Pietro Terracciano—7: Lucky to get his clean sheet after Kevin Lasagna and Adolfo Gaich missed a pair of sitters, but also made a few nice stops, including on my personal nemesis Ondre Duda. Quick off his line to claim crosses and loose balls. Maybe a bit too eager to thump the ball long, but that was likely a specific instruction from his manager.
Dodô—6.5: His finest display for Fiorentina. Buzzed around the right wing and helped drive the side forward. Held up well defensively, which hasn’t been the case, although did struggle a bit with the impressive Darko Lazović. Earned the ire of the Marcantonio Bentegodi, which spent the entire second half whistling him after he drew fouls that resulted in 3 opponents getting booked.
Lucas Martínez Quarta—5.5: Solid enough from the man wearing the armband. Lost Lasagna a couple of times and left the defense wide open for a counter when he sauntered forward for no real reason but also won 4 of 5 tackles. Completed just 56% of his passes and gave away possession with aimless thumps far too often.
Igor—5.5: Still struggles to judge the trajectory of high balls in a way that’s always alarming, but mostly did fine. Completely lost Gaich on the striker’s bad miss and had a couple of nervy moments but helped his side earn a (rather unconvincing) clean sheet, so it was good enough.
Aleksa Terzić—6: His defensive positioning and concentration definitely lapse at times, but his athleticism got him out of any trouble on that end. Made a series of lung-busting runs forward and even fizzed in a decent cross or two. Pulled up with a groin injury which hopefully won’t keep him out for long.
Sofyan Amrabat—6: Did his usual bull in a china shop routine, preventing Hellas Verona from building anything through the middle, but didn’t do much in possession and offered little, if any, of his typical control.
Rolando Mandragora—7: Got the assist with a very nice corner and kept things ticking over well enough. Like Amrabat, did a lot of good work out of possession and less with it, although he was involved in a few nice moves.
Jonathan Ikoné—7: A very Jonny match, featuring an unbelievable run to set up Barák’s goal, failed chance to double the lead, and a few mystifyingly bad touches to concede possession. Dropped very deep and central at times, almost like a 10, and tried to help control the game, but wasn’t always precise enough to manage it.
Antonín Barák—7.5: Scored a really nice goal and nearly added a second but for a desperate goal line block. Played almost as a second striker rather than a 10, frequently moving even with Cabral. Not quite involved enough in the buildup but decisive in the final third.
Nicolás González—7.5: Man of the match. Won 4 free kicks, 5 headers, and constantly drove Fiorentina up the pitch. Played essentially as a central midfielder for the final half hour, spraying the ball around and ensuring that the Viola killed off the match. Came close with a shot from range and wasn’t influential near goal but was doubtless the star.
Arthur Cabral—7.5: Scored in his 4th straight game and looks to be growing in confidence. His ability to hold up the ball with a man on his back, combined with his willingness to drop deep or pull wide, make him tough to defend, and he’s always happy to run, both in and out of possession. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a player who ends up on his butt after shooting as often, but it’s just another charming quirk in a striker who’s very close to becoming a fan favorite.
Giacomo Bonaventura—6.5: Looked lively, constantly moving to the right wing so that Nico could drop into the middle, and produced a few nice moments. Had 25 touches in his 34 minutes compared to 21 in 56 for Barák, which feels par for the course at this point.
Gaetano Castrovilli—5: Still doesn’t quite look right, lacking that bit of burst that sets him apart, but is likely still recovering his fitness.
Luka Jović—5: Sluggish compared to the energetic Cabral but contributed adequately. Definitely doesn’t look like the starter anymore, although his weird contract could keep him in the XI more often than he’d otherwise expect.
Cristiano Biraghi—7: You can argue that the goal wasn’t sporting, as the Mastini were checking on Mandragora, and you can argue that referee Federico La Penna shouldn’t have let him take it after ruling a Verona goal out earlier when Lazović took a free kick quickly. You can’t argue, though, that it was an unbelievable strike. Captain Cris is also apparently the King of the Goblins.
Riccardo Saponara—5: Had a chance to add a fourth late on but didn’t quite get it right. Fine otherwise.
Three things we learned
1. Fiorentina can win ugly. One of the criticism Vincenzo Italiano’s side has faced is that it lacks tenacity and is psychologically fragile, as demonstrated by its reliance on possession and penchant for giving up goals on the break. While I’m not entirely on board with that assessment, it was nice to see Fiorentina happy to play at a lower level. Nothing exemplifies that more than 70% passing completion, which is the lowest of the season by some distance.
I don’t think that this sort of kick-and-rush approach is viable in the long-term as it leads to enormous variation, and a manager like Italiano is all about control. However, his willingness to mix it up a bit, tactically speaking, is really encouraging. Remember, he’s not the finished article yet. He’s learning on the job as much as any of the players, and this is the growth that we want to see.
2. Arthur Cabral is the starter. Nobody’s saying that Cabral’s a perfect striker. His first touch lets him down too often. He can be painfully slow on the ball. He’s hesitant to shoot sometimes. 80% of his shots end with him on his backside. He runs kind of funny.
Nevertheless, he presses brilliantly, offers a nice mix of robustness and mobility, and is starting to grow in confidence as a finisher. He’ll always be compared to Dušan Vlahović, the striker he was brought in to replace, and that’s probably not a fair comparison for anybody. However, Arthur looks like the sort of number 9 that can reliably bang in 15 goals a season, and that’s a really useful commodity, especially one that contributes even without scoring.
3. It’s time to focus on the cups. Even after a win (against an opponent in the relegation places), Fiorentina’s in the bottom half of the table with 14 games left. Those 14 games include AC Milan, at Inter Milan, Atalanta, at Napoli, and AS Roma. That’s 5 of the top 6. It’s hard to imagine the Viola making up the 13 points and 6 places in the table to get into Europe through the league.
With just Cremonese and Juve/Inter separating the Viola from the Coppa Italia, it’s time to focus on that. Sivasspor should be beatable in the Conference League as well. While this team can’t afford to give up on Serie A—it’s closer to Serie B than to Europe—a holding pattern is fine. Beating up on the bad teams to ensure that there isn’t a relegation battle is fine. Wins against mid- or upper-table sides are just pleasant bonuses at this point. It’s cups or bust.