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Monday March 4 2019
Milan meet halfway

On their best defensive run since the Fabio Capello era and with things finally ticking in attack, Richard Gyasi believes Milan have at last found balance.

If scoring 13 goals in the last seven games is impressive then conceding just five in 15 matches in all competitions, given the opponents Milan have faced, must be something of a shock. They’ve kept 10 clean sheets in that period, letting in only three goals in 2019. Not since the era of Fabio Capello in 1993 had this club started the calendar year with four Serie A clean sheets.

Let’s get a bit of perspective here. Milan’s defensive issues are well documented. They kept just four league clean sheets in the first half of the season. Those games involved Udinese, Torino, Bologna and Frosinone. Out of the four, the Rossoneri only managed a win against Udinese, with the rest ending in scoreless draws. 

Milan shipped two goals against Atalanta, Sampdoria and Juventus, while conceding against Empoli, Cagliari, Sassuolo and Chievo. Gattuso’s men were knocked out of the Europa League after losing 3-1 to Olympiacos, when a draw would have ensured qualification for the knockout stages. 

During these periods, the Diavolo showed a considerable amount of character in terms of finding the ne, as they came back from 2-1 down to beat Sampdoria 3-2. They also scored the first two against Napoli and did the same against Roma and Atalanta at San Siro

When things began to tick in defence, Milan became very poor in attack. Gonzalo Higuain struggled to get on the scoresheet after his meltdown against parent club Juventus. And Rossoneri fans have had to endure some frustratingly boring, unadventurous, fallow results versus the likes of Bologna, Frosinone, Torino and Fiorentina. The first two may be described as low-hanging fruits, which Milan should have plucked to increase their points tally.  

Gennaro Gattuso’s men experienced their worst Serie A goal drought in 34 years under the former Italy midfielder, raising questions about his competence and future at the club. Higuain did not look happy as the weight of expectation grew heavy on him. To be fair to his teammates, goalscoring opportunities were created for the Argentine, but it seems the news of a possible reunion with his former Coach Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea had turned his head. And Higuain’s demeanor on the pitch suggested he wanted out.

The biggest difference since Krzysztof Piatek’s arrival is not just in goals scored, but also his movement off the ball to tire opposition defenders and create space for his teammates. No more Pipita standing there, waving his arms in frustration. Now things are finally ticking at both ends of the pitch. 

It must be noted Milan’s defensive improvement coincided with the injuries to first choice centre-backs, Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio. The coupling of Ignacio Abate as an emergency stopper alongside Cristian Zapata proved significant as they conceded three in five League games compared to the seven shipped by the former. Perhaps losing those guarantees at the back forced the rest of the team into focusing on some defensive duties that had previously been neglected.

The signing of another creative option in Brazil’s Lucas Paqueta, who is not afraid of a crunching tackle either, and the arrival of Piatek has kickstarted an amazing run of form, which saw them leapfrog bitter rivals Inter into third place in Serie A, just in time for the Derby della Madonnina. 

Milan are not always great to watch, but they’re at least more efficient in attack now. Hakan Calhanoglu is still a long way off his best but is beginning to show great signs of recovery as he provided a goal and assist in his last three games. Musacchio has looked secure and reassuring, while Romagnoli has offered a steadying influence at the back. Gianluigi Donnarumma keeps making remarkable saves and Andrea Conti can be useful as an attacking weapon once he has regained full fitness. 

There are those who also look forward to seeing the future Azzurri partnership of Romagnoli and Mattia Caldara manifest in the Milan colors. The former Atalanta centre-back played for the youth team last week - the final step towards a genuine comeback.

The Diavolo’s defensive resolve could be crucial in their aspirations for Champions League football next season. As Coaches so often say, it’s not about fixing the defence or getting the attack firing - it’s about balancing the two.

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Have your say...
Suso is bang average, hogs the ball with too many touches and tries to cut in and take a shot every time. Not someone milan should pin their hops on.

Fact that his been one of the better players for the last few years shows how band milan have become rather then how good he is.

