AC Milan 1-0 Empoli: Five things we learned – impressive outings and wasted chances

By Ivan Stoev -

Coming off the back of a 4-2 win in the Europa League, Milan had to focus their attention on Serie A, where the aim is to finish second and steal the spot from Juventus in the process.

Pioli fielded a strong starting eleven with a bit of rotation compared to the mid-week fixture, given he made six changes. Despite the home advantage and their opponent sitting 16th in the league, Milan didn’t really seem so dominant in the opening minutes, although it’s fair to say they controlled the game.

It was in the 40th minute when Noah Okafor found Christian Pulisic in the box, and the American managed to put the ball in the back of the net and give his team the lead.

The second half was similar to the first: Milan controlled the game well and were the side creating the more dangerous chances, while Mike Maignan had little to at the other end. Here are five observations from the game…

1. The right kind of return

Fikayo Tomori returned to the starting XI, and what better way to come back than with a clean sheet. Milan were able to play with a higher line with him on the pitch, as he showed his pace on a couple of occasions to recover the ball.

With the Rossoneri struggling to control games this season and conceding lots of sloppy goals, it’s good to see that Tomori is back with such a positive performance.

Although he’s still not fully fit, he will most likely play a crucial role in Milan’s attempt to secure the second spot in Italy and reach the latter stages of the Europa League.

2. Right-back with a bang

Davide Calabria hasn’t really played that much lately, with Alessandro Florenzi getting quite a bit of playing time partly because his team-mate was out with an injury, which allowed him to start a few games in a row.

Against Empoli, however, the captain started the game and it is fair to say he had a really solid performance. He did everything right at the back and was constantly involved in the attack as well.

This opened up a lot of space for Pulisic, who also had a great game (more to come on him). Overall, it was a really solid performance by the captain, who lead the way in both phases.

3. Double digits

We’ve mentioned Pulisic quite a bit in recent weeks in a more negative light as he has struggled as of late following a great start to the season. However, the praise can now follow as he got his 10th goal of the season.

Throughout his struggles, he did find a way to grab a goal or assist to help his team win crucial points. Against Empoli, it wasn’t just the goal that set him apart though, it was his overall performance.

He also won the MOTM in our post-game ratings and that is because the American was all over the place as he was involved in the majority of the dangerous attacks Milan had on the day, carrying the attack in Rafael Leao’s absence.

Calabria’s high work rates down the flank also helped Pulisic, who exploited the extra space and played potentially his strongest game since the turn of the year.

4. Little and large

Ismael Bennacer and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have had mixed performances as of late, but the duo were both at a much higher level against Empoli.

The Algerian did start the game rather slowly, with some possession errors, but it is important to remember that he is still in the process of returning to his best after a very serious injury. He grew as the game progressed, looking his dynamic self on the ball and having a big hand in the opener.

Loftus-Cheek was also at the race was arguably the second-best player after Pulisic. The Englishman didn’t manage to get a goal this time out but was involved in plenty of dangerous attacks as he exploited the space between Empoli’s defensive and midfield lines very effectively.

The ex-Chelsea used his strength really well and was good in 1v1 situations to allow himself space to make a shot, and it is fair to say he was unlucky to not put the ball in the back of the net.

5. Mixed bag from the summer signings

Lastly, there are quite a few players we still need to discuss, starting with Okafor. This time, he took his chance well and got the assist on the goal.

Perhaps one could argue he should’ve done better in certain situations where he got to the byline or cut in for a shot, but in the end he was a game changer.

Luka Jovic on the other hand, was pretty invisible throughout the game and he failed to have any impact on the proceedings as he continues to struggle when given the chance to start the game.

Finally, Samuel Chukwueze came off the bench and had an unusually positive performance, looking very promising at times with his pace and dribbling which allowed him to beat his man and take a shot.

However, he needs to build on this, as there is still a long way to go before his first season can be considered salvaged.

Tags AC Milan Milan Empoli


  1. Calabria did everything right? You must be kidding me. Together with Bennacer, he was Milans worst player. Every danger Empoli had came down his side.

  2. Pulisic was struggling??? Only according you man.
    He’s been our most consistent player the entire season. I guess he was struggling when he drew 2 reds vs Lazio. Or when he drew another red against SLavia. Or when he came in against Monza when we were down 2 goals and a man, and had a goal and an assist to lead a comeback? I wish all our players would struggle this much… Stop with the nonsense please.
    And Calabria was mediocre at best. The only moment of note from that game was when he missed a free header from 3 yards out.

