Nov 102019
 
Milan Juventus

Amid the crisis and midtable position Milan visit Ronaldo and Juventus. Week 11 had a few bright spots but ultimately the loss to Lazio was a poor one and the only goal – which was credited as a Bastos own goal – was one of the very few useful touches by Piatek. The Polish striker was once again the lone center forward and was either isolated or unable to control the balls that came his way. Suso missed the week 11 match due to a knock and his replacement only lasted 35 minutes before leaving due to injury. Castillejo had looked bright and made energetic runs but Ciro Immobile opened the scoring for the visitors. The 2-1 loss was confirmed by a well finished Joaquin Correa shot. In both goals the defensive line was questionable and this included the disappointing Romagnoli and Donnarumma. The loss added more misery and questions and highlighted troubles in even more areas of the pitch.

Milan go into Turin without Kessie. The Ivorian is apparently excluded because of disciplinary issues during training. In any case the midfielder has underperformed and Krunic did better in his spot versus Lazio. Suso is set to return for this week 12 match but the 4-3-3 may be modified. The one centerforward and two wingers formation has failed more often than not and if the new 3-4-2-1 does the same, as it is likely, then Milan will continue having trouble getting Piatek involved and scoring. The three defenders will likely include Rodriguez as a left sided central defender. Closing the attacks in a more organized way is as important as any other versus Juventus. if the formation does change Theo Hernandez and Conti will be de facto wings backs with Krunic and Bennacer down the middle.

There has been talk of experienced transfers in the January transfer window and Ibra’s name has been mentioned. Getting the Swede will represent a change in Elliott’s plans for the team and certainly add a big focal point on the pitch. What such a transfer does to Piatek’s future is unknown. Boban and Maldini claim to want to return to winning ways sooner rather than later and if they manage it within UEFA’s restrictions they will add to their legend. All this while the stadium saga takes some turns and twists and it is far from clear when (and where) the Milan teams can start the new and much needed investment.

Ronaldo was questionable for this week 12 match but has made the Juventus squad and looks to play up front with Higuain.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Nov 032019
 

The first win of Pioli’s era arrived versus SPAL. The coach had mostly resisted adjusting the criticized formation of the previous games but did leave Suso on the bench. For much of the game Milan retained control but barely threatened SPAL’s goal. The overall impression was one of nervousness and hesitancy. This could be seen very clearly in Paqueta’s performance. The Brazilian looks to have regressed and kept missing shots on goal and shooting well off ala Kessie. The so called Castillejo experiment ended early in the second and Suso returned to the pitch. His chance to save the game arrived, Piatek was fouled near the box and the Spaniard converted the freekick in excellent fashion. Milan hung on to win 1-0 without convincing many.

The game versus Lazio comes only three days after the aforementioned win. There is little time to gear up for the stronger opposition but with games against Juventus and Napoli coming up this might be the best chance to get three points before November ends. The CL qualification objective is a still a far off hope but it is all Milan has to play for.

The game winning goal might have earned Suso a few more (mostly undeserved) starts but he may miss this game due to a knock. Castillejo is set to get another if his compatriot is not ready. The midfield might look slightly differently as well with Krunic a possible beneficiary. Right back has become an urgent problem with both Calabria and Conti struggling, so much so that Borini’s name has been whispered again. In all cases a 4-3-3 seems a wrong formation but major deviations from it remain unlikely. Only Pioli can answer why the 4-3-3 keeps surviving despite evidence it is not suited form-wise and leaves the lone center forward isolated.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Oct 312019
 

Milan failed to win at Roma, Pioli chose to use Suso for 90 minutes again. The feeling of deja vu resurfaces coach after coach. The fault for the loss at Roma starts with the coach, the new coach doing his own survival little favours. The referee failed to punish Edin Dzeko with even a simple foul when he pushed Musacchio on the neck and not long after the Bosnian opened the scoring for Roma when left fully unmarked on the right of Donnarumma’s goal. Milan equalized through Hernandez but Calabria gifted the hosts the winning goal later in the match.

