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[FM22] Sassuolo - The Ceramic Army


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The March Goes On

It feels nice that we haven't had to talk about major injury crises for a while now.  Toljan did pick up a groin strain in February and isn't likely to return until later this month, but otherwise it's only been minor niggles here and there.  Having a near full squad, has meant that I've been arranging occasional midweek U20 friendlies to give my reserves/fringe players some playing time to maintain fitness.  That won't be needed to start the month, however, as we open with an Italian Cup trip to Turin.


I'm not sure I've said this before, but...I love the Italian Cup.  We were thoroughly outplayed in the opening exchanges, going 1-0 down to a Mert Muldur own goal, before switching from our 3-4-3 to our 4-3-3.  3 goals in 10 minutes (only 1 penalty) and suddenly we're in control.  Juventus Zebre pegged us back early in the second half before Berardi's pearler of a free kick left back-up keeper Perin rooted to the spot.  Then, for the second consecutive game, Consigli saved a late penalty, the ball spilled back to the feet of the striker, but this time Morata couldn't make it count.  It's only the first leg but a lead and 4 away goals feels good.  Next up, a league game against...Juventus Zebre...


ONCE.  TWICETHREE TIMES OLD LADY.  3 games against Juventus Zebre and 3 wins.  They were the better team, as they have been in all games, but we've been more clinical. I say that, but I think we edged them in xG in both league games and it was pretty even in the cup game, too.  Watching the games, however, has not felt anywhere near as even.  I suppose this makes sense.  There's no denying the quality of players at Juventus Zebre's disposal, but they're outside the top 6 for a reason.

As with the cup game, it was a tale of two penalties - Consigli saving this time from Dybala (that's 3 penalty saves in 3 games!), whilst Berardi continues to be dependable from the spot.  Berardi then put Scamacca through for our second which essentially wrapped up the game before Morata's injury time consolation.


Back at home, and a comfortable win against mid-table Genoa.  Our first hat-trick of the season goes to Domenico Berardi who has been absolutely sensational since the turn of the year - the highlight being his second.  A break down the right flank from Raspadori who, seeing his route squeezed turns back inside and sends a ball over the top for Berardi to run onto and slot home from the edge of the area.  We didn't even bother trying in the second half.  Dropped the tempo, dropped the pressing and coasted until the final whistle.  The game was won and we had a big game against Inter coming up.


Well...it's been coming.  Rogerio' saw straight red for a two-footed tackle, and we can have no complaints.  It was unnecessary, in an unthreatening position, and Inter had the ball facing their own goal.  Just pure stupidity.  We had started to wrestle back a bit of control after a shaky start, too.  From then on in it was an absolute assault.  Wave after wave of Inter chances, and whilst we were resolute in the most part, it very much felt like a case of when, rather than if, the deadlock was broken.  Alexis Sanchez the eventual Inter hero, clipping the ball over Consigli after a beautifully weighted through ball by Calhanoglu.


A sad day indeed.  We have led a pretty charmed life up until now with a handful of wins that should've been draws or losses.  That defeat puts Inter back into pole position with a game in hand and we now need help from elsewhere to secure some Leicester-lite miracle.


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15 hours ago, john1 said:

Impressive results :eek: Loving your writing style too!

1 hour ago, SixPointer said:

One word for your form 


It's been a pretty fun ride.  I certainly didn't expect this after defeat against Milan in the 2nd game.  I wish I could claim it was skill or reaping the benefits of watching games on full but, honestly, it's just dumb luck (and possibly an indicator that momentum is overpowered - a view that could be bolstered by Inter's sensational winning run, too)

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A Soft Landing

If we have any chance of snatching the Serie A title from the jaws of defeat, it will owe a lot to the schedule for April being very kind - we face Verona (16th), Venezia (19th), Bologna (17th) and Empoli (13th) this month, and this will hopefully be the tonic required after losing against Inter.  Before that, however...


After watching Rogerio's rash and superfluous challenge earn him an early bath, Al-Ain decided this was what their team was missing.  A rubbish bid was rejected, and now he wants to leave, too.  We've agreed to sell if a bid of £9.25m comes in, although I doubt one will.  His performances, whilst solid, haven't really been good enough to justify such a price tag.

More importantly, our youth intake is finally here:


The heady days of December are long gone, and the once "Excellent" intake has now been downgraded considerably.  The best of the bunch, left back Lorenzo Cellitti is unambitious, whilst Eilts has highlighted Russi a "Casual" winger.  Ivo Marra looks like he could become a solid squad option in a few years time.  The Youth candidates did win their game against the U18s, and whilst there were good performances from the aforementioned Cellitti and Russi, I think my main takeaway is that there's not much to shout about.

Finally, before we address the games - the best news article of the season appeared in my inbox at the very end of March:


For the first time all season, we have zero players injured.  I don't know what to do with myself.  I'm happy, but confused.  There's an insatiable urge to get on the training pitch and launch myself full-blooded, two-footed into the legs of an unsuspecting player, just to give me the comfort of knowing my physios won't feel redundant.

I'm waffling.  On to the games...


The bounce back we needed, and Scamacca responded to Berardi's hat-trick by bagging one himself.  His second was the highlight.  Picking the ball up just inside the opposition half, turning and spraying the ball out to the left flank for Kyriakopolous.  The Greek left back took a couple of touches before whipping a ball just to the edge of the 6-yard box, where an on rushing Scamacca thumped a header into the top corner.  Think Greece-France 2004, but with more momentum.  Like Barthez in that fateful Euro 2004 game, Verona's Lorenzo Monitpo was rooted to the spot, utterly helpless as the ball flew into the net.


Going into the game, Venezia had the opportunity to be only the 2nd team this season to deny us a win in both games.  Thankfully, it wasn't to be.  A goal-line scramble and Berardi penalty put us in control before an absolutely delightful Aramu free-kick reduced the arrears (in the 3rd minute of 2 minutes added time).  Venezia started the second half brightly, but didn't really create any meaningful chances.  In a move that can only be called witty and original, opposition fans have started calling our talismanic vice-captain Domenico PEN-ardi.  Hilarious.


A win that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggested.  Scamacca now holds the record for most league goals in a season for Sassuolo, beating the 21 goals scored by Caputo in 2019/20.  The highlight of the game, however, was Maxime Lopez's free kick, which sailed past all the onrushing players and nestled into the far corner.  Without skipping a beat, Lopez celebrated like he intended it all along.  Unfortunately, I hadn't checked our goals from set-pieces before the game, because I'd be interested to know if this is registered as a Goal From Direct Free Kick or a Goal From Indirect Free Kick?


Say it with me: I LOVE THE ITALIAN CUP.  I know it seems daft to say after conceding twice to Bologna, but our defensive record has been really good this season.  That appears to fly out of the window when it comes to the Italian Cup, however.  This might be due to the light rotation I use, but whatever it is, it don't half make for some exciting games.  We took the lead 3 times, so in some respects it's disappointing not to register our 4th win of the season over Juventus Zebre, but more importantly we always felt in control.  The away goal buffer meant we never truly faced jeopardy until Arthur's 89th minute equaliser.  At that point, one more Juve Zebre goal would've taken it to extra time, but they barely had another sniff of a chance.  A game against Inter in the final awaits.


We finished the month with a comfortable win against Empoli.  As shown by the pass map, we were able to really exploit the area around the flanks and half-spaces, which was needed as supply to Scamacca was cut off largely due to the 3-6-1 (DM and WBs) that Empoli deployed.  Both goals came after some nice interplay in the wide areas set Kyriakopolous and Boga free respectively to fizz low crosses into the box.  Empoli offered very little going forward, and whilst not an important analysis, I like how well spaced out their chances were.  5 pretty bad chances, all about 20 minutes apart, makes for a pretty, low staircase on the xG Match Story.

Inter finally played their game in hand, and despite a surprise draw against Udinese, they extended their lead by a further point.  They finish the season with home games against Genoa, Spezia and Verona, sandwiched around a trip to Zebre.  We've got trips to Atalanta and Roma before a double-header at home against Fiorentina and Sampdoria.


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I'll put it out there...

You're going to win the league!

Absolutely deserved, even if you finish second. Wonderful write ups, great tactical ideology and, dare I say it, the rub of the green right now!

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The Final Stretch

Before we get into the last few games, I forgot to include some important news.  Off the back of that Italian Cup Semi-Final Second Leg, Zebre parted ways with Massimiliano Allegri stand-in Gabriele Milano.  The replacement is, at best, a little surprising...


Somewhat selfishly, I'm hoping this means their mediocrity may continue (I like Moyes IRL, but a 36% win rate in game is somewhat underwhelming).

On to the games...


Yay - it's the return of the undistinguishable xG Match Story.  Thankfully this is the easiest one to summarise.  The game was rubbish.  Yeah, we were the better team, but when we mustered only 0.67 xG, a 0-0 draw was the only fair result.  A fine save from Consigli denied Ilicic early on and Raspadori could've done better with a chance that was saved at the near post, but otherwise there wasn't really much action of note.  The bigger story was that we conceded more ground to Inter who won 3-0 against Genoa.  The gap is now 5 points with 9 points available.


Heartbreak.  Shomurodov timed his run to perfection to volley home from an Abraham cross in the 88th minute.  We didn't deserve to lose.  We didn't deserve to win either as, for the 2nd straight game we really struggled to penetrate a stout backline.  And with that...


For something that was so delicately poised throughout the season, it's a disappointment that Inter were able to wrap up the title with 2 games to spare.  In many respects we only have ourselves to blame, seemingly being inhibited by the pressure in the last couple of games.  Nonetheless, this has been a phenomenal season, and we have greatly outperformed our expectations, enjoying a huge chunk of luck along the way.

We need to put that disappointment behind us, as we now face the newly crowned champions in the Italian Cup Final.



I LOVE THE ITALIAN CUP.  To say this was unexpected is an understatement.  Deflated by the Roma defeat, and having looked particular poor in attacking phases in the last 2 games, I thought we were in for a spanking.  Instead, it seems that Inter may have still been affected by their Serie A celebrations.  Berardi opened the scoring with a worldie from the edge of the area, but the rest of the goals were surely the result of Alessandro Bastoni still being drunk.  His lax positioning kept Raspadori onside for our second, and then was outfought for Ferrari's far post header.  By the time Scamacca headed in the fourth, Inter were waving the white flag.  I've always said that the Serie A is a Mickey Mouse competition, and the only real trophy that matters is the Coppa Italia.  What is that?  You don't remember me saying that.  I'm sure I did.  Somewhere.  To someone.  Once.  Maybe.


With a 5 point buffer to AC Milan, we've wrapped up second place with a somewhat routine 2-0 win.  Berardi's far post header from a Toljan cross was the fastest goal of the season, clocking in at 45 seconds and Scamacca wrapped things up with his 25th league goal of the season with a trademark 6-yard box header.


