Stuck in a Moment you can’t get out of
Fiorentina’s season did not begin quite the way we had expected or hoped, especially after last season saw the team finally qualify for Europe again. The first 10 games brought just two victories in the league.
Meanwhile, in the Conference League, we laboured to overcome Twente in the play-off before drawing at home with RFS Riga and losing 3-0 away to Başakşehir in the group stage.
Some Days are Better than Others
I was at the Stadio Franchi for the game with Inter in late October. After a disastrous start which saw us go 2-0 down inside the opening 15 minutes, the team rallied, the packed ground behind them, and in the end, we were unlucky to lose 4-3 to an added time goal.
Could this be a turning point? Or was it the usual case of a team putting in a big performance against one of the top sides? Vincenzo Italiano’s men did win their next three league games, against Spezia, Sampdoria, and Salernitana. A sign that we could indeed be turning a corner. Fiorentina also won their remaining four group games in Europe.
The re-start after the World Cup brought four league matches to take us to the half-way point of the season. With just one win from these, we could be forgiven for thinking that not much had changed.
The first four Serie A fixtures of the second half of the campaign saw our poor form continue, picking up just two points. We did, however, see off both Sampdoria and Torino in the Coppa Italia which gave us a semi-final place.
Even Better than the real thing
It was our return to European action in February which coincided with a change in fortunes. Also, the 3-0 league win away to Verona at the end of February saw Fiorentina explode into life, and we went on a run of 14 games unbeaten in all competitions.
This saw us defeat both Milan and Inter in the league and have one foot in the Coppa Italia Final and the other in the semi-final of the Conference League.
A 4-1 win in Poland saw us take our foot off the gas in the return leg and almost paid the price as Lech Poznań took a 3-0 lead in Florence. Again, the Franchi got behind the team, and the players battled back to score two goals to secure our semi-final place.
The next league game seemed a mere formality after we raced into a two-goal lead early on, only to allow Monza back in the game which we lost 3-2.
Had we run out of steam at the wrong time? A 0-0 draw in the return leg of the Coppa Italia saw a mature performance, where without needing to get into top gear we steered a safe passage into the Coppa Italia final.
Yesterday, after an uninspiring first half, only brought to life by a Gaetano Castrovilli goal in added time, after the interval Italiano’s side ran riot to wrap up a 5-0 win over struggling Sampdoria.
For this game, Italiano made a number of changes and gave starts to players who had seen little or no action recently. Luka Jović has come in for a lot of criticism this season, more for his lack of work-rate than his lack of goals.
In yesterday’s second half I saw a different Jović, one who battled for every ball, who set up his teammates, and even though he didn’t manage to get among the goals, he was the first to run to celebrate with those who did.
With or Without You
Alfred Duncan has spent most of this season on the bench, with little chance to shine, but yesterday he too put in a solid performance which brought his first goal of the season.
Aleksa Terzić had already proven himself a capable replacement for Cristiano Biraghi earlier this season before injury slowed down his progress. The Serbian came on as a late sub yesterday and ended up scoring his first ever goal at senior level.
Early in the season, Christian Kouamé surprised most by looking like our most promising striker. Having gone off the radar for a long period, he also came on as a substitute yesterday and wasted little time in finding the net. Castrovilli has steadily improved since his return from serious injury and is now looking like the player we expected him to become.
I Will Follow
The Fiorentina fans have now found a new hero, someone who reflects their passion on the pitch. Dodô had his critics earlier this season, despite arriving after a long enforced lay-off, but is now showing his full potential, and what a joy it is to watch.
In the cup game with Cremonese he looked like a Capo Ultras, rallying the crowd at every opportunity. Yesterday he arrived for the game with his bleached hair now purple.
This is a player who excites the crowd every time he’s on the ball, his smile lighting up the Franchi, and his passion and energy are a much-needed boost for this team. Let’s not forget Luca Ranieri, who has slotted into the middle of our defence with confidence whenever called upon.
All because of You
Looking at yesterday’s game, I was struck by how this team kept on attacking, looking for goals despite a comfortable lead. This is not a team built to sit back and defend, and at times we have paid the price, but when on song, it’s a team which is so entertaining to watch. That’s something we haven’t had for quite a while, and since Vincenzo Italiano took over, Fiorentina games are finally fun again.
Italiano has improved so many players, has turned a group of players into a real squad, a team who will battle to the end. He’s had an incredible first two seasons at the club, having risen from Serie D in just a few years. We are incredibly lucky to have this man at the helm, and we should enjoy it while we can.
A Sort of Homecoming
Listening to the words of Rocco Commisso and Joe Barone, there’s reason to believe that Italiano could be here for quite some time. This is only good news for a club which has struggled to find the right man to take charge for many seasons now.
The return of Rocco at a time when we are heading into some of the most important games of our recent history has only brought more positives.
Rocco Commisso seems re-energised, the improvement in the team’s performance reflected in his mood. Maybe, Rocco is just like us, finding it hard to deal with poor results, and as a newcomer to Italian football was unused to the criticism which inevitable follows. He now seems to have realised how difficult it can be to get things done in Italy the way he would like.
You love this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over
And it’s been all over you
He has come to understand that local and national politics will always get in the way of progress. When Rocco says that the Stadio Franchi is not up to the standard of the beauty of Florence, it’s hard to argue with that point of view.
While many of us have often complained about Rocco speaking too much in the past, it is true, like he says, that he takes responsibility for any mistakes made inside the club. He is a man who will defend those who work for him and stand by them.
Earlier this season, there were some already calling for Italiano to be replaced. Madness, in my opinion, and luckily the club owner took no notice and stood by the best man for the job.
For one of the first times, I found myself nodding in agreement with much of what Rocco Commisso expressed at the most recent press conference.
One thing I can’t agree with, is his claim that the stadium fiasco is his failure, there may be many responsible for the mess which continues, but nobody inside Fiorentina can be held to blame.
Anyway, as the song says, ‘what you don’t have, you don’t need it now’.
I still haven’t found what I’m looking For
It’s been over 20 years since I started supporting Fiorentina and have yet to see the club lift a trophy. Of course, that’s not the reason any of us are Fiorentina fans.
We are, however, dreamers, and after a few dark years, we can finally dream again. This team with this manager and with this owner, have all made it possible.
Pride (In the name of Love)
Rocco Commisso is a proud man, and one who is used to success. At Fiorentina, where we haven’t had much of that so it was never going to happen overnight.
I have been critical in the past of how the club has been run, (but I have always defended our players and manager), but maybe, just like the team, Fiorentina has turned a corner.
We have no financial worries, something which couldn’t be said about the first Fiorentina I watched at the end of the Vittorio Cecchi Gori era.
Two Hearts Beat as One
With Vincenzo Italiano and Rocco Commisso leading the way, this club and this team are in safe hands. We still have so much to look forward to for the rest of this season, and beyond. For us fans...
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
(Here’s the song from a U2 concert I was at in Ireland)