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Let’s grade the Viola squad so far

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This is as good a time as any to assign some arbitrary letters to the players, right?

ACF Fiorentina vs S.S.C Napoli - Serie A
So how ‘bout these boys?
Photo by Carlo Bressan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Because there’s nothing better than judging other people who do things that we can’t, we’re going to take a look at every player who’s made an appearance for the senior side or (in the case of Dragowski and Toledo) was supposed to have done so by now. Let us know what we got wrong in the comments.

Goalkeepers

Bartlomiej Dragowski—C-: Hasn’t yet made an appearance for the team, so it’s hard to judge him on his performances per se. However, his inability to beat out Lezzerini for the backup job is a bit alarming. However, he’s a teenager living outside his native country for the first time in his life and seeing the game at a level far beyond what he’s been used to, and we’re willing to grant him some leniency for that. His goal for the year should be either to leave on loan in January and tear it up for a few months or take over during for the Coppa Italia, then compete for the starter’s role next season.

Luca Lezzerini—D: I really want to root for him, since he’s been at Fiorentina since his schoolboy days, but he may not have what it takes. His performance against PAOK was gobsmackingly bad; it’s no surprise that he might leaving on loan this winter. His goal for the rest of the year should be to excel in that loan move, then compete for a role again next season.

Ciprian Tatarusanu—C+: For a player who’s generally the embodiment of unspectacular reliability, it’s been a bit up-and-down. Has made some really tremendous saves this year, but has also made some alarmingly bad decisions. His job as the number one isn’t at risk at all, but he could well leave the club when his contract runs out in June. His goal for the rest of the year should be to steady the ship and either earn an extension or a move to England, where he’s said to have a host of admirers in the bottom half of the Premier League table.

Defenders

Davide Astori—A-: The Italian international has been in the form of his life over this first half of the season. He’s been brilliant in all phases of the game, especially as Gonzalo’s powers wane a bit. His passing, tackling, positioning, and leadership have been par excellence. He’s my candidate for MVP of the first half, and only gets docked for a few games where he’s been adequate rather than brilliant, mostly due to exhaustion. His goal for the rest of the year should be to maintain this form, which could see him push for minutes in Ventura’s Azzuri defense.

Sebastien de Maio—C+: The French veteran hasn’t played much, since Salcedo has adjusted to life in Italy much more quickly than anticipated. However, he’s been steady at the back when called upon, making few mistakes and doing his job fine. He’s exactly what he thought he was, and that’s a compliment; veteran depth can be a challenge to find. His goal for the rest of the season should be to settle in, do well when called upon, and get the club to offer him a long-term contract.

Kevin Diks—D+: Yes, he’s a 20-year-old playing his first season ever away from Vitesse, so it’s hardly fair to expect him to become a Dani-Alves-at-Barcelona type rightback, but given the dearth of talent ahead of him, it’s a bit concerning that he’s only made 2 cameos with Fiorentina. However, he’s been fantastic with the Primavera and may have earned himself a loan move to a bottom-half Serie A club on loan. His goal for the rest of the season should be to take that loan opportunity and fine-tune the attacking aspects of his game, then return to Florence and compete for a starter’s role next year.

Hrvoje Milic—D-: No. Please. Just no.

Maxi Olivera—C+: Perhaps it’s the Milic hangover talking, but Maxi’s been quite solid. It took him longer than you’d like to settle in, but now he’s starting to look like a scrappy, reliable presence on the left flank. He doesn’t offer much going forward, although his sporadic forays up the line do occasionally bear fruit. His defense, however, is quite good, and he certainly seems to be handling the move from Uruguayan football to Italian football just fine. His goal for the rest of the season should be to solidify his starting role and get the club thinking about an extension.

Gonzalo Rodriguez—B: While he’s still undoubtedly one of the better defenders in Serie A, this has been a bit of a letdown by his own lofty standards. He’s noticeably slowed down and doesn’t seem to have that burst to snuff out danger all over the pitch like he used to. However, he’s still quite good, and the hiccups may be due to concern over his still-fruitless contract talks with the club rather than the regular ageing process. His goal for the rest of the season should be to perk up his performances a bit, then sign a 2-year extension that doesn’t contain a pay cut.

Carlos Salcedo—C-: Initially thought to be more of an investment in the future, el Titan almost immediately edged out Tomovic for a spot in the backline. His strength, tackling, aerial prowess, and underrated passing have all caught the eye. However, he’s clearly not as comfortable at fullback as he is in the middle, which makes him look worse than he is. His penchant for bookings is concerning, although his too-frequent lapses in focus are probably more due to the step up from the Liga MX to Serie A than any long-term shortcomings. His goal for the rest of the season should be to tighten up his all-round game and grow from his mistakes.

Nenad Tomovic—D: It’s been a rough season for the third-choice captain. He’s been bad in the tackle, frequently caught out of position, and left for dead by pacey wingers over and over. The result has been that he’s been passed in the pecking order by Salcedo. His confidence looks shot, as he’s now taking forever to play simple passes as he overthinks things, which of course creates even more problems for him. His goal for the rest of the season should be to settle down, get his head right, and get back to being an adequate spot-starter.

Midfielders

Milan Badelj—B-: He’s been most visible in the media via his agent demanding a move elsewhere, which hasn’t helped his cause at all. While he’s usually his quietly important self, there’ve been a few matches where he’s looked rather disinterested. On the other hand, his distribution has been a bit more positive this year as he tries to grow into the creative role left by Borja’s injury. His goal for the rest of the season should be to figure out what his next step is and take it, rather than keeping himself and everyone else in the dark.

