A review of the 2022/23 season.
Our Season kicked off with a course of getting rid of the deadwood and culling of staff and playing staff that posed no true worth and purpose at the club. (To follow on from the previous posts). A Modena Tale – Squad Building Part1 & A Modena Tale – Squad Building Part2 The notable person to be dismissed was Walter Sabatini the club’s Director of Football who had been next to useless when it came to finding talent for the club. With Walter gone Veron ( the club’s Managing director) was given a few more “responsibilities” to close the void.
The arrival of Donnarumma from AC Milan and Locatelli from PSG were hefty purchases that demanded Veron to open his wallet wide. This saw a demand that players were sold to maintain the books. This saw Monaco buy three players for a combined fee of £84.5m potentially rising to a combined fee of £112.5m. These players were our two stalwart fullbacks of Fede Mattiello, Pep Pezzella and Wonderkid winger Hernando Garcia.
With pennies back in the transfer kitty I set about telling Veron that I needed to boost our defence, namely a right back, left back and centre back as I wanted greater competition for the guys that were already at the club. With that job left in Juan’s capable hands I quickly found Jordi Alba out of contract. So we struck the requirement of a left back off the shopping list for Juan.
Veron then came back with Federico Chiesa, that well know right…..winger from Fiorentina. (He got half of it correct, Right!!!) So he splashes £42m on a right winger. I then tell him we need Rugani from Juventus before Chelsea lure him to London. He then formulates a £111m deal which Juventus agree. At this point I am shocked, amazed and now wondering where he is getting all of this money from!
The sales of Oya, Alvaro and Tuanzebe clearly backwardly funded the Rugani deal. Still without sufficient cover at Right Back, Veron pushed for other players by drafting in Denis Suarez on loan from Barcelona. I ended up taking the bull by the horns by getting William from Wolfsburg in a loan deal for the season.
With the summer of wheeler dealing for Veron over, I was left to concentrate with on the pitch matters. We started the Preseason with a Friendly in Italy (Carpi) and finished the Preseason in Italy (Monopoli). We endured a tour in the US in an aim to show the US market our brand of football. And we also hosted the Modena Mash Up a local tournament to drum up local support after the US adventure.
Our greatest issue throughout preseason was the fact that the World Cup (2022 in Australia) was on during the summer. With so many of our first teamers away from the club. This meant an opportunity to invest time in some of the youth players. Namely young right back Federico Clede. Who had impressed me with his level of consistency during a set of back to back friendlies. He was now marked as clear back up for Pol Lirola and William.
The Supercopa ~ Abu Dhabi hosted the Serie A league Champions VS TIM Cup Champions clash to open the Italian season with a bang.
Well Rodrygo and Pellegri certainly did that. We set off at a frightening pace and stretched to a three nil lead before half time. With the team playing with such quality we had hoped the second half would see a continuation of our supremacy. That did happen with possession but as our legs tired in the last ten minutes Genoa sort to show their greater levels of fitness and came back into the game with two late goals. Genoa ran out of time with their late surge and we managed to squeak over the line to win the curtain raiser for the new season.
TIM Cup ~ This competition was very short lived this season for the Phoenix club. We Struggled in a 1-0 against Crotone in the first round. Then we lost to the eventual winners in the quarter final. Empoli capitalised on our one man deficit and put two past us in 10 minutes. Klymenko did get us a consolation but our last moments were too late and were all in vein.
Empoli went on to beat Juventus in the Semi Final and then Roma in the final.
Serie A ~ Our league campaign started with a bang. A 2-0 away win against Cagliari Klymenko and new boy Chiesa on the scoresheet. This snowballed in to six league wins on the bounce, which included a tight 3-2 away win against Juventus and a massive 5-0 home win against Roma.
The October internationals knocked the boat a little when our winning run stopped due to a 2-2 away draw to Lazio. Pinamonti scored two for Lazio in the opening 30 minutes and we were well and truly on the ropes. The roasting at half time then effected the game when Jordi Alba got sent off for a second booking on 66 minutes. Touchline instructions then became a theme as Chiesa and Jenson scored late goals to rescue a point, and our unbeaten record.
The team then took the confidence from the salvage job to thrash AC Milan 6-0 at home. Ronaldo scoring a brace with Klymenko, Grifoni, Locatelli and Romagnoli scoring the others.
