Carpi F.C. 1909's predecessor A.C. Carpi gave Fiorentina their first ever loss in 1926. In preparation for their first ever season in Serie A, they served as the last opponent in Moena, as well as the most formidable.
Thankfully history was not repeated, as a mostly convincing Fiorentina side cruised to a 2-0 victory that featured the return of Giuseppe Rossi. So far Sousa's Fiorentina hasn't looked dramatically different from Montella's, including the strengths (passing, high pressure) and weaknesses (finishing, vulnerability to counters). While keeping possession will become more difficult in Serie A, the preseason is a good opportunity to try new tactics, and it is encouraging to see Sousa build on what is already there instead of immediately pushing for a more defensive system.
Sousa named this starting eleven (4-3-3): Tatarusanu, Camporese, Gonzalo, Savic, Pasqual, Diakhate, Hegazi, Vecino, Joaquin, Gomez, Ilicic. At half time the score was 0-0, with Fiorentina controlling play but looking exceptionally listless in front of the goal, with Mario Gomez particularly ineffective. The Viola started the second half with the following lineup: (4-3-3): Sepe, Tomovic, Basanta, Bagadur, Alonso, Badelj, Capezzi, Borja, Bernardeschi, Ilicic, Fazzi.
At 5 minutes into the second half, Fiorentina finally opened the flood gates with a good deflected goal from who else but Josip Ilicic. Then around 18', the moment we all were waiting for finally came when Ilicic was subbed off for Rossi. It didn't take long for Rossi to make his presence felt, and at 35', Rossi played a nice through ball to Borja Valero who didn't hesitate to make it 2-0 in a brilliant team move. The full highlights are here.
For me, this is what stood out the most:
1. Fiorentina will continue to struggle scoring goals. Unless the Della Valles quit the shoe business to focus their efforts on creating a time machine to kidnap a young Gabriel Batistuta or Luca Toni, this team is going to continue to be let down by a lack of composure in the box, a weakness that has plagued this team for a while.
Two moments especially stand out from the first half. First, after a beautiful series of passes where Diakhate and Matias Vecino toyed with Carpi's defense, the ball fell to captain Manuel Pasqual, who had clear room to shoot, and proceeded to do what Pasqual does best, launch the ball into space.
Second, near the end of the first half, Gomez finally had the perfect opportunity in the box, only to hit the post. Watching Mario Gomez out there was an especially painful experience. While support play often lets him down, Fiorentina needs someone who can exploit clear cut scoring opportunities, and that someone doesn't look like it will be "Marione" as of now. While it's nice to see Ilicic continuing to play hero, it's not fair to put so much pressure on him considering his reverse roller coaster of a season last year.
2. The kids are all right. The younger players continue to be the most exciting part of this team. In the first half, Vecino and Diakhate looked to be having a lot of fun, combining nicely with Joaquin to create the great chances that were typically squandered by Gomez and Pasqual. The 16 year old Senegalese midfielder is definitely one to keep an eye on, and the only Viola player crashing the box in the first half. Hegazi was another one to show encouraging signs, looking surprisingly comfortable in the midfield.
The second half featured a collection of young talent, most of who still looked like they needed experience, but there is a lot of skill there. I thought Capezzi showed encouraging signs. Bernardeschi was disappointingly quiet though.
3. No Rossi, no party. While I'm still skeptical on whether or not we can rely on everyone's favorite son of New Jersey, it didn't take him long to remind us why we missed him. Within 10 minutes of his entrance, Rossi was creating chances by himself (and often for himself), slicing open Carpi's defense, and eventually he played the ball through for the second goal. It remains to be seen what impact his injuries have had on his fitness and general movement, but his vision and chemistry with Borja Valero are certainly still there.