Welcome back to my Forza Siena series, if you missed the introduction or would simply like to recap then please click here to do so.
Throughout this save I am looking to establish a club culture at Siena that consists of:
- High intensity, possession based football
- Focus on youth development
- Smart recruitment
Fortunately it doesn’t look like the board are going to create too many difficulties in me trying to achieve that as their preferences are minimal but in line with my own.
To become the best side in Italian football the infrastructure of the club needs to grow and as you can see from the below table, I’ve really got my work cut out.
Upon taking charge I took a first look at the squad and there were a few things that immediately sprung out as needing to change. Our highest earner was Claudio Terzi who at 37 was also the oldest member of the squad. Just prior to me taking over he had been given a new 2 year deal on £7,500 per week which was more than double anyone else in the squad. I bet Claudio couldn’t believe his luck when he was offered that contract, no wonder Siena have gone bankrupt twice in the last 10 years! Having only just signed the new deal I would have to wait before attempting to move him on. You can see that we had 6 loanees in the first team squad with a further 4 in the under 23s. I want us to get to a point where we have 0 loans so as you can imagine this is going to take time.
I won’t go into the team in to much detail as I’m going to focus more on what I’m trying to build than the current setup. Marco Meli was our best prospect but that wasn’t particularly a compliment having looked at the competition. Our under 18 side consisted of just 1 player meaning that the youth intake was needed ASAP but I’ll cover that off later in this post. The one player I had heard of prior to taking over was Alberto Paloschi, he was once signed by Swansea for just over £8m so its surprising that he’s in the 3rd tier at the age of 31, although Swansea fans may think otherwise!
The club had a number of affiliates, 9 in total, for 7 of these we were the senior affiliate. Sassuolo and Uerdingen are the clubs we act as a feeder for, I kept both of these relationships intact. With Sassuolo it was by choice as we need to take advantage of the free loans for a while yet, with 10 loan players at the club it is going to be a gradual process reducing this to 0. Surprisingly none of the 10 players we have on loan currently are from Sassuolo so we clearly aren’t making the most of the partnership. With Uerdingen, the partnership is due to the clubs sharing the same board so although I wanted to cancel it immediately as their players aren’t good enough for us, I wasn’t able to unfortunately. Out of the 7 clubs that act as a feeder club for ourselves, 6 were with sides with shocking facilities and due to the minimal chances of them producing a youngster we have first dibs on I opted to cancel the partnership. The one feeder club I kept was fellow Serie C side Grosseto who have better facilities than ourselves and with them playing at the same level gives a good opportunity for our youngsters to develop there. See the before and after views of our affiliated clubs below.
The bank balance was just under £1m but despite having no debt, projections showed that we expected to make significant losses over the next few years. Our finances will have to be managed carefully and hopefully on the pitch success can look to move these in the right direction.
The quality of staff as you’d expect wasn’t great and a lot didn’t share the same passion for high intensity, possession based football that I do and therefore won’t be here long term. As much as I was tempted to terminate the contracts of most of them, that would’ve been a reckless financial decision due to compensation payments so I decided they’d all stay until their contracts expired. I plugged the few gaps that were needed but I expect bigger staff changes at the end of the second season when most of the contracts end. Below is my Head of Youth Development which shows the level of staff I’m working with, he may be good with kids but not at coaching football, he probably should’ve got a job at a play gym.
Determining what formation we were going to use was easy. The squad screamed 5212 and had clearly been assembled with that in mind. Looking at the first 11 I was actually really happy with what I had inherited, it was a good set of players that I definitely thought I could do something with, whether that be the expected playoff finish or to challenge for the top spot which is the only way to secure automatic promotion. I stuck with the 5212 throughout the season, the player roles of the front 3 varied over the first couple of months but I had something I was settled on by November and it stayed like that throughout.
The idea behind the tactic is to win the ball back high up the pitch and then keep hold of possession once we have it. We focus our play through the middle and set up narrow however still have width provided by our wingbacks when we look to work the ball into the box. Both wingbacks are instructed to focus their crossing towards the pressing forward, normally I would set this to the advanced forward but my pressing forward was better in the air. Despite instructing the side to play out from the back, I’ve gone for generic central defenders as a role as I don’t think the players are of high enough quality to do anything more than that yet but it is something I’ll look to change if I manage to move Siena up the divisions.
The only obvious gap in the squad was at right wingback, we only had 1 so I needed to bring another in as cover. The signing who came in was 35 year old free transfer Lorenzo Del Prete who fit in with my ideology of only signing experienced players where no fee was involved and to help with mentoring. He would be my only signing during the summer transfer window.
