It was a really tough European night for the Rossoneri, losing 2-0 at home to a focused and inspired Arsenal side. While the Gunners showed they were up for the race to the final, Milan failed to do so. Here are 5 things we’ve learned from what felt like a strong delusion.
1. 580 minutes without conceding, for what?
It seemed like Gattuso had found the perfect lock for any opposition, however, he had always insisted on the fact that Milan had a long way to go before reaching a perfect balance. Yesterday proved that in a shocking manner, especially in the first half.
In fact, the defensive solidarity we’ve been used to see these last few weeks was completely absent. This showed particularly on the flanks as Rodriguez and especially Calabria were far from confident in defending although they weren’t really helped by the wingers on the day.
Combine that with loads bad decision making and you’ve got the right ingredient mix to concede two in the first half. The team clearly lacked mental strength and I think every player will acknowledge that in preparation for Sunday’s away game in Genoa.
2. Hakan and Jack powerless
One of the hardest part to watch was probably the connection between Calhanoglu and Bonaventura and their powerless efforts on the day. In fact, only Suso was really able to move around the pitch and bring danger in the penalty box.
On the other side of the field, things were a lot more dreadful and not a lot of chances were created, resulting in Cutrone needing to come and help, leaving the box empty. While Calhanoglu was brought off the pitch around the hour-mark, Bonaventura played the whole game and found himself trying without succeeding. His volley-miss in the penalty box kind off reflected the spirit of the team on the day.
3. Kessie still has some work to do
Kessie is arguably the best at making fans go “wow”, running with ease past half the visitor’s team, displaying incredible physical capabilities and then failing a straightforward pass.
Yesterday was the day when we needed him on “Tank” mode and nothing else. Gattuso must feel that there is work to be done and that he can train the lad to become an unstoppable force in the midfield. There is so much more to be awaited from him in games that are difficult to play given the strength and power he can bring to the team.
4. A positive view of 4-4-2
Around the hour-mark, Gattuso brought Kalinic on for Calhanoglu to play alongside Cutrone in a more classic 4-4-2. While the young lad was substituted a few minutes later to leave place to Andre Silva, it was an interesting sight nonetheless.
As Bonaventura moved to the left flank, it was down to Biglia and Kessie to ensure the transmission to the flank and the strikers. I personally liked the way they did it, as Kessie came back low to receive the ball and did not hesitate to use power to try to force his way higher up the pitch.
Biglia, on the other hand, has been more subtle moving in between left wing and the midfield where there was a lot more space to advance the ball, a clever move. Added to that, we saw Silva almost delivering a perfect assist for Kalinic, however, Ospina came out quickly to stop the Croatian. There surely are positives to take from that game and the 4-4-2 is certainly an alternative.
5. A lack of clever play and experience
During the game, fans might have felt that only the more experienced players, Bonucci and Biglia, were the ones to show they had more experience in European Football. In truth, it probably comes down to that, given the average age of our Starting XI.
Although the team has established itself in Italian football since the start of 2018, it would always be much harder facing an experienced Arsenal side that has been used to play midweek games for so many years.
Whatever happens in the second leg probably doesn’t justify any bashing on a team that is still pretty much in a transition phase and that is still looking for true leaders on the pitch. Things need to be taken step by step and there are plenty of things to be hopeful for in Serie A.