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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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Rent is Due Every Day

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March would be an exciting month, with Livorno entering the knockout rounds of the EURO Cup - drawing RB Salzburg, which seemed a very beatable opponent.

 

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Otherwise, it was a pretty straightforward month of Serie A football, with a potentially tricky trip to Parma, a home game against struggling Bologna, a trip to political rivals Verona, and a visit from lower/mid table Sampdoria - though the Genoese team always seemed to give Livorno a lot of trouble.  There were no easy games, but every game was winnable.

 

Verdi was very much hoping to advance in Europe and keep hold of fourth in the league - both of which seemed doable with the relatively easy schedule.

The Games

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Livorno had a good record against Parma, winning and winning by a lot, but the scorelines had usually been tough on Parma. The reverse fixture had been a 5-1 thrashing that had purged the demons after a miserable start to the season, and Parma would surely be hoping to regain some pride in this game. Away from home, Verdi knew his side would be challenged.

 

Tactics

Verdi would start with the 5-2-1-2, but was ready to switch to his 3-4-1-2 or the new 5-2-2-1 if the spaces were available against Parma’s 4-2-3-1

 

Rotation

It wasn’t really “rotation” but Captain Carboni’s continuing viral illness meant Bodgan got the nod again on the right of defense while Bani filled in as the covering back.

 

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It wasn’t a great performance from Livorno but Parma also stopped them from playing their game. Verdi was a bit worried when Parma scored after 2 minutes with a back post cross, but when striker Moreo equalized only three minutes later he hoped Livorno would take control of the game from there. Instead, the rest of the game was poor. Verdi tried to tinker, but the 3-4-1-2 was too exposed on the flanks in transition, and the 5-2-2-1 made Livorno less incisive. I’m hindsight, Verdi should have probably just left the 5-2-1-2 and hoped for a moment of magic or good play rather than disrupting the team's rhythm.

 

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Livorno were the better team, but only just. Livorno had the better chances, but Parma had more. A disappointing but fair draw.

 

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Bologna were a team in crisis. They’d fallen from a Champions League contenter midway through the previous season to dangerously close to the relegation zone in 23/24.  They’d sacked their manager, but the new one had brought a super defensive style that had only worsened their results. 

 

Tactics

Whereas Verdi had previously respected Bologna, now he was planning on playing on the front foot and planned to attack Bologna’s reactive 4-1-4-1 with the full on Opera Football 3-4-1-2.

 

Rotation 

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Ranocchia came down with a virus like Carboni and would miss this game, along with the EURO Cup tie midweek. Lee’s-Melou would step into the covering midfield role in his place.

 

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It was a comfortable victory, but if Livorno had been clinical with their chances, it could have been a thrashing. Livorno dominated the game, and Bologna rarely made it out of their half. Palumbo opened the scoring after just three minutes with one of his wonderful snapshots from distance that caught the keeper by surprise. Verdi got a little nervous after that, with Livorno spurning a lot of good chances, but eventually their dominance paid off when Tripadelli scored with a rocket from 25 meters.

 

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Complete domination by Livorno, the heat map showing how the game could have been mistaken for a half-field offensive drill…

 

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[For whatever reason FM didn’t give me the normal pre-game ‘email’.  So we’re making do with the original announcement cause I’m a stickler for formatting!]

 

After a first round bye, Livorno re-entered the EURO Cup with a trip to Salzburg, Austria to play one of the Caffeine Bombs That Taste Like Battery Acid teams. Battery Acid was doing well in the Austrian league (2nd) and had ended up in the EURO Cup after coming in 3rd in a tough Champions League group before progressing past Dynamo Zagreb (with future Livorno midfielder Modric playing well in a losing effort). 

 

Tactics/Rotation

Verdi would give Salzburg respect in that he’d be playing his best available 11 (which included welcoming Carboni back into the side) but he would send out a progressive 5-2-1-2 to try to win the tie in the first match. Despite their “wings”, Livorno’s scouts told Verdi that the Battery Acid players lacked workrate and bravery, and Verdi tweaked his game plan to exploit that weakness. Verdi instructed his players to press more aggressively and get stuck into their tackles. If they went up by a goal he’d also have them start playing out of defense and force Salzburg to either concede possession or come out of their shells.

 

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It seemed like player after player was coming down with something! He wasn’t a starter, but Garcia was an important back-up to Palumbo in attacking midfield and would be missed.

 

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Just like against Bologna, the scoreline flattered Livorno’s opponent. Livorno scored twice in the first thirty minutes through Palumbo and Raspadori but could and should have scored at least one and maybe two more. Salzburg’s keeper, however, had a fantastic game, making a string of great saves to give Salzburg a (slim) chance of turning the tie around in Livorno.

 

While Verdi would have liked a bit more insurance, he was satisfied with the two away goals and felt comfortable enough to take some key players out early to keep them fresh for the weekend.

 

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Another dominant performance that only ended 2-0, but which Livorno didn’t allow the opponent to do much of anything.

 

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Coming right on the high of a successful European night in which Livorno put a foot in the next round, the EURO Cup draw came out...putting Livorno on a collision course with Lazio who’d beaten Shakhtar 3-0 at home while Livorno was beating Battery Acid Salzburg.  It was tremendously unlucky, though it was true that at the quarter final level there weren’t any easy teams.  Lazio had crushed Livorno twice earlier in the season, and also surely wouldn't take Livorno lightly like a foreign team might. Verdi didn’t feel good about their chances (assuming they could ride the 2-0 win into the quarters) and felt like he’d have to find another tactical masterstroke if Livorno had any hope of getting past the [cough] fascists [cough] Roman team and into the semis.

 

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After a successful midweek trip to Austria, Livorno headed back north to “fair” Verona to take on hated Hellas Verona. Though Livorno had beaten their far right rivals in all three meetings under Verdi, they were often tough games. Verdi hoped that his side's tired legs wouldn’t hinder them too much and that after his strategic subs his players would have enough in the tank.

 

Tactics

Verona favored a 5-2-2-1 with a very fast and physical forward (that Verdi had tried to sign on a free, but was glad he didn’t as that failure had led to the signing of Raspadori!). Verdi went with the 3-4-1-2 to pin their wingbacks deep. He also inverted the backline to have a stopper in the middle to try and mark their striker out of the game - instead of their usual shape of a cover back with two more aggressive backs on either side

 

Rotation

Verdi went with his best 11, though he expected to have to sub out tired legs in the second half.

 

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It was a grind but it was three points. Livorno was tired, and though they dominated possession, they lacked their killer instinct. Left winger Tripadelli, however, got the win through a 29th minute volley off a far post cross from right winger Farago - who was forced off a few minutes later with a pulled calf.

 

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Verdi was disappointed, he was planning on playing backup Galves in the EURO Cup, but now he’d be forced to play three games in a row.

He was, however, happy with the win and the three points in a game that Livorno were not at their best.

 

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Neither side created much, but Livorno controlled the game and took their chance when it came.

 

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[Once again, no pregame graphic! Don’t they (the 1s and 0s/code/whatever) know I have a format to keep up for my write up?]

 

Battery Acid Salzburg came to town midweek to try and dig themselves out of a 2-0 hole. With the way the first game went, Verdi felt confident of making it through.

 

Tactics/Rotation

Verdi made the calculated risk of playing a heavily rotated side. He felt that, at home against a team they’d dominated, his squad could manage to hold a two goal lead. 

Verdi made seven changes to the first 11, with only center back Carboni, attacking midfielder Palumbo, and striker Moreo surviving of the outfield players.

“We can’t rely on the first leg victory.  We got to keep going.  We got to give them everything we’ve got,” Carboni said in a soft but serious way,“Garcia [still out with a virus] sent me a meme this morning that said - “Success isn’t owned, it’s leased. Rent is due every day!” Come on boys, let’s go further than any Livorno team has gone in Europe!”

 

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The squad players did their job and got Livorno through to the quarter finals, winning the first European knockout tie in Livorno’s history.  Moreo’s experience and quality led him to open the scoring on the stroke of halftime, and though Salzburg equalized in the second half, Livorno were always in control. It was not a great performance by any means, but a draw was more than enough and a lot of players got game time, including recent arrival Kim Min-Wook who came on for Palumbo midway through the second half. The other novelty was center mid Ranocchia putting in a shift on the right wing after Galves began to tire (with first 11 Farago out injured).

 

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Salzburg got the equalizer after the Livorno defense switched off, but otherwise it was a comfortable game for Livorno.

 

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Their reward was a quarter final against rival Lazio. Livorno would get a chance at revenge, but it also gave Lazio the opportunity to rub salt in their wounds. Impartiality, Verdi guessed it would be the later, but was determined to do better than he had in either of his previous meetings that year.

 

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March would finish with a visit from Sampdoria, followed by an international break.  While Livorno were expected to win, Verdi still felt this game had ‘end of the month 1-1 draw’ written all over it. With all the rotation midweek he hoped his starters would have enough in the tank to get a win, but he wouldn’t be surprised at all if Sampdoria made life tough for them.

 

Tactics/Rotation

It would be the 5-2-1-2 against the 4-2-3-1 once again, with Verdi’s best available 11 after a great deal of midweek rotation. Galves would continue on the right for injured Farago.

 

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This game featured the most insane second half stoppage time that Verdi had ever experienced. The score was 2-1 until the 92nd minute, after which three goals were scored.

 

Before that, Livorno were in control with both strikers scoring good goals in the first twenty minutes. Though Sampdoria clawed one back to keep things interesting, Livorno were largely in control.

 

Then Raspadori scored in the 92nd minute to make it 3-1. Verdi was relieved to have insurance…more so when a miscommunication meant that keeper Mazzini’s intended roll out to right defender Bani was picked up easily by the Sampdoria right winger and put in the back of the net two minutes later. Any nerves which had suddenly come back were quelled only moments later when Palumbo found Raspadori from deep to give the striker the last word - and his hat-trick.

 

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Livorno were good for their win, but had no business scoring four, but Raspadori is unstoppable on his day. Sampdoria’s xG was also offset by Mazzini’s blunder in rolling the ball out to a Sampdoria wide forward in stoppage time.

 

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Livorno were on another good run, with their last loss being against Lazio in early February.

 

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Unfortunately, left wingback Tripadelli, who had been in fantastic form, was a casualty of the Sampdoria game, and would miss a significant amount of time, leaving Livorno short on the left. Chavarria was a capable backup, but he was a significant step down and would leave Livorno without cover on the left.

Summary

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It was tough work, but it ended up being a very successful month for Livorno. Three wins and a draw in the league, and a fairly easy win in Europe. Verdi was thrilled to have made history in Europe after winning a knockout tie where the 06-07 Livorno side had fallen at the first hurdle. While none of the games were especially hard, Livorno still had needed to stay focused and avoid complacency. The only subpar result was against Parma, but an away draw against a decent team was nothing to be ashamed of.

 

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Livorno not only kept hold of 4th place, they increased their lead to ten points with ten games remaining. With the toughest parts of the calendar behind them, Verdi finally let himself dream of Champions League football in 24/25, especially with the chasing pack all taking turns taking points off one another.

