The sky is the limit for Fiorentina’s new No 10, but expectations must be tempered. While a clinical brace against Udinese confirmed that Gaetano Castrovilli has become the reference point in Florence, an unconvincing team display casts further doubt on La Viola’s European ambitions. There are evident issues in defense and attack, and they must be resolved in order for the second season of the Rocco Commisso era to be deemed a success.
A quick glance at the goalscoring charts would suggest that it is unfair to criticise Fiorentina for a lack of firepower. The Tuscan outfit’s 10 goals are tied for 7th-best in the division, with five of those strikes coming in their last two matches. Nevertheless, they are struggling to create chances for center-forwards Dusan Vlahovic and Christian Kouame, who have each found the back of the net once. Vlahovic was preferred to the Ivorian against Le Zebrette, but he was on the fringes throughout at the Artemio Franchi.
Vlahovic and Kouame are still rough around the edges, but their difficulties so far have more to do with Beppe Iachini’s tactical preferences than any technical deficiencies. The former Palermo boss’ favored 3-5-2 formation focuses on probing down the flanks, with wing-backs Cristiano Biraghi and Pol Lirola functioning as crucial outlets going forward. In addition, the likes of Franck Ribery, Jose Callejon and Castrovilli all prefer to pick up possession in wide areas.
Although a lack of production from La Viola’s two promising front men has been temporarily overshadowed by Castrovilli’s rise, it is unlikely that the Italian international can maintain his stunning form in front of goal for the entirety of the campaign. The Bari youth product has already surpassed the three goals that he registered last year, while he got on the scoresheet only five times over 62 appearances in Serie B.
A dip in collective attacking efficiency is surely coming at some point. Five of the Gigliati’s last six shots on target have gone in, and such a ratio is not sustainable for long. The expected drop in offensive output would be more easily absorbed, however, if Iachini’s troops can regain the defensive solidity that made them such a tough nut to crack this past summer.
The backbone of that stingy rearguard was the imposing trio of Nikola Milenkovic, German Pezzella and Martin Caceres. Yet, it seems that father time has finally caught up with the latter, who no longer has the requisite pace to tussle with the peninsula’s paciest customers. Repeated lapses in concentration have only compounded matters, with recent purchase Lucas Martinez Quarta a logical replacement.
That changing of the guard will not happen right away after Pezzella picked up an ankle injury on Sunday, but Fiorentina must find a way to tighten up regardless of whether their captain is present or not. With plans for a new stadium continuing to stall despite Commisso’s best efforts, it is imperative that progress is made on the field if the Mediacom tycoon is to turn this historic institution into consistent top of the table contenders. Holding onto Castrovilli for as long as possible will help in that aim, but a recognition of this proud club’s current limitations will be equally important.