Duruji Kvareli – 2022 Open Thread
Let the wine flow, lads. For tonight, we drink. To the future. To new beginnings. To a new day. A new era.
I’ve made promises to the Board that I may not be able to keep. Wild, irresponsible promises… Coupled with bold assertions regarding the parentage and tactical sophistication of various prominent managers, both here in Georgia and abroad.
(Between us, I stand by my critique of Pep Guardiola. His philosophical arguments helped tyrannical regimes justify overt cruelty. Also, he smells and I hate him.)
But what are words, anyways? I don’t think anyone was sober enough to remember what I said. After all, the Board’s expertise in day-drinking is rivaled only by its lack of attention to detail, as demonstrated by our standing in the 5th tier of the Georgian footballing pyramid.
Suffice to say that I have more ambition in my big toe than the Board has between them. So, tonight we will dream of the future, our talk fueled by cheap red wine.
Tomorrow, the hard work begins. The first day of training in this, our new era.
January 2022 – Squad, Club & Georgian Competitions Overview.
The media are equal parts incredulous and indifferent. I, for one, think the media is placing too much emphasis on “experience” and “managerial qualifications.” Idiots.
The Board’s expectations are modest in the extreme, as the media predict a 6th place finish. Let’s be honest. If we’re focused on a top-half finish in the 5th tier in three years’ time, I need to find a new line of work.
The club sits exactly where one would expect — in obscurity. We have 24 players at the club, inclusive of all youth players. We will be playing a strikerless tactic based on PM Krigsherre, one of my early FM20 tactics, which I’ve been tinkering with throughout the beta.[Edit: the final version of this tactic, dubbed PM Draugr, is now detailed in The Long Night Is Coming, And The Dead Come With It.]
Lasha Ratiani is rated highly by my coaching staff. At first glance, he looks like a solid ball-playing defender for this level…but only if you ignore the fact that he’s 5’3″ and weighs 121 pounds (soaking wet), with no vertical reach whatsoever. Lasha has a role to play, but he will need to push forward into our midfield, or wide left to be an inverted wingback.
We have a ready-made libero in Luka Chikobava, a natural pressing forward/centerback.
Overall, it is hard to tell whether this group is good enough to promote…we won’t know until the first ball is kicked in anger.
Structurally, Georgian football runs on a calendar year basis. Starting at the bottom, the Regional League is comprised of 45 teams, split into 4 regionalized groups (Eastern Zone Group A and Group B, Western Zone Group A and Group B), with three rounds of fixtures.
The winner of regionalized group promotes to Liga 4, which which is itself split into two groups — the White Group and the Red Group. The winners of the White and Red Groups promote to Liga 3, which is a unified 10-team group.
In addition to league play, Georgian clubs contest: (1) the Davit Kipiani Cup, a straightforward single-match knockout round format; and (2) the Georgian Super Cup, which serves as the traditional curtain-raiser each February. (Only teams from the top 4 divisions compete in the Davit Kipiani Cup. The Cup used used to begin with include a regionalized group stage for lower level clubs, but 5th tier clubs no longer compete.)
The lads are in fine form through the pre-season. It is hard not to get excited, as they’re only friendlies, but our tactics are clicking as we score goals for fun — the obvious highlights being a 3-2 win over Iberia (a Liga 4 side) and a 4-2 win over Shturmi (who we’ll face in the league).
The real battle begins in one week’s time, as we face Gagra’s reserves for the league opener.
While we missed several of our transfer targets, we did manage to sign Tornike Todua to reinforce our backline. He will start as the right-sided ball-playing defender.
4 matches. 4 wins. A dream start to the campaign. If we keep this up, the Board will have to accept that I was right about the grapefruit.
“Eating that much grapefruit isn’t healthy,” they said.
“It will ruin the plumbing,” they said.
They’ll learn to listen to me, in time. Grapefruit is the Jared Leto of fruit. It is our secret weapon. It cannot be contained. And neither can we.
I’m sorry… In all fairness, that sounded much more badass in my head.