 

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Livorno remained a tough team to play against.

 

The Children are NOT Our Future

The DOF hadn’t been especially excited about the youth intake, but when the reports came in Verdi was very disappointed. At first glance, it seemed okay, with a few potentially talented players, but upon closer look Verdi was not happy.

 

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Underwhelming but promising right? Wrong.

 

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Buzzi had the mentality to be a good player and was the one player that Verdi hoped might come good. He was a bit lacking technically, but Verdi hoped he could turn into a decent to good holding midfielder.

 

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Giovanelli was an example of the kind of player that Livorno had been recruiting too many of - skillful but severely lacking in intelligence and toughness. If this was the best of the intake…

 

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Rounding out the “best three” was Mazia, a slow, lazy, physically and mentally weak player who could control a ball well and pick a decent pass (so long as he had plenty of time and space and nobody was going to be mean and challenge him!).

 

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After another poor intake (the previous year being the only exception) Verdi asked the board to improve youth recruiting. Verdi knew that, at least until Livorno built a new stadium, they were approaching their peak income and would need to start producing players that could at least fill out the squad. The board agreed instantly, and Verdi hoped that maybe the next year would be different. As of that moment, no academy graduates had earned a place in the first team, with attacking midfielder Bagnoli the only one to even get game time - and he was not playing especially well out on loan.

 

With ten games to go in the season, a commanding lead over the challengers for 4th, and a European quarter final against Lazio to look forward to, Livorno were on course for a very successful season.

 

UP NEXT - Just Illusions

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Good Job in Europe !

Do you have any matches left against the top 3? because If you can keep it up the unthinkable might happen! 

but from your next chapter title I will assume that things don't go well......

 

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5 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Good Job in Europe !

Do you have any matches left against the top 3? because If you can keep it up the unthinkable might happen! 

but from your next chapter title I will assume that things don't go well......

 

None against the top three (Lazio, Juventus and Inter were al back to back to back at the beginning and midway points). 
Don’t read too much into the titles, they’re all from inspirational quotes. The preview I’ll give is somethings go well and others do not in the next month…

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Fantastic tie in Europe! A true battle of left vs right! League is going fantastic as well. A steady running will see champions league football rain down on Verdi!

 

Side note. Have you seen the struggles of Livorno in real life 😨

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54 minutes ago, SixPointer said:

Side note. Have you seen the struggles of Livorno in real life 😨

Brutal! Serie D! I’m not surprised though, based on the players at the club at the start of the save. No determination, average physicals, some skill but no drive. Verdi added 5 starters his first summer and made a completely possession oriented system that didn’t require physical prowess or hard work. Also, the real Livorno relies too heavily on season long loans so there’s no continuity. Funny the things we learn with this game…

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Just Illusions

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April would be a month that would test Livorno’s quality, mettle, and stamina - but it was a test that Verdi relished. There would be no rest, no chances to take a breath. There were two games a week, every week, to make it seven games in twenty days. Challenging ties against Roma and Milan (both thankfully at home) sandwiched the EURO Cup quarter final against Lazio - with a trip to Torino thrown in as a garnish. The month finished up with a trip to solid, midtable Empoli and a match against bottom feeder Frosinone at Armando Picchi.

 

With Livorno in a good place in the league, Verdi really hoped for Livorno to give a good account of themselves against Lazio. The result in the first game would determine how he’d approach the league fixtures against Torino and AC Milan. Lose heavily, he’d accept defeat and focus on the league, win or lose a close game, and he’d gamble with league points and play his best players.

 

Verdi’s goals, however, seemed to become harder to achieve by the day as a slew of injuries began to pile up.

 

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Though the two weeks of the international break would mean that Tripadelli missed less games, he’d still miss most of April.

 

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Bani, who’d quietly become Livorno’s best defender, was injured in training over the break and would miss April entirely.

 

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Last, and actually least, was Moreo, another training casualty. He would only miss the Roma game (would be fit for the game, but only for the bench) but it was yet another first 11 player and meant Livorno entered April thin, with right wingback Farago also still just coming back from his calf problem.

The Games

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Livorno tended to match up well with Roma. They’d drawn both games the previous year and beaten them in Rome earlier in the season, and Verdi hoped his side would continue the trend of improving each game they played against the side who had just kept them out of the Champions League spots in 22/23.

 

Tactics

Roma tended to have a lot of possession, and a lot of shots, but were often wasteful with their chances. Verdi had gone with the 5-2-1-2 in Rome against their 4-2-1-3 (2 DMs) and won 2-1, and he would do the same at home.

 

Rotation/Selection

Verdi picked his best available 11 but with all the injuries it looked like a fairly rotated side. Tripadelli (left wingback) and Bani (right center back) were both out completely, while Farago (right wingback) and Moreo (striker) were only fit enough for the bench.  Backup Chavarria started on the left (as he’d have to for most of the month), Bodgan came in at center back, Galves would continue on the right and Macedo would get some good experience against a quality opponent.

 

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Livorno were the better team for the first half and much of the second, but couldn’t find a way past an inspired Roma keeper. When Roma broke through with a pinpoint pass and a perfect run ten minutes after half, Verdi feared the worst. Only four minutes later though, Raspadori equalized and by the 60th minute Livorno were ahead through a Palumbo header.

 

A shell-shocked Roma had no chance after that, with Livorno controlling the game. With an eye on the midweek Lazio game, Verdi pulled Chavarria and put in center mid Lees-Melou in his place on the left. Verdi had only hoped the veteran would be reliable and solid defensively, but he actually put in a good shift going both ways to help close out the win.

 

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Again, the media was surprised that Livorno managed to beat Roma, but it was no less than Livorno deserved.

 

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One of the few times when the analysts agreed with the scoreline.

 

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The game led to the board deciding that Livorno were an “established” Serie A team, and they were very pleased.

 

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[So...EURO Cup games apparently just don’t get previews anymore…]

After a good solid win against Roma, Livorno would host the other Roman team midweek at Armando Picchi, this time in the EURO Cup.  Verdi didn’t feel good about this tie.  Lazio had cut through them in both league games, with a combined score of 7-3, with Lazio seemingly able to score at will.  Verdi hoped only to keep the game reasonable so they’d have a chance in Rome the following week.

 

Tactics

Verdi went back to the 5-2-2-1 that had beaten Juventus, hoping that the two holding midfielders would help out the wingbacks against Lazio’s wide players, and that Palumbo and Raspadori would attack the space in front of the central defenders.  He also instructed both attacking mids to play a bit wider to try and attack the channels that the full backs would open up if they bombed forward.

 

Selection

Verdi played his best available 11 in this game.

 

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It was the same story all over again.  Lazio had a stroll in the park, not even pausing to notice Livoron’s tactical change and were up two goals before the half hour mark.  Verdi’s switch to the 5-2-1-2 seemed to turn the tide, with strikers Moreo and Raspadori both scoring before the half to even the score at 2-2.  The second half was an even affair, except that Livorno couldn’t figure out how to stop Hirving Lazano, who scored twice.  The tie was all but dead with Livorno needing to score three unanswered goals in Rome against a team that loved to play against Livorno.

 

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It was a much more even game than the scoreline suggested, but Lazio were simply clinical.  It had no business being a 4-2 win, but their quality showed through.

 

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Licking their wounds from the Lazio drubbing, Livorno traveled to Turin to play; struggling Torino.  Verdi very much hoped to bounce back from the midweek disappointment with a strong showing in this game, and Torino were playing poorly so he felt it was a good chance.

 

Tactics

4-2-3-1 against 5-2-1-2.

 

Selection

With the EURO Cup tie against Lazio all but over, Verdi would look to win this game and played his best available 11.

 

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It was one of the most insane games Verdi had ever seen.  Seldom scoring striker Moreo scored a hat-trick and Livorno were up 6-0 after 45 minutes with Chavarria, Palumbo, and Raspadori all scoring.  A defensive lapse allowed Torino to pull one back in first half stoppage time, but Verdi didn’t worry too much about that...until Torino came out and scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half.  Having dialed back the intensity and pressure as the goals went in, Verdi told his team that their lapses were unacceptable, and he ramped up the pressure again.  After that, Livorno shut down Torino and Macedo - on for hat-trick hero Moreo - finished out the scoring on a wild day.

 

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It was a game that Livorno dominated, but on another day it could have easily been a simple 3-1 win. Instead, it seemed like every chance for either team simply went in, leaving the kind of scoreline that is almost unheard of!

 

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[Still no preview]

Lazio had 4 away goals, leaving Livorno in the position of facing a team that scored goals for fun against them, away from home, trying to score three without conceding, or somehow getting a 4-2 scoreline for themselves to bring the tie to extra time. 

 

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It was...unlikely.  With AC Milan coming up at the weekend, Verdi made the tough decision to give up on the tie.  He felt that their chances were so slim that it wasn’t worth further exhausting his best available players, and he would send a highly rotated squad out to - presumably lose, and possibly heavily.

 

Garcia, in all his eager earnestness, gave a speech that culminated in one of his trademark inspirational quotes.

 

“Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just illusions!  We can overcome this, we can get into the semis!”

 

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Garcia was wrong this time.  A team filled with backups and youngsters was demolished in Rome. Verdi felt bad, but he told the team beforehand that he only wanted them to give a good account of themselves, and he felt like his youthful side did just that.  Verdi wasn’t sure his first 11 would have done all that much better. 

 

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It was an easy game for Lazio, but Verdi found himself fuming when the ref didn’t call the game a the end of ninety minutes when the tie was already dead and buried (6-2) allowing Lazio to score a third off a corner.

 

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Verdi told his players not to worry about it.  He did feel for the fans, but the heavy loss, especially in the game in Rome, was entirely on him - and it was a calculated move.

 

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Livonro had played AC Milan three times, and had lost all three, and none of them had been close.  Milan, like Lazio, simply seemed to cut through Livorno's defense with ease.  Milan, however, had been struggling after winning the title, and, languishing in lowly 7th place, had sacked their manager.  The new manager handn’t brought much improvement however, and, for once, Verdi felt like Livorno had a decent chance.

 

Tactic

The new manager had changed from the 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-1-2, which both pleased and worried Verdi.  He was happy to avoid the wide overloads, but he feared the inverted triangle shape that often caused his back three problems.  Still, he sent out the 5-2-1-2 hoping to pin their wide players back and challenge their four man defense.

 

Selection

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Another player went down with a long term injury - this time Ranocchia.  He was a key player in his role as a holding midfielder, and while Lees-Melou was a capable player in the holding role, Ranocchia was a more well rounded player.

 

With the starters rested for the Massacre In Rome, Verdi was able to play his best available 11, though it was now without three starters.

 

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Verdi’s midweek gamble of resting the starters paid off, with Livorno getting their first win over AC Milan.  It was a great game from Livorno, who were always the better side.  Donnarumma stopped several good chances, but couldn’t save a Raspadori penalty.  Milan equalized shortly after when a shot deflected off of not one, but two Livorno defenders to fall right into the path of striker Belotti in the six-yard box.  Verdi feared that that would it be - or worse - but Raspadori produced a moment of magic when he broke a defenders ankles, engineered himself a pocket of space just outside the box, and hit a beautiful curling shot into the upper right corner from 26 meters on the stroke of halftime.  It would prove to be the winner and give Livorno their first points against AC MIlan.

