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Does Fiorentina have the squad depth to compete on 3 fronts?

Comparing the Viola squad to the ones that competed on 3 fronts in Europe last year highlights a couple of problem spots.

Italy v Germany: UEFA Nations League - League Path Group 3
If he’s wearing a blazer and not a jersey, we’re in big trouble.
Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

It’s no secret that Fiorentina’s mercato is far from finished. The acquisitions of Luka Jović, Pierluigi Gollini, and Rolando Mandragora (and the pending arrival of Dodô) mean that any further additions are likely to be more opportunistic than anything else. On the other hand, numerous players are likely to leave. Bartłomiej Drągowski, Nikola Milenković, and Aleksandr Kokorin headline that group, but there are veterans outside of Vincenzo Italiano’s plans and youngsters looking for regular minutes that will need moves before the window slams shut.

One of the main questions, though, is how many players a team should keep. For the first time since 2016-2017, Fiorentina will be competing on three fronts. Combined with Italiano’s love of squad rotation—especially necessary given his high-intensity tactical demands—the Viola may need to keep a larger squad than in recent years. The question, then, is how large. Let’s see if we can answer that.

Surprise, it’s a table

To get a better idea, I looked at teams from the big five European leagues (Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, La Liga, the Premier League) that made it to the quarterfinals of the Europa League or the Conference League and played in their domestic cup. I ignored teams outside those leagues and Champions League teams 1) to keep my sample size manageable and 2) because their circumstances seem less translatable.

That left me with RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Eintracht Frankfurt, Barcelona, and West Ham from the Europa League and Roma, Marseille, and Leicester from the Conference League for a total sample of 9 teams. I then looked at how many outfield players (sorry, goalkeeping enthusiasts, but this ain’t for you) each used across last season’s league, domestic cup, and international cup competitions and broke down the minute distributions by position. I made a table but it’s too big to embed, so feel free to glance it over if you want.

To briefly describe what I did with that table, I broke the players down by position. While this isn’t ideal, given that positions and formations vary wildly across these teams (central defenders minutes depend on whether you play 3 or 4 at the back, for example), I decided that a simplistic approach would be most useful for this exercise. Therefore, players are divided into central defenders, fullbacks, central midfielders, wingers (sometimes including number 10s), and strikers. Again, a lot of players flit back and forth between two or more of these categories, so this is very non-definitive.

I then separated the players into 4 groups based on playing time: 3500+ minutes, 2500-3499 minutes, 1500-2499 minutes, and 500-1499 minutes. The bottom row is an average of each column. I also added the total number of CBs, RB/LBs, CMs, RW/LWs, and CFs up that played over 500 minutes to get an idea of squad size that regularly plays versus how many deep bench players or academy players got the odd spot minute.

What’s it mean for Fiorentina?

The first issue is doubtless in central defense. Even if Milenković sticks around, there’s an obvious shortfall right in the middle, with only Igor, Lucas Martínez Quarta, and Matija Nastasić available. If the Mountain moves on, that’s just 3 central defenders. Even with him, the department looks awfully light. Unless you think Luca Ranieri or Jacob Rasmussen is ready, it’s clear that a centerback needs to be at or near the top of the wish list.

Fullback is nearly as dire. The pending arrival of Dodô should help a lot, but Cristiano Biraghi is the only realistic option at leftback so far, given that Aleksa Terzić doesn’t look like he’s got the goods. While Venuti can do a job there, any injury to Birogiro would leave this club in a really bad place. While Igor and LMQ can probably fill in as left- and rightbacks respectively in a pinch, they’re needed in the middle. Grabbing a leftback to back up Biraghi, then, is critical, and finding someone else who can serve as an emergency option could be helpful as well. I’d love Ranieri to get this job but he looks like he might be on the outs too, so you can probably ditch that idea.

In midfield, the Viola look better stocked. Sofyan Amrabat, Rolando Mandragora, Giacomo Bonaventura, Alfred Duncan, and Youssef Maleh are all fine options, and it’s likely that at least one of Szymon Żurkowski, Erick, or Marco Benassi can do a job there as well, while Gaetano Castrovilli should return from injury around the start of October (although he probably can’t be expected to play big minutes for at least a month after that). That should allow for plenty of rotation; the issue here is more one of quality than quantity.

On the wings, Fiorentina is also in pretty good shape. Nicolás González, Jonathan Ikoné, Riccardo Saponara, and Riccardo Sottil represent options ranging from excellent to fascinating, while Christian Kouamé, fresh off a superb loan spell at Anderlecht, could likely operate off the left as well (Italiano’s reportedly been watching him very closely in camp so far), so that would make 5 players for 2 spots. That’s plenty of bodies and, with the recent big investments in Nico and Ikoné, it’s unlikely the brass will invest much at the spot this summer.

Up front, Jović is this team’s highest-profile signing of the summer. Combined with the big money spent on Arthur Cabral 6 months ago, it’s doubtful that we’ll see any big splashes up front. However, adding another option, whether that’s a veteran Plan B or a youngster to split time between the Primavera and the senior side. The strikers currently in the squad—Gabriele Gori and Kouamé—could also serve this purpose, although the former likely needs regular play time and the latter may not make the grade. Primavera star Eljon Toci probably isn’t ready to play anything more than the final 10 minutes of a blowout.

What’s it all mean?

So, looking at the squad depth in comparison with the 8 big European clubs that made at least the quarterfinals in continental competition and produced at least some sort of domestic cup run, the Viola are clearly lacking in numbers. There are about 25 players who have the experience and at least the theoretical quality (and yes, this is me making a qualitative statement, so you’re more than welcome to count differently), which means we should have a few more signings, even if they’re not big ones.

If Milenković (if he stays), Igor, Martínez Quarta, Biraghi, Jović, or Cabral are absent for an extended period, it would force a very, very unproven option into Italiano’s plans. I’d like to see their spots reinforced as soon as possible, even if it’s just dry loans, to provide some injury insurance. Without a few more players in critical areas, though, I’m very worried about this squad’s ability to compete on three fronts.