Hello there and welcome back to the next instalment of my Forza Siena series. If you’re new to it then here is a link to the introduction or if you missed the previous chapter than catch up with that here.

After promotion to Serie A the odds were stacked against us to survive, our entire focus would be around that and if you’d offered me 17th place by a single point I’d have snapped your hand off prior to a ball being kicked. With just £2.7m to spend and a wage budget of £94k I really had my work cut out.

After giving me that measly budget to work with the board then had the cheek to ask me if I’d like to spend more money on performance analysts. I decided to chance my arm and said no but could you spend it on junior recruitment and surprisingly they agreed. Part of the aim of this save is to grow the clubs infrastructure and create a clear pathway from the youth team to the first team. At the start of my 4th year in charge I’d finally made some headway regarding this, hopefully there would be more to come!

More good news followed as following promotion the board improved the scouting range from continental to worldwide. In the introduction I stated part of the club culture was going to be to sign ‘the best cheap young foreign talent’ and this will go someway to allowing me to do that.

With a small transfer budget in place I had to be really careful when making moves in the market. To make matters worse every player seemed to want a new contract after promotion and we simply couldn’t afford it. Some of my better players I had to tie down but doing this ate into the transfer budget as I had to move some across to cover the extra expense meaning that there was minimal left for new signings.

My number 1 for the last 18 months had been young Denis Franchi but he simply wasn’t ready for top flight football although I firmly believe he will be in the future. I loaned him out and snapped up Malian number 1 Djigui Diarra for £22.5k from Tanzanian side Young Africans. Spending money on a 29 year old goes against the philosophies I’ve instilled at the club but as its such a minimal fee I was happy to let it slide on this occasion. I also added Sébastien Hervieu on a free from Standard Liège, like Franchi he has real potential so I moved him out on loan and I see them both fighting to start in between the sticks for us in the years to come.

In defence I needed a new left back and left sided central defender. Marko Pajac had been released by Brescia and came in on a free to add some experience to the back line and take on the starting berth in the full back role. Juventus had decided not to renew the contract of Paolo Gozzi after he hadn’t made the grade there, I snapped him up as I believe that despite not being good enough for The Old Lady he has the potential to be a solid Serie A defender. I also made a third addition in defence as Manolo Palladino had rejected a new deal from Pro Patria and I felt that with a few loan spells he could improve and be a player I could make some money on in the future.

Midfield wise I needed a couple of additions, Roberto Biancu came in from Brescia for £135k whilst Abass Samari Salifu arrived from Accra Lions for £100k. Both players can play in the cm or am roles bringing good versatility to my midfield options.

Finally up top I added one player and I felt this was a milestone signing. With the potential to rise from £750k to £875k, it was not only way bigger than any other fee I’ve paid so far in this save but it was for a player I’ve actually heard of for the first time albeit only through previous FM saves. The new man was Vincenzo Millico, he starts off at Torino but he only made 1 league appearance in season 1 there before moving to Hellas Verona for season 2. He made 6 appearances for them in Serie A before dropping down to Serie B for season 3 with Vicenza where he had a really good season and this is where he caught my eye. I think that season in Serie B has done him the world of good and he can now show that he is a Serie A player after all.

To help with bringing the above players in a few players had to move on, the most notable was CM Thomas Schirò who left for Bari for £450k, great profit as I signed him for £19.25k.

Off the pitch I made some adjustments to my non playing staff as I was able to recruit better quality now that I was a top flight side, this was helped as a number of staff members contracts had come to an end. I won’t bore you by going through them all but I will mention that my new assistant manager is former Man City striker Roque Santa Cruz, he still needs to do a fair few of his coaching badgers so those stats will improve but he should be able to give some solid coaching reports and advice. As a Bradford City fan I’m still waiting for Mark Hughes to announce Santa Cruz as our new striker but it hasn’t happened yet…

I’ve moaned about the lack of quality in our youth intakes and the good news was that it looked like we were starting to produce some better players. The bad news was that other clubs noticed this and poached 2 of them before the season started. The really frustrating part was that the clubs doing the poaching were in lower divisions, it shows how much work I still need to do improving the clubs setup and reputation. Mirco Michelucci will be one to really watch out for as his ratings suggest he could be some player.

Onto the season and I went into it quite worried really, we’d made signings that had strengthened us but I didn’t feel they had strengthened us enough. It was imperative that we got off to a good start but Mr Fixtures decided he’d try his best to ensure that didn’t happen by lining up Roma, Inter and Juve as our first 3 games, the top 3 from the previous year. It was defending champions Roma away first and Claudio Spinelli gave us a dream start by bagging early on but by half time we were back down to earth and 2-1 behind, a score line that to be honest flattered us. Into the 2nd half and there was a game changing moment, Bryan Cristante sent off for a second yellow and suddenly it was game on. Roma still had the bulk of the ball but they began to tire and with 20 minutes to go I instructed the lads to push on, it had an instant impact with Alessandro Gabrielloni equalising 3 minutes later. More than happy with a point we sat back but Roma kept on pushing and in the 87th minute they pushed that bit too far, we hit them on the counter and Antonio Matera coolly slotted home to cause a massive shock on opening day.

