Viola fans: take a deep breath. We are almost at the midway point of the season, but with time off over the next couple of weeks now seems like as good a time as ever to recap the performances of the men in purple thus far.
Neto - It's honestly a credit to him that viola fans aren't begging for a new keeper in the January window right now. The mistakes were always a question mark and he did little to dispel that early in the season. Several howlers in both the EL and Serie A had many fans questioning the decision to stick with him, but Montella did and he's largely settled down. Still looks dodgy at times, still isn't a good distributor, but he's saved the defense on more than one occasion and looks much more confident now than he ever has with the club. He's come this far, and I think he's earned the job through the end of this season. 6.5
Munua - 2 Europa League starts, looks to be a capable starter if needed. Rumored to be a January target of his boyhood club of Nacional, but hopefully he sticks around until the end of the season to provide the necessary Neto insurance. 6.25
Gonzalo - Our rock. Strong in the air, comfortable in possession, can pick as pretty a pass as any defender in Italy. A stalwart when we need his defense, a bomber when we need his offense, he's even capable of taking spot kicks. Its an absolute travesty that he hasn't been called up for Argentina, they really don't know what they're missing. 7.5
Savic - He'll forever be linked with the brilliant Nastasic, and while he'll probably never be as good, he's found a home in Florence as a very capable defender after struggling to adapt to the pressures of playing for Manchester City. Our strongest aerial presence, he isn't the quickest, but he's tough to beat 1v1, and does well as a right footed player often played on the left side of the defense. Achilles heel is his positioning, both on set pieces and in open play, but he's been solid to quite good consistently throughout the year. 6.75
Compper - He is what he is - a backup central defender who you can call on and expect a solid performance from against lower tier opponents. We saw against Napoli when Gonzalo was suspended that anything more from him is likely asking too much. Important to have guys like him though to give the first choice pairing a rest, or to spell them when injuries/suspensions strike. 6
Tomovic - He's clearly Montella's first choice at the RB/RCB spot, and while his defensive work is clearly more reliable than his competition, he really doesn't provide much going forward, which is worrying. He's an average dribbler, not a good crosser, and doesn't really link well with Cuadrado or Joaquin or whoever plays as the right winger in front of him. One of the most upgradeable spots on the team moving forward, I like him as a defensive-minded backup but not much more than that. 6.25
Roncaglia - Only four starts in Serie A (to Tomovic's 13), he just doesn't have the trust of the coaching staff to be a defensively responsible player. After a magical start to his time in Florence, he's really come back to earth (yet somehow got an international callup before Gonzalo?). Needs to really take advantage of the next chance Montella gives him, otherwise a risk to be sold in January or the summer. Unless one of him or Tomovic really steps it up, right back has to be a priority for Prade and Macia in the summer. 6.25
Pasqual - Il capitano. For all his shortcomings, his value really comes in his understanding of the team. There's a reason a younger, quicker, better offensive player in Marcos Alonso hasn't taken his spot, and its because Manuel links play about as well as anyone in the team. Apart from him, we don't really have a naturally left-sided player in the team besides Vargas, who is only now starting to get regular playing time, which means he's often the one who needs to defend opposing wingers, cover the entire left flank, and be the primary creative outlet from the wing in the attacking third. That obviously isn't his strength, as we all know, but he does what is asked of him. Also a credible threat from free kicks (its truly mind boggling how his FKs are so accurate and his crosses are so wayward). Not a world beater, not a particularly talented player, but good enough for us. 6.5
Borja - Start with the best. Just a sublime player, there really isn't much more to say. His newly-found goal scoring boots are the cherry on top of one of the finest midfielders on the peninsula. Another guy who is hard done by his national team, he likely won't be going to Brazil this summer (and selfishly that's probably a good thing for Fiorentina), but damn does he deserve it. Our best player. 8
Pizarro - A bit of a tumultuous season for Pek. He hurt a lot of fans with his out-of-the-blue transfer request after last season, and his play this year hasn't lived up to the lofty standards he set. Hampered by injuries at times, but he's definitely lost half a step and is making more mistakes while playing fewer minutes. Still a game changer, and still our second best midfielder, but needs to get healthy and impress Montella after the break. 6.5
Aquilani - I think at times Alberto catches a little too much flak. He's not the player Borja is or the passer Pizarro is or the warrior Ambrosini is, but when he's on he's a smart player who can pick a pass and has a nice nose for goal in the opponents box. When things aren't going well, which has been a lot recently, he sprays his passes everywhere, he whiffs at his goal chances, and he gets hauled off by Montella midway through games. It hasn't been his best season, not by a long shot, but given time I think we'll see more of the Aquilani that scored 8 goals from midfield last season and played some truly exquisite passes to set up our attackers (Jojo v. Udinese and Inter at home come to mind). Disappointing thus far though. 6
Ambrosini - Career Milanista, nothing left in the tank, probably will just sabotage our CL dreams on the last day to save Milan's bacon from afar. Wrong, wrong, and very wrong given how awful Milan have been this year. He's been a very pleasant surprise. Despite being ancient, he's brought a calm to the midfield when played and even popped up with a very important goal in the Europa League to beat Dnipro away. Clearly a good dressing room influence as well. 6.75