 

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Though skewed by the penalty, the stats show that Livorno were the better team overall and were good for their win.

 

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Empoli had given a good account of themselves after promotion from Serie B and had maintained a comfortable position mid-table. They were tough to play against and had given Livorno plenty of trouble in the 1-0 win at Armando Picchi.

 

Tactics 

Empoli employed a counter attacking 4-2-3-1 that was both hard to break down and deadly on the break. 

 

Selection 

Verdi would respect Empoli’s decent Serie A form and play his strongest 11 - with Galves replacing a tired Farago, but the two right wingbacks were pretty even at this point.

 

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It was Verdi’s worst defeat as a manager and the first time in a long time that he was furious with his players. They’d played without focus, passion, or intelligence, and an organized Empoli side had torn them apart. There were lazy and unnecessary cross field passes that were easily intercepted, defenders forgetting how to mark, and no desire to get to 50/50 balls. Other than a Raspadori goal to make it 2-1 shortly before the half that had given Verdi false hope, his side was abysmal. The second half was a horror show. Verdi had to take his share of the blame, going too attacking to try and get back into the game, but his players also let him down.

 

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It was one of those games when nothing went right. 5-1 was harsh on Livorno, but they could have no complaints about the loss.

 

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Verdi was hoping that Empoli would be a one off and hosting bottom feeder Frosinone would allow Livorno to wash the bitter taste from their mouth. But Verdi was nervous. Livorno hadn’t been able to get anything going against Frosinone in their previous meeting, and barely managed a 1-0 win. The squad was injured and emotionally and physically exhausted. They’d struggled to create anything against Empoli and were no more rested leading into this game.

 

Tactic

Unusually, Verdi decided to play the 3-4-1-2 against Frosinone’s 4-2-3-1. Frosinone we’re a  generally passive team, so Verdi would look to keep them penned into their own half. Verdi also decided to lower the tempo (standard), play out from the back, and work the ball into the box. He also told his side not to force the counter and needlessly lose possession.

 

Selection

Carboni was looking very tired, and had played poorly, so he went to the bench. Bani wasn’t quite ready to start, so Capradossi came in to replace Carboni.

 

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Verdi feared a repeat performance when Frosinone scored after eight minutes, all too easily breaking through a limply pressing Livorno. Rather than collapse again, Livorno got into gear. Their slower tempo allowed the players to take their time on the ball, and with Frosinone staying deep and compact, Livorno players weee was rarely under pressure. Raspadori equalized eight minutes later, and then put the hosts ahead in first half stoppage time. Center back Capradossi turned in a free kick to secure the win, but then Macedo finished a smart move down the left and Raspadori got his hat trick in the final minutes.

 

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The game was notable for the professional debut of a player that Verdi was excited about. He’d been signed on a free from Bari, and had come on in leaps and bounds in training. When Verdi needed depth in the holding midfield role, hed called up Finazzi to the first team and gave him a run out in the Frosinone game.

 

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He was a good passer, team player, and worked hard. He still had plenty to learn about the game, and a lot to refine, but he looked like a player that could really shine in Verdi’s system if he continued to improve.

Summary

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It was an up and down month with Livorno trading excellent wins every weekend with embarrassing losses midweek. The highs were high and lows low…and there was nothing in between. Verdi had expected to lose to Lazio in the EURO Cup, but they’d fallen well short of his goal of keeping the scoreline respectable - though giving up on the tie and playing the youngsters hadn’t helped. Also in the bad category was the brutal and embarrassing collapse against Empoli. 

 

All the bad games happened midweek however, and if you only looked at the weekends, the picture was very different. Livorno enjoyed excellent wins over Roma and AC Milan, and dominant performances against Torino and Frosinone.

 

With Livorno gaining twelve from an available fifteen points in the league, they now had a commanding lead in the race for Champions League football in 24/25, and had even found themselves in the title discussion, though Verdi had no expectations there.

 

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Five games to go in the season, Livorno were seven points ahead of Atalanta in fifth, and had a game in hand. With Napoli as the only truly dangerous team left to play, Verdi believed that his side had it in them to keep hold of fourth and earn their place on Europe’s biggest stage. They did even have an outside shot at the Serie A title, but that would require all three teams above them to slip up and Verdi didn’t expect that.

 

Need for Speed

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Funny aside, Carboni was apparently a quickness nut. He was constantly asking for more quickness training. With games coming thick and fast, and injuries piling up, Verdi hadn’t been doing much specifically physical training. It annoyed his captain enough that he got young striker Macedo on board as well as decent-but-probably-not-first-team-material youngster Scarfi together to complain about it.

 

Man of the Hour (Month)

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There was no one better than Raspadori in the month of April. Eight goals in five appearances - and that didn’t include his goal in a losing effort against Lazio in the EURO Cup which brought his tally to 9 in 6. He’d suffered a dip in form during the winter when his future was up in the air, but he was definitely back now, and was just behind Napoli’s Osimhen in the scoring charts.

 

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Verdi didn’t need the validation, but he certainly didn’t mind it…

 

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Unsurprisingly, Raspadori also nabbed the best goal of the month for his beautifully floated goal from distance to for the win against AC Milan!

 

Livorno crashed out of Europe, but it was against a team that simply had their number and they’d made it to the quarterfinals, which was a good accomplishment. In the league, Livorno were on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in their history - they just had to get themselves over the line!

 

UP NEXT - Believe You Can

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What a mad month! Seems it’s all or nothing! No happy medium it’s either huge victories or hard to swallow defeats. Champions league football looks to be on its way and that’s the main thing 

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6 hours ago, deltablue said:

It's a shame you were beaten so heavily by Lazio.

Lazio is turning into a boogie team.  Not that you wouldn't expect Lazio to win, but not by a combined 14-5 on the season!  Especially when the games were 1-0 to Livorno and 1-1 in Rome the previous season!  They brought in some pace and skill on the wings over the summer and just tear Livorno apart.  It'll be back to the drawing board for Verdi when facing that side.  That said, Verdi gave up on the tie after the 4-2 loss at home, and that's what led to the 3-0 loss in Rome.

16 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Livorno is ticking along nicely even if form is a little crazy in these hectic months!

KUTGW!

 

A little crazy?  7-3 win, then 5-1 loss.   Beating Roma and AC Milan with disciplined play but getting blown away by Lazio and Empoli with the defense forgetting how to mark?

21 hours ago, SixPointer said:

What a mad month! Seems it’s all or nothing! No happy medium it’s either huge victories or hard to swallow defeats. Champions league football looks to be on its way and that’s the main thing 

Absolute insanity! But like you said - Champions League football?  In Livorno??? (Especially with the real Livorno getting ready to start their season in Serie D!!!)

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Believe You Can

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Livorno were all but mathematically set to qualify for the Champions League. Atalanta were the only challengers to fourth place, and they were seven points back. With four games left on their schedule, Atalanta could reach a maximum of 73 points. Livorno started the month at 68 points, meaning they had five games to get six points.

 

Looking to their schedule, Cagliari tended to be tough opponents, and would likely give Livorno all they could handle away from home. Napoli were a very dangerous side, but Livorno had done very well against the southerners in the past. After that, Fiorentina, Udinese and Sassoulo were all beatable, lower mid-table sides. While in any particular game, anything could happen - as Livorno had found in April! - Verdi felt pretty confident that his side would win at least two games, and/or draw enough to get those six points. 

The Games

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Verdi - and several other managers - had regretted underestimating Cagliari in the past. They’d fallen off in the past month, but had challenged for Europe and even Champions League for much of the season. They were dangerous on the counter and clinical when presented with chances.

 

Tactic

Verdi would look to replicate the game plan against Frosinone - playing out of defense, smothering Cagliari with possession, and, crucially, trying not to give up possession cheaply which would allow Cagliari hit them on the break. With the quality Cagliari had in its wide forwards, he went with the 5-2-1-2 against their 4-2-3-1.

 

Selection

Two key players returned from injury. Center back Bani was fite nough to start and would start, while Tripadelli was selected for the bench. 

 

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It was, surprisingly, the Galves show, with the right wingback scoring both goals. As always, Cagliari gave Livorno a very tough game. Solid defensively, and always ready to break quickly, Cagliari were dangerous. Livorno had a few great chances early, but Galves’ low drive wasn’t one of them, seeming to come out of nowhere and catching everyone by surprise as it rippled the net. Verdi had it down as a freak goal for the young defender, but when Cagliari’s direct and aggressive play led to their equalizer in the 43rd minute, Galves ensured his name would be in the headlines by getting his head onto a Chavarria cross only a minute later so that Livorno went into halftime with their lead restored.

 

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Early in the second half, Chavarria decided he was tired from playing so much in April and got himself injured so that he would miss the rest of the season. Luckily, Tripadelli was returning to fitness and was able to come in for his injured backup.

 

The second half was fairly even, but Livorno were able to keep control and bring themselves three points closer to Champions League qualification.

 

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The xG shows an even game, with Livorno just about edging it. The heat map also shows Verdi’s gameplan of building from the back and surging forward only when the chance was there - as well as Cagliari’s ability to force Livorno to defend their flanks.

 

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Napoli was a team that Livorno had done well against, with several excellent games that tended to go Livorno’s way. They were a dangerous side, though, with Serie A’s top scorer and one of the most potent attacking units. With all the injuries and suspensions, Verdi had this one down as a likely loss.

 

Selection

There were injuries and suspensions galore ahead of this tie. Carboni (CB) and Garcia (AM) would both be serving suspensions after accumulating five yellows each, meaning Bodgan would continue in defense and there would be no rest for Palumbo. Then, the day before…

 

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Macedo would only leave the forwards without quality backup, but Piccinocchi’s injury gave Verdi a headache.  With Garcia suspended, he couldn’t pull Palumbo back into a deeper role, so he had to choose between promising youngster Kim Min-Wook and veteran Crociata, and went with the latter against a strong side.  With Ranocchia still out, Lees-Melou would continue in the holding role. Verdi only hoped Tripadelli would stay fit with backup Chavarria out for the season. The bench looked like a youth team, made up of U-20 youngsters like Kim Min-Wook, Finazzi, and Menini all possibly getting thrust into action if Verdi needed to make changes.

 

Tactics

After getting destroyed by Lazio, Verdi decided to go more conservative against a team that played in a similar way and with the same 4-2-3-1. He went with the cautious 5-3-2, and would instruct his players to look for set-piece opportunities considering Napoli’s lack of height.

 

Garcia!

After the players got their final instructions from Verdi, Garcia - though in very fashionable skinny jeans and V-neck combo as he’d be serving a suspension - spoke up.

 

“I know we’re missing a lot of players, not the least of which,” he smiled wryly, “me. Don’t worry Palumbo, you’ll do great! But seriously, Napoli’s a good side and we’re tired and injured, but…believe you can and you’re halfway there. We’ve beat Napoli before and we can beat them again. And if we do? We earn our place in the Champions League!!!”

