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Fiorentina season review: Rightbacks

It’s, um, a bit dire back there.

ACF Fiorentina v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A
Should we talk about that haircut? I feel like we should talk about that haircut.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Vincent Laurini

Recap: A late-August pickup from Empoli, Laurini cost €400,000 to loan initially and will end up costing €1.6 million on July 1st, when the remainder of his obligatory fee is due. For a 28-year-old journeyman, it’s a reasonable amount of money, and it seems that Fiorentina got what they paid for. Laurini took a little while to settle in and pass Bruno Gaspar on the depth chart, but he turned in some rock-solid performances in purple, especially in the early going. He marked Mario Mandžukić out of the match against Juventus; the Croatian only scored the winner after Laurini was subbed off. He was also excellent in the shocker at AS Roma. However we saw him balance out those good matches with some really bad moments as well, particularly against Hellas Verona.

In a perfect world, he’d be the sort of steady veteran who can give you 90 minutes against some team in the early rounds of the Europa League or against Crotone, but probably shouldn’t feature against sides higher in the table than that. Such a role was probably what he expected when he signed; that he became a regular contributor isn’t so much on his performances as the dearth of talent at the position, which eventually resulted in Nikola Milenković shuffling over to do the job. Laurini’s at his best when asked to stick tight to an opponent; he offers little going forward and struggles tracking runners from deep, and his tackling isn’t as sure as you’d like. On the plus side, he and his partner just had their first kid, so auguri, Vincent.

Stats: 23 appearances (21 starts), 1 assist, 5 yellow cards, 1.9 tackles per 90 minutes, 0.7 interceptions per 90 minutes

What’s next: He’ll certainly stick around for at least a year or two, but rightback is perhaps the Viola position most desperately in need of an upgrade. If Corvino brings in a better option, Laurini should serve as a cheap and adequate backup. If we expect the Frenchman to start for the whole season, we could be in for a long year.

Grade: C He had a couple of good matches in which he stuck to his man’s hip like a remora, but never looked all that convincing otherwise.

Bruno Gaspar

Recap: When he arrived in Florence this summer from Vitória de Guimarães for €4 million this summer, the then-24-year-old Portuguese had a reputation for pace and dynamism going forward. Originally a winger in the Benfica academy, he moved to rightback just 2 years ago, and it showed in both his attacking and defending instincts. When he showed a distinct lack of understanding of the basic principles of marking during the preseason, we were all a bit nervous. He carried that over into the season, too, and ultimately ended up being a huge liability on the back foot.

Although he notched assists in back-to-back matches early in the year, it quickly became obvious that he simply doesn’t have the defensive nous necessary to play in Serie A. Opponents began targeting him and he had no response; he was responsible for the loss against Juventus when he completely lost Mandžukić and struggled against such attack-deficient sides as Chievo Verona saw him drop to the bench for most of the second half of the season. Weirdly enough, he’s only good at rightback and isn’t comfortable as a wingback: when Stefano Pioli changed the system against SPAL and pushed Gaspar forward, the Portuguese completely vanished. He clearly likes to break from deep, where he can see more of the pitch, and overlap a winger rather than start higher up and work as the only wide man.

Stats: 17 appearances (8 starts), 2 assists, 2 yellow cards, 2.3 tackles per 90 minutes, 1 interception per 90 minutes

What’s next: Gaspar is a strong candidate to leave somewhere on loan next year. A Serie B outfit might be best, as it’ll give him a chance to learn how to defend while still playing a lot. If he ever sorts out that defending, though, look out: he’d be a fantastic player.

Grade: D+ It’s hard for me to rate a defender who can’t defend.