Milan blows it, again 5/5 (2)

Milan blew it up right at the death. Again! So did Napoli and Roma but against significantly lesser opposition. Juventus and Inter duly took advantage of it.

Game of the round was played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome with Milan visiting fellow Champions League hopefuls Lazio. All square at the end which leaves the rossoneri still without a win against higher standing club. This time at least they got something out of it.

Credit to Gattuso

A lot of clubs have injury problems but none more than Milan at the moment. First choice center backs, first back-up and basically the only playmaker on the sidelines. And to cap it all also star-striker suspended for the outburst against the referee last time out against Juventus.

Milan Gattuso

Only 4 players missing, you’d say, but it’s the back-bone of the team, the whole central line! The biggest issue is that Milan doesn’t have quality alternatives.

Juventus without Chiellini, Bonucci, Pjanić and Ronaldo can count on Benatia, Rugani, Bentancur and Dybala or Mandžukić to fill the void. Not exactly the same but not bad at all anyway.

Inter missing Škriniar, De Vrij, Brozović and Icardi would present Miranda, Ranocchia, Borja Valero and Lautaro Martinez. Still enough to compete in Serie A.

Gattuso reinvented the whole set-up and proposed a 3-4-3 formation with 1 natural central defender. Left- and right-back tightened it up and filled-up the central trio.

Borrini was preferred to Laxalt in the left-wing role with the Uruguayan perhaps playing the price for the error that led to Juve’s second goal two weeks ago.

Lazio vs Milan

With a decimated squad and emergency formation managed to take home a point from a direct competitor. Credit where is due!

Angry Gattuso? With who?

The interesting fact is that Milan didn’t make a single substitution during the whole game! Not even in the final minutes when leading by a single goal to steal some time and disrupt Lazio’s assault.

As far as I remember, similar behaviour had Fabio Capello when still in charge of Juventus just before Calciopoli in a European cup match.

Admittedly Gattuso’s options were limited, to say the least, however there were some changes he could made. There were some players that already participated in important matches waiting for their chance.

One is surely aforementioned Laxalt. Replacing off-from Calhanoglu and adding some bite and dynamism would be welcome.

The other is Castillejo. Coming on for Cutrone in the dying minutes just to steal a few seconds if nothing else could be useful.

If a manager like Mourinho would do something like that the message would be clear to his employers; I need more quality players!

But Ringhio isn’t like that. He doesn’t play mind-games with anybody. He’s a sincere, straight-forward person, perhaps too much occasionally.

Laxalt and Castillejo

Milan doesn’t have a roster to compete with the big boys, proven on different occasions. Everybody knows it and the manager probably said it loud and clear to people upstairs in private. Ergo reported deals for Paqueta and Ibrahimović are being finalized.

Being an emotional individual he’s probably angry at mentioned players, Laxalt and Castillejo. Or at least not happy with their contribution in the last outings.

Should that be the case the duo are in for a very intense and most likely long period of regaining manager’s faith. Wouldn’t want to be in their shoes…

Milan blew it, again

Against a strong rival in difficult circumstances and with an experimental starting eleven, Milan still had three points in their pocket right until the end. Maybe not entirely deserving but had the win.

However this season they just have to concede. Only Udinese didn’t hit their net this campaign in Italy’s top competition. All others did and so did Lazio. In the most dramatic of fashions with the last kick of the game after a half-cleared high ball in the box.

Correa goal

Just as in the city derby against Inter and earlier in the season against Atalanta.

True, Milan did beat Genoa and Udinese with last-gasp goals but those were games Gattuso’s men deserved to win. Getting points from Lazio, Inter and Atalanta, direct competitors, would also add weight to their bid for Euro places.

Inzaghi also dissatisfied?

Biancocelesti’s manager also made a move that raised a few eyebrows. Contrary to his counterpart he made all the substitutions however unexpected ones.

Midway thru the second half he called out Luiz Alberto and Sergej Milinković-Savić. Two most talented players of the team with the score still tied at 0-0.

The pair didn’t set the world on fire but weren’t as bad as they were on several other occasions either.

Playing Correa instead of Alberto seemed logical and made sense and eventually payed dividends.

However Lukaku for Sergej, left wing-back replacing an attacking midfielder when pushing for a win, was very surprising.

Gattuso and Inzaghi

Not a strange thing for Lazio to lose at home but this time they saved themselves.

Both teams got a point for their troubles and neither can be really pleased with it.

Juventus and Inter cruise

Juventus displayed typical performance; routine victory without breaking sweat. Never free-scoring but also rarely allowing opponents a sniff at goal. Calm, steady, always in control and consistent. Champions stuff!