 

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Napoli attacked Livorno in waves from the start, and had several chances to go ahead. Verdi decided that Livorno’s set up was inviting too much pressure and switched to their standard 5-2-1-2.  But that left Raspadori marked out of the game and Livorno still couldn’t get out of their half. A little before the half, Verdi switched again, this time to the 5-2-2-1. It hadn’t worked against Lazio, but he kept seeing space available in front of Napoli’s defense.

 

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Suddenly, Livorno’s front three were giving Napoli’s backline all kinds of trouble, and the center mids and center backs were easily handling Napoli’s forwards, with those center mids recycling possession and regularly releasing the wingbacks down the flanks. Just before the half, Galves made a good run down the flank. Napoli’s back two were outnumbered 3-2 by Livorno’s front three, unsure of who to mark. Galves beat his man and lofted in a cross to the near post that Palumbo headed in. 

 

Galves also provided an assist for the second goal, this time finding Palumbo with an excellent pass after the attacking midfielder had made a diagonal run towards the near post - which is where Palumbo slid the ball to ensure the win in the 76th minute

Kim and Finazzi got game time towards the end as some starters looked ready to collapse, but even with the youngsters on the field, Livorno comfortably closed out the game.

 

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The xG clearly shows how dramatically the tactical switch changed the game. Most of the first half was all Napoli, with the home side getting lots of chances. Then there was a time when neither team created much after Verdi's switch to the usual 5-2-1-2. Then the moment when Verdi went to the 5-2-2-1. Livorno got two chances in quick succession - scoring one - and shut down Napoli before going on and getting a second.

 

It was a perfect occasion to earn qualification into the Champions League - an away game against a tough opponent with the win coming through a tactical switch that was perfectly executed by the players.

 

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Best ever Serie A finish had a nice ring to it, especially when it meant Champions League football!

There were still three games to go in the season, but with qualification to the biggest stage settled, Verdi and Livorno could enjoy the run in.

 

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The seat of the Medicis was no longer the football capital of Tuscany, with Livorno now established in the upper reaches of Serie A and Fiorentina exactly midtable. The odds were in Livorno’s favor, and at home they needed to do the job and give their neighbors a reminder of how times had changed.

 

Tactics

With Fiorentina likely to play a 4-1-4-1. With nothing to lose, Verdi went with the Opera Football 3-4-1-2. 

 

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It took two thirds of the game to finally get the breakthrough, with Verdi slowly upping the pressure until Fiorentina finally broke. By the second half, Verdi had told his players to throw caution to the wind, to press high and take risks. Finally, Palumbo found Moreo with a beautiful pass and the striker beat the keeper with a sumptious lob. Raspadori added another to give some insurance, and ended a horrible, no good two game scoring drought!!! Fiorentina got a consolation in stoppage time, and made a push for a winner, but even though Verdi had given some youngsters some game time, the side pulled through.

 

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Fiorentina didn’t show much until the final ten minutes, and it wasn’t enough to truly bother Livorno.

 

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Sadly, in the days after the game, young Finazzi - who Verdi had hoped to give some playing time - got injured and would miss the last two games.

 

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However, Verdi’s plans to play youngsters and explore tactics took a backseat as the teams around Livorno began to crack under the pressure. Verdi had spent so much time looking over his shoulder that he hadn’t quite understood that Livorno were closing the gap with the leaders. Lazio, distracted by their European adventures, drew their game in hand. Inter - also distracted as they would meet Lazio in the EURO Cup final - lost their game in hand leaving Livorno in third place. Even Juventus were only four points above Livorno, having played one game more.

 

Verdi had no expectations of winning the title, and would not put any pressure on himself or his players, but he knew he’d never forgive himself if the teams around them slipped up and he didn’t put Livorno in a position to take advantage.

 

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Udinese had bounced back from their early season form that had seen them fall into the relegation zone. They were a decent side, and away from home Verdi knew Livorno would be in for a tough game.

 

Tactics

Udinese played a direct 4-2-3-1 that Verdi expected to trouble Livorno’s 5-2-1-2. As he’d been trying when favored, Verdi would ask his side to play a bit slower than their usual breakneck pace.

 

Selection 

It turned out Verdi had been wrong the first time they’d met - loanee Palumbo wasn’t bared from playing in this game by his loan agreement. In form Galves also started on the right over veteran Farago.

 

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Raspadori was approaching a Livorno record dating back to 1941 when Vinicio Viani scored 35 goals for Livorno in the top flight. Raspadori had already matched that tally, and had two games to beat it.

 

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The headline was not wrong - Livorno were lucky to win. Palumbo once again scored against his club after Moreo replayed him for his Fiorentina assist by sending him through on goal after only two minutes. Palumbo also pounced on a mistake in the Udinese midfield to feed Raspadori who broke the Livorno scoring record. Truth was, however, that Udinese were the better side on the day, and put pressure on Livorno throughout.

 

When Udinese pulled two back due to sloppy defending, Verdi was frustrated with the way the goals were conceded, but had to admit that they were deserved. With the game headed to a draw, and with Livorno’s slim title hopes all but gone, up popped young striker Macedo in stoppage time to steal the win after a good passage of play down the right.

 

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Livorno had no business winning the game, though all three of their goals were well engineered and executed.

All eyes in Livorno turned to Napoli midweek, where Lazio would play their game in hand. Win and Livorno would have no shot at the title - not with Lazio’s head-to-head advantage.

 

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It was not to be, and nobody was surprised or disappointed. The only disappointment was that it was hated Lazio who'd won a title. It would have been fun to go into the final game with a chance, but there was still something to play for. 

 

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If Livorno could win, and Juventus drew or lost, Livorno would end the season in second place. Either way, Inter’s late season slump meant that Livorno would finish no worse than 3rd.

 

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Sassoulo were a team that just couldn’t stop flirting with relegation. They were safe, with the bottom three teams already settled, but they were a struggling side.

 

Tactics

Sassoulo played a 4-4-2 that Verdi guessed would become a 4-4-1-1 out of possession. Opera Football 3-4-1-2 was a bit risky, but Sassoulo was a team that could score but not defend, and Verdi wanted to pin them back.

 

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It wasn’t a great performance by Livorno, but they got the job done against a side that, despite their safety, was only trying not to lose.  It was another half field drill for Livorno, and a five minute flurry saw them score twice - one a rocket from Palumbo and another a fantastic finish from right winger Galves, who was quickly establishing himself as first choice on the right.  Sassuolo only gave up token resistance, even when Verdi put on the youngsters on, and Livorno finished off their season with a nice win at home.

 

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It was no contest even though Sassoulo did get themselves a few half chances on the counter.

Summary

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A fantastic month, with Livorno winning all their games in style - though it should be said that they were lucky to win against Udinese.  Verdi was most proud of the tactical switch against Napoli - from the cautious 5-3-2, which saw them with their backs to the wall, to the positive 5-2-2-1 which saw them run out deserved 2-0 winners.  Most importantly, they not only qualified for the Champions League with three games to spare, they went on to mount an actual title challenge!

 

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Lazio and Juventus both could only draw on the final day, allowing Livorno to jump over the later and come within one point of the former.  It was an incredible finish to the season, and while Verdi would have loved to win the title, finishing above the likes of Juventus, Inter, and AC Milan, was an incredible accomplishment.  His youthful side would only continue to improve as well!

 

Behind the top four, Atalanta returned to their rightful place in Europe while Parma made a surprise surge to qualify for the EURO Cup and Napoli rounded out the European places.  Cittadella and Frosinone returned to Serie B, and, somewhat surprisingly, were joined by Torino.  The other promoted team, Empoli, ended the season comfortably in 10th - and Livorno had learned the hard way that they were a force on their day!

 

Another storyline of the season was AC Milan’s pitiful title defense.  After winning the title in 22/23, they dropped all the way to 8th place and didn’t even qualify for Europe.

 

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Livorno massively outperformed their xG throughout the season, and much of that had to come down to the unstoppable Raspadori, who scored 36 in the league!  Palumbo chipped in with a fair amount of fantastic goals too. Much of it came down to individual quality, but Verdi’s ability to get both players into dangerous positions allowed both to shine, and deep lying forward Moreo’s ability to work hard, take up space, and occupy defenders to free up his partners was also crucial in Livorno’s attacking success.

 

With a very successful season in the books, Verdi would spend the next few weeks taking stock, looking back at the season to see what they did well and where they could improve.  Then he would look to the future - a future that looked very bright indeed!

 

UP NEXT - Season in Review!

Edited by 13th Man
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What an immense season! Fantastic and totally deserved! Your tactical input totally paying off! Verdi should have a statue built outside the ground. Phenomenal achievements and considering the state of real life it makes it all the sweeter and achievement 

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10 hours ago, SixPointer said:

What an immense season! Fantastic and totally deserved! Your tactical input totally paying off! Verdi should have a statue built outside the ground. Phenomenal achievements and considering the state of real life it makes it all the sweeter and achievement 

Thanks! Yeah, this season has to go down as one of my most satisfying in FM. From the horrible beginning that made me fear that Livorno had overachieved, to the middle that got me a bit too confident, to an insane April, before a quietly excellent run in that saw Livorno nearly steal the title right out from under Lazio’s nose! 
Now it’s time for reflection, analysis, and to get it going again and see if Livorno can continue to build…

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Really good thread, I've enjoyed it immensely and learned a lot. I've never been able to get a 3 CB formation to work as well as I'd like but this makes me want to give them another crack.

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On 13/08/2021 at 03:28, deltablue said:

You'll get them next time ;)

Yeah, we’ll see. Felt like a lot of lucky bounces went Livorno’s way that year. Expecting a regression next season.

 

On 15/08/2021 at 03:19, Djecker said:

Really good thread, I've enjoyed it immensely and learned a lot. I've never been able to get a 3 CB formation to work as well as I'd like but this makes me want to give them another crack.

Thanks! I flirted with 3atb a lot but usually as a third tactic and that meant I didn’t have the right players for the various roles. There was definitely a lot of learning going on as I had to “forget” a lot of the stuff I did with a 4-3-3 which had been my go to for quite a few years.

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Unbelievable end to the season. Congratulations for achieving such a feat.:applause:

Livorno in the Champions League has a bit of a ring to it, must be said.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update for my countless fans who have been waiting, waiting…desperate for  updates from Tuscany…

Work has been absolutely crazy the last few weeks. After very little work during COVID, it’s actually great and I am lucky to love my work, but it has meant way less FM time - 4.6 hours in the last 2 weeks! Less than two of those this week!  Which is actually not that little for normal people but compared to my peak COVID times…

Point is, I do have a few updates coming soon (season review, tactical/statistical analysis, and a new season preview) but I’ll be posting less frequently and in less detail for the foreseeable future. 
Stay tuned…

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Season in Review!

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Another trophyless season in Livorno, the drought now spanning two years! [The horror!]

