The Serpents Kiss (2.1)’The Rise Of Mazzocchi’

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Welcome back to The Serpents Kiss, the story of my managerial career at Internazionale which is well in to season two. If you are new to this blog you can catch up with the story so far by scrolling to the  bottom of this post were you can view the links to the previous four posts. A quick recap of whats gone on at the Giuseppe Meazza so far: Season 1 saw us finish 4th in the table and qualify for the Champions League thanks to a solid team performance throughout the season were we played a 4-1-4-1 system. Our top four finish owed a lot to the goals of Mauro Icardi who netted 23 during the season, Icardi then demanded the chance to talk to Manchester United which resulted in a £74m transfer and me looking at ways to fill the Argentine’s void.

I decided that I would change the system to a 4-4-2 formation and look to try and spread Icardi’s goals around a new look frontline that I would rotate during the season. That new look frontline would consist of  Andrea Pinamonti, Florinel Coman, Federico Bonazolli (Sampdoria), Simone Mazzocchi (Atalanta) and Roberto Inglese (on loan from Napoli) who would play in the roles of a False 9 and Advanced Forward in our new 4-4-2 system. Many would suggest that this is a gamble going in to the new season with an inexperienced frontline.

Serie A and Champions League Results 18/19 

The fixture computer took us to the island of Sardinia for the opening game of the season to face Cagliari. It gave us the chance to use our new 4-4-2 system developed to get the best out of a new look frontline, however it was the full backs who stole the show in a 4-0 win with Davide Santon, Danilo D’Ambrosio and substitute Yuto Nagatomo getting on the scoresheet. Debuts were given to both Federico Bonazolli and Richarlison. I was pleased with both the outcome of the game and the way we played with both Roberto Gagliardini and Geoffrey Kondogbia looking solid in the centre of the park. Udinese were the visitors to Milan in front of a crowd of just over 49,000, I gave debuts to Andrija Zivkovic and Simone Mazzocchi who both repaid my faith in them with the young Mazzocchi scoring twice on his debut after excellent work from the Serbian Winger who prvoided the foundation for a 2-1 win.

Champions League Matchday 1 took us to Germany to face Borussia Dortmund in front of the Yellow Wall which watched us put in a forgettable performance with the Germans running out 3-1 winners. Our consolation goal came courtesy of on loan Brazilian Richarlison on a night that I feel I underestimated Dortmund with my team selection or maybe over estimated our start to the season. I am disappointed after the event but looking forward to our next meeting.

A trip to Florence to play Fiorentina produced a goal fest with us eventually winning a nine goal thriller 6-3 with the young Simone Mazzocchi grabbing the headlines with an hat-trick after a performance behond his years that highlighted his finishing skills, but it was his work outside the box that makes me think I have a potential star in the making. I am pleased with the attacking element of our game so far but slightly concerned about shipping the goals at the back but I won’ make any knee jerk adjustments to the system just yet.

The goals kept coming with the visit of Atalanta to the Meazza with us dominating our guests and coming away with a 4-1 win which saw Romanian Florinel Coman in the False 9 role score twice along with a brace from flying winger Andrija Zivkovic. Coman looked the part in the False 9 role alongside Federico Bonazolli who played well without reward with his back to goal. I am seeing promising things from the squad as we go to top of the table for the first time under my tenure.

We manage to keep a clean sheet with a trip to Turin were we are to a 0-0 draw by Torino who go on to become the draw specialists in the first half of the season. I had rested a few players ahead of the Champions League game against Benfica. Pinamonti and Inglese started up front for us but failed to get off the mark.

So Matchday 2 of the Champions League and a tricky night ahead against Benfica after a disappointing defeat in Dortmund. I decided to start with Pinamonti and Mazzocchi up front supported by a midfield four of Gagliardini, Kondogbia, Perisic and Zivkovic who goes up against his previous employer. A back five of Handanovic, D’Ambrosio, Santon, Miranda and the young Belgian centre back Zinho Vanheusden. We got off to a flyer when Simone Mazzocchi pounced on a through ball from Perisic to took away a low drive to put us 1 up after just 7 minutes. Benfica rallied but never looked a threat so we went in at half time 1-0 to the good. The 2nd half got off to a good start with the dynamic Roberto Gagliardini putting us 2 up. Soon after Andrea Pinamonti sealed a 3-0 win with a deft finish from close range. A good all round performance gets us back on track in the group with Olympique Lyonnais to play next.

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Back to Serie A action we entertained Empoli at the Meazza and I decided to rotate the squad after our Champions League exploits in midweek. It was time for the bench warmers to stake a place in the side and thats just what both Bonazolli and Richarlison did with the goals that gave us a 2-1 win but it was Antonio Candreva who caught the eye with a fabulous man of the match performance showing his class and reminding Andrija Zivkovic that his place in the first XI is not a forgone conclusion.  With a couple of players carrying knocks I decided to partner Simone Mazzocchi and on loan Forward Roberto Inglese for the trip to the eternal city to face AS Roma in what turned out to be a classic but unfortunately for us we suffered a 2-3 defeat with Mazzocchi and Richarlison getting our goals in the first half. I was not too disappointed with the result because we are playing good football and creating chances which is a good thing. I am realising that Simone Mazzocchi’s transfer for £2.2m is looking a steal after he netted his 7th goal of the season so far as the Inter faithful sing out his name.

