Saturday September 1 2018
Milan have room to grow

Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan showed signs of effective football, but Matthew Santangelo claims the Rossoneri must work to sustain it over a full 90 minutes.

Off the back of a crushing Napoli defeat to open their 2018-19 Serie A season, Gennaro Gattuso and his Milan returned home to San Siro with questions hanging over them.

The Rossoneri started positively with two goals versus the Partenopei last Saturday inside a packed San Paolo before succumbing to their own individual errors and lapses that allowed for Carlo Ancelotti’s men to reverse the match entirely.

After nearly a week to self-reflect and correct their wrongs on the training ground, Milan once again faced a tough task against Roma, who strived to turn in a convincing performance of their own after grinding out a 3-3 draw earlier in the week with Atalanta.

Much like last weekend, Milan leapt out of the gates with an energetic approach to pin Roma back, showing intent to apply immediate pressure and capitalize on their possession advantage.

Hakan Calhanoglu’s presence was felt early and often as the Turkish playmaker, a prime beneficiary of Gattuso’s spirited mindset, picked up right where he left off down the stretch last season. Without question, Gattuso’s men were well positioned to pull ahead, but lacked the final ball towards Gonzalo Higuain to make it happen.

Eventually, Milan’s patient build-up and calmness to let play unfold allowed for the Rossoneri to take advantage of a lax Roma defence who fell asleep at the back post, as Ricardo Rodriguez picked out Franck Kessie for the opener.

Though clearly the better side in the first half, Milan’s second half was nearly a repeat episode of the Napoli match; flat out of the tunnel and looking vulnerable to an equalizer. Eusebio Di Francesco’s initial tactical shape of a 3-4-3 was scrapped before play resumed, as Stephan El Shaarawy replaced Ivan Marcano in a switch back to a four-man defensive line.

Once Federico Fazio struck towards Gianluigi Donnarumma’s back post to level terms, it became clear Milan were in for yet another dicey half-hour of football.

Moments later, Higuain immediately responded with a goal, but it was wiped away after VAR ruled the Argentine a fraction offside. And even with Steven Nzonzi’s tap in from close range in the 79th minute following the same fate, Milan flirted with leaving points on the table at San Siro.

Yet, it was Gattuso’s summoning of Diego Laxalt, debutant Samu Castillejo and baby-boomer Patrick Cutrone that made the difference.

Laxalt and Castillejo injected an immediate dose of pace that helped stretch Roma out and credit Milan those few additional splashes of possession in the final third to seek out a winner. Of course, Nzonzi gifting the ball to Calabria opened the door to Higuain for his deserved moment and Cutrone’s stunning finish, but there is something to be said about pushing the right buttons with the substitutions.

Having said all this, despite the thrilling victory, Milan must improve on how they approach the second half and make more from their share of chances; Milan out-shot Roma 26 to 6 (10-2 on target) and narrowly won the possession battle (51%-49%). Quite clearly, they commanded and controlled the tempo, but probably could have made it easier on themselves.

Without question, Milan deserved the victory and Gattuso’s showing us all that he can forge an identity with his style of play, but the Rossoneri need to turn in a full 90-minute shift as a unit. One can argue that is somewhat of an unrealistic expectation considering the two opponents Milan have been tasked with facing to begin the campaign, but ultimately, submitting a more complete performance moving forward should be the aim.

Traveling away to Napoli and hosting Roma in a home opener to begin the season are no simple feats. Although Milan feel regretful in not having taken more from the opening round, supporters should be encouraged by the product thus far, while also recognising that there is certainly more for the Champions League hopefuls to give on the pitch once play resumes after the international break.

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Have your say...
They were basically the only bright side to our team. And the reason they were so successful while on opposite flanks is that they gave each other breaks from having to be relied upon at all times, if one couldnt make it happen the other could.

Hakan has proved he has AMAZING passing abilities, and even while playing on the left he drifts so incredibly sentrally. Why Gattuso simply doesnt swap them as a default, Jack on the wing, Hakan centrally it really will fix alot of problems.
on the 6th September, 2018 at 4:29am
as Gattuso really is showing incredible effects on this Milan side. Yes we pass it horribly in defence and in weird situations, but if you just think back to earlier days, this is what we used to do, and excell at. This is a young side which wants to build from the back and will get there in time, we look like a milan team.

Just our end product from midfield is horrid. Which also brings me back to Jack and Hakan being the main problem of the team. Suso and Jack carried our team 2 seasons ago
on the 6th September, 2018 at 4:27am
Jack and Hakan i thought were two of the best peformers. However, Hakan and Jack is also two of the main problems in the team in my opinion.

Hakan is rarely honestly, dangerous down the left hand side, hes just too slow, hands down, he only gets a cross in if opponent defender messes up badly.

Yet Jack proves every single time he actually ends up wide, to get the cross in the box or create something.

Problem in my opinion is Gattuso, on the matter. And i know, its difficult to blame Gattuso
on the 6th September, 2018 at 4:24am
Overall, i think if Milan improve their fitness and can do what they do in the first half in both halves then they can seriously contend for something other than 5-7; this is Serie A there are other better squads if we're being honest. Bonaventura did alright though Hakan was the man, he has more confidence than last yr. My other worry is the CM spot, Biglia had a good game tactically and interpreted the role well. I just hope we have a sub for him which is where the Baka gamble i hope pays off.
on the 4th September, 2018 at 2:20pm
Lol @Dami and Anonymous, I've been saying @Maldini's Heir was an idiot all this time when you think about it....always sounding pompous. And prob too much FIFA or Football manager..he thinks changing formation to 4231 was the cure after just *one* week....even though we dont have the personnel for it.
My worry for Milan is if Hakan doesnt have a good game, Milan wont have a good game. But there is some hope with Casti on the left as he looks the part. I thought Laxalt was better than Rod
on the 4th September, 2018 at 2:15pm
Good thing is we have back ups for inconsistent wingers in the form of castillejo and even laxalt can play as a LW. My fear is if biliga gets injured, we have no natural replacement. We need to hope we get lucky until the jan market and hopefully our board will be smart enough to sign an alternative for biliga