We finished off the season with a 3-1 comeback against Sampdoria.  Quagliarella opened the scoring from about 3 yards out and that chance alone almost equal our whole xG output for the game.  We switched formations at half-time, tried Frattesi out at right wing-back, and within 2 minutes he set up the equaliser.  More importantly Peluso and Pegolo were subbed on for a final farewell.

And with that, season 1 comes to a close.


Inter are deserved winners.  100 points is really something special.  To be fair, so is 95 points - and you'd think in any other season that would be enough to secure the title.  I'm very much emotionally torn.  On one hand, I'm delighted with a great season that should hopefully provide a strong base for things to come.  On the other, we've had some phenomenal luck and really made the most of momentum, and it's hard to believe that we'll do as well next season.  From that perspective, it feels like an opportunity missed.  It feels like Aston Villa in 92/93.  The inaugural Premier League season.  After a strong showing, they faded away into second - Man United were the benefactors, sealing their first title, and the rest is history.  Villa fans, myself included, are left wondering what could've been.




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1 hour ago, _Ben_ said:

I'll put it out there...

You're going to win the league!

Absolutely deserved, even if you finish second. Wonderful write ups, great tactical ideology and, dare I say it, the rub of the green right now!

I binge played the last couple of days, and sadly already knew the conclusion of the season.  Luck's got to even out at some point, and I'm really worried what next season might have in store.

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In what I can only describe as a display of inconsistent ability to edit and crop images, I present my Best XI



1151475546_JeremyToljan_Profile.png.35534ae0c157f4dff2f36da297e75e4a.png  2070868832_LucasMartnezQuarta_Profile.png.d9fb4f1a805776eddc549a0e9543f1fa.png  452026689_GianMarcoFerrari_Profile.png.3edd52b0add86caa2138c5dd4aa083f6.png  397444162_GiorgosKyriakopoulos_Profile.png.7ba9ab995c2116978f5d86ffd7f6d5d7.png

1129864588_MaximeLopez_Profile.png.36678c3fbe0a29395ceeaa601b109393.png  180471189_FrancescoMagnanelli_Profile.png.a540c0c1fa22e774f5f8a535edfde6fb.png  942333376_MatheusHenrique_Profile-2.png.e07d752c1f061df8b5cb6b6ccebe01ce.png

697220975_GiacomoRaspadori_Profile.png.07648aed4c1d2cb9fd0d6c7229ce10c3.png  187263710_GianlucaScamacca_Profile.png.748d1361c914177c928ac828ba0c148a.png  135331061_DomenicoBerardi_Profile.png.e14f6124e4dab01274ea47278eaf013e.png


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1 hour ago, GIMN said:

I binge played the last couple of days, and sadly already knew the conclusion of the season.  Luck's got to even out at some point, and I'm really worried what next season might have in store.

Well, I take back the apology I was prepared to give after reading the update!!

I also absolutely love that front three of Raspadori, Scamacca and Berardi and I must say that the skin allows that graphic to look wonderful!

You say you worry about next year - what are your plans?

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10 minutes ago, _Ben_ said:

Well, I take back the apology I was prepared to give after reading the update!!

I also absolutely love that front three of Raspadori, Scamacca and Berardi and I must say that the skin allows that graphic to look wonderful!

You say you worry about next year - what are your plans?

Our first port of call is to continue the overhaul of the coaching staff.  We hired one goalkeeping coach, one fitness coach and one general coach, and I want to continue the process of bringing in staff that fit the club vision.  This might hold up the save, however, as I need to fix the issue with the skin post-patch that means staff attributes are visible on the staff profile page.

The squad needs to be addressed, too.  The Best XI is pretty solid, with Kyriakopolous the only player averaging below 7.00 - and there's a few rotational pieces that have proved their worth.  Obviously, with Champions League to consider as well, we'll want to improve both the starting line-up and squad as a whole.  A large part of that is going to be taking a look the players out on loan that I've otherwise ignored up until now, and there's a few of them.


Quite a few of these returning players are too old for the U20s.  I've crossed out those who have future transfers, are set for release, or whose loans extend into next season:


That's 17 additional first-team eligible players, many of whom I'll need to loan back out or sell.  Moreover, that's 17 player's worth of wages that will be added on to our budget and could inhibit future plans.  Kyriakopolous and Ferrari are due for contract extensions, and I suspect that Toljan will soon be knocking that proverbial door down, too.  A lot of the decisions here are going to shape the overall plans for the offseason.

In addition, we still have 3 players wanting out: Kaan Ayhan, Murt Muldur and Rogerio.  I doubt we're going to get the money that we agreed to sell them for, but we'll see if they can generate interest and recoup as much as we can.  Assuming they leave, and none of the loan players are considered good enough for us next season, our transfer priorities will be:

GK (backup) - possible eventual replacement for Consigli
CB/DM (backup*) - someone who can allow us to switch between the two formations with ease
RB (backup) - to cover Toljan
LB (rotation) - someone to compete with Kyriakopolous
CM (rotation*) - someone to compete with Henrique, ideally who can also provide some aerial presence
ST (rotation) - someone to replace Boga

*If I can find an affordable starter that allows me to reduce Magnanelli's game time, then I'll happily do so.

I've got a few players shortlisted, and I'll go into more detail in later posts, but first up: let's work out this skin issue!

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What a season! To finish second only 5 points behind Inter, is nothing to be sniffed at! Congrats on winning Italian Cup :applause:

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Having fixed the skin issue, I should be continuing with the save, but I am more than just a last-minute replacement for the disgraced Dionisi.  I am also a complete nerd.  To help identify possible transfer targets, and just to give a general overview of the season, I've created a little Data Studio report.


I believe others before have stumbled across the same issue I faced, dealing with players who are listed at multiple positions.  So I've used a set of Boolean filters which are rather clumsy at best.  The report will open with them all neutral, but as soon as you choose to include or exclude a position you can't get back to the neutral position without clicking the reset button (or individually resetting each filter).  If I had only CM selected, it would show players I considered to be only central midfielders (this includes defensive midfielders).  If I had both RB/LB and CM ticked, it would only show players who are both positions.  By having RB/LB neutral it will show me CMs including those who may also be able to play as full-backs.  Complicated, awkward and considerably more effort than I'll get a use for.  But it looks pretty.

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Awards Season

As the player's face their last Community Outreach session before their holidays, it's time for the league awards.  Consigli was the standout, winning 2 goalkeeper of the season awards as well as being the only Sassuolo player in the Italian Serie A Team of the Season.  Berardi's goal against Inter won Goal of the Season and Gian Marco Ferrari was named Serie A Best Defender of the Season.  Who cares about them, though?  This is the Mustermann show!


Not bad for a first year in management.  The board released their standard platitudes, but no contract extension has been floated yet.  I roll into the final year of my contract needing to prove this was no flash in the pan.

Having recorded Sassuolo's best ever league finish, and secured the Coppa Italia for the first time, you would've thought that Sassuolo's stature would be growing, but NO...


This actually makes sense, as Sassuolo's last (and only, I believe) European ventures were back in the Europa League in 2016/17 where they were duly knocked out at the group stage.

Meet the Team

As promised somewhere among the opening flurry of posts, we were going to take it slow overhauling the coaching staff.  Heading into the offseason, continuation of this process was the one of my priorities.  Sadly, this meant ceremoniously releasing the remaining staff from the old regime who didn't fit my vision.  Seems like a bit of a kick in the teeth after a successful season.

My original hopes of recruiting some of the aging players to the coaching team sadly did not come to pass.  Magnanelli is still an active part of the squad and has no desire to retire just yet.  Pegolo and Peluso also opted to continue their playing careers and, given they were unable to secure regular football with Sassuolo, have departed for greener pastures.  As a result, I had to turn to the job market and advertise for the final few pieces.


Pensalfini (promoted from youth team), Eilts, Pavarini, Bellistri and Donadel were all hired last off-season.  Turci, Dias, Tanjga, De Leo and Tralhao are the new additions.  Our desires were to find coaches who matched some of the following tactical preferences (or for areas they don't match, to be the neutral preference):

Playing Style: Passing
Playing Mentality: Attacking or Adventurous
Pressing Style: More Often

All in all I'm happy with the team assembled, and these guys are likely to be my go-to guys if I ever take on another club.

Squad Assessments

Whilst the hatchet swung with the coaching team, I took a more sentimental approach to the playing squad.  Or at least, those players who played a part in our great season.  Contract extensions were thrown about like confetti, with the following players all receiving new deals:

Andrea Consigli (2024)
Gian Marco Ferrari (2025)
Jeremy Toljan (2026)
Giorgos Kyriakopolous (2025)
Pedro Obiang (2025)
Maxime Lopez (2026)

A lot of these players were on very team friendly deals - mostly between £10k-£20k per week, and I wanted to tie them up before their contract demands became too much for us to absorb.  In the short term, the new contracts are likely to ward off potential suitors, whilst in the longer term I hope we'll be able to secure larger fees when teams do eventually come knocking.

When it came to the rest of the squad, there was a little less sentiment.  29 youth players and returning loanees were released.  A further 13 were sold.  Two of those - left back Marco Sala, and attacking midfielder Lukas Haraslin - were players I intended to keep around, but they both wanted playing time guarantees I wasn't willing to fufil.  In the end, only Brian Oddei has been added to the first team squad for the upcoming season.


I imagine for most FM players, Oddei isn't someone who needs introducing, as I believe he's been a high potential youngster since his addition a few seasons back.  He's still a little way off being truly ready for the first team, but I expect he'll be a regular fixture on the substitutes bench, with the odd appearance as we rotate throughout the season.  Berardi is the only left-footer amongst our attacking options, so I'm keen to see Oddei develop.

One other player who was out on loan, 24-year old full-back Claud Adjapong would've also been around the squad for this season, but with Mert Muldur still around his opportunities would have been limited.  A 3 year contract extension, followed by a loan deal to Parma, means he might have a part to play in future seasons.

Talking of Muldur, this seems like as good a segue as possible into the players who want out.  Promises are in place to sell Muldur, Ayhan and Rogerio IF a bid meeting our agreed valuation is made.  This hasn't materialised so far.  I've even offered out at values well below the respective agreed prices.  At one point, it looked like Rogerio could be heading to Bayer Leverkusen but he eventually rejected the deal.  All 3 are capable squad players, who I'm happy to have in the team, and so at this point it looks like we'll be keeping them around.

This has impacted our transfer plans.  Gianluca Frabotta, the Zebre Juventus left back who was on loan at Verona last season and had been one of my initial targets, joined Eintracht Frankfurt for a bargain £3.7m.  We had a similar bid accepted, but eventually withdrew our offer when it became clear that Rogerio wasn't willing to make his own journey to Germany.

But it wasn't all bad news.  In addition to the permanent signings of Henrique and Harroui, I was delighted to secure the signing of Riccardo Sottil for £7m from Fiorentina.


