Mar 182018

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The week 28 match at Genoa following the disappointing Europa League round of 16 first leg loss to Arsenal at home was somewhat underwhelming. The game was often played at a pace that made it seem the team was showing the effects of the home loss to the London team. The start given to Kalinic up front didn’t inspire much confidence, for the fans at least. Borini got a start at right back with Calabria not fully fit and Abate out injured. His presence there created some problems and Genoa saw more space down their left side. Calabria eventually came on and his introduction coincided with more freedom for Suso. In the very last action of the game the Spaniard crossed and it was headed in smartly by Andre Silva – who had come on as a sub. The players rushed to the Portuguese to congratulate him on his first Serie A goal and celebrate what looked an unlikely three points.

The focus shifted to trying to reverse 0-2 scoreline in London. The Arsenal match would be a big test for the young Milan. Refereeing decisions – a Danny Welbeck dive after Rodriguez barely made contact and a ball hitting Calum Chambers’ arm in the box but not seen or judged to be a penalty, just to name two –  and generally poor or bad luck play combined for a 3-1 loss (5-1 aggregate). Calhanoglu had opened the scoring with an excellent long ball but it was not meant to be and the loss is to, hopefully, be proven a learning experience. The team fought well but it was not a great performance. The referees only highlighted the need for improvement in their line of work.

Chievo, led by Roberto Inglese and his eight Serie A goals, come to the San Siro and Milan ‘s recent Serie A record has put the team to within touch of a top four finish. That a Champions League place is at all possible serves to show how the team has improved in 2018 but many more points are needed to achieve that. Nine games and 27 points are available till the end of the season and most of them are required. The line up looked likely to revert back to one where Kalinic starts but on Saturday the Croat was sent home after what was reported to be a training ground issue, one which made Gattuso unhappy. Silva and Cutrone got a chance in a 4-4-2 in London but it is unlikely that a similar formation will be used this weekend. Cutrone will replace Kalinic in the often used 4-3-3. Calhanoglu and Suso will start as will Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura. It is thought that Calabria may not recover from his muscle fatigue and therefore Borini is to start along Bonucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez again. However late in the week Romagnoli was ruled out with a knock so Zapata or Musacchio will start in his place. Donnarumma was at fault for Arsenal’s second goal (scored by Granit Xhaka) but will of course start when available.

Mar 112018

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Following the tragic death – in his sleep – of Davide Astori in the early hours of March 4th the week 27 Sunday matches, including the Milan derby of course, were postponed. The Fiorentina captain and former Milan youth player was 31.

The derby will take place in an as of now undetermined date. For now Milan travel to Genoa having to focus on the Serie A after a week filled with grief and a midweek game that was very disappointing. Milan started the last 16 Europa League game vs Arsenal dominating the London team but the pressure and promise soon fizzled out with virtually all of the starting 11 having an off day. Bonaventura, Kessie and Biglia gave the ball away repeatedly. The latter was responsible for two early and notable poor passes one of which led to the Henrikh Mkhitaryan goal seconds later. Passes were not completed, there was no pressing and shots were off target. The front three were ineffective and the full backs left space and made mistakes. When Suso had anything of the ball either Sead Kolasinac was there or he shot way off. Donnarumma did what he could and was beaten via a deflection for the first goal and was left all alone with Aaron Ramsey dancing in for the second. The 0-2 home loss was Milan’s first loss in 13 games.

It is believed that Gattuso will make changes for the Genoa game, how many is not known. Sadly any change in the front three likely means Kalinic starting in place of Cutrone. Borini is another candidate for a starting place and at least he has shown willingness and goal scoring ability too. In the middle Montolivo and Locatelli are alternates for Kessie and Biglia. The central defenders were the least at fault vs Arsenal and considering the alternatives should retain their place in any case. Abate and Antonelli are not fully fit. Calabria and Rodriguez must put the Arsenal game behind them. The former had shown great form before the Arsenal match and needs to continue on that path. Calabria also took a knock during the Arsenal game but looks to be available.

Genoa feature many former Milan players in Adel Taarabt, Andrea Bertolacci (on loan from Milan) and Gianluca Lapadula (also on loan). Not all three are starters but may feature some time in the game. The reverse fixture last October ended in a 0-0 tie with Bonucci red carded in the first half for a foul on Aleandro Rosi.

