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Here’s your Viola Nation staff reviewing the season

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Hi. We are the experts who are good at knowing things that sometimes tangentially relate to Fiorentina. Let’s talk.

ACF Fiorentina v SS Lazio - Serie A
This is how the VN staff looks when we write stuff.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

1. Let’s start with the year’s transfers. After looking at them, how do you think Pantaleo Corvino did in the summer, the winter, and all together? Who’s been the best, the worst, the biggest surprise?

Kyle: Pantaleo Corvino did exactly what he always does, gets some surprise players and others that basically play no factor. Also he got rid of some rising stars ahead of schedule so it is a little frustrating. The best transfer was probably Jordan Veretout. At first he seemed a little uncomfortable, but settled in as one of the best performers on the team. Veretout made losing Federico Bernardeschi a little more palatable because of his skills as a free kick artist. The worst transfer was selling off Bernardeschi, but the worst player brought in has been Diego Falcinelli. Unfortunately, Falcinelli is just not living up to his transfer fee. No matter what, when a player is connected to losing Khouma Babacar it is difficult. Falcinelli just has not been as clutch as Babacar was. This change of scenery has not helped the Italian too much. The biggest surprise has been Bryan Dabo. He seemed to be just a depth piece when Fiorentina acquired him in January, but Dabo is legit. The Frenchman was a force in the central midfield that Fiorentina needed. He ended up being a suitable substitute for Carlos Sanchez.

Alex: It’s been a real mixed bag when it comes to transfers. It started off very poorly with the likes of Borja Valero, Federico Bernardeschi and Gonzalo all leaving. It’s been a real period of change and it was the end of an era. With the resources available to him Corvino has done decent enough job. Giovanni Simeone has been very successful scoring 14 goals in Serie A. At only 22 he’s only going to get better, and hopefully, it’ll be in Florence.

Summer wise, with the likes of Simeone, Nikola Milenkovic, Jordan Veretout and Marco Benassi, Corvino has proven to do well under a relatively strict budget. The January transfer window, however, was not a success. While Bryan Dabo looks like he could be a real player next year, the move to swap Diego Falcinelli for Khouma Babacar is insane. The best transfer this season was Jordan Veretout; he’s surpassed people’s expectations this season and if he can improve further next year he could be an incredible talent. Worst is Falcinelli, he’s just been flat out terrible. Most surprising out of the signings I would go for is Veretout again, I thought he’d have a solid season but not like he has. He’s proven himself to be a goalscorer and have incredible vision on the pitch.

Trayers: I think Corvino deserves a lot of praise for the work he’s done this year, although there are certainly some valid criticisms to be made of the deals he overseen. Overall though, I think there’s been more good than bad, it’s a solid 7/10 from me.

The best signing of the last year has been Milenkovic, 20-year old Serie A quality defenders are few and far between (Nikola was one of only three defenders aged 20 or younger to play more than ten games last season), I think he’ll be a big part of the club for years to come.

The worst signing was probably Bruno Gaspar, who has looked below the standard all year. With two significantly better options right backs already at the club, and Kevin Diks returning next season. It’s hard to imagine Gaspar will still be here in August.

The biggest surprise has been Veretout. I didn’t expect him to be any better than Mati, but his performances this year have been superb.

Tito: I think Corvino did a pretty good job this season, all things considered. His remit to turn Fiorentina into a sustainable club that doesn’t rely on a Villarreal relegation for its success was a good one, and he stuck to it. I’m still ticked off about how Borja and Gonzalo were offloaded, but I think the Crow handled everything correctly other than those two (and they’re a big two): brought in young talent all over the pitch for cheap.

Signing of the year for me is Nikola Milenković. Dude plays like a grown-ass man and is going to be a world-class defender in the next couple of years.

Worst signing has got to be Marco Benassi. He had some nice moments, but a club like Fiorentina doesn’t shell out €10 million for a few nice moments. Some of it might have had to do with the role he was forced into, but c’mon. Big signings have to play like big signings, and Marco didn’t.

