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Fiorentina 0-1 Benevento: Player grades and 3 things we learned

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Rock, meet bottom.

ACF Fiorentina v Benevento Calcio - Serie A
That is the correct facial expression.
Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski: 7—Once again, Saint Bartholomew was all that stood between Fiorentina and an embarrassing scoreline. His stops on Roberto Insigne’s rasping effort and Gianluca Lapadula’s free kick were very good. Maybe could’ve done a bit better on Riccardo Improta’s goal, but may have been unsighted as well. Had a bit of trouble with his passing (you could argue that the goal came from him putting Biraghi in a bad place), but he was probably the man of the match. Again.

Nikola Milenković: 4.5—Everyone has off days, and even the Mountain is no exception. Lost out on some challenges he usually wins in his sleep and completely borked some fairly simple passes. Often looked like he was trying to do too much. Let Improta get inside him for the goal.

Germán Pezzella: 5—Good enough on the back foot for the most part, brickwalling the opposing forwards time and again, but his passing was catastrophic and he was lucky that Benevento let him off the hook on several occasions. A more competent team would’ve punished his mistakes.

Igor: 6—Not a bad showing. Used his strength to bully Benevento’s forwards and his pace to shut them down while offering occasional glimpses of proactive passing out the back. Had a couple of iffy moments when his sense of positioning completely gave out and he left too much space, but he was far from the problem out there.

Cristiano Biraghi: 4—Didn’t really offer anything. Made at least two awful mistakes in possession to let the Stregoni in, one of which resulted in the goal. Whipped in a couple of decent crosses but was mostly a non-factor going forward. Like Milenković, it was likely just a bad day for him and we’re not unduly worried.

Sofyan Amrabat: 4.5—Another disappointing afternoon for the Moroccan. While he hit a few excellent long passes (one to Ribery that the veteran bumbled stands out), his penchant for inexplicable giveaways at the back remains a serious concern. Spent too much time dropping in as a right back as Milenković pinched in early on, which limited his passing options; that’s likely Prandelli’s instruction, but it really didn’t seem to help anything.

Alfred Duncan: 5.5—Rather anonymous but not catastrophic. Didn’t really try to dribble forward at all. Interestingly enough, seemed to be involved in those rare moves in which the Viola threatened. Lost out on a couple of challenges he should have won but kept things ticking along decently enough.

Christian Kouamé: 4—Never seemed comfortable in his right-sided role. Didn’t show the dribbling ability to break down his opponent and was pushed out of the area due to his starting position. Didn’t really run in behind either, although that’s mostly because Benevento mostly defended from within their own goal. Clunky first touch let him down several times.

Gaetano Castrovilli: 5—Won a bunch of fouls and occasionally drove forward with the ball but didn’t do much of anything else. Rarely found himself in space against a defense focused on minimizing space between the lines. Could’ve had a better game had Ribery found him on a couple of early attacking moves, but thus crumbles the cookie.

Franck Ribery: 3.5—A woeful outing for the old man. Continually lost the ball in promising situations, created nothing, and pulled a hamstring, necessitating a substitution before the half. Maybe he wasn’t fit to start with, but a return to his classic left wing role went badly enough that Prandelli may be reconsidering him in that spot.

Dušan Vlahović: 4—Being physically overpowered by Kamil Glik for 90 minutes isn’t any disgrace, as the veteran Pole is a tank, but Dušan was invisible. Instead of running behind or dropping deep to encourage his teammates forward with quick layoffs, he just backed himself into Glik time and again, erasing himself from the proceedings. Mistimed his jump on a free header he should’ve scored but nearly made up for it with a clever backheeled flick. Nearly doesn’t butter the crumpets, though.

Riccardo Saponara: 4.5—You can’t be too tough on him given the circumstances. Did a fine job of finding little pockets of space and shifting the ball around, but nobody ever seemed to take advantage of what he brought.

Erick Pulgar: 4.5—Offered his usual bite in midfield and freed up his teammates to go forward, but was a bit ungainly in possession and lost the ball in a couple of situations that put the team in serious danger.

Patrick Cutrone: 3—Completely invisible. 6 touches in 35 minutes. You can argue that his teammates should have done a better job of finding him and you could be right, but 6 touches in 35 minutes indicates that this wasn’t just team context.

Pol Lirola: 4.5—Had a typically Pol game in that he created Fiorentina’s best chance with his sheer athleticism and then also gave the ball away and got himself carded as he pulled back an opponent to mop up his mistake.

Borja Valero: 5—Spread the ball around nicely, particularly in getting Lirola involved down the right, but didn’t really have time to do all that much.

Three things we learned

1. Maybe it wasn’t all Giuseppe Iachini’s fault. An emotional reunion with the beloved and generally more attacking Cesare Prandelli was supposed to fix Beppe’s stodgy style, but instead we saw the same somnabulent approach. The primary issue, for me, is that there’s no change of tempo. The defenders pass the ball sideways until they can work it to the fullback or until a midfielder drops deep to retrieve it. Nobody’s looking to combine for quick, one-touch moves. Nobody’s running in behind. On the rare occasions that one of those things occur, Fiorentina look as if they could maybe threaten. Unfortunately, those things only happen three or four times every 90 minutes. This is the most stale and predictable Viola we’ve had to watch since, uh, last time we watched them.

2. Even if San Cesare has the answers, it’ll take time to implement them. Fiorentina have been badly coached, especially in attack, for years. The squad has developed bad habits (the lack of movement for forward passing stands out but there’s no lack of notable problems). 10 days of training isn’t enough to unlearn those habits. The remainder of the year might suffice, but Prandelli’s real job here will be to tear down this busted-ass team and let whoever takes over next year build something from the rubble.

3. This team still doesn’t offer any width. In the first half, Biraghi played nearly as a left winger at times, which allowed Ribery to drift into his usual deep and central positions. On the right, though, Kouamé was clearly instructed to stay in the half space rather than on the touchline, while Milenković was instructed to pinch in, forming a back three. It looked a bit like Stefano Pioli’s old setup, and that’s not a good thing. Maybe getting José Callejón back will offer some of that width on the right. Maybe Pol Lirola will help too. But even with someone like Amrabat deep in midfield who can switch the play, Fiorentina are basically using just two-thirds of the pitch rather than the whole thing, which means opponents can defend very narrowly. And with Ribery hurt now, the lack of natural wingers means this club is probably going to be in trouble for the rest of the year. That kind of squad-building gap is squarely on Daniele Pradè and company.