Sottil had not been identified by my scouts.  Instead, he was someone I noticed from the data visualisation I created for the Serie A season.  I was keen to find a replacement for Jeremie Boga, and was keen for someone who could contribute effectively as a creator and ball carrier, and would be willing to accept a role as a squad player.  Sottil fitted the bill:



Sottil outperformed Berardi and Raspadori in passes per game, pass accuracy and dribbles per game.  Despite playing 1,000 fewer minutes, he also won the same amount of free kicks, and made a respectable amount of Key Passes.  Whilst he only scored 2, and assisted a further 5, there's scope for improvement, but for only £7m I feel we've got an absolute bargain.  I hope, like Martinez Quarta before him, he'll prove to be another steal from Fiorentina.

To round out the transfer activity, we brought in Zebre Juventus 3rd choice keeper Carlo Pinsoglio to serve as our backup.  Not a particularly inspired transfer, but for £79,000 and £8.25k per week, he's a cheap and dependable option that we hopefully won't need to call upon.  Interestingly, Napoli keeper Alex Meret had been transfer listed and was a serious consideration.  He eventually moved to Saudi Arabia for under £4m.  It feels like a missed opportunity, but he would've wanted to be an Important Player, and that just wasn't going to happen with Consigli coming off the back of such a sensational season.

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Onward Singapore

A new season, means a new training camp destination.  A 50km trip to Lombardy seemed somewhat underwhelming, especially with USA or Indonesia in the offing.  Eventually we went for the getaway in Singapore.  More than just a opportunity to enjoy a company expensed holiday, I'm hoping this could lead to some increased merchandising opportunities.  According to the World Bank, Singapore has the 14th highest GDP per capita, so it feels like a good market to explore.  Or at least that's the line I'm using when the bosses start asking questions.

There are downsides, of course.  Without meaning any disrespect, the standard of opposition in Singapore isn't expected to give us a problem, and the focus will be on building fitness.  Games against Hougang SC, Niigata Unicorn and Tampines have been arranged for our 10 day camp.  An away game against Serie B side, Monza and a home game against Sevilla rounded out our pre-season preparations.


As expected, it was a pretty straightforward pre-season.  Sottil, signed 2 days before the Monza game, has already started to show glimpses of quality.  Whilst a hat-trick against a Serie B side isn't much to write home about, his goal and assist against Sevilla literally turned the game on it's head.  More importantly, we came through the games reasonably unscathed, with only Davide Fratessi picking up an injury.  A calf strain means he's likely to miss the opening 3 or 4 games of the season.


Tactically, we're pretty much the same as last season.  We're sticking to the two formations - a 4-man defence against single striker systems and a 5-man defence against double striker systems - which worked very well last season.  Otherwise, we'll continue to change between Poacher and Complete Forward for the central striker.  The central midfielders will be changed based on games.  As a base, they will be Box-to-Box Midfielders, but with a little sprinkle of Carillero, Mezzala and Ball Winning Midfielder thrown in when appropriate/necessary.  There's been no changes to PIs either.

The key differences to last year, is we've narrowed the width slightly - from Extremely Wide to Wide - and we've added Force Opposition Outside.  The latter was used regularly during the last season, based on analyst feedback, and is now a mainstay of the base tactics.  The change in width, I hope, will give my wing-backs more opportunity  to exploit switches in play.  It also gives me the opportunity of increasing the width during matches, which wasn't possible when already set at the extreme.


Transfer Addendum

I forgot to mention something in the last post.

One of my hopes during the offseason was to improve my midfield.  Unfortunately my DoF disagrees.  Having instructed him to bid for Caligara, the Cagliari midfielder my scouts had identified last Christmas, I was informed that the transfer failed as we already had a player arriving for position in the near future.  Problem is...we don't.  In fact the only future transfer arranged is for Manuel Locatelli - who is leaving us for Zebre Juventus.  I have a feeling this may be a bug.


Nonetheless, we'll just have to deal with it.  If that means central midfield can't be addressed until Locatelli leaves, then so be it.  If, however, this continues after then, I might need to rethink how we'll deal with the DoF situation.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Of course, this assumes I still have a job next offseason.

Maybe I was doing my team a disservice last year by suggesting that the favourable opening fixtures gave us the momentum to catapult our surprising season.  Things have been a little less kind this time around, and we're going to see how good we really are.  Our opening 9 fixtures include away trips to Lazio, Inter, Napoli and Roma, as well as a home game against Juventus Zebre.  With Champions League Groups yet to be drawn, the calendar could look even more ominous.  I wonder if the board will consider giving me an impromptu holiday until October.  I'll be happy to take over ahead of that home triple-header in October against SPAL, Sampdoria and Torino.


Next up...Season 2!

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Tying Up Loose Ends

With me doling out contracts like a free sample stand at a pre-era Costco, I thought it would be good to take a quick look at the wage situation before the season starts.


Overall, wage spend has gone up by roughly 25% under my stewardship, which is a pretty sizeable change.  This puts our projected wage outlay for the year 13th in Serie A, behind the likes of Bologna and Cagliari and only marginally ahead of newly promoted Parma.  Whilst it's great that we're performing above our means, it also means that we'll need to establish ourselves as regulars in European competition if we want to see the budget grow more, as we're clearly a small market team.  In fact we didn't manage a single stadium sell-out last season despite the relative success.

And this is reflected in the season preview:


The media expects us to regress back towards the mean, but we are at least considered the best of the rest; a significant improvement on the 200-1 odds we were given last season.  Cagliari are the other big movers, but in the opposite direction.  After a lacklustre campaign that saw them narrowly avoid relegation, they've dropped from 300-1 last season.

A quick update on other Serie A transfers.  Most of the big moves have been permanent transfers after loan deals (Chiesa to Zebre, Demiral to Atalanta, etc...), but we do have some new arrivals in the form of Asensio (Zebre), Lindelof (Inter) and Dolberg (Milan).  There's still around 6 weeks to go, so obviously expect more transfer in the coming weeks.


Just Get On With It...

Okay, onto the season proper.  A trip to Rome for an opening game against Lazio.  Last season saw two evenly contested games finishing 0-0 and 1-1 respectively.  Given Immobile's outrageous goal scoring form, I'd be happy for a draw this time around, too!


Well, that went better than expected.  A simply ridiculous first half saw us race out to a 5-0 lead.  Whilst Lazio eventually dominated the shots and xG stat, this largely came during the second half where we had pretty much down-tooled.  Scamacca and Raspadori caused numerous issues for the Lazio backline and, when the chances came, they were clinical.  The pick of the goals, however, came from Gian Marco Ferrari.  Having gone up for a throw-in, he eventually picked up the ball on the edge of the area, took 1 touch to shift the ball onto his favoured left, and another to belt it into the top bins.  A goal of the season contender in the opening match, as far as I'm concerned.

I was going to embed a video of the Ferrari goal, but there was another clip I wanted to highlight.  An absolutely delightful move, straight from kick off in the 2nd half, shows how fluid our football is when everyone's on the same page:

No major changes to our lineup - with our "Best XI" all getting the start.  Sottil made his debut in the 2nd half, putting in a respectable shift.  A beautiful weighted cross should've resulted in a goal from Berardi, but our vice-captain couldn't get enough direction to beat the keeper.


We are not playing around.  When Berardi stepped up to take a penalty in the 12th minute, he'd already scored one and set up another.  If he hadn't have missed, he would've ended up with a hat-trick.  Although it is worth adding I'd rather he gets the bad penalties out of his systems in games like this.  His assist, a corner thumped home by our Magnanelli, means our captain is now the oldest Sassuolo goalscorer at 37 years and 261 days old.  His last goal was in 2016/17.  This time, I am going to embed a video of a goal.  Berardi's 2nd, a tap in at the far post was the result of another bit of sensational interplay on the right wing; Raspadori, Lopez and Toljan all combining to set Raspadori away for the assist.  It's not a goal-of-the-season contender, unfortunately, but definitely my favourite goal so far.


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It's Only Season Two, And I'm Already Running Out Of Ideas For Update Titles

With a Winter World Cup on the horizon and midweek Champions League fixtures filling up the calendar, I'm going to try and condense these update, and hopefully reduce RSI from scrolling through so many pictures!


Of course, if I'm planning on this approach, it helps if I remember to screenshot all the game summaries.

Nonetheless, a pretty successful month.  A last minute equaliser at the San Siro, followed by a late winner against Juventus Zebre helped us grind past the trickiest of the opening fixtures.  We were second best in both games and Martinez Quarta, in particular, struggled quite a bit.  He lost Martinez for Inter's opener, and was caught flat-footed by Asensio for Juventus' Zebre's goal.  His performances improved against Udinese and Bologna as we switched to a back three, with him in the centre.

Whilst the PotM summary wouldn't have been there for the Udinese game if I'd screenshotted the game summary, the match was very much the Sottil show.  Coming on at half time to initially play at right wing-back, Sottil eventually moved up front for the last 15 minutes of the game.  In the 82nd minute, he floated the ball over the top for the on-running Hamed Traore to open the scoring.  6 minutes later, he rose highest to head in a Muldur cross.  We'd dominated the game up until that point but it looked like one of those games where we'd be left to rue missed chances.  A theme that would continue for the Bologna game.  Scamacca's goal - a rebound from 5 yards after his initial header was saved - was just reward for a very good performance, but once again we were less than clinical in front of goal.

Possibly the most encouraging element of the season so far is the number of goalscorers.  Ferrari, Magnanelli, Traore, Sottil, Raspadori, Berrardi and Scamacca have all found the net, which is a far cry from this time last season where we were almost entirely reliant on Scamacca.

Last Minute Deals

With £10m to spend, and £60k remaining in the wage budget, there's opportunity to still strengthen the team, and the possibility of those players wanting out to bolster that even further.

Of course, that would be the case if I wasn't so boring and cautious.  The transfer window closed with no more activity from us.  Ayhan, Muldur and Rogerio failed to attract bidders, and I'm happy with the balance of the squad.  As mentioned previously, I'd still like to improve central midfield, but it doesn't look like my DoF is going to change his mind any time soon on that front.

Scamacca did garner interest, however, and bids from Inter and Hertha Berlin were enough to bring him to my office requesting a new contract.  It was almost 1 year to the day since he signed his last contract, and I don't want to set the precedent that any time a player comes calling he can get a sizeable pay rise.  So, with that in mind, I caved immediately.  There is no way whatsoever that I want Scamacca to leave if I have the ability to keep him.  A 5-year, £50k per week contract was duly sent his way.


