Jan 062020

Week 17 was a humiliation. There is no other way to describe it. It was also a tragically apt way to close the decade that saw Milan fall and fall further down with Berlusconi’s mishandling of all aspects of the team all the way to the present uncertain or incapable hands of Elliott. Losing 5-0 to Atalanta will hopefully present a lasting wake up call to face the reality of football and Serie A moving forward instead of talking about the past.

The first step is however a return to past. Ibra, all of 38 years old, will arrive and attempt to kick start Milan on the pitch. He would represent an exception because there are probably no other 38 year old players that have the skill, stamina or standing to affect a game and team morale too. It says a lot that even though he has just arrived and signed he is available to start and may get the start versus Sampdoria. Whether that is wise or not remains to be seen but this is one of the reasons his presence should and will make a difference.

The 4-3-3, such as it is, will survive for now and the focus may switch to Leao instead of Piatek. The latter may be the obvious casualty of Ibra’s arrival, especially if 4-3-3 and/or any one center forward formation remains. It would seem unlikely that Pioli will alter the team’s formation too much. Conti, Romagnoli, Musacchio and Hernandez will play in front of Donnarumma. Bonaventura, Bennacer and Kessie will again be the three man midfield. The latter may be sold soon however. Suso and Calhanoglu’s future is also somewhat uncertain but for now they will remain part of the front three.

A few names have been rumoured for the January market but it remains to be seen if big changes are possible in the winter or help will arrive only in the summer. For now Milan’s management will attempt to help Ibra and Milan by finding a star or two as soon as possible.

Sampdoria had a horrendous start under Eusebio Di Francesco but have improved with Claudio Ranieri’s guidance. However the team is still in a relegation fight and of course features its own version of successful older player in soon to be 37 Fabio Quagliarella.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on January 6, 2020
Dec 272019

Milan ended the 2010s with a 5-0 defeat at Atalanta. The overachieving opponent has provided a contradiction to Milan, even making to the Champions League knockout stage at the team’s first attempt. Milan started the 2010s with Allegri taking over and winning the scudetto. The rest of the coach’s tenure at Milan mirrored the team’s downfall of course and he left Milan in 2014 with many not missing him. But as we all know the fall has accelerated ever since under one too many coaches and owners as well. Many words have been written about the past and more is perhaps not necessary. The team and its fans need to work and look towards the future.

The rossoneri need to look ahead, perhaps with fresh faces again

Is there a plan for that future? That is a very good question. Perhaps the only consistent future outlook has been about a new stadium. Whether the path chosen, sharing a new one with Inter, is correct or not at least the team is trying and will eventually overcome the traditional governmental hurdles.

On the team itself however, so far empty promises and talks of the glorious past still dominate. A new management team has arrived and it includes another contradiction. It features a person best known for cost cutting but on the other hand two team legends making promises. Gazidis may be able to right the team’s finances and rebuild a new Milan but that is almost certainly at odds with Boban and Maldini’s hopes of getting Milan back to the top very soon. Hoping otherwise is not the most logical argument. Simple finances and UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules make it unlikely. Though it must be said a team like Inter navigated the transfer market maze rather well and got in UEFA’s good books last summer. Juventus managed the same, but with a stadium.

The former team’s activity in the market may point to a path forward but this new Milan has not yet shown it can emulate that. For one thing the primavera team must be rebuilt or at least the team must find young players on the cheap earlier than it does and then it can have an arsenal of players to sell for more later. There is little sign in that happening. The latest example of that is Barcelona’s Jean-Clair Todibo. The 19 year defender is the subject of transfer rumours of around €20 million. The same player was bought by the Spanish team for less than €2 million a year ago. If Milan is to rebuild its finances it need to be in for the player at the €2 million level.

A poll on our forum here on MilanMania asks about Milan’s future. A big majority of fans favour the ‘First and foremost a smarter board/ownership and coach and staff. Then let them build’ option with little support for other choices that include the steady as you go status quo option.

Coaching and its stubbornness is also an issue. Giampaolo has been the sole coach to attempt something other than the miserable 4-3-3. It doesn’t help that all coaches insist on the same under performing starters. The tactics have also been talked about often and on some match days it seems the obvious problems are ignored by coaches. Will that change under a new owner? Elliott have denied any urgency in selling the team but rumours do pop up. The French Arnault family – from the fashion industry with an astronomical net worth – have denied interest several times but their name keeps resurfacing. That is not to say a new rich owner can be exempt from UEFA’s rules but may at least provide a future plan that only looks ahead and makes a real and modern attempt to fix every thing from scouting to the first team.

