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

The Viola dominate against il Toro, and head into the international break with their heads held high

ACF Fiorentina v Torino FC - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terraciano—5.5: Torino mustered just one shot on target, which was Simeone Verdi’s goal in the 89th minute. He could’ve positioned himself slightly more to his left on that particular play, so I’ll dock him a bit. Still as good a backup as they come.

Lorenzo Venuti—6: Venuti continues to show that he can be relied upon as the starting right-back for this team. 8 progressive carries is a bright spot, while he could improve on his 18 misplaced passes. The competition between him and Álvaro Odriozola should only make both players better.

Nikola Milenković—6: Similar to Terraciano, was very solid for the vast majority of the match. A small miscommunication with Venuti left too much space for Verdi to run into and score, so he loses half a point for that. Otherwise, he looked great both in the air and with the ball at his feet, although interestingly he was asked to do a lot less than last week. He complied just 42 touches and 16 carries, compared to 88 and 59 against Roma.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—6.5: He takes no fault for the goal, and played a great match. he had 33 carries and a 93.8% pass completion rate offensively, while also keeping Torino in check on the other end. He should be the starting center-half next to Milenković, but a potential quarantine after Argentina’s international matches could hurt his chances.

Cristiano Biraghi—6: Biraghi looks better than he did during the second half of last season. Could have closed down Wilfried Singo a little quicker in the 23rd minute, but that’s being nitpicky. All in all, Torino managed little down his flank and it’s a good performance to build off for the Captain.

Giacomo Bonaventura—6.5: Jack’s been Fiorentina’s best midfielder for the better part of a year now, and he delivered another solid performance today. His highlight was a solid cross into Dušan Vlahović for an assist in the 69th minute. He fits in well as an attacking midfielder in Vincenzo Italiano’s system and is undroppable at this point. With Sofyan Amrabat maybe coming back into the fold, it’ll be interesting to see what Jack’s role becomes.

Erick Pulgar—6.5: While he’s far from the regista Italiano wants in terms of skillset, Pulgar has done an admirable job and surprised me with his adaptability. He played almost entirely short and medium passes, so we’ll have to wait for Lucas Torreira to see some of the line-splitting passes that will drastically improve the team. Once Torreira is fully fit, I’m also fascinated to see how he’ll be used. His set-piece ability alone warrants consideration in the team sheet.

Gaetano Castrovilli—6: I was happy to see him get an assist, but he still looks slightly off the pace compared to Bonaventura. He got a yellow card too early, but looked more comfortable than last week and should be a starter moving forwards.

José Callejón—6: Not much to report on the Callejón front, other than the fact that he’s definitely lost a step from his Napoli days. I hoped his poor performances last year were mostly due to a lack of fit, but his athletic ability is not good enough to pose a constant threat. This match, however, he looked better than most, nearly scoring off a great cross from Nico González and consistently linking up with Venuti.

Dušan Vlahović—7.5: Yeah, he’s not a one-season wonder. Had a spectacular build-up play the entire game, acting as a crucial pivot between midfield and the attack for Viola. Only had a couple of half-chances, but he made them count, burying a terrific header in the 69th minute. A great celebration followed, not just from him but from the fans who can sit back and enjoy him for one more season.

Nicolás González—8: I didn’t know much about González when we signed him last June, but is it too early to say he's one of the best players in Serie A? Probably, but the early returns have been far better than I imagined. With teams so determined to shut down Dušan, González is taking full advantage and causing terror. He created a great chance himself in the 5th minute, and was dangerous cutting inside all match. This came to full effect on his goal in the 41st minute, which I expect to see a lot more of this season. He’s a gem.

Alfred Duncan—6.5: It was great to see Duncan utilized off the bench by Italiano, and he showed his strengths on the second goal, bullying Torino’s midfield en route to Fiorentina’s second goal. A misplaced pass on Toro’s goal also loses him half a point, but he seems to be staying in Firenze this season and can hopefully take advantage of his opportunities.

Riccardo Sottil—6: He’s the best dribbler on the team, and should have an opportunity to start after the break if Nico Gonzalez is in quarantine and no 5th winger is signed. Drew fouls as he always does, and is now rocking a new haircut. Still holding out hope that he can take a Dušan-level leap this year, but not beating out Callejón for the starting spot is worrying.

Riccardo Saponara—n/a: We really need another winger. He seems like a great guy, but he should only be getting minutes in times of desperation, which this match was not.

Youssef Maleh—n/a: Should have done better to shield the ball on Alfred Duncan’s pass from Torino’s goal. A lot to learn but he should be an important player by this time next year.

Three things we learned

1. Fiorentina can bring intensity against smaller clubs

Remember the great performance the Viola had against Inter Milan on matchday 2 of last season? They followed that up with a stinker against Sampdoria, and the season never recovered after that. This time around, Fiorentina also played with heart and passion under the lights against Roma. However, part of me was doubtful, as it’s pretty easy to play with high intensity under the lights in Jose Mourinho’s first match as the weekend’s marquee matchup.

This time around, the Viola faced a Torino team that disappointingly has not invested this offseason and looks well off the pace of being in the top half of the table. Regardless, the Viola still pressed from the opening whistle and did not lose confidence even after over half an hour of domination with no goal. We’ll have to wait a little longer to confirm this is the case every weekend, but it’s a good sign.

2. Italiano has imprinted his style of play already

It was a battle between two misters who were in charge of Serie A’s underdogs last season. Ivan Juric had worked wonders with Hellas Verona, but his Torino side still looked like they are figuring out the kinks in his system and are going to need time to be fully moving. Meanwhile, Italiano already has the Viola playing his up-tempo, pressing game very well, even without a proper regista. Fiorentina controlled the match for practically all 90 minutes, a stark contrast from these teams’ meetings last season, which were much more even. Considering how neither teams’ roster changed much, I’m giving a lot of credit to Italiano (and Nico González) for this victory. He sure looks like a great hire.

3. This team could contend for Europe this season

As I mentioned above, Italiano is achieving this level of play without a real fit at the most important role in his system, the regista. Erick Pulgar isn’t mobile enough and doesn’t have the passing and pressing ability to thrive at that spot, which is exactly Lucas Torreira’s skillset. With Torreira, I expect Fiorentina to go up another level and clearly assert themselves as the 8th best team in Serie A.

In addition, Roma is the only top-7 side that clearly improved talent-wise, and there’s a real chance one of them has a disappointing campaign and finished mid-table. Should Odriozola provide the attacking threat he’s capable of, the Viola will finally be able to attack and combine on both wings. Add in a winger signing on deadline day, and this team looks to be the best Firenze has had in four seasons. If everyone continues learning the system and the final piece of the puzzle is brought in, the Conference League is well within reach.