So, without further ado, here are our reflections on this past Fiorentina season!
Best moment of the season?
Chloe: For me, it was beating Tottenham 2-0 at home. After a very shaky first half at White Hart Lane, the nerves were huge ahead of the second leg, and no one knew how the match would pan out. Fiorentina responded with a supremely confident performance and ended up brushing aside the Premier League side with ease. Mario Gomez was enjoying his brief purple patch and scored with a cool finish, but the main positive was Mohammed Salah’s mesmerising performance.
Lorenzo: I'm going to pick a bit of an outsider here, but the Joaquin-inspired comeback win against Milan in Florence is (and will be) one of my fondest memories from the 14/15 season. The game was in the middle of that excellent run of form in early spring, where it seemed like the team could do no wrong. Fiorentina battered Milan in the first half, but didn't find a breakthrough; then Milan scored through a flukey goal and it appeared as though we were due to sink back to Earth, as ever. But then our little ball of heart and tricks came on, and ran absolutely riot. Such fun.
Worst moment of the season?
Lorenzo: The total collapse against Juventus in the Coppa Italia semifinal. I had the misfortune of attending that game, and it was utterly crushing. The whole team showed up flat, they got a little lucky, and we didn't respond. Ruined the next couple weeks for the team (and fans) I think.
Chloe: The low point was losing to Parma away on 6th January, capped off with a double sending off for Gonzalo Rodriguez and Stefan Savic and a terrible performance from Gomez culminating in a missed penalty. Maybe hitting rock bottom did the team good though, as they did not lose again until 9th March.
Chloe: It simply has to be missing out on any kind of trophy this season. I think that qualifying for a Champions League place through Serie A was always going to be a big ask and that after the first leg of the Europa League semi, getting to the final required a miracle. After having done the hard part away to Juventus in the Coppa Italia semi-final, though, it was a huge blow to lose the second leg 3-0. It was a season of being agonisingly so near yet so far.
Lorenzo: Losing to Cagliari and Hellas Verona in consecutive weeks. Those losses still hurt, both for the points and the embarrassment. Add in the shocking loss to Parma in January, and think that those three games should have been the points that put us in the Champions League... Well, let's just say that the conversations we are having about Montella and budgets and goals are entirely different. Incredibly frustrating.
Lorenzo: Mario Gomez against Tottenham Hotspur. I have been going back and forth on my answer to this question, but when I saw big Mario carry the ball right down the heart of the defense and score under the Curva Fiesole so emphatically, I was sure we finally had our star striker in gear. But, for reasons we can't entirely explain, Big Mario ground back into the shadow of himself that we were familiar with in December, and is likely now on the trading block. #whygodwhy
Chloe: There have been some fantastic goals this season, Salah’s vs. Juventus in the away leg of the Coppa Italia immediately springs to mind, and more recently Josip Ilicic’s thunderbolt vs. Palermo was a fantastic strike. However, as the question was favourite goal rather than best goal, I would have to say Juan Cuadrado’s goal at home to Inter in October. I was at the game and because of the angle we were watching from, I could see from the minute the ball left his boot that it was sailing into the net. It was a truly wonderful goal and a special moment to watch it live.
Player of the season?
Chloe: Without a doubt, my vote goes to GONZALO RODRIGUEZ. He has made the most appearances of any player this season and has been supreme at the heart of central defence. His eight goals have also been of huge value to the team, the one that sticks in my mind the most is when he held his nerve when he had to retake his penalty against AS Roma in the Europa League quarter-final. It is his attitude, work rate and commitment to the team though, that has perhaps has impressed me the most.
Lorenzo: GONZALO RODRIGUEZ. A captain's season, even if the armband is shared around the team when Manuel Pasqual isn't on the field. He missed a couple penalties, yes, and had a low moment in the fall, but he stormed back in the second half of the season, bringing order and discipline to a side at sea. What Gonzalo brings to the defense - both athletically and psychologically - is indescribable. He still picks forward passes in a way the side misses when he isn't playing, and he loves a last-second challenge, but I think his time in Italy has also made him grow tactically as a defender as well. His season deserved a 9th goal from his header in the return leg against Sevilla, miraculously kept out by Sergio Rico.
