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

Nobody’s having fun right now.

ACF Fiorentina v Torino FC - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6: Made a couple of decent saves on Wilfried Singo and Samuele Ricci. Not much he could’ve done on Aleksey Miranchuk’s strike, although I’ve seen some folks criticize the Fun Dad a little bit for it. Really not the problem here.

Lorenzo Venuti—6: Showed a surprising knack for crossing, creating several good opportunities by crowbarring in some hard, flat balls. Won some free kicks and generally looked competent going forward. A little shaky on the back foot, particularly in tracking Demba Seck early on and Nikola Vlašić later on, but, like Terracciano, was adequate at worst.

Nikola Milenković—5: Should’ve done more in the first half but got run ragged by Seck and Vlašić. Seemed to be reacting rather than anticipating and was constantly a half step behind. Bounced back after the break and tightened up but seemed very exposed, although some of that might’ve been Amrabat’s off day.

Igor—5: See above. Got turned by Seck a couple of times and had a couple of very wayward first half passes to put his team in trouble. Settled down in the second half but still didn’t look particularly secure. Had a chance off a corner in the second half that he really didn’t do well with.

Cristiano Biraghi—5: Stuck 1-v-2 on the goal and opted not to close down Miranchuk, allowing the Russian too much space to shoot; in fairness to Cris, was clearly worried about Singo running free at goal as well. Produced a couple of good balls in, including one for Kouamé that required a miracle from Vanja Milinković-Savić, but the fact that he was hooked at the half indicates either that he picked up a knock or that Vincenzo Italiano was very displeased with his defending.

Sofyan Amrabat—4.5: Rare off night from a world-class player. Got caught in possession a couple of times and muscled off the ball, which you don’t see too often. Missed multiple passes to send Torino racing the other way. A stark reminder that when he’s subpar, Fiorentina just isn’t going to do much.

Alfred Duncan—6.5: Offered some calm in the middle, winning the ball and moving it forward with minimum fuss. There were a couple of missed passes (and he got nutmegged to hell) but he was probably the 2nd- or 3rd-best guy out there in his typically understated way.

Jonathan Ikoné—4: Only visible when he got things wrong, which was too often. Ran himself into corners, gave the ball away pointlessly, and offered nothing in the final third except for one flicked header. Also switched off defensively a couple of times, including when Vlašić nearly followed up Singo’s shot by simply running right past him. You have to think he’s heading to the bench as soon as Italiano has more options on the wing.

Giacomo Bonaventura—7: Man of the match. Battled like mad and gave everything despite Torino targeting him for a beating and the ref deciding to allow it, as typified by Michel Adopo smashing him in the face and leaving him with a bloody nose, which was whistled as a foul against Jack. Squirmed his way into space around the box and tried to keep moves going but his lethargic teammates didn’t seem interested in joining him.

Riccardo Saponara—4: We got a bad Cheese day today. Normally so assured in possession, Ricky lost the ball several times, leading to Torino breaks the other way, and didn’t offer anything in the final third. Got himself booked for barking at referee Dionisi, which was the necessary attitude, but that was his biggest contribution.

Christian Kouamé—5: Had one really good chance to score but VMS made a great save. Gave the Granata rearguard some trouble with his pace, physicality, and intelligent movement and offered a decent out ball to relieve pressure, but it’s pretty clear that, when fielded as a lone striker, he’ll work his tail off for the team but not really offer a threat. Definitely looks more comfortable playing on the break than against a deep block, although his aerial ability does make him useful in some situations.

Aleksa Terzić—5: The halftime sub wasn’t really tested defensively (which is good, because he’s struggled in that department this year) and was thus free to stay high up the pitch and fizz in a couple of decent crosses that probably should’ve been scored. While it was a nice showing, let’s not get carried away and say that he’s miles better than Biraghi, because he’s not.

Nicolás González—6: Made an immediate impact, winning 4 fouls in his 36 minutes and helping drive Fiorentina up the pitch. Didn’t prove particularly decisive around the goal, although he nearly reached Ikoné’s flick-on at the back post. Still working his way back to fitness.

Luka Jović—4.5: Looked more active than usual, dropping deep to help build up the play and trying to link with the midfielders, but missed a golden opportunity to tie the game when he dallied on a ball that Kouamé beat the goalkeeper to; Luka had the entire goal open in front of him but dallied, allowing David Zima to get back and block the shot. Not a good way to endear yourself to a coach and a fan base that are running out patience.

Antonín Barák—4: Had a couple of chances to score and had both saved, one via goalkeeping miracle and the other via scruffy contact that made it too easy. You get the feeling that the guy who scored 11 for Hellas Verona last year would’ve buried one of those.

Alessandro Bianco—n/a: 4 minutes and one decent switch of play.

Three things we learned

1. Sometimes, you’re just unlucky. Fiorentina were terrible in the first half, unable to get the ball anywhere near Torino’s goal, but they improved after the break, and, in terms of xG (1.6 to 0.6) and chances created (albeit all the final 15ish minutes), probably deserved at least a point, if not all three.

If Jović or Barák bury their chances, we’re having a very different conversation after this game, one about how the Viola needs to start more strongly. Instead, we’re shrieking about this garbage team being garbage. Let’s not forget that soccer is an inherently random game, and that sometimes a team just gets bit by the Spider of Misfortune and has a bad season. It’s not because anyone’s doing anything wrong. It’s just the caprice of a non-causative universe.

2. Italiano’s attacking tactics aren’t the biggest problem. I’ve also seen a lot of irritation about the mister, that he needs to change his approach or his tactics or what have you. That’s generally not a good argument, I don’t think. This isn’t FIFA or FM, and tactics don’t come in a pre-determined drop down menu. As we’ve discussed at length in writing and in conversation (RIP Viola Station), a team’s tactical plan isn’t composed of independent actions; everything flows into and relies upon everything else, so changing one thing changes the rest.

More immediately, though, Italiano’s tactics are generally putting Fiorentina in position to win. His team gets the ball forward well and, despite our constant complaints about the lack of bite in the final third, creates good chances. He can’t teach the strikers how to finish better, but he does regularly put them in position to score goals. That’s all you can ask out of an attacking framework, especially one that’s missing perhaps its optimal front three in González, Riccardo Sottil, and Arthur Cabral.

3. The team’s emotional state is the major concern. What does worry me about Italiano right now is the way the team looked in the first half. Jack was the only guy who looked like he cared, and, as the ranking veteran on the pitch, he tried to fire his teammates up by getting in the referee’s and the opponents’ face.

And nobody joined him. When Federico Dionisi swallowed his whistle and let the Granata remorselessly hack anything that moved, the players should’ve followed Bonaventura’s lead and showed some anger (credit here to Ricky Saponara), but instead they just put their heads down and trudged back. For a team that wants to play on the front foot and dominate games, that’s the wrong mindset.

In this game, a lot of that was on the ref, certainly (9 fouls to 23 and the same number of cards is wild), but Fiorentina needs to react in situations like these, either by targeting the official as Torino did—not what anyone wants to see, but it’s undeniably effective—or by getting spikier themselves, hacking down opposing forwards and matching the nastiness they’re shown. The passivity I saw on Sunday reminded me too much of recent vintages of Fiorentina that were happy to scrap against relegation, and that isn’t good enough.