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End-of-year grades: Wingers

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It’s Fede and some guys.

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

Federico Chiesa

What happened: In his second year as Fiorentina’s unquestioned star and catalyst, Fede lived up to the hype through the first half of the season. He routinely destroyed opponents with his pace and dribbling, pressed like a maniac, and generally made himself a nuisance. Unfortunately, the lack of help in attack meant that he also developed a couple of unfortunate habits; all too often, he’d go to ground under minimal contact (although he did take quite a kicking as well, so it didn’t feel as egregious as, say, Goran Pandev). He also developed a problem with selfishness, often trying to go it alone against three or more defenders rather than making the simple pass to spring one of his teammates loose.

Those teammates, of course, were so feckless that they allowed opposing defenses to double up on Chiesa without fear of being punished, so that attitude from the winger was at least partly understandable. The addition of Luis Muriel in January gave him a running mate and briefly created an unholy terror in attack, but the pair’s effectiveness flickered out come February along with the rest of the team. Fede was, as before, the lone bright spot, desperately trying to drag the other 10 men on the pitch to a result, but he simply didn’t get the help he needed.

Final stats: 41 appearances (38 starts), 14 goals, 9 assists

Best moment: The entire Coppa Italia counts as a moment, right? In those four matches, Fede piled up 6 goals and 2 assists while making an absolute mockery of anyone who tried to stop him. Good lord can the kid play.

What’s next: Given how awful the Viola were this year, the rumors of his impending exit have redoubled, with Inter Milan and Juventus both reportedly hot on his trail. However, we’ve also heard (from sources of dubious veracity, but still) that potential buyer Rocco Commisso has insisted on keeping him—which would require increasing his wage to the €4 million per year he’s said to be seeking—so he’s not quite out the door yet. Still, though, don’t be surprised to see him wearing a different shirt next year.

Final grade: B+ Despite some hiccups with diving and selfishness, he was so clearly the best player on the pitch for the entire season that there’s absolutely no doubt he kept the team in Serie A. Without him, this season would have looked like Chievo Verona’s. Just a marvelous player and a legend already.

Valentin Eysseric

What happened: Despite rumblings over the summer that he was on his way out, he stuck around and played a part through the first half of the season. As was his wont last year, he tended to seem like a rather peripheral figure on the pitch, lacking the pace to really beat a man, but his clever passing often helped free up other players on the break or in the box. Due to his slow-footedness and lack of defensive contribution, he fell behind Marko Pjaca and Kevin Mirallas; by the time January rolled around, it was clear that he was on his way out. Sure enough, Nantes snapped him up on loan, and he spent the second half of the season in Brittany.

Final stats: 8 appearances (4 starts), 1 assist, 1 yellow card

Best moment: Probably has to be that assist, which was a nifty little clip through for Giovanni Simeone to power home for the 5th against Chievo. Those were good times, man.

What’s next: Nantes has an option to buy him at a fairly low rate and even pictured him as one of the models for next season’s jersey, so it seems likely that he’ll remain with les Canaris. So long, Val, and good luck.

Final grade: C- Was never supposed to pull ahead of Mirallas and Pjaca in the pecking order and didn’t. Was his usual perfectly-adequate-bench-player self whenever he took the pitch.

Kevin Mirallas

What happened: The veteran Belgian attacker took a wage reduction to join Fiorentina in an effort to resurrect a career that hit a nadir with his early release from Olympiacos last year. Florence looked like a perfect landing spot, as he’d provide experience and depth behind the potent tridente of Chiesa, Pjaca, and Simeone. When Pjaca proved injured and/or ineffective, he took over on a semi-regular basis until the arrival of Luis Muriel.

While he’s never going to be the player who earned 60 caps for Belgium again, Mirallas showed he still has a bit left in the tank. His tactical intelligence is excellent; by staying very wide on the right at all times, he stretched opposing defenses enough to create more space for Chiesa to operate in. While that contribution has been underrated this season, it is about all he brought to the table, as he often vanished for hours at a time, looking like his legs (and perhaps his appetite for the game) had diminished considerably.

