It was not just an assured performance from Fiorentina on Wednesday night, it was a dominant and well-balanced display that saw all departments playing well. With the exception of a couple nervy minutes in the middle of the first half, Udinese were never in the game, and once Fiorentina found the opening goal the game was over. The story of the game is reasonably well told by the official highlights. Udinese barely had a chance other than Antonio Di Natale's ridiculously good header that hit the far post.
Now, these are I admit the kinds of performances that lend themselves to hyperbole, but I do believe there are some reasonable and fair points that were illustrated in Fiorentina's 3-0 victory.
1) Borja Valero is still the soul of this team.
After about 25 minutes Borja Valero started playing in full pomp and the team soared through the rest of the match. His whole game was on display: simple, clinical, and intelligent play with the ball, through-balls galore, constant movement, and a tireless defensive work rate. The second half opened with him robbing an Udinese midfielder of the ball and immediately firing a magnificent pass to Khouma Babacar, who then nearly lobbed the keeper. It was a statement, and you could see in his goal celebration how much it meant for him to be playing at his best again in front of the home fans. Fiorentina will need a whole lot more of that from the Spanish todocampista if we are going to win a Champions League place.
2) Counting on Ilicic is not a plan.
Josip Ilicic was the hero when he came on in the second half in Milan, scoring la Viola's only goal in an ugly away draw. It was understandable for us to hope that he was entering some kind of form, and Montella rewarded his good stint as a substitute with a starting berth against Udinese. Only 3 minutes passed before Ilicic was presented a golden opportunity to score in successive matches for Fiorentina (for the first time). He shot woefully right at the keeper, and spent the rest of the match dawdling on the ball or on the fringes of play. Bernardeschi and Babacar are going to be inconsistent for a while yet because of their youth, but they are never as infuriatingly hot and cold as the Slovenian.
3) Babacar might just be something special.
I had a brief and amicable exchange on Twitter with Guardian writer and calcio enthusiast James Horncastle not quite a year ago about Babacar when he had just started banging them in for Modena. The conversation essentially (I am paraphrasing) went like this... me: "Hey have you seen Babacar scoring consistently for Modena? Might it be he is fulfilling his potential?" James: "No, I think he might have just found his level."
It's early days yet, and Horncastle might in the end prove to be right. But the Fiorentina youth product has opened his Serie A campaign with consistently high-level performances and some really cracking goals. In coming to Fiorentina from a high-flying Serie B campaign, Baba might just be walking in the footsteps of the man whose celebration he's borrowed... one Luca Toni.
4) Our "goals conceded" column isn't a fluke.
6 goals allowed in 9 Serie A games, and that tally remains the same if we include the 3 Europa League matches. I may not be a stats guy, but that's REALLY GOOD. Against Udinese we were without Gonzalo Rodriguez, which is usually the cue for our defenders to run around like chickens with their heads removed, but calm and discipline remained constant in the Viola defense, personified by a magnificently confident set of goalkeepers. It may still be a good spell of early season form, but our options in central defense and goal haven't looked this good in a long time.
5) Cuadrado is a right winger.
By saying this I do not mean that the Colombian should remain, in an old English fashion, glued to the touch line for the entire game. That's the beauty of Cuadrado's attacking play, he will naturally vary his position and make intelligent runs. But by giving him a familiar position and - most importantly - not asking him to create attacks on his own, Montella liberates a special player to do what he knows he can do. On the right of a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2, to me it matters little, so long as he isn't asked to be a striker.