Vargas - Who would've thunk it? We all wondered what a rejuvenated Vargas and an improved Cuadrado would look like for us on the wings this season. I don't think anyone thought it was ever a realistic possibility. But El Loco is back in shape and back to terrorizing opposing defenders and keepers with his vicious left foot. 4 goals in limited playing time is a testament to his hard work to get back to the level of a Fiorentina player, having been left for dead by Montella after last summer's disaster of a training camp in Moena. He even has looked good at left back where he struggled even at the height of his success under Prandelli. If he can keep it up, he's going to be a very important player for us in the quest for Champions League football. 6.75
Fernandez - Mati is a consummate professional. Despite real interest from top teams in South America where he'd likely be one of the star players playing much closer to home, he remained at Fiorentina to play the role of first man off the bench for Vincenzo Montella, who at one point this season called him "untransferable", he's that important to the Aeroplanino's tactics. So often this season he has provided the spark off the bench to spur the team on to score the go-ahead or equalizing goal. Comfortable in the center or on the flanks. A very important piece of the puzzle. 6.75
Cuadrado - What can you say about this guy? Like Borja, he's added a much-improved shot to his arsenal, along with the speed and tricks and dribbling skills, just a dazzling player. I hope to god we're able to sign the other 50% of his contract from Udinese with no troubles this summer, he could be worth 50m euros in the next few years if he keeps improving at this rate. My one comment would be that he could be stronger on the ball, he clearly has a diving reputation with the referees (as we saw against Napoli when he got a 2nd yellow even when he was really fouled), and deserved or not, he has to work now to dispel that label. Otherwise, he's been brilliant and only getting better. 7.75
Joaquin - Despite a slow start, he's become one of our most important wide players. The winning goal against Juve, he's still got the quickness to regularly beat fullbacks, he's been everything advertised, and an absolute steal for only 2m euros. 7
Ilicic - Very slow start, struggled with fitness and lingering injuries, had some fans wondering if he'd ever break into Montella's lineup. But when given a chance to play more than 15 minutes at the end of games, he's shown signs of real class, he's an excellent dribbler with incredible first touch. Still is learning how to play with his fellow attackers, but the signs are there that his signing was not 9m euros wasted. Would like to see more of him in the 2nd half of the season, I expect his rating to rise. 6.25
Matos - Young, untested, but has been trusted with several starts in the Europa League (somewhat due to the lower level of competition, somewhat due to lack of other options). 3 goals in the EL is a nice return, but I didn't come away impressed with his play very often at all. Only 1 Serie A start, which I think is more indicative of Montella's real level of trust in him. He's got nice pace and is a good dribbler, but the linkup play isn't there and he often runs himself into a corner trying to do it all, when he really would be better off using his teammates. Would like to see less of him and more of Rebic up top in the second half, I think a Serie B loan would do him loads of good when we have a full complement of strikers at our disposal. 6
Rossi - Wow. I think if you polled any Viola fan and asked what your loftiest hopes for Pepito Rossi coming into this season would be, I doubt anyone would come close to 14 goals in 17 games, 3 clear of 2nd in the capocannoniere (5 clear of 3rd), or a guy who has single-handedly won us more than a couple of matches this season. His tripletta against Juve is one of the best individual performances of the Della Valle era, and by the looks of it, he's going to be our talisman for some time to come. Just a phenomenal comeback from what must have felt like an eternity of injury recovery, and he's well on his way to a well-deserved starting spot in Brazil with Prandelli's Azzurri. 8.5
Comments on players not given ratings
Gomez - Hopefully he gets 100% healthy over the break and we can finally see the dream team of Mario - Pepito that we caught a glimpse of against Genoa back in September. Get well soon Mario!
Rebic - Finally healthy, he looks dangerous, and clearly was highly rated coming out of Croatia (even got a run in during their World Cup qualifiers in November). Is behind a glut of experienced players on the wings, but should be able to outplay Matos if he puts his mind to it and earn the #3 striker role when Gomez is healthy.
Vecino - Another young guy that, like Matos, could use some seasoning in Serie B. He's a rare type of midfielder that's tall but skilled on the ball, but definitely isn't the finished package quite yet. Needs regular playing time, but will probably stay in Florence to provide depth.
Wolski - Probably the closest to any of our young players to a Fiorentina player. Very tricky player, quick with a nice shot, knows how to beat defenders and earn fouls. Probably could use a loan as well, but more prove to Montella how good a player he is as opposed to becoming a better player (though that certainly wouldn't hurt either).
Bakic - Not ready. Wasn't helped by Montella experimenting with him as a regista, which clearly didn't work. Needs a loan badly to avoid a lost year of development.
Alonso - Won't be loaned as he's Pasqual's direct backup, but he's also not ready. Has all the physical tools but really could do with more experience to see if his mental game can catch up to the point where he could be Pasqual's replacement down the road.
Iakovenko/Olivera - Sell 'em.
Montella - After a brilliant opening campaign to his Viola chapter, Montella has done brilliantly to cope with the loss of his two best attacking players, Jovetic and Ljajic, and in turn get the very best out of Pepito Rossi, Borja Valero, and Juan Cuadrado in their stead. He's made some brilliant in-game adjustments, but could still do better with protecting leads and teaching his players how to close out games. Still, a top 3 coach in Italy and a guy I hope we can hold onto for a long time to come. 7.5