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Thursday December 20 2018
Champions League opportunity for Milan

Milan's Europa League exit could be a blessing in disguise, says Richard Gyasi, as their struggling rivals will be fighting on two fronts.

If the 1-1 draws against the likes of Cagliari and Empoli earlier in the season was disappointing, then Milan fans must be cursing and ranting about the recent show of ineptitude that has crept into the team. If there is any evidence of Gennaro Gattuso’s side being a weak team, then look no further than their last three league games, which provide all the proof anyone could need. Milan have failed to register a win in that time, drawing all of them and losing six vital points that could have pushed them into a much secured position with a better points tally.

The Rossoneri lie in fourth place, five points behind Inter and two above Lazio, who are their closest contender for fourth. Had Milan been a bit more clinical in the second half against Torino and incisive away to Bologna, we will be talking about a six point lead over the Aquile.

What has proved infuriating to fans is Gattuso’s decision not to make any substitution in the final minutes of the game against Lazio, while nursing a one goal lead. The game eventually ended in a 1-1 draw.

There is no better victory in a game of football than winning on the road against a team that is breathing down your neck and in this sense the deputy Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, had every right to criticise Rino. Had Milan protected their lead, the Rossoneri would have established an eight point lead over Lazio and one over Inter in third position.

Milan may have earned more points under Gattuso behind Juventus and Napoli in the last year but one thing remains unchanged. The Diavolo can be frustrating against teams that you would expect them to pick apart. This was apparent last season, when Milan struggled to beat Udinese and Sassuolo to bridge the gap to the top four after Inter dropped points against Crotone and Torino. Even more frustrating was the 1-0 defeat to Benevento at San Siro. This side of the Gattuso story needs to change.

There is reason to think that the Diavolo are fourth because the two Rome clubs, Lazio and Roma, continue to stumble this season. Lazio are without a win in their last five league games whilst Eusebio Di Francesco’s side have suffered frustrating results against the likes of Udinese and Cagliari.

That said, it’s significant to point out that only Juventus, Napoli and Inter have beaten the Rossoneri this season and these are the teams that occupy the top three. In this context, Milan have made progress on the results front.

Last Thursday’s termination of their Europa League journey was disappointing, but equally relieving as Milan will no longer have to juggle Serie A and Europe’s second tier competition. The Rossoneri will now focus on their aspiration to qualify for the Champions League.

Given the limited quality in their ranks and the clear lack of determination, it stands to reason that Milan would have crashed out of the Europa League at some point against one of the top teams. Aiming for a long run in Europe as well as a top four place was always unsustainable for such a thin squad.

Their elimination, however, bodes well for their fight for a top four place. Milan are the only team outside the top five that will not be playing in Europe. Juventus, Napoli, Inter, Lazio and Roma will all engage in continental competitions. Milan must take advantage of the extra days to improve their performance and results.

A lot will also depend on what happens in the January transfer window. Milan have signed Flamengo star Lucas Paqueta who completed his medicals last week at Milanello. The Brazilian International is not a finished product, but will surely inject some welcome quality in midfield once he adapts to the league. He’s got a great eye for a pass and offers creativity when going forward.

Despite signing a proven Serie A goal scorer in Gonzalo Higuaín, the Rossoneri are currently struggling up front. Higuain has been a pale shadow of himself after his meltdown against Juventus in Week 12. The last time the Argentine scored for Milan in all competitions was in October with a 3-2 victory against Sampdoria.
Milan obviously need a third striker and a game changer, but the financial reality of the club plus issues with Financial Fair Play regulations makes it difficult to embark on expensive spending. Talk of players who can impact games, Samu Castillejo should no doubt be getting the nod ahead of Hakan Çalhanoğlu. The Turkish playmaker has lost form and the only reason you can think of him starting games is because he wears the number 10 jersey in body, if not in spirit.
Milan will only have themselves to blame if they fail to qualify for the Champions League as the struggles in Rome mean a rare opportunity beckons this season.

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Have your say...
I think that Conte is doable if you show him the money, he is greedy
Also don't forget that Jose just became available!
Forget about Wenger, Donadoni, it is a step in the wrong direction!
We need a guy to take control of the sinking boat!
The Guy that can attract talent and create a solid base!
Fabregas and Pagueta can bring a life into this team
and needed connection from midfield to the forwards!

