Pietro Terracciano—7: Made a few really good saves, particularly on Cyriel Dessers late on. Did have a couple of nervy moments in possession, including a hospital ball to LMQ that the Argentine somehow turned into a positive, but if Papa Pietro’s stopping shots like that, he’s good.
Dodô—7: Very good. Made some nice tackles in space and was a thorn in Cremonese’s side all day. Stayed deeper than usual to help the buildup but still fired in several good crosses, including one that led to the penalty. Remarkable how much he’s improved over the past month.
Lucas Martínez Quarta—7.5: One of his best performances for Fiorentina. Great in the tackle while neutralizing Daniele Ciofani, Franck Tsadjout, and Dessers whenever they came near him. Got forward brilliantly, too, creating a couple of good chances by operating as more of a midfielder than a defender. The man is on a heater right now and we need to be excited for it.
Igor—6: Stout in the first half against Ciofani and Tsadjout, but struggled in the second half against Dessers’ pace. Definitely a net positive but need a bit more from him.
Cristiano Biraghi—6.5: Got the assist with a lovely cross and generally looked solid, particularly on the back foot. Played much deeper than usual and focused more on building up play than spamming in crosses, which was a fascinating wrinkle.
Sofyan Amrabat—6.5: Not at his best but still superb. Took him a quarter hour to really settle in but put Cremonese’s midfield in a chokehold after that. A little sloppy with the ball at times but eventually got back to setting the tempo as he usually does.
Rolando Mandragora—6: Did his usual Mandrake stuff, looking invisible for long stretches before popping up with interesting contributions. Showed his real time adaptability by drifting into wide positions and keeping the ball ticking over neatly.
Jonathan Ikoné—6: Looked dangerous without getting the reward for his effort. Stretched play well and carried the ball into dangerous spots, sometimes even with something approaching an end product. Maybe he’s starting to figure things out, or maybe he’s just Chaos Jonny.
Antonín Barák—6.5: Tidy as ever, drifting into space in and around the penalty box to combine with teammates. Matches remarkable dribbling with an impeccable understanding of off-ball movement, but still leaves you wanting a bit more.
Nicolás González—7.5: Simply too much for Cremonese; the only way the Grigiorossi could stop him was fouling him. Drove Fiorentina forward brilliantly, offered a secondary target for crosses, and generally made the hosts miserable. Took his penalty really well, too, especially after a bit of jawing with Fallou Sarr.
Arthur Cabral—7.5: A superb header for the opener was no less than he deserved. Worked hard, linked play well, and displayed his strength and work rate. More than anything, though, it was his work out of possession that impressed: has a remarkable ability to cause mayhem with his pressing, to the point where opponents start looking rattled under high balls when they know he’s in the neighborhood. It’s like standing on the tracks and feeling them being to rattle but not being able to see if the train’s bearing down on you.
Giacomo Bonaventura—5.5: Neat with the ball but seemed content to shut things down rather than grift for another goal.
Luka Jović—5: Pretty anonymous during his minutes but didn’t do anything wrong, either.
Josip Brekalo—5.5: Flitted around the left wing, always looking to get onto his right foot, and vaguely looked like he might create another.
Gaetano Castrovilli—5: Didn’t have enough time to do anything of great interest.
Three things we learned
1. Italiano’s learning how to game plan. I’m hoping to write a lot more about this in the next day or two, but Fiorentina’s approach to building up was fascinating. The fullbacks stayed deep and one of the centerbacks stepped into midfield, leaving a back three. Amrabat and Mandragora drifted wide to provide progressive options through the wide areas. Farther up, Ikoné stayed wide while Barák moved to the left channel, with Nico frequently joining Cabral up front.
It was a funky system and I’ve never seen anything quite like it, but it worked really well. Cremonese never figured out how to react and the Viola were free to work the ball forward without too much fuss. The fact that we’ve never seen a similar approach makes me think that Italiano knew exactly how the Grigriorossi would play, and then came up with a solution. That’s the growth you want from a young manager.
2. Cabral is becoming the Guy. Some players scare opponents. Just their presence causes opponents anxiety because everyone knows that they can make things happen, either with or without the ball. The fear they inspire only makes them better, as defenders start overthinking things whenever they see the Guy closing in.
Cabral doesn’t look like the Guy, because the guy is usually a quick, mobile, shifty little attacker. Arthur, on the other hand, is a hulking presence. But you can see the other team’s players start to worry when he’s closing them down. You can see their discomfort whenever there’s an awkward ball. He’s the kind of forward who’s deeply unpleasant to play against, and I love him so so much. He may never be a lethal on-ball guy, but off the ball, he’s the best I’ve seen for this team since Alberto Gilardino.
3. Destiny hasn’t gotten involved yet. It would take a truly bizarre game to keep Fiorentina from progressing to the Coppa Italia final at this point. Cremonese don’t look like overturning a 2-goal deficit away from home, and Fiorentina are clearly the better side. Even so, the Viola can’t switch off. The Grigiorossi aren’t going to quit.
Beyond that, though, Inter Milan and Juventus aren’t going to roll over just because Fiorentina’s in the final. Nobody outside of Tuscany (and maybe this here website) cares that our boys might break their trophy drought. In fact, the Juvenuts and the Biscione would like nothing more than to cap their disappointing campaigns with silverware. Italiano needs to keep these guys insulated from the premature triumphalism that’s starting to sprout up. There’s so much work left to do.