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

It’s safe to say that this kind of result is part of a pattern rather than an outlier.

ACF Fiorentina v AC Monza - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano: 6.5—Made one really tremendous save on Dany Mota in the second half, but that was the only tricky one he faced. Solid with his distribution and at coming off his line. No chance on the goal.

Dodô: 6—Superb in the first half, shutting down Gianluca Caprari and getting forward to play in a couple of excellent crosses that somebody really should’ve finished off. Fell off badly after that, struggling to keep up with Mota and featuring less in the final third.

Lucas Martínez Quarta: 6.5—Pretty solid defensively, especially as Igor put him in a couple of nervous situations. Played well on the turn and did well stepping up to cut out passes. Got the assist with a really nice pass through the channel. But holy smokes should he have scored; missed 3 really presentable headers and probably should’ve won the game.

Igor: 4.5—Had some moments, including a couple of nice little carries and a delightful ball into Dodô which could’ve been a goal, and remained hilariously stronger than everyone else, but dribbled into trouble a few times and lost track of his man too easily. Feels like he needs Nikola Milenković there to direct him a little more.

Cristiano Biraghi: 5.5—Bizarro Biraghi was in full effect, as the captain was pretty poor going forward, particularly with some very wayward crosses (aside from nearly scoring an olimpico), but quite stout at the back, particularly with some very strong tackling. Seemed to get mixed up with Saponara about who was tracking Samuele Birindelli and Patrick Ciurria on the goal, allowing the latter a free run down the wing and lots fo time to pick his cross.

Alessandro Bianco: 6—Fantastic for a Serie A debut. Snapped into tackles, carried the ball, and even cracked a shot on target that Michele Di Gregorio had to punch away. Faded badly after the break. Was caught in possession too often, missed some passes, and probably should’ve tracked Carlos Augusto on the goal, but didn’t shrink from the moment and showed that he might belong at this level.

Alfred Duncan: 6.5—Fulfilled the classic Duncan role of winning the ball and passing it forward with minimum fuss. A usual, he missed a couple of passes, and also airmailed a very good chance just before the break, but held the team together in the middle with his dedication and intelligence. Why he doesn’t start every game is beyond me.

Jonathan Ikoné: 4—All smoke and no fire. Beat Carlos Augusto and Armando Izzo at will but never got the next step right, constantly firing high, wide, or generally everywhere but the right direction. Got so far into his own head that late on, he drove into the box and just plain fell over as he tried to figure out what came next. Oof.

Antonín Barák: 5—Combined brilliantly with Saponara in particular and did a nice job of drifting into pockets of space to receive the ball and turn, but wasn’t ever ambitious enough with his passing as he tried little layoffs instead of incisive passes. Needs to just put his head down and shoot at some point.

Riccardo Saponara: 5—A very Cheese experience, full of marvelous touches and clever feints and delicate interplay with Barák and Saponara but not much by way of end product. Had a couple of chances to shoot after good work by Cabral that he wasted. In fairness, he was never supposed to be a weekly starter, so you can’t really blame him; this is about Nicolás González and Riccardo Sottil being unavailable.

Arthur Cabral: 7—Scored one of the best Viola goals of the season with a blast that would’ve made Gabriel Batistuta proud, but was tremendous throughout. Outran and outmuscled the Monza back line, particularly Luca Caldirola, time and again, and was probably unlucky not to add another. His finishing still isn’t quite sharp enough (he left at least a couple of goals out there), but you can’t ever fault his desire and his willingness to work.

Sofyan Amrabat: 6—Picked up right where he left off, bullying everyone who came near him and some who didn’t. Did have one really bad pass but otherwise dominated play, setting the tone both in and out of possession. Just a monster.

Christian Kouamé: 5—Swapped wings back and forth with Kouamé and never seemed to get into the game.

Giacomo Bonaventura: 5.5—Came pretty close with an audacious shot shortly after coming on and offered a change of pace from Barák’s languid playmaking with his sharp, direct movement. The oldest guy on the team still has an integral role to play this year.

Gaetano Castrovilli: n/a—What a joy to see Tanino back on the pitch for the first time in 263 days. All I ask is that we give him time to really get his feet under him; don’t forget that Kouamé needed a whole year and change after his surgery to get back to his best.

Luka Jović: n/a—Might’ve earned a penalty after Izzo wrapped him up and dragged him down on a late corner, but it just wasn’t that kind of day.

Three things we learned

1. Fiorentina is still Fiorentina. We might’ve hoped that nearly 2 months away would’ve given Vincenzo Italiano and his charges enough time to figure out how to fix this disease that’s infected them all year. I’m not sure what to call it, but the symptoms are dominating games in terms of possession and territory, carving out a good number of chances, missing the majority of them, and then conceding on a brain fart at the other end to drop points. I have no idea how to fix this problem, which is fine. That Italiano and company seem to have no idea is, hm, less than fine.

2. It’s time to look at some of the youngsters. Alessandro Bianco wasn’t perfect today by any stretch, but he was solid enough. While you can maybe blame him for not tracking Carlos Augusto on the goal, that’s the price you pay to develop young talent: kids are going to make mistakes, and then, hopefully, learn from them. With 4 Primavera players in the matchday squad, it might be time to give some of them a look. Because if Fiorentina’s going to drop points due to simple mistakes, I’d rather it be in the service of blooding exciting youngsters rather than watching the same cock-ups from the same players every week.

3. Nobody’s sure what’s missing. This is one of the stranger Viola teams I can recall. On paper, there’s no shortage of ability; this might be the most talented XI I can recall since the first Prandelli era, and even some of the backups are good enough to avoid a dropoff when the starters have to sit.

That’s the thing, though: the game’s played on grass. I have no idea why these players, undoubtedly talented as they are, keep dropping points. As a team, they dominate matches and create chances that they fail to convert while limiting opponents to very few chances, which the opponents constantly convert. Italiano’s clearly trying to figure it out too—he’s cycled through personnel and formations and tactical approaches—and hasn’t.

Maybe it’s just a matter of bad luck that can’t hold for more than a season and is indeed on the verge of breaking, but it really feels like this group is on the cusp of being very good. Every time it’s about to take that step, though, it loses its balance and teeters backwards instead.