Here at Viola Nation, we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. As we look ahead to 2016, our writers have summarised their thoughts on Fiorentina's year in 2015.
What was the best Fiorentina moment of 2015?
Huw: Fiorentina beating Barcelona in pre-season. Entirely inconsequential. Utterly meaningless in terms of trophies. But it was a nice moment. Beating (debatably) the best team in the world after a pretty horrible end of season/summer gave a little bit of hope. It told us that maybe everything was going to be alright. And it sort of was.
Tito: Pick any of Nikola Kalinic bossing Rodrigo Ely in the opener against AC Milan. Remember when we were nervous about the strikers and angry that the DVs had only brought in a Romanian journeyman from the Ukrainian league? I think that Kalinic pretty much shut up everyone (me included) with that performance, and gave us (or at least me) some hope that this season wasn't going to be a black hole that sucked up all joy that entered its gravitational pull. Also, whupping up on Milan is never not fun.
Nolan: Probably the Inter match. It was ridiculously entertaining from a Fiorentina fan's POV and it showed the world the ridiculous efficiency this team can be capable of this season.
Joe: It would be easy for me to dodge the truth here and say beating Inter 4-1 in the San Siro. However in the spirit of all that is earnest, I will be true to the question. If we were talking about an individual moment, for me it would have to be Salah's wonder goal against Juventus in the Coppa Italia semi final first leg. It was one of those rare moments in football when from a fan perspective you got exactly what you want from a football match. Not only were we sticking it to the team we hate the most, in their own back yard, on the way to inflicting their first defeat in their new stadium, in the process ending their 47 game unbeaten home streak. But more importantly at the time, our new gem of a player, who had become our difference maker in the month that preceded this game, took advantage of the occasion to effectively crown himself Prince of Florence.
Forget the future and all the events that precipitated the vehement dislike of Salah as a man. Forget all the opprobrium generated by the inverse fairytale frog the Egyptian Prince turned out to be. At that point in time we were all naturally oblivious to the fact that he was another in a long line of football's sulky ingrates.
In that specific moment when Salah picked the ball up and started running and running and running, we were fans of the player, we were in full support of his every endeavour. The realisation that as he kept running, he may well go all the way invoked one of those brief mini moments of epiphany that come when watching live football action unfold. Fiorentina fans in that moment collectively willed their new favourite onwards and collectively erupted in a surge of untrammelled emotion as he clinically dispatched the ball in to the top corner of the Juventus net. I would be lying to you if I said that in that moment I was not propelled in to that well-known state of transcendence, a moment of pure ecstatic bliss that can only be induced by witnessing such moments of magic being carried out by your team on a football field.
So yeah, presently I can't say I am a big fan of Mohamed Salah, admittedly there is a very pointed thin line between love and hate, and in that moment in early March 2015 I was on the side of that line that loved that man.
Connall: Smashing Inter 4-1 at the Giuseppe Meazza. One of the toughest defences in the league made to look like amateurs by Kalinic and Ilicic, now that feels good.
Chloe: For me, it was certainly going top of the league for the first time since 1999. Doing so in such emphatic fashion after beating Inter 4-1 at San Siro at the end of September was certainly very special.
and the worst?
Huw: The 4-0 against Lazio. After such a relatively decent period, this was when the seeds for last season's eventual implosion were sewn. Problems here came back to haunt the side against Juventus, against Napoli, and against Sevilla. Lazio took the third spot (and the form) Fiorentina needed right at that moment. Win this match, confidence stays high, results improve, Europa League and Coppa results might have been different, even the wretched summer might have been avoided and Montella and He Who Must Not Be Named would still be around. It's all worked out ok, but this was the moment the wheels started wobbling before falling off completely.
Tito: Worst moment was the Joaquin saga. After losing Mohamed Salah and Mario Gomez, having Joaquin bail out was just a real punch in the crotch. I pretty much decided that this season was going to be not fun at that point.
Nolan: The Salah drama. The club and its fanbase were disrespected and publicly humiliated, and it left everyone involved with a bitter taste. While it turns out all the people laughing at Fiorentina and preducting our doom without Salah would be wrong, I am still bitter about how players can think they are too good for this club.
Joe: I almost opted for the month of April when we lost to Napoli, Verona, Cagliari and Juventus, looking back the defeats to Verona and Cagliari cost us third place in the league. Though that is completely hypothetical, if we had won those matches there is nothing to say that we would not have slipped up in some other game instead.
The worst moment of 2015 for me was our first leg Europa League semi final defeat to Sevilla. It was the manner of the defeat, we deserved to lose and on the night we were outclassed. Having coming so far in the tournament and having taken some big scalps along the way, I had let myself indulge in some ill advised dreaming. Sevilla's well-oiled Europa League/Uefa Cup collecting collective, shattered that dream, for them winning that competition has become almost perfunctory. I could accept that we were not good enough, but conversely and completely irrationally I could not get past the fact that we had somehow let slip an opportunity to claim not just a place in a European final, but also the trophy itself. I guess as fans, to some degree we have to accept our lot, as supporters of a team we are all subject to this emotional bondage. With vicarious triumphs come vicarious disasters, Rudyard Kipling's advice to treat those two imposters just the same, was I venture, not dispensed with a football fan in mind.
