Alberto Gilardino: The Unbearable Pressure on Fiorentina's Front Man

Giancarlo RinaldiCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2010

LECCE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 12: Gustavo Castillo (R) of US Lecce battles for the ball with Alberto Gilardino of ACF Fiorentina during the Serie A match between Lecce and Fiorentina at Stadio Via del Mare on September 12, 2010 in Lecce, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Strikers, we all know, live for goals. You can talk all you like about good movement and helping the team, but they will always be judged on putting the ball in the net. It has been a tough time in that regard for Fiorentina forward Alberto Gilardino.

He broke his Italy goal drought against lowly Faroe Islands last week, but his club level woes continue. His last strike for the Viola came in March, and he has choked on a couple of decent chances already this season. It has not helped a team which has gathered just one point from its opening two Serie A fixtures.

"Don't worry, a goal will come," he has told the media, and no doubt he is right. History has shown that the boy from Biella rarely goes too long without hitting the target. The trouble for Fiorentina is that there is nobody to share the burden when he suffers a bad spell.

The Tuscan side seem to be paying the price for a low-key transfer campaign. Just two outfield players came in—Gaetano D'Agostino and Alessio Cerci—neither of them prolific scorers. It has put a lot of weight on Gila's shoulders.

Injury to Stevan Jovetic has also had a big impact on the Florentines. This was going to be his breakthrough season where he confirmed on a regular basis all the good things he had shown to the world in the Champions League. Instead, he will spend it on the sidelines.

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Adrian Mutu is kicking his heels for a different reason with a drugs ban seeing him out of action until the end of October. It leaves youngster Khouma El Babacar as the only other recognised striker at Sinisa Mihajlovic's disposal.

On the evidence of the first couple of weeks, it is simply not enough.

Gilardino teed up D'Agostino for a goal in Fiorentina's opening fixture and the Viola had a strike disallowed in their second game which should have stood. Apart from that, however, they have not troubled opposition goalkeepers enough.

Their main front man has to carry his share of the blame, but there is no doubt he would benefit from someone helping to ease the pressure. He has a while to wait for Mutu and none of the other options playing in the "hole" behind him has truly convinced.

D'Agostino has looked a little too predictable and youngster Adem Ljajic still has a lot to learn. It has often left Gilardino, in striker's parlance, feeding on scraps.

The absence of Juan Manuel Vargas at the weekend through suspension did not help but these are still worrying times for the Viola. They needed to hit the ground running with a new coach but instead they have stumbled. A home tie against Lazio this weekend, a side their new boss has strong links with, already looks like a vital clash.

Defeat would seriously redesign the ambitions for the campaign ahead at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Fiorentina believed they had a squad capable of bouncing back into European football but the early evidence is clearly to the contrary.

Gilardino's goalscoring problems appear to be a symptom of wider problems at the club. Their form dropped off dreadfully last season after controversial elimination from the Champions League by Bayern Munich. The shortcomings they showed at the tail end of last term have continued in this campaign.

The club desperately need their flagship hitman in red-hot form. Much-maligned by Milan fans, Gilardino remains one of the best goalscorers in Italy and one of the most prolific Serie A marksman currently operating in the division. Only Francesco Totti, Alex Del Piero, Pippo Inzaghi, and Hernan Crespo boast more goals than Il Gila—and he has something of an age advantage on all of them.

He needs service and support, however, and that has been lacking of late. A goal might just be the tonic that puts him back on the path towards another 20-strike season. Viola fans will be praying it arrives this weekend.

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