livorno or if a loan move and more regular football would be a better choice. He was leaning towards a loan move if a good Serie B team would guarantee game time, but it would also force Livorno to sign more centerback depth.

 

Guiseppe Zampano

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Zampano was a good servant to the club. He’d come on and done well rotating with Cavion in the right winger/wingback position in Serie B. He’d also been good enough in Serie A to act as relief for Farago when he got tired - and he was called on a lot with 24 substitute appearances - but the truth was that he wasn’t a Serie A level player. With his 2 year contract expiring at the end of the year, Verdi was planning on letting him go on a free and seeing if he could find better depth and/or an heir to an aging Farago.

 

Pep Chavarria

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Chavarria was called upon less in Serie A, but Verdi was less worried about giving him starts than Zampano. Tripadelli was clearly the better player, but Chavarria was a perfectly capable backup. With two years left on his contract there was no reason to let him go or look for a replacement.

 

Michele Cavion

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Cavion was the definition of the utility man. He could be relied upon to play in any position across the midfield and even did fine as a wingback. He even seemed to be a player strangely capable of moments of magic, with his goals breaking the deadlock in several games and earning Livorno points. Verdi would soon be looking for more, and honestly better depth, but Cavion was a great option for the moment.

 

Davide Agazzi

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Agazzi had also been a good servant to the club, and was Verdi’s first captain, but the club had outgrown him. He was a player without many weaknesses, but he was just kind of average to worse across the board. He’d been a capable, warm body when called upon, but Verdi would be letting him go as his contract expired.

 

Matteo Pallecchi 

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Pallecchi had exceeded Verdi’s expectations in both Serie C and Serie B, but Serie A seemed a step too far. He had a great time in the Italian Cup, scoring a hat-trick against Bari and a brace against Sampdoria, but didn’t manage anything in the league. Verdi was at a crossroads with the young man - should he stick with a player who’d played a key role in Verdi’s first two seasons, or was it time to try and sell him now that he was worth a decent amount? He had the technical and physical tools to be a good player and those had allowed him to do well in the lower leagues.  In Serie A, however, his lack of in game intelligence limited his effectiveness, and he didn’t seem to be progressing much in that regard either. He was still young, but Verdi doubted he’d ever turn into the kind of player he wanted in his side.

 

Youngsters

 

Though the youth intakes during Verdi’s first two years had been disappointing, there had been some decent young prospects already at the club. With Livorno’s rapid accent, though, they were still a little ways off first team quality, and most lacked the kind of tough and determined mentally that Verdi wanted for his squad.

 

Victtorio Bagnoli

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Bagnoli was the one academy graduate who got some playing time towards the end of the year, coming on as a sub when Livorno were comfortably winning. He’d done well enough, but Verdi felt like a loan move to Serie B would do the young man well, as it wasn’t clear if he’d continue to have even substitute chances the following year.

 

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Two other young players of note, having had decent loan spells in Serie C. Verdi had hoped they might progress enough to provide some depth in the 23/24 season, but it looked as if they were still a ways short - even for an emergency backup role.

 

Transfer Strategy

 

Verdi would be perfectly happy with his first 11 if he started the next season with it, but where he was a bit concerned was depth, especially with all the games that the EURO Cup add to their schedule. He’d been lucky that the midfield and defense had been the only areas where Livorno had been hit with long term injuries, but even then he didn’t have much confidence in his depth options in the 22/23 season. At the same time, he wouldn’t want to add a whole bunch of players to the team only to find Livorno knocked out of the EURO Cup after the group stage and left with a massive squad of players expecting game time - not to mention disrupting the team cohesion.

With an established team that was capable of competing and no gaping holes in his side, Verdi decided to focus on two things - young players that had room for improvement and players with the kind of mentality that Verdi wanted as he looked to create a club culture for the future. Though much improved from Verdi’s first year, the squad was still not the best in adversity, nor a particularly hard working and committed side. As he looked for depth and rotation options, he hoped to add players that would tip the scales in the right direction.

 

Pierre Lees-Melou

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Verdi’s first signing of the offseason was an experienced midfielder that had the kind of mentality that Verdi was looking for - the 23/24 version of Farago and Moreo. Out of favor at OGC Nice, Lees-Melou would come to Livorno on a free, but on a higher wage than Verdi would have liked, especially for a man entering his 30’s. Still, he was a very determined, hard working, good all around player and would add to Livorno’s mentally tough and resilient veteran contingent. He would play in central midfield, rotating with Ranocchia and Piccinocchi.

 

 

Nolan Galves

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With Farago nearing the end of his career, and not having the best stamina either, Verdi wanted a reliable backup short term and, ideally, a player that could replace him within a year or two. He was surprised to find the perfect player in France’s Ligue 2 - A 19 year old named Nolan Galves at FCSM who was already good enough to challenge Farago right away, and who wasn’t too expensive. Quick, intelligent, and a very well rounded player, Galves had the potential to turn into an exceptional wingback.

 

After some negotiations, FCSM and Livorno agreed to a €3.5m deal with €700k to come after 50 league games, plus a 50% of profit from next sale clause - though Verdi had no intention of selling him anytime soon. Contract negotiations also took a bit, with the minimum fee release clause a sticking point. Galves and his agent wanted €7.5m release clause, which was would mean that Livorno would lose him for way less than his potential value if he turned into the player that Verdi hoped. €15m was much more palatable especially when the clause expired in two years. Before then, Verdi would either hope that no one would be willing to pay that for him, or get him on a new contract.

 

Rodrigo Macedo

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With the retirement of backup Galan - who, it should be said, didn’t appear in the first team after the acquisition of Raspadori - and the jury still out on Pallecchi, Verdi needed greater depth in the striker position. Moreo was also 30, so Verdi also had to look to the future. When the scouts brought in a report on a promising young striker from Portugal, Verdi hoped he had his man. There was a fair amount of interest in the 19 year old, so Verdi was surprised when his bid of only €350k was accepted. Initial contract negotiations went smoothly as well, with the young man agreeing to only €9k/w. However, several established top flight teams from across Europe then came in with bids, and Verdi decided he needed to make sure the young man chose Livorno. He came back with a much higher wage offer and that was enough to get the deal done.

 

Rodrigo Macedo looked like the type of player that Pallecchi could have been if he was mentally tougher and a more diligent worker. Physically, he was already capable of playing at the top level, and while his understanding of the game and technique could use refinement, he was well on his way to becoming a great player. Verdi would also put him under the tutelage of Moreo in the hopes that some of the veteran’s work ethic would rub off on him, and he’d be a rotation option in either position.

 

Roberto Garcia

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Verdi had been happy with Livorno’s business in the transfer market and had been considering whether he was done or not - apart from replacing any potential departures. The one position he wanted more quality depth, however, was attacking midfield. He wasn’t too concerned, as Cavion had done well when played there, but he asked the scouts what reports they had, just to see. An 18 year old from Athletico Madrid was promising enough to warrant a second look, but Verdi expected the player to be below the required level or too expensive. He was stunned when the full report came in a week or so later.

 

Roberto Garcia was already a player who could make an impact for Livorno, and possessed many of the qualities Verdi was looking for as he began to build a culture at the club. Along with being a good all around player with excellent passing ability and intelligence, he was fairly determined, worked well within the team, and was already considered a leader. But while Verdi wasn’t surprised to find an excellent young player at Athletico Madrid, he was surprised that he was transfer listed for a very reasonable €6.5m. Verdi pounced, offering €6m with an additional €500k after 50 appearances which Athletico accepted. Contract negotiations went similarly smoothly and Verdi signed a player who he considered a potential Livorno legend. 

 

His arrival not only added depth to the attacking midfield, but it also gave Verdi the option of moving Palumbo back into central midfield if he wanted more attacking thrust from deeper positions. While he’d probably never make a great central midfielder, Verdi would also be training Garcia to be a mezzala and working on the defensive side of his game to add to his versatility, as well as make him a better player for the split block.

 

Loris Menini

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Verdi also made a handful of youth signings from other clubs to replenish their ranks after he’d begun to clear out the players without enough potential or the right mentality. In a first, he actually payed a fee for a true youngster, buying 16 year old Loris Menini for €250k from SPAL in Serie B. The young man, though, already had incredible physical attributes and had the potential to be quite a player. Though most comfortable as a left winger, Verdi would try to convert him to a wingback that could play either side.

 

Show Me the Money

 

As expected a fair few players came knocking on Verdi’s door with requests for new contracts. Verdi had expected and prepared for this, and some negotiations went smoothly and others not as much.

Tripadelli and Carboni both agreed to four year deals for €30k/w and €18.5k/w respectively. While it was hard to stomach Tripadelli’s wage after a few years in the lower leagues, it was a perfectly fair wage for a decent to good top flight player. 

 

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Things got a little rocky with his veterans, however. 

 

Moreo and Verdi had no trouble agreeing to a wage increase, but Moreo wanted a four year contract and didn’t accept Verdi’s offer for a three year contract. While Verdi would still appreciate Moreo’s presence at the club, the forward was 30 and who knows the toll time would begin to take in the following four years.  The player was annoyed that talks broke down, but when Verdi reminded him that he’d offered a contract and the forward admitted that he was right.

 

Negotiations with Farago went worse. He demanded to be an “important player” and while he still was at the moment, Verdi expected Galves to replace him before too long. In retrospect, he wished he’d just crossed that bridge later, but as it was, Verdi had deeply offended a player that he quite liked to the point that Farago requested a transfer. His request was denied, and Verdi hoped that he and Farago could find a way to come to an agreement.  Shortly thereafter, with a lot of players wanting Farago to have a new contract, Verdi brought him back to the negotiating table.  Like with Moreo, and didn’t squabble over the expected playing time. There was a sticking point on the length of the contract, but Farago eventually negotiated to three years and a deal was done.

 

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Last and also least, Cavion came expecting a much improved deal. Cavion was a player that Verdi had a lot of time for, but when he made demands such as to be an important player and to be played in his preferred position and role, Verdi flat out said no. The versatile Cavion was a great player to have in the squad, but he wasn’t about to take demands from a player who, at best, could be considered a good rotation option. Suddenly, Verdi wondered about bringing in someone else and cutting ties with Cavion - maybe he’d end up being Bruns version 2, a player with an overinflated sense of his own skill and importance?

