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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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Incredible stuff in just fire years. Congratulations! May I add always nicely written in fact I think probably the best. Also you’ve stuck to your guns with your tactical ideals and through the finest recruitment policy brought some incredible signings. This is certainly well deserved and you’ve earned it. Enjoy the glory!

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On 30/09/2021 at 03:06, deltablue said:

Yay, you did it!

!!!

On 30/09/2021 at 03:12, Hootieleece said:

Great Job! I knew you would do it!

You have about 4 weeks to finish off your checklist of achievements.....Wide Center backs are calling!

 

That makes one of us. I was sure Milan would beat Livorno.

But yes, I was all ready to wait until an update or two into FM22, and really give this save a few more good seasons. I even had a specific idea for a save all ready as my first in FM22. Then SI had to go and do a thing that I really want and am excited about! Those %#@)&!!! 
 

On 30/09/2021 at 04:48, SixPointer said:

Incredible stuff in just fire years. Congratulations! May I add always nicely written in fact I think probably the best. Also you’ve stuck to your guns with your tactical ideals and through the finest recruitment policy brought some incredible signings. This is certainly well deserved and you’ve earned it. Enjoy the glory!

Many thanks for the high praise! It’s been quite a journey. With FM22 around the corner I think I’m going to make one last push for a good European run and then this save may have run its course.

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Posted (edited)

End of Season Review

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Livorno’s two year long wait for silverware finally ended on The 25th of May, 2025 when they won their first major trophy on the final day of the season.

 

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Signing of the Season

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This one was no contest. Esposito proved an absolute bargain at €11.75m. He was a perfect foil for Raspadori, seeming to score whenever his partner was silenced, netting 31 goals on the season as well as teeing up eleven more for others. Tsmikas on the left also lit up many games and adding a bit more grit and determination than Tripadelli, who also spent much of the year injured. Amione took over the starting role from club captain Carboni and was a generally reliable presence, especially on the left of the back three.

 

A season to remeber

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It may not have been pretty down the stretch, with Livorno winning a lot of tight, nervy games. That is not only the mark of champions, but a sign of the team’s remarkable mental strength.

 

Top games

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The absolute demolition of Bologna was the last game in which Livorno played with freedom and joy before the grind of the title run in started to stifle their play. It could be said that the biggest match of the season was the final match against AC Milan, but the 2-0 win against Inter was the game in which people finally started to sit up and take notice of this side.

 

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First 11

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[Again, weirdly flipped left to right!]

 

Obviously the forward duo were the stars, but Tsmikas was excellent on the left and Palumbo was a key part to how Livorno play. He was asked to do a lot - close down from the front, defend the edge of the box, lead counters, score from distance, provide a general goal threat and create chances - and he did it all, often running himself into the ground in the process.

 

The Accolades

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The player accolades were, no surprise, dominated by the front three. Raspadori won fans’ player of the season, and was the top goal scorer, while Esposito was voted best young player and had the most assists.

 

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The fan vote matched the general vote for Serie A as Raspadori claimed the best player award for the second year in a row.

 

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Esposito’s move from Inter was a boon for both Livorno and Esposito as the striker was finally given the chance to fulfil his early promise. His 20 league goals and nine assists made him one of Serie A’s most lethal forwards, despite being on the same team as Raspadori.

 

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Together, Raspadori and Esposito made up two of the top ten scorers in Serie A - scoring a combined 53 goals in Serie A alone to make them by far the most deadly partnership in the league.

 

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In the tradition of Livorno strikers vying for personal awards, Francisco was the Portuguese Premier league’s second most prolific goalscorer.

 

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The Serie A Team of the Year was dominated by Livorno, representing 7 of the best eleven, and with midfield being the only position in which they weren’t the majority.

 

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Finally, Verdi won the accolade that had eluded him the year before.

 

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While the title looked comfortable at the end of the final day, but the run in was anything but. Milan were incredible on the year, especially without Europe to distract them, but Livorno somehow managed to beat them twice and that was the difference. Fourteen and fifteen points separated Livorno from Inter in 3rd and the previous years’ champions Lazio in 4th.

 

One of the stories of the year was Juventus’ fall from the top, finishing twenty points behind Livorno and outside the champions league.

 

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On the other end of the table SPAL headed straight back down to Serie B. Ternana managed a respectable 12th place finish while Brescia were also safe in 16th. Instead, Bologna's multiple year flirtation with relegation was finally consummated, and were joined by a Cagliari team who had been solidly midtable for years but suddenly came on hard times.

 

EUROPE

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Livorno’s first foray into the Champions League culminated in a loss in Dortmund which dropped them into the Europa League.  There was no shame in coming third in a group like this, but it was a shame that they let PSG squeak into the knockout rounds.  Mostly because…

 

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PSG would go on to win the whole thing!  So Livorno beat the Champions League winners by a combined score of 3-1 over two legs.  Not so bad.  Just sad that they won in the end.