Most surprising transfer to me was that Milan Badelj didn’t leave. I was convinced that he’d be on the next train out of Florence, and now he’s pondering a 4 year deal.

2. With another window on the verge of opening, where do you think Corvino needs to spend his meager resources? What’s the most pressing weakness in the squad?

Kyle: Corvino is still changing this roster. The team will be going into its second season under Stefano Pioli and new blood will certainly be coming in. Some could argue that the striker position needs to be addressed. In reality, Giovanni Simeone still has a lot to learn as a player. He has had some great games and some games where you wouldn’t even know he was on the pitch. Beyond that the depth is a little scarce. Striker depth and an experienced winger would be a nice touch. Having someone other than Cyril Thereau across from Federico Chiesa would be excellent. For instance if, Corvino kept Ianis Hagi he would have been great...I’m still bitter about that one. Basically the attack needs to be more consistent. Overall depth is really the biggest weakness on the roster. Corvino will not listen to me though and end up getting some new version of Cyril Thereau that will annoy me all season.

Alex: As far as the summer transfer window goes, I think work needs to be done on the defence. It’s still not a given who is actually going to be partnering German Pezzella next season and an experienced head would be perfect. Of course like every window a right back would be a sound investment with Bruno Gaspar and Vincent Laurini not pulling up any trees. It goes without saying but if Corvino could keep Simeone and Chiesa that would be swell.

Trayers: Our biggest need is a goalkeeper. Dragowski is clearly not ready to play Serie A football, if we’re still holding out hope for the Pole I’d like to see someone like Mirante brought in for the next two seasons. A back up striker would be nice too, but a Fiorentina squad with no glaring deficiency would hardly be a Fiorentina squad.

Tito: Corvino is going to buy, like, 17 teenagers. 3 will end up being very good. The rest will never be heard from again. I really hope that the club shells out for at least one medium to big name, but I’m not especially optimistic.

Biggest need, to me, is finding another wide attacker. Opponents knew that they could just double up on Chiesa’s wing and shut down the attack. Having someone else to stay wide and maybe beat a man off the dribble would take pressure off Fede, open up the midfield, and give poor old Cristiano Biraghi a break from the insane amount of running he has to do every week.

3. What part of the team was the best throughout the year: goalkeeping, defense, midfield, or attack? Which was the worst? Which was the most surprising?

Kyle: One of the biggest consistent presences over the past few years has been goalkeeping for Fiorentina. That continued this season. Although many fans and writers wanted to see more Bartlomiej Dragowski, Marco Sportiello played too well for that to happen. As a fan it is tough because Sportiello seems to be very comfortable since coming to Florence and is an established keeper. Dragowski is a high upside wild card. He has the possibility to be one of the best keepers in the world, he just needs playing time. The competition has really brought out the best in the two players and kept Fiorentina in a lot of games throughout the season. The worst and most frustrating was the attack. Now they were the worst because they were the most inconsistent. There were games that had Fiorentina fans jumping for joy with the potential and then there were games where the guys forgot to show up. Two young players, Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone need to find more consistency. They were a bit frustrating. The fans expect the world from those two and they need to continue to develop. The most surprising group was the defense. Going into the season the only real strong presence on the defense was Davide Astori. After his unexpected passing, the defense did not skip a beat. Milenkovic stepped in and became the anchor they needed after losing a strong captain. The defense became so consistent that it felt like Fiorentina was going to be in every game because of it.

Alex: I’m going to go with the midfield as the best and most surprising. Corvino had a big task replacing Vecino and Valero but the trio of Badelj, Veretout and Benassi have been incredibly solid. To add to this the late resurgence of Riccardo Saponara and Dabo coming into the team has been a blessing.

I don’t really think any part of the team has necessarily been awful. Although apart from Simeone it’s not been great in the striker department. Falcinelli failed to get a single goal and Babacar while he was here barely featured from the start.

Trayers: Paradoxically, I’m going to give both best and worst to the defence. The team conceded 3 or more goals in seven games, often because of comically inept defending, but also kept 14 clean sheets. When they’re locked in, our defenders look like amongst the best in the league, when they’re not, Verona beat us 4-1.

