Welcome back to the virtual World of Football Manager and my latest blog post about my save with ACF Fiorentina . My last post took us up to the end of January 2020 in my second season at the club with us sitting pretty at the top of the table after 22 games and most definitely looking like title contenders. Our system ‘The Iron Triangle’ was producing the goods then all of a sudden the wheels fell off.
What happened next is nothing short of Catastrophic when all of a sudden we went from title contenders to relegation form at the click of a mouse. Now I love a good tactical challenge and I can assure you this one tested me.
Matchday 23 and a trip to Genoa ended in us coming away with a very good 3-0 win with Cutrone getting a double along with a Genoa own goal. The Artemio Franchi was a picture of colour for our Coppa Italia Semi Final 1st leg tie against Internazionale and what a game it was, I stook to giving the back up players in the squad a run out and they rose to the occasion matching Inter stride for stride battling out a 1-1 draw with Maximiliano Romero netting for us in the 2nd half.
Another 3-0 win in Serie A this time at home to bottom club Empoli with all our goals coming after the break courtesy of Tonali, Pezzella and Cutrone kept us at the top of the standings with 14 games to play.
Europa League 1st knockout round action next took us to Germany to face VfL.Wolfsburg which resulted in a 0-1 defeat after a tight game against a well organised Wolfsburg side. Sandwiched in between the European tie we visited Scilly next to face newly promoted Palermo who gave us a game which we were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw thanks to a late Marco Benassi strike. The 2nd leg against Wolfsburg was a frustrating game which we managed to wrestle away from the Germans in the last quarter of the game just when it looked like we were heading out of the competition. The unlikely hero defender Vitor Hugo who netted a late brace to win the game 2-0 and leave the German visitors wondering what had happened.
Serie A Matchday 26 we entertained Hellas Verona at the Franchi and looking back now this was the first sign that we were about to suffer a run that would derail our season. We struggled to break our visitors down ending up drawing the game 0-0. It was time for rotation again for the 2nd leg of the Coppa Italia Semi Final against Inter in the Giuseppe Meazza. We trailed 0-1 at the break after a fairly even first half and I decided to bring Domenico Berardi on to replace a jaded Riccardo Sottil and it was Berardi himself who hit the equaliser in the 57th minute and then put us 2-1 up with 14 minutes to play meaning Inter needed two goals to get through the tie and they tried and tried and set up a tense finish after Lautaro Martinez netted with 5 minutes still on the clock. We held out for a 2-2 draw to win the tie on away goals and put us in to the Final.
We stayed in the city of Milan ahead of our next league game against Milan were we managed to grab all three points after we came away with a 2-0 win through an own goal after 3 minutes and a Cutrone strike in the second half. The Europa League Draw through up an all Italian 2nd knockout round tie pairing us with Udinese with the first leg in Florence finishing 0-0 to set up an intriguing 2nd leg. Torino up next at the Franchi produced a 4-2 win with the goals coming via Vertout 2, Diakhate and Cutrone who scored his 25th goal of the campaign and incredibly his last of the season with 12 games remaining in all competitions.
The 2nd leg against Udinese produced a disappointing performance from us with Marco Benassi getting on the scoresheet with a consolation goal in the second half in a 1-2 defeat that ends our European campaign this season. We end the month of March with two draws in the league, a 2-2 draw in Bergamo against an Atalanta side struggling at the wrong end of the table Berardi and Romero both finding the back of the net. Our second draw ended 1-1 against Rafa Benitez Lazio side with Sandro Tonali getting our goal.
The month of April was not an happy one in Florence with just one win and three defeats with us scoring just 2 goals in the 4 matches and 1 of them was an own goal. A 1-2 defeat at the Champions elect Napoli started the month off followed by a 0-1 defeat away at Sassuolo which incidentally handed Napoli the title.
A 1-0 win in Florence thanks to a Berardi goal against Sampdoria was a welcome three points thus ending our 5 game winless streak but our respite was brief when we ended the month with a 0-1 defeat at Udinese who seem to becoming our bogey side.
With four league games and the Coppa Italia final left to play I was hoping that we could finish the season off in style in the month of May and we got off to a good start by beating SPAL 3-2 in the Franchi to keep our hopes of a Champions League place alive with goals from Pezzella and Zekhnini with an own goal sandwiched in between. A big game next for matchday 36 this time in Milan to face an Internazionale side who are in direct competition with us for the Champions League place. We played our part in a 5 goal thriller but unfortunately for us and the tifosi we suffered a 2-3 defeat despite two cracking goals from both Sandro Tonali and Federico Chiesa. The defeat was our 4th defeat in 6 league games and the media were starting to ask questions.
Maybe the Coppa Italia Final against Roma would be a brief but welcome distraction from our poor league form and a chance to put some silverware in the trophy cabinet but unfortunately Roma had other ideas and proved a tough hurdle to getting our hands on it. Neither side could get a breakthrough so after 120 minutes of end to end football the game finished 0-0 and would be decided on penalties. Both Cutrone and Chiesa missed their respective penalties and Roma dispatched four of theirs to become Coppa Italia Champions 4-3 on penalties.
We ended the season with two 0-3 defeats, the first at home to Juventus and then a disappointing last day defeat to bottom club Frosinone.
A season that showed much promise ended in a disappointing fashion but it seems weird that a 5th place finish in Serie A and getting to the Coppa Italia would be deemed disappointing. In truth I am absolutely loving the save and the bad run of form just adds a different dimension to it.
Whilst we finished the season on a low there was many positives to come out of it:
- The continuing progression / development of Abdou Diakhate who finished the season with an average of 7.05 from 45 appearances.
- Patrick Cutrone scoring 25 goals in his debut season for us.
- Rafik Zekhnini developing in to a first team regular after returning from his season out on loan, the Norwegian wideman was our leading assist maker with 13 and scoring 4 times.
- Sandro Tonali the young Pirlo clone with 43 appearances for an average rating of 7.11 scoring 6 goals along the way.
Looking forward to season three I have decided to freshen up the first team squad and will be analysing our system in fine detail ahead of the new kick off.
Thanks for reading, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year……..
Seoi0rie A Final Table 2019-2020
Squad Stats 2019-2020
The Story So Far
The reworked system inspired by Osvaldo Bagnoli