Biliga playing well is vital for milan
on the 3rd September, 2018 at 11:41pm
I'm not talking about being match fit, I'm talking about his Ozil-like tendency to either spend the game commanding the midfield play moving forward or to be a shadow, drifting ineffectually around the pitch. I like Hakan but he's got to be more consistent in putting his mark on games week after week.
on the 3rd September, 2018 at 4:28pm
@Maldini's Heir their interchangeability was one of our biggest threats, it was evidently causing issues for Karsdorp at RB as he was having to mark 2 different players. Rodriguez was also fantastic down that left hand side, pace is in the squad with Laxalt and Castillejo and Gattuso played his subs perfectly.

@AnonMilan Hakan is a gameweek behind the other Milan players and 2 weeks behind the other Serie A sides, he was clearly not fully match fit and started blowing at the 70 mark.
on the 2nd September, 2018 at 5:09pm
Great result and an overall great performance.My concern remains how good we actually are if Biglia and Kessie don't perform or get injured. The Europa League is a great opportunity to see what players like Bakayoko, Bertolacci,Mauri can offer us. I still can't understand the logic behind the Locatelli sale. Over the past two games though,the positives have definitely outweighed the negatives.
on the 2nd September, 2018 at 11:00am
Hakan started well and then drifted into obscurity for most of the second half. He's a talented player on his day, but trends a bit too much toward inconsistency.
on the 2nd September, 2018 at 2:21am
@ All Ever heard of a civilised debate that doesn’t descend into insults? I’m not looking for specialism. I’m just looking for different. I don’t see how Jack and Hakan were the best players. They got in each other’s way literally on two occasions. The fact is when the ball goes left to Hakan there’s not a lot that’s going to happen. Our counter attacks were too slow (as Gattuso himself said). Rodriguez did well. I was impressed with Castillejo. Just my opinion. Please try and keep it civil.
on the 2nd September, 2018 at 12:34am
This match only proved that when Gattuso plays Hakan & Bonaventura together, well balanced, great things happen in the midfield, especially in the offensive part! I somehow feel that Romagnolli and our complete defence isn't on the highest level (not as they were at one period last season), but I was very positively surprised by the new boy Castillejo, and how Rino managed to fit him, Laxalt & Cutrone in the last quarter of the match!
There's definitely a room to grow! Good game by Pipita too!
on the 1st September, 2018 at 7:34pm
Too many articles on the Milan clubs. They are full of one of the basic ingredients to grow, fertilizer.
on the 1st September, 2018 at 7:14pm
Some here still dont think we have a chance of top 4 when Roma sold their entire team, Inter still look terrible after facing the mighty Sassuolo, Torino and are currently struggling against Bologna. Lazio are also mostly the same side that came 5th last year and lost their best defender. We brought in a WC striker and depth to a side which was 3rd best under Gattuso, so long as we dont slip up against the relegation level sides again we should easily get top 4.
on the 1st September, 2018 at 6:28pm
Hakan and Jack were our 2 best players last night and their interchangeability down the left hand side was our biggest threat but once again the mastermind armchair fan that is Maldini's Heir thinks they cant play together and all players on the pitch should be specialists in their roles. You are seriously dumb when it comes to some aspects of football fella. We were very close to beating runners up Napoli last week and beat Roma this week with 1 less game of fitness.
on the 1st September, 2018 at 6:25pm
That's funny @maldinisheir...bonaventura calhanoglu and Rodriguez were star performers last night, sometimes I Think you like to troll. People forget that this milan team have a lot of new faces and we're formed just last year, also that they are the youngest side in europe. So Ya they went up against the best in napoli and roma and did well. The goal is obvious. Make champions League and then next year they will fill in the gaps to make the team competitive on all fronts. They on right track!
on the 1st September, 2018 at 3:16pm
Great win. So happy Cutrone scored. Again our lack of pace allowed Roma to pin us in. Bonaventura and Calhanoglu are too similar to be in the same side. I was encouraged by both Laxalt and Castillejo who seemed to really add a bit of extra bounce down the left. It’s shame we only have 2 strikers as 442 would work quite well with Cutrone alongside Higuain. Definitely positives though.
on the 1st September, 2018 at 12:58pm
Milan have had "room to grow" for the last decade and we're still waiting. Some decent signings toward the end of the window should keep them reasonably competitive in the league, but they're a long way off being a serious European force again.

A few good midfielders would elevate them to top 4 status.

As for the EL, hopefully they go all out for that and try and win it. By next summer it'll be 20 years since an Italian side was even in the final of the EL - and that's a disgraceful record
on the 1st September, 2018 at 11:21am
btw what has roma done to their midfield they used have strootman radja de rossi pjanic and peredes probably one of the best midfield in the league and europe now they look as bad as milan. There is quality there but no understanding no surprising since most of these players have pretty much just met one another. Last night both milan and roma might as well have just played with 5 defenders and 5 attackers both midfield where no existent.
on the 1st September, 2018 at 9:49am
I wouldn't get too carried away it is also a game which showed up all of milan weaknesses inability to hold onto the ball in midfield suso inability to make a impact on the game without the ball the absurd concept of playing the ball in the defensive third of the pitch rather than clearing it.

Milan lack of midfield has been a issue since exodus in 2012 thinking that it will get better soon is absurd, milan should seriously consider than it was the players to switching to a 4231 formation.
on the 1st September, 2018 at 9:36am

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