On 15 July, Mario Gomez was unveiled as a Fiorentina player to over 20,000 fans. The Florence-based club spent €20 million on the big center-forward. The move to Fiorentina followed a four-year spell at Bayern Munich, which was preceded by six years in the senior team of Stuttgart.
Gomez likely completed the move with the next World Cup in mind, as he’s never started a game at a World Cup. He came off the bench four times at the 2010 World Cup but failed to score on each occasion, and this will be his last chance to play for Germany at the biggest competition in world football. To get a place in the team he had to leave Bayern, where he played second fiddle to Mario Mandžukić last season. At Fiorentina, a first-team spot is almost certainly assured for the German striker.
Gomez should fit into Fiorentina’s side well. Last season, they deployed a 3-5-2 formation, with Pasqual and Cuadrado as wing-backs and Ljajic and Jovetic as the two strikers, or alternatively, one as an attacking midfielder and one as a striker; this brought the Serie A side large success. They finished fourth, only losing out on the Champions League by two points, their highest finish since the 2008/09 season when they also ended the season in fourth place. Gomez will probably play as the main striker with Ljajic just behind, and this could work to disastrous effect. Pasqual and Cuadrado are both good crossers of the ball, and with the right delivery, Gomez will get goals.
Gomez and Jovetic are similar in some respects; neither have a weaker foot, both are just over six feet tall, and both are predators inside the box. But there are more differences than similarities in the way they play. Jovetic is fast and quick-footed, and dribbling is an integral part of his game. He scores many of his goals from the edge of the box and he creates a lot of his goals for himself as well as others (he created 55 in 31 Serie A games last season).
Meanwhile a lack of pace and dribbling ability is Gomez’s main weakness, and all of his goals last season were inside the box. He relies on his team-mates to create chances for him and he doesn’t create many for others (6 in 21 league games). The differences aren’t only in the way they play, but also where they play. Jovetic played as the main striker, as the second striker, and on the right wing last season, while Gomez is usually limited to playing only as the main striker.
Mario Gomez is much more comparable with Luca Toni, who recently moved to Verona. The 36 year-old has been on rapid decline in recent years and Gomez is perfect to come in as Toni departs, not as a replacement but as an upgrade. Gomez has everything Toni has – aerial ability, strength, and a natural poaching ability – but the German has one key attribute that Toni doesn’t: passing. It’s not a big part of Gomez’s game by any means, but he has it in his locker, completing an impressive 79% of his passes last season, 13% more than the Italian.
He may have only scored 11 goals last season, but he averaged a goal every 79.7 minutes, an astonishing record and a good way better than anyone else in the Bundesliga. This is even more impressive considering Bayern weren’t playing the type of football most suited to his game. He did have some of the best wide players in the world to cross him the ball, but he was asked to chase the ball down and play a style more suited to players such as Mario Mandžukić. Gomez had a respectable 50% shot accuracy last season and scored a goal with every 27.1 touches, another astonishing feat matched by few others in the Bundesliga. Those two stats show how rarely he runs with the ball and how few touches he uses to get a shot on target, and the goals-per-minute stat shows just how clinical the big striker is.
If Pasqual and Cuadrado carry on the form they showed last season, then Gomez could set the Serie A alight, and €20 million could prove to be a steal. If Viola bring in a top-class forward to replace Jovetic, or Guiseppe Rossi can step up to the plate, the rest of the Serie A have good reason to be very worried.