Ronaldo

Inter got over their embarrassing result in Bergamo 2 weeks ago with a “walk i nthe park” against Frosinone. And discovered a new weapon in the process. Balde Keita showed glimpses of what he’s capable of win a brace.

Lautaro Martinez also opened his account in Serie A. After a fruitful pre-season finally managed a goal in the league and a lot more should follow if given the chance.

Napoli and Roma fail, again

It’s hard to think of better opposition to face before crucial Champions League matches the following week then Chievo Verona and Udinese. However Southern giants succeeded in not taking advantage of the calendar.

Ancelotti

Napoli usually made light weight of games like this. Lost to Sampdoria and Juventus and drew with Roma but against bottom half teams eventually got what they needed.

Slippery turf played in favor of the team that didn’t care too much where the ball ended as long as it’s away from goal however Chievo shouldn’t pose any kind of challenge to title hopefuls. Especially not his season!

With Juve seldom failing to get the result final triumph for Napoli, and everybody else for that matter, looks more and more unlikely.

However it’s hardly a big surprise for Roma. Roller-coaster campaign already brought some astonishing results and 4th domestic defeat. If you lose to Bologna and SPAL, why not doing the same with Udinese?

Di Francesco

Elsewhere

Gervinho-driven Parma continue to impress and hold on to Europa League place. Salvation remains primary objective but after a third of the season gone it’s fair to say that targets could be reinspected.

Similarly important win for Empoli in their relegation battle. Not as high on the standings as Parma but nevertheless capable of causing a few headaches to anybody.

Home supporters can be quite happy this round as no guests took a victory. Milan could and should but ultimately didn’t.

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Milan vs Juventus No ratings yet.

Milan proved again that doesn’t have the tools to compete with the big boys in Italy. Juventus won without breaking sweat.

AC Milan lost 3rd match in the league. All defeats came against clubs who supersede the rossoneri in the standing. If in the derby della Madonnina the points eluded them at the last minute, versus Juve it was clear from the beginning that they have little chance of success.

Milan not good enough

Similarly to the other big match played in England this weekend, the Manchester derby, it was in plain view that it’s a game between two completely different worlds. Not just in terms of talent and quality throughout the squad. The main difference is that Juve has a clear identity, style of play, game-plan and a manager in full control.

Milan is pretty much a work in progress with a new formation and a lot of question marks still open on the manager. Some think Gattuso has the potential and is on the right path. Others, me included, think that he’s still too green for a club of such international pedigree. Particularly on the tactical and game reading level.

Missing basically half of the team is a point that has to be taken into consideration when judging the performance however he could do more with what he had.

Ringhio doesn’t have Allegri’s abundance in talent. He doesn’t have a Bernardeschi or Costa on the bench. Wouldn’t dream to leave Bonucci or Rugani out of the starting eleven.

So he needs to get creative and innovative. And given the opposition faced on the weekend his team selection was as much forced as it was brave. Or naive.

Gattuso

Stopping Juve

The biggest mistake, for me, was to play a 4-4-2 with Suso out wide in the midfield. Don’t get me wrong, Suso in the driving creative force of the side and is essential to have any chance of winning however not as a wide midfielder against Juve.

Alex Sandro as his mirror is an attack-minded full-back. With Juve keeping possession and controlling the game you have to close all channels leading to your goal. Suso can’t guarantee you much needed defensive stability to contain Brazilian’s forward forays.

The opener is evident proof of that. Alex had all the time in the world to adjust the ball, carefully check the situation in the Milan box and serve a precise cross for Mandžukič to head home.

In that situation Abate was outnumbered and couldn’t risk closing down Alex Sandro while leaving Ronaldo unmarked.

Juve goal

It bothers me to say this but in a game like this Borrini, with his fighting spirit and endless energy, would be a better option in the wide position. Suso would be moved in a free role behind Higuain in place of a confused Castillejo.

Even if he made the mistake leading to the second goal, on the opposite flank Laxalt would be a better option than Calhanoglu. The Turk is extremely talented and certainly has a future at the club but he going thru a rough patch and isn’t contributing as expected in the attacking sense. Without the ball he’s putting in decent work-rate however Laxalt offers you more.

Flanks closed, and the middle?

With Bonucci on the bench the only play-making option for Juve was Pjanić and Suso would go on to follow the Bosnian closely and disturb his game. This would force one of bianconeri’s central defenders to initiate attacks. But neither Chiellini nor Benatia are as nearly comfortable on the ball as Milan’s former captain.

Bakayoko and Kessie are capable of matching Matuidi and Bentancur’s dynamism so there would be less passing options for Juve.

