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Lazio 2-1 Fiorentina: Player grades and 3 things we learned

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Have you heard of a tale of two tapes? Yea, this is that.

SS Lazio v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski—6: Boy did I panic today. No, it wasn’t when we went down a goal or even after the second was scored. It was the moment Bart fell awkwardly while punching away a ball and stayed down clutching his shoulder in pain. Widely regarded as our MVP, he is one player we can’t see get hurt. What else can be said? Bart had a pretty Bart-like game. He had some amazing stops and acrobatic saves. The first goal, registered by mercato-target Caicedo was one that Bart had no play on. The second was one that only confusion can explain. Someone should have made a play on the corner that came in, I just can’t clearly state that it was Bart’s to make. That lack of play on the second goal though did bump Bart down a slight peg. Either way, all that matters is our MVP seems to have left the game somewhat intact. Big sigh of relief!

Igor—6.5: I really like how this guy is rounding out. Take for example the sequence of play when Igor decided to dribble the ball out of our zone and up to midfield. I don’t know what I enjoyed more - the dribbling display around a couple Lazio players or watching another couple bounce off of him at the same time. At one point in the second half Igor was seen being the leader of the backline, being very vocal and demonstrative as to where players need to play and line up. Note to Prade - BUY IGOR!

Germán Pezzella—5.5: I can be tough on Pezzella at times. I think at times against Lazio he lost his mark. The one that stands out would be the Caicedo goal. Pezzella got caught watching the ball getting crossed over his head and then got turned around as the header sent the ball right in his direction. Caicedo sprung and slotted the ball home. As mentioned above, Igor seemed to take on more of a leadership role as the game went on.

LMQ—6: I thought LMQ started out with some noticeable jitters. He clearly needed to get his legs under him and the nerves out. As the game progressed though, I saw a real Serie A player. He closed well and at times where it was necessary, recovered well. He is clearly a well put together young man. He may not beat Igor for Mr. Olympia, but he looks like a guy who is not afraid of the gym. With more time in the squad we would look to LMQ to be a big part of the future of Fiorentina’s defense.

Cristiano Biraghi—5.5: Biggest knock is the buildup to the Caicedo goal. I don’t completely fault him, but had he anticipated just a hair better, that header would have never put Caicedo in on goal. Biraghi was pretty active overall with some good and not so good crosses. The debate on whether Fiorentina’s game plan should include constant crosses is for another article.

Jack Bonaventura—5: I honestly never thought when we signed Jack this summer that the best part of his game would be his defense and pressure on the ball. He plays hard, that is not in doubt, but he is a big reason as to why our midfield is our Achilles heel. Too many errant passes, missed opportunities and lack of continuity with other players. But defensively he played decently.

Sofyan Amrabat—5.5: One poster pointed out today that Amrabat often times requires multiple touches in order to control the ball. I watched and they weren’t necessarily wrong. I still see promise from Amrabat. Yes, we can point to the fact that he is played out of position. Yes we can point to the fact that he gets no support in midfield. Yes, we can talk about how high is work rate is on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. In order to really judge Amrabat in the future though, Fiorentina needs to purchase a few competent midfielders to play alongside him.

Gaetano Castrovilli—5: I will sound like a broken record. Playing Castrovilli and Ribery together is either pure football genius or an outright disaster. Far too often it has been an outright disaster. Both players kill the movement of the ball once they get it by singing the chorus of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” in their heads before they pass it again. Both players dribble their way up the pitch and often times into multiple defenders. Castro’s issue with this is that he is needed back in the midfield and often plays the rest of his teammates out of position. Systematically, it is a problem. When Ribery came off and Kouame came on to stretch the field with Dusan, his game did pick up a bit. Can we play him behind Dusan and Ribery more? I didn’t have an issue with his attempt at an acrobatic backheeled goal. Do what you can boy!

Lorenzo Venuti—5.5: I thought Venuti played a very Venuti type game. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was competent. Lorenzo seems to keep growing with every opportunity he gets on the pitch. He may not have the highest ceiling of some of the players who have come through Fiorentina’s Primavera, but he is and will be a very important part of the future. Let’s make sure he gets more, consistent minutes.

SS Lazio v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Dušan Vlahović—5.5 first 70 minutes, 7 the last 25 minutes: He had some flashes in the first 70 minutes, but clearly Dusan struggles when he is played up top, by himself, without support or service. He still has issues dribbling one on one, two or three, but he can also dribble past defenders when in an open field and blast a shot off and on target. The best part of what i saw from him early on was his willingness to let his skills show and not overdo it. He controlled the ball, quickly passed it and then moved to an open spot. He struggled doing this mightily earlier on this year. Once Kouame came on the game opened up for him though. He was reinvigorated and created opportunities, one which led to a penalty. Boy was that a beautiful penalty kick! No one was saving that one. Dusan still is a work in progress, but fans should be very happy to see that progress he has made each of the past 5 games.

