When Fiorentina appointed Paolo Sousa as their new head coach back in June, it didn't make many headlines.
However, people are starting to stand up and take notice of the former Basel and Swansea manager's work.
Sousa managed three English clubs within the space of 24 months and despite achieving a record high finish during his time in Wales, he never really convinced the English public he was cut out for management.
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The reign of Sousa didn’t start well, even before his side had even kicked a ball he was under immense pressure.
The La Viola faithful didn’t take too kindly to having a manager who had previously played for their bitter rivals Juventus. The message from fans: ‘Welcome to hell.’
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So far in Florence, he has done his utmost to win over the doubters, exceeding expectations by guiding them to their best-ever start to a Serie A season – something not many would have predicted.
Fiorentina may be known for their offensive capabilities and ambitions to play a similar style to Barcelona, but their defensive stability has been questioned in recent seasons.
However, under Sousa’s tutelage, the defensive line has seen a transformation. Before their weekend defeat to Napoli, they had the best defensive record in the league, conceding just four from their first seven games.
One possible explanation for this could be the arrival of Davide Astori. Brought in as a replacement for Stefan Savic, Astori is proving to be a fine acquisition and alongside Gonzalo Rodriguez, Fiorentina have formed a quality back line with bags of experience.
Fiorentina also lead the way in terms of possession, with an average of 58% and a passing accuracy of 89%. Sousa has got his side playing to their strengths, with a mentality of ‘attack is the best of form of defence’.
They go forward as a unit, starting from the base of midfield with Milan Badelj and Matias Vecino, who keep the team ticking over, allowing the likes of Borja Valero and Josip Ilicic to play with more creative freedom.
Surely the squad’s biggest revelation is Marcos Alonso (step brother of Xabi Alonso), who has made a phenomenal start to the season, scoring two and assisting two more.
Alongside loan signing Jakub Blaszczykowski, the pair have made Fiorentina more dynamic and energetic in the wider areas.
Nikola Kalinic has also impressed since joining from Dnipro. The Croatian target man has netted five and provided three assists, showing his worth at bringing other attacking players into play.
It remains to be seen whether Fiorentina can pick themselves up after losing to Napoli, but if they can get back to winning ways, a surprise title challenge may well be on the cards.
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