Jan 132018
 

The Serie A break is here and this time the break is January of course, and 20 games of the 2017-2018 season have been played. A lot has been said and written about Milan’s poor form and the team being way off even last season’s pace and all that after spending over €200 million in the summer.

A major talking point this season has been rotation and choice of players, Montella was criticized for not settling on a team, never able or willing to use the same 11.

Gattuso’s start on the bench has been almost as questionable though hints of more stability are emerging as players like Cutrone prove themselves more every time they play.

A more specific question is the minutes Kalinic gets vs those Andre Silva gets. The former was brought into the team primarily on the insistence of Montella and the latter was one of the major purchases of the summer and one thought to be a very bright prospect. €20 million and €38 million respectively were spent on the then 29 and 21 years old players. Soon after the season started the two players took different paths when it came to their place on the team. Andre Silva found himself restricted to European dates and virtually shut out of the Serie A where Kalinic and Cutrone were always preferred. Andre Silva became one of the players of the Europa League group stage with 6 goals but seemed to be always on the bench even when Kalinic who was picked ahead of him struggled to score and finish. When two successive coaches have left the Portuguese on the bench questions about the player himself are normal. Is it a case of easing in a young player into a new league and country or is there more to the story? There is for example video footage of Andre Silva seemingly distant from the team at the end of the week 20 win vs Crotone.

The two forwards are not the only players whose names have stirred debate  when it comes to minutes played. Mateo Musacchio is another. The Argentine defender was the first signing of the summer but is often on the bench especially when a back four is used, he is sometimes even behind Zapata in the pecking order, where Bonucci and Romagnoli are getting the most minutes.

Locatelli is too. The young Italian midfielder has been nowhere near first choice and Montolivo and Biglia both of whom have also struggled are picked ahead of him, so much so that there is talk of Locatelli being loaned out.

Who deserves more playing time?

View Results

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Andre Silva
Games ~ Minutes ~ Goals ~ Assists
Europa League 6 ~ 495 ~ 6 ~ 0
Serie A 4(8) ~ 534 ~ 0 ~ 0
Nikola Kalinic
Games ~ Minutes ~ Goals ~ Assists
Europa League 1(2) ~ 99 ~ 0 ~ 1
Serie A 14(3) ~ 1185 ~ 4 ~ 1
Mateo Musacchio
Games ~ Minutes ~ Goals ~ Assists
Europa League 4(1) ~ 376 ~ 1 ~ 0
Serie A 11 ~ 990 ~ 0 ~ 0
Manuel Locatelli
Games ~ Minutes ~ Goals ~ Assists
Europa League 4(1) ~ 353 ~ 0 ~ 0
Serie A 2(9) ~ 295 ~ 0 ~ 0
Jan 062018
 

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A relatively positive result, a come from behind 1-1 draw at Fiorentina, ended the first half of a very disappointing season. The draw came after beating Inter in the Coppa Italia following which the expectations were immediately heightened. The draw was not exactly a high quality performance but the result is at least something to build on.

Crotone were beaten 3-0 on match day one in what seems ages ago, Kessie, Cutrone and Suso opened the season in good style back in August, another win is pretty much mandatory against a team that has won only once away from home so far this season.

A lot has changed since August of course and with a team in crisis on and off the pitch and the now traditional poor showing against lowly teams the 11 that start have lots to do. Up front Cutrone, Calhanoglu and Suso are probably the best available though this writer still thinks that if Andre Silva is given more starts will start to deliver. Instead the Portuguese and a few other players are subject to – halfhearted and likely made up – exit rumours. The likes of Gomez and Paletta are primary candidates to leave this January but Silva and Musacchio’s names have been mentioned too. Kalinic’s name has surfaced in relation to the Chinese league as well.

Gigio Donnarumma will start and in front of him the four includes Calabria – while Abate is out injured – Bnucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez. Kessie and Bonaventura will flank Montolivo in midfield.  Locatelli perhaps deserves more playing time but form, confidence and coach’s trust are perhaps not on his side. Up front the aforementioned front three need to conquer a defense that includes Arlind Ajeti and Federico Ceccherini and one that has conceded 24 goals in 9 away games.