 Posted by on December 27, 2019
Dec 222019

The week 16 match versus Sassuolo finished 0-0. Based on the whole 90 minutes this was perhaps an undeserved result. The first half may have been mediocre or sloppy but it featured another Theo Hernandez goal that was called back after VAR review. For a Kessie barely hand ball moments before the Frenchman had shot in the ball. The second half was close to a domination and featured both a cross bar and a post by Leao. The unlucky Portuguese had come on for the again ineffective Piatek. The other members of Milan’s forward trio also made little to no impact.

With January closing in the subject of transfers and in particular the likelihood of Ibra’s arrival is starting to overshadow the matches. The Swede is apparently willing to come to Milan but money, contract length and a PowerPlay like relationship with his agent, the infamous Mino Raiola of course, is delaying a decision that Milan’s management had hoped would arrive by last week’s 120th birthday of the team. Not that Milan’s sole need is at center forward. The team can use improvement in every position except perhaps left back where Hernandez continues to be a revelation.

However, the left back will miss this week 17 match due the yellow he got last week, so will Paqueta. Rodriguez could get what amounts to a farewell start as he is likely to leave. Borini is another player who is all but confirmed for an exit.

Gabbia and Caldara may be considered in Musacchio’s spot but the defense will likely remain unchanged except for the aforementioned left back forced change. The same goes for midfield where Kessie is keeping Krunic on the bench for unknown reasons. The forward line of Suso, Piatek and Calhanoglu is already given too many chances but it is not expected that Pioli will have a change of heart about the three starters. As repeated and said many times he is not very much into playing two center forwards at the same time. The 4-3-3 will live on for a while yet.

One could argue that fourth place is already out of reach but the progress of recent weeks has at least sown some optimism, so at least there is that.

Atalanta surprised many by reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and it can be claimed that they are overachieving again. Duvan Zapata will miss this match but Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic are available again.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on December 22, 2019
Dec 152019

Milan scored three times for the first time this season, on week 15. That stat shows, more than anything, why Milan has one of the lowest goals scored numbers in Serie A. On week 15 the final third looked more vibrant, active and showed more promise. Paradoxically it can not be said that any of the offensive players had an exceptional game. Piatek, Suso et al are nowhere near top form. Milan’s first was a penalty when Mattia Bani had his legs tangled with the Polish striker. Hernandez shot in Suso’s assist for Milan’s second to continue his offensive form, however before the end of the half a corner nodded off his leg for an own goal. Right after the break Bonaventura also continued his stellar form to make it 3-1 before a not too dissimilar penalty was awarded to Bologna and converted for a 3-2 final score.

Progress but lots left to do. Pioli talked about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We shall see.

Sassuolo have won only once since the beginning of November and for Milan this is an opportunity to win a third game in a row. The previous two wins almost guarantee little or no change to the starting line up. Conti, Musacchio, Romagnoli and Hernandez line up behind Kessie, Bennacer and Bonaventura who in turn hold down the fort for Suso, Piatek and Calhanoglu. Changes are rare when Milan is losing so the likes of Laeo, Krunic and Paqueta are not likely to get starts when the team is getting wins. For now the aforementioned trio and Castillejo will be on the bench and get minutes only here and there.

As January gets closer and the possibility of Ibra or other re-enforcements nears it will be fascinating to see how far up the table Milan can climb before they arrive.

Follow the match, featuring sometimes Milan killer Domenico Berardi and former Milan player Manuel Locatelli, as it happens, on the forum.

This week also marks the 120th birthday of Milan. Forza Milan.

 Posted by on December 15, 2019
Dec 082019

Week 14 was a somewhat dominating performance at Parma, the statistics tell such a story. Possession in the upper 60 percentile and shots on goal very lopsided. However, it took a near last minute ‘in the right place’ goal for Theo Hernandez to save Milan. The finish was very well but the ball rebounded or deflected to Frenchman’s feet. The 1-0 win was an improvement but it needs to happen more often and the goal drought has to stop.

Piatek has three goals and Theo has three goals. This is not a winning formula. Piatek’s form has been so poor and erratic that the talk of him leaving in January has increased. Ibra may arrive and give everybody on the team a kick. It is indeed that bad that a 38 year old is a remedy. Ibra is no ordinary 38 year old of course.

