milanmania

Dec 092018
 

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A still injury ravaged team managed another solid outing and three points courtesy of Cutrone and Kessie.  Beating Parma 2-1 after falling behind early in the second had this team surpass expectations. How long can this continue? It will interesting to see how the team copes with the continuous injury situation. Having said that Romagnoli could be back as early as week 17 vs Fiorentina and Musacchio not long after.

Bakayoko has been steadily growing in the team and filling Biglia’s shoes better and better. Higuain has now served his two game ban after seeing red vs Juventus and this likely means that Milan will play a 4-4-2 again. The Argentine should line up with Cutrone in front of Bakayoko, and Kessie. The midfield will be flanked by Suso and Calhanoglu.

Parma didn’t pose much of an attacking threat last weekend but Abate was solid at the more central defensive role and he is set to keep that spot along side Zapata. Calabria and Rodriguez will be the full backs. Donnarumma has been less mistake prone too, which has helped the team but the goals allowed (18) is still high for 14 matches. At the end of it all Milan sit in 4th place and aided by lackluster forms of Lazio and Roma can solidify that position further and climb to within 1 point of third place Inter.

Torino are led by Andrea Belotti, the once 100 million man, and sit in 7th spot. The Turin team have yet to lose away in seven matches. The away unbeaten run is only matched by their neighbours, Juventus.

The more big picture news of the week was the official appointment of Ivan Gazidis as CEO, the ex- Arsenal man bring with him a costs control reputation. Heeding that the appointment of Geoffrey Moncada as chief of scouting is important. The ex-Monaco man is widely credited for finding players like Kylian Mbappe and will be tasked with finding future stars before they command multi-million dollar transfer fees.

 

 

Dec 022018
 

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Week 13 at Lazio’s starting 11 could only be described as an experimental line up. The injury crisis demanded some imagination and Gattuso and his staff had to come up with a line up that could compete with one of the rivals for the top 4 and Champions League spots. It is somewhat impressive that Milan is still in contention for a European spot with the long term injuries having made the management scrambling for incoming players in January or even free agents earlier. Lucas Paqueta looks certain to arrive from Flamengo and talks with Ibra, Christensen and Cesc – the latter two from Chelsea of course – seem to be on going. In the end Milan took a lead courtesy off a Kessie deflected shot and were good value for the 1–1 tie, if not a win. Joaquin Correa – on as a sub – equalized for the hosts late after several questionable and plain odd refereeing shenanigans. Having the lead very late Gattuso invited more pressure by not using any subs and specifically not using them late to delay the game a bit and perhaps disrupt Lazio’s rhythm and late goal.

Hosting Dudelange in Europa League’s match day 5 was perhaps a chance to give minutes to those who have barely been mentioned or featured. Injuries and rest for those still standing meant Bertolacci, Halilovic and Simic started in a 4-4-2. The first half was a massive disappointment and it continued into the second as the Luxembourg team took a 2-1 lead. Changes had to be made and Bertolacci and Halilovic exited and justified their lack of playing time. Two own goals and the additions of Suso and Mauri reshaped the game and visitors collapsed to a 5-2 loss.

Week 14 is still missing Higuain who is serving the second of his two game ban. The injuries are of course still the big story. The 11 once again requires hard work and experimentation. It is set to feature a back four of Calabria, Abate, Zapata and Rodriguez. It may however be time to put more trust in the young and play Simic again. The Czech international did well midweek. Mauri showed enough to perhaps get a start with Bakayoko and Kessie. Suso and Calhaoglu will start with the recently somewhat disappointing Cutrone.

Parma, led by Gervinho and Roberto Inglese,  are only two points behind Milan and sit at a surprising 6th spot.

 

Nov 252018
 

 

Before the international break a meeting with Juventus were to provide a confidence boost, even if it was unlikely a positive result were to be had. Injuries had been mounting and the team was without Musacchio, Biglia and Bonaventura. All three are to be out in times measured in months and in Bonaventura’s case, after knee surgery, the player is almost certainly out for the season. The game therefore featured a handicapped Milan and as it transpired the frustration grew within the game. First Higuain missed a VAR awarded penalty and then lost his cool and got himself sent off in what was to be a 0-2 loss. The Argentinian earned himself a two game ban for screaming at the referee, a ban not reduced on appeal. To add to the crisis level injury misery captain and defensive leader left the Azzurri camp and is set to miss a month.

