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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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