 

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Livorno’s EURO Cup campaign was also a disappointment as they fell to an Athletico Bilbao team that they really could, and should, have beaten.  Two bad mistakes on corners in the 3-3 draw in Livorno proved costly though, and did allow Livorno to focus on the League.

 

Armando Picchi Park

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Just after their historic Serie A win, Livorno’s board announced the groundbreaking for the club's new stadium. Originally named Armando Picchi Park, the stadium will double the current stadium’s capacity to 28,266 and open in the summer of 2027. [Ouch, I’d really hoped to open the new stadium but I’m not sure I have three years left in this save…not when I hear about proper wide CBs in FM22…As a preview, I am going to have a go at having more attacking CBs in the next season, but we’ll see...]

Stats and Graphs!

I’m not going as deep here as I had before because it’s really similar to last year and with a very similar tactic.  Still a bit interesting to see the progression though...

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Still outperforming xG for and against.

 

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Livorno actually dropped a bit in efficiency compared to last year.  They converted 17% percent in the 23/24 season and drop to 16% here, but took two extra shots per game.  They still rank among the best in the league, and were also facing more parked busses.

 

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A major improvement on the defensive side.  Livorno faced three less shots a game than in 23/24 and still let in only 8% of those shots.

 

UP NEXT - Preview to...THE FINAL CHAPTER of the LIVORNO SAGA!!!

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

Exceptional as always! Chapeau!

Thanks!

 

21 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Huzzah! Verdi the best composer in the beautiful game!

 

Laaaaa!  Lalala!!!! Opera football! Encore!  That's basically what this last season is going to be (though sometimes encores are kind of...not so good)!

20 hours ago, Djecker said:

Esposito - what a fantastic buy! Great season by Livorno.

He's been a monster.  Crazy thing is - I got absolute goal machine Raspadori for only €6.5m (or 7?) so this partnership that scored 53 goals in Serie A alone cost under €20m!

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Posted (edited)

Preview to...THE PREVIEW OF....

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[Why is there an explosion you ask? Answer - YES!!!!]

The Final Chapter of the LIVONRO SAGA!!!!

 

Here we are. Giuseppe Verdi and Livorno are coming off winning the Serie A title in the most dramatic way imaginable - with a home win against their title rivals AC Milan. They’ve gone from Serie C to the top of Serie A in five years, with many amazing memories along the way. What is there left to achieve in the 25/26 season? A season which is almost surely the last of the LIVORNO SAGA!!! A saga which has spanned five seasons (and seven actual months)?

 

I had hoped to open the new stadium, but with it being two full seasons away and with FM 22 and wide CBs just around the corner, I don’t see myself making it that far.

 

So what is there to play for? I’ve accomplished my goals and more. I even considered leaving it and going out on a massive high, but I got into the transfer window and realized I still feel invested.

So I’m going to do two things with this (probably) final season.

 

1 - Verdi is going to make a big push in Europe. He doesn't need to win anything, but the 24/25 season was a bit disappointing on that front. Just about whatever the opposition, Verdi’s going to pick his best 11 in Europe.  If he goes out, he’ll go out knowing he gave his best shot.

 

2 - Unleash Opera Football upon Serie A. No longer will Verdi play pragmatic football. He’s going to press, he’s going to play fast, he’s going to attack - no matter the opposition. That doesn’t mean he’ll play the 3-4-1-2 all the time, but he’s going to go into every game looking to play on the front foot and to win by controlling the game and controlling space.

 

I plan on finishing this season before FM22 drops, or at least finishing it out before I switch over.  The exception might be if the season goes spectacularly wrong...

 

UP NEXT - The Actual Preview to the 25/26 Season

Edited by 13th Man
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1 hour ago, SixPointer said:

Ha! Love it.

Its strangely satisfying when you learn about upcoming stars in fm.

Who knows how he’ll do long term, but he’s got this great mix of flair, speed, intelligence, and determination that is unusual and could take him far. I’ll definitely be following his career with interest.
 

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Posted (edited)

The Actual Preview to the 25/26 Season

Encore!” Cries the crowd! “Encore!”

 

The maestro waits, standing in the wings, out of view of the crowd.

 

“Encore! Encore!”

 

The orchestra begins to stomp their feet and the crowd truly begins to roar. The orchestra has some new faces, some key upgrades in key places, and they wait for the maestro to return to the stage.

 

“Encore! Encore!”

 

The maestro steps out onto the stage and the applause is deafening. But there is a pause, will the diva come out with him? Will she return to the stage to make beautiful music one more time with maestro Verdi?

