Monday November 25 2019
More needed from Milan

Milan held would-be title challengers Napoli to a creditable draw but still did not build on their performance versus Juventus, explains Vijay Rahaman in this long read...

Going into Saturday night's showdown at the San Siro, it was a case of two legendary Italian clubs trying to find their place in the current campaign. Milan brought in Stefano Pioli to get more out of the players at his disposal after previous boss Marco Giampaolo failed to build chemistry in the dressing room. On the opposite bench, Carlo Ancelotti – a Rossoneri great on and off the field – was looking to stop the slide of a team in crisis.

Following a creditable performance away at Juventus, fans of the seven-time European champions had held a ray of hope that there were signs of the season getting better. Performances had clearly improved but now it was time for the results to match that in order for the team to start their ascent up the standings.

The team were unfortunately missing three key components from the clash at Allianz Stadium as Suso pulled out during the warmup, while Hakan Calhanoglu and the ever-improving Ismael Bennacer were serving one-match bans for yellow-card accumulations. Regardless, a club of Milan's stature and ambitions can’t be using absences as an excuse.

Almost 60,000 fans at San Siro would have been encouraged enough by the superb start from their side. They played high up the pitch, did not let the Partenopei play in their now-customary way and moved the ball around with purpose.

The replacements for Suso and Hakan - Ante Rebic and the fit-again Giacomo Bonaventura - filled in admirably at the start. The Croatia winger whipped in a cross from the right, which gave the Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret a chance to stretch his fingertips to clear away the ball. Unfortunately, the performance of the summer recruit peaked at that point and he ended up looking like a deer in headlights, as he fell off considerably.

One player who has definitely stalled in recent times is striker Krzysztof Piatek. The Pole started his career in Italian football as well any player has in recent memory as he racked up 22 goals in 37 matches, between spells with Genoa and Milan. However, due to a combination of poor service, lack of confidence and the team not living up to their own lofty standards, he has only managed three goals so far this campaign, two of which were penalties.

The 23-year old missed a header early on, in a not-too-dissimilar chance he had against Juve. As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours, and the home side were made to pay for that missed opportunity as Napoli took the lead soon after. A Lorenzo Insigne screamer cannoned off the crossbar, but the Milan defence were caught napping and Hirving Lozano was there to score with a downward header past Gigio Donnarumma. The goalkeeper was left woefully exposed by his backline. 

One aspect of the team that has seen some improvement under the leadership of Pioli is mentality, and that was evident soon after they conceded the opening goal. Just five minutes later, Milan managed an equaliser and what a goal it was! Someone who has been sorely missed in the team is midfielder Bonaventura, who tied the game with a scorcher from just outside the penalty area after he was set up by another player who has started to come into his own - Rade Krunic.

Given his willingness to leave everything on the field, his humbleness to play anywhere in the middle or up front and his ability to create and score, his return is a welcome one for the Rossoneri. As former director Adriano Galliani would say, Jack is like a new signing.

As the match progressed, the identity of Pioli's side became clearer and clearer. In attack, they lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, giving both width up front and the defensive security of a double pivot. Unfortunately, one half of the pivot - Lucas Biglia - has been a shadow of himself, confounding critics as to why the coach continues to have faith in him. Granted, Bennacer was missing and Franck Kessie has been out of form, but Biglia’s best days are way behind him and he doesn’t even warrant a place in the squad, let alone the starting XI.

One player whose form has not dropped off, however, is Donnarumma and the Italy No 1 made a telling stop on international teammate Insigne, when the forward was away in the clear. Yet again, Milan's last man was left exposed but Gigio was up to the task.

In the second half, as has all too often been the case with the Diavolo, their performance levels dropped off significantly. The pressing disappeared, the quick passing was no longer existent and lack of chemistry between the lines was woeful. It meant that the team were under pressure more and more as Napoli got more of a foothold in the game.

Fortunately for the hosts, they avoided conceding another goal. The often-maligned Mateo Musacchio made a miraculous, last-ditch tackle on Lozano, which prevented a certain goal that the onlooking Paolo Maldini would have been proud of. Maybe the former captain has had an influence on the field, even if he still has work to do off it...

