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Fiorentina 3-3 Parma: Player grades and 3 things we learned

Do you remember fun? We sure don’t.

ACF Fiorentina v Parma Calcio - Serie A
What in the wide world of sports is going on here?
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski: 6—Not really at fault for any of the goals and did make a pretty good save on Gervinho right after the penalty, but wasn’t as convincing as he might have been on the third goal. That’s definitely more on the atrocious marking from Malcuit, but a slight dip in form from the start of the season (when he was unquestionably Fiorentina’s best player) bears keeping an eye on. It’s probably just a couple of unlucky evenings; it’s not like Bart’s a bad goalkeeper or anything.

Nikola Milenković: 7—Continued to show his knack for acrobatic volleyed goals, which is fun, although Luigi Sepe had more to do with it than anything else. Was otherwise perfectly fine. Was a bit slow stepping up for that Gervinho chance (although a bad LMQ giveaway bears more blame) and completely absent for Valentin Mihăilă’s, but was otherwise perfectly fine, keeping Yann Karamoh and Gervinho in check.

Germán Pezzella: 6.5—His most dramatic contribution was to fizz in the ball that Simone Iacoponi turned into his own net at the death, but the Viola captain was solid enough otherwise. Did get beaten badly by Gervinho, forcing Pulgar to intervene and concede the penalty. I’m not going to ding him for the poor marking from Malcuit, as that seems more on Kévin than on Pezze not communicating.

Lucas Martínez Quarta: 7—Thrilled that he got the goal he’s clearly been pressing for over the past month and thought he had a double but was denied by the woodwork. Was his usual all-action self, flying all over the place, but did make some mistakes in possession as he tried to push the team forward and gave Parma the ball a bit too easily at times. Especially with Biraghi ahead of him, he needs to develop a bit more discipline, both with the ball and with his positioning, or that side of the field’s going to get scary.

Kévin Malcuit: 2—As Mike said in the Slack chat, “I’d give him a 2 like the SAT gives you 200 points just for signing your name.” Twice lost a runner on the back post to give up a goal, which is uh very bad. Offered nothing going forward either, losing the ball more often than he progressed it. He wasn’t a bad gamble to take on a half-year loan, but he’s simply too disastrous to trust at this critical juncture. Martín Cáceres needs to put down that mug of mate and get loose again.

Sofyan Amrabat: 5—Seemed a bit off the pace, misplacing a few relatively simple passes and never getting into the game. While a lot of that is probably on the lack of creativity around him, he vacillated between doing too much and not enough. Didn’t stamp his authority on the Ducali with his typical physicality either, as Rosario Abisso whistled him for a succession of minor fouls. On the plus side, sounds like his injury isn’t serious and he’ll be ready to go against Benevento.

Erick Pulgar: 6—Truly a bizarre game from the Chilean. On the one hand, he created the first two goals with excellent set piece deliveries, which Fiorentina have lacked while he’s been on the bench. He was also exemplary sweeping up in front of the defense, leading the game with 19 ball recoveries and winning possession effectively. On the other hand, he was as clunky as ever when pressured and gave away a really dumb penalty. I’m splitting the difference with the grade but totally understand if you want to drop him lower or boost him higher.

Borja Valero: 5—Had a few smooth moments with the ball at his feet and showed that he’s still got his trademark craftiness, but doesn’t really make the runs for anyone else and remains a turnstile defensively. His role was to connect the attackers with the rest of the team and the attackers remained quite isolated, so it’s safe to say that he didn’t succeed, although he was hardly put in a position to do so either with such a static and fantasia-less bunch around him.

Cristiano Biraghi: 4.5—Probably sadder about Igor’s injury than anyone else, as he clearly needs a break. Painfully slow when forced to turn and run and lacks the lateral agility to slow down quick dribblers, which puts a lot of stress on the defender behind him. Despite spending a lot of time up the pitch, didn’t really create anything either. Certainly a useful piece, but his lack of mobility and the lack of aerial targets in the box renders him almost pointless, although he trundles along as gamely as ever.

Valentin Eysseric: 4.5—Did his best Franck Ribery impression and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. Dropped even with the defense at times to pick up the ball, leaving Vlahović as alone as ever up front. Had a couple of tidy moments but never looked like unlocking the Parma defense in the slightest. He’s fine as peripheral option but really doesn’t offer much when he’s a focal point, although Cesare Prandelli really didn’t have many other options.

Dušan Vlahović: 6—Battled like mad, holding up play and trying to create something out of nothing, but was so unsupported that he was pretty much stuck trying to do it all himself. Had a couple of really good moves (including one where he slipped out of Laurini’s grasp, got hacked down, picked himself up, and kept on motoring to good effect) but it’s clear that he needs someone up there with him, whether that someone is on the roster right now or not.

Three things we learned

1. It’s tough to play at the top level with so many players missing. Fiorentina were missing Gaetano Castrovilli, Franck Ribery, Christian Kouamé, and Aleksandr Kokorin from the attack. The only bench options were Tófol Montiel (about whom I’ll be writing later this week at greater length, but I’ll just briefly say that he deserves more minutes) and Primavera striker Louis Munteanu, who’d played 90 minutes the day before. Even against Parma’s injury-decimated defense, it’s tough for guys to string together good moves when they haven’t trained together all that much; yes, they’re all on the same team, but the starters are the ones who practice with each other. While it was an extremely frustrating result and Prandelli deserves criticism for his initial timidity and reluctance to react, it’s also very tough to expect him to coax a coherent product out of the backups.

2. Prandelli’s substitutions are killing this team. Yeah, about that reluctance to react. San Cesare used just two of his five substitutions. One of them was because Amrabat was forced off with a knock and the other was because Valero is an old man. The bench was mightily bare, as previously mentioned, but Lorenzo Venuti or Cáceres were both obvious replacements for the calamitous Malcuit. Montiel was available as well (again, I’ll be doing a deeper dive on him in a couple of days). Also remember that Vlahović, Amrabat, Pulgar, and the entire defense were coming off a midweek fixture. While the absences were responsible for the lack of action on the Viola bench this time out, Prandelli’s failure to change things up with his subs has been a continuation of his predecessors’ refusal to adjust on the fly. With Castrovilli and Kouamé likely available against the Stregoni, it’ll be fascinating and infuriating if he continues to let bad situations continue.

3. Fiorentina still isn’t the worst team out there. Let that sink in for a minute. Despite the repulsive soccer on display over the past few weeks, the Viola aren’t in last place. Hell, they’re not even in the relegation zone. Crotone’s big win over Torino was the real news, as the Squali are going down no matter what and Torino, still locked in the final relegation spot, remain 6 points back and have a pretty tough few weeks coming up. Even with Cagliari suddenly looking competent, it would take something unexpected for Fiorentina to lose their cushion above the trapdoor. That isn’t to say that we should heave a collective sigh of relief. It’s not even to say that relegation is impossible, I’m just pointing out that, as bad as that all was, it’s been worse for other teams. And if that doesn’t restore your faith that the universe is cold, vicious, and cares nothing for humans, I don’t know what will.