Dybala was floating around in search for space and not giving any reference points to Milan’s defenders. His movement as well as Ronaldo’s would have to be tracked by central defenders and one full back, depending on which side Juve’s attack is developing.  

In this way Milan would have greater stability in defensive phase and Juve would have to work much harder to get in behind the defensive line or earn clean crossing positions.

When in possession?

With Suso’s free and his natural tendency to start from the right and cut inside on his magical left foot, you pressure Juve’s left side of defence. With Borrini’s aid in dragging defender’s attention and Ronaldo not tracking back, Suso would have only Matuidi on his way.

Kessie supporting from the central role would keep Pjanić busy so he couldn’t offer Matuidi enough cover all the time.

The Frenchman is a beast in breaking-up play but in the course of 90 minutes the Spanish wizard would have it better at least a couple of times and thus possibility to create something.

Milan

Additionally, I’d instruct Suso to mirror Ronaldo’s movement and always stay on the same side in case the Portuguese superstar shifts to the right. In this way numerical advantage on that side would be gained with wide midfielders, Borrini or Laxalt, occupying respective defenders and full-backs offering always a safe passing option.

Everything would depend from one man however it’s the case anyhow. Relieving him from strict defensive duties and leaving him floating in the attacking third at will at least you put him in better conditions to hurt the opponent.

Higuain?

I believe he was aware that he’d see even less of the ball as did against Inter. It’s difficult to prevent Juve to isolate your striker.

Anyway Higuain is a world class striker and needs just half a chance to take his team in front.

Actually, even with Milan offering next to nothing in goal threat sense, Pipita had his opportunity. But he blew it.

Szczesny read former teammate’s intention and produced a great save from the penalty awarded for Benatia’s hand-ball.

Leveling just before half time would give Milan much needed confidence for the second period.

I’m sure Juve would won anyway but Higuain would not be expelled later on for an emotional outburst towards the referee. For a foul on in the middle of the park.

Higuain

What about Ronaldo?

Same old story. Played his own match in the match, never let shooting opportunity go by and eventually scored the all important second goal. The one ended all hopes Milan had of getting something out of this.

After some dreadful defending pounced on a loose ball in the heart of the box and finished expertly.

During the week he was cut short of his free-kick privileges and rightfully so. Juve have valid alternatives in Pjanić and Dybala and it’s their turn to show what are capable of.

What next for Milan?

Three indications give a proof, as it is said, so Milan has a lot of work to do to compete with the big guns.

With this squad they can win against smaller teams, as they’re doing this season. But to push for greater objectives a lot more quality in depth is needed.

And fix the conceding issue! Defensive organization is a big problem this season. Milan just can’t keep a clean sheet!

Elsewhere?

Milan can take some satisfaction from Inter’s result this weekend. The neroazzurri’s apathetic showing was no match to Atalanta’s dynamic display and the Bergamo outfit deservedly won 4-1. Apparently congested fixtures lately took a huge physiological and physical tally, particularly the double clash against Barcelona in Champions League, which culminated this weekend.

Atalanta

Napoli and Roma won respective matches to keep within touching distance from Juve. Lazio and Cagliari got a point from a tricky away games against Sassuolo and SPAL respectively.

Fiorentina lost 2 points right at the death to Frosinone and Empoli earned an important win against fellow salvation hopefuls Udinese.

Juventus almost allowed innocuous opposition to get back in the game, again, but this Milan side simply can’t come close to the serial champions. Neither in terms of player nor managerial quality.

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UEFA Champions League – game over? No ratings yet.

UEFA Champions League is regarded as world’s top football competition. Even better then the World Cup. And now it’s coming to an end.

Footballleaks made public documents where it is clear that some of the biggest clubs in Europe decided to part ways with the sports continental governing body and start a competition that they’ll run as they deem appropriate.

What’s the idea?

Real, Bayern, Juve, Barca

The idea is to have a league of 16 clubs from Europe’s most infuential countries playing in the Super League.

Historical continental heavyweights such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Bayern Munich decided that they have the right to confront the best in the continent no matter what some criteria might say.

Newly great clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG, with their economical power are welcome to join the elite even if there are no traces of them in the history of international competitions. OK, Chelsea won the CL in 2012 but that’s recent history, after multi-million take-over. You might argue the same even for Arsenal but the London club at least won the Cup Winner’s Cup in the 1990’s so there is at least some trace of them.

If you want to organize a league you need sufficient participants.

Super League

Can’t be hard to find somebody to participate in a league where the big boys play so Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, AS Roma and Olympique de Marseille accepted the invitation.