Feb 252018

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Important but not spectacular 1-0 wins vs Sampdoria and Ludogorets have added to the momentum of Gattuso’s Milan. The talk of him remaining beyond the summer has become louder and will become even more so if Milan continue to do well in upcoming matches vs Roma, Inter and the next opponents in the Europa League (Arsenal). A very sound first half vs Sampdoria produced a tame penalty miss by Rodriguez and a goal by Bonaventura. In Kalinic’s absence Cutrone started and Silva came on a sub, Cutrone did well and Silva too. In midweek, with Kalinic on the bench, all three of Silva, Cutrone and Borini started up front. The latter scored the goal from a good Cutrone cross to take Milan to the next stage with a 4-0 aggregate score. The opportunity was taken to rest all of Suso, Calhanoglu, Bonucci and Biglia.

Roma provide a big test and coming before the continuing heavy schedule the pressure and fatigue is sure to be ever present. After Roma there is the second leg of the Coppa Italia semis at Lazio (0-0 first leg), Inter and with no respite the last 16 of the Europa League.

Roma lost in the Champions League midweek (2-1 at ) but Dzeko, Under, El Shaarawy up front and Alisson in goal will test and resist Gattuso and Milan.

Milan will likely revert to the more settled lineup that features Calhanoglu, Cutrone and Suso up front. Biglia, Bonaventura and Kessie in the middle and Rodriguez, Romagnoli, Bonucci and one of Abate or Calabria at the back. Gigio will return to his spot after also having a match off vs Ludogorets. The settled line up and uptick in fortunes on the pitch are in contrast to more troubling reports that owner Yonghong Li is bankrupt and in trouble at home in China. This was denied via a video message by the man himself but the saga is nowhere near cleared up.

Feb 182018

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Beating SPAL relatively easily at 4-0 and having a similar game at Ludogorets (0-3) in the middle of the week has raised the hopes and the hype on the team and players, Cutrone in particular. The 20 year old forward is climbing up the charts of young players in world football and will need to keep a cool head.

The wins have also raised the possibility of Gattuso getting a raise and extension before the summer. This is likely a bad and unnecessary idea. Such decisions can be left for the summer.

Kalinic misses week 25 again through injury and Kessie is suspended after getting another yellow last weekend. The upcoming schedule is a hard and busy one and this week 25 game is a start of a real defining period. Donnarumma, Calabria, Bonucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez are the best Milan has at the back at the moment and as shown last week Abate is not the best option. In midfield Locatelli is perhaps off form, based on the little he has played and shown his development has either slowed or stalled, and therefore Montolivo and Biglia (along side Bonaventura) are the favorites to be the starters. Up front Cutrone seems the only option with Calhanolgu and Suso. Borini deserves a mention for another good sub appearance and goal midweek. Andre Silva could be a starter for the return game vs Ludogorets and is now in all likelihood a secondary player until the end of the season at least.

Sampdoria feature Lucas Torreira, the 22 year midfielder in demand around Europe, and 30 year old
Ivan Strinic (left back) who is a possible Bosman summer signing for Milan.

Feb 142018

Milan survived the 2017-2018 Europa League group stage relatively unscathed but a lot has changed since last December. At that time Gattuso had recently replaced Montella as coach and the initial days looked as bad the ones that prompted Montella’s sacking.

PFC Ludogorets Razgrad were drawn in the round of 32, very much on the easy side of things because others like Napoli drew RB Leipzig and Atalanta drew Borussia Dortmund, just to name two other Italian teams. The upcoming home and away provide a chance to advance of course and in the next round a more high profile team is more likely. This edition of the Europa League also features teams like Lyon, Villarreal, Zenit, Atletico Madrid, Sporting Lisbon among others.

This matchup may present another opportunity for Milan’s group stage co-leading scorer Andre Silva to get more game time but that is far from a certainty. The Portuguese is approaching a place where ‘no future at Milan’ is on some lips. Some would argue that he is young and needs more game time to grow but it is possible that, for reasons more unknown than known, it is not meant to be. The management of the team have and will insist that they believe in the player but a summer change is a not a small possibility.

Gattuso may not change much in terms of lineup and use a so called full strength team. Kalinic is almost certainly still missing through injury however and that only leaves Cutrone the most likely starter up front. However a look at the Serie A schedule ahead might give the coach some pause. Currently Milan sit in 7th position with 38 points. The next three matches are versus Sampdoria (6th, 41 points), at Roma (4th, 47), versus Inter (3rd, 48). In other words a lot of ground can be made up by taking points in the next three weeks.

