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Friday August 16 2019
Sourcing the Suso solution

Suso’s strengths and weaknesses as a winger could be just as crucial in a trequartista role for Milan, writes Elio Salerno.

Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáenz de la Torre is a player who at times is as puzzling and dazzling as his flamboyant Spanish name. The attacker who we have all come to know simply as ‘Suso’ generates substantial debate between Milan fans.

Undoubtedly talented with a special left foot, the former Liverpool player is frustratingly inconsistent. In amongst his creative moments of magic, Suso is accused of being a peripheral figure in more games than a player with his quality should be.

Despite contributing seven goals and nine assists last season, there was a feeling that in those cagey games where Milan needed a hero or something extraordinary to claim a crucial win, Suso was absent. As the man that many look toward for inspiration on those occasions, the Rossonero Number 8 would often leave onlookers disappointed. Not all of Milan’s deficiencies last term can be laid at the feet of Suso. Gennaro Gattuso’s team were somewhat functional and underwhelming.

Whilst Suso’s attacking numbers were certainly credible, the majority came in a hot spell of form during the first part of last term, as 11 of his combined goals and assists arrived in the opening 11 rounds, with the other five coming in the second half of the campaign. Delve a little deeper and you will see that in the 12 games where Suso’s attacking interventions ended with the ball in the net, Il Diavolo only lost once, drawing twice and winning the other nine.

However, there is a counter argument here. None of Suso’s goals came against an opponent in the top eight and only three of his assists came against a rival in the same top eight positions. Now it may seem unfair to expect Suso to take down Serie A’s big guns, but out of Milan’s 11 draws last year, six were against teams in the bottom half of the table.

Suso has been a crucial figure for Milan, but he is as infuriating as he is impressive. Some of the 25-year-old’s limitations are his own, but some blame can be apportioned to how he has been deployed. It is somewhat of an understatement to say that Suso is heavily left footed and during his time in Italy he has predominantly been used as an inverted right winger.

To play that role, you need variety or isolated exceptional qualities like Arjen Robben. Suso has potential to have both. However, located on that side of the pitch makes him predictable, you know what is coming. A cut inside onto his left foot followed by a deep cross or shot and as we have seen, they come with varying success. Intelligent defensive units have shown that Suso is easy locked out of the game, so would a move away from the touchline be beneficial for him?

It is well known that new Milan boss Marco Giampaolo favours a 4-3-1-2 formation and you do not have to be an elite Coach to realise that is a system without stereotypical wide players. As a result, speculation has been rife that Milan are ready to cash in on Suso, but it appears Giampaolo has different ideas, using him as a trequartista in pre-season.

This change raises immediate questions. Primarily, is Suso capable? And is he a better option than exciting Brazilian Lucas Paqueta as a Number 10? The constant connection to play will be instantly beneficial for Suso and technically there is no doubt that the Spanish international has that attributes needed. His agility and low centre of gravity combined with his close control, dribbling ability and range of passing/shooting makes him a dangerous prospect in central areas.

It would open up the game for a new creative Suso. This blend of attributes would allow him to eliminate opponents in a number of ways, exposing defences and create the numerical superiority that his Coach demands in the final third.

Positioning, tactical discipline and energy are vital in Giampaolo’s teams. Wide areas provide Suso with time and space, something he would receive less of centrally, and it is here where we perhaps start to find a few sticking points. A prerequisite for a Giampaolo playmaker is intensity and work rate. Can Suso cope with the physical and mental demands of the game as Milan’s trequartista?

Perhaps the biggest doubt over Suso in this role is physically. Out of possession he must sacrifice himself and press intensely, whilst also being prepared to retreat and form part of a compact defensive midfield diamond. Dynamic movements are necessary, decisions are required to be made quickly and executed with precision under pressure. Slowing the game down is not an option, so persistently chopping the ball across onto his left foot would not be favourable.

Suso must still pass the test, but signs so far have been promising. The Cadiz-born player is proving competent and has surprised in a positive way. The Rossoneri now have a recipe for success. The emphasis will be placed on the team working in sync to get the best out of the group and the individuals within it.

In Giampaolo, Milan have the ideal man to help evolve skilful Suso and bring the best out of him on a consistent basis.

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Have your say...
(Cont'd). The major problem is getting stuck in the quicksand of expensive free agents/has beens to begin with. I put the blame squarely on Berlusconi for this. It was obvious that putting the 2002-2013 squads together took a lot of money. After that it was all those random expensive free agents. Even before that kind of, with Ibra for example. They just couldn't keep him past 2 years. The sale of Sheva TBH was the first sign. I think the renewal should have happened after the 2007 CL win...
on the 16th August, 2019 at 7:39pm
(Cont'd) and develop a bunch of players out of the academy plus some pickups of outside talent over 4-5 years to get to a certain consistent level, but I'm not sure the organization could withstand being out of contention/Europe for so long. Of course, it kinda happened anyway. I don't think there is a director of any "top club" that would say at the end of a cycle: "let's reset to year 0 by selling all the old stars, get a bunch of 18 year old talent and in 5 years voila!". So you hobble on.
on the 16th August, 2019 at 7:33pm
@Mirko, net transfer gains/losses are -$18.2m (15/16), -$34.1m (16/17), ~$19.4 (17/18), $5.9m (18/19), -$90.4m (19/20). Of course this does not include their total profits and losses from all other sources of revenue, which being in the EPL and CL final last season probably resulted in net gains each of those years. In any case, I agree with your general message re Milan, but I kinda get it. It's a huge name and there is pressure to succeed immediately. It would have been great to pick a coach
on the 16th August, 2019 at 7:25pm
Sourcing the Suso solution- Sell him- problem solved!
on the 16th August, 2019 at 6:14pm
Wide areas provided Suso with space, but he's not a fast winger so it didn't really matter. On paper, he could be devastating in the middle and although previously the experiments had failed, with Giampaolo the signs were extremely positive. All I know is selling him for 30m is madness.

