2024-25 FIRST HALF : DEFENDING THE THRONE
Vincenzo Montella walks into a season with a monumental task in front of him, he has shown that Fiorentina have the quality to keep winning Serie A but the odds are against them for keeping the Champions League trophy in Florence. Fiorentina managed to maintain an exciting young squad that figures to be around for a few years so the window is still open, but they stood still while the traditional powers poured cash into getting better.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW
Manchester United (England)
Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
RB Salzburg (Austria)
Either Montella has terrible luck or UEFA rigged this thing to keep Fiorentina from crashing the party again. I Viola get thrown into the ultimate Group of Death for this year and earn a rematch with Manchester United. Borussia Dortmund will be hard, it’s likely the fixtures against them will decide who advances, and RB Salzburg won’t just roll over. RB Salzburg are well known by Daniele Pradè, the Austrians might want to get revenge for having so many scouts buzzing around their players, but odds are Fiorentina will handle them easily.
The rest of Serie A did well outside of Juventus, they didn’t qualify, and there is a chance Italy is represented well in the next round. Inter (Arsenal, Celtic, Real Sociedad), Cagliari (Atlético Madrid, Porto, Olympiakos), Napoli (Manchester City, Mainz 05, KRC Genk), and AC Milan (Real Madrid, Ajax, PAOK) all ended up in groups they could get out of with Cagliari having the most trouble. Without a roster full of Fiorentina players they will have trouble managing Serie A and the Champions League.
MATCH(ES) OF THE FIRST HALF
Serie A (H) : Fiorentina 8 - Sassuolo 0/u]
I Viola came out swinging and found that few teams in Serie A or the Champions League were able to put up much of a fight. Big wins marked the opening of the league and the month of September before a 1-1 draw at Inter appeared to slow them down, but Montella managed to channel that frustration into a 3-0 win over RB Salzburg to take control of Group A and an 8-0 beating of Sassuolo. The scoreline wasn’t as impressive as you might think, especially since Hellas Verona would end up on the wrong end of an 8-0 result in December, the real news here was Abdou Fall hitting (5) in a single game.
Fall’s (5) goals would help fuel a perfect 10.0 rating, taking the PoM, and make him the first player to score (5) goals in a Serie A game since Miroslav Klose did it in the 2012-13 season. Fall fell a single goal short of the joint record held by Silvio Piola (who did it against Fiorentina) and Omar Sívori. This game had the feeling of a coming out party, Fall looks like he’s ready to fulfill the promise shown last season on his way to being one of the best players at the club. The win also marked a (106) game unbeaten streak in Serie A, something that was unthinkable when Montella took over.
Champions League (A) : Manchester United 1 - Fiorentina 2
Fiorentina’s surprise 3-0 win over Manchester United at Artemio Franchi seemed like it could be the game of the year, but United played so poorly that Thomas Tuchel spent most of the postgame press conference ripping into his squad. A trip to Old Trafford was going to be much different, not just because Tuchel made it clear he expected more from his squad but also because this fixture would essentially decide the group. A win for Fiorentina would basically lock in the group and a loss for United would put them in a position where they might need a big win against RB Salzburg in their final group game.
“We can’t leave this to them, to beat Dortmund, we have to win.” was all Tuchel had to say before the game when asked about how important a result would be.
Tuchel would have his opening as Montella would be without Pelayo Morilla and Maxence Caqueret and United would be at full strength, Old Trafford would also help as United have been tough to beat at home this year. Tuchel would use a 4-1-2-3 with a lot of responsibility on Rúben Neves in the destroyer role. Neves would be lined up across from youngster Nicolò Branzino thanks to Morilla’s injury, and that would turn out to be a roadblock for Fiorentina. Montella would get lucky just 11’ into the game when Daniele Albano would hammer one in from outside the box for a 1-0 lead, now the pressure was on Tuchel to attack instead of trying to slow down Fiorentina. Sebastiano Esposito would claw one back for the hosts to breathe life back into the team, Montella was not happy with the way Fiorentina let United pass around in the goal area for an easy tap in.
The second half was about as exciting as a scoreless half could be, United had the momentum despite ceding possession to Fiorentina. Neves would have an excellent game while Fiorentina struggled to control the midfield, Branzino was almost a non-factor in the offense as Fiorentina was forced to the flanks. With stoppage time ticking down it looked like Tuchel was going to get away with a point before United were on the wrong end of a United-esque finish. Branzino, under the thumb of Neves all game, broke away from him and ran onto a deftly placed through ball from Talles Magno to basically tap the ball in. It was a crushing loss for the hosts, the win would clinch the group for Fiorentina on (15) points and leave United tied with Dortmund on (7). Perhaps a Champions League repeat isn’t such a long shot.
A Fiorentina-friendly blend of a struggling league and a quality squad have created a situation where I Viola are already running away with Serie A. Cagliari finish the first half in 2nd, Inter and Juventus are outside European qualification, and Roma is moving in the wrong direction. Fiorentina are already (12) points clear in first and have a goal differential equal to the next three teams combined, the league is so bad that the Italian media spend more time talking about the Champions League than Serie A. Even the usual super powers in big media markets are starting to see the attention shift to Florence, the Italian league is starting to sink into another crisis.
Outside of the team winning so easily the big story would be the ever improving form of Abdou Fall. The (5) goal performance was a real eye opener and he’s kept it up over the first half. Fiorentina have managed to collect goals from all over the team but Fall really stands out with (17) across all competitions, in comparison nobody else on the squad has double digits with Hélder Lavado next in line with (8). Fall is also (6) clear in Serie A with (16) of his (17) coming in the league, Italy made be struggling but Fall is definitely rising to the top.
FIRST HALF AWARDS & PLAUDITS
In what is becoming a regular occurrence Fiorentina would dominate the Serie A Team of the Year, after the past few seasons it isn’t much of a shock. The team is killing the rest of the league and Montella seems to bring out the best in his players. Perhaps it’s a comment on the strength of Serie A, only Bartłomiej Drągowski managed to make the FIFPro Team of the Year despite not being elected to the Serie A list over Maximo Fazio on loan at Cagliari. Most of the players that came in 2nd or 3rd are Fiorentina players either at the club or on loan. It’s starting to look like the whole league is turning purple.
Serie A Head Coach of the Year : Vincenzo Montella
European Golden Boy : Daniele Albano - (10) Goals, (6) Assists
FIFA Best U-21 : Abdou Fall
FIFA Best GK : Bartłomiej Drągowski
Serie A GK : Maximo Fazio (Cagliari Loan)
Serie A Defender : Federico Marino
Serie A Midfielder : Franck Blanc
Serie A Striker : Degnand Wilfried Gnonto
FIFPro Team of the Year
Fiorentina being able to sleepwalk through the league is also a factor of how well they have managed to build depth. A number of injuries knocked players out for a decent amount of time, but none of these dented their performance on the field. In September and October Pelayo Morilla and Degnand Wilfried Gnonto would be ruled out for (3) weeks with calf strains, the Morilla would be out again in November with a twisted ankle. The worst injury was Maxence Caqueret spraining his right knee ligaments in November, right after Morilla’s second injury, and losing (6) weeks of the season. Being without Morilla and Caqueret forced Montella to juggle players, but with no Champions League games to play and a holiday break looming those (6) weeks were more like (3). Federico Marino would suffer a sports hernia in December, losing (4) weeks, but like Caqueret the schedule helped reduce the impact.