 

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Verdi had begun the season with the goal of finishing in the EURO places, but with the expectation that Livorno may fall back to the midtable, especially considering the extra games the EURO Cup put on the schedule.  Instead, Livorno ended the season only one point behind champions Lazio, with 12 wins from the last 13 games - with the only blip being the horrible 5-1 loss to Empoli.  Verdi couldn’t help but think of what might have been if Livorno hadn’t lost to Empoli, or if they had at least gotten a point against Lazio in either of their meetings.  Considering how thoroughly the Romans destroyed Livorno in both the league and the EURO Cup though, Verdi did have to admit that Lazio deserved to win the title. Verdi wondered if the stars would align in such a way again, or if that was as close as Livorno would get to the title…

 

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For once, Verdi had to agree with the highlights.  From the insane 7-3 win against Torino, to the 5-3 win over Zenit which opened Livorno’s EURO campaign with a bang, to Raspadori’s stunning strike to seal Verdi’s first win over Juventus...Verdi had plenty of other highlights that could have easily made the cut, but these were certainly fitting!

 

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It was a season in which there were the only signing that went straight into the first 11 was center back Mattia Bani.  Macedo, Lees-Melou, Garcia, and Glaves served as depth until Galves began to take over the right wingback spot from Farago towards the end of the year.  Modric - technically a new signing though he was loaned back to Zagreb and did well - looked set to make a difference in Italy in 24/25.

 

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The money was still pouring in.  The profits were getting lower as players like Raspadori got the kind of contracts they deserved and the rest of the players moved up to lower-mid Serie A salaries, but for the moment Livorno was still well in the black.

 

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Along with the domestic TV and prize money, nearly €12m went to Livorno for EURO Cup TV money.

 

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The full end of the year showed Livorno’s continuing meteoric rise as a money making machine.  Far too much of their income came from TV and competition prize money, but for the moment that money was still rolling in.

 

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The media was apparently watching games in the mirror or something, as the first 11 setup (other than the wingbacks) was flipped from left to right. Also surprising was that Lees-Melou made the 'best 11' with Ranocchia playing more games and more important ones, but Less-Melou had shined as a rotation player against lesser teams and in both the carrilero role and the holding midfield role.

 

The Awards

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It was no surprise that Raspadori got fan’s player of the year, scoring a club record 36 goals in all competitions and Serie A high 31. Macedo, a solid backup striker got the best signing accolade, most likely due to scoring 7 in the EURO Cup group stages - and because he only cost €350k!

 

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Raspadori wasn’t just Livorno player of the year, he was voted Serie A player of the year as well! To think of what could have been if Juventus and others hadn't distracted him during the January transfer window and put him in a bit of a slump.

 

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Raspadori’s 31 league goals beat out Ronaldo (28) and Osimhen (27). And to think, Verdi had been worried about spending €6.5m on him!

 

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It wasn’t just Raspadori getting the accolades either. Permanent loanee Palumbo also won an award for best young player of the season. He was a key component to Livorno’s success, scoring 13 and setting up 7 more, many of them crucial.

 

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Livorno players made up two of the four award winners by position, with Mazzini again voted Serie A’s best keeper. Raspadori obviously also won best striker after winning best overall player.

 

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Joining those two in the Team of the Year was ever present and consistent Piccinocchi and, surprisingly, young wingback Galves. The 19 year old Frenchmen suffered a rocky start (with Ronaldo making him look like an Sunday League player), but had grown a lot over the season, was solid defensively, and scored several excellent goals towards the end of the season. Piccinocchi also deserved recognition. Not only was he Livorno’s metronome, but Verdi often thought about how he’d been signed in the summer of 2020 on a free while Livorno were in Serie C! The midfielder had won the Serie B player of the year on his way towards helping Livorno to their 2nd place Serie A finish in his fourth season at the club.

 

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Verdi himself however, was not among those to win an award. Somehow the man who led his rich, high profile team to a Serie A titel, barely beating out tiny Livorno, was enough for him to get the award. But Verdi wasn’t salty about it, not at all…

 

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Livorno ended the season as Serie A’s top scorers with 78!

 

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There was still plenty of room for growth as Livorno approached the top 100 clubs by reputation in Europe.  Verdi very much hoped to break into the top 100 in 24/25!

 

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Livorno bettered their 22/23 fifth placed finish with a surprise late season surge up the table to 2nd. Now there was only one more step to go up…

 

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UP NEXT - Numbers! Graphs! Stats! Oh my!!!

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Numbers! Graphs! Stats! Oh my!!!

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The statistical overview of Livorno’s season showed a team that took their chances and made opponents work very hard for theirs.  According to xG for and against, they should have finished 8th, but instead finished 2nd on the back of some excellent scoring from their forward line and Serie A best goalkeeping from Mazzini.

 

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Livorno were good to excellent in every statistical category - with their 2.05 goals per game truly excellent.

 

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Goals

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Livorno ended the season as Serie A’s top scorers at 78 - beating out Juventus by one goal and Lazio by five.  Raspadori was responsible for a lot of those goals (31 to be exact) but the whole front three chipped in with goals regularly.

 

Shots For

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But, Livorno were only 9th in the ‘Shots For’ category with 446 (compared to Juventus’ 587), but a Serie A best 49% of those shots were on target.  This speaks to the quality of chances created.

 

Conceded

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Livorno weren’t as effective defensively as they were going forward, but they still finished a respectable 5th best defense in the league - though they were far behind the top three with 42 conceded against 30, and 25.

 

Shots faced

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However, again, Livorno were mid-table in terms of shots faced at 462, with Juventus facing less than half at 217.  While it was true that Livorno gave up a lot of shots, they were rarely easy shots or clear chances.  Carboni - usually the covering centerback, was excellent at getting back to block shots, and generally the defense were able to help each other out and force difficult shots.

 

Pass Completion %

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With a possession friendly tactic - though Livorno had drifted away from that style a bit in Serie A - it was so surprise that Livorno ranked near the top with 87% of passes completed.  This was especially good considering that Verdi usually instructed his team to counter when possible... 

 

Dribbles

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The ball moves faster by itself than on the dribble - that’s how Verdi saw it, and that’s how his team played.  He was very happy to be near the bottom in this category.  It meant his team was passing and moving, rather than just dribbling aimlessly!  The only player who consistently attempted dribbles was Raspadori, and Verdi was perfectly happy with that considering he was often in on goal if he beat his man.

 

Possession

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Livorno had begun to move away from the possession heavy games of Serie B and C.  Some of that was the quality of opposition, but it was also that Verdi was beginning to get the players he wanted in the side.  Now that he had a more determined, clinical, and hard working side, Verdi was able to up the risk in possession and ask more questions of the opposition defense. Before, his side was so defensively fragile that the only way they could hope to defend was by holding onto the ball as much as possible. Now he could ask his players to really get after the opposition more often. He also loved the counter, which did sometimes lead to less possession…

Attack!

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Livorno were the definition of clinical, converting a Serie A best 17% of their shots.  Fiorentina were second with 16%, but were generally only able to take 8ish shots a game compared to Livorno’s 12. After that, there was a large gap - the next best team was Empoli with a 13% rate, with a large pack of teams coming between 11 and 12%.

 

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Livorno got into good positions - with the vast majority of their goals coming from the sweet spot in the center of the box from placed shots.  They were dangerous from distance too, but so often were able to pick their spot (placed shot) due to working the ball into the box and taking good shots.  This went a long way to explaining their high scoring season - in addition to Raspadori’s heroics. Livorno’s ability to score midway and late in halfs also spoke to how their slow build up of pressure would slowly force teams to crack (and that they were often ahead near the end of games so could sit back).

 

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The assists also show the effectiveness of the central overload.  23 of the assists game through the middle, with 30 assists total coming from through balls.  However, the wings held plenty of danger too if the opposition wasn’t careful, with 19 goals assisted from both flanks combined, including 12 from crosses.

 

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The distribution of goals was certainly lopsided, with the front three - including Rapsadori, Moreo, Palumbo, and backups Macedo and Garcia - contributing the vast majority of the goals.  Verdi would have liked a bit more scoring from midfield and the flanks - and felt like he’d seen more in previous years - but forwards’ jobs are to score, and they were doing just that!

Defending

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Livorno allowed as many shots per game as they took, but they scored far more than they conceded. This, in many ways, was by design.  Verdi emphasized shape and compactness over intensive pressing, and that meant allowing chances, but not easy chances. There were a great deal of blocked and under pressure shots taken by the opposition, and very few clear cut chances.

 

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Livorno were forcing the opposition to work for their goals, making opponents get into the sweet spot in the middle of the box. Livorno applied steady pressure against opponents and Mazzini’s keeping kept out nearly everything from range, and meant that almost all the goals that they conceded were well worked. Livorno had an odd tendency to concede just before and after the half, which was something Verdi would have to puzzle over…

 

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Verdi was pleased to see that there was no great area of weakness, with assists pretty evenly spaced.

The Tactics and How They Fared

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The 5-2-1-2 was the clear base tactic for Verdi’s Livorno (46%), but they still continued to spend plenty of time in the Opera Football 3-4-1-2 (30%). The mid season creation 5-2-2-1 was sparingly used (5%) but led to some crucial moments, inspiring wins against Juventus and Napoli - though ineffective against Lazio. Finally, the 5-3-2 proved almost useless though it got some significant game time (14%).

 

Cacciucco [Livorno’s signature seafood stew]

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[PI’s - Front three full press, (aka, split block).  AF and AM - roam from position.  AM - take more risks, shoot more often, move into channels.] 

 

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Like the hearty Livorno seafood soup known as Caccuicco, the 5-2-1-2 was solid, hearty and effective. It allowed both direct play and patient build up. At +18 for chances created, it was certainly an effective tactic. Sometimes it left Verdi wanting something more special though, something like...

 

Opera Football

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[Same PI’s as Caccuicco]

 

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Opera Football’s 3-4-1-2 created football as Verdi envisioned it. If the opposition didn’t attack the wings Verdi was always eager to push his wingbacks forward.  In the right situation, it was often devastating, even, or especially, when Verdi told his team to go all out. The amount of pressure that Livorno could apply, with and without the ball, crushed many lesser teams. Problem was, all it took was one cross field ball behind the winger and Livorno could be caught out. It was always a gamble, but one that paid off more often than not, with a clear cut chances differential of +25, and with chances coming at nearly 3 for every opposition chance (35 minutes to 88 minutes).

 

Grand Inquisitor [See Verdi’s Don Carlos Act IV, Scene I]

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[PI’s - Forwards; close down more]

 

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The pragmatic formation and tactic was proving to be anything but. Like the Grand Inquisitor in his namesakes opera Don Carlos, the 5-3-2 seemed slow, ponderous, and blind. Though effective in Livorno’s first year in Serie A, once the top teams stopped throwing players forwards and leaving themselves open on the break, this tactic only seemed to ensure that Livorno were under constant pressure, leading to more opposition chances and goals. Livorno had almost always been more effective after switching to a 5-2-1-2. Verdi didn’t plan on using this one much going forward…

 

Terraza Mascagni [Seaside Square in Livorno]

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[PIs - Front three press. SS and AM: roam from position, move into channels, stay wider]

 

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It was very much a plan-C tactic, but when Verdi was looking to exploit certain areas - the space between the midfield and defense- and/or needed more protection down the flanks, the 5-2-2-1 had been a perfect change of pace. It didn’t quite have the bite of the two striker formations, but the front three could be a nightmare for back fours. With Moreo throwing himself around and Raspadori and Palumbo lurking dangerously in and around the box, center backs were forced to make quick difficult choices.  The extra protection afforded by the two holding midfielders also allowed the wingbacks to get forward more and put in crosses and through balls to the overloading forwards.

