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

There are some interesting bits to pick out from amongst the smoldering wreckage, but make no mistake. It’s a smoldering wreckage.

ACF Fiorentina v RÄ«gas Futbola skola: Group A - UEFA Europa Conference Leagu Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6.5: Didn’t have a chance on either goal but did make a good save later on Marko Arnautović and, a little earlier, a picture-perfect slide tackle outside the area on the Austrian. Everything else was pretty routine.

Dodô—6.5: Active and engaged, particularly carrying the ball out of the defensive third. Constantly drove Fiorentina up the pitch and even showed some creative running into the box. Sounds like he’ll miss a couple of weeks with a calf injury due to the really poor surface at the Renato Dall’Ara.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—7.5: Was certainly fouled by Denso Kasius in the buildup to the second goal, so I’m not pinging him for that; Daniele Orsato’s got some explaining to do, especially since he never even reviewed the call. LMQ was mostly solid, although he did have trouble tracking Arnautović a couple of times over the top. Was also the most dangerous player going forward, producing the team’s only two shots on frame and the goal.

Igor—2: Completely whiffed on a long ball over the top to let Musa Barrow in for the opener, then got himself 2 yellow cards in stoppage time. Looked really unsteady throughout. In short, it was a nightmare for him. Hopefully he can get his legs back under him, because the Viola defense can’t function without him.

Cristiano Biraghi—6: Did the usual Biraghi stuff, providing a few decent balls in and constantly overlapping down the left. Wasn’t tested much defensively but mostly held up well when he was, although he was a little slow getting back at times.

Antonín Barák—4.5: Mostly invisible as Fiorentina built down the wings and missed a couple of clever drifts into space. Might still be getting in sync with his teammates and might be dealing with some heavy legs, having started 5 matches in 14 days, but needs to be more assertive.

Sofyan Amrabat—5: Dictated play well and dominated the middle, although almost more because Bologna ceded that zone than anything else. Sprayed some very nice passes to the wings but never increased the tempo or looked to break the lines with vertical passes. Picked up a card that was more unlucky (the slippery pitch claiming another victim) than anything else.

Giacomo Bonaventura—5: Really needs to stop shooting from outside the box every time he sees an opening, particularly with his left foot. Made a couple of neat passes, including one that nearly unlocked things for Kouamé in the first half, but the shooting is becoming a problem.

Riccardo Sottil—5: Never got untracked as Bologna marked him extremely tightly and usually doubled him as soon as he got the ball. Had one decent shot but not much else. Wouldn’t have minded seeing him switch to the right wing and try his luck on that side.

Luka Jović—5.5: Vast improvement in this one as he looked hungrier and more mobile. Dropped deep to offer a passing option and tried to link up with the midfielders. Lost the ball a bit too easily at times, but was pretty fine otherwise. Received pretty much no service at all.

Christian Kouamé—5.5: Had a couple of really nice moments but wasn’t consistent enough. Rarely received the ball in space and, like Sottil, was frequently doubled immediately when he got it.

Lorenzo Venuti—4: Switched off for the second goal, letting Arnautović go by him unchecked, and struggled to hold up against the big Austrian. Just looked shaky, which isn’t great since he’s about to play a lot of matches.

Riccardo Saponara—7: Produced a lovely assist with an absurd bit of skill, juggling the ball past two defenders before sliding in the cross. This is the kind of game that suits him, as the pace is slower and allows him to work his magic. Wouldn’t have minded him being a bit more inventive, but he certainly made an impact.

Jonathan Ikoné—5: Made a couple of neat runs and got Charalampos Lykogiannis booked with a lovely bit of dribbling, but didn’t do much in the final third.

Arthur Cabral—n/a: Came on with 5 minutes left.

Rolando Mandragora—n/a: Ibidem.

Three things we learned

1. Italiano’s willing to change shape a little bit. One of the things I’ve complained about in previous articles is that, when Fiorentina are in control of a game and/or hunting a goal, Italiano still wants 3 midfielders and 2 defenders sitting relatively deep, which makes means they’re constantly outnumbered in the opposition penalty area. One of the potential solutions I saw was throwing another striker on for a midfielder to provide another target. And, for the first time in his Viola career, Italiano did just that for more than the final couple of minutes.

By replacing Barák with Ikoné in the 71st minute, the mister pushed Kouamé into a central role alongside Jović. To be frank, it didn’t look very good. In fact, it looked to me like the first time the team had really tried this approach out. That also means that, despite the disjointed result of this approach, it’s worth working on in training. We’ve wanted a Plan B for Fiorentina since Italiano took over, and it seems like he’s starting to oblige us. Signs of growth from a very young manager are always welcome, and maybe this is one way he can jumpstart what looks like a moribund squad.

2. It’s time to start switching sides. Sottil and Kouamé both had moments in the first half, but neither managed to produce all that much. As the team’s best wingers right now, it might have made sense for them to swap sides at some point and see if having Sottil burn down the right wing and fizz in crosses, or letting Chris cut inside onto his stronger foot to shoot, would’ve been worth a look. Perhaps half an hour into a match in which the team isn’t creating anything, these kinds of small changes could help.

It’s not just the wingers, though. The central midfielders both play with the stronger foot on the outside: Jack on the right and Barák (or Duncan, or Maleh) on the left. This means that, when the receive a cutback at the top of the box and shape themselves to shoot, it’s almost always with their weaker foot. Think of how many times Jack in particular has popped an attempt from distance this year with his left, and how many of them haven’t been anywhere near threatening. By having them swap sides, they’d both be in a better position to test the goalkeeper from range.

3. Nikola Milenković is the most important player on this team. While the lack of attacking output has been the greatest source of consternation for fans this year, the defense has also been a little ragged at times. Igor and LMQ are both good players, but both have an error in them. Milenković is more solid than either and also fills a very different role, as he excels at sweeping up others’ mistakes. In terms of both talent and playing style, he’s so necessary to what this defense does. There’s depth in most other positions to cover for absences of other players, but the Mountain really doesn’t have a replacement. Let’s hope he’s back soon.