Some big moves elsewhere in the league, with Roma shelling out £48.5m for Brentford's Bryan Mbeumo and Man Utd's Eric Bailly. In fact, a lot of the headline signings were from the Premier League.  Werner (loan) and Joachim Anderson joined Juventus Zebre, Zaha and Podence left for Florence, whilst Milan brought in Aaron Connolly, Andreas Perreira, Marcos Alonso and Lucas Toreirra.  Milan's EPL raid seemed to come at the cost of their promising youngsters, with Gabbia (Fiorentina) and Daniele Maldini (Verona) leaving the San Siro.  More excitingly, Fiorentina's signings were all funded by the departure of Vlahovic and Milenkovic to Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively.  I would've loved to see a few more players depart for other leagues, but I'm delighted to not have to face Vlahovic in the league any more.


Evenings in Manchester


Despite news articles suggesting we've been given a tough group, I feel pretty fortunate with the draw.  Not fortunate enough to think we'll necessarily make it out of the group, but feel confident we can put in a decent showing.  Home games against Lyon and Benfica seem like good opportunities to pick up points and maybe with a little bit of luck here and there we can get into the EURO Cup.  My biggest concern is I can see Lyon, Benfica and ourselves splitting points, and it will come down to results against Man UFC to decide who finishes where.  As a Villa fan I've played many games against Utd over the years and regardless of how good my team have been, they have always been my nemesis.

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On 10/03/2022 at 11:26, SixPointer said:

Just catching up. Splendid first season. I must admit I’m loving this double F9 in the flat front three! Inspirational tactical thinking!

Appreciate the kind words.  I've been delighted with how it's panned out - I'm pretty much settled with the idea of having them on their foot side (e.g. right footer as the STRC), as opposite foot just hasn't been as effective with how well defences shepherd players out wide.  Essentially they've become inverted inverted wingers!?

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Piling Up

With the transfer window closed, Muldur and Ayhan have decided that they're happy to stay at Sassuolo.  They might just be simulacrum of players, but I do have sympathy nonetheless.  Deciding you want to leave, agreeing to a fee you felt was reasonable, and then having no potential suitors come your way, must be a pretty bruising to their ego, and footballers aren't necessarily renowned for their humility.


Both players have been solid, yet unspectacular, squad players and I'm happy to have them around.  Rogerio is not quite ready to climb off his high horse, and has asked to extend the promise until the next transfer window.

A Familiar Tale


With Vlahovic and Milenkovic having fled Florence, Fiorentina provided little resistance.  Berardi scored one - a header from inside the 6 yard box after a cross from Muldur - and set up the other - a driven cross for Scamacca to sidefoot home.  Muldur and Ayhan were both given a start, as I had an eye on our opening Champions League game, and both performed admirably.

Napoli put up more resistance, even if the scoreline doesn't suggest it.  Scamacca once again leading the way with two goals, his second a fine first-time volley after being put through by Lopez.  Ayhan once again got the start at the base of our midfield and set up our opener.  I had fully intended on him competing for the DM role last season, but his histrionics, combined with Magnanelli rolling back the years and performing above my expectations, meant he was unable to make as much of an impact as I had hoped.  The last two games, however, have me thinking he might be able to make that position his own.

Ended the month in Rome, against a team we've struggled against in this career so far.  This game was no different.  A late Scamacca goal, firing home after Rui Patricio spilled a Sottil cross, rescued a point we didn't deserve.  We struggled all game to contain the flanks, even after we pulled our False 9s back into the Inverted Winger positions.  Karsdorp in particular was everywhere - resolutely throwing himself at every cross and block in defence, stretching our defence with great overlapping runs, and dropping into the central of midfield to help recycle possession.  Immediately after the game, I instructed my scouts to give me the lowdown.

With 9 games played, we are once again at the top of the table.  1 point ahead of Inter, who have a game in hand.  Sounds familiar doesn't it.



Everything According To Plan

Don't know if I'll stick to this approach, but for now I'm gonna separate out the competitions.  After a season with only the league and Coppa Italia to worry about, we've now got the added challenge of midweek fixtures and the fatigue that comes with it.


Fresh off the great performance against Fiorentina, Lyon were ripe for the picking.  Berardi was once again scorer and provider as we coasted to victory.  A dream start to the competition, and hopefully a sign of our competitiveness at this level.  The United result was less ideal, but certainly in line with expectations.  Honestly, I'm amazed we even managed 7 shots.  I'm even more amazed we only conceded 1.

Berardi's sensational volley from a Scamacca flick-on was enough to seal the win against Benfica, and it has very much been as I hoped from the group stage so far.  I think we can pick up 3 points from the remaining games, and that might be enough to see us through to the next round.


With the World Cup on the horizon we've got 9 games in the next 32 days which sounds, quite frankly, frightening.  Thankfully most of the other teams we face are in the same boat, so I guess we've just got to enjoy the ride.

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Just caught up. Love your thinking behind the flat front three with flanking False 9s. Congrats on the Champions League qualification too!  



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These Runs Are Hard On The Legs But The Momentum They Generate Is Santastic


Results continue to come, but dear lord this was a tricky month.  It opened with a narrow win over SPAL with a heavily rotate team.  Consigli, Henrique, Raspadori and Scamacca were the only "regular starters" who played.  Only moments after SPAL were reduced to 10 men, we won the penalty from which Raspadori scored.  Sampdoria saw similar patterns of squandered chances, but having raced to an early 2-goal lead I was less concerned.  The Torino game was madness.  3 penalties, all deemed by commentary to be harsh yet not overturned by VAR, inflated xG a considerable amount.  It was otherwise a pretty dull game.

We had a 5 day break between the Torino and Milan game, and in my opinion this was our best game.  The winner - Berardi scooping a cross to the far past from just inside the box to the imperious Scamacca - was nicely worked, and I thought we did a good job of keeping Milan in front of us.  I was surprised that the xG was so high for Milan, as it didn't feel that way watching the game.  Ferrari had taken a slight knock in the run up to the game, which meant Goldaniga started in his place, and I thought he was magnificent throughout.  Ayhan screened well, but Goldaniga was my PotM.

A beautiful Scamacca volley from the edge of the area was the highlight of a scrappy game against Verona.  Raspadori capitalised on an errant throw to win the game after Dawidowicz rose above the rest of our defence to make things even.  Otherwise, it was reasonably comfortable.  The Cagliari game saw us field another heavily rotated squad, and another disappointing result.  I'd love to chalk down our profligacy to lack of chemistry as a result of the changes, but we just plain sucked.  Scamacca somehow conspired to miss from point blank range on multiple occasions.

I realise I can't complain too much when a draw is the worst result, but with Inter also dropping points themselves after a 0-0 home draw against Torino, there was an opportunity to hit the summit of the league.  Inter did also squeeze in their game-in-hand, so they are now ahead by 2 points.


Ce sont les meilleures équipes, Sie sind die allerbesten Mannschaften


There were 4 league games before a return to Champions League action, and the Friday night game versus Milan gave us an extra days recovery before heading to Lisbon.  Sadly, jetlag is clearly a thing, as we were never really at the races.  An undeserved 0-0 draw was a delightful result, and put us on the right track for qualification for the next round.

I considered retirement after the United game.  This might be finest accomplishment in any FM ever.  I have mentioned on a few occasions just how much of a bogey team United have been for me over the years.  Scamacca sent me into dreamland with a late winner - an outrageous Cruyff flick from a Berardi cross.  Like that Zola goal against Norwich.  With qualification secured, and Lyon firmly routed to the bottom of the table, the final game was a mere formality.  Lyon didn't even try.  Raspadori can rightly feel aggrieved to have not won PotM after scoring a hat-trick.


Full disclaimer, the Lyon game happened on 1st November, and with the World Cup coming up it was our only competitive game before January.  I'm not going to dedicate a whole post to that one game.  No matter how pleasing a result it was.

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Nice to see that Scamacca is banging them in for you and that Immobile is an absolute freak of a FM striker. (Massively under rated IRL).

Am I right in presuming Berardi is on set-piece duty? If not those 10 key passes is one hell of an output for 90 minutes. 

Kudos for finishing top of the league in Europe, hopefully the break for the World Cup doesn't mess up your flow.

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A World Cup Update

With the players away on a 1-month break, I took the opportunity to enjoy a little holiday of my own.  A 5-hour flight from Rome to Qatar, and I was ready to take in some of the opening games of the 2022 World Cup. 1 game a day was lined up for the first week.

My first game was a 0-0 draw between Italy and Croatia.  The Azzuri were truly inspid and were fortunate to come away with a draw.  The game was crying out for superstar striker, Gianluca Scamacca.  Unfortunately, Roberto Mancini didn't think he was worthy of a place in the squad.

The very next day, the Sassuolo board offered me a new contract.  Now I'm not one for speculation, but if I were a member of the board, and I'd just seen that national team put in such a lethargic performance, with my own club's manager in attendance, whose contract is due to expire in the summer, I'd probably also try and tie him down as soon as possible, too.  Feeling I had a little leverage, I managed to negotiate an additional 10% above their initial £30.5k per week offer, but couldn't get them to agree to a 4th year.


With that all sorted, I was able to take in a sensational Denmark 4 - 3 Morocco game, which saw Poulsen score a hat-trick including two almost identical 20-yard screamers.  Next up Nigeria-Mexico.  Mexico raced out to a 2 goal lead, before a 2nd half comeback saw Nigeria finish as the eventual 3-2 winners.  I made a mistake and chose a Germany game next, completely forgetting they don't have any real players.  Italy's second game, a 3-0 win over Iran saw Berardi fire a goal into the top bins from the edge of the area.  The holiday was rounded up with a surprise Slovakia 1-0 win over Portugal, followed by a late Dia winner for Senegal to beat Poland by the same scoreline.

Whilst I was delighted to catch the Slovakia upset, the biggest story of the group stages were the performances of Australia and Jamaica - both progressing to the second round!


Unfortunately, the dream was going to end for one of them, as they drew each other in the 2nd round.  By that point, I was back in Italy, ready for training to resume.  Italy would soon be joining me after a defeat on penalties to the Socceroos in the Quarter Finals.  Up against England in what was billed as the "Penal Colony Semi Final", Australia's journey came to an eventual end, but they were without doubt the feel-good story of the World Cup.  Almost feel good enough to forget about the horrendous Human Rights violations going on in the host nation.


Could England finally end 56 years of hurt?



Belgium finally realise the potential they've been threatening to achieve for the past 10 or so years, with Lukaku possibly making himself public enemy #1 for everyone in England, including Chelsea fans.

Might As Well Toss A Club Update In Here, Too

A mini off-season was underway with players returning from their Winter break in early December.  Ayhan, who had been a revelation at DM since dropping his desires to leave, unfortunately suffered a double hernia which is likely to see him miss the first few weeks of January.  Abdou Harroui and Davide Frattesi have both requested loans as they are unable to get game time, which I have happily agreed to in both cases.  I have decided that if they both leave, and the DoF continues to refuse to bring a CM in because he believes we already have someone else arriving, then I'll be allowed to negotiate a loan signing.

