Pietro Terracciano—6.5: Didn’t make a save and wasn’t all that busy. Quick as ever off his line to sweep up behind the defense. Had a nervy moment when he gambled a bit, but it came off. Highlight was him goofing around in the tunnel during halftime.
Lorenzo Venuti—5.5: Had a couple of defensive miscues early on but was mostly pretty sturdy on the back foot. Picked up the card with a tactical foul to stop a break that he didn’t actually stop. Was adequate going forward and tidy with his passing but not especially incisive.
Nikola Milenković—7: Absolutely dominant. Shut down M’bala Nzola and never let him get a sniff. Won everything in the air and on the ground. Had one bad pass but that was his only mistake. Heard some chatter that he pulled Emmanuel Gyasi’s shirt on the penalty incident, but c’mon. That’s par for the course on corners.
Lucas Martínez Quarta—7: Controlled demolition. Picked up a very soft yellow but otherwise played mistake-free. Seems much less frantic over the past few weeks and has shown much greater awareness and positional discipline while still using his enthusiasm and athleticism to his advantage. Always cool to see a guy improve right in front of you.
Cristiano Biraghi—6.5: Not troubled much defensively as Spezia offered nothing on the ball. Played a bit deeper than normal to allow Castrovilli more room to go forward. Hit a couple of good crosses to go with a few more bad ones. Set pieces could use a bit of work but there’s not that much to complain about today.
Giacomo Bonaventura—6: Won a number of fouls with his experience and occasionally troubled the defense, but was too often indecisive. Did set up one goal and showed some intelligent off-ball movement, though, so let’s call it even.
Lucas Torreira—7: Ran the show from deep. Kept the ball ticking over and hit a few excellent passes out to the wings and through the lines. Popped up in outrageously advanced positions a couple of times and even had a chance to score but whiffed badly. Hoovered up every loose ball in midfield and didn’t let anyone by him. Brings a spikiness and a swagger that this midfield hasn’t had in years.
Gaetano Castrovilli—6.5: Still clearly playing himself back to fitness but seems to be well on his way. Knifed through Spezia’s defense a few times and created a few chances, including one fantastic 1-2 with Vlahović that would’ve created a brilliant goal if Ivan Provedel hadn’t made a brilliant intervention. Still needs to improve his shooting.
Riccardo Sottil—4.5: Won fouls and carried the ball forward down the right well, but his decision making remains a mess. Vlahović is clearly at the end of his rope with him and you can’t blame him. If Ricky’s head ever catches up to his feet, he’ll be unstoppable. Until it does, though, he’ll never be a starting-caliber player.
Dušan Vlahović—9: His second professional hat trick was quite nice and showcased what he’s all about. Steely composure for the penalty, clever movement in the box, and a unique blend of strength and technique in his holdup play. Still a bit petulant at times but this was the sort of performance that shows how much he’s grown, as his runs to find space to score were how top strikers shake loose in the area. Also showing an unexpected ability to bring his teammates into play, as evidenced by his backheel nutmeg to put Odriozola through. Added another €10 million onto Rocco’s asking price.
Riccardo Saponara—7.5: A little too peripheral to the action in the first half (like the rest of the team) but magnificent after the break, when he started roaming all over the place instead of sticking to the left wing. His saucy backheel (in an inside right position) set up the second and should be one of the season highlights. Simply too good on the ball for Spezia to cope with, although he needed to be more assertive against his old club for the first 45 minutes.
Álvaro Odriozola—7: Reshaped the game upon entering, assisting Vlahović with his first involvement (a lovely give-and-go with Saponara) and nearly opening his own account off a feed from Dušan minutes later. Brilliant when he doesn’t really need to defend and can focus on timing his runs into spaces. Even managed to coax Callejón into a sprint at one point, which was hilarious.
José Callejón—5.5: Grabbed just his second assist for Fiorentina with a neat cutback and didn’t do anything awful. Maybe he can offer something for the final quarter hour of games, but this was probably more about the quality of the opponent than anything else. Still, good on him.
Youssef Maleh—5: Busy as ever and pressed fantastically, but was more sound and fury than anything else with the ball. Missed a header he really should have scored and picked up a rather soft yellow card. Developing nicely.
Sofyan Amrabat—5: Kept the ball moving around and didn’t make any mistakes in his 15 minutes. Also dressed up as Saponara for Halloween, which was cute.
Igor—5: Replaced LMQ, who was on a card, and looked very solid shifting the ball around and bodying anyone who ventured near him.
Three things we learned
1. Even without Nico, Fiorentina can beat the bottom feeders. Let’s be clear: Fiorentina won’t trouble top tier sides without the uniquely dynamic Nicolás González and will likely struggle to break down mid-table teams in his absence as well. Against the relegation candidates, though, there’s enough going forward that Vincenzo Italiano can feel confident of getting results. Vlahović is just too good for trapdoor teams, while Saponara, Castrovilli, Bonaventura, and Odriozola are all potent enough weapons to complement him, and the passing system the mister’s installed will usually pull opponents out of shape.. While we can’t expect such positive results against European contenders (and we’ll get to see some over the next couple of weeks) without Nico, the club isn’t wholly reliant on him to stay afloat, and that’s very good news.
2. Italiano can get his in-game adjustments spot on. One of my criticisms of Italiano is that he prepares his match plans brilliantly but fails to adapt them to the circumstances that arrive in games. I think that’s a big part of why Fiorentina tend to start so well, especially against bigger sides, before completely tailing off. He’s a young coach and still figuring this all out, so it’s not a huge concern, but he showed that he can move things around as necessary. After a somewhat flat first half, he basically handed Saponara a free role, allowing him to float all over the pitch, and stationed Castrovilli higher and wider on the left to make up for the Cheese’s absence. Saponara responded by creating the second goal from the right wing, where he’d have never been in the first half. Again, it was against an injury-ravaged Spezia, but that’s the sort of progress you like to see a coach making.
3. Vlahović still cares. Whomever you blame for the excruciatingly awkward cloud surrounding Dušan Vlahović’s future (and there’s more than enough blame for everyone involved to have second helpings), you have to admire the player for his focus. It’d be very easy for him to switch off. It might even help him get out of Florence. Instead, he’s laser-focused on his game and producing good performances. He’s not being selfish, he’s working off the ball like a maniac, and he’s clearly got his coaches and teammates behind him, even if some of the supporters are nonplussed by him. That’s an incredible amount of mental fortitude from a guy who’s only 21; whoever ends up signing him is getting a fantastic professional.