Ironically Olympique Marseille won the first edition of the UEFA Champions League, and the only for France, and Inter Milan is the last Italian club to lift the famed trophy but they’re not in the founders circle.

The competition would be very similar to the current format of the Champions league but with a closed circle of constant participants and carefully selected others to fill the blanks. No more lucky entries from Europe’s eastern countries who steal the show such as Steaua Bucharesti, Crvena Zvezda Belgrade, Dynamo Kyiv,…

Proof that the league has nothing to do with historical achievements, results or performances. It’s all about money!

What about the other historicaly big clubs in Europe?

There are some clubs from other countries that made football history. Clubs like Glasgow Rangers and Celtic from Scotland, Benfica and Porto from Portugal, AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven from Netherlands, Anderlecht from Belgium.

Well, the idea is to have also Super League 2, or whatever it would be called, in order to have promotions and relegations, just to make everything more interesting. Naturally, league’s founders couldn’t be relegated.

Which clubs would be there isn’t clear yet but my guess is that clubs such as Sevilla, Valencia, Napoli, Lazio, Tottenham, Zenit and Shakhtar Doneck would be added to some of the other teams that made history in the game.  

What does UEFA think of it?

It’s not something new. UEFA changed the competition’s formation several times and increased prizes in order to please the biggest money-makers is the sport.

In 1992 started the competition as we know it today, the Champions League. Before it was named Champions Cup and included only domestic league winners. Since the richest clubs wanted to compete in the top European level every year, UEFA had no chance then to make it happen. And duly organized a competition that didn’t include only the winners but also other top-seeded teams from respective countries.

Number of teams from each country was decided by UEFA’s coeficient which is calculated based on success in international competition in last 5 years.

It silenced the elite for a while but once Germany surpassed Italy in the ranking and got 4th club in the competition at the expense of the Italians, again everything was wrong.

So UEFA decided that the most influential countires would have guarenteed number of spots in the competition.

But as UEFA always promoted equal chances for everybody had to introduce fair-play regulations. Primarly regarding finances in order to maintain a level of competitivity between the rich and the others. The principle was to spend what you earn.   

However at every opportunity helped cutting corners to giants and ruthlessly slammed the others. Just ask Rubin Kazan about the punishement for not sustaining to the FFP rules. And what was the treatment of PSG and Manchester City?

AC Milan was also under investigation last summer and threatened with international exclusion but somehow convinced the authorities that everything will be fine.

UEFA basically did everything the giants requested and yet could be cut out from a multi-billion business.

UEFA, Čeferin

What can UEFA do?

That’s a good question. The clubs that desire to compete in the international competitions need to apply and follow some strict rules regarding infrastructure (stadium) and organization (youth sector).

If the biggest clubs don’t send their application, what can UEFA do? Exclude the club? Well, they already auto-excluded themselves so it’s not an option.

Penalise the national assosiation? For what? If a club doesn’t want to participate in a competition you can’t force it. Even if you could, they could play the reserve team. And then what?

Could they ban the related countries from the next European championships? Perhaps, but who would be at a loss? Who could prevent the assosiations to organize a Super League for national teams?

UEFA already organized the Nations League to satisfy the biggest countries. To save them from travels to the end of the world and possible humiliation of defeat to footballing excotics. It’s OK for now, but what will happen once a heavy-weight will be relegated to 2nd or even 3rd tier?

When would Super League start?

In 2021 the current agreement with UEFA on the CHampions League format and revenue sharing expires. The best time to start something new is when the existing is over.

Leak or strategical PR and negotiating advantage?

Is this really leak of confidential information or a strategical move? Perhaps initial discovery was the help from FIFA and UEFA to oil magnates in pumping the money into PSG and Man City not caring about FFP and the Super League story serves as a distraction?

Al-Khelafi

Perhaps it is strategical PR in preparing the audience for something new and exiting? Building the expectation and turning on the heat? In ideal circumstances UEFA’s revenues would drastically decrease due to these rumors and elite clubs would come as the Mesiah’s to the sport.

Could be that the clubs are looking for a better negotiationg position? Bigger slice in the next agreement?

Real Madrid won the last CL and got app. 80 mio € from the continental top organization for their effort. In the Super League their share could rise up to over 500 mio € per season.

Only Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich denied any implications, probably because the story was lunched by a German media, Der Spiegel.

And by rejecting the idea of an exit from the Bundesliga are they sending a message to the German national football association?

Rummenigge

A lot of questions are arising due to the leaks and surely the dust won’t settle for some time. And while everybody’s discussing about it, what other surprises are being prepared?

Whatever the truth behind these leaks is it won’t change the one that makes the world go round; rich will get richer on the back of the poor who’ll get poorer.

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