Monthly Archive: August 2019

Week 2: Milan – Brescia

Week 1 was a very poor start to the season. Losing 1-0 to Udinese away is always a bad start to a season but the manner of the loss and the tactics and player choices were disappointing at the very least. The team was unable to apply any sustained pressure on the hosts and the movement and cohesion was missing. This was perhaps not very surprising because the entire starting 11 was composed of last year’s players. No starting places for Bennacer, Duarte, Krunic and Leao.

As bad as the match and result were Giampoalo’s post match interviews were worse. The coach seemed to admit defeat and show willingness to abandon his famous 4-3-1-2. It is true that the team has not managed to acquire a real number 10 to play behind the strikers. Suso in that spot was unlikely to be a good long term fit and it showed but maybe Paqueta or Bonaveuntra could do well there. Not to mention a a new player may arrive, even someone as highly touted as James Rodriguez from Real Madrid (on loan). Nevertheless the coach seemed willing to revert to the failed 4-3-3 after only one week of action. All this, implicitly if not explicitly, to accommodate Suso.

In the end 2019-2020 started as bad as any and confusion has reigned since. Will the coach really do a 4-3-3 versus week 2 opponents Brescia or will he try a 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree. Football betting sites, journalists and fans have had a hard time figuring what could happen for the home opener. Most are in agreement that Bennacer will anchor the midfield as Biglia is carrying a small injury. The defence looks to stay the same and feature Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli and Rodriguez in front of Donnarumma. Kessie and Calhanoglu may start behind Suso, Castillejo and in a late surprise Andre Silva. That looks like a defacto front 3 but could be a 2 behind Piatek. Since the start of preseason Castillejo has been indifferent and poor, so has Piatek and this lineup does not look promising. A poor result against a newly promoted team would confirm a disastrous start to the new season. After the match there will be only 48 hours left in the transfer window. Eyes will be on that too.

Mario Balotelli signed for his home town team of Brescia in the summer but is carrying a four game suspension from last season and won’t play versus Milan. Brescia won their season opener 1-0 versus Cagliari, without Balotelli of course.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Week 1: Udinese – Milan

Season 2019-2020 is upon us and fans hope that this season is a real beginning, a true reset and restart. Aborted attempts at a “year zero” have dominated recent seasons while Milan’s revenues have fallen and the on pitch product has disappointed. Numerous coach, mostly inexperienced and mostly with connections to Milan, have come and gone. Marco Giampaolo could be different, he as no Milan connections and has a track record of helping younger players and provide an actual tactic. The 4-3-1-2 or any other tactic must not be imposed unless the players available to the coach suit the characteristics. The summer transfer window has been mixed to disappointing so far but one more week of it is left and perhaps player(s) long sought after will arrive and fit well. Correa might finally arrive, at great cost, and one hopes he is really that well suited to Giampaolo’s two forward system and is worth the price.

For now though, Week 1 looks to be a deja vu. Leading up to the game none of the summer arrivals seem to be in line to be starters. For now there is no sign of Bennacer, Krunic, Duarte and Leao although the latter has the best chance of getting minutes. Whether or not the reasons are justifiable it is fascinating to see how different the same players will do under a new system and coach.

At least with the seemingly imminent exits of Laxalt and Strinic the left back picture is clearer. Rodriguez will start until Hernandez is fully healed. On the other side Calabria is preferred to Conti and the struggling Musacchio will partner Romagnoli in the center of defence. Biglia has a knock but apparently Bennacer is not considered ready because all indications are that Calahanoglu will start in the middle of the pitch. Calhanoglu as a regista is actually mentioned by pundits and fans before so it will be a useful experiment at least. He will be flanked not by Kessie and Bonaventura but by Paqueta and Borini! If it doesn’t go well and the full backs are exposed there will be some questions after the match.

Suso had an okay time behind the two forwards in preseason. Will the inconsistent winger continue to do so? The question might be answered when he lines up behind Castillejo and Piatek. Castillejo as a non winger or psuedo second striker has not and does not look promising either and Piatek’s preseason form was nonexistent.

