Thursday March 15 2018
Milan contenders for Europe

The win over Genoa after getting kicked in the teeth by Arsenal suggests there may be a bit of destiny to qualify for Europe, writes Matthew Santangelo.

Last Thursday at San Siro, Arsenal put an end to Milan’s 13-match unbeaten run in all competition. The stage appeared too big for many of the younger, inexperienced players in the squad who have never stood toe to toe with a club of the Gunners ilk.

Franck Kessie, Patrick Cutrone and Suso seemed a bit nervy in carrying out their duties, and as a collective unit, were given a reality check in the form of a 2-0 defeat in their yard. Yet, the tricky weekend visit to Liguria against Genoa shaped to be more of a test of their resilience and ability to rebound than anything else.

The Rossoblu’s defence was tidy and organized, and goalkeeper Mattia Perin looked unbeatable by Gennaro Gattuso’s side as the match progressed into the final stages. However, Andre Silva’s thrilling first Serie A goal to lift the weight off his back and win on the final touch of the match gave off this vibe that perhaps Milan are flirting with a bit of destiny in the hunt for Europe.

Since Gattuso stepped in, there has been plenty of positive energy amongst the players in the Milan locker-room. They back their manager in the media, and believe in themselves to show up on any given match-day – an attitude we did not see much of under former Coach Vincenzo Montella.

Because of this mentality shift and Gattuso’s spirit throughout the week, the players are able to play freely to their potential, which bodes well for Milan until the end of the campaign.

The objective since day one has been to qualify for the Champions League, whether it be through a top four finish in Serie A or winning the Europa League.  Before Gattuso arrived, and even in the weeks after his appointment, the odds were not stacked in Milan’s favour. However, as we sit here in mid-March, the Diavolo find themselves in proper position to pull off what seemed like an impossible feat just two months ago.

As it stands, Milan are six points off fourth place Lazio, but still hold a game in their pocket after the Derby Della Madonnina was postponed. They have also proven to be adequate in balancing the loaded schedule of three competitions, while still moving from strength to strength in matches against the tougher opponents, beating Roma and Lazio in Serie A as well as reaching the Coppa Italia Final.

But this all begs the question: do they have the will power and wherewithal to maintain this level of form until the end and realise their dream?

The foundation of most successful Italian clubs is a stout defensive unit. Leonardo Bonucci and Alessio Romagnoli have strung together one positive performance after another. Stable, closing down and neutralising danger, the pairing has made life simpler for Gianluigi Donnarumma, who although benefitting greatly from their exploits, has risen to the occasion when called into duty.

The midfield trio of Lucas Biglia, Giacomo Bonaventura and Kessie has stood up well in spite of looking a bit overworked. Cutrone, Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu continue to be Gattuso’s preferred attack, but if one of Nikola Kalinic or Andre Silva can somehow pick up form, it would go a long way from a depth perspective.

The bench has been a glaring concern for Milan, primarily at full-back and in attack. Andrea Conti’s return from injury, as Adriano Galliani would often say, feels like a new addition and one which not only allots support in the back, but also the threat of an attacking presence capable of impacting a match.

Tactically, Gattuso’s deflected doubt amongst members of the media and calcio world by showing the ability to make the necessary changes throughout a match to earn results – something which he was questioned about after stepping into the role. Milan are not an intense attacking unit, possession-based or of the Catenaccio mould, but rather a balanced side who have mustered up styles to win in a variety of ways.

Whether it is in dramatic fashion against Genoa or in a more professional manner over Roma, Milan’s performances have allowed us to carve out some general idea of how they will show up. Time will tell if this can be maintained, but with a relatively favourable schedule, Milan should fancy their chances of making the top four.

Many still believe the cards are stacked against Milan to qualify for the Champions League, but as Gattuso has already defied all odds-makers, maybe it should be embraced.

Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports and get your first month free. £5.99 thereafter until September with promo code: ITALIA

