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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Milan derby and imperfect Juve No ratings yet.

Inter vs AC Milan was the match of the weekend. The Milan derby attracted all the interest and on the Penisula. Only Genoa’s point in Turin got some attention beside the derby della Madonnina.

Milan derby

The promise was great! Both giants from Milano were going thru a positive patch with the rossoneri winning three games on the trot, scoring 10 goal on the way, and the neroazzurri already forgot when the last defeat occurred. Or even a draw for that matter.

The general idea in the Italian media was that AC Milan is actually playing better at the moment but Inter has a stronger squad. Particularly in depth.

Spirits were high on the red side of the Naviglio boosted by recent victories and the numbers of goals scored in the process. Hardly there have been better circumstances when they were expecting the city duel. Higuain is scoring, the midfield is dominating games and Donnarumma isn’t making glaring mistakes. And the defense? Or better defensive phase? Well, the ball keeps on hitting the net but as long as the attackers score more, nobody cares.

On the blue side of the city the morale is high for much longer. Even if the play isn’t particularly eye-catching the results are coming good. And that’s enough. Enough to have good atmosphere in the camp and growing confidence which is one of the corner stones for success.

Inter dominance

So, everything was ready for a hard fought battle till the last drop of blood. In the end if actually was as Inter scored the match-winning goal right at the death, deep into stoppage time. However, don’t get blinded by the way the victory came.

Inter controlled the proceedings during the whole Milan derby, setting the tempo and not allowing Milan’s most dangerous players a kick. Literally! Higuain, without doubt Milan best player, didn’t get a single useful ball the whole game. Isolated upfront didn’t stand a chance against one of Europe’s best central defensive couple; De Vrij and Škriniar.

The duo reminds me of a pair of detectives in the old movies. The Dutch is well mannered, elegant, sophisticated and good ball player. Even if behaved, getting past him is a miracle.

The other is a force of nature. Tough tackling, no-nonsense, old school defender that hits you first, than out-muscles you and than takes the ball. If you even any desire left to go for it after the treatment! And both are practically unbeatable in the air! The good cop – bad cop approach works well for now and the consequence is 6 goals conceded in 9 matches. And a few of those came with Miranda in place of one or the other.

De Vrij Škriniar

 

AC Milan shortocmings

For all on Milan’s scoring ability demonstrated the last few games only real intervention Handanovič had to make is to palm away a wayward Rodriguez cross in the second half. Suso and Calhanoglu were blocked by Inter’s side defenders and Bonaventura seemed short of inspiration and space to wave his magic.

Spaletti did his homework and annulled all of Milan’s danger. The worrying thing for Gattuso is that it seemed as if Inter didn’t even had to sweat too much!

Beside win against Roma, Milan looks out of conviction and lacking concentration in confrontations with direct opponents for high places. In other words, personality! Gattuso has plenty of it and has to find a way to transfer it to his players. And soon!

This season’s only constant for Milan is to concede and duly maintained the tradition also in this match.

92nd minute, everybody is just waiting for the referee to blow the final whistle. Or at least Milan is! Bad systematic positioning and player marking forced Romagnoli out of position to follow Vecino on the side-line. The Uruguayan whips in a cross which finds Icardi on the far post for a simple finish into an empty net.

The Inter captain and ruthless finisher, didn’t believe his eyes when the ball, after 30 meters, met his head and nobody was there at least to try to scare him off!

And the rest of Milan’s defence? Good question! My guess is that they were already in the dressing room celebrating first clean sheet of the season. Or at least headed there!

It’s being continuously repeated that AC Milan needs to work on it’s defensive phase otherwise it’s going to cost them dearly. Last night it did. And surely will again.

Inter vs Milan ended in deserved hosts victory that will be additional morale-booster for the midweek trip to Barcelona. Another stern test for the cops in Inter’s defence. Even without criminal Messi.

Juventus not perfect, yet

The bianconeri gave away first points this season. Even if this draw ended their perfect season start it’s actually a good thing in my opinion. Good for them not everybody else.

After taking the lead thru Ronaldo and holding Genoa where they wanted in the first half, Juventus already departed for Manchester. Similarly to AC Milan’s defence which left the field a few minutes before the game ended. Just that Juventus left the game at the break. The goal Genoa scored was the evidence of total loss of the very minimum concentration needed to play a Serie A match.

Credit to Genoa for exploiting what was offered but if Juve would play the game at least in the 2nd gear, the rossoblu would pack their bags without a single shot fired.

This season scoring sensation, Piatek, showed glimpses of his talents. In the first half you’d hardly notice he was on the field but in the second he came to life, albeit with help from Juve. Tested Szczesny with a shot from outside of the box and won a header in the heart of Juve’s defence that could provide much more. Little you say? Perhaps, but in those two situations he displayed his technique, timing and awareness. In a side that could provide more quality service he’ll do justice to Lewandowski’s heir tag.

As for the Juventus players it’s hard to judge since they played on autopilot for the majority of the game. However, Fabio Capello’s words might have some foundation. Which words? Well, a long time ago he said that Bonucci can’t defend! He’s a great passer but he can’t defend and many Italian fans lately agree with the statement. Also Juve fans.

This result will serve Juve as a mild warning that even if you’re a level or two above your opponent you have to stay focused until the final blow. And surely they will.

And the rest

For the rest no particular surprises. Napoli won in Udine, Lazion won in Parma and Roma lost at home to relegation-threatening SPAL. Surprise? Not this year! Roma already lost 3 games this campaign. And 2 of these loses came at home against Chievo and now SPAL. To me it looks more like a trend than a surprise.

Next weekend two fixtures stand out from the pack; Milan vs Sampdoria and Napoli vs Roma. Two wounded giants seeking for redemption in bad places.

Full results

October 20

Roma 0 – 2 SPAL

Juventus 1 – 1 Genoa

Udinese 0 – 3 Napoli

October 21

Frosinone 3 – 3 Empoli

Chievo 1 – 5 Atalanta

Bologna 2 – 2 Torino

Parma 0 – 2 Lazio

Fiorentina 1 – 1 Cagliari

Inter 1 – 0 Milan

October 22

Sampdoria 0 – 0 Sassuolo

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