There was still time for Biglia to give the Rossoneri faithful a fright as he gave the ball away to Elmas, but the Macedonian foolishly chose to dive when Donnarumma came out of his blocks instead of having a go at goal.

It came as no surprise when Rebic, Biglia and Piatek were the three players substituted by Pioli, all of them receiving different degrees of jeering from the frustrated San Siro crowd. In his defence, Rebic had suffered an injury in the first half. But what were the excuses for the other two?

The changes did not have much of an impact on Milan’s overall performance, although the use of Calabria in the middle of the park was an intriguing tactic from the ex-Fiorentina and Lazio boss. Remember Pep Guardiola doing something similar with Phillip Lahm during his time at Bayern?

The clash of the former title holders petered out thereafter as the lack of motivation from Napoli and the inability of Milan to maintain performance levels for the entire 90 minutes were evident.

While he has had an impact and has improved the team, particularly in terms of their overall displays, Pioli must find a way to get his players to last for the entire match. Given the club's financial situation, the history behind it and the expectations of the fans, a Champions League place is a minimum requirement for Milan. It's time for performances and results to go hand in hand.

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Have your say...
1) Sell Suso;
2) Sell Calhanoglu.
on the 2nd December, 2019 at 9:22am
Should never have sacked Gattuso. He was the best thing an average Milan had. Those who made the decision to sack him should be banished no matter how legendary they are. This sack of garbage on the bench is worse than the sack of garbage we just got rid of. Milan won't finish 14th I hope we finish lower and then get rid of absolutely everyone from the overated rubbish running around to the utterly clueless board of 'directors' (laughable to even call them that).
on the 1st December, 2019 at 10:00am
@ MARCO BRANCA FOR MILAN LOL In the past few years Milan have (somehow) convinced Bonucci and Higuain to come to the club. Now no doubt those players regret that decision but it's not like the transfer market is rational. Milan are still very popular with agents. Raiola took €100m in commission from Milan. That's what we need articles about. The corruption in football.
on the 28th November, 2019 at 2:07am

Just wait and see... You do realise big clubs (Yes Milan is still big club even tho they haven won in years) but they re still a big club, all success goes in cycles.

They will eventually rise, do you seriously think they will end 14th in the league?

Pace yourself.
on the 27th November, 2019 at 7:46pm
Rakitic, tonali... Whf ?! Are you guys dreaming? None of this players would come to a crisis club like ac milan, not ever. You guys should look at yourself in the mirror, at the league table. You're 14th at best!! And here you all fighting one another??
on the 27th November, 2019 at 2:22pm
@ Sheva Milan We never had a plan to play 4312 because we didn't have the squad for it. We had no midfielders or strikers and lots of wingers. So the squad was always set up for 433. The formation that saw Milan finish 1 point off the Champions League. It's increasingly looking like Milan should've stuck with Gattuso so lets remember that mistake with Pioli
on the 26th November, 2019 at 11:35pm
@ Jeremy (2/2). I think he will settle on a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 with Jack outside left, Paqueta in the middle, and Suso outside right. Or with Paqueta on the left of the mid 3 if 4-3-3. Jack was born to play left mid. He can do so deep or high. He can cross, hold or cut in and shoot/pass. We never needed Rebic. We needed Jack back. He seems to have lost some pace, but he's one of the few players we have who actually know what to do with the ball. Let's see where we're at by the Atalanta game.
on the 26th November, 2019 at 8:22pm
@Jeremy. I know it's bad. I'm not saying it isn't, but we have no choice but to keep going. Pioli arrived right as we began a brutal stretch of games. At the end of that stretch I can say the team is playing much better. We need to see what they can do against teams they should beat. If they win those games they will gain confidence and hopefully it all snowballs. Pioli is also showing a willingness to try different players. (1/2)
on the 26th November, 2019 at 8:18pm
What Milan needs is a midfield and they haven't had quality box-to-box midfielders since Inter fired Marco Branca. When Branca gives you Seedorf for Coco, Pirlo for Peanuts and Muntari for free it's easy to build a team around this level of quality midfielders but now that Branca is gone who does Milan have in midfield that's worth mentioning ? then Milanisti wonder why this team sucks!!
on the 26th November, 2019 at 5:07pm
Further up,Krunic and Jack seem to be able to take on players and create but can they do it consistently?The others are the ones that have disappointed the most. Rebic can cross, that’s about all we know about him. Hakan,Paqueta,Suso have had the most chances and the most responsibility so a decent performance isn’t enough from them.They need to be game changers or else be sold since they’re the only ones capable of bringing in decent money.
on the 26th November, 2019 at 2:39pm
Barring a miracle, this season is done. We had a plan to play 4312 and abandoned it after one game which resulted in chaos.Signing Ibra and Demiral won’t do much.We have a better defense than most teams and a good striker.The problem is what’s in between.We’ve addressed a huge issue with Bennacer,and Rakitic would be a great addition.Tonali could also be stolen considering Brescia’s position.
on the 26th November, 2019 at 2:36pm
These endless Milan blogs are becoming old, like the club itself.