 

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The cloud that hung over Livorno in the summer of 2025 was the interest that Raspadori was once again attracting. This time, Manchester United came in with a shock bid in June, offering nearly €60m. Livorno rejected the offer - especially when it contained so much deferred payment and many dependent clauses. Raspadori and Verdi met shortly after, and while Raspadori was adamant in his desire to leave, the two agreed that he was worth more than €45m+clauses. With a bit of back and forth, Verdi made a promise to let him go if Manchester United came in with a bid of €80m or better. The question was would they - or some other top team - come in and match that price?

 

Meanwhile, Verdi was busy himself in the transfer market. He had, by far, his biggest transfer budget of €60m and a wage budget of €900k/w - though he’d push much of the transfer budget over to the wage side with the quality of player he brought in combined with the members of the squad in line for contract extensions.

 

First priority was the center of defense. Right center back Bani was thirty one and responsible for several crucial mistakes late in the previous season that had begun to test Verdi’s trust in him. Worse he often played nervous during the title run in, and Verdi feared he had trouble coping with pressure. Amione and Gozzi had both been solid but Verdi felt he could do better. He specifically wanted quick players who were good with the ball at their feet.

 

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Enter Mert Cetin from relegated Bologna. The smart, technical, and committed defender was available for the insanely low price of €1.8m as Bologna looked to slash their wage bill. He wasn’t as strong in the air as some, but his other qualities more than made up for that.

 

Next was the long awaited permanent transfer of Palumbo to Livorno.

 

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Verdi hated to overspend, but it was different when it was a player that had been with Verdi since Serie C. Finally, after five years in Livorno on loan, Palumbo joined permanently in a €28m deal, with €8m of that coming in installments. It was a massive investment, but the player was key to how Livorno played and Livorno were finally able to afford both the transfer fee and his wages.

 

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Two other players earned new deals, with sizzling Tsmikas and daring Darijo Modric both rewarded for their strong form.

 

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There were fears in Tuscany that manager Verdi would leave the club, but a job offer never materialized and Real Madrid found another new manager instead.

 

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Though it seemed as if Manchester United’s interest in Raspadori had waned by mid July, rumors about a move to AC Milan or Juventus began to swirl as the summer progressed.

 

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But until something materialized, Verdi was at work remodeling his backline. This time it was versatile French wingback/center back Mukiele arriving from Newcastle for €13m. He was  another quick player that could not only defend but also contribute going forward.

 

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Mukiele’s arrival, however, meant the departure of Bogdan - the last remaining player that had been at the club before Verdi’s arrival. He made the trip through the leagues and contributed well when called upon, but with three players ahead of him, it was time for him to move on. Verdi had a heartfelt talk with him on his way out (to Parma for €7.5m) and both men teared up a little, though neither would admit it.

 

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Another departure wasn’t quite so pleasant. Lees-Melou was strangely threatened by Palumbo’s “arrival” and when Verdi told him he’d have his chances to play just like before, the midfielder was incensed. Verdi was taken aback. Sure, Lees-Melou had been a reliable member of the squad and brought experience and the kind of mentality Verdi liked in his players, but there was no time for this kind of drama.

 

He was transfer listed and quickly sold to newly promoted (again) Salernitana for €1.1m with some possibility for another €500k. It was less than Verdi would have liked, but at 32 Lees-Melou was starting to decline and Verdi wanted him off the team after his outburst.

 

That did leave Livorno a bit short in midfield, but Verdi quickly found a better replacement.

 

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With Verdi’s shift to more attack minded center backs, he’d scoured a lot of defensively solid central midfielders who were strong and decent in the air. Alexis Blin was one of those scouted, and while the arrival of Mukiele meant Livorno were deep at center back, Verdi made a bid for Blin as soon as Les-Melou began his exit.

 

Available for a reasonable €5.5m, the Frenchman soon signed for Livorno. Verdi was especially pleased considering Ranocchia seemed to have reached his ceiling. He was a solid, dependable player, but a limited one. It seemed as if, in losing Les-Melou, Verdi had inadvertently upgraded in the holding midfield role.

 

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Finally, the scouts unearthed a talented young keeper out of Columbia (with a bonus of German as a second nationality).  He wasn’t a fully polished player yet, but he had exceptional talent and the potential to be an excellent keeper.  It turned out to be a good piece of business as well when Lyon came in for prior backup Dahlburg.

 

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Opera Football

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TIs

Counter is on against similar to better teams. 

I sometimes drop the tempo to balanced against teams parking the bus to give players time to pick their passes.

Gone is positive/cautious/attacking except in specific moments for short bursts. Thanks to @SixPointer - our discussion a little while back reminded me to stop messing with it so much!

Often push the LOE a notch higher against direct teams so their backline has to clear rather than be able to pick out their striker.

