Football

Fiorentina on track for a title tilt under Paulo Sousa

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Fiorentina are back in the hunt for honours after a worrying wobble in October which threatened to derail their Scudetto hopes.

All seemed well in Florence when the Viola grabbed their sixth league victory of the campaign from seven outings at home to Atalanta on October 4.

Paulo Sousa’s men were riding high at the top of Serie A, and the clinical nature of their performances in notching 14 goals during that impressive period suggested a realistic opportunity of sealing a first Scudetto since 1969 beckoned.

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Subsequent losses to championship rivals Napoli and AS Roma, though, made that burgeoning theory seem no more than mere fantasy.

However, the Gigliati appear to be staging a modern-day renaissance, as they thrashed Frosinone to leap back up to the Serie A pinnacle on goal difference.

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NINE-TENTHS OF THE LAW

A key factor in their ability to bounce back from double disappointment against heavyweights Napoli and Roma has been Sousa’s unshakeable belief in his possession-based brand of football.

Perhaps a lesser coach would’ve panicked in response to those wounding blows, but the Portuguese tactician remained steadfast, and finally reaped his rewards with a stunning 4-1 triumph over top-flight debutants Frosinone on Sunday.

Sousa’s team hogged a remarkable 73.4 per cent of the ball at the Artemio Franchi, while plundering all four goals before the half-time whistle sounded.

Their utter dominance set a league-high for 2015-16 thus far, with the major point being that the Viola converted precious possession into a crucial commanding lead.

Indicative of their season, there were four separate names on the score-sheet, which now means Fiorentina have spread their league strikes between ten different players.

Only Roma have witnessed more squad members hitting the back of the net in Serie A this term, with 12 goalscorers on their books.

DYNAMIC OUTFIT

Sousa’s favoured 3-4-2-1 formation affords his wing-backs, including outstanding left-sided operator Marcos Alonso, licence to bomb forward.

Additionally, the three-man backline marshalled by Argentine stopper Gonzalo Rodriguez is solid defensively with only nine conceded to date – the third-best record in Serie A.

Two holding midfielders provide further protection, but also ensure Fiorentina don’t surrender possession too easily.

Goals arrive from practically every part of the field, while deadly former Dnipro striker Nikola Kalinic leads the way on six.

Sousa’s decision to stand by long-held principles that have served him with varying degrees of success throughout spells in charge of Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City, Leicester City and Basel, are certainly paying dividends within the demanding environment he has encountered in Florence.

Despite strong links with bitter foes Juventus from his playing days, he is slowly but surely bringing Fiorentina fans onside, and could yet deliver the greatest peace-offering possible with the Scudetto in May.

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