First Season With Torino

A second blog post about Torino is almost as shocking as an unexpected finger up the bum, but here we are. I’ve tried to cover the important issues from the first season. The poor squad, lack of funds and a little look at how we performed.

I’ve maybe went over some opinions that I’ve covered in previous blogs, but my views on FM rarely change.

Lets get into it!

Squad Limitations

Any team can only be as good as the sum of its parts. Unfortunately for me, Torino had a couple of good parts, but a lot of not very good parts. The squad lacked depth. I can take responsibility for that within a couple of years, but right now, I needed to be flexible and I had to get the players to do the same.

Defensively, we were pretty good. We had an okay goalkeeper with a pretty solid defence. It’s when we looked at midfield that things got a bit… shite. We had a lot of midfielders, mainly all central midfielders and then a couple of wide players. I wasn’t overly keen on the wide options I had.

The two best options were Josip Brekalo and Marko Pjaca. Not bad players, but they lacked a lot of the skills I looked for in wide midfielders. The big issue for me was that they were both short term solutions as they were both in on loan from Wolfsburg and Juventus respectively. I don’t mind a loan player, but I don’t like getting too attached to them as my tactical development can’t rely on them.

I had three central midfielders on loan, Dennis Praet (who I eventually moved out wide), Tommaso Pobega and Rolando Mandragora. The first of those three players were only in for one season, but Mandragora was to be a permanent signing at the end of the season, so I was giving him more starts due to his long-term commitment to the cause.

I won’t be alone in thinking that, if my midfield is useless, there’s going to be trouble. It wasn’t the best and it showed as the season went on. It was a red flag for me as soon as I started the save.

Up front we had the very talented Andrea Belotti, who I placed all of my faith in, alongside the lesser impressive Simone Zaza and Antonio Sanabria. I thought we could get by with these guys but as the season wore on, I knew I’d also need to be looking at alternatives in the summer.

Overall, the squad was lacking the types of players that could make a difference and grab games by the scruff of the neck. I needed players that would battle for 90minutes and put in good performances. I only had one or two of those available and it showed.

Transfers

There wasn’t a huge amount of money available to me when I joined Torino, so any signings were going to have to be funded by allowing players to leave the club. As I mentioned above, I was overly stocked with average midfielders, so when Daniele Baselli said he wanted to leave, I didn’t feel the need to stop him. I had similar thoughts about young full back Ola Aina as I had very decent options in both full back spots.

This brought in around €8m and I got all of that added to my transfer kitty.

I’ll admit, the first signing I make on any save is usually a bit average. It’s usually a transfer made out of desperation over necessity and my record improves as the save progresses. I learn more about what I want and what I don’t want. My tactical vision evolves and so does my transfer policy.

Christian Fassnacht was a decent signing, but his fee of €8.25m makes my eyes water a wee bit now. He has all of the right sort of attributes I wanted in a wide midfielder, but his end product is lacking. I hope to see more from him this season. There’s definitely some encouraging signs as his link up play down the right was very good. He was the only player I signed up in the summer transfer window. I should never sign players the first window, I don’t know why I always do it.

In January, I had a better idea of the players abilities and where the squad was really weak. I had a lot of interest growing in Ricardo Rodriguez. Admittedly, it was a snap decision, but I sold him on to Sampdoria for €3.3m and brought in Luca Pellegrini for €2.8m from Juventus.

It seems like a side step, but the reality was that Rodriguez was 29 and with interest high, it was the right time to cash in on him. I’d likely not get much more money for him at the end of the season. With Pellegrini also being available so cheap, I couldn’t miss out. Pellegrini also fits with the boards “sign players to sell for profit” and “sign players under the age of 23” vision, so it was a good deal all round.

The only other position I saw as needing immediate improvement was in goal. I had two very similar goalkeepers in Etrit Berisha and Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (yes, brother of the more famous Lazio midfielder). Neither of them really shone for me. I don’t think I’ve massively improved in this department, but the signing of Marco Sportiello for €350k from Atalanta coincided with our best defensive displays of the season. He kept 9 clean sheets in 16 games, more than the other two goalkeepers combined.

At the end of the season, ten players departed from the club. All either not good enough or on deals that were too good to turn down. I added six new signings. I can’t talk too much about their abilities because they’ve only been with me a short time, but the profile of player seems right.

The deal for Mandragora was already pre-agreed before I took over. He wasn’t my signing, but I like the player. I added left back Matteo Ruggeri on a free from Atalanta. He’s not likely to play a lot, but with Ansaldi leaving, I’ve now got a decent deputy. I also signed Matias Arezo on a free from River Plate Montevideo.

Continuing my South American contingent, I signed Thiago Almada from Velez for €8m and Nicolás Dominguez from Bologna for €5.75m.

