Monday August 26 2019
Milan back to square one

Milan fans and even Marco Giampaolo so disheartened by defeat to Udinese that they’re going back to the drawing board, writes Kaustubh Pandey.

Milan started the season with not so much a step backwards as a stumble and accidental backflip. After their first official 90 minutes, Marco Giampaolo was already wondering aloud whether he should scrap the 4-3-1-2 system entirely and start from scratch. There was certainly little of the new-look Rossoneri on show in Udine.

The starting line-up was a big surprise in itself. Despite having spent about €80m to sign Rade Krunic, Ismael Bennacer, Theo Hernandez, Leo Duarte and Rafael Leao, none of them started. Giampaolo played a midfield that had Lucas Paqueta, Hakan Calhanoglu and Fabio Borini, as he looked to add technical skills to the heart of the park.

That never helped the side settle, as Calhanoglu played in a rather unnatural deeper role. While Borini had played in midfield in the pre-season friendlies, he never looked like someone who could play in that position in the long-term. Paqueta too started in a position that is deeper than usual for a player who will always prefer to play closer to the striker.

Udinese though, made full use of Milan’s inability to get going. Igor Tudor was clever to create wide overloads in their 3-5-2 shape, exploiting Milan’s lack of numbers in those areas. The Rossoneri’s lack of organization in midfield forced Ricardo Rodriguez and Davide Calabria to deal with extra pressure down their sides.

Tudor’s men stayed tight and narrow without the ball and played in wide areas while in possession and this countered Milan’s inefficiencies perfectly.

Calhanoglu’s lack of defensive awareness saw Milan’s backline get exposed many times on the break. It was very evident that Milan were playing their first Serie A game with a new system. The possession never led to anything special as they kept losing the ball in midfield, leaving Krzysztof Piatek to feed off scraps.

Samu Castillejo had a poor game, as he started alongside the Pole and did just about nothing. The only big spark that he provided came when the Spaniard countered the Udinese wide overload by taking up a position on the right, going past a couple of Udinese defenders and feeding Piatek. The resulting shot was blocked and that was the only clear chance that fell to the misfiring former Genoa man.

Castillejo and Suso looked as though they were lost - not knowing what their purpose was in a more complex system than ever. Because of them, Piatek cut a rather frustrated figure, as his tally remained at three since mid-March. It will be unfair to blame him, considering he was left isolated upfront many times last season too. This was a new challenge in itself.

Udinese also relied on the pace of Kevin Lasagna. The Italian stayed glued to the last man of the Milan defence, lurking and waiting to pounce on any pass or loose ball that fell in that area. The Rossoneri's high line in possession helped Lasagna in that regard.

Il Diavolo had possession that hardly led to anything concrete and it was the introduction of the highly-touted Rodrigo de Paul that brought the goal for Udinese - something that they richly deserved after having tested Gigio Donnarumma several times.

The Argentine's corner proved to be the assist for Rodrigo Becao's bullet header in the 72nd minute. It was a testament to how much Udinese will miss him if De Paul does leave the club this summer, with Fiorentina, Napoli and Atletico Madrid still interested.

The introductions of new signings Bennacer and Leao offered some hope, though. Having a more suitable figure in Bennacer brought better balance to the midfield and having a proper striker in Leao gave the midfield someone to look out for. Despite having played only about 15-20 minutes, the duo looked better than the men they replaced - Castillejo and Paqueta, with Calhanoglu playing slightly further forward.

Franck Kessie's introduction added some steel and venom to the same area of the pitch, but a rather lacklustre evening ended with Milan failing to register even a single shot on target, compared to the Zebrette's tally of six.

The new signings provided some much-needed hope towards the end and Giampaolo's admission about the need for a change in system caught some off guard. While he was at fault for the team selection and the way the midfield was set up, Giampaolo is still getting to grips with a side that has never really played a similar brand of football in recent years. The same goes for the players, who will take a while to gel into this new set-up.

Giampaolo implied that these players were simply not capable of fitting into his system, so he would have to adapt rather than try to change their basic characteristics. Does that mean the entire pre-season training period has been a complete waste of time?

Have your say...
calab/conti duarte/musac romag rr
kessie bena bona
kp/leao suso/samu

