Despite an intention to ring in the New Year with a new outlook complete with the arrival of a shiny new player in Alessio Cerci, it was the same old defensive issues that hampered Filippo Inzaghi’s side against Sassuolo.
Once again Milan attacked with vigour and should’ve doubled the one goal lead Giampaolo Pazzini gave them in the first half, as chances created from the incisive boots of Stephan El Shaarawy came thick and fast.
Cerci was bright and sharp in his full debut, hitting the woodwork and grabbing an assist as San Siro saw flashes of a Cerci-El Shaarawy partnership that could cause several defences problems.
However, it was once again the problems that the Diavolo defence suffered that nearly let Inzaghi’s side down, when a simple slipped ball somehow snuck through the backline to let Leonardo Pavoletti through. Although the decision to award the spot-kick was a difficult one to accept, the ease in which Sassuolo were again able to penetrate the Rossoneri was a worry.
Nigel de Jong’s winner was a relief, a revealing emotion considering the perceived feeling of grandeur that still exists around one of world football’s biggest names.
It was the second time Milan had suffered to maintain an advantage against Sassuolo within a matter of days, the club starting well before falling off and collapse under the most basic of pressure. The lack of resilience is a deeper lying issue than just personnel, although the continuing addition of forward thinking players in lieu of actually competent defenders is more than a prying concern at this juncture.
Another concern, is the Coach’s relentless positivity: “We must go back to playing with calmness, even if negative days can happen. Now we must restore our energy and come back with a good performance in Serie A.”
Inzaghi’s demeanour isn’t entirely worrying – after all an enthusiastic tactician can rub off on his players. However, the apparent ignorance of seemingly obvious defensive issues is a continuing problem.
Milan’s performance against Sassuolo, as shown by their previous performance against the same team, wasn’t a ‘negative day’ in an otherwise rosy few weeks in Via Turati. It’s an established process of bad habits that has hampered the side under Massimiliano Allegri, Clarence Seedorf and now Inzaghi. In fact, the club hasn’t looked particularly solid since the Scudetto-winning season of 2010-11, which in hindsight has proven to be an anomaly in the post-Carlo Ancelotti era.
January is upon us and in the footballing world it is a transfer window, an opportunity for Milan to address some of the identifiable - and hopefully fixable - issues, both in defence and in the midfield.
However, if Adriano Galliani spends the month trying to convince Roma to loan Mattia Destro out, the Rossoneri will once again spend another six months wondering why games like Sassuolo aren’t just ‘negative days’.
The victory was earned, but if the club doesn’t address or at least acknowledge that Cristian Zapata/Daniele Bonera/Philippe Mexes isn’t a defensive triumvirate that is guaranteeing trophies anytime soon, the drought will only continue.
If the mistakes pursue, Milan’s dream of holding a lead over 17 other clubs in Serie A will fade as quickly as consecutive first half advantages did against Sassuolo.
Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £9.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://www.premiersports.com/subscribenow