Florence And The Goal Machine (4.2) Smoke On The Water 2021-2022

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Welcome to the latest post tracking my managerial career at Fiorentina. Our fourth season together has ended so it’s time to take a look at how things have panned out since the winter update. The last update ended with us on joint points with a Guardiola rejuvenated Juventus at the top of the table and a mouth-watering Champions League knockout clash against Tottenham Hotspurs to look forward too.

Results 2021-2022 

January 2022 

A stunning 3-1 victory against Juventus in the Franchi is were we resume our update and what a performance from the Viola sweeping aside our big rivals to take the top spot in Serie A.

Sandro Tonali was outstanding and a constant thorn in the Old Lady’s side. Our front three of Zekhnini, Cutrone and Rollheiser got the goals but it was Tonali who lived up to his growing reputation.

Next up was the Super Cup Final against Napoli and José Mourinho who on previous FM releases is what you could call my nemesis and it looked like it was going to continue after a lack lustre first half saw us going in at the break trailing 0-1 courtesy of a Milk strike. We needed something different in the second half to break down Mourinho’s low block so I decided on a slight tweak and changed our horizontal shape from narrow to wide and took Complete Forward Cutrone off and replaced him with Dejan Joveljic who would play the False 9 role.

My idea was to try and stretch the Napoli backline whilst the False Nine could hopefully create a space by pulling the centre backs out of position for Cortinovis  (Mezzala) and Diakhate  (Box To Box Midfielder) the space to run in to which worked a treat when Cortinovis won a penalty after being up ended by Koulibaly. Domenico Berardi stepped up and dispatched the spot kick to level the game 1-1 with 53 minutes on the clock.

With the Neopolitans still reeling from the equaliser Dejan Joveljic beat the offside trap to show great composure in putting us 2-1 up just one minute after we had drawn level. Napoli now had to come out and look for an equaliser which gave us the space to exploit their backline and when Diakhate crashed an effort against the upright it was clear that Napoli were on the ropes.  But it was Joveljic’s 54th minute strike that was to decide the game and give us our 2nd piece of silverware.

Wins against Empoli (2-1), Chievo (2-1) and Lazio (2-0) ensured we ended January at the top of the table.

February 2022

More cup action this time it was the Coppa Italia Semi Final 1st leg against Genoa in Florence on a wet Tuesday evening. A goal in each half from Domenico Berardi and Nicolo Barella gave us a well deserved 2-0 win that puts one foot in to the final.

The visit of Milan to the Franchi was the weekends highlight in Serie A and it was the visitors who claimed all three points after a solid performance. Dejan Joveljic scored a late consolation goal in the closing moments of a 1-2 defeat.

Champions League 1st knockout round action next and a trip to London to face Premier League Tottenham Hotspurs were we got off to a flying start when Caglar Soyuncu turned the ball in to his own net under pressure from Berardi in just the third minute of the game. Things didn’t get any better for our hosts when both Abdou Diakhate and Domenico Berardi put us 3-0 up within the first 20 minutes of the game. Spurs pulled a goal back through Harry Kane before the break but Patrick Cutrone put the game to bed with an accurate finish on the hour. Spurs grabbed a late goal but we came away from the new Tottenham Stadium with a 4-2 win to take in to the return leg.

Matchday 25 in Serie A saw us go to Udine and battle hard for a 0-0 draw against Udinese who languishing in the lower region of the table. I had made a few changes that probably knocked us out of our stride but I needed to make the changes after our midweek game in London.

A 2-0 win in Florence against SPAL got us back to winning ways thanks to goals from Dejan Joveljic and Manuel Locattelli but it was Alessandro Cortinovis who caught the eye deputising for Sandro Tonali, Cortinovis is really staking a claim for a starting place showing what a quality player he is.

The 2nd leg of our Coppa Italia in midweek was the perfect end to the month with both Benjamín Rollheiser and Patrick Cutrone on the scoresheet in a 2-1 win that gives us a 4-1 aggregate win over Genoa and book a place in the Final against Roma in their own backyard and the chance to revenge our previous Final meeting with them after they beat us on penalties in the 2020 final.

jan feb

March 2022 

We started March off with the Champions League 2nd leg clash against Tottenham Hotspurs in Florence on a balmy spring evening. We produced our best performance of the season so far and it was Alessandro Cortinovis who pulled the strings after I gave him the chance ahead of Sandro Tonali in the Mezzala role, Cortinovis was running Tottenham a merry dance when producing the slide rule pass that Abdou Diakhate finished with a powerful strike on the stroke of half time to put us 1-0 up on the night and 5-2 up on aggregate.

