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Fiorentina 3-2 Udinese: Player grades and 3 things we learned

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Individual brilliance masks the Viola’s obvious deficiencies

ACF Fiorentina v Udinese Calcio - Serie A
The man of the hour...
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player Grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski—7.5

Had a very sloppy mistake 14 minutes in, but saved himself and then played excellently the rest of the way. Only had to make two saves, but they were both showstoppers. Gerard Deulofeu’s curling effort and Stefano Okaka’s point-blank missile (.64 xG!) were excellent stops. Underrated keeper.

Nikola Milenković—6.5

Had a very sloppy pass eight minutes in, and had poor communication with Martín Cáceres on Okaka’s second goal. Other than that, the Mountain was solid, adjusting well to Pezzella’s departure. Loved to see him on the scoresheet again, he really knows how to score for a center back.

Germán Pezzella6

The captain was solid in his 40 minutes on the field, with no goals allowed. Hoping for a speedy recovery, Fiorentina is simply better with Pezzella on the field.

Martín Cáceres5

Really don’t want to see him starting anymore. Was caught flat-footed and lost Okaka on the first goal, then didn’t talk to Milenković, which lead to the second. He’s still solid carrying the ball forward but is such a defensive liability that it is tough to justify him still being on the field. With Pezzella hurt, we may not have a choice.

Pol Lirola7

Looked lively from the beginning, creating chance after chance down the right. In the second half, he took a real beating, most noticeably from the frame of the goal itself. I stand by my take that he and José Callejón will be able to compensate for Chiesa’s departure more than most think, and Lirola looked the part today.

Giacomo Bonaventura5

It’s not that Jack did much wrong, it’s just that there’s not much he’s doing right. An alright performance, but one which I hope causes Beppe to turn to Erick Pulgar or Alfred Duncan against Roma. Didn’t miss a single pass which is great, but is consistently getting overrun defensively. I’m placing this on Beppe’s tactics rather than Jack, who should really be our 12th man rather than a starter.

Sofyan Amrabat6

Finally given some space to roam by Beppe, Amrabat delivered his best performance of the season. He was able to join in the press several times, link passes together, and used his big frame to win the ball. I’d love to see him play as a #8 more regularly, a Pulgar-Amrabat-Castrovilli midfield seems to be the best fit for this team.

Gaetano Castrovilli9

What a performance. Castrovilli’s two goals and an assist won the match for Fiorentina, and he also made Roberto Mancini’s trip to Florence worthwhile. Already at more goals (4) than all of last season, Castrovilli rebounded from a tough outing last week in the best possible way.

Cristiano Biraghi8.5

Assisted two goals, and both drew the foul and took the free-kick which provided the other. He was also no slouch defensively. He’ll be overshadowed by Castrovilli, but Biraghi has been Fiorentina’s most consistent player this season. Top class performance.

José Callejón5

Beppe, can we not pretend like Callejón is a striker? He was pretty invisible from start to finish, giving good energy but little else. I’ll give him a boost for the great pass he played to Bonaventura in the build-up for the first goal.

Dušan Vlahović4

It’s more likely that Dušan’s current ineffectiveness is down to Beppe’s tactics rather than his skill as a player, but it’s not working regardless. 5 total passes, 0 shots, dispossessed seven times in an hour... yikes.

Lucas Martinez Quarta5.5

Gave up a chance immediately after coming on and failed to mark Stefano Okaka in the second half, nearly leading to a goal. Otherwise, LMQ looked solid. I’ll give myself a pat on the back here, as one of those line splitting passes I was raving about was the catalyst for Fiorentina’s third goal.

Patrick Cutrone—5

He was on for 25 minutes? Like Vlahović and Kouame, he got no service, and instead did mostly pressing work.

Christian Kouamé—5

Same as Cutrone, please Beppe, change your tactics. I beg you.

Erick Pulgar—5.5

He was fine in his ten minutes, I’m really just hoping to see him in a full match as a holding midfielder.

Lorenzo Venuti—5

Venuti didn’t hustle back enough on Okaka’s second but didn’t have much time on the field otherwise, only attempting three passes.

Three things we learned

  1. Beppe is as stubborn as they come. Other than giving Sofyan Amrabat slightly more freedom in the middle of the park, Giuseppe Iachini stuck to the same tactical formula as against Sampdoria and Spezia. While we scored three goals, I’m only going to give Iachini credit for the first- he can thank Castrovilli and Udinese’s defending for the other two. 40 minutes in, Beppe was given a great opportunity to switch things up once Germán Pezzella limped off. Instead, he subbed on a center back (LMQ) in his place, and the Viola conceded immediately afterward, while Callejòn and Vlahović remained peripheral to the action. Through five games, our three strikers have combined for two goals, which is nowhere near good enough. The service has dried up, the midfield is still being overrun, and Beppe refuses to change much. Also, I’m not sure what’s going on between Beppe and Alfred Duncan. Duncan was man of the match against Torino, and has hardly seen the field since. Strange.
  2. Fiorentina’s underdog mentality needs to stop. Sure, Fiorentina won this game, but was it convincing? Absolutely not. Udinese had 16 shots to the Viola’s five and had more than double the number of expected goals (2.69-1.20). This was a lucky win, and Fiorentina won due to individual skill rather than a team effort. Let’s not forgot how talented this Fiorentina team is. There are international-quality players at nearly every position in the starting XI, and more coming off the bench. Yet, does the Fiorentina we’ve seen the last month play anywhere near that level? The team is consistently giving up goals just before halftime, cannot hold a two-goal lead, and when ahead has the instinct to drop back and play scared rather than go and kill the game. While that strategy may work in matches such as Inter Milan, where we actually are the underdogs, let’s not forget that Fiorentina has the 7th highest wage bill in the league, and is playing nowhere near that level. Watching us pack men behind the ball against clubs like Spezia and Udinese to scrape out results is embarrassing. Despite the win, I’m even more convinced Beppe needs to go for this team to have any chance of reaching its potential.
  3. Castrovilli is the real deal. All of us already knew this, but it’s about time the rest of Europe knew too. Castrovilli showed today why he is such an exciting talent, and one who has the potential to be the best #10 in Serie A. Beppe said last January that Castrovilli needed to start scoring 8-10 goals per season to reach the next level, and guess what? He’s halfway there after five matches. When he plays well, he sets the tone for the entire squad, and it’s a joy to behold. Castrovilli has all the makings of a Florence favorite, and watching his continued growth this season will be a lot of fun. One caveat: If he keeps playing at his current level, there will be big money offers coming very soon, and Rocco Commisso will need to have a long term vision to keep him at the club. Will that include Beppe and Daniele Prade? I hope not.