After a superb start to the season, those who follow Serie A were beginning to discuss Fiorentina as a potential contender for a Champions League spot. A 6-1 win over Chievo Verona in their opening game of the campaign was followed up with three home wins without conceding a goal as the Viola ground out a 1-0 win over Udinese before smashing three past SPAL and two more versus Atalanta.
Away results had been disappointing, but the fixture list had played a big factor, defeats in tough clashes versus Napoli, Inter and Lazio and a draw with Sampdoria understandable for the side with the lowest average age in all of Europe’s top five leagues.
Yet recently, the Tuscan side have struggled to find the back of the net, an unexpected 1-1 home draw versus Cagliari seemingly a blip before they also failed to impress during a result with the same scoreline away to Torino. While there is no doubt that Pioli has done an excellent job so far, these latest setbacks have just started the faintest whispers of discontent towards the Coach from the supporters.
“We brought home a good result, considering we didn’t play well, and that is nothing to be sniffed at,” said Pioli during his post-match comments.“In the second half we actually played better and had the best scoring opportunities. We struggled with their pressing and didn’t move enough off the ball.
“We can and must work on many situations, but the psychological approach from my players was excellent and a real sign of progress. We suffered for the result and that is important.”
His statements may well be accurate, but loyalties are all-too often forgotten during a negative run of results, and the boss will have to turn things around so quickly if he is to avert those voices of discontent from gathering weight. This will not be easy with a home game versus AS Roma next on the billing, but – as the man himself professed in his press conference – there are some clear issues that can be worked on in training.
The most obvious of these is the form of Giovanni Simeone. Travelling to Argentina in consecutive international breaks after he received his maiden start for the Albiceleste in September has clearly caused fatigue, and Pioli responded to his poor performance versus Cagliari by dropping the 23-year-old from the starting XI versus Torino.
He would fail to have a single shot in 86 minutes of action at home to Cagliari, and last Saturday’s match in Turin marked his sixth appearance without a goal. The boss will now have to ascertain whether to persist in the hope he can overcome his barren spell, or whether to give veteran forward Cyril Thereau a go in his place.
However, the blame does not lie purely on Simeone. In moving Jordan Veretout to a deeper midfield role, the Coach seems to have stifled any creativity in the middle of the park. Perhaps it’s now time to allow the former Aston Villa man to express his clear prowess going forward, instead slotting Bryan Dabo into the holding role. Such a move would surely provide the forwards with more service but – whatever Pioli decides to do – it remains clear that something must be changed in this area if the Viola are to succeed.
Another complaint voiced by supporters was that Fiorentina are attempting too often to bypass an ineffective midfield by resorting to long balls in order to play in Federico Chiesa. This is putting too much pressure on the 21-year-old to carry the team, a heavy burden for a developing star. This approach is reflected in no less than 68 long balls and only 246 short passes versus Torino, and a poor passing success rate of 49.5% overall this term.
A win versus Roma will be a tough ask at the weekend, but Pioli must work on the aforementioned issues this week in training, in order that there is at least visible progress being made. At some point, the Coach and his young side will have to stand strong and come through this bad patch, their inexperience no longer a reason to excuse them from a lack of points on the board.
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