Forza Milan
on the 27th December, 2018 at 10:31pm
@PrimoCalcio: Two matches later, how do you feel? I'd have fired him after Frosinone. He's going to get to SPAL and as luck will have it win, which will prolong the agony until Feb or March and by then it will be too late. Lazio is 3 up and Roma is starting to play. Even Samp and Toro are looking more dangerous. First time since the 80s that they don't score in 4 games. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Arsenal_F.C._seasons. Better than Ancelotti minus CL. Arsenal 2.0? Over this? YES PLEASE.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 5:48am
Milan need a replacement for Bonaventura otherwise will finish behind Roma and Atalanta
on the 24th December, 2018 at 1:06pm
I hate it when people try to blame Higuian for what the team is going through in attack.
Everytime we see him dropping deep to assist the midfield because obviously they do not give him service. How then do you expect a striker to be in the midfield and be around the 18yard box at same time.
Is he a ghost?
on the 24th December, 2018 at 9:28am
@ACMilanFan
Conte is doubtful for reasons you mentioned and imo not a great fit for current project.
Donadoni has had average managerial career.
Wenger is way past it, with Gazidis and Wenger we'd be Arsenal 2.0 with less financial power.

I agree not many good options, which is why I believe Rino deserves to stay for now.
Miha was sacked, we got Brocchi. Then Montella. He was sacked, we got Rino.
Revolving door of inadequate managers has to stop.
Squad is decimated. Between rock and hard place
on the 23rd December, 2018 at 12:59am
We keep spending money on players, which is necessary ,but the fish stinks from the head, get rid of Gattuso, he is a nice guy with no managerial experience!
Wenger is not an answer either, we need somebody like Conte!
Spend money and get the team back!!!!!
on the 22nd December, 2018 at 7:56pm
@PrimoCalcio: Not a lot of options out there atm. Conte has the best CV, but he might not want to come to a club that has financial problems. Donadoni could be given a "prove it" contract, 6 months with automatic renewal if Milan qualify for the CL. People have said Wenger. Why not? Guidolin is free and has made noises about getting back in. Quique Flores? Roberto di Matteo? Some of these names aren't excellent, but they all have experience and some have league and cup titles.
on the 22nd December, 2018 at 6:31pm
@AC Milan Fan
If Gattuso was sacked today who would you replace him with?
on the 22nd December, 2018 at 8:38am
Also, i wonder, does anyone actually remember why Bonaventura was our best player for a period, when him and Suso really rose to be starters and impactfull players? Bonaventura played wide left, hes not the quickest but bonaventura almost ALWAYS beats hes man and creates something. But since 2016 we have not played him wide. Anyone remember this and have a reason why we're not playing him wide? (besides injury atm)
on the 22nd December, 2018 at 2:10am
Higuain is no creator, what? what has he created. Higuain is a poacher, cant create anything, he tries to and thats a major problem atm, hes NEVER in the box.
Suso is our ONLY creative option.
on the 22nd December, 2018 at 2:01am
Milan needs the 4-2-3-1: Rodriguez-Roma-Musacchio-Calabria; Kessie-Baka; Laxalt-Suso-Castillejo; Pipita. Once Paqueta arrives the three attacking midfielders play in many different combos, even rotate in-game: Paqueta-Suso-Castillejo, Castillejo-Paqueta-Suso, Laxalt-Paqueta-Suso, Paqueta-Calha-Suso, etc. I would like to see either Suso or Calha played in the middle of that three. That's their natural position. I think Paqueta-Suso-Castillejo with Pipita or Cutrone in front would be next level.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 11:25pm
@Maldini's Heir: This article basically sums up my last response to you in the article "Mundane Milan Drop the Ball". Again, everything you're describing here is a coaching issue. You know what you're talking about, but your conclusion that Gattuso should stay is then baffling. Not trying to pick on you man because other than endorsing Gattuso everything you say is right!
on the 21st December, 2018 at 11:09pm
The same people who want to see more young players in Serie A cut up teams like Roma and Milan for playing youngsters. Milan's team is packed with youth and in 4th place.

I know it's Italian culture to find a tree full of lemons and suck those tart yellow fruits until there's none left.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 6:23pm
The problem is that the only creators in the team are Suso and Higuain. If you shut down these 2 players then we are toothless.

We need a world class left winger and a creative midfielder, otherwise we will always struggle to score against bottom of the table teams who put 11 players behind the ball.

Depay or Martial would do wonders.

I would also welcome Fabregas in midfield. Class is permanent.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 4:45pm
And EVERY single year they fail. Because EVERY single striker is supposed to fit to our NON-EXISTANT system. Other teams set up to play for their strikers but Milan has never done that since Allegri. So we need Menez, a solo soldier operating entirely on hes own and selfishly. Disjointed, best hope this Milan side has of scoring goals
on the 21st December, 2018 at 1:58pm
Milan can not play with a striker like Higuain. The saddest truth is Milan need Jeremy Menez, or a player alike. I hated Menez, awfully selfish and frustrating player. Nowhere near good enough for a good side. But for Milan, hes the perfect type. He was what Suso is today. Greedy try to do it all, only Menez did it from a striking position, and thats what we need. Because Since Allegri left we have never been able to link midfield to striker. We get new strikers EVERY single year
on the 21st December, 2018 at 1:56pm
Once you qualify for the Champions League,you have a better chance in attracting high profile players. 2 or 3 signings of high calibre players can make all the difference. There'a a lot of unsettled quality players out there, but to most of them, Champions League football is a must.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 12:49pm
@Paul

