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The Italian Job

Started on 24 May 2021 by JT
Latest Reply on 12 June 2021 by deadzpool
  • POSTS10
  • VIEWS2406
 

Pontedera Introduction

So why Pontedera?

So i have really struggled to get into a save for long enough this year and I just kept going back and forth on different save ideas but I needed something to help me decide. So in the end, I let the World decide what i was going to do. I know I wanted a one club save, something where I built a club from the bottom division to the top picking up trophies and being crowned Champions of Europe. However, what country would that journey be in? Well I let a little thing called Eurovision decide on the Country and with Italy winning Eurovision, they also won the destination of my next save.

Then it came to picking a club and with 60 odd sides spread across the three Groups in the 3rd Tier of Italian football, I needed some help narrowing it down. Here I turned to good old FM and let FM pick a club for me. So i kept choosing pick a club until the first 3rd tier side was selected and voila here I find myself at Pontedera.

Pontedera Introduction

Unione Sportiva Citta di Pontedera are a Italian Football club located in Pontedera, Tuscany. The town of Pontedera is an Industrial town in the province of Pisa situated between Pisa and Florence with a modest population of around 30k. Built on the confluence of the Era River and the Arno, it became a manufacturing and artisanal town, moving goods along the rivers. It takes it name from Ponte dell'Era (Bridge on the Era) which was built in 1099 - Hence the bridge on the badge (Exciting i Know!). Historically it has always been the crossing point to go from Florence to Pisa but nowadays it is most famous for being the home of the Piaggio Company who famously make the Iconic Italian bike the Vespa.

The Club was formed in 1912 and have never gained promotion to Serie B let alone Serie A. For many years the club has played in the 3rd tier with occassional falls down to Serie D and even the Eccellenza as recently as 2002. Since then the club has been in a steady rise up the leagues, getting promoted to the 3rd tier in 2013 where they have remained ever since.


Despite a modest history in the lower leagues of Italy, Pontedra have perhaps three claims to fame. The first of which is World Cup winning manager Marcello Lippi started his professional managing career at Pontedera managing the team for the 1985/86 season and in game he is seen as a Legend at the club. The second is during the 1993/94 season the club finished the season as the only undefeated team in all of the Italian professional leagues and incredibly beat the Italian National team 2-1 in a Friendly in April 1994 of that season. Thirdly, in the Summer of 2006, The Gunther Corporation purchased Pontedera Football club. Now that doesn't seem that interesting until you read who the Gunther Corporation are or more importantly who owns them. Karlotta Leibenstein was a German Countess who had a multi-million dollar fortune. She never had any children but she cherished her pet dogs throughout her lifetime. Karlotta passed away in 1992 and with no close family to share her fortune with, she left all of her money to her dog - Gunther III. So her entire fortune of $80m was transferred over to him. Through many investments the Gunther Corporation is now worth $400m and Gunther III unfortunately died and left the Gunther Corporation to his son Gunther IV. So yes, the Football club is owned by a Dog technically.


Gunther IV - My Boss

Well the Dog seems to be running things Ok. The club is going through a period of stability and has largely moved up the league table, albeit slowly. A nice healthy bank balance of £750k with a transfer budget of around £250k means we have some room to play. The wage budget is maxed out at £34k per week meaning we will need to shift some money around to get some players in but there is enough to build a foundation on. The Stadium has a small capacity and will need some work based on its description of being in Poor condition but we have the basics set up in terms of facilities which will do for now, but will obviously need bulking out over time. The Club are predicted to come 17th out of 20 teams with a relegation fight expected this year. However, if you look over the pre-season odds it seems like it will be a tight affair and with a wacky play-off / play-out system in place, there should be something to play-for no matter where we finish


In the next update, I will have a look at the squad and our pre-season activity
1

Pontedera Pre-season

The Squad

So the squad I have inherited is certainly a young squad. Our average age of the first team is just 22 with just one player over the age of 30 but it means we have a young nexus of players to build a spine around and from there build a team that can get to Serie B.

Our obvious strenghs like in the defensive positions with Luca Piana, Giacomo Risaliti and Paolo Ropolo. These three are going to be the backbone of the side as we have a decent spine within the team. Infront of them we have both Antonio Caponi and Gianluca Barba who should make a decent central midfield partnership.

In terms of the goals for the season, the hope is that on-loan Andrea Magrassi will be that guy. He is big at 6"4 and will be a physical force but he has more to his game than just a typical Target Man. Im certainly going to use his height at set pieces where he will be the focal point.

