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

A calm, professional 1-0 win over an inferior opponent is just the weirdest thing to write about for this team.

ACF Fiorentina v UC Sampdoria - Coppa Italia Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player grades

Pierluigi Gollini—4: Didn’t face a shot on target and still managed to scare the hell out of us a few times. Whiffed on one corner, mistimed his punch on another, and had a bad pass out of the back. Some of that is rust after a lengthy injury layoff, sure, but he’s just been a disaster.

Dodô—5: Never really impacted the game that much. Made some decent runs forward but didn’t do anything. Looked very secure defensively until Tommaso Augello came on; the Sampdoria standout gave him a couple of nervy moments, but it all worked out.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—6: Threw himself around with reckless abandon, as per usual. Never threatened by Daniele Montevago but had a bit more trouble with Sam Lammers, who snuck away from him a couple of times. Hopefully his injury is just impact and won’t actually result in an absence. Heaven knows Fiorentina already have enough of those.

Luca Ranieri—6: Had a few ropy moments, especially against Lammers, as you’d expect from a guy who hasn’t played in 4 months. Some poor communication, a bad pass or two, but generally in the right place at the right time. Made a couple of really good tackles, too, which has always been his calling card.

Aleksa Terzić—6: Really good in the first half, serving as the constant out ball and overlapping well. Teased in a couple of decent balls and showed some good industry. Samp figured out that he was the defensive weak link in the final half hour, though, and attacked him relentlessly, resulting in a couple of poor moments for him.

Sofyan Amrabat—6.5: Booked for an absolute nothingburger foul in the first half and had a few uncharacteristically sloppy moments, but it was great to have him back. Dominated the middle as he always does. Also provided a comedy highlight, picking up the ball and heading it out of his hands back to referee Daniele Paterna with a manic grin on his face to express his frustration.

Alfred Duncan—7.5: Man of the match. After a horror show against Sassuolo, the Ghanaian was back to his understated best, moving the ball around unfussily and always being in the right place at the right time. His intelligence means his teammates can go anywhere and know that Alfred will be covering for them or running into space beyond them. A perfect complement to Amrabat.

Jonathan Ikoné—5: Never seen a player look so dangerous while offering so little actual danger. Beat his marker easily enough time and again but never did much of note afterwards. Tends to walk back on defense, allowing opponents to run past him and put stress on the fullback; can’t imagine Vincenzo Italiano is happy about that.

Antonín Barák—7: Scored a lovely goal, taking his total in cup competitions to 4. Had some neat touches and a couple of very clever combinations afterwards but seemed a bit peripheral to the main action. He’s clearly got the quality to influence games but just needs to use it more consistently.

Christian Kouamé—6: Stretched play vertically with his runs in behind and had a couple of decent looks at goal but couldn’t finish them. Tracked back really well, as usual. Seems to be in a bit of a funk of late rather than the brilliant attacker we saw a few months ago but still a useful cog.

Luka Jović—4.5: Really should’ve had at least one goal. Got one in the back of the net but was (wrongly?) flagged offside after it came off a defender. Missed a couple of other very presentable chances. Still doesn’t contribute much to the buildup or out of possession, so he needs to bury his chances to justify his inclusion.

Nicolás González—5: Looked way off the pace, taking several bad touches and losing the ball without any particular reason. Because he’s Nico, still made things happen; this time, it was using his quickness to beat Jeison Murillo to a 50-50, leading the Colombian to foul him for a second yellow card.

Nikola Milenković—6: Imperious as ever at the back, slamming the door on Lammers and blocking Sampdoria’s best shot. Hopefully he can continue that kind of form after a wobbly couple of weeks.

Giacomo Bonaventura—5.5: Held down the fort in Amrabat’s absence, buzzing around and making himself a nuisance. Didn’t do much going forward.

Cristiano Biraghi—n/a: Had a few touches and held up defensively. Fine.

Gaetano Castrovilli—n/a: Not sure he touched the ball once.

Three things we learned

1. Fiorentina can grind out a win. Ever since Italiano took the reins, we’ve been clamoring for him to be less naive. While that’s a weird and abstract thing to think, in practice we want the Viola to stop conceding goals either late on or directly after they’ve scored themselves. In this one, they did neither. In fact, they were defensively dominant, not allowing a shot on target, created half a dozen good chances, took one, and then saw out the game with minimal fuss.

Yes, Samp is about as miserable an outfit as you’ll find in Serie A this year, but games like these are the ones that the boys ought to roll through without getting out of second gear, and they did. I genuinely don’t understand why some fans are so irritated with this team, which has now won 8 of its past 12 in all competitions since that 0-4 drubbing to Lazio, with the only two losses coming against the Milan clubs. They dominate the ball, create chances, defend pretty well, and get results. What else are they supposed to do?

2. It’s time to grab a striker. Maybe it’s just a matter of playing himself back into shape, but we’re far enough into the season that Jović’s finishing has become a problem. He’s certainly been unlucky—the offside goal in this one, the VAR-removed PK against Samp earlier this year (is Luka just cursed against the Blucerchiati?)—but he’s missed a bunch of chances that he really should’ve finished and doesn’t offer much else besides his poaching.

That’s an underwhelming option to lead the line in the best of times, but with Arthur Cabral looking at at least a month on the sidelines (and maybe twice that if his hamstring doesn’t cooperate), Fiorentina can’t afford not to snag another center forward. Kouamé’s done quite well there but is needed on the wing as well, especially with González so injury-prone and Riccardo Sottil absent. Pivoting the focus of the mercato towards a striker suddenly looks less like a luxury and more like a necessity.

3. The youngsters are now part of the plan. With Youssef Maleh and Szymon Żurkowski gone and with Pierluigi Gollini, Marco Benassi, and Lorenzo Venuti all possibly hot on their heels, Fiorentina’s once-bloated roster is quickly slimming down. While Michele Cerofolini should deputize for Pietro Terracciano if/when Gollini’s gone, Alessandro Bianco is now a candidate to play significant minutes as the fourth midfielder behind Amrabat, Duncan, and Rolando Mandragora. Primavera stars Michael Kayode and Filippo Distefano could get some looks to, and should be regulars on the roster. Dimo Krastev, Tommaso Martinelli, and Lorenzo Amatucci could make their debuts as well.

This isn’t, to me, a failure of roster construction; it’s the right way to bring talent through the system. Players excel for the Primavera and earn the right to join the grown-ups for a few games, make their debut, and then either leave on loan to develop for another year or jump straight into the squad. It offers a reward for youngsters who do well at U19 level and an obvious path forward for them, rather than the interminable series of loans that end with a 23-year-old leaving on a free after being on the club’s books for a decade without ever cracking the first team.