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

Okay, so we didn’t really learn much. Let’s call it 3 things this team reminded us of.

Hellas Verona FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski—7: This would’ve been a rout within 15 minutes if not for the hirsute Pole. Superb stops on Daniel Bessa, Kevin Lasagna, and Darko Lazović in the first half, as well as a brilliant clearance halfway to the center circle after Amrabat gave the ball away, underlined his class. The goal was definitely soft, but it’s hard to know whose fault that was so I’m only docking him half a point, especially since the game would’ve been long gone if not for his earlier work.

Lorenzo Venuti—7: The only player besides Bart who brought anything in the first half. Made a spectacular goal line clearance on Lasagna’s header and hit several excellent passes in towards the forwards rather than trying to motor down the line. Brilliantly turned Lazović to create the PK situation. Was quieter in the second half but was one of Fiorentina’s three best on the pitch.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—5.5: Ragged in the first half but stabilized well. Had trouble tracking Lasagna and others, who constantly snuck in behind. Let Lasagna head a corner on goal which Venuti cleared. Seemed antsy. Should’ve clinched it with a late goal but uncorked a really bad shot on a 5-v-2 break.

Germán Pezzella—5: Had a rough time tracking the pacy Lasagna, especially early on, and was forced into a bunch of fouls. Like LMQ, steadied himself after the break somewhat, but doesn’t look like the player he was last year. Also attempted just 11 passes in 90 minutes, which has to be some sort of BeppeBall ideal.

Martín Cáceres—7: Scored a very nice volley for his second of the season and looked reasonably secure at the back until Hellas Verona scored; he completely switched off of Eddie Salcedo, although it seemed more like a whole-team problem than a him-problem.

Cristiano Biraghi—5: Made a good clearance off the line early and generally stuck tight to the dangerous Marco Faraoni, aside from the goal, but didn’t offer much going forward. Still seems to be out-of-sync with Ribery and spent a lot of time yelling at the referees (justifiable) and his teammates (less justifiable).

Sofyan Amrabat—4.5: Maybe it was the pressure of playing his old team, but the Moroccan seemed more interested in bowling people over than playing ball. Nearly handed Lasagna a freebie with a terrible backpass and generally seemed out of rhythm, and although there were a couple of positives, he didn’t offer nearly enough.

Erick Pulgar—6: Seemed to be chasing ghosts for most of the first half, letting Verona find lots of space between the lines. Tightened up after the break and made things more difficult for them. Produced a few very good interventions sweeping up for the back line and delivered the set piece that led to Cáceres’ goal.

Giacomo Bonaventura—6.5: Usually the only man even close to Vlahović. His constant forward running was rewarded with the PK, but he also offered a presence in the box at times as well and set up Ribery’s chance while working hard out of possession. Booked and will miss the Juventus game.

Dušan Vlahović—7.5: One man wrecking crew. Scored his penalty and was usually the only thing the Verona defense had to worry about. Pulled some grown-ass man turns and constantly harried opponents without the ball. If not for referee Alessandro Prontera’s bizarre fixation with calling fouls on him, might’ve created something on his own.

Franck Ribery—5: Looks cooked. Drove forward on the break once and snapped a shot at Marco Silvestri, but seemed completely exhausted, constantly walking on the ball and slowing things to a crawl. Tried to flick Venuti’s cutback ahead of the PK but whiffed entirely, letting Jack win the spot kick. Feels criminal that he played 76 minutes.

Christian Kouamé—5: His touch and his decision making just aren’t there yet. You can imagine that there’s a player in there, but one who needs a full season’s worth of run to rediscover the form that made him so good at Genoa. He’s not going to rediscover himself in 3-15 minute cameos.

Gaetano Castrovilli—n/a: Played all of 2 minutes because that’s how Beppe do.

Igor—n/a: Ibidem.

Three things we learned

1. This team cannot keep the ball. Hellas Verona is a club whose identity is based around direct counterattacking. They don’t particularly want the ball. Instead, they got 65% of it. That’s not a winning recipe, as it puts a mistake-prone Fiorentina defense under constant pressure. Pezzella attempting just 11 passes all game long is one of the strangest statistics I can remember seeing, and no one tried more than Biraghi’s 38. Nobody expects this group to morph into Vincenzo Montella’s 2014 outfit, but there has to be an effort to keep the ball, if for no other reason than to let the back line reset. Letting opponents stream forward uninterrupted requires perfection from Drągowski and usually some help from elsewhere (Venuti’s goal line clearance). It’s not enough.

2. Beppe has to use the bench. Ribery is 38 years old, fasting for Ramadan, and played all 90 minutes just 3 days before this one. Asking him to go more than half an hour was always a bad idea, especially since Kouamé has shown (limited) signs of life recently. This was the perfect place to give him an hour to build on his assist last week. Instead, we got the shambling corpse of Ribery putting the ball between his feet and just standing there. It was awful. While normally, Iachini can point to an impossibly shallow bench, he had Kouamé, Gaetano Castrovilli, Valentin Eysseric, and Igor available. He waited until there were just 15 minutes left before making a change; Ivan Jurić had already made 4 by that point. Not only does this approach run the starters into the ground, it allows assets like Kouamé to molder and lose value, making it impossible to recoup any money for them.

3. Why not Lollo? Fiorentina has famously spent a decade or more looking for someone who can play rightback. We’ve seen central defenders pushed wide (Facundo Roncaglia, Nenad Tomović, Carlos Salcedo, Nikola Milenković), misused youngsters (Juan Cuadrado, Bruno Gaspar, Pol Lirola), and vaguely competent veterans (Mattia Cassani, Vincent Laurini, Martín Cáceres). Every year, the fans clamor for a new rightback. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Venuti has slowly become the most stable guy on the roster. He’s disciplined, always gives his all, doesn’t make mistakes, plays without ego, and offers surprising guile going forward. Despite being everything you could want from an academy product, he’s seen Cácers and Kévin Malcuit ahead of him in the pecking order at times this year. He’s earned a full season as the regular starter; he can’t be worse than the other options and is far from the weakest point on this weak team.