Duruji Kvareli – 2024 Open Thread
Before the transfer window even opens, we’ve made two signings, to address my immediate concerns regarding the squad.
Vladimir Khakhaleishivli arrives to be our starting left wingback. I realize he doesn’t look like much, but when stacked up against our starter from last year, Irakli Javakhishvili, you can see why I’m excited about this kid. He’s an upgrade, and my scouts think he has room to grow. Vladimir spent last year in the Regional Leagues after coming up through Imereti’s academy, but refused to sign a new contract so we swooped in.
The other player we needed to sign was a goalscorer, to lead the line. Mirian Gegechkori has signed to (hopefully) play that role, with the expiration of his Skuri contract imminent. It looks like he was playing up front for Skuri’s reserves, but mainly in the midfield with Skuri’s first-team squad in Liga 3. Gegechkori will take over up front, with Ikane Shilakadze dropping into the central midfield.
Even the most cursory comparison tells you why — on paper, Gegechkori is far more suited to finishing off chances given his natural finishing attributes and pace, with Shilakadze setting them up. It doesn’t hurt that Shilakadze is arguably our best midfielder. The goals simply dried up for him this year, and I suspect that he would continue to struggle in that department as we move into Liga 3. Dropping him to mezzala will mean that he will continue to play an integral role in the side.
Zurab Beridze will move to the bench to make room for Shilakadze at mezzala; this is almost certainly his last year with the squad.
Raking in the big bucks, now that we’re a Liga 3 side.
That’s more than double the TV revenue we received last year, with our sponsorship up marginally.
(Keep in mind that the sponsorship image is a little misleading, because Dinamo Batumi is a Erovnuli Liga side. Their reserves are with us in the 3rd tier.)
The media are, once again, full of praise and expectation, picking us to finish 2nd.
Which, of course, has simply emboldened our Chairman, who is once again demanding that we win the Davit Kipiani Cup. He’s ambitious, I’ll grant him that.
Bargain hunting in the January transfer window…it’s key to everything we’ve accomplished thus far. We’ve brought in Giorgi Varduashvili on a free, who was available after his Gagra contract expired. Varduashvili will start as our libero, with Giorgi Tebidze shifting to the right-sided centerback, and Mamuka Lobzhanidze dropping to the bench.
While Varduashvili may not be an obvious libero with that 3 flair, he most certainly is at this level. He’s an upgrade on Tebize for this particular role, so I’m very pleased to have landed him.
He may not be a world-beater, but he’s another piece of the puzzle in terms of our immediate objective — promotion to Liga 2.
I’m ready for the season to start. Although the media have downgraded our chances, now predicting that we’ll finish 4th.
Our season ticket holders jump from 30 to 32. Bandwagon, plastic supporters, no doubt.
The other big news is that our ticket prices have jumped from $3 to $5, with our season ticket prices rising 139.94%, to $30.88 from $12.87.
Keeping in my long-term goal of raising the profile of the Erovnuli Liga as high as possible, here’s a peek at how it currently stacks up to other European leagues:
A decent enough pre-season and start to the campaign. Unbeaten in 5 matches, with the only blemish being away to Mertskhali (a match which was rescheduled due to a waterlogged pitch).
We’re still not scoring enough goals, but hopefully that will change once our 3 new starters (Gegechkori, in particular) are fully integrated into the side and tactics.
Another strong month. Gegechkori finally broke his duck against his former side, as well. Things are going well, but we can absolutely play better.
A bit of frustrating news, as our wage budget has been reduced (not beneath our current wage expenditure, but still), as our finances continue their steady downward trajectory ever since we took out a $550k loan in May 2022.
It isn’t anything we’re doing specifically. Every club seems to be struggling with this. The only recourse we have is to win — thereby promoting to a higher league with more revenue, and attracting more supporters.
A frustrating loss away to Shevardeni at the start of the month, but we bounced back strong. At the moment, it’s looking like a two-team race for the title (not to mention the only automatic promotion slot).
June 2024 – European Review.
In the Champions League, Maurizio Sarri’s Manchester City beat Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, 4-1.
In the Europa League, Ernesto Valverde’s Manchester United beat Bruno Labbadia’s Hoffenheim, 2-0 (aet).
In the Europa Conference League, Manuel Baum’s Leverkusen beat Silas’ Sporting, 3-nil.