They haven't been of much relevance for ages in Italy, let alone Europe.

When they actually start winning games and running the club properly, then perhaps they'll deserve some attention.
on the 26th November, 2019 at 2:30pm
@AC milan fan
Win all 3 and achieve a good result against Atalanta. Is that all!?!
Look at this Milan side, excuse after excuse they just get worse. Without a proper manager and a proper plan of action on the transfer market in 4 'easy' games time you will be listing the next 4 games and still hoping for a good mid-season run. we have been waiting for good early-season, mid-season and end of season runs for the last 5 years and I am still waiting to see one.
I hope to be proved wrong.
on the 26th November, 2019 at 1:32pm
@milan K. Piątek keeps scoring as an international, so problem is with AC Milan team - management, coaching, tactics, attitude, team play, etc.
I start to believe Suso and Calhanoglu will play till their 35's.
on the 26th November, 2019 at 7:23am
All I can say is "welcome back, Jack!".
on the 26th November, 2019 at 1:52am

Troll much?

Jesus.... fake name and all
on the 26th November, 2019 at 12:08am
Whatever Pioli is doing is an improvement so he needs to just keep going. A few observations though: Biglia needs to retire; I don't like a right footed Krunić at LCM and a left footed Paquetá at RCM - Gattuso had a great combo with Kessie and Suso down the right and we need the physical presence of the former in midfield to compliment the other players; and Bonaventura clearly deserves to start every game but the question is can he stay fit?
on the 25th November, 2019 at 11:49pm
With the same attitude and performance shown against Juve and Napoli those next 4 games could/should be wins, if not then the problem in mentality, Bennacer in for Biglia will be massive boost
on the 25th November, 2019 at 11:17pm
Pioli is not going to last long. Napoli are in crisis and still outplayed us. Piatek is most definitely a 1 season wonder, what a waste of money. Rebic should never play for us again. Donna is the only decent player we have and there are rumours of him going to Inter!!! I am not expecting to win any of the games coming up, bet they are all rubbing their hands in excitement of playing us..
on the 25th November, 2019 at 11:06pm
Does Football Italia really need a long analysis of every match of this perpetually mid-table club?
on the 25th November, 2019 at 10:23pm
@Jeremy You are probable right, but talking about Milan or Napoli?
on the 25th November, 2019 at 9:50pm
@Jeremy. I disagree. Under MG we would have lost these two games. The chances to win were there. Milan now exits a brutal stretch of games with decent albeit ultimately disappointing performances against Juve and Napoli. Clearly what is needed is a psychological boost. Next up are Parma, Bologna (a tricky match) and Sassuolo before the next big test away to Atalanta. Maybe then can win all three and also achieve a good result at Atalanta to kickstart a good mid-season run.
on the 25th November, 2019 at 7:45pm
I give this manager another 4 weeks... he will either be sacked. We are a joke
on the 25th November, 2019 at 5:47pm

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