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Positional review and grades: Defense

We started our review of the Viola squad with the goalkeepers here, so let's keep it moving and have a look at the defenders.

Did we just become best friends?
Did we just become best friends?
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

We thought that the Fiorentina defense was likely to be a weak spot this season, especially with Stefan Savić off to Atlético Madrid. The redoubtable Gonzalo Rodríguez was joined by new boy Davide Astori, as well as returning meh players Facundo Roncaglia and Nenad Tomović, with Marcos Alonso and Manuel Pasqual on the left. The lack of depth made everyone anxious, and that instinct turned out to be correct. With at least 2 of these players leaving and only a gaggle of unproven youngsters (Ricardo Bagadur, Saverio Madrigali, Gianluca Mancini, Lorenzo Venuti, and Luca Zanon) to replace them, the club will have to invest heavily in the defense in this mercato.

Gonzalo Rodríguez

The Argentine's excellent form throughout his stay in Florence, as well as his obvious leadership on the pitch, prompted Paulo Sousa to take the armband from Manuel Pasqual and give it to his inspirational defender. Despite a rather uneven start to the season, Gonzalo eventually got his act back together and became the rock that the whole team is built on. He actually spent less time on the ball this year, becoming more of a penalty-box defender than before, but his ability to step into the midfield to break up attacks before they start and his excellent long passing, not to mention his threat on set pieces, made him one of Fiorentina's best players this season. Now fully settled in Florence, he recently said that he wants to play another few years with the Viola, then return to Argentina for a season with boyhood club San Lorenzo before retiring.

Final stats: 41 appearances, 4 goals, 8 yellow cards, 2 red cards

Grade: B+. It's exactly what we expect from him, which is a compliment.

Davide Astori

After a loan spell at AS Roma last season didn't quite work out, the former Cagliari mainstay opted for a spell in Florence. It worked out brilliantly, as his assured and understated play earned him a return to the Azzuri, although he didn't quite make the Euros squad. More of a sweeper than Gonzalo, he's good in the air, assured in the tackle, and has that Leonardo Bonucci long passing from defense thing going on. He looked every bit as good as Savić, and the club brass wasted no time in paying the requisite €5.5 million to make his move permanent, and the player's agent says that an extension is forthcoming, although neither side is in any rush. If not for the Juventus backline, his partnership with Gonzalo would probably be Serie A's best.

Final stats: 42 appearances, 6 yellow cards

Grade: B+. Fits the system perfectly, and playing like he means it.

Facundo Roncaglia

After a season on loan at Genoa, the pit bull returned to Florence. He started the season as the first choice right-sided defender, and was absolutely brilliant. He offers little with the ball at his feet, and he's not a great reader of the game, but holy smokes can he mark a man out of a game. His natural ferocity, however, eventually got the better of him, and he was eventually dropped in favor of the less combustible Nenad Tomović. With his contract up, he's drawn a good deal of interest from Argentina, Spain, Turkey, and Italy--not surprising for an Argentine international in his prime. Although he's a deeply limited player, he's a very good bench option, and losing him will leave the defense dangerously thin.

Final stats: 33 appearances, 1 goal, 10 yellow cards, 1 red card

Grade: C+. Looked world class for the first half of the season, and then like a caricature of himself for the second.

Nenad Tomović

The Serbian rightback had a mixed season, which is to say he was his usual self. He's not a bad player, but has never quite looked comfortable with Fiorentina. He lacks the pace and technique to look comfortable as a fullback, and his occasional lapses in concentration make him a real liability in the middle. Nevertheless, he's a reliable bench player and seems content to be a secondary option. However, Torino have identified him as a Kamil Glik replacement and are working hard on buying him, although they're definitely lowballing the offer. With Roncaglia gone, selling him would leave the club dangerously short on backups.

Final stats: 33 appearances, 7 yellow cards

Grade: C-. He always looks fine against mid- and lower-level teams, but he's catastrophic against top-notch competition.

Marcos Alonso

The Spanish fullback's season is a microcosm of the team's as a whole: he started the season on fire, but eventually reverted into the frustrating player fans love to hate. At his best, he's a tireless presence up and down the left wing, swinging in crosses, winning headers, and firing off shots from distance with his rocket left foot. At worst, he's clumsy, predictable, and liable to foul anyone at any time. While he started out as his best self and even (briefly) thrust himself into the conversation for the Spanish national team, he drifted back to his old self soon enough. Although he'd be well-suited to the English game, we haven't heard a whisper about him leaving, which is good, because he's the only leftback on the roster.

Final stats: 39 appearances, 3 goals, 4 assists, 9 yellow cards

Grade: B-. For about a month, he was the best leftback in Italy. Even though it didn't last, he was rarely the worst player on the pitch, which is an improvement.

Manuel Pasqual

Deposed from his captaincy, the long-serving and long-suffering Pasqual has signed with Empoli for next season. He left Florence after a sorry display from management, who declined to renew his contract despite his 11 years in purple and his second most appearances in club history. Although his fitness is deeply diminished, he's still the same old Manny, motoring up and down the line to spam in crosses. He did just that this season, and actually showed an improved commitment to the defensive side, too. We wish him nothing but the best in his new Tuscan adventure.

Final stats: 21 appearances, 2 assists, 5 yellow cards

Grade: C+. Did exactly what we expect of him going forward, and somehow improved his defense at age 34.