How did I manage to sign two Argies and a Uruguayan? Italian passports! There are a lot of Argentinian players that have dual nationality. It really helped me out here.

My final signing was Rasmus Kristensen from Red Bull Salzburg for €8.5m.

All of the end of season deals were funded by player departures as I only had a transfer budget of €1.75m. Getting the huge wages of the loan players off the payroll also helped as I was paying them a combined €189k per week.

Finances

We don’t have a lot of money, yet we managed to have a €31m spending spree at the end of the season? Alright James… good one.

As I mentioned above, our transfer budget was miserable at only €1.75m. More than I thought I would get because of the poor financial situation at the club. When the season ended, we were around €12m in debt. Aided mostly, by the stupid decision at the club to loan Praet, Pjaca, Pobega and Brekalo on combined wages of €189k p/w which amounts to just about €10m a year before bonus’. I think we might have been paying a loan fee for some of those players too.

That was a huge strain on the club and meant that even if I sold players in the summer, we’d only get a fraction of the income due to the board wanting to service the debt. In fact, they only gave me 30% of any income from sales.

I only had a couple of saleable assets. Andrea Belotti or young right back, Wilfried Singo.

Sometimes you have to see the big picture when you’re a smaller club. I am not against selling my best players, something I’ve alluded to regularly in previous blog posts. When a big money offer comes in, you have to sit up, take stock and think about the benefits in the long term.

It’s rubbish losing a very good player. When I made the overall assessment though, I knew who was most likely to depart. Interestingly, both players mentioned that they wanted to leave if a big offer came in. It was a €50m bid that did it. Wilfried Singo won club player of the year for me in my first season, but that was money I couldn’t turn down.

I rationalised it in two ways.

Firstly, the money was important for the growth and stability of the club. We were on a pretty poor financial footing, but now we are much healthier in that department. The board wouldn’t give me all of the money, so that meant that I couldn’t squander it all in one go. The club would retain the majority of it and stay out of debt for the season. This meant I could ask the board to make improvements to training facilities etc. and make the club better overall.

Secondly, it was pretty easy to get my head around the departure of Singo by thinking about his importance to the team. Singo was important to the club as they’d developed him, but he wasn’t massively important to the team. He was an effective player, but I didn’t rely on him as being key to my system. I felt I could get a replacement pretty easily and for not much money.

If I look at it another way. If I sold Belotti, how would I replace a 30 goal striker? I wouldn’t be able to. Not only is he a key part of the system, he’s my captain and leader on the pitch. Finding a new striker that was good enough for less than €10m would have been almost impossible.

On The Pitch

Even though I’ve said our squad is a bit average, we did well. Not well enough by the boards standards, but well enough by what I expected from this squad. The board thought that we were good enough for Europa League qualification, but I thought top 10 was a good shout.

We managed to finish in 7th position, missing out on Europa League qualification by three points. In the previous two season, Torino had finished 16th and 17th, so we were miles ahead of that.

It was an up and down season though. Highs of beating Milan, Lazio and Juventus were followed up by defeats by Udinese and Verona. Overall, we drew 9 times and suffered 10 defeats, but we earned every one of our 19 victories. It was a battle at times, but we pulled through. I still think we could’ve got 7th, but it didn’t go our way.

Tactically, we were alright. I definitely had to tweak a few things from what I had previously planned to do, but that always happens when you’re starting with a blank piece of paper. A new tactic always needs to be tweaked or adjusted based on players or performances or a combination of both. I didn’t stray too far away from my original plan though.

I’m not where I want the team to be tactically, but there are some of the right elements in place. Squad building and improvements will help us reach those goals. It’s a long-term project though. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will my style of play. I’m quite happy with the progress for now.

I’ve actually written the first blog post about the tactic and with a follow up to be done, but I’m waiting for the right time to release when things are in place a bit more. I think I mentioned before that I’m using Sacchi’s Milan as an inspiration for things. It’s not a replication, but an implementation of ideas.

Q&A

Q: 8th is a bit shite isn’t it? Why haven’t you won the league yet?
A: I’m working on it

Q: How did you finish the season so quickly? Didn’t you get married last week?
A: I did, but I was picking at it in my spare time as there wasn’t that much to do.

Q: Is it true that GnG did Traditional Scottish dancing at your wedding?
A: I think it’s better to say that Traditional Scottish dancing did GnG.. they were shafted at the end of it.

Q: You should never sell your best players. How do you sleep at night?
A: Terribly actually. But not because of selling players on FM. I don’t get attached to players as they are like chess pieces to me. You sacrifice some for the greater good (the greater good)

Q: Is it true that you almost got the sack at the end of the season?
A: 100% correct, I had to convince them to keep me in the job. Cheeky fuckers.

Q: There are a lot of words here, where are all the images like Dan Gear’s blogs?
A: This is a blog, not a Powerpoint presentation.

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