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

Spoiler alert: there are very few high grades here.

Venezia FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6.5: Didn’t have too much to do, making just one save that wasn’t all that tough. Showed good composure in possession although his passing under pressure always puts my heart in my mouth. Was also very quick off his line to sweep up. Mistake-free and not at fault for the goal, so not a bad day for the World’s Funnest Dad.

Álvaro Odriozola—5: Looked like Fiorentina’s best player going forward in the first half, combining neatly with Bonaventura and Callejón. Struggled to contain Dennis Johnsen and Mattia Aramu, though, and showed all the defensive frailty we expect; looked like the guy who kept Thomas Henry onside for the goal.

Nikola Milenković—5.5: Hit a couple of towering cross-field passes to Sottil in the first half to create Fiorentina’s best chances but also had a couple of whiffs on simpler balls. Mostly shut down Henry and company but seemed to lose his cool as the game wore on and became a bit more ragged towards the end.

Igor—5: Had a hiccup or two on the ball but was mostly really good in possession. Defended well in 1-v-1 situations, highlighted by absolutely destroying David Okereke late on, but his positioning remains a little bit of a concern, especially in terms of holding the offside line.

Cristiano Biraghi—5: Combined well with Sottil early on but didn’t create much himself, although he did provide a sporadic back-post presence on crosses. Wasn’t especially sturdy defensively and got caught too high up several times. Didn’t do a whole lot with his set pieces.

Giacomo Bonaventura—4.5: Produced the best chance to score via a deflected shot that almost looped in. Had a couple of clever touches early on but also seemed a little slow getting the ball out and faded really badly after halftime, becoming as invisible as any midfielder we’ve seen in Florence over the past few years.

Sofyan Amrabat—4.5: Didn’t deserve his card and was forced to be less assertive after receiving it. Hit a couple of decent long passes but was mostly rather stodgy and didn’t keep the ball ticking over very well. Wasn’t that busy defensively because Venezia rarely played through the middle. Still not entirely convincing as a regista.

Alfred Duncan—4.5: We know that he has an off-day every couple of months and this was it. Scarcely involved in possession and unable to disrupt the Arancioneroverdi. Did squeeze off a decent shot from distance but that was about it.

José Callejón—3: Some players look threatening every time they touch the ball even if they never actually do anything with it (hi, Sottil). Callejón, on the other hand, never looks threatening. Constantly walking backwards to pick up possession only to recycle it to the defense; played 2 of 28 passes forward into the attacking third, didn’t attempt a dribble, carried the ball forward for a total of 3 (!) yards, and looked totally disinterested. Useless.

Dušan Vlahović—4: Not quite as bad as some people have accused him of being but still pretty bad. Didn’t seem to offer himself as a forward passing option although some of that was how bad the service was; he only had 22 touches. Didn’t get any of his 3 shots on frame and didn’t work too hard to win high balls. In fairness, pressed very hard ad didn’t totally phone it in. If this is the new normal, though, we’ve got some problems.

Riccardo Sottil—3: To be perfectly clear, he didn’t deserve the red card. Both yellows were soft and the second one came after Massimi ignored a glaringly obvious foul on him. Still, he needs to keep his head. Other than that, he was sporadically threatening, creating the best chances for the team in the first half and squandering a couple in the second. Constantly hacked by Tyronne Ebuehi (drew 5 fouls and it should’ve been double that). This is part of the growth process, so let’s just hope it pays off.

Marco Benassi—3: Injured Johnsen within 2 minutes of coming on, earned himself a yellow card after 15 minutes, and didn’t really do anything else. Full credit to him for trying to reinvent himself as a fullback, but it’s pretty clear that he’s exclusively an emergency option there.

Lucas Torreira—6: Demonstrated his usual spikiness and helped control the tempo. Hit some good passes, fired a free kick just wide, and nearly scored with a header off a corner, which would’ve been hysterically funny. Starting to look like the best option in the holding role.

Nicolás González—4.5: It felt like maybe he’d change the game, but he sure didn’t. In fairness, he only had 20 minutes with 11 players on the field, but he wasted a couple of good opportunities on the break and didn’t seem to settle all the way in.

Youssef Maleh—4: His most notable contribution was drawing a good cheer from the home support when he took the pitch.

Erick Pulgar—4.5: Kept the ball ticking over and somehow kept Okereke from scoring into an empty net after Terracciano went up late for a corner.

Three things we learned

1. The summer mercato didn’t fix everything. I don’t want to be too harsh on Daniele Pradè here because he had a lot of work to do in repairing this broken team (even though he helped break it). But this team clearly needs another striker, another winger, another fullback or two, and maybe another attack-minded midfielder. When you need a late goal and your best option is to bring on Pulgar, your team is in a bad place. There’s only so much a manager can do about that.

2. Possession≠chances. Where Fiorentina can get better is in creating chances. Vincenzo Italiano’s commitment to keeping the ball is admirable, but that possession needs to result in chances. Fiorentina put 3 shots on target, and that’s including Jack’s deflection. He needs to empower these players to take risks in the final third rather than recycle the ball and hope to create a better opportunity. I don’t know if that means more crosses—with Vlahović and González in the box, there are decent targets—or a greater emphasis on getting the midfielders running ahead of the attackers, but things look mightily stale right now. A quick tempo is great but means nothing if it’s not a tool to forge opportunities to score.

3. Disappointment is always around the corner. Going into this game, Fiorentina had beaten the teams they were supposed to and hung tough against the ones they were supposed to lose to. That’s about what you’d expect from any team, but that’s also not how the game works because it’s an inherently chaotic, high-variance endeavor. There are always going to be outlier results, especially for a team like this version of the Viola that plays a high-risk, high-reward style. Even for a BeppeBall team, though, you can’t remove all the variables that make the game fun to watch. What you can do is bounce back. In less abstract terms, a flat performance coming out of the international break isn’t necessarily a big problem. If this malaise persists next week against Cagliari, then we can agree that something’s going very wrong.