All we needed to do now is go out and finish the job off by avoiding a major collapse in the 2nd half. I need not have worried though because the boys in Purple turned on the style with Patrick Cutrone adding to Spurs woes with a double that gave us a fantastic 3-0 win on the night that gave us a 7-2 aggregate win against a decent Tottenham side.

The draw for the Quarter-final in Switzerland paired us with Milan so we have an all Italian quarter final to look forward too.

A 0-1 defeat to Sampdoria relinquished our position at the top of the table to Juventus who are on a roll under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, Juve also find themselves in the Champions League last 8 flying the flag for Italy. We follow the Sampdoria defeat with two away wins at Verona  (3-2) and Sassuolo  (2-0) to keep in touch with the old lady. However another defeat again 0-1 in the Franchi against Roma means that Milan have leap frogged us in to 2nd leaving us rounding the month off in 3rd place.

April 2022 

A busy month of eight games started with a 2-1 win in Turin against Torino who are struggling at the wrong end of the table, Patrick Cutrone showed his quality with two goals in the first half to give us the three points.

It was now time for the Champions League showdown with Milan in the San Siro for the first leg of the last eight and it was the home side who struck first on the half hour mark after taking control of the game however we got a chance and took it thanks to Alessandro Cortinovis who rounded off our best move of the half on the stroke of half time. It was Milan who did all the running in the 2nd period and they got their reward with Frank Kessie winner with 5 minutes left on the clock. A defeat but a vital away goal in the 1-2 loss which gives us something to hang on to ahead of the 2nd leg.

A European hangover just three days after our trip to Milan we entertained Cagliari and struggled to a 1-1 draw with Domenico Berardi scoring a late leveller to deny the Sardinians a win. I can’t help but feel that this result could cost us the title but we will keep going until the bitter end.

An early Patrick Cutrone goal in the 2nd leg against Milan is enough to put us through to the Semi Finals after we hold on to a 1-0 win that puts us through on away goals. Abdou Diakhate and Nicolo Barella dominated the midfield area but it was Gianluca Mancini and Alessandro Bastoni who played absolute blinders at the centre of our defence in this fantastic performance.

Champions League Semi Final Draw 

Juventus v ACF Fiorentina 

Atlético Madrid v Paris Saint Germain 

What a draw for the Champions League Semi Final Juventus over two legs will get the Turin and Florence cities buzzing in anticipation.

I needed to focus the clubs attention back to our Serie A campaign and to be honest the lads responded well with two much needed wins against Pro Vercelli (4-0) and Internazionale (3-2) with the highlight being Maximiliano Romero getting an hat-trick against Pro Vercelli. The win against Inter is massive in the fact that it was a six pointer in the race for the title with ourselves Inter, Milan and Juve all still in with a chance to win the title.


Champions League Semi Final 1st Leg 

ACF Fiorentina 1-1 Juventus 

Florence was turned in to a sea of Purple for the visit of Juventus our big rivals on the biggest night in the clubs recent history. The Viola tifosi came out in their droves to cheer on their gladiators.

I had rested a few players ahead of this encounter so we lined up like this: Lafont, Adjapong, Bastoni, Mancini, Pellegrini, Locattelli, Tonali, Diakhate, Berardi, Zekhnini and Cutrone 

We got the game underway and straight from the off we put Juve under pressure but failed to find the net with two early chances falling to Cutrone and Tonali. Juventus had a chance of their own but Ronaldo headed over.

Then in the 26th minute Abdou Diakhate broke the deadlock with a fierce shot from around 12 yards to send the Franchi in to a frenzy. Chances then become a minimum until the 37 year old Cristiano Ronaldo levels the game on the stroke of half time.

I have to make a change at the break with Cutrone picking up a knock so I bring Dejan Joveljic on in his place. Diakhate is the driving force in the second half, I love Diakhate from day one of me taking over at this club I promoted him to the 1st team squad and he dislodged Benassi and Veretout in my first season to were he is now running the show in the Champions League Semi Final with over 100 appearances under his belt.

Chances are at a premium now and despite both sides best efforts we have to settle for a 1-1 draw with Diakhate awarded the man of the match award.


Not ideal but we have to travel to Naples for matchday 35 of the Serie A calendar to face an in form Napoli side who have won their last four matches on the bounce. Mourinho looked like facing the sack but he is slowly turning things around in Naples. I had to pick a rotational side and they did well in securing a draw all be it courtesy of an own goal that gave us a 1-1 draw. With just 3 league games left we are now relying on other teams to do us a favour.


