Duruji Kvareli – 2025 Open Thread
March 2025 – Transfers, Squad Review.
A busy transfer window as we prepare for an assault on the Erovnuli Liga. 5 signings, all on free transfers, intended to replace the 6 players whose contracts we chose not to renew. As you will note, we signed several players before the transfer window opened, with the last to arrive (Ghlonti) showing up just in time to pull on a kit for the first Erovnuli Liga 2 match of the year.
- Tornike Bitskinashvili, who will be a sub off the bench, for both the right and left wingbacks, as we let Sergey Andreev and Konstantine Pilia leave;
- Luka Khachidze, a holding midfielder who will retrain as a centerback and (hopefully) be a solid squad player if he can meet his potential, to replace Mamuka Lobzhanidze;
- Zviad Maghradze, who will be the regista in our 1st XI, and is probably the best player we’ve signed, to-date (with Mikheil Bregvadze dropping to the bench, and Giorgi Abashidze leaving the club);
- Irakli Gulordava, who will compete with Ivane Shilakadze for a starting spot as a mezzala, after the departure of Aleko Tkebuchava and Zurab Beridze;
- Archil Ghlonti, a late signing after a mini-bidding war, who will start as mezzala in place of Zurab Takashvili, who drops to the bench (and may go out on loan).
But we can’t just focus on the transfers in/out, let’s take a look at the entire 18-19 man first-team squad.
We’re still playing PM Haaientand as our primary tactic — my 33310 setup, detailed in the The Dirty Half-Dozen over at strikerless.
Both of our goalkeepers return from last year — Giorgi Tskhadadze will start, with Zviad Chomakidze as the backup who seems to have more long-term potential. There’s not much to say, really. I don’t think either is truly good enough for the Erovnuli Liga (much less our eventual assault on Europe), but I haven’t been able to land anymore more competent, thus far.
Our starting central defensive trio also returns from last year — Giorgi Varduashvili as the libero, with Lasha Vashakidze and Giorgi Tebidze as the centerbacks. Lasha Bregvadze and Luka Khachidze are the backups here, both of whom seem to have potential to be squad players in the Erovnuli Liga, if they continue to develop. Khachidze could conceivably have a greater role to play.
At wingback, Vladimir Khakhaleishvili will start on the left, with Nika Ghvinianidze on the right. Tornike Bitskinashvili will provide cover on both flanks from the bench. We may need reinforcements here, in the next year or two.
As noted above, we brought in Zviad Maghradze to be our starting regista. Mikheil Bregvadze drops to the bench, after being a loyal servant for the last few years. He’s a strong player for us and will have a role to play, my gut just goes with Zviad as the starter for now.
In the central midfield trio, Gela Labadze will start as our roaming playmaker, with Archil Ghlonti and Ivane Shilakadze as our mezzalas. Irakli Gulordova and Zurab Takashvili are the backups here, although Zurab may go out on loan. Gela “Gelagol” Jishkariani can provide cover here if we need it.
This is a solid group. 19 players who are all capable of contributing; 18, if Zurab Takashvili leaves on loan.
We’re predicted to finish 4th. We’re ready.
A few other miscellaneous notes before the first ball is kicked in anger…
The TV money at this level is solid — $101k for the year. More than I expected, really. But I’m not going to complain.
Our ticket ticket prices have also increased again, to $8 per match (up from $5 last year), and to $50.19 for a season ticket (a 62.53% increase from last year’s $30.88). We still only have 32 season ticket holders, but that’s ok so long as our matchday attendance continues to rise (we averaged 190 last year).
The other thing I’m seeing for the first time in this screenshot? Our owner is “willing to listen to offers,” after denying transfer rumors all Fall and Winter. We’ll see what happens.
A nightmare start to the Erovnuli Liga 2 campaign. We utterly dominated Aragvi, Shukura and Chikura, but dropped points thanks to our profligacy in front of goal. Our domination continued, with Karma gifting us an own goal against fellow promoted side, Shevardeni, before a 2-1 win over Tskhinvali — both scorelines flattering our opponents.
