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

As frustrating as it was, this is ultimately a decent performance and an acceptable result.

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

Player grades

Pietro Terracciano—6.5: Made 3 saves, highlighted by a stop on Davide Frattesi. Tidy enough with his distribution. Certainly not the problem.

Davide Faraoni—7.5: Made an incredible block on Carlos Augusto as the Brazilian faced an empty net after a Marcus Thuram pass. Played in a couple of excellent crosses. Led the team in tackles, interceptions, crosses, clearances, and progressive carries. Already looks the best bargain bin January signing in recent memory.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Serie A TIM
Carlos Augusto has to name his next child Marco Davide now, as per the immutable laws of the world.
Photo by Mattia Ozbot - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

Lucas Martínez Quarta—6: Made a couple of monster tackles and threw himself around with typically reckless abandon. Did make a terrible pass at the back straight to Lautaro Martínez and was lucky that Ranieri managed to prevent a goal from it.

Luca Ranieri—7: Another fantastic performance. Made some key interventions on Martínez, raided forward in open play, and caused problems in the box, including an incident that referee Gianluca Aureliano somehow decided wasn’t a penalty. More importantly, plays with so much personality.

Fabiano Parisi—4: Probably fouled on the goal and probably shouldn’t have been marking Martínez in the first place, but that’s not the issue. Struggled to contain Matteo Darmian and Marcus Thuram and didn’t provide a lot of attacking impetus. The future’s still bright but this performance was a good reminder to all those clamoring for his elevation above Cristiano Biraghi that we’re not there yet.

Arthur—5: Silky as ever, aside from a couple of oddly misplaced passes. Huffed and puffed but doesn’t have the athletic profile to stick with Inter Milan’s horses in the middle and it showed.

Alfred Duncan—4.5: Did that thing where he drops a clanger out of the blue. Missed passes, whiffed on set pieces (including a quick corner that none of his teammates expected), and lost runners in the middle. It’s fine. He’s still one of Fiorentina’s most important players and he’s allowed to have a rough outing.

Jonathan Ikoné—5: Caused some problems for Carlos Augusto and Alessandro Bastoni with his dribbling but the end product wasn’t quite there. Lost the ball by his own corner flag at one point and was lucky that Terracciano saved Frattesi’s resulting shot. Have to credit his mental toughness for coming back after the flak he’s taken from the fans recently.

Lucas Beltrán—5.5: Buzzed around and irritated the Inter defense but didn’t exploit the space between the lines often enough. Dropped back and defended very well. His linkup play with Nzola in particular is looking more and more interesting.

Giacomo Bonaventura—6.5: Slippery as ever but also slow on the ball at times, which is on brand for him. Very unlucky that Yann Sommer saved a first half shot that most goalkeepers would’ve conceded and had an open net had Nzola squared to him in the second. Deserves credit for staying wide on the left instead of wandering inside for no reason. Exactly the intelligence and discipline you want from the captain.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Serie A TIM
Not sure what it is about him, but nobody looks as disconsolate as Jack when he’s really down.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

M’Bala Nzola—5: Unlucky with the offside flag a couple of times, but his inability to finish is becoming a real issue. Seems like it takes him a lot of time to wind up a shot, which allows defenders to get a block in. Won the penalty with commendable courage, taking a Falcon Punch from Sommer in the process.

Maxime Lopez—5: Simply put, he’s a downgrade on Arthur’s masterful work as the regista and doesn’t offer any other qualities to elevate him. Wasn’t bad but wasn’t good either.

Nicolás González—4.5: The penalty sure looked bad but it’s not worth melting down over. Looked nippy but rusty, as expected for a guy who’s been out with injury for a month and change.

Antonín Barák—n/a: Doinked a header off target late on but didn’t really have a chance to impact play.

Rolando Mandragora—n/a: Picked up a card for a professional foul, but wasn’t out there long enough.

Nikola Milenković—n/a: Played as an additional target man up front and won some headers, at least, in his few minutes.

Three things we learned

1. This isn’t a bad way to lose. Nobody really expected Fiorentina to win this game. Inter’s the best team in the league, an outfit that’s humming on all cylinders and looks as likely as anyone to win the Scudetto. And this tattered Viola outfit stepped up and traded punches for 90 minutes. There’s nothing wrong with coming up short in that situation. Would a point (or three) have been nice? Yeah, dude. For sure. But fronting up to the capolista and putting the fear of the lord into them is what I want from my plucky underdog team, especially when the alternative is curling into fetal position and getting battered.

2. Okay, fine, let’s talk about penalties. I’m not very interested in penalties because I think they’re an inherently noisy thing: everyone misses sometimes, and the timing’s not really predictable. As far as I’m concerned, there’s really not much there outside deep dives into statistics for people with serious mathematical backgrounds. Now that Fiorentina’s missed 3 of its past 4 spot kicks, though, I’m going to have a quick go at this mess. I’ll probably do a standalone article in the next week or so, but here are my initial thoughts.

First of all, it’s a bit silly to yell at Nico for taking the penalty, or Italiano for letting him. Yes, he’s been injured for awhile, but he’s healthy enough to play. Rust or not, he’s far and away Fiorentina’s best taker. In fact, this was the first he’s failed to convert for the Viola, and just the second he’s missed in his career. Before this, he was 10/10 for Fiorentina, and 18/19 as a professional. He missed it and that sucks, but he’s still converted 90% of his penalties. It wasn’t a good effort but he’s well above average by any standard. There’s no reason kicking up a fuss unless he beefs a couple more in quick succession.

3. There’s only so much that’s in the manager’s hands. Vincenzo Italiano gets a lot of criticism for his perceived tactical inflexibility, or his personnel decisions, or his insistence that his players do X and not Y, or whatever it is you want to go after him for. Some of that criticism he deserves. A lot of it is overblown, though. He can’t make Nico score a penalty. He can’t make Nzola square that one to Jack for a tap-in. He put his side in a good position to beat the current league leaders, which is all you can demand of him, especially with this squad of misfit toys.

Italian Football Federation ‘Panchina D’Oro’ Awards
Got that big scarf in his hands, yeah, but not how his players kick a ball.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Zooming out, those misfit toys aren’t his fault either. This isn’t FIFA or FM. The manager doesn’t control the transfer policy. Not one of us knows how much input he has into new signings. The fact that he’s managed to drag this squad into 7th is really impressive, a capolavoro that could end up exceeding any of his achievements to date in Florence. Sure would be a shame to waste that fantastic work by not helping him out with a few additions.