Yesterday in grey, wintry but still oh so beautiful Florence, Fiorentina defeated Atalanta 2-0 in a battle of teams that a fat, washed-up Bobo Vieri recently played for. A first half thunderbolt from Juan Manuel Vargas put the Viola into a deserved lead and a scrappy goal late in the second half from Alberto Gilardino sealed the deal. It was a solid, if unspectacular, performance by the Viola, but the result was very much needed. After a couple of results broke in their favor (thanks for that draw Genoa and Parma!), the table is much nicer to look at with Fiorentina in 5th (albeit on goal difference).
Let's discuss the table situation a bit further. Things are still very crowded, as Parma sit 4th on 25 points and 10th-placed Cagliari are only 3 points behind on 22. Looking forward, Parma have been strong so far this season but I think its unrealistic for them to expect much beyond a top-half of the table finish. The real concern for Fiorentina is the fact that all of the teams tied with them on 24 points are potentially potent. Genoa, Roma and Samp are all pretty strong, and I think combined with Fiorentina, Newcastle, AC David Beckham and leaders Inter, are going to be the top 7 in some order this season.
My glass half-full perspective is that despite the spotty league form and relative lack of goals this season so far, the Viola are ahead of all of their main rivals for the 4th place spot on goal difference. Any Fiorentina fan who thought the squad would breeze into a 4th place finish this season was seriously deluded, and, all things considered, Prandelli has the team in a pretty decent position right now. Especially when we consider that the team advanced to the knock-out phase of the CL and still have a very decent shot to finish first in the group, we have to feel pretty good about where the team sits considering the games missed due to injuries by some key players (Mutu, Jo-Jo, Gamberini, etc.).
- Vargas was very good again, though his skills from open play are far superior to his dead-ball striking skills. As good as his pressing, crossing and shooting can be from open play, his set-piece delivery from corners and free kicks is maddeningly inconsistent and needs to be improved. Of course, I'm not sure who should replace him, but the team need to take advantage of these opportunities when they arise.
- RickyMonty is getting his swag back. He played countless great passes in the first half, rarely losing possession and taking a leadership role on the pitch (getting on LDS' case when he failed to hustle back into an onsides position is just one example). He tired a bit and was shaky for the middle part of the second half but overall he's been playing like the classy, play-making CM we all know he can/should be. Very encouraging.
- A brief shout-out to Gila. He worked hard for the team, as usual, and despite getting kicked in the face, really didn't get many opportunities for the first 85 minutes or so. Then, through sheer hustle and determination, he found himself in the right place and put away an ugly goal that allowed me to breathe normally again because Fiorentina were only 1-0 up in a game they utterly dominated (what, did Bassy make 1 save?).
All right y'all. I'll check back late tomorrow or Wednesday morning in which I will preview our impending destruction of the Scousers. Forza Viola, peace.