Riding a rather depressing wave of form Fiorentina predictably lined up with their typical 3-4-3, with the twist being both Chiesa and Tello being deployed on the wings. This attacking choice was probably chosen by Paulo Sousa to take advantage of the awful-ness of Crotone, who placed their hope for a result in top scorer Diego Falcinelli. Fiorentina’s old-school 2015/16 front three of Nikola Kalinić, Borja Valero and Josip Iličić made up the trio at top for Sousa, with the ever present duo of Milan Badelj and Matías Vecino holding the midfield fort.
With the game getting underway, Fiorentina made the most Fiorentina start possible. Dominating play, but also looking completely and utterly susceptible to a sucker punch at any time. Luckily for Sousa’s side, Crotone’s lack of quality did them no harm. However, Fiorentina will be Fiorentina, and Diego Falcinelli headed just wide on the 15 minute mark. A fantastic save by Alex Cordaz on the 22 minute mark denied Kalinić the opener; the lack of killer instinct by the latter was frustrating, his composure in goal so often not matching his fantastic movement. As the first half grew on, so did the increasing likely chance I was going to fall asleep at any moment. The lack of action in the first half was in a way quite fortunate considering the quality of my stream meant every player looked as though he was made from Lego. Crotone’s deep defending was continually nullifying Fiorentina’s attack, building the frustration as was evident by the amount of long shots Sousa’s men were forced to take. The usual ball circulation between the back three and Badelj did little to take the opposition by surprise. It was the same old from Fiorentina, and if they were to grab anything from this game they had to really dig deep in the second half, and do something really un-Fiorentina like.
As Viola trudged out for the second half, it was evident that they desperately needed some inspiration if they were to penetrate what was becoming The Great Wall of Crotone. Back and forth, side to side, Fiorentina’s worrying lack of penetration was sending the game in an all too familiar direction. Averaging over 70% possession at the break, the same absence of efficiency was present at the beginning of the second half. Falcinelli’s 60th minute curling shot through a box full of white shirts pinged off the post, leaving Tatarusanu helpless. It was a matter of time before the usual narrative took hold, and Crotone seemed destined to steal a goal.
Whilst fighting the urge to literally fall asleep, the 66th minute saw Sousa attempt to alter the match with Riccardo Saponara replacing Chisea. An obvious move to try and unlock the steel door Crotone had erected in front of their goal, Sousa followed this change by substituting the rather ineffectual Iličić with Olivera, presumably to balance the side out following Chiesa’s departure. An agonising near miss by Kalinić on the 73rd minute saw goal line technology in action, but nonetheless the finish by Kalinić was not clinical enough and he really should have opened the scoring. As frustration grew with every Kalinić miss, alas, when all hope looked lost, the man himself popped up with a wonderful chip to give La Viola the 3 points. A delightful lofted ball by substitute Saponara fell into the path of the Croatian who acrobatically leaped like a Salmon to prod the ball past the helpless Crotone keeper. The forward once again bailing Sousa out of what would have been an embarrassing draw. However, taking nothing away from Kalinić’s wonderful finish, it does little to paper over the gaping cracks evident in Sousa’s side.
Has 3 points ever felt so empty? A painfully underserved win for Fiorentina who looked completely lost for ideas and invention. My defence of Sousa a few weeks ago is haunting me more with every game that goes by. In the grand scheme of things, this win really does little for Fiorentina, as if that wasn't already the case before kick off. Neither gaining meaningful ground nor giving fans any kind of football to be excited about, Fiorentina’s crawl over the finishing line is getting more painful every day.
Tātārusanu - 6 - Made a few good saves, really wasn’t tested a lot.
Sanchez - 6 - A fairly easy and unimpressive afternoon for the Colombian.
Rodriguez - 6 - Anchored the defence well.
Astori - 5 - Looked a bit ropey at times, struggled with the pace at intervals.
Chiesa - 6 - Looked to drive at the defence as always, lacked the ability to make a real impact today.
Vecino - 5 - Struggled to stand out amongst a sub-par midfield.
Badelj - 6 - Did well as the springboard in midfield, unfair to ask more of him.
Tello - 7 - Managed to use his pace and directness to good use at times.
Valero - 6 - Very ineffectual, routinely found himself out wide in search of space.
Ilicic - 6 - Threaded some good balls through to Kalinić, but it just wasn't his day.
Kalinić - 8 - Missed a sitter, but came up trumps with the 3 points. Oh Kalinić, what would 2e do without you.
Saponara - 8 - Provided the all important assist for goal.
Olivera - 6 - Didn’t impact the game at all.
Babacar - 6 - Looked rusty.
Bologna on the 2nd of April. A welcome International break for Fiorentina, here’s hoping Sousa will use it wisely. At this stage, the Portuguese would be wise to re-think his strategy for this Fiorentina side. The season may be gone, and so may his job, but at this stage, at least give us Fiorentina fans something to tune in for before the final 3 minutes...