4th; W21 D7 L10
Fiorentina's last season was absolute chaos. Some of the highs (or lows) included such theatrical spectacles as Alessio Cerci kicking Martín Cáceres in the back during the match against Juventus and head coach Delio Rossi slapping Adem Ljajić in the middle of the Novara game.
What Fiorentina, under new coach Vincenzo Montella, did this campaign was almost a miracle, however cheap that word might sound. But, after a revolution last summer in which Fiorentina brought in no less than seventeen new players (plus another six in January), the team disproved the myth that time is necessary in order for new players to function as a quality side.
Despite the addition of such a large number of new players, Fiorentina undoubtedly played some of the most exciting football in Europe in 2012-2013. If it wasn't for the black hole that was January, in which La Viola didn't win a single game, a Champions League spot would have been secured. But even without top European football, the word "miracle" remains on the tip of the tongue when describing the Fiorentina season.
Most significant match
Fiorentina 0-2 Pescara (January 6, 2013)
The first match after the winter break was supposed to be a great day for Fiorentina. Just a few days before, the club had announced the signing of Giuseppe Rossi, who was set to be in the stands to support his new team. The opposition was the weakest team in the league and, because Fiorentina ended 2012 in very good form, it was assumed they could trash the Delfini. Except, no. Fiorentina could have been 3:0 up by halftime, but as often happens in football, if you don't take your chances, you will be punished. It is perhaps unfair to the Viola to pick this match as the most significant in a season with 21 wins -- some of which were spectacular -- but in the end, this was the defeat that cost Fiorentina a Champions League spot.
A number of Fiorentina players deserve praise for their performances this season, but the progress made by Juan Cuadrado this season was amazing. He showed glimpses of his talent at Udinese and did well enough on loan at Lecce, but nothing suggested he would turn into such a beast of a player. His runs down the right, tricky dribblings that left defenders confused, dramatic cuts inside and one-twos with teammates were a spectacle to watch. In just one year under Montella, Cuadrado developed into one of the best wingers in Serie A.
Jovetic might be the team's capocannoniere, with 13 goals, but the attacker just wasn't there then he was needed the most. In January, when Fior were struggling, he failed to take the team by the hand, as leaders do, and to help them win few more points. In fact, during the second part of the season, JoJo was pretty much anonymous. He scored a few goals, but he wasn't the same, decisive player he had been in previous years.
What needs changing?
The defense. Ok, it's more a tweaking that is needed, rather than a radical change. Although every Fiorentina defender showed their strengths at some point during the season, they were rarely all in form at the same time.
Who's off in the summer?
David Pizarro and Stevan Jovetić. While the Montenegrin international was expected to leave last season, Pizarro's desire to change clubs came as a shock to everyone. Pek wants to play Champions League football, but at this point it's not clear where he might go. It remains to be seen how will Fiorentina deal with the Chilean's departure -- whether they will seek a similar player to take Pizarro's place, or if Montella will resort to a change of style and formation.
Besides those two, Luca Toni is expected to go, but it's not yet certain whether he will bring his playing career to a close or leave for another club. Finally, certain players that were on loan and/or didn't show as much as they were expected to will certainly leave - Momo Sissoko, Christian Llama and probably Marcelo Larrondo will go back to their parent clubs, while Mounir El Hamdaoui and Romulo are expected to be sold. Some young players, like Michele Camporese and Ahmed Hegazy, may be loaned out next season.
If Fiorentina could keep one individual...
Adem Ljajić's revival parallels that of Fiorentina itself - from depressing last season,when he looked lazy and uninterested, to this season, in which he looked like one of the best young players in Europe.
Last season, Ljajic was accused by one coach (Sinisa Mihajlovic) of caring more about eating Nutella and playing Playstation than football, then punched by another (Dellio Rossi) after being substituted only 20 minutes into the match against Novara. Even staying at Fiorentina was surprising enough last summer, but no one could predict that his third Serie A coach, Montella, could turn the "little devil", as he was called at Partizan, into... a big devil. Ljajic became a dangerous weapon in Montella's arsenal, with 11 goals and 8 assists in Serie A.
With most believing Ljajic has overcome his problems and will continue to improve, this summer will bring an inevitable soap opera regarding his contract renewal talks. But the Viola know it would be a huge blow if they lose their now-shiny gem before what could very well be a fantastic season for him.