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

This time, the defense was pretty good while the attack stalled out. Sooner or later, they’re bound to put a complete performance together, right?

SS Lazio v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
George Michael, is that you?
Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6: Only faced two shots. The first was routine and the second was the goal, which he couldn’t have stopped. Did make a great save on Raul Moro that was called back for offside. Solid enough in possession.

Lorenzo Venuti—5.5: Had a couple of hiccups defensively, including one that left Milenković defending Ciro Immobile in acres of space, but mostly kept Pedro quiet. Got forward well enough to support Callejón but didn’t produce much end product; a lot of that is more on the winger, though, as Lollo’s overlapping mostly just put him into dead ends without anyone playing off him.

Nikola Milenković—7: Beaten once by Immobile on the break and looked a bit at sea on the goal, but otherwise bottled up the current capocannoniere and didn’t give him a sniff. Used his size and strength to envelop everything that came near him and swept up behind his colleagues brilliantly.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—7: Really good filling in behind Biraghi. Made a couple of tackles which were almost hilariously dismissive, like he wasn’t even trying that hard and wanted everyone to know it. Solid positionally and didn’t let his goal thirst pull him too far forward.

Cristiano Biraghi—6: Held up surprisingly well against Felipe Anderson and got forward well a couple of times. Didn’t really impact the game as much going forward but overlapped tirelessly. Clearly under instructions not to cross as much and it does rather handicap his utility in the final third.

Alfred Duncan—6.5: Disrupted Lazio’s rhythm and got through a lot of running. Clearly realized that the team needed someone supporting Vlahović and made a few surging runs beyond the defense to open space that nobody else really utilized. Also faced the requisite racist abuse from the home fans during the warmup, so his ability to focus on his job is even more impressive.

Lucas Torreira—6: Kept the ball moving effectively and sometimes controlled the tempo. Screened the defense decently well but still left a bit of space. Clearly targeted on long balls with Sergej Milinković-Savić to great effect for Lazio. Needs to start finding those line-breaking passes to start quick attacks.

Gaetano Castrovilli—4.5: Mostly invisible except for the softest yellow you’ll ever see. Had one or two moments in which he flickered away from defenders but didn’t do nearly enough. In fairness, he’s probably just playing his way back to fitness and should be just fine.

José Callejón—3.5: Fired in a couple of nice crosses, but that was his entire contribution. Never passed or dribbled forward and lost the ball very easily. It’s becoming increasingly clear that he just can’t run and that makes him a tremendous liability both with and without the ball.

Dušan Vlahović—5.5: As usual, was mostly starved of service, but his habit of cutting off runs and throwing up his hands when he could just keep moving and maybe get a chance at goal is very frustrating. Showed his quality a few times, including one ridiculous run between three defenders, but needs to either do more in possession or work harder to find space in the box.

Riccardo Sottil—5: Won 3 free kicks and was the only player who looked capable of going past his man, so it’s not like he was useless. Played in a couple of dangerous balls in the first half but until he figures out how to turn his dynamism into production, he’s more a hypothetical threat than an actual one.

Giacomo Bonaventura—4.5: Never seemed to get all that involved and spent a lot of time picking up the ball deep rather than trying to get forward and support the attack. Never got into a rhythm and didn’t influence proceedings.

Álvaro Odriozola—5: Zipped up and down energetically but didn’t produce anything resembling an end product; the best he could manage was have a cross or two blocked out for a corner.

Riccardo Saponara—5: Played some clever-ish passes and whipped out an extravagant backheel but never looked like unlocking things. Still would’ve been better than Callejón.

Marco Benassi—n/a: Played 8 minutes, made 3 touches, and committed a foul. The real issue is that, when desperate for a goal, Vincenzo Italiano’s best option is Marco f***ing Benassi.

Aleksa Terzić—n/a: Lucky he didn’t play longer because he looked shaky. Wasted a corner, missed a couple of passes, and got skinned by Anderson.

Three things we learned

1. This team is too reliant on Nico González. Vlahović, Milenković, and Bartłomiej Drągowski can all make the case for being Fiorentina’s best player, but it’s increasingly obvious that González is, at the very least, the most important guy in the squad. Nobody else can consistently create their own shot, consistently beat their defender, and consistently play dangerous passes. His combination of technique, speed, and movement is a unique skillset in the squad. When he isn’t around to add that X-factor, the attack bogs down really badly. I don’t know how to fix that, but getting the midfielders running into the box more or crossing more frequently could help.

2. There’s no extra gear. Fiorentina’s approach after going behind looked exactly like their approach when it was scoreless. They kept the ball as best they could, knocked it down the wings and then back around to the top of the box, and recycled it when nothing opened up to try it again. The lack of impact options on the bench is partly responsible, of course, but Italiano needs to figure out how to get these guys to do something different so that opponents don’t figure them out at around the midpoint of every game. His preparation for each game has been tremendous but it feels like he’s still learning how to make in-game adjustments.

3. This is an average team. I’m not saying this as a negative. We’ve had years of Fiorentina as a sub-average team, so average is a big step forward. But losing to every team higher up in the table (except Atalanta) and beating every team lower (except Venezia) paints a picture of a side that can’t really rise to big occasions or sink to lower ones. That’s fine. We all knew that getting the Viola back to a fun and good team was going to be a multi-year project, and this is a perfectly fine start to the project even if it’s not the sort of instantaneous success that occurs for one team in Europe every year and makes everyone else wonder why it’s not happening for their team. Steady progress is positive and worthwhile even when it’s boring and frustrating.