It looked like he would be my only signing all season until I decided to make another on the final day of the January transfer window. Dominik Mulac arrived for £7.5k from Croatian side NK Orijent 1919, the first of what I hope will be many signings from Eastern Europe. I saw him as being perfect for the right side of my back 3, at 22 he will certainly improve and his high level of determination and perfectionist personality certainly fits with the culture I want to engrain at this club.
During the season 3 players departed, with Cristiano Bani generating 22k in funds meaning that over the season I made a profit of 15k from my transfer business, a small profit but a profit all the same.
So having plugged the gaps and established a way of playing, how did we get on?
Well I’ll start by showing you some data from the data hub, this shows that the side were the following:
- Defensive efficiency – A quiet, impenetrable defence
- Attacking efficiency – Aggressive and clinical shooting
- Possession – Frequently wins the ball and reliable in possession
- Goal output – High scoring and impenetrable defence
- Scoring – High scoring, Clinical shooting
As you may have already guessed we did pretty well, in fact we exceeded all expectations and ran away with the title by 7 points, it would have been more but for a little wobble at the end where we drew 3 of our last 6 games. We scored the most goals in the division and conceded the joint least, only losing 2 league games all season. A fantastic effort and a great start to my time at Siena.
This wasn’t the end of our Serie C football, as there are 3 different groups in Serie C, they have a Super Cup to determine who is the ultimate Serie C champion. We had won Group B, Südtirol Group A and Avellino Group C so it would be those 2 sides that we faced up against. The way it works is that you play each team once, one of them at home and one of them away. First we played Avellino in our home match so it was imperative that we got all 3 points and we did, a 4-2 victory sending us straight to the top of the group. Next Avellino hosted Südtirol and beat them 1-0 putting them level on points with us but behind on goal difference. This meant that we only needed a point away at Südtirol to be crowned Italian C Super Cup champions. It was 2-2 with 3 minutes to go when we had a man sent off, they threw everyone forward but we broke and took full advantage to win 3-2 and lift the trophy.
Our success was a real squad effort with 14 players achieving an average rating of over 7. The stand outs were deep lying playmaker Salvatore Pezzella who won Serie C player of the year (14 assists and an average rating of 7.54) and right wing back Christian Mora (10 assists and average rating of 7.41) on loan from Roma and Atalanta respectively. Spoiler alert!! I’ve agreed deals to sign both of them permanently next season. A special shoutout must go to my front 2, Matteo Ardemagni scored 30 goals at the ripe old age of 35 winning the golden boot award, he is retiring at the end of the season, what a way to go out! Alberto Paloschi who I highlighted when I first took over scored 20 but also assisted 7, back up for them both Michael Fabbro scored 13 however he was a slight disappointment as I expected him to nail down a starting berth but he didn’t. All in all it was a great season, 7 of my players made the team of the year, unsurprisingly we were crowned the team of the year and the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and attacker awards were all won by players of mine. Despite this it will be a real challenge to do something in Serie B next season, the club is haemorrhaging money and twice the owners have had to inject money to keep us a float. I have to be very careful with contract offers in order to keep costs low. One thing that will help with this is that my high earner Claudio Terzi is retiring so I will save on his ridiculously high wages!
Aside of the league we also had a cup competition to compete in, this was the Coppa Italia Lega Pro which is for Serie C sides, we will be in the full Coppa Italia next season having been promoted. It was a competition I really fancied us to win but defeat at home in the quarter final to a very average Foggia side saw us disappointingly knocked out.
Part of the club culture I want to create is to focus on youth development. Despite the u20s not having any players that I feel will ever make the first team they had a decent season. They are in the 4th tier which consists of 4 groups of 7, they play each team in their group twice and our u20s won their group but were knocked out in the second round having qualified for the playoffs.
Further to this the under 18s who only had 1 real player in it had an even better season, they are in the second division and the way it works is that its split down into 6 groups of 10 teams, they play each team twice and the top 2 then qualify for the knockout stages. Our under 18s won the group and made it to the final where they lost to Cesena in extra time.
My head of youth developments contract is up at the end of the season and he won’t be getting a new one. Having said that the youth intake was better than I expected but still not very good. The preview suggested it would be an excellent group of players, when it arrived it turned out it was an average group.
The top talents are nothing to write home about and I can’t see any of them making it at Siena unfortunately. Hopefully when I bring in my own Head of Youth Development the intakes will improve but the facilities, recruitment and coaching need a lot of work and we don’t have the money to spend on that yet.
Thanks for taking the time to read chapter 1 of ‘Forza Siena’, I am going to take an adhoc approach to this so some seasons may be split out across more than 1 post dependant on how much I have to write about. I’ll be back soon with a look at our preparation for life in Serie B.
The Last Throw.
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