Coppa Italia: Semi-final / Team rating: [3/10] / Top scorer: Marco Benassi (7) / Europe: N/A
What was once a season of hope ended with disappointment, as Fiorentina barely avoided relegation, writes Philippe Hitti.
After finishing their 2017-2018 Serie A campaign in eighth place, the club was going into this season with high hopes of fighting for a European place. Their project was finding stability under Stefano Pioli for a second consecutive year. The mix of established leaders in the locker room and some exciting young players like Federico Chiesa, Giovanni Simeone and Nikola Milenkovic was a sign that the future was bright for Fiorentina. Plus the addition of some young pieces last summer like French goalkeeper Alban Lafont and ex-Juventus winger Marko Pjaca gave hope to all Viola fans that this was going to be a thrilling season.
The first half didn’t really live up to the expectations, as they finished in 10th place, still only three points behind the European places, because of the lack of consistency in their performances. But in the Coppa Italia they managed to eliminate Torino and then crush Roma 7-1 in order to book a place in the semi-final against Atalanta. At that point, Pioli’s place was safe and the addition of Luis Muriel in the winter transfer window reassured fans of the club’s intentions.
After going on a seven-game winless run, the club released a statement criticising the squad, the Coach and their performances. This pushed Pioli to resign in early April, stating that it was due to lack of support and faith from the Viola management, and that his professional and human abilities had been questioned.
The club acted swiftly and replaced him with ex-Viola Coach Vincenzo Montella, who was waiting for a chance to prove himself again after being sacked from Milan and Sevilla last year.
That was the turning point in the season when Fiorentina went from disappointing to downright appalling. The team never registered a win under Montella, lost the Coppa Italia semi-final to Atalanta and only scored one goal in seven Serie A games.
Following this 14-game competitive winless run (seven under Pioli), Fiorentina had the humiliation of going into the final round against Genoa with neither side safe from the drop. Both of them ultimately had to thank Inter for scraping a 2-1 win over Empoli, because their 0-0 draw gave very little evidence as to why either of them deserved to stay in Serie A.
The Della Valle brothers put the club up for sale after 17 years, as the peace with ultras was destroyed by their treatment of Pioli.
The Coach: Stefano Pioli and Vincenzo Montella
Pioli was such a rock for Fiorentina and their players during the tragedy of losing Davide Astori, to see him treated so badly by the club hierarchy was shameful. His results weren’t even that bad, especially compared to his replacement. Montella saw out the season with just one goal scored in seven league games, no wins, five consecutive losses and a Coppa Italia semi-final elimination.
Player of the Year: Federico Chiesa
The 21-year-old is the most valuable commodity on the Italian transfer market and one of the few bright spots in La Viola’s season. Scoring six goals and providing three assists, plus six Coppa Italia goals, they would’ve been in far worse condition without his efforts.
Highlight: Fiorentina 7-1 Roma
Not only did the Viola go into this Coppa Italia quarter-final as underdogs, they emerged with an historic result. Never had they managed to score seven goals in a single Coppa tie, with new signing Luis Muriel on target and Federico Chiesa hat-trick.
Nightmare: Nervous ending
Fiorentina had been in the fight for European places not that long before, so to go into the final weekend knowing they were in a do-or-die relegation showdown with Genoa was utterly humiliating. It was the moment that finally convinced the Della Valle brothers to sell up and move on.
Did You Know?
- Fiorentina managed only 41 points, their worst tally since Serie A returned to 20 teams, beating the previous record of 42 in 2004-05.
- The team won two competitive matches by scoring at least six goals, 6-1 vs Chievo and 7-1 vs Roma.
- The Viola had four different 3-3 thrillers this term, against Sassuolo, Sampdoria, Inter and Atalanta between Serie A and Coppa Italia.