Will push DL against teams that sit deep - wide 3atb gives plenty of cover

 

PIs 

Front three - max press, roaming, move into channels

AM (also) - shoot more often, take more risks

CAR - will often be changed to DLP if more possession needed and against teams defending deep to allow him to deliver deadly balls from deep with time and space

Wide CBs- stay wider

 

Over the course of the past season, Verdi had begun to find that when Livorno sat back, especially against the best teams, they fared worse than when they kept the pressure up and took the game to the opposition. With Livorno’s strength lying in their attack, when they sat back or tried to just keep possession, they let the opposition back into the game. It went against the way the team was built and exposed their weaknesses. 

 

With his new lightning fast, technical backline Verdi finally had the team that he felt could truly implement his philosophy. The team was built to his design, he had a first 11 of quality players with a few stars, and a good amount of quality depth. There were good passers, hard workers, and determined and intelligent players throughout the team. Verdi had fully transformed the team, and it was time to unleash the true potential of Opera Football upon Serie A and the Champions League.  The 3-4-1-2 and the 5-2-2-1 would also feature on occasion, and they would carry the same basic concepts as the above style.

 

The only question that remained was around the future of talisman Giacomo Raspadori.

 

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[My client isn’t interested in speaking to Juventus!!! Take that!  Take your derisory bid, put it somewhere unsavory, and run back to Turin you no-CL having four-letter-words.]

 

The spotlight shines on Maestro Verdi, standing alone. A momentary hush comes over the crowd. Verdi looks back into the wings and holds out a hand…

 

And that’s when the diva steps out too and joins hands with the maestro. The applause thunders down from the balconies as the two make their way to center stage. Verdi turns to the orchestra, and lifts his baton. 

 

The audience goes silent. The orchestra put their instruments in place, bows at the ready. Verdi checks with the diva, who inclines her head, and the maestro lifts the baton gracefully in the air. The winds take a breath, the strings prepare their first stroke of the bow.

 

The baton comes down and music fills the auditorium once more.

 

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I've yet to decide/find out how I'll do this season's updates.  Might be a bit rushed as I try to finish out this save, but maybe not.  We'll see.

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Wow, What a preview! Now I am hoping for an Italian "Ride of the Valkyries" from Verdi and Livorno.

Good Luck  with a improved team!

 

 

Thanks!

Just going to have to be a total snob and drop a knowledge bomb on you - (real life composer) Verdi and Wagner were kind of rivals and both hated each other's music.  You can guess which side I'm on, though no one can deny that Ride of the Valkyries "slaps" (which is, I learned recently, what "the kids" say these days).

9 hours ago, Djecker said:

Good work holding on to Raspadori.

I was relieved!  I was not sure I had the will to go on with this last season if I couldn't keep hold of him.  [New arrival/regen] Fransisco has the potential to be an absolute monster, but Raspadori's just a fantastic all around player.  His only weakness is in the air, and yet he still scores a handful of headed goals every year.

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On 07/10/2021 at 03:18, karanhsingh said:

Congratulations on a very well deserved and earned Serie A win my friend!

I hope you have a fun last season, more than anything else.

Thanks!  That last season was completely crazy.  Title decider on the last day?

The season I'm playing right now?  I'm writing up the update, but it's hasn't hit the heights of 24/25 just yet.  But the season is still relatively young and Livorno start slow...

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They were better before they were popular, you know?

The polite applause lasted a decent amount of time, and some in the audience even got to their feet. Yet there wasn’t quite the buzz about the place that there often used to be. The music was well played and the interpretations were sound, but something was missing.

 

“It’s interesting that he’s gone with so much Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Strauss this season…” said one patron.

 

“It makes sense,” said another, “the maestro brought in a bunch of great brass players, so it’d be a shame not to use them.”

 

“Oh yes, of course…” mused the first, “…doesn’t it feel a bit…stiff though?”

 

“No, I mean, well…a bit…”

 

“Remember the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand last season?”

 

“That was incredible! How could I forget?”

 

“I just feel like nothing this season has felt like that.

 

“Well, you can’t expect transcendent performances week in week out!”

 

“True, but I just feel like something is missing this year…the life…the vibrant sound. It just doesn’t sound as together, as cohesive, and the mistakes…they’ve always been there but it’s been a bit more distracting this season!

 

“I can’t argue with you there. But don’t forget, we were having a similar discussion near the end of last season and then they suddenly came out with that finale!”

 

“We’ll just have to see I guess!”

 

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Something wasn’t quite right in Livorno at the beginning of the 25/26 season. It seemed a continuation of their nervy, stilted title run in. Everything was hard and the margins slim.

 

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Like young Morgese’s ‘shin splints’ [6-8 weeks??? Why out 6-8 weeks?  I played with shin splints for years!!!] the first quarter of Livorno’s season was quite painful, even if the problems weren’t all that big a deal.  [You hear that Morgese?  Get back on the pitch!]

