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Smells Like Erovnuli Liga

Duruji Kvareli – 2026 Open Thread

January 2026.

Our training facilities were downgraded during the winter break, even though they remain “below average” overall. The good news regarding our facilities (separate and apart from improving our youth recruitment and junior coaching, as previously noted) is that we’ve gone from renting “poor” youth facilities to renting “below average” youth facilities.

In terms of our finances, we will receive $200k for TV rights, twice the amount we received last year in the Erovnuli Liga 2.

Our ticket prices have also leaped to $11 per match (up from $8), with 52 season ticket holders paying $77.21 per season ticket (up 53.83%, from $50.19).

That hasn’t really loosened the purse strings, although we can scout throughout Eastern Europe now (which I’m using for the standard rule of not signing anyone I can’t scout).

In looking through the squad, my initial inclination is that we need a centerback and right wingback, more than anything. In other positions, we should be good enough to stay up. Since we have no budget for transfer fees, we are stuck with the free transfer market (the loan market is grim). Now that we’re an Erovnuli Liga side, players who wouldn’t return our calls in the past will now at least listen to offers, even if we’re not the preferred option.

Before the window opens, our top 2 targets at centerback elect to sign for other Erovnuli Liga sides.

We do secure our target at right wingback, Lasha Kavataradze, whose Rustavi contract expired. Kavataradze will almost certainly take over in the first XI ahead of Nika Ghivinianidze.

We also nail down a new shadow striker early on, a player we did not need but will absolutely take — Gela Tsivtsivadze, who has been banging in the goals for Mertskhali. Tsivtsivadze will start ahead of Mirian Gegechkori, with Gela “Gelagoal” Jishkariani training as a mezzala to provide depth across the front 4.

Honestly, I love Gelagoal, but I don’t see how he’s going to be good enough to be a first-XI player. He’s not a good enough finisher to start up top ahead of Tsivtsivadze or Gegechkori (although the gap has been narrowed significantly with Gegechkori), and isn’t good enough to force his way into our midfield. He will take Ivane Shilakadze’s spot on the bench, as Ivane’s days are numbered.

It’s early days still, but the media are predicting a 7th-place finish.

I also love that, as you can see in the screenshots above (and in the competition reputation screen), the Erovnuli Liga is on par with the Norwegian, Croatian, Greek, Swedish and Swiss third tiers right now.

January 2026.

I entered the transfer window intending to sign a centerback and a wingback. I signed a wingback.

And then a shadow striker… And now an attacking midfielder.

An experienced youth international, signed on a free from Academia Chisinau. He’s easily our best player, on a two-year deal with a one-year option. He should annihilate the Erovnuli Liga. Did we need another attack-minded midfielder? No. Absolutely not.

That’s why I’ve decided to play him as our libero.

When is the last time you won the Erovnuli Liga 2, David?! Huh?!

I know, I know. With that positioning, he’s basically a short, Moldovan David Luiz.

Which is exactly what I like about him.

First of all, it’s the Erovnuli Liga. We’re not a well-spring of brilliant players. (Yet.) I’d like to think that Vasile’s strengths as a libero with an attack duty, will far outweigh his weaknesses. After all, in the defensive phase, we are a ridiculously compact 33310.

It also isn’t like Vasile would be replacing a natural libero in the XI. Quite to the contrary. I played Giorgi Varduashvili as one, because at the time of Giorgi’s arrival he was easily our most effective player in that role.

Don’t get me wrong. Vasile would start for us in the central midfield. But we have strength and depth there, with players who can do the job in the Erovnuli Liga. Playing Vasile as our libero is intended to improve the XI as a whole, given our lack of depth in the back three, allowing Varduashvili to shift into a centerback role and provide depth, more generally, in any of our central defensive and midfield roles.

Worst case scenario, Vasile is an utter disaster as a libero. At which point we just let him run riot as a mezzala.

March 2026.

Cold, hard reality is settling in. We’ve got a long, long ways to go.

Based on these first 6 matches (and our matches against Erovnuli Liga sides, historically), we might have 5 players who are capable of being in the 1st XI for a league-winning side. The standard of play is much better than what we’ve been facing, due in no small part to European cash and established, well-supported sides (relatively).

I’m not entirely sure how we’re sitting mid-table, but we are.

We also have an update regarding season ticket sales — I jumped the gun this year and last. We actually sold 116 season tickets this year, after selling 52 last year.

Finally, of possible interest, the current European coefficients of Georgian clubs:

April 2026.

A remarkable month, easily the best stretch of my tenure. 7 matches unbeaten, up to 2nd in the table. It’s a bit illusory, though, as 5 of those matches have been at the Kvareli Fortress, and our match away to Dila Gori was perhaps the best performance we’ve had. (I haven’t IR’d yet this year, thanks to retraining Vasile State to play as a libero).

The streak will not continue much longer, we’re overmatched. But we’ll take any points we can get.

May 2026.

Our form heading into the summer break for the World Cup is utterly atrocious. 3 straight losses.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased that we’re sitting 4th, but frustrated at dropping points so carelessly. The Torpedo Kutaisi match, in particular.

June 2026 – European Review.

I really dislike the way these things play out in the first 10 years or so of a save, and am just not interested. England are dominant.

June 2026.

A quiet month, with the World Cup kicking off shortly after our scoreless draw away to Lokomotivi Tbilisi. Giorgi Amirani did obtain his Continental B License, though, so I guess that’s something.

Our youth intake preview was rather grim, though:

Play resumed with a 2-nil win over WIT-Georgia in the Davit Kipiani Cup, which was notable for a record attendance of 715, with $8k in gate receipts. Football is back, lads.

July 2026 – World Cup Review.

Unai Emery’s Spain beat Rudi Garcia’s France, 2-1 (aet).