Is this team capable of it of gaining ground and push for a crucial 4th place finish? Time will tell in the meanwhile Europa League provides another hurdle, showcase and possible podium. Recent weeks under Gattuso have shown improvement – the team is undefeated since last Christmas with 4 wins and 2 ties in the Serie A and a win and a tie in the Coppa – but it is arguable if it has been as good as it seems.

Feb 102018

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The three game winning streak came to a halt. Week 23’s 1-1 tie at Udinese should count as a disappointment. Suso’s typically spectacular goal – shot from distance that hit the underside of the cross bar and went in – was cancelled out by a Donnarumma own goal. The own goal was an end result of poor concentration by more or less the whole team that allowed a cross which Donnarumma mishandled after Bonucci had the slightest of headers. There was also an unnecessary second yellow which had Calabria sent off. The other story of the game was a somewhat surprise start for Andre Silva. The Portuguese didn’t get much service and was not a major contributor. The young forward has becoming a talking point of the season with fans divided on if he has a future on the team or not.

Kalinic came on for the aforementioned Portuguese forward but misses this week 24 match at SPAL with a thigh problem. The likely starter becomes Cutrone, almost by default. Suso and Calhanoglu will continue to start up front. The latter has been praised by Gattuso and is now a more established Milan player. In the middle there is little change, Biglia is favourite over Montolivo and Kessie and Bonaventura remain first choice. Offering different characteristics has helped the three and the team. The back four has been more fluid due to injuries and suspensions. Rodriguez is back after both a suspension and a stomach illness. Abate will likely get the nod on the right. Donnarumma is the goalkeeper behind Bonucci and Romagnoli as usual.

SPAL are in the relegation zone and without the injured Marco Borriello. SPAL of course feature two other players familiar with Milan fans in Alberto Paloschi and Bartosz Salamon.


Feb 042018

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The coincidence of playing a team twice within a week seems to happen a few too many times. So it was in this case, a weekend of meeting Lazio in the Serie A and three days later a Coppa Italia semis encounter. The league game was to be Gattuso’s first bigger test. The team (and the coach) passed the test with encouraging signs and a dominant first half that saw the team control territory and cut off most Lazio chances before they reached anywhere near Donnarumma. There was controversy with not even VAR catching Cutrone’s apparent hand goal. The typical referee bias issue overshadowed the win but the performance was one of the best in a while – with Calabria and Romagnoli in particular adding much needed solidity at the back – and the 2-1 win added hope that the coach is starting to make his mark.

The midweek Coppa game again featured Kalinic as a starter, to the disappointment of some, with a few other changes to the starting line up. The most noteworthy of the changes was the use of Borini in the left back position! The game was quiet relative to the one three days earlier. The best chance of the game was Calhanoglu missing an open goal late. The ball came to the player deep in the penalty box and he shot just high. The 0-0 tie left it all for the second leg in Rome.

Udinese are next and the Friulians are doing well being only two points behind Milan’s current 34 points. The team is coached by former Milan player Massimo Oddo and play a 3-5-2 and are very much an offensive team led by Kevin Lasagna and Maxi Lopez up front.

The Milan starting 11 will unsurprisingly feature Kalinic although there is late word of a possible Andre Silva start. That being said the case for Cutrone being a regular starter is very strong but for now it is difficult to know Gattuso’s mindset and how feels he needs to manage the busy schedule to come with Europa League matches coming up in February as well. Calhanoglu and Suso are now the other established members of front three. Kessie and Bonaventura will be in the middle with Biglia a possible starter or ofcourse Montolivo. The back four is also more or less established now however Rodriguez is missing out again. The Swiss international remains absent with illness after he missed last weekend’s game due to suspension. Donnarumma is of course in goal.

Jan 282018

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The week 21 2-1 win at Cagliari was and can be seen as a positive. The performance seemed more cohesive and determined and it was a come from behind win, the first in a long time. There was controversy with referee judgements and two red cards, one for each team, plus offside and penalty questions didn’t make for the most enjoyable of games. A win however was deserved. It was mildly surprising to see Kessie as the penalty taker when Kalinic was brought down. The Ivory Coast midfielder added a second minutes later.

Lazio will provide a stern test for week 22, the now third placed team won their delayed week 12 game – 3-0 vs Udinese –  this past midweek without Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile. The current top scorer/Capocannoniere with 20 goals was injured last weekend in the 5-1 win vs Chievo. He is doubt for the Milan match as well.

