As the curtain rises on this, the 119th Serie A season, it’s time for the brain trust here at Viola Nation to talk about what we think will happen with Fiorentina this year. As always, every single one of our opinions is right and beyond reproach and we expect everyone to remember that come midseason when everything that we predicted has come to pass. Anyways, here we go.
Let's start with the transfers. What grade do you give Pantaleo Corvino and company for the mercato this summer?
Trayers: B - I'm cautiously optimistic about how the Summer's gone. Borja aside we've gotten good value for the players we've sold, and for the most part made reasonable additions. Reinvesting the rest of the money from Bernadeschi and Vecino should leave us with a respectable squad.
Kyle: If we are going on a scale of 1-10 I would say a 5. My issue is that a lot of assets were sold away and not replaced. I understand you cannot necessarily replace Bernardeschi right away but, give the fans at least some moderately exciting new acquisitions. Marco Benassi is a nice piece and so is Valentin Eysseric, but the team gave up a lot of talent in this summer transfer window. Who knows some of the young acquisitions may be the next star in Florence.
AWMiller: For what started off as awful transfer window, things have finally picked up. The departures of Gonzalo, Borja Valero, Matias Vecino and Federico Bernardeschi left huge holes in the squad. With Kalinic soon to follow it’s the end of an era in Florence. However, with some smart acquisitions such as Marco Benassi, Victor Hugo and Veretout I’m choosing to be more optimistic and hope that these new recruits can gel and grow as a team. Also, with Simeone and Gil Dias joining things aren’t all bad.
JStevens: B (Grade) – Generally the Mercato has gotten better as it has gone on. We now finally look out of the black and the club are making some really astute signings; there seems to a be a strategy which is being applied and Pioli is being backed properly. Losing Bernardeschi was almost a given, but the handling of the Valero situation leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Nolan: After being ready to rip Corvino apart, in classic Corvino fashion, everything has changed in an instant this week. I still give his work this summer a B overall - the lack of professionalism in the way the club treated Gonzalo and Borja Valero is something that still stings to me, and I think we got ripped off in losing Vecino.
That said...we made some fantastic deals, especially in the past week. Waiting until the last minute means this team will struggle to find an identity, but we got younger and brought in more than the scraps I was worried about. Benassi was an incredible deal that could make us able to move on from Borja and Vecino, swapping Kalinic for Simeone is the kind of gamble a club our size needs to make, and we even profited off of it, Biraghi is an upgrade, and if we get Pezzella we will have pulled off an underrated coup.
Tito: This Viola cycle had clearly reached its end, as the team as constituted had hit its peak under Vincenzo Montella and clearly wasn’t returning to those heights. Therefore, I’m actually okay with blowing everything up and selling so many players. The quality of the new arrivals is considerably greater than I’d expected, so normally I’d give this mercato a B+ for getting the rebuild going with some excellent pieces. But the way Corvino treated Gonzalo and Valero sticks in my craw, so I’m knocking it down to a C+.
Which new signing is going to have the biggest impact? Which is going to be the worst? Which deal that didn't happen do you most regret?
Trayers: Vitor Hugo - I don't think scoring goals will be this team's problem. Keeping them out with Gaspar/Tomovic and Olivera/Biraghi at full back could well be. Hugo will need to have a Gonzalo-tier first season for the Franchi to avoid being an easy trip for Serie A's forwards.
Jordan Veretout - he may well be a competent player but with Saponara and Mati in the squad it's hard to see how he could represent €7m-worth of value.
Stevan Jovetic - so I can stop reading Jovetic to Fiorentina rumours.
Kyle: Marco Benassi will have the biggest impact. No real crazy hot take there, but the reason I say this is because the midfield is the most important part of any football team. Benassi is young but has the opportunity to be the guy from the back running the offense. He can essentially be the quarterback if you will. That is the first step to creating a great offense.
I think the worst might be Vitor Hugo, the reason I say that is because he has the smallest margin for error. Most of the other transfers are really young guys that may have been purchased for 2018 and beyond. Hugo was brought in to help from day one of the 2017 campaign. The problem is no one knows how he will perform. Sure there are good reports coming out of Brazil about Hugo, but he can easily flop.
The rumor that didn't happen that I hoped would come fruition is the Andrea Petagna to Florence rumor. I think he would be a nice fit especially with the inevitable departure of Kalinic. Fiorentina needs some exciting young players to get the fans excited about the team after selling all the fun players away. Petagna could have been that guy.
AWMiller: I’d say the player who’ll make the biggest impact will be Benassi, the 22-year- old is a fine replacement for Vecino and should slot straight into the side.
