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2019-2020 season recap: The second part

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Not quite as excruciating as the first part, but not exactly great either.

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

The 2019-2020 season is over, thank goodness. It was the strangest, most painful, least pleasant, and most confusing campaign any of us can remember, so what better way to kill some time than going back over it?

Having reviewed the first half of the season, which saw Fiorentina fall into crisis under Vincenzo Montella before Giuseppe Iachini replaced il Aeroplanino, let’s start the second half. And, because of how the season is structured, we’ll start with the winter transfer window.

Rocco Commisso promised changes after the miserable start and clearly provided Daniele Pradè with the cash; the Viola added strikers Patrick Cutrone from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Christian Kouamé from Genoa, midfielder Alfred Duncan from Sassuolo, defender/Thanos Igor from SPAL, and midfielder Kevin Agudelo from Genoa. The crown jewel, though, was a deal for Hellas Verona’s midfield general Sofyan Amrabat, who looked like the best midfielder in the league this year, although he wouldn’t join the Viola until the end of the season.

Beppe led his charges to an unlikely 2-1 win in the Coppa Italia over Atalanta and a masterful 0-2 win at Napoli, which got some good feelings flowing, but a single point from the next three games (vs Genoa, at Juventus with some refereeing shenanigans, and vs la Dea) resulted in a single point before a 1-5 demolition over an imploding Sampdoria offered some more hope.

Fiorentina drew twice more to Udinese and AC Milan amidst the growing concern about the coronavirus in Italy, and Serie A suspended the league in March, with Fiorentina sitting 13th. Nearly four months later, the league restarted, but the hectic schedule—two games a week—and the obvious health concerns (especially for the Viola, who saw Germán Pezzella, Dušan Vlahović, and Cutrone contract the virus) meant none of us had any idea what to expect, and left more than a few commentators wondering if the risk to the players and staff involved was worth it.

The restart didn’t favor our beautiful boys initially; a draw against Brescia and a referee-inspired loss at Lazio preceded a truly awful display against Sassuolo, prompting serious questions about the club’s survival prospects and Iachini’s qualifications as he tinkered with formations and personnel to the obvious detriment of the side. Federico Chiesa, Gaetano Castrovilli, Pol Lirola, and Vlahović in particular looked completely out of sorts.

Beppe turned it around, though, by benching his stars, and his tough love worked; Fiorentina posted a W5 D3 L1 record the rest of the way, including two straight big wins to close out the season. The only blemish was another referee-inspired defeat at AS Roma. A revitalized Chiesa, a lethal Cutrone, and a reborn Nikola Milenković led a suddenly dangerous team that scored 16 and conceded 6 over the stretch, allowing the Viola to narrowly finish in the top half of the table.

Given how the year started, a 10th place finish and a positive goal difference feels like a real accomplishment, especially under such unprecedented circumstances. While the style of play won’t win any awards for aesthetics—a deep block paired with a kick-and-rush attack that prioritizes direct passing and rarely keeps the ball—there’s no denying that the approach worked.

Fiorentina posted the best defensive record in the league (conceding just 19 goals) after Iachini’s appointment. If nothing else, the team now has an identity heading into next year. You could argue that this is the first time the Viola have had such a strong sense of who they are since Montella’s first tenure; that’s the biggest reason that Commisso and company triggered the clause to keep Beppe on board for another season, a move that’s widely seen as a positive for the club but only just.