Udinese will feature a familiar name up front in Kevin Lasagna and the hosts have not changed drastically during the summer.

The season is about to start with many questions, follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Summer 2019 Preseason Review

Now that the season is less than one week away it is a good time to look back at the preseason. The transfer window has still two weeks to go and the team will and needs more change and as if to prove that the latest 0-0 tie at Cesena looked like a step back from the rest of the friendly games played this summer. The first point to observe other than the poor 1 win in these 6 friendlies is the make up of the team available to Giampaolo. All the games had one thing in common. The new players have not been available and have barely gotten minutes. The danger is that these new players would not be able to contribute right away when the season starts. Theo Hernandez got injured very early in his Milan career so he has been absent. Rade Krunic has not gotten many minutes mainly due to coach’s decisions. Rafael Leao played a half vs Feronikeli and is now carrying a slight injury. Ismael Bennacer was away due to Africa Cup Of Nations commitments and has only recently joined the team and finally Leo Duarte only played as a sub versus Cesena, in mid August having been a recent transfer. The team is in search of other signings and Angel Correa’s apparent inflexible and expensive fee has some wondering why the management has not moved on to another target already. In other words the team that has played this summer is mostly composed of the players that finished fifth last season. Suso has performed mostly well this summer and has given some hope for the spot behind the two forwards in the 4-3-1-2 but he is not really suited for it and hasn’t been consistent the last two seasons. Giampaolo has said he believes Paqueta is a midfield player so the attacking midfield role needs to be filled by someone more consistent that the Spaniard. The attack will be set by Piatek, Leao and perhaps Correa or someone cheaper and safer. Castillejo is not very useful in a winger-less formation. Andre Silva will leave one way or another and the lack of teams wanting him is making him look like a lazy flop, which he is really not. The left back spot still requires exits, the most realistic of outgoing rumours have mentioned Laxalt but what of Rodriguez or Strinic? There have also been a few right back rumours most mentioning Conti’s possible departure but why? The only other right back on the team is Calabria.

The sole win was a solid 2-0 versus a weak side but the KF Feronikeli match provided a glimpse of the tactics, passing, two forwards and vertical movement that the coach will try to implement. The other games had positive points as well. The 0-1 loss to Benfica was somewhat unlucky, the team was not poor in the loss against Bayern (another 0-1 loss) and nor was it in the 2-2 tie vs Manchester United. The final friendly versus Cesena was the most disappointing but it has to be kept in mind that Borini has spent the preseason playing on the left or right side of midfield. The concern is that the start of the season versus Udinese, Brescia and Verona is not being met with a fully ready and strengthened team. Dropping points before meeting Inter in late September can potentially ruin the whole season. A top 4 spot next May is of utmost importance. Management’s aim should be and should have been to conclude transfer business well before the season starts so the players and coaches can hit the season running.

Summer 2019, Financial Fair …. Profit

The off season is nearing an end and the real games will start in less than two weeks. The team building and rebuilding has not been exactly very active but the squad is taking shape and the recent friendly, a 2-0 win at KF Feronikeli, provided another look at Giampaolo’s ideas. The opposition was obviously not the strongest and the squad is still not complete but Suso provided encouraging looks, so did new arrival Rafael Leao. Bonaventura also seems to be in good form, especially for a player who hasn’t played in months. However, Kessie and Bennacer have not even played yet and trained very little due to national team commitments.

The friendly will have served its purpose and the team will continue to learn the coach’s system. The question that Milan and its management still haven’t fully answered is about those leaving. Andre Silva was of course close to Monaco but negotiations failed and obviously not due to a medical issue because the player trained soon after and has played in the preseason. Finding a destination for him seems even more difficult now that English transfer window is closed.