We did play a handful of friendlies against small teams to maintain fitness. 6 games.  23 goals scored. 1 conceded.

Now the real reason for the club update.  It's Youth Intake preview time:


For the second year running, Dieter Eilts has built up the hype claiming, once again, it will be an Excellent intake.  Last year ended up being underwhelming, so I wait with baited breath, especially as the preview seems to indicate that the only positives are two promising centre-backs, with everything else appearing slim pickings.

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39 minutes ago, MattyLewis11 said:

Nice to see that Scamacca is banging them in for you and that Immobile is an absolute freak of a FM striker. (Massively under rated IRL).

Am I right in presuming Berardi is on set-piece duty? If not those 10 key passes is one hell of an output for 90 minutes. 

Kudos for finishing top of the league in Europe, hopefully the break for the World Cup doesn't mess up your flow.

Immobile is sickening.  63 league goals in the last 18 months.  The guy is just a machine.  (I also agree, he is massively underrated - I think a lot of opinions are formed by his relatively inconsistent form for the national side).

Berardi is on corners, yes, but in the Lyon game only 1 of those key passes was related to set pieces.  Berrardi got a lot of joy in the channels between defence-shy right back, Youcef Atal, and undersized debutante centreback, Mathys Lefebvre.  I really meant it when I said Lyon didn't even try!

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A Transfer Window Where I Actually Do Something!?

Before we get underway, the new calendar year means award season, and once more the trophies are draped in green and black.


On to the league, and it was like there wasn't a 2month break at all:


Empoli first up, and I couldn't have asked for a more favourable game to get back in to the swing of things.  Raspadori pounced on a rebound from a Scamacca header, before turning provider for his strike partner.  I want to cast doubt on Empoli's 6 shots because honestly, I can't remember a single one - at an average of 0.04 xG, I think it was safe to say we weren't really troubled.

Back at the Mapei for newly-promoted Parma, and despite going 1-0 down after 8 minutes, the opening 15 minutes was probably the most beautiful spell of football I've seen.  The passing was crisp, the movement fluid, and the finishing...somehow non existent.  We'd work the ball into great positions, and then not manage to get a shot off.  A Raspadori volley from a Berardi cross just before half time proved to be the tonic we very much needed.  Obiang's worldie from the edge of the area was followed by a Raspadori 1-on-1 and another volleyed cross.  Loanee right back, Claud Adjapong got a late consolation in what I can only assume is his attempt to signal he doesn't want to come back!

A powerful Scamacca header, and another Raspadori 1-on-1 were enough to overcome Atalanta in a very even game.  Pasalic's opener, after Consigli had spilled a corner, was the third goal from a set piece we'd conceded in 2 league games.  It might not be related, but I feel like we're missing Ayhan's added height, even in situations where he might not have been marking the player who eventually scored.  It was a very even game, which is an improvement on last season where, whilst we got favourable results, we were often dominated by Atalanta.

An easy win against Benevento followed.  A Scamacca tap-in after Berardi had guided a smart header back across the box opened the scoring.  A much needed moment of relief for Berardi who had missed an earlier penalty.  Despite wining the Golden Ball and being in very fine form, Berardi hasn't scored since his 2 penalties against Torino in early November, and the press are starting to pump up the pressure.  As far as I'm concerned, as long as he's contributing (which he is), I don't care if he never scores again.

We rounded out the month with a stubborn win against Lazio.  This was Lazio's first game under new manager Roberto De Zerbi, the former Sassuolo manager, whose departure for Shakhtar set off the events that led to my eventual appointment.  He was tempted back to Serie A after Sarri had departed to take over the Italy job.  As far as the game, Scamacca's early goal - a tap in after Ferrari had flicked on Berardi's corner - was probably the only notable thing to happen.  Both teams had good chances, but it always felt kinda flat.

With 20 games now played, we're getting close to the business end of the season.  Inter continue to win out, so the league hasn't changed.  A big gap has formed to 3rd, so it looks like a 2-horse race once again.


2 Teams, One Cup

January also saw the return of cup competitions.  A 4-1 home win in the Coppa Italia over Serie B strugglers Vicenza was so straightforward, I'm not even going to bother going into it.  That is also largely because there was the small matter of the Italian Super Cup between ourselves and Inter.


After 120 minutes, the game was tied.  Inter, like many times before, had the better of the chances, both in volume and quality.  Regardless, it took a truly boneheaded error by Maxime Lopez, whose needless back-pass played Eriksen direct through on goal.  He atoned less than a minute later, as he steered a headed through ball into the path of Raspadori for an immediate response.

Players were dead on their feet.  Penalties loomed.

Consigli saved the second penalty, from Eriksen.

Radu did likewise from the following Raspadori penalty.

Not to be outdone, Consigli saved from Sanchez.  3 consecutive penalties saved.

Scamacca, Sensi, Frattesi and Brozovic despatched their penalties assuredly.

Up steps Ferrari.  The 5th penalty.  Score and make history...

...or not.  Radu saves again.

Sudden death, and Skriniar screws his penalty wide.

This is Obiang's time...

...or not.  Radu saves again.

de Vrij scores. Matheus Henrique replies.  Consigli then saves from Bastoni.

A chance to win once again, and this time it comes to Ferrari's partner, Martinez Quarta...

...you can see where this is going, can't you?...


Our 2nd trophy!!!  It might be the Italian equivalent of the Charity Shield, but I'll take any silverware on offer.

Alright, Let's Talk Transfers

January started with the news I was hoping for last season.  A boost in transfer budget, along with an opportunity to re-assess our season's goals:



Outgoing transfers first.  Harroui agreed to wend his way to Mexico in search of regular first team football.  An earlier offer from Belgium's KRC Genk was rejected.  The other unhappy player, Fratessi attracted no interest, so remains a Sassuolo player for the season.  Personally I'm happy with this result, as he is a useful squad player, whose playing time had largely been limited by the calf strain that disrupted his preseason preparation.

De Zerbi, still at Shakhtar, decided to reunite with Rogerio, only to abandon him 2 days later.  It was less than I wanted for him, but with his contract due to expire at the end of next season I could only expect his value to plummet in the summer.  With him unhappy, we'd already been identifying possible replacements, so I ultimately decided to cash in now.  Muldur followed shortly after.  A similar situation, with his contract up in 18 months.  I've been really happy with his performances this season, but Toljan is the first choice and whilst a far cry from the offer that upset him originally, £7m is a decent return.

Oddei was sent out on loan to get regular football on deadline day, as his path to the first time has been blocked by a new signing...


Tasked with finding a Complete Forward, our scouts only had one recommendation.  Whilst I'm aware of his reputation among FM players, I've neither managed nor faced him before, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the hype is about.  More importantly, I wanted someone who had a physical presence to provide relief for Scamacca.  His elite Acceleration, Pace & Off The Ball means I think he could also work in the wider positions, too, and should allow us to have a proper rotation alongside the established front three.  Sottil has been solid, with 7 goal contributions in 20 appearances, but the drop off in quality is evident when he's on the pitch.

It took £23.5m to bring him to Sassuolo, dwarfing our previous record signing Martinez Quarta.  Director of Football, Pasquale Foggia, managed to avoid adding any future clauses for RB Salzburg, although there is a £79m release clause in the contract.  A lot of pressure for a the young kid to succeed.

Sesko was the crown jewel in a busy January, as replacements for Rogerio and Muldur were also brought in.  A contract was offered to Chelsea left back Emerson, who was out of contract in the summer, but he chose to ply his trade in Lyon instead.  No worries, we had other players on our radar.  Benfica's Alex Grimaldi was a consideration, but his susceptibility to injuries scared me off.  Atalanta's Guiseppe Pezzella was another option.  He had completed a move from Parma in the summer after sending the previous season on loan, and had asked to leave.  He'd been a solid contributor in limited appearances, and would offer a decent back-up option with Italian nationality.  Instead we decided to plunder the depths of the Spanish Second Division... 



An intriguing option, I was enamoured by his Passing ability.  Whilst I currently play with wing-backs whose main function is to provide width and whip in crosses, which his Acceleration and Crossing will definitely help with, I'd be keen to have someone who may also be able to drift inside and create from more central positions.  An outlay of £4.9m means he was more expensive than the player he replaces, and at 28, this isn't a long-term investment.  I do believe, however, that he can wrestle the starting job away from Kyriakopolous.

On the other flank, we took a different approach, focussing on finding someone who would be content with playing second fiddle to the incumbent Toljan.  Enter Tomasso Cassandra, the Cittadella right back we identified last Christmas.



At 23, Cassandro is a player who can still develop, although I doubt he will ever become a regular starter.  What he is, however, is a poor man's version of Toljan.  Better at going forward than defending, his Pace and Stamina should see him able to get up and down the flanks easily.  I'm confident he'll be able to get decent game time and  able to drive up his value over the next couple of seasons, at which point our final signing of January should be ready for first-team football.


Diogo Spencer, an 18-year old Portuguese full-back came highly recommended by our scouts.  A graduate of the Benfica academy he only has B Team appearances to his name so far, but high Determination, a "resolute" personality and bags of potential is more than enough for me to be willing to take a swing.  Cassandro and Spencer were signed for a combined £2m, so represent quite low risk.  All-in-all, we've turned Rogerio and Muldur into £4m, a starter, a back-up and a hot prospect.  Of course, I probably shouldn't shout too much about the £4m profit, as it pales in comparison to the £23.5m I've spunked on Sesko.

We've ended up signing more players in this window than the previous 2 combined (excluding the pre-arranged transfers of Henrique and Harroui) and whilst 4 players doesn't sound like that much, I am worried about the effect this will have on team cohesion.

In the interest of consistency, here is the transfer window summary:


Fiorentina turned a great profit on Mandi.  At 31, I didn't expect them to double their investment from this time last year, although it is yet another big sale from a team that seems to be facing a never-ending exodus.  Rovella also became the latest Serie A player to depart for Chelsea.  Rovella was a player I was keen on but, at risk of milking the same complaint over and over again, my DoF doesn't want to sign a midfielder.  Elsewhere, Inter's were also busy.  Robin Gosens was joined by Ugurcan Cakir, Karim Adeyemi and Andy Pelmard with Gagliardini and Nandez - who himself was signed this time last season - heading for the exit door.  Juventus Zebre bolstered their already deep striking options with former Inter goal-machine and controversial husband Mauro Icardi.

(If you made it this far, I'm sorry - it was only 2 posts ago I said I wanted to make these updates shorter)

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Topped the UCL group and flying in the league with some solid additions in January with a trophy win as well. Great work all within my catch up of reading. The fact your playing full games I think your faster than me after all 🤣🤣

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1 hour ago, SixPointer said:

Topped the UCL group and flying in the league with some solid additions in January with a trophy win as well. Great work all within my catch up of reading. The fact your playing full games I think your faster than me after all 🤣🤣

This career has definitely...umm...rekindled my FM addiction.  I might need to rein things in a bit. 