The worst signing so far is Sebastian Cristoforo, whose loan move had to be made permanent this summer. The Uruguayan never really made any impact last season, while Paulo Sousa was partly to blame as he never knew how to use him.
With Bernardeschi leaving the club, it’s obvious we need attacking players and Emre Mor could have been an exciting signing. The Turkey international would have been a fine move by Corvino, to seal a move for such a talented youngster.
JStevens: It’s hard to look beyond Marco Benassi. From it being completely under wraps until the last minute to the rather paltry fee, the whole transfer is really, really exciting. Stylistically, I struggle to see how Jordan Veretout fits in the squad. With Sanchez, Badelj and now Benassi all cut from a similar cloth as Veretout, I struggle to see him being much more than an average at best rotation option. Jesé Rodriguez would have been a great signing, but considering he chose Stoke over Fiorentina, he is cleary lacking in brain cells and an IQ above 5.
Nolan: I think Giovanni Simeone has the potential to be special, and while he's not a complete product yet, he fits the culture of the club perfectly. Despite being a nominally attack orientated team, Fiorentina often has struggled to score goals in recent years; Kalinic was excellent in many ways but he never seemed to have that natural scoring instinct that previous Fiorentina forwards have had. Cholito has been a streaky finisher so far in his career himself, but you saw that potential last year at Genoa in spite of never playing against competition of that quality before.
As far as the worst goes...I hope I'm wrong but Bruno Gaspar was brutal in the preseason and is giving me bust vibes. I'm not sure he is a Serie A caliber player. Fellow Portuguese Gil Dias also is unproven and is most likely to be the next Toledo, however he's very young and more of a low risk signing, his record is worth taking a gamble on.
As far as regrets go, I still think we are missing a more established winger...not sure if anyone we came close to was a safe bet, but it's definitely a shame the Emre Mor deal fell apart.
Tito: Marco Benassi is going to be the midfield general on this team, shouldering a lot of responsibility to connect the defense and the attack. I think he’s up to it, and that he’ll turn out to be the best signing of the summer.
I hate to jinx him, but Bruno Gaspar looked pants in Moena and continued to look pants against Parma. Ironically, I think he’d have excelled under Sousa as a wingback, but he’s simply atrocious as a defender and is going to get destroyed by, say, Lorenzo Insigne.
Neymar is my only regret.
Conversely, which departure will hurt the most? Are there any players you would have rather sold who are still around?
Trayers: Borja Valero - forcing the best player I've seen in a purple jersey out and to a competitor is pretty crap.
Olivera - all the gaffes of Tomovic, with none of the endearment.
Kyle: The obvious choice is Bernardeschi. That one hurts the most as a fan because he has some much promise and was really coming into his own. We could have had a 15 year run of Federico to Federico. It makes it worse that we have to see him a minimum of two times a year playing for Juventus. I wish him well, but it really stings that management could not keep him.
For whatever reason, when I root for a sports team I find that I dislike more players on my team than I like. One of the players I could do without watching in a purple jersey anymore is Nenad Tomovic. It could be because I wrapped up all the players that ended with "ic" together for a while because I could not stand Kurtic and Ilicic when they first arrived in Florence. Tomovic makes too many mistakes and just plays uninspiring football. If he got transferred I would be happy, but that does not look like it’s happening yet.
AWMiller: Personally, Borja Valero’s departure hurt the most. Not only was he a joy to watch on the field, he loved Florence and the club itself. He spoke of how his family were settled in Tuscany and how he wanted to end his career playing for the Viola. While Bernardeschi’s and Vecino’s moves hurt, it will be so strange to see Valero playing against Fiorentina.
JStevens: It has to be Bernardeschi on this one, but that’s too easy, so I’m going for a toss up between Milić and Valero; both rank evenly on the all time Fiorentina greats list. In terms of who I wish would have left, I’m going for Cristoforo, purely because I’m not totally sure he is actually a footballer.
Nolan: Gonzalo is the biggest absence from last year, but by his standards he wasn't really that good and the club prepared itself long ago to move on, so I think the biggest hole is Vecino, who was maybe our most consistent overall performer last year. Benassi and Veretout can potentially replace him, but I'd have loved to see him on this team.
We pretty much sold everyone of value who isn't Badelj, Astori, or Chiesa, so I'm not sure there is much we are missing out on by keeping around on a budget. I suspect Carlos Sanchez won't be as good as last year but he is still nice to have, and it's increasingly unlikely Babacar has a future here, so cashing in might have been nice, but if there was no good offers I'd rather see him get another chance.
