Jump to content

[FM22] Il Mezzogiorno


Sarada
 Share

Recommended Posts

Preface - Chapter 1: The Man Behind The Manager

Hi! I've been playing Football Manager for around 15 years but have never written up a save before. So why now? 

Well, the increasing amount of other priorities in my life mean that I find myself with less and less time to play FM each year. This may be the last year that I can truly dedicate myself to a save, and therefore the last chance to do a write-up like this. I’ve enjoyed reading other threads here so I thought documenting my save this year would add a little something different to my FM experience.

To help choose a focus for my save for this year I set the following parameters:

  • Top European League: I've previously had really enjoyable saves in some of the lower ranked nations in previous editions, but fancy a go at one of the big European leagues this time around.
  • Regional focus: As well as locking myself to only manage in one nation, I’m going to set the additional restriction of only managing clubs from a particular region. I’m looking to find a historically underperforming region where I can hopefully lead a club to long-awaited glory. I don’t want to be restricted to a one-club save, but similarly don’t want to jump ship to the biggest and best teams in the league at the earliest opportunity, and hopefully this way provides a healthy balance.
  • Hands-off approach: I'll be delegating more tasks than usual to my staff. Partly this is to help speed up my progress through the save, but this is also a nice counterpoint to the ‘club-building’ I’ve done in the past. I’m going to largely stay out of matters relating to transfers and youth development, and focus instead on getting the most out of the players I have through training and tactics. This will also hopefully stop me getting too attached to any particular club.

Anyway, enough about me.

Preface - Chapter 2: Il Mezzogiorno 

My chosen region is Southern Italy!

Mezzogiorno is the Italian term for ‘midday’, and southern Italy is known as the Mezzogiorno because of the intensity of the sun in the region at noon. It is commonly defined as the modern Italian mainland regions of Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, and Molise, plus the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.

spacer.png

The Mezzogiorno is home to 21 million people, around a third of Italy's population. Before Italian Unification in 1861, the region (minus Sardinia, which is a more modern addition) was known as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Although the southern half of Italy was larger and had a greater population at unification, the South lagged behind the North in terms of development, industrialisation and prosperity. The gap remains to this day, with crime, corruption and poverty remaining pervasive issues in the South.

This disparity is reflected in the relative footballing success between clubs in the North and South as well. Of the 117 Serie A titles awarded to date, only three have been won by clubs from the Mezzogiorno. Two of these championships went to the Diego Maradona-led Napoli side of the late 1980s, with a solitary championship to the Sardinian Cagliari in 1970 completing the trio. The three Coppa Italias won by Napoli in the last decade represent the only major silverware won by teams from Southern Italy in living memory for most current professional footballers.

Mapping the clubs competing in this season's Serie A makes the disparity visually evident, with only 3 of the 20 clubs currently competing in the division hailing from the Mezzogiorno. Much like the economic-driven brain drain from the South, the footballing disparity has resulted in many of the most talented footballers produced in the region heading North in search of club success down the years (notable examples being Fabio Cannavaro, Toto Schillaci, and Gianfranco Zola).

 

spacer.png

The aim of this save is to bring footballing success to the Mezzogiorno with any club side based there. I’ll rank the outcome of this save on the following basis:

1 Star - Gain promotion to Serie B
2 Star - Gain promotion to Serie A
3 Star - Win Coppa Italia or UEFA Europa League
4 Star - Win Serie A
5 Star - Win UEFA Champions League

Preface - Chapter 3: Raffaele Cafaro

Sunday League experience; Champions League ambition.

 

spacer.png

39 year-old Calabrian Raffaele Cafaro is the manager we will follow on our journey around Mezzogiorno. He starts unemployed with his eyes set on a first managerial job in Serie C.

Following the ‘hands-off’ approach set out earlier, his focus (and therefore the focus of this write-up) will be less about the overall development of his clubs, with more attention instead given to footballing lessons learnt and the key tactical decisions that will shape his career. As a pragmatist, he starts with no inherent bias to formation or tactical style.
 

Edited by Sarada
Link to post
Share on other sites

Catania - Chapter 1: Sinking in Sicily

 

spacer.png

Sitting beneath Mount Etna, Catania is the second largest city on the Island of Sicily and the seventh largest city in Italy overall, with a metropolitan population of over a million people. As recently as 2013 their main football club, Catania Calcio, was riding high in the top-half of Serie A as befits a city of such size. What’s gone so badly wrong that a decade later they are sitting in 18th place in Serie C, interviewing an unheard of man named Raffaele Cafaro with no previous managerial experience to help them avoid another relegation? 

After an 8th place finish in 2012/13, Catania were relegated from Serie A the following season. They initially appeared to have narrowly avoided a back-to-back relegation from Serie B the following season, only for it to be discovered that the club’s president had fixed matches to help the club avoid relegation. The club were subsequently demoted to Serie C where they have remained since.