 

Considering his excellent value at €4.8m, Verdi put him on the transfer list immediately.  It took about a week before Sporting Gijon showed up, but once they did, it was simple business and Cavion was shipped out with little fuss.  He’d done well for Livorno, but with reinforcements arriving over the summer, he was going to surely drop even further down the pecking order.

 

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That did mean that Livorno were in need of a bit of reinforcing in the midfield if they were to to compete in the EURO Cup and also avoid being ruined by an injury or two.

Two players came up as available - a young(ish) midfielder that had been released by Manchester City named Ante Palaversa, and a Cameroonian named Tsiy-William Ndenge. Both had compelling reasons to be signed, and both agreed to terms, so Verdi had a choice to make.

 

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Palaversa was versatile, hard working, and cheap - both in terms of the lack of transfer fee and his wage demands. He’d certainly be depth at least at first, though the scouts thought he could turn into a good player if given game time.

 

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Ndenge’s physical attributes were amazing, and he had decent technical abilities, worked hard and had a lot of fight in him. Verdi could imagine him gobbling up any ball in the air and being a nightmare on corners. He was only €1.6m due to a relegation release clause, but he was asking for a €32k/w wage.

Fictional Aside...

“Why bring in either?” Verdi’s wife asked one night. “Why add more players to worry about?”

 

“We need depth!” Verdi sighed, “we struggled to field a team last year at times! And that was without the EURO Cup.”

 

“You didn’t struggle to field a team, you just didn’t think much of the players you had to play. Mostly Agazzi…he was always kind of **** wasn’t he?”

 

Verdi laughed but tried to put on an incredulous air, “What? No!”

 

“He wasn’t even a starter in Serie C, my love,” she sighed, rolling her eyes, “maybe **** is a bit harsh but….”

 

“Okay fine, but what if I have a long term injury?”

 

“Now you have five midfielders for three starting spots, all good players!”

 

“What if Piccinocchi goes down?”

 

“Lees-Melou. Not as good of a passer and all, but he’ll work hard and do a lot of the same things.”

 

“What if Lees-Melou also goes down or Ranocchia?”

 

“In that unlikely event, pull Palumbo back and give Garcia the starts in attacking midfield.”

 

“What if it’s during the EUROs or we’re playing twice a week?”

 

“Farago can do a decent shift in midfield, right? In the games you need him, play Galves on the right and bring Farago on for the more tired center midfielder.”

 

“What if Farago is injured?”

 

“If Piccinocchi, Lees-Melou, and Farago are all out on long term injuries at the same time and it happens to be a period where you’re playing twice a week?” She laughed. “Well then you’ll probably have to play some player out or position or youngster as a sub sometimes for a few games. Big deal. But you can’t make choices based on probabilities so small! What about a bunch of players mad that they aren’t playing enough? What about trying to integrate too many new signings into a well balanced and happy side?”

 

Verdi's wife was right. He didn’t need either of them, and they weren’t exactly the kind of players he wanted either. He wanted to start bringing in the right players, rather than just players he could get. He remained on the lookout for a decent player, with the right mentality to come in and do a job for Livorno, but he wasn’t going to go out of his way just to fill the roster.

Summary

IN - €10m

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OUT - €6m

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As preseason began, he realized that after having a starting 11 that was entirely Italian other than Bodgan, this transfer window saw him sign exclusively non-Italian players - two from France, one from Spain, and one from Portugal.  While Verdi certainly had a certain amount of pride in his country, he wasn’t all that concerned with the make-up of his squad.  He was more concerned with the quality he’d added, and the deadwood he’d cleared.  

Coming into the club, 30 year old Lees-Melou added experience and quality to the coming midfield rotation, and he had the kind of mentality Verdi was looking for.  19 year old Galves would look to challenge an aging Farago in the right wingback position and hopefully take over the position in time.  Macedo, also 19, was a promising young forward who could fill either the advanced or deeper roles, and had come very cheap.  18 year old Garcia was a real find, and could prove to be an amazing purchase in the attacking midfield if he lived up to his potential.  Last but not least, Verdi had brought in a lot of quality youngsters, mostly on free transfers, but also one potentially great swing wingback in Menini. 

 

Outbound was a lot of deadwood and youngsters on loan - attacking midfielder Bagnoli being the one that Verdi was most interested in.  Along with several youth players that weren’t going to make the cut or weren’t the kind of players Verdi wanted, Akujobi and Cavion made their way out of the club, making up most of the €6m income.

 

Entering the preseason friendlies, Verdi felt he had a set plan both for the coming season, and the coming years. Of course, things could easily change before the transfer window shut…

 

UP NEXT - A Lovely Summer Stroll in Livorno

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Damn, that is what I call a detailled update. I envy you for having the time for it. And good progress on and off the pitch. Surely the Europa campaign will bost both the reputation and finances of the club, amd Champions League will be within reach soon. After that is just a matter of pacience game... Good luck, will be following!

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Muttley84 said:

Damn, that is what I call a detailled update. I envy you for having the time for it. And good progress on and off the pitch. Surely the Europa campaign will bost both the reputation and finances of the club, amd Champions League will be within reach soon. After that is just a matter of pacience game... Good luck, will be following!

Thanks! I think I play slower than average but love to go in depth. On touch you blast through a season in about the time it takes me to play a months’ worth of games! I’ve gone through 3 seasons in the time it’s taken you to do two or three with Brescia and nearly three with Amed.

 

1 hour ago, Hootieleece said:

 

Ante Palaversa became a great player for my Clermont Team last Summer. Was starting MCR-as a BBM for many years.

 

Missed out then - think he signed for Bari in Serie B? Still, he’s 23 and while I think he could have developed into a good player, he wasn’t going to get the game time that would allow development with Livorno. He was also flat in the friendlies he played while on trial.

Edited by 13th Man
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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, SixPointer said:

Young lad from Rio ave looks the bargain of the year!

Absolutely! That’s why Verdi had no problem coming back with a bigger wage after he got a lot of other offers. Wanted to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse (but not in The Godfather way…) - especially with star striker Raspadori starting to attract some attention!

Edited by 13th Man
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This is what a true marriage should be, Verdi and his wife as a potential assistant manager! :lol:

On a real note though, I get why you can be attached to your players so much. I had that with my Kaiserslautern save with Theodor Bergmann. We were in the Bundesliga and my boy Bergmann was still starting Europa League games and Bundesliga games to keep him happy even though he wasn't exactly of the German top flight standard.

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8 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

I must say I like your wife's managerial advise :lol:

 

6 hours ago, haier_fm said:

 

This is what a true marriage should be, Verdi and his wife as a potential assistant manager! :lol:

 

Verdi’s wife is an excellent assman…wait…this is going in the wrong direction…I NEED AN ADULT!

But yes, she tends to give good advice and helps Verdi make some tough decisions.
Not my actual wife, she couldn’t care less, though she did tell me I needed to stop only managing Southampton…which is part of why we have this save that I’ve been enjoying so much!

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A Summer Stroll in Lovely Livorno

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Verdi had a fairly challenging set of friendlies scheduled, with teams like Everton, Monaco, and Club Brugge on the docket, but scheduling conflicts meant they were all canceled. Sevilla would be the one good club they faced, with a trip to AEK Athens being the only other team which has a chance against Livorno.

 

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As expected, it was a romp. The only surprise was a comfortable win over Sevilla at Armando Picchi. Like Livorno, Sevilla had finished the previous year in fifth, but unlike Livorno had some big names in their squad. Sevilla’s 4-2-3-1 gave them more possession, but Livorno’s 2-0 scoreline was fair based on the play.

Results aside, Livorno looked good, got their fitness, and began to integrate new signings into the side - all of which fit right in, at least in the friendlies. It didn’t tell Verdi much about his tactics or even really his new signings, but everyone finished the preseason in shape and without any real injuries!

 

Tactical Aside

One beautiful experiment was worth noting, however. Several times Verdi would have his outside center backs play more as stoppers while also giving them the freedom to come forward with the ball. It led to a few great passages of play when Capradossi or Turco, and to a lesser extent Gozzi or Bodgan, would link up with the wingers in the opposition half and wreak havoc. Verdi didn’t plan on giving them that kind of license just yet in competitive games, but he hoped to bring that sort of play to Livorno in the future…

 

The Children are Our Future

 

Verdi also gave several run outs to some promising youngsters.

 

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Miretti was a free signing from Juventus (U23s). Verdi wasn’t sure he would ever make the cut as a Serie A midfielder, but he had some decent fundamentals which had the potential to make him a useful player. He did well in several friendlies.

 

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Former SPAL prospect Menini also got some run outs as he was given his first taste of playing as a wingback on both sides. He even got an assist after winning the ball back with a beautiful curved pass from near midfield that Raspadori got on the end of in the box.

 

TRANSFER ALERT!!!

 

The other bit of news from preseason was, in the end, another midfield signing - Giovani Crociata from Serie B outfit Crotone. Determined, well rounded, and willing to put in a decent shift, Crociata would fill the Cavion/utility role in the squad - still leaving Livorno with a tidy profit of €3.1m from the Cavion sale and with Livorno ending up with a player that was honestly significantly better in the mental and physical departments.

 

Giovani Crociata

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Was Verdi simply unable to follow his wife’s advice? That was part of it, but the board was also reportedly “devastated” that Verdi wasn’t signing anyone from Italy’s lower divisions as expected in the “club vision”. Verdi figured he could make the board happy and sleep better at night himself knowing that he had plenty of midfield depth.

Crociata was a player a bit between the two midfielders that Verdi had considered earlier - he was more experienced and well rounded than Manchester City reject Palaversa and cheaper than Cameroonian Ndenge. While not as good as the later in a lot of ways, he only expected to be a squad player and agreed to a reasonable contract of €15.5k/w instead of €32k/w. The scouts had initially indicated that Verdi would need to pay €2.5-3.5m to buy him, which Verdi wasn’t interested in, but then he was transfer listed for a much more reasonable €1.7m and Verdi went in for him. Verdi wasn’t especially sure that Crociata would be a long standing member of the squad, but he’d fill a role for now.  Hopefully as some youngsters came up through the ranks, he could be sold for a reasonable fee considering his value had already jumped to €4.9m after Livorno brought him in.

 

Ahead of the New Season

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Raspadori was getting some respect from the media, already making a name for himself after just one season in Serie A.

 

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(Sort of) Livorno’s Palumbo also in the running for an award and/or recognition.

