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The Winner Takes It All

Fiorentina have still to draw a game this season, and why it’s pointless to blame the referee after the loss to Juventus

Juventus FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

“The winner takes it all, the loser has to fall, it’s simple and it’s plain, why should I complain?”

Another Fiorentina game, and still no drawn match this season. We’ve now played 12 rounds of Serie A and recorded six wins and six defeats. In the Italian professional leagues, between Serie A, B and C, there are 100 clubs, and we are the only team still without a draw. If you look at the top five leagues in Europe, Serie A, Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1, there is only one other team, Borussia Dortmund, which has also yet to play a drawn game.

It’s a big change from our last few seasons, where we were always one of the clubs with the most drawn matches in Serie A. At this stage of the last two seasons, we had already played in four drawn games, and in 2018/19 we had five. That season we ended the campaign with 17 draws, more than any other club. Last season we recorded 13 draws, only Torino had more, and the previous season we also played out 13 draws, the highest number in the top-flight, along with Hellas Verona.

Who knows, maybe the next game will end in a draw! Is that what we really want though? A drawn game can feel like something of an anti-climax. With a win or a loss, it’s quite clear what emotions a fan will feel, with a draw it can go either way, or in no direction at all. If it’s your team that comes from behind to snatch a point, it can be celebrated and almost feel like a win, if the opposite happens then you can be left as disappointed as in defeat. Then you have those games where neither team takes control, and in the end it can be a fair result but not a very inspiring one.

For now, it’s all or nothing with this Fiorentina, and after the last few seasons, I’m completely fine with that. I couldn’t take another insipid game like last season’s scoreless draw with Parma. The game against Juventus came almost a year to the day of that monotonous match under Beppe Iachini, so give me our performance in Turin under Italiano any day.

Against Juventus, I accept that a lot of us would have been quite happy with a point, myself included, especially after we went down to ten men. It would have been a good time to get that first draw of the season, but it wasn’t to be. With so many ex-Fiorentina players in the Juventus squad, it was always likely that it would be one of those to inflict the damage. Juan Cuadrado’s late goal, added to the foul on Federico Chiesa which led to the Nikola Milenković sending off, proved that we were right to be worried.

“The judges will decide, the likes of me abide, spectators of the show, always staying low”

Looking through the online comments about the game, it was clear that many Fiorentina fans blamed the refereeing decisions for this defeat. I admit, I have to disagree, and I see no benefit in pointing the finger, in finding an alibi. We are supposed to learn from our defeats, but how can we do that when we spend all our time and energy looking for excuses. Of course we’re disappointed after a loss, and especially when it comes at the hands of our bitter rivals, but do we really need to constantly search for scapegoats and conspiracy theories. I am tired of us playing the victim, of acting like the whole world is against us and out to get us. Maybe I’m getting old, but I just don’t need all the negativity that comes with losing a game.

There are plenty of fans who insist that Milenković should never have received a second booking. In my opinion, it was a clear chance of a Juventus counterattack, Nikola stuck out his leg after the ball had gone and stopped Chiesa from advancing. This is a clear and blatant yellow card offence, and I don’t see how we can have any complaints. The player himself knew as soon as it happened what the punishment would be, as did our manager.

Juventus FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

I’m not interested in dissecting every other decision in the game. It’s a waste of time, it serves no purpose, except to give you an excuse for a bad result. There used to be a programme on Italian television, Il processo di Biscardi, which on a Monday evening would analyse the weekends action. It was a depressing spectacle, and I’m always reminded of that show when I see the debates about a referee’s performance.

“I don’t wanna talk, about things we’ve gone through, though it’s hurting me, now it’s history”

Finally, after the last few seasons, we have a manager who has turned this group of players into a squad. Finally, we have a squad which is capable of playing football, of entertaining us. I now enjoy watching Fiorentina games, and even when we lose, I can still find plenty of reasons to stay positive. That is what Vincenzo Italiano has achieved so far, he has given us a chance to be optimistic, and while I know we are not going to win every game, I can still take pleasure in our performances, and I am more hopeful than I have been for a long time.

I am a Fiorentina fan for almost twenty years now. I have learned to live with disappointment and also not to get my hopes up too much. That doesn’t mean I am any less passionate or that defeats don’t hurt, but they will only hurt even more if I believe that we have been wronged or conned out of a result.

“Somewhere deep inside, you must know I miss you, but what can I say, rules must be obeyed”

As a Fiorentina fan we are also supposed to despise and hate those players who leave us for the enemy. I prefer to look at what that player contributed during their time at our club and remember the good times. That may seem very naïve, but I can now support my team without it meaning that I must insult the opposition. Federico Chiesa has become one of those figures of hate, and those who defended him from attacks from the likes of Gian Piero Gasperini, are now doing the exact same thing.

“I apologize, if it makes you feel bad”

I’m not claiming to be better or more mature than other fans, everyone is free to view the game and support their team as they see fit. Everybody is entitled to their opinion on what happens during the game. For me personally, I enjoy my football now without all the hate and controversy and the drama that’s involved. After the Juventus game, I even managed to accept that José Callejón actually had a decent game, and at least showed improvement on his recent performances. I’ve bought into what Italiano is trying to do at Fiorentina, which also means learning to accept his decisions, even when I don’t quite understand them.

“The gods may throw a dice, their minds as cold as ice”

What he has achieved so far is even more remarkable when you look at the failings of the club management. That is an area in which I will still question and criticise. How any club can go into a new season with just one striker, is beyond comprehension, without looking at their other failings when it came to strengthening the squad. I will always hold them to account and can only hope that lessons have been learned and that in January we will see some major changes in how they operate in the transfer market. Otherwise, we will need to seriously question their intentions.

“I’ve played all my cards, and that’s what you’ve done too, nothing more to say, no more ace to play”

In a footballing world where teams can now make five substitutions, the lack of options on our bench continues to be a problem and a serious worry. Italiano has limited choices both before and during a game. Even Aleksandr Kokorin hasn’t been available for some time now, and I won’t try to comprehend what Daniele Pradè and Joe Barone must have been thinking when they decided that this squad was complete when the season started.

We now have the international break, which gives us plenty of time to digest the loss to Juventus and focus on the next challenge. Even with important players suspended for the clash with Milan, I continue to remain optimistic, and I do think we can be a match for any side in Serie A. I know we have yet to defeat one of the so-called big teams, except Atalanta, and it’s been a season of ups and downs so far, but I still believe that we are on the right track.

Most of you have probably had enough of ABBA at this stage, so I’ll end with some words from Bob Dylan instead:

“The trail is dusty, and my road it might be rough, but the better roads are waiting, and boys it ain’t far off”