Our bubble was then burst by Inter the week after. The Giuseppe Meazza saw us lose Locatelli in the 29th minute for a reckless challenge. This then opened the door for Inter the swap our midfield and score three. Left Winger Grifoni did grab a consolation but all was too late to inspire a comeback. Inter ended the night 3-1 winners.
This loss on a cold wet Wednesday in October saw the team come together as we then went on a run of nine victories on the bounce. This run saw us to the winter break. The most satisfying win was the 2-0 away win against Napoli. Pellegri and Ahmetaj were on target that night.
After the winter break we restarted the campaign in a bitterly cold Torino. We were awful, rusty and lacked the cohesion we had been showing before the break. Torino scored a sneaky late goal and we had Lirola sent off right at the end of the game for a second yellow card.
After giving the team a rollocking during the week. The very next game was against the other Torino team. Juventus. We entertained the crowd in the first half by scoring three and conceding two. I lay in to a few individuals and the second half was much more controlled. We eventually won the game 5-2.
Our following match was our worst of the season. Away to Empoli a match that had seen us lose to the same team in the TIM Cup during the week. I rotated faces following the cup defeat in hope that it would inspire some players that had not been playing to try for a first team place. It didn’t to be frank! Melegoni and Caiazzo both became donkeys of the week. Both got booked early on and both got sent off in the first half. At this point Empoli had been one nil up. This lack of discipline saw them stretch it to two. Pelegri then sparked a late comeback before Empoli scored a third immediately after the restart. We managed to grab a second but the boys that were on the pitch had run themselves into the ground.
We then went on another unbeaten run. This time ten games. But for two draws with the two Milan clubs we won the other eight. A 6-2 away win against Sampdoria was the highlight. With Camara showing a newly found maturity to his game by scoring two and assisting with two.
Cam had come to the club at the beginning of the 2021/22 season for £1.8m from Portuguese club Maritimo. This season has been a breakthrough one for him as he has got ahead of Almada for the Attacking Midfielder position.
Our final five games of the season saw us lose one (3-1 to Fiorentina), draw one (0-0 to Sassuolo), and win three, which included a 7-0 demolition of Brescia. This game saw youngsters Maksymillan Sobotka and Claudio Gonzalez open their accounts for Modena. Both players were bought in the January window, both were found whilst doing some youngster scouting in November. Maks came from Legia for £5m and Claudio from Colo-colo for free (he was out of contract).
We won Serie A again. But for a few sloppy games we were very consistent and always looked destined to win the league title. The twelve point gap didn’t flatter us as we had dominated the league from start to finish.
European Champions League ~ We were pooled together with Club Brugge, Wolfsburg and for the third season in a row Fc Barcelona.
Our European tour started with a home tie against a familiar foe, Barcelona. This game was not for the feint hearted. De Haan scored the opener after five minutes. for Ahmetaj and Pellegri to score to give us the lead. Well until that man Messi hit a screamer just before the half time interval. The team talk rallied the boys together to believe in themselves. And boy did it work. Chiesa and Locatelli scored within five minutes of the retake to put us 4-2 up. Messi struck again for Camara to score the fifth. The game fizzled out and finished 5-3.
Our next game was the away fixture in Germany against Wolfsburg. This was one of those “FM” games. Not those ones where you throw the laptop out of the window. The game where you win, and win big. We won 7-0 Pellegri was on song with a hattrick. Our form continued with back to back victories against Clubb Brugge.
We then got taught a massive lesson by Barcelona’s Leon Bailey. The winger scored three against us. Our much changed line-up struggled to cope with this lads pace and stamina. They beat us 4-0 in what would be our heaviest defeat during the season.
Our final group match against Wolfsburg saw our Portuguese players come to the boil. Ronaldo and Camara scored a brace of goals as we ran 5-1 home winners.
Topping our group meant for a better draw than last season. Last season we got given EPL giants Man City. This season’s draw saw us put up against Spanish side Valencia. With this draw we thought we would have a chance of getting beyond the 1st knockout round.
The Mestalla witnessed the 1st leg. A game that the neutral would have loved. We won 6-2 with Sancho and Pellegri providing the fire power. Clede the youngster mentioned earlier in this post, played as a makeshift left back and excelled in the position change. The 2nd leg was a more controlled tie. I had expected Valencia to throw the kitchen sink at us but instead they were rather weak. The game finished 2-1 on the night and 8-3 on aggregate.