Have your say...
Rooting for Milan to secure 4th place and Napoli to win scudetto. I thinks it's what everyone who loves Serie A should wish for.
We also need unpredictable, pacy players on the wings (don't know why we sold Niang)!!!
on the 20th March, 2018 at 2:08am
We don't need much this summer - I would love to see us sign Deulofeu again for some much needed pace and directness on the left wing. Then all we'd need is another quality CM. The defence is fine IMO - and will improve with time. Possibly a LB.
Montolivo and Kalinic at the bare minimum must GO - I'm so happy Gattuso dropped Kalinic if he has a bad attitude in training, it sets a great example for the rest of the team.
Imagine this same team with a full Gattuso pre-season under their belts.
on the 19th March, 2018 at 1:20am
"Milan is totally in dire straits!"
Quit trolling and get off Milan articles, you're really annoying. And stop trying so hard by using Italian footballing words in your comments - it doesn't work for you, obviously a wannabe.
Gattuso has the same record as Allegri in 2018 - undefeated in Serie A, all wins and a draw, I think he has proven himself immensely.
And besides, if we went in 1-0 up at half time in London it is a COMPLETELY different game. Robbed
on the 19th March, 2018 at 1:15am
I'm very happy with Gattuso after Montella's disastrous back 3 experiment but there is still a lack of quality in the squad and it all comes down to the transfers.There was no need to sell Bacca,Lapadula,Kucka unless PROVEN top players were coming in.With the money spent on Kalinic,Silva,Biglia we could have stolen Forsberg or Draxler and a young creative midfielder to compete with Jack(I love Jack but I think he's peaked).Hopefully this summer will be better.Forsberg or Draxler a priority.
on the 17th March, 2018 at 10:42am
I agree with Maldini's heir. The last transfer season has not helped, there should be a ream of 25-26 and a well performing youngster should be given more chances as they would have more potential than buying 30 yr old flops, Biglia and Kalinc.. I think that's what Italy lacks compared to 15-20 years back. Nests, Cannavaro, Maldini, Del Piero etc., they were promising youngsters and having given confidence, playing all season became world class
on the 17th March, 2018 at 12:55am
Milan's striker situation right now is peculiar. Kalinic has underwhelmed even given his low-expectations in the first place, and if could be sold for a significant sum (maybe China?) I would pounce on that.
However, that leaves 2 promising youngsters in Cutrone & Silva to compete for CF. Usually a club will have 1 youngster and 1 experienced striker, but Kalinic has not proven himself.
1 possible scenario is Milan sell Kalinic and Silva to raise funds for another experienced striker.
on the 16th March, 2018 at 11:07pm
Where was that schmuck that said Italian teams are the worst in diving?

Between Harry Kane, Dele Alli and now Welbeck...

I'll just say what Wenger said himself recently after playing Tottenham: "The English players have learned very quickly and are maybe the masters now."

Although it did honestly seem like Milan was going out anyway, but who knows what could have happened.

One thing for sure, if you want to watch 2 sports at the same time, look no further than the EPL.

Also, Dollarumma's price must have dropped like 50 millions now. Bad week for dirty Raiola.
on the 16th March, 2018 at 6:30pm
Well, for this clash Milan - Arsenal, the bookies got it very wrong.
I was only too happy with Gattuso they're doomed! to take the odds on Arsenal for both ties!

Although I support ALL Italian teams playing in International matches, I keep the betting separate.

3/1 in Milan and 11/10 in London for Arsenal wins were odds too good to pass on.

Milan is totally in dire straits!
on the 16th March, 2018 at 4:43pm

I would be a shamed to have a player like welbeck in my team. DISGRACEFUL ACT.
on the 16th March, 2018 at 2:44pm
each other. Other teams just play the same strikers week in/week out and they score goals week in/week out. And it's not just playing regularly but backing that 1 player. Locatelli as well is the victim of the 3:1 policy (behind Monty and Biglia) and Calabria (behind Abate and Conti). We need, at most, 2 players per position NOT 3.
on the 16th March, 2018 at 7:42am
performances last season? He single handily won games. Whereas Biglia has lost us games (like against Inter when he lost the ball). If Locatelli were to have done the same he'd be finished. It's just double standards because one is paid more or is seen as a bigger investment. And one thing that really needs to happen is we need to stop with this 3 options for 1 position nonsense. Every year we have 3 strikers for one position and none of them perform at their level because they get in the way of
on the 16th March, 2018 at 7:40am
@ Sheva Milan At this stage I'll take an EL place. The key is to ensure stability this summer and actually build on this season rather than having another revolution (which I don't think we have the money for). On the youngsters I completely agree. The thing that annoys me is that youngsters are held to a different level to the new signings. Cutrone had to perform at twice the level of Kalinic to even get a look in. Meanwhile what possible basis was there not to back Locatell after his
on the 16th March, 2018 at 7:36am
@sheva Montolivo has got to go. He looks as he’s ready to retire. Never impressed me,and brought Milan down over the years. If they could with Bonucci and his experience form a 4 back defensive line bond with Abate,Musacchio,Romangnoli, subs>/ Conti / Rodriguez / Zapata +Donnarumma they could be solid defensively like past greats Maldini + Nesta/Stam/Cafu/Baresi/Costacurta/Helvig/Kaladeze/Coco/Panucci etc.
Then they could focus up top with 2 defensive Mids,2 attacking Mids + 2 Fwds.
+good coach.
on the 16th March, 2018 at 5:51am
I’m a Arsenal fan, and just would like to pass by to give a compliment to a lesser team. It was a good game, certainly did put a scare in us. Milan shown great spirit, but Arsenal proved too much for you guys, there is no shame losing to a stronger side. Wish you guys all the best in the league. Go Gunners!
on the 16th March, 2018 at 2:40am
Today's corrupt 3-1 defeat to Arsenal was a nightmare to watch, Arsenal has a far better overall team than Milan but relied on the Refs to aid them with their win, the positives to be taken here is that Milan showed heart in defeat and got some needed experience for their players, Wenger on the other hand has a very good squad playing like playing petrified children with zero confidents, Milan can hold their heads up as they may be finally turning the corner all be it very slowly
on the 16th March, 2018 at 2:29am
This is only a good season if Milan qualify for the CL.I know we can be positive about the foundation that's been built but we had that last season only to change half the squad,play a back 3,dig ourselves a huge hole,shun our best youngster Locatelli for good but nothing special Biglia & average Montolivo.Youngsters need to play.Just look at Cutrone,Saponara(before injuries),Cristante,Calabria.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 11:39pm
@ Michael You could say the same of any of the thousands of players who switched clubs from last season. Most football transfers don't work out for anyone other than the agents and the players' bank accounts. Hopefully Kessie can build on his slow start at Milan and reach the levels he reached at Atalanta. Same with the other 13 players we signed.....
on the 15th March, 2018 at 11:27pm
My god the ref had a shocker. The sad thing is that with experience comes the ability to influence refs. Hopefully Donnarumma's mistake will bring him back down to earth and take his eye off the transfer.