Franck Ribery—5.5: I felt I could have given Franck a 5, but that would honestly be a rating more indicative of how he has been managed and the fact that Fiorentina allowed him to play game after game after game and then take the pitch today with an obvious and preexisting knock. Franck tries so damn hard. He wants to will Fiorentina to a win every game he is out there. The truth is though that he can’t. Not only can he not will them to a victory, his determination often times prohibits the squad from getting into any flow.

Valentin Eysseric—5: This is my first time doing this. Can I grade him on a curve? I feel bad for Valentin. He is coming on and putting forth effort, but he is slow. Very, very slow. He doesn’t lose the ball much. He is simple in what he tries to do, but he just doesn’t have the ability to impact a game against the likes of Lazio, so why bring him on for Ribery in the 38th minute? This I will address with Prandelli.

Jose Callejon—6: I have been very hard on Jose, which has been justified by his performances to date. Today though, he came on and did impact the game and it was his cross that set up Dusan’s movement that earned him the penalty. He looked quick and clinical today.

Pol Lirola—5: I didn’t get this move, but that is not on Pol. The corner that was given away that led to the goal however was. I have not much else to share.

Christian Kouame—6: I honestly cannot point to any one thing that Christian did but he sure did change the game. Christian brought a ton of energy once he came in. He was seen pressing the ball, chasing loose balls down. He stretched the pitch and opened up spaces that were closed down all game before. He showed what many had speculated for some time - a partnership up top with he and Dusan needs to be explored. Moving forward he is the type of player to push Dusan into better positions as well as one that provides Dusan with front of goal support whereas up until now he has had none.

Three things we learned

1. Who plays next to Vlahovic has to be the biggest question known to Fiorentina fans. Fiorentina is obviously at a crossroads. Franck Ribery is an absolute legend of the game and he has done tremendous things for the club since his arrival. That said, when Kouame came in to play alongside Dusan the field opened up. There was much more continuity of play within the squad and the energy noticeably jumped up. So what should Fiorentina do? A potential knock to Ribery could force its hand, so could a suspension for Castrovilli. This is assuming Eysseric isn’t chosen to be our savior again (womp womp womp). Fiorentina should line up with Dusan and Kouame up top, working off of each other’s strengths with Ribery (or like) playing behind. Do not sell Kouame until we have finally seen him in his natural position; second striker.

2. Our midfield continues to hinder any semblance of an attack game. What we originally thought was our brightest spot, some within the Serie A ranks even declaring Fiorentina’s midfield among the top two in the league, is actually our weakest group. Worst yet, we have no clear solution right now. What do we know? Amrabat was bought with big expectations and while he has gotten much better, he has not reached the levels he had last year. Early season goals aside, Castrovilli has taken a big step back this year. Borja is still my favorite player and a legend if Firenze, but he is older. Jack was Jack but is no longer Jack. Pulgar messed up many chances to secure the starting spot and is now a foot out the door. Duncan is really, really good at social distancing during a quarantine.

Fiorentina needs to look really hard at who stays, who goes and who comes in. I believe Castrovilli should be evaluated as more of an attacking midfielder moving forward. He is not a central midfielder and hasn’t been for some time. Today seemed like a perfect day to see Duncan back in the lineup but that didn’t happen. Amrabat needs help. Fiorentina need 2 midfielders likely. Pulgar moving can free up cash to reinvest. There are a lot of question marks in this group though. A lot of question marks.

3. Prandelli is the one who needs to figure out how to define this team under his tutelage. If i was going to grade Prandelli today I would give him a 5, which is not good. Cesare has a big space in my heart. He was the one who created the beautiful football that I saw when I first started watching this club. He has half a squad to work with despite having 26 or so players. He was brought in during a very negative time for Fiorentina. He has done a lot of good since he took over, but today he made mistakes.

Why bring on Eysseric for Ribery with 52 plus minutes left in the game? Why not bring on Kouame and get 52 plus minutes paired alongside Dusan up top? Eysseric is a Coppa player at best, not someone you bring on in the 38th minute against Lazio when you are down a goal. Why take off Igor for Lirola? Igor was arguably the best defender on the pitch the entire game. He was also the most vocal leader out there trying to organize a response. Why leave Duncan on the bench after telling us yesterday he was ready to come back when the midfield has killed your progress game after game since you got here?

Prandelli has a chance to make this team a success, but it has to be done in his likeness and through his vision. Rocco has to make a clear declaration that this team is being built through Prandelli’s recommendation. Prandelli cannot be fearful of who he should play or what style to play in. He needs to do what he sees is right. That said, he stated earlier that Kouame hasn’t had the best practice sessions, but hopefully he sees his in-game production and keeps him on the pitch against Cagliari.