Welcome back! Its time for another chapter in the ‘Forza Siena‘ series. The 26/27 season is complete, if you missed the 25/26 season write up then please click here to catch up, if you’re new here is a link to the introduction or if you’d just like to visit any of the previous posts here is a link to the ‘Forza Siena‘ homepage.
Last season had been a tale of two halves, we had started really poorly but finished really well. Now working with a settled 4-3-3 DM Wide system, I was looking to take the momentum from the previous campaign into this one. Bearing that in mind the aim for this season was European qualification, usually a top 7 finish will achieve this however if a side not in the top 6 wins the Coppa Italia then they take the 7th and final European spot.
I finished the last write up with bit of a cliff hanger, having sold out every home game in the 2 seasons since we had been promoted to Serie A, I had asked the board for a new stadium seeing as though there wasn’t an option for expansion. Sadly the board rejected this request meaning that we would be continuing to fill out our small stadium for the foreseeable future rather than expanding in order to generate more revenue.
With the board not willing to move on the stadium I turned my attention elsewhere, thankfully this time the board were on the same page as me and agreed to once more improve the training and youth facilities, the youth recruitment and junior coaching. I haven’t maxed out our budgets and the board haven’t given me as much as they could to spend so there was plenty in the bank to make these improvements to the clubs setup.
As ever recruitment was going to determine how successful our season would be. With not a lot to spend transfer and wage wise in contrast to our competitors, I had to be prudent in the market and wait to make the right moves.
In goal I had promoted Sébastien Hervieu to the senior squad and made him my number 1 after successful loan spells at Gubbio and Deportivo La Coruña. Last seasons first choice goalkeeper had been Luca Gemello on loan from Cagliari after I’d made the cock up with the non-EU slots. He had done quite well and was available on a free so I made it a permanent move as he was happy to be my number 2 and was an upgrade on Paolo Bastianello who had been with us since the start. He left for Salernitana and it left me with a big decision to make regarding the future of Denis Franchi. Having joined us from PSG at the end of season 1 he had established himself as our number 1 during our time in Serie B but I’d opted to loan him out after promotion to the top flight as I didn’t think he was ready for the step up. Hervieu has overtaken him and blocked his route to the first team so sadly I decided to let him go and he moved on to Metz.
At the heart of our defence I then had an even bigger call to make, Dominik Mulac has been sensational since joining us midway through our first season and has been club captain for the last few seasons. With our aim being European football I really needed a step up in quality, I decided to let him and his old partner Mario De Marino leave and replaced them with Maro Katinić and young Martín Padilla. The Croat will start first choice but I expect the Uruguayan to over take him as he develops. I also needed a new back up right back so Ki-Jana Hoever joined us on the cheap from Wolves.
There was just the one addition in midfield, Joshua Kitolano hadn’t been able to break into the Napoli first team but had shown his quality on loan at Perugia last season, he joined on a free following the expiration of his contract. He was signed as back up but would be promoted to the first 11 if he impressed when given the opportunity.
Up top Heyler Vergara was my main man but he had a £5m release fee which Chelsea activated and the move was too good for him to turn down. Chelsea agreed to let him stay on loan for the season which I was more than happy with as although I don’t sign loan players I don’t think this really counts as he was already here. I was disappointed to lose him for such a small fee but his agent had continually refused to talk about a new deal without the low release clause in there. To compete with Vergara I signed Portuguese forward Joãozinho, with the aim of him becoming my new first choice number 9 in the not to distant future.
Here is a full list of all the transfer activity that summer.
There was one final piece of news before the season started and this was a complete u turn from the board. It was announced that we had again sold out all of our season tickets and when the news article appeared in my inbox it gave me the option to select expand the stadium. I selected it and the board agreed which was fantastic news!
The first half of the season
A win away at Bologna got us off to the best possible start, we then had a tough game at home to Roma where surprisingly it turned out to be anything but tough! We stuck 7 past them on our way to a 7-1 win and sent ourselves straight to the top of Serie A! Unbelievable Jeff!!! It was especially nice that my hero Salvatore Pezzella scored, a player Roma had deemed not good enough for them.
A defeat away at Milan brought us back down to earth at the start of September. It would prove to be a mixed month, we picked up a decent point away at Napoli but lost at home to Brescia in a game I’d really expected us to win. We went unbeaten in October but frustratingly didn’t get all 3 points at home to Sampdoria which was our easiest game. Our unbeaten run continued through November although we only won 1 game. The draws did come against Lazio and Inter so there was certainly no shame in that. We had 5 games to play in December, 4 league games and 1 in the cup, we didn’t just go unbeaten, we won the lot! This saw us sat in the final champions league spot after 16 games, there were just 5 points separating 2nd and 7th but Erik ten Hag’s Milan were running away with it at the top having won all of their games. My aim was still a top 7 finish and we were well on course to achieve it. One man had really stood out and that was our new club captain Marco Brescianini, 11 goals and 5 assists in 16 games was an outstanding return from the central midfielder.