The battle of 4th vs 5th is of course very important and Milan would do well to emerge from this and next weeks relatively unscathed.

All the above leave the team with only Zapata as a recognized central defender – plus Stefan Simic who is officially on the squad. The team is therefore not only short on bodies it is also in search of a formation to fit the available players. It had been suggested that Gattuso will use something resembling a 3-4-3 and make use of wing backs in search of a balance in defense and attack. As it happened Abate, Zapata and Rodriguez started with fears of a defensively porous game seemingly being realized in the first few minutes as Lazio started well.

It might have been expected that the back three will be aided by Laxalt and Calabria acting as full back and wingers in one to not only move up but also to help stop the likes of Senad Lulic and Adam Marusic. However the much maligned Borini started in place of the Uruguayan.  In the middle the only players that are in some form are Bakayoko and Kessie. The likes of Montolivo and Bertolacci do not inspire any confidence at all. Up front Cutrone got the first of his two deserved starts now that Higuian is suspended. Suso and Calhanoglu were, as expected, the first options for the other spots. The game settled as Calhanoglu missed a chance and Lazio had a goal ruled offside. Borini came close in the second. Lazio made two subs as the game reached the last quarter still tied. The expensive but under performing Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was one of the players withdrawn. Donnarumma did well when tested. As the game stalled into a stalemate Suso found Calabria onside in the final third, the Italian ran and pulled back for Kessie whose shot was deflected by Wallace and in. As the game entered added time and the ref had made several perplexing decisions Correa shot through a crowd and tied it for Lazio. Simone Inzaghi still had the time to have himself sent off from the touch line before the final whistle sounded. Gattuso had not used a single sub, not even to kill time in added time. He would invite post match criticism as Milan dropped two points.

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Nov 112018
 

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Without Bonaventura, Biglia and Musacchio and most of the game without Higuain Milan needed another last minute Romagnoli goal to beat Udinese. As the injuries piled up every body involved with Milan feared the worst when in the first half Higuain asked to be subbed after a getting a knock in his back. As it turned out the game became chaotic and back and forth and after a prolonged counter and passing play Romagnoli beat Juan Musso in the Udinese goal right at the end. The defender and captain solidified his reputation in Milan fans’ hearts for doing the same in the second game in a row.

With that feeling Milan traveled to Betis for match day 4 of the Europa League. Without all of the aforementioned player (except Musacchio), a 3-5-2 and with Romagnoli starting on the bench Milan struggled to play a good game, suffered more injury hits and were lucky to escape with a tie.

As it stands the injury list includes Strinic (heart issue, return unknown), Caldara (at least until February), Biglia (at least until March) and Musacchio (at least until January after he was almost knocked unconscious after colliding with Kessie at Betis). The list also includes Calhanoglu and Bonaventura as not 100% match fit.

The formation starting versus the league leaders will very likely be Abate, Zapata, Romagnoli and Rodriguez in front of Donnarumma. Suso, Kessie, Bakayoko and Calhanoglu behind Castillejo and Higuain. The latter is probably also not 100% match fit but will push to play against his old team. Cutrone’s expected omission is not fully explained.

Ronaldo has not scored at the San Siro in the five games he has played at the stadium, three of which have been against Milan. Despite a midweek loss to Manchester United beating Juventus will require a form defying performance. The task is to not only stop the Portuguese but Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and the whole of Juventus team who only have Emre Can on their injury list.

Nov 042018
 

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Two wins vs the Genoa based teams has propelled Milan to the top 4, before week 11 matches start. The 2-1 win vs Genoa midweek and 3-2 win vs Sampdoria last weekend both required winning goals that may have seen unlikely at times during the match. Neither game featured a team impressive in movement, shape or tactics. One featured a departure from Gattuso’s preferred 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2  – with both Cutrone and Higuain starting vs Sampdoria. The other looked more like a 3-5-2 that reverted to a 4-4-2 when Abate replaced the wing back/winger Laxalt. The three at the back is very unfamiliar to the players and it showed.

