After a summer of upheaval for Fiorentina - manager sacked, transfer targets missed, players forcing an exit - few could have predicted this dream start to the campaign. After the seventh round of fixtures in Serie A, Fiorentina sit first in the league, two points clear of Inter. One banner raised in the Curva Fiesole encapsulated the feelings of the fans perfectly, reading "Please don't wake me up". The start to the season does feel like a dream, not only because of the results but the way Paulo Sousa has his team playing on the field.
In the same way as against Inter last week, Fiorentina got off to perfect start in their home match to Atalanta. They were awarded a penalty after just five minutes when Jakub Błaszczykowski was fouled in the box. Atalanta became the latest team to be a man down against the viola after Gabriel Paletta was adjudged to have been the last man and was red carded for the challenge. For the second week running, Josip Iličić was the man to convert the penalty.
It was 2-0 by the 18th minute when Federico Bernardeschi and Borja Valero combined perfectly on the edge of the box - the Spaniard finishing and celebrating in style. Except for a stunning Ciprian Tătăruşanu save to keep out Maxi Morales in the first half, Atalanta could offer nothing to combat the dominance in possession and the silky passing movement of Fiorentina. There could have been many more goals in the game, the night was rounded off with an outrageous flick from Nikola Kalinić to supply Joan Verdú with his debut goal: a side footed volley to make it 3-0.
Tremenda asistencia de Kalinic anoche para el gol de Verdú https://t.co/yOoUegyXfG— ViolaSpagna (@ViolaSpagna) October 5, 2015
But what has been the key to such unexpected success for Fiorentina? After struggling to find form last season, Borja Valero seems like a new man entirely, orchestrating the play from midfield like a maestro. There are similar stories for both Marcos Alonso and Josip Iličić who have both been completely rejuvenated under Sousa. The same could also be said of Facundo Roncaglia, although not involved last night. He was on loan at Genoa last season, had his move to Marseille halted by Paulo Sousa at the last minute, and has proven to be a key member of the defence. Many were concerned at the start of the season that Fiorentina had inadequately strengthened the team, but in truth the re-invigoration of some of the existing personnel has been the equivalent of having made invaluable new signings.
It is not only the current form of the existing squad that has proved the key to success for the gigliati. The club have brought in key new players - Davide Astori from Cagliari, Kuba from Borussia Dortmund and the aquisition of Nikola Kalinić from FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk for €5.5m is turning out to be a very astute piece of business indeed. The return of Giuseppe Rossi from injury gives Paulo Sousa extra options up front as he employs an effective rotation policy to combat fatigue through the hectic league and European schedule. The emergence of some of the younger players like Federico Bernardeschi and Matias Vecino as fully fledged first team members has also played a key role in Fiorentina's success.
The top of Serie A will continue to be led by the viola whilst the domestic teams break for international matches next weekend. The next test will come on 18th October when Fiorentina take on an in form Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo. It should be a great match and a great test for Paulo Sousa and his team, but for now we can just enjoy the league table as it stands: