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

That’s a tough pill to swallow but, if it prevents this team from ever talking to another referee, it might be worth it.

US Sassuolo v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Ciancaphoto Studio/Getty Images

Player grades

Bartłomiej Drągowski—6.5: Made several good saves and wasn’t at fault for either goal. Had a couple of iffy moments on the ball, but that’s not entirely surprising. Still well ahead of Pietro Terracciano as a shot stopper and made a couple of good interventions well off his line, which is one area the Fun Dad has looked better; that could mean that our Bart is adding a new dimension to his game.

Álvaro Odriozola—4.5: Woof. Nutmegged by Hamed Junior Traoré on the first goal and never looked like staying in front of the Ivorian. Offered little in attack and constantly overwhelmed in defense. Just one of those days.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—4.5: Looked shaky throughout and completely lost Gregoire Defrel on the winner. Made a few typical jaunts up the field but, without Nikola Milenković there to cover him, left way too much space.

Igor—5: Lost track of his man a couple of times and made a few careless passes, but mostly stood up alright to Gianluca Scamacca and Giacomo Raspadori. Like LMQ, looks a lot better with the assurance of Milenković next to him.

Cristiano Biraghi—5: Had a couple of decent moments going forward and mostly held Domenico Berardi in check, although maybe could’ve done more on the winner to stop the cross getting in. Delivered some bad set pieces, although neither LMQ nor Igor provides nearly the target Milenković does, so we ought to cut him a bit of slack there.

Gaetano Castrovilli—7: Where’s this guy been all year? Incisive, determined, creative, and involved. Completed 4/5 dribbles and constantly worked the ball into the final third. Nearly scored a screamer off his left and came close with a header. Picked out Saponara for the assist on the goal. Even worked hard on defense. Maybe could’ve tightened up his passing but this was a 2019-style performance. Magnificent.

Sofyan Amrabat—6: Spectacularly destructive when defending, mostly shutting Raspadori out of the game with his physicality and positioning. Showed some nous in possession, too, keeping the ball nicely and working it forward well. Vincenzo Italiano’s clearly got him humming on all cylinders.

Youssef Maleh—5: Lots of sound and fury but not much else. Covered a lot of ground without accomplishing much and borked several opportunities in the Sassuolo area. He’s a young player and he’s bound to have a few performances like this, so it’s fine. Just needs to make sure he doesn’t stack them.

Jonathan Ikone—7: Sumptuous first start from the Frenchman. Should’ve scored a couple of times in the first half, but Andrea Consigli did that thing he does sometimes against Fiorentina and kept them out. In the second half, showcased marvelous creativity with his passing from wide areas, setting up a bunch of really good chances. A bit like Saponara but with a turn of pace, too.

Krzysztof Piątek—4.5: Not a good outing at all. Missed a 1-v-1 with a Cholito-esque touch that took him past Consigli and over the end line. His only other shot was a wild volley that went miles over. In fairness to him, worked very hard without the ball. Still, he’ll likely be looking over his shoulder at Arthur now.

Riccardo Sottil—5: Never got into the game, largely because Mert Müldür was given license to foul him without consequences. Didn’t seem quite sure how to combine with Maleh in the wide areas. You could almost see him trying to figure it all out.

Giacomo Bonaventura—2: Yes, Alessandro Prontera’s call on the handball and subsequent immediate move for the red card encapsulated everything that’s wrong with Serie A officiating. But Jack’s got 313 appearances in this league and ought to know better, especially as one of the leaders on this team. Deeply disappointing to see him blow his top, even though, again, Prontera was entirely in the wrong here.

Arthur Cabral—7: A debut goal is never a bad thing, but he looked sharp otherwise too. Offers a completely different approach to Piątek with his constant movement and work in the channels. Might not see him fully deployed this year but he’s definitely an exciting proposition.

Riccardo Saponara—6.5: Didn’t play all that long but did get the assist and offered a bit of extra creativity.

Lucas Torreira—n/a: Only came on for the last 5 minutes and didn’t really have a chance to impose himself.

Three things we learned

1. There’s plenty of depth on this team. Look at the XI that started this one. Biraghi, Odriozola, one of LMQ and Igor, and maybe Sottil and Piątek are the only guys you’d call starters. This was a team with somewhere between 3 and 5 regular starters and they nearly pulled out a win here despite some really adverse circumstances. Castrovilli and Ikone particularly sparkled, but Amrabat was also pretty sharp, and Arthur was good in his cameo. For the first time in what feels like decades, the Viola have reasonable options in almost every position. Even when guys like Maleh, LMQ, Piątek, Igor, Odriozola, and Sottil have off days, Italiano’s got plenty of options to change things off the bench. Let’s savor that.

2. Sometimes you just need to be more clinical. The first half, I’d say, was about even between the teams, with Sassuolo maybe edging it. After the break, though, the visitors were miles better, keeping the Neroverdi rocked back on their heels and not really conceding any chances until after the red card. Ikone and Piątek in particular were guilty of missing really good shooting opportunities. While neither of those guys is especially prolific, it’s clear that the plan is working and Fiorentina are creating plenty of chances. It’s cold comfort, perhaps, but trusting that the players and the coach are doing a good job does take a little of the sting out.

3. These players need to reign it in. Fiorentina now have 8 red cards in Serie A this year, as well as another in the Coppa. That’s way too many. I understand that some of the red cards are a function of how Italiano wants them to play, and those I’m willing to accept. But 4 of those cards—Nico against Inter Milan, Sottil against Venezia, Torreira against Lazio, and now Jack against Sassuolo—are the result of guys losing their cool, either with the official or (in Ricky’s case) with an opponent. While Nico and Jack were certainly sent off because due to a referee’s ego more than anything else, it’s clear that this team feels a little too empowered to engage in petulant behaviors. Italiano’s done a hell of a job with this side, both tactically and emotionally, but he really needs to get a handle on this before it spirals. These cards are costing the team points that it could really, really use.