Tito: The defense was the best, and that’s not saying a whole lot when they got housed at home by goddamn Hellas Verona. Every unit on the team, though, had matches that were awful, and the defense at least had some that were brilliant; that win over AS Roma at the Olimpico still boggles my mind.

The worst unit was the attack. Giovanni Simeone had some big days, but also boofed a whole lot of chances. Chiesa frequently didn’t impact games all that much because he was getting double-teamed and kicked. None of Valentin Eysseric, Cyril Théréau, Gil Dias, or Diego Falcinelli showed anything resembling the quality to help.

The midfield was really surprising to me insofar as its style of play. I thought that Pioli would try to maintain some of the Vincenzo Montella mentality that the team has evinced this past half decade, especially since the trio of Badelj, Benassi, and Veretout were touted as having some excellent technical quality. Instead, we got a group that wanted to physically wear down opponents rather than pass around them. The results were, hm, mixed, but they definitely weren’t what I expected.

4. Who’s your Player of the Season? Most improved? Biggest surprise? Best young player? Biggest flop?

Kyle: My player of the season was Davide Astori. This season was completely about the captain. My heart still hurts just like every Fiorentina fans when thinking about him. He was having an excellent year, in his first season wearing the armband, and was definitely pulling some strings from above later in the season. It is so difficult to pick a player besides him because this season was really about him from the beginning until the end.

The most improved player was Jordan Veretout. Through the season he really grew with the club. In the beginning of the year, he looked a little lost and could have been getting used to life in Italy. It all clicked and now because of that the Frenchman will probably take his craft somewhere else next season.

The biggest surprise was Federico Chiesa. This is not a surprise in a good way either. He was supposed to take the next step as a player and really didn’t. There is a lot of talent in there, but he didn’t play any better than he did last season. Chiesa has a lot of expectations, which is great but it also hurts him because fans expect so much from him. He needs to continue to improve going forward.

The best young player was Nikola Milenkovic. The giant man was very impressive as a defender and found his way onto the pitch at a consistent rate. Even before he was thrust into action, Milenkovic was starting to earn the trust of Stefano Pioli. From there he just took off as a player and is one of the backbones of the defense going forward.

The Biggest Flop was Cyril Thereau. Thereau is beyond frustrating to watch and is completely past his prime. Sure he had some decent goals in the beginning of the season, but was more of a disaster on the field than an asset.

Alex: My Player of the season has been Jordan Veretout. The classy Frenchman has excelled in the midfield and has scored some crucial goals, while Simeone has to get a mention as he seems to be the only player who can consistently put the ball in the net. €7 million now looks like a bargain and Corvino needs to make sure he keeps a hold of the midfielder.

Biggest flop, I’m going to say Valentin Eysseric. I expected more from the Frenchman and he really hasn’t delivered. I can’t really see him being there next year. My best young player of the season would be Nikola Milenkovic. He’s played at a level far superior to his age and looks like he could be a real player next year.

Trayers: Player of the Season for me is Badelj: there aren’t many players in our dressing room currently who make the people around them better, but having Badelj dictate the tempo of our attacks brings the best out of the players around him. Without him next year I think we’ll struggle to turn possession into goals against the weaker teams in the league.

Most Improved goes to Chiesa: given the turnover of players last Summer there isn’t too much competition here, but that doesn’t make Chiesa any less deserving of a winner. Last year he showed a lot of promise, and this year he’s built on that and has become a pivotal part of the team.

Best Young Player: Chiesa wins this one pretty comfortably, but I think Milenkovic deserves an honourable mention for having come into the starting lineup in such a difficult situation and performed so well.

Biggest Flop: Gil Dias. It may be unfair to call a 21-year old a flop, but after a very promising first five or so games Dias’ performance fell off a cliff. It won’t surprise me if he’s playing at the top of football in five-years, but this year has seen more highs than lows for the Portuguese winger.

Tito: Player of the season is Chiesa for me. Fiorentina’s attack frequently seemed to be the football equivalent of this, with Fede facing the howling hordes alone. That he did as much as he did, especially at his age, indicates not just a massive talent but also a lot of maturity.