The January Window
Having not spent all of my budget in the summer I had enough to bring in one addition. Back up central midfielder Roberto Biancu had been moaning about game time so I allowed him to leave as he wasn’t very good anyway and replaced him with young Frenchman Steeve Malsa from Metz in a deal that could eventually rise to £9.5m making him my record signing to date by some way.
The second half of the season
The winter break is designed to allow players to have a rest and come back rejuvenated for the second half of the season. Our players clearly enjoyed their break a little too much and came back like a completely different side, successive 1-0 away defeats to Sassuolo and Parma in the league were followed by another to Torino in the cup. A 0-0 draw at home to Udinese stopped the rot but we’d gone 4 games without scoring and were starting to slip down the table fast. I got the lads together and told them not to worry, they all had the ability to get us back on track and it looked to work as we completed the double over Bologna but a trip to Roma 3 days later saw them out for revenge and they got it, dismantling us 3-0. January had really been a month to forget.
February was another busy month with 6 games in it, it started with our best result of the season as we beat unbeaten Milan 3-2 but then lost to Brescia again, a side who were fast becoming our bogey team. Our next 4 games saw us win 3 and draw 1, we were down in the Europa spots but were still in touch with the top 4.
Our patchy form continued over March and April with our form reading win, lose, win, lose, win, lose, win. The annoying thing was that we were able to smash Graham Potter’s Juventus side 4-1 but managed to lose to Lecce and Empoli. Our May form was much better as we won our first 3 games.
All this saw us sat in 5th place, 2 points behind Napoli as we approached the final day. We had to win in order to stand a chance of taking that final Champions League spot. We had already guaranteed Europa League football and it had been our best season yet but it still felt slightly disappointing after our awful form in January. If it hadn’t been for that we’d have already sewn up a seat at the top table with Europe’s giants.
We had Parma at home who needed a point to stay up whilst Napoli travelled to Lecce who were already safe. Fortunately for us Parma showed little resistance and we breezed to a 3-0 victory. The other game was much tighter and Harvey Elliott broke the deadlock for the Naples side just after half time. With just 11 minutes to go Lecce scored, we were level on points with an identical head to head record but we were going to get Champions League football as our goal difference was 1 better. Our fans celebrated as the news came through but sadly it didn’t last as just 4 minutes later Riccardo Sottil struck a winner and Napoli had done it.
If someone had offered me a 5th place finish at the start of the season I’d have snapped their hands off so once the dust had settled I was able to reflect on what a great campaign it had been.
Marco Brescianini was our player of the season, his goal rate had slowed down but he’d still had a remarkable year, getting an average rating of 7.60. The runner up was that man Salvatore Pezzella, yet again he had been fantastic, he has been with us since the start and still is one of the first names on the team sheet. He is definitely my favourite player on this years Football Manager and hopefully he can continue like this for a few seasons yet. Another shoutout must go to my goalkeeper Sébastien Hervieu, I think he’s going to go on to be one of if not the best goalkeeper in the world at some point.
The board had an update on the stadium expansion, it was to be scrapped! They no longer considered it as important.
Bad news? Absolutely not! And the reason for that is that they scrapped it because they decided instead they were going to build a new stadium which was fantastic news. It’ll be interesting to see how big they decide to make it and also what they go to call it, if they don’t name it after me surely it has to be after my main man Salvatore Pezzella?
Further to this the board also agreed to improve the training facilities once more although they had no desire to improve the youth setup which may mean that has got as good as its going to get for now.
It was a year to forget for our under 20 side as they were relegated to the second tier, the players that have come through in recent intakes just haven’t been good enough to step up and this was illustrated by a really poor campaign.
The under 18s faired much better off, finishing 1 place outside the playoffs in the top flight, a really good effort from them.
Now it wouldn’t be a Siena blog post without a youth player being poached would it? Just the two this season but as that’s a 50% improvement on the last 2 campaigns I’m more than happy to take it. Hopefully it is a sign that in the future we may start being able to hold on to our best prospects.
The youth intake preview was a promising one as it predicted an ‘Excellent’ group of players coming through. It turned out to be a ‘good’ intake which is better than we usually get but I still don’t see any of these players making the first 11. With the intakes improving it does give me hope for the future but I think this summer it will be time to bring in a new Head of Youth Development to see if they can improve the end product.
Thanks for taking the time to read the latest update in the ‘Forza Siena‘ series, hopefully next season we can go one better and qualify for the Champions League and make some progress during our first ever European campaign.
The Last Throw.
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