Happy New Year and welcome to the latest offerings of my time in Florence. After a dreadful end to our second season I decided that I would make a few changes in the summer and freshen up the squad giving it a more youthful feel by clearing out some of the older players in our ranks see my last post here. I also needed to show both the Fiorentina board and Tifosi that I am still the right man for the job after we chocked when we was on the brink of success last season.
When the fixture computer paired us with an home tie against Juventus on Matchday 1 of the new season a sense of nervousness could be felt on the streets of Florence but we prepared for the game like we would any other and on the morning of the game I announced our line up: Lafont, Adjapong, Mancini, Bastoni, Ranieri, Locattelli, Tonali, Diakhate, Zekhnini, Berardi and Cutrone. This was very much a new start with 8 Italian’s in the starting line up which also had a very youthful feel to it. A completely new back four with Adjapong, Bastoni and Mancini all new signings and Luca Ranieri being promoted from the Under 20 squad. Manuel Locattelli also made his debut in front of the defence in the Half Back role.
Once the game got underway we put pressure on the Old Lady’s backline with Berardi and Zekhnini causing havoc but it was Sandro Tonali who unlocked the door with a defence splitting pass to put Cutrone in to put us 1-0 up after 8 minutes. It’s early days but we are looking good and when Berardi beats his man out wide and whips a ball in to the box Cutrone puts us 2-0 up with just 18 minutes on the clock to send the Viola faithful crazy. Juventus just can’t cope with our gameplay and end the half with a single Ronaldo long range effort that never troubles Lafont in our goal.
The second period gets underway with Abdou Diakhate striking the frame of the goal after good work from Ranieri down the left. Still two goals to the good I decided to bring some fresh legs on with a double change bringing on Benassi and Norgaard for Locattelli and Diakhate. Another long range effort this time from ex Viola player Bernardeschi goes wide to the cheers and jeers of the Franchi crowd as the clock ticks down. Another change to run the the clock down Patrick Cutrone walks off to the admiration of the Viola tifosi to be replaced by Serbian Forward Dejan Joveljic. The referee checks his watch and blows for full time Fiorentina 2-0 Juventus a great start to our campaign.
Matchday 2 and a visit to Bologna produced a 1-1 draw with Cutrone getting on the scoresheet again for us. I was again pleased with the performance after making a few changes to the starting IX with Biraghi, Pezzella and Benassi all coming in to get some good game time.
A 7th minute strike from Domenico Berardi was enough to get all three points after a trip to Scilly to play Palermo. Again another solid performance from the boys and another game under our belts in putting the system together. Much more than just a 1-0 win was that our performance again looked very good.
Matchday 4 saw the visit of Sampdoria to the Franchi and again it was time for me to pick a rotational side with our first Europa League game coming up in 3 days time. Sampdoria were flying high at the top of the table so I expected them giving us a bit of a game and to be honest they did just that with both sides defensive units coming out on top after a 0-0 draw.
Thursday night football in the shape of Europa League Group L and our first group game against FCSB, formerly short for Fotbal Club Steaua București from Romania at the Artemio Franchi. Our good start to the season continued with us going in 2-0 to the good at half-time courtesy of Sandro Tonali and Patrick Cutrone. We looked to take our foot off the gas in the 2nd half without our visitors troubling us and we piled on the misery with three late goals from Diakhate, Norgaard and Gori to round the game off 5-0.
The visit of current Champions Napoli to Florence was the game of the day on Matchday 5 of the Serie A calendar and the first game that Forward Maximiliano Romero would play in the left Insude Forward role for us. It didn’t take the young Argentine to shine in his new role when in the 21st minute he put us 1-0 up after an end to end start. After going in all square 1-1 at the break Napoli’s Dries Mertens put the visitors in front with a stunning finish. A rare Federico Ceccherini goal in the 54th minute put us back on level terms but then disaster struck when Diakhate upends Mertens in the penalty box to give our visitors the chance to win the game late on and a straight red for Diakhate. Milic steps up and coolly puts Napoli in front with 5 minutes to play. This new look Viola don’t go down easily and with the full 90 minutes on the clock Locatelli releases Romero out on the left who passes a square ball in to Berardi who comes inside and dinks a ball over the Napoli back line for Patrick Cutrone to show great composure in sending the Napoli keeper the wrong way to rescue a fantastic point by levelling the game 3-3.
Patrick Cutrone is the man to thank in the next game when he scores another late goal to earn a 1-1 draw in Sardinia against the high flying Cagliari. We stay on the road for our next Serie A game and extend our unbeaten start to the season by beating U.S Sassuolo 4-3 in a pulsating game that saw young left back Luca Ranieri score a brace. The youngster is performing very well and keeping Biraghi on the bench. Our other two goals were scored by Maximiliano Romero who is enjoying his new role out on the left as an Inside Forward.
