Wednesday September 23 2015
Milan survive split personality

The win over Udinese showed both the best and the worst of the Rossoneri, explains Sam Lewis.

After 45 minutes, Milan were sitting pretty. Prettier than they’ve sat for some time. Several seasons, in fact. Winning 3-0 away from home against Udinese, a side that had troubled them in previous seasons, Milan were riding high thanks to goals from Mario Balotelli, Giacomo Bonaventura and Cristian Zapata. Praise was given to coach Sinisia Mihajlovic over social media at the break, who appeared to finally have figured out how to collate his talent into a winning formula.

Just 45 minutes later and a very different picture was painted, but one all too familiar for Milan fans. The Hyde to the Jekyll of the first period, the Rossoneri reacted slowly to a more up-tempo Udinese side in the second half, an undoubtedly bristling team-talk still ringing in their ears.

The exit of the impressive Davide Calabria took away the width Milan had used to pin their Friulian opponents back in the first period, which in turn gave Riccardo Montolivo the space to keep the Diavolo ticking over, helping them comfortably control the pace. The insertion of the more robust Alex in the middle meant a re-ignition of the Cristian Zapata-right back experiment. One would assume that’s an idea Mihajlovic may keep on the training ground in future.

Milan are still clearly a side in transition; split between the regular lapses in concentration that were commonplace in the previous seasons under Filippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf and the last period of Massimiliano Allegri’s tenure and the dynamism of Mihajlovic’s approach. The split was never more obvious than today, where fans saw the team that has the potential to genuinely challenge for a Champions League position in the first period with the gutless, apathetic side that have been appeared more regularly in the last three years in the second.

Mihajlovic still has several kinks to work out including what his starting defence should be every week, but if the evidence Tuesday night is reliable then Calabria is becoming more important to the Milan defence than originally considered. Though, the former primavera player is raw and was impressive in the opening half but his absence perhaps reveals a more big-picture need for defensive width when operating a midfield three. Without it, Milan are much more susceptible at the back and have one less avenue offensively. The return of Luca Antonelli, allowing for the return of De Sciglio to right-back will certainly help.

Secondly, Keisuke Honda’s continual ineffectiveness is starting to become noticeable in light of the impressive start to the season Bonaventura has made. It’s becoming clear that Milan are best when the young Italian has the ball with striking options around him and when Jeremy Menez returns Honda may have even less time to prove his worth.

Finally, Mario Balotelli has begun to consolidate the form he showed flashes of in the derby with a terrific performance. A pin-point free-kick gave Milan the lead and the forward was a consistent threat, showing excellent awareness throughout the game in a variety of areas, drifting to the right in the second half absence of Calabria and vitally maintaining his cool in the tense, closing minutes of the match. Milan’s mentality slipped but, impressively, Balotelli’s didn’t.

Milan’s Jekyll and Hyde approach has recently yielded results – six points from four days is still a positive but for results to maintain, the Diavolo’s defensive effort needs to move away from the horror story. Milanisti have seen that one before.

Have your say...
He's 25 not 12!
on the 26th September, 2015 at 10:33am
About Balotelli, I liked him. He was/is a trouble kid. You can't manage a kid like him with iron fists and Mourinho might have mishandled a very young Balo when they were at Inter, but who knows.
The good thing about football, it is seasonal. Everyone gets to start anew in a new season. For example Luis Dracula Suarez. He was banned multiple times and look at him now, he is doing his biting with his football. Give Balo a credit for the present not based on his past.
on the 25th September, 2015 at 4:58pm
I am just throwing this idea out. Why not trying Honda in Bertolacci position or swap him up with Bonaventura. What I like about Honda is his work rate. He goes up and down to help the defense. Putting him in the middle 3 with Monty and Bertolacci will add more creativity and attacking flare to the team. He isn't a hard tackler but he is good in stealing and holding the ball.
on the 25th September, 2015 at 4:37pm
@anonymous I understand your doubt, I do. But you've got to acknowledge that those three games clearly indicate a man serious about dominating this season. If you think the future has darker days - that's fine but to complain about what we've seen so far is ludicrous. He's been exceptional. Known for publicly criticising his players, Mihajlovic described a "perfect Balotelli".

And Balo didn't complain about defenders, he was making the point they can hack all they like but it won't work.
on the 25th September, 2015 at 2:13pm

agree with you 100% on your balo take.
on the 25th September, 2015 at 7:22am
I like Balotelli but our anonymous hater does have a point. It has only been three games, so I am not really surprised that he has been on his best behaviour, let's be honest, he has the whole of Italy watching him so Galliani, Berlusconi and Mila have an obligation to claim he is a changed man. I wish Balotelli all the success but his haters and supporters should both reserve opinons so early into this venture/experiment. That free-kick is a step in the correct direction.
on the 24th September, 2015 at 11:05pm
3 games! I have waited years to be proven wrong by him, unfortunately i am still waiting, but i hope for Milan and Italy he proves me wrong, but just remember it is only his 3rd appearance, historically he is always well behaved at the beginning of another'last chance', so i am sure it won't be long before he starts his usual ridiculous behaviour again and i once again get to mock the few that actually buy into this fraudster.
@Viktor you're a joke, you were mocking Balo afew mnths ago!
on the 24th September, 2015 at 10:52pm
@anonymous. Everyone at the club is claiming a vastly improved attitude and you're the only one claiming otherwise. His yellow was soft by anyone's standards. You probably think he deserved another yellow based on the crowd reactions every time he attempted a tackle - the whole stadium erupted into hate. They were out for his blood! Thankfully, the ref wasn't buying it. You have a personal vendetta against the man. It's astonishing how incapable you are of producing impartial analysis.
on the 24th September, 2015 at 12:54pm
I might put this down to the team needing to gel considering the amount of changes over the summer along with players like montolivo who has been out for quite some time just needing to pick up some form and fitness.