 

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This was a very good showing from Livorno considering they had the smallest ground in the league. It was surely, however, about as much as Livorno could hope for until the new stadium was built. 

 

The Dawn of a New Season

 

After a busy summer that saw some familiar faces leave the club, and some exciting new ones arrive, Livorno began their second season in Serie A for the first time once the mid 00s.. They’d managed promotion two times since, but had fallen right back down both times. After a strong 22/23 season, Verdi hoped to build on their successes.

It wouldn’t be easy of course. While it wasn’t on purpose, Livorno’s easy preseason was good in one way - morale was high. Every bit of those good feelings would likely be needed as Livorno had been dealt a brutal opening month of fixtures - the first four games were Atalanta away, Lazio at home, Juventus away, and Inter Milan at home. 

 

UP NEXT - Red Moon

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Posted (edited)

Red Moon

[In case you were wondering, I’m not doing the song titles/lyrics themes anymore.  That was so...22/23.  This is 2023, okay???  They might come back at times, but I don’t want to be held to it!]

 

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The scheduling gods were not kind to Livorno at the beginning of the season. It was a brutal stretch of games, with the first EURO Cup group stage game also to come between the Juventus and Inter games. Three of the top four teams in a row, along with an away game against a strong Atalanta side that had brushed them aside twice the year before? Any team in the world would find this run of fixtures daunting. If Livorno arrived in Cittadella at the end of September with 2-3 points in the league Verdi would be satisfied! While he hoped to draw and maybe even win a few, the challenge of the coming month was to keep morale up even if the games went poorly. 

 

From a tactics point of view, Verdi made a decision to continue with his more aggressive tactics more often - or to put a positive spin on his defensive tactics. The first month would be a good test if that was wise…

As a fun aside, AC Milan’s title defense didn’t start off well as they fell to Bologna on the opening day while Juventus thrashed Fiorentina…

 

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Rotation

[Before the games - one new theme this year, at least while Livorno is in Europe, is to get into rotation strategies but less into the goals - unless they’re due to some in-game tactical tweak.]

The Games

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Atalanta had beaten Livorno in both their meetings the previous year by a combined score of 3-0, and Livorno had looked poor both times. Clear favorites, Atalanta would look to start Livorno’s season on a sour note, the same way they’d all but ended Livorno’s Champions League hopes the previous May. Atalanta were a team that Verdi looked up to, and even if they’d finished above them in the standings, the head to head showed that Livorno had a way to go before he’d consider them on equal terms.

 

Tactics/Rotation

From Livorno’s starting 11, one might think it was the 22/23 season, but there were a lot of new faces on the bench. Also unlike the year before, Livorno would not cower in a 5-3-2 against Atalanta’s 5-2-1-2, but fight fire with fire…or a 5-2-1-2 with a 5-2-1-2.

 

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Livorno not only won the game, they dominated it. They only scored once - a counter from an Atalanta free kick, in which left wingback Tripadelli played forward Raspadori through on goal - but had a fair amount more chances to win the game more comfortably. Atalanta, for their part, were toothless, simply smothered by Livorno. The key tactical change? Verdi changed his mind only minutes into the game and pushed up into a 3-4-1-2. Atalanta’s lone wide players were pinned back, their front three easily dealt with by Livorno’s defenders and Ranocchia severed the connection between their midfield and attacking trio. Verdi waited the whole second half for an Atalanta push that would overwhelm Livorno, but it never materialized.

 

New arrivals Lees-Melou and Galves both made their debuts as subs in the final 15 minutes, and both seemed perfectly settled in the side already, slotting in and picking up right where Piccinocchi and Farago had left off - something which could not have been said about previous options Zampano and Cavion/Agazzi. Verdi wondered if poor depth had led to so many points dropped late in games the previous season.

 

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The stats agree - a dominant win by Livorno that could have easily been by more than one. Atalanta were held to an embarrassing xG of only 0.17 at home.

 

TRANSFER ALERT!!!

Mattia Bani

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29 year old center back Mattia Bani arrived at Livorno on transfer deadline day adding a dose of quality to Livorno’s backline.  Verdi had flirted with several other centerbacks during the window, but finally decided to go in on a Genoa player after he and the scouts spent some extra time watching game film. He ticked many of Verdi’s boxes - he was like a combination of Capradossi and Bodgan, but without either’s weaknesses, and Verdi expected him to be a starter on the right side of Livorno’s defense.  He had speed, strength, and was good in the air. He had a good understanding of the game, and was the kind of defender that Verdi as he looked to the future - one who was good with the ball at his feet.  Verdi wanted his outside center backs to be able to come forward and contribute to the build up play when the chance arose, and Bani was the kind of player that could do just that - if only occasionally.

 

His wage was high, and at 29 he’d probably start to fade by the end of the contract, but he was a quality player, and Verdi felt like his arrival would give Verdi time to find a replacement or allow his many promising young centerbacks a chance to develop.

 

With the arrival of Bani, Verdi knew that Turco wouldn’t get enough game time to keep his progression going, so he was moved out on loan to SPAL in Serie B for regular game time. Verdi had been hoping to do this all summer, but had found huge faults in any of the center backs that he’d looked into. With Bani now likely to take the starting role, Verdi now had quality depth, with five experienced and capable players.

 

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EURO Cup Draw!

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Livorno was handed a tough but not impossible draw.  He felt that both Real San Sebatian and Zenit would prove difficult challenges, but that Livorno had a decent chance of coming out of the group and into the knockout rounds.

 

New Schedule

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He would, however, not sacrifice the league for the EUROs and was disappointed when the opening fixture was an away game to Zenit in between the Juve and Inter games.  The plan would still be to rotate, especially with a midweek clash against Cittadella coming a week later. For the moment, however, it was time to focus on the task at hand - rival Lazio’s visit to Armando Picchi.

 

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Livorno got the better of Lazio the previous year, earning a 1-0 win in this fixture and a 1-1 draw in Rome. Verdi was under no illusions however, knowing that a Lazio team that finished in second was very dangerous. Especially in Rome, Livorno had barely been able to hold out for a draw, and Verdi wouldn’t be surprised if Livorno’s luck ran out.

 

Tactics

Like the previous year, Verdi would play the “slightly less cautious” 5-3-2 against Lazio’s adventurous 4-2-3-1. He would pull back Palumbo to make a flat three in midfield but otherwise use the same tactic as his base 5-2-1-2. If Lazio began to hit them hard he might pull back a bit, but rolling the dice had gotten them a great result against Atalanta, so he would see how it worked here.

 

Rotation

New arrival Bani came into his starting role on the right side of defense.

 

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It…did not work. Verdi watched in horror as rivals Lazio went up 3-0 after only thirty minutes.  Livorno looked okay in the first 10 minutes, but then a very soft penalty was given against Palumbo - everyone expected it to be overturned with VAR but instead it was confirmed.  Boos cascaded down from the curva, but it did not stop Immobile from slotting the ball home. A goal from a corner and another Immobile strike put the game to bed before a third had been played, and Verdi wised up. He pulled back into the cautious 5-3-2 to ensure it didn’t get even more embarrassing. 

In the second half, Verdi saw what he’d hoped to see during the whole  game. Livorno were solid defensively, smart with the ball, and even got a goal back. With several starters underperforming, Verdi gave some chances to some new faces.

 

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Crociata came on as a sub and looked lively, scoring a wonderful solo goal after a determined run.

 

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The xG graph shows just how much of a fool Verdi was to try to go toe-to-toe with Lazio.  When he pulled back in the second half, Livorno scored and looked good and Lazio couldn’t produce anything - though of course they didn’t need to.  It was a harsh lesson, but just because Livorno had done well the season before, they were a long ways off being a big team.

 

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After a humbling defeat, Livorno traveled to Turin to face a Juventus side that had scored nine goals in two games. It wasn’t looking good for Livorno’s chances. Livorno had lost 1-0 at the Allianz the previous year in the league, and taken Juventus to overtime in the cup before falling 3-1 in extra time. Livorno had a chance to come away with a point, but it was a small chance.

 

Tactics

Away against the biggest side in the country, Verdi wasn’t going with anything but the cautious 5-3-2 against Juventus’ 5-2-3. 

 

Rotation

Though he planned to rotate heavily in the midweek trip to Zenit in the EURO Cup, Verdi saw young wingback Galves do excellent defensive work in practice since his arrival, and decided to start him here.  Farago would be among the veteran presence at Zenit to try and help solidify them in that game.  The defensively stronger Lees-Melou also stepped in for Piccinocchi in the right center midfield position.

 

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The game started well, with Carboni getting two chances from set pieces, the second of which he finished with a powerful header. That would be it from the visitors, however, and while Livorno held on bravely, Juventus took control in the final third of the game, with Ronaldo winning the game for the home side.  

 

The choice to start young wingback Galves was a huge, inexcusable blunder on Verdi’s part. Not only did he throw the young man to the wolves away to Italy’s top side, but he was pitted against Ronaldo. The scouts had expected Ronaldo to play through the middle, but even so, it was the wrong move. As it was, after Juventus drew level through a neat move, Ronaldo beat poor Galves in the air twice at far post crosses to put the game to bed. Farago may have been beaten too, but with his jumping reach, strength, and simple experience may have at least given Ronaldo more trouble.

 

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Livorno didn’t create much beyond a few early chances, but they defended well…until they didn’t. Three crosses from the Juventus’ right side and three goals. It was a tough loss.

 

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Sandwiched between the crushing trip to Turin and a visit from Inter Milan over the weekend was a tough journey to St Petersburg to play Russian side Zenit. Along with the six hour plane ride, Livorno would be facing a side that was a perennial contender in the Russian Premier Division. Still, it would be Livorno’s first European night since the 2006-2007 season when Livorno, as in 22/23, rose up from Serie B to claim a European place. In that, at least, it was something to celebrate.

 

Tactic

Zenit played a 4-1-2-1-2 (diamond) and though Verdi wasn’t confident about it, he decided to attack them with a very rotated 3-4-1-2. He hoped to pin their fullbacks deep and overwhelm their defense through the center. 

 

Rotation

Despite strong opposition, Verdi rotated heavily, with young attacking midfielder Garcia and forward Macedo making their first Livorno starts.  Lees-Melou came in for Ranocchia in the defensive center mid role, and Carboni was given a rest with Bani moving to the center and Bogdan coming into the team to play on the right of the defense.

