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Fiorentina 1-1 Sassuolo: Player grades and 3 things we learned

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“I’ll take pleasant surprises for 500, Alex”

ACF Fiorentina v US Sassuolo - Serie A
A new start for our #9?
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player Grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski- 5.5

For the first time in Cesare Prandelli’s second stint, Drago is not the Viola Nation man of the match. It’s not his fault, as he had very little to do. He faced less than Sassuolos 1.71 xG would suggest. Some poor distribution and a bad rebound given up to Domenico Berardi in the 23rd minute knock him down a peg, but it’s nice to not be repeatedly bailed out by our keeper for once.

Lorenzo Venuti—6.5

Got Manuel Locatelli on a yellow card early, and continued playing aggressive and direct down the right-hand side for the rest of the first half. His highlight was a great run to find Giacomo Bonaventura in the 24th minute. Slowed down in the second half, but still did his job on both sides of the ball. The starting spot is his to lose at this point.

Nikola Milenković— 6

Being caught flat-footed on Hamid Traore’s goal wasn’t great, but I’m not going to dock him too much for that- he was left out to dry by a miscommunication between our midfield and Martin Caceres. Other than that one miscue he was his typical solid self, no complaints here. Stopping Jermaine Boga in the 31st minute was a highlight for me.

Germán Pezzella— 6.5

Not much to complain about when it comes to our captain. His only mistake I could find was a poor pass to Franck Ribery in the 44th minute. But, that’s not what he’s paid for- his organizing and positioning were crucial to keeping the Neroverdi largely quiet.

Martin Caceres— 5.5

It was a poor first 15 minutes for Caceres, who was put flat on his face by Domenico Berardi in the tenth minute. Then, in the 13th minute, Caceres stepped up when he didn’t need to, forcing German Pezzella to slide over and leaving Milenkovic isolated with Traore- we all know what happened next. Afterward, he played fine. Still hoping to see one of Igor or LMQ take his spot by the new year.

Cristiano Biraghi— 5.5

Not much to say here, Biraghi should’ve scored early on. Other than that, he was fine on both sides of the ball. I will say that Biraghi has grown into one of my favorite players this year, which was completely unexpected. The man always plays with a passion that more of the Viola could use.

Sofyan Amrabat— 6.5

After an early yellow for a dumb lunge, Amrabat proceeded to not talk to Caceres en route to Sassuolo’s goal. I’m still giving him a high grade because Cesare Prandelli asked him to do so much in this game and he largely succeeded. Until Erick Pulgar’s entrance, Amrabat did as much work in the midfield as Bonaventura and Castrovilli combined. First, he’d help our center backs recycle possession, then he’d push into the box to support Ribery and Vlahovic. Finding a proper regista to let him fully roam should be a priority in the summer mercato.

Giacomo Bonaventura— 5.5

Invisible again. Not bad, not good. The story of Giacomo Bonaventura with Fiorentina.

Gaetano Castrovilli— 5.5

Had one chance all match which he put on target. Like Bonaventura, he didn’t do much. Because I have higher expectations for him compared to Jack, I’m more disappointed in his performance. Hoping to see him get the ball in more dangerous situations against Verona.

Dušan Vlahović— 6.5

Hopefully the beginning of a new era for Dusan. He looked focused the entire 70+ minutes he was out there, and finally got some touches in dangerous situations. I’ll elaborate on his performance more below.

Franck Ribery— 8

For the first time in three months, Franck Ribery showed Serie A the quality player he is. It took just six minutes for Ribery to set up a sitter for Biraghi. He created chances throughout the match, notably drawing the penalty in the first half and striking the crossbar late in the second half. Impressively, multiple times he sprinted back on defense to harass Sassuolo players. Great performance.

Erick Pulgar— 5.5

Brought in to help hold down the fort the last few minutes, Pulgar did exactly that.

Igor— 5.5

Lost Defrel towards the end but was fine otherwise.

Christian Kouame— No Rating

Didn’t do much in his twenty minutes.

Borja Valero— No Rating

Three Things we learned

1. Ritiros can be good. When I first heard the news that Rocco Commisso was sending the entire Fiorentina squad on a retreat, I laughed and then was nervous. How would the team react after just being around each other for the last few days? The answer: pretty well. By no means was this an amazing performance, but it was the best of the season. A deserved draw against an excellent Sassuolo team should act as a springboard for a Verona match which suddenly seems a lot more winnable. The team looked committed from start to finish even after conceding first, a marked improvement from the Benevento match just a month prior. Compared to Atalanta three days ago, the team was unrecognizable, although an in-form Franck Ribery tends to do that. Remember that just four points separate the Viola from 10th place Udinese, so a climb back up the table is achievable given the Viola can string together similar performances these next couple of weeks. Am I being too optimistic? Definitely. But it’s nice to see the team play somewhere close to its capabilities every once in a while.

2. A 3-5-2 is the best short-term option. We all watched and despised Beppe Iachini’s 3-5-2, so I find it funny I’m saying this less than two months after his departure. Cesare Prandelli has done a lot of tinkering and tweaking with formations and this afternoon was no exception. While Prandelli ideally wants to use a 4-2-3-1 with the Viola, the lack of wingers on the team (Eyserric!) has made that impossible in the short-term. (I’ll be addressing the wingers issues and some possible reinforcements later this month). The 3-5-2 Prandelli opted for was similar to Iachini’s in most ways, but very different in the midfield. Bonaventura, Castrovilli and especially Amrabat were given far more license to push forward and help get Vlahovic and Ribery as many touches as possible, something which was absent towards the tail end of Iachini’s reign. And as our great editor-in-chief said, of all possible formations Fiorentina’s squad is decently suited towards a 3-5-2. For the next couple of matches before we can purchase more players, it makes complete sense to stick with what worked today. Now I’m going to try to not think about Caceres versus Dejan Kulusevski and Cristiano Ronaldo next Wednesday.

3. Don’t give up on Dusan. Has Dusan Vlahovic been terrible this season? Yes. Does Patrick Cutrone deserve more minutes? Yes. However, I’m impressed with what I saw from the young Serbian today. Pre-Prandelli, Vlahovic was much quicker to be frustrated and play himself out of the game with a lack of effort. The last few weeks the effort has been there, just everything else hasn’t. Today was the first time this season where the ability of Vlahovic started to show, and it was much-needed for us fans and for the result. After scoring his penalty, Vlahovic’s instinct was to run to the corner and celebrate. After a half-second, he instead ran into the net, grabbed the ball, and jogged back nonchalantly. Even just a month ago Dusan would not have done that, and it’s impressive to see such quick growth in the mental side of his game. Also, with Patrick Cutrone likely gone in a month, I’m not against giving Vlahovic an unjust amount of game time for the time being. Barring a catastrophe, this team will not be relegated. So, allowing a player who has as much potential as anyone in Serie A to develop is alright with me as long as his mentality is professional. Vlahovic is turning the corner in that regard, so hopefully, his production starts to change as well.