  3. Really surprised at the praise for Calabria. I thought he struggeld heavily vs Empoli. I do say he gets a lot of hate but tbh i wouldnt say he did well vs empoli. He was Milans worst player that day

  4. 1. Florenzi has been much better than Calabria, who wasn’t that great against Empoli as the author of this article is saying. I get that Calabria being Italian and the captain, he gets a pass from some people. I’m Italian too, but I do know that he hasn’t been very good. By the way, Florenzi is also Italian so I don’t understand the bias in favor of Calabria when the two of them are compared. Maybe because Calabria came from our Academy and Florenzi didn’t. But the truth is, Calabria is a limited player and at his age he is not likely to improve more. He is irregular; he can put together good performances but also terrible ones when he leaves too much space behind him or gets eaten alive by left wingers. Calabria is often a liability. Against Empoli his attempts to support the offense were largely imprecise and unproductive. He also missed a huge scoring chance that other players might have converted.

    2. Pulisic wasn’t “struggling.” He has been a fabulous player most games. When he is not as successful in offense, he still moves a lot, tracks back, helps with defense, and generally upsets and disorganizes the opponents who end up fouling him and getting yellows and reds. Pulisic was the best summer signing. He is intelligent and has enormous work ethic and effort. He is also a very nice guy.

    Pulisic has two more goals in other competitions. He has 10 goals and six assists, that is, 16 goal contributions. That, for a winger, is NOT struggling. Add to this his outstanding defensive work and how he draws fouls that damage the opponent with yellows and reds, and you have a VERY efficient player.

    Only in the opinion of the author of this piece, Pulisic is “struggling.” Ratings here for him often say that he could have done more. Like what? This is said in games where he scores, assists, draws a red, defends… what more do people always want for them, just so that they don’t have to acknowledge that he is a great player? I guess some people are still upset that we have an American owner and we signed a great American player. They assumed he was being signed just because he is American. They called him a Chelsea reject. Instead, he turned out to be one of Milan’s very best players.

    Go Pulisic. Love ya. Keep up with the good work. I wish we had 11 “struggling” players like you in our starting 11.

    1. You don’t get the bias in favour of our longest serving player, captain, youth product and hero of so many matches?

      If you and so many fans don’t get that, then Milan have no chance of returning to the top because we can’t return to the top without support from the fans.

      Loyalty is actually a really big thing, and if fans are unable to show loyalty why should players?

      This is the essence of what makes a football team.

      We should be mad at anyone who criticises our captain as we would if anyone criticises our family.

      The Milan Family was the thing that made Milan the greatest club on the planet.

        1. Calabria is good, not great. Credit to him for his leadership and loyalty but let’s be honest, he’s not even our best RB at the moment as Kalulu and Florenzi are better. Speaking of loyalty is there anyone who would rather have Tonali back in place of Reijnders or RLC right now? Come on the great Milan teams of the past weren’t just built on long serving Italians, but big international signings like Van Basten, Sheva, and Kaka.

          1. Calabria has got more assists than Florenzi and Kalulu combined….and has managed to mark the world’s best players out of games.

            And yes I would 100% have Tonali back because our midfield has been our weakest area all season.

            It’s not about ‘Italians’, it’s about loyalty to players who you are supposed to SUPPORT.

            That is what SUPPORTING means.

            And the likes of Van Basten (who spent years injured), Sheva (who scored 5 goals in 24 appearances in 02/03) and Kaka (who failed at Real) were all built on the solid foundations of a TEAM.

            And that is why when Sheva only scored 5 goals in 24 appearances in 02/03, the club stood by him and he went on to score 24 in 32 the following season and won the Ballon d’Or.

            TEAMS stick together.

            If fans can’t figure out why it’s important to back and highly performing captain, then we are going nowhere as a club.

          2. Are you saying Florenzi is great then? I guess we will just have to disagree on this topic. But it’s true we always have had international stars just like RM and Barça and all the other great teams from the past 30 years.