While I’m frustrated, we are sitting 4th, only 2 points off Merani. There’s a lot of football left to be played.
Our best players thus far? The two signings who stepped into the 1st XI, Zviad Meghradze and Archil Ghlonti. It isn’t just the average ratings, it’s the key passes — even at this early juncture, while they’re still integrating into the squad and learning our tactics, they’re making a difference in matches, pulling strings.
Another month of dominance, but a month in which we still managed to drop points from a position of strength. We absolutely battered Merani in Tbilisi, only for them to grab a late winner against the run of play.
Again, I can’t really complain. We’re only 1 point off the top at the end of the first round of matches. We lead the Erovnuli Liga 2 in goals scored (16), with the second-fewest conceded (6). It’s going to start coming together.
A massive month. 4 matches. 4 wins. 10 goals for. None against.
Top of the Erovnuli Liga 2. There are a ton of matches left to be played, so we can’t be complacent.
(I would be remiss if I didn’t note that I expected more of a struggle to reach a point where we’re within shouting distance of the top tier. My expectations were merely assumptions, of course, assumptions that I should not have made given my time managing lower league sides in small/medium-sized nations over the years, albeit not recently.)
June 2025 – European Review.
Predictable things happened around Europe over the last year. Not interested.
Another tremendous month on the pitch, 5 wins from 5, which opens up an 8 point lead at the top of the table.
The hype train is definitely gearing up. So much so that a local investor attempted a takeover bid, negotiations over which have failed. Nevertheless, the Board inexplicably allowed me to take a coaching course, so I’m studying up for the Continental C License.
Then again, our youth intake preview was decidely “meh.” While we could use some depth at wingback, we don’t play with wingers or forwards.
We’ve thrown a bit of a wobble this month, losing at home to Aragvi and drawing away to Shevardeni. But other sides are also dropping points.
There are 15 matches to play. If we can find a vein of form, we can start looking forward to life in the Erovnuli Liga. We also have a big match ahead against Zestaponi in the Davit Kipiani Cup — the side who did the “double” last year, winning both Liga 2 and the Cup, who are working through the Europa Conference League qualifying rounds right now.
Our poor run of form continues. Not good enough, lads. We’re dominating, but not putting teams away. We have to improve.
Either our form was going to improve, or we were going to crash out. We started the month with a massive away win over Merani, and went from strength to strength. We’re 16 points clear, with 7 matches to play. We’re going up, lads.
We begin the month with renewed takeover rumors, followed by the arrival of our youth intake:
Literally, the very next day, I get this message. Damn it, Artem.
We claim the title in mid-October with a 2-nil win over Shevardeni, with the transfer rumors also picking up pace.
I wouldn’t mind debts being cleared, as we’re currently looking at a $372k deficit, notwithstanding the big cash infusion last year.
The lads must have been out celebrating our title with too many glasses of chacha, though, because we promptly lost our next two matches. They don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but I’m not pleased.
2 days before our final match of the campaign away to Sioni, the long-rumored takeover is complete, with Gigi “Zoidberg” Zoidze investing approximately $500k into the club, to put our finances into the black. I immediately make an important request — improve our junior coaching, just to see what kind of response we get — and it is granted. As is our request for improved youth recruitment.
We lose the final match, but no one cares. We’ve won the league by 12 points. We’ve reached the promised land. The land of milk and honey. The Erovnuli Liga.
December 2025 – Season Review.
We’re at a critical stage in the save. The end of the first phase, our rise to the Erovnuli Liga.
The end of the beginning.
From here, we transition into the second phase — the battle to reach Europe and take charge of the Erovnuli Liga. (The final phase is, of course, conquering Europe.)
My sincere hope is that we can continue progressing at a decent clip, and that our newfound status in the top tier will mean that we can recruit better players and staff. Of course, I told the players I was expecting a mid-table finish…and they’re all worried that I’m aiming too high. The new Board seem to be a blank slate for the time being, as well, thankfully without any ridiculous demands regarding the club vision.
Goals for 2025: Not embarrass ourselves in the Erovnuli Liga, and attain a mid-table finish.
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.