I hope menez is able to come back and fill in as a second striker playing 2 pure centre forwards is just absurd in the modern game. In addition milan lack of a plan b is problematic especially since plan a lacks the box to box player needed for it to work effectively.
on the 24th September, 2015 at 10:34am

Balo should have sent off??? LOL for what? Getting the other team booked 5 times on one player?? He shrugged off every tackel and walked away.
on the 24th September, 2015 at 8:17am
@Dennis, Calabria had already been booked. Miha realised that with the way Udinese was pushing their left flank, it was a matter of time for a second bookable offence from him. So he gampled with Alex. Solid but slow. But with the guarantee that he's unbooked. As long as Honda is at the park, we are going to suffer these stupid goals. More often than not the build-up dies with him. The guy has totally no skill for a Serie A No. 10!! Forza Milan.
on the 24th September, 2015 at 7:57am
@ Dennis Honda like all the other players just needs to be given time. Last year was basically a complete waste of time where practically all of the players went backwards with their development and lost their confidence and form. It's going to take time for these players to recover. If Honda is playing like this come January then we should sell him but give him until January. Once Bertolacci's fit I can see Bonaventura moving up to the trequartista position anyway.
on the 24th September, 2015 at 12:45am
@ Jimi De Sciglio has two good feet and can play on either side. Maldini was right footed and nobody ever even noticed. The issue with De Sciglio is he's a ghost of the player he was 2 years ago. It could be a confidence thing or he could've already peaked which would be pretty tragic. De Sciglio's has been very poor particularly in defence but I hope Miha sticks with him and he gets his confidence and form back.
on the 24th September, 2015 at 12:42am
Admittedly I am not a Milan watcher of recent so I might be wrong but in the 2 matches that I have watched including last night's I have no idea why Honda plays at all talk less of why he is on for so long. I am clueless as to why Miha saw it fit to take off Calabria for Alex which precipitated the 2 goals conceded or perhaps a coincidence. Finally why is De Jong on the right wing. The man has no skills. Well done Balotelli hope you keep it up if only to shut up the jackasses.
on the 23rd September, 2015 at 5:32pm
@maldini heir
He was sold coz he is a gigantic tool. Milan cashed in and brought him back for free! It has only been 3 games back! 1st against inter there were 2 glimpses of the old Balo when Melo tackled him and last night he should have been sent off. So get back in your box. Balo complaining about defenders after him is total BS, defenders pick the weak link, its football, if at 25 hasnt worked that out then he is every bit as stupid as we all thnk. 3 games wont make up for 6 years of failure
on the 23rd September, 2015 at 5:03pm
Only Romagnoli and Calabria played well at the back. Calabria reminds me a lot of Jordi Alba.

What I will never understand is the reluctance at Milan to get a series of left footed left-backs. De Sciglio "deputising" at left-back makes no sense whatsoever, when Juventus have Patrice Evra and Alex Sandro plus De Ceglie (whose specialty is just going out on loan). It's all well and good relying on Antonelli, but with Sinisa's (pointless) double training sessions, injuries galore are guaranteed.
on the 23rd September, 2015 at 4:47pm
@ Luca and EzrGy Sorry. It just grates so much that last year was such a total waste of time and then Berlusconi and Galliani come out and start trying to take credit for re-signing him. But yeah great win. Our defence is still shocking but we seem able to score more than we concede. Keegan would be proud. On that point do you not think we're playing a little bit chaotic? It's all very fast and aggressive tackles. The problem is our players are coming out injured!
on the 23rd September, 2015 at 3:00pm
Because it was his first start, under a new coach, after a catastrophic year at #LFC; so essentially he needed to answer his critics during this match more than cement his place in the first team lineup. At least that's how I see it.
on the 23rd September, 2015 at 2:42pm
@ Maldini's heir

"Why is Balotelli a new face? Because he was sold last year for no reason whatsoever only to be brought back a year later."

Get over it, you don't need to bring it up in every post you ever make.
on the 23rd September, 2015 at 1:26pm
@ EzyGy Why is Balotelli a new face? Because he was sold last year for no reason whatsoever only to be brought back a year later. Meanwhile Milan signed 8 players last year who spent less than 12 months at the club. The change is entirely down to the mismanagement. It's a shame Balotelli wasted a year. De Jong on the right running around like a lunatic is better than him not sitting in front of he back four. Good to see Monty claiming that position.
on the 23rd September, 2015 at 12:36pm
Good article. I, however feel with so many new faces it a line-up that has suffered absences due to injuries, Milan was going to struggle. Balotteli, de Jong on the Right Midfield (a position we haven't seen him play before), Calabria's first start. Even during the first half, you could feel the mismatch. Udinese just had to push hard their left flank and the goals would start coming; which they did in the second half.Also, With Alex on the pitch, the defence looked set up to play a flat defence
on the 23rd September, 2015 at 11:35am

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