On the back of a completely unprecedented upset against Napoli in the Coppa Italia, expectations were high for Fiorentina coming into this clash with bottom-of-the-table Genoa. With Dalbert out due to suspension, Lorenzo Venuti took his place on the left flank. Otherwise, Iachini’s 3-5-2 remained as expected with the new Cutrone-Chiesa duo up top (though it appeared that a Roman god was wearing Drągowski’s prophetic #69 in goal).
The first ten minutes saw complete and total domination by Fiorentina, which may have fooled the untrained Viola fan into thinking we were in for a rout. Iachini’s boys won five corners in the first ten minutes alone; however, Fiorentina would fail to win another corner for the remainder of the half. On an ensuing Genoa fast break, Germán Pezzella fell a step behind Andrea Favilli and clumsily tripped him in the Fiorentina box, leading to an early penalty to be taken by Domenico Criscito. The Genoa captain took the shot with power down the middle, but Drągowski’s legs remained outstretched during his dive and the ball ricocheted into a break down the right side (which would unfortunately lead to nothing). Until the halftime whistle blew, neither team looked particularly interested in scoring—Castrovilli summoned a few chances but Chiesa ended up squandering what little offensive gusto Fiorentina could conjure up.
After the half, nothing much seemed to change until the 53rd minute, where Patrick Cutrone found himself just out of position to put away a clever backheel pass from Marco Benassi. Cutrone would be replaced just five minutes later to make way for man-in-form Dušan Vlahović. The match kept relatively quiet until shortly after Goran Pandev was taken off for Antonio Sanabria, when Gaetano Castrovilli keeled over in the 64th minute and requested immediate medical attention. No clear contact was made with El Maestro, but he looked incredibly dizzy and out-of-sorts. He allegedly told referee Daniele Orsato “my head is spinning, I don’t understand anything”—after which he was immediately taken off and replaced by Valentin Eysseric. Castrovilli was then brought to the hospital for further tests, though it sounds like he’s fine for the time being (we’ll provide updates as they become available).
To say the least though, Eysseric is much less of the playmaker that Castrovilli has proven to be, and Fiorentina’s second half woes would come to bear after the substitution. Federico Chiesa emphatically tossed away nearly every chance that came Fiorentina’s way, and Genoa would capitalize on every failed Viola attempt. However, after every Genoa fast break and defensive blunder by Fiorentina (of which there were many), Bartłomiej Drągowski made a series of highlight-reel saves that you would make you think Wojciech Szczęsny had no business being the starting keeper for the Polish national team. And after every single one, he tried to motivate his teammates and pump up the crowd—but this match was long since gone. The frustration was palpable, especially after Federico Chiesa continued to waste some wonderful chances. The match went on to end in little fanfare after Daniele Orsato’s whistle blew six minutes after regular time.
Drągowski—10: For a goalkeeper, a rating above 6 shouldn’t even be possible against the team at the bottom of the league. But frankly, if it weren’t for Bartłomiej, this game would’ve ended 4-0 in favor of Genoa. This certainly won’t be the last time we talk about his performance from this match, as it was easily the most memorable performance we’ve seen from a keeper in purple in quite a long time. Bravo, Bart. We’re sorry that your team couldn’t match a tenth of your efforts.
Milenković—5: While Nikola was certainly the best Fiorentina defender today, the defensive unit as a whole relied entirely on Drągowski to bail them out. The Mountain had a few chances at goal and his height in the box is always a help, he really didn’t do much to propel his team to a victory. He also nearly scored an own goal, but Bart wasn’t letting anything past him today.
Pezzella—4.5: Not a good showing from the captain. Bounced back a little after his blunder leading to a Genoa penalty, but he deserves no credit for the shot being saved. Lacked the composure we needed from a captain this game.
Cáceres—2.5: Where in the world was the Cáceres we fielded against Napoli? Not only did he consistently miss tackles, but he managed to pass the ball directly into Genoa attackers from very straightforward situations. He’s been a good presence for us since his arrival, but some of the mistakes he made this game are inexcusable. Would’ve been better with Venuti as the left centre-back and Olivera out wide, which is saying a lot.
Lirola—6: Despite the lack of end product and the complete defensive ineptitude that Fiorentina showcased this game, Lirola is continuing to look like a new man under Beppe Iachini. Consistently outspeeding everyone on his side of the pitch, he always seemed to get in a dangerous position and supply a few quality (and a few awful) crosses into the box. He finally seems comfortable in his new team and obviously works well across from Dalbert, who was certainly missed today.
