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Qasa Alom On January - 6 - 2011

Are Fiorentina Too Good To Go Down?

After a 1-1 draw with Bologna, Fiorentina find themselves languishing in 16th place a mere 6 points from bottom of the tabe. Qasa Alom looks at whether la Viola have what it takes to beat the drop…

Alberto Gilardino is a man who earned his salt scoring goals from scraps and half-chances to keep Parma in Serie A two seasons consecutively, but I doubt that when he signed for Milan and subsequently Fiorentina he ever thought he would be getting ready for another relegation battle.

However stranger things have happened in Serie A…

In 1993 with a young Gabriel Batistuta leading the line and a host of other European footballing talents such as the European Cup winner Brian Laudrup and Steffen Effenburg, Fiorentina had high hopes for a successful campaign. They did not expect to go into the final match day relying on other results to avoid relegation. So despite dispatching Foggia majestically 6-2 with Batigol getting a brace to take his tally up to 16 for the season, a draw for Udinese and a win for Brescia against Sampdoria resulted one of the biggest shocks in Serie A history and proved that no team is too good to go down.

Thus with this in mind, how likely is it that the current crop of artisans from Firenze could find themselves plunged into the Inferno and relegated?

Statistics certainly seem to be in Fiorentina’s favour as a brief look at last five seasons shows that no team with 19 points or more at the winter break has gone on to be relegated. Additionally Fiorentina have a game in hand over their rivals at the bottom, even If this game is against Inter!

Winter break 20th 19th 18th 17th 16th 15th 14th
2006 Ascoli* (9) Messina* (14) Chievo* (14) Torino (16) Cagliari (16) Siena (21) Reggina (23)
2007 Cagliari (10) Reggina (13) Empoli* (15) Livorno* (15) Torino (17) Parma* (18) Catania (21)
2008 Chievo (8) Reggina* (10) Lecce* (14) Bologna (15) Torino *(15) Catania (15) Siena (19)
2009 Atalanta* (12) Siena* (12) Livorno* (18) Udinese (18) Cagliari (23) Bologna (23) Chievo (25)
2010 Bari

(11)

Lecce (15) Cesena (15) Brescia (15) Parma (19) Fiorentina (19) Bologna (20)

* denotes teams that were relegated

Today’s shock results such as Parma’s away victory at Juventus and Bari’s crucial win over Lecce have led to a much tighter fight at the bottom with every team  arguably from Udinese in 8th position downwards involved. Furthermore with 8 teams all within one win of each other it seems that the sooner Fiorentina realise that they are in a relegation dogfight; the sooner they will be able to steer themselves clear of it.

Certainly injuries to the team’s key players  have not helped their cause and have made new boss Sinisa Mihajlovic’s job a lot more difficult than he would have first imagined, however Football Italia’s Giancarlo Rinaldi believes that Fiorentina have enough quality to survive.

“To lose Stevan Jovetic, Sebastien Frey and Riccardo Montolivo to injury would have hurt any side, never mind one struggling for form.

However, 40 points is usually more than enough for any team to avoid the drop in Serie A and Fiorentina sit just a point off halfway to that target with three games before their season reaches its midway point.

The return of Montolivo in the New Year should be a tonic, with Jovetic due back in the spring and hopefully Artur Boruc back in goal. With more options at his disposal, I think Mihajlovic should be able to guide the Tuscans to safety ahead of fellow-strugglers like Lecce, Bari and Cesena”

Indeed concerns over the teams quality have never been in question; their stomach for the fight on the other hand is something that could raise eyebrows quicker than Carlo Ancelotti. Fiorentina’s opponents today Bologna, along with other perennial relegation favourites such as Chievo and Cagliari are used to this sort of battle, whereas the promoted teams, Lecce, Brescia and Cesena prepared for this situation since last summer. If Fiorentina are to avoid the same mistakes they made in 2002 or 1993 where Batistuta still notched up 16 goals and Effenburg made 9 assists, each individual player will have to stand up and be counted rather than look to others to make something to happen.

This will all have to start from the manager.

For the moment the jury is still out on Sinisa Mihajlovic, he left Bologna in the midst of a relegation dogfight in 2008 after a fiery relationship with his players and the board, before leading Catania to a respectable 13th place last season.

This year, after a slow start where he spent more time criticizing his player’s eating habits and personal style, he now must learn from his experiences at Bologna, lest he wish for a similar scenario. The draw against Bologna, whilst a slightly disappointing result, is a solid foundation to build on and with games against three teams positioned directly around them coming up - Brescia, Lecce and Parma - Mihajlovic must guide his team positively through a critical month that will make or break their season.

He can start to do this right now by knocking any complacency out of his players and reminding them that even one of the club’s greatest legends Gabriel Batistuta was relegated in a team that was supposed to be too good to go down.

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