Aug 102020
 

The 2019-2020 season started with some hopeful promise but it derailed much sooner than almost anybody expected. With Gazidis as CEO and Maldini and Boban in somewhat ambiguous sporting director and development roles the offseason’s main action was the hiring of Giampaolo to replace the ‘successful’ Gattuso. Rino had steered the team into fifth place but the decision was made to change the coach. The transfer market activity was based on value signings with solid but not superstar players arriving and everybody hoping that they would fit into a new coach’s system.

Giampaolo came with the 4-3-1-2 formation almost set in stone. This immediately put into question Suso’s place. The right winger was overused by several coaches and often under-performed. The Spaniards poor form and at least perceived one dimensional ability was going to be difficult to fit in the advertised formation and within one week – the week 1 loss to Udinese – Giampaolo was hinting at a change of formation. It only took 6 more matches for the coach to be fired. It was a case of unworkable and registered as a mistake for Boban, Maldini and all of management. In the meanwhile Maldini had acquired a bargain as Theo Hernandez started to display great offensive ability down the left. Stefano Pioli arrived to underwhelming reaction and results. Fans had hoped for a bigger name in the summer and still weren’t convinced.

The calendar year marched towards December with not much to write home about and ended with a humiliation. On the last match of 2019 Atalanta destroyed Milan 5-0. The ensuing transfer window found new homes for Piatek and Suso to free the team of two disappointments. Ibra was convinced to rejoin the team, Kjaer arrived on an initial loan and several other small moves replenished the team. A few decent results greeted 2020 but still a derby loss stung. In the background a possible management change was brewing. Rumours kept swerving that Elliott and Gazidis want to take a big risk and hire Ralf Rangnick of Leipzig in an all encompassing role to revolutionize the team from scouting to the wage bill. This almost certainly meant a big youth reset and cut backs. This was of course treated with skepticism and not only among fans, betting tips 4 you, most fans and observers felt the same too. Boban publicly complained and left soon after. Maldini almost did too.

Then football stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic as Italy and rest of the world were hit hard.

It took until June for calcio to return. Following up on some medical protocols and looking at the Bundesliga example closed stadium matches returned in an urgent need to conclude the 2019-2020 season. In the first match after the restart Milan exited the Coppa Italia as a 0-0 at Juventus tie was not enough to reach the coppa final.

Twelve Serie A matches remained to try to salvage the season and get a European spot. Lecce were beaten 4-1 away and the wins and goals kept coming. Initially Ibra was rusty and uninvolved but he along with Rebic, Calhanoglu and Leao too kickstarted an offensive machine that didn’t lose the rest of the way. Many of the players shined and some unexpectedly so. Kessie had become a different player, Bennacer mostly effective, Castillejo hard running and Saelemaekers – another January loanee – hard working. On the defensive side Kjaer showcased solidity, experience and leadership in claiming a spot alongside Romagnoli.

Milan turned the season around and Pioli kept his cool and despite continuing Rangnick rumours – which would or would not include a coaching change – insisted on doing his best. The team moved smoothly, was more direct and resisted the collapses of the recent seasons. A come back from 0-2 to beat Juventus 4-2 highlighted a changed team. The transformation was the catalyst for a change of plans. A sudden U-turn off the pitch surprised many when Rangnick announced that the near done deal was off and the team immediately rewarded Pioli with a two year extension.

Keeping the status quo brings great risk of its own because the team needs more than just a rethink at the very top. Milan needs better and more proactive scouting and youth development to navigate the financial fair play world. For this pandemic era UEFA has modified its rules to allow more flexibility for current accounts but in the near future Milan needs more income from top to bottom. Rangnick would have created the conditions for a big change that Milan needs for the long term but Pioli’s 2020 work had to be and was rewarded.

Boban has gone, apparently without regrets, but Maldini has a lot to do. Ibra had clear reservations about any management change but will now almost certainly stay and his influence is not to be doubted. He himself agrees(!) players agree and fans do too.

