Bartłomiej Drągowski—6: Made a tremendous first-half stop after Odriozola and Pulgar combined to put him in a terrible spot but did make a couple of significant mistakes in possession, once passing straight to a Genoa player about 10 yards outside the box. It’s probably just Bart settling into a new style and there’s no reason to worry about him.
Álvaro Odriozola—5: Struggled against Mohamed Fares in the first half and probably should’ve been booked earlier than he was. Made a hospital pass to Pulgar that gave the Grifoni a wonderful chance out of nothing, but Drągowski rescued him. Motored forward constantly to support Callejón but didn’t create very much with them. His late cramp was a serious concern, since he’s the only rightback available with Lorenzo Venuti on the shelf.
Lucas Martínez Quarta—6.5: A typically all-action performance from the Argentina international. He showed a willingness to throw his body around and led the team in tackles (3/3). Started moves well from the back and even burst all the way from his own box to Genoa’s late on before feeding Kokorin with predictably disastrous results. Did get carded for a bad foul on Goran Pandev just outside the box and wasn’t good in the air, but was very solid otherwise.
Igor—5.5: The penalty looked very soft, but you simply can’t stick a leg out in the area like that and the Brazilian paid the price. Was reasonably solid otherwise but did have a couple of hiccups with his positioning; it seems like he watches the ball too much sometimes instead of tracking his man. Since this is his first season playing in the middle of a back four, let’s cut him some slack as he learns the ins and outs.
Cristiano Biraghi—6.5: A fiery showing from the captain, who constantly looked to get forward and played in a couple of dangerous balls, including the low (!) cross that led to the second goal. As usual, looked very shaky when asked to turn and run against speedy attackers, as illustrated by a couple of body checks that got him in the book, but his willingness to talk to referee Livio Marinelli showed some welcome leadership.
Gaetano Castrovilli—6: Played very well in his 25 minutes, taking players on and interchanging neatly with González before smashing into the upright while chasing a cross. Early reports say he didn’t break anything and should be okay, but he could be out for a couple of games.
Erick Pulgar—6.5: Had a very Pulgar game, constantly breaking up Genoa’s attack, shielding his defense, and dropping in when LMQ or Igor stepped forward while hoovering up every loose ball. Had a nervy moment or two in possession, none worse than when he failed to shield a defender and let Genoa in on goal, but Bart saved his blushes.
Giacomo Bonaventura—8: Involved in pretty much every good thing Fiorentina did going forward. Forced a wonderful save out of Salvatore Sirigu in the first half, set up the Cheese’s goal, and scored one of his own (albeit via a deflection). Can’t believe I’m writing this, but he may be Fiorentina’s most important player right now.
José Callejón—4.5: The mind is willing but the flesh is slow. Had a couple of runs to the back post that would’ve resulted in trademark tap-ins if he were a step or two quicker. He’s a safe passer now rather than an incisive one, always looking to recycle possession. While the technique is still there at times (the nutmegs are awfully fun), he just doesn’t offer anything going forward.
Dušan Vlahović—5: It’s very strange to say this, but the big man lost his battle with Nikola Maksimović. Only registered one shot (off target) and didn’t hold up the ball as well as we’re used to seeing. That said, played a couple of lovely balls through for González, which hints at untapped potential as a deep-lying, playmaking forward a la Harry Kane. Says a lot that even when he’s subpar, he tantalizes.
Nicolás González—7: Looked as dynamic as ever, winning 3 fouls in his 45 minutes (he wins more fouls per 90 minutes than anyone in the league). Played in a couple of nice balls, including a cross that would’ve been a goal if José Callejón were a few years younger. Even dropped back to help the defense. The only complaint you can make is that he takes such a kicking every game that his health is a constant concern.
Alfred Duncan—6.5: Replaced the injured Castrovilli and did his usual things, which are mostly good things. Pressured high up, found pockets of space, and moved the ball forward efficiently on the break. Denied a goal by a remarkable Sirigu save. His passing was a bit ragged at times, but he’s got this weird talent for missing his pass and then winning the ball right back that mitigates it.
Riccardo Saponara—8: Didn’t inspire much confidence but proved his quality. Scored an absolute banger with a cut inside and a rocket, then created the second with a lovely, delicate touch over to Jack. He may not have the pace the FIFA crowd wants from a winger, but he knows how to play under Vincenzo Italiano and that’s much more important.
Sofyan Amrabat—5.5: Played his first 10 minutes under Italiano and operated as the regista. Defended well, moved the ball effectively, and looked competent in the role.
Marco Benassi—5: The former leading scorer actually looked competent in his 10 minutes as a fullback. For a guy who’s reinvented himself countless times as a player, maybe this is his next iteration.
Aleksandr Kokorin—0: Get this joker the hell out of here. Should’ve been sent off for a miserable challenge, committed another foul, destroyed two perfectly good chances on the counter, and played like someone fresh out of solitary confinement.
Three things we learned
1. Fiorentina can win even if Vlahović is quiet. Last year, Fiorentina went as Dušan went: if the big man didn’t score, odds are that Fiorentina didn’t either. After all, he was responsible for 54% of the team’s goals; that increased to 68% from mid-December on. Today, he was mostly invisible. And what happened? The Cheese and Jack teamed up to give Fiorentina 2 goals and the win. That marked just the fifth time that Fiorentina scored 2 non-Dušan goals in a game since the start of last year. With Bonaventura and Nico providing goal legitimate goal threats and a team that creates chances, opponents can’t throw all their resources at stopping the Viola number 9 with the knowledge that nobody else will pick up the slack.
2. Late goals are still a problem. Last year, Fiorentina conceded a quarter of their goals in the final 15 minutes. This year, they’ve allowed 3 of 6 goals in that span. Part of the issue might be the mentality left over from a miserable campaign. Part of it might be that Italiano’s hard-charging style leaves the team physically and mentally drained late in games. Part of it might be young defenders who need to learn to focus for the full 90+ minutes. Whatever the root of the issue, though, it’s something that needs fixing; against better teams, that propensity to leak in late goals is going to lose the Viola points.
3. This team believes in the mister. That said, it’s very obvious that the players have bought into Italiano’s system. Away from home and in soaking wet conditions, it would’ve been easy to sit back and try to soak up pressure. Instead, Fiorentina took the game to their opponents from the opening whistle, kept the ball on the carpet, and stuck to the usual gameplan. The fact that their faith was repaid with a win should only strengthen the belief in the manager’s instructions and lead to an even more coherent side. When you get results by doing what the man in charge orders, you trust him more and more. We’re seeing that happen and it’s very, very nice.