After both the past season and this summer's big purchases, the word "enthusiasm" has been thrown about quite a lot. But it is hard to not to be infected by the violet-colored strain of cheer coming from anything to do with Fiorentina this summer. Even after selling off our "jewel" Jovetic, we were able to see many more jewels on display in purple this afternoon, while also noting the large contingent of supporters camped in the stands of (and on the hillside behind!) the Moena pitch. With the fan celebration at Moena last night and Ilicic (where/when the hell will he play?) still set to be announced on Monday, a Fiorentina demolition of very low division opposition seemed inevitable. And it was.
The fans would not be disappointed, as Montella Style was rampant from the opening minutes. Hat tricks from both Giuseppe Rossi and Adem Ljajic (who actually scored 4) earned Fiorentina an emphatic victory.
Montella opted to begin with a nearly full-strength lineup in an off-balance 4-3-3 with Neto in goal, a back line of Roncaglia, Hegazi, Compper, and Pasqual, a midfield triangle of Pizarro as the low point and Ambrosini & Borja as the runners, while Giuseppe Rossi, Mario Gomez, and Joaquin were stationed up front. Rossi often retreated into midfield in search of the ball, freeing up space for Pasqual to run into. Pepito Rossi was easily the stand-out performer of the first half, linking up very well with former Villareal teammate Borja Valero and scoring two fine goals before trumping them both with a masterful effort with his weaker right foot from right outside the box as the game approached halftime. Watching the matter-of-fact way in which Rossi scored, it would be easy to forget that these were his first goals in any kind of competition for almost two years, as well as his first wearing the Fiorentina jersey.
Mario Gomez integrated himself well, freeing up a lot of space for Fiorentina's dribblers and distributing the ball well. On several occasions it was clear that the understanding with his fellow teammates was only just beginning, but he also came very close to scoring a couple times, including a classic under-pressure sliding strike off of a Joaquin assist that struck the post. Hegazi and Pizarro were also very impressive for a super Fiorentina side.
The second half was more disjointed than the first, partially because of the torrential downpour that began shortly after the interval. The second team was tactically similar but experimental in terms of personnel, fielding several players out of position in a (sort-of) 4-3-3, with Cassani, Tomovic, Olivera, and Alonso in the back line, Wolski, Bakic, and Romulo in the middle, and Ljajic, Iakovenko, and Vecino up front. Wolski and Ljajic often drifted into the role Rossi had played in the first half, this time allowing Alonso to come forward, while Vecino and Romulo alternately stayed wide to stretch the Trentino defense. The second team did not lower their intensity, however, and despite the rain managed to impress with their technical ability and movement without the ball. Adem Ljajic was to some surprise given the captain's armband by Montella, likely as a sign of confidence and a message from the coach to stay in Florence. He was very well received by the Viola faithful, and slotted in for Rossi not just in a positional sense but also as the best player on the field. His four second half goals were all different, and each special in its own way. His control off of a Bakic long-ball was only bettered by his rounding the keeper to finish, and his in-swinging free kick at the death has now become a signature shot. Other standouts included Iakovenko (who added a sensational assist to his goal), Alonso, and Bakic, who looks to be a positionally flexible and well-rounded midfielder. In essence, it was an impressive Viola performance against an unimpressive opponent.
FIORENTINA 9 (Rossi, Pasqual, Rossi, Rossi, Ljajic, Ljajic, Ljajic, Iakovenko, Ljajic)
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT
In the coming Moena friendlies, we can continue to expect a very attacking, technically impressive, and deep side, but I would expect Montella to vary formation and personnel more in preparation both for the more "important" friendlies against Villareal and Sporting, and for the approaching Europa League qualifier. With the impending returns of Cuadrado, Gonzalo, Aquilani, Savic, Fernandez, and the soon-to-be-finalized arrival of Ilicic, there will be even more talent and tactical variety for the "mister" to choose from. With Cuadrado's return, expect to see the reappearance of the classic 3-5-2, while with Ilicic and Fernandez arriving I would bet on Montella at some point implementing a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-2-1, to feature more of our impressive trequartistas.
Here is the fixture list again, from slakas's article of a week ago:
Wednesday, July 24th, 17:30 - Pro Patria*
Saturday, July 27th, 17:30 - Apollon Limassol*
Saturday, August 3rd, 17:30 - Gaziantepspor*
*definitely on ViolaChannel
Thursday, August 8th, 21:00 - Villareal
Sunday, August 11th, Time TBA - Sporting Lisbon
Also note that the Europa League draw for Fiorentina's round will be made Friday August 9th, with the match to be played Thursday the 22nd of August.