You know what, fellas? About those championship celebrations you’ve been planning… Yeah, let’s put those on ice for the moment. It would be irresponsible — foolish, one might even say — to celebrate after only a handful of matches.
What? Don’t look at me like that. That doesn’t sound like something I’d say.
We’re back in the saddle. 5 straight wins, leading into a top-of-the-table clash with Gldani.
The vast assemblage of consonants taunt me. Laughs at me. Calls me names.
Dirty, dirty Gldani. Hateful place. Hateful, spiteful place. Dirty. Dirty, dirty Gldani.
After their narrow, late win, they had the gall to complain about the state of their changing rooms.
Which raises a number of questions. Most of which revolve around the fact that we don’t have any changing rooms.
Yeah, I don’t know, either.
June 2022 – European Review.
It’s time for our annual glance around Europe…
In the Champions League, Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus knocked off Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, 3-1.
Nuno Espirito Santos’ Wolves beat Leonardo Jardim’s Athletic on penalties in the Europa League.
And, in the Europa Conference League, Galatasaray beat Feyenoord, 1-nil.
And, in the active leagues: Marcelo Bielsa’s Barcelona reclaimed the La Liga title; Klopp’s Liverpool won their 3rd straight Premier League title; Thomas Tuchel’s PS-****ing-G won their 5th straight Ligue 1 title; Pirlo’s Juventus claimed their 11th straight Serie A title; and Hansi Flick’s Bayern claimed their 10th straight Bundesliga title.
A busy month. I’ve begun working on a Continental ‘C’ license, while negotiating contract renewals for most of our 1st XI and promising youth prospects. Our “key” players — a term used in the loosest possible fashion — are tied down through the end of the 2023 campaign.
With the opening of the summer transfer window, I have also been on the hunt for talent. We are the 2nd highest scoring team in the league (and the best defense), but I’ve been highly disappointed with Eimin Jioevi — I think he realizes it. I tell him at least twice per day. He isn’t producing enough. His backup, Beka Burjanadze, has also failed to impress when given a look.
I’ve looked into the transfer market, but the players who are interested are not worth considering. Instead, I’m going to move youngster Rune Brodersen onto the subs bench, and see if he can light a fire under Jioevi.
The Georgian Regional League’s reputation has improved, rising to 358th. I’d like to think I’ve had something to do with that, that the footballing world has taken note of our stylish tactics. No, no…there’s no need to thank me.
There may be further reason for optimism on the horizon. Alexsandre Mukbaniani, our “Head of Youth Development” (a rather grandiose title for a guy who watches underage children run around at the park, I must say) thinks that the incoming youth academy graduates will prove to be a “golden generation.”
I’m trying not to get excited. Alexsandre’s judgment has proven suspect in the past. He’s convinced that the new Starbucks barista is hitting on him, after all. I try to tell him it’s just customer service, “she’s only looking for a tip, you idiot,” but you know how he is…
4 wins from 4 keeps the heat on those snide ****s at Gldani. It is beginning to look like a two-team race for promotion. And while we sit atop the table for now, they have a game in hand.
Fortunately, the ****s at Gldani have also dropped points. We meet them in Tbilisi in 3 weeks, the second of three ties that could determine who gains promotion. A massive match which will set the tone for the final run-in.
Which can only mean one thing — we need to replenish our stockpile of grapefruit, and ensure that the supply lines are not disrupted.
A big night in Tbilisi. Even the floodlights are massive.
So, how do we start it off? By conceding a penalty in the 3rd minute, which Mohamed slots home for his 35th goal of the campaign. We proceed to fluff our chances, and lose 3-1.
The difference between the sides can be chalked up to our respective ruthlessness in front of goal. Jioevi continues to disappoint. Club captain or not, this is his final campaign for Duruji Kvareli.
We sit 4 points off the pace, with 13 matches to play. We will host Gldani on Matchday 39 in what could be the title decider. I make no promises as to what will happen if we have to give them a guard of honor before kickoff.
(I just realized the fixtures screenshots above do not include goalscorers, as intended. The first half of the 2022 campaign can be seen here.)