Summary

After a very successful year, Verdi felt like he had a trio of tactics that were highly flexible, and playing more and more like the kind of football he wanted. They put consistent pressure on the opposition, with and without the ball, and they played a fast, fluid passing game that could also strike fast and quick when the break was on. He still wanted more determination, more fight in his team, but Rome wast built in a day, and neither would Livorno be built overnight.  And neither would the new stadium apparently, with no word from the board about progress since the end of 22/23...

 

UP NEXT - Livorno on the Rise

Edited by 13th Man
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I just caught up with this after a while away and I am glad to see you are still at it! What a fantastic last season, great work and love the tactical write ups. Hope you can go one better next season, even though you have already exceeded all possible expectations. 

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On 31/08/2021 at 12:02, karanhsingh said:

I just caught up with this after a while away and I am glad to see you are still at it! What a fantastic last season, great work and love the tactical write ups. Hope you can go one better next season, even though you have already exceeded all possible expectations. 

 

On 31/08/2021 at 02:35, deltablue said:

I'm sure you'll do it.

I think last season Verdi got a bit lucky.  Hope is to maybe get that title in a year or two once some of the players have matured a bit more.  There were too many 1-0 wins...

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Goals!

Let’s take a moment to look back at the save goals as recalibrated at the beginning of the last season - (Original save goals were to create a working 3atb formation and establish Livorno in Serie A.) 

 

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. [No word yet on a new stadium...been a year, but these things do take time.  Have I surveyed the city of Livorno looking for sites myself and done some basic research on their viability?  Maybe…I also fear that Livorno would fall off a cliff if I resigned and sim'ed, so there's work still to be done.]

 

2-Champions League qualification [CHECK!!!] and maybe a decent run in the competition [time will tell]. This seems doable, at least once. Whether it happens? Time will tell.  [Checked off, but not quite finished.  This season will see if I get a decent run. Goal now is to maintain CL or at least European football.]

 

3-A title challenge. This is the toughest goal, and I will still consider it a success without it. [CHECK!!! After a crazy end to the year, Livorno were in with a chance until the final round of games. I think at this point, I'm definitely looking to win a title at least. If it doesn't happen over the next few years I won't consider it a failure though!]

 

So...here comes year five!

 

With a well rounded tactic, a set toolkit of tweaks, and the general expectation that Livorno will win a fair amount, I’m not going to get into the details of every game anymore.  A lot of it was becoming repetition.  I also won’t have the time - after being mostly unemployed during the last year, I'm making up for lost pandemic time. Now I’m working full time, in school full time, and (still) have two young kids.  Game time will be limited!

 

Instead of my previously detailed, game-by-game posts, I’m going to go newspaper style!  This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m going to write up ‘articles’ at key points in the season or after big games.  With limited time to play and write, I want to focus on the big moments - the times when an article might hit the front page of the ‘newspaper’.  There will still be tactical analysis of big games and all that, but less game-by-game ‘coverage’.  I’m currently writing the first “article” which I’m maybe enjoying a little too much so it’s taking a while longer than I planned...

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Livorno on the Rise

[Note - this is a pretend article/interview that I probably had too much fun imagining and writing.  Gotta switch things up sometimes...]

 

18/8/2024

Anyone who hasn’t paid much attention to Serie A in the past two years could be forgiven for thinking a mistake had been made when they looked at the table at the end of the 23/24 season. 

Livorno in second? They might ask. Who even is Livorno? 

Some might remember their brief surge into Europe during the late 2000’s, but otherwise the provincial Tuscan club has spent most of their time in Serie B and C.  Their home is Armando Picchi stadium, a place that makes you feel like you have been transported back in time fifty years or more.  It has barely has been touched since its construction in 1933, other than necessary repairs and reluctant renovations in order to meet EURO Cup guidelines in their first European adventure in 2006. It also boasts Serie A’s lowest seating capacity of just over fourteen thousand - not exactly the type of venue you associate with Champions League football!

So what happened? How has a team from the small seaside city of Livorno surged up through the leagues, nearly sneaking the Serie A title out from under Lazio’s nose last year? 

To answer some of these questions we sat down with the man who took the reigns in the summer of 2020, when Livorno had just been relegated into Serie C. Four years later, he’s preparing for a season on Europe’s biggest stage, and one in which the plucky young team from Tuscany won’t be taking anyone by surprise anymore…

 

So Giuseppe, when you signed your first contract at Livorno in 2020, did you have any idea that, four years later, you’d be preparing Livorno for a season in the Champions League?

 

Of course not! I never thought we’d get here so soon.

 

So you did expect to make it this far with a team like Livorno?

 

No, no, not at all. You misunderstand me! When I first became manager here I only  hoped to take Livorno back up into Serie B. Even when we won Serie C, I still believed we would spend at least a few years there before maybe making a push for Serie A eventually. To not only gain promotion that first year, but win the title? That was something special.

 

I think we can all agree on that! But you didn’t stop there, did you? In 22/23 you finished fifth in Serie A, and last year you got to within a point of the title. Tell me, do you think you’ll be able to do one better and take home the Serie A title this year?

 

The last few years have told me that anything is possible, but before you go running a headline saying “Verdi guarantees Serie A title for Livorno” I’ll add that I think it will be very, very tough for us to keep our place in the Champions League spots, much less push for the title again. With this great group of players, I think anything is possible, but when you look at the teams that finished around us, you’ll see the challenge we’re facing. Juventus, Lazio, Inter, AC Milan? They can pay a backup player more than we pay our stars, and the transfer fees they shell out for a single player would ruin us financially if we tried to do the same.

 

If you can’t complete financially, what’s your plan to complete on the pitch?

 

Well, we’re just going to have to do what we’ve been doing, right? We have a way of playing and a group of players that are suited to that style of football. 

 

So, in your own words, tell us what that style is? It has been likened to the genenpress but I understand you don’t like that label!

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Look, I admire teams that can press and attack the way Jurgen Klopp and others do, that’s just not what I’m looking for in my team, and it’s simplistic to categorize our style of play that way. That’s not to say there aren’t similarities. We do like to press high, to have a split block, and to counter-press, but we are more concerned with keeping shape and making the other team fight their way through us.  Yes the front three press a lot, but the rest of the team tries to maintain its shape when we’re without the ball.  Anytime the other team scores we want to be able to say it was a moment of brilliance - either an exceptional move or a piece of individual genius - whereas the truly genenpress teams can get caught out on the break or sliced through by good passing teams.  I hate getting caught on the break, though we did a lot in my first year. Offensively, we also do try to pass quickly and progressively, but I don’t like wasting possession.  If the counter is on?  Great.  Nothing is more powerful in football than watching a perfectly executed counter. If not? We try to overload the central areas, pass and move quickly, and probe until we find an opening.  Where the genenpress tries to pound the opposition into submission, our style is the steady, unyielding application of pressure. We strive to tire the opposition out, mentally and physically with this pressure, and be ready to pounce on any mistakes or loss of concentration. I want to force the other team to be wary at all times, to know that we are always ready to hit the ball over the top if they commit too far forward, to pass through them if they sit back, and to pin them in their own box if they try to waste time.  

 

We also try to set up our tactic in such a way that the players in the team are able to become more than the sum of their parts.  If a role or duty doesn’t suit a specific player, we will adjust, always looking for a balance, and a way of pulling the best out of every player on the pitch.  Change one part, and the others will move - if only slightly.  Sometimes it’s just that the team will play a little different, and sometimes we give different instructions based on the players on the pitch.

 

Can you give us an example of this?  You are known as someone who makes a lot of small adjustments both over a season and during each game.

 

For one, Martin (Palumbo) is an excellent finisher, both in the box and from distance, so when he plays in the attacking midfield role I want him to shoot whenever he sees the chance.

 

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Roberto (Garcia)?  He’s a good passer, makes good decisions, but he’s not as strong of a finisher, so I tell him not to just shoot from anywhere.  Sometimes I’ll even pull him back a bit and have Stefano (Moreo) or Rodrigo (Macedo) play a bit more attacking.

 

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You mentioned Palumbo, a player that most forget is still technically contracted to Udinese!  Why have you decided to bring him on for another year on loan? 

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Each year we try, and each year the finances just don’t work out to have him transfer here fully.  I think someday we will make it work, and I believe that he will go on to have an amazing career here in Livorno.  It just keeps seeming like it’s a year away!

 

What is your response to those who say that a lot of Livorno’s success has been because of Raspadori? To those who say that without him Livorno would be a midtable side at best?

 

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[Verdi laughs]

There’s no good way for me to answer this, is there? Look, Raspadori is a fantastic player, unstoppable on his day. I still laugh when I think about how nervous I was about spending €6.5m on him! But all the forwards in the advanced role have scored a lot of goals in this system. Pallecchi scored a bunch in 20/21, Galan in 21/22, and Raspadori has taken it to the next level. The tactic is designed to put the advanced forward in goal scoring positions, and Raspadori fits the profile of the type of player I like in that role perfectly. 

 

You say that you always look to get the best out of your players, I think the biggest surprise on the Livorno team has been Piccinocchi.  You singed him on a free when Livorno was in Serie C, and he’s come up through the leagues and won accolades at each level winning Serie B footballer of the year two years ago and was voted into the Serie A team of the year last year ahead of some big names!

 

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Mario (Picchinocchi) is a perfect example of our philosophy.  He’s a very well rounded player and is the perfect player for our carillero role.  He’s the team’s glue and its metronome.  He’s a good passer, works well in the team, and has a total focus that means he’s rarely caught out.  He might not be the best at any one thing, but he’s good at so many different things. He’s been brilliant year in, year out, and he deserves all the accolades he’s gotten.

 

On the subject of Piccinocchi, there are reports that he and the club are at a bit of an impasse in contract negotiations. You’ve met once but failed to come to an agreement, can you tell us any more about the situation?

[Verdi smiles wryly]

 

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Mario’s agent came to me a few weeks ago and there’s an agreement that Mario deserves a raise. Where there’s some distance between us is on the length of the contract as well as a few other issues. It hasn’t changed our relationship at all. He still has three years left on his contract, so we have plenty of time to come to an agreement.

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What about those who might say that you brought in Darijo Modric as a long term replacement for Piccinocchi? You paid a club record €16.5m for him and he’s a similar sort of player…

 

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Let me stop you right there. Darijo (Modric) is a player that I’m excited to welcome to Livorno and he’s set to contribute a lot in the coming season, but he’s not a replacement for Mario (Piccinocchi). Sure, Mario is 29, so he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but he’s still in his prime and contributing consistently.

 

One thing I like about Darijo (Modric) is that he can play in both the holding role and the carrilero role, so you’ll see plenty of him, but he’s not pushing anyone out of the team.

