Pierluigi Gollini—1: The worst goalkeeping performance I’ve ever seen in a professional game. Conceded the first corner cheaply by letting a(n admittedly poor) Igor backpass run over the line, then let the ensuing shot off the corner squirm through him (although Jović was somewhat in the way). Did the stupidest juggling routine imaginable to concede the second for absolutely no reason at at all; miss me with the “but Venuti’s backpass” takes. And, while the third goal wasn’t entirely on him, he got a hand to the ball and still couldn’t keep it out. Yikes.
Aleksa Terzić—4.5: Wasn’t the main problem but sure wasn’t the solution either. Lost track of Serdar Gürler on the corner for the first goal and didn’t really contribute anything going forward.
Sofyan Amrabat—5: Bullied Stefano Okaka and hit a bunch of lovely passes out to the wings. As much as a game like this can have a man of the match, he was it. The fact that he lost Bertrand Traoré on the final goal and still wins this dubious honor should emphasize what a miserable team performance this was.
Igor—3: Beaten by Youssouf Ndayishimye for the initial corner, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was constant overconfidence on the ball; he over-dribbled several times at the back and coughed it up, leading to chances that should have been punished. A week or two off might do him a world of good.
Lorenzo Venuti—4.5: His pass back to Gollini wasn’t great, but c’mon. Did a perfectly adequate job for the most part, although he didn’t produce much of anything going forward besides a couple of decent passes into Ikoné.
Youssef Maleh—3.5: His most memorable contribution was not touching the ball as he neatly step-over dummied a pass that led to a shot. Other than that, it was the usual charging up and down without really accomplishing much of anything. Simply doesn’t have the ability to influence play with the ball right now.
Rolando Mandragora—4: Invisible in the worst way. As a regista playing against a team that didn’t particularly want the ball, he should’ve had the time to play measured, incisive passes. He did not.
Giacomo Bonaventura—3.5: He played, I think. Not well, I think. But he did play. I think.
Riccardo Saponara—5: Had a couple of neat moments, including Fiorentina’s only shot on target (!), and displayed a few silky touches. The lack of dynamism around him, though, meant that there was nobody to take advantage of his guile.
Arthur Cabral—3.5: Motored around but didn’t do anything. Had a moment where the ball was at his feet 6 yards from goal but couldn’t sort his touch to turn and shoot. That pretty much sums it up.
Jonathan Ikoné—2: Broke up at least 3 attacks with poor touches or terrible passes. His second yellow sure looked like nothing more than petulance. May need a change of scenery for the rest of the year and a reassessment in the summer, because this just isn’t good enough.
Luka Jović—4.5: Looked a bit livelier, especially later on when the game was entirely out of reach, but let’s not pretend like this is the beginning of the Age of Luka.
Antonín Barák—4: Pulled up to the window and ordered a nothingburger with no lettuce, no tomato, no pickles, and no condiments.
Cristiano Biraghi—4: I’m sure he did something but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was.
Alfred Duncan—4: At least showed a little fire, briefly getting into a shoving match. I dunno, man. I’m grasping at straws here.
Christian Kouamé—4: Also showed some desire and set up a chance for Jović with a delightful little flick, but it had been over for a long time by the time he came on.
Three things we learned
1. It’s tough to win with half the team hurt. Nikola Milenković. Lucas Martínez Quarta. Dodô. Marco Benassi. Gaetano Castrovilli. Szymon Żurkowski. Nicolás González. Riccardo Sottil.
That’s Fiorentina’s current injury list. 9 players, including 4 who are quite possibly the 4 best on the team. You take any team’s 4 best players away, as well as several other important contributors, and that team will struggle. There isn’t a club or a manager in the world that can absorb that kind of attrition for an extended period of time.
I want to start this section with a reminder that, having played more games than any team in Italy—10 over the first month of the season—the Viola haven’t had any time off to heal or to scheme responses to problems, and that those schemes are likely to collapse before they can be implemented as player after player goes down with injury. This already looks like a cursed season for reasons outside anyone’s control.
2. The squad depth just isn’t there. That said, the folks in charge of building the Viola into a squad that can compete on 3 fronts have failed miserably. While a club of this size can’t afford a Manchester City-type roster featuring at least 2 starter-level players at every position, it’s hard to look at the mercato this summer and not see that the brass exclusively focused on replacing the guys who left. While that approach would work fine for a team playing the same number of fixtures as the previous season, it didn’t work for Fiorentina.
So what we get instead is a squad designed to compete on 2 fronts being spread across 3. And, as you might expect, it’s spread too thin. You can’t blame the players or the coach for that. You have to look higher up the org chart and question the overall transfer strategy that brought the team here.
3. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m not letting the players or Vincenzo Italiano off the hook here, though. Going winless for 8 straight matches and getting outscored 3-8 in them is unacceptable for this team. While there are clear problems with the tactical approach, which offers minimal penetration and leaves acres of space for opponents to break into, we’re beyond the point where arguing about a change in formation or the location of the defensive line or how to cross.
This is the point where the players need to dig in and fix what’s wrong, and the manager needs to motivate them to do so. These guys look like they’re sleepwalking through games. There’s no intensity. There’s no desire. There’s no blood and thunder. I don’t generally want to fall into the Proper Football Man tropes of asking idiotic questions like “who wants it more,” because I promise you that these professionals who have dedicated their lives and very selves to the sport want it much more than someone like me, sitting on a couch and criticizing them.
But sometimes there’s wisdom even in the lowest common denominator of discourse around the game. And if these players are glassy-eyed at all times and their coach can’t get them to dig in and do the thing, it may be time to make some big changes.