Biggest flop has to be Valentin Eysseric. Some real morons (me) thought he was going to really earn the 10 shirt that he picked out. Instead, he lost playing time to Dias and Théréau. Cripes.

I’ll go with Riccardo Saponara as the most improved. He did nothing last year and was doing the same at the start of this one. There were rumors that Fiorentina wanted to offload him on the cheap in the winter window. Instead, Pioli threw him into the lineup and the Cheese brought coherency to the attack that was otherwise entirely lacking.

Best youngster is Chiesa, no matter what, but the Mountain that Kicks deserves a shout as well.

5. What grade does Stefano Pioli deserve? What did he do well? Where did he fall short of expectations? Should the club extend his contract?

Kyle: Stefan Pioli gets a 7 out of 10 for the season. He could have been a lot better, but also could have been a lot worse. The expectations were low going into the season and Pioli had his back against the wall. Ending the season 8th in the table is pretty solid for a club that ended in the same position the year prior. He did this with less high profile players though. One of the things Pioli did well was keep the team together after they death of Davide Astori. That was the hardest test any manager could ever come across. Pioli kept the team together during that tough time and proved to be the leader they were looking towards during that time. Pioli really put his philosophy into the team which showed during their run of wins in the middle of the season. He fell short on incorporating the youth into the roster. Pioli should have played the younger players more to see what he had. Guys like Simone Lo Faso, Ianis Hagi (before he was transferred), Petko Hristov, and Bartlomiej Dragowski should have seen the pitch more. As of right now Pioli earned another season. I truly believe that consistency creates success. Unfortunately, the football world does not believe that. Give the guy three full seasons and see where they stand. Will that happen? Probably not.

Alex: Might be a bit controversial but I like Pioli. He’s got a real tough job on his hands but given the right tools, he could succeed even more next year. If he’s given the players next season to make the squad even better I think the team could surpass 8th position next year. As I said previously he needs help and strength-in-depth throughout the squad. Too many times has Pioli needed a game changer on the bench but could only look to Gil Dias or Falcinelli. I would definitely give him an extension, this year was always going to a rebuilding year. I would give him time to complete the job. I’d give him B-.

Trayers: As far as results go, I think Pioli has done as well as can be expected with the players at the club. We’ve taken some big scalps, though in typical Fiorentina fashion we’ve also thrown away points against the worst teams in the league. Where I think he’s excelled is in forming a tight-knit group of players who care about succeeding at the club, and in acting as a representative of the club. The way the team responded both on and off the pitch to Astori’s death was stunning, and I can’t credit the backroom staff at the club enough for that. All in all: 8/10.

Tito: Pioli gets a 7.5 from me. Tasked with changing the club’s entire style of play with a bunch of new signings and the youngest squad in Serie A, he took them to the brink of the Europa League despite losing Davide Astori. He built a team that seemed to have a real sense of character and togetherness and brought them through a pretty traumatic experience with flying colors. I wish that he’d focused a bit more on creating a watchable product, but it’s hard to ding him too much for aesthetics. If the club qualifies for Europe next year or barely misses out again while showing off a playing style that’s much easier on the eye, he should be extended for another year. Otherwise, I think it’ll be in everyone’s best interests for him to move on.

6. What was the best moment of the season? What was the worst? What was just flat-out weird?

Kyle: The best part of the season was the six game winning streak from February 25th to April 7th. During that time the team was playing well and had the feel that they would find their way into a Europa League spot. It was exciting football that Stefano Pioli should use going forward to show the team how to play. The worst part of the season was the passing of Davide Astori. This season will forever be connected to the captain. Waking up that morning to see the terrible news hurt as a fan. The hurt that his family and teammates felt could not be matched by any fan of the team. It was a truly terrible moment for the world of football. Davide Astori was the kind of player and man you want your children to look up to. This season was a wild mix of emotions for all involved. The flat out weird part of the season, was why Stefano Pioli kept using Cristian Biraghi to take free kicks. This still bothers me! Even though Biraghi improved on his deliveries the beginning of the season was like watching a really strong toddler try to kick a ball near a target. Meaning he missed his mark completely.

