There are few statements in football more foolish and futile than telling someone their side is "too good to go down". The story of Serie A is littered with teams which appeared to have too much quality to drop into the Second Division. Fiorentina fans know to their cost how painful such an assumption can be.
Results at the weekend have put the Viola just four points above a resurgent Lecce and their formline is more depressing than a medley of Tom Waits' love songs. Away from home, in particular, they have proved a feeble force. They average about a goal every four-and-a-half hours on the road in Serie A. In truth, it has sometimes felt like longer than that.
History has to serve as a warning to this current party of purple players. The Tuscan side were relegated in the early 90s and at the start of the new millennium. They won't want to make it third time unlucky this campaign.
Back in 1992-93 it was the sacking of Gigi Radice which was the catalyst to disaster. The Florentines were sitting near the top end of the table when he was shown the door to be replaced by ultra-opinionated TV pundit Aldo Agroppi. Their results went into a death slide from which they never recovered.
That side contained some names which may well sound familiar to you. A young Gabriel Batistuta chipped in his usual haul of goals but to no avail. International players like Francesco Baiano, Stefan Effenberg and Brian Laudrup were also part of the squad. With the more workmanlike abilities of future Coaches Beppe Iachini and Stefano Pioli in the set-up, they looked like a side capable of comfortably staying afloat. They were not.
It was a different story in 2001-02 where the financial disaster of the Cecchi Gori era was in full effect. Key players had gone and yet they still boasted household names like Angelo Di Livio, Enrico Chiesa, Predrag Mijatovic, Nuno Gomes and an up-and-coming on-loan Inter hitman named Adriano. If you add in Alex Manninger, Daniele Adani, Moreno Torricelli, Domenico Morfeo, Angelo Palombo and Paolo Vanoli it sounds like a decent side. It was not.
Which brings us to the present-day team and its cast list. Stevan Jovetic stands head and shoulders above the rest but, as the weekend loss to Lazio showed, he can't carry the team all the time. Too many of the other ‘stars’ have their heads elsewhere.
Riccardo Montolivo's mind is on a move, Juan Manuel Vargas has been distracted by family problems and Alessio Cerci has run into trouble as often as he has opposition defenders. It means that wherever you look on the pitch there are headaches to be dealt with. Delio Rossi has been scrabbling through the drawers looking for any paracetamol left by Sinisa Mihajlovic.
Among the new faces, too, there has been little good to report. Of the summer signings, only Mattia Cassani escapes with pass marks with Santiago Silva and Gianni Munari already despatched to pastures new. Brazilian wide-man Romulo has featured rarely and Andrea Lazzari has looked like a stick of rock with the word ‘journeyman’ stamped right through him. Houssine Kharja's biggest input has been to train ticket sales between Florence and Milan. Not really the stuff needed to start a new golden age.
And January also brought cold comfort. The collapse of the Mounir El Hamdaoui transfer from Ajax left the winter deals looking a little thin on the ground. In came hitman Amauri who has worked hard, but so far failed to deliver a striker's most precious commodity – goals. And Ruben Olivera's cameo has been almost comical. He was suspended when he signed, played less than a full fixture, and is now banned again. As contributions go, it has been about as much use as a Rolex made out of a popular confectionery product.
The rest of the current squad is a mixed bunch of young hopefuls like Matja Nastasic and Amidu Salifu, under-achievers such as Felipe, Lorenzo De Silvestri and Adem Ljajic, and solid names like Artur Boruc, Alessandro Gamberini, Valon Behrami and Manuel Pasqual. Even just reading the names, the case for automatic salvation gets a little less compelling.
A crumb of comfort comes from some of the home games still in store for Rossi's men. Cesena, Chievo, Novara, Cagliari and poor-travelling Palermo still have to visit Florence this season, but it will need four wins out of five from those fixtures to reach the magical 40 point target that generally guarantees survival. Otherwise, they will have to get wins or draws outside of Florence or against a big name to ensure their place in Serie A.
If the supposed ‘stars’ who make this side better than those around them stand up and be counted, they can comfortably avoid the drop. However, question marks remain about the commitment of many of them to the cause. The fiery footballing Hell of Serie B can still be side-stepped by the Viola, but they will need to hurry up and get into action. The familiar flames of yesteryear are now licking at their feet.