Tito: Losing Borja is a huge blow. The team visibly struggled to move the ball forward quickly in his absence last year, and that could continue to be the case now that he’s gone. It also hurt my heart, which I didn’t like.
I wouldn’t have minded seeing Milan Badelj exit stage left, but after he sacked his agent and kept his head down, I’m equally happy to see him stick around, as he should fit Pioli’s tactics perfectly.
Which unit of the team is the strongest? Which is the weakest? Which has the most potential to surprise?
Trayers: Wings - Chiesa is already a good player with the potential to be a great one, I'm hopeful that Eysseric can cause problems too. If Hagi or Zekhini are ready to contribute in Serie A then the wings are probably our deepest positions too.
Defence - as things stand Astori is our only proven good defender. That's not great.
Defence - any time Tomovic and Olivera are on the pitch something surprising will happen.
Kyle: I think the goalkeeping unit is actually really strong. That is probably not the fun answer, but Sportiello is a very solid keeper that had a bad string of luck in Atalanta. Also Bartolomiej Dragowski has all of the skills to be one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A. The loss of Tatarusanu does hurt because he was the model of consistency, but I think Fiorentina will get great play out of Sportiello and Dragowski.
I think the Midfield is currently the weakest. Last year the midfield was one of the strengths for the team, but losing Borja Valero hurts a lot. He was the guy that made everything work. With the acquisitions of Benassi, Eyesseric, and Veretout there is the possibility the midfield excels but at this point it looks like a rebuilding year for the midfield.
The midfield also has the most potential to surprise. Stefano Pioli is a tactician that will come in and put the right pieces in the right place. The new acquisitions have to find a way to mesh with each other which is easier said than done. They have the biggest boom or bust mentality on this team.
AWMiller: The strongest part of the team is probably in goal, with a solid goalkeeper in Sportiello and a good prospect in Dragowski I’d say we were the most settled in net. We are weakest at right fullback, with Bruno Gaspar new to Serie A and Nenad Tomovic being Nenad Tomovic, it could come back to bite us if we don’t improve in the window. On a positive light, I’m excited to see some young attacking talent next season with the likes of Hagi and Zekhnini looking to play first team minutes next year.
JStevens: Fiorentina’s midfield is now completely stacked with interesting options, however I’ve got a hunch that the fresh backline with Pezzella/Hugo/Milenkovic could be a pleasantFederico Chiesa is going to be giving us those good feels all season long and that’s something we can all be excited about. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him flogged for a hefty fee at the end of the year so I'm secretly hoping he plays really, really badly against Juventus so they avoid him like the plague. I have a feeling Bruno Gaspar will give us all the heeby jeebies numerous times this year, and given the lack of back up he has, we better strap in for a bumpy ride. surprise. I would have liked to see the club keep Tata purely for competition to Sportiello who seems like he will be trusted entirely with goalkeeping duties.
Nolan: Although radically different than last year, the central midfield once again has the highest upside on the team - if Benassi lives up to the hype it could go back to being a strength; keeping Badelj ensures stability and if one of Veretout or Cristoforo stands out we could have genuine depth.
On the other hand, the backline is currently an issue; signing Pezzella will make me feel better about the CB depth as Vitor Hugo could really go either way. I can see why Pioli wants another CB because as of writing this we are an Astori injury away from disaster. The fullback situation still isn't very good, although on the left side the Biraghi/Olivera tandem is at least respectable, with the potential to be more.
Tito: I really like the strikers. Giovanni Simeone should thrive as a brutish finisher ahead of a bunch of creative and pacy attackers, and Khouma Babacar has proven that he’s going to score whenever he’s given the chance, even if he doesn’t otherwise contribute as much as we’d like. I’m also intrigued to see Gil Dias operate as a front man, which he does for the Portugal U21s. He’ll bring something completely different and could be a lot of fun.
Rightback is going to be rough. When poor old Nenad is your best defensive option on the that flank, you know you’re in for a rough year.
Conversely, leftback could be a position of strength. A change of scenery should suit Cristiano Biraghi and help him to the next level, and Maxi Olivera is a more than capable understudy.
Who's going to be the MVP? Who's going to be utterly terrible? Who's going to be the breakout player whose name shows up in every transfer rumor at this time next year?
Trayers: Chiesa - predicting that a teenager will be our best player next season may be a little out there, but with Pioli's system placing him in a more attacking role than Sousa's, I think Chiesa will flourish.
Gaspar - the Portugese full back has looked shaky defensively so far, so much so that it's not unthinkable that Tomovic will regain his place in the first team.