 

But you do have to admit that you have a lot of players competing for those two central midfield roles. Ranocchia and Piccinocchi has been your most common pairing the last three years, and you already have Lees-Melou and Crocciata, youngsters Finazzi and Kim, now you’ve added Modric. That leaves seven players vying for two starting spots.

 

First off, rotation is key as we’ll be playing two games a week more often than not, especially in the first half of the season. I hope to rotate more this season than last, as we had several spells where the players could barely run! Also, Phillipo (Ranocchia), Pierre (Lees-Melou), and Giovanni (Crocciata) all can fill in as wingers on occasion, and every team needs versatile players. That said, we will quite possibly have some movement in this area. We’ll just have to find out whether it’s loans or transfers and who it might be.

 

Modric was technically a transfer from last year, with you loaning him back to Zagreb for the second half of the season, which makes Sebastiano Esposito was your biggest purchase of the summer, joining for a fee of €11.75m.  This deal came out of nowhere for many, can you explain how this happened?

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Sebastiano is exactly the kind of player we like here in Livorno.  He’s a well rounded player already, and is young enough that we expect him to grow a lot in the next few years.  Like most of our transfers, we’ve been tracking him for a while, and when we heard that Inter were considering offers for him, I knew we had to make one and see if we make a deal. While he wasn’t exactly cheap, but we felt the value was reasonable for a player and he agreed to a reasonable wage as well.

 

Some might say Esposito hasn’t lived up to his early promise so far, that while he was excellent in Serie B four years ago, his spells with Parma on loan weren’t especially dominating.  What makes you think he will succeed more at Livorno?

 

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I think he was played too much on the wing where he couldn’t quite use his specific set of physical talents.  He’s much more  of a danger in and around the box, I would say.  I also think that he will fit perfectly into the deeper forward role, where his pace and heading ability will cause nightmares for defenders. He’s not the finished product yet, but neither was Raspadori when he arrived, and when you’re a club on a smaller budget like ours, he’s a perfect fit.

 

What does this mean for Moreo and Macedo, two forwards who contributed a lot last year?

 

I imagine that they can both contribute a lot as well. We were in the position of having Macedo train for both the deeper and advanced roles last year, but I think he’s much better in the more advanced role. Moreo was also run into the ground for much of the season. Now I have four forwards that I can rely on without reservation.

 

On the left you brought in Greek leftback Kostas Tsmikas who joins from Norwich. With a transfer fee of only €8m, it seems like a steal with his experience and ability. How did you manage to get this deal done?

 

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Kostas (Tsimikas) has been on our radar all year, and we learned that he was feeling unsettled in Norwich so we made an offer. It took a bit of negotiating, but with Norwich and the player at an impasse, we knew we could get the deal over the line. As you mentioned, he brings a great deal of quality and experience to the side. His wage demands and transfer fee were very reasonable and I think this deal will work very well for everyone.

 

What does this mean for Tripadelli and Chavarria? There are rumors that Atalanta is interested in Tripadelli, so is this a case of buying a replacement ahead of selling?

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Who can we expect to see start?  Tripadelli has been with you since the beginning, but a club like Livorno spends €8m on a player...

That will depend on a lot of things - fitness, training, the opponent - but I’m pleased to have two excellent options.

 

Is that why Chavarria left?

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Yes. He was a great member of the team and has contributed greatly in the past three years.  With Kostas (Tsimikas) coming in, I didn’t expect him to get much game time at all, so he moved to a club where he would play regularly.

 

Slightly further back, you’ve also gone out and bought Argentine center back Bruno Amione from rival Verona.  He’s seen as a player with a lot of potential.  Do you see him starting right away, or do you think he’ll feature more as a rotation option?

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Bruno (Amione) certainly has the skill set and ability to start right away. He’s a well rounded center back who can do all facets of his job well, and is even decent on the ball. If he reaches his potential he will become an excellent player.

 

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However, like any new member of the team, I hope to ease him in slowly. With our packed schedule, I can certainly see him getting lots of game time and he will have every chance of earning a starting role.

 

He is, surprisingly, the fourth center back on your team who is left footed, with Turco returning from his loan spell with SPAL.

 

Is that a question? [Verdi laughs] I don’t really like to pay too much attention to whether they’re right or left footed, just what kind of player they are. It just so happens that I’ve found four left footed center backs that I really like.

 

So do you expect Amione to compete with Gozzi and/or Carboni? Or with Bani and Bodgan too?

 

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No one bats an eye if a right footed player plays on the left, so I see no issue with fielding three left footed players in the backline if they’re my best three! That said, I’d always prefer to have a player who’s footedness matches the side they’re on. To truly answer your question though, while both Poulo (Gozzi) and Andrea (Carboni) have been excellent, both need to continue to develop and grow as players if they want to maintain their place in the team.

 

Are you saying you’re disappointed in their development? How do you think they’ll handle being called out in the media?

 

I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. I have full faith in both to reach their potential, but I wonder whether not having any real competition has allowed them to get a little too comfortable. Bruno should give them that extra bit of incentive to continue to improve. If they take this as anything other than an invitation to take their game to the next level, that’s their own issue.

 

Does Amione’s arrival mean another loan spell for young Turco? And what about the future of unsettled Capradossi?

 

We haven’t made a decision on either. Miguel (Turco) showed progress and had a nice season with SPAL, helping them gain promotion. We’ll spend at least some of the preseason determining whether he’s ready for the first team. Elio (Capradossi) is a different story. We’re looking to find him a club where he might get more first team playing time. He’s been a great member of the team and a professional throughout, but we both have agreed that he might be happier elsewhere. We’re in discussions with Verona currently.

 

So it would almost be a two player exchange for Amione then, with Dejan Kuzmanovic heading to Verona as part of the original deal?

 

I guess so. Dejan is a player with a potentially bright future, but he wasn’t going to get the playing time he needed to develop here.

 

The Amione deal seems to mean an end to the possibility of bringing Taylor Harwood-Bellis.  I understand that Livorno and Aston Villa had an agreement for €15m and another €10m to come over the next three years, only for you to pull out at the last minute.  Can you take us through what happened?

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Taylor is a player that I was really keen to sign.  He’s strong, fast, and an all around good player.  When it came time to put pen to paper, however, I realized that we couldn’t spend the vast majority of our budget on just one player.  €25m was just too much to stomach for a player who is very good, but not good enough to make up for the players we wouldn't have been able to sign.  The Sebastiano and Kostas deals strengthened us in two areas, and while we might have been able to get one of the two, we certainly wouldn't’ have been able to afford both.

 

You also brought in another goalkeeper, Pontus Dahlburg from BK Hacken in Sweden, which came as a surprise to many. Rumor has it that he will be a cup keeper, though, rather than act as direct competition for Serie A’s Keeper of the Year for the last two years, is this the case? Especially considering his relatively inexpensive fee of €1.1m?

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That’s right. Pontus is a quality player and he will get playing time, but he comes in knowing that Mazzini is the number one keeper at the club. It is, however, a great relief to know that if Mazzini gets an injury or has to miss games, we have a quality keeper to take his place when needed.

 

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You had what many would call a successful preseason.  Mostly wins, with the only loss coming from a game in which you played well but fell late to Barcelona at the Camp Nou.  Now that the season is just a week away, how do you feel about the coming season?

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I am cautiously optimistic.  I’ve added a bit of depth and options to the team, but it's much the same as it was last year - but with another year of playing together.  We did very well against Inter and Barcelona, and I think we can, once again, be a team that no one wants to play.

 

Finally, season starts with an interesting mix of fixtures, but nothing like last years opening five games.  Are you feeling a bit more relaxed going into this season?

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The opening of the season isn’t easy, but with all due respect, it’s certainly a relief after last year’s first five games!  Atalanta we face again, but we were spared Lazio, Juventus, and Inter back-to-back-to-back this time!  That said, Napoli are always a dangerous team, Atalanta have done well against us, and the last time we faced Empoli they thrashed us 5-1!  Parma and Sampdoria always give us a good fight too.  There’s no easy games, that’s for sure, but I’m looking forward to finally getting back out on the pitch for competitive fixtures.

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Fair enough re: Harwood-Bellis. Lot of money on one position is a tough call to make. Ironically in one of my saves he went to PSG, bounced around on loan and was available on a free - I was ecstatic at that bit of business when I signed him.

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7 hours ago, Djecker said:

Fair enough re: Harwood-Bellis. Lot of money on one position is a tough call to make. Ironically in one of my saves he went to PSG, bounced around on loan and was available on a free - I was ecstatic at that bit of business when I signed him.

Always fun when deals fall into your lap like that. 
As it was in this save, Aston Villa was in the Championship so I’d been thinking I could get him for more like €15m - but then they were promoted again and wanted a lot more.  I still really wanted him and even though €25m (€15m up front) was a lot, it seemed reasonably fair. It was just when I began to think in the context of the team that I felt like it was too much. 
Center back is still the weakest part of the side, but hopefully some of the younger players can develop a bit more - there’s Amione who I just bought and Turco who’s 19 but with a lot of potential and seems to play beyond his attributes a lot of the time. Gozzi and Carboni (mentioned in the post) are still both on the young side too at 23, but they’ve been playing consistently for three years and their progress has seemingly stagnated.

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Youngster's can do it in defense. You just need faith and have a good GK. (which you have!) The young Argentinean is a good addition.  Argentina is often an under used source of wonderkids! A lot of people seem stuck on Brazil.....

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15 minutes ago, Hootieleece said:

Youngster's can do it in defense. You just need faith and have a good GK. (which you have!) The young Argentinean is a good addition.  Argentina is often an under used source of wonderkids! A lot of people seem stuck on Brazil.....

Yup, if this save goes as I expect I might have a largely Argentinian defense! 
I know youngsters can do the job (and I’ve got a 30 year old on the right adding experience too) and they haven’t been bad, but both Gozzi and Carboni (current CB and LCB and both 23) just haven’t progressed much in the last two years. They’re both fine but Carboni can get pushed out of the game by a strong striker and Gozzi sometimes just doesn’t do enough and lets people by too easily (lowish workrate despite good physicals). 
I see Turco and Amione pushing one and maybe both out of the team in the next year or two.

One thing I will say for Carboni though is he's king of the block from behind. The one where the forward thinks he’s through on goal, he sees the headlines for the next day in his mind, but then Carboni comes sliding in just as he hits it.

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11 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Always fun when deals fall into your lap like that. 
As it was in this save, Aston Villa was in the Championship so I’d been thinking I could get him for more like €15m - but then they were promoted again and wanted a lot more.  I still really wanted him and even though €25m (€15m up front) was a lot, it seemed reasonably fair. It was just when I began to think in the context of the team that I felt like it was too much. 
Center back is still the weakest part of the side, but hopefully some of the younger players can develop a bit more - there’s Amione who I just bought and Turco who’s 19 but with a lot of potential and seems to play beyond his attributes a lot of the time. Gozzi and Carboni (mentioned in the post) are still both on the young side too at 23, but they’ve been playing consistently for three years and their progress has seemingly stagnated.