Benassi—5: Looks a little more purposeful under Iachini’s tactics, as opposed to the traditionally confusing nature of Marco’s role on the team. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to make much use of some of his dangerous positioning, but looked deadly in his backheel pass to Cutrone for Fiorentina’s best chance of the game.
Pulgar—4.5: Really quite invisible this game. He seemed to be involved early by the sheer number of corners that Genoa conceded, but otherwise had no real presence in the game. It’s a shame too, as we know Pulgar is a talented player, but the trio of Benassi-Pulgar-Castrovilli seems to be lacking something anchoring the midfield to both the defense and the forwards.
Castrovilli—6.5: As spry and elegant as ever, Castrovilli was the only real bright spot in Fiorentina’s attack. Consistently winning the ball and dancing around defenders, it’s still no surprise that so many eyes are on him. The reason behind his substitution is still unclear, but he looked rather ill when walking off the pitch. Health is no joke, so we hope he takes all the time he needs to recover.
Venuti—4.5: While he wasn’t nearly as much of a liability as Cáceres and offered at least a little bit going forward, Lorenzo is clearly a weaker option than Dalbert in just about every way. He’s probably a little more suited to a left-back role in a back four than as a wing-back in a 3-5-2, but he definitely left a lot to be desired on the pitch today.
Chiesa—2.5: Wasteful and selfish. While his speed was still on display today, Federico’s awareness and decision-making were nowhere to be found. While he’s certainly not a centre-forward (something that Roberto Mancini has made clear when talking about his selection for the Azzurri), he can’t continue to play like this. Not when this team has finally started to show some goal-scoring chops.
Cutrone—4.5: Not great, but his presence and positioning as an actual striker clearly makes a big difference to how this team operates. If he had read the situation a little better when Marco Benassi flicked the ball to him in front of goal, we may have miraculously walked away from this one with three points. Nonetheless, he’s still re-familiarizing himself with Serie A, so he deserves more patience than anyone else on the squad.
Vlahović—5: Never really threatened Perin, but his emotion was felt on the pitch. I’d be more harsh on him had he received some of the service that Chiesa instead squandered, but that’s not the case here. He’s still clearly more comfortable than he was when he couldn’t find the back of the net, and we’ll take that for a 19-year-old who’s leading the team in scoring.
Eysseric—5: With how rusty he had to have been after not playing significant minutes in a long time, the Frenchman did well and even looked a bit threatening from distance. If Castrovilli is out for some time, Valentin at least seems raring to get some minutes in—though I can’t be sure if those minutes will be very helpful to our league standing.
Olivera—n/a: In probably the most surprising cameo we’ll see this year, Maxi Olivera replaced Venuti for the final minutes of the match. Took a shot that looked dangerous if only for a moment, but didn’t do much else to warrant a grade.
Three things we learned
1. This isn’t Federico Chiesa’s team anymore. I’m not sure how many of you noticed Dušan Vlahović’s face after one of Freddy Church’s many poorly-taken attempts at goal, but it was the first time I’d seen anyone match Chiesa’s emotion on the field. And it was aimed directly at Federico. I’m not saying we have Napoli levels of tension on our hands, but there’s some real frustration here—not only from the fans, but the players themselves. Last year, it felt like Federico Chiesa was Fiorentina’s last hope: our only young star who would take Fiorentina out of the dark ages. Bartłomiej Drągowski, Gaetano Castrovilli, and Dušan Vlahović are catching up quickly, and the time will soon come when we’ll have to decide who we want to keep. One thing’s for certain though: we definitely won’t get €70 million for Chiesa anymore.
2. Bartłomiej Drągowski IS the future. Skill, emotion, anger, leadership—Bart was somehow everywhere on the pitch this game despite only being in goal. He made multiple world-class saves and subsequently screamed like a lion, which is exactly what you want your goal keeper to do. It was miraculous to come out of this game with a point, and 110% of the credit goes to the young Polish shot-stopper. Absolutely incredible performance.
3. It’s just one game. Remember the third thing we learned last week? Iachini’s tenure is still very new, and we have no idea what’ll happen over the next few fixtures. Maybe this result was even intentional so that Rocco Commisso will open up his pockets and bring us Lionel Messi. Regardless, we know that Cáceres probably won’t play that poorly again. We know that we’ll have Dalbert back soon and hopefully have a bit more composure on that left side. Unfortunately, the frustration with Federico Chiesa comes from months of similar behavior, so we don’t know what the future holds there. Let’s just wait until after the Coppa Italia fixture against Inter before we start screaming for Iachini’s head.