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
Jan 062018
 

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A relatively positive result, a come from behind 1-1 draw at Fiorentina, ended the first half of a very disappointing season. The draw came after beating Inter in the Coppa Italia following which the expectations were immediately heightened. The draw was not exactly a high quality performance but the result is at least something to build on.

Crotone were beaten 3-0 on match day one in what seems ages ago, Kessie, Cutrone and Suso opened the season in good style back in August, another win is pretty much mandatory against a team that has won only once away from home so far this season.

A lot has changed since August of course and with a team in crisis on and off the pitch and the now traditional poor showing against lowly teams the 11 that start have lots to do. Up front Cutrone, Calhanoglu and Suso are probably the best available though this writer still thinks that if Andre Silva is given more starts will start to deliver. Instead the Portuguese and a few other players are subject to – halfhearted and likely made up – exit rumours. The likes of Gomez and Paletta are primary candidates to leave this January but Silva and Musacchio’s names have been mentioned too. Kalinic’s name has surfaced in relation to the Chinese league as well.

Gigio Donnarumma will start and in front of him the four includes Calabria – while Abate is out injured – Bnucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez. Kessie and Bonaventura will flank Montolivo in midfield.  Locatelli perhaps deserves more playing time but form, confidence and coach’s trust are perhaps not on his side. Up front the aforementioned front three need to conquer a defense that includes Arlind Ajeti and Federico Ceccherini and one that has conceded 24 goals in 9 away games.

Dec 302017
 

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The last game of the first half of the 2017-2018 Serie A season comes with Milan sitting 11th in the table, few imagined this to be the case after the massive spending in the summer. Failures, mistakes and lack of belief have led to one coach being sacked and the second struggling just as much. Week 18 featured Milan losing at home 0-2 to an Atalanta side punching above their weight for the second consecutive season. The crisis around individual players, the tactical choices and ownership all continue to swirl. Midweek’s better showing vs Inter in the Coppa Italia has given everybody a slight reprieve. The Coppa game had the team showing more resilience and displaying a more compact shape. Even that better showing against an Inter side in a mini losing streak of their own needed an extra time goal – scored by Cutrone after Kalinic limped off injured and was replaced. The teenager took his chance, unlike the Croatian.

The line up will need to be different as the aforementioned Kalinic and Abate are nursing minor injuries and are not available for this match. Antonio Donnarumma who deputized for his teenage brother and Storari on a last minute basis will cede back the goalkeeping duties to Gigio. Calabria is likely to take up Abate’s spot along side Romagnoli, Bonucci and Rodriguez. Montolivo, Kessie and Bonaventura will form the middle three in an unnecessary change from the Coppa match. Biglia did well enough vs Inter. Up front Cutrone will start alongside Borini and Suso in another unnecessary change as Bonaventura playing further up seems a better choice than Borini in the left wing spot.

Fiorentina come into this game having earnt only two points more than Milan so far this season. Led by Cyril Thereau, Giovanni Simeone and Federico Chiesa the Tuscan team have however not lost in seven Serie A games but were knocked out of the Coppa – by Lazio – in midweek.

Dec 232017
 

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Following the week 17 humiliation of losing 3-0 to 19th placed Verona the team went into ritiro, a retreat where the players spend all day together free of distractions. One is entitled to question if such a tactic works on millionaire players at all, nevertheless the team needs to find ways to win and not react poorly to set backs. Verona’s first goal was somewhat unlucky but the team did not react positively after conceding it. The retreat caused plenty of controversy and words written by various papers, ultimately this season is likely lost as catching the top 4 (and Champions League football next season) is even less likely than it was before week 17.

One question is not only if the ritiro will have an effect but if the tactics on the pitch will be good enough and implemented well. The predicted line ups by newspapers such as Gazzetta list Kalinic as a starter. Ritiro or not there is little reason to have confidence in the Croat finding his scoring shoes. Not for the first time this season experts and fans are entitled to ask ‘Why not Cutrone?’ if Kalinic does start. With Suso suspended after his red at the final whistle vs Verona Gattuso may use Calhanoglu as a nominal left winger and switch Borini to right wing. Cutrone may get one of those spots and it is almost certainly a better option. The midfield may or may not remain the same, Montolivo, Kessie and Bonaventura are the most likely starters again with an outside chance of seeing Biglia in the middle and Montolivo replacing Kessie. Romagnoli is suspended as well, for an accumulation of yellows, and Zapata is the leading candidate to take his place.

Atalanta are not the same team as Verona of course and on paper this is a much harder match. Led by Josip Ilicic and former Milan midfielder Bryan Cristante Atalanta are doing almost as well as last season’s surprising 4th placed finish.

Dec 172017
 

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Just three days after defeating (3-0) Verona in a Coppa Italia encounter Milan travel to Verona for a re-match. Serie A is a different proposition of course but Verona’s position in the table, 19th after week 16, should on paper make it one of the easier games of the season. Conversely Milan’s recent record against lowly teams is nothing to be happy about therefore this match is anything but easy.

After a very rough start with one point taken from Benevento in the league and Rijeka in the Europa League the team has looked better. Gattuso’s switch to 4-3-3 seems to have coincided with a more direct and more active game. Two wins vs Bologna and Verona have looked somewhat encouraging and there is some room for optimism.

Cutrone’s reputation grows everytime he plays and the 19 year old was one of the stars of the Coppa match vs Verona. It seems however that he will not start in the league. Whether this is a good rotation policy or not is debatable, Montella frustrated everybody by changing the team often and perhaps it is unwise for Gattuso to do the same. Time will tell.

The aforementioned front three is likely to feature Suso, Kalinic and Borini. The middle three is confirming Biglia’s poor form with Montolivo again the most likely player with Kessie and Bonaventura around him. The back four should consist of Abate, Bonucci, Romagnoli and Rodriguez. Calabria may be picked ahead of Abate. Musacchio seems confined to the bench, for much the same reasons as his Argentine compatriot in midfield.

Gigio Donnarumma was the subject of an ‘insulting’ banner vs Verona as the war of words between his agent and the management flared up again. There is word that Mino Raiola will try to find a destination for the goalkeeper especially since the team is struggling and may need to sell players, this has been denied of course but most fans are rightly frustrated that this is still an issue after a big contract was agreed upon mere months ago. Many rightly argue that Donnarumma should fire his agent as a statement of intent of his desire to stay and fully concentrate on the pitch.

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