Crazy thing is, if this works out, then Berlusconi was right all along, always insisting that Suso is a trequartista so can play his best there. He always said Milan should play with two strikers and Suso behind
on the 16th August, 2019 at 3:39pm
I'd sell Suso. Horribly predictable - run the ball down the right, look to cut inside, and fire off an always underwhelming shot that either gets parried or over the bar. Reminds me of a more technically gifted El Shaarawy, and I wasn't too keen on him either. Unless he really changes his style of play, it gives opponents playing against Suso an edge because he does the same thing over and over and over.. Unfortunately he is not a Robben.
on the 16th August, 2019 at 3:03pm
Let me alter my previous statement -
Tottenham, despite selling their best players have managed to qualify for the CL on a regular basis, and also achieve strong results in the CL while consolidating their top 4 position.

They have managed this by retaining a strong core of players and more importantly the club/board have given the coach their full backing to enable him to realise a long term project.

This is what Milan should strive for instead of hiring/firing players and coaches every year
on the 16th August, 2019 at 2:50pm
@AC Milan Fan
Ok valid... but that's their gross spending, what about net? They have every right to spend an average of 88m if they are selling players like Bale and Modric for crazy amounts too. Sustainable, stable, future sighted management.
And for 18 months leading up to the CL final season they voluntarily did not sign anyone. You could argue it was an anomaly, but we will only know for sure in the next few editions of the UCL (assuming they qualify) how much of an anomaly it really was.
on the 16th August, 2019 at 2:35pm
@Mirko, In a league with Man C., Liverpool, Man U., Chelsea, and even Arsenal, Tottenham finishing 4th is a great achievement. Over the last 5 years they have spent: $80.94m (15/16), $95.19m (16/17), $138.51m (17/18), $0 (18/19), $129.96m (19/20). That's an average transfer spend of $88.92m per year. 18/19 they finished 27 points off first, 1 pt ahead of 5th Arsenal. 17/18 23 points off first. So just keeping up with the pack I would say. The CL final was an anomaly, like Ajax reaching the semis
on the 16th August, 2019 at 1:44pm
This year is yet another 'year zero' transition year, introducing new players into the squad, adapting to a new formation with a new coach. It takes time to start attaining results when there is constant change that we have seen for the past 5 years.
Pocchettino before reaching the UCL final last season had achieved nothing besides a few top 4 finishes, yet the club and board stood by him allowing him to take the team further and further each season. Its this faith and stability a coach needs
on the 16th August, 2019 at 9:19am
Our reality is still the fact that we signed a coach who has impressed with a strong Samp team but still finished 10th last season despite having the capocannoniere in his squad.
And we signed TWO players from an Empoli team that were relegated. I do not see Bennacer as the saviour, I truly hope he does well but time will tell if he can produce on a weekly basis. Biglia in the same position arrived as our new Pirlo and failed to deliver despite the fact he was more established than young Ismael
on the 16th August, 2019 at 9:12am
I am also hopeful Suso will find new inspiration and consistency in the trequartista role. I am glad it looks like we will keep him. After all he is one of the veterans of the team now, and it seems to me he knows what it means to wear our colors.
If the team manages to adopt Giampaolo`s philosophy and style of play fairly quickly I see no reason why Suso shouldn`t thrive in his new position.
Of course it remains to be seen if he will be a starter should Correa arrive. Lets see.
on the 16th August, 2019 at 9:11am
I have serious reservations unfortunately @Milanista
Roma, after starting their market disastrously, have now strengthened well. Lovren and Mancini at the back will be a solid foundation with Veretout adding steel in the middle.
Retaining Dzeko will make them even stronger.
Atalanta and Lazio have both had great markets because they kept the bulk of their top players and more importantly their coaches who have been with their squads for a few years now. This is worth more than big money signings
on the 16th August, 2019 at 9:07am
Inzaghi,Mihajlović, Montella, Gattuso, and now Giampaolo. That's 5 managersi in 5 years. Each have their own philosophies, preferences and interpretations. How really can Suso and the rest of the Milan squad settle into a rhythm and find consistency if there is always a managerial and dare I say a boardroom change? To this day I don't even know what position Giacomo Bonaventura plays best. They can't be Jack (see what I just did?) of all trades.
on the 16th August, 2019 at 7:01am
quietly confident for this season. We have had a good market, and Giampaolo looks like a great choice. Juve and Inter are far ahead of us with Napoli just behind them, but hopefully we can challenge for 4th this year!
on the 16th August, 2019 at 5:29am

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