          3. “Speaking of loyalty is there anyone who would rather have Tonali back in place of Reijnders or RLC right now”
            First of all what does loyalty have to do with ones preference of a past player to the current ones. Second, Tonali doesn’t play the same position as RLC. Reinjders happens to play a pivot but is far worse than Tonali in that position. Deers should be playing further forward or as a mezzala as he was meant to be. Each player has their merit. But the original point was on longer serving players which you added to the general point. Right now our longest serving are the best apart from Pulisic

        2. a) ‘Good performances’ is not entirely objective, there’s a high degree of subjectivity;

          b) Even on objective measure Calabria has put in ‘good performances’ as shown by his role in our resurgence, Scudetto, marking Europe’s top players and assists.

          c) There can’t be a return to the top without fans supporting the team and the players (especially after they put in ‘good performances’.

          Yours is just more pretend high standards. You pretend you’ve got this big idea about what a top, top, top side is but you don’t.

          You lack the discipline, loyalty, and commitment required for a top, top, top side.

      1. This is like Manchester united talking about a Treble they won 25 years ago.
        Like bro, comeon
        Honestly they should do what NFL teams do;
        BAN all Former players and coaches from the Stadium and from talking to players.

  5. Sarri’s Lazio lost at home to Udinese, and some want him to be Milan’s next coach.
    Milan already has a coach that loses at home to Udinese.
    Milan needs a better coach than they have now, not a Pioli who smokes.

    1. Look at the Lazio team…. Enough said.

      You know who exploded under Sarri? RLC.
      You k ow who has a higher potential under Sarri? Leao.

      I wouldn’t be opposed to Sarri but he wouldn’t be my top choice.

    1. It’s absolutely insane the criticism he gets.

      If anything I would expect fans to be biased IN FAVOUR of our longest serving player, captain, youth product and hero of so many matches.

      The way some fans overlook Adli and Thiaw giving away penalties, or Musah doing circles and hitting panicked clearances, or Reijnders being overrun in midfield, or any number of our other players who have made mistakes.

      Hell Florenzi is preferred even though he cost Italy World Cup qualification.

      Some fans point out that Calabria doesn’t get selected for the national team. But the response by fans to their players not getting selected should be to defend the players not double down on their criticisms.

      Lots of top players were never selected for their national teams for many reasons.

      Rossi didn’t go to the World Cup the season he broke the record for clean sheets, conceded just 15 league goals and won the Scudetto and Champions League double.

      The same year Tassotti was picked ahead of Panucci despite the latter being our first choice.

      The fact that Ginola or Cantana were omitted by France was never used by their club fans to criticise the players. It was usually a relief that they wouldn’t get injured on international duty.

      For me a lot of this is tied to the mythology around the ‘Great Milan Sides’.

      The myth is that the ‘Great Milan Sides’ had these players who forged in the heart of dying stars….Mythical creatures like Rossi, Panucci, Evani, Eranio, Marco Simone, Massaro, Brocchi, Ambrosini, Brocchi……

      They imagine that a player like Calabria could never reach such levels.

      A player like Florenzi who struggled for games at PSG might, but not a player that came from our youth team. Could you imagine?

      It’s the same with Pobega and will soon be the same with Gabbia again.

      Gabbia has had to play like a lion to keep the critics off his back but one mistake and the media, fans and club will turn on him.

      Youth players – the ones we should love the most – are given the least benefit of doubt. New signings must really bomb to be written off.

      This is the way.

      1. You apply so much fluff to everything is an obvious attempt to justify your points.

        Calabria is an ok player, but he clearly has a ceiling which he has reached. His skills and technique are limited and he gets by on sheer commitment, which I do appreciate by the way. But he’s limited.

        People “criticizing” him are basically saying that, for Milan to reach the next level and improve, having a much more capable right back is clearly possible and would drastically improve the entire team.

        Sometime it’s as simple as “he’s just not quite good enough”, and you don’t have to apply any sort of presumed bias to it.

        1. What fluff?

          And nothing is that simple because it’s a not. It’s not some computer game.

          You have no idea what his ceiling is. You’re just making it up.

          But the evidence to date is he’s a player who has marked the best player in the world out of games.