Hagi - I would've picked Chiesa, but those rumours have already started.
Kyle: Going out on a limb here the MVP will be Khouma Babacar. He is the longest tenured player on this team and has a knack for scoring goals when the team needs him. This is finally going to be the year that he is the first choice striker (still expecting Kalinic to be transfered). Babacar will take the keys to the car and score a lot of goals for Fiorentina. He has a ton of potential that will come to life in 2017 and 2018.
Riccardo Saponara will be the bust of the season. He is one of those players that you expect to break out every year and just never does. This season will not change that outcome. He is a fine bench player, but at the end of the day Pioli will be asking Saponara to have a large role on this team. He can potentially grab a hold of the job and take off, but history shows he will not. Be prepared to not be excited when you see him name in the squad.
The breakout player will be Ianis Hagi. It seems like every year a young player comes through the ranks to draw that eyes of the rest of the football world. Last year was Federico Chiesa the year before that was Federico Bernardeschi, this year it is Ianis Hagi. The young Romanian figures to take a larger role on the team this year. He has a ton of talent and at the ripe age of 18 can really prove to be something special. Hagi comes from a football family and will be nice to watch alongside Chiesa for years to come (hopefully).
AWMiller: MVP: Federico Chiesa: Following his great breakout season. I firmly believe Chiesa will step up
and thrive under the added pressure.
Worst player: Bruno Gaspar- It seems like we have a right back curse in Florence.
Breakout star: Iannis Hagi- If he gets the minutes he could be a real star and has bags of potential.
JStevens: Federico Chiesa is going to be giving us those good feels all season long and that’s something we can all be excited about. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him flogged for a hefty fee at the end of the year so I'm secretly hoping he plays really, really badly against Juventus so they avoid him like the plague. I have a feeling Bruno Gaspar will give us all the heeby jeebies numerous times this year, and given the lack of back up he has, we better strap in for a bumpy ride.
Nolan: As far as MVP goes...Chiesa was a bit overrated last year, but he's a genuine special talent, and this is his team now, I expect him to take things to the next level.
The scapegoat of the year will probably be whoever plays rightback.
Tito: For MVP, I’m saying Benassi. He’s not yet a David Pizarro type who can control a match, but I think he’s going to start growing into that role pretty quickly and that the fans are going to fall in love.
Jordan Veretout isn’t going to play a whole lot, I don’t think. Badelj and Carlos Sánchez fit next to Benassi a whole lot better, and I worry that Veretout will spend much of the year nailed to the bench. Not what you want from a €7 million man.
Hagi seems too obvious, so I’ll say Nikola Milenković, the Mountain that Tackles, will make a handful of strong appearances, head in a late goal in April, and that the papers will say that some English club is going to buy him for €68 million.
What do you think of Stefano Pioli? Is he the right man for the job? What has he done well thus far? Where has he been lacking?
Trayers: I like Pioli, I think the 4231 suits our squad, and at the very least we should be fun. His outfits so far have been a little take though. I want a purple hat and scarf on him by December.
Kyle: The Stefano Pioli signing is a bit uninspiring. The nice part about it is the expectations are low. Pioli has had success recently with Lazio and Inter Milan. This signing mirrors the Vincenzo Montella signing which honestly was a fantastic one. He is essentially a no name coach that is looking to become a success with a team that struggled last season. Let's hope he brings over some magic from Lazio. Personally, I do not think he is the right man for the job. If I could have Montella back that would be ideal, but the guy I was looking forward to bringing in was Eusebio di Francesco. He's in Rome now so I guess my wishes did not matter. So far Pioli has done a good job of bringing his style of play to Florence. It is tough to judge him already, but the friendlies have not looked hideous and that is always a win. I think the jury is still very much out on this team and hopefully he can turn this team into a force going into the season.
AWMiller: At this moment in time, Stefano Pioli is probably the right man for the job. It’s not nice to say but Fiorentina aren’t a Champions League chasing team which we’ve seen in the past. A late push for the Europa League is our best bet and that’s even a stretch. While there is constant pressure for a Viola manager to succeed, the expectations on Pioli don’t seem nearly as high and for this, he may just thrive
JStevens: Once Pioli manages to settle on a consistent team and he can implement a more stable, functional system than Sousa I’m quietly confident he can do very good things with Fiorentina. Excluding his capitulation at the end of his time at Inter, he worked well with the tools at his disposal and overachieved with a Lazio team. He found a way to make the latter tick and mesh with a consistent 11, which is always a sign of a good tactician.