A combo of working from home and back-to-back free weekends has given me a lot of time to power on through.  I'm also quite a bit behind in terms of updates.  I'm pretty close to finishing season 2, but trying to space out updates a little.

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I Can't Settle On A Way To Display Results

Apologies for bouncing around with format.  I'm going to go back to showing results in chronological order.


February started with a deserved loss to Zebre.  Chiesa ran riot, as we were unable to contain him all day, and it was his mazy run and low driven cross that unlocked our defence for their opening goal.  Ihattaren's deflected second sealed the points and inflicted our first league defeat of the season.

Genoa generously gave us the opportunity to bounce back, as a quick-fire double just before half time put us firmly in control.  Berardi ended his goal drought, cutting inside from the right and firing low into the fire corner.  90 seconds later, Sesko marked his first start with his first goal.  Frattesi wrapped things up at the death with a sensational half volley from 25 yards out.

Coppa Italia up next, and we were duly dumped out by Inter.  We fielded a slightly weaker team, and got punished accordingly.  Things could've been different if Sesko had done better with a chance in the 15th minute, as he was sent clear by Olaza, but Cakir stood tall to deny him.  Once Inter got the lead - Calhanoglu taking advantage of the space left behind Fratessi to break forward and fire home from just inside the area - they took control.  I've always said the Italian Cup is a mickey mouse competition.

A spirited draw against Bayer Leverkusen in the opening knockout round for the Champions League was encouraging.  We might regret not taking our chances, with a phenomenal last ditch Tapsoba block denying a certain goal for Scamacca in the first half.  We've now failed to score in 3 of our last 4 games.  Given the standard of opponent this shouldn't be too much of a surprise, but worrying signs nonetheless.

Enter Udinese, who seemed to be in a charitable mood, leaving Scamacca completely free to run onto a Sesko flick on after 15 minutes.  Sesko followed up with 2 near identical goals from Kyriakopolous crosses before Udinese finally decided to put up a fight.  A lapse in concentration from Ferrari let Beto in for a chance that very much inflated Udinese's xG output.  Sesko has been pretty impressive playing both as a Complete Forward and as a False 9, and that's allowed me to be quite formulaic in my rotation.  Fitness allowing, I can basically start each of my main strikers in 3 out of 4 fixtures.

The stop start month continued with a valiant draw against Inter.  Magnanelli, who had previously not scored in 6 seasons, now has his second of the campaign.  And it was an absolute beauty of a daisy cutter from 30 yards, and no less than we deserved.  Berardi should have won it for us in the 87th minute, though.  Olaza's free kick was saved well by Cakir, but fell to Berardi's feet inside the 6 yard box with the goal gaping.  Skriniar, a good half step behind the player somehow extended his leg enough to block the shot and preserve Inter's unbeaten season.  Having lost ground in the title race courtesy of the defeat in Turin, I feel we're going to really regret not making the most of our opportunity today.

An early Berardi penalty sent us on our way in a breathless encounter against Bologna.  Musa Barrow's direct running created problems for us throughout, but Consigli was more than a match for the former Atalanta striker.  A late penalty save from Arnautovic secured the PotM trophy.  Raspadori's second half goals - an unabated run from the half way line, followed by a crisp finish from a low Berardi cross - was enough to wrap up the points.  The real star for me, however, was Lucas Olaza.  His passing from deep repeatedly unlocked the Bologna defence.  Had it not been for some wasteful shooting, and great keeping, Olaza could've easily walked away from the game with 4 assists.


The gap at the top remains at 2 points, but Inter now have a game in hand.  Given their form, it's hard to imagine that will be anything other than a win.  Both games between us finished 1-1, meaning the only other points they've dropped this season was a surprising 0-0 home draw against Torino.  Immobile continues to prove that he owns this league.  Without him, I fear that Lazio would be relegation candidates.

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Embracing My Inner George Graham

Only 4 games in March, and I'm delighted to finally get some respite.  We haven't had such a free calendar since August (ignoring the Winter break) and I'm hoping we're going to be able to put our best team on the pitch consistently.


The ever charitable Fiorentina continued their descent into insignificance.  After a 4-0 loss to Lazio the day after the transfer window closed, the Viola parted ways with Gennaro Gattuso.  If he was responsible for their transfer activity, then it was fully deserved.  If he wasn't, however, he was completely shafted.  Calamitous defending allowed Sesko to open the scoring after only 5 minutes, as the ball pinballed around the area before falling at the feet of the Slovenian wonderkid.  Lopez curled a lovely second from just inside the area, before Sesko steered in a Scamacca flick on.  Fiorentina's best chance fell to Munas Dubbar, who screwed wide when it was easier to score.  That's Sesko's 5th goal in 8 games.  Already looking to be a bargain.

Unfortunately, Matheus Henrique tore his hamstring, and is likely out for the rest of the season.

With two Leverkusen players left for dead after some quick feet on the half way line, Davide Frattesi drove forwards before unleashing an absolute thunderbolt from 25 yards.  It's the kind of goal that you'll see on Champions League highlight reels for years to come.  It was a fitting sign off to a game which saw us capitalise on our dominance and reach the Quarter Finals in our first CL campaign.  It was also a pretty emphatic statement that Frattesi should be seen as the heir apparent to Henrique's starting place.  The classic Toljan-Scamacca connection gave us the first goal mid-way through the first half, and from then on we looked comfortable.  Next up, Borussia Dortmund.  If we win that tie, we could meet Inter in the Semi Finals for what would be the 5th and 6th match-up between the teams this season.

A smash and grab win against Napoli followed.  That's probably unfair to us, actually.  Napoli had more shots, but we had the better chances.  Ferrari hit the bar and Scamacca was denied from point-blank range before Berardi headed in from about 3 yards out.  A near post Osimhen header, blazed over the bar, in was Napoli's only real opportunity of any real quality.

The Frattesi was in full swing against SPAL.  A beautiful, angled, defence splitting pass put Raspadori through for our opener.  The game was wrapped up when Fratessi swung an absolute peach of a cross from his wrong foot straight on to Scamacca's head.  We could, and possibly should, have scored more.  Raspadori was the biggest culprit, missing unmarked from 8 yards out.  Think about that Shearer goal against Netherlands in Euro 1996, but closer to goal and a lot sloppier.


We've steadied the ship after a turbulent February, but the Inter juggernaut has shown no signs of slowing down.  Inter played their game in hand and now have a 5 point lead thanks, in part, to Martinez's 7 goals.  He has now reduced the gap to Immobile to just 3 goals in the race for top goalscorer.  A month without conceding means Consigli moves back to pole position for clean sheets.

Securing Our Future

With the fixture offering us the respite that's been sorely missed this season, I had a chance to look forward to Summer 2024.  A number of those players are likely to be candidates for sale this offseason, but I was keen to tie up the futures of a select few.  Kaan Ayhan, who has been a revelation this season, drove a hard bargain, and we were unable to come to an agreement.  We did give extensions to Hamed Junior Traore and 3rd choice keeper Alessandro Russo.  Traore was actually slated to be a regular starter next season, but I've managed to convince him to wait a little longer.  If he continues to develop as he has the last couple of seasons, he has the potential to be a mainstay of this team.


March also means Youth Intake Day.  After the disappointment of last season, where an "Excellent" preview turned out to be distinctively average, we're hoping the initial excitement will translate to tangible talent this time around...

...and boy did Dieter Eilts deliver.


Not to be outdone by last year, this year has proved to be even worse.  Our best prospect, the temperamental Jerome Pascal, is a centre-back that can't head.  The board want me to develop players using the club's youth system, and I'm completely on board with that, but it's gonna be tough with the absolute dearth of talent coming through the ranks.

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10 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Very frustrating intakes but results are certainly easing the pain 

Without a doubt.  And, let's face it, football is a fickle game.  It only takes a poor run of form, and I could be unceremoniously kicked to the curb.  Or, I could be made an offer I can't refuse, and find myself wending my way to another club.  Either way, I'm not going to see the fruits of labour from developing the youth team.  I mean, that's the whole reason clubs have Heads of Youth Development!

Obviously, I'm not intending for either of those situations to happen, but you never know what the future holds.

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10 league games and a 5 point deficit remain.  As unlikely as it is looking given Inter's imperious form, there is still a lot of football left to be played.


Lucas Olaza's 25-yard free kick gave us the lead against Sampdoria.  Sampdoria rallied after the goal, with a succession of low quality shots, before falling off completely around the 30 minute mark.  Man of the moment, Davide Frattesi set up our second late, with a nicely weighted ball over the top from the half space.

A double header against Borussia Dortmund followed, and our Champions League adventure is over.  Some young, promising Norwegian striker named Haaland did the damage, with goals in both legs.  He looks like quite a good player.  Someone should to sign him.  Scamacca slotted home our equaliser in the first leg, but we were left to rue big misses from himself and Berardi earlier in the game.  Over the course of the two legs, Dortmund shaded it, and deserved to go through.  Always next year.

Milan up next, and a late Scamacca header was the difference.  It was a pretty poor game.  A lot of bark, not much bite.  Fearing that the Milan game was too exciting, we played out an even more boring affair with Torino. Scamacca thundered home the winner at the near post, and I think I fell asleep for the rest of the game.  Like genuinely, I cannot remember another thing from the entire game.

After a couple of truly dull games, we put in a good performance against Verona.  It was so entertaining, I forgot to screenshot the game summary.  An exhausted Berardi was rested for this game and the last, which allowed Benjamin Sesko to take the 2nd minute penalty that opened the scoring.  A Ferrari header from a Traore corner just before half-time wrapped up the points.  Verona keeper, Lorenzo Montipo, was inspired.  Twice denying Scamacca from close range, and pulling out an athletic stop to deny Magnanelli from adding another surprising long-range goal.

It took a late Berardi penalty to see off Cagliari, as we rounded out the month with another league win.  Consigli won PotM despite not really doing much.  A nice save from Hernani in the first half kept the game level, and he made a couple of routine saves from weak headers.  For me, Sesko, was the more obvious choice, having caused Cagliari a whole host of problems down the right flank.  A dipping shot from the edge of the area, after he'd left Lykogiannis for dead, clipped the bar, and Scamacca should've done better when Sesko played him through on goal.

9 consecutive league clean sheets is pretty impressive.  I really don't know how/why we're so defensively solid, but I'm not complaining.


To say Inter kept pace with us would do them a great disservice.  16 goals in 5 games, including a 7-1 destruction of Empoli, kept them 5 points clear, and they are on track to break the Serie A points record which stands at 102 points.  Roma and Zebre are locked in a battle for 3rd place, whilst it looks like Verona and above are safe in the relegation battle.

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Finally got around to reading all this, you're doing a brilliant job! Always loved the Sassuolo kit and it's great to see you getting the most from Berardi! Shame about the youth intakes!

