Fiorentina finally made a decision they probably should’ve already acknowledged over the summer and sacked Vincenzo Montella. There were several candidates to revive the Viola, including Gennaro Gattuso and Luciano Spalletti, but ultimately the job went to Beppe Iachini. At first glance, it’s not exactly an upgrade.
Last season, Montella took over from Stefano Pioli with seven games to go and although he still managed to save Fiorentina from relegation on the final day of the campaign, his side amassed only two discouraging points. The 45-year-old received yet another chance when American billionaire Rocco Commisso bought the club from the unpopular Della Valle family. A new era seemed to take shape under fresh ownership – Commisso promised to keep star player Federico Chiesa and was warmly welcomed by the Viola faithful, while Montella was given the opportunity to shape the squad according to his calcio principles.
Now at almost the midway point of this season, Fiorentina collected only four wins, are once again in real danger of relegation, while the team’s tactical displays are only a shadow of Montella’s innovative methodology from his first stint at the Stadio Franchi. At that time, he guided them to three consecutive fourth-place finishes and reached the semi-final of the 2014-15 Europa League, only to be eliminated by defending and eventual winners Sevilla, a team he would coach before returning to Fiorentina.
Back then, his Viola team topped possession statistics in Serie A, dominating in midfield with intelligent and technically gifted players like Borja Valero, Alberto Aquilani and David Pizarro. His men were constantly in control of the game, leaving few spaces for counter-attacks to their opponents. Their first year together saw Fiorentina score 72 goals, one more than champions Juventus and one fewer than Edinson Cavani’s Napoli – an exceptional performance for a young coach at a club with limited financial resources.
That was the dawn of a promising career, offering Montella genuine opportunities, initially by being awarded the Milan bench, with whom he won his first trophy – the Supercoppa Italiana, later moving to Sevilla and guiding them to a Copa del Rey final and a historic quarter-final in the Champions League after defeating Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
But even here the little airplane didn’t manage to fly for too long, being sent away at the end of the season due to a poor finish in La Liga. Together with the latest dismissal from Fiorentina, that makes three consecutive sackings for Montella.
Similar to Oscar Wilde’s never-completed play ‘A Florentine Tragedy’, the drama around the Viola club is utterly chronic: as sympathetic a gentleman as Montella was, he had to leave because the results just weren’t there.
L’Aeroplanino will now clear the skies for Giuseppe Iachini, a former Fiorentina midfielder and an experienced tactician in the Serie B circuit. During his coaching career, the 55-year-old gained promotion to the top flight with four different teams, although he never managed to stick for too long with them in Serie A.
Iachini’s most remarkable spell would probably be the one with Sampdoria, when in November 2011 he took a depressed team at the bottom of the league to eventually win the promotion play-offs. Iachini’s other adventures in Serie A include Sassuolo, when he took the Neroverdi from relegation contenders to an 11th-place finish, while his most recent work was last year with Empoli, although he eventually got the sack.
It's not reassuring for Fiorentina fans, but then the other available alternatives weren’t much better. Gigi Di Biagio failed to get one of the best Italy Under-21 teams in recent memory beyond the group stage of the European Championship when hosting the tournament. Cesare Prandelli would’ve been a return to the Stadio Franchi, but like Montella, he’d had more disasters than triumphs since leaving Tuscany.
Aside from his Fiorentina past and proven experience in dealing with delicate situations, Iachini is more of a defensive coach, known for his rigid organisation at the back – something this Viola team has undoubtedly been missing. He is most famous for his ever-present baseball cap, but this is no affectation. Iachini wears it because of a medical condition meaning his eyes are very sensitive to light.
With some reinforcements from the winter market (see Patrick Cutrone’s rumoured loan move) and a proven motivator guiding them, this group can still prove its worth.