With Roma and Napoli’s title hopes yet again dented by Juventus, Fiorentina must attempt to assert themselves into Serie A’s top three, writes George Rinaldi.
In what will be the 90th professional season for Fiorentina, the highest European level of football is still just a dream. Back when the millennium occurred, La Viola were rubbing shoulders with Champions League elite sides, securing momentous performances against Arsenal and Manchester United. Following club turmoil and more than one relegation to Serie B, it seems times are changing for the Tuscan club.
The Scudetto is not the target, nor should it be. Juventus are streaks ahead in terms of player personnel, Coach and in how the club is run. However, with Miralem Pjanic exiting Roma and Gonzalo Higuain also following suit from Napoli, this could be the perfect time for them to grab a hold of those two teams who reside above them.
With Inter and Milan unable to get a true grip on proceedings, Paulo Sousa must be expectant of something to change this time around. Vincenzo Montella departed, leaving the new Portuguese Coach experiencing a lot of hostility from the Curva Fiesole. Instead, they topped the table for the first time since 1999, but eventually fell away to a rather expected fifth place. A poor performance at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur ended any hopes of repeating their semi-final success a couple of seasons prior.
The transition is done though, Sousa has been here for 12 months and understands what is expected of him. But how can progress be made with little transfer activity?
Many supporters are rightly agitated, but definitely not confused as to why this is occurring. Andrea Della Valle lacks ambition when it comes to bringing in players, with the outlier being the additions of Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi. That, as many well know, turned out to be the most underwhelming transfers due to recurring injuries.
Only Davide Astori’s confirmation of becoming a 100 per cent Fiorentina player brought some smiles, but the likes of Bartlomiej Dragowski and Kevin Diks are too inexperienced to get excited over. The massive bonus is that both Josip Ilicic and Nikola Kalinic are still wearing purple.
Long-term Fiorentina full-back and former captain Manuel Pasqual moved to Empoli for free, while Jose Basanta and Facundo Roncaglia also left their defensive obligations. Rafal Wolski, a truly pointless signing, has departed after three loan spells away from the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Unless there is serious movement made to bring in the right players, such as more prominent defenders, there could be a decline in Fiorentina’s consistent fourth/fifth placed finishes. With Roma and Napoli losing out on their star men, it is a must for Sousa’s side to close on their level of competitiveness with Champions League qualification.
The Portuguese Coach did well to announce himself onto the scene despite unrest with supporters during his appointment. The 4-1 victory over Inter and topping of the Serie A table brought much needed joy, but if he isn’t properly backed in the transfer market they’ll be no change to their success.
Hit the ground running with his goal-scoring last season and will not want to be just a one-hit wonder. With Ilicic in support there should still be an influx of goals from the Croatian, who also had a decent Euro 2016.
Not much to say on this front currently. Astori is a smart buy to make sure he is completely owned by Fiorentina. Having lost a couple of defenders already, it was a must to retain the Italian. Experience will prove vital this season.
The 22-year-old was given the nod by then-Coach Antonio Conte at Euro 2016. Played out a poor 60 minutes versus Republic of Ireland, but at his young age the experience will be vital. Quick turn of place with a good cross, his chance will come under the new man Giampiero Ventura.
The key man thus far who failed to sign on the dotted line was Ramadan Sobhi. The talented young winger who derives from Egypt would have slotted in perfectly to aid Bernardeschi, but elected to sign for Stoke City instead.
Tatarusanu; Tomovic, Rodriguez, ASTORI, Alonso; Valero, Badelj; Zarate, Ilicic, Bernardeschi; Kalinic