Friday October 23 2020
Milan still missing a piece as Brahim Diaz shines


Brahim Diaz convinced in Milan's win over Celtic but Matthew Santangelo feels a piece of the Rossoneri puzzle is still missing.

Flying high off last weekend’s major Derby della Madonnina victory against Inter, Milan set out to ride the momentum to Glasgow for the club’s UEFA Europa League Group H opener with Celtic, eyeing yet another win and a charging of the batteries for certain members in the squad.

Establishing staying power in a season filled with uncertainty amidst ongoing covid-19 concerns and a condensed schedule requires depth in numbers. Unlike in previous years where options were few and far in between when the Rossoneri were presented with a crisis, Milan boss Stefano Pioli can now go to the well and trot out a quality producer to turn in a shift - a luxury unknown to many of the failed coaches of previous years.

Boasting a bench that is showing to be fully adept at answering the call at any turn, Thursday’s trip to Scotland presented the perfect opportunity to spell the regulars a breather, experiment a bit and ultimately showcase some of the fresh faces expected to make a significant impact in what hopes to be memorable season for the red and black.

Adding reborn playmaker Hakan Çalhanoğlu to the inactive list with Ante Rebić, Pioli ushered out a starting XI with five changes from the previous weekend’s bout, producing varied results in the 1-3 win for the Italian outfit.

Across the front three in attack playing behind Zlatan Ibrahimović, it was Brahim Díaz who left the largest impression.

From the onset, the bright-eyed Spanish international who joined on loan from Real Madrid this past summer, demonstrated his array of raw, yet exciting, abilities.

A sleek and sharp dribbler with purpose and intent behind his attacking manuevers, the ex-Manchester City prospect showed desire to assert himself on the match early, calling for the ball and looking to get creative in the final third.

Running into space to pose as an optimal scoring outlet for Theo Hernandez to play through, the 21-year old navigated his way into position to show off his shiftiness and finishing ability for the club’s second goal of the evening. It was yet another exhibition for him that both validates and supports Milanisti calls for a permanent solution to be found to keep the talented Spaniard at the San Siro beyond 2020/21.

Rade Krunić was also summoned to start in a wide role most notable to those who frequent Bosnia on the international stage.

The former Empoli played out wide and certainly surprised many in the process, initiating strong runs forward and an admirable work rate that always kept Celtic’s backline on their toes.

Latching onto a wonderfully whipped in cross from the right by Samu Castillejo, the 27-year old’s glancing header opened the scoring, but more than anything else in the stat column, showed enthusiasm, preparedness and a focus that should prove reliable in a long season.

Heading into the midfield, Ismaël Bennacer was handed a much-needed breather to start this one, with Sandro Tonali occupying his role alongside Franck Kessie.

Since the turn of the calendar year, Bennacer and Kessie have forged a double pivot so balanced, so productive and steadfast committed to one another’s assignment that it is hard to imagine anyone unseating the young duo. Tonali was given the full 90 to challenge this, ultimately leaving much to be desired.

The highly-regarded Italian international has accumulated most of his minutes from the bench this season, showing glimpses of why his signature was so coveted by all in upper management. Yet, as the match progressed, it was clear Tonali lacked sharpness and comfort as he feels his way around his new home.

Despite a few misplaced passes and a positional error which led to Celtic’s lone tally, it is abundantly clear Tonali is still settling in at the club and will only find rhythm with reps. A rush to judgement on the Brescia academy graduate, while unfair, comes with the territory of a major move backed with heavy expectations. Ultimately though, the shared belief amongst most is his talent and sky-high potential will prevail.

Then, there was Diogo Dalot, the Manchester United loanee who made his anticipated debut from the opening whistle opposite Theo in the right-back role Davide Calabria appears to have secured of late due to a good run of form.

Dalot is a player with equal amounts potential and room for growth, evident in his mixed term at Old Trafford. Regardless, the English giants showed reluctance to include a cost-affordable buy option on the Portuguese fullback this summer, and we began to see why, executing four tackles and touching the ball a match-high 96 times.

The former Porto standout came prepared to show what he has to offer on the right, tasked with clamping down Diego Laxalt instead of more offensively-driven duties to whip in crosses. All in all, it was a strong debut that he surely looks to build from the next time out.

As one of the final subs on the occasion, Norwegian starlet Jens Petter Hauge delivered his first goal in rossonero to kill the game off, slithering through the defense to finish in a composed manner.  Icing on the proverbial victory cake for Milan at Celtic Park.

Extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 20 and pushing all the right buttons as far as rotation is concerned, Pioli and his red-hot Rossoneri have started to show they are better armed to last in a long season.


Have your say...
This romanian fly-catcher should have never been near milan!!!!!!

Why isn't Plizzari here to take over in this situations?
on the 26th October, 2020 at 8:39pm
Let's not forget that our average squad is also very young, I believe around 23-24ish? So, there would only be upside hopefully. This current crop is definitely one of the best we had since probably 2011/12.