Stop thinking small, get a proper midfield player like Modric or Rakitic then we'll really be up there again.
on the 15th March, 2019 at 3:31pm
Don't have to be sorry, I really like Suso a lot too, however we are lacking a lot of pace on the wings, I would just like to see Castu and possibly Delofeu doing some lightning counters with Piatek ready to finish the moves (if we stick with the 4-3-3 which is traditionally a counter attacking formation). It seems like with Suso our buildup play tends to be much slower which makes our strikers get crowded out in the box.
I love the way Napoli are playing atm, wish we could emulate their style
on the 6th March, 2019 at 4:57pm
Sorry to say, but Suso is 10 times better than Delofeu in my opinion. And Delofeu naturally plays on the left wing.

We shouldn't be worrying about Suso. In the summer we should reinforce the midfield, we will be playing 3 competitions. And we need to address the left wing.

And money is not an issue for the new owners. The only problem is FFP and if we qualify to the Champions league we will have more spending power.
on the 6th March, 2019 at 3:34pm
It was ugly against Sassuolo but we won, thats all there is too it, 3 points came home after we put out a pretty poor performance. Wins like this will get us UCL football. The team looks great and Gattuso has done an incredible job, he's been getting better and better as our coach each week. To those still with questions about our finances we spent 70M in January with no UCL football, imagine what we can spend if we finish in the UCL spots. This team is very young and we're really going places.
on the 6th March, 2019 at 3:07pm
Yes I think he is a better player. Faster, better dribbler, tracks back defensively better and can still score goals. I also say that because I hope we can play with 2 strikers to retain Cutrone and not lose a youth product like we did with Locatelli. Delofeu will allow more tactical diversity. As we saw under Montella we were unable to play a 3-5-2 for eg cos Suso didnt fit in anywhere. And the current 4-3-3 can sometimes leave us toothless in attack.
Big fan of Suso but something to consider
on the 6th March, 2019 at 2:15pm
@Mirko

Do you honestly think Delofeu os more stable than Suso??
on the 6th March, 2019 at 12:43pm
@Rossonero
I like Suso a lot but I think we could get a lot for him in the current market, and then go on to buy someone like Delofeu who adds more defensively so we can try some alternative formations, as stated by other posters we look very flat in attack at times and one dimensional. We need to figure out how to play with 2 strikers while maintaining our midfield stability.
After the Sassuolo match I am dreading the derby a bit, that performance at home was terrible. I'll be there though!!!!
on the 6th March, 2019 at 8:48am
Why all the negativity towards Suso. Remember from August to December he was our most reliable and creative player. He is hitting a bad run of form. I'd stick with him and switch with Castillejo. If he starts producing like he did earlier in the season we would be excellent in the attacking phase.
on the 5th March, 2019 at 5:44pm
Whats the difference between average team and good team? Average team are winning only when they are in good shape ant everything is going their way. Meanwhile, good team takes points even when they crumble a bit, through injury crisis, when they struggle to deliver best possible performance etc. Now Milan looks like a good team. Sometimes, maybe, they suffers on the field, but manage to take some important points and climp up in the table anyway.
on the 5th March, 2019 at 4:28pm
@viktor

Almost everybody said the same things as me, that we have serious problems in attack. And I'm a troll for pointing that out? Think what you want you clown but it's true.
on the 5th March, 2019 at 2:43pm
@Milan Fan

ABHAHAHAHHAHA


"No. Nothing is ticking in attack. Milan have had what? Two clear-cut opportunities in the Las two matches? They can't even get the ball to Piatek. Just clamping down in defense with 10 men against mid-table opponents while still giving them chances isn't solid performance. Specially when you can't hit them on the counter."