We started a busy month of October with our second Europa League group game away to Braga in Portugal where we recorded our 2nd win in the group with goals from Romero, Zekhnini and Cutrone in a 3-2 win.
Another three goals and a 3-1 win back at the Franchi against FC Crotone with a double strike courtesy of Domenico Berardi in the first half rounded off in the second half by another Maximiliano Romero goal. With a trip to Milano next I was keen to keep the squad focused during the International break and decided to set up a fixture up between our first team squad who were not on International duty and a mix of under 20 and under 18 players which enabled me to give some of our fringe players a good run out.
Matchday 9 and the trip to face Internazionale in the Meazza provided an entertaining game with both clubs going for the win but having to settle for a 2-2 draw which was a fair reflection of the game. Our goals came courtesy of our midfield with Abdou Diakhate and Alessandro Cortinovis both getting on the scoresheet.
Europa League Matchday 3 and a trip to Slovenia to face NK Domžale ended with a good 3-0 win that puts us in prime position in Group L thanks to goals from Abdou Diakhate, Domenico Berardi and Alessandro Cortinovis. A 1-1 draw in Florence against Genoa followed with Berardi getting on the scoresheet again. I am really pleased with the form of Berardi he is starting to look like the player I thought he was when buying him.
We ended the month with a 6-1 thumping of SPAL in their own backyard extending our run in Serie A to 11 games unbeaten thanks to goals from Cutrone 2, Romero 2, Zekhnini and Tonali. The biggest positive for me is that we are playing good football the way I wanted to from day 1.
It’s always nice to get a system working the way you picture it. It’s each to their own on how you play the game and that’s all that matters but I for one like to build my own system like many others instead of downloading somebody else’s tactic. It’s the best part of the game for me suffering tactical setbacks and working things out so when everything comes together it’s a sense of achievement. I recently watched somebody play with a downloaded tactic at a friends house and honestly the gameplay was short corner after short corner on the highlights with the same ball in to the box for the centre back to nod home. Ok set pieces are part of the game but when both centre backs have both scored double figures and it’s only October, well it’s not for me put it that way.
We kicked November off with a fine display against Udinese who have been a bit of a bogey side to me in Florence but not this time as we came away with a 4-0 win thanks to a brace from Patrick Cutrone and strikes from both Berardi and Romero. The following Thursday we secured our place in the Europa League knockout stage with a convincing 5-0 win against Donzale with Maximiliano Romero 2, Abdou Diakhate, Domenico Berardi and Luca Ranieri amongst the goals.
Serie A Matchday 13 took us to Bergamo to face Marcelo Bielsa and his Atalanta side and it was an excellent game for the neutral that saw Patrick Cutrone rescue a point for us at the death with Domenico Berardi netting our other goal in a 2-2 draw. We followed up this result with a 2-0 win in the Franchi against a struggling Venezia thanks to goals from Maximiliano Romero and Christian Nørgaard.
A Thursday night trip to Romania produced a five star performance hitting our hosts Steaua București for five in a 5-0 win that saw our squad players get a good run out. Christian Nørgaard, Marco Benassi, Alessandro Cortinovis, Gabrielle Gori and Rafik Zekhnini all getting on the scoresheet.
A trip to Rome saw our unbeaten start to the season come to an end with Lazio beating us by a single goal after an entertaining game that saw both sides go all out for a win. How we didn’t score is baffling after hitting the woodwork no less than four times. I suppose our run had to come to an end at some point and Lazio are a dangerous side sat just behind Milan in the table.
Serie A Table 2020-2021
I am really pleased that the board offered me a three year contract extension that will keep me at the club until 2024. I would very much like to repay the boards faith in me by delivering a title for them within this time frame.
I am over the moon with our performances so far this season after struggling at the end of last season. I won’t pretend last seasons finish was difficult to take for the club and it cast a doubt over my reign at the club with some fans on the Social Media platform showing venting thier frustration. I decided at the end of the season that it was time to shake things up a bit and freshen the squad up. We now have an average age of 23 the lowest in Italy.
After fifteen League games we find ourselves in third place in the table and I have a good feeling about the season. My main focus is the league so I will be prioritising our Serie A campaign over Europe and the Coppa. I know it’s only the end of November but already I am planning ahead for next season in terms of our 1st team squad. You can never tell what’s ahead in terms of players leaving due to bids coming in for them but with the use of squad depth and transfer target lists.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you will return to see how our season pans out.