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Napoli 2-3 Fiorentina: Player grades and 3 things we learned

It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun.

SSC Napoli v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6: Not at fault for either goal and only made one other save. Fine with his distribution and decent claiming crosses. Weirdly quiet day for the Fun Dad, honestly.

Lorenzo Venuti—5: Had a lot of trouble staying in front of Lorenzo Insigne, which isn’t that surprising; after all, the diminutive Neapolitan is one Serie A’s best players. Lollo, though, let him inside a bit too easily, and also missed a high ball that let Mário Rui have a free shot at goal. Was quiet but adequate going forward.

Nikola Milenković—7: Picked up a pointless early booking that forced him to play more cautiously, but didn’t give Mariani any chances to show him another. Swept up well behind the defense, particularly in stepping up for the offside trap. Maybe could’ve done a bit better on the Dries Mertens goal but that was more about the midfield getting caught too high up.

Igor—8: Man of the match. Erased Victor Osimhen from the game, sticking to the hyped-up Napoli striker like a burr and holding him without a sniff. Bumped him off the ball, nipped in front of him, and anticipated the Nigerian’s every move until losing him for an instant, although there are very few forwards in the world who could’ve scored that goal. If Serie A hadn’t realized that Igor is one of the best defenders in the league, the Brazilian just posted a very clear advertisement to that effect.

Cristiano Biraghi—6.5: Had a shaky first 15 minutes in which he lost Matteo Politano a few times on balls into the box, but found his footing and solidified things quite well. His cross led to the first goal, and his delivery into the final third was actually quite good. Very solid from one of the fans’ favorite whipping boys.

Gaetano Castrovilli—6.5: Came out looking a bit jittery, overdribbling and conceding possession cheaply, but settled in well. Constantly moved to the right wing, allowing Nico to come inside. His defensive contribution was most impressive, though, as he dropped in to help Amrabat and broke up some dangerous attacks.

Sofyan Amrabat—5: Hit a few lovely long passes to the wings and made a couple of solid tackles, but also got himself into trouble a few times with ill-attempted dribbles in deep areas that conceded possession in bad spots. Caught too high up for the Mertens goal. Still not a bad player, despite the narrative around him, but just isn’t suited for the Lucas Torreira role.

Alfred Duncan—5.5: Bustled around energetically enough but didn’t affect the play much. A bit anonymous with the ball, although he did try to find passes to feet for the forwards. His energy did help solidify things in the first half, particularly after that first quarter hour or so.

Nicolás González—8: Scored for the second game running and added an assist while serving as the fulcrum of the attack. Beat Rui like a drum, constantly jetting past the fullback and wreaking havoc amongst the Partenopei defense. His live wire dribbling, excellent understanding of space, and newfound desire to get in the box made him look like one of the best wingers in the league. Still had a couple of ill-advised shots but that’s a fine price to pay for performances like this.

Arthur Cabral—7.5: His goal and his assist showed his versatility perfectly. For the assist, he bodied Kalidou Koulibaly and knocked down a high ball for Nico to lash home. His own goal was a magnificent solo effort, picking up the ball on the wing and leaving poor Stanislav Lobotka in a heap before curling in a lovely finish. This dynamism is what sets him apart. Not quite as involved in the buildup play, but clearly able to contribute; once he’s had a run of games to start, expect him to improve in that department going forward.

Riccardo Saponara—5.5: Involved in the buildup to the first goal and had a couple of neat touches and turns, but rarely shook loose of youngster Alessandro Zanoli and didn’t influence play very much; as usual, he struggled against top tier opposition, largely because he just doesn’t have the foot speed.

Jonathan Ikoné—7: You want instant impact? His first touch was to settle a cross and his second was to score it, opening his Fiorentina account with a tidy finish. Was nimble as ever on the ball, dancing past would-be tacklers, and even popped up in his own box at times to help defend, although he did commit a dangerous foul to give Napoli a free kick just outside the area. Still, he looks like a perfect complement to Nico and Arthur. Can’t wait for that tridente to start together.

Youssef Maleh—6: Got the assist for Cabral’s goal, although it was all King Arthur. Still, his energy was a perfect addition to the match. He harried Napoli’s midfielders mercilessly and charged up the field like a maniac. Did a nice job of holding down the fort and making sure the Viola took the points. This feels like his perfect role right now.

José Callejón—n/a: Came on at 86’ and still managed to disappoint, firing a good chance into the side netting when he should’ve scored the insurance at his old stomping grounds.

Aleksandr Kokorin—n/a: The Human Victory Cigar wasn’t terrible. Absorbed a bad tackle, ran around, and helped without the ball. Now let’s never see him again, please.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—n/a: Replaced a cramping Igor and held down the fort.

Three things we learned

1. Italiano is making tangible improvements. One of the marks of a good manager is the ability to learn from past mistakes. Take a look at the past few games against opponents that beat Fiorentina in the first half of the season: Inter Milan, Empoli, and Napoli each took 3 points off the Viola the first time around. In the back half, the Viola have taken 7 points from those fixtures. That shows real growth, especially since Italiano has improved his tactics in each one. That’s exactly what we want to see and bodes well for the future.

2. Arthur Cabral is the new starting striker. He’s no Roberto Firmino when it comes to contributing to the buildup, but the King is already miles ahead of Krzysztof Piątek in that department. His physical strength occupies opposing defenders and opens space for his teammates, especially in the wider areas, and he can do things with the ball at his feet that his Polish counterpart simply can’t. Once he’s fully up to speed with his teammates, expect him to combine better. He’s clearly got all the physical and technical tools. Now all he’s got to do is show them off.

3. This team is jam-packed with top end talent. At the start of the year, we thought there were 2 or 3 top tier Serie A players in the squad: Dušan Vlahović, Nikola Milenković, and Bartłomiej Drągowski. While the latter has dropped out of the team for no reason we can figure out and the former has moved on, Big Nicky’s hardly been the only standout.

Nico is perhaps the best dribbler in Italy and is getting the end product right now too, so yes, he’s at that level. Torreira’s looked like an unstoppable midfield force over the past several months. Igor’s vaulted past Milenković and could be the team’s best defender. Cabral’s showing why the team considered him a worthy replacement for Vlahović. Ikoné’s getting untracked. Heck, Castrovilli’s starting to rediscover his form from 2 years ago.

In recent seasons, Giacomo Bonaventura and Cristiano Biraghi were key players; now, they’re solid squad members, but not stars. Not a lot of clubs can go toe to toe with teams like Napoli and win. To do so requires tremendous individual quality, and Fiorentina have that right now. As much as we rip on Joe Barone and Daniele Pradè sometimes, you have to give them credit. They’ve assembled quite a squad.