Champions League Semi Final 2nd Leg 

Juventus 1-0 ACF Fiorentina  (Aggregate 2-1) 

Pep Guardiola came to Turin at the start of this season to takeover a Juventus club that had not won anything, fast forward a few months and they are a thorn in our side non less so than Cristiano Ronaldo who netted a second half winner to take the Turin giants in to the Champions League Final.

I picked the following eleven : Lafont, Adjapong, Bastoni, Mancini, Pellegrini, Locattelli, Barella, Diakhate, Berardi, Zekhnini and Cutrone 

Just one change enforced by an injury to Tonali who I replaced with Barella. I can’t fault the performance we had our chances and we’re equal to Juve in every department. The ever dependable Diakhate came close to opening the scoring on the half hour mark crashing his effort against the upright. You know when you get that feeling like it’s not going to be your night well just before the interval Juve had the woodwork to thank again this time Cutrone hitting the post. Half time 0-0 

You could not make it up just five minutes in to the 2nd half and Barella latches on to a loose ball in the Juve defence and with the goal gaping hits the flipping post and to rub salt in to the wound the Old Lady hit us on the counter attack that see’s Dybala release Ronaldo who calmly slots the ball past Lafont to put the hosts 1 up on the night. We now need two goals to send the game in to extra time.

We press for a goal and leave ourselves vulnerable to Ronaldo and the Juve counter attack and have Lafont to thank after pulling off a save to deny Dybala and Juve a second. The game is wide open now and with 10 minutes to go on the clock we go and hit the woodwork for the 4th time in the game after Cutrone unleashes a strike on goal. It was our last effort of the match with Juventus holding on to their 1 goal advantage in front of a jubilant Turin crowd.

1547069464Cristiano-Ronaldo-Juventus-Png-2019If you would have told me that we would reach the Semi Finals at the start of the season I would have been more than happy however once you get there you want to reach that final and then go on and win it but on reflection and the dust settles I am pleased with our campaign and happy that we have done well in this competition looking back at our demolition of Dortmund in the group stage and then going on to beat Tottenham in the last 16 before edging out Milan in the last 8 before coming up against a resilient Juve led by a an ever impressive Ronaldo we have to admit defeat in a respectful manner even against our bitter rivals.

For the record Juventus went on to play Paris Saint Germain in the final with the Parisians going on to take the trophy with a 2-0 win.


We had to dust ourselves off and regroup in time for the visit of Marcelo Bielsa and his Atalanta side in what is a must win game ifor we have any hope of retaining the title and the boys respond well with an impressive 5-2 win that saw Sandro Tonali hit an hat-trick in the first half. Fellow midfielder Nicolo Barella grabbed himself a brace to give us some hope of the title.


Coppa Italia Final Stadio Olympico

Roma 1-1 ACF Fiorentina  (After Extra Time) Roma win 4-2 on Penalties 

Our second appearance in the Coppa Italia Final after losing to today’s opponents 2 years ago on penalties and history goes and repeats itself after 90 minutes of missed chances on both parts we went in to extra time looking the better of the two sides and we got our reward when Dejan Joveljic finishes a through ball from Cortinovis in the 97th minute.

Time seems to fly by and we turn around for the 2nd period of extra time with a 1-0 lead. Could we see the job through with just 15 minutes left to play ? In short no we could not with just 3 minutes of time to play Roma grab that late leveller to take us in to a penalty shootout a repeat of the 2020 final. So this is how the shootout panned out :

  • Schick  tooked away penalty number one Roma 1-0
  • Cutrone missed Roma 1-0 
  • Guebbells smashed his spot kick behond Lafont Roma 2-0
  • Berardi dispatches his kick Roma 2-1 
  • Dzecko beats Lafont Roma 3-1
  • Barella shoots wide Roma 3-1 
  • Undar shot saved by Lafont Roma 3-1
  • Diakhate bottom left corner Roma 3-2 
  • Barashotto fires past Lafont Roma 4-2

Roma crowned Champions Coppa Italia 2022 

Heartbreak for the Viola tifosi Roma have managed to deny us the Coppa Italia yet again.


It is never easy to take losing a final on penalties but it feels worse when it’s on the back of a Semi Final elimination from the Champions League added to the fact that the Serie A title is out of our hands going in to the last two games of the season. All I can do now is get the squad together and send them out to win our last two games and see what happens elsewhere.