 

Maybe it was that Raspadori wasn’t firing, maybe it was that the new signings weren’t integrated into the squad, but the fluidity wasn’t there, the chances weren’t going in, and the defense was giving up sloppy goals game after game. Yet just like the end of the previous season, Livorno (usually) kept finding a way to win.

Serie A Highlights

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While a hard faught 1-0 win against a struggling Sampdoria side would not normally count as a highlight, it was a fantastic finish from new arrival Francisco that earned Livorno all three points - and his first goal for the club on only his second appearance, with both coming from the bench. The finish was worth the points too - a perfect blend of power and placement across the face of goal and into the far corner in the only meter of space the keeper didn’t have covered.

 

After that game came a few disappointing draws in the league.  1-1 against Inter and Roma is nothing to be ashamed of, but both of the opposition goals came from mistakes off corners.  Against Roma, Gozzi was careless and let the ball hit his hand - a soft penalty! - and against Inter no one was covering centerback Pau Torres at the back post.  Esposito and Raspadori managed to rescue points from both outings but both games saw Livorno play well below their best.

 

Fransico scored his second for the club against Torino to earn another three points after his perfectly timed run was met by a perfectly weighted ball from Esposito.

Raspadori went on a rampage against his old club Sassoulo as he always does, and his heroics were needed as Sassoulo managed to put two past Mazzini.

Things were looking good for Livorno, but there were constant signs of defensive weakness, of chances squandered and then...

 

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After 39 games unbeaten in the league [over a year!], Livorno finally fell to Napoli at home.  All runs must come to an end, but this was a disappointing collapse.  Esposito put the hosts ahead with a free kick, but Livorno’s defense was once again poor.  Verdi had been wondering if it was his new look defense that was the problem, but this game put that thought to rest with the backline looking like the 24/25 season of Amione, Gozzi, and Bani at the back - and they were undone even more easily than the new arrivals.  

 

There was a simple throw in from the left, a poor clearance from Amione allowed the ball to be sent back in to the far post.  Galves on the right wing totally lost Napoli wide forward Hirving Lozano and lost a header to the diminutive player [jumping reach 8 to Galves’ 12!].  Livorno had a few chances but couldn’t convert, and then, in the last quarter of the game, another simple error lets Napoli in.  Another simple throw in from the left, another simple ball into the box, but Gozzi completely mistimes his header and lets Napoli forward Mariano flick the ball on into the net.  

 

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It was an incredible run in the league, and it ended with a whimper as Livorno lost despite being the much better team. Poor defending was again at fault, only this time it cost them three points instead of two.  Worse, Livorno lost Esposito to injury.  Luckily, it would only be for a few weeks, but with the team already struggling for goals, it was worrisome to lose the big striker.

 

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Livorno continued their run of disappointing form with a draw in which the defense again cost the team points.  Francisco scored a wonderful lobbed goal, Livorno were in control, but then new centerback Mert Cetin got too close to Fiorentina striker Pedro.  The ball was sent in on a diagonal and Cetin was left for dead and neither Mukiele on the right or Gozzi on the left could get to Pedro in time.

 

So, despite dominating possession, shots, and playing the vast majority of the game in the Fiorentina half, Livorno couldn’t find a second that would give them their deserved win. In the end, they couldn't create good chances, as their play turned sloppy and nervous after the Fiorentina goal - as it had been for much of the season to that point.

 

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With a quarter of the season gone, Verdi was frustrated with his defense.  It was like his first season when the backline gave up silly goals game after game, and he couldn’t find the reason why.  He now had better players, and even when he tried his previous players, they’d failed him as well.  They looked okay statistically, but whereas before they’d let in only 8% of shots, now they were allowing nearly a 12% conversion rate.

 

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On the other side Raspadori wasn’t quite firing and the goals just weren’t quite coming like they had been, so Livorno couldn’t rely on their attack either.  So far, Livorno was converting only 11% of their shots, 5% down from 24/25, and it was showing in their point tally.

 

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Their steep drop in attacking and defensive efficiency was hurting them, with their goal difference less than half of most of their rivals above them.  Still, despite being well below their best, Livorno were still only outside the top four on goal difference and only five behind early leaders Inter.  

 

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Juventus were the story of the early season, sitting in the bottom half on two wins from nine games.  They’d been at the foot of the table after three winless games, but had managed to put together a few wins to drag themselves out of the relegation zone.

Champions League

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With a group that was challenging but not nearly as tough as the previous year.  Livorno were progressing well in the Champions League.  In their first game they drew with Porto despite playing generally worse than the Portuguese visitors.

