Fiorentina go into the January transfer window seeking additions to strengthen their squad with intent of maintaining their Scudetto challenge and Europa League campaign.
The first half of the 2015-16 Serie A season has been beyond the wildest dreams of even the most optimistic Viola fans. They go into the Christmas break sitting in second place in Serie A, ahead of the likes of Napoli, Juventus, Roma and Milan, and have reached the last 32 of the Europa League where they will play Tottenham Hotspur of England over a two-legged tie in mid-February. But, if Fiorentina are to maintain their efforts on two fronts, they will need to supplement their squad with some astute signings, just like they did in the summer when they signed the likes of Nikola Kalinic and Davide Astori.
There are several areas where Fiorentina coach, Paulo Sousa, will be looking to add to his squad including in central defence and midfield, and it would be no surprise if there are several additions in the transfer window.
Although Fiorentina have been consistently good in defence, much of that has been down to the form of Gonzalo Rodriguez and Davide Astori and the understanding that they have developed since the latter’s loan signing from Cagliari this summer. However, Sousa’s preference of playing three centre-halves means that at times the third centre-half position has been occupied by Facundo Roncaglia, Nenad Tomovic and Manual Pasqual. Sousa’s preference currently is to play Tomovic, partly due to his frustration at the disciplinary record of Roncaglia in the Europa League; the Argentine international was dismissed twice in the Viola’s Group Stage games. However, although Tomovic is an international regular for Serbia, he is prone to the odd defensive lapse, and in high stakes games where tactical discipline is crucial, one error can be the difference between winning and losing.
With such high rewards promised from getting into the three Serie A Champions League places, Sousa can ill-afford to rely on players who might hinder that challenge through errors of discipline or concentration. As such, he will likely look to strengthen the squad by signing at least one defender, if not two. Fiorentina have been linked with a return to Sousa’s old club, Basel, for utility player Taulant Xhaka, whilst there is also reportedly interest in signing Silvan Wildmer from Udinese.
One must also note that by signing a versatile defender who can play both centrally and in the full back/wing back position, this would allow Federico Bernardeschi to move further forward into a midfield role if necessary, and the Azzurrini regular’s exceptional range of passing and creative abilities would be put to much better use further forward, rather than in his current wing-back role.
In midfield, Fiorentina have significant strength in depth, and the performances of the likes of Matias Vecino, Milan Badelj and Borja Valero have seen all of them touted as contenders for the Serie A team of the season to date. However, the over-dependence on those three players and the more attacking Josep Ilicic has seen that quartet play in the majority of fixtures. The performances of Mario Suarez since his arrival from Atletico Madrid have not been sufficient to earn him a run in the team, although one must give credit to Vecino for keeping him out of the team with some exceptional displays this season. That Vecino has also kept Matias Fernandez out of the team also serves to show how highly Sousa rates his performances this season.
The creative abilities of Valero make the Viola tick, but when he is stifled by opposition tactics, Fiorentina look easy to defend against and struggle to create chances and opportunities. With that in mind, they should look to strengthen in the midfield area, and are reportedly interested in signing Riccardo Saponara from Empoli to supplement their existing midfield opportunities. However, they will likely face stiff competition from other title contenders for Saponara’s signature, with Empoli likely to encourage a bidding war to ensure they get a substantial price for their star performer.
On the attacking front, Fiorentina have had little to worry about thanks to the prolific goal-scoring record of Nikola Kalinic. There are however games where reliance on Kalinic’s threat has made Fiorentina a little predictable and easy to defend against, notably against Juventus on matchday 16. Whilst Kalinic has been able to thrive on the supply from the likes of Josep Ilicic and Borja Valero, when he is not firing, Fiorentina look one-dimensional. The return of Giuseppe Rossi has not yielded the goals that many hoped his return from injury would, while Khouma Babacar appears not to be trusted fully to play regularly by Sousa despite his excellent goal-scoring record of 4 goals in 8 appearances this season .
With that in mind, Sousa may look to add to the forward line, and he has been linked with a return to Basel for another of his former players, Breel Embolo. The 18 year old forward has impressed in the Europa League this season, and attracted interest from various clubs including Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Juventus and Arsenal. Despite formidable competition for the Cameroon-born Switzerland international, Sousa will be hoping that his relationship with Embolo Sousa’s time as Basel coach will persuade the forward to come the Franchi.
Giuseppe Rossi: Injuries have not been kind to the 28 year-old striker and he has struggled to regain his form. There is no arguing that Rossi was a lethal striker when healthy and playing at 100% full of confidence. Sousa has preached patience all season, wanting to make sure Rossi makes a progressive return by limiting his minutes. Certainly Fiorentina doing well in the standings hasn’t helped Rossi’s cause. He has only featured in 4 games not scoring a goal and has also been left at home not being part of the callups at times, Sousa saying there was no room for him. Look for Rossi to leave on loan (doubt Fiorentina would sell him in case he is prolific), with Sampdoria (reunion with Montella) and Bologna (sporting director Corvino) showing interest in a case where a change of scenery may do Rossi a world of good.
Mario Suarez: Suarez was highly sought after defensive midfielder by many clubs and it was considered a coup by Fiorentina to get him in the summer, yet he has only featured in 4 games scoring 1 goal. Suarez has been unable to convince Sousa he is able to adapt to the Italian league and Fiorentina’s style of play. Look for the 28 year-old Suarez to find a Spanish club to bring him back home, where he is more comfortable with the way La Liga plays. Here is another case where a change of scenery will help and given the financial considerations, a loan is the likely outcome.
Ante Rebic: Seldom used playing only 3 games and scoring 1 goal, Fiorentina may loan him out with a potential trading partner in the hopes of getting something in return to help the team now. The 22 year-old Croatian winger is considered a bright prospect and there will be several teams who will be interested.
Matias Vecino: Compared to the other players mentionned previously, Vecino has been an important part of Fiorentina’s success having played 12 games. His ex-coach at Napoli, Maurizio Sarri, would love to acquire him and there have been rumours swirling that a swap can take place with Gabbiadini coming to Fiorentina. This will be an interesting story to follow, but Sousa will be hard pressed to let go of his 24 year-old attacking midfielder.