 Posted by on August 10, 2020
Aug 022020
 

Giacomo ‘Jack’ Bonaventura joined Milan on September 1, 2014 in an infamous last minute transfer. Jonathan Biabiany was set to join Milan and was even photographed with the Milan jersey, but his medical uncovered a heart issue and he returned to Parma. In a scramble to find an attacking player Galliani talked to Atalanta’s Antonio Percassi and Giovanni Sartori and hijacked a proposed move (rumoured to have been to Inter). A €7 million fee was paid and the left sided players went on to play 184 games scoring 35 goals and assisting 30 times for Milan.
His contract is now expired and the soon to be 31 year old could return to Atalanta or find another home.

Player Summary
Name:
Giacomo Bonaventura
Date of Birth:
Aug 22, 1989
Age:
30
Height:
1.8 m
Citizenship:
Italy
Position:
Midfielder
Foot:
Right
Agency:
None
Ownership:
AC Milan
Contract Expires:
Aug 31, 2020
Current Club:
AC Milan
Joined:
Sep 1, 2014
 Posted by on August 2, 2020
Aug 012020
 

Milan’s record since the season resumed after the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy and around the world has been surprising to say the least. The 13 games has included beating Juventus and tying SPAL! The record since the mid June resumption stands at 9 wins and 4 ties with 35 scored and 12 allowed. Ibra, Rebic, Calhanoglu have been in excellent form up front and supported by impressive performances by Kessie, Bennacer, Donnarumma and most of the squad. The fluidity, quickness, pressing and not buckling under pressure has made most fans and witnesses take notice. There is more to write about this great run but for now …

Who or what explains the form since the Coronavirus lock down was lifted In June 2020?

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 Posted by on August 1, 2020
Aug 012020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
46
Gabbia
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
7
Castillejo
10
Çalhanoğlu
17
Leão
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan gained another impressive three points at Sampdoria. The team continues to look confident and quick, in attack especially. The absence of Romagnoli at the back did leave some space for the hosts but Kjaer and Gabbia did well along with the whole team to close down many of Sampdoria’s attempts to move into Milan’s final third. Ibra scored twice again and along side Rebic and Calhanoglu the team has the shape of an offensive power house. Saelemaekers continues to work hard. Bennacer and Kessie have become an excellent back bone to the team and provide short passes, clean up threats and generate movement.

Rebic misses this season finale due to a yellow he got very late in the first half at Sampdoria, the Croatian seemed a bit to agitated and was also substituted at half time. This win along side Napoli’s loss to Inter and Roma’s win at Torino means that Milan have already finished sixth – and in the process gained a Europa League qualifying spot – so this week 38 match has no bearing on the standings. Some have wondered if Pioli will use a few of the youth or B team but that is not the case and at least the starting 11 will be the full strength team. Leao is likely to replace Rebic but Castillejo and Saelemaekers both starting can not be excluded meaning a start for Paqueta on the left side. Castillejo has returned from injury and was a sub on week 37. It is possible that Lorenzo Colombo and Daniel Maldini do get a few minutes but also Bonaventura and Biglia in what is almost certainly their farewell matches for Milan.

Cagliari have plunged down the standings in the 2020 calendar year but did upset Juventus in week 37. Radja Nainggolan, Luca Pellegrini and Joao Pedro are all out injured.

After the match the focus will immediately shift to the soon to start 2020-2021 season with training camp opening within weeks and the transfer window requiring a lot of attention. It is also very likely that Ibra renews for another season or even two.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on August 1, 2020
Jul 292020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
46
Gabbia
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan faced Atalanta without a full team. Conti and Romagnoli out injured and Theo and Bennacer on yellow accumulation suspensions. The replacements didn’t all have good games. Gabbia and in particular Biglia didn’t shine and the latter’s performance only served to confirm that he will leave on a Bosman after the season. Laxalt and Calabria did have good moments but all in all a 1-1 tie with an offensive powerhouse riding high in the standings was a good result. Calhanoglu continued his good form to open the scoring and the soon to sign an extension Donnarumma saved a Ruslan Malinovsky penalty. It is worth noting that VAR remains a farce in particular when it comes to hand balls.

