We asked Edward Bomb to write about his experiences in Football Manager as part of an addition to our analysis, with the only stipulation being that he managed somewhere in Italy. He settled on U.S Lecce. Welcome to part three of his story.
In my last two posts I covered my process of taking over managing a club in FM and how I go about setting it up for my first season in charge. Now it’s time to take a look at how we got on.
I’ll get the cups out of the way first as we really didn’t perform that well in them. Our first competitive game of the season was a TIM Cup first qualifying round tie against AltoVicento from Serie D.
We should have won this fairly comfortably but the smaller side made things very difficult for us and we struggled to break them down. In the end it took two very soft penalties, one of which was scored in the third minute of injury time, for us to claim the win. This got me thinking that my tactic was not right for us, more on that later.
In the second qualifying round we were drawn against our arch rivals Bari, giving me an early taste of the Puglia derby. We performed admirably against the Serie B side, keeping them at bay for the 90 minutes of regulation time and 30 minutes of extra time. However, we couldn’t hold our nerve and ended up crashing out on penalties.
We also made it to the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia Lega Pro where once again we lost on penalties to Lumezzane. This was rather annoying as I thought we had what it takes to win the tournament.
One of the big positives that came from our Coppa Italia Lega Pro cup run was 17 year old prospect Andrea Capristo scoring his first ever goal for the club. He scored it at home versus Castertana and what a goal it was.
When I planned this post it was supposed to be a half-season update broken up month by month and I would look at how we were getting on. As I was playing the season it became apparent to me that this may be a bit boring, you’ll see why later. So instead I’ve decided to do a full season review.
We kicked off the season with a great 4-2 win away to Monopoli but then things slowed down a bit. Despite dominating all of our games we were struggling to score. Our strikers just seemed to want to blast the ball at goal as soon as they received it, making us a bit one-dimensional.
On top of that teams seemed to want to sit very deep against us and we were struggling to find a way through them. I began to think that a change of formation was in order. We just weren’t playing the football I wanted us to. I don’t think the players were good enough to play the short passing game I tried to implement and we were struggling with disciplinary problems.
After a disappointing 1-1 draw with Juve Stabia, which saw our second sending off in as many games, I’d had enough and decided to switch to one of our backup tactics on a permanent basis.
The tactic is strikerless, it’s based on Strikerless’ The Four Horsemen but I’ve added my own twist. The idea is that the false front four relentlessly hassle and harry the opposition’s defensive line in an attempt to win the ball back as high up the pitch as possible, or force the defence to play long balls to escape the press, from where we can then attempt to recover possession.
Going forward I want the team to get the ball forward quickly giving the other team no time to regroup, far too often we were guilty of letting the other team drop into a deep block and stifle our attacks. The ‘pass into space’ instruction looks to put balls in behind the defensive line for our forwards to run onto. This is illustrated perfectly in the goal below.
We scored four goals in this match, the first time that we started a game with this tactic but the goal you’ve just seen was the best of the bunch, I think its a thing of beauty and exactly the kind of thing I was looking for when I switched to a more direct style of play.
This match was also noteworthy because it was Del Piero’s last game before retirement, I failed in my bid to get him to reconsider. He marked it in suitable fashion however, scoring from the penalty spot and setting up two goals, what a way to bow out.
After this we looked almost unstoppable. Del Piero’s departure seemed to galvanise the side and despite the odd hiccup the results were outstanding. We recorded a number of impressive victories including a 2-0 win at home to Ischia that included this belter by Capristo, who at 17 was already becoming a key member of the side. There are already a number of big clubs sniffing around him.
As you can see we achieved my aim of promotion quite comfortably in the end. We ended up scoring the most goals, conceding the fewest and setting a record points total for the Lega Pro Girone C, only losing two matches in the process. Catania lost only two more games than we did. They actually set a record for the most games unbeaten in a row, with 24 but they suffered from drawing an awful lot of games.
We also led the league in red cards and had the fourth highest yellow card tally, which is a bit of a worry going forward. Strangely though, we didn’t lose any of the games in which we had a man sent off, I thought the resilience we showed after losing a player was encouraging. I think this was in part to the strikerless nature of our formation. Usually when going a man down I would take the striker off and we lose our focal point, when you have no strikers this isn’t a problem.
At the end of the regular season the top team from each Girone playoff against each other for the Italian C Super Cup, to decide the best overall team in the Lega Pro. I didn’t know what to expect from this but we went onto win it and claim the second piece of silverware of my tenure.
In terms of player performances it was a fine season. As I mentioned earlier we had the best defensive record in our division and if you take a glance at the KPIs below you can see why, look at all those interceptions.
I’m a big advocate of interceptions being more important than tackles, particularly in the central defensive positions. An interception can easily lead to a counter attack of our own with the other team out of position. The reason for the numbers being so high is a combination of a very solid formation and the high pressing game we play. All but two of my six players of the season were defensive players.
Young Marco Belve was plucked from the under-20 side at the start of the season and went on to play every minute of every game this season, finishing second-highest for clean sheets kept in the league, just one behind the winner. He was included in the Lega Pro Girone C team of the year. I imagine he will be massively important for us in the future.
The fans voted the excellent Colombo their player of the season as well as the signing of the season. The right-back made 155 interceptions and was successful in 75 per cent of his 122 attempted tackles, on top of that he scored one goal and setup five others.
His opposite number on the left, Matteo Legittimo, made an astonishing 242 interceptions, had an even more impressive successful tackle ratio of 78 per cent and made the same number of assists as Colombo, with five.
Whilst normally a right back, Andrea Beduschi played made most of his 32 appearances at centre-back. Even with a shockingly low composure (4) he still managed 259 interceptions and managed an outstanding 88 per cent tackles completed ratio, also scoring four goals and providing two assists, top stuff.
Uruguayan winger, Juan Surraco, was our prime creative force, setting up nine goals for his team mates, two more than anyone else. He finished as the club’s second highest goalscorer, with nine. One of them being this beauty away to Mattera, when we were down to ten men (again).
Balling Vecsei ended the season as our top scorer with 11 goals in the regular season, all scored in the league. He also bagged two more in the Italian C Super Cup. The fans voted him their young player of the year and he was named in the Lega Pro Girone C team of the year. I’m hoping we can extend his loan for next season.
The goal below, scored by inside forward Matthias Leppelier against Foggia at home was voted by the fans as their goal of the season. It’s a fine team goal.
March saw the annual youth intake. This was surprisingly good with three top prospects coming through and a few others who might go onto achieve something in the game. My pick of the bunch is right-back Bruno Arabia, more on him in the next update.
Sadly the youth facilities saw their rating downgraded due to technological advances and the board don’t have the money to upgrade them. In fact we’re in a perilous financial situation, currently £2m+ in the red, I fear this could scupper our bid to stay in Serie B next season.
I have a few things to cover before I wrap this one up. On a personal note I was awarded the manager of the year award, which was pleasing. The commercial summary was positive, while we didn’t announce a new main kit sponsor, we did have a couple of new deals come in that will see our sponsorship revenue rise by about £500,000.
If you have any questions on Edward’s tactical changes or first full season in charge of Lecce please leave a comment below, or you can contact him on Twitter @edwardbomb. Stay tuned for part four.