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

A mature display from the Viola will hopefully preserve their legs for a little affair on Wednesday.

ACF Fiorentina v Empoli FC - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/vi/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6: Had very little to do, saving the one shot he faced as most of Venezia’s attempts ended up being flagged offside. Came close to a catastrophic own goal under zero pressure, which didn’t feel great with a one-goal lead.

Lorenzo Venuti—6: Had a few shaky moments at the back but generally acquitted himself well, and was also competent getting forward, albeit mostly as an overlapping decoy to create space for Nico and Castrovilli. Remains the weak link in defense but is clearly more than capable of handling himself against a team like Venezia.

Nikola Milenković—7: Mostly erased big Thomas Henry from the proceedings and kept a calm head while sweeping up behind. Never really looked like he was under any stress.

Igor—7: Was just as assured as big Nicky in defense, alternately stepping forward to shut down moves before they developed and tracking back to deny runners. Did misplace several passes, especially in the first half, for which I’m docking him a bit, but also created the goal with a flying, volleyed cutback.

ACF Fiorentina v Venezia FC - Serie A
Igor’s mean mug is never not hilarious to me.
Photo by Lisa Guglielmi/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Cristiano Biraghi—6.5: Did well getting the ball forward without forcing the issue, showing the patience to keep possessions moving while still providing his usual tireless overlapping. Coped with Dennis Johnsen and Mattia Aramu quite well and spun a couple of decent set pieces.

Youssef Maleh—6.5: Looked like he had something to prove against his former team and gave it his all. Never stopped running dropping back to break up Venezia’s attacks and bursting forward to support Fiorentina’s forays forward. Still looks a bit uncertain in the final third at times but remains a very useful option.

Lucas Torreira—8: The club’s current leading scorer was, once again, utterly brilliant. His knack for scoring goals in the box from free kicks despite being the shortest player on the pitch is hilarious, but it was his fantastic work setting the tempo and controlling the play, especially in the first half, that stood out. This half regista, half box-to-box role suits him perfectly.

Gaetano Castrovilli—6.5: Very mature display from Tanino, who rarely tried to force things and instead focused on keeping the ball ticking, picking his spots to break down a defender. Also contributed without the ball, leading the team in tackles. Forced off with a dislocated kneecap that may end his season, which is a wrenching turn of events for a lovely player who was hitting his stride.

Gaetano Castrovilli of ACF Fiorentina injured during the...
Fucking brutal. Get well soon, Tanino.
Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

Nicolás González—6.5: The Argentine winger was dynamic as ever, drifting all over the place to find space and jitterbugging away from would-be tacklers. His end product wasn’t quite right and he couldn’t make it three games on the trot with a goal, but he clearly presented a threat going forward that the visitors were quite worried about.

Arthur Cabral—5.5: The big Brazilian had a few excellent moments but seems to still be feeling out his new teammates, which leads to the odd anonymous stretch. Starting to show a willingness to drop deep and help in the buildup, though, and looks every bit the multi-dimensional striker that Fiorentina touted him to be in January. Just needs a bit more time to settle in.

Jonathan Ikoné—6.5: Hit the upright with a lovely shot and bamboozled the defense with his dancing feet. Seemed happy to provide an outlet for possession and to keep the ball moving rather than attacking directly, although that might have been a tactical instruction. Clearly developing some chemistry with the other members of this exciting tridente.

Alfred Duncan—6: Brought on to stabilize the midfield and did just that, providing a calming influence with the ball and a sturdy bulwark without it.

Riccardo Sottil—4.5: Ran hard and quickly but never seemed to be on the same page as everyone else. Still looks to be overthinking things.

Sofyan Amrabat—5: Obviously not even close to Castrovilli in terms of style but did offer some extra steel in the middle, although he missed a couple of passes.

Krzysztof Piątek—n/a: Entered in the 86th minute.

Three things we learned

1. Fiorentina has learned when to turn it down. The Viola ran rampant in the first half, creating a succession of chances and seeing over 80% of possession. Seeing that Venezia simply didn’t have the firepower to threaten them, they spent the second half knocking the ball around, taking the sting out of the game, saving their legs, and only occasionally offering a real attacking threat. While we, as fans, always want to see big wins and lots of goals, the collective confidence, focus, and talent this group showed controlling all 90 minutes without every looking even remotely threatened is more impressive, perhaps, than adding another goal or two.

2. The defense is so well connected. The rise of Igor into Serie A’s new favorite centerback has elevated the defense to new heights; his pairing with Milenković gives Fiorentina a central defense that boasts pace, strength, technical ability, aerial command, and excellent anticipation. Even Biraghi and Venuti, though, deserve credit for their work recently, as they’ve been instrumental in the Viola’s sterling record at the back: they’ve conceded 4 goals in their past 6 games and kept 3 clean sheets, largely because they’ve been brilliant at catching opponents offside.

This game was no exception: every time Venezia got the ball into the box, the back line stepped up at the right moment and left the Arancioneroverdi marooned offside. That sort of feel for each other’s positioning speaks volumes about Vincenzo Italiano’s work with these players, and to their own commitment and talent. They’ve come miles from the frustrating unit that seemed primed to self-destruct at any moment earlier this year.

3. This tridente is the future. Ever since Ikoné and Cabral joined in January, we’ve been waiting for them to join Nico in the starting lineup. They seem like they’re perfectly complementary: Nico offers pace, dribbling, and a secondary threat in the area. Ikoné’s got the silkiness and vision to pull a defense out of position and take advantage of the chaos. And Cabral’s a battering ram with shockingly delicate feet.

While Italiano trolled us for months by using Riccardo Saponara and Riccardo Sottil and José Callejón and Krzysztof Piątek, we’ve finally seen the big three together. It wasn’t perfect. There were some missed connections. But these are three young, talented, and intelligent players. You can tell that this is Fiorentina’s future. And that future is really bright. Sometimes, there’s no real analysis here. Sometimes you just sit back and absorb the vibes. And this tridente, man. This tridente is all vibes.