Recap: After Fiorentina sold pretty much all their attacking talent from the past few years, it was no secret that the club was pinning all its hopes on Fede’s narrow, teenaged shoulders. Stefano Pioli moved him out of wingback forever (hooray) and kept him as a true winger with the freedom to switch sides whenever he saw fit. The first sign that he was going to keep blossoming came against Bologna, when he scored an outrageous opener. The goals and assists came thick and fast after that throughout the season as Chiesa proved to a wider audience what Viola fans already knew: he’s not just destined for superstardom, but rather arriving even as we watch. Sure, he had some bad matches, but that’s to be expected of a kid who just turned 20 when he’s the only threat a veteran Serie A team faces. He spent most of the season up against two or three defenders who were determined to hack the hell out of him and he still excelled; had his strikers finished a little bit better, he could have easily finished with 15 assists. He’s penciled in as a starter for Italy now, and the sky is the limit for him.
Stats: 36 matches (35 starts), 6 goals, 9 assists, 8 yellow cards, 3.2 shots per 90 minutes, 0.3 goals+assists per 90 minutes, 1.7 chances created per 90 minutes, 2.2 dribbles per 90 minutes, 4.9 balls lost per 90 minutes
What’s next: Inter Milan, Juventus, and Napoli are all casting covetous eyes at Fede, but Pantaleo Corvino has already rejected a €40 million approach from the latter and seems ready to defend his superstar at all costs. Assuming that he fends off the big clubs, Chiesa will just get better and better. Targeting double digit goals and assists seems like a reasonable next step.
Grade: A- Despite misfiring strikers, a game plan that frequently left him isolated, marking that varied from physical to absolutely thuggish, and his tender years, Federico Chiesa was hands down the best player in Florence this season.
Recap: We expected big things from the Portugal U21 star and Jorge Mendes client, because those are generally a combination of things that mean a player is really, really good. Getting Dias on a 2-year loan (albeit with an outlandishly high €20 million fee) looked like excellent business by Corvino: here was a young, fast, direct, and exciting attacker who’d pair perfectly with Chiesa and Simeone. Solid performances against Bologna and AS Roma in the early going made him seem like the type of player who’s about to put it together and burst into unstoppability, and we were thrilled that it was going to happen. Instead, though, he petered out. Perhaps it was his confidence, or perhaps he had a knock he didn’t tell anyone about, but for whatever reason, he just fell off a cliff. He missed simple passes, whiffed easy shots, got the ball stuck under his feet while he tried to dribble, and generally looked about as threatening as a day-old giraffe on a trampoline. As a result, he saw less and less of the pitch as the season went on, which sapped his confidence further.
Stats: 28 appearances (9 starts), 2 goals, 2 assists, 1 yellow card, 2.4 shots per 90 minutes, 0.4 goals + assists per 90 minutes, 1.7 chances created per 90 minutes, 2.4 dribbles per 90 minutes, 4.4 balls lost per 90 minutes
What’s next: There’s some discussion that Fiorentina and Mendes may terminate the loan early so that Dias can actually go somewhere he’ll play a lot. He’s almost certainly going to be very good, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s gonna happen in Florence for whatever reason. If he does return, he’ll compete to back up Chiesa and whichever winger Corvino acquires.
Grade: C- He had every opportunity to make himself a regular starter, but fell behind the likes of Cyril Théréau instead. That’s, uh, not encouraging.
Recap: A bargain bin find by Corvino, the ex-Nice man only cost €3.5 million after spending a year setting up Mario Balotelli. Capable of playing through the middle, he was advertised as a technical dribbler who liked to start on the left wing before cutting inside to shoot or slip a ball through the lines. Alas, he suffered an early injury and was passed up by Dias and Théréau in the pecking order. He didn’t really re-establish himself until the spring, when Pioli began using him as a change of pace from Saponara, and he scored a neat volleyed equalizer against Genoa. That was the high point of his season, though. Mostly he shuffled around without ever really doing a whole lot to look threatening. Maybe it was a new league and a new language and a new team, maybe it was a lack of pace, maybe it was something else entirely, but he just never looked like the sort who’d make a difference.
