Instead of starting their season at Sampdoria this past Sunday, Fiorentina were left kicking their heels due to the tragic collapse of the Ponte Morandi in Genoa resulted in the postponement of the fixture. Instead, Stefano Pioli took his team down the road to Arezzo, where the lads got a run against the town’s eponymous Serie C outfit in memory of Bruno Beatrice, who played for both teams and died 25 years ago of leukemia, probably brought on by the doping regimen Viola doctors put him through.
Anyways, Fiorentina were in the driver’s seat for most of this one. Valentin Eysseric opened the scoring in the 28th minute, pouncing on the rebound of a Gerson shot and turning it home. Pioli rotated his entire lineup for the second half, and the visitors looked a bit shaky for the first half hour, relying on a brilliant, point-blank save on Matteo Brunori by Bartłomiej Drągowski at the hour mark to preserve the lead. The Viola doubled their lead at 74’ on a Jordan Veretout penalty after Matteo Belvisi knocked down a Riccardo Sottil cross with his hand. The hosts pulled one back with 10 minutes remaining after Vincent Laurini failed to close down Mattia Persano, who smacked one past Drago that the Pole had no chance of stopping.
The match wasn’t on TV or any of the regular online services; heck, even Fiorentina’s official media couldn’t come up with a stream. Therefore, I’m relying on several eyewitness accounts for these conclusions, which could be entirely off base. Of course, that’s never stopped me before, so let’s do the thing.
1. There’s going to be a lot of competition for spots in the midfield. As we saw in preseason, Gerson was the star of the show for Fiorentina. His ability to play on the half-turn and drive forward in possession adds a dimension that was lacking last year from the Viola engine room. If Jordan Veretout drops into the holding role, as Pioli has dictated this summer, the Brazilian is the obvious choice to replace him as mezzala. However, if Veretout struggles in the holding role, we could see Bryan Dabo yanked from his spot further forward to shield the defense instead. Christian Nørgaard, who’s been steady at best and bad at worst, is another option in that role as well. And Edimilson Fernandes will surely make a case for playing time as a mezzala as well. The midfield trio is going to be the area to watch for fans.
2. There may not be enough competition for spots up top. Cholito was not good from what I can gather, missing a hatful of good chances and losing the ball way too easily in possession as he put his head down and tried to beat his marker rather than bringing his mates into the play. That’s hardly a cardinal sin for a guy who just turned 23, but it’d be nice to have a proven option behind him for when he’s off his game. Instead, it’s the teenaged duo of Dušan Vlahović and Martin Graiciar, who are both dripping with potential but have never played in Serie A. Considering that scoring goals was this team’s biggest weakness last year, it’s hard to say that the problem has been addressed.
3. Tòfol Montiel is going to be very good. He got the second half to strut his stuff and put on a show for the 4600-odd spectators. Just as he showed in previous friendlies, he ghosts around finding pockets of space on the left wing, already displays the stereotypical close control of a Spanish attacking midfielder, and has the vision and technique to find runners with just one or two touches. While he doesn’t have the physique to play in Serie A every week, I’d lay decent money that he makes an appearance with the senior team this year and has carved out a substantial role by 2020. Color me smitten.