The Viola Nation Team's 2013-2014 SEASON REVIEW

Photo - Gabriele Maltinti

The whole team got together for this one, as we broke down the highs and lows of another electrifying Fiorentina season

Player of the Year

Slakas: My Player of the Year has to be Giuseppe Rossi. Even though he only played half the season, his pure goal scoring ability and the time he held the goal scoring lead showed us what could have been. A close second, and perhaps, in my opinion, the most important player on the squad, however, is Borja Valero. Game in and game out he came to play, giving it his all and he really sets the tone. The four games he missed due to suspension really highlight this. Borja did get a bit flaky towards the end of the season, but we played a lot of games andI believe some mental fatigue set in. Honorable mention, for me, would be Neto, he had a great season.

Lorenzo: Gonzalo Rodriguez. I went a little bit against my instincts here, because Giuseppe Rossi, Juan Cuadrado, and Borja Valero have been our most exciting players, the players that have won us games and produced our best play. But Gonzalo's contribution this whole season has been absolutely exceptional with an inexperienced keeper behind him, a rotation of substandard players on his right hand side, changes in formation, and having to play nearly every game. He scored 6 goals for us in all competitions, including the game-winner after Rossi went down against Livorno. The most heartbreaking moment of the season, for me, was his red card against Juventus at home in the return leg of the Europa League, because up until that point he was playing a perfect game; Llorente hadn't even seen the ball. I can't see us coming 4th and getting to a cup final with all of our injuries if we didn't have him as a rock at the back, and how he isn't going to the World Cup with Argentina this season is incomprehensible to me.

MiQ: On my end, i feel as if fourth place was not possible without our Brazilian rising star Norberto Neto. He made saves this season that reminded me of Toldo and Buffon in their prime time. The 24 year old goalkeeper will not be part of Scolari's World Cup squad this Summer but he might be celebrating his country's victory along with his 25th birthday a week after the final. My vote goes to Vargas as an honorable mention. Not sure how many understand how difficult is it to come out from a rut that you put yourself into.

Comeback Player of the Year

Lorenzo: Norberto Murara Neto. One cannot overstate the astonishing mental toughness he has demonstrated in the past year and a half, from that nightmarish game against Udinese in late 2013, being relegated to the bench behind the curva's darling Viviano, then having his every move questioned and scrutinized for months. Many talented young keepers have been "botched" in this fashion, with the pressure proving too much for them; Neto has proved himself more than equal to the task, with confident performances and astonishing saves from the winter onwards. Barring massive backslides in performance next season he should be part of the core of this team going forward for years to come.

MiQ: Had i known this question was coming, i would have given credits to someone else up there. Although thinking about it, who made a stronger comeback than Giuseppe Rossi? He played for a few minutes last season but really came back in 2013-14 scoring 15 goals in half a season.

Slakas: Juan Manuel Vargas. El Loco, by pure will and hard work, pulled himself off the scrap heap and made himself a contributing member of the Viola society.

The "El Tanque Silva" Prize for Bidone of the Year

MiQ: As a fan, most of my despair came from El Capitano. Manuel Pasqual had me cursing and breaking down TVs every Sunday. I sure agree with Matri winning the prize as well, he had a hand in a few TVs going down. I am choosing Pasqual anyway because unlike all Fiorentina players, he lacked defensively and offensively.

Slakas: My first thought was Anderson, but he never really got a shot and always seemed out of position, I wonder about language and if he and Montella ever really connected. Alternatively, I think Marko Bakic is probably the player that showed me the least upside of any on the squad.

Lorenzo: Alessandro Matri. He was brought in out of absolute desperation for someone who even resembled a striker, and he showed up in his first game against Catania with two goals, and then put in such listless and toothless displays that I would have preferred to have Dimitar Berbatov's great great grandfather playing in attack. False hope returned with a nice goal in the Europa League, but when he came on in the second half of the return leg against Juventus, the game was essentially over. Honorable mention to Iakovenko, yeah remember him? *uses the Lord's name in vain*

Best Game

MiQ: In terms of best tactical game where players were able to make Montella's plan a reality was against Juventus in the Europa League Round of 16 first leg. In terms of screaming like a child that got his first present ever at ten years old midst 50 children who had no idea how living without presents feels like... the win against Juventus in October.

Slakas: There's really no question, the Juve comeback was by far the greatest la Viola moment for me since they qualified for the Champions League.

Lorenzo: Obviously nothing compares to the 4-2 win against Juventus, but I am going to again go against my instincts and highlight the 1-2 win away at Dnipro in October. That game really showed this team's collective character; it was atrocious weather, we had key absences, and we weren't playing particularly well. We won a lot of games where we had many negatives stacked against us this season, and that winning mentality - while not enough on its own against the best teams - makes me most optimistic that we will compete for the top spots next season when we are hopefully healthy, reinforced, and playing in our best Montella Style rhythm.

Worst Game

Lorenzo: Our 0-1 home loss against Lazio at the beginning of March was about as dire as I can remember us playing. Home fans emptied the Curva Fiesole for the first 10 minutes in protest of the (frankly atrocious) refereeing decisions of the previous few weeks and Lazio scored a flukey goal with the stadium half-empty. Definitely a low point in the season.

Slakas: I have two, and coincidently against the same team, Udinese. The first worst match was a 2-1 loss in the first leg of the Coppa Italia, my quote was "Unable to pass, unable to dribble, unable to get a break from the refs, unable to do the simplest things that seemed so effortless early in the season, unable to defend, Fiorentina lose again. 2-1" The second was another trip to Udine, a 1-0 loss, with my quote being "With a chance to gain ground on Napoli, Fiorentina completely forgot there was a match to play as no one showed up today, with the exception of Neto, who was called on to make 10 saves."

