Welcome to a round up of season 8 of Florence And The Goal Machine. Things are really kicking on in Florence with me taking every opportunity to delve in to the save I made two additions to the club squads with young Brazilian defender Arnaldo (Newgen) coming in to our Under 20 squad after a £1m move from Santos. Another Brazilian 24 year old winger Vinícius Júnior joins us on a free transfer after running his contract down at Real Madrid.
I think Vinícius Junior can shine here in Florence within the Velvet Revolution system that is now the backbone of everything we do at the club. I decided to send a large number of our Under 20 squad out on loan to clubs across the Peninsula to gain some valuable experience playing 1st team football and taking their development to the next stage.
I was looking at our finances and transfer business in particular and after 8 seasons my net transfer spend is just £17m showing that we have been prudent both in the market place and with our own development system. We have been very successful in dominating both the Under 18 and Under 20 competitions from the very start of my reign at the club.
My intention was to complete 10 seasons of the save and with 8 down already it is looking more and more likely that the save will go beyond that. I am writing this update in the last week of June but I am already in to season 9 on the game which I am careful not to give any spoilers away on Twitter.
With a good pre season out of the way August was upon us and we could not have asked for a better start to the season with three wins meaning maximum points that all started with a 1-0 win away to Brescia with a 71st minute winner coming from Patrick Cutrone to get his season off on the right foot. It was a special day for Sandro Tonali returning back to the club that put him on the map. I have been lucky to have Tonali at the club for so long after being one of my first signings for the club way back in season one for €6m and loaned back to Brescia for that season. So 7 years later Tonali is one of the leaders of the club who has shown great loyalty to both myself and the club after being chased by a number of clubs during his time in Florence.
A 2-1 win in the Franchi against Roma after trailing until the 72nd minute when Alessandro Cortinovis neatly finished a flowing move and then Patrick Cutrone won us the game in the 79th minute with a powerful header. I am just blessed with quality players who have developed well in Florence, take Cortinovis for example my first ever signing for the club, he came in to the club and after being a squad player is now a first team starter who during the 8 years at the club to date as never once moaned.
Matchday 3 saw us travel to Sicily to play a Palermo side who managed to get European Qualification after an excellent last season, so I was expecting a battle but we came out 2-0 winners with goals from Domenico Berardi and Alessandro Cortinovis to take all 3 points and end August on top of the table with maximum points.
Ever get that feeling that the wheels have fell off ? Well September gave me that feeling after a 1-1 draw in Rome against Lazio thanks to a 2nd half Domenico Berardi penalty we went to Old Trafford for the opening group H game of the Champions League to face Manchester United who beat us 2-1 after a end to end game that we never looked like scoring until new boy Vinícius Junior bagged his 1st goal for the club in the 88th minute.
Three consecutive 0-0 draws against Empoli and Sassuolo in the league and Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League gave me cause for concern and left me questioning myself, had the Footballing World become wise to the Velvet Revolution? I analysed all 5 of our games in detail from this month and came to the conclusion that there was no need for a knee jerk reaction and put it down to simply not finishing the chances that we had created.
A much needed 2-1 win prevailed away at Benevento in the opening game of the month after both Luca Pellegrini and Vinícius Junior got on the scoresheet to secure all three points. Matchday 8 served up a magnificent game of football for the neutrals when we got the better of Sampdoria in a 5 goal thriller that saw us race in to a 3-0 lead in the first 17 minutes of the game with goals from Nicolo Barella and a Patrick Cutrone brace. However Samp hit back to make a game of it that saw us just about hold on until the final whistle.
Nothing short of a dreadful performance next losing 3-4 to Celtic in the Champions League in Florence on a night that saw Domenico Berardi score a brace along with a Sandro Tonali goal but it was not to be our night and the less said about it the better.
We bounced back from defeat in midweek with a 4-1 win away to Chievo with two goals each from Patrick Cutrone and Sandro Tonali in a much better performance all around from La Viola. To end the month we go to the San Siro and come away with a creditable 1-1 draw against Milan with a goal from the in form Nicolo Barella that leaves us with a record of 10 games played, 6 wins and 4 draws scoring 16 and conceding 7 for the 22 points to date leaving us in 4th place.