 

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It was quite a game. Unlike any Verdi had been a part of since his first competitive game in charge - a 5-3 win in the Italian Cup qualifiers in 2019 - and this one hung more in the balance at times. 19 year old Macedo opened his Livorno account after only 8 minutes with Livorno controlling the game.  He had a neat give and go with right wingback Farago to score his first, then ran onto a throughout ball to restore Livorno’s lead after Zenit had pulled one back with a poorly defended crossfield ball.  He was robbed of a tap in for his hat-trick by a Zenit own goal, and completed an excellent day by providing a cut back to Farago to slot home from just inside the box.

Zenit made the game interesting for a bit, scoring after the ball pinged around the box for too long and once when the defense was caught napping by a long ball, but Raspadori finished the game off with a goal off a quick counter to avoid a nervy ending.

 

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In the end, it was a great first full game from the young Portuguese forward, and a welcome respite from a grueling league run - and Livorno had done it without most of their starters!

 

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The analysts were at a loss to explain how eight goals were scored, but that the result was the right one.

 

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Verdi’s choice to play Galves against Juve was made even worse when Farago went down with an injury against Zenit.  The loss of Farago at a time like this was tough. Especially after he’d thrown young Galves to the wolves against Juve, Verdi had hoped to ease him into the squad. Now he’d be forced to not only start, but play several games in a row. It was far short of a disaster, but young Galves was short on confidence after being humbled by Ronaldo. There was nothing to be done, however, and it wasn’t going to get any easier.

 

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Much like against Lazio, Livorno got the better of Inter Milan in 22/23 with a 0-0 draw in Milan and a 1-0 win at Armando Picchi. Verdi feared that, also like Lazio, 23/24 could be very different. Lazio and Juventus had easily put Livorno back in their place and Verdi only hoped to regain some pride against Inter.

 

Tactic

The 5-3-2 was back against Inter’s 5-1-2-2(DM).  They’d look to control the ball and force Inter to work their way up the field.  Maybe, just maybe, they could steal a goal like they had at Armando Picchi the year before.

 

Rotation

Along with wingback Farago out, Livorno suffered a training setback.

 

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Key player Palumbo got a knock to his knee. While the physios said he could play, Verdi decided not to risk him, especially with a more winnable game coming midweek at Cittadella. Crociata got the start and Lees-Melou also came in for a tired Piccinocchi.

 

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Another late loss, with Inter scoring after 83 minutes through midfielder Dani Olmo after camping out in Livorno’s box for what seemed like several minutes. Verdi could have no complaints, however - Livorno were thoroughly outplayed throughout. While Livorno kept Inter at bay in the first half, Inter dominated the second. Inter’s wingbacks ran rampant down the flanks, with a short  switch to a 3-5-2 only making things worse. Florentino Luis, Inter’s DM, also occupied the space that deep forward Moreo tended to operate, but also got forward on occasion to break up Livorno counters before they could even get going. In the closing stages, substitute wingback Chavarria saw red to ensure that there would be no late equalizer for the home side.

 

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The stats show that Livorno were lucky to only concede once, and didn’t deserve anything from the game.

 

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After a grueling fixture list that saw Livorno lose three in a row in the league for the first time under Verdi, they had their first game of the year against a team that wasn’t at or near the top - with Zenit also a top team, if in Russia. Cittadella away, however, wasn’t a game that Verdi would take lightly. They’d started the season strongly, losing only one, though their fixture list hadn’t been especially difficult.

 

Tactic

Cittadella’s 4-3-1-2, especially its attacking trio, had caused Livorno problems two years prior in Serie B. Verdi hoped that his side’s Serie A quality would show through, but morale wasn’t especially high after a tough run of games. Verdi still went with a 3-4-1-2 in the hopes of putting Citadella under pressure higher up the pitch and not allowing them to get the ball to their attacking trio. 

 

Rotation

Galves would continue on the right, but Livorno could welcome back Palumbo. While Verdi had hoped to start Chavarria on the left after Tripadelli had played in every game so far, his red against Inter meant that a tired Tripadelli would have to keep on going.  Bodgan continued on the right side of defense, with Bani in the center, but Carboni came in for Gozzi on the left.

 

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A disappointing draw to end a disappointing month. Livorno were on top for much of the game, but Cittadella scored following a corner in which Livorno couldn’t clear their lines in the 23rd minute. Radpadori equalized five minutes later and Livorno applied steady pressure but couldn’t find the back of the net again.

 

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Livorno certainly had chances to win the game, but Cittadella could have stolen a winner too.

Summary

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While the season started with such promise as Livorno beat Atalanta, September was not kind to them. The win away to Zenit in the EURO Cup was one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy month. While Verdi hadn’t expected many points, he’d hoped to make things tougher on his opponents. Instead, they’d been comprehensively beaten by Lazio, Juventus, and Inter, and only managed a disappointing draw against newly promoted Cittadella.  

Verdi hadn’t been forced to rotate his squad much in the past - and when he did, he’d been the far superior team.  He felt like in his worry over fatigue, he’d overthought things a little and at the same time made bad plans.  Verdi’s choice to play new arrival and young Galves against Juventus proved a disaster, and he also felt like he didn’t give his new arrivals enough time to gel with the team before throwing them into big games.  He hoped he’d learned some lessons from this tough month that would keep him from making the same mistakes again.

 

Worse, the victory over Atalanta also looked less impressive with each week that passed, as they ended September only a point above Livorno in 14th.

 

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The rocky start to the season left Livorno in the relegation fight in 16th place - at least for the moment. Along with Atalanta’s early season struggles, the other surprise of the season was that AC Milan’s title defense was off to a bad start. They were already six points off a Juventus side that was crushing all comers. 

 

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Unsurprisingly, Livorno were poor in every statistical category. They let in a ton of goals, didn’t score many, and weren’t even doing a good job of passing the ball.

 

Was this the real Livorno? Or just a team that was battered by a cruel, unrelenting fixture list? Verdi hoped it was the latter, but it was hard to feel confident when they’d played all the big teams so much better the year before.

 

The fixture list got a lot easier in October, and between that and his crash course in squad rotation, Verdi logically expected Livorno’s form to improve.  Still, he couldn’t shake a growing dread that Serie A may have just figured Livorno out…

 

UP NEXT -  The Night is Always Darkest Just Before the Dawn

Edited by 13th Man
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When you play an up and coming team is is easy to fall into the trap of" I played well against them and had a good season" so they are worse than my team. So I will play arrogantly.

Which seems to be a failing of many an FM Manager. We all think were the "Special One" and can do no wrong.....

I digress like @karanhsingh said rough month domestically, but good win in Europe. It shows your on the way....

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Rough month but nice opening win in Europe!

Zenit was definitely the bright spot and helped remind Verdi that Livorno were a decent side.

5 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

When you play an up and coming team is is easy to fall into the trap of" I played well against them and had a good season" so they are worse than my team. So I will play arrogantly.

There was definitely a bit of this against Lazio, but the tactic had worked to perfection the year before. The problem (which I forgot to put in the write up) was that after giving up the soft penalty, Verdi got frustrated and went back to his standard 5-2-1-2. Lazio, armed with expensive and fast new signings on both flanks tore them apart! 
The slightly more progressive tactics had led to the better form in the back half of the previous season…just not against the big teams!
The other two results weren’t hubris - a bad selection against Juventus, yes - but Verdi had learned his lesson…it just wasn’t enough to make a difference.

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Posted (edited)

The Night is Always Darkest Just Before the Dawn

Knock Knock

 

It was the day after the draw at Cittadalla and Verdi was going through his emails after training when he heard a knock on his office door. Verdi looked up from his laptop, slightly annoyed at the distraction as he was really looking forward to heading home.  In came the young Spanish attacking midfielder Roberto Garcia. Inwardly, Verdi groaned - he hadn’t used the young man much in the previous month, and he was worried Garcia was going to be moaning about it - but Verdi asked what he could do for him.

 

Instead of complaining, Garcia went on for a minute about how even though the results were poor, the club had a good group of guys and he was sure things would turn around. Between his rambling and the spotty Italian which would sometimes fall back into Spanish - usually understandable, but confusing - Verdi was wondering where this was going.  Then Garcia paused, and looked him right in the eye with a strange but warm intensity.

 

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“And so…I have been thinking lately, and I remember this phrase - the night is always darkest just before the dawn,” Garcia said with practiced clarity. “We all believe in you boss, have a good night!  See you tomorrow morning!”

With that, he walked out, closing the door softly behind him.

 

Did I just get a motivational speech from an eighteen year old? He laughed and shook his head with a bemused smile.  The kid was earnest, and it seemed like he’d just needed to share what he’d been thinking about. 

 

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After a bleak September, the fixture list was much kinder in October.  Though Bologna and Real San Sebastián away would both be tough, Livorno could expect to be in every game and hopefully win several of them - if they could get their spirits up and play to their potential.

 

Parma tended to give Livorno trouble, but Livorno’s record against them was good. Dukla Prague were expected to be the whipping boys of EURO Cup Group D, so Verdi could hope for three points with a heavily rotated side. Bologna away could be a tough game and after that they’d have an international break that would allow most of the squad to finally catch their breath. 

 

A figurative and possibly literal fist fight awaited Livorno on the other side of the break with a trip to political rivals Verona. The month would be closed out with a European clash in Spain and a trip to Sampdoria. Verdi really hoped they could win two or three of the league games to get 6 or more points to arrest their fall, as well as beat Dulka and fight hard against Real San Sebastián in the EURO Cup.

 

With two games a week other than the international break, Verdi would be forced to rotate - hopefully better than he had before.  He would use the easy game against Dulka to give a lot of squad players a start, but wanted to field his best side against Real San Sebastian, so more careful rotation would have to be considered.  He now had more players that could recover and play two full games in a row, but there were still key players - like Piccinocchi - who didn’t recover as well and could be prone to injury if not given enough rest time.

 

The big question in Verdi’s mind was whether Livorno had regressed or if their poor performances were due to fatigue and a tough schedule. October would almost certainly answer that question…

The Games

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Parma were not a side that struck fear into Verdi’s heart, but they could certainly beat a team like Livorno that was low on confidence and tired from a lot of tough games. Parma had also started the year fairly well and could prove tough opponents.