Now let's focus to get into CL first which will enable us to attract better players. Unfortunately, Ibra can't lead us forever so we need to be looking for new striker next season. (damn wouldn't it be great if we can get Haaland? :))
on the 25th October, 2020 at 12:41pm
They were missing 'something' in terms of performance in that 2nd half. Milan dominated once they got going but when Celtic changed formation & upped the tempo Milan just seemed to stop playing. Give Tonali some time ffs, the world is a vampire! Hague's goal highlighted the gulf in class though & Milan deserved it overall. His Int teammate, Celtic's Ajer would be a good buy for them. Despite the great record ya still get the sense Milan haven't peaked yet but are a very good work in progress.
on the 25th October, 2020 at 8:38am
@ putuco Don’t touch Calabria. He’s a reason to watch Milan. He gives the team identity. We don’t need “world class” players. We need players who give the team an identity. Calabria is absolutely crucial to that.
on the 25th October, 2020 at 2:35am
@ John Smith Yes please. And can one of the signings be Haaland next summer....he can link up with Hauge..
on the 25th October, 2020 at 2:33am
Solid win. Milan really do look like they could win every time they step onto the pitch. I’ve not seen that in about 6 years. So I won’t be complaining. Tonali will grow and maybe reach the stage where, erm, Locatelli is now.....
on the 25th October, 2020 at 2:29am
I think this is a good Milan team. One of our best for a while. We were never going to be perfect but we are in a better position than we were a couple of years back.
Pioli has actually surprised me. There is still Lots of work to be done and still a long long way to go but a promising start. Providing we can keep this group together i think there is huge future potential.
on the 24th October, 2020 at 11:56pm
@Milan Fan and Milan fan
This is exciting!!! I think Milan Fan should keep his name
on the 24th October, 2020 at 11:51pm
Milan needs a decent RB, because Calabria is a hot mess. Would be good, also, a guy like Chiesa in right flank, even if Saelemakers is doing decently
on the 24th October, 2020 at 10:45pm
A new centre back and a striker and Milan are almost there. Imagine someone similar to De Ligt and Osimhen and Milan could be a real threat in CL.
on the 24th October, 2020 at 10:58am
@Milan fan

You stole my name. Pick something else. I've used this one for the past 10 years here.
on the 24th October, 2020 at 10:58am
Milan's plan:
Build a new 61.000 seater stadium.
Take EL serious and even win it.
Qualify for CL.
Buy two 50 mill players. They have enough squad depth.
on the 24th October, 2020 at 9:36am
Football Italia you guys need to sort out your writers, where are you recruiting reporters?
on the 24th October, 2020 at 9:02am
Am I correct to say that since lockdown that Milan are the best team in the world in terms of points and wins?
on the 24th October, 2020 at 8:48am
@Milan Fan

"COVID "affected" What does that even mean.

"we haven’t played all that convincing" - there is NO way you go 21 games without being convincing.

"I want to dominate games not score and hold on for dear life like in the derby" Any team in the world who's up 2 goals in a derby are satisfied with that result and try to hold on to that.

Our biggest weakness is that Ibra is running on fumes, and we all know it. We need a striker for next season of world class PLUS a center back
on the 24th October, 2020 at 8:38am

Whilst that is all true, where on earth does it mention that in this article?

The title doesn't even match the content! The article is a weirdly worded enunciation of the strength-in-depth that Milan has acquired in the recent transfer window. Where is the detailing of the missing pieces that you, rightly, pointed out?

Shoddy journalism..
on the 24th October, 2020 at 7:44am
So why is the article titled 'Milan still missing a piece...'? What is the specific piece that is missing? The article does not answer this. For me it would be a strong, hold up-type striker as a back-up for Ibra.
on the 24th October, 2020 at 5:21am
Matthew Santangelo, your article is great but your title is making none sense. As a journalist and devoted Milan supporter based in D.C, I would recommend changing this title.

The only missing piece is a trophy.

Forza Milan.
on the 24th October, 2020 at 1:47am
@viktor - I think you see more in this team than the rest of us do lol we don’t look that good even if results have been good! Our results have been in a time heavily COVID affected, we haven’t played all that convincing. Need to see more from the boys, I want to dominate games not score and hold on for dear life like in the derby.
on the 24th October, 2020 at 1:12am
The only missing piece is quality in D E P T H ! ! !
on the 24th October, 2020 at 1:01am
milan are down to 2 centre backs and playing a 39 year old in attack there is obviously weaknesses in this team. frankly that milan is able to keep up this form is surprising considering the limitations of the team. going forward milan could see duarte, musa, gabbia, rebic, hakan all return in matter of days which is a massive boost.

even a full strength side milan could use a player capable of scoring goals playing right wing/ striker, a cb is a obvious choice as is backup for kessie.
on the 23rd October, 2020 at 11:21pm
What was the missing piece again?!
on the 23rd October, 2020 at 10:29pm
A lot of positives to draw. It's a young side with nothing but upside. The more the younger players play, the more comfortable they will become, especially Tonali. Diaz is a breath of fresh air, while Leao is absolutely infuriating to watch. Strolls around without and desire to chase the ball, while Diaz was constantly running. If he doesn't get his act together and show intent, he will become another Balloteli, which is sad. He needs some sense talked into him. So much potential.
on the 23rd October, 2020 at 5:43pm
So after haven't lost in +20 games the headlight of this article is Milan is still missing a piece.

Wouldn't a better header be "A Reborn Milan" or "Outstanding 20 by Milan"
on the 23rd October, 2020 at 5:24pm

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Your data may be made public and you accept our Privacy Policy. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.