Alex: The worst moment of the season was obviously the tragic passing of Davide Astori. It was so unexpected and awful news you never want to hear. He will never ever be forgotten. It seems strange to get upset about someone you never met but, it brought tears to my eyes, especially seeing the many tributes from the likes of Saponara. With what was a horrendous tragedy came the best moments of the season. After losing their captain the team went on an incredible run, and I was proud to say I support that team. This season will always be about Davide.

The weirdest moment this season would be the 4-3 defeat to Lazio. It was a totally mad game of football where nothing seemed to make sense at all.

Trayers: The worst part of the season was Davide Astori’s tragic death, nothing else even warrants mention. The highlight was the response to his passing from the team. For the month or so after, the whole team raised their performance and gave all they could on the pitch, and honoured his memory off of it. I’m sure il capitano would’ve been proud.

Tito: Worst moment was waking up at 6 AM for the Udinese match and finding out that Davide Astori was dead.

Best was the 0-2 win at Roma, because it was so unlikely and so tense and so, so satisfying.

Weirdest has to be Josip Iličić leaving Fiorentina and becoming a superstar.

7. And, because it’s fun to be wrong about everything, what’s going to happen over the coming 12 months? Who’s joining the club, who’s leaving, and how will the Viola fare next season?

Kyle: I had two ways to go with this: 1. be positive, 2 be negative. Negative always seems to win. Some of our favorite players will be gone this summer. Last year I thought Federico Bernardeschi had no chance of leaving and I was completely wrong. Now hopefully I am wrong again. Giovanni Simeone, Federico Chiesa, Bartlomiej Dragowski and Jordan Veretout will be playing on different teams next season. It hurts so bad to say that, but its better to get it out now and be wrong than think the team will keep these guys and be wrong. Panteleo Corvino is great at breaking our hearts. The good news is he will not leave the team high and dry. He will use all of that money to bring in Mario Balotelli! You can also always count on Fiorentina signing some eastern European players that no one knows about and turning them into solid footballers. The team is actually going to get better and will earn a Europa league spot fair and square next season. I will say they finish 5th in Serie A next season. The X-factor next year will be Simone Lo Faso. I am completely in on this kid and he is going to step up next season. I will probably be wrong about all of this, but if I am right remember I am an “expert”.

Alex: This window could be very important for the future of the club. I’d like to see Francesco Acerbi brought in. He would fit the bill of what is needed, experienced and Italian and could be a great fit into the side. A winger with bags of pace to come off the bench would also be ideal. As far as next season goes I’m going to be optimistic here, Chiesa stays and get fifteen goals, along with Simeone’s 24 strikes next season. Fiorentina finish fourth and Pioli gets manager of the year. I mean I can dream, right?

Trayers: Fiorentina will sign a number of young eastern Europeans, one of whom will be very good for the primavera and none of whom will make a first team appearance. Abdou Diakhate will break into the first team, and the lack of viable options up top will mean that one of Dusan Vlahovic and Simone Lo Faso will be around to come off the bench. Whilst Fiorentina are definitely a selling club, the Della Valle will hold onto their young players for another year to let their market value grow. Fiorentina will be linked to Stevan Jovetic, Bryan Dabo will win Serie A player of the year, Simeone and Chiesa will both make the leap from good to great, and Fiorentina will finish 6th because they dropped points to every team in the bottom 5.

Tito: Corvino will sell one of Chiesa, Simeone, Milenković, or Veretout for megabucks. He’ll bring in a cheap replacement who will prove deeply, madly lacking in quality. But Pantaleo will also pick up some teenager from Montenegro or Uruguay who’ll quickly become a force in the squad. Bryan Dabo will become a bona fide superstar monster at the base of midfield and Fiorentina will qualify for the Europa League by the skin of their teeth. Then AC Milan will get utterly ban-hammered for shady transfer practices and the Violal will squeak into the Champions League. Sorry, even my fantasies are boring and unlikely.