Monthly Archive: December 2020
Mohamed Simakan is a French 2000 born central or right sided defender. He has been often mentioned as a possible first recruit for a Milan team going through an injury crisis. As of the time of writing with the January 2021 window due to open in one week the defensive situation is looking brighter at Milan. Kjaer is closer to a return, perhaps as early as January 3 at Benevento, and Kalulu has shown enough promise to be considered a potential future star. But of course Simakan is one for the future too with Musacchio and Duarte due to leave sooner or later.
The Strasbourg defender became a semi regular for his team in the 2019-2020 season in playing over 1500 minutes. He is seen as being strong, physical and determined on the ball, both in retaining and getting back to position to getting it back. His aerial ability is above average and is growing. He is good with both feet but he is primarily right footed however he doesn’t look to have the greatest technical ability nor is he the best at going forward to cross.
The rumoured fee has varied anywhere between €12 to 20 million and we have the usual he has agreed to join Milan line. Strasbourg will try to get the maximum of course and again as always there are rumours of English Premier League interest with anyone from Southampton to Wolves mentioned.
A depleted squad lined up versus Lazio without Ibra, Kessie, Bennacer and Kjaer. Rebic and Tonali made the starting lineup.
A bright start resulted in an early goal when Rebic scored his first of the season with a nice finish assisted by Calhangolu.
The lead doubled when a VAR review awarded a penalty that fell to Calhanoglu in the absence of Ibra and Kessie. He shot confidently.
The momentum shifted soon after and Lazio took over the game and got one back. Kalulu was judged to have made contact with Joaquin Correa and incredibly the penalty was awarded after a review. VAR and the refs did not do their jobs any justice. Immobile’s penalty was saved well but Luis Alberto shot past Donnarumma on the hard rebound.
The second half was more of the same and eventually the tying goal arrived. Poor defensive work by the Tonali, Krunic midfield duo looked to be punished as Sergej Milinkovic-Savic made a looping pass to Immobile who beat Donnarumma. Kalulu could have covered the Lazio captain better. Late Milan subs were made amid several scenes of players running out of gas.
Milan managed to make a final push and Rebic had two good chances to get a late 3-2 lead.
As the three added minutes were heading to a conclusion a corner won by Milan was shot into the box by Calhanoglu and headed in emphatically by Theo Hernandez.
Celebrations erupted as Milan won again, scored two or more again and reached Christmas on top of the table.
Leao was a record breaker at Sassuolo. Right off kickoff Milan players moved forward and Calhanoglu’s assist to Leao was finished off in under seven seconds. The Portuguese, playing as a more central forward, broke the fastest ever goal in the Serie A. Saelemaekers later added a second after a smart interplay counter featuring Diaz, Tonali and Hernandez. The team was missing Rebic, Ibra, Bennacer and Kjaer yet produced a solid performance to allay fears of a loss versus a dynamic high flying Sassuolo. Another Serie A record was extended with Milan scoring twice in a game, again.
Kessie got a somewhat questionable yellow to rule himself out of this week 14 match versus Lazio. Tonali was substituted at half time in the week 13 match and was feared to miss this game. It is now thought that he could be ready, his possible absence would have meant a true rework of the midfield with the possibility of Calhanoglu or even Calabria lining up in front of a four man defense. Rebic is also in line for a possible return but the team is still without the aforementioned spine and stars of the team.
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The defense will continue to feature Calabria, Kalulu, Romagnoli and Hernandez. Kalulu came in line for some praise after being overly criticized for the Genoa game. He is only 20 and has big potential as a left sided defender. Krunic and Tonali should line up behind Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu and Rebic with Leao upfront. If Rebic does not pass the fitness test Diaz is again the likeliest to play. It has seemed that Leao works better as the center forward than a left winger but when both he and Rebic are available Pioli has not really agreed. This may be finally changing.
After this game there is an 11 day holiday break. Milan return to action on January 3rd with a visit to Benevento and the winter transfer market opens the day after. Maldini and the management team will have to address the shortcomings that despite the added depth has the team scrambling, in defense in particular.
Lazio, as always led by Ciro Immobile, sit in eighth place and haven’t had the best start to the season but did beat Napoli 2-0 in week 13.
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Right from kickoff Leao ran through the defense assisted by Calhanoglu to score what was to be the fastest goal in Serie A history recorded at 6.2 seconds.
