What grade would you give Fiorentina as a whole through the first half of the season? How about for Sousa? For the Corvino and company?
Huw: C for the team, D for Sousa, C for Corvino. Wait, is C good? What’s the score for distinctly average? That’s the one. A distinctly average season thus far managed by a coach who seemingly can’t be arsed.
Whichever grade directly equates with the idea of apathetically treading water, that’s the grade I give this season thus far. So probably C.
Nolan: I'd give Fiorentina a C. This may be harsh - they haven't been bad per se, but this is a joyless,underachieving team that has wasted entire games, and when worth watching it is usually for individual moments of brilliance from the two Ferdericos, Bernardeschi and Chiesa. A lot can be blamed on Sousa, who I gave a B-, because while he has them playing often ugly football, I can't blame him for a lack of options in certain positions, and to his credit he did make some adjustments as the season went on, if only because his initial tactics and squad selection were disasters. Corvino and the rest of management, on the other hand, are the primary reason this team is so mediocre. The budget might be limited but the fact is most of what is good about this team was inherited. Corvino's reinforcements have done less than the man himself has by potentially driving off the team captain and best defender, for that he gets a D.
Tito: The club as a whole gets a C- for me. It’s hard to believe that Fiorentina were second in Serie A at this time last year. Some of the bad stuff is simply regression to the mean, but it’s hard not to think that a window has closed for the Viola as the Milan clubs and Lazio get stronger and spend heaps of cash. Would have been nice to get something more out of that little period.
I think that Sousa deserves a C- too. He’s done well to introduce young talent and has been forced to work with a limited squad, but some lackadaisical performances cost him points, as does his stubborness with regards to certain players (cough Milic cough). He was too slow to adapt his shape early on when it wasn’t working, and he’s said some dumb stuff to the press, too. Corvino gets a C, since he’s signed some really appealing youngsters (shocker, that) but hasn’t picked up anyone who’s made much of an immediate impact.
What's been the best moment of the season? The worst? What's the club done as a whole that's impressed you the most?
Huw: The thing which has impressed me most about the season is how few stand out moments there have been. The best match (against Napoli) ended with the opposition scoring a late goal. The odd Baba goal here and there, as well as the continuing improvement of Bernardeschi, is undermined by the fact that both players have been linked with moves away from the club. The better they do, they more likely they are to leave, seemingly.
Actually, the Roma match was alright. The goal probably was offside, though.
Nolan: This team has been so up and down, but the best moment is probably still the victory against Roma in September - it wasn't pretty but at least it showed this team had guts and, at least for a short while, a promising defense. The worst was probably the collapse against Inter, a team that until recently we saved our best for, but the recent loss against Lazio comes first. What has this club done to impress me? Well, at least they bounce back from losses for the most part.
Tito: The best moment was the 5-2 win at Cagliari, if only because suddenly the Viola looked like the sort of fun squad you could tell your hipster friends to watch because they’d at least be entertaining. The worst moment was getting shelled by Lazio, which pretty much nailed shut the coffin on that previous sentiment. I’ve been impressed with how well the club has integrated a bunch of young players into the squad, but other than that, they haven’t done a lot to wow me.
Who's the MVP at the midway point? Honorable mention? Biggest disappointment? Most improved? Biggest surprise?
Huw: Berna is the obvious stand out as the MVP, but Chiesa is becoming more and more important. Tello is a waste of money but Sanchez seems to have been spurred on by playing in that Villa-imposed turgid purgatory for the previous twelve months. Salcedo has been alright, simply by dint of not being Tomovic. Stunned that Tomovic hasn’t been thrown down a well yet.
Nolan: The MVP is probably Federico Bernardeschi - like the rest of the team he has been up and down, but he's been the one player to consistent bail Fiorentina out, and is by far the source of the most excitement on the team. Honorable mentions include Davide Astori, Nikola Kalinic, and Matias Vecino, the latter of who has recently stepped up with Borja Valero injured and Milan Badelj playing inconsistently as he daydreams about Milan.
The biggest disappointment has been Cristian Tello - unfortunately ineffectiveness has been the story of his career, but not even his pace is being properly utilized as it was last season. It is also disappointing we haven't seen Diks, Toledo, and Hagi even get opportunities. Most improved....maybe Ciprian Tatarusanu? He has been more consistent this year at least. Biggest surprise is Chiesa, who I was not expecting to be able to contribute already, especially at the expense of some more high profile young additions.
Tito: For me, Davide Astori is the MVP. He’s been utterly fantastic at the back and is the only reason we haven’t seen any cricket scores this year. Seems like he’s taking over the leadership role from Gonzalo too, as he’s been very vocal in organizing a (frequently disastrous) defense. Honorable mention for Federico Bernardeschi and Borja Valero. Biggest disappointment is doubtless Cristian Tello, whom I thought was going to be one of the key players at the beginning of the year. Yeah, I’m dumb. Most improved has to be Berna, who’s blossomed into a genuine freaking superstar who can carry a team at times. The biggest surprise is Federico Chiesa being really really good already.
What purchases and sales are you expecting in the mercato? What would be your (more or less reasonable) best scenario?
Huw: The ideal scenario is that Corvino somehow flogs Kalinic to China for €50 million, which is then spent on a decent keeper, a decent set of full backs, and a mobile forward. I’ve no idea who. Sirigu, maybe? He hasn’t played in ages, though.
I’d spend all the money on getting Antonio Cassano because the club is currently tediously mediocre and needs spicing up. I don’t care whether he’s good at football anymore.
Nolan: It looks like Zarate is going to be sold in the winter, which is an outright tragedy. If China is really offering a ton of money for Kalinic, I'd rather sell him instead - he will be missed, but I just don't trust him to consistently score against the better teams, and since we are going to rely on individual brilliance for goals this season either way, I'm fine cashing in and giving more opportunities to Babacar while we can. I don't really think the winter mercado will be able to save this team - best case scenario is we keep Zarate for the rest of this season and let him go in the summer, along with Badelj (there comes a point where it's not worth trying to convince him otherwise), Ilicic, and Kalinic, and use the money to invest in midfielders and forwards. Hopefully the team can still keep Gonzalo - Carlos Salcedo has been frustrating but promising, and if we are going to develop him we need to hold onto the leadership of Gonzalo and Astori.
Tito: Best case scenario, to me, is selling Kalinic for stupid money, then buying a rightback like Francesco Zampano from Pescara, a creative midfielder Clement Grenier from Lyon or Bruno Fernandes from Sampdoria/Udinese, some fast, reasonably cheap winger like Antonio di Gaudio from Carpi, and getting Stevan Jovetic back from Inter Milan.
Prediction time: where is Fiorentina going to finish in Serie A? In the Europa League? In the Coppa Italia?
Huw: Fiorentina will finish 6th in league unless anything dramatic happens. Maybe scrape through against Gladbach but lose in the Europa before the semi-finals. Coppa is a write off, as I don’t think anybody particularly cares about it. It’s time to start planning for a post-Sousa world.
Nolan: 8th in Serie A, knocked out in the round of 16 (against Tottenham?) in the Europa League, knocked out by Napoli in the the quarter finals of the Coppa Italia.
Tito: 6th in Serie A. A loss to Athletic Bilbao in the quarterfinals of the Europa League after beating a German Team and Tottenham Hotspur (it’s our turn to win this fixture, right?). A loss in the round of 16 in the Coppa to some Serie B squad. And a loss of Paulo Sousa on the first day of June.