Champions League Matchday 3 and the first of a double header against Olympique Lyonnais. The French club are top of the group and proved a tough nut to crack in a 0-0 draw here in Milan. With Mazzocchi missing through injury our front two of Facundo Colidio and Andrea Pinamonti failed to break through a resilient defence that held out well after our two wingers Perisic and Candreva threatened to run riot. All credit to Lyon though they came and held us to only our 2nd blank so far this season.

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Bottom club Carpi got the backlash from our midweek blank as we hit them for 5 in a 5-0 win that saw Florinel Coman score his first hat-trick for the club playing in the False 9 role. The rout was completed by Richarlison and João Mario. The win was then followed up by two 2-0 wins against Sampdoria and AC Milan. Federico Bonazolli netted on his return to Sampdoria after a fine display. The derby against Milan was very one sided to my surprise with both Kondogbia and Perisic getting on the scoresheet to keep us at the top of the table.

We travelled to France for Matchday 4 of the Champions League to face group leaders Olympique Lyonnais who had held us to a goalless draw in Milan. The man of the moment Simone Mazzocchi git us off to a cracking start with a 20 yard piledriver in the 11th minute and then created our second goal after pulling the ball back for Marcelo Brozovic to head home and put us in the driving seat. Federico Bonazolli added a third and we saw the game out running out 3-1 winners to put us top of the table going in to the last 2 games of the group stage.

An away day at Benevento produced another victory with us winning 2-0, both Bonazzoli and Mazzocchi on the scoresheet.  A tougher test with the visit of Napoli to the Meazza produced our best performance of the season which saw us beat our Neapolitan visitors 3-1 after a fantastic 2nd half were we ran Napoli a merry dance with Gagliardini, Coman and Brozovic amongst the goals. With 6 consecutive wins in the league we are looking good for a title challenge and sit pretty at the top of the table.

Champions League action again with Matchday 5 seeing us host Borussia Dortmund with the knowledge that a win would see us qualify for the knockout rounds. 72,817 witnessed an outstanding team performance from us after we tore the German club apart with 2 goals in each half guaranteeing qualification and a 4-0 win. Our goals in the first half came via Mazzocchi and Perisic who both benefited from the wing play of Zivkovic who is looking worth every penny of his £37m transfer fee. If Zivkovic was the outstanding player in the first half then I need to mention the 2nd half performance of Simone Mazzocchi who is in outstanding form and returned the assists for man of the match Andrija Zivkovic to round off his own performance with two goals of the finest quality. We went in to our next game in Serie A in superb form so you can imagine my surprise and anger when we get turned over 0-1 by Bologna who started the day in the bottom 3. We most definitely suffered a Champions League hangover.  Roberto Donadoni and his Bologna side seem to have the measure of us at their Stadio Renato Dall’Ara home with their 2nd win in two seasons against us after they beat us 0-2 last season.

 

With Champions League knockout stage qualification sealed we went in to Matchday 6 against Benfica knowing that a win would mean us topping the group. The 58’000 plus crowd were entertained to two teams giving it everything but it was our man Ivan Perisic who grabbed the headlines with an hat-trick of the highest order giving us a 4-2 win. Florinel Coman scored our other goal. A nice win and a trip to Geneva for the last sixteen draw which paired us with Manchester City. We will look forward to testing ourselves against them in the new year.

With the Champions League out of the way until the new year it was time to focus on Serie A and the remaining six games that would take us to the halfway stage in the season.  The first of the six games was at home to this seasons surprise package and last seasons Serie B champions Palermo who have been punching above their weight so far.  We spared them no mercy in a blockbuster of a first half that put us 4 up at the interval through Zivkovic 2, D’Ambrosio and Coman. We took our foot off the gas in the 2nd half allowing Palermo a consolation goal but the the side from Sicily were no match for us in this form.  A trip to current Champions Juventus was next and a game that had us coming away deflated despite a 2-2 draw, the reason being we we’re leading 2-0 up to the 70th minute through goals from Zivkovic and Coman for us to throw away the points with a disappointing last 20 minutes that allowed the Old lady to force a draw.  FC Crotone suffered the backlash 7 days later when Mazzocchi hit a double with strike partner Coman chipping in with one himself.  After the short Christmas break we travelled to Rome and carved out a creditable 1-1 draw against Lazio with Marcelo Brozovic scoring a screamer. High flying Sassuolo visited us on New Years Eve and left with their tails between their legs as we finished the year off in style by inflicting a 4-1 scoreline on them to spoil their New Year celebrations. Ivan Perisic rounded off a fine performance with 2 goals whilst both Simone Mazzocchi and Florinel Coman rounded off a fine display. Genoa cut short our New Year celebrations by inflicting a 2-3 defeat upon us in the game advertised in the media as ‘The Return of Gabigol’ after the once labelled wonderkid Gabriel Barbosa returned from his loan spell at Santos were he seems to have deteriorated somewhat., however he marked his return netting one of our goals after coming on as a substitute in the 2nd half. Hopefully we can get him back on track to reaching his potential. Our other goalscorer on the night was Simone Mazzocchi which brings me on to the fantastic news that he is the newly crowned ‘European Golden Boy’  which is nothing short of what he deserves after a fantastic 2018. For me Mazzocchi came to the club just a few months ago and replaced the £74m pound man Icardi by surpassing all expectations. I really hope his form continues in 2019 because the first six months of his career at Inter have been marvellous to watch The Rise Of Mazzocchi. 

