An apparent lack in depth and a bruising schedule have begun to take their toll on Fiorentina. To make things worse, the club’s woeful away form is visibly jeopardising the chances of bringing Champions League football to Florence next season.
Coach Cesare Prandelli started the match against Roma with three changes following the defeat to Lyon. Midfielder Cristiano Zanetti returned after missing the Champions League clash due to suspension, while the other two adjustments were down to Prandelli’s preference. Playing three matches in the span of a week and barely making any modifications in the starting lineup will obviously result in tired and outstretched personnel.
The Coach cannot be faulted since he has limited options on the bench. Montenegro’s Stevan Jovetic serves as the only viable alternative to Romanian Adrian Mutu and Alberto Gilardino in attack. Early in the season, the highly rated Prandelli grudgingly accepted the lack of solid substitutes in defence, only to call for reinforcements about a week ago following the pile up in fixtures. However, La Viola’s defence has conceded few goals and much of the credit goes to the unflappable Sebestien Frey who has made spectacular saves since the start of the season.
Frey kept the result against Lyon respectable despite his team playing a man down for the entire second half following Gilardino’s dismissal. His brilliant saves kept Lyon at bay, yet the numerical advantage paid off for the French club. Fiorentina did not defend very well against Lyon so the credit for conceding only one goal must go to the consistent custodian.
Frey’s performances so far will likely draw parallel comparisons with Juventus great Gianluigi Buffon, whose miraculous saves helped Juventus to third-place finish two years ago following promotion from Serie B. The irony is Buffon was performing well despite having a mediocre defensive line in front of him and, unfortunately, he drew criticism when conceding on certain occasions. The same might apply to Frey this season if Prandelli does not pressure the club’s management to delve into the market to sign defensive reinforcements to plug in the gaps. Keeping a clean sheet in victories over Palermo and Cagliari is one thing and preventing the likes of Juventus and Inter in Serie A or Liverpool in the Champions League from scoring will be a totally different task.
The thin bench, the fatigue, suspensions and injuries will all factor in as the fixtures begin to stack up. The highly regarded Fiorentina Coach will certainly worry about these issues, and he must also be disturbed by the team’s inability to perform when traveling away from the Stadio Artemio Franchi. La Viola’s failure to grind out results when playing outside Florence has become a perturbing trend since the club’s ambition goes beyond qualifying for the Europa League. The Tuscan club’s hierarchy and fans have set focus on participating in the Champions League on a regular basis. The defeat in Rome is likely to aggravate Prandelli and deepen his concerns since Roma have been suffering from early season blues, having undergone a coaching change, and most recently witnessed some stinging criticism directed at the club’s talisman Francesco Totti, by none other than Giallorossi Coach Claudio Ranieri.
The 3-1 defeat to i Lupi highlighted the defensive frailties of the team but above all, the lack of impact substitutes and troubling away form. Coach Prandelli has done fairly well since taking over in Florence and few doubt his abilities and tactical knowledge. The main concern is whether the club has left its Boss with enough talent to nurture and bring together to achieve decent results. The Tactician’s competence significantly contributed to the club not only surviving the consequences of Calciopoli, but also making it to the UEFA cup. Fiorentina followed up that season by beating Milan to a fourth place finish to qualify for the Champions League.
This week will see la Viola host Sampdoria before a trip to Livorno. Both matches will offer a different type of test. Samp’s visit will reveal whether the Fiorentina defense can contain the lethal duo of Antonio Cassano and Giampolo Pazzini, or if Prandelli’s defenders will wither under pressure. The onus will be on Alessandro Gamberini and his partners in defence to show they can stop one of Serie A’s most dangerous attacking duos. As for the trip to Livorno, it will serve as a test for la Viola’s ability to muster an away win against one of the league’s mediocre sides.
Fiorentina Club Focus
Viola continue to grind out results – September 15, 2009
La Viola lose Gilardino and the points – September 18, 2009
Fatigue catching up with la Viola – September 22, 2009