Besides the Portuguese there have been whispers that Suso might leave. His coach insists that the Spaniard is valuable in his system but the greater concern is the numbers quoted in aforementioned rumours. They are simply too low. Rumours indicate Milan would be willing to sell him for €32 million. This figure might be very profitable in Financial Fair Play terms but much like Kessie’s rumoured asking price of €28 million undervalues the player. Suso was bought for relative peanuts of around €1 million over four years ago. A €32 million would be a big profit and in terms of FFP an even more positive on the balance sheet. In almost the same way that Cutrone’s €18 million sale to Wolves was a massive profit – since the forward was brought up in Milan’s own system. Creative FFP accounting works by spreading a transfer fee over the life of the contract therefore and for example in the oft mentioned Andre Silva case his €38 million transfer with a 5 year contract reflects as €22.8 million now (38 divided by 5 is 7.6 and it has been two years since the fee was paid therefore 38-(7.6*2) equals 22.8). Any outgoing transfer of over €22.8 million counts as a profit for the coming season. All these calculations however don’t reflect the true value of Suso and Kessie (and perhaps even Silva). Further the somewhat persistent rumours of Correa arriving for about €40 million or so entitles everybody to wonder why Suso could be cheaper than the Argentinian.

Other candidates for the exit door include Strinic, Laxalt and Rodriguez, perhaps even Castillejo. Two of the first three are surely dispensable as Hernandez (if healthy) can claim the starting left back spot.

In the meanwhile Leo Duarte was made official so the central defence spot is more secure and this is especially good since Musacchio hasn’t been at his best during the preseason.

More movement is expected before the window closes and rumours of a surprise, Mr.X type, signing have popped up a few times. They are supported by hints given by Boban that Elliott will try to find more (important) players this summer. Modric? Rakitic? Unlikely but stay tuned.

Summer 2019, the Second Half

Rafael Leão signs for Milan. Image courtesy

As the 2019 summer transfer window enters into August and its second half Milan’s management is answering some questions and leaving some perplexed too. The team is being built but slowly and not necessarily cheaply. The acceptance of Europa League exclusion has certainly opened to the door to some spending but how much can be spent and how much risk can be taken for this and future seasons remains a big question.

As of early August the supposed imminent Andre Silva to Monaco transfer has collapsed. It is presumed that his medical at the principality revealed something but nothing is known publicly. Will his (super) agent find a solution for him. He certainly looks to have no future at Milan but the so called solution is apparently tied to lowering his price. Can Milan afford to sell for less? And will Jorge Mendes will eventually help or hurt Milan?

Speaking of Mendes, another of his clients is now a Milan player. Rafael Leao, formerly of Lille has signed on for around €30 million. The young Portuguese forward left Sporting Lisbon in their terrible summer of 2018 and impressed in France. The versatile forward has now given Milan someone to play with Piatek up front. A risk as he is only 20 and the gamble carries memories of Andre Silva’s own arrival at Milan two summers ago. Leao has the tools to be a different player but time will tell if he can have a long term future at Milan.

The other supposed imminent transfer to Milan is now in a prolonged limbo. Angel Correa was close to Milan for somewhere between €35 and €50 million. The €50 million is widely thought of too expensive but will Atletico accept less. The player seems to have agreed to join Milan and provide an attacking option but his current team may not care and want the maximum. Fans will be more optimistic about Milan if he provides Giampaolo a hard working option. At a low enough price to lower the risk!

With only two healthy and ready central defenders in Romagnoli and Musacchio – and one injured in Caldara – a search for a fourth defender has been in effect since the season ended. Mattia Gabbia, the youth product, is thought to not be ready and such players have rarely made the senior team so the management unearthed a Brazilian. Leo Duarte has arrived in Milan – with Serginho’s endorsement – for around €10 million and has already completed his medical. The 23 year old Flamengo player could be made official soon but then again Milan fans can’t be sure what comes out of anything. For example, Algerian midfielder Ismael Bennacer completed his medical and left for vacation before any official announcement.

In other preseason news Theo Hernandez injured his ankle less than 45 into his Milan debut and will miss at least a few weeks. Perhaps only a few weeks. If his status is cleared may be Milan can go ahead and finally sell one of Rodriguez, Laxalt or Strinic. The latter has struggled in the preseason in part due to his long term absence due to his heart problem.

Maldini and co have a month to build the team at a reasonable cost. Fans are left with little choice to take a wait and see attitude and hope that by season’s start Milan have taken enough steps for a top four finish.