Welcome to the second part of The Viola Story, On taking over the club I decided that I needed to strengthen my backroom staff in the way of specialised coaching so I added the following coaches to the club. Sergio Volpi, Paolo Tomasoni, Pasquale Rocco, Anti Niemi and Ivan Zauli. I am very pleased with these additions as they are key to me teaching the Juego De Posicion philosophy at the club.
Next on the agenda was to look at player recruitment, again I wanted to make a move in the transfer market early on and signed Brazilian 16 year old Lincoln from Gremio who will join us in January 2017. Next I signed Serbian Andrija Zivkovic from Partizan, the 19 year old will go straight in to the first team squad along with my 3rd and final signing Italian 22 year old midfielder Marc0 Fossati who joins us from Cagliari of Serie B. Hopefully all 3 will become pivotal in the future of the club.
The board sent me a reminder of their expectations for the season ahead.
Pre-Season went well with us giving valuable game time to most of our first team squad, I have kept faith with the shape which I evolved to during my Ajax days, early signs in pre season looked good as the squad set about playing some attractive football based on clever movement around the pitch which gives us quick transitions.
So after a good pre season it was time to kick off our Serie A campaign at the Artemio Franchi our home in Florence against Sampdoria which saw us win 2-1 with goals from Babacar and Bernardeschi in a game which we always looked in control despite a Second half Sampdoria goal. Next was the game that I call the ‘battle of Turin’ against Juventus which ended in a 1-1 draw with Tino Costa netting our goal in a bad tempered game which had 3 red cards including 2 for us after both Tino Costa and Davide Astori got their marching orders. We battled our way to a valuable point against the title favourites which pleased me to see that we have got a fighting spirit. Internazionale visited us next in what turned out to be a very entertaining 1-1 draw, Babacar scoring our goal. We then had two back to back defeats against Udinese 1-2 and Napoli 1-3 these two games made me question my system because we lost them both with very poor performances, former Fiorentina player Rui Costa spoke to the press and put pressure on me to turn the poor performances around questioning my position at the club. So what do I do I found myself thinking for 2 days solid about both games which I watched in detail searching for answers to an endless list of questions running through my head,is Rui Costa right could the board be ready to show me the door after just 2 months in charge with 1 win in 5. I was feeling the pressure and signs that the dressing room were not happy and then the penny dropped, I had to keep the faith in our system but change our training schedule to concentrate on our defence. What happened over the next 12 games is nothing short of superb, we have had 10 clean sheets in a 12 game run that as seen us win 10 and draw 2 scoring 23 goals with only 2 against which as taken us to 2nd in the league just 3 points behind leaders Juventus. It all started with a 4-0 win (Kallinic 2, Tello, Zivkovic) at Frosinone follwed by a 3-0 win at home to 6th placed Atalanta which took us up to 6th in the table on the back of goals from Tello and Babacar with an own goal sandwiched in between. Verona away proved to be more tricky than we thought but we returned to Florence with goals from Kallinic and Vecino and a battling 2-0 win. We prepared for a visit from our Roman rivals high flying AS Roma carrying injuries to 4 players Astori,Babacar,Kallinic and Zivkovic. We put in a performance to be proud of in the Artemio Franchi with a goal in each half from captain Pasqual and Tello giving us all 3 points and a 2-1 win. Confidence and morale was up, the board were pleased and we continued our run with 2 goals from a returning Babacar against Genoa in a 2-0 away win. Next we played out a 0-0 draw against Torino who gave us a run for our money. The San Siro would be our next stage against Sinisa Mihajlovic’s AC Milan were we collected all 3 points in a 1-0 win after a Jakub Blaszcykowski solo goal in first half injury time. Empoli up next and a 4-0 win Rodriguez,Valero and a brace from Bernardeschi put us in 2nd place in the standings. Jakub Blaszcykowski was our match winner at U.S Sassuolo, another 1-0 win and the squad making me proud. In to December and struggling Carpi were on the end of a 3-1 win for us with on form Jakub Blaszcykowski netting a brace after Babacar opened the lead in a game which we put to bed in the first half. Palermo was the setting for a Borja Valero strike and another 3 points after a spirited effort from a struggling Palermo side. Last game before the winter break saw us draw 0-0 away at Bologna which rounds off a very good first half of our Serie A season.
The Battle Of Turin
Serie A Results
Serie A Table
We have had a poor European campaign, we were drawn alongside Marsielle, Southampton and Krasnodar in a group which I thought we could do well in however we opened up with a 1-1 draw with Nikola Kallinic scoring a late equaliser for us after playing most of the game with 10 men after Davide Astori got his marching orders for 2 quick yellow cards. James Ward Prowse gave Southampton a 1-0 win in our own back yard. We visited France and Olympique Marsielle in a game I felt we needed to win to have any chance of progressing but we went down 2-3 in the Velodrome despite looking the best side on the night, Rodriguez and Babacar got our goals. The return against Marsielle proved to be frustrating for us we lost 0-1 and any hope of making the knockout round. We beat Krasnodar 3-0 with goals from Zivkovic,Costa and Fernandez and then ronded off with an entertaining 3-3 draw at St.Mary’s against Southampton goals from Babacar, Blaszcykowski and Mati Fernandez. So we have crashed out of Europe with 3 defeats out of our 6 games.
Both our other squads are doing well in their respective Leagues which is very pleasing because we have sent some of our top prospects out on loan to give them valuable first team experience.
That ends my update I think you will agree its been a very interesting first half to the season with the highlight being our league position and the low point being eliminated from European Football at the first hurdle. I am now looking to the transfer window with a view to terminating the loans of both Yohan Benalouane and Panagiotis Kone and possibly bringing in a couple of players either on loan or permanent to bolster our squad for the run in. The second half of the season will see me continue to develop here in Florence and hopefully get a new contract that will give both myself and the club stability and a platform to build on.