We’ve rung down the curtain on Fiorentina’s most recent season, and boy howdy was it a wild one. The club entered the year with elevated expectations after qualifying for the Conference League in 2021-2022, reestablishing itself as the neutral’s favorite due to a swashbuckling, balls-to-the-wall style.
Those expectations, of course, didn’t really work early on. The team struggled through the first couple of months as injuries and over-rotation prevented the players from finding any kind of rhythm on the pitch, while off-field distractions and bizarre press conferences left supporters unsettled as well. There were a couple of catastrophic results in the Conference League and uneven performances in the Serie A, leading some to question Vincenzo Italiano’s future with the Viola.
By the time the winter World Cup (which is, with the benefit of hindsight, still a shameless and idiotic idea) rolled around, the Viola looked a listless mid-table side, one that hadn’t adequately replaced Dušan Vlahović and was paying the price. Nicolás González was hurt and maybe on the way out. The only real positive was the rise of Sofyan Amrabat into Italy’s most destructive midfield force, a role he’d highlight at the World Cup as he led Morocco to the semifinals, becoming an international icon in the process.
When Fiorentina resumed play in January, it was more of the same. Wins over Sampdoria and Torino to reach the semifinals of the Coppa Italia were nice, but home losses against Torino and Bologna saw the Viola drop all the way to 14th place at one point. With Braga looming in the Conference League, it felt like everything was poised to collapse.
And then Fiorentina turned into a monster, rattling off a 14-match unbeaten streak that included 9 straight wins. Arthur Cabral caught fire and couldn’t stop scoring as Italiano pushed all the right buttons, flipping his charges from moribund to electrifying. Even as that form declined a bit, a sense of destiny settled over the side. Even a loss to Lech Poznan in the Conference League quarterfinals felt fine, and Fiorentina overturned the deficit and then knocked out Basel as well to put themselves in the final while swatting aside Cremonese in the Coppa Italia semifinals as well.
With the chance to win the club’s first major trophy since 2001, Italiano clearly shifted his focus to the tournaments at the expense of the league, although the domestic results stayed positive as even the reserves, buoyed by the atmosphere around the club, produced excellent performances to keep the momentum rolling.
That sense of destiny, however, ran out at the crucial moments. Despite an early goal against Inter Milan in the Coppa final, lapses in either box prevented Fiorentina from hoisting the trophy despite looking the better side for most of the game. Against West Ham in the Conference League final, the result was even more heartbreaking. Persevering through fan violence that left Cristiano Biraghi spurting blood from the head (which should have seen the match abandoned), the boys hung tough and even equalized after conceding a dodgy penalty, only to lose it at the death.
A season which began so poorly and then promised so much, then, ultimately ended with nothing. No silverware. No Europe next year. Another season of mid-table calcio and empty calories. Another summer of questions about which stars would leave (Amrabat, certainly) and which underperforming starters would be replaced.
For everyone else, this campaign will be a footnote. Inter and West Ham will go down as immortals for winning, but Fiorentina fans won’t forget the magic that suffused the Artemio Franchi for the second half of this season. Even without winning anything, this season brought us moments of ecstasy that many of us haven’t ever experienced with this club. The depth of the pain is equaled only by the height of the joy.
So long, 2022-2023. Can’t wait to do it all again in 2023-2024.