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

There’s no shame in losing to the league’s best team, but the how and why of that loss bear a slightly closer look.

ACF Fiorentina v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Lisa Guglielmi/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski—8: Saved a penalty. Saved the rebound. Conceded when his teammates utterly soiled the sheets and didn’t follow up. Sent up the river for the second one as well. Didn’t make any particularly amazing saves (relatively speaking; he’s still one of Serie A’s best shot stoppers), but his distribution was superb. The highlight was a dribble past Lorenzo Insigne and a 60-yard laser to Nico González that cut out the entire Napoli defense, but he kept things really neat at the back. Shame he didn’t get a win in his best performance of the year.

Álvaro Odriozola—6.5: Had a few shaky moments against Insigne, but that’s hardly a reason for concern. Mostly stayed solid at the back and tirelessly surged forward in attack, often providing the width down the right with the immobile Callejón wandering around infield. Needs to add a more dangerous final ball to take the next step.

Nikola Milenković—5.5: Didn’t lose many 1-v-1s and didn’t make any huge mistakes. But he left LMQ on an island against Victor Osimhen several times in the first half, and only his colleague’s fantastic play kept that problem from being a lot worse. Could’ve scored the equalizer, too, but somehow didn’t manage to bundle the ball over the line.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—6.5: Thrilled that the world’s goal-thirstiest defender got on the scoresheet, especially with such a gorgeous finish. Did a really good job against Osimhen until that one thing, but he was also isolated against one of the quickest and best strikers in Italy, so it feels a bit like a systemic failure more than a personal one to me, especially after he stonewalled the Nigerian several times in similar situations before the penalty.

Cristiano Biraghi—4: Not a good showing for the captain. Didn’t add much in open play and disappointed with his set pieces aside from the one that led to the goal. Never really threatened by Chucky Lozano or Matteo Politano, who both focused on sitting deep and protecting Giovanni Di Lorenzo rather than motoring forward, but let Politano beat him too easily a couple of times. Completely asleep on the penalty to let Lozano score. Clearly exhausted late on as his touch completely deserted him.

Giacomo Bonaventura—5: Was very good early on, running the attack and getting involved in everything going forward and backwards. After some typically shameful theatrics from Mário Rui got him booked for nothing, seemed a lot more hesitant and drifted out of proceedings as he looked to scared to press very hard and didn’t really seek out the ball.

Erick Pulgar—5: Had a couple of clunky moments in possession and didn’t do very much with the time he was afforded on the ball. Whiffed on a couple of set pieces, but was also curiously ditched from corners in favor of Callejón, who did nothing with them. Had little to do defensively as Napoli sat deep and barely tried to play through Fiorentina’s midfield.

Alfred Duncan—5: The Alfred Experience is a slightly wild ride because you never quite know what you’re going to get, even though you know the ingredients going in. Missed several passes in promising situations and nearly gave Napoli a goal with a brain fart at the back, but also bounced around the midfield and disrupted everything the Partenopei tried to build through the middle.

José Callejón—3: I genuinely don’t know what he offers at this point. In possession, constantly passes backwards and never tries to beat opponents. When he crosses, he misses everything. Too slow to provide that extra runner on counterattacks. Doesn’t protect his fullback in the slightest. He’s basically all the frustrating parts of Sottil without any of the upside at this point. Hell of a way to burn the team’s 3rd-highest salary.

Dušan Vlahović—6.5: Got the assist with a neatly cushioned header and played some really sharp passes to spring his teammates, although they borked the opportunities. Never looked like beating Kalidou Koulibaly (who’s been the best defender in Italy for half a decade, so) but never adapted either. Utterly whiffed a sitter and displayed some of the petulance that set parts of the fanbase against him early last year.

Nicolás González—6.5: Remains an absolute live wire on the ball, capable of generating something from nothing every time he gets a touch. Had some neat combinations with Vlahović and clearly had the beating of Giovanni Di Lorenzo all night (including a family-shaming nutmeg) but couldn’t quite make it count, although he should’ve had an assist on the one that Dušan cocked up. At the very least, looks like one of Serie A’s best signings of the summer. He’s that good.

Riccardo Sottil—5: Went on a couple of runs that unsettled the Partenopi defense and got Mário Rui booked. Remains incredibly dynamic carrying the ball forward but seems to freeze up when he approaches the box, slowing things down and doubting his ability until the defense can reset. Needs to be confident and decisive; once he’s built that mindset, he’s going to be unstoppable. Here’s hoping Vincenzo Italiano gives him a long enough leash to do so.

Lucas Torreira—6.5: Looks like the world’s most irritating guy to play against. Spiky, confrontational, and has the ability to back it up. Won fouls, defended well, broke up play, and knocked the ball around tidily while trying to control tempo. The set pieces are, hm, a work in progress, but he’s clearly got everything you want in a regista.

Marco Benassi—4: Invisible in his 13 minutes when he needed to Benassi himself a goal out of nothing.

Youssef Maleh—5: Buzzed around and showed the desire to make things happen, mostly by running like a maniac without the ball. He’s going to score a banger from distance very soon and it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Aleksandr Kokorin—3.5: He did a useful thing! He played a nice little flick to Sottil to start a break! Of course, this being Kokorin, his first touch was a 3-yard pass straight into touch, and he never looked even remotely like troubling David Ospina’s net. Hell of a way to burn the team’s 4th-highest salary.

Three things we learned

1. Bart’s gonna be just fine, thanks. There were some quiet calls for Pietro Terracciano to supplant Drągowski after a couple of good showings earlier this year. With all respect to the World’s Funnest Dad, who is one of Italy’s best backup goalkeepers, Bart reminded us why he’s just a cut above. The double save off the penalty and the followup were incredible feats of athleticism and will. Just as important, he was fantastic on the ball. That dribble and pass to Nico from halfway to midfield was a highlight in and of itself that would’ve made David Pizarro proud, but the Polish custodian was never phased by Napoli’s high pressure on him and consistently got the ball out to a teammate in space. It’s a nice reminder that a world-class athlete can probably learn a new skill very, very quickly. Also, the new haircut looks really handsome.

2. The big ideas are there but the details sure aren’t. Maybe this is because Italiano’s had very little time with his actual XI, given how many starters were on international duty this summer, but Fiorentina haven’t put it together yet. The will to dominate both with and without the ball is apparent and sometimes impressive, but the little things have clicked yet. The players obviously understand the tactical brief—move the ball quickly to unsettle the opponent and press relentlessly without it—but some of the finer points clearly haven’t worked their way through. Set pieces are the obvious culprit, as defending them was how the Viola lost this one and wasting them on the other end (aside from the goal) hamstrung their ability to equalize, but leaving LMQ isolated against Osimhen is part of it, as is the inability to finish really good chances. If Vinnie Eye-talian can fix those things (and given the steps he’s made already, smart money is that he will), he’s going to have one hell of a season.

3. This is actually okay. Fiorentina have played 3 of the 4 top teams in Serie A and have lost to all of them. They’ve also beaten Atalanta in Bergamo and easily dispatched the other teams below them in the table. While competitive losses against top-tier opposition can change expectations, let’s focus on the fact that this group is beating the teams its supposed to and hanging with its supposed betters. Considering the body of work over the past couple seasons, that’s approaching a miracle. It’s a long season and the Viola are bound to drop points to worse teams at some point, but beating who they’re supposed to beat and scrapping enough to take points off better sides is going to put them in contention for Europe. If that doesn’t excite you, you need to look at recent history and your own expectations and do some serious thinking about both.