The final two matches will settle the 5th, 6th and 7th spots for the 2019-2020 season. The difference between these rankings is how early the teams enter the Europa League. Seventh means earlier and more (qualifying ) games. Fifth means direct entry into the Europa League group stage. With Roma four points ahead finishing fifth is now unlikely. The battle for 6th and 7th will be between Milan and Napoli. Milan host Cagliari on the last match day. Napoli – currently one point behind Milan – lost their week 37 match to Inter and will host Lazio on the last day.

With Theo and Bennacer back the team is in better shape to face Sampdoria. Donnarumma, Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia and Kessie will form the defensive unit in the 4-2-3-1. The front line is expected to remain unchanged as Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic and Ibrahimovic will try to finish the season as strongly as it has gone since the restart.

The hosts – featuring Andrea Bertolacci – have lost their last two games, before it they had won three in a row.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on July 29, 2020
Jul 242020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
46
Gabbia
93
Laxalt
79
Kessié
20
Biglia
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Week 35’s 2-1 at Sassuolo was overshadowed by big news off the pitch. On the night the match was being played it was revealed that the idea or deal to have Ralf Rangnick take over was off, this was immediately confirmed and Pioli’s good work immediately rewarded with an extension. The news was surprising and time will tell if it is correct to keep the status quo in Pioli. Certainly the team is a different one since the lockdown was lifted but Milan needs more than just a good 10 or so games span. The quality of the matches have improved and the 4-2-3-1 has suited many of the 11 and perhaps more importantly the team is stronger mentally (Ibra effect?) but fundamental changes are still needed to shape the team beyond match days and beyond 2020.

The more immediate concern after Ibra’s week 35 brace is who will play in the remaining three matches of this season. The three matches will take place in a nine day span and Romagnoli won’t take part in them. The captain limped off early at Sassuolo and won’t be ready before the season is done. Conti was injured too and will miss an unknown number of days. Hernandez and Bennacer got yellows to get themselves suspended for week 36. This handicaps the team, at least for the Atalanta game. The defense might not even have Kjaer because the veteran Dane is not 100% with muscle fatigue. This leaves Calabria, Gabbia and Laxalt as the only fit members of the back line. Biglia will likely start in Bennacer’s spot to play along side Kessie and the front four will be Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic and Ibra. Castillejo is very close to a return however. Donnarumma – still only 21 – played his 200th game at Sassuolo and wore the armband after Romagnoli left the pitch. A contract extension is near and the goalie looks to stay at Milan for at least another two seasons.

Atalanta are Serie A’s high flying team. Gian Piero Gasperini has become a much celebrated coach in getting his team to the latter stages of the Champions League and having them sitting in second place and just six points behind Juventus. The Bergamo team have scored 21 goals more than any other team so far this season.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on July 24, 2020
Jul 222020
 

A lot happened on July 21 2020 in Milan land. A brief summary below:

Milan beat Sassuolo 2-1 away at the Mapei Stadium. Ibra scored a brace and Calhanoglu assisted on both goals. The game featured a Francesco Caputo penalty after a Calhanoglu hand ball in the box. The referee had to use the monitor to confirm the accidental hand ball. The hand ball rule remains a farce.
Yellows for Theo and Bennacer mean that they will both miss the Atalanta week 36 match. Conti and Romagnoli left the pitch with injuries and are doubts for the match as well. Especially since the match is only three days away.
As the game was underway news arrived that Ralf Rangnick is not taking over Milan and the team agreed that Pioli’s good work that has the team unbeaten since the restart deserves a continuation. An extension was announced soon after the Rangnick report was confirmed. Pioli has his contract extended until June 2022. The likelihood that Maldini stays at Milan is now higher, so is Ibra’s possible stay. One must wonder how Boban feels about this. This will also have repercussions on the incoming market as players like Dominik Szoboszlai are widely seen as Rangnick choices.

 Posted by on July 22, 2020
Jul 212020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
12
Conti
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan keep on surprising. The team’s form since the restart remains a source of optimism and has led to calls for Pioli to stay. The not so secret Rangnick take over is questioned daily and every additional point makes a stronger case for Pioli. However it is perhaps wise to remember that the reason Milan needs a real revolution goes beyond current form and dates back to as far back as 2007.

