Inter’s 1-1 draw with Fiorentina sure wasn’t the result we wanted, but it did give us the chance to reconvene with the one and only Tito from Viola Nation. We chatted with him about what Saturday’s draw means for la Viola going forward, Fiorentina’s long-term ambitions, and more.
Q: What are your takeaways from Saturday’s 1-1 draw? Was it a fair result to you?
A: Definitely seemed like a fair result to me on the balance of play. Both teams created chances, neither converted them very well. With the forwards sputtering for sides, it feels fitting that a holding midfielder and a wingback ended up as the goalscorers. Milan Škriniar ate Krzysztof Piątek alive (if you get a chance to pick him out of the big Slovene’s cleats, send him back, please), while Nikola Milenković and Igor wrangled Edin Džeko and Lautaro Martínez pretty well too. It felt like Inter’s midfield was trying to steamroll Fiorentina more than play through them, and they definitely got some joy from it, but it seemed to me like they really missed Marcelo Brozović to set the pace; the frantic pace definitely suited Fiorentina a lot more. If the Viola had a winger who could shoot worth a damn, I think this probably would’ve been a win for the good guys, but I’m not going to complain about coming away with 3 points at the San Siro. Far from it.
Q: Fiorentina has added a number of new signings this season, including Nico Gonzalez, Lucas Torreira, Jonathan Ikone, Arthur Cabral, and Krzysztof Piatek. What have been their first impressions on you? Who looks worth the money?
A: González is so close to being the real thing. He’s got everything: pace, leaping, technique, desire, and vision. If he ever learns how to shoot, he’s going to be absolutely lethal. Toothless Lucas Torreira seems like a Serie A player to me; he’s been adrift in England and Spain for the past few years, but he’s definitely back to the swaggering, spiky heights he displayed with Sampdoria, so maybe he just belongs in Italy. He seems like the least pleasant guy to play against imaginable, and he fits Italiano’s tactics to a tee, so I’m thrilled with him. Ikoné’s sort of like Nico in that, when/if he learns how to shoot, he’s going to be unplayable for 95% of defenders in the league. Guys with his quick twitch reflexes, skill, and vision just don’t grow on trees. I can’t believe that he only cost €15 million. That’s the same as the previous two guys and Piątek. The Polish international is a decent poacher—6 goals since joining in January attests to his composure in front of the net—but he adds absolutely nothing to the buildup and doesn’t even offer a great aerial presence; he’s another €15 million guy and I’m not sure he’s worth it, honestly, especially if Arthur Cabral is the guy I think he is. Full disclosure: I love Arthur, partly because he’s scored a ton of goals in Switzerland over the past couple of years and partly because he runs like a cartoon character, with his chest puffed way out and his back very straight and his elbows at perfect 90 degree angles. He’s hilarious. Italiano’s clearly trying to ease him in, which makes sense for a young guy in a new country and (with respect to the Super League) a tougher competition. Still, he’s big and strong and pretty good on the ball, so he should fit right in. Except for maybe Piątek, they’re all worth the money from what I can tell.
Q: How has Fiorentina moved on from Dusan Vlahovic? Has he been fully replaced or do you want to see some more attacking additions in the summer?
3. Honestly? Pretty well. I expected them to fall off pretty steeply, but they’ve taken 12 points from the 8 opponents they’ve played since selling him. Against those same 8 opponents, wanna guess how many points they took in the reverse fixtures? If you guessed 12, then you win a prize (disclaimer: there is no prize). The goals are a little bit harder to come by and Vlahović’s absence up front means that there isn’t a focal point for the attacks as much—like I said, Piątek’s holdup play leaves a lot to be desired—but you have to give Italiano a ton of credit for what he’s done with this group, both tactically and emotionally. He’s schemed around the mid-season loss of his best player and he’s kept the group pulling together, which, after years of an apathetic dressing room, is a really refreshing change. Losing someone with that quality is never good but the Viola have kept on keeping on as well as you could have hoped. It’s been really okay.
Q: What does a successful end to the 2021/22 season look like in Florence? Does Fiorentina have a shot at making Europe this season or will that have to wait until 2023?
4. Europe is an outside chance, but I wouldn’t put too much money on it. Fiorentina have the toughest fixture list in Serie A, with Napoli, AC Milan, AS Roma, and Juventus all looming, as well as a Tuscan derby against Empoli and the Coppa Italia semifinal against Juve. Knowing Serie A, they’ll probably reschedule the Udinese game (it was postponed in January and we still don’t know when it’ll be replayed or if it’s a forfeit, which feels very Serie A indeed) to start about 20 minutes before that Coppa match against the Bianconeri. I don’t think Lazio and Roma are all that convincing, so I can see Fiorentina passing them up, but the quality of the opponents makes me think this is more about building for next year. And considering that the Viola already have 8 more points than they did at the end of last season and sold their best player in January, I’d say we’ve seen sufficient progress to call this year a success either way. If the front office can spend some of the Dušan loot to reinforce a few spots, we could be looking at a top six team next year.