Defeats against Juve and Inter reminded us that we had merely taken advantage of them having 10 men but we then won 4 out of 5 games putting us into the Champions League spots in mid October. Was this a sign of things to come? No, our form dropped off and we got absolutely smashed by AC Milan but 9th place and 15 points above the drop zone at Christmas was way better than we could have even hoped for. What a start to life in Serie A it had been. Empoli had defeated us in the 2nd round of the Coppa Italia but that’s a competition I’ll be more interested in once we are established in the top flight.

Due to our low wage budget we were starting to make a healthy profit each week as much more revenue is generated in Serie A. With our good start to the season a card I could play in my favour, during December I decided to ask the board to improve the youth recruitment, the training facilities and youth facilities. They agreed to all 3 which was great news, I knew this would impact my transfer budget next season but I want to take the club forward on and off the pitch.

The youth intake preview arrived and it was another shocker however I felt I couldn’t really be annoyed at the Head of Youth Development as he had developed a couple of good players, they’d just been poached by other teams. With the improvements being made to the facilities, hopefully these 2 poaching incidents would be isolated.

During January there wasn’t any money to spend but my scouts identified a young Colombian striker by the name of Heyler Vergara who was available on a free as he’d chosen not to extend his stay with Junior FC. Despite only being 18 years of age I felt that he was someone who could come in and make an immediate impact.

Prior to the winter break we’d drawn our last 3 league games so I was keen to get back to winning ways soon. We had 5 games in January, we didn’t win any and only drew 1 and as we moved into February we started with a defeat making it no wins in 9.

Our last few games had been tough one buts the alarm bells were starting to ring, with an easier game against Genoa coming up I decided a tactical change wasn’t needed and put faith in the players to turn it around in the system that has done us so well for so long. We were awful but fortunately were only 1-0 down at half time. I changed the formation and second half we were much better and snatched a point. We then won 2 in a row using the new system and any thoughts of relegation seemed to be gone but then 5 straight defeats followed and despite there being a gap it meant that April and May were going to be nervy months.

The new system that I thought had solved our issues was scrapped and a new one was put in place that would see us through to the end of the season. It was a 4-3-3 dm wide, it suited my best 11, the problem was that if anyone got injured we were screwed as the squad was firmly built around 5-2-1-2. Out of our last 8 games we won 3, drew 2 and lost 4 which was ok form for a side of our quality. The bottom 3 had been that bad we were never really in danger of going down, we finished in 14th place with a 15 point cushion to the bottom 3.

I’ll stick with the new system going into next season but the advanced playmaker will be changed to an inside forward. I’m not a fan of having 2 playmakers in the same side, I’d purely gone with that due to the players I had available at the time.

Overall it had been a really good first season considering the quality in the squad and the financial constraints we were up against. Dominik Mulac was the player of the season for a second year in a row, he’s really stepped up and despite signing for us in Serie C for a mere £7.5k he is now a Serie A player worth over £5 million. See his progression below.

New signing Djigui Diarra ran Mulac close and had a great first season, hopefully he won’t be as busy next time around! Paolo Gozzi improved as the season went on but my favourite player over this save Salvatore Pezzella struggled initially to make the step up but following the formation change he ended the season really well and will still be in my starting 11 next time around. New signing Millico was my top goal scorer but with just 7 goals, goal scoring is an area we really need to improve on.

The youth intake was even worse than the preview suggested going from below average to poor. The one player highlighted as a top talent certainly won’t be making it in Serie A. To make matters even worse 2 more youth players were poached but at least this time it was to Fiorentina and Sampdoria who are much bigger sides even if the latter are languishing in Serie B. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place as my Head of Youth Development isn’t providing me with anyone with first team potential however he is producing them they are just going elsewhere! I think I’ve only had a youth player poached once before on FM so to have 4 players poached in one season certainly leaves me feeling a bit sour.

On a more positive note the board agreed to improve our junior coaching budget for the second time this season, I feel like I’m really starting to make a difference to the clubs setup although it has taken a while to do so.

Next season I’ll have just shy of £8 million to spend and the wage budget has been vastly increased to. We still will have the smallest wage budget in the division but the gap to our competitors has come down hugely. My aim will be to finish above our 14th place that we achieved this time around whilst making more progress off the pitch. One thing to consider will be asking for a stadium expansion as we sold out every game this season.

The squad will have to be shaped around the new formation meaning that those who don’t fit it will have to leave. One big dilemma I will have is who to play in goal, Djigui Diarra won the Serie A goalkeeper of the year award but youngsters Denis Franchi and Sébastien Hervieu both had exceptional seasons out on loan and I don’t want to halt their progression.

Thanks for taking the time to read this chapter, I’ll back with the next season write up soon and hopefully I won’t have any more youth players poached!


The Last Throw.

One thought on “Forza Siena – Chapter 4

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s