Bartłomiej Drągowski—6.5: Made a couple of really good saves, particularly on Antonio Candreva. Did have a slightly terrifying incident where he rolled the ball straight to Fabio Quagliarella, but was spared some embarrassment when the ref correctly ruled it goalkeeper interference. Not at fault for either goal.
Nikola Milenković—6.5: The only solid-looking defender this time out. With Mikkel Damsgaard more focused on tracking back to help against Chiesa, the Mountain was free to sweep up behind Cecche. Ate Quagliarella’s lunch whenever the striker strayed near him. Really should have scored with a header and had a lot of trouble moving the ball forward towards the end.
Federico Ceccherini—4: Another nightmare for poor Cecche. The penalty he conceded was easily avoidable and he looked deeply uncomfortable after it. Wasn’t very good with the ball at his feet, passing it sideways for the final 10 minutes when Fiorentina desperately needed to get it forward. Surely has to drop to the bench even if Germán Pezzella isn’t fit next time out.
Cáceres—4.5: Another all-action performance that didn’t offer a lot of tangible benefits. Got caught too high up the pitch a couple of times and had trouble tracking Candreva. Also made a couple of hospital passes that put his team in dangerous situations. Definitely needs some time off to take a couple of deep breaths. On the plus side, his commitment to the rolled-up shorts look is impressive.
Chiesa—6.5: Looked like the only player capable of providing a spark for much of the game. Had a few lovely little moments, including a couple of nutmegs, but was usually doubled up as soon as he touched the ball. Was a bit too eager to shoot—his 7 attempts were fully a third of Fiorentina’s shots—and didn’t put any on frame, but narrowly missed a couple and hit the upright at the death, which felt like a fitting way to potentially end to his Viola career.
Giacomo Bonaventura—6.5: Had several lively moments and created a couple of good chances with his crossing but wasn’t involved enough. Didn’t seem to drop in enough to present the defenders and Amrabat with a simple forward option and instead focused on breaking through the channels or making late runs into the box, which would’ve been fine had the other midfielders been better bringing the ball up.
Sofyan Amrabat—4: Safe to say that he wasn’t comfortable as the lone holding player. Misplaced half a dozen simple passes, had trouble sticking with Gastón Ramírez, and frequently held the ball too long. There were flashes of his obvious talent but he obviously hasn’t settled in yet. It’s still early for him so we shouldn’t jump on him too quickly, but this simply wasn’t good enough.
Gaetano Castrovilli—7: Man of the match for me. 2/2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2/2 aerials, 5 fouls won, 2 key passes. Consistently brought the ball forward before shifting it to a teammate in the final third. Maybe needed to be a bit more aggressive as he approached the Sampdoria goal, but he was steady and almost mistake-free (he did almost knee in an own-goal). He’s not quite the free-flowing Tanino we fell in love with last year, but his increased discipline shows that he’s continuing to grow. The knock he picked up at the end (after Albin Ekdal hacked him down for the third time in 10 minutes) is a concern.
Cristiano Biraghi—5.5: Scuffled against Candreva and never got the best of Bartosz Bereszyński. Played in a truly remarkable 13 crosses but none of them really seemed to trouble Emil Audero and company. Still, created width on the left and forced Samp to account for him, which made space for everyone else. Came very close to scoring a lovely free kick in the first half too.
Dušan Vlahović—7: If ever a player needed a goal, it was Dušan in this one. Showed off a lovely touch to slow down a Milenković shot and the composure to slot it home. Produced a wondrous turn and shot from outside the box that forced Audero into a very good save and linked play decently. Still a bit loose with possession and still doesn’t offer the aerial presence you’d expect from a man his size, but this was definitely a show of progress for him.
Christian Kouamé—4: Not a good game. Completely biffed a Jack cross with nobody near him from 5 yards out. Looked clunky on the ball and never found space against the suspect pairing of Maya Yoshida and Lorenzo Tonelli, scuffing another couple of shots and generally looking out of sorts. While it’s easy to pile on him for another ugly performance, let’s also remember that it’s been less than a year since he tore his cruciate ligament; even if he’s physically recovered, it takes a lot longer for the mental side to catch up and we really need to respect that.
Patrick Cutrone—5.5: A breath of air when he came on. Dropped deep to link play and sprinted in behind to stretch the defense. Closed down opponents like a man possessed and made a couple of neat runs into space that you have to think Franck Ribery would’ve found. Surely deserves a chance to play more.
Alfred Duncan—5: Probably needed to come in half an hour earlier to play next to Amrabat and reinforce the midfield. Didn’t really have time to make a huge impression but looked competent at bare minimum. Depending on Castrovilli’s status, we could finally see him play next to Amrabat after the break.
Riccardo Saponara—n/a: Came on in the 87th minute and didn’t really make an impact. Was slow working the ball forward from deep but did set up Chiesa’s doink of the woodwork at the death, so we’ll call it a wash.
Three things we learned
1. Despite all the purchases, there still isn’t depth. We all know that Daniele Pradè tends to work his magic at the end of the mercato, which means there are probably two or three names incoming. But for a team that’s spent as much on wages and transfer fees as this one over the past 15 months, it’s sobering to see how irreplaceable Franck Ribery and Germán Pezzella are. The former is the only player in the attack capable of remaining calm when the game plan falls apart and finding passes into dangerous spots, while the latter’s and intelligence are clearly a step or two above the backups. When you add in the absences of Erick Pulgar and Borja Valero, you realize that this bench is still a little barren. There isn’t anyone who can come onto the field and provide a jolt to an insipid game. There’s no change of pace. That’s bad.
2. It’s still too early to panic. To put this in a bit of perspective, Fiorentina were miles better than Torino and mostly even with Inter Milan. Coming up against a desperate and experienced Sampdoria, there was always the chance of a stumble. Giuseppe Iachini has shown that he can correct course from these; remember that he took pretty drastic action after the 1-3 defeat to Sassuolo last year and turned the season around completely. Sometimes, teams just have off days (take a look at the Premier League results today for proof). Iachini can answer all the questions we have—What’s wrong with the defense? Why is Amrabat out of sorts? Can the strikers finish chances? Is there any Plan B when Ribery’s out?—after the international break against Spezia. If we see the same problems we witnessed in this one, though, it’s time to start worrying.
3. There still aren’t any quick or easy fixes. When Rocco Commisso bought the club, we all agreed that there was so much wrong with the team that it would probably take years to sort everything out. We’re in the middle of that sorting out right now and it’s as unpleasant as we could have imagined. Demanding to tear everything down again doesn’t make too much sense, but it’s fair to say that we’re starting to get a very real idea of which parts of this organization are working well and which aren’t. Here’s hoping that Rocco is starting to get a handle on that as well and is ready to take decisive action rather than just waiting things out.