There’s a lot to be said for detached and impartial writing. It’s easy to get caught up in hyperbole and rhetoric to the point where there’s little to be ascertained from what you write except for whom you like, and whom you don’t. This however, is not detached or impartial writing. This is impassioned writing. This the culmination of eighteen months of fan dissatisfaction brought to boil by the travesty that was Fiorentina’s humiliation at hands of Roma Tuesday night.
With that in mind, I argue that it’s in the club’s interest to blow up the squad, in the hope of a Chiesa and Bernardeschi-straddled phoenix emerging from the ashes.
Whilst making drastic changes to a team in a short period is always risky, it’s a gamble la viola have taken and won before. By measure of points in Serie A, Fiorentina’s most succesful season of this decade was 2012-13, a season which saw a new DS and coach in Daniele Prade and Vincenzo Montella, as well as no less than nine changes to the first XI. After years of mid-table mediocrity, Prade and Montella brought a renaissance of style, fluidity, and attacking football to Florence.
Under Paulo Sousa’s leadership much of the identity of that Fiorentina team has been lost, with the Portugese mister preferring a more negative style - opting to protect small leads more often than attempting to add to them - which has failed to replicate let alone improve on Montella’s success. Fiorentina currently sit 8th in Serie A, a chasmic 11 points behind third-place Napoli, and in very real danger of falling out of the race for even Europa League football.
Given this, it’s clear something needs to change, and by something here I mean the coach and about a third of the players.
So who needs to go, and why?
Paulo Sousa: Tuesday’s game against Roma is as damning a review of Sousa as there could be. Too often incapable of motivating his players, and out-thought by his opposite number, it’s time for the Portugese mister to go.
Ciprian Tatarusanu: The giant Romanian has been an admirable servant to the club, but with the signing of Marco Sportiello this winter and Bartlomiej Dragowski’s before that it seems in both parties interest for Ciprian to depart this Summer.
Gonzalo Rodriguez: Hear me out on this. Gonzalo has been a great player for Fiorentina, and despite a definite decline this season he remains a good one. Football however is a business, a business in which Fiorentina find themselves competing with the sixth or seventh largest wage budget. As such, if we’re going to find ourselves truly vying for the top three, we need to be more intelligent with money than Serie A’s other big teams. If Gonzalo’s not willing to take a pay cut, maybe it’s better to let him walk than to pay him two more years of a salary he’s probably not going to be worth by the end of his contract. Irrespective of whether letting Gonzalo go would turn out to be a tough but ultimately sensible decision, or a huge mistake, should he leave, Corvino needs to find a quality cb in the Summer.
Nenad Tomovic: Nenad works hard, and judging by Sousa’s decision to hand him the captain’s armband when Gonzalo and Borja are unavailable he’s probably thought of highly within the squad. Unfortunately, that doesn’t compensate for his fundamental lack of ability. A backup-quality player who’s been in too big a role throughout his tenure in Florence. It’s time to move on from Tomovic.
Sebastian De Maio: Brought in under frankly bizarre circumstances, the Frenchman’s failure to oust Tomovic illustrates as clearly as possible that he’s not of a high enough quality to keep around.
Hrvoje Milic: Simply not a Serie A quality player.
Maxi Olivera: An inferior player to Manuel Pasqual, Olivera possesses neither the speed and technical ability to be a consistent threat pushing forward nor the acumen to be a Serie A defender. Though he’s more deserving to still be on the payroll come August than Milic, moving on from Olivera would be in Fiorentina’s interest.
Milan Badelj: A talented player, and a valuable asset, but if Milan’s heart isn’t in Florence, cashing in on him over the Summer and acquiring a replacement is more prudent than letting him walk at the end of next season.
Josip Ilicic: Ilicic has his qualities, and offers something different to Saponara or Bernardeschi, but he’s likely more valuable to other clubs than he is to Fiorentina at this point. Paying Lurch a starter’s wage to sit on the bench makes less sense than selling him to strengthen at other positions. Best to let him move on to find a new set of fans to madden and delight.
Cristian Tello: Sporadic brilliance against the likes of Pescara doesn’t justify the price tag that comes with keeping Tello, especially not with talented young players like Perez and Hagi waiting in the wings.
Who’s left, and where needs reinforcing?
GK: Sportiello, Dragowski
LB: No one
CB: Astori, Salcedo
B: Venuti, Diks
CM:Vecino, Borja, Cristoforo, Sanchez
WM/AM:Chiesa, Perez, Bernardeschi, Saponara, Hagi
ST: Babacar, Kalinic
What remains is a solid skeleton of a team.
Sportiello’s a more than competent ‘keeper, and Dragowski should be looking to push for a place in the first team sooner rather than later.
The Roma game aside Astori has rarely put a foot wrong and Salcedo has the potential to be an important part of the squad for a long time, though of course two cbs isn’t nearly enough and there needs to be quality additions. Out wide things are dicier, whilst I expect Lorenzo Venuti (who’s been a key part of promotion hopefuls Benevento’s defence) or Kevin Diks to make the rb spot their own next year, neither has any experience at lb, a few versatile and more experienced full backs should be high on the list of priorities.
In midfield Cristoforo and Sanchez have shown versatility and desire enough to warrant signing them in full, and Borja Valero and Vecino are quality players, even if the Spaniard is showing signs of having passed his peak. Chiesa, Saponara, and Bernardeschi are all capable of causing problems for opposing defences, and the three of them together at once is an exciting prospect. Both Ianis Hagi and Joshua Perez have shown themselves to be a cut above the standard for the primavera, and likely will be pushing for first team action next season.
Up front Nikola Kalinic and Khouma Babacar are both good players, but too similar to work together which limits Khouma’s playing time and Fiorentina’s options. Bringing in a pacier, more direct, and ideally more consistent striker would open up options tactically, and stop the team being quite so reliant on Kalinic and Bernardeschi who account for half of Fiorentina’s Serie A goals this season.