Dec 302017
 

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The last game of the first half of the 2017-2018 Serie A season comes with Milan sitting 11th in the table, few imagined this to be the case after the massive spending in the summer. Failures, mistakes and lack of belief have led to one coach being sacked and the second struggling just as much. Week 18 featured Milan losing at home 0-2 to an Atalanta side punching above their weight for the second consecutive season. The crisis around individual players, the tactical choices and ownership all continue to swirl. Midweek’s better showing vs Inter in the Coppa Italia has given everybody a slight reprieve. The Coppa game had the team showing more resilience and displaying a more compact shape. Even that better showing against an Inter side in a mini losing streak of their own needed an extra time goal – scored by Cutrone after Kalinic limped off injured and was replaced. The teenager took his chance, unlike the Croatian.

The line up will need to be different as the aforementioned Kalinic and Abate are nursing minor injuries and are not available for this match. Antonio Donnarumma who deputized for his teenage brother and Storari on a last minute basis will cede back the goalkeeping duties to Gigio. Calabria is likely to take up Abate’s spot along side Romagnoli, Bonucci and Rodriguez. Montolivo, Kessie and Bonaventura will form the middle three in an unnecessary change from the Coppa match. Biglia did well enough vs Inter. Up front Cutrone will start alongside Borini and Suso in another unnecessary change as Bonaventura playing further up seems a better choice than Borini in the left wing spot.

Fiorentina come into this game having earnt only two points more than Milan so far this season. Led by Cyril Thereau, Giovanni Simeone and Federico Chiesa the Tuscan team have however not lost in seven Serie A games but were knocked out of the Coppa – by Lazio – in midweek.

Dec 232017
 

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Following the week 17 humiliation of losing 3-0 to 19th placed Verona the team went into ritiro, a retreat where the players spend all day together free of distractions. One is entitled to question if such a tactic works on millionaire players at all, nevertheless the team needs to find ways to win and not react poorly to set backs. Verona’s first goal was somewhat unlucky but the team did not react positively after conceding it. The retreat caused plenty of controversy and words written by various papers, ultimately this season is likely lost as catching the top 4 (and Champions League football next season) is even less likely than it was before week 17.

One question is not only if the ritiro will have an effect but if the tactics on the pitch will be good enough and implemented well. The predicted line ups by newspapers such as Gazzetta list Kalinic as a starter. Ritiro or not there is little reason to have confidence in the Croat finding his scoring shoes. Not for the first time this season experts and fans are entitled to ask ‘Why not Cutrone?’ if Kalinic does start. With Suso suspended after his red at the final whistle vs Verona Gattuso may use Calhanoglu as a nominal left winger and switch Borini to right wing. Cutrone may get one of those spots and it is almost certainly a better option. The midfield may or may not remain the same, Montolivo, Kessie and Bonaventura are the most likely starters again with an outside chance of seeing Biglia in the middle and Montolivo replacing Kessie. Romagnoli is suspended as well, for an accumulation of yellows, and Zapata is the leading candidate to take his place.

Atalanta are not the same team as Verona of course and on paper this is a much harder match. Led by Josip Ilicic and former Milan midfielder Bryan Cristante Atalanta are doing almost as well as last season’s surprising 4th placed finish.

Dec 172017
 

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Just three days after defeating (3-0) Verona in a Coppa Italia encounter Milan travel to Verona for a re-match. Serie A is a different proposition of course but Verona’s position in the table, 19th after week 16, should on paper make it one of the easier games of the season. Conversely Milan’s recent record against lowly teams is nothing to be happy about therefore this match is anything but easy.

After a very rough start with one point taken from Benevento in the league and Rijeka in the Europa League the team has looked better. Gattuso’s switch to 4-3-3 seems to have coincided with a more direct and more active game. Two wins vs Bologna and Verona have looked somewhat encouraging and there is some room for optimism.

Cutrone’s reputation grows everytime he plays and the 19 year old was one of the stars of the Coppa match vs Verona. It seems however that he will not start in the league. Whether this is a good rotation policy or not is debatable, Montella frustrated everybody by changing the team often and perhaps it is unwise for Gattuso to do the same. Time will tell.

The aforementioned front three is likely to feature Suso, Kalinic and Borini. The middle three is confirming Biglia’s poor form with Montolivo again the most likely player with Kessie and Bonaventura around him. The back four should consist of Abate, Bonucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez. Calabria may be picked ahead of Abate. Musacchio seems confined to the bench, for much the same reasons as his Argentine compatriot in midfield.

