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Fiorentina 2-2 Ferencváros: Player grades and 3 things we learned

Sometimes, you just have a bad day at the office. For the 8th time this month.

ACF Fiorentina v Ferencvarosi TC: Group F - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—5: Made a couple of decent saves but didn’t have anything too difficult to cope with. Nearly conceded a first with a terrible pass out the back in the first 10 minutes and maybe could’ve done more on Ibrahim Cissé’s header, which he got a hand to but couldn’t punch clear.

Michael Kayode—7: Made a couple of key interventions and shut down Marquinhos while providing a bit of forward thrust. Did his job and a little bit more, especially in the second half. Can’t blame him for the flatness in the first half, as it infected everyone else too.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—5.5: Fairly involved going forward but a bit dicey at the back. Should’ve done better tracking Barnabás Varga on the goal but also struggled in the buildup to the second goal.

Luca Ranieri—4.5: Rough day at the office. Made a couple good tackles but was all at sea for the first goal, conceded a penalty that required VAR to overturn (although it definitely wasn’t much of a foul), and then lost Cissé on the corner for the second goal. Not worried for him, as these things happen, but he’ll want to forget this one.

Cristiano Biraghi—4: Got dusted by Mohamed Abu Fani for the goal and provided very little going forward. Might still be struggling with the injury he picked up against Frosinone, but this was exactly the kind of performance that garners criticism from the fans.

Maxime Lopez—4: Bullied by Ferencváros’ bigger players both in and out of possession and never got in the game. Missed several simple passes in the middle to set the visitors galloping the other way and offered no resistance defensively.

Rolando Mandragora—4: All over the place and not in a good way. Did get Fiorentina’s first shot on target, but that was the only positive. Like Lopez, missed simple passes, gave the ball away, and never won it back. Ghastly.

Nicolás González—6.5: Fouled an outrageous 9 times and probably could’ve had more. Assisted Ikoné’s goal and was unlucky to have his own ruled out for a marginal offside by Kouamé. Still, it was frustrating to see him get just 1 of 7 shots on frame, including some pretty simple ones. If he were just a shade more clinical, he’d be one of the world’s best.

Giacomo Bonaventura—5.5: Twisted and turned away from pressure and managed a couple of decent moments, including a left-footed shot from distance that actually forced a save, but he was a bit slow on the ball, allowing attacks to bog down and the opposing defense to get into its shape.

Riccardo Sottil—5: Took a couple of shots and didn’t make any horrific mistakes but was quite invisible, offering very little and definitively losing his battle with the bigger Cebrailis Makcreckis. Just doesn’t have that explosion he used to and it’s fair to worry if he’s still trying to return from last year’s back injury.

Lucas Beltrán—5: Fiorentina took 27 shots and their striker managed just one (which was blocked). He’s clearly clever, technical, and athletic, but his hesitance to shoot is a real impediment at this point; he passed out of a couple decent looks to teammates in worse positions. I still believe in him but it may take longer than we’d like.

Fabiano Parisi—7: Really changed the game, adding some dynamism down the flank and forcing Ferencváros deeper with his surging runs up the pitch. Got the assist but was so much more than that. A few more performances like this will have Biraghi feeling very nervous indeed.

Antonín Barák—7: Should’ve expected him to score in the Conference League but it’s still great to see him back. He may always be more diffident than I’d like from a number 10 but he’s a good moments player, especially when Fiorentina are in the ascendancy and need another presence in the box.

Christian Kouamé—6: Really unlucky to be about 2 inches offside but positively impacted the game with his movement and energy, popping up on both wings as an outlet while still adding another body in the box.

Arthur Melo—6.5: It’s no coincidence that as soon as he entered the fray, Fiorentina took control. Settled everyone else down, kept the ball moving quickly and to the right places, and nearly opened his Viola account with a lovely curler. Indispensable.

Jonathan Ikoné—7: Set up the offside goal and then scored the winner. #ChaosJonny may finally be all the way back, thank goodness.

Three things we learned

1. Nzola may be the only real 9 on the team. Like I mentioned earlier, I really like Beltrán. He’s great at finding space and linking up with onrushing midfielders. The problem is in the penalty box: he’s taken all of 2 shots in 245 minutes this year. For comparison’s sake, that’s fewer than Parisi, Mandragora, Martínez Quarta, and Alfred Duncan. He’s getting just 3.33 touches in the penalty box per 90, which is fewer than wingbacks like Davide Zappacosta and Nicolas Zalewski.

He was a lot more aggressive with River Plate over the past couple of years so it’s way too early to say that he’ll never be a prima punta, but he looks more like a secunda punta right now, best suited to playing off a target man and roving around to find space. He’s not a direct goal threat, which means Fiorentina desperately needs someone else to step up. Nico’s obviously Batman here, but if Beltrán is more Alfred than Robin, someone else needs to pull on the mask and provide some backup.

2. This team is bipolar on purpose. Vincenzo Italiano spoke about resting players against Napoli due to exhaustion, and that makes sense. Fiorentina’s been playing twice a week for most of the season, and that, combined with a spate of injuries, has left certain guys on the pitch for way too long. Italiano is clearly focused on competing on 3 fronts this year and making sure his squad doesn’t run out of gas, but that’s hard to do with some members irreplaceable due to their own quality or injuries to their teammates.

Cousin Vinnie’s developed a solution, I think, that draws on traditional Italian strategy. Rather than pressing the gas for 90 minutes and overwhelming opponents, Fiorentina have been more circumspect this year. Put another way, they’ve allowed themselves to get battered for 45 minutes at a time, looking passive and disinterested, and then looked energetic and excellent for the next 45 minutes.

This approach reaches back to Helenio Herrera’s Grande Inter, when squad rotation wasn’t really an option, but the plan to sit deep and soak up pressure to conserve energy for an entire half makes some sense. The problem is that Fiorentina doesn’t really have the players or the mindset for this approach. It’s a creative way to get around the lack of squad depth but may end up being too costly, as the transition from parking the bus to blowing gasoline into the vents a la Mad Max: Fury Road is awfully hard on the players. I’m fascinated to see if he can pull it off.

3. Man, fuck these Nazis. Not something we learned, exactly, since I’d hope everyone reading this understands that Nazis are bad. But seeing the Ferencváros fans marching through the city center and raising one-armed salutes (and no, they aren’t touching their hearts and pointing to the sky to indicate some metaphorical thing) makes my skin crawl, and almost nobody in the national media seems to have even bothered mentioning it.

I don’t know if the solution is violence, since a 4000-person brawl in the Centro Storico doesn’t have any winners and encouraging hooliganism is the kind of retrogressive troglodytism that we really don’t need. That said, if nobody—Dario Nardella, UEFA, regional governments, literally anyone with some sort of power—doesn’t condemn this bullshit, much less take steps to prevent its recurrence, we’re going to see a descent to the ugliest of the old days.