Monday July 13 2020
Pioli edges Gattuso in coaching battle

The signs are good for Milan but Gennaro Gattuso needs Napoli to find their lethal touch, Vijay Rahaman writes, after a gripping 2-2 draw…

Napoli and Milan played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Stadio San Paolo in a match where the tactical aspects of both teams were on display.

The Partenopei, playing at home and high on confidence after a recent upturn in results, were not about to just let an in-form Rossoneri come into their home and dictate the play, no matter how much their manager Rino Gattuso had connections with the Lombard team. They pressed, harried and created chances that had Gigio Donnarumma being forced into save after save.

Significantly, the attacks were coming down the right side of Milan's defence as Andrea Conti was having another shocker at right-back, and it's no wonder the club are linked with a number of full-backs. Somewhere Donnarumma’s agent Mino Raiola must have been smiling seeing his client's value increase by the minute with showdown talks with the hierarchy at the club scheduled soon. Milan really can't afford to let this generational talent go.

While the youth product kept the scores level, il Diavolo took the lead completely against the run of play. Ante Rebic was once again involved and his growing influence in the team was evident yet again. It was not just that he made a forward run into space, but, like a man brimming with confidence and knowing exactly where on the pitch he could hurt the opposition, he pointed to where he required the ball to be played. Ismael Bennacer promptly obliged and the Croatian's turn and cross was finished off by Theo Hernandez.

Quick forward passing, skilful play and vision inside the penalty area and the chance being taken, it has become a staple of this Milan under Pioli since the re-start.

The away side noticeably dropped at least 10 yards deeper after taking the lead, which would be to their detriment. They conceded the equaliser from a free-kick as their longstanding inability to deal with defending from set-plays came back at them.

Lorenzo Insigne, who has found a new lease of life recently and came out and said recently that the munity the players created last November was a ‘mistake,’ whipped in the cross of a man in form. None of Milan's players managed to clear and it was a tap in for right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

A goal for each side, both scored by full-backs. It highlights how modern players are expected to be all-rounders, with the ability to contribute on both ends of the pitch. The days of the one dimensional footballer are long-gone.

Stefano Pioli clearly drove home to his team to not be overawed by playing an in-form Napoli. He obviously encouraged his team to express themselves more as they came out after the interval and had the home side on the back foot. But yet again, a goal came against the run of play.

Theo was tucked in just a bit too much, which allowed Jose Callejon the freedom on the right to pick out the intelligent run of Dries Mertens and Napoli's all-time top goal scorer made it 125. Having recently extended his contract till 2022, the Belgian will have put great distance ahead of the rest by time his career in Napoli is at its end.

One of the most significant ways Pioli has improved his team is in his in-game management and he showed his hand after Milan went behind. He immediately brought on Rafael Leao and Giacomo Bonaventura for the under-par Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hakan Calhanoglu.

It paid dividends as Bonaventura was fouled by Nikola Maksimovic soon after inside the box to give his team a spot kick. Napoli protested, VAR checked and Frank Kessie scored. For the second match in a row, the Ivorian made the game 2-2 and he is showing the form he displayed at Atalanta on a more consistent basis at Milan.

There was still 20 minutes to go in the encounter, but it was clear that Milan were happy to sit back and settle for a point while Napoli pushed for a late winner. The entire Rossoneri back four was in their own penalty area, the double pivot of Kessie and Bennacer were on the edge and even Leao was forced to make a tackle or two.

It is very rare that a Napoli manager had taken off both Insigne and Mertens in the same game, let alone at the same time, but that was exactly what Gattuso did. It was a move most likely brought by necessity rather than change in tactics, with the players having such an intense workload playing every three to four days. They aren’t machines, after all.

Their replacements, Arkadiusz Milik and Hirving Lozano, couldn’t affect the game much. Given the constant talk about his future, one must wonder if Milik’s head is still with the club, despite scoring the winner in Napoli’s Coppa Italia final victory over Juventus.

Milan’s backs-to-the-wall approach was made more difficult when Alexis Saelemaekers showed his inexperience by making two unnecessary fouls in quick succession and got himself sent off. But each Napoli attack was defended stoutly by Milan, and while they did get some possession, the pace of Leao could only take them so far. The fixture petered out, Milan happy enough with a point, Napoli probably feeling they deserved more.

Speaking post-match, Pioli mentioned ‘raising the bar’ while Gattuso bemoaned his side wasting scoring chances. Milan have stepped up, staying unbeaten against Roma, Lazio, Juve and Napoli but the Partenopei need to heed Gattuso’s words. They face Barcelona in less than a month, and have to take whatever chances they get.

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Have your say...
OMG I forgot to include Pasalic in my Milan team! Swap him for Van Ginkel. It's hard to keep up given the number of players we've been through! Petagna is in the side because he's on his way to Napoli but any other suggestions would be welcom: Guarneri*, Caldara, Bonucci, Acerbi, Suso, PASALIC, Cristante, De Scilgio, Kalinic, Petagna, Higuain
on the 15th July, 2020 at 12:45am
"Napoli also has a squad deeper and stronger than both Roma and Milan and yet are stuck in the same level, yeah..great job."