Beating Bologna 5-1 at the San Siro is another step towards the Europa League and some form of respectability. Five different players scored in the win including Calabria and Bennacer, his first at Milan. The tactics and the flow of the game were refreshing. The attitude of the team after being up was even better. Rebic continued his goal scoring form and Calhanoglu had another good game. Saelemaekers opened the scoring and did well too. The Belgian is playing in a spot that would be Suso’s. The Spaniard converted his Sevilla loan to a permanent five year deal and Milan gained a very FFP valuable €24 million in the process. The table has Milan at 7th and more is needed from the last four games to avoid the qualifying stages of the Europa League.

There is little surprise expected in the starting 11 as Donnarumma – who happens to be close to a contract extension – will start in goal with Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli and Hernandez in front of him. Kessie and Bennacer will sit in front of the back four. The former’s value has risen a lot in recent weeks as he keeps playing well without rest. The front four looks to remain unchanged with Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic and Ibra starting. Five starters are one yellow away from suspension. Romagnoli, Kjaer, Bennacer, Rebic and Hernandez all risk missing the match versus Atalanta.

Sassuolo haven’t lost since the first post resumption game and sit one place and eight points behind Milan. Domenico Berardi, Jeremie Boga and co are in good form and can stall Milan’s winning form.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on July 21, 2020
Jul 182020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
2
Calabria
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
56
Saelemaekers
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Milan remained unbeaten since Serie A’s resumption. Few expected this Milan to do this well and be on a 5 wins 2 ties and 0 losses in a schedule that has included Juventus, Lazio, Roma and Napoli. The current streak has raised the chances of Europa League next season but Roma and Napoli are still ahead in the race for automatic and non-qualifying spots of the competition.

Milan made another come back to beat Parma 3-1. Kjaer, Kessie and most of the 11 have been playing well and surprising some. Pioli, working under the shadow of a likely Rangnick take over, has helped the squad grow and more importantly not buckle after falling behind. Changes need to and will happen before next season starts but some players are showing good signs although consistency is still lacking. This hectic schedule is tiring and that is probably a factor in some of the less than great individual performances.

The same schedule forces the coach to make some changes. Although Milan’s starting 11 has been relatively stable and some rest has been provided within the new five substitutes per match rule.

Romagnoli, Kjaer and Theo will play when available. Conti is the preferred right back option but Calabria will need to play some minutes and games. Kessie and Bennacer have played well but Bigila started vs Parma mostly as a rest for Bennacer. The front four of the 4-2-3-1 is likely to remain close to constant with other starts and minutes accounting for rest and injuries. Paqueta is out with a knock and this allows Calhanoglu and Rebic to play alongside of Saelemaekers and behind Ibra. Castillejo is a few days away from a return so the options are limited for this game vs the Mihajlovic led Bologna.

Follow thew match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on July 18, 2020
Jul 122020
 
Starting Lineup: 4-2-3-1
99
Donnarumma
12
Conti
24
Kjær
13
Romagnoli
19
Hernandez
79
Kessié
4
Bennacer
39
Paquetá
10
Çalhanoğlu
18
Rebić
21
Ibrahimović
Substitutes

Following the surprising and encouraging come back win versus Juventus Milan face a direct rival for fifth place in the standings. Napoli have been in excellent form and won the Coppa Italia right after calcio resumed.

Beating Juventus 4-2 after being down by two is very unexpected and results like it have become rare in recent seasons. Ibra (via penalty) started come back and Kessie, Leao and Rebic finished off the league leaders. Milan had more direct shuts on goal and managed to hold off Juventus.

For this match Calhanoglu makes a return to the starting 11 and lines up behind Ibra with Rebic and Paqueta. The rest of the 11 are constant with Bennacer and Kessie who have impressed in front of Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli and Theo, with Donnarumma in goal.

Napoli are full strength and David Ospina is starting in goal for this Milan encounter.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on July 12, 2020
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