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Fiorentina 2-3 AC Milan: Player grades and 3 things we learned

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The Viola probably didn’t deserve a loss here but that’s life for a mediocre provincial side.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-FIORENTINA-AC MILAN
Me too, Bart. Me too.
Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski—6: Barely involved. Nothing he could have done on Zlatan Ibrahimović’s goal or on the occasion when the AC Milan striker hit the bar. Did launch a few balls long when there were options to keep it short, which feels like a losing proposition when it’s just Dušan up front. Sounds like Bart’s ankle problem won't keep him out for more than a day or two, so he should be okay for Genoa.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—5: A bit subdued from the defender, although that may be due to his adjustment to playing at rightback. Was slow stepping up on Ibra’s goal although Pezzella seems to be drawing most of the criticism. Burst forward once or twice but never accomplished much. Didn’t seem to be on the same page as Eysseric.

Nikola Milenković—6.5: Pretty solid from the big man all around. Didn’t let Ibrahimović have anything and stepped forward nicely once or twice. Charged into the Milan box in open play at least four times, which is an interesting dynamic but does make you a bit nervous.

Germán Pezzella—5.5: Not at fault for the first goal, for which he was blatantly shoved in the back, but didn't do anything to impede Simon Kjær on the second one. Other than that, he was pretty sound. Almost scored a Puskas candidate with a spinning back heel off a corner. Matched up well with Ibrahimović otherwise.

Martín Cáceres—5: Had a few good plays (an overhead clearance after Ibrahimović stung the crossbar, a sliding challenge on Theo Hernández in the box) but had several head-scratchers as well. Missed some simple plays, made some really bad decisions on the ball to lose possession, and lost his cool a bit towards the end and probably should’ve been booked. Offers nothing going forward, which leaves whoever’s ahead of him on an island in attack.

Valentin Eysseric—6: Some good, some bad, so we’ll say he averaged out on the balance. Did his best to stick with Hernández and sometimes succeeded but did let the Frenchman loose a few times as well. Played a couple of nice passes but borked a couple more. To his credit, he covered more ground than anyone on the team and even called out the atrocious refereeing on Instagram, so that was fun.

Giacomo Bonaventura—5: Led the team in touches but didn’t really do much with them. Made a game effort to pressure Milan’s midfield but wasn’t very successful. Did a decent job screening the defense but wasn’t incisive enough with his passing; there were several times that Fiorentina broke forward and he dallied on the ball before playing it backwards. Doesn’t seem like a natural fit in a double pivot.

Erick Pulgar—7: First off, that’s on the shortlist for Viola goal of the year. Cripes. Other than that, it was a very Pulgar game. That means that he was industrious without the ball, particularly in dropping into the back line to cover for when a defender motored forward, but was always a bit of a liability in possession, highlighted by a miskick at the start of the second half that let Milan in on goal.

Gaetano Castrovilli—5: Won the free kick that Pulgar scored but was pretty quiet otherwise. Never seemed to figure out his role, especially as Ribery often drifted into his space and left him with nowhere to go. The whole team should’ve been looking to find him against Diogo Dalot, as Tanino seemed to have him on a string, but mysteriously refused. Seemed very upset when he was subbed off; hopefully he’ll figure out this new role quickly.

Franck Ribery—7.5: Scored a magnificent goal and probably should’ve won a penalty as well. Had a few clever moments in attack but also did the thing where he holds onto the ball forever and dribbles backwards to allow the opposing defense to get in shape. Speaking of defense, though, give the old man credit for tirelessly harrying the Rossoneri rearguard.

Dušan Vlahović—6.5: Showed off some composure with the assist and engaged in an enjoyable running battle with Fikayo Tomori that was probably a draw. Threw his body around and had a couple of brilliant turns past the Chelsea loanee but also lost out to him. Didn’t get any service, though; his only touches in the box were the assist and a long solo run in which he shrugged off Tomori and eventually won a corner. That’s on the rest of the team.

Pietro Terracciano—5: Little bit shaky from Fun Dad. Almost lost a corner on the back post that he had to fingertip away from Alexis Saelemaekers and let a harmless high cross from Ibrahimović crash off the post because he stopped tracking it mid-flight. In fairness, it’s always tough to come on as a goalie sub, so don’t judge him too harshly here.

Lorenzo Venuti—4.5: It happened. Our perfect Lollo had a bad game. Brought on to solidify the right side and Fiorentina conceded from there within 2 minutes. Also probably deserved a card for an off-the-ball foul on Hernández. Hopefully that’s out of his system and we can return to business as usual now.

Christian Kouamé—n/a: Got a card for a high arm on Dalot but didn’t offer much else in his 10 minutes.

José Callejón—n/a: His only involvement was to cut out a switch of play to Venuti and blast a cross off a defender 5 yards in front of him.

Three things we learned

1. We know exactly which pieces Fiorentina’s missing. Looking at the player grades and the game overall, you could tell what was working and what wasn’t. Ribery’s goal—a late-arriving run to the top of the box and a first time shot—is exactly what this team needs in a partner for Dušan Vlahović; that it was Franck’s first goal at the Franchi and just his fifth for Fiorentina says entirely too much. Cáceres offered nothing going forward when Castrovilli obviously wanted to drift inside but didn’t have a fullback overlapping to maintain the width, so that has to be a priority if Cristiano Biraghi is as cooked as he’s looked over the past couple months. A pacy winger on the right who wants to stay wide and stretch play should be another priority, as Eysseric’s tendency to move infield means that LMQ has a responsibility to get forward, which he does enthusiastically but without great results at this point. Hopefully Sofyan Amrabat’s return can solidify the midfield and add a bit more bit than Jack offers. Some backups for all those roles would be great as well. That’s not too much to ask, is it? (It probably is.)

2. This team has to get Vlahović the ball closer to the goal. The one time he got a ball in open play in Milan’s box, he set up Ribery’s goal. That was the only time he got the ball in open play in Milan’s box. Some of that was on him (he was a bit too eager to get in behind and ran himself offside a couple of times) but a lot of it was the dearth of service. Without Biraghi, Fiorentina rarely even bothered crossing. That’s not necessarily a problem, but there has to be another way to get Dušan involved with cutbacks or hard hit low balls to the back post. Milan’s defense is solid but not that solid.

3. Marco Guida is a disaster. We all know that it’s naive to expect a provincial side to get any help from the man with the whistle, but Marco Guida wasn’t even pretending to call a fair game here. Ibrahimović’s forearm shiver to Pezzella’s back to get himself in behind for the goal and Ribery getting tripped up in the box are the most obvious, but there were a host of other little incidents that went against the Viola as well. Ibra was offside when he hit the bar and also whacked LMQ in the face with an elbow on the play. There were a couple of Castrovilli runs that ended with the ball getting tackled out by Milan defenders and Guida giving them possession. After tapping his wrist in the four minutes of added time to tell the Rossoneri that he’d add more time due to their delaying tactics, he blew the game dead at the 93:57 mark.

This is hardly Guida’s first clunker of the year, either as the main man or as the VAR ref. Get him out of here. He’s also borked the Viola on several previous occasions, usually by refusing to check VAR, and he’s not exactly popular with other fan bases either. I hate to make this all about the ref, but he dominated the game more than either of the teams we were hoping to watch. That’s a problem, and there’s a very simple solution: get him out of here.