The aforementioned right back is and was supposedly the better right back after Conti’s poor form baffled many in the previous week and weeks but the right back situation is suddenly so bad that Leo Duarte, the supposed back up central defender is now likely getting a start on the right of the defense. The main problem remains further up the pitch as Suso was again a flop, very ineffective and very much stuck on the right wing providing very little. Not that it is likely to cost him a start. He is set to get another start in what is basically a 4-3-3 but not always, in the Roma game Milan did play something resembling a 4-2-3-1 but the formation didn’t matter too much. Individual quality is not up to par and as many as 9 out of the 11 players on the pitch need to be doing better. At least Pioli gave time to both Leao and Piatek up front. The Polish striker came on for the last 23 minutes in place of Paqueta, instead of replacing the Portuguese forward. Very little changed though.

SPAL feature two Milan alumni up front in Alberto Paloschi and Andrea Petagna. After this week 10 match Milan have games versus Lazio, Juventus and Napoli, but the impression out of Milan is that the focus has already shifted to the January transfer window with the apparent aim of finding experienced players that can stabilize this young team. Desperate times…

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Oct 272019
 

Pioli’s debut started promisingly with a solid first half vs Lecce at home. The team showed more intensity and Leao in particular came close using skill and pace. The defacto 4-3-3 remained but Calhanoglu played with more mobility and freedom and was more lively. The team was more active, created more offensively and for some minutes it was a shooting festival on Lecce’s goal. The goal finally came. Calhanoglu surprised many with a hard shot and goal from a tight angle. The second half was less impressive and a half unlucky half poor Conti hand ball was given as a penalty after a dreaded VAR review. The penalty was saved but Khouma Babacar shot the rebound in. Pioli did the predictable instead of the brave by replacing Leao with Piatek. The Polish strike did finally score from open play assisted by none other than Calhanoglu. The team failed to keep the lead and several errors and missed passes on the right side opened the door for a highlight type goal by Lecce’s Marco Calderoni.

The 2-2 tie was disappointing and in the aftermath of the match the #SusoOut hashtag was trending around the globe. For a few days it seemed that Pioli might contemplate dropping the Spanish winger and perhaps play with both Leao and Piatek up front. Later in the week the hopeful signs had already dissipated and Suso looks to remain central to the coach’s plans. Calabria returns after serving a suspension and so the back line is returning to it’s now regular four with Musacchio, Romagnoli and Hernandez. Further up the pitch Biglia’s start vs Lecce was not a disaster by any means and he may retain his spot despite of calls for Bennacer’s return to the starting line up. Paqueta and Kessie will likely retain their spots as well. Up front Suso is pretty much sacred and Calhanoglu’s week 8 form will earn him another start. Will Pioli hand back Piatek’s starting spot or stick with Leao? That is likely the only question heading to Roma.

Roma are battling an injury crisis with all of Cristante, Zappacosta, Diawara, Pellegrini, Kalinic and Mkhitaryan out.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Oct 202019
 

Milan has a new coach and his first task after an international break is to play at home versus a promoted team. As easy as it gets, surely? One can never predict how this Milan responds and having nine points out of 21 is at best mediocre.

Plenty has been said and written about Giampaolo and whether he needed more time, in the end the team didn’t show improvement and the coach’s selection and tactics left many disappointed, and crucially this included Milan’s management team. A new hire with more top of the table experience and seemingly a different take on discipline has come in and will try to salvage this season. A season where a top 4 and Champions League place will go a long way in helping the team move ahead.

Elliott and the ownership keep indicating that they are hanging on to the team and forging ahead with the stadium project. It is perhaps odd that a hedge fund is so vested in a football team but they probably feel they have to hang on to the team until they can sell it for a much heftier return than it is currently possible.

For now Pioli seems to have changed some training methods and habits including things like the team spending pre-match nights with family instead of together. On the pitch he seems to have decided to stick with a 4-3-3 after briefly considering a 4-2-3-1. Either formation creates a dilemma. Is off form Piatek a sure starter and if not is Leao the center forward the team needs? Should the latter be on the left wing with Polish striker up front? Suso is seemingly certain to retain his right wing spot. It seems clear that his form will dictate Milan’s season more than any other.

In midfield Biglia seems to have gained a spot at Bennacer’s expense with Paqueta a more sure starter as well. No change is expected at the back but Calabria will miss this week 8 match due to a red card suspension. Conti will get a chance to impress the new coach.

It is also very possible that any line up, which may include Rebic as a starter on left wing, lasts only a week…if Milan don’t get a convincing result vs the southerners from Apulia.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

Oct 132019
 
Can Pioli save Milan's season?

