Yes, they lost and yes, everything seemed to go wrong in the final 15 minutes, but there are signs that this Milan side is capable of good things. The results might not be any better than under Marco Giampaolo, but the performances are most definitely an improvement.
So far this season, Milan have really struggled in the attacking third to create opportunities, let alone score goals. With just 11 in their opening 11 league fixtures and Krzysztof Piatek unable to find that form of last year, being blunt up top has been a frequent accusation, but the Rossoneri did at least create problems for Lazio.
Samu Castillejo was full of energy down the right-hand side before his injury and Hakan Calhanoglu was far more effective in the Number 10 role in the second-half. Theo Hernandez is turning out to be a great signing for Milan, bombing down the left flank at a serious rate of knots, and if he can perfect his final ball, Piatek is bound to get some decent service at last.
Another encouraging sign was the performance of Ismael Bennacer in midfield. He is not the biggest of players physically, but he transitions the ball from midfield to attack nicely and doesn’t take an unnecessary amount of touches either. Benching the Africa Cup of Nations Player of the Tournament was one of the reasons why Milan sacked Marco Giampaolo and it’s easy to see why the club thought picking the Algeria international was a no-brainer.
The obvious problem with Milan remains that lack of a genuine goal-scorer who can turn a half-chance into a decisive finish. Basically, they need their own Ciro Immobile.
He only needed one decent ball from Manuel Lazzari to make his mark on the game, with a lovely glancing header, continuing his brilliant start to the season. Immobile now has 100 goals for Lazio in 147 appearances for the club and his tally of 13 in the league this season is one more than Milan have managed in total. That statistic alone speaks volumes.
Countless times in the game, Milan found themselves in good positions in the final third, but often Piatek’s movement was limited and, in a complete contrast to Immobile, he doesn’t look like he holds that confidence. Milan rely on Piatek for his movement, especially in the box, and there frankly isn’t enough of it.
On top of that, the service to the former Genoa striker is uninspired. So as well as an Immobile, Milan really need a Luis Alberto figure too. The Spaniard’s neat pass created the opportunity that Immobile fired on to the crossbar, then his no-look assist sent Joaquin Correa clear for the winner. He is now up to eight assists in 11 Serie A games, creating another eight big chances as well as making 32 key passes. Lazio light up when Luis Alberto is on form and especially after he moved into the more advanced role he had last season, which only happened at San Siro because of Felipe Caicedo’s shoulder injury.
Simone Inzaghi can no longer complain about strength in depth, because he secured victory once Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic had left the pitch. On the other hand, Milan lost their way after the substitutions, as Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic struggled to make an impact, in turn leading Piatek to disappear from the game too.
Reassuring talk of there being time to catch up to the Champions League places is all well and good, but with games coming up against Napoli and Juventus, something needs to change very quickly at Milan. The seven times European Cup winners are level with Udinese in 11th place, already eight adrift of the trio in fourth, which now includes Lazio. Might this finally be the season that the Aquile fly into the top tournament after coming so close in recent years?
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