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Inter Milan 4-0 Fiorentina: Player grades and 3 things we learned

In which we try to analyze the wettest of farts.

FC Internazionale v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Player grades

Oliver Christensen—6.5: Pretty wild that a goalkeeper who shipped 4 and gave up a penalty was the man of the match, but it was that kind of day. The Dane made a hatful of impressive saves. He had some pretty iffy passes out the back, but this could’ve been much uglier without him.

Dodô—4: Lost his battle with Federico Dimarco definitely and contributed little going forward. Had some mistakes in possession as Fiorentina spent most of the game pinned back and never managed to drive his team forward.

Nikola Milenković—3: Had a couple of good moments but a lot more bad ones, highlighted by an attempted backheel flick in his own half that got picked off and led to a chance for Inter Milan. Let’s not pretend he’s a bad player, though, despite an awful performance here.

Luca Ranieri—6: The only bright spot in the defense. Made some big tackles, got in Lautaro’s face, and generally threw himself about with the sort of joyful abandon of a Labrador retriever. Not perfect but played with heart.

Cristiano Biraghi—3: Not really at fault on the Thuram goal as the striker had gotten in front of him due to Fiorentina losing the ball, but pretty much everything else went wrong for the captain. He was fiery as ever, engaging in a running battle with Denzel Dumfries, but by halftime, it was clear his legs were gone.

Arthur Melo—4.5: Squeezed out and never influenced the game, really, aside from a late tackle on Nicolò Barella that left the midfielder flopping around like a trout. Unable to find space, which is partly on him and partly on his teammates’ inability to get him the ball in the right places, but clearly lacks the physicality to deal with this sort of match.

Rolando Mandragora—4: Buzzed around but didn’t accomplish much, and his late runs into the box weren’t much of a weapon when the rest of the team rarely got past midfield. Tried to be the enforcer but just isn’t remotely cut out for that job.

Nicolás González—5: Tried to do some things and went on a couple of decent little runs, but threw away his team’s best chance with an obvious dive in the box when he easily could’ve shot instead. Definitely a little leggy out there.

Giacomo Bonaventura—4: Almost scored a trademark banger but that was it. Kept putting his head down and dribbling into multiple defenders rather than making the simple lateral pass. When he’s in this mood, he’s about as frustrating to watch as any player on the roster.

Christian Kouamé—5: Charged up and down relentlessly and helped Biraghi with Dumfries, but his touch deserted him a bit and he couldn’t get anything going against Matteo Darmian.

Lucas Beltrán—5: Looked active and even won a few battles against Alessandro Bastoni and Stefan de Vrij in the first half, but didn’t receive any service whatsoever. Probably could have tried getting in behind a little more rather than always checking in, but it’s hard to blame him too much.

M’Bala Nzola—5: Battled away and threw himself around but it was clearly over by the time he arrived on the pitch, so it doesn’t feel fair to pass judgement when the rest of the team had already run the white flag up the pole.

Riccardo Sottil—6: Once again, looked like a real spark off the bench. Forced Yann Sommer into a couple of saves, including one good one, and didn’t overcomplicate things; when he’s able to make the simple decision to either beat his man or to make the easy pass, he’s very good.

Josip Brekalo—4: Completely invisible, although like Nzola, hard to blame him too much.

Gino Infantino—4.5: Had a couple of inventive moments but doesn’t look quite ready for a bigger role yet. Probably only playing because Antonín Barák is still out.

Lorenzo Amatucci—n/a: Hey, a debut!

Three things we learned

1. It’s tough to play when everyone’s gassed. Fiorentina’s played 5 games in 21 days to open the season, which is a lot. Milenković has played every minute this season. Jack, Arthur, and Nico have started every game. Dodô and Biraghi have started 4 each. It’s a pretty simple equation: Lots of minutes + extreme heat + high intensity matches + fixture congestion = tired players. And to apply the transitive property, tired players = mistake-prone players = bad players.

I’m not excusing the effort levels, which clearly dropped off in the second half as the Viola rolled over. That’s a bad sign. However, a lot of these guys have done a lot of hard running in the heat over the past couple of weeks without any breaks, and we saw the result. Look at poor Biraghi in the second half; he made a run forward, Fiorentina turned the ball over, and his tank was so empty he could barely even jog back. We’ve seen his toughness and dedication—a bloody head bandage in Prague should settle any debate there—so the conclusion is that his legs were gone.

That goes for the rest of the team. Some blame surely falls on Vincenzo Italiano for only changing 1 of the 10 outfield players who started against Rapid Wien, but he also didn’t want to send out a lineup of backups against Inter, which likely would’ve produced the same result. With Barák, Jonathan Ikoné, Yerry Mina, and Gaetano Castrovilli all unfit, he’s got limited options. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

2. We’re going to miss Sofyan Amrabat. I know a lot of folks never warmed up to Amrabat, largely because he took a little while to settle in and because he never looked as comfortable in a possession-based side. That’s fair. He can definitely be a little clunky on the ball, a little hesitant to pass it forward, a little slow to move it in any direction. There were times in his Viola career when he was certainly a problem going forward.

But games like this are perfect for him. He’s bigger and stronger and faster and meaner than any of Inter’s midfield 3 and would’ve filled in those spaces between the lines they all try to operate in. He would’ve forced the Nerazzurri into the wide areas (where they cooked just fine, so let’s also not pretend this would’ve been 3 points with him). He would’ve added some steel to the engine room, which looks to be comprised mostly of gold leaf and aluminum foil.

Arthur’s a very good midfielder and we’ve seen him control games from deep against weaker teams, but he’s also clearly going to get muscled around by opponents who aren’t afraid to get in his face. Mandragora and Alfred Duncan are both competent but aren’t enforcers, and Amatucci is way too young to take on that role. Removing Amrabat from this roster didn’t just take away a starting midfielder. It took away an entire dimension from the team that clearly hasn’t been replaced, and now Italiano needs to figure out how to scheme it back in.

3. Santayana was right. Hey, remember last year? Fiorentina came from nowhere to advance to a couple of cup finals. Bad teams can make it to one, but reaching two indicates that a side is actually pretty good. I’d say that fits last year’s Viola: a flawed and incomplete team, sure, but one with a fair amount of talent that gelled quite well on the field.

Stretch your memory back a bit more, though. That season started out pretty badly. A bunch of players were injured. A couple of new strikers were working their way to match form. With the Conference League playoff adding early midweek fixtures, the team struggled to find any form, taking just 5 points from its first 5 Serie A games. If you listened to some fans and pundits, Italiano was hopeless, a one-trick pony whose trick had been found out. Fiorentina was dead in the water.

And hey, would you look at where we are now? Looks pretty similar to me. It’s a long season, folks. Another deep run in Europe could push us towards 60 games. Anyone drawing conclusions about the entire season from the first 2 weeks, much less a single game, is either lying or trying to fool you. We can look for trends, yeah, and spot patterns, but the sample is too small right now. Let’s just relax a little bit with the apocalyptic takes. They’re not original. We’ve seen them before. To paraphrase the philosopher, we’re just repeating doom to ourselves.