Sometimes I search by active relegation release clauses to find bargains from relegated teams.

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The Battle of Livorno

[I know I said I wouldn’t get into every game, but this opening match was worth sharing because it was both a nice tactical switch again...and it was just nuts.]

 

26/8/2024

 

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The first game of Livorno’s season looked like a great win at first glance.  It was too, Verdi’s use of the 5-2-2-1 once again left Napoli's 4-2-3-1 struggling for answers.

 

Napoli attacked from the beginning, and peppered Mazzini’s goal with shots.  However, few of them were quality chances.  Though he started with the 5-2-1-2, Verdi switched quickly to the 5-2-2-1 when his midfield began to get overwhelmed by Napoli’s, and from then on Livorno comfortably handled everything Napoli sent their way.  Amione’s goal was fortuitous, dropping to the centerback in the box after it was knocked down by a Napoli defender, but the debutant kept his cool to slot the ball home.  Palumbo’s insurance goal was a beauty. After substitute Garcia began a quick counter, his shot was deflected off a Napoli defender, but Palumbo found himself in the right place at the right time to finish first time with a curling shot from the edge of the area into the far left corner.

 

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In the end, however, the cost was high.  Star striker Raspadori went down in with a hamstring strain after fifty minutes, new signing on the left Kostas Tsimikas then left the game after a crunching tackle five minutes later, and Galves pulled up with a groin injury after another rough Napoli tackle with seventy-five minutes gone.

 

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Though Galves’ injury turned out to be minor, the loss of Raspadori for the first month of the season was a tough blow, especially as Livorno looks set to begin their Champions League campaign in mid September.  Livorno has to hope that new forward signing Esposito can step up in Raspadori's absence, or else September could be long month for the Tuscan side.

 

UP NEXT - A Tough Road Ahead

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2 minutes ago, Hootieleece said:

Losing Raspadori is tough since he is your "Goal Machine"! Good Luck in Champions League may you get a favorable draw...

Lololol, as you’ll see in the next post…

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A Tough Road Ahead

30/8/2024 - Italian Football Weekly

 

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The draw for the Champions League has come and it has not been kind to newcomers Livorno. Coming in as a fourth seed in the competition meant that they would surely face two of Europe’s best teams but last night any hopes of being able to realistically compete in the group were dashed as they were drawn into group C. Livorno will face off against three European heavyweights in Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and Benfica in this season’s Group of Death.

 

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Elsewhere, Lazio were drawn against Athletco Madrid, Hertha BSC, and Dynamo Kyiv and can be confident of doing well and possibly even topping the group. Athleticism will prove tough opponents and Berlin have the ability to cause problems, but Lazio can feel good about their chances.

 

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Juventus were given a generous draw, with the Italian giants clear favorites to beat out Porto who are the only real challengers in a group that also includes Turkish side Gapatasaray and Rostov from Russia.

 

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Like Juventus, Inter could expect to sail smoothly through the group stage, with PSV the only side likely to cause them any trouble.

 

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Livorno can expect a tough introduction to the Champions League as they host PSG at Armando Picchi on September 17th.

 

Livorno have consistently surprised the footballing world these past few years, and it would not be wise to count them out, but it looks like a tough road ahead for Livorno if they hope to have any European football after December.

 

UP NEXT - Trial by Fire

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Trial by Fire

16/9/2024 - The Athletic

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The moment that the city of Livorno has been waiting for since late last spring has finally arrived - the first Champions League game at Armando Picchi. As the date approaches however, some trepidation must accompany the excitement as Livorno prepare to host mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain. 

PSG are a tough ask for a full strength Livorno side, and the Tuscan club has been ravaged by injury in the first few games of the season. Right wingback Galves returns from injury, but Livorno will be short arguably their best defender in Bani - injured in the win over Parma - and their star forward Raspadori, who will only be fit enough for the bench. Garcia and left wingback Tsimikas also miss out, the former through suspension and the later still out injured. Neither would have likely started, but this Livorno team is noticeably thin.

 

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Worse yet, while Livorno started the season strongly with an excellent win over Napoli and a tough, come from behind win over Parma which saw new signing Esposito score his first two goals for Livorno, disaster struck at Armando Picchi over the weekend.

 

Against Atalanta, Livorno had been slightly on top for the first twenty minutes until Carboni lost his composure and went in for a completely unnecessary two footed challenge and earned himself a straight red.

 

The rest of the game could not have been what Verdi had in mind when he looked to prepare for the PSG game a few days later. 

 

The only positive to come from the defeat against Atalanta was that Verdi had rotated the side a bit, and pulled Palumbo and Tripadelli when it became clear that Livorno would not earn even a point.  At least the players that were fit would be rested for PSG’s visit.

 

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When asked about his side’s chances in the hand, Verdi was realistic, admitting it would be a tough game. He downplayed the team’s chances and took the pressure off his players.  

 

While Livorno certainly hope to give a good account of themselves against PSG, few expect them to be able to handle the firepower available to the Parisian giants. With superstar Mbappe and the outstanding Odegaard are joined by a player Livorno knows all too well - forward Osimhen joined from Napoli for €59m this summer after scoring three goals in four games against the Tuscan club the past two years. 

 

Tomorrow night will tell a lot about Livorno’s ability to compete at the top level.

 

UP NEXT - Under the Brightest Lights

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Under the Brightest Lights

17/19/2024

 

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No one gave Livorno a chance, not even their manager Guissepe Verdi. Surely, even at home in cozy Armando Picchi, Livorno would melt under the brightest lights, especially without Raspadori. Many thought they would give PSG a good fight, and many expected the 3-1 scoreline, but no one expected that Sebastiano Esposito would be grabbing headlines instead of Mbappe or former Napoli man Osimhen.  Instead, when the final whistle blew it was rising star Esposito’s two well taken goals, along with a superb finish by Piccinocchi, that gave Livorno their first ever Champions League victory.  Instead, it was PSG who could only put up a good fight. Instead, it was PSG who could only score off a set-piece even after some very favorable refereeing decisions went their way.

 

With the odds stacked against Livorno, Verdi surprised everyone when he had his side line up in their usual 5-2-1-2, but it proved tactically astute.  Against PSG’s 4-3-3, Livorno were able to mark and press PSG’s midfield three, and even their two center backs, all without losing shape.  Mbape, playing here as a center forward, was rarely seen for large stretches of the game, starved of service and unable to wriggle free from Livorno’s backline of Amione, Carboni and Bodgan.  Though PSG were able to make inroads down both flanks, once they actually put crosses into the box the ball was always easily dealt with, with Mbappe well marshaled by Carboni.  Livorno played exactly the way Verdi wanted them to, giving up nothing easy and forcing PSG to play through an organized and disciplined team that pressed just enough to keep the Parisians from getting comfortable.

In the first minutes, it was Livorno who looked far more dangerous. In the ninth minute, Esposito was denied by a great save, but from the ensuing corner, the forward Esposito rose high in the middle of the box to guide the ball into the far corner. 

 

Armando Picchi exploded - Livorno was 1-0 up against PSG! No one expected the scoreline to last, though Livorno had started the game very well and were worth their lead.

The game settled after the goal, with neither side threatening for a long spell - and that suited the home side just fine. 

 

Then, in the 29th minute, Odegaard attacked the box after receiving a throw-in. He was marshaled wide by Amione and then he showed a bit too much of the ball. Amione nicked the ball off him and put it out for a corner, only for referee Mateu to point to the spot instead. Abuse rained down from all sides and even Odegaard looked a little sheepish as the replays were shown. To everyone’s surprise, VAR confirmed the decision.

So Mbappe had the chance to put PSG back on script, to start the comeback against the plucky Tuscan side. Verdi could be heard, even over a furious Armando Picchi, shouting encouragement to his side, letting them know that they were still playing well. Mbappe hit a powerful shot to the right and Mazzini, at full stretch, turned it around for a corner.  Fourteen thousand voices serenaded Mazzini for minutes after the initial wild celebrations died down.

 

PSG tried to make up for Mbappe’s miss by upping the pressure, but it was absorbed easily and Livorno went into the half up 1-0. 

 

Fans were only just returning to their seats for the second half when Livorno scored again. A good Livorno move down the left was dealt with by PSG, only for the clearance to fall to right wingback Galves. The young Frenchmen took a touch and spotted Esposito making an excellent diagonal run and his lofted ball found the forward in stride. Esposito kept his composure and cushioned the ball effortlessly into the net on the volley.  It was a stunning move and both the assist and the finish were top quality.

 

PSG began to attack in waves and Tuchel tried moving Mbappe to the wing and Osimhen into the center. The former Napoli forward had scored 3 goals in four games against Livorno, but while he caused Livorno more trouble than Mbappe, he failed to register a shot on target. His best effort of the night was a header just over the bar that Mazzini probably had covered anyway.  

 

Livorno found themselves pinned back, but at 2-0 up they were happy to soak up pressure. PSG, frustrated at their lack of a breakthrough, started shooting at the sight of goal and snatching at their chances. Very little troubled Mazzini, however, though he was called into action a few times from range.

 

Finally, after 75 minutes, they were able to get one past Mazzini off a set piece. De Jong met an Odegaard free kick and guided it towards the far corner. Mazzini got two strong hands to it, but could only divert the powerful effort and watched helplessly as it wriggled just inside the near post.

 

Many feared that a young Livorno side would crumble under the pressure.

 

Instead, Livorno tightened up and PSG failed to threaten again. Instead, it was Livorno who found an opening in the final minute of regular time through two unlikely sources. With Tsimikas still out with a sprained ankle, center midfielder Ranocchia was called upon as a makeshift left wingback as Tripadelli began to tire, and he found himself with the ball in space attacking the PSG box. He fought through a challenge on the left edge of the box and charged to the byline. With PSG’s backline chasing Esposito, Moreo and a returning Raspadori, the late arriving Piccinocchi was left unnoticed by all except Ranocchia. The makeshift wingback cut the ball back towards the penalty spot, and Piccinocchi opened his body and redirected the ball into the far corner around a mass of bodies that stood between him and the goal.

 

Armando Picchi began to truly celebrate as it became clear that Livorno would, against all the odds, start off their first Champions League campaign with a famous victory.

 

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Judging just from the xG and the possession stats, PSG would feel hard done by. However, anyone who actually watched the game would have to admit that PSG’s only clear chance was a highly dubious penalty and that while Mazzini was busy, he wasn’t overly troubled in the Livorno goal.  Livorno made the most of their time on the ball, creating four good chances and scoring three of them.

Livorno still have plenty of challenging games ahead of them in Group C, but whatever happens in the coming months, they’ve shown that they belong at this level.

 

UP NEXT - Relief in Rome

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9 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Strong summer there especially with Esposito! And what a massive result over the Parisians! Love getting one over them.

I also like the look of the new Modric... KUTGW

Beating PSG is always a highlight
Esposito has been huge. Next post is actually a “profile”. Modric has been a bit underwhelming, mostly due to being anxious it seems, but he’s only 19. Verdi’s going to be a bit more careful in easing him into the team as he’s shown some moments of brilliance when he’s comfortable.

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