Transfers

As I mentioned in my last post, we had some transfer budget (£250k) to spend but the wage budget was being maxed out. So we had to do some fiddling with the numbers to give us some leeway but i did manage to move on around 9 youngsters sat in the U20's who had no chance of being a first teamer. All 9 went for frees but considering each one was being paid around £475 per week, it made a nice dent in the wage budget. We also loaned out 3 players for the season getting most of their wage off the bill whilst also receiving some loan fees at the same time.

Three new faces joined the club. Two of which were on loan as i maxed out the number of loans we could have for the season. 18 Year Old Norwegian/Italian central midfielder Martin Palumbo was the first one to come in from Udinese.for the season. We are picking up none of his wages but this guy should be a star in Serie C. To be honest, i think he is good enough to make the bench of Serie A sides and i genuinely think this is a steal of a move. The second loan is 19 Year old Argentinian Striker Nicolas Belloni who joins from Pescara for the season. This time we are picking up his wages but i see him as good competition for Magrassi. He is not quite as tall but he is more mobile and hopefully can help stretch teams if we need. The final signing was a free transfer as ex Liverpool youngster Krisztian Adorjan joins on a free transfer. The Hungarian is able to play anywhere behind the striker but will be used as a No. 10. He is just a solid all rounder and gives us another option going forward.


Tactics


So tactically we are going to start with something like this. It is not a shape I have used before but it seems to fit the players we have. We lacked anyone who could play out wide in midfield and as I highlighted in the squad breakdown, our spine is our strength. This way i can get all three centre-backs in but also keep the spine looking strong. I also want the two AMC's to get beyond the striker where possible meaning we should still be able to get plenty of people in the box. Magrassi as a pressing forward is the potential mistake, he is more of a target man naturally but he has the teamwork to do a pressing forward and I think having that type of forward will lend itself well to the two No.10's. We can always tweak it as we go.

The one concern I have, is we dont really have a Plan B at this stage. If this tactic doesn't work, I need to find a way of switching shape. Our lack of wingers does impact that a little but it is something I will keep in mind as the season progresses

Results


During Pre-season the tactic has done pretty well. Defensively we look secure as we conceded just once in 7 games but it has possibly come at the expense of the attacking threat. We are though winning games and when you can restrict the opposition to just a handful of shots you are always going to give yourself a chance of winning the game. The Juventus U23 games was by far our best performance as we pulled them apart whilst the 0-0 with Sion saw our best result easily.

Our first match is against Catania in the Cup and I am going to play through to the end of October and give this formation a little run before making any drastic changes

Pontedera September / October 2020

So the first few months of competitive football are under my belt and the games have come thick and fast. In fact we had 9 league games in the Month of October alone as we played every 3/4 days. It meant we had to rotate especially with both Martin Palumbo and Krisztian Adorjan both getting International call up's with Norway U21 and Hungary respectively.

Before we got the League, our first competitive game was in the Coppa Italia First Qualifying Round where we took on Catania. Two early first half goals from Andrea Caponi and Francesco Bennasai sealed a comfortable 2-0 win. Just 4 days later we took on Lecco in the League and it was another comfortable 2-0 win as our superior height advantage saw us score twice from corners with Risaliti and Magrassi both scoring their first for the season. September was rounded off with the Coppa Italia 2nd Qualifying Round and this time we had Serie B opposition with Virtus Entella the opponents. We were unlucky to come away 3-2 losers with a late long range effort giving the Serie B side the victory.


It meant October was all about the League and as you can see from the above screenshot we managed to stay undefeated despite the schedule's relentnessless as we picked up 4 wins and 5 draws. Although it is still nice to say we are undefeated, you can see from the inconsistent results that our squad just can't really cope with this high intensity schedule as our squad depth is quite frankly substandard in places. November carries on a similar pace of games before we finally get a bit of a respite in December. It means the table looks like this


Top of the table at this stage is a great feat but the table is still quite tight and with teams having played different amount of games, it is hard to ascertain exactly where we are. As i rightly called out in the last post, our defence has been the real positive conceding just 5 in 10 games as we have picked up 5 clean sheets in the process. In attack, the 12 goals in 10 games puts us fairly high up the goalscoring list but in most of our matches it has been a fairly Italian affair, tight games with few chance with the odd goal in it.

Andrea Magrassi has adapted well to the pressing forward duty and has 4 goals and 4 assists meaning he has had his hand in 50% of the goals so far this season. The attacking midfielders have all scored once but are struggling to get a consistent level of play going whilst Martin Palumbo and Andrea Caponi have done well in the centre of the midfield but as you will see from our Squad stats not many players are getting over a 7.00 which i take as we are doing Ok but not pulling up too many trees.