On October 9th Stefano Pioli became Milan’s eighth head coach since Massimiliano Allegri was fired back in January 2014. Pioli, 53 with 16 years’ coaching experience, thus became Milan’s most experienced coach since Ancelotti a decade ago. Can the experience make a difference? Can adapting to players, as Pioli claimed in his introduction, be more than just empty words and a positive?

The failure that was Marco Giampaolo was seen in stark detail in the opening matches where Milan managed a poor three wins and four losses. His very short tenure started with some promise with good games in the US preseason tour but it had seemingly evaporated in the last preseason 0-0 tie at Cesena. That game would prove a foreboding. Very soon after the season began the coach seemed to abandon his favoured 4-3-1-2 and admit defeat. The over use of underperforming players such as Calhanoglu and Suso seemed to confirm the defeatist attitude and the promising coach left after a win, versus Genoa, but overall a whimper. Certainly Giampaolo wasn’t first choice but finances and/or financial fair play pressures and of course missing the Champions League limited Milan’s options in the summer.

Boban and Maldini talked of doing big things fast but have so far been unable and then by firing Giampaolo admitted failures. Whether Boban and Maldini will last longer than Leonardo is a very good question. It seems that these former legends and players still dream of the glory sky is the limit age they were part of and expect Elliott or any owner to provide the means back to the top quickly.

Whether fans and others agree or not this team will remain a young and relatively low budget one for the time being. Whether this relative low budget and young era is an excuse for being midtable or worse is the true question here. It rests on Pioli’s shoulders to make true changes to the team and whether he truly favors a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 the bigger question is will he build a team around the best performers or not? Suso has been hailed as a “champion” by many in and around Milan but has shown very little for too long. In a 4-3-3 where he has been the key creator for the lone center forward he has failed the team and himself more often than otherwise. Calhanoglu has been used as a de facto attacking midfielder and has failed even more often. His ball winning and possession has been atrocious at best and this is not counting the creative aspect that would be needed to provide an alternative to Suso in the attacking third. Others, particularly the full backs, have disappointed more often than not and the likes of Conti who arrived with much promise is barely used, when available.

Pioli has to change more than just formations, he has to reshape the starting 11 and the team’s morale. He has apparently already made changes to foster team bonding with schedule changes for breakfast and team get togethers. On the pitch he has to prove himself flexible and fearless. Dropping Calhanoglu and Suso would be only first steps in the process of changing how the team creates and moves on the pitch.

Oct 052019
 

It is week 7 and the coach has already been under fire for weeks. Safe to say that this is a full on crisis and its roots go back to before the just concluded summer. There is plenty to write about how Milan has reached here but most of it is repetition and deja vu.

For now Marco Giampaolo needs to win to keep his job and Milan needs to win to not remain just outside, or plunge into, the relegation zone. The team is surely much better than 16th spot and two wins in six games. The stubbornness that numerous coaches, not just Giampaolo, have shown in giving starts to the likes of Calhanoglu and Suso have got others and this latest coach where he is and there is no sign that he is relenting, not fully at least. There is plenty of on pitch evidence that Calhanoglu needs the bench and he may finally get it but the replacements must do better and have the confidence of the coach for more than a game. Suso has slowed down many attacking plays and has been generally below par but he is seen as a “champion” by many and is likely to remain the focal point of the transition to attack and the offense itself. If Milan and the coach are to survive one of two things need to happen, a formation without the Spaniard or a vast improvement by the winger.

Others like Bennacer have shown flashes of talent but are of course partly responsible for the very poor start. The Algerian may sit for Biglia. Whether the Argentinian veteran represents an improvement in the middle of the pitch is questionable at best. Kessie has been the misfiring Kessie we all know, not good enough and especially one that should not be taking shots at goal. Piatek’s poor form has carried over from late last season but at least Leao has shown promise up front. Paqueta is seemingly one of the casualties of the season but may get a chance versus Genoa. The Brazilian has missed time to injury but does not seem to be Giampaolo’s first choice. At the back Hernandez has been better than Rodriguez and should be given chances to settle and prove himself. Romagnoli hasn’t been at his best but Musacchio has been poor. The latter is missing this game due to suspension and newcomer Duarte will get his first Serie A start. Donnarumma has made a few mistakes but remains one of the team’s best players.

Follow the game as it happens, on the forum.

Aug 312019
 

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.

Aug 252019
 

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.

Aug 192019
 

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.

Facebook IconTwitter Icon