Stats: 23 appearances (8 starts), 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 yellow cards, 1.9 shots per 90 minutes, 0.2 goals + assists per 90 minutes, 3.1 chances created per 90 minutes, 2.2 dribbles per 90 minutes, 4.1 balls lost per 90 minutes
What’s next: He’s signed through 2021 and unlikely to generate much money if he’s sold, so he’s probably not going anywhere. We fully expect him to compete for a role as a reserve and occasional starter next year. Hopefully a full year to get settled in will help him unlock a few upgrades.
Grade: C- Just didn’t do very much
Recap: The French veteran joined from Udinese this summer for €1.5 million and assumed the mantle of oldest player in the team. Expected to work as the third striker behind Giovanni Simeone and Khouma Babacar, he instead slotted in as the starting left winger for the opening months of the season. While he seemed to fill up the stats column with goals and assists, his play was always off a bit; for example, his brace against Udinese was somewhat spoiled by his robust celebrations against his old side. He also clearly lacked the fitness to play for more than an hour, and, while he did produce the goods on the pitch, he also lost the ball at a truly alarming rate. For these two reasons, Pioli benched him for the final march, and it’s perhaps not entirely coincidental that he played 15 minutes across the record-matching Viola win streak.
Stats: 20 appearances (16 starts), 5 goals, 4 assists, 2 yellow cards, 2.5 shots per 90 minutes, 0.6 goals + assists per 90 minutes, 1.8 chances created per 90 minutes, 1.1 dribbles per 90 minutes, 4.1 balls lost per 90 minutes
What’s next: Now 34 years old, Cyril’s deal runs through next summer. He’ll probably stick around Florence, hopefully as a reserve we’ll only see sparingly, when a match needs a single nice pass or penalty and nothing else
Grade: C+ One of those weird players who, other than a pretty dang good goals/assists per minute rating, doesn’t do anything, but was probably better than advertised
Recap: The former Empoli man joined up last year (although his €9 million fee isn’t due until this July), but didn’t feature much under Paulo Sousa. Expected to work as the number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 this year, he missed most of the first 2 months with various ailments and looked desperately out of place when Pioli brought him into a 4-3-3, prompting whispers that he might be sold in January. The Cheese stuck around, although he didn’t really get a chance to show his stuff until March, when Pioli moved him into the starting XI against Crotone. The team suddenly looked miles better with Saponara there to connect the midfield and the attack. Finally back in his natural role, he drifted around in pockets of space, provided a quick forward passing option, and kept things moving. Much like Chiesa, his assist numbers suffer from poor finishing rather than an inability to serve up chances. His conditioning is still suspect and, like most trequartistas, he’s prone to vanishing for long stretches under physical man marking, but in a lot of ways, he’s the engine that makes the attack work.
Stats: 20 appearances, 4 assists, 3 yellow cards, 2.1 shots per 90 minutes, 0.5 goals + assists per 90 minutes, 3.6 chances created per 90 minutes, 1.7 dribbles per 90 minutes, 3.6 balls lost per 90 minutes
What’s next: Everything depends on the mercato this summer. If Pioli goes with a 4-2-3-1, Ricky will be an obvious starter. If it’s 4-3-3 again, it could be another long year. Either way, nothing is ever certain with the Cheese.
Grade: B- It took the coach a long time to figure out that Saponara was part of the best XI, but you can’t blame him too much when Ricky’s often a bit of a passenger; when he’s on, though, he makes things work so much better
Simone Lo Faso
Recap: The Viola snapped up Lo Faso as a 19-year-old winger from Palermo on the last day of the summer window for a loan fee of €300,000 and a chance to buy him outright at the end of the year. Encased in hype from “insiders” who claimed that he was the next big thing, he only made 2 appearances for the Viola off the bench. He looked better than expected in both, capable of dribbling at opponents and absorbing the punishment that the grown-ass defenders in Serie A dole out. However, just when he was building a case for more playing time, he broke his fibula in training. It’s obviously a significant and serious injury, and it’ll probably keep him out of action for at least a couple more months.
Stats: 2 appearances (0 starts)
What’s next: Getting healthy is obviously the biggest thing. But whether Corvino wants to pay €2.3 million for a 20-year-old who played all of 34 minutes for the team this year is a close second. We sincerely hope that Simone will stick around, as we think he’s going to be a good one, but it’s all up in the air right now.
Grade: n/a Seriously? He didn’t play nearly enough to earn a grade of any kind other than “incomplete”