Still a positive start and Gunther seems to think ive been a good boy so far!
Strong start to the season, looks like you'll definitely be challenging at the top end of the table!

Pontedera November / December 2020

The year 2020 is up and we are now past the half way mark in the league and I think I have a fairly good handle on where we are as a team. Are we winning games? Yes. Do we look good doing it? Hello No. In fact we must be one of the luckiest teams in the world as we have been outplayed, out possessed, out shot, out xG'd yet we somehow snatch a victory.


It means we sit level on points at the top of the table on 41 points. Its probably safe to say, a relegation fight is out of the question which means we should beat our pre-season media predictions and I would be very disappointed to drop out of the play-offs at this stage. Can we win the league and get promoted? Well for that to happen we need to be better. Looking at the league table you can see the problem. Defensively we are solid and have the 2nd best defence. We have 11 clean sheets from 21 games and so despite conceding shots and XG we are not conceding. To be fair if i looked at the average xG of a shot, it is pretty low which indicates we give away very few clear cut / good chances. It is at the other end where we quite simply struggle, 23 goals in 21 games is hardly a goal ratio of a League winner and we just lack a cutting edge to the team. It has meant I am going to have to tweak the team a little for the back half of the season to see if I can shake the goals out. So I am going to move to this formation


Quite simply, the two AMC's were just not doing anything and with Nicolas Belloni scoring the few chances he has given and Andrea Magrassi coming back from injury it means there is no other option to change the AMC for a striker and hope that having two men up top will give the opposition defence a little bit more to deal with. I have also tweaked Palumbo and Caponi's roles to hopefully give us a little more from the central Midfield. When you look at the Squad ratings for the season so far you can see the issue with just two men averaging over a 7.00!


At the end of the day it is the results that matter and 1-0 to Pontedera will do me for the rest of the season. Ive started looking forward and ive set a tonne of youth players contracts to expire whilst renewing some of the starters in the first team so we have some stability but it will be a big pre-season as I look to revamp the backroom staff and the playing staff and start to build a dynasty for the club. Our youth intake doesn't look like it will produce a star but that is to be expected based on the current facilities.


There could be some January movement, we have the money to make a move but so far nothing is really catching my eye and with the Loan market out of the question having hit the maximum allowed for the season, it might be a case of trying to shift a little more off the wage bill as the club financially is getting very close to going into the Red

@Justice - Thanks. I certainly hope it will be a season near the top. Just need to get a little more convincing on the field

January 2021

WIth the window opening it was the perfect opportunity to look at how we could improve the team and improve our performances to make me feel more convinced we had enough to go up this year. As i mentioned in the last update, I have done the tweaks to the tactics already and so it was a case of looking at some personnel.

Now i was pleasantly surprised that once the window was open i had the chance to terminate loans again and there was one player on loan who had been in the U20's all season as quite frankly he was shockingly poor and so I cancelled his loan freeing up another loan for the team. We also managed to get rid of two more youth players on free transfers saving a little bit more on the wage front again.

So with that, I went out on the loan market and I decided Riccardo Oddi from AC Milan was the right man to take back that last loan slot. Our left wing backs this year have quite frankly been poor and at least at right wing back we were getting some assists so Oddi will come in and be a more natural left wing back and a hopeful improvement on that side of the park.

The only other new signing came on transfer deadline day and he hasn't had a chance to play just yet but considering he just announced his retirement in real life today, it feels fitting to announce in this alternative universe, Niklas Bendtner has joined on a free transfer to give us some more firepower upfront. His physicals are starting to lack in terms of pace but his incredible jumping reach, heading and height means he will be a presecene at set pieces. Considering we are already at the top of the leagues charts for headers won and near the top for goals at set pieces we have added a real threat. I see him as a target man who could knock down some of our direct passes into the path of so far impressive Belloni.


I mentioned the impressive Belloni as he has been on a rampage scoring 8 goals in the last 8 games incuding two braces in January as we picked up maximum points with 4 wins from 4. Its our longest win streak all season and we have started to look a lot better. We are creating more chances, getting similar if not slightly more xG than our opponents and now we sit at the top of the table 3 points clear with the play-offs an almost certainty at this stage.

If we can keep this run of form going for another month or so than i think we can start to pull away from the league and with Lord Bendtner leading the way we might just be in Serie B next season
It might not be pretty but you are getting results and at the end of the day that is the most important thing. I am sure sitting top of the table will be pleasing the dog! :D
Looking good so far, will be keeping up to date with this save. Good luck.
Light work in recent games. Keep up the good form and it's lights out for the rest of your contenders.
good job

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