The quarter final draw saw us put up against Man City. We looked at the tie as a grudge match. I was very keen to get one over Unai Emery’s City team after last season’s struggle.
The 1st leg saw us play at the fortress known as Alberto Braglia. Rodrygo and Klymenko provided the fire power to give us a 2-0 win. The team defended very well throughout the 90 minutes. The 2nd leg saw City come out of the traps like a greyhound. Alli scored for them after 4 minutes. The Gallioblu rallied together with Pellegri and Chiesa scoring in the first half to keep our lead against the blues of Manchester. Camara rounded our scoring off as we ended up winning 3-2 in Manchester. We won 5-2 on aggregate.
With the team triumphant and reaching further than we had before and well beyond where we had expected. We headed to the draw in the hope that we would get an easy tie. (Do they exist in the latter stages of the Champions League?)
We drew Atletico Madrid, The other half of the draw saw current CL holders Manchester United up against Leverkusen.
The 1st leg was held at fortress ala Alberto Braglia. This game was our greatest of the season. (In my opinion). We won 5-1 Pellegri, Chiesa and Camara providing the goals but all the eleven that started showed their class by putting in awesome performances. The lowest rating was 7.1 (Rodrygo – who was playing his first game back after an injury lay off). With such a lead in the 1st leg we looked to rest the “1st” team players in the league games between the two ties. This had an effect on the 2nd leg.
The 2nd leg proved to be a slow and cagey affair for the first 74 minutes. Neither team really putting a strong impression on the game. (which was suiting us as we were 15 minutes away from sealing a date of destiny and reaching our first European final). The 75th minute clicked and Lucas banged a header in from 5 yards out. The cross from the corner was very accurate. Five minutes later Atletico repeat the same action, by scoring from a corner Soyuncu scoring the header on this occasion. With ten minutes left on the clock plus stoppages and my voice slowly losing any audible sound. We held firm for another seven minutes. Then Griezmann pops up with a “Griezmann” style goal on the counter. With my head in my hands and thinking if we can just prevent them from scoring anymore we may have a chance we tip toe over the line. We lost 3-0 on the night but won 5-4 on aggregate. (I was shaking typing this as I relived that 2nd leg – It’s a bloody computer game!!!)
We were in to our first European final!!!!!!!!
Sevilla would host the 2023 Champions League final between current holders Manchester United and Phoenix club Modena Fc.
The stage was set for a wonderful night one that could make a footballer become a legend of the game. The nerves were rife in the Modena changing room. I had been bold with a few choices of the starting line up by playing two homegrown youngsters, both Federico Clede (17) and Giacomo Caiazzo (20) had played amazingly all season and had out muscled their elder counterparts into being first choice players at Left and Right Back. The only other surprise selection was that of Claudio Gonzalez at Right Wing. A selection that was forced due to both Reiss Nelson and Federico Chiesa being out injured.
Mourinho’s Manchester United boasted playing riches of midfielders Pogba, Milinkovic-Savic and Vinicius Jnr. Along with Icardi up front.
United dominated possession and opened the scoring with a well taken shot by Vinicius Jnr on 36 minutes.
We continued to plod into the game when our first opportunity was given to us by the referee. Vinicius shoved Camara to the ground in the box. Pellegri scored the resulting penalty on 44 minutes.
We assert ourselves in the match during the second half but get little return. United appear more and more tired as the game goes on. The final whistle is blown with the score at 1-1.
Extra time starts but neither team show the impetuous to win the game. That is until the 104th minute when we suddenly find ourselves with numbers around the United box. We play a series of quick passes between the opposition’s defensive lines. The ball eventually finds Francesco Grifoni in space for him to place a well hit sot past the hapless Jack Butland.
We see out the game. And only bloody win the Champions League!!!!!!
Not a bad season based on our targets set by the board.
If you managed to get to this part of the post, well done, it has been a long one.
Now I revert back to my previous post Modena Man – When is the right time to call it a day? With the question of whether to eeek one more season out in the hope I get to see the new Stadium and sustain the achievements we’ve brought to the club or do we call it a day and recharge the old batteries ahead of FM19?