Maybe they weren´t that devastated as the media was implying after the Cochise had left. The atmosphere in the first meetings and practices was actually relieved, to say the least. I guess they thought that the demand and pressure would ease off a bit with the ambitious Totti gone for good. Some of the players were actually showing childlike buzz and enthusiasm when we first took the pitch in Trigoria. They thought that this was the joyous new start for the As Roma franchise.
(Insert the wrong answer buzzer here) The players were wrong. This was not going to be fun or easy or even healthy in some regards. I would run my stick on the spine and then some. One of the first things we started was running the proper fitness training for the squad to build the foundation for the season. I actually saw some players crying when the former army drill sergeant Unto(which I brought from Finland for the pre-season) was blazing fire and brimstone on them time and time again. Unto(with a diagnosed personality disorder) would not quit, would not show mercy or could not be reasoned with. No matter the paycheck size you got, he would make you fit with pain and misery. After Unto was done with them and the Amnesty people had left from the stands, we started concentrating on match tactics with our newly restored fitness and humility.
As I did mention in the previous post, I had some tactical options in mind for the season already. But looking at the team I had to tinker my thoughts a bit further. My striking core was shite. With Edin Dzeko as the only first-team striker available so that was something to take into consideration. Originally I was laying out a very traditional 4-2-3-1 without a heavy pressing play as I didn´t have that much pressing quality in the squad. This was to be complimented with a 4-1-2-3 control setup and I also threw in a strikerless tactic there as the squad would actually fit quite well on that. This was the stuff I was experimenting with while playing lower league teams as my friendlies. 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-2-3 seemed to work pretty well but I didn´t like the outlook of the strikerless play so I already put that on the backburner which resulted in me receiving a box of animal(at least I hope it was) shit from the eastern Netherlands when the news spread. Instead, I opted for 4-3-3 for the ever present 5-3-2 DM systems I was going to face in Italy. Anyways, I feel no need to go into further detail on my tactics because my approach is pretty effectively covered on my posts here and here on the Strikerless website and my philosophy has not changed that much even though I might have wondered to a different direction with my shape and mentality defaults.
Actually not that much. The only transactions conducted during summer were Luca Pellegrini loaned out to Fondi and Ángel Correa loaned in from the Athletico Madrid to challenge for the AMC spot in my 4-2-3-1. This is something very usual for me since the first season I always tend to just figure out who to get rid off and what building blocks I need for my team to be successful. This time my squad was quite talented and the expectations were moderate so I was able to plan out in a more long term way rather than just blast away to get results quickly. I was actually somewhat surprised that none of the bullying vultures was after my players in the summer window. After Christmas, they would come for sure, mark my words on that. Also with very little movement on and off the team, I was able to maintain a somewhat stable lineup from the first friendly all the way to the start of the season so with all things considered, I was ready for the season to start.
At this time I would like to point out that the incident on the mayor´s dinner considering the actress and the olives was blown way out of proportion. Even if I was that accurate from 15 yards away, I was so hammered I could not tell an olive from a watermelon. Anyways season was around the corner so the papers were soon switched to more pressing matters luckily for me.
Derby della Capitale
I think it is the best or the worst way to start your management career in Italy. Playing a home derby against the closest and most hostile rivalry you have. I was to going to get my feet wet right from the start. There was already tension in the air since I rejected Lazio offer, furthermore, there was some very vulgar and colourful exchange of hand signs between Paolo Di Canio and myself in the disabled children charity football match earlier this summer, so there were probably few banderoles waiting for me in Curva Nord.
In my usual assertive manner, I told the players to make this a feast for our fans. The dressing room was dead silent after my brief speech and I didn´t really know if it was a good or a bad thing but we were soon to find out. The handshakes in the tunnel were brief since everyone was stiff shitless about to enter the pandemonium of 55 000 fans anticipating a season starter. I was coined the second I came out in the open and I was hearing calling names from the ever present “gay” to more sophisticated phrases like “rat demon” and “monkey prince”. The 8500 Lazio fans were giving me their unconditional love. It was fun to be back in the dugout.
It was no surprise that Lazio came out with the 4-1-4-1 to the season opener. I relied on my 4-2-3-1 with very attacking flavour to start the season with. The start was dull and Dzeko waved himself off in 20th minute suffering from a foot injury and I replaced him with El Shaarawy. Not necessarily a striker, EL Shaarawy still possessed a lot of qualities for a lethal frontman so I was hoping good things after the change. The first half closed and nothing much happened there to be mentioned. Lazio was able to keep us away but failed to create much changes themselves.
For the second half we went for a more controlled approach around the box and Lazio defence started showing signs of tearing up. It was still a countering effort that brought us up front with a clean finish from EL Shaarawy. As you would expect the latter stages didn´t offer too much to look for and after the goal Lazio seemed to surrender to their faith and didn´t field any actual effort towards making the game even. A drab result to a drab match.