calab/conti duarte/musac romag rr
kessie bena
suso kp/leao bona/samu
on the 2nd September, 2019 at 11:11pm
@ Jeremy Sorry think you misunderstood. I was comparing the treatment of Hakan and Cutrone. If Hakan or indeed every other player is playing below their level (including by miraculous forgetting how to score free kicks) then it points to an issue at
Milan. He scored this weekend though!
on the 2nd September, 2019 at 3:04am
Milan have these options in using formation. Reina calabria(he's a home talent worth as much as busqutes to barca)duarte romagnoli/mussachio theo rcm ben nacer dm kessie no point using him in left or bigilia as according to your taste but no fight between them! lcm now krunic came its between him and bona as bona also play as trequartista. further up if suso sustains there in new coach style as well samu then they are in. And in striking if double then piatek leao should go start toilet together
on the 31st August, 2019 at 9:39am
Without milan its half the taste for us to fight it out with napoli and juventas. Roma is also in that bracket. Milan just isnt fluent enough like other giants these days. Hearing from cutrone now i realised he dont worth the milan shirt. People are so selfish now that italy's barren period of stars is equivalent to them to that of a global football club's multi-tasking affairs. Where is bertolacci now anyways?? milan cares if not they would've sell donna instead of cutrone. Cutrone
on the 30th August, 2019 at 10:38am
@maldini heir
I seem to remeber last season you giving a couple of us a hard time about Çalhanoğlu and now you are admiting he is rubbish, bored of waiting for him to score a freekick?
I have said for years Milans focus on foreign players is terrible when they have such promising talent in the youth teams to which you responded to we shouldn't blame forgein players; they are the very reason italian football is such a mess. Cutrone said Milan don't like Italian i say the whole of serie A doesn't
on the 30th August, 2019 at 5:17am
@maldinis heir - it was i who said i think piatek will flop on previous blog. i hope im wrong.
@ viktor - when i said play duarte, laxalt, silva in last article, it was frustration. i dont like musacchio - gets turned too easily. rr is offensively non existent & piatek just moans. just my opinion.
anyway if nxt game is 4-3-1-2 then: conti/calab duarte/musac roma rr. kes ben pac/kru. bona/paq/suso. leo kp OR 4-3-3
also, sum1 said bennacer the new bertolacci??? wth???
bennacer will be a beast!!!
on the 30th August, 2019 at 12:39am
this article should be titled 'udi v mil review' with absurd end question. we all know mg did a square pegs into round holes in this game & so the system didnt work. his reasoning to do that was that they had played longer in those positions with him (bs for me - play your best players in their best positions) . the problem was not the system, it was the players forced to play in the wrong positions of the system. though it was awful to watch, we must still believe & have hope. FORZA MILAN!
on the 30th August, 2019 at 12:28am
At milan, newer is always better. people look outwards for creativity and a new winger.

The answer lies within. The only problem could be injuries, but lets look at some small truths. Bonaventura is easy overlooked as hes not the flashiest or high profile player. But he has an amazing vision, a great pass, and good dribbling ability. Bona hardly EVER loses the ball, if you notice. Always beats hes man. Wing or Treq, answer lies within.
on the 29th August, 2019 at 9:37pm
Can Piatek play with a second striker? Depay as a left winger would be better than Correa as a second striker. Expected line up against Brescia with Bennacer and Kessie in for Borini and Castillejo looks a massive improvement already.
on the 29th August, 2019 at 9:19pm
@Maldini's Heir
It’s blatantly obvious, and Cutrone even said Milan prefer foreigners. It’s becoming ridiculous. Serie A is a different beast tactically to Germany England and Spain. And we have majority Italian coaches so this trend will only continue. So foreign players won’t necessarily do any better no matter the hype.
on the 29th August, 2019 at 1:50pm
Milan is desperate of getting creative player. Giampaolo's 4312 formation depends heavily on the trequartista creativity. Otherwise, it's boring.

Suso is a good winger but predictable. He's not creative. Paqueta is more of Stankovic than Kaka. Calha just doesn't have flair.

Milan seems like running out of option, going for Correa. Should've gone for Fekir/L.Alberto (Eriksen, Isco, Pjanic, De Jong, Zaniolo are out of reach)

Inter don't have trequartista either, but they play 352 so it's fine.
on the 29th August, 2019 at 10:33am
@ mario milanista The double standards are so blatant. If a youth team player on less money had performed like Çalhanoğlu did last season they would have been gone by now. But if you're an overpriced, over-paid "star" signing the club shows undying faith in you. They threw everything they could at Cutrone. He fought and won against Kalinic, Silva and Higuain and then they hit him with Piątek. Why wasn't there the same focus on midfield?
on the 29th August, 2019 at 10:27am
TO:AC Milan Fan Simone Inzaghi won with premeria division with the youths. First senior club job was with Lazio and he has won a great deal already. Stop mouthing rubbish.
on the 29th August, 2019 at 8:18am
@Rrrr My comment on this blog is a one off prediction. All others come true, like the fact that i said if we sack Gattuso, we will start the merry-go-around all over agian, as MG will give chances to all the players thats gotten a new chance every time there is a new coach. Hakan, Borini etc etc should be gone. They keep being given new chances cause we have no continuity in our management. I made this point last year before the sack, and have been proven right.
on the 29th August, 2019 at 6:46am
@Maldini’s Heir
I know mate it was kind of a rhetorical question. No one else (the ones vehemently calling for his signature) could answer me. It’s a sad indictment of our club and also our increasingly fickle fan base. I suppose PSG and Man City have shifted expectations in the market so much that we just have to play by these new rules. Because I agree with most of your posts about our players being good enough in the right positions but the lack of a world class coach
on the 29th August, 2019 at 5:29am
@ Mirko I think people just think that transfers are the answers to all problems and Correa is the latest answer. They’re not and he’s not but that is the reason for the hype. If we do sign him then it looks like we might be moving to a 433 so he’ll play LW. It might work out and it might not. Ultimately there are so many variables as to whether a player performs that it’s hard to predict.
on the 28th August, 2019 at 9:48pm
Still waiting for an answer?

