Finishing in a lowly 13th place in the 2011/12 season, Vincenzo Montella made a huge turnaround last season leading Fiorentina to challenge Milan for the final slot Champions League slot, with Fiorentina narrowly missing out after a controversial Milan win against already relegated Siena in the last week.
The owners’ decision to replace former sporting director Pantaleo Corvino with the dynamic duo of Daniele Prade and Eduardo Macía had impact on Fiorentina’s change in fortune. The new management sold troubled players such as Juan Vargas and replaced them with new, fresh, young and hungry faces, more suited to the tiki-taka style of football Montella wanted to install at Artemio Franchi. Last season has seen Fiorentina bringing in midfielder Borja Valero and centre-backs Gonzalo Rodriguez and Facundo Roncaglia from relegated Villarreal, where they also pick up Giuseppe Rossi, a dynamic, yet injury prone 25 year old.
Prade and Macia also bought Alberto Aquilani from Liverpool to link him up with Borja Valero and Chilean Claudio Pizarro. They also added Stefan Savic from Manchester City and Nenad Tomovic to bolster the defence. Fiorentina have quickly become one of the most entertaining sides in Serie A. Surely, not all the signing worked: former Ajax man Mounir El Hamdaoui and Marcelo Larrondo never flourished up front like Luca Toni did. Poor finishing and the lack of a real goal-scoring threat affected club’s chances at the end of last season. But this summer, the Della Valle family made a big statement of intent continuing to re-shape the roster: their new goal then must be to win or seriously challenge for the Scudetto. They made it clear carrying on their massive roster turnover as they added the needed striker in Mario Gomez, who boasted an impressive 31% chance conversion for Bayern Munich last season.
Although Stevan Jovetic and Adem Ljajic are expected to leave, with Juventus and Milan as likely destinations, Montella could benefit from the hiring of one of the most prolific European forward. Fiorentina has an history of great forwards, from Gabriel Batistuta to Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino and Gomez can certainly step up to becoming the next one. Oddly no ‘top clubs’ came in for the German forward whose goal scoring record at every level speaks for itself.
With a long season in front, Padre and Macia bolstered the whole roster adding quality players in talented midfielders Joaquin, Oleksandr Jakovenko, and Rafa Wolski and landed another promising playerin Montenegrin international Marko Bakić. Massimo Ambrosini, former Milan’s captain, the necassery leadership skills and also bring much needed experience in the clubs push for the title.
Last campaign Montella started the season with a 3-5-1-1 system featuring Manuel Pasqual and Juan Cuadrado as wing-backs but he has switched between a 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 during the season. He mixed those formations but the team’s core remained the same due to the players’ ability to play multiple positions, with Tomovic and Facundo Roncaglia that can play centre-back or right-back, Manuel Pasqual wing-back or left-back, young Marvin Compper centre-back or left-back, and Ljajic left wing or second forward.
The 4-3-3 is still a possibility this year, with Cuadrado, Gomez and Rossi as the probable attacking trio. It will be interesting to see if Montella will line up a three-man attacking midfield putting emphasis on possession, as he did last season or if he will insert a box-to-box midfielder such as happened on a few occasions last campaign with Brazilian Romulo or Giulio Migliaccio. Newcomer Ambrosini could be the right man to fill this roll.
The big question marks are regarding how the club will line up defensively, in a back three or a back four. Fiorentina’s manager could opt for Tomovic or for retain Mattia Cassani. The game plan will be the same, one based around a short, continuous build-up. Against close defences, the signing of Gomez will provide the alternative to knock long balls or to move the ball wide open looking for crosses into the penalty box.
The turn-around and summer business is far from complete though, with Montella still looking for a new goal keeper after Emiliano Viviano was forced to leave the club due to a difficult season. But right now, in the middle of the summer, Viola fans are happy to see their club ambitions rise again, with their team becoming a clear competitor for a Champions League spot and maybe for much more. With European league and Coppa Italia also in their sights, Viola seems to have the weapons to shine continuing to play the attacking football that brought on success last season and the fans have the right to dream an impressive campaign.