 

Tactics

They played a counter attacking 4-2-3-1 that could do damage, Verdi sent out the 5-2-1-2

 

Rotation

Galves was still to be forced into action on the right as Farago recovered, while Lees-Melou came in for a tired Ranocchia, who’d played in three straight games, in the defensive center midfield role.  Bogdan replaced Bani in the right centerback position - getting the nod over Casporadossi as Bodgan would more aggressively stifle Parma counters.

 

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This was just what Livorno needed to put a tough September behind them.

 

They were the better side in the first half and were ahead through a fantastic solo Raspadori goal in the 33rd minute only for a defensive lapse to let Parma in just before halftime.  The second half was all Livorono. Less than ten minutes after the restart, center back Carboni restored Livorno’s lead with a far post header from a corner.

Attacking midfielder Palumbo showed why Verdi had started using him in a more advanced role when Tripadelli found him bursting through Parma’s defense for a simple, near post finish in the 65th minute. Raspadori then truly put the game to bed two minutes later after being found from deep by Piccinocchi. Some rotation options got some game time and In the closing stages, Raspadori completed his hat-trick on the counter.

 

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The media took notice that Livorno’s bad run of form was over…or at least on pause.

 

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5-1 flattered Livorno, but it was still a comfortable victory. 

 

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Dulka Prague weren’t expected to be able to do much in the EURO Cup, and Livorno were comfortable favorites at home.  Verdi expected a win.

 

Tactics

Verdi sent out the 3-4-1-2 against Dukla’s 4-1-4-1.  Verdi wanted to attack early, and put the game to bed before any nerves could set in.

 

Rotation

After very successfully rotating away to Zenit, Verdi would do the same at home against Dulka Prague. Among the players to get a rare start, Verdi hoped young forward Macedo would recreate his magic from St Petersburg, this time in the advanced role as Raspadori given a rest.  Wingback Farago recovered enough from injury to play, giving an exhausted Galves a rest and Chavarria replaced Tripadelli on the other side.  Aspiring motivational speaker Gracia came in for Palumbo in attacking midfield and Capradossi came into the team to rest Carboni.

 

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Macedo enjoyed another romp in the EURO Cup, once again scoring two and setting up his partner Moreo in between - which ended the veterans’ “goal drought.” Verdi didn’t tend to care about such things when Moreo contributed so much, and Palumbo was the secondary goal threat after Raspadori, but if that goal could help loosen him up so he could score more…

 

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Just another MOTM performance from the young man….

 

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It was a comfortable victory, out of sight before anyone could even start to worry.

 

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Livorno traveled to Bologna hoping to keep up their good run of form. Bologna’s form had been patchy in the 2023 calendar year, but they were a good side and were considered favorites at home. Livorno had drawn 1-1 in the same fixture the year before when Bologna was in the top four and Livorno feared relegation, but had won the reverse fixture. Verdi felt like his team could come away with a draw or better, though a loss wouldn’t surprise him either.

 

Tactics

Bologna liked to control possession with their 4-2-3-1, and Verdi was torn between fielding a 5-3-2 to combat it, or the more progressive 5-2-1-2. In the end, the stats showed that Bologna’s defense was vulnerable, so he went with the 5-2-1-2.

 

Rotation

With so many first team players rested midweek - or pulled early against Dulka - and an international break after the game, Verdi was able to play his best 11.

 

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Everybody expected a close contest, but instead a clinical Livorno came away with a 3-0 win. Moreo, recovering from his “goal drought” scored his second in two games after twenty minutes to send Livorno on their way. Bologna began to push then, and about ten minutes later Verdi dropped his side into a 5-3-2 to counteract Bologna overloading the flanks - with Palumbo dropping into the left sided mezzala role and freeing up Piccinocchi to fully help protect the right side. Though this gave Bologna more territory to work with and made it easier for them to build up, they weren’t able to get close to goal, and when they did Livorno were in good defensive positions.

 

Livorno were enjoying one of their rare spells of possession in Bologna’s half when Palumbo caught their keeper napping with a snap shot from 22 meters. Bologna upped the pressure, but left themselves open to the counter. Livorno had a few chances to extend the lead before Raspadori burst past the Bologna backline to receive a pass from deep in Livorno’s half to make the scoreline a bit of a rout - even if it wasn’t in reality.

 

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Clinical finishing from Livorno and a lack of clear cut chances from Bologna made for a scoreline that was not reflected in the xG. It could have easily been a draw on another day, but instead Livorno traveled home with their third win in a row, and their second in the league.

With the result, Livorno shot from 13th in the league to 8th.

 

International Break

An international break gave most of the squad some time to rest from a brutal stretch of games. Only Palumbo played any part in games during the break as he played for the Italy U23.  Raspadori’s form had earned him a call up to the Italy squad though he didn’t see the field. The rest of the squad spent their time training hard - getting some extra physical work in as well as attacking set pieces, along with attacking shapes, movement and finishing.

 

Happily, everyone returned fresh from the break with Palumbo only used sparingly. Everyone was rearing to get back on the pitch after two good games in the league.

 

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Following the break, it was time to reignite the political rivalry with a trip to Verona to kick the bees nest that is the Hellas Verona ultras. Livorno won the series by a combined score of 5-0 the previous season. The game in Verona, though it ended 3-0 to Livorno, was actually a very close game with the visitors relying on clinical finishing - much like the Livorno’s recent game against Bologna. Verdi was ready for a tough game, even if Verona’s form to start the season had been poor.

 

Tactics

Verona played an unusual 5-2-2-1 that made Livorno’s central overload look mild in comparison. Verdi was tempted to use the 3-4-1-2 but was worried about Verona’s two attacking midfielders getting into the channels behind the wingers, so he went with the 5-2-1-2.

 

Rotation

CM Piccinocchi was given the day off to keep him fresh for the midweek clash with Real San Sebastian, with determined newcomer Crociata coming in to replace him.  Strong and aggressive Bodgan was also given a start over Carboni, with Verona’s solo striker being a strong player that could cause problems.  Otherwise, it was Verdi’s first choice 11 for this game.

 

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The first 15 mins were back and forth, with Verona slightly on top. Verdi then made a crucial tactical change that changed the tide of the game.

 

He noticed that Moreo wasn’t getting involved enough, and neither was Palumbo, leaving Raspadori isolated up top. Seeing Verona’s back 3 easily picking up runners and managing to maintain an extra man, Verdi told Moreo to remain high and attack the space between the center backs, while Palumbo would drop deeper to help against the four in Verona’s midfield.

 

From there, Livorno took control. They had a few chances before Moreo received the ball in a pocket of space between the Verona center and left defenders before turning and playing in Raspadori to put Livorno ahead after 33 minutes. Verona got one back, their right wingback squeezing one under Mazzini early in the second half, but Bogdan restored the lead from a corner and Piccinocchi, of all people, who’d come on as a sub, ran almost the length of the pitch on the counter before smashing home an insurance goal in the 90th minute.

 

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Livorno were the better team, but only marginally.

 

Think of the Children for a Moment….

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While the senior squad may have fallen hard to Lazio earlier in the season, the U20s got some semblance of revenge in the U20 Cup.  It was a small revenge, but Verdi enjoyed it anyway.

 

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While Dulka Prague had the sense of a preseason friendly and the trip to Zenit had been hard to enjoy in the midst of Livorno’s tough run, this finally felt like a proper European night! Livorno traveled to Spain to face a Real San Sebastian side that had started the season strongly and were sitting in 3rd place in La Liga. They had also dismantled both Zenit and Prague in the EURO Cup, though the same could be said of Livorno. The odds were against Livorno - but only slightly. Verdi hoped to give them a good game, but wouldn’t be disappointed if they lost.

 

Tactics

Going up against a 4-3-3, Verdi decided on the 5-2-1-2 to disrupt their build up as well as play on the front foot.

 

Rotation

RCM Piccinocchi returned to the side in the calliero role and Carboni would take his usual spot in the center of defence over Bogdan.  Last but not least, EURO Cup specialist Macedo replaced Moreo in the deep forward position after the later had run himself into the ground against Verona.

 

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Livorno had no business losing this game. 

 

Right wingback Farago scored with less than a minute with a wonderfully worked goal that involved seemingly the whole side, and Livorno looked set for a famous away win.  A two minute period just after the half hour mark, however, turned the game on its head.  Real San Sebastian equalized off a free kick then went ahead off a corner with only a minute separating. It was a kick in the teeth, but with Livorno playing better football, and with Livorno usually excellent at defending set pieces, Verdi remained confident in getting something out of the game.  But nothing materialized, even if Livorno generally were the better team.  Then, in the 78th minute, another free kick saw the home side score again.  Livorno got a consolation through another beautifully worked goal that saw Garcia score his first for the club in the 92nd minute, but it was too little too late.

 

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Though the xG showed an even game, both of the home side’s major jumps in xG - both of which led to goals - were off of set-pieces.  Two uncharacteristic lapses and then a perfect delivery for the third sunk Livorno’s hope of getting anything out of their trip to Basque Country.

 

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The last league game of October saw Livorno travel inland to Genoa to play Sampdoria.  Though they’d only narrowly avoided relegation the season before, Sampdoria had started this season in decent form and were even favored to beat Livorno. If they’d been on a week’s rest, Verdi would be looking for a win here, but with the fatigue in the squad, he expected a tough match.

 

Tactics

4-2-3-1 again from the opposition, so Verdi would go with a 5-2-1-2. He was prepared to push up the wingbacks if Sampdoria sat back the way they had in their meetings before though.

 

Rotation

This game came on a Monday, giving the squad three full days to recover after their Thursday trip to Spain.  This, along with knowing there was a five day rest after the game, meant that Verdi didn’t rotate too much.  Bogdan came in on the right of defense to give Gozzi a rest, and Lees-Melou came in for Rannocchia in the holding center mid role.

 

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A dull and tiring game, as they tended to be against Sampdoria. Neither side got much going. The less said about it the better.

 

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The combined xG didn't break 1 until late in the game when both sides started to do a bit of looking for a winner.

 

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Still, the game meant that Livorno didn’t lose in the league in October and were on a 5 game unbeaten streak after losing three of their first four.

Summary

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It was almost an exact opposite month compared to September. Instead of being soundly beaten in three and drawing one in the league and winning in the EURO Cup, Livorno soundly beat three teams and drew once, while losing in the EURO Cup - though of course they did beat Dulka as well. The club simply seemed to come alive putting 5 past Parma and 3 past Bologna and Verona to erase their negative goal difference of -4 and get to +5.

