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Fiorentina 1-1 Juventus: Player grades and 3 things we learned

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A solid showing against the Evil Empire means almost everyone gets a decent rating.

ACF Fiorentina v Juventus - Serie A
And suddenly, Igor.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski—5: Definitely a little bit shaky from the Pole. Had a bad pass early on that put Pulgar in a lot of trouble, could’ve maybe done more on the goal, flapped at a Juan Cuadrado free kick that Giorgio Chiellini somehow didn’t turn home, and seemed a bit jumpy off his line. Because this is Bart, though, he still made some very good saves.

Lorenzo Venuti—6: Pretty standard Lollo outing. No mistakes, good discipline, and basically battled Alex Sandro to a standstill. Didn’t provide all that much going forward, but that was never going to be his job anyways.

Nikola Milenković—6.5: Erased C*******o R******o throughout the first half, forcing the forward to try his luck out wide. Was sharp enough in possession and uncorked a thunderous first half shot that nearly caught Wojciech Szczęsny napping. Seems to have regained his footing after a dip at the start of the year.

Germán Pezzella—4.5: Switched off to let Alvaro Morata in behind on the goal, marking what feels like his 20th straight game with a big mistake. Had a couple of nervy moments in the second half as well, but looked very solid in the first half.

Martín Cáceres—5.5: Did pretty well in the first half, keeping Paulo Dybala quiet and constantly charging into the box to give the Juventus defense something to think about, although the ball never found him. Struggled after moving to wingback as C*******o R******o snuck past him several times, including for what should have been a simple header that the “world’s greatest player” hilariously missed.

Igor—6.5: Very sharp defensively and offered some class going forward as well, both bulldozing through would-be tacklers and hitting a couple of good passes, particularly a low cross that Castrovilli could’ve done more with. It’s telling that Cuadrado became Juve’s biggest creative threat as soon as the Brazilian was off the field.

Sofyan Amrabat—7: Bossed the midfield in the first half, bullying Rodrigo Betancur and company within an inch of their lives. Let off a bit after the break but remained a wrecking ball in the center of the park, playing error-free and moving the ball around fairly nicely as well. If he could play like this every week, he’d be one of Serie A’s 5 or 6 best midfielders.

Erick Pulgar—6.5: Shut down everything in front of the defense in the first half and ensuring that we heard not a peep from Dybala or Aaron Ramsey. Delivered some good set pieces and even took a couple of very good shots in open play (one hit the post via a Leonardo Bonucci deflection). Faded a bit in the second half but remained a major positive.

Gaetano Castrovilli—6: Looked a bit more like his old self, showing the confidence to drive forward with the ball and, more importantly, making runs in support of Vlahović. Still drifted in and out of the action, though, and still had some trouble with the final ball, highlighted by a particularly egregious decision to shoot on the break when he had support to either side.

Dušan Vlahović—7: Imagine having the guts to pull out a cucchiaio against your biggest rival like that. The man is confident, and he backs it up. Led the line superbly, causing Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt no end of problems with his physicality and soft first touch, although there were a couple of hiccups. Whatever. He’s 21, has 17 league goals, and is amazing.

Franck Ribery—6.5: Seems to relish playing Juve, as he always saves his best for them. Imperious in possession, constantly demanding the ball and probing for space. Passed and dribbled forward this time rather than backwards, keeping moves flowing rather than slowing them down. Didn’t quite manage the killer pass but came close a few times. Still had a few bad giveaways but worked hard and gave it his all.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—5.5: Held firm despite Juve throwing everything at him for the first 20 minutes of the second half. Didn’t do anything too spectacular, but also stayed disciplined and didn’t try to do too much, which has been an issue for him of late. A performance like this could go a long way to earning a spot in Beppe’s circle of trust.

Cristiano Biraghi—5: Immediately targeted by Juve and with good reason; struggled to stay in front of Cuadrado and got himself booked after getting bamboozled by the Colombian. Didn’t provide anything going forward and always seemed the weakest link at the back.

Christian Kouamé—5.5: Bustled around and harried the Bianconero back line well enough. Seemed to have his touch sorted out today, which was nice. Made a superb sliding tackle on C*******o R******o to prevent a shot, also managing to upend the guy in the process.

Valentin Eysseric—n/a: Got 5 minutes and didn’t lose the game, so good enough.

Three things we learned

1. This team doesn’t always bring it, but is more than capable of doing so. If Fiorentina played like this in every game, we’d be looking at a team with an outside shot of qualifying for the Europa League. They used the ball well and quickly, created chances, and generally defended pretty well. Even after conceding a dumb goal at an embarrassing moment, they picked themselves up well and (with a generous slice of luck), kept the visitors out for the rest of the afternoon. It’s clearly not a dearth of talent that’s got this team on the ropes; it’s an inability to stay focused and hungry for 38 matches. While there are definitely holes that need to be filled in the transfer market, next year’s coach needs to spend more time adjusting attitudes than researching acquisitions.

2. Fiorentina will always look better against good sides. Good teams can dictate proceedings, keep the ball around the opponent’s box, and create chances with clever passing and movement. That requires pushing more players higher up, which in turn means there are more gaps to hit on the counterattack. The upshot is that teams like Fiorentina tend to have a lot more space to charge into when playing the big teams; if they can keep it tight at the back, they’ll always create some chances. We’ve seen it against Juventus, against Inter Milan, against AC Milan: even if they don’t get the result, they can push these more proactive teams. Against clubs that also want to sit deep, though, they’re always going to struggle. Part of that is Giuseppe Iachini, of course, but part of it is just the nature of the game. Basically, don’t expect anything stunning against Bologna next week on the back of this result.

3. It’s time to sit Pezzella for a bit. I have nothing but respect for Pezze. He’s been a good servant to the club in a trying time, showing dignity and class on the field and off it since as long as he’s been in Florence. However, he’s been really bad for the past couple of months. He seems to have a mid-season swoon every year before getting himself right again, but this one’s lasted longer than usual and is coming at a very inopportune moment. Maybe he’s carrying an injury, maybe he’s worried about his future (still no contract extension despite his willingness to sign), maybe he just needs a little bit of time off. Fortunately, Fiorentina have a surfeit of capable central defenders—Milenković, Igor, Martínez Quarta, Cáceres—who can step in and give the captain a week or two to sort himself out. It’s hard to imagine Iachini having the social capital to bench his captain this close to the end of the year, but it might be in everyone’s best interest, at least for the short term.