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

Giancarlo Rinaldi On April - 19 - 2012

Fear In Florence


The stealthy sound of a bicycle tyre on the tarmac of the road behind you can be a terrifying sound. You know it means an imminent overtaking manoeuvre as you struggle on a gruelling uphill stretch. Then the mind tells you that you need to respond but - more often than not - the body is unable to do so. Right now, that is the kind of panic situation Fiorentina find themselves in.

It has been a season when the Viola have teetered on the brink of the shark-infested relegation waters for much of the campaign. The finger of blame was, at first, pointed firmly at coach Sinisa Mihajlovic. But when he was shown the door, the situation got no better under new boss Delio Rossi. The gloom has rarely lifted.

What makes the position more alarming for followers of the Tuscan club is the amazing second-half surge being put in by Lecce. Manager Serse Cosmi has had a fantastic impact at the seemingly Serie B bound club. Their pace has meant that many pundits have been moving the 40-point survival target a fair bit higher.

It meant that even a famous away win against Milan in the San Siro - so welcomed by historic rivals Juventus - did Fiorentina little good. A draw with Palermo a few days later was capitalised on by a tremendous comeback win from Lecce. Suddenly the boys in purple were just one result away from the dreaded drop zone.

Of course, another famous club, Genoa, find themselves sandwiched in between and might yet prove to be the salvation of the side from the Artemio Franchi. Both teams were set up with very different targets in mind and that can be the hardest thing to adapt to. Lecce knew from the outset they would face a battle to survive - but both the Rossoblu and the Viola had dreams of European football which have long since been dashed.

Picking over the bones of this miserable Florentine campaign, it is quicker to point out the things they got right rather than the matters which went wrong. Mihajlovic was the first man to be sacrificed, then sporting director Pantaleo Corvino - a key part in recent successes - announced he would move on at the end of the season. Club owners Andrea and Diego Della Valle have said a full review of how the side works will be undertaken at the end of the season. The question is, however, will they be a Serie B outfit by then?

If they do go down, then a lot of players will have to carry their share of the blame. Too many new signings have failed to deliver and established stars have not lived up to their reputation. It has not made for comfortable viewing for anyone who holds the team dear.

The handful of bright spots could really be summed up in about four names. Goalkeeper Artur Boruc has been in outstanding form and has meant that the loss of Sebastien Frey to fellow relegation-threatened Genoa has not been mourned too much. Young defender Matija Nastasic has emerged as a cool and accomplished performer at the back. Midfield man Valon Behrami has fought like a lion and Stevan Jovetic has confirmed he is a world class talent. But that, unfortunately for the Viola, is about it.

A supposed summer transfer coup - the signing of striker Santiago Silva - ended in disaster. He scored a single goal in his sorry stay in Florence and has already been sent packing. The trouble is that his replacement - Juve exile Amauri - has only matched that goal haul so far. With Alberto Gilardino also moving on, it has left the pressure to find the net firmly on Jojo’s shoulders. It has often seemed like a heavy burden.

The contribution of set-to-leave-in-the-summer Riccardo Montolivo has been variable. Both his managers this term have praised his professional approach despite being jeered by his own fans after his failure to sign a new contract with the club. However, doubts persist about how much you can build a team around a man who clearly has a portion of his mind on a move to pastures new.

Juan Manuel Vargas is another player who has failed to deliver to his old standards. So often a brilliant force with his thumping shots and pinpoint missile crosses, he has looked out of form and out of shape this year. It has meant that a vital ammunition supply for the Fiorentina forwards has also been lost.

And the high hopes for Alessio Cerci have also been dashed. He finished last season as if he was going to be one of the most influential players in the Renaissance city. Instead, he has run into trouble both on and off the pitch. His red card for a petulant kick on an opponent against Juventus - leaving his team to take a thrashing - pretty much summed up his year.

Other signings like Gianni Mundari (moved on in January), Andrea Lazzari (solid but unspectacular) and Houssine Kharja (almost unnoticeable) have not given much to the cause. And that is not to mention winter acquisition Ruben Olivera who came to the club with a suspension, played a match, and then picked up another ban.

It has meant the fans - not so long ago used to Champions League football - have either deserted the club or voiced their anger. Home games at the Franchi have been discontented affairs, particularly the debacle against Juventus. They have promised to rally round for the closing games of the campaign - but might it be too little too late?

However this season ends for the Viola, there is a major rethink needed in the summer. A successful era has come to an end and some better forward planning needs to be done. A new sporting director is a certainty, a new stadium project a possibility and another new manager not ruled out. There is also likely to be a major purge of players and some further fresh faces. Fiorentina fans will hope they are coming into fuel a renewed challenge for Europe. But, for the time being at least, they can hear a horrible ghost behind them and it is accompanied by the goading chant of opposition fans: “Serie B! Serie B! Serie B!”.

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