 

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More importantly, their form saw them shoot up the table, improving from 16th to 8th. It took them away from the relegation places and back into contention for Europe - level on points with Milan, Napoli, and Lazio above them, and only one behind Cagliari who were in surprisingly good form and sitting in fourth. Newly promoted Empoli were also looking like the 23/24 version of Livorno and sitting in 9th.

 

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A clean sweep of the goal of the month for Livorno! Piccinocchi’s goal against Verona to kill off the game was a fantastic goal, and the others were also great.

 

Captain Carboni

Verdi had to appreciate his captain at the end of the month, not only for his solid performances on the field, but for his leadership in the locker room. Several players began to moan about something or other, but when Verdi asked his young captain to help out, the concerns were dropped, almost without fail.

 

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The season’s stats had already recovered by the end of October. They were still below average in shots faced and shots taken, but were clinical going forward and solid at the back on average. The question was whether they could keep this run of form going. With the team clicking and banging in goals, and the schedule for November looking similar to October’s, there was no reason they couldn’t.

 

UP NEXT - You Miss 100% of the Shots You Don't Take

Edited by 13th Man
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Much better results. I like that you rotate formations as well as players.

That is something I want to do in the future, when I am less of a risk for relegation.

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16 minutes ago, Hootieleece said:

Much better results. I like that you rotate formations as well as players.

That is something I want to do in the future, when I am less of a risk for relegation.

Yeah, Verdi likes to switch the shape a bit so they can play the largely the same way but attack or defend different spaces.

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9 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Much better month there! Are you looking good to qualify from the group in Europe as well? 

 

3 minutes ago, SixPointer said:

That month was more like it! Rather unfortunate in Europe! But shows you can mix it with them! 

Much much better! It just about washed the bitter taste of September out…Though those three league losses in a row certainly served to refocus Verdi and remind him that he needed to be at his best to keep Livorno fighting for Europe.

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Posted (edited)

You Miss 100% of the Shots You Don't Take

[This years’ theme? Motivational and self-help quotes to go along with the Finding Myself in Tuscany vibe. Now you can read about tactics, a pretend football story, team building and all that and learn how to think positive and be your best self! You’re welcome!]

 

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The mood on the training ground was relaxed, the balance in the team was good, and the new signings were starting to gel with their teammates. An excellent October had banished the bad vibrations of September, and Livorno were back in the kind of form that had carried them to a 5th placed finish the year before. They started the month in 8th place and Verdi hoped they would be there or thereabouts come December, but he was hoping for even better.

 

Like October, the November fixture list was reasonable, starting with a visit from a decent side in Cagliari before a chance to get some revenge against Real San Sebastián midweek. Roma away would be the challenge of the month, but that was followed by an international break before playing Torino and Zenit at home in quick succession to close out the month.

The Games

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Cagliari taught Verdi a harsh lesson in this fixture the year before, coming back from a goal down and then getting two more goals on the counter as Verdi tried to get the lead back. The Sardinian side also had started the year well and while their form had dipped a bit, they came into the game in fourth place.

 

Tactic

Cagliari played a counter attacking 4-2-3-1, and Verdi would face it with his standard 5-2-1-2. The year before he’d been baited into attacking them too much, and Cagliari had scored three unanswered after Livorno’s opener. Verdi wouldn’t fall into that trap again…

 

Rotation

Without a full week's rest since the Sampdoria game, with the EURO Cup game against Real San Sebastián coming midweek, and with the league form so much improved, Verdi decided to rest a few players. He accepted that it might lose Livorno a point or two, but it would be worth it to hopefully take control of EURO Group D and, possibly, avoid a tough draw in the first knockout round.

 

This was a heavily rotated side, with five changes to the best 11.  Capradossi came in on the right of the defense with Bani moving to the center and Carboni to the left to give Gozzi a day off.  Chavarria replaced Tripadelli on the left, and Lees-Melou came in for Piccinocchi as a the right sided CM. Garcia replaced Palumbo and Macedo came in for Moreo in the attacking midfield and deep forward position respectively. Farago would start on the right, though Verdi planned to sub him after 60 minutes or so if all went according to plan.

 

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The game was shaping up much like the Sampdoria game at the half. Cagliari wanted to pull Livorno onto them so they could counter, and Verdi resisted the urge to play into their hands. He remained patient, trying to keep faith in his players to find a way through. It led to a pretty dire first half.

 

Macedo, unfortunately, was dissapointing and Verdi ended up subbing him off for Moreo at halftime. Things got better after that, as Moreo held up the ball so effectively and allowed Livorno to progress up the field with more control. Still, it took until the 58th minute for Livorno to find a breakthrough through a darting run to the six yard box from young attacking midfielder Garcia. Things got even better when, ten minutes later, Cagliari had a man sent off for a two footed lunge. However, Livorno got complacent, and Cagliari struck back after 79 minutes. Verdi was sure then that they’d let the points slip through their fingers, but then Garcia popped up again. He’d spurned multiple chances to get a second, but in the 87th minute, he produced a great finish under pressure. Armando Picchi erupted and Verdi’s double fist pump was filled with relief. 

 

Finally, on the third time of asking, Carboni, Farago, and Tripadelli got one over their former employers - though Tripadelli watched from the bench.

 

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Verdi went up to Garcia after the game and shook his hand, “You were superb in front of goal today! Keep it up!”

 

“Thanks boss,” Garcia nodded thoughtfully. “I know I missed a few chances, but then I thought of the quote - You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. It just kept inspiring me, you know?”

 

Verdi nodded, once again taken aback by the young man's earnestness but staying not to show it, “Yes.”

 

“Right! Thanks boss, it means a lot for you to go out of your way like that! See you in training tomorrow!”

 

The next day would be their day off, but Verdi chose not to correct him.

 

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Verdi had a chip on his shoulder regarding this game. He was still in disbelief that Livorno had lost at Real San Sebastián, and he really wanted to set the record straight in this game. It helped that the visitor’s form had fallen off a cliff and they hadn’t won a game since beating Livorno. In fact, Livorno found themselves surprising favorites in this game. Verdi felt confident but was fearful of Real San Sebastián stealing a result again.

 

Tactics

Verdi would use the 5-2-1-2 which had been so effective in Basque Country. They’d also spent a decent amount of time in training on defending set pieces.

 

Rotation

Verdi played close to his first 11 in this game, despite the away game to Roma to come at the weekend. Verdi saw a chance to all but ensure qualification out of EURO Group D with a win in this game. It would also give them control of the group, and hopefully secure a bye in the first knockout round.

 

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Everything went according to plan. Verdi realized early in the game that Real San Sebastián had only average pace up top, and told his defenders to push as high up the pitch as possible. It worked excellently, forcing Real to work for every inch of the pitch, forcing them to commit men forward and leaving themselves vulnerable in transition.  

 

Diminutive Raspadori managed to score a rare header [jumping reach = 7] to open the scoring midway through the first half and big Moreo, more predictably, scored with another header after 53 minutes. Livorno kept Real San Sebastián very quiet, defended well, and took their chances. 

 

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The xG shows that possession isn’t everything, with Real second best throughout despite enjoying 57% possession. Livorno didn’t allow much of anything until one, last minute chance that would have only been a consolation.

 

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After an excellent win against Real San Sebastián, a tired but confident Livorno headed to Rome. Roma and Livorno had drawn both their games the previous year, and unlike the other “big teams” Livorno had shut down Roma rather than just hung on for dear life. Verdi was hoping to draw again in Rome, but wouldn’t be overly disappointed with a loss.

 

Tactics

Roma ran a bottom heavy 4-2-1-3 (or a 4-3-3 with two defensive midfielders rather than one). With their defensive shape and their lack of clinical finishing (Roma were very much in the “aggressive, wasteful” category with an emphasis on the latter), Verdi decided to be slightly more progressive in this game, knowing that Roma would likely need several good chances to score. While Verdi sent out the cautious 5-3-2, he pushed his lines higher than he normally did against big teams, and would try to stop Roma from building from the back - or at least make it harder.

 

Rotation

With an international break following this game,  and Roma being tough opponents,Verdi played his best 11, even if he knew some players would need subs before the game was done.

 

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It was a great win, with Livorno fighting hard until the end, even as their legs gave out by the end. Raspadori showed his quality once again, scoring his second header in as many games, and smashed in his second of the game off a lofted ball on the volley. Roma swarmed forward, and Livorno defended bravely, not allowing any clear chances. They began to fade as the game wore on, forcing Verdi to sub out Palumbo on the left of the center midfield trio and Tripadelli. Though capable backups, the gap between Crociata and Chavarria and the starters was laid bare when, ten minutes later Roma pulled one back by attacking down the left flank. It was a nervy end, but Livorno held firm to earn all three points. 

 

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The xG shows how it was Raspadori’s quality - along with solid team defending - that earned Livorno the points. Now that he’d proven he wasn’t just a one season wonder, some big Serie A clubs were starting to look into him - including Roma. Verdi could understand why, with Roma clearly lacking the kind of cutting edge that Raspadori provided.

 

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The media took note of Livorno’s great away win.

 

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The win extended the unbeaten streak to seven.

 

International Break

Once again only Palumbo and Raspadori headed off for the international break, but this time Raspadori made the field.

 

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Unfortunately, Raspadori then injured himself getting his second cap a few days later, leaving him out for 3-4 weeks.

 

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It wasn’t a great time to lose a starter, much less such a crucial one, because a brutal week followed the international break.

 

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Three games in six days, with a trip to Milan at the end of it! Verdi was furious with the league for not adjusting the schedule so that the AC Milan game could be on Sunday, but his pleas fell on deaf ears and he had no choice but to carry on.

 

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Verdi would have expected a win at home against lower/mid table Torino, but with Livorno’s star striker out, he felt less confident. Still, he hoped they’d have enough about them to see off the visitors.

 

Tactics

It would be the same old 4-2-3-1 against the same old 5-2-1-2.

 

Rotation

Verdi had hoped to play his strongest 11 in this match, then play the rotated squad in the EUROs before playing his best 11 again against Milan at the end of the week. Raspadori’s injury changed that, if only slightly, forcing Macedo into action in the advanced forward role.

 

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Livorno’s excellent first half performance won them all three points. In the 19th minute, Palumbo scored from the spot after a handball by a Torino defender in the box. Macedo, who’d played well overall, stepped up to fill in the gap left by Raspadori in first half stoppage time with a very Raspadori like burst between the center backs to run onto a through all and finish cooly past the onrushing keeper.