I agree with Maldini's Better Heir - we need to stay calm. Including in the summer. The difference between a top 4 finish might have been the defeats to Verona and draw with Benevento. The only signings we need are a sub GK, cover for Kessie and a pacey winger.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 11:25pm
...a shadow of himself from season. had Atalanta still had him they’d be pushing hard for Europa trophy still,and chasing 4th CL spot. Hate to see both Milan teams owned by foreigners, next 2-3 seasons are very important to existence of both teams. Adidas already dropped Milan like a bad habit,and they’re looking at Riena to come in goal now? They should go for Iker Casillas. Big name, he’ll sell shirts.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 11:04pm much as I too wanna see ACM legitimately climb back to powerhouse status,this current run,and form doesn’t impress me at all. It’s transparent, would maybe in 2nd in Serie B. The amount of money they spent to get these results is laughable. Li must be staying up at night contemplating suicide or an escape plan for his financial disaster. This is why now they HAVE to sell Donnarumma,who prior to season was the catalyst of rebuilding. Wish they hadn’t bought Kessie from Atalanta, he’s ...
on the 15th March, 2018 at 10:42pm
The best thing for Milan to do right now is not to overburden the team with high expectations. Aim for securing Europa league spot, respect Samp's position in the table, be humble and maybe they can sneak in to fourth. Creating these expectations end of season is not going to help the team
on the 15th March, 2018 at 6:30pm
Europe needs milan back up there. Unlike napoli who throws away competitions to focus of serie a and then blow that away, small club mentality. Milan are obviously not as good at the moment but they're fighting in europa still, made it to the finals of coppa italia and trying to get a cl spot. If they can finish fourth and build on this year they will just get stronger the next. I hope they can get into champions League next year because at least they'll help juve by making italy proud
on the 15th March, 2018 at 6:20pm
Not sure why everyone is thinking Lazio has it in the bag. They have yet to play against Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Roma, Inter, Torino, Udinese and Atalanta. All seven of these teams they could potentially drop points against.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 6:03pm
@Beppe Rossi

Thanks for the positive feedback. Yes, we are turning in to Ajax minus the structure.
I thought you were too busy hanging Dybala posters on your wall?
on the 15th March, 2018 at 4:55pm
They're going out tonight in London. They're simply not good enough. Not to mention that Li is probably going to lose the club to the bank, because he cannot refinance his debt. Milan are fortunate that Uefa gave them an extension, as they don't want Milan banned from European Competition....yet. Very sad to see this once powerhouse slowly turning into Ajax, minus the structure.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 3:53pm
I have had to eat my words since Gattuso has arrived, and I have to admit that I'm pleased I have had to! Very impressed with the spirit and drive that he has injected into the squad. With a couple of additions in the midfield and attack, I think next season could be very promising!
on the 15th March, 2018 at 3:06pm
The problem is that Lazio has a better head to head results so the 6 points difference is actually like "7", even if Milan win the derby and Lazio loses a game they would still need to drop more points, its tough, would need a perfect Milan to get fourth.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 2:48pm
I like the fact that they are beginning to play better football these days(I saw glimpses in the 2nd half against Arsenal that look promising)...this will certainly help with the confidence levels and self-belief. There was a time that they would lose and look utterly bad, but they show up as of late. With good quality buys in the form of 1 defender, 1 creative midfielder and 1 striker I think the team will be going somewhere next season. Forza Milan.
Big up to Juve & Roma in the CL...
on the 15th March, 2018 at 12:52pm
I can see milan overtaking inter at some point but catching lazio seems highly likely for starters milan are seriously lacking creativity and goals more over there is serious dependence on a small group of players to produce good performances. At least under gattuso milan are competitive against the majority of Italian teams at least given a credible hope that a top 4 finish could happen.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 11:15am

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Your data may be made public and you accept our Privacy Policy. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.