After only nine games played it may be too soon to start talking about relegation, but for now, like the last couple of seasons, keeping our place in Serie A seems to be our only realistic objective.
It’s not quite what any of us expected when Rocco Commisso took over, and I’m sure Rocco himself is as surprised as anyone to find his club in this situation. A change of manager was never going to bring about a miraculous turnaround in just a couple of games, but so far we have seen little or no reaction from the players. There hasn’t been any apparent injection of enthusiasm or energy since the arrival of Cesare Prandelli, and this is a team which looks to be going through the motions.
There’s no fire or fight, no passion or pride, and this more than anything else, more than the results and league position is what has a lot of Fiorentina fans disappointed in these players.
After nine rounds of Serie A, Fiorentina find themselves on 8 points, less than a point a game. I’ve had a look back over our Serie A history to see if we have ever had a worse start than this, and if so, how did it turn out. In the era of three points for a win, which started with the 1994/95 season, we have never had as little as 8 points at this stage of the season.
Not even in the disastrous 2001/02 season which ended not only in our last relegation but also with the club collapsing because of financial troubles. While this was a season where Fiorentina would score less goals than any other team, and also conceded more than anyone else, after 9 games played, they did have 9 points. Three wins out of a season total of 5 came in these first 9 rounds.
That problem with finding the net certainly wasn’t helped when Enrico Chiesa was injured after only 5 games and would miss the rest of the season. He had already scored 5 goals and would still end up as the second highest goal-scorer at the club. The only player to score more, with 6 goals, was Adriano who arrived in January on loan from Inter Milan.
Those opening nine games would see Fiorentina lose away to AC Milan (5-2) and Roma (2-1) just like this season. They had two 3-1 home wins against Atalanta and Venezia and an away win at Udinese. They lost at home to Chievo and Hellas Verona and away to Lecce and Bologna. They scored 14 goals in the opening nine games, almost half of their season total of 29.
Just like today, they were still outside of the relegation zone, but even with two changes of manager that season, Roberto Mancini and Ottavio Bianchi both resigning, things only went from bad to worse. In the end Fiorentina would lose their last seven games of the season, any lingering hopes of salvation evaporating quickly. They finished up second from bottom, 18 points from the safety zone.
The club had only ever been relegated twice before that, the first one way back in 1937/38, the club’s 7th season in Serie A ended with the team finishing at the bottom of a sixteen team league table. When looking back at the seasons before the three points for a win came in, to make a fair comparison with today’s team I will still be counting a win as three points. How many points did Fiorentina have after 9 games of that first ever relegation season? The same as today, with two wins and two draws. Those wins came at home against Bologna and Liguria. The two drawn games also came at home, with Juventus and Bari, while the team would lose all five away games.
That season too, things would get even worse after those initial nine games. The team would find just one more win in the remaining 21 games. That victory only came on the last day of the season, at home to Atalanta, the other team relegated to Serie B that season. Fiorentina would also have a change of manager, but the arrival of Hungarian Ferenc Molnár didn’t see any improvement in the teams performances.
Fiorentina’s only other relegation was probably the most surprising and shocking one. This came in the 1992/93 season, when after 9 games the team actually had more points than we have this season even with only 2 points for a win. The team sat in 6th place on 11 points, but if we adjust that to 3 points for a win they would actually have 15 points. The team had registered four wins up to this point, including a 7-1 win over Ancona which was followed up two weeks later by a 3-7 loss at home to eventual champions AC Milan.
This was a season very unlike those other two relegations. This was a team who first soared high before crashing and burning. When the Christmas break came around, Fiorentina sat in 2nd place in the table. Although we should take into consideration just how condensed the league table was at that stage, just three points divided Fiorentina in 2nd place from the relegation zone. Still, nobody could have predicted that by the end of the season the team would finish third from the bottom with four teams relegated.
The surprise sacking of manager Luigi Radice just after the Christmas break certainly didn’t help the cause. (You can read more on that in this other piece here) Just like this season, Fiorentina turned to a manager who had already been in charge at the club in the previous decade, but this turned into a disaster, with the team not winning any of his first 8 games in charge.
