From a struggle stunt at Aston Villa to an astonishing performance at Fiorentina
Jordan Veretout continued his excellent form for Fiorentina this term by putting in another shift that was littered with upside in his team’s recent 1-1 draw with AC Milan.
Even though this was his third game in eight days, the Frenchman showed off his remarkable fitness and durability, as his tireless, insatiable appetite for work shone brightly yet again. Full of intensity, commitment and technique, the midfield engine provided vital attacking intellect and defensive steel throughout.
To start with his offensive output, and his cunning movement enabled him be crucial in creating space for not only himself, but also others, plus in giving his teammates viable supporting outlets. Using his aptitude in this regard, the left-sided central midfielder did a top job of manufacturing space for his nearby centre-back, Davide Astori, to carry the ball upfield, for he’d pin his marker, Franck Kessie, by dropping back away from the advancing Astori. With Kessie unwilling to leave his post to press Astori, this allows the Italian have ample time and space to distribute where he saw fit.
Moreover, once the Lilies had passed half-way, Veretout mixed things up nicely, in order to evade his tracker and venture into advantageous locations. He’d drift infield to occupy the 10 spaces or into the left half space, which worked especially well as Milan’s 4-1-4-1 defensive shape inherently left openings either side of their holding midfielder, Riccardo Montolivo, that Veretout exploited astutely.
Then, seeing as Fiorentina’s asymmetrical shape favoured attacking down their right side due to Gil Dias’ more fixed right wing deployment (they funnelled 48% of their attacks down this side), Veretout’s important shifting movement towards the centre was vital in providing a viable connection nearby and to the opposite flank. From here, the scorer of five goals this crusade could either receive possession and drive forward or pinpoint onrushing left-back, Cristiano Biraghi, who was always keen to bomb forward when the opportunity presented itself.
Importantly, though, upon recognising Biraghi bursting upfield, Veretout would slide across and cover the space in behind so structural security was present in case of a turnover. Biraghi would imperatively return the favour if he noticed the 24-year-old ex Nantes starlet performing one of his customary penetrative runs into the box too, both on the counter or in methodical build-up play, or if he was in an advanced zone.
Although he made the odd uncharacteristic passing error, probably due to fatigue, he still showcased many moments of incision with his distribution, which his superb three key passes duly illustrate.
Given the tough assignment of marking the all-action Kessie on the defensive end, Veretout undertook his duties with equal measures of aggression and intelligence. If he couldn’t man-mark his adversary, particularly in scenarios when fulfilling his manager’s instructions to press the opposition right-back, Davide Calabria, and when Kessie moved out of Veretout’s designated area of operation, either Milan Badelj would pick him up or Veretout would smartly communicate with a colleague to alert them of the Ivorian’s impending presence.
It’s also worth pointing out that when he diagonally applied pressure to Calabria, his well directed and angled pressing successfully cut off the passing lane to Kessie, thus deeming him unusable on many occasions.
By the numbers, his two won aerial duels, two shots and four completed defensive actions, in combination with his aforementioned three chances created, demonstrated his all-encompassing display.
For the man that largely struggled during his two-year Aston Villa stint, but got himself back on track last term in the familiar confines of Ligue 1 with Saint-Etienne, this performance once more evidenced how well he’s maturing and growing as a footballer. He should only keep improving under the tactically sophisticated and experienced Stefano Pioli too, who clearly has tremendous faith in his abilities.
Pioli recently heaped praise on his young charge, who’s also done a good job of taking over the set-piece responsibilities from the departed Federico Bernardeschi, by commenting how fantastically well he’s settled in to Serie A, while also commenting that he has the talent to one day reach the level of AS Roma star, Radja Nainggolan.
Veretout himself gave a fascinating insight into how much his coach has helped him adapt to his philosophy, especially in terms of tactics, explaining: “At the beginning, it was not easy to get in touch with the footballing ideas of our coach. In France and in the Premier League the tactics are not so central, you play a more instinctive game, but now I understand his teachings and I think I’m showing it on the pitch.
“I like him, he’s very demanding. He puts us in front of new challenges every week and the coach helps me to study my opponents thanks to videos that I really appreciate.”
His agent, Fabrice Picot, then voiced his client’s happiness in Florence and how he’s found the perfect home at Fiorentina. “He really likes the city, the new club and the lifestyle. I think he has found his place in the world,” he gleamed.
“Jordan had a fantastic start, but it’s certainly not a surprise to me, as he has great potential. He will soon become a more complete player than he already is.”
With his confidence fully restored and playing within a hugely exciting squad that features the likes of Federico Chiesa, Giovanni Simeone, Marco Benassi, Dias, plus experienced leaders such as Badelj and Astori, Veretout’s unquestionably in an ideal environment to take his game to the next level.
Whether the former U20 World Cup winner can, in fact, do so, remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s the £6.25 million acquisition has definitely been one of the signings of the season so far. Now plying his trade in his third different country in the space of three years, he’ll be working as hard ever to ensure his time in Florence is a long and fruitful one.
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