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1 hour ago, ForzaItalia said:

Finally got around to reading all this, you're doing a brilliant job! Always loved the Sassuolo kit and it's great to see you getting the most from Berardi! Shame about the youth intakes!

Thank you.  The kit is pretty sharp - I've actually saved a search on eBay to see if I can snag one for myself!

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5 minutes ago, GIMN said:

Thank you.  The kit is pretty sharp - I've actually saved a search on eBay to see if I can snag one for myself!

Love the MAPEI logo! How is Lorenzo Lucca getting on in the save? Seen a lot of Serie A saves with him dominating.

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3 minutes ago, ForzaItalia said:

Love the MAPEI logo! How is Lorenzo Lucca getting on in the save? Seen a lot of Serie A saves with him dominating.

After an underwhelming 9 goals in 42 games in his first season at Pisa, Krasnodar swooped in for £7.75m.  Things have been a little better there, netting at almost a 1:2 ratio.


Like Sesko, I've not actually managed or faced off against Lucca before, and I don't know what his attribute distribution is like at the start of the game, but he certainly looks like he's developing into a well-rounded threat.  Of course the big issue with playing this way, is it's difficult to tell how much a player is developing.  A change of colour could represent an attribute increase of 1...or 5!

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10 hours ago, GIMN said:

To say Inter kept pace with us would do them a great disservice.  16 goals in 5 games, including a 7-1 destruction of Empoli, kept them 5 points clear, and they are on track to break the Serie A points record which stands at 102 points.

If they can break the record and also finish the season without a loss that is immense. Saying that you have done a sterling job in what looks likely to be sealing runner up. 

Unfortunate against Dortmund, but that's what a top tier player can do to you. 

Berardi on the other hand, what a player you have 👏

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Just got through this after working my way slowly through. Love the detail, the writing - great detail and analysis while not letting yourself take anything too seriously. This thread and some other recent ones have convinced me to do my next save with an attribute masking skin, but I’m liking the staff idea as well. Are you able to tell at all how good the coaches are based in reputation? Or is it just hoping for the best? I know you they need to match you style etc, but without stats it seems hard to judge their quality.
I’ve had my eye on Sassuolo for a save for a few years now, though I opted for the resurrecting a down on their luck Livorno last year in Italy. Brought in Raspadori in my first year in Serie A and he became one of my all time favorite FM players. He has a bit of everything (other than aerial presence) and in my 5-2-1-2 system he scored for fun in the AF role.

Overall, great work, and you seem to have them playing spectacularly well. Long may it continue 

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4 hours ago, MattyLewis11 said:

If they can break the record and also finish the season without a loss that is immense. Saying that you have done a sterling job in what looks likely to be sealing runner up. 

Unfortunate against Dortmund, but that's what a top tier player can do to you. 

Berardi on the other hand, what a player you have 👏

I can't begrudge Inter either.  Often times in FM, it feels like when you're up against a dominant team their team is composed of superhumans who can't be tackled or make a mistake, and it's a truly frustrating affair.  Not with Inter.  They're genuinely fun to watch.  Great movement and interplay, a lot of variety to how they attack, and it never feels like some absolute nonsense when they're carving you apart.

Berardi is incredible.  He's another player IRL, like Immobile, who I think is underrated because he doesn't quite look as good with Italy as he does for club.  He's 28 now in game, and doesn't seem to be itching for a move, so I'm hopeful he'll be willing to see his career out with us.

3 hours ago, 13th Man said:

I’ve had my eye on Sassuolo for a save for a few years now, though I opted for the resurrecting a down on their luck Livorno last year in Italy. Brought in Raspadori in my first year in Serie A and he became one of my all time favorite FM players. He has a bit of everything (other than aerial presence) and in my 5-2-1-2 system he scored for fun in the AF role.

Overall, great work, and you seem to have them playing spectacularly well. Long may it continue 

Thank you, and yeah it was signing Raspadori in the January transfer window for Villa in an FM21 save that made me want to give Sassuolo a try this time round.  If everyone was healthy, he wasn't a starter, but he could slot in anywhere across my front four (Trequartista, Shadow Striker, Inverted Winger or Advanced Forward) and put in great performances.

3 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Just got through this after working my way slowly through. Love the detail, the writing - great detail and analysis while not letting yourself take anything too seriously. This thread and some other recent ones have convinced me to do my next save with an attribute masking skin, but I’m liking the staff idea as well. Are you able to tell at all how good the coaches are based in reputation? Or is it just hoping for the best? I know you they need to match you style etc, but without stats it seems hard to judge their quality.

I don't ignore attributes entirely, but they're just less important.  My skin does the same to staff attributes as player attributes, so you can tell the difference between awful, poor, good and great, but often I find that hiring on tactical philosophies means there usually aren't many suitable candidates for any given role.

That said, I've always found the concept of staff attributes to be somewhat nebulous.  It's much easier to put together a subjective opinion on a player's abilities by watching them play games.  A coach's ability, however, is based a lot more on how highly people talk of them and how much players improve under their tutelage.  The later of which may actually be more of an indication of an individual player's capacity for learning, or the input from other coaches within the team.  As a result, I often find in FM this results in just hiring the "best" guys, and as I'm a fan of managing teams of similar stature (top division teams that are outside of the usual contenders), this often means I gravitate towards the same coaches each save.  This approach helps bring a little more diversity to my approach.

Apologies for the long and pretentious answer!

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Posted (edited)

End Of A Long Season

309 days after the first ball was kicked, the second season has reached it's climax.  Just 5 league games remain, with a 5 point gap to close.  Can we do it?


A great start to the month as Benjamin Sesko ran riot against Empoli.  The highlight being his second, rounding the keeper after a beautiful Kyriakopolous ball from deep put him through on goal.  A rebound from a Berardi shot, and a far post header from 6 yards wrapped up the win but it came at a cost.  Raspadori tore his groin muscle with only seconds remaining on the clock, and he will now miss the remainder of the season.

We finally outplayed Atalanta.  I appreciate it may come across as facetious, given our results, but we've often been forced to absorb a lot of pressure from La Dea, so it was nice to put in a dominant performance.  The game really sparked into life after the break with Sesko making the most of a lucky break, as Toloi's last ditch tackle on Berardi fell at his feet.  Oscar replied almost immediately, sidefooting home from 10 yards after some cracking work on the right flank by Nahuel Molina.  2 minutes later, Muriel was put through on goal, but Martinez Quarta came to our rescue with an amazing recovery tackle, sliding in cleanly from behind to rob the ball off the Colombian's toes.

What a fitting way to end our season.  A year ago, Inter secured the title after we lost to Roma with two games remaining.  History was clearly destined to repeat.  The Roma game had been repeatedly rearranged due to various European commitments, and I should've recognised this was all part of some big conspiracy against us.  Unlike last year, this was at least an entertaining game.  Berardi's penalty gave us a deserved lead, but 2 goals in quick succession turned the game around - Abraham capitalising on a spilled cross, before Cristante rose to meet a near post corner and left Consigli standing.  Scamacca and Sesko spurned great chances in the 2nd half, but it just wasn't our day.

In January, we played our best opening 15 minutes of football against Parma and somehow they took the lead completely against the run of play.  It felt like this time around we were just paying tribute to that game.  We looked to put the disappointment of Roma behind us and played some truly scintillating stuff.  Then, with their first foray into our half, Parma scored.  It took a late daisy cutter from Henrique and a tap-in at the second try from Scamacca to give us the win our play deserved.

Benevento had long been condemned to a return to Serie B, and with both teams having nothing to play for, this was the very definition of a dead rubber.  Berardi squared for Scamacca and then volleyed in a Toljan cross 2 minutes later.  Then both teams downed tools, and just enjoyed a nice Sunny May afternoon.  That's not entirely true, both teams had chances of moderate quality, but the game lacked any real intensity.  Benevento, to their credit, had managed a draw against champions elect Inter the previous week, which leaves us with just one question.  Did Inter manage an Invincible season?


Damn right they did.  Lautaro Martinez led Inter to a 2-0 win against Genoa on the final day, and with Lazio losing 1-0 to Juventus Zebre that was enough for Martinez to pip Immobile to the top goalscorer award, courtesy of playing fewer games.  For the 2nd year running, Berardi topped the average rating charts, with Sesko a whisker behind courtesy of 10 goals and an assist in 16 appearances.  Inter have won all but 8 league games in the last 2 seasons, and 3 of those were against us.  They deserve to be in the conversation for the best team in Europe at the moment.  Or at least they would be if they were able to translate their domestic success to the Champions League.  Quarter Final exits in successive seasons, to PSG and Man Utd, will be held as an indicator they are not quite there yet, but that shouldn't diminish their accomplishments.

At the other end of the table, there was drama.  Going into the weekend, Udinese were in 15th ahead of Sampdoria and Cagliari on head-to-head results, and 3 points above Empoli.  Empoli were up for it, and ran all over a Napoli side who have nothing to play for.  Despite being reduced to 10-men, Empoli ran out 2-0 winners.  A 62nd minute winner against already-relegated SPAL saw Cagliari safe.  Udinese fell behind to Atalanta in the 44th minute.  1 minute later, Deulofeu had equaliser.  Koopmeiners restored the lead for Atalanta in the 56th minute, and Udinese were unable pull it back once more.  A 9th minute goal for Torino had Sampdoria in the relegation zone until the 88th minute when 35 year-old, ex-Sassuolo striker Caputo picked up the ball on the edge of the box, took a touch to steady himself and fired into the top corner.  Jubilation for Sampdoria.  Despair for Udinese.  For the first time in 28 seasons, there will be no Serie A football at the Stadio Friuli.

Last season I suggested we couldn't repeat our achievements again and, in a manner of speaking, I was right.  We somehow picked up 5 more points this time around, yet still fell short.  More importantly, we are starting to establish ourselves as a top Italian team and with back-to-back CL qualification, and I hope this is going to help our reputation grow enough to attract a better calibre of player.

Edited by GIMN
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2022/23 Best XI

With a Champions League campaign, and a schedule squeezed in around a World Cup, this season was a lot more about rotation than the previous.  As a result, I might present a few more players in my "Best XI"


Toljan.png.6daadc89fdfc33675fd28271da970582.png  Quarta.png.d2dc5a02a21bca8caca94948e3bd4d60.png  Ferrari.png.08f44a5c86f09164db1a678d279bb01b.png  Kyriakopolous.png.57b9c7ec0d02331e049df30e2746401f.png

Lopez.png.effccb9746f4eb5d1062fbcb448cbc18.png  Ayhan.png.7710ab53d8e0008fc0cb7c5af5a14f15.png  Frattesi.png.7bc673ffce609652078bc024c761d889.png

Raspadori.png.b8633e65b0e88bbef86f753dcb0c8808.png  Scamacca.png.0120e9b0217c74cb855a715d2ea303f9.png  Berardi.png.4a143c4867c7542d11e1c05f973731a2.png

And here are the "notable" rotation players.