Minutes later Calhanoglu scored from a good Leao cross and cut back but a lengthy VAR interruption ruled that Saelemaekers was marginally offside near the center circle some 10 seconds before in the build up. VAR’s mission to rule on clear and obvious errors looks like a waste of resources.
A counter started by Diaz was cleverly played up the right wing with Tonali looking to avoid an offside call leaving it for Theo, it was then finished by Saelemaekers from Theo’s cross.
Krunic and Hauge made appearances in the second, the former at half time for Tonali, as the game went on without too many clear cut chances for either team for much of the second. Donnarumma and Andrea Consigli each made a good save.
Kessie got a yellow to rule him out of the upcoming midweek match versus Lazio.
The – infamous to Milan fans – Berardi got one back when he scored from a freekick in a good position. Hauge should have done better in the wall and not opened the path for the ball.
An injury crisis has arrived. Ibra initially set to return developed a separate calf problem and will miss at least another 2 weeks, probably more. Bennacer remains out for a while as does Gabbia. Kjaer is not ready and Rebic developed a foot problem and is out as well. The team has struggled in recent matches but managed to gain points in recent come from behind ties against Genoa and Parma. Now it is set for bigger tests against better opponents with matches continuing to come soon after another.
In the midst of this Milan have now scored multiple goals in 14 consecutive matches, a new Serie A record. Some of that record has been achieved without Ibra and that is the good news but the bad news is that the early season Serie A lead has now evaporated.
Kalulu came under a lot of criticism for the two Genoa goals scored by Mattia Destro. A lot of fans are already dismissing his chances of being a solid center back. Time will tell but for now he remains a primary candidate for a start along side Romagnoli. Musacchio is almost certainly set for an (January) exit and Duarte is not very trusted. It is hoped Kjaer can return very soon and reclaim his spot. Calabria and Theo will start as full backs with Tonali and Kessie the only viable options in front of the defence.
Arguably the greater controversy is the four front runners. Each of the available players can be summarized as follows.
Leao was poor and lazy looking in the past two games, it might have to do with his earlier injury or not. Hauge has shown excellent flashes but not over full 90 minutes. Diaz is very skilled but not the strongest on the ball. Calhanoglu leads the Serie A and indeed the top 5 European leagues in such important stats such as chances created per 90 minutes and despite some exit talk and presumed excessive salary demands has been a major part of the recent success. Castillejo doesn’t do enough in a full 90 and is limited in skills. Saelemaekers is solid and has become a reliable part of the squad. Maldini seems inexperienced and not ready for a front line attack. Colombo falls in the same category as Maldini. Pioli must choose among those options and keep the goal scoring streak going while hoping for a good defensive performance and continued great Donnarumma saves when needed.
Sassuolo and Roberto De Zerbi are flying high with only one loss (0-3 vs Inter) so far this season.The coach’s tactics have earned him and his team rave reviews and Sassuolo can always surprise. Ex-Milan midfielder Manuel Locatelli will miss this match due to yellow cards accumulation. Francesco Caputo is another veteran who has bloomed after the age of 30 and Domenico Berardi is of course very familiar to Milan fans.
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With Calabria due to be given a rest he was inserted into the lineup as Theo was suffering from muscle fatigue. Dalot there got his start but on the left instead. Ibra, Kjaer, Bennacer and Gabbia were on the injury list and Saelemaekers was unable to start.
The first half featured a good amount of possession but with little dangerous chances. Rebic came closest in the 39th minutes but after some good ball control wasn’t able to beat Mattia Perin.
Early in the second Mattia Destro scored following a rebound.
Hauge and Saelemaekers came on for the ineffective Rebic and Castillejo. Te game continiued to feature some good moments with little end product but Calabria shot low from afar and the ball made it inside the far post.
Minutes later Destro again scored. A Paolo Ghiglione cross was headed in by the former Milan player. Criticism of Kalulu grew as in both cases he could have done better. The French defender redeemed himself somewhat by scoring at almost point blank range to restore the tie late.
Another two points dropped against a lowly team is a valid reason for criticism but the result is somewhat explained knowing the absentees and the historically busy schedule.
Players like Leao, who somehow lasted all of the 90 minutes, should do much better if they are to help the team maintain its unbeaten run.