You seem to know little of football based on your comments.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 12:33pm
Jesus, there's looking at the glass half full and then there's this. Milan won't qualify for the Champions League even without the "distraction" (funny how it's not a distraction in any other league) and why would we want them to? To be embarrassed two- or six-fold by teams far better than Real Betis and Olympiacos?
on the 21st December, 2018 at 7:02am
If Milan swap Higuain for Morata I'll... no words. It's the same ridiculous decisions every year.
I understand Higuain hasn't performed exactly to expectation, that he's over 30, and that his temperament isn't always great, but he is PROVEN in Serie A and is a serial winner. It hasn't even been 5 months.
Morata did not impressed at either Madrid or Chelsea, nor does he have the experience to lead such an young squad.
It would a CRAZY risk to take in January while the team is still 4th place.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 5:04am
a touch and passes to the CB, who passes it simply to the DM, CM comes drops deep, takes a touch and cuts inside and plays it to the CF's feet. In the last minute there 's some killer pass or dribble or shot but the build up play is simple. The players know where the other's will be. Simple, simple, simple. Watching Milan there's just a layer of complication. The ball moves so slowly and the movement is so laboured. That's why we struggle to break down teams like Bologna.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 1:55am
Higuain is not the same player he was at Napoli and Juve. He doesn’t have the players / Mids backing him distributing the great balls for him to run on to just outside/ inside box and hit one time, or round a defender and keeper to slot home, no crosses into 6 yard box for header opportunities. His best years may have already been used up.

Doesn’t matter who Milan get up front they will always fail to score, yet if on any other decent big club they’re best strikers on planet at moment.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 1:52am
One of the things that struck me the most about Bologna was just how difficult Milan made every movement. Every touch, every pass and every movement was so forced and difficult. It's not something unique to Milan but a problem for most Serie A teams. If you look at La Liga or the Premier League all of the movement is so much more fluid. You look at Barcelona and the ball is played into Messi's feet and he plays a simple, first time, 5 yard pass the way he's facing back to his full back who takes
on the 21st December, 2018 at 1:52am
Leonardo and Maldini need big reinforcements in what is a very limited, one-dimensional Milan. We have Higuain who has failed to deliver thus far. Cutrone is good but not near world class. We have no central playmaker, no number 10 and no supply or service to our strikers). Hakan is the typical modern day flash footballer, over-hyped, no substance. Milan need to buy 'best in class' for every position if they want to compete with Juventus. We are a top 6 team and miles off Champions League level.
on the 21st December, 2018 at 1:40am
Milan are a long way off from being a CL team.

They've won 2 of their last 16 knockout games in the CL since their '07 win. So people saying they've got European DNA are clueless.

The reason they did so well in Europe was because they were run well and had the best players in the world. Now they don't have either of those things, and you need at least the former to get anywhere

They need to sort themselves out off the field before competing. But if A Madrid/Liverpool can do it, so can they
on the 21st December, 2018 at 1:15am
Champions League for a club that crashes out of Europe League and gain little coefficient points? No thanks.
Clubs in Serie A should:
1 Build new stadiums
2 Take BOTH EL and CL seriously.
on the 20th December, 2018 at 11:19pm
Higuain is never in the box anymore, he tries to drop deep and play as a false 9, but first time passes in the final third between suso, hakan, higuain and cutrone always goes stray. We are not technical. We need to full the box with numbers, push our fullbacks higher and exploit the flanks to get crosses into the box, with the numbers in the box to compete for the ball. We have decent crossers of the ball if only we gave them a target. Hakan should never be a winger.
on the 20th December, 2018 at 11:15pm
Milans players are way to similar. Suso, Hakan, Higuain and Cutrone all come short or want ball to feet. Cutrone only one who runs in behind. This may be because of our lack of passes in behind, but most likely its the playstyle of the players.
My problem lies in our conservative approach. When loosing to Olympiacos we still had fullbacks not pushing forward, two CMs staying suuper deep. When all we needed was to push them forward and get ppl in to the box. Cutrone and Higuain are too similar.
on the 20th December, 2018 at 11:12pm
Milan are not a side any "top manager" wants to come to. We arent a wanted destination. Things were looking positive up until we sold Locatelli, signed Halilovic, got Bakayoko, its the same as every year before.

Tactically, the SELF-PROCLAIMED winger Hakan needs to never ever play again. He only operates sentrally, and when placed on wing, can not pass, dribble, create or RUN. Awful. Gattuso isnt leading if hes letting Hakan decide where he plays. Its a massive problem
on the 20th December, 2018 at 11:09pm
Agree completely with Mr. Mous. Fiorentina will crush Milan this weekend.
on the 20th December, 2018 at 10:38pm

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