Club Focus – Fiorentina – Prandelli’s fatigued squad settle for a draw

Coach Cesare Prandelli diplomatically declared his players have reached a breaking point in terms of exhaustion due to the high number of matches played during this season in Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Champions League. While this might hold true, the normally impeccable Prandelli is surely aware other clubs such as Inter and Milan have had to juggle between domestic and European commitments yet one does not hear their respective Coaches using fatigue as an excuse to justify unimpressive performances.

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Results can serve as the proper measuring stick for the form and the achievements of any club during a specific campaign. The Gigliati have shown remarkable inconsistency in the last few games yet they have displayed a similar trend throughout the season so to blame the current inadequacies of the club on exhaustion would be a mere disillusion. Prior to the 1-1 draw with Parma, Fiorentina were able to easily dispense of Udinese 4-1 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The previous week the Gigliati players fired blanks as they were edged 1-0 by hosts Catania some four days after la Viola crushed Genoa 3-0 at home. Those last four matches serve as a microcosm of la Viola’s season as the club’s home form yielded 28 points compared with 17 points won from away fixtures. This clearly shows the issue is not just fatigue but rather a combination of psychological and off-field factors which the Coach and the players together have failed to properly address over the course of the season.

Prandelli’s week has not been a positive one considering the much publicised confrontation which he had with former Fiorentina president Diego Della Valle. The outgoing Della Valle had questioned Prandelli’s commitment to the club only to be countered by strong comments from the Coach. Prandelli declared he wanted to remain in Florence but was uncertain of the leadership’s willingness to stick to the ambitious project of building a tenacious and respected side capable of challenging the elite clubs in Serie A. The Gigliati were highly competitive in Europe this season and were eliminated from the Champions League after a number of dubious officiating decisions in Munich. Prandelli’s charges are still in the Coppa Italia and have a legitimate chance of making the final round considering they have to overcome a slender 1-0 deficit from the first-leg against Inter.

It is the league form which has really been disappointing this campaign with the lack of focus as a result of the psychological tribulations from the Adrian Mutu saga, the various injuries and the uncertainty surrounding the club’s direction all having a lasting effect on the players. The fairytale run in Europe was draining and can perhaps be best described as an emotional rollercoaster with the players having to maintain motivation to play in Serie A after their heroics against European clubs. One only needs to look at Serie A’s deepest squad to realise even Inter have lost some of their edge in the league because of their escapades in European competition which have them on the verge of reaching the semi-final of the Champions League.

To primarily blame exhaustion would be an insult to the rest of the leading clubs in the Italian top flight as the appropriate representation of the truth would be to highlight a number of factors such as injuries, congestion in fixtures, inconsistency in performances, psychological and other obstacles as the main reason behind the stuttering campaign in the league. Add to all this the fact the Gigliati squad is thin when compared to the elite clubs then it would explain why it is unfair to expect more from the players. The meteoric rise of Stevan Jovetic has created great expectations in Florence and encouraged the Tifosi to dream of achieving more as the season progressed despite the suspension of Adrian Mutu and some of the key injuries suffered by the team. Defensive leader Alessandro Gamberini has barely played in 2010 while loan signing Felipe Dias has been shaky and quite inconsistent at best.

The next seven days might define the rest of the campaign as the club will face Inter on two occasions in domestic competitions. Interestingly both games will be in Florence and the Gigliati faithful will be hoping to dent the Nerazzurri hopes of repeating as champions and then eliminate them from the Coppa Italia. If the Gigliati do indeed win those two clashes then they can at least claim to have done the double in quick succession over the champions.

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