Week 11 versus Parma proved a difficult match. A Milan team missing Ibra, Kjaer and Saelemaekers struggled to get through Parma’s organized defensive lines and lost two players to injury as well. First Gabbia went down early with a knee issue and then Bennacer held his hamstring while being substituted. Both subs did well in relief as Kalulu was forced into a Serie A debut and Tonali got some unexpected action. The quality of the back ups was and is welcome news of course but Milan is now even more short in midfield and defense especially. Immediate reinforcements are required when the winter transfer window opens in January.
Theo rescued Milan with a brace and his speed and contribution proved crucial in getting the 2-2 tie and to preserve the unbeaten run. He will line up at the back with Romagnoli, Kalulu and Dalot while Calabria will be given a night off. Tonali and Kessie will need to hold the midfield fort for now. Saelemaekers was set for a return to the right wing but news emerged that he will sit this one out too therefore it will be Castillejo with Calhanoglu and Leao behind Rebic. There is some thought that Leao should be the one spearheading the line prompting Rebic to return to the left wing spot that had him in better form last season. Having said that Leao also struggled as a second half sub versus Parma, but he was inserted into the game as a sort of right winger for those 45 minutes. In any case the historically busy fixture list requires all players to contribute as the schedule will remain at two matches per week for the next little while. These now include the upcoming Coppa Italia match at Torino and the Europa League matches versus Red Star Belgrade in February.
Ibra was targeting this, and indeed the Parma match, for a return but for now it is thought that he will only return in the coming weekend week 13 match at Sassuolo. Kjaer is also close to returning.
Genoa have won only once this season and their only Serie A win was all the way back on week 1 vs Crotone. The 19th placed team features a long injury list that includes Davide Zappacosta, Goran Pandev and Cristian Zapata.
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A minute of silence remembering the recently deceased Paolo Rossi before the match got underway.
Injuries and woodwork were the themes in this 2-2 tie.
No less than 4 times Milan hit the crossbar and post.
Gabbia left the pitch early with what looks like a few weeks of layoff. Later Bennacer seemed to strain his hamstring and may be facing a few weeks off too. Kalulu looked promising again, this time coming in relief for the injured Gabbia.
Parma took a 2-0 lead with questionable marking in both cases.
An offside after VAR review denied Castillejo another goal when it was 0-1.
Leao and Hauge came on at the half to turn things around but both were mostly ineffective or poor.
It was left to Theo to score twice. His pace was sorely needed to break the Parma defensive line. Otherwise Milan struggled to break through and Parma isolated the ball carrier well and overloaded the player well.
The fixture list remains very busy and with injuries piling up the next few weeks will present a big challenge in maintaining the unbeaten streak.
The very busy schedule is a strain on every team but Milan has so far endured well. December features seven matches in 20 days and Parma is the first of four in 11 eleven Serie A nights.
Milan’s injury list got shorter with the return of Leao midweek in the Europa League. Saelemaekers and Bennacer have healed from their minor issues and are available again. Ibra was pushing to be ready for this week 11 match too but took the probably wise decision to sit another few days and may return midweek versus Genoa. It is thought that Kjaer could make a return in as little as one week when Milan visit the high flying Sassuolo.
As a team Milan are breaking records now. The latest ones are a club record of 26 points in the first ten matches of the season to go along with 30 games without being held off the score sheet. The wins versus Sampdoria and Sparta Prague without the likes of Ibra, Kjaer and Bennacer are surprises for most and Pioli deserves a lot of the credit.
As last week Rebic is the likeliest option in Ibra’s space although Leao has a small chance of occupying the role from the first minute. Saelemaekers may not be risked as a starter and the improved Castillejo is the likely choice at right wing. Indications are the Pioli continues to take it slow with Hauge. The Norwegian has impressed but may find the bench again with Diaz and Calhanoglu starting. The Kessie and Bennacer tandem will start in front of Calabria, Gabbia, Romagnoli and Theo. It is notable that Kalulu had a promising debut 90 versus Sparta Prague and has raised hopes of being a dependable central defender for Milan. A center back remains high on the January market list but having one with big potential already on the squad is almost a relief. Donnarumma will return to pitch after being another of the rested midweek.
Parma have won only once in the last seven Serie A matches but remain dangerous with Gervinho in the squad.
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