Gigio Donnarumma was the subject of an ‘insulting’ banner vs Verona as the war of words between his agent and the management flared up again. There is word that Mino Raiola will try to find a destination for the goalkeeper especially since the team is struggling and may need to sell players, this has been denied of course but most fans are rightly frustrated that this is still an issue after a big contract was agreed upon mere months ago. Many rightly argue that Donnarumma should fire his agent as a statement of intent of his desire to stay and fully concentrate on the pitch.

Dec 142017
 

The Milan derby is of course one of the biggest in the world football. The rivalry is magnified at least partly because the stadium is shared. The San Siro, which opened in 1926 and now with a modern capacity of 80,000, has been the subject of several plans by one of Inter or Milan with the aim of being the sole owner, or the two teaming up and renovating it, meaning they will take control of it from the city of Milan. However it turns out in the future the fact that the two teams share it – and have their ultras in the curva nord and curva sud – has served to enhance the rivalry.

The Derby della Madonnina, named for the famous statue of Virgin Mary in the city of Milan, first started in 1908 not long after Inter had broken off and formed the new team. Milan won that first derby 2-1. The 1960s featured a few famous matches – the two teams led by with Gianni Rivera on one side and Sandro Mazzola on the other and coached by Nereo Rocco and Helenio Herrera – made the encounters more famous The 80’s brought more success for Milan and the Serie A was propelled into a major league attracting the biggest stars due in big part to the money of the likes of Berlusconi and Moratti family. Both teams signed and fielded star studded teams. Italy show casing itself with the 1990 World Cup further assisted.

The Milan teams and the league itself have faded in the 21st century and the stadium it is a matter of time one team moves out. Beyond the next few years the rivalry and status of the derby is unlikely to diminish but the history of it will always be the main highlight.

Some notable derby wins for Milan include the famous 6-0 win on May 11th 2001 with goals from Gianni Comandini (2) and Andriy Shevchenko (2), Federico Giunti and Serginho. Andriy Shevchenko is the all time Milan derby top scorer with 14 goals, one ahead of Giuseppe Meazza who, though mainly an Inter star, played and scored for both teams.

Below are the head to head statistics that highlight the Milan and Inter rivalry.

Total matches
Milan wins
Ties
Inter wins
189
62
57
70

In addition to the Milan derby an infographic that was produced by Betfair football odds is included. The infographic features various derbies that have current and past history in England.

(click for full size)
Football Derbies

 

Dec 102017
 

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Gattuso’s reign as Milan coach has started as poorly as it can. Points lost courtesy of a last minute goal conceded to Benevento and an abject loss to Rijeka in the Europa League game have served to add another air of crisis for Milan. The questions regarding the sale and ownership – including a rumour of Saudi billionaire involvement – and UEFA’s position regarding the Financial Fair Play and health of the team have made for another period of frustration for Milan and its fans.

Bologna visit the San Siro having not lost in 3 games and feature former Milan youth player, Simone Verdi, as the team’s leading scorer. The bigger issue however is if Gattuso can right the ship and use the best 11 at his disposal. The much talked about and used back three might be abandoned for this match at least. A return to a 4-3-3 is on the cards. One can hope that a stable line up can be found and the sometimes needless changes that Montella was guilty of can be left in the past.

The 4-3-3 – if it indeed happens – is likely to feature Abate, Mussachio, Bonucci and Rodriguez at the back. The midfield will probably feature Montolivo in the middle as Biglia has often disappointed this season. Kessie and Bonaventura are the other likely starters. Andre Silva and Cutrone were ineffective midweek vs Rijeka and Andre Silva was specifically singled out by Gattuso and as of this point it seems just as unlikely as ever that he will picked ahead of Kalinic. Suso, Kalinic and Borini are therefore the more likely candidates for the front three.

Dec 032017
 

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The season of disappointment continued with more points dropped in the 0-0 tie vs Torino at the San Siro. Starting both Andre Silva and Kalinic did not produce any improvements and Montella was rightfully and expectedly fired. Rino Gattuso, he of the primavera, was swiftly appointed in his place. Interim or otherwise appointing another ex-player with limited experience is risky. At least the expectation will be low, based on recent history at least.

Milan travel to Benevento for match day 15, the promoted team has zero wins and zero ties in the first 14 games of the season and has scored 6 goals total in the Serie A. Needless to say anything but a win is a deep disappointment and embarrassment.