Special mention for JOAQUIN, who also had an astonishing season, demonstrating tireless effort and surprising tactical intelligence in addition to his technical ability. And SALAH of course, a word of praise for him. If he plays a whole year at the level of these first 5 months, we will see him as a player of the season in Italy.
Worst player of the season?
Lorenzo: Alberto Aquilani. Pretty shocking how his performances have slid since his emphatic first season. He hasn't had that many injuries honestly, especially by his standards; think it is more a question of motivation. His performance in that Juve Coppa Italia semifinal will live long in the stuff of Viola infamy.
Chloe: Alberto Aquilani, especially in the latter stages of the season has been extremely disappointing. I have not seen him offer anything in midfield and does not do enough to get involved in the game. His shooting has also been woeful. I will not be sorry to see him leave in the summer.
Comeback player of the season?
Chloe: Josip Ilicic had a terrible first half of the season, putting in several disinterested and lacklustre performances. A move away from the club looked on the cards in the January transfer window but the player rejected a move to Bologna. His performances in the second half of the season (we won’t mention the penalty miss at home to Sevilla) have been much improved, and he has responded with effort and goals, including that goal from distance away to Palermo.
Lorenzo: Milan Badelj. Thought the Croatian was in the same camp as Jasmin Kurtic or even Joshua Brillante for a bit after his arrival from Hamburg (i.e. nearly useless to a team of our quality) but boy has he proved me wrong. Grew tactically game by game, not without a bit of grit, and verticalizes play simply and quickly. Don't think it's a coincidence that we started to counterattack well when he and Salah came into the team; in fact, I believe he directly assisted 3-4 goals by winning the ball back and finding Salah's feet. Immense.
Biggest need in the summer?
Chloe: It depends on who leaves, but I think that a priority must be a striker. Gomez hasn’t provided anywhere near enough quality, consistency or goals and personally, I find him extremely frustrating to watch. There were so many goals from all positions this season that the addition of a striker who could score 15 or more goals next season could be the missing ingredient for Fiorentina.
Lorenzo: Same as it's been for the past 3 seasons Pinky. A central midfielder that can lend a physical presence, but is also able to ball play in the absence of David Pizarro. Thankfully Badelj has showed his worth in the second half of the season, but with the total collapse of Aquilani, and Jasmin Kurtic being essentially useless, you still need another quality midfielder that can cover ground without ruining the team ethos. The potential return of Matias Vecino might help as well.
Lorenzo: The only remarkable thing Aleandro Rosi has done since arriving in January is showing off his melon in a relatively normal, but also totally unappealing fashion. Juan Manuel Vargas' haircut for the season finale wasn't great.
Chloe: I think the Fiorentina squad are quite a conservative group when it comes to haircuts but if I have to pick one I would say Bernadeschi’s undercut. Is that a mean thing to say about one of our youngsters?
Overall grade for the season?
Chloe: B (7). Although no tangible success and some obvious mistakes from the coach and team, with the resources available 4th place in Serie A and two cup semi finals has to be seen as a success. From a fan’s perspective, there have been some real high points: Inter at home (and away), Juventus away, Roma away and Tottenham at home are my highlights. What matters now is that Fiorentina hold on to Montella and invest in the squad for next season so that some of those ‘nearly’ moments are turned into silverware for the viola
Lorenzo: B+ (6.5). Yes, Chloe and I have different interpretations of American grades (wink face). The way that Fiorentina ended this season in the league by snagging fourth place again did a lot to how we interpret our big-game disappointments in April. I think it is now fair to say that this is a team that did very well despite obvious weaknesses, and with some tinkering the semifinal defeats of 2015 will be remembered as growing pains, not the "end of a cycle" as we've heard too much about. The elusive blend of experience and energy, of expansive play and winning cynicism is out there, and nearby. Hopefully Montella can still be the one to bring us closer.