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Cagliari 0-0 Fiorentina: Player grades and 3 things we learned

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It’s weird trying to judge anything when the intensity level was sub-preseason friendly.

Cagliari Calcio v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski—5: Hard to rate a goalkeeper who didn’t do anything in his 45 minutes. Claimed one cross well and missed one long-is pass and that was it. Hope he’s okay, but with survival pretty well assured, wouldn’t be upset if he sat out the remainder and focused on his beard, especially if it gave Federico Brancolini another cameo.

Martín Cáceres—4: Ran up and down but had a few serious wobbles, particularly when tracking João Pedro and Charalampos Lykogiannis. Perfectly adequate in a game that nobody wanted to win.

Nikola Milenković—4: Pick of the litter in defense. Made some good stops, particularly on João Pedro, and never looked all that fussed by bruiser Leonardo Pavoletti. Never really came forward, but that’s not shocking.

Germán Pezzella—4: A couple of nervous moments, including a terrible giveaway that forced Pulgar into a card, but was perfectly adequate. You do wonder about the captain’s role when the team produces zero effort, though.

Igor—5.5: A couple of missed passes, a couple of giveaways, a couple of times caught napping. For the most part, though, he was fine. Did at least try to venture upfield occasionally to make something happen.

Cristiano Biraghi—3: Woof. Struggled against Gabriele Zappa and especially Nahitan Nández in defense. Offered less than nothing going forward, providing a litany of missed crosses, poorly-timed runs, and passes that got blocked. Let’s see Igor (or Maxi Olivera) in that spot, please.

Sofyan Amrabat—3.5: Ponderous is the best word. Tried to control the tempo at times but just gave the ball away. Didn’t break up play all that effectively either. Just extremely anonymous. Did take Radja Nainggolan out of the game, though, so there’s that.

Erick Pulgar—4: Confined space between the lines, which kept João Pedro and Nainggolan quiet, but was a big old nothingburger otherwise. Did set up Fiorentina’s only first half “shot” with a good corner that Cáceres turned well wide, but that was it.

Giacomo Bonaventura—3.5: Looked feisty but completely ineffective. Not the sort of player who can link with the attack, but more of an extra runner; when tasked with the full creative burden, predictably fell short. Can’t blame him too much given the makeup of the rest of the team, but he wasn’t great.

Christian Kouamé—1.5: Boy howdy. There’s a good player in there somewhere, but it’s tough to imagine him emerging in Florence this year. His touch is gone and he’s incredibly tentative. Looks terrified to make mistakes, with the result that he makes more mistakes and builds up this feedback loop of awfulness for himself.

Dušan Vlahović—4.5: Very isolated up front and rarely got a touch. Never seemed to roll off his marker. Played on the left side to start with and dropped too deep while trying to connect with his teammates, which took him out of the game entirely. Get this man some help.

Pietro Terracciano—4: Didn’t have anything to do other than exude Fun Dad Energy™, aside from that time when he utterly flattened Pavoletti when claiming a cross. That was cool.

Gaetano Castrovilli—4: Had a couple of moments where he looked like he was on the verge of doing something cool, but never followed through.

José Callejón—2: No.

Lorenzo Venuti—4.5: Bumping his grade up just because he was so smiley when he came on when this game desperately needed something joyful.

Three things we learned

1. The biscotto is alive and well. In calcio, a biscotto isn’t a nice cookie but a pre-arranged result that benefits both sides. This one, in which Cagliari and Fiorentina were both better served by taking a point each and waiting for Atalanta to steamroll Benevento, which would confirm the Viola’s safety and effectively secure the same for the Isolani. While this probably wasn’t the result of any pre-match discussions, both teams knew that shared spoils would suit them just fine and played like it. That this is the second time we’ve seen a display like this from Fiorentina in the past 3 years (2018-2019’s final game against Genoa being the other) only doubles the disgrace. If you’re not going to go out and try to win against one of the few teams worse than you are, what’s the point of even playing?

2. Giuseppe Iachini isn’t the answer. Aside from what sure felt like an uncalled for shot at Cesare Prandelli in his pre-match comments yesterday, Beppe demonstrated for once and for all why he’s not a long-term solution to the coaching problems that have plagued Fiorentina since Vincenzo Montella’s first stint. You can look at this game in one of two ways: either it was a biscotto (see above), or Iachini did his best to fire up the players and create a good attacking setup. Either way, the result is indescribably disappointing. Iachini is far from the root of the problem that’s infested the Viola for years, but you can’t ignore what happened here.

3. You can’t draw too many conclusions from a shameful display like this. Doing player grades feels like an exercise in futility when nobody cares and nobody’s trying. Whoever’s the new coach has a massive job in front of them to change this culture of acquiescence to failure. We’ve known that for a long, long time, but games like this only drive the point home that much harder. I despise writing about fixtures like this even more than I despise watching them.