With 11 matches to play, we’ve set a new team record for goals in a league campaign, with 83. Our defense is relatively solid, 3rd best in the league as of this moment, but still leakier than I would like.
One obvious position where we could stand to improve? Left wingback, where Giorgi Gabrichidze is…our only left wingback. Let’s leave it at that. He’s our poorest-performing player, by nearly every metric. (Our tactics also require a player who is more capable going forward, to combine with the mezzala and inverted winger.)
A series of workman-like performances mean we take maximum points from all 4 matches. Gldani drop points in a 1-1 draw away to Gagra’s reserves, meaning that we sit atop of the table at the end of the month, although our rivals have a game in hand.
October 2022 – Youth Intake Review.
Alexsandre has been talking up this academy class for months. And while they clearly seem to have potential, few look ready to step into the breach.
The most promising players appear to be Kakha Kiladze, Davit Gogoberishvili, Levan Khukhua, Davit Barabadze, and Omar Imedashvili. We’ve signed the entire class. We can’t afford to be picky. In January, we’ll assess who promotes into the senior squad versus who stays with the youth for more seasoning.
The margins are thin. Gldani lose their match in hand (away to Legioni), meaning that we are 1 point clear with 6 matches to play. If we can hold our nerve, we have the advantage.
Squeaky bum time. We each win on Matchday 34, setting up a dramatic finish.
Gldani blink first, losing at home against Alazani. 4 matches to play, we’re 4 points clear and with a much more straight-forward run of matches.
Turn up the Bon Jovi. All we need to do is take care of business, lads.
We claim a hard-fought 3-2 win over Hereti.
The following day, at home to Liakhvi, Gldani fall flat. Again. A 2-nil loss. We’re 7 points clear with 3 matches to play.
At home against Varketili’s reserves, we have a chance to claim the title. Kvelidze goes close from distance in the early minutes, followed by several other missed opportunities. The first 20 minutes are all Duruji.
Gureshidze breaks the deadlock in the 24th minute, assisted by Jioevi who has been restored to the XI for today’s match. A half dozen of our most faithful supporters launch into song, knowing that we’re on the verge of history. The chorus from “Love Shack” is unmistakeable, punctuated by the enthusiastic, gyrating pelvic thrusts of a shirtless Luka — the self-anointed head of their nascent ultras movement, dubbed the Kursha Road Brigade.
Shanidze doubles our lead in the 39th minute — there’s no hope of Luka putting on a shirt now, but his prodigiously hairy back is the least of my concerns. It’s Jioevi’s 2nd assist of the match…an utter shock, given that he’d only contributed 1 prior assist all year.
Before Varketili can catch their breath, Jioevi makes it 3. Finally, a captain’s performance from Eimin…perhaps he thinks he can still earn a new contract, but I’d rather wax Luka’s hairy back than give him an extension. His utter lack of consistent contribution has been a source of constant frustration.
An empathic, 43rd-minute penalty from Beruchashvili is simply salt in the wounds. 4-nil.
In the second half, we refuse to take our foot off the gas. We run out 6-1 winners, behind second half goals from Chikobava and Romelashvili. Total control from the first whistle. The result was never in doubt.
The wine will be flowing at Giglo’s down the road tonight.
Champions of the Georgian Regional League, Eastern Zone Group B — how many managers have got that on their resume?!
November 2022 – Season Review.
A dream campaign concludes with wins over Telavi’s reserves and the ****s at Gldani — a campaign which lived up to all of the wild, irresponsible promises I made to the Board.
The only real concern at this point? That they will expect our success to continue. And that we’ll embarrass ourselves when we step up to Liga 4.
To avoid that, I think we need to add four players to our 1st XI: an advanced playmaker, two new wingbacks, and a centerback. While we have promising youth prospects, we cannot count on any of them to step into the XI next year.
That is a headache for tomorrow, though. One that I fully intend to mask with a hangover-induced headache of epic proportions.
The hard work begins now, lads.
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 Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Levan “Goose” Akhobadze’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave Archive.