Some of the Argentinean football in the late 1960s was legendarily brutal, cynical, and pragmatic. Teams like the Estudiantes of Zubeldia and Bilardo or Boca Juniors of Pedernera and d'Amico happily ceded possession in favor of kicking opponents out of the match, playing almost exclusively on the break and with a shocking level of violence. The Estudiantes matches against Celtic in 1967 and Manchester United in 1968 were famously more brawls than matches, leading El Grafico reporter Osvaldo Ardizzone to muse, "Estudiantes go out to destroy, to dirty, to irritate, to deny the show, to use all the illegal subterfuges in football...if it is good to win, then it must be good."
But they won. They won a lot. Their negative tactics and physical play often took precedence over the wonderfully gifted players they could call on, such as Juan Ramon Veron. The backlash against them was slow but eventually absolute, as Cesar Menotti led the nation into a new period of more positive, romantic football, much like they'd played in the 1950s.
Fiorentina haven't swung to either extreme yet. Under Vincenzo Montella, this was a purely positive side, with passers and playmakers all over the pitch, dedicated to keeping the ball and beating teams with skill and intelligence. At times, though, his teams priotized merely hanging onto the ball, rather than actually going for goal; to borrow a nickname from the River Plate of the 1950s, these were the Knights of Anguish. Brilliant in the middle third, but always in danger of conceding a quick goal. With the same sporting director and players, Paulo Sousa continued Cousin Vinnie's style last year.
Now in his second season, we're seeing the real Paulo Sousa: happy to sacrifice possession in return for sound defensive positioning. While we haven't yet seen them resort to Sinisa Mihajlovic-level negativity and fouling, it's been a shock for fans who've grown accustomed to seeing lovely passing combinations all over the pitch for 90 minutes. But then again, Sousa seems to have the lads playing together and giving it their all, and wins like the one against AS Roma are deeply satisfying and wonderful entertainment.
So who's right? Should the Viola remain the beautifully frustrating team they've been, or should they evolve into a less spectacular but more effective group? It's a trick question: there's no right answer. And if you, like me, are reading too much into 3.2 matches thus far this season, maybe we need a bit of that Severus Snape treatment.
Did you miss the mercato? Firstly, that's weird. Secondly, we're back to rounding up the rumors every week.
Conversely, the match against Roma was really exciting and tense and you should catch up on anything you missed in our coverage of it.
Borja Valero is the best. I will fight you if you try to argue.
Comment of the week
Mike-R threw some boss-level shade. Here's the context if you're into that sort of thing.