“Seriously what will Correa bring to this team that Suso can’t? Why is this deal a “must” to save our season? Tell me again what he’s done in his career and exactly what role will he play? Is it the strike partner for Piatek or is it the trequartista?”
on the 28th August, 2019 at 6:02pm
Still waiting for an answer about Correa. Anyone?
on the 28th August, 2019 at 8:32am
@FootballItalia how on Earth does Inter Malysia's comment get through filtering to be posted, yet when I post comments which slander Juventus they do not. Really living up to your name FootballJuve.
on the 27th August, 2019 at 6:12pm
I sure hope Sacchi is right about Giampaolo, because Milan can't afford many more seasons of mediocrity. How long until the international fanbase stops caring? How long until sponsors decide Milan is a dead brand? How long until players like Gigio, Romagnoli, Paqueta, and Piatek jump ship?

Fingers crossed
on the 27th August, 2019 at 3:40pm
It's still possible we have a positive season, but I've never felt less excited as a Milan fan.
I've been shocked reading articles and comments this summer about how good Milan's mercato was and those defending the Cutro sale.
We had Rino, who despite his limitations, took a limited squad 1 point away from the UCL, building the core from our youth. Last season was POSITIVE.
Now Rino, Leonardo, Cutro, Abate, Zapata are out and the identity is lacking.
on the 27th August, 2019 at 3:33pm
It's still possible we have a positive season, but I've never felt less excited as a Milan fan.
I've been shocked reading articles and comments this summer about how good Milan's mercato was and those defending the Cutro sale.
We had Rino, who despite his limitations, took a limited squad 1 point away from the UCL, building the core from our youth. Last season was POSITIVE.
Now Rino, Leonardo, Cutro, Abate, Zapata are out and the identity is lacking.
on the 27th August, 2019 at 3:33pm
Folks, it will take time to adapt to MG's game. Milan has been playing the same 4-3-3 through Pippo, Miha, Montella, and Gattuso. For those saying he has no track record neither did Sacchi,Capello, Ancelotti, and Allegri before they arrived. S. Inzaghi had no track record before Lazio, but people seem to hold him in high regard. The "Maestro" Sarri also has not won anything of note but finds himself at Juventus.
on the 27th August, 2019 at 12:35pm
Milan will sack their coach before Christmas and bring back some former player and they will stil be s***. Would love to see them in Serie B!
on the 27th August, 2019 at 10:26am
for 4-3-3
we should have
kept cutrone
signed Depay and bakayoko
why are we even not trying to sign Depay

for 4312
we should have
signed Luis Muriel for SS

don't know what's gonna happen Inter haunts me
on the 27th August, 2019 at 7:03am

Thats not what I wrote. Learn how to read if you decides to try contribute at all.

Training/preparation is NEVERa waste.
on the 27th August, 2019 at 6:49am
on the 27th August, 2019 at 5:42am
SAMU is not a bad player, but he must play on the wing in his natural position. For years he has been conditioned to carry the ball to the by line and whip in crosses, or take on a player to get width as is the wingers responsibility. So no wonder he looked hopeless as a striker where he had to feed off scraps for much of the game. Same goes for Borini. Years of training as a striker to anticipate and finish chances. Limited technical ability. Not a central midfielder!!!!
on the 27th August, 2019 at 5:24am
Such matches will cost Milan CL spot, the major mistake was not deploying a defensive midfielder, I understand Biglia is injured and Bennacer was not fully fit for the match (Coach and fitness team to decide) Hakan played instead that's fine but Kurnic or Kessie should have started instead of Borini or Paqueta, even Bonnaventura has more defensive ability than the last two. Paqueta must play as a sub to Suso or vise-versa. We just got another Gattuso and this season 4th place is harder
on the 27th August, 2019 at 5:23am
Seriously what will Correa bring to this team that Suso can’t? Why is this deal a “must” to save our season? Tell me again what he’s done in his career and exactly what role will he play? Is it the strike partner for Piatek or is it the trequartista?
Giampaolo must stick with his tactics, any coach worth their crust can turn any player into a valuable member of a working team. It’s just about finding the right players for the right position. Borini is not a midfielder and never was
on the 27th August, 2019 at 5:17am

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