Nolan: I'm not a huge Pioli fan; while his managerial career has been plagued by bad luck, outside of that one season at Lazio he has not done anything memorable, and he seems to have a small club mentality. However after Sousa he is a stabilizing influence, and one who is already integrated in the club culture, so I don't think he will be bad by any means, especially if he focuses on player development and doesn't go for too conservative an approach - this will be a transition year either way, so the last thing we need is to grind out points at the cost of our future. Basically, we need more of the Lazio Pioli, and less of the Inter Pioli.
Tito: I was ready to be unimpressed by the mister, and he’s partly changed my mind. He hasn’t gotten the players all on the same page yet, particularly in defense—the backline remains chaotic, the midfield seems tentative, and the attackers aren’t pressing cohesively—but given the squad turnover, I won’t hold it against him too much. If the players haven’t shown much improvement in another month or two, my jimmies may be rustled.
What’s impressed me is his demeanor. His reputation as a guy who stands up for his players, particularly the younger ones, predates his time at Lazio, but it’s been nice to see a manager who’s obviously invested in the younger players. More than that, though, he didn’t hesitate to call out management earlier this summer for not bringing in the talent he’d been promised. I’d worried that he’d be a bit of a pushover, the sort of guy who’s just happy to have a job and doesn’t want to make waves, but he’s clearly not afraid to mix it up a bit, which is a refreshing change from Paulo Sousa’s passive-aggressive approach.
As always, let's wrap it up with some predictions that people can throw back in our faces and laugh at in about eight months. Where does Fiorentina finish in the Serie A table and in the Coppa Italia, and how will we feel about it next June?
Trayers: Serie A - sixth. We're not on going to be able to compete with Juve, Roma, Napoli or either Milan team, but with Atalanta having been asset stripped over the Summer it's us or Lazio who'll be chasing the Europa League should one of the big clubs faulter.
La Coppa - beaten 2-1 by Cittadella in our first game
Kyle: I hate being the eternal pessimist but I do not see this team finishing much further up the table than they did last season. The talent just is not there yet. To make matters worse I see them finishing further down the table. As the team is currently constructed they will finish 10th in Serie A. To make my predictions even crazier I have a really good hunch about the Coppa Italia. There is basically no chance they win the tournament, but I feel a quarterfinal berth for Pioli and company. My final prediction is that the team will start off really slow and get themselves into a hole, but claw their way out of it. Meaning when it comes to June, we will be looking at a squad that has found their identity and will only need a few pieces to compete for some serious hardware come 2018/2019. This is a transition year, therefore I think in June we will be happy with what the team is starting to look like
AWMiller15: In Serie A, I’m predicting an 8th place finished. It’s a season of much change and it’ll take awhile for Pioli to get things going with so many new faces. However, a late charge for the Europa league could be a real possibility. I’m hoping Pioli focuses on the Coppa Italia. With Fiorentina out of Europe, it will give the players more energy to get to the later rounds and I'd predict a penalty shootout defeat in the Semi Finals.
JStevens: I’m predicting a 6th place finish and a Quarter final Coppa Italia exit. Please feel free to dig this up as Federico Bernardeschi slots home a 35-yard free kick to sink us down to Serie B while making out with the badge. I now feel both ill and angry.
Nolan: I think we will finish in 7th place this year, with hopefully a stronger second half of the season than the first. There's too many questions still to expect to contend for 4th place, but this squad should be top half of the table. I think we will have a good Coppa Italia run without other priorities, I think reaching the semi-finals is a reasonable, cautiously optimistic prediction.
Tito: The way I see it, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Napoli, AS Roma, and Lazio all have more talent on the roster than Fiorentina does. Sampdoria and Torino look comparable. As usual, we can expect one smaller team to have a surprisingly good year and shock some of the established powers. On the other hand, Atalanta is going to plummet, having hemorrhaged talent and with the added effort of the Europa League. I also think it’ll take a few months for the Viola to really click, after which they’ll make up a bit of lost ground, but not that much. Therefore, I’m predicting 9th place in Serie A, although anywhere between 7th and 11th would be unsurprising. If some of the kids show some talent and the squad takes Pioli’s direction well, I’ll be satisfied with that.
As far as the Coppa, I feel like this could be a good year for the Viola to make a run. I’ll say a run to the semis and a spirited to loss at the San Siro to one of the Milanese clubs. Which means that they’ll probably get shelled by Pescara.
While we sincerely doubt that anyone could possibly disagree with our assessments, we are, as always, happy discuss all of our opinions/prophecies in the comments.