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Serie A Table 

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Champions League Group A Table 

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Youth Development 

For many FM player’s there is no greater feeling than developing a group of youngsters at your club who make the progression in to your first team to become regulars and go on to international football and become World stars. But how do we go about developing youth at our clubs? Well we all have our own ideas and ways to achieve this, so I thought I would write this post on how I do it ? (Please note this is no way intended to say this is how you should do it it’s just how I do it and overtime it as been successful for me).

It was interesting to read the inverted wingbacks ( @InvWingbacks ) Blueprint post about how he develops and goes about analysing player progression. I think it was a superb article and not a great deal different to how I go about developing youth.

I don’t know about anyone else but I really look forward to Youth Intake day to see what talent we have to work with. The first things I do at any club is to try and upgrade the following to the best the club can afford year on year:
* Head Of Youth Development : I want a HOYD to have the best personality possible to influence the personality of the players coming in to the club he also needs to have high attributes in Working With Youngsters, Judging Player Potential and Judging Player Ability.
* Coaching : Without any shadow of doubt I always look to get the best possible coaches in to the club, I like to make sure we have specialist coaches covering each area to give the players maximum coaching.
* Medical Staff : I don’t know if this is just something I do or if most people do it but like all other backroom staff I want the best medical team I can get to maximise the treatment and recovery of our squads.
* Facilities : I never stop upgrading facilities until we have the best the game can offer.
* Junior Coaching : I always look to improve the Junior coaching budget, this for me is a must in any save.

So with all the above in place we have the right tools to get the best out of our Youth Development system and this is how I manage the development of players:

* Under 18 squad 

The Under 18 squad is obviously the first step for any player who comes in to the club via our youth intake and their first step in to development. We all like to see those 5 gold stars on intake day but its not the be all and end all if all those stars are not shining because this is were we can make a difference by offering a quality development system that allows our youth to reach and someimes surpass their initial potential.

  • All players Under 18 will stay at the club and in the Under 18 squad
  • All players in the Under 18 squad will be put on the following training programme which I have tweaked from my own to copy @InvWingbacks Blueprint because I like his thinklng around the 2 year cycle of a 16 year old coming in to our ranks:
  • July, August, September: Ball Control
  • October, November, December: Attacking
  • January February, March: Defending
  • April, May, June: Fitness

Each player will also have role specific training to match the requirements of our tactical outlook.  No Under 18 players will be loaned out because I want to control the specific training they get. I also look for players to be tutored during this development stage to in particular improve personality which will improve their development.

*Under 20 Squad (Reserves) 

The next step for our youth is to move up in to this squad, this is were I make the decision wether to loan individuals out or keep them at the club. I believe from the age of 18 players will develop better with game time under their belt at a decent level.

  • If loaning a player out I always use the option to recall from loan because if I am loaning a player out its because I want him to get 1st team experience meaning game time so if a club are not playing my player I will recall him.
  • If I decide to keep a player at the club in this squad  it’s because I feel the player will either: (A) Benefit from staying within our development system because they are not ready to go out on loan. (B) Are on the fringes of our first team squad and ready for some game time with the first team. (C) Surplus to requirements and on the transfer list.

*Player Analysis

Whilst I continually analyse all my players, after each 3 month training cycle I perform a total player analysis to enable me to track the development of all players specifically looking at any weaknesses. I use the notes section within FM to remind me of any player findings ect. The notes section if you have not used it before is a nice little tool that makes my managerial life a lot easier. In December of each season I take the decision of who will be transfer listed, released, offered a new contract, promoted to the next level squad and loaned out at the end of the season. I like to forward plan a full six months in advance.

*Player Recruitment 

I like to have as many scouts as possible because I like to try and uncover that hidden gem. Whilst we look to develop our own players the scouting network is vital in finding the right players so we are ready to bring them in to the club if the need arises. I like to have a shadow 11 of possible transfer targets from each countries top division in my notes section. The shadow 11 is always made up of our systems roles.

*Coming Soon*

Youth Development Tracker

In this section I am going to track the progress of the players that come in to the club on youth intake day starting with the 4 players who joined us last season with the most potential. By clicking on their name you will see a screenshot of their profile on youth intake day.

Alex Tacchini 

Andy Yusuf 

Francesco Caffo 

Oscar Lera 

What I intend to do is build this section with all the players that come in to the club on intake day and keep a running progress of their development to see how our youth development system is treating these young lads.

Thank you for reading this post, I hope you will return to see if we can sustain a title challenge in the second half of the season.

 

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