While we were pretty excited to see 16 players head into the break with their respective national teams, we’re a little bit less excited now that the injury bill has come back after just three days. Both Germán Pezzella and Bartłomiej Drągowski have picked up knocks in training and been sent home, which leaves them at risk of missing some time for Fiorentina, according to a terse statement from the club. That’s bad.
Pezzella has suffered a hamstring strain that required a round of tests in Argentina. Upon receiving confirmation that yeah, it’s not great, he got himself on a plane back to Florence, where the team doctors will begin a therapy and rehabilitation program. Since we don’t know the severity of the ding, it could hold him out from a week to a couple of months, with the greatest likelihood that it’ll be four weeks or so. Let’s take a look at how that affects the rest of the team.
Stefano Pioli has two options to replace his captain in the heart of the defense: he could shift Nikola Milenković over from fullback into his more natural position and bring Vincent Laurini or Kevin Diks (probably the former, as the latter clearly hasn’t earned the mister’s trust yet) to cover the flank. While this might increase the thrust from deep, particularly if the Dutchman gets a chance, it will certainly destabilize the defense significantly; the whole right side of the back line will be new, leading to miscommunication and unfamiliarity that in turn lead to goals conceded. Too, neither Laurini nor Diks possesses defensive chops equal to the Mountain out wide, so that side of the pitch would suddenly open up a lot more.
The second option is to bring in Federico Ceccherini, who’s yet to feature this year. The former Livorno and Crotone man cost the Viola a modest €3 million this summer, but hasn’t been able to unseat the very settled defenders in front of him—Pioli has featured the same 4 at the back for all but 45 minutes this year (David Hancko got a half in relief of Cristiano Biraghi). With all due respect to Cecche, who’s proven to be a solid player in the past, he’s no Pezzella, and the step down is significant.
If Pezze misses a month, that’d put him out for 4 fixtures: at Bologna, vs Juventus, at Sassuolo, and vs Empoli. While the Felsinei have been unimpressive, those other three are tough asks. It’s hard to imagine this current edition of Fiorentina taking anything from Newcastle Junior even with Pezzella, and without him those odds fall to approximately zero. Sassuolo and Empoli are both tricky fixtures as well, since the Neroverdi have impressed tremendously under Roberto de Zerbi, while the Derby dell’Arno is always unpredictable.
Finally, there’s the question of who would take over as captain in the Argentine’s absence. Federico Chiesa would probably have a chance as the team’s best player, especially as the club tries to convince him to stay, but he’s still just 20 years old. Marco Benassi captained Inter Milan’s Primavera and wore the armband for Torino, so he’d be a decent call as well, while Jordan Veretout has probably earned a look as the midfield’s leader. However, Biraghi’s commitment to the cause (and the fact that he’s the next best attacker after Fede) could be enough to see him wear the DA13 band.
Drągowski’s injury isn’t as dire for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s been described as a bruise to the shoulder, which indicates a lack of structural damage (unless the bone’s super messed up, in which case “bruise” probably wouldn’t be the operative word). He may miss a week or two, but probably not much more, and that’d put him back in time for the Juvenuts.
However, the timing is a shame for Bart. Alban Lafont has been struggling a bit of late and the Pole has probably earned a chance to at least split time with the Ouagadougou-born Frenchman. Losing time to a knock hurts the Dragon’s chances of seeing the pitch in the short term, which in turn may have been enough to keep him in Florence for a bit longer.
In terms of personnel moves, it also means that any injury to Lafont while Drągowski is out would see 18-year-old Simone Ghidotti take over between the sticks. While he’s bounced back and forth between the Primavera and the senior squad in training, he’s yet to play a minute in Serie A. There’s also the fear that he’d be rusty, as his schedule has allowed him just 3 appearances with the Primavera as well. Again, this isn’t as pressing as Pezzella’s injury, but it could get way worse if anything happens to Lafont.
All this is to say that, three days into the international break, we’re ready to cover the remaining Viola players in about 2 meters of bubble wrap until they’re back at the Centro Davide Astori. After all, at the rate of losing 2 every 3 days, half of them will be hurt by the time club soccer resumes.