Bartłomiej Drągowski: 5—The goal was definitely more on some atrocious back post marking than on him, but he could’ve maybe done a bit more. Had a couple of rather awkward moments on crosses as well. Didn’t have to make any particularly difficult saves. Still a very good goalkeeper.
Nikola Milenković: 6.5—Did a nice job of keeping the enormous Simy quiet (the goal wasn’t on his watch) and offered a constant threat to go forwards and disrupt Crotone’s defensive organization as well; popped up in the box in open play a couple of times and dribbled from near the edge of his own area to the edge of the Calabarians’ on another occasion. While those jaunts forward are always a bit nerve-wracking, he made them work well.
Germán Pezzella: 6—Another quiet and competent performance from the captain. Didn’t have too much to do but did make a couple of great stops in space, which he’s been doing regularly of late. Did let the defense get disorganized for a stretch in the second half, so I’m docking him half a point, but was pretty much mistake-free on a personal level.
Igor: 5—Had a lot of trouble bottling up the very impressive Junior Messias, who got him booked (albeit rather softly) in the 4th minute and jittered past him on numerous occasions. Messias is going to a bigger club soon because he’s really, really good, so that’s no great shame. Igor did hit a couple of those lovely, defense-splitting passes into the forwards, though, which are becoming his trademark and that we shouldn’t ever stop appreciating.
Martín Cáceres: 5—Charged up and down admirably and put in a heck of a shift. His charge into the box created Bonaventura’s goal, but he doesn’t really have the attributes to threaten much going forward besides those barreling runs into the back post. Was a bit iffy defensively and got bodied by the enormous Simy for the goal, although Jack did hang him out to dry a bit as well. Despite his limitations, has figured out how to serve as a useful cog in this system.
Giacomo Bonaventura: 7—Holy smokes. That was the best individual hit Fiorentina fans (and maybe Serie A fans) have seen all year. That’s what Jack was brought in to do. His constant running off the ball was also very useful to open up the Crotone rearguard. That said, he did squander a couple of great chances with slightly misplaced passes, and his failure to track back left Cáceres trying to mark two men at the back post on the Squali goal. Like Martín, though, his vertical sprints are very useful to this system, especially when he can display some of his technique on the ball as well.
Sofyan Amrabat: 7—Another very strong display from the Moroccan, who’s pretty much banished the memories of his early struggles. He’s quicker on the ball and spreads play brilliantly, serving as impetus for both goals and creating a couple of other wonderful chances on the break that weren’t finished off. Flies around the middle like a bowling ball with rocket skates and wreaks absolute havoc. Just a freakish athlete and has figured out how to put that physicality to good use.
Gaetano Castrovilli: 7—Won’t get any assists but created both goals with his fantastic individual skill, zipping in from the left wing and feeding his teammates. Seemed to take less time on the ball than he has in recent weeks and focused more on moving it quickly. As usual, got through a surprising amount of defensive work as well. Did squander a couple of chances on the break to put the game to bed and got beaten by Ricardo Pereira, who assisted Simy’s goal, but let’s not focus on the small negatives when Tanino seems to be getting back to his irrepressible best.
Cristiano Biraghi: 5—Struggled a bit to contain the combination of Messias and Pereira. Maybe could’ve backed Castrovilli up on the goal. Wasted some very promising set pieces and didn’t influence the game up the pitch too much, although Ribery’s remonstrations with him were probably overblown, as the Italian did get up and down the line effectively to stretch the opposition.
Dušan Vlahović: 6.5—Scored the sort of striker’s tap-in goal that we’ve all been hoping to see from him and held the ball up nicely for his teammates. Nearly scored a sharp header as well but Alex Cordaz made a fingertip save. Did have a couple of pretty embarrassing moments in which he completely tripped himself up in the box, although that’s probably more on the soaked pitch than on him. Continues to grow and has surpassed his league haul already with 7 goals, including 6 in his last 8.
Franck Ribery: 5.5—The assist was quite clever and shows that he’s got the class to impact a game at any given moment, and Dušan’s deference to him while celebrating the goal demonstrated the emotional importance that the French veteran has to this squad. That said, he was pretty ineffective outside that one moment; he led the team in losing possession, didn’t complete a dribble, and looked very petulant while screaming at Castrovilli and Biraghi.
Lucas Martínez Quarta: 5—Brought on to prevent any funny business with Igor on a yellow and was mostly fine in defense. Did have one late, shining moment in which he nipped in, won the ball, and strode all the way to the edge of the Crotone box in a 4-v-3 break before completely whiffing on the final ball, which was a gut punch.
Christian Kouamé: 5.5—Showed his usual dynamism in the channels and created two excellent chances. Used his pace to work the channels against a tired defense and showed some intelligent movement. Didn’t get any shooting chances but was quite threatening.The dream of seeing him get an extended run up front with Vlahović remains just that.
Erick Pulgar: n/a—Only got 4 minutes but did nearly scored an absolute cracker from a Kouamé cutback, which would’ve been very cool.
Borja Valero: n/a—Came on with Pulgar and set up his shot with a classic backheel through a defender’s legs that put Kouamé in space.
Three things we learned
1. This team has to be more clinical. After going up 2-0 in the first half, pretty much every Viola fan expected the team to concede at some point, so it’s no huge surprise that they did so, especially against a Crotone side that’s outscored Fiorentina this year. However, the hosts had at least half a dozen chances to put the game to bed, but instead treated us to a succession of lightning quick counterattacks that they couldn’t put away. Vlahović’s two slips, Castrovilli’s attempted lob, LMQ’s borked break, and Pulgar’s missile were all more unlucky than bad, but a team has to make its own luck at some point. Very few opponents will be as hapless as the Squali, who are on pace to concede more goals per match than any defense in Serie A history, so far as I can tell. That they held Fiorentina to just 2 (under their average) despite offering so many superb opportunities remains a cause for concern, as better clubs won’t afford the good guys so many chances.
2. Tanino may be getting back. While he did take a bit more of a back seat in the second half, Castrovilli looked genuinely world-class for the first 45 minutes. His ball-carrying ability was on full display as he twinkled past various lead-footed defenders. More importantly, he used possession a lot better than he has for much of the season. Instead of trying to jet past multiple defenders, he recycled things when he ran into corners, saving his bursts forward for when he had a single man to beat and then releasing the ball as soon as the defense deformed to confront him. He was a bit greedier in the second half (trying to chip Cordaz on the break while he had support with him was criminal) as the Viola focused more on counterattacking rather than proactively going at a beleaguered defense, but that’s probably what he brings. Perhaps a higher, wider position agrees with him, as that forces him to run towards goal more often; when stationed in a central position, his tendency to drift wide removes another goal threat.
3. They still can’t close down a game. Fiorentina have allowed 8 goals in the 75th minute or later this season. That’s more than a quarter of all the goals they’ve conceded in a sixth of the minutes. The proportion is obviously off. That’s just about on par with last year, when they conceded 15 of 48 (27%) goals in that final quarter hour. They’ve also scored 5 goals in the first 15 minutes thus far. That’s a quarter of their season total. While some (and possibly much) of that is likely noisy, it does paint a picture of a team that comes out focused and effective but can’t maintain that mindset for the full 90 minutes. It’s a problem that’s spanned three manager now and shows no signs of abatement. Under Stefano Pioli, you could argue that it was because the Viola had the youngest squad in Italy. Now, though, the XI’s packed with veterans and the same inability to close out a game remains. It’s hard to right a lot about mindset when you’re not in training with the group every day, but something seems off. Fixing that has to be at or near the top of Prandelli’s (or the next boss’) list.