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Fiorentina 1-1 RFS: Player grades and 3 things we learned

As much as we’d like to forget this one, there were still some interesting nuggets in it.

ACF Fiorentina v Rgas Futbola Skola: Group A - UEFA Europa Conference League Photo MB Media/Getty Images

Player grades

Pierluigi Gollini—6.5: Stood tall and made a superb 1-v-1 save on Andrej Ilić in the first half. No chance on the goal. Was visibly frustrated with some of the lackadaisical defending, especially in the second half.

Cristiano Biraghi—7: Got the assist and was a constant threat with his crosses from open play and set pieces. Barely even had to defend.

Luca Ranieri—4: Completely switched off on FKS’ goal, allowing Ilić to get goalside of him. Also missed a sitter off a corner at the other end, although that’s way more forgivable. Held up better in the air and in the tackle than expected, but the lack of focus may mean he’s not ready for the big time yet.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—6: Mostly avoided the lapses in judgement that have plagued him this year and made a couple of solid interventions.

Dodô—6.5: Charged forward tirelessly and made a few blazing runs both down the wing and through the middle. Teased in a couple of good crosses but still doesn’t offer Biraghi’s end product. Very sound defensively against the tricky Emerson.

Antonín Barák—7: Opened his Fiorentina account with a very nice volley and was unlucky not to score more, crushing an early drive against the post and seeing Pāvels Šteinbors make a miracle save on a header. His off-ball movement was superb throughout. On the other hand, it was his sloppy giveaway that directly led to FKS’ goal, so he’s not quite there yet.

Sofyan Amrabat—6: Threw himself around and dictated the tempo quite well, constantly spreading the ball to the wings, but never really looked to break the lines with forward passes, and didn’t seem capable of adding any urgency to the Viola attack later on.

Giacomo Bonaventura—4: Made a mess out of a(n admittedly tricky, but still) pass from Amrabat to send Ilić racing the other way in a 1-v-1. Popped a couple of shots from range that never came close. Looked way off the pace after an injury layoff, so hopefully he’s just getting his legs back.

Jonathan Ikoné—3: Had a couple of decent looks early on and a neat little touch to set up Barák’s shot off the post, but made a mess of several other opportunities, including a shot he dragged way wide when completely open. Feels like there’s something off with him and he and the coaching staff need to figure it out very, very soon.

Arthur Cabral—6.5: Desperately unlucky not to score, as his movement in the box saw him get half a dozen efforts on target that Šteinbors (apparently the world’s best goalkeeper) somehow repelled. You get the sense that the floodgates are going to open for him at some point, but it didn’t happen this time around.

Christian Kouamé—6: Was as direct and active as ever but didn’t really produce too much in the final third.

Riccardo Sottil—6: Looked dangerous without really producing all that much, but that’s the nature of a mercurial winger.

Luka Jović—2: Sluggish, petulant, and unbelievably wasteful. If a striker buries his chances, he can get away with those first two, but rocketing a wide-open 10-yarder about 40 feet over the bar and then slotting another simple chance well wide isn’t a good look.

Youssef Maleh—5: Buzzed around but didn’t accomplish much besides getting himself booked.

Rolando Mandragora—4.5: Barely there.

Riccardo Saponara—4.5: Lashed a very presentable chance over the bar and didn’t do much else.

Three things we learned

1. Italiano is figuring out his rotations. After spending a couple of weeks changing literally 9 players every game, Cousin Vinnie only made 6 changes in this one, 2 of which were enforced by injury and/or suspension. While the end result obviously isn’t ideal, it’s good to see that the mister has realized that swapping out the entire XI leads to a very disjointed team. The continuity is certainly worth some slightly heavy legs.

2. Fiorentina are woeful with a lead. When Fiorentina finally took the lead, it felt like the game would follow a very simple script: RFS would finally emerge from their penalty area and Fiorentina would pick them off on the break to put the game away. The Latvians played their part, but the Viola failed theirs miserably. They tried to knock the ball around the back and slow the pace, but that only made it easier for the visitors to press them high up; there were a couple of nervy moments at the back that should’ve served as warning signs.

The solution seems pretty obvious to me, although I’m sure that Italiano has very good reasons for what he’s doing. The problem is that Fiorentina is built to put the pedal down at all times; when these guys get a lead and try to become Barcelona circa 2014, they lose everything that makes them dangerous. Instead of passing sideways and backwards and slowing things down, a 1-0 lead should make it easier to find vertical passing angles as the opponent is forced to come forward, allowing them to threaten even more. I’m not sure if it’s a fear of conceding (remember, they did leak in a lot of late goals last year) or if it’s something else, but it’s definitely something for Italiano to chew on.

3. Flukes happen. Fiorentina had 76% possession and took 32 shots, putting 9 on target. While the finishing was pretty bad in this one (Jović x2, Saponara, Ranieri, and Ikoné were particularly poor in that regard), it’s worth pointing out that Pāvels Šteinbors is a seasoned verteran, is Latvia’s starting goalkeeper, and has been in superb form for the past couple of years. It’s a real shame that he chose this game to let the spirit of Seba Frey possess him, but make no mistake: if Cabral or Barák or Ikoné or Jović or half a dozen other players had been just a little luckier or more composed, the Viola would’ve won this one at canter. It was frustrating, unfortunate, and probably not all that illustrative of any larger points other than the randomness inherent to the universe.