Pietro Terracciano—6: Got his clean sheet and made a good save on a Lorenzo Pellegrini free kick, although that was the only shot on target he faced. Had a few nervy moments in possession and coming off his line; even though he just about got away with all of them, he gave the impression that he could be got at, which isn’t the best in a goalkeeper.
Lorenzo Venuti—6: Dusted by Nicola Zalewski once or twice but mostly stood firm. Offered some good forward running to open things up down the wing, allowing Ikoné to move infield. Even snarled at Roger Ibañez after shoving him over at one point, which was a whole new side of him.
Nikola Milenković—6.5: Added some muscle to the back and did a nice job of simply overpowering Pellegrini, limiting his influence on the game. Led the game in aerial wins (6) and ball recoveries (12), indicating that he’s pretty clearly the sweeper in this relationship.
Igor—7.5: Climbed inside Tammy Abraham’s shirt and stayed there for the duration, preventing the English striker from getting the ball or doing anything with it. Cut out passes to him, took the ball off him, and generally treated him with the disdain of a big brother for a little brother. Probably the man of the match.
Cristiano Biraghi—6: Understated from the captain, but he was quite effective. Got forward a couple of times to help create chances and didn’t let Rick Karsdorp get anything going on that side. Led the team in passes into the final third, highlighting the deeper, almost playmaking role he’s taken on over the past few months.
Giacomo Bonaventura—7.5: The goal was kind of hilarious, as he just strolled 50 yards into the box unopposed, but Jack was good throughout. Kept the ball moving, offered the occasional moment of flair, and even chipped in without the ball. If he’s healthy again, he could solve the lack of creativity in the middle in Gaetano Castrovilli’s absence.
Sofyan Amrabat—6.5: Bullied AS Roma’s midfielders, setting the tone and closing down the space between the lines, which prevented Pellegrini from getting involved. Kept his passing simple and positive and rarely dallied on the ball. Even came close with a shot from distance. He’s nothing like Lucas Torreira, but Sofyan’s proving that he can play a part for Vincenzo Italiano.
Alfred Duncan—6.5: Slightly weird game for Alfred. He seemed a step off before the break, missing a couple of simple passes, but tightened up afterwards and helped Fiorentina dominate possession before completely borking a 3-v-2 break with González and Piątek. Even with the frustrating moments, though, his work without the ball was good and he was doubtless an excellent contributor all around.
Jonathan Ikoné—6: Had several dazzling moments in which he dribbled past multiple defenders but never got the final ball right. Could’ve scored if not for a bizarre foul call that stopped play when he was clearly in on goal; had Marco Guida not blown that one dead, we might be talking about Ikoné’s performance very differently. As is, he’s left us wanting a little bit more.
Arthur Cabral—6: Did so much dirty work to occupy defenders and allow the wingers space to attack and got very little reward for it. Might be dropping a bit too deep at times, taking himself out of counterattacks. You can tell that he’s still getting on the same page with everyone, so hopefully he’ll sort that by next season.
Nicolás González—7.5: The penalty was soft, yeah, but considering that Guida waved off a hilariously obvious one later, it feels like justice was more or less served. Played more within himself today, picking when to drive at opponents and when to keep the ball ticking over, rather than constantly trying to make things happen. We’re close to getting the best version of him.
Youssef Maleh—5: Came in and did Maleh things, charging around and making a nuisance of himself.
Krzysztof Piątek—5: Tried one wildly ambitious volley that he was never going to score, but did a decent job of getting himself into good places during his cameo. Perfectly adequate.
José Callejón—n/a: 1 minute is about the maximum serving size of Callejón, thanks.
Riccardo Saponara—n/a: Also played a minute.
Aleksa Terzić—n/a: Also also played a minute.
Three things we learned
1. Serie A refereeing remains a crapshoot. The penalty was soft. Full stop. Not arguing that. However, we’ve seen that same penalty given dozens of times in Serie A (I still have nightmares about Carlos Salcedo sticking a leg out over and over and over for forwards to run into). In Nico’s defense, he’d clearly been fouled by Gianluca Mancini and stayed on his feet to drive into the box before Rick Karsdorp clipped him. That willingness to stay on one’s feet is something referees should look to reward.
The whole thing was pretty bad, though. The phantom call on Ikoné to deny a clear goal scoring opportunity, the non-call on Bryan Cristante wrestling Nico to the ground in the box after being beaten, the very soft early yellow on Amrabat: these were all woefully bad as well. To be fair, Milenković got away with a foul on Pellegrini just outside the box, so I think it’s fair to call this one incompetence rather than malice. Still, the standard of refereeing in Serie A is simply terrible and has to be something that the league looks to address. Maybe prioritizing that instead of, say, prosecuting people trying to watch on streams would be a better use of resources.
2. Cabral is dropping too deep. Arthur’s work rate has been an unexpected bonus this year. I’d imagined him as a battering ram up front, more like Susan was. Instead, the Brazilian has dropped into midfield at times to help build up play and drag defenders with him, opening spaces for the wingers to attack. That’s an extremely valuable quality, but it also means he’s frequently too deep to contribute to the attacks his movement and positioning hep create. Making sure that he’s not tracking more than 10 meters back could help keep him in position to round off a few more moves, which could take some of the pressure of the wingers to finish at a higher rate. As Cabral and his teammates get better acquainted, this should work itself out, but it’s definitely something to watch over these next two games.
3. There’s enough talent in this squad to cause any opponent headaches. After watching the Viola lurch to 4 straight defeats, it was very easy to point out every shortcoming: a lack of dynamism from the fullbacks, midfielders who are solid rather than exciting, wingers who never score, strikers who aren’t ever on the same page as their teammates. We’re Fiorentina fans, so we’re constantly checking the forecast and reading that the apocalypse is indeed nigh.
Even so, the squad is replete with superb players. Milenković and Igor are one of the best centerback pairings in Italy. Biraghi, for all his warts, offers a lot of quality. Jack and Duncan are both, at absolute minimum, adequate players and can, at times, offer so much more. Nico and Ikoné are inconsistent, yes, but breathtakingly talented. Even the weakest links—Terracciano and Venuti—are solid performers. The majority of sides in Serie A would kill to have this roster, and there isn’t a club that wouldn’t be improved by adding at least a couple of those guys. When an opponent sits back and lets the Viola cook, they’ve got enough to make something happen, even if some of the star chefs are missing.