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VN Brain Trust: How can Rocco fix this mess?

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We’ve assembled the finest minds (insert punchline here) to discuss the important stuff.

LIFE’s Round table discussion on the mov
Pretty much this.
Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Hey everybody, we’ve got a new feature. Every two weeks, we’re going to get the Viola Nation writers together, ask a question or two, and see what answers we get. We’re calling it the Viola Nation Brain Trust. Here’s the first one.

What’s the most important single thing Rocco Commisso should do to fix this team?

Ben: This summer is going to be the most important stretch in Rocco’s entire ownership for determining the future trajectory of the Viola. Given the construction of the team upon his arrival and Covid-19, I’m fine with accepting excuses for the poor performances last season, and to an extent this season. But next season is where my patience runs out. For Rocco to show he’s serious and wants to win, there needs to be a thorough evaluation of every single Fiorentina staff member and player this summer, and subsequently some serious house-cleaning. For the sake of the fans, whose tolerance has understandably run thin, Rocco needs to start that process now, by firing Daniele Pradè and beginning to plan for the future. Even if at this point the move is more symbolic than anything, it would reiterate to the fans that Rocco is serious about taking this club not even back to the Champions League, but to its level in the later years of the Della Valles. Fun fact: Fiorentina has not had fewer points through 24 rounds since the club’s relegation and bankruptcy in 2002. Barring a complete overhaul this summer, my view on Rocco’s ambition with this club is subject to change.

NickyNutella: If you would’ve told me that almost two seasons into Rocco’s tenure we’d be battling for relegation instead of Europe League, I’d have called you mad. This team is operating like it’s still owned by the Della Valles and I don’t know if there is anything scarier than that. Obviously the pandemic and classic Italian bureaucracy have played a role in slowing down the momentum Rocco was hoping to build when he took over the club. However, time is running out for the native New Jerseyan to right the ship. Football fans are a fickle bunch and need to constantly be satisfied in order to keep their support behind the club. To me, the most important thing Don Rocco needs to do is to clean house from the top of the club to the bottom. No staff member or player should be safe and everyone should have to prove their worth all over again. Calcio is a lot like the US government in that it’s a bunch of old men who are so dated and out of touch with the modern game. We need fresh blood in that building from all walks of life. Fiorentina needs innovative ideas in the transfer market and on the pitch. Rocco inherited the club and plugged in his team where he could, but I think he needs to really shake things up. Expand the club’s presence in the US through eSports, watch parties, and maybe even a youth team like Boca Juniors, Valencia, and Barcelona have done. It’s time to take things global, but it all starts with a strong internal spine of smart people who love the team and the city. We get that going and I think Rocco will be able to stay in the fan’s good graces. Maybe I am biased as an Italian-American, but I truly believe Rocco is the one to lead us to the promised land.

Trevor: Asking this question on the back of the Udinese game is probably not the best timing. I had kind of become accustomed to these losses this season, which is really a sad state of affairs for any fan. This one however, made me a lot angrier than most of the other defeats. The reason for that is a mixture of the attitude of the team on the pitch, going through the motions, and also Cesare Prandelli’s handling of the game. It was as if everyone had relaxed after the win over Spezia, which also saw the gap to the relegation zone widen. To see Prandelli’s substitution decisions in that game, where he basically decided that a scoreless draw against an Udinese team that had really never threatened was a good result. That is not what I want from my team, that is not what Fiorentina fans expect to see. Honestly, I’ve been so disappointed since Cesare’s return. He’s had almost four months now and we have seen next to no improvement, and the team is still struggling in the bottom half of the table. Rocco may complain about certain journalists in Florence, but for me, the treatment that Beppe Iachini received compared to how Prandelli is treated with the white glove treatment is just wrong.

Back to the actual question, Rocco Commisso needs to decide what he wants from this club, If it’s all just about building a stadium and a centro sportivo and political battles, then I’m afraid that is not going to go down too well with fans in Florence. With a team playing this badly and still in danger of relegation, that is where his priority should be. This club needs a new DS and a new manager. This time, it’s a decision that needs to be made with the future in mind. No stop-gap solutions, no confirming someone just because he did a half decent job. It’s time for this club to get serious about it’s football, and that goes for the women’s team too. What Rocco needs is actual football people in the club, who understand the world of Italian football, and enough of this looking to the past, because honestly none of that has worked so far.

Tito: I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t already been said. I think I’m a bit more tolerant of Rocco’s results over the first two years because the coronavirus obviously interrupted everything and has probably kept him from doing as much as he’d like. I’m also encouraged by his willingness to let Pradè and Barone do their jobs on the calcio side of things while focusing his own attention towards the arena; that he’s not dictating transfer policies or lineups indicates that he’s not some old rich guy with a new toy he wants to tinker with, but a reasonably thoughtful and shrewd man who wants to leave sports to people who know what they’re doing and work the business side himself.

That said, it’s pretty clear that he needs to shake things up in a big way. Pradè, for all he’s built a relationship with Barone, hasn’t put together a decent team despite spending a lot of money and raising the wage bill considerably. To me, that’s a clear indication that the team hasn’t identified and pursued talent in a reasonable way. Combined with the host of former players returning to the fold, it sure seems like Pradè’s assembled an old boys club. I’m happy to see Antognoni and Dainelli and even Donadel stick around, but pretty much everyone else needs to go. The scouting department, in particular, has obviously lost its touch. I don’t think a lot of Serie A teams are delving through Wyscout databases, for example, and that’s an obvious area in which Fiorentina could build a massive advantage. Bring in some analytics nerds and basically do what Liverpool did: American owner, statistical models, unified identity throughout the club.

You know, exactly what everyone’s been saying for years.