This was a team that included Gabriel Batistuta, but even his 16 goals would not be enough to save the club. Scoring goals wasn’t really the problem, the team would finish as 5th highest scorers in the league that season, Francesco Baiano chipping in with 10 goals. Those are numbers that we can probably forget about seeing this season. The squad also included the likes of Brian Laudrup, Stefan Effenberg as well as two recent Fiorentina managers, Stefano Pioli and Giuseppe Iachini.
So apart from those relegation seasons, when we only had as bad a start as the current season back in 1937, have we ever had this bad of a beginning? There have only been two seasons where we collected less points from the opening 9 games
Fiorentina in 1970/71 had just 7 points after 9 games, again using the 3 points for a win system. The club had finished 4th the previous season and looked set to continue that good form when they had an away win at Roma on the opening day of the season. They followed this with draws against Verona and Catania before the first loss of the season at home to Napoli. Yet again Fiorentina would have a change of manager this season, the Scudetto winning Bruno Pesaola losing his job in January at the half way point of the season. This came after a home defeat to Juventus where Fiorentina had taken the lead but lost 2-1.
That defeat dropped them into the relegation zone, and the new man in charge, Oronzo Pugliese, would only complete the job of saving the club from the drop on the last day of the season. Going away to Juventus needing a result is never an ideal situation to be in, but a 1-1 draw, after again taking the lead, combined with Foggia losing their final game at home to Varese kept Fiorentina in Serie A. They only stayed up due to a better goal difference.
In 1977/78 Fiorentina had an even worse start to the season, where one win and three draws left the club with just 6 points. That season Fiorentina needed to wait until the 9th game to register their first win, a 1-0 victory away to Bologna. A valuable win which allowed the Viola to overtake Bologna at the bottom of the table, which the Bologna fans did not take kindly to. They pelted the players and manager with snowballs as they left the pitch after a goal 3 minutes from time had given Fiorentina that first win of the season.
Just two games later, and it would be another goal 3 minutes from time which would cause Fiorentina manager Carlo Mazzone to hand in his resignation. Bruno Giordano’s converted penalty for Lazio meant another defeat and more pressure on the manager and squad, still second from the bottom with three teams to be relegated. Mario Mazzoni, already with the club, took over but after just five games in charge he too resigned, this time due to health problems and he was replaced by former Fiorentina defender Giuseppe Chiappella.
Mazzoni’s resignation came after a 5-1 loss to Milan at the San Siro in January, and with 14 games left to play 4 wins and 6 draws would be just enough to keep Fiorentina safe. They only avoided relegation again thanks to a better goal difference than both Genoa and Foggia when the three clubs finished level on points. The last game of the season was a 0-0 draw at home to Genoa which sent the away side and Foggia into Serie B. Fiorentina had Inter to thank, as they had a 2-1 win over Foggia, while Bologna escaped the drop with a win over Lazio, having started the day level on points with Fiorentina and Genoa. Just like in 1970/71 it was again goal difference that saved Fiorentina, and yet again it would be Foggia that would lose out.
We can finish on a positive note however, after all those relegation and last day survival stories. With only 8 points on the board after 9 games, a teams season can still be turned around. Back in 1950/51 we were in the same situation as today, 2 wins and 2 draws after the first nine games.
After the first three matches Fiorentina only had one point to show for their troubles, having lost away to both Napoli and Como. They had drawn their first home game 3-3 with Torino, and then finally they had their first win at home to Lucchese. They then played out a 1-1 draw at home to Genoa, lost their home game against Juventus before a 3-0 defeat at Padova. A 1-0 home win over Atalanta was followed by defeat at Lazio, but the team was showing signs of improvement.
This was a 20 team Serie A with two clubs to be relegated. This season Fiorentina didn’t decide to change the manager and Luigi Ferrero did succeed in improving things. Despite suffering a 5-0 defeat at Juventus and a 3-0 loss away to relegated Roma, Fiorentina eventually climbed to a 5th place finish.
So let’s not despair just yet, there is still plenty of time for Cesare Prandelli and his players to turn this season around. We will definitely need to see a big improvement though, and our next game against fellow strugglers Genoa is already a must win tie.