Monthly Archive: May 2019

Another Year Zero? 2018-2019 Thoughts

Milan is in a historical crisis. The gap between Milan and the so called big teams – of which Milan supposedly is one – looks set to increase. The years of mismanagement and inability to build teams, the years of spending money on signing and extending old and/or mediocre players were always going to catch up to a Serie A team. An English team may be, just may be, can spend their way out of problems, but not most other teams. Not Milan. Not in a Financial Fair Play era. Berlusconi left the team in a decidedly not safe hand and the eventual take over by a hedge fund may not guarantee much, even though it promised to at first.

Whether it be due to the aforementioned FFP or any other reason, Elliott Management seems to be embarking on a cost cutting, young team building mode. Instead of the initial promise of increasing the value of the team in order to sell high later.

On the footballing side various unproven or unsuitable coaches have come and gone since the day Allegri left Milan. Three management teams have insisted on relying on former players as coaches and all have been a miss. Coaches were confirmed on shaky ground only to be fired or resign not long after. The latest, a true Milanista, left graciously and left money behind but on the pitch he proved not good enough. Gattuso insisted on a 4-3-3 too predictably often, made late or perplexing subs often and remained loyal to out of form players for too long. A defensive mode – highlighted in a 1-0 win! – adapted after 1 goal or even zero goal game and a collapse like the one vs Olympiakos – a 3-1 loss when anything better could have sufficed – last fall had provided plenty of evidence that Milan has long needed a proven and veteran coach, at least. Milan, stuck with Gattuso and rode a hot player in Piatek for a month before it all went down hill and a Champions League spot was lost.

This brings us to the management team. Maldini who had ran away when the Chinese ownership of Li offered him a role came back to the fold as sporting strategy and development director when Elliott seemed to promise much more. Even though his role was ambiguous and not fully defined. Leonardo returned as sporting director and although bound by FFP they set out on positive changes. Piatek and Paqueta (at a whopping €70 million total) provided youth and new life, for a few weeks. The insistence of playing Calhanoglu as a left winger or left attacking midfielder was a failure. That combined with a predictable and off form Suso on the other side chocked the offense and left the once hot Piatek on his own up front. The three in the middle had ups and downs and Bonaventura’s long term injury didn’t help. Caldara’s injury riddled season added a depth problem at the back. The full backs were mostly mediocre and Conti’s long expected return from injury was like an interrupted anticlimax.

The season has now ended. Austerity and frugality seems to be the order of the day with Gazidis seemingly set to fulfill his money man reputation by starting anew. Leonardo and Gattuso have left, Maldini may accept a more defined role but most bets are off without cash to spend. A high profile coach would normally be a big statement and step up but without Champions League or any money that seems off the table too. In a summer when all of Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri, Max Allegri (and more) are possible none will arrive. The team might settle for Simone Inzaghi or March Giampaolo for the start of another year zero.


Season Finale: SPAL – Milan

The sometimes dreadful and frustrating 2018-2019 season is coming to an end with a must win game, if a Champions League spot is to be gained. Much has been said about how the season derailed in February and how the rivals matched the incompetence to allow Milan to stay inside the top 4 and drop out of the spot only after weeks of poor losses. Gattuso is likely to pay the price for it all, he of defensive and stubborn tactics. It may even transpire that there are more management casualties. Leonardo could leave too and set the stage for a Gazidis mini austerity revolution. More will be known, said and written very soon after this week 38 match.

Milan remain without Paqeuta through suspension and Calabria through injury. The way the squad is built and the way the coach insists on a 4-3-3 that leaves very little doubt as to what the starting line up is going to be. Piatek, Suso and Borini will form the front three. Bakayoko, Kessie, and Calhanoglu will be in the middle. Abate, playing his last ever Milan match, will be at right back alongside Musacchio, Romagnoli and Rodriguez. Donnarumma, of course, starts in goal.

Three points will be enough for a top 4 spot if one of Atalanta or Inter drop points. Both are playing home matches, versus Sassuolo and Empoli respectively. Empoli have relegation – one solitary point ahead of Genoa for the final relegation place – fears and may give it all but other than that Milan’s chances of playing in Europe’s money generator are low to even lower.

SPAL may lose their highly rated and long time coach after the season. The Emilia-Romagna team have over achieved under the guidance of Leonardo Semplici.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Week 37: Milan – Frosinone

The season collapse started earlier in the year and has now almost certainly cost the team a spot in next season’s Champions League. Two last wins over Bologna and Fiorentina have followed a stretch of one win in Seven Serie A matches – and an elimination in the Coppa semi finals. Milan kept ownership of fourth spot until very recently as the main rivals for the 4th spot – with the notable exception of Atalanta – almost matched Milan’s woeful form. So now Milan sit in 5th spot – at the start of week 37 – and need two wins from this Frosinone match and next week’s finale versus SPAL to stand any chance of catching up to Inter or Atalanta.

Milan will again be without Paqueta because of the ref contact red card in the Fiorentina match. The subsequent three match ban for the Brazilian has put a creative dent in Milan’s last three matches but if this team can not find six more points against the aforementioned 19th and 11th placed teams then European exclusion would not have been deserved.

The 4-3-3 remains for this match and so does Borini. Gattuso is now the subject of daily exit rumours but will a good or superior coach come to Milan to replace the former midfielder? Piatek needs service and Suso needs form. The midfield needs creativity and there isn’t enough of it in Bakayoko, Calhanoglu and Kessie. The defense has lacked a bit consistency and quality but despite scattered rumours linking Milan to full backs and central defenders the team’s main issues are very much further up the pitch. Musacchio, Romagnoli and Caldara (if healthy) can remain and so can Zapata if UEFA austerity regulations force Milan’s hands. Abate gets a start at right back mainly due to the absence through injury of Calabria and Conti’s rather uncertain form.

Frosinone were officially relegated weeks ago and haven’t won for over a month.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.