A week is a long time in football, especially in the chaotic world of calcio. Just ask Fiorentina. After falling to Basel in the Europa League opener last Thursday grumblings which festered all summer rose to the surface. It was another battle for new boss Paulo Sousa to overcome, who has had to dispel the doubters since his arrival.
A two-year spell with Juventus from 1994-96 threatened to rock Sousa’s Fiorentina boat before it even left the port. A section of the support could not forgive him for this. Another was angry with the club at how the sacking of Vincenzo Montella played out, plus the Mohamed Salah debacle.
The season started well enough with a win over Milan. However, defeat against Torino and later to Basel intensified the resentment. The manner of each defeat was galling. Fiorentina twice led inside 10 minutes only to collect no points.
But La Viola have responded. Sandwiched between the losses was a Serie A victory over Genoa – amid fan protests. Since Basel have been further League wins, over Carpi and Bologna. It hasn’t always been thrilling and the goals have not flowed – the latter victory saw two strikes inside the final 20 minutes – but Fiorentina are sitting pretty in second spot.
And sporting director Daniele Prade says the Portuguese tactician has had a big part to play in that. “Sousa has a strong winning mentality, we won’t rule anything out in our head and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing.”
For his part, Sousa does not want to put a ceiling on his side, even if acknowledges the chasing pack is particularly strong this term. “I believe in our capabilities, but am also a realistic person. I always said we could compete with everyone and we will compete… There are clubs out there who invested a great deal to win the Scudetto, but at the same time I never said we should just give up.”
La Viola have conceded just three goals this term – all against Torino – to sit three points behind leaders and perfect starters Inter. They travel to Milan this weekend.
It’s a top of the table clash which can reveal much about this Fiorentina side. It’s a good test for Sousa and his players, who have already responded well to much of the criticism levelled their way.