Connall: Losing to Juve. Having my expectations built up as early as the second minute and then having my heart ripped out at the end. Sad times.
Chloe: Losing the first leg of the Europa League semi 3-0 against Sevilla. I had tickets to the second leg in Florence and watching at home was painful to say the least.
If you could have kept any squad member that left in 2015 who would it be?
Huw: Cuadrado is the obvious answer, but then Bernadeschi might not have gotten as much time on the pitch. Savic too, but Astori has been a decent replacement. Pizzaro, but he wouldn't have fit in this current midfield. Vargas maybe? I miss his tubby trundles down the wing and he'd be a decent bit of cover for Alonso. Plus the occasional lovely goal.
Tito: If it's just bringing in the player and none of the drama attendant on him, I'd say Mohamed Salah. As my high school coaches always said, "You cain't teach fast," and there's nobody in the squad who's got that track-star pace. However, since Salah's attached at the hip to the world's dumbest agent, I'll say Stevan Savic. Although Facundo Roncaglia and Nenad Tomovic have held down the right side well, having the Stache back would give Fiorentina the best back three in Italy, except for Juventus.
Nolan: Joaquin. His departure was almost as bitter as with Salah, but I miss his trickery in big games. Kuba has been a more than respectable replacement when healthy, but he lacks Joaquin's flair and willingness to take over
Joe: David Pizarro. One of my favourite players of all time, I was a late bloomer when coming to fully appreciate Pek's undoubted talent. At Udinese, Inter and Roma I always knew he was a good player but it was only once I started watching him week in week out in Purple that I really started to comprehend just what a great football brain the Chilean possesses. Technically astute, a wonderful reader of the game, on his day from the base of midfield he would boss games. A player with eyes in the back of his head, just a preternaturally gifted footballer, Pek is an artist using a football instead of a paintbrush, that he used the Franchi as his canvas for three years was a gift.
Connall: Cristiano Lupatelli. Okay, okay, he didn't play so I don't know to what extent I can call him a squad member, but I loved hearing about his presence in the locker rooms and just being a general beast of a man. Those sideburns. Honorable mentions would perhaps be Marko Marin, Josh Brillante's beard and the rock Micah Richards. If you really want a serious answer, then it's going to have to be El Loco Vargas, I'm not quite so sure as to how he'd fit in the squad this year but the odd thunderbolt every now and then wouldn't be so bad.
Chloe: I would have loved to have kept Juan Cuadrado, even though losing him was inevitable eventually. His love of the game that shines through in the way he plays is something that I love to watch. Special mention goes to Joaquin, despite the way he behaved over his transfer to Real Betis in the summer.
5 words that sum up Fiorentina's year:
Huw: Salah goals legal action pending.
Tito: Oh crap, then woo hoo.
Nolan: Up, down, up, down, up - In typical Fiorentina fashion, the highs were high and the lows low. Overall there was much more positive than negative, but between some struggles last year, a drama filled summer, and some bad recent losses, supporting this team is often exhausting.
Joe: Frustrating. Confounding. Compelling. Historical. Possession.
Connall: Goals, goals, goals, goals, goals.
Chloe: Hope, turmoil, turnover, treachery, progress
Biggest regret/greatest achievement of the year?
Huw: The Europa League run was the most important achievement. It announced the club as being a decent player on the European stage and caught a few eyes. Results against Roma and Spurs were great and probably the best achievement looking back, while the biggest regret was getting comprehensively thrashed by Sevilla.
Tito: Biggest regret? Losing in the Coppa Italia to Juve last year. That just effing crushed me for some reason. Honorable mention to the, er, unpleasantness that attended Vincenzo Montella's sacking. Greatest achievement is the Serie A table. Gaze upon its magnificence. Let its power flow through your veins.
Nolan: Biggest regret to me is how the team failed to show up recently against Juventus. The way they played was unacceptable - this team needs to do better against tough competition. And worst of all, the loss helped ensure Juve has crawled its way back into the title race.
Joe: Not being able to recoup on Mario Gomez, if somebody were interested in buying him now, they would undoubtedly have to pay big bucks. As it is, it looks like Besiktas will get him for a snip of his actual worth. It is a crying shame that the German could not hit the same heights in purple as he is currently hitting donning the black and white of the Turkish club in Istanbul. Greatest Achievement? For me it is a toss up, I am inclined to say sitting top of the table was a pretty big achievement, however the fact that we went in to the winter break sitting second in the standings, just one point off of top place, is a massive achievement. Getting this far in to the season and still being in contention to win the thing outright (however unlikely that may be) is a monumental achievement and credit should be extended to everyone associated with the club.
Connall: Greatest achievement (see, I like to start on a positive note) is a draw between managing to score in every single game so far (let's not count the Coppa Italia game huh) and finishing 2015 in second place. Seriously, that's awesome!
