Welcome to part four of my Glory Hunter series, and thank you for following the journey. If you missed the third chapter, you can find it here.
The first part of the season went better than expected, especially in the Champions League, winning our group. With a tough rivalry with Atalanta, and possibly others, for the title in Serie A, going up against Real Madrid in the Champions League and ambitions to compete in the cup as well, I wanted to strengthen the squad in January. What I wanted and was allowed to do was two different things. After all, I spent £86M before the season started. I had to turn to the loan market to find reinforcements, but that was also harder said than done with a limited budget.
I brought Christian Eriksen in on loan from Inter and paid 40% of his wages. Even if we only pay 40%, he’s still the third-highest earner in the squad. Of course, it’s hard to imagine him staying here on a permanent basis, but at least we can offer him to redeem his career here for half a season. He’s still got plenty of football in him, and he got some very impressive technical and mental stats to show for. It sure will be exciting to see what he can offer.
Aaron Hickey was brought in on loan to offer cover on both wing-backs as he has two good feet and decent overall stats. I early found out that an 18-year-old Davide Gentile is not enough to cover for Wilfried Singo on the right wing-back, so it will definitely be helpful to have Hickey here.
We had a tough draw in the Champions League, but it’s interesting to see how we fare against the best teams in the world. We took the lead against Real in the first match before getting Terzic sent off and had to change our plans. Eventually, Real Madrid scored four times after the red card and killed it in the first tie. In the second tie, we only had our honour to play for and for significant periods of the game, we were the best team. Our opponents might not have fielded their strongest team, but nevertheless, we succeeded in correcting a bit of the impression we left in the first game.
In the Coppa Italia, we proved our quality after beating Pep and Juventus comfortably at home in the quarter-final. Imagine Pep in the dressing room after they didn’t manage to get away a single shot on goal! We went up against Atalanta in the semifinal, and what a beating we game them in the first leg. Zirkzee had to play when Lucca was injured and pretty much won us the game himself by bagging a hat-trick. With 26-7 in shots in our favour, Atalanta never stood a chance that day. I used the opportunity to rotate a bit in the return leg and give a few players a break. They eventually beat us, but our place in the final against Inter was never threatened.
In the final, we missed Declan Rice, our captain, after he got injured in the last game before the final. Lucky for us, Eriksen has been a revelation since arriving on loan from Inter, and he deserves the opportunity to beat his parent club in the final. Though I find it a bit weird that there aren’t rules against this in Italy, anyhow, right now, I’m glad that it isn’t.
Inter has got a strong team. At the same time, they’re not perfect, especially at the left-back looks like a weak spot with Vidal playing out of position, lacking pace and being right-footed. I also find it odd to leave Mahrez on the bench for such a big game.
Singo drove down the right flank, which was shoved by Vidal, and we got a free kick in a good position. Eriksen found Lucca on the near post, and Lucca got away a powerful header on target. Unfortunately for us, Lucca was fractionally offside, and VAR disallowed the goal.
Gravenberch won the ball after a disastrous pass from Calhanoglu and drove forward. He found Vlahovic with a perfectly weighted through ball, and Vlahovic slots it home. 1-0!!
Despodov suddenly found himself alone through on goal after Biraghi slipped with his marking. He made no mistake alone with Dragowski, and it’s 1-1 at the break.
Sesko got free on the right after combining with Singo. Vidal had no chance to keep up. Sesko slid the ball into the box to find Vlahovic alone in front of the goal. Handanovic has no chance of making it. 2-1!!
After the second goal, we were in total control and continued to attack, but it didn’t materialise in any goals. However, 2-1 is enough to win the game, and the first title is secured!
In Serie A, we had a fantastic start to the new year and an incredible run. We scored goals for fun for most of the second half of the season, with our strikers being on fire. There were just two games where none of them scored. Ironically that was also the two games we lost.
I was worried that the loss to Brescia would haunt us, but the lads stepped up and crushed Atalanta with five goals in the next game. Parma and Bologna were also smashed after that. Sixteen goals in three games is a decent way to respond to a loss in my book, and from there on out, we pretty much went from victory to victory.
Juventus and Milan also had a good run of form. Atalanta didn’t. They sink like a stone on the table throughout the second part of the season.
Going into the critical month of May, we had a 9 point lead, and everything looked to go our way, starting with a solid 5-1 win away to Roma. Juventus managed to beat us after we got two red cards in the first half, but that meant we had a six-point lead before the two last games.
In a way, it was a perfect turn of events, with us playing Sampdoria at home and only needing a draw to win the Scudetto for the first time since 1969. They lasted 25 minutes before we scored, and when Eriksen scored again one minute, later everyone could let their shoulders down and just enjoy the rest of the game.
We scored 125 goals in Serie A this season which is one goal away from setting a new record. A record that Torino sat in the 1947/48 season, so it’s a hard one to break. I doubt anyone will come much closer in the foreseeable future.
It’s hard to say who played the most significant role in our fantastic season, and in a way, everyone played a vital part. There are always some standouts, and it’s hard to come away from Dusan Vlahovic, who scored 44 goals in 51 matches. Thirty-four of them in Serie A, which was enough to make him top scorer and win the European Golden Shoe, the latter a trophy he was humble enough to dedicate to me. Everyone in our attacking trio deserves mention, but Vlahovic has been the best and most consistent of the three. With 92 goals between them in all competitions, it means those three scored 1,8 goals per match throughout the season. Show me a better trio. I’ll wait.
Cristiano Biragi also deserves mention with his insane numbers this season. In 32 games, he scored five goals and assisted 23 as a wing-back. Of course, he takes a lot of set-pieces, but either way, that’s some hugely impressive numbers. So remarkable that it’s a new club record and a new record in Serie A(21). Five of the eight players with the most assists in Serie A this season is from us, and that’s a big testament to this not being a one-man team.
In our defence, we have a mountain of a man in Dan-Axel Zagadou. He’s so strong he could’ve pushed our bus like a prowler through the streets of Florence when we celebrated winning the double. He also jumps higher than anyone else, and we really reaped the rewards of that this year on set-pieces. Zagadou scored a total of 18(!!) goals in 47 games this season. Insane stats. I doubt I will ever see anything like that again. Wow, just wow.
Christian Eriksen also deserves mention. Coming out of the freezing box at Inter to resurrect his career with us, he played an essential role in winning us the Scudetto. In just 17 games in the league, the playmaker contributed hugely with 12 assists and five goals. He’s 31 years old now, has been out for a season and plays football like a maestro. It’s a joy to watch him, and I wish I could have him permanently in my squad.
Winning the double means I can leave Italy and try my luck in one of the other five countries. I have plenty of time to win European titles, so I don’t want to stay longer in Italy than I have to. But, on the other hand, I’m not quite sure whether I should resign(maybe by accident…) or stay at Fiorentina and wait for an opportunity at a big club. On one side, it won’t be fair to the club and new manager to stay when I know I will leave. But, on the other side, it’s a video game that just evolves around me so I can do what I want. In the next post, you’ll see where I’ll end up for the next part of the challenge.
Thank you for reading this blog and following this series. I hope you enjoyed it.
/ FM Veteran