Actually we are not stuck at your pathetic level. We have played in the champions league for 7 out of the past 8 seasons, when was the last time Milan made it, 2013??

We also won the Coppa this year, when is your last trophy?

You are pathetic. Just like AC Milan. And just like the city of Milan itself, easily the most boring and uninteresting city in Italy I have ever
on the 14th July, 2020 at 5:53pm
if Napoli fanboys think that was a dive, then I don't know what to say, do you guys have eye problems? Couldnt see the moment when Jack's foot got tangled up with your stupid defender's ones?

Napoli also has a squad deeper and stronger than both Roma and Milan and yet are stuck in the same level, yeah..great job.
on the 14th July, 2020 at 8:56am
If we are to sack another manager for not winning the Champions League then hopefully Rangnick can provide some stability. They say the optimal life span of a CEO is 4.8 years. If that's the case, I'd be happy to stick by Rangnick for that length of time regardless of the results on the pitch. Barring relegation, he should be our man for 5 years. At least we could identify with the team again.
on the 14th July, 2020 at 4:40am
countless times, Milan's history, including the great Milan teams, are littered with thoroughly average players. Like Gattuso. Gattuso would not have had the career he had if he had played for Milan this decade. He's have barely made it passed a season before he was loaned/sold/re-loaned/bought back and sold again at a loss. And we'd all have declared him "mediocre". The recent results have shown Milan can compete with the so called top teams. It's really just about consistency and luck.
on the 14th July, 2020 at 4:36am
The manager is of course Gattuso. Now the point of that list is not to say that this other team would've been great (although that back three???) more to highlight the sheer futility of all of our resets. If a player, say Caldara, goes to another team that actually finishes waaaaay higher than us, how is that a thing? We spend an inordinate amount of time rating managers and players. This person is "mediocre", that person is "average", none of those people are "Milan material". Like I've said
on the 14th July, 2020 at 4:33am
As excited as I am about Rangnick coming in and consolidating things, I do feel it's a shame that Pioli will be yet another manager thrown on the scrap heap (along with the players) as Milan do another RESET. Speaking of which during the lockdown I compiled a team of ex-Milan players who will actually finish higher in their respective leagues. Playing 343 we have Guarneri*, Caldara, Bonucci, Acerbi, Suso, Van Ginkel, Cristante, De Scilgio, Kalinic, Petagna, Higuain *GK for Mouscron in Belgium.
on the 14th July, 2020 at 4:30am
I'm back. I went off the boil a bit what with the world in meltdown. Milan have done very well since the restart. I've long suspected they struggle under pressure and the absence of fans seems to be a boost especially at home where the fans prefer to boo the players for the fact that they've been mismanaged....
on the 14th July, 2020 at 4:13am
HAHAHA Who should I trust??
Milan Fan --"Experts/ Koulibaly say it was a penalty."...
...or Partonopei --"Experts/ Koulibaly say it wasn't a penalty."

My opinion is: it wasn't.
Maksimovic got the ball together with Bonaventura. But it most certainly wasn't a dive.
As neutral watching, Napoli was better; so I don't understand what this blog is about.
I wouldn't say "deserved to win" as Milan was far from outplayed.
on the 14th July, 2020 at 2:44am
Too many articles about Milan
on the 14th July, 2020 at 12:26am
Do not agree with this article.

Napoli outplayed Milan for most of the game and really should have won.

Koulibaly said he did not think it was a penalty as did the majority of studio experts and ex-referees who saw the incident.
on the 13th July, 2020 at 6:32pm
"blatant dive and bad refereeing?"

You are kidding right?
on the 13th July, 2020 at 5:51pm
LMAO Milan were lucky?! Napoli scored both their goals out of pure luck. First one Donnarumma saw the ball at the last second and second goal it was a ricochet otherwise Mertens' weak-ass, scuffed shot would never have gone in.

The penalty incident was the most obvious one in the whole season. 100% a penalty and all the experts agree. Even Koulibaly said it.
on the 13th July, 2020 at 3:46pm
Donnarruma made some good saves yes but to say his price increased from this performance is not true. He should've done better on both Napoli goals. Yet more errors that need to be cut out of his game if he is to reach the top
on the 13th July, 2020 at 3:03pm
The title is misleading. Napoli deserved victory. If it wasn't for some poor finishing and a bit of luck Milan would have been hammered. Theo deserved a straight red for the challenge on milk and the ref did not go to var on the penalty.
on the 13th July, 2020 at 12:31pm
Wasn't it a draw? And didn't Pioli get the draw from a blatant dive and bad refereeing?
on the 13th July, 2020 at 12:10pm

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