With the pre-season talking complete, the action on the pitch played out generally as expected. Juventus continued their unbeaten run as Inter impressed on the Adriatic coast. Roma provided highlights, but Milan struggled. One side tipped to do well and challenge for Europe after an intriguing summer was Fiorentina. If Week 1 was any indication, Vincenzo Montella’s side will be one to watch.
The sight of a sweat-laden Andrea Della Valle swaying in delight as Stevan Jovetic netted a wonderfully crafted injury-time winner was indicative of the feeling at the club at present. “Finally we saw entertaining football again. I am happy for everyone at the club, as after months of sacrifices we really needed a game like this,” declared Della Valle.
The patron and his brother Diego had been left frustrated by their inability to turn plans for a new stadium into bricks and steel. Repeated talks with the local council amounted to little. Their malaise trickled down to the pitch. After Cesare Prandelli’s departure in 2010, performances suffered.
Last vestiges of the old era – Alessandro Gamberini and Riccardo Montolivo amongst them – departed in the summer, but the Viola reinforced accordingly. New acquisitions Emiliano Viviano, David Pizarro, Borja Valero, Facundo Roncaglia and Gonzalo Rodriguez all started on Saturday. Fellow signings Juan Cuadrado, Alberto Aquilani and Mounir El Hamdaoui made substitute debuts.
Utilising a 3-5-2 system, Fiorentina controlled possession from the off against the Friulani. Valero and Pizarro were impressive and together with Romulo controlled the midfield. Manuel Pasqual offered a constant and dangerous outlet on the left-hand side. So much was their dominance – especially after the interval – that had goalkeeper Viviano taken a few steps back to stand in the Curva Fiesole as he did growing up, it would have made little difference.
However, for all Fiorentina’s ability with the ball, Udinese fashioned a rare chance and took the lead. At the other end, without a true No 9 the Viola’s neat interplay lacked any thrust inside the penalty area. Jovetic and Adem Ljajic aided the aesthetics, but at times were in each other’s way. Montella’s men were frustrated time and again until a slice of luck saw Jovetic’s shot deflect off Danilo and loop over Zeljko Brkic. His last-gasp winner was a relief after it looked as if their dominance would equate to no more than a point.
It is by no means a desperate situation. Jovetic showed his scoring prowess last term with 14 goals in 27 games and with only days left in the transfer window Della Valle is adamant the Montenegrin will remain. “Jovetic? Of course he will stay.” Juventus’ latest offer this week, of €30m, has been rejected.
Yet Montella is hoping to have one more striker at his disposal by Friday. “I would like to have a centre-forward with specific characteristics in the box.” Marco Borriello, Nicklas Bendtner and Dimitar Berbatov have been discussed as possible targets. While offering different attributes to the current crop, none are clinical finishers. Nonetheless, playing alongside Jovetic and with their creative midfield fashioning openings, it would add a dangerous dynamic for opposition defences.
After their first-up win Fiorentina face another test, this time away at Napoli. Montella is stressing vigilance. “We are at the start and must not rest on our laurels.” It will also offer an indication as to whether their ball-playing midfield can dominate proceedings against a similarly technical opponent. It may be just one week into a long campaign and despite the caution urged, early signs are positive. When it’s all said and done, the pre-season predictions may well come true.