For better or for worse the Milan lineup is settled for now and minus injuries the Serie A line up is unlikely to change in the near term. Rodriguez’s red means he is suspended for this match and his places will go to either Antonelli or Calabria with Abate filling the full back roles. Romagnoli and Bonucci will start in the middle of defense. The middle will remain Kessie, Biglia and Bonaventura. The front three will feature Calhanoglu, Suso and Cutrone. Kalinic was due to start but is a major doubt after a late week training injury, although he is still available if needed. Gattuso has mentioned that Silva and Cutrone will get (more) chances to play with the upcoming schedule of Coppa and Europe League games. The first of those will be a Lazio rematch on January 31st.

Jan 212018

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The second half of the season started with a 1-0 win vs Crotone with Bonucci scoring his first Milan goal. The Serie A break followed, this time in January instead of late December, with most of the news and rumours still surrounding the ownership and the legalities of the sale last April.

The other aspect of the news have been the team’s January window transfer plans. There has been an insistence that there would be no incoming players and minimal out going in an effort to build on the team as it is. The saga of some players, notably Andre Silva, not getting minutes has created a story line for rumour writers but it seems likely that he and all other summer 2017 signings will stay Milan players for now.

The aforementioned Portuguese forward was not even a playing sub against Crotone. When Cutrone was withdrawn two weeks ago Kalinic – only just back after having his ankle damaged by Inter’s Milan Skriniar – was preferred to Silva. He is also unlikely to take part in this week 21 match as well. Kalinic, Suso and Calhanoglu are the likely front three. The middle three will see Biglia in the middle, Montolivo is unlikely to start. Kessie and Bonaventura will flank the Argentinian. The back four is more or less settled with Abate (or Calabria) lining up with Bonucci, Romagnoli  and Rodriguez.

The host’s feature Leonardo Pavoletti as their joint top scorer – with Joao Pedro. The latter scored against Milan back in week 2 but is suspended and therefore it is up to the former and Marco Sau to lead the Sardinians.

Jan 132018

The Serie A break is here and this time the break is January of course, and 20 games of the 2017-2018 season have been played. A lot has been said and written about Milan’s poor form and the team being way off even last season’s pace and all that after spending over €200 million in the summer.

A major talking point this season has been rotation and choice of players, Montella was criticized for not settling on a team, never able or willing to use the same 11.

Gattuso’s start on the bench has been almost as questionable though hints of more stability are emerging as players like Cutrone prove themselves more every time they play.

A more specific question is the minutes Kalinic gets vs those Andre Silva gets. The former was brought into the team primarily on the insistence of Montella and the latter was one of the major purchases of the summer and one thought to be a very bright prospect. €20 million and €38 million respectively were spent on the then 29 and 21 years old players. Soon after the season started the two players took different paths when it came to their place on the team. Andre Silva found himself restricted to European dates and virtually shut out of the Serie A where Kalinic and Cutrone were always preferred. Andre Silva became one of the players of the Europa League group stage with 6 goals but seemed to be always on the bench even when Kalinic who was picked ahead of him struggled to score and finish. When two successive coaches have left the Portuguese on the bench questions about the player himself are normal. Is it a case of easing in a young player into a new league and country or is there more to the story? There is for example video footage of Andre Silva seemingly distant from the team at the end of the week 20 win vs Crotone.

The two forwards are not the only players whose names have stirred debate  when it comes to minutes played. Mateo Musacchio is another. The Argentine defender was the first signing of the summer but is often on the bench especially when a back four is used, he is sometimes even behind Zapata in the pecking order, where Bonucci and Romagnoli are getting the most minutes.

Locatelli is too. The young Italian midfielder has been nowhere near first choice and Montolivo and Biglia both of whom have also struggled are picked ahead of him, so much so that there is talk of Locatelli being loaned out.

Who deserves more playing time?

View Results

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Andre Silva
Games ~ Minutes ~ Goals ~ Assists
Europa League 6 ~ 495 ~ 6 ~ 0
Serie A 4(8) ~ 534 ~ 0 ~ 0
Nikola Kalinic
Games ~ Minutes ~ Goals ~ Assists
Europa League 1(2) ~ 99 ~ 0 ~ 1
Serie A 14(3) ~ 1185 ~ 4 ~ 1
Mateo Musacchio
Games ~ Minutes ~ Goals ~ Assists
Europa League 4(1) ~ 376 ~ 1 ~ 0
Serie A 11 ~ 990 ~ 0 ~ 0
Manuel Locatelli
Games ~ Minutes ~ Goals ~ Assists
Europa League 4(1) ~ 353 ~ 0 ~ 0
Serie A 2(9) ~ 295 ~ 0 ~ 0
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