It would be quite taxing for me to start going over the whole season game by game so we shall settle a general overview with matches played. Overall our fall series was a blast and we dominated Serie A in very comfortable manner. Some of the players showed a lot of quality which would eventually mean that the big boys would come and steal my lunch box in the January window.
Needles to say we were leading the pack after the short winter break. In the lovely stroke of faith, I lost to Inter, Sampdoria and Juventus. Two teams that I love dearly and a team that could field a bunch of kids from the kindergarten league and still win with a free kick or something like that. The magic of Juventus is not them playing great but you playing abysmally bad.
Facendo Affari – Winter Edition
If you are not Real Madrid, you won’t sleep too well during the January window. You try to figure out ways to fend of the beasties around your babies and have some sort of change to compete in the spring leg of Serie A. I usually have gone a different route, sacrifice. My sacrifice strategy involves me trying to identify the players that I am most likely going to lose and finding replacements beforehand and be ready in January. Usually, it works but there are always surprises in both ways come January. So players I though I am going to probably lose/get rid off or that might be under attack in January ->
From these six players, I lost 3 and got rid off one in the January window. Mohamed Salah (39,5m) went to Manchester City, Radja Nainggolan (75m) went to the neighbouring United(A move that might happen in real life also), Antonio Rüdiger (32,5m) found new life in Tottenham. Underachieving Edin Dzeko (7m) was shipped to Villareal and Ervin Zukanovic (small change) went to Sassuolo. Zukanovic was a pay relief as was Dzeko also. Three other I would have liked to keep but there was no change. More surprisingly I was able to keep Florenzi(AC Milan failed on the wage offer) and Manolas didn´t even generate interest. Quite of chunk to lose at once but keeping in mind I also got a lot of money and free space in the wage bill as well. I tried to pluck to holes with best of my abilities. Saido Berahino was somebody I had my eyes on since the beginning of my tenure here Rome but Stoke wanted a ludicrous amount of money for him, I think it was close to 90m what they asked so I had to say no thank you. Berahino went apeshit on Stoke and has been transfer listed by request ever since. I had to find another target to have a solid spearhead up front. I was glazing my eyes on Luciano Vietto but found eternal happiness from Torino.
I have never managed him but he has been solid on every occasion I have laid my eyes on so I was quite excited to bring in Andrea Belotti to be my main striking force in the box. Actually, the price stung a bit as it was 48m upfront and 62m total and it might have been the biggest fee I have sanctioned but I have never been so sure of production on the new signing. Along with Belotti I brought in a few names and was able to stay in the profit side with around 38 million which wasn´t too bad. All of these were scouted and planned to be replacing people I might lose in the window.
Lucas Romero – MC
Hakim Ziyech – AMC
Erik Durm – DR
Ezequiel Cerutti – AMR
Cerutti was more of an option buy. I like the player and will probably ramp up his value if I need to get rid of him. A kind of contingency plan really, since I would most likely lose Florenzi during the next summer dealings.
Spring leg – signs of fatigue
We started very well. Two good victories to start off with a good note with some new players in the line-up. Excited from the cup in the hands of Palermo though. It was never in the cards I said and cried in the bathroom. Managed to lose again to Internazionale and had my exit in the UCL quarter-finals by no other than Juventhefuckingtus. Best penalty contest I have ever been with Buffon scoring eventually and my GK failing. 9-10 on penalties, a true Juventus style victory. Lost Kevin Strootman to 7-8 months and that obviously hurt my team since I still wanted to maintain my loanees on loan for their sake. So I had to juggle around with formations and look closely what I was about to do in every match. Juventus actually fielded a monumental challenge towards the title but I have never played three so important draws as I did back to back against AC Milan, The team of shits and Fiorentina. These results effectively gave us a surprising Serie A title ending the reign of Terror, I mean Torino.
I really wasn´t expecting us to win the title but I was never going to tell it to the board of bearded men making their most of boardroom turned into Caligula’s Palace. Some weird shit starts to go down when you win in the big leagues, I guess it is the pressure finally going off. City also went nuts, at least our supporters. Some said that the Pope was rocking a wolfie while indoors and I had gained access to Vatican again because of the title. Not sure if I want to test those waters yet after what I did but sounded nice at least. I also got a text from Paolo Di Canio telling me to go fuck myself and some other pleasantries along with it. Answered with a selfie holding the trophy with my other hand and holding, well I guess I leave it to Paolo exclusively to enjoy what I was holding with my other hand. I guess we hear the answer in the charity match this summer.
While winning was great, achieving it at the time of rebuild is kind of dangerous as everything went to place this season, I mean everything if we are honest. Juventus dropped it against weaker teams too many times and Milan was inconsistent. We found our tactical home quite fast and only suffered couple long term injuries. Next season will be harder as I need to start bringing some of the youth forward to make use of them. Also, I still expect to lose either Florenzi or Manolas or both during the summer window and there might be some surprises also in the mix. But hey, let us not go ahead of ourselves because we still have offseason to go. I am going to go for a few week long bender exploring the brothels of Hungary and come back with new strength and hopefully not too many long term itches to deal with. I´ll see you at the start of season two.