Biggest regret is not being able to take at least a point away from the San Paolo against Napoli, had we done that then I think people would consider us as an actual bigger threat, rather than focusing solely on Inter and Napoli for the whole season. Considering how much the team dominated Napoli in the first half, a draw at minimum was fully deserved, plus holding your own against what is considered to be one of the best teams around should be worthy of three points itself. Okay, maybe not.
Chloe: Biggest regret was not falling at the final hurdle on all fronts last season. Greatest achievement has been the progress made by Sousa despite reducing the overall spend in the summer.
What New Year's Resolution should Paulo Sousa choose?
Huw: Keep flying under the radar. Napoli, Roma, and Juve get all the attention while Fiorentina steadily churn out decent results. Pressure stays off and the club can focus on finishing as high as possible.
Tito: (again). I'd like to see Sousa resolve to give Mati Fernandez some more minutes, specifically in relief of Borja. I know I've been on the Free Mati wagon all season, but come on. Dude was the best player at the club last season, and now he's been frozen out like he was Jasmin Kurtic.
Nolan: We need new ideas for big games. We were competitive against Napoli and more so against Roma than the score suggested, but this team is getting a reputation as a paper tiger.
Joe: Paolo Sousa’s new years resolution should be to find a way in which Mati Fernandez can be accommodated and given some game time, also to maybe take some of the strain off of Borja Valero, and to do all of this without adversely affecting the overall success of the team, it is a tall order, but aren’t all resolutions built that way?
Connall: I'm a firm believer in the saying 'if it's not broke then don't fix it', but I do think that as a resolution, Sousa needs to come up with a backup plan just in case some of the teams start to figure out our game. Just look at what has happened to Garcia at Roma, he has one plan and when that doesn't work out for him things go downhill very quickly.
I don't really see that happening to Sousa, or at least not to that extent, though it would be comforting to know we can change things up at the blink of an eye and still be our usual winning selves.
Chloe: Formulating a better plan to beat the better sides. No matter how much progress the team has made in general, Fiorentina have been comprehensively beaten by Roma, Napoli and Juventus this season.
Which player do you hope for most in the transfer window?
Huw: A right back who is actually a right back. I don't know who. Widmer, maybe?
Tito: I'd love to see Gino Peruzzi or Giulio Donati, but any solid starter at rightback, defensive midfield, or either wing would make me pretty happy.
Nolan: Lisandro Lopez. While he's still unproven in Europe, he is a complete CB who has the skill to compete with Astori and Gonzalo for playing time, and we need younger options in the back line as is. We need another CB option; I love Gonzalo and Astori has been very good for the most part, but fast counter attacking teams can expose that 3 man defense and we need to be willing to spend for another option back there. Lopez may be the ideal option.
Joe: In terms of realistic purchases, this transfer window I would love it if we signed Lisandro Lopez, I think he would be ideally suited to the Italian league, and more importantly to our own defence. For me it would be a match made in heaven, especially with the defensive contingent already comprising of a couple of his fellow nationals.
Connall: My heart tells me to say Marco Verratti even though the current midfield is already packed out, we have Milan Badelj (the only Milan to stand within a chance of winning something at this rate, ooh) and the likes, yet Verratti never seems to rule out a move to Fiorentina ever since the club apparently approached him a few seasons ago. He's also one of the best talents going nowadays, so there's that too.
However, my brain tells me that we need another defender, like Lisandro Lopez or someone that is actually a natural centre back who can fit alongside Gonzalo and Astori. We really don't have a solid back up in that area (sorry Facundo/Tomovic.)
Chloe: A decent right back to avoid having to play Bernardeschi out of position is an absolute must. As we have been so heavily linked with Lisandro Lopez in the centre of defence, it would be nice to close the deal for him and avoid the need to bring in Philippe Mexes!
What is your biggest wish for Fiorentina in 2016?
Huw: I've written before about how I reckon a title bid is a bit of a stretch. Winning the cup might have been ideal, but that's gone out the window. Third place or higher is a reasonable shout, while some big European victories would be great. For my biggest wish, I think that's more than reasonable. And I want a PlayStation.
Tito: I naturally want to see Fiorentina push through and win a Scudetto, because I'd sort of figured it wouldn't happen in my lifetime. Honestly, though, a top-three finish would be great. I'd also like the semi-finals of the Europa League, for the sake of the coefficient; dropping out early (especially to an English club) doesn't help anything.
Nolan: To beat both Roma and Juve next time we face them. Is that too much to ask for?
Joe: My biggest wish for Fiorentina in 2016 is for them to win the Scudetto. A more realistic wish would be for them to evolve as a team rather than devolve or stay at the same level, if they can somehow manage that difficult feat, then they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in 2016.
Connall: Please don't slip up. Oh and win the Scudetto, yeah, that would be nice.
Chloe: If we could better last season, either in Serie A or the Europa League I would be very happy, especially considering the budget reduction in the summer.