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Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus: Player grades and 3 things we learned

This team is just inches away from doing something special. It’s just that those last few inches are the most difficult to cross.

ACF Fiorentina v Juventus FC - Coppa Italia Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—7: Made a good stop on Dušan Vlahović, which was the only shot on target he faced. Claimed several crosses authoritatively and came off his line quickly as well. Tidy in possession. Tough way for him to lose this one.

Álvaro Odriozola—6: With Juventus offering almost no threat, he was free to bomb forward and did so with his usual gusto but didn’t really impact play all that much; feels like he still needs to build a relationship with Ikone. Pulled up lame right before halftime, so let’s hope it’s nothing serious.

Nikola Milenković—7: Aside from a yellow card that he really didn’t need to take, did an excellent job. Bullied Moise Kean and kept Álvaro Morata quiet afterwards. Seems to be taking on a more vocal role at the back in organizing the defense, which is great. Just unlucky to be involved in the own goal.

Igor—7.5: Stuck to Vlahović like a burr, and while the striker beat him once for the shot that Terracciano saved, the Brazilian battled his opponent to a standstill otherwise; considering that the only other defender we’ve seen shackle Susan like that this year is Bremer (probably the league’s best CB this year), that’s quite a showing. Was even pretty good on the ball.

Cristiano Biraghi—5: Had freedom to get forward in the first half with Juve offering nothing but didn’t really influence the game much. Did crack a decent shot on frame and came fairly close with a free kick, but his crossing and passing were pretty invisible and he looked much shakier when faced with Juan Cuadrado.

Giacomo Bonaventura—6.5: Ran the show in the first half, constantly driving forward from midfield and twisting past would-be tacklers. Pressed excellently and didn’t let his opponents have a moment of peace. Had a very good chance to score on an open net after a Mattia Perin gaff but couldn’t keep his shot down as a defender bundled into him. Faded a bit after the break.

Lucas Torreira—7: Man of the match for me. Single-handedly prevented Juventus from building anything through the middle, winning every loose ball and sometimes even leading the press as a striker. Set the tempo well and sprayed a few good passes around (including a gorgeous one that should’ve been an assist to Ikone) but also missed a couple of shots and seemed to lose his composure the closer he got to the goal. Still, this might’ve been his best overall performance for Fiorentina.

Gaetano Castrovilli—6.5: Started quietly but grew into the game well after half an hour or so. Showed a few trademark bursts forward, won some free kicks, and got into the box a couple of times to create problems. Didn’t go down as easily and mixed it up a bit more than he has this year as well.

Jonathan Ikone—6.5: Ran Luca Pellegrini and Mattia de Sciglio ragged all day, darting over, through, and around them. Showed the pace and technique we all hoped he would while looking like the most creative player on the pitch. But holy smokes does he need to learn how to finish: the two best chances fell to him and he rolled one wide and doinked the other off the upright.

Krzysztof Piątek—4.5: Barely had a touch all night as Matthijs de Ligt erased him. Kept trying to play with his back to the big Dutchman instead of trying to get in behind or drifting wide. In games like this, where he’s matched up against a top defender, he’s so one-dimensional that he offers very little, as his lack of pace and technique render him unable to impose himself.

Riccardo Saponara—5.5: Made a couple of neat passes and turns that helped the team up the field but didn’t offer enough thrust. Had one shot from distance that could’ve threatened but went straight at Perin. With Piątek absent in the middle, didn’t have any targets for his incisive passes and was reduced to lurking around the box without doing much else.

Lorenzo Venuti—5.5: Did an okay job but didn’t offer as much going forward as Odriozola and seemed a bit nervous in possession at times. Still, he wasn’t the problem out there. If you want to blame him for the own goal, you’re just showing your own lack of understanding about the game.

Riccardo Sottil—4: Woof. All the bad decision making was on display as he constantly shot when he should’ve crossed and crossed to nobody when he should’ve done anything else. It’s insanely frustrating but also part of how he grows as a player; if you want him to improve, you have to stomach a few misfires like this.

Arthur Cabral—5: Threw himself around and charged all over the place but never received any decent service despite showing some decent movement off the ball. Offered a very different threat than Piątek. Still hilarious to me because of his running form: back straight, chest out, arms swinging in really big arcs.

Alfred Duncan—n/a: Came on at 84’ and offered a bit of solidity but never got a chance to do all that much to affect the proceedings.

Nicolás González—n/a: Entered along with Duncan despite dealing with a cold that prevented him from starting, and, like the Ghanaian, just didn’t have time to do much.

Three things we learned

1. Who’s the secondary goal scorer? Against smaller teams, Fiorentina usually manage to manufacture enough chances for someone to turn one or two home. Against good defenses, though, it feels like the team requires its striker to score. While that seems obvious and simplistic, it’s telling that, despite having exciting attackers, Fiorentina’s highest league scorer since Susan’s departure is Biraghi. And 3 of his 4 goals are from direct free kicks, so it’s not like he’s providing a threat in open play.

Vincenzo Italiano spoke after the game about the need for his wingers to score more: Nico, Sottil, Saponara, and Callejón have combined to score 8 goals so far, which just isn’t enough. If you take away Vlahović’s goals, the Viola go from overperforming in xG to underperforming, which backs up what we’ve seen. Nico’s missed a host of chances so far this year and Ikone’s well on his way to joining him. Sottil feels like he could light up at any moment but could also go ice cold at any moment, and Ricky’s never been prolific and isn’t likely to become so. It’s not just the wingers—the midfielders could stand to score a bit more as well—but leaving the entire goalscoring burden on one pair of shoulders is a bad idea and we’re seeing why that is.

2. Castrovilli is almost back. It hasn’t even been a month since we wondered what happened to our glorious Tanino. In the past couple of games, he’s started to regain his old sparkle, looking decisive on the ball and active without it. He’s showcased his dribbling and even added some creative passing. With a busy summer and several injuries this year, it’s fair to wonder if he’s just now getting a handle on Italiano’s demands; that he’s starting so much more indicates that he’s increased his performance in training considerably, adding more evidence to the eyeball test. What stands out to me is how much quicker his decision making has been. I’d love to know how much time he’s spent on the ball over the past couple of weeks compared to the start of the season, because it seems like he’s making much quicker choices. A full capacity Castrovilli would raise this team’s ceiling immensely, so let’s hope it’s happening.

3. Everyone loves Venuti and nobody blames him. Lifelong Fiorentina fan Lollo just lived out everyone’s nightmare, scoring a stoppage time own goal for his team in a massive game at home against the biggest rival. His tears after that were understandable and demonstrated just how much it matters to him. If every player cared that much, this would be a very different game. And as far as blaming him goes, take a look at all the teammates, current and former, offering their support to him on social media. They all know this was a freak event. If the professional players aren’t blaming him, all us idiot fans certainly shouldn’t either. Fortunately, the vast majority of supporters inside Florence have gone the other way. Let’s all be like that.