 

Torino scored straight from the second half kickoff, and Verdi told his team in no uncertain terms that he expected better as they trudged back into position to kick off. Happily, the goal was not a sign of things to come, and Livorno were mostly comfortable other than when wingback Farago was forced to make a fine block to deny the Torino left winger late on.

 

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Livorno did just enough to win, though it had to be said that the Torino penalty was unlucky for the visitors.

 

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The streak in the league was 8!

 

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The trip to Zenit had been the one bright spot in September, with Livorno winning 5-3 in a crazy game. While Zenit were a team filled with many recognizable names, though it must be said that they were mostly past it players, or ones who’d fallen short of their potential - ex. Kepa in goal. Still, they’d been disappointing in the EURO Cup, with their only win coming against Dulka at home, with the Czech side even beating them in Prague.

 

Tactics

Zenit came out in a 5-3-2 and Verdi decided to push into a 3-4-1-2 and hope to do as much damage as they’d done in St Petersburg.

 

Rotation

This was an almost entirely rotated side considering the tiny amount of time between matches and the big game against AC Milan at the weekend - not to mention that Livorno had comfortably dispatched Zenit away with a rotated side.  Only Carboni survived from the best 11 - though with Raspadori out, Macedo was the stand in first choice striker.  As it was, all the squad players would get a start and Verdi hoped it would be enough against a Zenit side that had been poor in the EURO Cup so far that season. Old friend Pallecchi got a rare start in the deeper forward role.

 

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EURO Man Macedo once again carried the day, scoring twice in the first half, the first coming after only four minutes. Pallecchi, making a rare appearance, added a third just before the break. While Zenit managed to pull one back five minutes into the second half, it didn’t spark a comeback, and Bodgan reestablished Livorno’s 3 goal lead off a corner.

 

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Zenit earned their goal but nothing else, and Livorno’s squad players certainly deserved their win.

Summary

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Five games, five wins - Livorno’s first perfect month since their first season under Verdi and they pulverized Serie C in February of 2021. Considering they were now in Serie A, playing twice a week, in Europe, and the schedule featured the team that beat out Livorno for the Champions League spot the previous season, the 100% record felt like a much bigger accomplishment.  They scored 12 goals and only allowed four in, beating the teams they were supposed to and one that they weren’t in Roma - Roma away no less. If October had been a bounce back month after a tough September, November established Livorno as a good Serie A team and that was after playing all but two of the teams in the top half (AC Milan and Napoli).

 

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The top of the table was much as one would expect - other than Livorno! - but the bottom of the table was a different story. Though newly promoted Frosinone were struggling, Cittadella and Empoli were giving good accounts of themselves. Instead, two usually solid to good midtable clubs in Bologna and Udinese found themselves in the relegation zone. For his part, Verdi selfishly hoped that Udinese’s form didn’t improve - if they were relegated then he figured it might just make Udinese willing to sell Palumbo for less and the young man might agree to a lower salary to stay in Serie A. 

 

 

The EURO Cup

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Things were even better in the EURO Cup, with Livorno qualifying for the knockout rounds only needing to beat Dukla to ensure 1st place. Verdi had figured it would be a three way race for the top spots, but Zenit had been disappointing. The only question was, and had been, whether Livorno or Real San Sebastián would come in first and earn a bye in the first knockout round.

 

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Livorno remained very efficient both defending and going forward. Livorno allowed more shots than average, but they tended to be half chances at best. On the other end, Livorno’s attack, led by Raspadori tended to finish their chances as well as anyone, scoring far more than their xG.

 

Building from the Back

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With several big clubs (including Juventus) looking into the 22/23 Serie A Goalkeeper of the year, Verdi decided to once again give Mazzini a new contract.  It was a massive raise - from €10k/w to €35.5k/w, but it was more than reasonable for a dependable player between the sticks - Mazzini was going to be key to any success Livorno would have and €35.5k/w was absolutely reasonable for a very good player.

Raspadori was becoming a worry on the opposite end of the pitch.  Some big clubs were now truly circling.  However, he’d signed a 5 year contract when signing in the summer of 2022, meaning Verdi still had several seasons where he held the cards.  While a massive payday might be great, Verdi knew he wouldn’t attract a player of Raspadori’s quality easily.  And certainly not midseason.

 

Don’t Mind if I Do

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The board came to Verdi out of the blue with an offer to make a large increase to the weekly wage budget. It wasn’t huge, but it would be enough to sign another good player and/or allow Verdi to sign current players to more appropriate, Serie A level contracts.

 

UP NEXT - We Too Can Shine Our Own Light

Edited by 13th Man
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What a great set of results there!

Getting 1st spot in the Europa is crucial as it allows you to skip a round and also possibly get a home draw in the one-legged second knockouts - I think for my side it was the main reason we could go all the way to the semis.

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We Too Can Shine Our Own Light

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After a tough start to the season, Livorno entered December in excellent form, losing only one game - in Europe away to Real San Sebastián - since September. That record was in serious danger on the second day of December when Livorno traveled to face AC Milan, but the remaining three games before the winter break were all very winnable. Empoli had bounced right back from relegation and were having a decent season. Dulka Prague should be easy enough, but it was also fairly high stakes, with 1st place in the EURO group Livorno’s to lose if they didn’t get all three points. Finally, a trip to face bottom side Frisonone who were the only of the three promoted sides that was struggling.

 

Livorno would be in the unusual position of being favorites in three out of their four games, though they were very much expected to lose against defending champions AC Milan. Still, they had every chance to solidify their position in the European spots as the 2023 calendar year came to a close.

The Games

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After games on Monday and Thursday, Livorno had to travel to Milan on only one day’s rest. Verdi had given most of the starters the day off against Zenit, so fatigue wouldn’t be a huge factor, but Verdi was still annoyed - especially as he hadn’t been able to pull Carboni in the Zenit game as he’d hoped. AC Milan were one of only two teams to do the double over Livorno the previous season - the other being Atalanta - and they’d done so comfortably. Milan hadn’t started the year in great form, and entered the game three points behind Livorno, but Verdi was fully expecting Livorno’s eight game unbeaten streak to end, especially with Raspadori still out.

 

Tactic

AC Milan’s creative and pacey 4-2-3-1 lined up well against Livorno, even in their cautious 5-3-2. Verdi feared what might happen if he actually tried to go punch for punch, so the 5-3-2 remained his best option.

 

Rotation

Raspadori was still out, but otherwise Verdi fielded his first 11.

 

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Livorno generally defended well, but AC Milan were clinical with their chances. AC Milan fully deserved their win, but the emphasized “generally” in the last sentence was because Livorno made two glaring defensive errors that led directly to both goals. Left center back Gozzi didn’t follow his mark for the first goal, allowing a far post “tap in” (it was on the volley so still a decent finish) after Milan got in behind wingback Farago to put a cross in. With only a half hour gone, Verdi didn’t go chasing the game. 

 

Livorno worked hard to stay in the game, and after 75 minutes, Verdi switched to the 5-2-1-2 to see if they couldn’t nick an equalizer. Livorno looked surprisingly good for a spell, but then Carboni completely took the wrong line in going for a header, all but opening the door and letting AC Milan in for their second. 

 

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Livorno were outplayed and could have no complaints.

 

The mood was a jut down in the locker room after the game - with Livorno again falling easily to another big side - but Verdi told them he couldn’t fault their effort (though he would criticize Carboni later, one on one).

 

After a pause, Roberto Garcia spoke up.

 

“It was a tough loss boys,” he says solemnly, “but we’ll rise again. The rising sun is a daily reminder that we too can rise from the darkness, and that we too can shine our own light. We’ll bounce back, we have before already!” 

 

There were many heads nodding in the room, and though Verdi and Moreo did make eye contact to exchange wry smiles…

 

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Empoli was a team yo-yoing between Serie A and B - they’d earned promotion in 20/21, suffered relegation in 21/22, and earned promotion again in 22/23. Their ups and downs meant that Livorno missed them on their way up - but Verdi happily picked off key player Moreo from them on a free when they were last relegated. Empoli had started this season well, and were in 12th heading into this game. They weren’t a team that Verdi feared, but it was not a guaranteed three points at home - or even one.

 

Tactics

Empoli played a deep, counter-attacking 4-2-3-1, Verdi went with the 5-2-1-2 and expected to battle for the middle.

 

Rotation

With a reasonably easy game midweek, Verdi fielded his first 11, happily welcoming Raspadori back from injury.

 

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It was a dull game overall, Livorno were a bit off and Empoli played and defended well. Raspadori wasn't fully fit or sharp, and he was largely feeding on scraps anyway. Livorno kept the ball well but didn’t have any cutting edge.

 

Finally, a nice passing move found former Empoli employee Moreo near the edge of the box, he drove into the box just enough to force the keeper out, then drilled a shot past him. 

 

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Verdi was a bit surprised that Empoli had the better xG. They’d had a few opportunities, but he’d felt Livorno had controlled the game. It was true, though, that the home side struggled to create good chances!

 

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This was an important game, and Verdi was caught between playing a strong squad and keeping players fresh for the weekend game. With Livorno and Real San Sebastián tied on points, but with Livorno having a better goal difference and head-to-head, a win would guarantee a bye in the first knockout round. With how poorly Zenit were playing, however, a draw or loss would likely mean that Real would end the group stage in first place. Still, Dulka hadn’t given Livorno any trouble at home, and though things would surely be tougher in Prague, Verdi felt the squad players had enough about them to win.

 

Tactic

Despite Dulka’s 4-2-3-1, Verdi went with the 3-4-1-2, figuring they would sit deep. 

 

Rotation

Almost a complete rotation, with only Bani and Gozzi at the back with squad players making up the rest.

 

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EURO Man Macedo once again opened the scoring after only four minutes, but he then spurned a handful of chances to put the game to bed. The Prague manager must have put on a great half time team talk about pride or something, because Dulka scored only a minute into the second half, and then held firm. Finally, after seventy minutes, Verdi sent on Palumbo and Raspadori, who then went on a scoring spree. Raspadori sent in a curling cross from the left that Palumbo guided into the net with his head on 82 minutes. The attacking midfielder got his second in the 90th minute, and Raspadori got on the scoresheet himself deep in stoppage time.

They needed the win too, as Real crushed Zenit 3-1 in their game.

