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

A fluky goal, a flukier non-goal, and a very professional performance away from home to earn all 3 points.

AC Monza v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6.5: Made a couple of relatively comfortable saves, did fine in possession, and didn’t make any mistakes.

Michael Kayode—6: Struggled a bit with Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro Dany Mota but was solid enough in the end. Crossed into the first defender 4 times, which was a bit frustrating, but it says a lot about where expectations are for the 19-year-old that we’re not all delighted that he’s holding his own with seasoned professionals.

Nikola Milenković—6.5: Won everything in the air and kept things steady at the back. Came close off a set piece and won a free kick just outside the box with a nice jaunt forward.

Luca Ranieri—6.5: A bit unsteady early on but settled in and did his usual thing, complete with a couple of big time tackles. Also committed the funniest tactical handball you’ll see in stoppage time (he could’ve been sent off) and just giggled about it. Offers so much personality.

AC Monza v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM
Every team needs an emotional center, and looks Luca’s the man for the job.
Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Cristiano Biraghi—6: Defended relatively well, particularly in the first half, but wasn’t very influential going forward. Did show a bit of fire late on when Monza tried to take a quick throw after he’d put the ball out of play so Kouamé could receive medical attention.

Arthur Melo—7: So smooth on the ball, twisting his way out of pressure time and again, and always kept the tempo high. So influential through the first two thirds of the pitch.

Alfred Duncan—6.5: Started out looking a bit ragged but found his rhythm and put in a typically understated, excellent performance. He’s really become the glue that holds this entire team together and is more notable when he’s not there, because his absence highlights all the cracks he usually fills in.

Jonathan Ikoné—3: Looked lively early on, showing an uncharacteristic willingness to shoot and darting around off the ball. After he missed a wide open net, though, everything fell apart for him. That’s the price you pay with #ChaosJonny, though. Sometimes he’s a gamebreaker, and sometimes he’s just broken.

AC Monza v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM
At least he gave us this renaissance painting.
Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Antonín Barák—5: Peripheral to the action, as usual, but let the ball stick to him a bit more than usual, which slowed down several moves. Hopefully he’s just playing his way back into form after missing all of preseason and the start of the year with injuries.

Christian Kouamé—7: Pressed well, tracked back, and provided a release valve as an aerial target. Made some clever off-ball runs too. Also played in the ball that Ikoné inexplicably didn’t score, so he deserved an assist. His positional fluidity with Beltrán is something the team should look to build on.

Lucas Beltrán—7.5: Scored an absolute garbage goal thanks to a brain fart from Michele Di Gregorio but earned it with his work rate and enterprise. Dropped too deep at times but is definitely coming on in leaps and bounds. Hopefully the ankle injury he picked up isn’t serious.

AC Monza v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM
Why does it look like Beltrán is an enormous salmon that Kouamé’s hoisting out of the water?
Photo by Alessio Morgese/NurPhoto via Getty Images

M’Bala Nzola—6: Drifted wide a few times to good effect and threw his body around a bit. Still a little clunky on the ball sometimes but looks miles better than he did last month, even if his shooting still doesn’t look confident.

Yerry Mina—6: It hurts to watch him gallop back, as he’s clearly lost a lot of mobility, but he put in a solid performance in his own penalty box, which is what he was there for.

Rolando Mandragora—5: Mostly anonymous but not necessarily in a bad way.

Lorenzo Amatucci—5.5: Showed a willingness to take on some responsibility, which speaks well of his character. Leathered a volley straight into Samuele Birindelli’s head from point blank range, too.

AC Monza v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM
Looks like a 14-year-old but plays with the fire of a 42-year-old determined to win the annual students vs parents game.
Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Riccardo Sottil—6: Offered a different approach down the left. Got Danilo D’Ambrosio booked, jetted around, took a couple of decent shots, and generally looked like a competent Serie A player.

Three things we learned

1. Three at the back is an option. Vincenzo Italiano’s gone to a back three before, but only in the dying minutes of games he was try to protect a lead. Tossing Mina in at the hour mark was a wrinkle that the Biancorossi clearly couldn’t iron out and Fiorentina didn’t seem at all phased by the change.

It was a smart move in context, too, as he kept the fluid tridente rotating around each other up top to maintain the headaches for the Monza defense while adding another body at the back as the hosts launched balls into the channels. That understanding that losing a player in midfield wouldn’t compromise his side in possession is an encouraging sign of tactical development. Along with the recent experiments with a striking pair, the Viola are becoming less predictable.

2. Kouamé is very important to the attack. One thing Fiorentina have lacked for the past couple of years is a threat in behind. With strikers who are largely big, robust penalty box players and a bunch of wingers who tend to drop deep to receive the ball, then turn and dribble at a defender, there hasn’t been enough verticality, making it easier for defenses to smother the Viola attack.

Kouamé helps fix that. For one thing, he can play anywhere across the front three, so it’s easy to chop and change lineups around him. His aerial ability is also quite useful for bypassing the midfield. But his runs down the wing or through the channels force defenders to account for him, which opens up space for everyone else. It’s most pronounced with Beltrán, who likes to drop deep rather than play on the last line, but Chris’ willingness to make those exhausting and often fruitless movements make his teammates better.

3. The boys can score without Nico and Jack. Coming into this game, Fiorentina had scored 24 goals in Serie A. 12 of them came from Nico González and Giacomo Bonaventura, with Lucas Martínez Quarta chipping in another 3. With over 60% of the goals missing from the lineup, it was fair to wonder if the side had enough firepower to get a win on the road.

Beltrán’s now scored in 3 straight and looks like he’s found his footing. Ikoné would’ve added a second moments later on any other day. Sottil offered a threat, as did the defenders at set pieces. While it’s easy to say that Fiorentina should always beat Monza, doing it on the road and absent its top three scorers is a solid accomplishment and should offer hope that the club won’t have to rely on individuals as much for the rest of the campaign.