Ancelotti’s Real Madrid win La Liga, 1 point clear of Quique Setien’s Barcelona. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool claim their 3rd Premier League title in 5 years. Leonardo Jardim’s Schalke win their first Bundesliga title since 1958. Paulo Fonseca’s Roma win Serie A for the first time since 2001. And, finally, Diego Simeone’s PS-****ing-G do PS-****ing-G things, again.
Our youth intake preview doesn’t look particularly good. At best, 3 players — a goalkeeper, a centerback, and a midfielder.
We continue playing well enough to win, even if we aren’t blowing the doors off.
I had to push the update one day, to capture this…our first match against Dinamo Tblisi, in front of a record crowd of 358 at the Kvareli Fortress. We draw first blood off a long throw in the 30th minute, and managed to force extra time, but they were too good for us in the end.
Dinamo sit 2nd in the Erovnuli Liga. I’ll take it. The Chairman is once again disappointed, but understanding.
We’re scoring goals, though. Not having our starting keeper, Giorgi Tskhadadze, has hurt over the past 2 weeks. But we’re in tremendous shape overall.
The other good news? We didn’t get a news item, but our Chairman has apparently thrown a bunch of money at our debt. That’s right, we’re back to even. The Board still won’t let me take a coaching course, but this is good. Very, very good.
We finish off August in fine form. With 11 matches to play, we’re 15 points clear of Shevardeni and 26 clear of Mertskhali (although they both have a game in hand).
Giorgi Tskhadadze is finally back from his broken finger, to give us a strong presence in goal. We kept the momentum going with Zviad Chomakhidze in goal during Giorgi’s absence thanks to our attackers finding their shooting boots, and it is clear that a run of matches was good for Zviad, but he isn’t good enough at this juncture. (Picking the ball out of the back of his net must’ve been a good workout…his stamina saw a substantial increase, all the way to…1. 1.).
We’ve had our first youth international call-up! Gela “Gelagoal” Jishkariani got the call for the Georgia U19s, playing 77 unremarkable minutes against Gibraltar U19s on his debut, before a six-minute cameo against Kosovo U19s.
(The nickname was bestowed after he came off the bench to score a brace on his debut…he’s only scored 2 goals since then, so it must continue, albeit ironically. I probably need to get him more time on the pitch.)
It’s only a matter of time. 7 matches to play, 17 points clear of Shevardeni.
The youth intake has arrived, and I’m less than impressed.
The other big news in early October? Our Chairman has taken to denying takeover rumors. Moderately interesting, I guess.
We secured the title on October 12th, with 5 matches to play. Liga 2 football is in our immediate future.
Our wobble from late September has passed. We look more than ready to build on this campaign, and fight for promotion again next year. Some players are being moved on from the first team, in anticipation of being able to backfill from the free transfer market (again).
Zestaponi pull off the trick I’m hoping to pull off next year — despite being in the Erovnuli Liga 2, Zestaponi have won the Davit Kipiani Cup, thus qualifying for the Europa Conference League. Of course, our focus will need to be on promotion. But, I’d really love some of that sweet European cash…
The final matches are in the books. Not the way I wanted it to end, with a loss away to Guria, but this has been a tremendous campaign, by any measure.
December 2024 – Season Review.
The biggest concern coming into the year was whether we could score enough goals to turn our anticipated superiority into wins. It took a while for us to find our shooting boots, but in the end we finished the season having scored the most goals in Liga 3 (66) while also conceding the fewest (25).
We brought in Mirian Gegechkori to lead the line — after a slow start, he brought us 15 goals and 8 assists. Top goalscorer, and tied for second on assists (behind Zurab Takashvili, a three-year starter who had a great year with 7 goals and 9 assists).
The big task next year will be to, once again, step up a level and find the back of the net. I’d like to think we can do so, and challenge for that final promotion. I’m planning to let the contracts of 6 first-team players expire. Of the six, Mamuka Lobzhanidze and Aleko Tkebuchava both agreed to move to Chikura — an Erovnuli Liga side that suffered relegation — so we’ll be seeing them in Liga 2 next year.
The only signing we’ve confirmed at this point is Irakli Gulordava, who arrives on a free from Betlemi. I’m not exactly sure where I’ll play him in my central midfield 3, but he should be a starter.
Goals for 2025: Not embarrass ourselves in Erovnuli Liga 2. Fight for promotion. Make a run in the Davit Kipiani Cup.
God leaned over to the Devil, drew him close and declared, “those who will drink three glasses of chacha may be on my side. After that, they are yours.”
If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused, the basic concept behind the Fourth Glass save is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Giorgi Amirani’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Fourth Glass Archive.