Welcome to my season 3 pre-season post, after winning the Europa League last season the board have raised their expectations, we are expectated to win Serie A, reach the Champions League quarter final and win the European Super Cup. The board does not deem the Supercoppa and the Coppa Italia as important. So with expectations raised it was time to knuckle down and start pre season. The players returned from holiday and the fun began Mauro Icardi kicked things off by requesting that I let him speak to PSG if a bid was made. I didn’t want to lose our top scorer from last season but I was not going to stand in his way if he wants to leave. Sure enough a bid was made and negotiations got under way. A deal was struck and Icardi left for an initial £49.5m that could rise to £58m subject to conditions.Since season one I have been expecting Icardi to leave so it was no surprise. Soon after both our first team keepers both left, Handanovic also joined PSG for £11m again subject to conditions rising to £15.25m. Carrizo left on a free and joined Huracan. John Guidetti joined Napoli for £18.5m, Saphir Taider joined Bologna for £7.5m, Taider had been on loan at Bologna who triggered his release clause. Also joining Bologna Lorenzo Crisetig for £2.6m. Dodo signed for Bordeuax after spending last season tutoring in the development squad for £1.2m. Just has I thought the wave of players leaving was at an end Real Madrid came after Eric Bailly who I signed last season for £19.75mfrom , Bailly’s head was turned and after trying to play hard ball and keep him he started to disrupt the dressing room, I did not hesitate in selling him once he had tried to turn the squad against me. Real Madrid came back with an offer so he joined them for an initial fee of £23.5m rising to £29.5 subject to conditions. The total income in player sales was £114m without any future payments adding on.
It was now time to add to the squad we had already made Steven Jovetic an Inter player after triggering the agreed fee of £8.5m in his loan contract last season. After losing Icardi I felt we needed to bring in a top class goalscorer and decided to sign 23 year old Argentine forward Luciano Vietto from Atletico Madrid for a total of £40m. I feel Vietto can fill Icardi’s boots up top and hopefully take us to the title. With both first team goalkeepers leaving I needed to go out and bring in a top keeper has I feel we don’t have the quality to step up from inside the club. I made 25 year old former Barcelona stopper Marc-Andre Ter Stegan my first choice keeper after signing him from Borussia Monchengladbach for £26m. I then made a move to strengthen the defence and signed John Stones from Everton for £40m and Jesus Vallejo for £22m from Real Madrid. I returned to Madrid and set up a season long loan deal for promising Polish goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski, within the loan terms we have an option to buy the 19 year old for £30m. The window closed with us spending £136m which calculates to a net spend of £22m which I feel we have replaced the outgoing players with better quality.
We kicked off our pre season with a 5-0 win against Besiktas, we started like a train and raced in to a 4-0 lead at half time with goals from Pjaca, Odegaard and a brace from Jovetic. At half time I made 8 changes to give the squad some game time. We added to our 4 first half goals courtesy of Perisic. A good solid start and on to our next fixture this time against Belenenses and awe chance to blend youth and experience in my line up,we led 1-0 at the break via a Miranda header but turned the heat up in the second period running out 4-0 winners, Jovetic netted another brace along with youth team player Luka Kerin getting his first senior team goal. Another 4-0 win next at Sivasspor and another 2 goals for Steven Jovetic this time from an inside forward position taking his tally to 6 in 3 games, our other goals were scored by Zivkovic and a John Stones penalty. Trofense away was next and a third 4-0 win on the bounce produced 2 goals for Luka Kerin another for Jovetic (his 7th in pre season) and 1 for Berardi. Our next warm up game was at Forli, we won the game 3-0 with Berardi scoring 2 and Pjaca getting the third. Our last game of pre season was a 3-0 win against Benevento and you guessed Jovetic with a brace and Palacio with a half volley. So with pre season over we are ready to challenge Juventus for the title.
What can I say…. 2-0 up and cruising with goals from Vietto (41st minute) and Berardi (50th minute) I was thinking this is a formality and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for Juve in the 58th minute. Juventus revitalised by the goal put us under pressure and forced a leveller in the 66th minute via that man again Aubameyang with a delightful chip over Ter Stegan, who I feel was way to far off his line. I made 3 changes to counter Juventus introducing Jovetic,Medel and Odegaard. We pressed high and created an opening with Pjaca hitting the upright has we looked for the winner. Minute 87 Juventus gambled and forced an error from Nagatomo, Dybala hit a deep cross which Samir headed home to the joy of the Juve tifosi, they had won the game from being 2-0 down. I was gutted we had thrown the game away.
Eindoven was the setting for the European Super Cup showdown with Champions League winners Arsenal. I had to lift the boys it was just 3 days after we had threw the Supercoppa away. The first half ended 0-0 however we had created 7 chances but failed to make them pay. I told the boys at the break to go out and do it for our fans.Just 1 minute after the restart we took the lead thanks to Luciano Vietto, “come on boys” I yelled, then just 1 minute later Arsenal keeper Szczesny gifted us with an own goal (2-0) but this time I was not getting carried away as we had been in this position just a few days ago. In the 52nd minute Gonzalo Higuain pulled one back for the European Champions, I got that sinking feeling surely not a case of history repeating. This time we looked more in control and continued to look solid with Granit Xhaka bossing the game then in the 82nd minute Ruben Neves extended our lead 3-1 with 8 to play. We don’t do things easy though as Santi Cazorla pulled one back in the 86th minute. I made a change to run the clock down the tired looking Neves off replaced by Medel. The referee blew for full time “get in” a superb performance despite shipping 2 goals we dominated the game.Our 4th piece of silverware added to the trophy room.
We went to Zurich for the Champions League draw and got pulled out with Chelsea,Sporting Club and FC Steaua. All in all not a bad draw which gives us a chance to qualify for the knockout stage.
The board have pronounced the club to be in a good financial position.
So Season 3 is underway and my main goal this season is to win the league, we have come close in my 2 previous seasons in charge but I feel this is the one were we need to go to the next level. I am excited about our new signings and how I plan to blend them in to the squad over the season.Followers of my FM saves and Twitter know I use a 4-3-3 system influenced by Bielsa has my default tactic however over the period of this save I have been flirting with a 3 at the back system with a Conte influence which I am keen to evolve in to a Hybrid influenced by both Bielsa and Conte. To build this tactic I am going to take charge of my development squad (U20’s) for the season ahead. This will enable me to make tweaks to the system without compromising 1st team results during the testing period, it will also give me the chance to take a closer look at the players within the development squad. I may even do a series of posts dedicated to our development of the tactic and the squads journey through the season. Thanks for reading and look out for my next post.
The Story So Far
2017-2018 Supercoppa Runners Up – European Super Cup Winners
2016-2017 Serie A Runners Up – Europa Lge Winners – Supercoppa Winners – Coppa Italia Runners Up
2015-2016 Serie A Runners Up – Coppa Italia Winners