 

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In the theme of the year, Livorno managed to squeak by Galatasaray at home courtesy of a Mert Cetin corner goal in the 85th minute.  They fully deserved three points, but were stiff in attack, snapping at chances and needed a set-piece to get them the win.

 

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The halfway point in the group stage featured a big game in Spain against Sevilla.  Sevilla set up in a wide 5-2-3 that often gave Livorno problems.  Away from home as well, Verdi feared for his defense.

 

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He needn’t have been worried - even if Livorno did need the help of the post as an extra defender as Sevilla struck the post three times.  Still, Livorno held the Spanish team at bay, controlled the midfield and Francisco put Sevilla to the sword with two late goals that showed the young man’s growing stature.  Both featured excellent timing for his runs, and both featured excellent finishes.

 

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It was a tight game overall, but Livorno were good for their win even as they rode their luck a bit.

 

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The heatmap shows how Livorno focused their play in the area between Sevilla’s center mids and backline.

 

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And controlled the midfield even if they gave up a bit more possession than they would have liked in their own third.

 

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Even with Porto managing a win over Galatasaray, Livorno grabbed control of the group in Sevilla.  The return fixture a few weeks later in Livorno against Sevilla would likely prove pivitol for the group...

 

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“I'm just frustrated,” Verdi sighed to his wife.  “They’re just making stupid mistakes, both with and without the ball.  It seems like a mental thing, like they're cracking under the pressure. But it's no different than last year, so I don’t understand why it's all so tough now!”

 

“Too much German music,” Verdi’s wife shrugged.

 

“What?” Verdi rubbed his temple, “I don’t want to talk about music right now. My ears are still recovering from the concert the other night...”

 

“Come on,” Verdi shook her head with a smile, “you need me to spell it out for you?  Stop going gegenpress!  That’s not how you play.  Just because you have some fast defenders now doesn’t mean you should press-press-press!  You say it yourself, right?  You want to be hard to break down, but you’ve been pressing all the time now, letting them play around you. Save it for when you need it...or want it!  Get back to your…” she chuckled, “...Opera Football.  Oh, and play Piccinocchi more.  Modric...he’s good, but he’s young.  Piccinocchi is just solid, every-single-game.  Ranocchia too.  He’s been better than that new guy, Bin?  Blin? But keep playing Francisco. That boy can score. He's also adorable.  Now - chop up that garlic finer or are you going to make me do everything?”

 

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Verdi shook his head with a chuckle as he got back to being the sous-chef for his wife, but it hit him that she was right...about all of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by 13th Man
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Why would an Opera guy want to play "Rammstein" Style Heavy-Metal?

In my current save, (Fleetwood Town League One, England),  I press and play possession using a Vertical-Tiki Taka template  as the basis.....also I ask to defend narrow and use OI's to "Zonally Press" most players on the other team. And the media always complain about my "Possession Heavy Style" that plays out of the back, but the Board is happy with our pressing as well. We may lack penetration and clinical attacking ability, but our opponents can't win if they don't have the ball!

Also your wife is right.....Happy Wife= Happy Life!

 

 

 

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18 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Why would an Opera guy want to play "Rammstein" Style Heavy-Metal?

Verdi just kind of fell into it without realizing it. Worse, it wasn’t even all the way Gegenpress, just kind of. The urgent pressing had been effective against good passing sides (AC Milan in that title decider) but against lesser sides it allowed those balls over the top - low percentage passes that top teams don’t tend to do, but it only needs to work once and suddenly it’s points dropped - or breakdowns in defense where players are caught chasing.

Verdi has been happy to leave the super possession oriented style of his first few years in Livorno and move to a more varied central overload and/or counter tactic (depending on the opposition set up) but he went a little to hard to the aggressive pressing with both TIs and roles/duties.

Did toning things down help? Find out it the next installment of this thrilling final chapter!

[Wait, just saying it’s thrilling doesn’t make it thrilling??? Would it have been more thrilling if I had more pictures of explosions or something?]

 

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1 hour ago, 13th Man said:

Did toning things down help? Find out it the next installment of this thrilling final chapter!

[Wait, just saying it’s thrilling doesn’t make it thrilling??? Would it have been more thrilling if I had more pictures of explosions or something?]

Fireworks and explosions with a voiceover often do it on TV commercials?

Unless it is some scantily clad "eye candy".....which Mrs. Verdi might not approve of.....

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Back to the classics

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November began with a game that Livorno really should win against an old rival in Salernitana, but after that they would deal with a tough slate of matches. Along with the remaining three Champions League group stage games, Genoa would be the only team that didn’t regularly finish in the top six until the last game before the winter break when they’d play a Brescia team that tended to give Livorno problems. Between the Verona and Genoa games, some of the squad would get some rest during the international break, but after that it would be six big games in a row.

