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The struggle may just be beginning for Fiorentina

Ten matches and a manager change later, the toughest stretch is yet to come for the Viola

ACF Fiorentina v Benevento Calcio - Serie A
Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Since a grueling 2-1 defeat to Sampdoria on October 2nd, Fiorentina’s record (3-2-2) in all competitions isn’t horrible. However, five of the matches have been against clubs below Fiorentina in the Serie A table, the exceptions being AS Roma and Serie C’s Padova.

In Serie A, Fiorentina has amassed eight points from eight matches, good enough for 15th in the table. While that looks bad on its own, consider the fact that all those points have come from clubs placed 14th, 16th, 17th, and 18th in Serie A. The bottom line is that this Fiorentina team is currently playing like a relegation contenders, which unfortunately may become the defining theme for the third season running in the 2020/21 campaign. Below I’ll give a couple reasons why this run of form is unlikely to improve, at least through the new year but maybe for even longer.

No “easy” run of matches until late January

I put easy in quotation marks as currently there are few clubs which wouldn’t give the Viola fits, but finding two fixtures in a row where Fiorentina can pick up points looks bleak until January 24th, when the Viola play Crotone, followed by Torino. The easy part of Fiorentina’s schedule is gone. Consider the fact that the eight Serie A opponents Fiorentina has faced this year have totaled 69 points between them. That’s good enough for 8.6 points per club, just slightly better than Fiorentina’s current form. Fiorentina’s remaining 11 opponents in Serie A are currently averaging 12.2 points, good enough for ninth in the table. Fiorentina’s next six matches involve two clubs in the Champions League (Juventus and Atalanta), the top two teams in Serie A (Milan and Sassuolo), a tough Verona side, and Genoa. Out of those six, I’d argue to Viola are only favored to take points off Genoa, and maintaining the current point-a-match pace will be tough.

Prandelli has been given a bad hand

While this was an issue that was clear under Beppe Iachini’s leadership, Prandelli’s first two matches in charge have fully shown the deficiencies of this squad. If there’s one thing we knew about Beppe, it was his loyalty to the 3-5-2. Yet this summer, Daniele Prade did not opt for Iachini’s requests for a regista and striker (Lucas Torreira and Krzysztof Piątek) who he deemed necessary for his playing style. Instead, Prade brought in neither option, bringing in a pure winger (José Callejon), an attacking midfielder (Giacomo Bonaventura), and a center-back not used to playing in a three-back formation (LMQ). Add in the fact that Federico Chiesa was shipped off just days after Iachini was promised he would not depart, and it’s easy to gain some sympathy for a boss who, despite his obvious shortfalls, was not put in a place to succeed this season.

The Viola have proven far more tactically adaptive in Prandelli’s two matches in charge compared to Iachini’s entire reign. The Viola have spent time in a 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, and 4-3-1-2, as Prandelli searches for a formula which will work. It remains to be seen whether he can turn things around, but it’s not his fault if he can’t. The current squad doesn’t have the wing depth to able to play a 4-3-3 or a proven goalscorer for Prandelli to count on. Add in the difficulty of the upcoming matches, and it’s going to be tough for Prandelli to continue experimenting rather than trying to play for a result at all costs. All things considered, Prandelli has been dealt a horrible hand from management between the squad and the fixtures ahead, and it’s important that any blame fans want to put his way instead go towards the mismanagement of Prade (Why was Riccardo Sottil loaned out again?).

There is not much willingness to spend this winter

This comes down to two things. Firstly, Prandelli is a stopgap manager. Barring results which seem less and less likely to come, Prandelli will move into the Viola’s management at season’s end. As a result, it makes little sense to splash cash on players who may not fit into the next manager’s plans. Add in the fact that Rocco Commisso and co. want to adhere to Financial Fair Play regulations, and there’s little spending that can be done until the summer anyways. That means this Fiorentina squad is going to stay very similar until June, and I think I speak for everyone when I that I don’t have much confidence is this group being able to string together results right now.

While it may be frustrating to see Prandelli put in such a tough situation at the start of his second Viola tenure, I’ve been encouraged by the brief spells of play where Fiorentina clearly have learned from his tutelage before they revert back into BeppeBall. Hopefully, given another few months he can transform this team back towards the upper-part of mid-table, but that may be too much to ask at this point. It’s time to buckle up for what may be a long and stressful season.