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Fiorentina 2-1 Bologna: Player grades and 3 things we learned

The Derby dell’Appennino brought us a nice mixture of joyful sparks and routine nail-biting.

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

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—7.5: Made a huge save on Alexis Saelemaekers in the first half when the Viola were on their heels and made another late stop on Lewis Ferguson to preserve the win. Mistake-free and steady as ever for the World’s Funnest Dad.

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

Fabiano Parisi—4.5: Had a decent statistical game but struggled against Saelemaekers, twice letting the Belgian through on goal. Had a few nervous moments on the ball too, playing himself into pressure. Can’t really fault him for the handball as it was extremely minor but Vincenzo Italiano was clearly furious with him, leaving him in the dressing room at halftime.

Nikola Milenković—6.5: Put under a lot of pressure by an LMQ shocker but kept the Fiorentina defense solid enough. Won everything in the air, led the team in tackles and clearances, and looked every inch the star he can be.

Lucas Martínez Quarta—3: Carlos Salcedo-levels of disastrous. Missed passes, got caught in possession, misjudged headers, lost runners, and generally tried out every catastrophe a defender can commit. Lucky that Milenković swept up for him. Improved a bit in the first half but that was a big yikes of a performance.

Cristiano Biraghi—5.5: Kept Riccardo Orsolini reasonably quiet (the winger was offside on every “chance” he was involved in) and played in the ball that resulted in the penalty. Got up in some people’s faces. Nutmegged Stefan Posch. Not particularly influential in the final third and fell off a bit towards the end, but was perfectly adequate.

Arthur Melo—7: Had a few bobbles in possession but mostly kept Fiorentina in the driver’s seat, helping build up play in the first two-thirds of the field. More impressive, though, was his defensive work, chasing down attacks from behind and throwing himself around. If he can add that physicality to his game every week, he could be special.

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

Alfred Duncan—6.5: Peripheral at the start but grew into the game, helping cope with Bologna’s physicality and keeping the ball ticking along. A bit sloppy in possession, sure, but his vertical passing and positional intelligence bring out the best in everyone else; he’s as indispensable as Arthur now.

Nicolás González—7.5: Off the pace for the first half hour or so but never stopped working and turned it around. Nearly got the 3rd just before the end but borked his shot. Still, his running, dribbling, and the sheer menace of his presence were, as ever, Fiorentina’s most prominent attacking outlet. And was there any doubt he’d bury that spot kick?

Giacomo Bonaventura—8: Scored a sublime goal, produced a turn and run of the highest quality, and looked like an older brother playing with his younger sibling’s friends. Even chipped in defensively while providing a secondary goal threat. He’s a moments player, sure, but those moments remain unbelievable.

Christian Kouamé—6.5: Docile in the first half, unable to shake free of Posch, but at least tracked the fullback pretty well. Moved up front at half time and helped his team quite a bit, combining mobility, holdup play, and the selflessness that’s really defined his Viola career.

M’Bala Nzola—3: The assist for Jack’s goal was quite nice, but that was literally the only positive. Picked the wrong movement several times to destroy promising attacks and spent more time moping around than working. A bit reminiscent of Luka Jović. The fact that Italiano didn’t let him sit with the rest of the team after being subbed speaks volumes.

Jonathan Ikoné—6.5: Won a (soft) penalty immediately after coming on, so no argument that he made a massive impact. Had a couple of nice runs that ended up going nowhere and didn’t contribute all that much else, but did produce one of the best celebrations of the season with Nico.

Luca Ranieri—6.5: Played all over the defense, starting at rightback but shifting to the left wing, and helped put the clamps on Orsolini and company. Lost track of Dan Ndoye (who was a huge pain last year with Basel) once but stopped him several times. Suspended for the AC Milan game after the break due to a late yellow card.

Maxime Lopez—5: Buzzed around but didn’t really have time to put his stamp on the game.

Pietro Commuzzo—n/a: Came on at the 88 minute mark. Interesting that he’s ahead of Mina, who’s also played at rightback at times in his career.

Yerry Mina—n/a: Earned his second appearance, so maybe we can actually expect a start or two after the international break.

Three things we learned

1. It’s time to worry about Nzola. Getting benched at halftime is never a good sign, but when you’re benched at halftime and told not to come back out with the rest of the team, you know something has gone very wrong. Nzola and Parisi were banished to watch the rest of the game away from their teammates. Parisi definitely wasn’t great, but that’s to be expected of a young player deployed into a strange role, and we’ve seen him excel recently. He’ll be fine.

The real worry here is Nzola. With just 1 non-penalty goal to his name this season in almost 1000 minutes, it’s clear that something just isn’t working. We’ve diagnosed the problems and proposed some solutions but it may be that, for whatever reason, it just isn’t going to happen for him in Florence. That’s been the case for a number of talented attackers over the years (e.g. Mário Gómez, Ante Rebić, Dani Osvaldo, Pedro, and Haris Seferović), and they’ve all gone on to shine elsewhere, leading to the usual chorus of “Fiorentina beffata.”

Ideally, Nzola would have more time to settle in and find his feet. Unfortunately, the Viola need goals right now, and if he can’t provide them, Daniele Pradè will try to find someone who can, which could push the Angolan out the door just half a season after his arrival. Again, nobody wants that kind of embarrassment for him, but it’s a results-driven business and he hasn’t produced. If Kouamé leapfrogs him in the pecking order, don’t be surprised to see a January loan move materialize.

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

2. It’s time to get another rightback. All credit to Parisi for really trying to make it work on the right, but he just doesn’t look natural there. Michael Kayode should be back after the break and reports about Dodô doing some light running are fun, but the Brazilian won’t be ready for another few months at the earliest and the youngster can’t be expected to start every game. It’s been fun seeing Commuzzo get some scrap minutes, but he ought to be playing with the Primavera every week and developing rather than sitting on the bench. The only reasonable option is the player market, probably with a loan.

3. Italiano’s starting to get weird. Cousin Vinnie’s always played 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. He’s added an extra centerback to see out a win once or twice, but he mostly just lets his guys get on with it. Here, though, he did some magnificently odd stuff:

  • Started out with Parisi at rightback
  • At the half, subbed in Ranieri at centerback and pushed LMQ to rightback
  • Swapped those two after about 5 minutes
  • After about 10 minutes, moved Ranieri to leftback and Biraghi to rightback
  • By 70’ or so, almost had a back 3 with Ranieri, Milenković, and LMQ, with Nico and Duncan taking turns to drop in at wingback
  • Replaced Biraghi with Commuzzo
  • Added Yerry Mina at the very end.

For those keeping track at home, that’s 7 different back line configurations in a single game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone chop and change a defense that much. He went from 2 centerbacks and 2 leftbacks to 5 centerbacks in 45 minutes. I have no idea what his reasoning was but the man is clearly willing to try out some weird stuff, even in high leverage situations.