After a tough defeat against Spezia, Milan had the difficult task of winning against Inter in order to reclaim top spot in the table. However, the Rossoneri ended up losing yet again, failing to score for the second game in a row.
The game itself started off in the worst possible way as Inter took the lead just five minutes in. Milan were the struggling side in the first half hour without any concrete idea when on the ball. The Rossoneri finally found some space and created a few chances towards the end of the second half and continued to push after the break, but heroics from Handanovic kept Inter in front.
Unfortunately, Inter seemed to have sealed to win after the second goal in the 55th minute as Milan suffered badly on the counter-attack, before Lukaku added a third. That leaves Pioli’s side in second place, four points behind Inter and only six points above fifth place.
Here are five things we learned from the game…
1. From strength to weakness
It’s been a hell of a ride since Stefano Pioli has become head coach of AC Milan. With a wonderful 2020 behind our back, now the team has struggled a bit in the past couple of weeks.
Surprisingly, the fall come after the Rossoneri recovered most of the injured players they had. Against all odds, the team kept on winning when the likes of Kjaer, Bennacer, Rebic, Ibrahimovic and Calhanoglu were missing and now when it seemed as everyone is back for the final part of the season things have started collapsing a bit.
Now, a player that hasn’t really impressed at all this season is Alessio Romagnoli. In contrast a player that has impress massively the past year has been Theo Hernandez and there may be a correlation between the two as the system Pioli uses allow Hernandez to attack for the bigger part of the game leaving Romagnoli to cover for him and step forward in order to do so.
Unfortunately for the captain, speed is far from his best attribute and he has been exposed against faster strikers due to that very high line and his inability to recover. That has led to Alessio losing some confidence as it seems as the Italian has to react or he might end up on the bench in the coming games.
2. Gone missing
Praised a lot for his creativity, Calhanoglu is yet to produce since coming back from injury. The Turkey international is a strange enigma to pick apart as his stats show that he is indeed capable of creating chances and providing assists, but his consistency can be questioned as the playmaker struggles when playing against more aggressive sides that do not leave him much space.
It is potentially a controversial opinion, but if Milan are playing in the Champions League next season and want to raise the bar both in Europe and Serie A they might need to look elsewhere for the No.10 position unless the former Leverkusen man gets firing again – and he could.
3. Right wing a priority
It is a topic that has been spoke about a lot, but the right side has simply not brought much creativity to this Milan side this season. On the left hand side Theo Hernandez has been bursting forward all season long, but Calabria doesn’t have the same attributes to do so and Milan’s top summer priority should be the right wing.
The problem on the right has also led opponents to focus mainly on containing the left hand side of Milan’s attacks which has caused the left flank to not be as efficient as we are used to see it.
4. Knocking on the door
While Romagnoli was having a bad night, Kjaer wasn’t far off him as the Dane hasn’t enjoyed the best of form lately as well with injury problems scattered amongst that.
Fortunately for Pioli, Fikayo Tomori has shown to be an excellent choice for the centre-back position and the coach can’t really justify leaving him out of the starting XI at this point.
On the bench he also has Matteo Gabbia back from injury and Kalulu that he can trust and try to move things around the back. One thing is for sure, Tomori has been great when given the chance and Pioli cannot ignore him for much longer.
5. A crucial cog missing
While Milan have been doing great despite Bennacer’s absence, the Algerian has grown into a magnificent player over the last year and is one that knows how to keep the ball, escape the press and orchestrate the game.
We saw this in the reserve derby in the league in which Bennacer absolutely got the better of Nicolo Barella, who wasn’t at his explosive best yesterday but still found ample room to do what he does best: affect the game.
Bennacer picked up a slight injury in the Europa League after coming back from his initial injury and he should be left to properly recover now in order to get him fit for the last third of the league as he is one capable of making the difference for his side.