As the domestic season once again makes a pause for the International Break, Fiorentina can reflect on eight games that have truly seen a home-away divide. While Stefano Pioli’s men have demonstrated title-winning form with a 100% winning record from four matches at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, they have picked up just one point from four games on the road this term.
Poor form away from home has seen the Viola drop below Lazio, Sampdoria and AS Roma into eighth place in the table, however the fixture list hasn’t been kind to them in that they have faced Inter, Napoli, Lazio and Samp during that period. That this team are, on average, the youngest in Europe’s top five league shows that they still have much to learn in order to improve their results in such clashes.
Yet all these factors should not be made into excuses and this side’s youth must remain a factor for positivity, not a reason to let these professionals off the hook if they underperform. Marko Pjaca, Edimilson Fernandes, Marco Benassi and Giovanni Simeone were all significantly below par in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Lazio, and this is something the Coach did not shy away from in his post-match comments.
“It’s a pity, because we did have the opportunities to score at least one goal,” Pioli told media outlet DAZN after the match.“As a Coach, I have to be satisfied with a young team that is playing a good game and approaching a difficult fixture this way. Having said that, it’s now time to get results. We lacked determination and efficiency in our finishing.”
Following the break, the Viola face a home fixture versus Cagliari followed by Torino away, a duo of matches where they really must be looking to secure maximum points. With often injured veteran Cyril Thereau the only real replacement for striker Giovanni Simeone in the lineup, Pioli must now work out how to get the Argentine back among the goals after a four-game drought, a factor that has seen the team struggle especially away from home.
Such a dip in performance could be easily explained by fatigue, the 23-year-old having made his Argentina debut in the previous international break, giving him little opportunity to rest. Whatever the cause, statistics show that Simeone has seen a dramatic drop-off in performance levels since he scored and provided an assist in the 6-1 demolition of Chievo Verona during the first match of the season.
Excluding the midweek defeat to Inter in which the striker only played 55 minutes, the two losses suffered in the remaining three away games have all coincided with a lack of contribution from Simeone. Versus Napoli he would fail to make a single shot on goal, and completed just five from only 10 passes attempted without creating any chances for team-mates either.
Then came the match with Lazio last Sunday, in which the Argentine completed only four from eight passes attempted, and made just two shots on goal in 90 minutes.
“Pipita [Gonzalo Higuain] is very strong, the most complete striker in the league,” Simeone admitted to DAZN before the match with Lazio. “He has everything: he’s good on the ball, he scores goals and he helps the team. His quick movements are crucial in ‘killing’ the opposition defenders. You just have to give him a metre of space and he’ll hurt you.
“Mauro Icardi? Everyone thinks that when he’s not scoring he’s not helping the team, and maybe that true, but it’s made up for by the attention that’s paid to him for 90 minutes. If you get the ball to him he’ll put it in the net, so he’s always on the defender’s mind.”
The young player’s comments on his two compatriots show awareness of what he must strive to be; either making an all-round contribution to the team like Higuain or making up for a lack of involvement in the play with certain goals like Icardi. At the moment he is doing neither, and this is something he will have to work on with Pioli sooner rather than later if reaching Europe is the aim for Fiorentina.
Of course, he hasn’t become a bad player overnight, and he needs better service from both the midfield and wingers in the side, the majority of the chances versus Lazio coming from left-back Cristiano Biraghi. The very best strikers always manage to find a way, and now Simeone faces a tough test in front of him if he is to successfully do so.
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