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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.