Fiorentina and Sampdoria provided neutral supporters with an enthralling match at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Sunday. The lead had changed hands several times before the final whistle blew, the scores ending up level after Viola Captain German Pezzella fired in a last-minute equaliser.
There is no doubt that it was a positive show of character and resolve for Stefano Pioli’s men to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat, but this is no match recap. The performance revealed errors that simply must be resolved, a number of steps that must be taken by the Coach to ensure that the show of talent displayed by Luis Muriel’s brace is not negated by avoidable blunders.
Pioli once again failed to pick Bryan Dabo in the holding midfield role, instead placing Jordan Veretout in front of the defence and selecting the inept Edimilson Fernandes in front of him. A lack of discipline has already been highlighted in the play of the latter, posing yet another question of why he was once again selected to start the match.
This was reflected by the West Ham United loanee’s average rate of 1.4 fouls per game, one that exceeds that of central defender German Pezzella, who has just one per match. Such a decision backfired in spectacular style when the home side had just gone 1-0 up and looked well in control of the match, only for Edimilson to slide in with his second wild, reckless and unnecessary foul, giving the referee no choice but to issue another yellow card.
It was an incident that put the home side under unnecessary pressure and – while ten-man Fiorentina showed great tenacity in securing the 3-3 draw – the indiscipline is a running theme that will continue to hurt the progress of the side if the boss continues to fail to recognise it.
While any Fiorentina supporter could give anecdotal evidence of this, a look at statistics gives factual reinforcements to the claim that the Viola commit a high number of fouls. Indeed, Pioli’s side are guilty of 14.9 on average per match, the second highest figure in Serie A.
To concede possession courtesy of a succession of needless fouls is unforgivable, especially as only eight Serie A sides keep the ball less than Fiorentina, the Tuscan outfit recording a rate of 50.4% per match. Yet every cloud has a silver lining, and it is to be hoped that by having his fingers burned, Pioli will work on his team’s approach from this point forward.
“We should’ve scored more goals before the red card, as we had the opportunities, but that dismissal changed the match,” the tactician admitted to Sky Italia. “My lads deserve credit for believing all the way to the end, because losing this game would’ve been a real blow. We could’ve done more when defending their goals, but the team showed such heart to fight it out a man down against a strong opponent.”
The aforementioned problem of failing to effectively utilise Dabo was surely brought to the Coach’s attention on Saturday too. The 26-year-old midfielder was brought on to replace Giovanni Simeone at half-time as Pioli reshuffled his formation in reaction to the sending off, and what resulted was an almost perfect performance.
It is no exaggeration to say that Dabo resembled talented midfield metronome Jorginho during his time at Napoli in the second half of the pitch, winning back the ball and accurately distributing it almost every time.
If this display does not warrant a starting place in the lineup next week then it’s hard to say what would, Dabo having fulfilled every single responsibility asked of him as he protected the defence with one tackle and one interception while completing 94.7% of his passes. The Frenchman would also create one chance for his teammates for good measure, all of which reveals that he is an infinitely better choice than the disgraced Fernandes.
Next weekend sees Fiorentina face strugglers Chievo, a team who the Viola mauled 6-1 at the start of the campaign. What better way to support the revitalised attack and resolute defence with a much better showing in midfield, along with an improved disciplinary showing?
Now it’s up to Pioli to use this week’s training sessions to show and prove he can do what’s necessary here, by resolving glaringly obvious problems with some relatively simple solutions.
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