Club Focus – Fiorentina – La Viola must fill Jovetic void

Fiorentina will be looking to somewhat better their 11th place finish last season when Sinisa Mihajlovic takes to the helm for the first time. Mihajlovic’s short managerial career has taken him to Bologna and Catania, where he has astutely built a shrewd reputation for himself. Mihajlovic embarks on a new era for la Viola after the departure of Cesare Prandelli, who has taken over the reins of Marcello Lippi as national team boss. Prandelli spent five years at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, masterminding Fiorentina’s rise up Serie A.

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It is a massive ask of Mihajlovic to replicate Prandelli’s achievements for the Tuscans this season but the team is definitely in place to mount a forcible Champions League push and finish inside the top four.

Players such as Juan Manual Vargas, Alberto Gilardino, Riccardo Montolivio and Sebastian Frey all remain at the club despite what has been a merry-go-round of transfer rumours for la Viola this summer. Sporting director Pantaleo Corvino this week said: “We have received offers for Montolivo, Gilardino and Vargas, but this group of players is untouchable.” Corvino’s words will come as substantial reassurance to the Fiorentina faithful, who know just how vital it is to keep the spine of their team if they are to carry on achieving.

Although the summer break provided a fresh start for Fiorentina’s players following a limp campaign last time round, the news that Montenegrin starlet Steven Jovetic has been ruled out for up to eight months will give Mihajlovic a reverberating headache before a ball has even been kicked.

Despite Corvino vigorously reiterating that even the thought of selling the club’s top assets is laughable, there is the suggestion that La Viola could spend such cash wisely. A poor campaign last season has surely given the fans an uncomfortable feeling that if players such as Senegalese youngster Khouma Babacar fail to live up to the high standards set by Jovetic, Mihajlovic may well be in for a prickly start to his Fiorentina career.

Alberto Gilardino may well carry an even heavier weight on his shoulders this year as he is the main ‘goal-getter’ for la Viola. Nevertheless, Mihajlovic must recognise he has a very strong looking squad without Jovetic, and that his new outfit must pick up from the season before last when they finished in a Champions League berth.

Expect to see Fiorentina adopt their usual attacking line-up with messrs Vargas, Adem Ljajic, Mario Santana, Marco Marchionni and Mario Bolatti vying to fill the void left by Jovetic in their opening game against Napoli. Mihajlovic will enjoy the competition for places but will want to stamp his authority on the team with some more new faces. So far the club has signed goalkeeper Artur Boruc from Scottish Premier League side Celtic and centre-back Mikael Silvestre from Arsenal, but a deal to bring in Liverpool left-back Emiliano Insua stalled.

If Gilardino were to suffer a lengthy injury, Fiorentina could struggle for goals and the expectant fans may worry about their team’s ability to challenge at the top end of Serie A. Mihajlovic must recognise this and bring in a predatory striker with experience to help with the Champions League quest.

However, this is easier said than done. In order to attract a suitable strike partner for Gilardino at Stadio Artemio Franchi, Fiorentina must perform well. Serie A has become a cauldron of pressure in recent years for players and managers alike. Mihajlovic can promise a successful campaign but if la Viola aren’t challenging around Christmas, it will be hard to bring in top-notch talent.

After successful spells at Bologna and Catania, Mihajlovic knows the pressure will be on him to succeed instantly. The fans may be patient initially, knowing that their team could have to battle for points while Jovetic is on the sidelines, but nevertheless it is fundamental la Viola start well.

Now, the former Yugoslavian playmaker must marshal his troops into what should be a glittering new era, and not dwell on occasions such as the Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich last season. It will be a big ask for Fiorentina to leap back amongst the Serie A elite, but the fans should be confident that Mihajlovic is the man capable of guiding them there. If he can inject enough faith, charm and charisma into his squad, don’t be surprised to see both he and la Viola succeed at the first attempt.

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