Not particularly exciting, I know. The real fun was Derek McInnes’s Scotland and Rafael Puente’s Mexico reaching the semifinals.

2026 World Cup: Overview | Knockout Rounds

July 2026.

We’ve hit the time of year when contracts are 6 months from expiry, meaning it is time to go shopping. I managed to secure 2 signings at this early juncture, both of whom have the potential to step into our 1st XI right away, with room for growth.

The first player in the door is Luis Lorente, a Spanish/Georgian dual national who came through Gagra’s academy, before moving to Saburtalo. He’s an upgrade on Giorgi Tskhadadze, and my scouts think he has far greater potential.

The second player we’ve signed is Mamuka Chachua, from Tskhinvali. He’ll step right into our back 3, replacing Giorgi Tebidze.

Two players for the future, but ones I’m excited about.

July 2026.

A solid run of matches, sitting 3rd and into the quarterfinals of the Cup for the first time. If we can keep up this form, we’ll be in the mix for a Europa Conference League spot.

Akhobadze is annihilating everyone with the U19s and U21s.  

I’m going to have to give him a run of matches with the first team eventually, aren’t I? 

59 goals and 19 assists, two-thirds of the way through the year. That’s a season, in any league.

He’s too good to be with the youth teams, obviously. But when I look at his attributes, and compare him to Tsivtsivadze and Gegechkori, I’m not at all convinced he belongs with the 1st team. He also isn’t as far off Gegechkori as I expected him to be, but…is he the answer?

August 2026.

A month that started so well, with wins over Saburtalo and away to league-leading Samtredia, ends in horror as we drop points in the league and crash out of the Davit Kipiani Cup at home.

The fourth and final round of matches are set to begin in the Erovnuli Liga. The winner is off the Champions League, but we have no reason to think we’re in that fight. Three spots in the Europa Conference League are up for grabs. One will go to the winner of the Cup — the remaining sides are Saburtalo, Dinamo Batumi, Dila Gori, and second-tier Margveti.

Meaning we need to finish in the top 3.  Getting a foothold in Europe would be a massive boost to our fortunes.  But it is also a big ask, given that we’re: (1) a point behind Lokomotivi Tbilisi (who has a game in hand); and (2) only 6 points clear of a resurgent Dinamo Tbilisi (who has 2 games in hand). The only good news is that Dinamo reached the Europa League Group Stage, and will thus have to fight on two fronts over the run-in​​​​​​​. That modest fixture congestion should give us an advantage, but I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves

September 2026.

We’re dropping points, but so are Dinamo Tbilisi who haven’t won a match in 6 weeks. They’re going to hand us 3rd place, at this rate.

September 2026 – Youth Intake Review.

The less said about this group, the better.

The two best players are Alexandre Jishkariani and Vakhtang Pipia, neither of whom looks even remotely capable of playing a role with the first team.

October 2026.

The media hype is real.

The next day, we host Samtredia while Lokomotivi host Dinamo. A massive day. That turns out to be a damp squib, as both matches finish as scoreless draws. All to play for.

Another scoreless draw closes out our October. We aren’t playing well. But Dinamo continue to drop points. We’re 7 points clear, with 3 matches to play.

November 2026.

We secure third with a win away to Saburtalo on matchday 34. Get your passports out of the drawer, lads. We’re off to the Europa Conference League next summer.

A 5-1 win away to relegated Torpedo Kutaisi caps off a brilliant first year in the Erovnuli Liga.

As good as our year was, however, I’d be remiss if I didn’t loop back to Levan “Goose” Akhobadze, aka the “Georgian Gareth Bale,” who had the most absurd year I’ve ever seen from a U19/21 player.

I can’t take any credit. My U19 and U21 managers ran him ragged. He doesn’t look at that great. But you know what they say. Speed kills. Hence, the nickname.

Based on this campaign, I have no choice. He’ll get his shot with the first team next year, as our backup shadow striker.

Seriously, Levan. Call Kenny Loggins, ’cause you’re in the DANGER ZONE.

2026 Season Review.

We came. We saw. We conquered.

Well, not exactly. We had as good a year as we could have ever hoped for, finishing 3rd and securing a ticket for the Europa Conference League. I figured it would take a year of consolidation before we could truly fight for a European spot, so I’m pleased with how things went.

The big challenge will be continuing to upgrade the squad. As noted above, we’ve already identified 3 players who will join the squad next year — Lorente in goal, Chachua as a centerback, and Levan “Goose” Akhobadze up top. I’d like to add 2-3 more reinforcements, but am not sure if we’ll be able to bring in the quality of player we want. Even with European qualification in hand, we have no transfer budget.

Goals for 2027:  Battle for the Erovnuli Liga title. Not embarrass ourselves in the Europa Conference League.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

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.

4 thoughts on “Smells Like Erovnuli Liga”

    1. He was tremendous! His positioning did not seem to hurt him too much, which is also likely helped by: (1) the overall level of our opponents; and (2) how compact we are at the back in the defensive phase. As expected, he was hyper-aggressive getting forward, which was exactly what I wanted to see from him.

      We had the best defense in the Erovnuli Liga (ironic, seeing as how that is our weakest area of the pitch in terms of players), conceding 27 goals (1 fewer than Lokomotivi Tbilisi).

      Over the course of the season, statistically, he had the highest average rating in the team (7.32), scored 3 goals, and led the team with 12 assists.

      Nearly one year after arriving, with an individual training focus on “defensive positioning” the entire time, his positioning attribute is up to 7:

  1. Thanks. Fascinating. I like liberos (though did so more on earlier versions, pre-FM19) but would never have used one with positioning 5 (or even 7) — but the ratings speak for themselves. What roles/duties were the CBs either side on?

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