Mihajlovic suddenly cuddly as Dunga awaits

Sinisa Mihajlovic isn't one to go down without a fight, but even he must feel that fluffy Fiorentina need a cuddle rather than a slap round the back of the head.

Cesare Prandelli's humanistic approach is ingrained into the club's psyche and the big, brash Serbian has never come across as someone who is likely to put an arm around a player's shoulders – unless it was to grab him in a headlock.

He arrived at a club that was already feeling a little fragile after a season that had promised so much: they topped their Champions League group ahead of Lyon and Liverpool and came within a whisker of knocking the eventual finalists Bayern Munich out of the competition.

Ultimately, however, it all ended up as flat as a piadina and the domestic form suffered: since January, only 28 league points have been collected.

Adrian Mutu's suspension for lax dietary control and Stevan Jovetic's season-ending injury left the team shorn of two classy performers even before the new campaign had begun, but more than anything it was the departure of the saintly Prandelli that took away the team's heart.

Mihajlovic's idea of lifting the players is a denouncement that midfielder Adem Ljajic eats too much chocolate, spends his spare time playing too many video games and should get his hair cut - and after the home defeat to Palermo before the international break, describing the team as "weak-willed."

The shrinking violets clung to the wall once again, appropriately kitted out in all yellow, in Genoa. There they crumbled to allow Sampdoria back into the game in the last 10 minutes, conceding two goals in a blink of an eye to go down 2-1.

The result saw the Viola sink to bottom of the pile. The last time they were down in the basement was back at the start of the 2006-07 season, and that was only because they were docked 19 points on the back of the Calciopoli judgements.

Just one win in the opening seven games would leave any Serie A coach fearing for his future. Mihajlovic being Mihajlovic, he was as aggressive as ever going into Sunday’s game, claiming he's not one to resign and that he expected the players to turn things around.

They may do that but it could be with Dunga at the helm: the former club midfielder and Brazil coach was recently spotted chowing down with Fiorentina's sporting director Pantaleo Corvino in a fine eatery.

Even if they were discussing the merits of Tuscan cuisine, to be seen with an out-of-work coach could only have sent out one message to the players: this ordeal will be over soon.

The players have never gained an appetite for Mihajlovic's puritanical tactical approach, where possession is something you do to clear the ball as far up the pitch as possible. It may have worked at Catania but the Florentines are used to something a little more cultured.

Fear has replaced flair so it was no wonder some of the players were in tears after the final whistle yesterday as they walked down the tunnel to face an inquisition on another lacklustre finale.

Alberto Gilardino, Alberto Santana and the candy-loving Ljajic may have provided the soft touch that gave Fiorentina the lead, but Mihajlovic would say the hard edge is missing, with injuries to Gaetano D'Agostino, Cristiano Zanetti and Mario Bolatti.

Juan Vargas and Ljajic both limped off with those old niggles that seem to crop up in players when their confidence is shot to pieces, but at least the boss was not putting the boot in for once when he faced the media in the post-game press conference.

In fact he seemed to have an overriding urge to come across all new-age man as opposed to his default mode of stone-age man – talking about confidence building and how the whole team had to put the distress of the day behind them and look forward.

Expect then a group hug at training sessions from now on, but will the new sensitive Mihajlovic be enough for this Fiorentina side to overcome their insecurities? Do feel free to find your inner self and discuss the issue over an herbal tea.

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