 

With Livorno underperforming Verdi knew he needed a rethink or else the team could have a brutal few months. The first order of business was to drop his pressing intensity unless he found a team having too much time and space on the ball. As his wife had reminded him, he wanted to force the opposition into mistakes but stay disciplined and the way to this was with a high, but measured press rather than the high and intense press that he’d been implementing. He would keep the defensive line very high for the most part, however, considering his defenders had pace that rivaled all but the fastest wingers and strikers.

 

He also decided to have his outside backs be a bit more disciplined [stopper to defend duty]. He’d been tasking them with being more aggressive, but that had led to too many mistakes as they overcommitted.

The final change was to his preferred eleven. Modric had the ability to change games, but his inconsistency was still a problem. Piccinocchi, on the other hand, just seemed to have something about him.  He wasn’t as good technically as Modric, but he simply made Livorno tick. Unlike the young man as well, Piccinocchi didn’t seem to let any occasion get to him.  

 

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So despite the young man’s new contract and his obvious talents, Piccinocchi would return to his starting role for the time being.

 

Likewise, Blin seemed a better all around player than longtime squad member Ranocchia, yet he hadn’t matched Verdi’s expectations. Ranocchia had generally performed better, and he also had a good understanding with Piccinocchi.

Highlights

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It was three points, but it was another narrow win over a team that Livorno should be beating comfortably. But...it came at a great cost.

 

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Only seconds after Verdi had replaced Esposito - who was finding his fitness after a spell out with an ankle injury - with young Francisco, Raspadori was on the receiving end of a tough challenge and lay gasping on the ground.

 

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In some ways, it was a better injury than a knee or ankle sprain, but it was a nasty one that would keep Raspadori out of a crucial run of games.  He’d miss the crucial Champions League game against Sevilla, and a brutal week in which Livorno would face Lazio, AC Milan and Juventus. With Livorno already far less deadly in front of goal, Raspadori was a big loss. Luckily, Esposito was back to fitness and Francisco was playing well. The young Portuguese forward would be getting a big chance to lead the line for over a month.

 

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Up next was a big game in the Champions League against Sevilla. Livorno had been a bit lucky in their win in Spain, and Verdi felt unsure of their chances at home.

After a grinding start to the season, Verdi decided to go back to basics. He would tone down the pressing and ask his wide center backs to be a bit less aggressive. Sevilla would be a good test.

 

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Livorno, for the first time in a long time, looked like Livorno. Their passing was quick and incisive, their defense was hard to break down, and they finished their chances well. Esposito rose in the 17th minute to power home a cross from Tsmikas. Even at 1-0 Livorno looked comfortable and only allowed five shots all game. 

 

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Then, in the 92nd minute, Tsimikas was again a provider, this time with a cutback to Piccinocchi outside the box. The midfielder’s shot was a beauty, unstoppable yet also seeming to float gracefully in the air.

 

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Livorno controlled the game, almost from start to finish.

 

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Again they overwhelmed Sevilla’s midfield duo and targeted the area just outside Sevilla’s box for much of the game .

 

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With Porto falling to Galatasaray in Turkey, Livorno qualified for the knockout round with two games to spare. 

 

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They were in control of the group, but not guaranteed first place - they’d need to win at least one game or draw both. Still, it was quite a different story from the previous year.

 

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While Livorno would certainly want to stay top of the group, they could afford to focus a bit more on the league knowing they were through to the knockout rounds.

 

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Vintage Livorno was again on display as they comfortably saw off rivals Verona. Esposito scored a brace before a Verona red card made the final fifteen minutes a cakewalk. 

 

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Better yet, Livorno’s 3-4-1-2 completely contained Verona’s 5-2-2-1 in their own half and didn’t allow Verona even decent chances.

 

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This game against a re-promoted Genoa saw Livorno’s defensive frailty return, but Palumbo made up for it with two great goals and Piccinocchi added another to add more evidence that he deserved to start.

 

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This game was just ugly. With an absolutely brutal run of games on the horizon and qualification secured, Verdi sent out a heavily rotated team against a side that had outplayed them at home. Porto absolutely dominated Livorno from the first whistle and it was an embarrassing defeat - if not overly damaging in the long run. It did put a bit of pressure on Livorno to win the last game against Galatasaray, but Verdi felt it was worth it to keep his key players fresh as they wouldn’t get another game off for a while.

 

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Lazio came to Livorno on Saturday, Livorno traveled to face AC Milan on Tuesday.  Then Juventus and the final game of the Champions League group state.  Four big games in a row.

 

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Livorno could be happy with a point.  Lazio were a team that caused Livorno a lot of problems and were flying high so it wasn’t a disappointing result.  Verdi was disappointed, however, with the quality of play his team provided.  They seemed to be returning to their anxious, stiff, and imprecise passing from earlier in the season.  Maybe it was the quality of the opposition, though...