Biglia’s injury that will keep him out for over a month has added to the injury list with news that Caldara will miss three months with a calf problem. The midfield lacks the most depth and it seems likely that Bakayoko will be getting more minutes . The French midfielder has to cut down on his mistakes, one of which was partially responsible for Genoa’s deflected goal midweek.

Despite question marks a back three could make another appearance with Rodriguez lining up with Musacchio and Romagnoli. The midfield will still miss Bonaventura who is out with a knock therefore Laxalt, Calhanoglu, Bakayoko, Kessie and Suso could feature behind Higuain and Cutrone. The latter scored the opener vs Sampdoria and has one of the best goals to minutes ratios in the top leagues . The 20 years old has scored five goals (in all competitions) so far this season in 327 minutes.

There is also more news of an Ibra return, an 18 months deal starting in January 2019 could be in the works.

Udinese sit just above the relegation zone in 17th place with Rodrigo De Paul having scored fully half of their 10 goals so far this season.

Oct 282018
 

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A defensive, lackluster game in the derby culminated in a last minute loss courtesy of a Mauro Icardi goal. The manner of the game, especially the tame second half and even worse subs, added questions marks for the team right after a few wins in the weeks preceding it had alleviated the pressure. Amid calls for Gattuso’s dismissal and rumblings of a rift between Leonardo and the coach the team hosted Real Betis for Europa League’s third matchday.

The Spanish team almost embarrassed Milan in the first half and the visitor’s Antonio Sanabria could have had more than the lone goal in the first 45 minutes. The subs came at half time and Cutrone and Suso’s arrival in place of Borini and Bakayoko had some but not enough effect. Betis scored again before Cutrone further solidified his claim for a starting spot by scoring the consolation.

With all that has happened in the last week the team is seeking tangible change and it seems Gattuso has realized he should attempt a different formation. The 4-3-3 that isolated and has recently frustrated Higuain looks to be out for week 10 vs Sampdoria. Cutrone seems certain to start with Higuain up front. The midfield will therefore look different. Suso, Kessie, Biglia and Laxalt lead the starting odds. At the back Caldara is still missing in action so Musacchio, Romagnoli, Calabria and Rodriguez will keep their spots.

Sampdoria led by Gregoire Defrel and Fabio Quagliarella sit in the 6th spot with only four goals allowed after nine weeks. The busy fixture list continues unabated as Gattuso and Milan will make up the week 1 postponed game on Halloween. These next two games vs the Genoa teams may decide Gattuso’s fate, but who may come next? Conte? Stay tuned.

Oct 212018
 

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There isn’t much in terms of breaking news as far as on the pitch and injuries go, both teams meeting once again for the derby are relatively healthy with coach’s preferred lineups more or less easy guesses. Of course a Milan derby is anything but predictable and as the cliche goes will throw up the unexpected regardless of form. The 222nd derby will go a long way in setting the mood of the rest of the season as Milan try to get back into the top 4.

Milan’s disappointing start to the season may be behind us, at least we hope. Goal laden wins before the international break vs Chievo, Sassuolo and AEK Athens lifted the optimism, if only somewhat. The additional good news for Milan fans is the capture of Lucas Paqueta, the 21 years old Flamengo midfielder for around €35 million. The player is one of the better Brazilian prospects and his January 2019 arrival is all but official. Leonardo’s Brazilian connections have surely helped in this transfer but the team is still very much under UEFA’s Financial Fair Play watch and will be limited and will require creative accounting moving forward for years to come. There are also whispers about a new stadium but if that indeed happens, as opposed to a very possible prolonged stay at the San Siro, it will not be in the near future.

Back to the game at hand. Milan’s 4-3-3 will be challenged by the 4-2-3-1 often preferred by Inter’s Luciano Spalletti. The Nerazzurri with Mauro Icardi, Radja Nainggolan et al will create problems for Musacchio and Romagnoli and Higuain. Milan need the opportunism of the Argentine forward to beat Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Inter. Milan is still struggling in terms of midfield creativity so Suso and Calhanoglu’s movement between the wings and middle of the pitch will go a long way in dictating the outcome of this game. Biglia’s relative good form will of course be as crucial in the middle of the pitch.