Goldaniga.png.1d1588b9d0ab71d64b4e990c353a9753.png  Olaza.png.cc91d16bd4bdaa26a3df6b0b0fb4ba71.png  Magnanelli.png.673ddb4ad90bfc95d84c8cb2c38f73d4.png  Henrique.png.b4854048309a8c52a535e21ef97d7f37.png  Traore.png.a7b45aecaea1d30c1f1f1bad815871ef.png  Sesko.png.5b73c558ee67a69a57d1af340c77687e.png  Sottil.png.40c907c88e9136691d941615c54e3fd2.png

I've also set up a couple of templates for player cards, and showing attributes to give a bit more consistency to presentation, and updated the Data Studio Report for this season - adding in some sliders to help me even more in identifying possible scouting targets.

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Player Spotlight: Centre Backs

I've shown off the profiles of most of the team at some point or another, with the exception of our defensive unit.  Now seems like as good a time as any.





In fear of over-simplifying and under-valuing my centre-backs, we essentially have 3 archetypes: the Heading Boys (Ferrari & Goldaniga), the Positional Boy (Martinez Quarta) and the Speedy Boy (Ruan).  We are missing, however, a Tackly Boy.  That's not to say that we can't tackle - Ferrari is 3rd amongst CBs in Serie A for tackle success rate at 90% for the season.  He is, without doubt, our standout defender.  Having won 2021/22's Serie A Defender of the Year Award, and proving to be a consistent threat from set-pieces, Ferrari is one of the first names on the Team Sheet.  Martinez Quarta has been dependable as his partner, rating 7.18 and 7.08 for us since his £14.75m move from Fiorentina.  I am surprised to see his estimated value drop, especially as he is contracted through until 2026.

Goldaniga has been a solid rotational piece, coming in when we play 3-at-the-back or when our starters need a rest.  As a squad player, he's made 42 appearances over the last 2 seasons, and he is starting to show signs of wanting more opportunities.  Kaan Ayhan, who looks to have secured the DM role, is actually a natural CB and his positional flexibility allows us to change between our two formations with ease.  As a result, he has played ahead of Goldaniga on quite a few occasions.

Ruan is the "young" prospect.  As he would essentially be our 5th choice CB, he has spent time on loan at Gremio and Vasca Da Gama the last couple of seasons.  He's now 23 and I'm hoping he can push for some game time in 2023/24.

Going into the offseason, CB is a position I'm keen to strengthen further.  This might seem ridiculous considering our impressive defensive record but, as we look to firmly establish ourselves amongst the top teams in Serie A, we can't afford to rest on our laurels.  We already know we want a "Tackly Boy", and our increased stature may help us secure a truly elite centre back.  This could mean the end for Goldaniga's Sassuolo career.  This might also block Ruan's opportunities for first team football, so another loan might be on the cards, as we look to bring in a younger prospect to develop in our youth teams/provide emergency cover if needed.

And this seems like a good time to talk about targets.  There are two Serie A defenders who have caught my eye:


Quick note about the Scattergraph titles - it is x_axis/y_axis/bubble size

Using the report to filter down to the lowest values for tackle success rate, header success rate and interceptions per 90 for my two starting CBs, I can try and find some possible additions who will represent an improvement.  We also wanted to find players who had played at least 1,000 minutes, so these stats weren't inflated by a small sample size.  Given our possession stats, it is no surprise that our players have relatively low tackles per 90 minutes, although our aerial ineffectiveness was surprising.  Martinez Quarta actually outperformed Ferrari in this aspect, although this will be in part because Ferrari is a target for set-pieces.  Only 2 other players in the whole league outperformed Ferrari for tackle success rate, so we're naturally going to be looking for players who are likely to have a lower output here.

The two players highlighted (by the outer ring) would give us more aerial solidity, and are a clear improvement over Martinez Quarta in terms of tackle success rate.  More importantly, I feel they might be realistic targets.  It's all good and well identifying Merih Demiral as an improvement, for example, but him being available or me being willing to shell out north of £30m for him is highly unlikely.  Similarly, Empoli's Lorenzo Tonelli might be an intriguing option, but a 33-year-old averaging a 6.6 rating over the last two seasons is not likely going to be able to make the step up nor represent a viable long-term option.

Enough waffling.  Let's introduce my two main targets:



The absolute definition of "Tackly Boys" with elite Tackling and Anticipation for both players.  Kumbulla definitely looks to be the better prospect - younger, cheaper (transfer fee, at least), mentally stronger, and overall better performances.  His move to Roma was only made permanent last summer, so I'm surprised he would be as easy to sign as my scouts suggest, and we are still waiting on the full report to be complete.  He also has Italian second nationality.  Bremer certainly appears to be a step down, but still a good option if we can't get Kumbulla.  It's worth adding that these are the domestic options, as I haven't included other leagues in the Data Studio.  I will still be going through my scout reports to see if there are better options out there.

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Oof, hard to lose the title when you're doing so well, but when a team has an invicible season there's not a lot you can do.

I appreciate your use of the technical terms for the various roles - heading boys, tackly boys, etc.  Looks like you could bring in a tackly, heading, and positioning all-in-one boy with that Kumbulla.

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Great season! No idea how Inter keep managing to win and get over the line. Reminds me of the City vs Liverpool title race a few years back. Big fan of Bremer having used him before and unreal at corners!

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Oof, hard to lose the title when you're doing so well, but when a team has an invicible season there's not a lot you can do.

2 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Another hugely impressive season, very unfortunate to come up against Inter in such incredible form 

I can't do anything but stand back and admire.  In an odd way, I'm kind of grateful for the challenge as things have so far panned out a lot better than I expected.


5 hours ago, 13th Man said:

I appreciate your use of the technical terms for the various roles - heading boys, tackly boys, etc.  Looks like you could bring in a tackly, heading, and positioning all-in-one boy with that Kumbulla.

Gianna Mustermann spent years studying at Coverciano to gain a deep understanding of the technical terms.  It is for that reason, he can also raise concerns that Kumbulla might also be a Turning-Circle-Of-A-Milk-Float Boy.  Jokes aside, he really does look too good to be true, especially if the valuation of < £13m is accurate.  His name also fits in nicely with my desire to rework the lyrics of Talking Head's Psycho Killer to name Sassuolo players:

Sesko Kumbullah
Qu'est-ce que c'est
Ra-Ra-Ra-Ra-Ra-Raspadori, Traore, Ay-Ay-Ay-Ay(-Han)

Edited by GIMN
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26 minutes ago, ForzaItalia said:

Great season! No idea how Inter keep managing to win and get over the line. Reminds me of the City vs Liverpool title race a few years back. Big fan of Bremer having used him before and unreal at corners!

Bremer is one of those players who always gets recommended by my scouts, no matter what league/club I'm playing.  And, usually by the time I'm looking to sign a centre-back, there's always one or two players who appear to just be slightly better and/or cheaper.  It doesn't help that he'll take up a non-EU slot, either.

That said, he does seem to be firmly entrenched as my 2nd choice target, as the other players that have peaked my interest - Maxence Lacroix, Lucas Verissimo and Illya Zabarnyi are all valued at over £20m.

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8 hours ago, GIMN said:

His name also fits in nicely with my desire to rework the lyrics of Talking Head's Psycho Killer to name Sassuolo players:

A player's ability to fit into songs/chants is often an overlooked, but crucially important element of squad building.  My proudest moment in my current save was realizing that my Norwegian forward Fiabema would work really well with Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.

Da-dada-DAH-duh!  De-da-dada-DAH-duh!

Fiabeeeeeeema!  Fiabeeeeeeema!

He comes from the land of the ice and snow

He's quick as you like now he's scored a goal.

It may be true that the CB's agility is not so good, but think of the songs!  Think of the songs!  Also, he looks rather good otherwise? I am still getting used to your attribute graphic to be fair, so maybe I'm reading things wrong.

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2 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

A player's ability to fit into songs/chants is often an overlooked, but crucially important element of squad building.  My proudest moment in my current save was realizing that my Norwegian forward Fiabema would work really well with Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.

Da-dada-DAH-duh!  De-da-dada-DAH-duh!

Fiabeeeeeeema!  Fiabeeeeeeema!

He comes from the land of the ice and snow

He's quick as you like now he's scored a goal.

It may be true that the CB's agility is not so good, but think of the songs!  Think of the songs!  Also, he looks rather good otherwise? I am still getting used to your attribute graphic to be fair, so maybe I'm reading things wrong.

I will be singing the Immigrant Song for the rest of the evening now.

Kumbulla looks awesome.  Literally has gold (15+) in all the key areas.  Literally the only downside is his agility and first touch, and I'm not unduly worried about that.  My real concern is if he looks so good, why is he so (relatively) cheap?  At 23 he can still improve and be a mainstay of our defence for years to come.

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Posted (edited)

5 days after the season ended, shockwaves were sent through the ranks at the Neroverdi as chairman, Carlo Rossi announced his retirement.  In a statement from owner Marco Squinzi thanking Rossi, he called the septuagenarian "the heart of Sassuolo - not just for the football club, but the community as a whole".  Even the most dispassionate football fan, would find it hard to disagree.


A gala was held in his honour, celebrating Rossi's impact on Sassuolo's rise through the divisions, and attended by a veritable who's-who from the Green & Black's history.  Former manager's Massimo Allegri, Roberto De Zerbi and Eusebio Di Francesco were joined by playing legends such as Simone Missiroli and Andy Selva.  There was one notable, albeit unsurprising absence.  Alessio Dionisi was not in attendance.

In the days that followed, it became clear there was more to Rossi's retirement than initially thought.  On 11th June 2023, La Gazzetta dello Sport published an interview with Dionisi detailing the circumstances behind his firing.  Dionisi alleged he was fired after raising his concerns about a culture of sexual harassment rooted deep within the club.  Email exchanges from 18th July 2021 between the short-lived manager and Rossi seemed to indicate the former chairman tried to sweep the issue under the rug.  One day later, Dionisi was informed that the contract offer had been rescinded.  The club quickly refuted the claims, saying the emails were taken out of context and had nothing to do with the such allegations, and that all communications still available will be shared with private investigators.  Either way, a story that had long been buried by Sassuolo's recent success reared it's ugly head once again.

But football is a fickle sport.  The drama dominated headlines and podcasts for a few days, until it was eventually relegated to yesterday's news.  Ultimately it was still a case of he-said-she-said.  Nothing could be proved, and any investigation would be lengthy, and it's validity questioned.

It was, however, a very eventful first week for next chairman, Maurizio Gritti.


(Disclaimer: This is completely made up.  None of these things happened, and there is zero suggestion that anyone mentioned has been involved in anything even remotely similar in real life)

Edited by GIMN
Added disclaimer.
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