 

spacer.png

 

Serie C contains three regional divisions of 20 teams each, for a total of 60 Serie C clubs. The winner of each regional division is promoted to Serie B. The 28 teams placed 2nd-10th (plus one other) take part in an unusual five-stage play-off knockout tournament to decide the final promoted team. 60 teams fighting for 4 promotion places makes Serie C difficult to escape from, with the closest Catania have come being a 2nd place finish in 2017-18, ultimately losing in the playoffs and seeing a team that finished 16 points behind them in Group C promoted that season.

Catania appoint Raffaele Cafaro, their 20th manager in 8 years, the day after a 2-1 loss at fierce Sicilian rivals Palermo leaves them 18th with a record of two wins, five draws and five losses from twelve games. 

The board have set us the aim of simply avoiding relegation this year, but with a much trickier ambition of gaining promotion to Serie B within four years. I knew the finances were Insecure before taking the role, but only on joining the club do I discover the club is in €58m of debt, with monthly interest repayments larger than the total monthly wage bill! 

Catania are clearly in a slump and punching well below their weight. Their facilities and support base are superb for this level of football and would be more than suited to the next division up. At the same time their financial situation is clearly a significant challenge, and with some big names like Bari, Palermo and Messina occupying the same Serie C Group, promotion in the future will be no easy task. 

However as we alluded to before, this manager’s eyes will be fully focussed on on-field matters.
 

Link to post
Share on other sites

A year into my save with Catania but started right a way instead of picking them up midway through. Managed to cut the wage bill to less than 35,000 Euros a week (12th largest in Serie C Girone C) and got promoted as champions as well as winning the Serie C cup with some shrewd loans and frees (I cannot recommend Flavio Junior Bianchi and Tommaso Baldanzi enough). Now into Serie B and the media prediction has us rock bottom! We will have by far the smallest wage bill in the league due to the huge debt. Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent intro. Sicily seems to be a popular place to manage this year.

For personal reasons I am also planning a long term save on the island, although not with Catania. Their debt makes them a really good choice and I may have ended up there too if I'd seen that debt earlier. Instead, I will be one of your Serie C-C rivals so will definitely be following this. Good luck in Serie B.

Link to post
Share on other sites

spacer.png

 

Catania - Chapter 2: The Basics

I start on Monday morning with six days to prepare for our first fixture at home against managerless Turris, currently sat in 17th one point ahead of us. Unsurprisingly given results so far this season, both our team morale and squad cohesion are very poor on Day 1.

 

spacer.png

 

The primary aim of our first week therefore is to try and improve team cohesion through training and implement a straightforward tactic for the match on Sunday. The more detailed tactical ideas will have to wait until this team is capable of operating as an effective unit.

I'm not convinced that the issues with cohesion fully explain how our team, who were initially predicted to finish 6th in the league pre-season, currently lie in 18th. We only have one analyst at the club and subsequently have a fairly limited amount of insight available via the Data Hub. What little we do have shows straight away that the team’s problems this season are more an issue of leaky defence than impotent attack.

 

spacer.png

 

Our defensive attributes are generally above the league average, so there shouldn't be any immediate concerns over the ability of our players to defend effectively. This suggests the team’s defensive issues are more likely to be tactical than technical in nature. The previous manager set the team up in a wide 4-3-3 formation with a DM in front of the defence. Not the most defensive formation, but certainly not unreasonably top-heavy either. It's difficult to definitively diagnose the team's issues to date, but my leading suspect is the board's insistence that we play ‘high-tempo pressing football’. Could it be that the team has been left overly exposed defensively in trying to adopt a 'Gegenpress' strategy?

I don't intend to completely ignore the board's direction around pressing, but with our team cohesion and defensive record so poor, the immediate focus must be on building a solid defensive foundation, with the intention that we build an effective press on top of this as the season progresses.

The board has also set an objective to effectively utilise set-pieces. This is something we can start on right away. We lack either exceptional dead ball delivery or aerial dominance, so will be relying on effective routines with dedicated time in training to improve our familiarity.

 

spacer.png

 

Putting this together, this is what our training schedule looks like for Week 1. The team are in good physical shape currently which gives us the flexibility to go heavy on sessions to improve cohesion, tactical familiarity, defensive shape, and set-piece preparation. Besides the dedicated fitness and goalkeeping coaches, I’m currently the only available first-team coach at the club which may inhibit the effectiveness of training until we can fill out our coaching roster.

spacer.png

 

I’ve stuck with 4-3-3 as the team are familiar with the system and I think it generally suits their attributes (although another option is to bring one of the inverted wingers inside as a playmaker and use 4-4-1-1 if the team isn't capable of defending in a 4-3-3). The roles and instructions are deliberately very simple and I’m using a 'Cautious' mentality to reduce risk taking while we build team cohesion.

