Welcome to the latest round up of Florence And The Goal Machine. In my last post we had reached the halfway point in our first season at the club and sat in 5th position in the table after a good start to the season. I had been reluctant to use any of the 4 loan signings the club had already made before my appointment because I didn’t want to pick them in front of any of the players that we owned, however once we reached December we had a few injuries so my hand was forced and to be totally honest Marko Pjaca came in and was nothing short of a revalation.
Reaching the halfway point brings with it the January transfer window and with a host of big clubs on the trail of Federico Chiesa I braced myself for an incoming bid that would more than likely force my hand in to having to negotiate an exit package for our most prized possession but just when the window opened young Federico picked up an injury which in normal circumstances would be a blow but the timing was perfect because all of a sudden Chiesa was not a priority for all the big clubs and from having 6 or 7 clubs interested in his transfer status just one remained, all be it Paris Saint Germain. With no bids received during the window I can safely say it was a well timed injury but the summer window may prove a little different.
I did however release a number of players who I don’t think will make the grade here in Florence, this was part 1 of my plan to reduce the squad numbers because we really did have too many players on the books for my liking. I also allowed Bryan Dabo to leave on loan to Sassuolo with a view to a permanent deal after he expressed his desire to leave due to a lack of first team football.
I did not want to bring anybody in to the club during this window and so I didn’t.
I offered new contracts to Abdou Diakhate, Riccardo Sottil, Giovanni Simeone, Nikola Milenković and Marco Benassi all of whom signed on the dotted line. Two of the contracts have had release clauses written in to them with Giovanni Simeone having the highest with a clause of €80m and Nikola Milenković having a clause of €66m to any Champions League club.
Serie A Stagione 1a 18-19
We kicked 2019 off with a 3-0 win in the Coppa Italia against Parma in a game that saw Dušan Vlahović score his first goal for the 1st team after I decided to give him a start in place of Simeone. It proved to be a good run out with both Kevin Mirallas and Valentin Eysseric rounding off the victory.
Our first Serie A game of the new year saw the visit of Torino to Florence and with Chiesa sidelined through injury I started Mirallas on the right flank and it was the Belgian who broke the deadlock early in the second half after latching on to a poor back pass in the Torino defence. Just 5 minutes later we went 2 up when Christian Biraghi stroked the ball home after a one – two with Norgaard. We had took the wind out of the Turin clubs sails and when Giovanni Simeone found the bottom corner with a penalty we had kicked off the new year with an impressive 3-0 win.
A tricky visit to the Olympico to face Lazio was our next port of call but we played well and when Simeone scored just before the half hour it was nothing more than we deserved but with just a 1-0 lead at half time I made sure the boys went out for the second half guarding against complacency. Christian Nørgaard ran the show after the break playing in a Regista role instead of the Deep Lying Playmaker role that he is used to. We went 2 up just after the hour thanks to an own goal before Marko Pjaca sealed our third 3-0 win on the bounce.
Quarter-final of the Coppa Italia next for us away in Naples and after a hard fought 1-1 draw we slipped to a 1-3 defeat to a good Napoli side in extra time. Giovanni Simeone got our only goal on the night. The talk after the game was all about Carlo Ancelotti’s interest in signing our captain Germain Pezzella but I decide not to make any comments on the issue in the after match press conference.
We hosted third placed Roma just four days later and needed a second half goal from substitute Cyril Théréau to rescue a 1-1 draw and a point against a very good Roman side. I made the mistake of playing a strong side just a few days earlier against Napoli which went in to extra time and took a bit out of us. It was a gamble I know but the lure of a Semi Final got the better of me.
With a trip to Milano on Matchday 23 to face 2nd place Internazionale I gave the players a couple more extra rest sessions so we could be in the best condition possible for the game. Just 17 minutes in to the game and loanee Marko Pjaca put us 1-0 up with an outstanding curling effort from around 20 yards, it was a great start and it was Pjaca again in the 38th minute who doubled our lead to give us a 2-0 lead at the break. Inter grabbed a consolation goal late in the second half and put us under a bit of pressure late on but the backline stayed firm and we collected all three points.
Matchday 24 saw the visit of Vincenzo Montella and his Milan side after the sacking of Rino Gattuso to Florence. After the victory against Inter we approached the game against a struggling Milan side with confidence but you know football is a funny game and after a drab first half that ended goalless Milan took the game by the scruff of the neck and got their reward when Higuain outpaced Pezzella to fire a low shot beyond the despairing Labont to put Milan 1 up. We had very little in terms of chances created and whimpered to a 0-1 defeat.
The Mapei Stadium was the venue for our next fixture against a Sassuolo side who have become the draw experts so far this season The game also gave me the chance to take a look at Berardi and Locattelli who I have been forthcoming in my admiration for them. I also noticed that the Neroverdi have transfer listed a past Viola player Kouma Babacar for around €4m. Well the draw experts managed to shut us out has we went close with chances from Diakhate, Simeone and Veretout. We never looked in any danger at the back but a 0-0 scoreline allows Torino to leap frog us in to 4th place in the standings.
We then managed to secure all three points against bottom club Parma who are looking odds on to drop back in to Serie B after a Giovanni Simeone double in the second half that gave us a 2-1 victory. To be honest the scoreline suggests a close game but we totally dominated the game with Parma just having the goalscoring shot on goal and us averaging 72% possession. We are creating the opportunities which I am pleased about and have faith that we are heading in the right direction.
Matchday 27 and the last one that I am going to write about in this post took us to Sardinia to face a Cagliari side who came to the Artemio Franchi and earned a 1-1 draw earlier in the season and who are having a decent season in mid table. We looked to be on our game and went in front when Abdou Diakhate struck a beauty from 18 yards just after the half hour mark. The midfielder came close to a second just 2 minutes later this time shaving the post from inside the area. Diakhate is leading the way in Italy for distance covered during games and I am well pleased with his progress. A 1-0 lead turned in to a 2-0 lead soon after when Giovanni Simeone cooly finished from 6 yards. We completed the job in the 2nd period by denying our hosts a shot on goal. A solid 2-0 away win puts in 4th place in the table with 11 games to go.
Results and Table as of March 2019
We are entering the business end of the season and I am feeling very positive about the future of the club. In the short we are fighting for a Champions League place but I won’t be worried if we fail in our bid to get in to Europe’s Premier competition. This first season for me is all about analysing and building the foundations for the years to come. We have a lot of players out on loan who will be returning to the club at the end of the season who I feel the majority don’t fit in to my vision for the club so I will be looking to move them on. There will also be a few tweeks with the backroom staff but nothing drastic because I want to evolve the club gradually without making sweeping changes.
I mentioned in one of my posts that I wanted the save to be as realistic as possible and I am getting that feeling so I must be doing something right. I am in no rush to fill the trophy cabinet taking it a step at a time.
Last but not least I am not the only one to have a save with Fiorentina you can check Chris Fuller and his save in Florence out here. Chris is in season 2 and his writing is excellent so I highly recommend checking him out. It’s also nice for me to compare how we both go about our saves in Florence.
Well that’s this post wrapped up I would like to thank all who have taken the time to read this. Next time I will be reviewing our final 11 games of the season and taking a look at a few other things around the club, so until next time