Hello again! The 25/26 season is complete but before I tell you how we got on you can recap on last season by clicking here or if you’re new to the series then here is a link to the introduction.
We picked up right where we left off and not in a good way!
Yes, more youth players were poached, we’ve now had 6 prospects poached by other clubs in the last 12 months. As much as it frustrates me, I guess it makes sense in that I’ve improved the youth setup at the club, we are in a higher division than Siena usually are but still have a small reputation so until that changes, its probably going to keep on happening. With that in mind I should probably ease off spending the clubs money on improving the youth setup further but that would be the sensible thing to do and I’d rather keep developing just in the hope that one day a good youth intake player stays with us until the day I can put him in the first team. And with that in mind I got the board to upgrade the youth recruitment, the youth facilities and the training facilities so there is a good chance I’ll be ranting about another youth player being poached further down this post.
During the summer a lot of players who had been around the first team at some point but were no longer wanted had contracts which were due to expire. I don’t like to lose players on a free but due to wage budget constraints I hadn’t been able to extend their deals to enable me to get a fee for them so a number of players left on a free.
This left a number of gaps in the squad which meant that it was going to be another summer of trying to sign numerous players on the cheap. In total I ended up spending £6.25m which saw 13 new players arrive, this didn’t use all of the budget even after moving some over to cover wages.
I had to plug gaps but also strengthen the squad and what I found was that a lot of the Non-EU players were cheaper options and therefore took advantage, quickly filling up the available Non-EU slots. I then found another Non-EU player I really wanted to sign so I decided to sell Ghanaian midfielder Abass Samari Salifu but nobody wanted him. I wrongly assumed that loaning him out would free up a Non-EU slot. This meant that I needed to sell my Malian goalkeeper which shouldn’t have been an issue as I had 2 young goalkeepers who were capable of taking over him. However I had already loaned both of them out and neither had recall clauses in their deals. I couldn’t justify buying a keeper as it would stop their progression in the future so I broke my transfer policy and loaned in Luca Gemello from Cagliari.
In defence I needed 3 new fullbacks and 1 centre back, I managed to get my maik targets and was really happy to get the deals done. At full back Didier Nogbou had been released by Nice and looks like a top prospect whilst Ivan Cvijanović and Brandon Soppy are both serious upgrades on what I’ve let go. Vuk Kekić appeared in the NxGn top 50 young players which prompted me to ask my scouts to check him out, he has serious potential and keeping hold of him will be by main issue.
Central midfield needed 3 additions, 1 deep lying playmaker, a central midfield attack and a box to box midfielder. To compete with my favourite Salvatore Pezzella I signed Marco Bertini from Lazio. To add goals from central mid I added Marco Brescianini, he had rejected me a year ago to sign for Avellino as they were able to offer higher wages but after their relegation I was able to activate his relegation release clause and it was great to finally bring him in. Emmanuel Gyabuaa arrives from Fiorentina to add legs to the midfield.
Having changed to play 433 dm wide I needed a lot of new wide men as we’d previously been playing with wingbacks. Joelson Fernandes signed on a free after leaving Sporting, Yayah Kallon made the move from relegated Genoa and Suf Podgoreanu transferred from fellow Serie A side Spezia.
There were no new strikers through the door, my final 2 signings were both youngsters who I think can be developed to sell on for a higher fee in the future.
For a full run through of the fees paid for the players above and for details of those who left the club please see the image below.
With my summer transfer business concluded I certainly thought the squad was in a better shape than it had been at the end of last season. The transition over from 5212 to 433dm wide was complete, my only concern was that I’d had to do it on the cheap. I was confident we wouldn’t be drawn into a relegation scrap but equally didn’t feel we were quite ready for a top half finish either.
Last season Mr Fixtures started us off against the top 3 from the previous campaign, this time he went 1 better and started us off against the top 4. Whilst all of the score lines were respectable, they all ended in defeat sending us straight to the foot of the table. Our form improved with a win, 2 draws and 1 defeat in our next 4 games which moved us just above the drop zone but we were soon back at the foot of the table, losing our next 5 games. Nobody was thrashing us, the defeats were all by fine margins but we kept coming out on the wrong side of tight games. I continually tinkered with the team instructions eventually landing on the below.