A lot has been written in the few day since Gattuso’s appointment. Besides the aforementioned limited experience and little success as a coach the issue at hand is the formation and tactics. It is pretty clear that character and grit, conveyed through the coach’s own history and temperament, are not enough to push Milan into the top 4. In his introduction Gattuso was quick to point out that he has coaching credentials (of course) and won’t rely on character alone.

Team observers have been trying to get a feel of the coach’s preferred tactics. In these early days the line up is predicted to be a 3-4-3 with the players that get to start more or less the same 11 as the week(s) before. Various sources point to a back three of Bonucci, Romagnoli and Musacchio or Zapata. In the middle Borini or Abate with Montolivo, Kessie and Rodriguez. Up front Suso, Kalinic and Bonaventura. If this is indeed the starting 11 then Gattuso needs to impart his own stamp on it because a very similar line up had looked decidedly average during Montella’s reign.

Nov 282017
 

Regression is one word thrown around – in recent days – to describe the 2017-2018 Milan. Indeed the 200 million plus spent in the summer hasn’t improved the team. It is normal to blame the coach and in Montella’s case he did seem devoid of ideas and tactical know how. His number one fatal flaw is and will be best remembered as the coach unable to settle on a starting 11 or not using what seemed his best players all the time.

No one can be sure from the outside looking in but there legitimate questions to be asked. Why didn’t Andre Silva and Cutrone start more games, just to ask one. It is also normal to ask why the starting 11 changed so much and at the very least Montella didn’t find a working formation if not a constant starting one.

photo courtesy acmilan.com

The choices made in the transfer market, presumably in consultation with Montella, can be seen, with hindsight, as one source of the problem. Sending Carlos Bacca out, not even for money but only on loan, for Kalinic seems at best to be a sideways move. More generally why not build a team that keeps Suso’s, the star of the 2016-2107 team, spot on the team secure. Paying big money for Andre Silva, Calhanoglu, and Kalinic with the view of letting them be starters (surely when the three cost almost 90 million) limits the formations where Suso also fits. A lot had also been seen and said about Milan’s poor midfield. Was enough done to provide a good and steady stream of supply for the ever changing forwards. Conti’s long term injury has hurt the team but even in the era of offensive and crossing-mad full backs any offence shouldn’t be built on a full back or two (Rodriguez being the other of course).

The deed is done however and it is now almost December and in a move that sounds too much like the Berlusconi/Galliani modus operandi a former player has been given the reins. He of the primavera team after poor to average and sometimes turbulent spells at Palermo, Sion, Pisa and OFI Crete. Can Rino Gattuso, with little experience or success as a coach, relaunch the season? Expectation are low, but not based on his playing time or character. The optimist might say that Gattuso’s no nonsense ways might rub off on the players. Is that enough? That is doubtful without strong tactical ideas to go along with it. In his unveiling press conference he has indicated that he will play a three man defense and four man midfield but that the offence will be worked out, he doesn’t have much time to decide and will need to be flexible yet with ideas.

Milan meet Benevento next. Benevento have exactly zero wins and ties in 14 Serie A games. Gattuso’s time can not start with giving the Campania based team a point.

Nov 262017
 

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The Europa League win, beating Austria Wien 5-1 for the second time this season, provided a lift but a cautious one. Are Austria Wien too weak or Milan too strong. The evidence on the pitch was not all that conclusive. Borini put on a strong, hard working performance, all from a wing back position. Cutrone and Silva each with two goals and Rodriguez with one came out of the game with enhanced standings but the rest weren’t outstanding. Bonucci’s almost comical attempt to prevent Wien’s goal put yet more spotlight on his recent struggles just to name one player. Biglia didn’t have a good game, neither did Calhanoglu.

All that may matter little because this week 14 game vs Torino will feature a changed line up, yet again. Montella seems intent on leaving Silva and Cutrone on the bench again. The coach indicated that this is ‘necessary’ win game but his rotation, if one can call it that, doesn’t bode well with Kalinic having provided little when starting. Montolivo may get a start  – in Biglia’s place – Suso and Bonaventura too. Kessie keeps his place despite being less than good midweek. The back three looks to feature Zapata with Bonucci and Romagnoli with Musacchio a victim of the coaches changes.

Mihajlovic’s team may be slowly gaining form and come to the San Siro with no losses in their last three games.

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