Not that coach after coach care to change much. Leao may not be a great alternative but he struggles to get minutes eventhough the Polish striker is at best off form. The same issue goes for Suso. Samu doesn’t seem likely to get many minutes. In the same vein Kessie started at Parma and got 71 minutes while Krunic was on the bench. All these defy explanation. Even more so when Pioli is not the first to insist on such a lineup.

The Rest of the midfield and front three will likely remain the same as Bonaventura, Bennacer and Calhanoglu are preferred to Biglia, Paqueta and Rebic. The same goes for the back four. Conti has shown flashes of good form and will line up with Musacchio, Romagnoli and Hernandez. Donnarumma was not busy at all at Parma and continues to be number one.

Bologna are of course coached by Sinisa Mihajlovic. The Serbian was diagnosed with leukemia and has been in and out of the hospital since the summer. His team sit one point and one place behind Milan. The hosts will be missing Gary Medel through suspension and Roberto Soriano through injury.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on December 8, 2019
Dec 012019

A 1-1 tie versus Napoli may be considered progress in a season of crisis but Napoli are going through their own version of crisis with relationship at an all time low between the players and ownership of Aurelio De Laurentiis.

The game with Napoli started well enough with the visitors pinned in their half but Milan’s offensive prowess has been mediocre at best and the visitors were the ones who opened the scoring and with another defensive breakdown. Hirving Lozano pretty much left alone headed in a rebound when Donnaruma had made an initial save.

Bonaventura, in a man of the match performance, seemed the most energetic and determined player. The Italian tied it soon after with a good shot that beat Alex Meret.

Suspensions had left Milan without Calhanoglu and Bennacer and the starting 11 featuring Biglia. This made for a poor middle three. Providing some evidence for a lack of depth or perhaps ineptitude Pioli’s subs included Kessie for Rebic and Calabria for Biglia. In typical fashion the game finished poorly with a panicked side gaining a barely positive solitary point.

Parma sit four places above Milan in 9th place and have lost only once in their last six Serie A matches. No game will be easy for Milan and the underperforming Piatek has people talking about replacements. Ibra’s name is mentioned regularly and he might indeed arrive. Even if he does not a forward signing seems a certainty and the possibility remains that Piatek gets shipped out in January.

Calhanoglu and Bennacer look set to regain their starting spot and Bonaventura surely deserves a start. Suso was due to start versus Napoli but pulled out late due to a stomach issue. His Croatian replacement, Rebic, was unimpressive so the often favoured Spaniard will be back starting. The week brought news that Leo Duarte injured his heel and will be out for a while. This prompted news that Milan will be searching for central defensive enforcements in January. That doesn’t say much about the team’s confidence in Musacchio or Caldara. The former will get the starts in the meanwhile.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on December 1, 2019
Nov 232019

The week 12 match at Juventus was a good performance, certainly by recent season standards it was a competitive encounter. Milan even had more shot on goal than the reigning champions. As the game went on a 0-0 tie was very possible, if not a win. Ultimately the game was lost because Juventus can count players of the quality of Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala from the bench. The latter scored the winner and Milan lost again. In the end Milan went into the international break with an amount of optimism.

During the slow news days of the break most of the talk has concentrated on possible re-enforcements in January. Whether Elliott can spend or not is questionable but the need to generate revenue via Champions League participation remains crucial so a top 4 finish must remain the goal. Ibra may or may not return to Milan. A midfielder such as Luka Modric may too. Realism may ultimately win out and additions may be underwhelming. Time will tell.

Napoli are struggling as well. The players have had a disagreement with the president of the team over training and the team hasn’t won in over a month. Napoli sit in seventh place and need wins almost as much as Milan.

Bennacer and Calhanoglu will miss week 13 because of yellows they received at Juventus so the starting 11 will likely feature Biglia and Rebic or Bonventura. The rest of the 11 should remain the same with Suso and Piatek the other up from three. Piatek showed a few flashes at Juventus and needs to regain his touch quickly. He certainly claims to be ready for it. He was quoted as saying as much. Krunic and Paqueta may start again with Kessie continuing his exile on the bench. Conti and Hernandez look to continue being the full backs. The former actually had a surprisingly good game at Juventus. The middle of the defense will feature Romagnoli with Musacchio as Duarte is apparently carrying a small injury. The central defenders need to be more organized and close down the opposition better than they have done most of the recent weeks.

Follow the match as it happens, on the forum.

 Posted by on November 23, 2019
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.

 Posted by on November 10, 2019
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.

 Posted by on November 3, 2019
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