 

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Livorno had a good first half, and a poor second until Verdi threw in the starters, who took control of the game.

 

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This was huge! Livorno earned a first round bye, giving them a better chance of progressing deep into the competition.

 

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Like Empoli, Frisonone had spent the last few years yo-yoing between Serie A and B, and had also missed Livorno as they passed through Serie B. Unlike Empoli, however, they were struggling and propping up the table with the worst defense in the league - they had yet to win a game.

 

Tactic

With Frosinone playing a 5-2-3 (wide) Verdi considered going with the 3-4-1-2, but, away from home, still went with the 5-2-1-2 considering Frisonone’s wide overloads.

 

Rotation

Verdi was planning no rotation but then...

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Capradossi came in for Carboni in defense (Bogdan was also injured) and Macedo for Moreo up front.

 

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This was not a good game. Frisonone looked up for it while Livorno looked ready for the winter break. It wasn’t a tale of Frisonone parking the bus either, Livorno just weren’t sharp and Frisonone were. Verdi decided fairly early on to switch to the 3-4-1-2, but it was a simple moment of quality from Raspadori that won Livorno the game.

 

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Verdi was once again surprised by the xG, with Livorno mostly controlling the game. However, Livorno didn’t create many good chances, but he would have said Frisonone didn’t either…

Summary

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Though the AC Milan result was disappointing, Verdi still considered December a good month, even if the performances on the pitch were less than inspiring. Narrow wins against promoted sides sandwiching a strong win that looked headed for a draw wasn’t a sign of a top team, but they got the points and managed to move one space higher going into 2024, finishing the year in 4th.

 

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Inter Milan was beginning to pull away from Juventus, but the title was by no means secure. On the other side, Cittadella had dropped downwards into the relegation zone, but Udinese hadn’t been able to pull themselves out. 

 

EURO Cup

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Livorno beat out Real San Sebastián on goal difference and head-to-head record for first place in what turned out to be a pretty easy group. Verdi wasn’t complaining of course, and it had taken a good performance from Livorno to win the game against Real San Sebastián at Armando Picchi that effectively won them the group and a pass on having to play in the first knockout round.

 

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Livorno scored more than anyone in the group stages other than Tottenham, who also scored 20.

 

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Seven of those 20 were scored by the competition’s top scorer, EURO Man Macedo! Though he’d struggled against Real San Sebastián, he’d been excellent against Dulka and Zenit, and his goals were crucial in allowing Verdi to rotate the squad so much for the EURO games.

 

I Believe the Children Are Our Future

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It sounded like a so-so intake, but unlike the previous Director of Football (let go in the summer) the new one didn’t try to sugarcoat it. Verdi would wait to hear more, but it seemed as if there might be a center mid and a forward worth keeping track of, with previous “full-backs” being too defensively minded to plat as the wingback/wingers in his system, but too weak in the air to move to center back. Time would tell, of course!

 

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Livorno continued to be a team that was average in both xG for and against, yet scored more and let in far less than average. This likely had a lot to do with having two top quality players at either side of the pitch in Mazzini in goal, and Raspadori up front. It had to be said, though, that the side only looked a little less dangerous when Macedo was in for Raspadori!

 

Verdi entered a new year satisfied with his side’s results and general play, but hoping to do better against the big sides and, more generally, against the 4-2-3-1 that Livorno faced nearly week in week out. While he felt there was plenty of room for improvement, he was pleased that his tactic was successful enough that he could work on specific elements rather that worry about the whole thing!

 

UP NEXT (Probably) - Tactical Interlude: Opera Football and the 4-2-3-1

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1 hour ago, 13th Man said:

We Too Can Shine Our Own Light

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After a tough start to the season, Livorno entered December in excellent form, losing only one game - in Europe away to Real San Sebastián - since September. That record was in serious danger on the second day of December when Livorno traveled to face AC Milan, but the remaining three games before the winter break were all very winnable. Empoli had bounced right back from relegation and were having a decent season. Dulka Prague should be easy enough, but it was also fairly high stakes, with 1st place in the EURO group Livorno’s to lose if they didn’t get all three points. Finally, a trip to face bottom side Frisonone who were the only of the three promoted sides that was struggling.

 

Livorno would be in the unusual position of being favorites in three out of their four games, though they were very much expected to lose against defending champions AC Milan. Still, they had every chance to solidify their position in the European spots as the 2023 calendar year came to a close.

The Games

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After games on Monday and Thursday, Livorno had to travel to Milan on only one day’s rest. Verdi had given most of the starters the day off against Zenit, so fatigue wouldn’t be a huge factor, but Verdi was still annoyed - especially as he hadn’t been able to pull Carboni in the Zenit game as he’d hoped. AC Milan were one of only two teams to do the double over Livorno the previous season - the other being Atalanta - and they’d done so comfortably. Milan hadn’t started the year in great form, and entered the game three points behind Livorno, but Verdi was fully expecting Livorno’s eight game unbeaten streak to end, especially with Raspadori still out.

 

Tactic

AC Milan’s creative and pacey 4-2-3-1 lined up well against Livorno, even in their cautious 5-3-2. Verdi feared what might happen if he actually tried to go punch for punch, so the 5-3-2 remained his best option.

 

Rotation

Raspadori was still out, but otherwise Verdi fielded his first 11.

 

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Livorno generally defended well, but AC Milan were clinical with their chances. AC Milan fully deserved their win, but the emphasized “generally” in the last sentence was because Livorno made two glaring defensive errors that led directly to both goals. Left center back Gozzi didn’t follow his mark for the first goal, allowing a far post “tap in” (it was on the volley so still a decent finish) after Milan got in behind wingback Farago to put a cross in. With only a half hour gone, Verdi didn’t go chasing the game. 

 

Livorno worked hard to stay in the game, and after 75 minutes, Verdi switched to the 5-2-1-2 to see if they couldn’t nick an equalizer. Livorno looked surprisingly good for a spell, but then Carboni completely took the wrong line in going for a header, all but opening the door and letting AC Milan in for their second. 

 

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Livorno were outplayed and could have no complaints.

 

The mood was a jut down in the locker room after the game - with Livorno again falling easily to another big side - but Verdi told them he couldn’t fault their effort (though he would criticize Carboni later, one on one).

 

After a pause, Roberto Garcia spoke up.

 

“It was a tough loss boys,” he says solemnly, “but we’ll rise again. The rising sun is a daily reminder that we too can rise from the darkness, and that we too can shine our own light. We’ll bounce back, we have before already!” 

 

There were many heads nodding in the room, and though Verdi and Moreo did make eye contact to exchange wry smiles…

 

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Empoli was a team yo-yoing between Serie A and B - they’d earned promotion in 20/21, suffered relegation in 21/22, and earned promotion again in 22/23. Their ups and downs meant that Livorno missed them on their way up - but Verdi happily picked off key player Moreo from them on a free when they were last relegated. Empoli had started this season well, and were in 12th heading into this game. They weren’t a team that Verdi feared, but it was not a guaranteed three points at home - or even one.

 

Tactics

Empoli played a deep, counter-attacking 4-2-3-1, Verdi went with the 5-2-1-2 and expected to battle for the middle.

 

Rotation

With a reasonably easy game midweek, Verdi fielded his first 11, happily welcoming Raspadori back from injury.

 

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It was a dull game overall, Livorno were a bit off and Empoli played and defended well. Raspadori wasn't fully fit or sharp, and he was largely feeding on scraps anyway. Livorno kept the ball well but didn’t have any cutting edge.

 

Finally, a nice passing move found former Empoli employee Moreo near the edge of the box, he drove into the box just enough to force the keeper out, then drilled a shot past him. 

 

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Verdi was a bit surprised that Empoli had the better xG. They’d had a few opportunities, but he’d felt Livorno had controlled the game. It was true, though, that the home side struggled to create good chances!

 

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This was an important game, and Verdi was caught between playing a strong squad and keeping players fresh for the weekend game. With Livorno and Real San Sebastián tied on points, but with Livorno having a better goal difference and head-to-head, a win would guarantee a bye in the first knockout round. With how poorly Zenit were playing, however, a draw or loss would likely mean that Real would end the group stage in first place. Still, Dulka hadn’t given Livorno any trouble at home, and though things would surely be tougher in Prague, Verdi felt the squad players had enough about them to win.

 

Tactic

Despite Dulka’s 4-2-3-1, Verdi went with the 3-4-1-2, figuring they would sit deep. 

 

Rotation

Almost a complete rotation, with only Bani and Gozzi at the back with squad players making up the rest.

 

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EURO Man Macedo once again opened the scoring after only four minutes, but he then spurned a handful of chances to put the game to bed. The Prague manager must have put on a great half time team talk about pride or something, because Dulka scored only a minute into the second half, and then held firm. Finally, after seventy minutes, Verdi sent on Palumbo and Raspadori, who then went on a scoring spree. Raspadori sent in a curling cross from the left that Palumbo guided into the net with his head on 82 minutes. The attacking midfielder got his second in the 90th minute, and Raspadori got on the scoresheet himself deep in stoppage time.

They needed the win too, as Real crushed Zenit 3-1 in their game.

 

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Livorno had a good first half, and a poor second until Verdi threw in the starters, who took control of the game.

 

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This was huge! Livorno earned a first round bye, giving them a better chance of progressing deep into the competition.

 

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Like Empoli, Frisonone had spent the last few years yo-yoing between Serie A and B, and had also missed Livorno as they passed through Serie B. Unlike Empoli, however, they were struggling and propping up the table with the worst defense in the league - they had yet to win a game.

 

Tactic

With Frosinone playing a 5-2-3 (wide) Verdi considered going with the 3-4-1-2, but, away from home, still went with the 5-2-1-2 considering Frisonone’s wide overloads.

 

Rotation

Verdi was planning no rotation but then...

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Capradossi came in for Carboni in defense (Bogdan was also injured) and Macedo for Moreo up front.

 

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This was not a good game. Frisonone looked up for it while Livorno looked ready for the winter break. It wasn’t a tale of Frisonone parking the bus either, Livorno just weren’t sharp and Frisonone were. Verdi decided fairly early on to switch to the 3-4-1-2, but it was a simple moment of quality from Raspadori that won Livorno the game.

 

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Verdi was once again surprised by the xG, with Livorno mostly controlling the game. However, Livorno didn’t create many good chances, but he would have said Frisonone didn’t either…

Summary