Federico Bernardeschi—A-: The golden boy of Fiorentina is all grown up. Tied for 6th in Serie A with 9 goals to go with 2 assists, he’s become the player we hadn’t dared hope he would be. Pacey, direct, and opportunistic, he’s been the team’s sole source of inspiration since Borja’s injury. He’s occasionally guilty of trying to do too much, but that’s more on the rest of the squad’s inadequacies than on him. His goal for the rest of the season should be to keep doing what he’s doing and sign a new contract with an astronomical buyout clause.

Enrico Chiesa—C+: He’s exploded onto the scene looking like a player with years more experience than his 19. His dribbling is exquisite and his positional sense—he likes to stay very wide to stretch the field—has helped open things up for his teammates. His end product badly needs work, but he’s clearly one of the most talented teenagers in Italy. His goal for the rest of the season should be to nail down a spot in the first eleven and improve his decision-making in the final third.

Sebastian Cristoforo—C+: It seems like Paulo Sousa still hasn’t figured out how to use him best, which is a shame, because he’s a fun player. His energy and combativeness in the middle are very useful qualities, although he’s not as useful in possession. Maybe he’s still trying to settle in, because he’s certainly demonstrated some technical ability; could be he’s on the verge of a breakout year, and just needs a bit of time and space to get there. His goal for the rest of the season should be to start a bit more often and improve his play with the ball.

Ianis Hagi—C: In his single Fiorentina appearance, he looked just fine. However, he’s been an absolute terror for the Primavera and may be ready for a seat at the grownups’ table this year. Since he wasn’t really supposed to contribute at all this year, what with being an 18-year-old and all, that’s definitely a good thing. His goal for the rest of the season should be to make some more substitute appearances, and maybe the odd start in the Coppa Italia.

Carlos Sanchez—B-: His inaugural season in Italy has been successful, even if he hasn’t played as much as he might like. He’s a bit of a one-trick pony, but it’s a heck of a trick. His physical play and ability to win the ball in the middle certainly isn’t in question. A slight kerfuffle with Sousa over his tendency to freelance rather than stick to his assignment pulled him out of the rotation for a bit, but he seems to be back. His goal for the rest of the season should be to re-establish himself as a part-time starter and convince the Viola to pick up his contract from Aston Villa.

Cristian Tello—D: Certainly the biggest disappointment of the season. While his pace is still plainly on display, his dribbling, passing, and decision-making have all vanished, and he seems to have lost his spot to an unheralded teenager, leading to whispers of an oncoming move away. His goal for the rest of the season should be to win back his starting spot and contribute something, anything to the attack.

Hernan Toledo—?: Who?

Borja Valero—B+: Has shown tremendous versatility, starting the year in an uncomfortable number 10 role and excelling before moving back to his natural, deeper spot on the pitch. His ability to get the ball from the middle third to the attacking third remains world-class, and the team has been much less fluid going forward since his injury-enforced absence. His goal for the rest of the year should be to get healthy and get back to doing what he does so well.

Matias Vecino—B-: After a spell of injury, he’s back to buzzing around the pitch as a jack of all trades and master of none. Forced to bear more of the attacking burden in Borja’s absence, he’s adapted reasonably well, but nobody’s ever going to mistake him for a purely creative player, although at least it hasn’t taken him until the last match of the year to score. His goal for the rest of the season should be to improve his forward passing and creativity without losing any of his other qualities.

Forwards

Khouma Babacar—B: He’s scoring 0.7 goals per 90 minutes played, which is pretty darn impressive, so why isn’t this grade higher? Well, he floats in and out of games sometimes, and has had a few where he simply didn’t look like he cared about the match at all. But there’ve been some where he’s single-handedly tilted the result one way or the other with his pace, technique, intelligence, and physicality. He remains an enigma, but should be capable of leading the line. His goal for the rest of the season should be to force Sousa to use him more often and then keep on scoring goals.

Josip Ilicic—C+: We like to heckle ol’ Lurch around here, but he’s a heck of a player. When he’s on, his long-range shooting is as good as anyone’s in the league, and he’s got an eye for the killer pass, too. Of course, he’s a famously inconsistent player, so you never know when you’re going to get that. Sometimes he’s almost comically inept, and sometimes you think he’s going to score every time he touches the ball. His 3 goals and 4 assists are a rather meager return, though. His goal for the rest of the season should be to get in the double digits with his scoring and limit his clunkiness as much as possible.

Nikola Kalinic—C+: He’s 2nd on the team and tied for 8th in Serie A with 8 goals, but his habit of missing sitters has left a lot of points on the field that Fiorentina could have used, and his occasional disappearing act doesn’t help. He’s still a good striker, but his limitations are painfully apparent these days as he’s incapable of manufacturing his own chances. His goal for the rest of the season should be to steady his performances and push for 20 goals.

Joshua Perez—B-: The American teenager has been with the Primavera since last year, and a quarter-hour cameo for his debut certainly came earlier than any of us were expecting. He’s also been positively deadly with the Primavera, suggesting that he may have some staying power. His goal for the rest of the season should be to make another few appearances for the senior side.

Mauro Zarate—B: Finally out of Sousa’s doghouse, Maurito has the best goals-to-minutes ratio on the team, and his penchant for dramatic strikes has made him a fan favorite already. It’s a shame that he’s obviously not in the club’s plans going forward, as he’s the definition of instant-impact offense. His goal for the rest of the season should be to play his way to a good contract somewhere outside of Italy where he won’t score against the Viola twice a year.