Despite losing 2-1 to Inter, Fiorentina should be satisfied with their efforts so far in the new Serie A season. Currently sitting in joint fourth place, the Viola look on course to play a serious part in the race for Europe. Finishing in fifth or sixth spot will meet the club’s objective in qualifying for the Europa League, however, the way the Tuscan club has performed so far suggests that a top-four finish is not impossible.
With the Serie A season still in its infancy, this Fiorentina side – boasting French youngsters, Latino flair and an Italian prospect – is playing some exhilarating and effective football. And even though the Firenze side has suffered two defeats against Napoli and Inter, the two losses have shown encouraging signs that this youthful side will cause havoc for the top Italian teams. In the end, Scudetto challengers Napoli and Inter (dubbed as the anti-Juve) could only beat the Viola by a lone goal. But, three victories, a draw and two defeats after six rounds is a lively start for the Gigliati.
After finishing the last two Serie A seasons in eighth place, Fiorentina will seek to recapture European football once again. There has been little hype like this surrounding the Viola since the 2014-15 team – packed with talent such as Mohamed Salah and Juan Cuadrado – that took Serie A and Europe by storm.
Playing European football has been a requirement for Fiorentina in previous seasons, particularly when the club boasted Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi up front – guiding the team to two successive fourth-place finishes. And with the current team containing talented starlets, there is a belief that the Tuscan side can claim the fourth position once again, however this time to qualify for the Champions League.
If there was one individual who could’ve turned Fiorentina around, especially after the underwhelming 2016-17 campaign and the tragic circumstances last season, it would have been Stefano Pioli. After spending six years with the Viola during his playing days, the 52-year-old manager understands what the fans of Florence expect from their team’s performances. Pioli may have had a turbulent start with the Purple army last season, but his ability to unite the players after the loss of Davide Astori and go on a tremendous run of form in the latter stages of the season was inspirational. And it looks like that strength and unity among the squad has carried over to this season.
One thing Pioli has done well so far at Fiorentina is the faith he has placed in youth – the average age of a player roughly around 23. There is a sense of optimism that these youngsters – reminiscing Fiorentina legends such as Giancarlo Antognoni, Enrico Chiesa and Gabriel Batistuta – will delight the fans of Florence with their captivating skills this season.
While it was an achievement to keep transfer targets Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone in the summer, new arrivals Edimilson Fernandes, Gerson, Marko Pjaca and Kevin Mirallas have been some intriguing additions to the midfield and attacking areas.
It seems like the 4-3-3 formation Pioli is currently utilising is the ideal option for Fiorentina to display its true attacking identity. The trident formed by Chiesa, Simeone and Pjaca is exciting to watch, notably when the midfield containing Marco Benassi, Jordan Veretout and Gerson are firing on all cylinders. Right and left-backs Cristiano Biraghi and Nikola Milenkovic have also been instrumental to the Viola’s attack – providing extra threats from crosses and set-pieces.
The defence is also starting to become solid with Vitor Hugo and German Pezzella forming a formidable partnership in the centre-back positions. While the Gigliati’s attack is pleasant on the eye, it looks like Pioli has now established the appropriate balance between the team’s defending and attack.
As Juventus and Napoli look to distance themselves from the rest of the top half Serie A challengers, it presents Fiorentina with a stellar opportunity to fight for that third or fourth spot. With Roma, Milan and Inter all having slow starts, the Viola can capitalise on their Italian competitor’s inconsistencies. And while the relationship between the Fiorentina players, fans and coaching staff seems to grow stronger, the Stadio Artemio Franchi is rapidly becoming a fortress for the Gigliati.
Fiorentina can solely focus on domestic football this campaign, pouncing when their rivals – competing in European competition – become fatigued in the latter stages of the season. However, the Viola will have to emulate their fine home form when they travel around the Italian peninsula.