Final stats: 30 appearances (18 starts), 2 goals, 3 assists, 2 yellow cards

Best moment: His dramatic late equalizer at Sassuolo sealed an impressive comeback and definitely got him amped up a little bit.

What’s next: It’s hard to imagine the Viola paying €7 million to keep him around, so it’s back to the banks of the Mersey with him.

Final grade: C- Didn’t add the goals or the dynamism of his earlier career, but still added a different dimension to the Viola attack.

Tòfol Montiel

What happened: The diminutive Spaniard made his senior debut against Torino and damn near won the whole thing. He starred for the Primavera all year with tantalizing displays of touch, intelligence, and vision, so it’s a bit disappointing that he only got 5 minutes with the first team this year, especially given the dearth of attacking talent behind Chiesa and Muriel.

Final stats: 1 appearance (0 starts)

Best moment: Those 5 minutes were really something, weren’t they? He charged the length of the pitch at one point, cracked off a powerful shot, and played a couple of dangerous passes in; in short, he was the best player on the pitch for a moment.

What’s next: He’s clearly got the quality to forge himself a role in Serie B at the least, and should probably get a shot in Serie A during the first half of the season. He looks like a perfect Montella player, although he still needs to add a bit of muscle to his spindly frame.

Final grade: B Dang. Why didn’t we see him for more than 5 minutes?

Marko Pjaca

What happened: Brought in on loan from Juventus, the Croatian winger was supposed to be the perfect complement to Chiesa and Simeone. Fast, technical, direct, and possessed of a knack for creating havoc amongst defenses, he’d played for World Cup runners up Croatia and seemed to be fully recovered from a catastrophic knee injury two years ago. We all expected fireworks.

We got nothing like them, though. Instead, Pjaca looked lost and hesitant, frequently seeming to hide from the action on the pitch and rarely attempting to beat his man. On those few occasions, he just ran himself into corners. While Stefano Pioli stuck with him in the hopes that he’d play himself out of the funk, he eventually and inevitably dropped down the pecking order. Refusing a move to Genoa in the January window that would have given him a lower-pressure environment and more minutes, he admirably opted to fight for his spot in Florence. Sadly, that decision came back to haunt him almost immediately in the form of another shredded knee ligament, knocking him out for the year.

Final stats: 19 appearances (8 starts), 1 goal, 1 assist, 1 yellow card

Best moment: He earned a goal and an assist in the SPAL game despite dropping very deep to help protect the defense. In hindsight, the goal—more a product of a huge Mohamed Fares error—and the assist—more of a mistake that Chiesa swept home than anything—were pretty fluky, but he was at least a net positive in that one.

What’s next: Back to Juventus and back to rehab. The Old Lady is reportedly becoming anxious to unload him, given the wealth of riches she has in attack these days, so he’ll probably take another loan move away. Hopefully he can go somewhere quiet, restore his confidence, and get a second wind on his career soon.

Final grade: F May have been the biggest letdown in Serie A prior to his injury, and when you share a team with Giovanni Simeone, that’s saying something. You feel for the guy, but he really just wasn’t useful at all this year.

Riccardo Sottil

What happened: The 19-year-old winger (who turns 20 tomorrow, so auguri, ragazzo!) played a total of 18 minutes in the league before moving to Pescara on loan, where he produced a strong showing that ended in the promotion playoffs. He looked a step slow and a thought behind in Serie A, but that was probably more due to his nerves than anything else.

Final stats: 2 appearances (0 starts)

Best moment: Didn’t really have one with the Viola, but again, he made a splash with the Delfini.

What’s next: According to the man himself, Pescara want to hang onto him for next year, which seems like a perfect move for all parties involved. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, so making sure he gets regular minutes in a familiar system for another year is a very good outcome, assuming that Montella doesn’t want to bring him into the first team.

Final grade: D- Again, just rating his work for Fiorentina. This isn’t indicative of his play with Pescara, or of his potential. We’re still excited.