Well, that one was a roller coaster. Paulo Sousa rotated his Fiorentina side heavily against a well-drilled Empoli and paid the price. Whether he was hoping to rest some players ahead of a crucial Europa League fixture (keep in mind the money that comes with European success), or give a bit of a break to his international players, or simply got his tactics wrong, it looks like the old curse of the international break is back in full force. So, here's the quantification of the curse. All numbers are from WhoScored.com.
|Possession||Passes (short/long)||Passing success||Crosses/attempted||Dribbles/attempted||Shots (on target)||Shots inside/outside area||Tackles/attempted||Interceptions||Aerial duels won attempted||Fouls||Yellow/red cards||Corners||Offsides|
|Fiorentina||66%||684 (592/61)||87%||4/26||5/20||18 (5)||8/10||16/27||19||10/14||20||5/0||6||2|
|Empoli||34%||362 (307/47)||76%||0/7||11/12||15 (4)||7/8||21/26||20||4/14||12||3/0||3||3|
|Short passes/attempted||Long passes/attempted||Crosses/attempted||Dribbles/attempted||Shots (on target)||Shots inside/outside area||Touches||Possession lost||Tackles/attempted||Interceptions||Successful aerial battles||Fouls committed/suffered||Yellow/red cards||Offsides||Saves||Goals||Assists||Minutes|
It's always tough to come back from a break,especially one in which a number of first-teamers have played extensively. Paulo Sousa was clearly trying to save some players' legs ahead of the Europa League match, but it definitely backfired. His biggest mistake, it seems to me, was using two central midfielders as support strikers; while Borja Valero dropped deep per his usual to link play, Mati Fernandez (probably under Sousa's explicit instruction, since he typically performs a similar role) stayed higher up the pitch, where he's not nearly as comfortable. The knock-on effect was that Khouma Babacar was very isolated; with the introduction of Nikola Kalinic, Babacar had someone to work with, and the sub struck twice for the draw. Using Josip Ilicic or Giuseppe Rossi from the get-go would probably have resulted in a less-broken team.
Quick thoughts: Holy cow, Gonzalo Rodriguez; that's a lot of long balls, which indicates to me that the central midfielders weren't offering enough easy forward options. Judging by the (lack of) involvement from Mario Suárez, we know the main culprit. Ante Rebic's defensive commitment is outstanding, but whoo howdy does he need a year or two to figure out when to go all in; ditto for his attacking. Too many touches for Marcos Alonso; while he's a good player, he's more functional than creative, and expecting inspiration from a fullback is unrealistic. Federico Bernardeschi was the only decent dribbler on the day. As a team, the boys couldn't dribble and couldn't tackle; since they're normally good at both, this one can probably go down as a fluke more than anything.
Oh well. Fiorentina drop to third place, just two points off Inter Milan in first, so it's not quite a disaster. Definitely need to get back on track against Basel in the midweek fixture. Forza Viola.