Bologna away produced a good 4-0 win to get November off to a good start with goals from Vinícius Junior, Nicolo Barella and a double strike from Domenico Berardi to keep in touch at the top of the table Bologna just could not handle Junior and Berardi who spent the night skinning the Bologna backline.
A 2-0 win over Celtic gave us half a chance of progressing to the knockouts of the Champions League with late goals from Patrick Cutrone and Abdou Diakhate. A trip to face Genoa produced another 4 goal haul with Vinícius Junior, Domenico Berardi, Gianluca Mancini and Patrick Cutrone all getting a share of the spoils in a 4-1 win. The Brazilian Vinícius Junior is settling in to the club nicely with another good performance.
A 0-0 draw against Zinedine Zidane’s Atalanta in the Franchi produces a probably the best game of the season so far with much credit to the French manager who came to Bergamo to pick up a Atalanta squad who had not produced the goods for both Gasperini and Bielsa before him.
Champions League action next with Manchester United coming to Florence for the 5th matchday with us knowing that nothing less than a victory is required to keep us in with a shout of progressing in the competition. On a night of pressure on our warriors both Abdou Diakhate and Nicolo Barella got two early goals that United could not come back from with our backline standing firm to any threat Conte’s men could throw at us.
To end the month we slipped to a 1-2 defeat in Turin to Torino that spoils a good month for us, Patrick Cutrone was on the scoresheet all be it a consolation goal.
This month produced not only our worst performance in my 8 years in charge but also our second worst performance starting with a 0-3 defeat at home to Napoli with an absolute dire performance in fact the less said the better. Things didn’t get much better in the final Champions League game with us going in to the game knowing that a victory would send us through to the knockouts however our opponents Bayer Leverkusen had other ideas taking an early lead that we struggled to peg back until Abdou Diakhate struck home in the 79th minute but we could not force a winner meaning a 3rd place finish and Europa League football.
We picked ourselves up and beat Cagliari 3-0 and then Verona 4-0 before getting hammered 0-4 by Internazionale in front of our own fans. Talk about Helter Skelter we are a football version of Jekyll and Hyde. Matchday 37 saw Juventus visit the Franchi in a game that we needed to stand up and be counted after a dismal performance against Inter.
The result of me tearing in to the players was that we came out fighting against the Old Lady taking an early lead when Luca Pellegrini fired home from short range after a dominating start, but as dominantly as we started we could not find a second goal and was made to pay after Dybala equalised just minutes from the end to finish the game 1-1 a result which to be honest I would have taken before kick off after the Inter debacle.
A 3-0 win at Frosinone means we are in 5th place in the table at the halfway point in the season 5 points behind Inter at the top. All three goals came in the first half courtesy of a double from Patrick Cutrone and a single goal from Domenico Berardi. We had one more game to play before a mini break against Juventus in the Coppa Italia Quarter Final in Turin. The game ended 2-2 but we held our nerve to beat Juve 5-3 on penalties to take us in to another Semi Final.
Serie A Table
So at the halfway stage in the season we sit in 5th place in the table some 5 points behind an Inter side at the top who I think are the best side that we have come up against in seven and a half years. We are out of the Champions League but the Europa League as been kind to us over the years so we will give it our best shot but the Serie A title is our main goal. We have another Coppa Italia Semi Final to look forward to so all in all we are not doing badly but I do feel like we need to improve and that starts with me so I have decided to resign from the Italian national team to be able to keep more focused on La Viola.
My Italian national team experience was a good one with us picking up the Nations Cup with a 2-1 win over France in the Final. Whilst enjoying the national team experience I have found that it did distract me from La Viola probably just because my old brain can only deal with a certain amount of information, who knows ?
That just about rounds things off for this post so I would just like to finish by thanking you for stopping by and I hope you check back soon to see how the season finished in part two of Helter Skelter that I should get wrote up within the next seven days. I am already in to season 9 of the save so with more game time planned for this coming weekend I will have even more material to keep me writing, so until next time