Matchday 37 a trip to face bottom side Chievo ended in a 4-0 win but the scoreline does not tell the full story because we put out a lack lustre performance and didn’t score our first goal until the 77th minute when Patrick Cutrone turned in cross from Berardi. Domenico Berardi then went on to score an hat-trick in the last 15 minutes of the game.

Matchday 38 the final round of games with us hosting Genoa on the Saturday and Juventus hosting Verona on the Friday night due to their participation in the Champions League Final knowing that a win for the Old Lady would clinch the title for Guardiola in his first season.

Juventus did what Juventus do best and beat Verona 3-0 in Turin to take the title.

Going in to the Genoa game we knew that we had failed to defend the title but still had 2nd place to play for with Milan breathing down our neck ready to capitalise on any slip up. Genoa needed the points too because they are stuck in a relegation battle and could easily drop in to Serie B if results did not go their way. My aggressive team talk got a good response with all the players entering the field of play motivated. We started well and any early nerves were settled when Luca Pellegrini scored a swerving shot from 18 yards to put us 1-0 up with just 3 minutes on the clock.

Domenico Berardi doubled our lead in the 16th minute that pushed Genoa in to the bottom three with SPAL winning at Chievo. I feel bad for Genoa but we have our own business to deal with and when Rafik Zekhnini put us 3-0 up in the 35th minute I was pretty sure at this point that we had secured 2nd place in the league. Genoa got a consolation goal in the 2nd half and good news for them is that SPAL lost so Genoa have survived by the skin of their teeth.

march april may

Serie A Final Table 2022 

A fantastic title race with just 8 points separating the top 5. Juventus just managed to do enough to become champions.

final table

Squad Statistics 

Top Goalscorer Dejan Joveljic with 19 goals ahead of Patrick Cutrone on 18 goals and Domenico Berardi on 15. Joveljic had a very good season developing nicely in to a good centre forward. I have noticed Joveljic is very popular across the social media platforms with a good few FM managers picking him up.

Claude Adjapong was my player of the season providing 11 assists from his left wing back role.

squad


Summary

Well not the ending to the season that I hoped for but I feel we have progressed on the continental stage. It was difficult to take losing to Juventus in the Semi Final of the Champions League and then being pipped to the title by them.

Pre season will be interesting I will not be signing any players for the first team squad so any departure’s will be covered by our own development system so any players that do come in to the club will be under the age of 18.

Three players promoted to the first team squad ahead of pre season are Forward Fabio Gentile (19), Inside Forward Ivan De Stefano (21) and Central Defender Prince Bakouboula  (18).

I know feel like the club is entering the next phase of the save with the Next Generation knocking on the door. Both our Under 20 and Under 18 squads have been very successful in both winning their respective Leagues for the past few years.

I will be showcasing our next generation of players within my player development post which will be over a few parts so we can see the progress of the (Next Gen).


Florence And The Goal Machine : The Story So Far 

2021-2022 Serie A 2nd Place / Supercoppa Italia Winners / Coppa Italia Runners Up

2020-2021 Serie A 1st Place /  (Manager Of The Year)

2019-2020 Serie A 5th Place / Coppa Italia Runners Up

2018-2019 Serie A 3rd Place / (Manager Of The Year)

Arriverderci


Extra News 

This past couple of weeks I have been lucky enough to have been working alongside a very nice lady from Argentina (Maria) whose knowledge on the South American game is mind blowing, I have never met anyone from Argentina before and the passion about football is incredible.

We talked extensively about the game in Argentina and the rest of South America and also the culture in each of the countries on the continent. Facinating stuff plus I was given some quality material to read that you can not get your hands on over here including some quality coaching and tactical material.

Like all good people or sad people Maria is an FM player who manages her favourite team in Argentina  (Argentinos Juniors)  who she says I should manage on the next FM release which I will do. I have been thinking about who I should follow up the Viola save with recently and talking to @Now&ThenFM and @LeoHarris1782 I was seriously thinking about doing a Brescia save but in hindsight I think a save away from Italy is a good idea and Argentinos Juniors seem like the club to take me away from the comfort zone of Italy.

Argentinian Football is something that I have watched for many years and now thanks to Fanatiz I have been watching more than my fair share. Thanks to Maria I have some reading up to do on the club that gave Maradona his debut. The reading material that I have goes deep inside the Copa Libertadores winning season and in to the minds of many of former Argentinos managers.

Until next time thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you return soon to see how season 5 with the Viola goes and a player development post that I am part way through putting together.

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