 

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Livorno were under pressure for much of the game, and couldn’t say that they deserved more than a point - and Lazio might even feel aggrieved not to have won.

 

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The first meeting since Livorno beat Milan to win the title in the spring ended exactly the same way - with two goals from Livorno’s unstoppable goalscorer.  In this case, however, it was Miguel Francisco who scored both goals to sink AC Milan.  The first came from a pinpoint pass from Piccinocchi and Francisco left his mark in the dust, controlled with his right, and finished with his left.  The next was a carbon copy of the goal Rasapdori scored to seal the title - he picked a defender’s pocket as he tried to control a long kick from Livorno keeper Mazzini and ran through on goal to finish across the face of Milan’s keeper [no longer Donnarumma - sold to Chelsea for €95m].

 

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The game plan had been the same - press Milan high, don’t let them get comfortable, but stay compact and disciplined. Milan dominated the shot count and possession, but only registered one real half chance while Livorno could have easily scored another.

 

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Livorno once again let in a silly goal against Juventus - this time with Gozzi missing a header to let de Ligt score off a free kick - but then, just as it seemed as if Livorno would fall to Juventus again by the slimmest of margins, Francisco picked up a clearance from Galves and scored a wonderful solo goal - skinning de Ligt and using his pace to escape his pursuers, he finished cooly with his left foot past Szczesny.

 

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Juventus were, usually, set up in a 4-4-2, and it led to an interesting battle in the middle and flanks as the two contrasting formations battled it out for space - and it came out even on this occasion.

 

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Livorno take care of business against a somewhat plucky Galatasaray side that had nothing left to play for.  While in Livorno, the Turkish side was difficult to break down, on this occasion Livorno were on top for most of the game, and though they didn’t create very many good chances, Esposito was clinical on the day and secured top place in the group.

 

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A dominating performance by Livorno actually leads to a comfortable win!

 

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As the results from elsewhere came in, Livorno found that their first seeding wouldn’t likely help them avoid a European heavyweight.  Though both Manchester teams, Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern all topped their groups, Livorno would still face one of PSG, Atletico or Real Madrid, or, best case Ajax (Milan, Lazio, and Inter all came in 2nd in their groups and so would not be drawn against Livorno in the first round).

 

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Another match which saw Livorno unable to beat their fellow 5-2-1-2 playing team.  Gasperini’s men just knew how to play against the Tuscans. The game was fairly even, and it was, of course, poor defending from Livorno that let Atalanta score as Mukiele lost his marker and let a through ball beat him too easily.

 

Francisco (who else?) came to the rescue, however, getting on the end of a wonderfully weighted, lofted ball from Raspadori - making his first appearance back from injury.

 

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Livorno ended the year with a win against a struggling Brescia team, with Francisco [obviously] scoring and a howizter of a shot from Galves that secured the points.  Of course, Brescia managed a consolation goal with their right forward scoring an absolute wonder goal off a corner.

 

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The bad news was that, again, just as Raspadori was returning to the side, Francisco went down with a nasty injury that would keep him sidelined for over a month.  Happily he’d get the two week winter break to start his recovery, but it was a tough injury considering the young man’s incredible run of goals while Raspadori was out - scoring five in those ten games, several of them crucial.

Summary

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Livorno’s form had improved towards the end of 2025, and - most importantly - they managed to top their Champions League group and put themselves in the best position to progress in that competition.

 

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Livorno remained well behind their past few seasons in terms of attacking efficiency.  Between injuries and just general poor finishing, Livorno were scoring far less than in the past two seasons, both in terms of efficiency and actual numbers.

 

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Where Livorno had consistently led or been close to the top of the scoring charts, they ended 2025 as a only slightly better than average attacking team.

 

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They continued to let in sloppy goals, but not nearly at the rate they had and actually improved to Serie A’s second best defense.  Verdi certainly was happy about that.

 

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One stat which Verdi wasn’t as thrilled about, considering the attacking efficiency, was their possession states.  It seemed like Livorno had reverted a bit to the style of useless possession that had so tortured him in 2019/2020.  

 

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On the bright side, Livorno were improving, and had moved comfortably into the Champions League spaces and even opened up a gap of seven points between themselves and AC MIlan in 5th.  Also, despite not being close to their best, Livorno were still only four points back from league leaders Inter and Lazio - though the later would likely overtake the former when they played their game in hand against Parma.

 

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Finally - the Champions League draw arrived and Livorno could hardly believe their luck.

 

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Ajax were not a team to be scoffed at, but it was a very winnable tie compared to the other options (PSG or the two Madrid teams).  If Livorno played to their potential - which they had more often in Europe than in Serie A - they had every chance of progressing past the Dutch side and into the quarter finals.

 

UP NEXT - Is the magic gone?

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