 

 

Oct 072018
 

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With whispers that Gattuso’s job is on the line after several lackluster games and points dropped the team responded with two important wins in beating formerly high flying Sassuolo 4-1 away and coming from behind to beat Olympiacos at home 3-1. The manner of the two wins were not overly convincing but provide a glimmer of hope for a team despeprate to make the Champions league places.

The game versus Olympiacos proved that Cutrone is still a very exciting prospect, the injured 20 years old returned and scored twice in less than a half of play. It is rather ironic that a team that features only two real center forwards – Higuain and Cutrone – has no space for the young Italian. The 4-3-3 doesn’t include a place for both, at least on paper. The team also has little quality in the midfield area and 4-3-3 doesn’t always convince.

In somewhat related news to the aforementioned formation and number of center forwards rumours of an Ibra loan return have surfaced. Could the 37 years old make a difference in a six month stint at the San Siro? The answer is probably yes…partly depending on the formation.

For now however the team will remain familiar. Caldara carries an injury and is not available, Calabria is likely to be rested so Donnarumma, Abate, Musacchio, Romagnoli and Laxalt or Rodriguez will be the back line. Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura will be the middle three with no space for the so far disappointing Bakayoko. Calhanoglu, Higuain and Suso will start while Cutrone and Castillejo battle for time from the bench.

Chievo sit 20th with -1 point and only two ties in seven games and a 3 point deduction for false accounting to create fake profits.

Sep 302018
 

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Week 6’s result was even more underwhelming than the week 5 1-1 tie vs Cagliari. A team without the injured Higuain managed to strike early via a Biglia strike, deflected and awarded as an Leonardo Capezzi own goal. However the team faded soon after and allowed the promoted team to tie it in the second. Borini replacing the aforementioned Argentine was mostly invisible. A not fully fit Cutrone came in and unsurprisingly was unable to drag the team out of another tie. Perhaps just as disappointing was  that a Romagnoli giveaway and mistake led to Empoli’s goal.

To make matters worse and pile on even more pressure on the deservedly criticized Gattuso, the team is still handcuffed by the lack of depth at center forward. Higuain is still not available and neither Cutrone nor Borini is fully fit. Winger Castillejo seems set to play up front as the cliched false 9.

The back will feature more or less the same four with the alternating Abate or Calabria the only unknowns. Laxalt may play in Rodriguez’s spot too but that seems less likely at Sassuolo. The mid three are very predictable at this point and barring a relatively big change of heart Gattuso is proving himself stubborn.

Calhanoglu’s poor form has been one factor in the poor start. Suso has shown flashes but the offensive unit as a whole is not functioning at all. Gattuso may not lead the team for too much longer if immediate improvements don’t come. Facing Sassuolo – led by Kevin Prince Boateng – who are a surprising third before week 7’s matches will present one other challenge for this fragile Milan.

Sep 272018
 

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Another slew of missed chances and another two points dropped. Twice leading but getting only one point against Atalanata at home is a poor and costly result. Fingers are starting to point at Gattuso and whether or not that is fair where the players were the ones missing chances is up for debate. What is not up for debate is that the team still lacks in many areas and the coach does have responsilbilty in trying to change things up and find solutions.

A visit to Empoli for a mid week game provides an opportunity for a changed 11. A number of injuries are not helping but changes have and need to be made to get back to winning ways.  For this game however, Milan’s star and best player is being kept at home as a precaution. Higuain is back in Milan and Cutrone is still not 100% fit so it seems we are left with Borini as a starter, in an advanced or more withdrawn so called false 9 role. The other anticipated change is the use of Abate in Calabria’s place. This change is not a positive one as Abate showed when he came as a sub vs Atalanta. As there is no word that Calabria is unable to start or play this rotation might be a negative one.

Elsewhere on the pitch the usual starters are very likely to keep their place. Empoli have 1 win in 5 games, three points are a must.

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