 

spacer.png

 

The result: A hard-fought 1-0 win, the team’s first win in 10 games and a big morale boost. Although we relied on a penalty for the winning goal, we dominated the match and, perhaps most pleasingly of all given our focus in training, restricted Turris to just two shots on goal and secured a clean sheet. 

 

spacer.png

 

Clearly it’s important not to read too much into one game, especially against a fellow relegation struggler, but if we can continue to focus on the basics and build some cohesion and form then perhaps we can shift our mentality and begin adopting a more assertive approach to the game, playing the style of football the board want to see in the process. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

spacer.png

 

Catania - Chapter 3: Moving Through The Gears

Across our first six games we won three and drew three, conceding only a single goal in the process. A clear turnaround in form.

 

spacer.png

 

Our draw with Avellino left us with no goals from open play in three games. This prompted a number of tactical changes.  I had previously tried changing our mentality from ‘Cautious’ to ‘Balanced’ at half-time against Monopoli to try and improve our attacking output, but the additional risk introduced through this change created more defensive weakness than attacking threat and handed the advantage to the opposition, albeit they were unable to take advantage. 

spacer.png

 

So against Monterosi I stayed with a 'Cautious' mentality but made some changes to roles and instructions instead. The most impactful change was to change one of our CMs from a support duty to an attack duty. This was to provide additional support to our lone forward and an extra man in the box in attacking situations. The impact was instant, with our designated CM(a) Greco scoring both our goals in that game. The images below show the difference in attacking support offered by Greco in a CM(s) role (against Avellino)...

 

spacer.png

...compared to the CM(a) role (against Monterosi, he scored from the cross in this move).

spacer.png

 


The other changes I made were:

  • IW(s) to W(s/a). The IWs were struggling to make an impact and had better attacking output as conventional wingers before my appointment. I gave Russotto an attack duty to help stretch the play on the right flank, with the intention that Greco would underlap Piccolo on the left.
  • WB(s) to FB(s) as they now had conventional wingers in front of them. 
  • Split block with wingers and striker instructed to close down more. All our opponents to date have fielded a 3 CB defence and we were allowing too much possession for their backlines without applying any pressure. This change also fits in with the board requirement to play pressing football.
  • Izco from CM to DM and deployed as DLP(d). Izco is one of our best players and has outstanding mental attributes for this level, but at 38 years old his physical attributes are in decline. He hadn’t completed a full 90 minutes from a CM role all season and even with our 'Cautious' mentality was clearly unable to cope with the athleticism required of the role. A drop back to the DM strata with a defensive duty was the obvious way to preserve his legs, and he has completed 90 minutes of every match since. Although his passing/vision of 12 aren’t exceptional in this side and wouldn't suggest a natural playmaker, I chose to deploy him as a DLP(d) as his teamwork, decisions and composure make him a player I want to route the ball through as often as possible.

spacer.png

 

Altogether the new tactic looked like this:

 

spacer.png

 

After our win against Monterosi with the new tactic, we played out tight draw away at third-place Catanzaro followed up by an emphatic 4-0 win over Fidelis Andria. At this point we had gone six games without conceding a goal in open-play, our sole goal against coming from a free-kick.

With two games to go before the winter break I decided to bring the side up to a 'Balanced' mentality (dropping the higher tempo instruction in the process as the change in mentality auto-adjusted our tempo upwards). It had been over a month since the failed experiment with the 'Balanced' mentality against Monopoli and the team cohesion had increased in that time. The results of this however were incredibly frustrating.

 

spacer.png

 

Two defeats to end our opening run of form. It would be easy to draw the conclusion that the team weren’t ready to step-up to a riskier mentality, and I certainly felt the overall standard of our football wasn’t as good as it had been previously. At the same time, the combined xG from those games was 3.03-1.17 in our favour suggesting we had been unlucky to lose both games. 

 

12 points from our opening 8 games moved us out of the relegation zone to 14th. Only four points above the relegation zone, but at the same time just four points away from the playoff spots. 

 

spacer.png

 

Following the Vibonese game we now enter a three and a half week winter-break. This is the first extended amount of time I've had with this team without competitive fixtures, and so an opportunity to reflect on the first eight games, refine our tactical approach, and embed the key principles through training.
 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Absolutely, this break will serve as an opportunity to review each game effectively and make the necessary changes to ensure you charge towards the playoffs rather than head in the opposite direction. You’re very much stuck in the middle at the moment so the next few games will provide some sort of indicator I would imagine. Good work so far though.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This site uses cookies - We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.