Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Giancarlo Rinaldi On August - 18 - 2011

Italian Serie A 2011-2012 Club Preview: Fiorentina

(original photo by AP Photo)

Stevan Jovetic may never have been more damp in his whole life. As he rose from a giant pool of water on the St James’ Park pitch his Fiorentina strip appeared to have taken on a deeper hue of purple than those of his teammates. Yet despite his soaking he was grinning from ear to ear, just glad to be back doing what he loves best - playing football.

In a summer of fan protests and departures, it is the Montenegrin’s youthful enthusiasm which his club desperately needs to tap into. It is the kind of thing that can quickly become infectious. A few moments of audacious skill and thrilling victories can quickly dispel the doubts.

Going into the new season, Viola supporters have more reservations than the bookings diary at a top Italian restaurant. Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has still to convince them of his ability, question marks have been raised about the commitment of the club’s owners and Alessio Cerci - well, let’s not even go there.

This atmosphere of concern and occasionally downright cynicism has dragged the Tuscan club down. So much so that that one of their patrons, Andrea Della Valle, was prompted to write a lengthy letter to their followers. If you no longer have faith in us, it stated, we are happy to stand aside.

It could have been typical Italian brinkmanship or it might be simple frustration. The shoe-making brothers believe they cobbled together a team which took Fiorentina from C2 to the Champions League. What have they done to make the fans so disrespectful?

A significant section of the support, however, no longer believes the duo are 100% behind the purple “project” - whatever that means. The biggest single accusation is that they have taken the huff and withdrawn resources since their plans for a Cittadella Viola - a new stadium and commercial development - hit the rocks. The summer’s sluggish transfer activity has been cited as a symptom.

One by one, club stalwarts have been sent packing. Sebastien Frey, Adrian Mutu, Mario Santana, Marco Donadel and Gianluca Commotto have all moved on. No effort was made to retain Gaetano D’Agostino. And Ricky Montolivo has declined to commit to the colours beyond the end of his current contract.

On the import front, the Viola have moved slower than former midfield man Mario Bolatti. A lot of hope has been pinned on right-back/right midfield Brazilian Romulo. Andrea Lazzari brings a dash of class to the team, while Gianni Munari has an admirable work ethic. But none of them have had Florentines stampeding for season tickets.

Have faith, has been the message from the club. We put you in Europe before and we will do it again. Some have signed up to that vision, others remain a great deal more sceptical.

The biggest “persuader”, of course, would be a good start to the season. The boys from the Artemio Franchi open their campaign with a run of games where they would expect to gather points. If they could find themselves near the top end of the table a lot of the criticism would disappear quicker than Antonio Cassano’s dinner.

The Florentine side definitely has a first XI which can compete for a top six finish. In Jovetic they have one of Serie A’s brightest young stars. Artur Boruc is a solid netminder, Alessandro Gamberini can guide a defence and few cross better than Juan Vargas. And Alberto Gilardino still knows where the goal is.

However, the summer pruning has left the back-up options a little thin on the ground. It will need the new boys to hit the ground running or the promising Primavera players to grow up fast to bolster the squad. Injuries and suspensions could prove costly.

It could be the best of times or the worst of times for Fiorentina this term, depending on your viewpoint. Mihajlovic has promised to stay and fight it out to win the fans’ respect. He will need to have his tactical ideas clearer than last season if he is to do so.

Above all, everyone concerned with the team needs to restore the enthusiasm from a couple of years ago. If they can return to playing with the verve and vitality shown back then, all will quickly be forgiven. There’s a lot of responsibility for that on Jojo’s shoulders - but, for the time being at least, it seems like a burden he is delighted to carry.

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