An improvement in December saw us win 3 games in a row although 1 game was in the cup. This left us in 19th place after 16 games as we hit the winter break. It was extremely tight though as we were only 3 points off 14th place where we had finished the season before, I was confident that we would improve and could better that finish this time around despite the poor start to the season.
During January we made no ins and no outs which might surprise you with our low league position. This was due to a continued improvement in form that saw us win 3, lose 2 and draw 1 in the league moving us right up to 13th place. We did however bow out of the Coppa Italia but there is no shame in losing away to Juventus.
February was bit of a mixed bag but we did win in the San Siro against AC Milan who would go onto win the league, it was definitely the highlight of our season. In March we went unbeaten, winning 2 and drawing 1, any talk of relegation had gone and we were focused on finishing as high up as we could. The start of April saw us brought back down to earth with back to back defeats but we then put together our best run of the season, finishing off with 6 wins in a row. This moved us up to 11th and in doing so recorded Siena’s highest ever finish. Despite the poor start to the campaign, overall it had been a really good season and we’d made strides on and off the pitch. Next season we will be looking to finish in the top half and maybe even qualify for Europe.
For a second season in a row we have finished well clear of a relegation scrap and this time improved our points tally by 9, scored 20 more goals and we have a positive goal difference. Key to our high scoring has been playing with a front 3, I have my inside forwards swapping sides throughout the game and my first choice front 3 all scored double figures. Last season I didn’t have a single player in double figures, the burden to score goals is being shared around which is shown by cm Marco Brescianini matching last seasons highest goal scorer with 8.
My player of the season was Brescianini, he has made a real impact with goals and assists but the fans opted for that man Salvatore Pezzella who also had an exceptional campaign. He took his time to settle in Serie A but is now excelling, he has been with us since the start and long may it continue. Colombian striker Heyler Vergara takes the golden boot with 13 goals, he’s only just turned 20 so is only going to get better.
Next season I have been given £11m to spend and the wage budget has been increased to £344k. I don’t think it will be a case of wholesale changes like it has been over the last few seasons, we are now in the position where we just need to bring in real quality to strengthen us further. Please see the table below to show how I feel about the current squad, those in green are players I really rate, those not coloured in are ones that I am fine with but would consider selling if the right bid came in and those in red are players that I don’t rate at all. My scout recommendations will determine where changes are made, I only want to sign players who are a real upgrade, not just marginal gains.
The under 20s won the Italian U20 Primavera 2 meaning that they will be in the top flight next season. They were in tier 4 when I first took charge so it has been quite the rise and shows the improvements being made across the club. The under 18s are already in the top flight and for the first time made the playoffs, they beat Sassuolo in the quarter finals but Milan were to strong for them in the final. A great effort all the same.
There was some more bad news as another 2 youth players poached meaning that 4 have been poached in each of the last 2 seasons. I keep having to look on the positive that at least we are producing some good youngsters, if we can make it into Europe then surely our reputation should improve and we can start to hold onto some of these young players.
Now for the youth intake and the preview was described as ‘excellent’, when it arrived it had been downgraded to ‘good’ but that is still an improvement on what we normally get which shows the changes I’m making are moving us in the right direction. I don’t think any of the players will make our first team but they are an improvement on the last few seasons.
Since being promoted to Serie A I’ve been able to start focusing on improving the clubs facilities and we are really starting to now see a difference. Having said that they are still not a patch on most Serie A clubs but that just emphasises where we have come from.
We have sold out all our home games since promotion to Serie A, there is no option to ask for a stadium expansion but there is to build a new stadium which I’ve chosen to go for! Hopefully I’ll have good news at the start of next season.
Thanks for taking the time to read another chapter of ‘Forza Siena‘.
The Last Throw.
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