Nice try on hating on your "own team".. troll post. How about we currently have conceded 5(!!!) goals in since December.. Moron.
on the 5th March, 2019 at 12:26pm
I am happy with Gattuso thus far - he has us in 3rd at this stage of the season which hasn't happened for a long time.
Our attacking transition is still very questionable though, I would love to see us use a hybrid 4-4-2 like Ancelotti does in Naples. That way we can see Cutrone and Piatek together.
I hate to say it but I think its time we cash in on Suso - I love him but we need someone who can run defensively on the right like Hakan does on the left. this will add more tactical diversity.
on the 5th March, 2019 at 9:40am
Guys, i just bought a new mobile phone plan so i can watch every Milan game with a beer in my hand and a smile on my face. This team has the potential to do great things. Maybe 2 reinforcments in the summer, but we're quite ok the way we are, compared to last 5-6 years. Btw, so manny years passed since i was forcing my friends to dress in Milan jersey and cheer for rossoneri. It was nice to see Barca and Real Madrid fans dressed up in Milan jersey with Milan hats, cheering for Milan in CL. :)))
on the 5th March, 2019 at 8:17am
Kudos to the players and coach plus a bit of luck on our side But technically Milan last few games were boring to watch , we don’t have a style or pattern of play , Suso hasn’t been his best “creativity “ is lacking and technicality just a mere moment of individual brilliance Huge improvement defensively...... Forza Milan
on the 5th March, 2019 at 7:48am
No. Nothing is ticking in attack. Milan have had what? Two clear-cut opportunities in the Las two matches? They can't even get the ball to Piatek. Just clamping down in defense with 10 men against mid-table opponents while still giving them chances isn't solid performance. Specially when you can't hit them on the counter.
on the 5th March, 2019 at 6:37am
a real chore. The players took too many touches and tried too many complicated passes and movements and long balls. Gattuso was right to call them out on it. If the players can keep their focus, keep things really simple and play every game like it's a cup final, then I think we can finish third. But in football the margins are so fine that a slight drop could see Milan fall down the table. Hopefully Gattuso can keep them on the straight and narrow.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 11:13pm
season. Next season he'll hopefully get games when Milan are back in Europe and playing midweek games. One of the great things that Gattuso has done which was a big contrast to Montella is stick to a consistent starting line up. We can all now name Milan's starting line up; Donnarumma, Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez, Bakayoko, Kessie, Paquetá, Suso, Çalhanoğlu and Piątek. There. Simple. One issue however is the sluggishness which seems to kick in every few games. The Sassuolo game was
on the 4th March, 2019 at 11:11pm
They're doing well. And as the article says the movement has improved a lot. Çalhanoğlu is starting to drift into the centre and switch with Paquetá on the left. The good thing about Paquetá's signing is that he's been able to take Bonaventura's role in midfield. I love Jack but he's missed huge chunks of seasons with injuries and is just not reliable. Hopefully Paquetá can stay injury free. Piątek and Cutrone can work as a strike partnership with the latter as super sub for the remainder of the
on the 4th March, 2019 at 11:04pm
We look great defensively.Offensively we still don't create enough and,with the exception of Piatek,still make terrible decisions in the final third.I'm very optimistic though.Gattuso is doing a good job for an inexperienced coach and hopefully improvements in the offensive phase will come with time and player upgrades in a few positions. I love the way he's been defending players like Bakayoko,Kessie,Hakan,even Donnarumma earlier in the season and I think the players have reacted well.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 9:39pm
@dano: Conti might be an interesting option out wide, but what about Castillejo? I think if he's given a real chance (at least 3 games in a row), that he'll prove to be worth that chance. He's not really been given that chance since arriving. I've never been in love with Suso. Too slow, awkward with the ball at his feet, and too predictable. On Gattuso: I wanted him gone in December. Not too bad right now, but let's not forget the arrivals of Paqueta and Piatek. Is it more him or more them?
on the 4th March, 2019 at 8:46pm
Let the trash talk begin
on the 4th March, 2019 at 7:35pm
Great article - I actually think Milan will finish 3rd.

They have an easier schedule remaining than Inter and do not have to worry about Europa League (though they do have the Coppa).

The past 2 performances have looked uninspired though. We'll need more creativity from the midfield and wingers to give Piatek chances to finish.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 7:09pm
Gattuso deserves alot of credit for getting milan into 3rd whether milan stay there or not. The football still isnt great but at least they are winning. There is still so much dead weight in the squad and questions over who will be in midfield next year? can they afford Baka? will they sell kessie to raise cash? Will cutrone stay if hes not a starter? Surely Calhanoglu has to go? At least we are competing for something, which is refreshing is all i can say.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 5:45pm
Milan have come a long way in a short time. Looking forward to seeing what they can do in the coming years and hope they are up to the challenge of Champions League football!
on the 4th March, 2019 at 4:50pm
With Suso current form, wouldn't it make some sense to try putting Conti in the right wing spot and have Calabria in the full back, then the two of them would be able to switch back and forth, offer a little more defensive stability on that side and they are both great crosser of the ball. I know they do not have the dribbling skill of Suso, but it seems to maybe make some sense, esp with Conti not being as defensive as Calabria.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 4:45pm
no mention of bakayoko? probably the most important factor.
on the 4th March, 2019 at 4:33pm

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