Can Fiorentina go the distance?
Wednesday 25 November 2015
Football often has a habit of springing surprises when they are least expected, and this certainly applies to Serie A this season. Juventus, who were strongly backed by Bookies.com to continue their dominance of Italian football and win their fifth straight Scudetto, have struggled to impose themselves like many expected them to and currently find themselves well off the pace, but the biggest surprise has been the resurgence of Fiorentina.
The Viola, who last won the title some 46 years ago in 1969, have been a breath of fresh air through an attractive brand of football that has not only been appealing on the eye, but also enabled Paulo Sousa’s team to storm to the top of the table. Sceptics have already doubted whether Fiorentina can last the distance, particularly with Inter Milan, Roma and Napoli breathing down their necks, but if their early season performances are anything to go by, then it would be unwise to write them off just yet.
Fiorentina have often been perceived as perennial underachievers, with bankruptcy, relegation and a number of managerial changes in recent years threatening to undermine a club that has yet to fulfil its true potential. The owners’ decision to relieve Vincenzo Montella of his managerial duties in the summer, despite the ‘Little Airplane’ leading the Viola to a top four finish and two cup semi-finals, came as a huge surprise to those who believed the club were in safe hands, but the arrival of former Inter Milan midfielder Paulo Sousa has proven to be a masterstroke. His belief that Fiorentina can challenge for the Serie A title has been justified through their excellent start to the season which very few outside of Florence saw coming; their dynamic brand of football has taken many by surprise, none more so than Inter Milan who were blown away by a three-goal burst in the first twenty-three minutes as they succumb to a 4-1 defeat on home soil. It is this result that made the rest of Serie A sit up and take notice that Fiorentina were not at the top by pure chance – they have the quality to compete against anyone in the league.
Sitting top of the tree for the first time since 1999 may be an indication of the level of struggle and underachievement they have endured over the years, but Fiorentina have an opportunity to create new history at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. They represent a great no-risk shot as Serie A dark horses on Bookies.com, and although their Scudetto odds may have lowered since the beginning of the season, Fiorentina remain relatively unfancied with the likes of Roma and Inter Milan in close promixity. However, the change in principles under Paulo Sousa has created fluidity that enables his players to express themselves more at both ends of the pitch, and although Fiorentina have conceded the most shots in front of goal than any other Serie A team, their high-risk style will continue to reap dividends if the defence continues to be rock solid and chances are taken at the other end.
Fiorentina have undoubtedly arisen from seemingly nowhere to become one of the most fascinating teams in European football this season, and with good reason too. Their fluidity is reminiscent of Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers in 2013/2014, with their ability to morph into different formations when defending and attacking creating the element of unpredictability that opposing managers find incredibly difficult to counteract. Having a number of players, such as Ante Rebic and Jakub Blaszczykowski, who can be effective in numerous phases of play enables Fiorentina to create several off-the-ball movements that create space and open up opportunities; the fact that the Viola have scored in every single Serie A game this season is proof, if needed, that their style of play is reaping dividends.
Upcoming fixtures against Sassuolo and Udinese represent good opportunities for Fiorentina to enhance their title credentials, but while bookmakers may consider them favourites to pick up three points in both games, it will depend on the Viola’s ability to continue making their new tactics work. Napoli and Roma both found a greater cutting edge and made the most of the chances that Fiorentina allowed them to have, and while this may undermine their chances of winning a shock Scudetto, Paulo Sousa’s team are deservedly in contention to challenge the big guns.