MiQ: Not much love for Udine there Slakas, but i have to go with the Milan return match. In short, Fiorentina were so bad that everyone thought Milan was back.

Greatest Satisfaction?

Slakas: That Fiorentina were one of only two teams able to beat Juventus in the season they set a record for most points.

Lorenzo: I am very proud of our Europa League campaign. We only lost ONE game in our return to European football, and that loss was in the Round of 16 against the three-time Italian champions, a loss that was the product of a horribly unlucky red-card-to-worldy-free-kick 60 seconds. Fiorentina are one of the few Italian teams who can say that they showcased some of their best play in the big European games, and I believe that this team can do even better in the competition next season now that they are more accustomed to competing on three fronts.

MiQ: My greatest satisfaction in any season would be doing the same or better. It was the same in Serie A without the crazy Champions League fight at the end of the season but Fourth is Fourth. In addition, Coppa Italia Final and Europa League Round of 16.

Biggest Disappointment?

Lorenzo: The Coppa Italia Final, for so many different reasons. We can hold our heads up that our fans behaved exceptionally well considering the circumstances, and that la Viola eventually did put in a good display on the field... But with the farcical pre-match events, the subsequent (and likely related) flat start by the Fiorentina players, and then the last minute UNGODLY ILICIC MISS, it was perhaps the most deflating game of the season.

MiQ: My first thought was "Alright, let me start listing the players... Matri, Anderson, Ilicic,..", but then no. I believe the Biggest Disappointment is Italian Refereeing.

Slakas: All the injuries. If this team could have stayed completely healthy, we could conceivably have made second place. If they had avoided just the catastrophic injuries, third would have been likely.

Best Eleven?

MiQ: (3-6-1) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic, Cuadrado, Mati, Aquilani, Pizarro, Valero, Vargas, Rossi.

Slakas: (3-5-2) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic; Cuadrado, Aquilani, Pizarro, Valero, Fernandez; Gomez, Rossi

Lorenzo: (4-3-1-2) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic, Pasqual; Aquilani, Pizarro, Mati; Borja Valero; Gomez, Rossi

Biggest Need for Next Season?

Lorenzo: I think the needs in this mercato are very clear, but also less extensive than they have been the past two seasons, where Prade and Macia have done exceptionally good business. An experienced defensive midfielder and a young and talented one to share game time between them, two defensive backs, and a new central defender would be my ideal summer business, and while I would love to retain Cuadrado, if his sale means we can buy real quality in all of those areas, I'd be willing to make the trade. The most important of the 3 needs I mentioned (and the most difficult one) for how Montella's team plays will be the new Pek (I am personally pretty sure that Pizarro will not be in Florence next year). Alberto Aquilani has looked good in the role at times this season, but a big signing in this position could be hugely important. I'll talk about this more in my upcoming Summer Mercato Preview.

Slakas: Upgrade at left back. Pasqual is only going to be another year older and we've seen what happens when you play on three fronts. Also, more and better backup's in the front line. A new Pek would be nice too.

MiQ: Rebic as a sub made me feel relaxed at the front in the last match against Torino and so I agree with Slakas on going for a left back and a new Pizarro.

Special Awards

Lorenzo:

The "Working Your Cute Little Tail Off" Award Matos Ryder. The kid has showed flashes of potential, but more than anything has always put in a lot of hard work when he has been on the field, which is more than I can say for Matri, Ilicic, or even Joaquin at times. Here's a picture of Matos accepting the award.

Sharing the Alessio Cerci Award - given to players who showcase talent and frustration in equal measure - are David Pizarro and Josip Ilicic. If they could be have been their best selves more consistently this season the team would have won many more games.

Slakas:

Neto - Grew Up Fast Award. From bumbling boyhood to amazing adult in one short season.

Wolski - GonnaBe Award. Cuz he's gonna be damn good.

Cuadrado - Best Dancer, obviously.

Ilicic - James Dean Award. He's a rebel without a cause, king of disillusionment, scowling and angry, and yet SO cool when he's on.

MiQ:

OH MY GOD Award goes to Pasqual for obviously saying that in Italian after messing up on many occasions.

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN Award is a tie between Rebic and Hegazy for very obvious reasons.

The Fiorentina Mohawk Not Award goes to Vargas for shaving just a little bit extra every match towards the end of the season getting closer to a Mohawk.

The Anger Management Award goes to Neto. I need to explain this one, Neto has awesome anger management skills in that he takes way too long before shouting out at his players jumping around in slow motion swinging his arm... oh wait, did they play the corner already?!?

Your Grade for the Season?

Slakas: A- - The team still checked out at times on the road trips and against the teams they should have beaten, the back ups, when called upon didn't always get the job done. The players brought in for reinforcements didn't really add much. On the plus side, facing three fronts, they finished fourth, lost to a great Juve team and made a final and had a shot at a trophy. Not superb, but way better than average.

MiQ: A- ... Which is average of the B+ i would have given on the actual performance of the team, A on what could have been without all the injuries and A- on the proper achievements this season.

Lorenzo: B+. I have demonstrated a "look on the bright side mentality" both in this season review and all year, but I can't give an "A" to a season with so many disappointingly mediocre performances at important moments, and no trophy when there was one to be had. There are many reasons why we didn't improve overall this year - most of which were outside our control - but our aspirations have changed from what they were a couple years ago (thankfully), and we should hold the team to the higher standards they are capable of; we have so much talent, a great coach, and a great fan base. Now that we have solidified our position once again as one of Italy's elite teams, here's to hoping that we will finally push on and really compete for the big objectives next season. Forza viola!!

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