Sampdoria 2-1 Fiorentina: Mihajlovic’s woes continue as Fiorentina go bottom of the table

October 18, 2010

The starting line-ups

Fiorentina were ahead for the majority of the game, but two Sampdoria goals within 60 seconds sealed a remarkable turnaround.

Sampdoria started with more of a classic 4-4-2 from last season rather than the 4-3-1-2 they’ve often sported this campaign. Fernando Tissone started in the centre of midfield, whilst Franco Semioli and Stefano Guberti were on the wings.

Fiorentina had severe selection problems – both upfront where Adrian Mutu and Stevan Jovetic are long-term absentees, but also in the centre of midfield where they were without Riccardo Montolivo, Cristiano Zanetti and Mario Bolatti. Marco Donadel came in, and played alongside Mario Santana – a winger by trade – in the middle. Nikola Gulan made his debut at left-back.

Despite these problems, Fiorentina started brilliantly. They took the game to Sampdoria from the off and penned the home side into their own third of the pitch. Even though Marco Marchionni’s opener came after just five minutes, Fiorentina’s early pressure merited it – Juan Vargas swing in a brilliant cross that was met by Marchionni coming in from the opposite flank, and he nodded in a simple header.

Openness

The 2 v 2 battle in the centre of midfield meant the majority of the game was open, but in general it consisted of the two centre-back pairings dominating the players they were up against, meaning neither side had anyone on the end of the balls in from flanks. At times these were very physical contests – Daniele Gastaldello and Stefano Lucchini made hard tackles on Alberto Gilardino and Adem Ljajic, whilst at the other end Cesare Natali had a running battle with Giampaolo Pazzini – the former was lucky not to give away a penalty, the latter was lucky not to be sent off.

Fiorentina’s brightest player was the young playmaker Ljajic, who drifted across the pitch into wide positions to combine with Fiorentina’s wingers, and took advantage of the fact that neither Sampdoria winger is particularly good defensively. The only problem here was that it isolated Gilardino, and with the World Cup winner in possibly the worst form of his career, he seldom got the better of the two centre-backs.

Sampdoria chances

Sampdoria increasingly came into the game, however, and soon Sebastien Frey was called into action to make some typically spectacular saves. Pazzini had a couple of efforts well saved and Cassano also tested the French keeper. Cassano was playing in a more central role to the left-sided position he often occupies, and for much of the game was involved more as a ‘goalscorer’ than as a ‘creator’.

Vladimir Koman’s introduction for Franco Semioli gave Sampdoria more drive on that side, whilst Fiorentina were weakened down the same flank when Vargas was forced to depart. They received a further setback when Ljajic took a knock and went off, making way for Alessio Cerci who struggled to provide the same threat.

Samp stun Viola

The Sampdoria pressure increased and increased, but they were still struggling to create too many chances from open play. A corner kick nearly found Cassano at the far post, but Sampdoria finally got their equaliser when Reto Ziegler powered in a superb free-kick from 30 yards out.

The home fans were still celebrating when Cassano finally provided the moment of magic he’d been threatening – getting a ball in space, turning away from Fiorentina’s centre-backs before firing home. The away side’s awful defensive record continues, and this game showed their weaknesses – they were fine when dealing with the aerial threat of Pazzini, as they could reduce the contest to a scrappy physical battle and hold their own, but were incapable of coping with Cassano’s tricky, skilful nature.

Exhausted physically, devastated by the quick turnaround and without the attacking threats of Vargas and Ljajic, Fiorentina were unable to mount a fightback of their own.

Conclusion

Few key tactical points as a whole – the sides played similar systems and approached it in similar fashions – both looked primarily to their wide players despite the presence of Ljajic and Cassano, who were the two best attacking players and stationed in the centre of the pitch.

Sampdoria don’t look up to speed – nine goals in seven games is strange when they have one of the best strike partnerships in Europe in Cassano-Pazzini. The problem for them is probably in the wide areas, where they have talented players but none who can be relied upon for consistent performances or regular service into the box.

Sinisa Mihajlovic must now fear for his job. Fiorentina are 20th of 20 teams, and although we are just seven games into the season, Mihajlovic’s own pre-season target of the top 4 sums up what a disastrous start this is. Fiorentina have lost four of seven games, and although each has only been by a single goal, at the moment they have problems all over the pitch. No confidence from their main striker, injury problems in midfield, and a defence which has an appalling record of keeping clean sheets in 2010. With problems like that, the easiest thing for a club to replace is often the manager.

Sampdoria 2-1 Fiorentina: Mihajlovic’s woes continue as Fiorentina go bottom of the table

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