        2. Exactly. An OK player with a ceiling. I don’t care for what Maldini’s Heir is saying about Calabria’s past when I’m talking about CURRENT form. Sure, nice, Academy product, longest serving, the captain. But the fact is that CURRENTLY Calabria has reached his ceiling and he has been a liability for the team, rather than an asset. Maldini’s Heir preaches for “loyalty” and unconditional support. But the issue is, true Milan fans want the team to do as well as possible, and CURRENTLY having Calabria as Right Back is NOT conducive of the team doing as well as possible. Sure, we can continue to love Calabria for his past and his qualities but CURRENTLY he should be a back-up player, with a better RB getting starting duties; Calabria can come in as a sub to rest the starting RB. We’d do better with that, and as a passionate Milan fan, that’s what I want. Unconditional support shouldn’t be as blind as leading to Milan keeping as starter, a player who is no longer starting material.

          1. Loyalty was standing by Milan during the banter era.

            Admitting that Milan needs an upgrade on Calabria’s skill set is not a lack of loyalty. It’s wanting the best for the club. Its evolution.

            Standing by a player simply because he has been there the longest is misplaced loyalty. No player is above the club. I praise Calabria for his service to the club.

            BUT we need a RW player with a higher skill set. It’s not even about loyalty. It’s evolution. That’s it.

          2. Oh let’s ignore the past, misrepresent the present, and wildly speculate about the future….

            It’s just people looking for another ‘upgrade’. Maybe some 20 year old from the Dutch league who hasn’t won anything but has a high ‘ceiling’.

      2. You are the one that is biased towards Calabria. It comes through in every post you write, about him being a youth academy product and the longest serving player, etc..
        Your bias does not allow you to be objective. The rest of us can see that he is limited technically and isn’t even a very good defender any more. People who are objective can see that Florenzi has been better this season. And you can keep saying that he shuts down the best winger, but we both know that’s not true. Every time we face a dangerous LW Pioli has to designate at least one of the DM’ s to help him out.

        1. He is good. He is also inconsistent. He has merits and he has flaws, like any player. We just need an upgrade. That’s all.

          Not sure how loyalty comes into any of this.

          1. He’s not inconsistent at all!

            He’s probably our most consistent defender.

            Tomori, Thiaw, Kalulu, Kjaer, Theo and Florenzi have all made far more mistakes and been far more inconsistent.

          2. He IS inconsistent, I like Calabria but you talk about him like he is the second coming of Cafu.
            This idea of him marking the best players is a big misconception. During those games we sat back A LOT and had DMs (either Krunic last season or Reijnders this one) helping him. Mbappe and Kvaratskhelia were double-marked, they were NEVER soloed by Calabria.
            This season he was beaten quite often on the wing because of his lack of speed (Lecce’s Banda pretty much owned him), and in posterior games made many bad tackles that nearly costed us or did cost us.
            Like many rightfully said, he is an OK player, not too bad, not too great. I don’t mind having him as a RB, in fact I don’t even think we should look for a RB this summer, but you’re overrating him and then trying to make statments like performance is subjective (it’s not) among others.

        2. I said I am biased!

          It shouldn’t be in the slightest bit controversial to be biased about a player who plays for your own club!

          If you don’t get that fundamental point then we are going nowhere as a club.

          And there’s nothing objective about what anyone is saying because it’s all opinion. The fact that you think it’s some kind of science also shows a lack of understanding of the game.

          Calabria can be our Gary Neville. I am sure you think he was terrible too but he doesn’t care because has lots of titles.

      3. Winning teams are not 11 super stars. (See PSG previous two years).

        Teams cover all skill sets to accomplish an objective. Calabria certainly covers the defensive role of RB. He also seems to get involved often in offense tho isn’t as effective.

        But because we are a team, we have Puli to cover for that lack on the right front and Theo on the left. Nice Balance.

        Teams are more than the sum of the individual parts.

        Case in point. Tomorri is back and our midfield looked quite a bit better. I expect this trend to continue.

        The team is a system and changes to a part impact others.Calabria is great.for Milan because Theo gets forward so often. He is able to invert and cover for a mid like Benny who roams forward according to the design. Etc etc etc.

        Oops, now I credit Pioli for having a plan from the beginning so of course that can’t be right. Pioli must leave after all!

        Or … I will watch these laat 11+ games with all the players returning to fitness.
        All the individual pieces should now become more than the sum of their parts. If not then and only the Pioli’s reached his zenith.

        We are 2nd in the league. We had over 30 injuries and 3 of the players were out first three choices for CB and each missed two or more months. Or key mid is returning from 10 months injury and a trip to AFCON.

        Calabria is part of the crew that’s held it together. Indeed he is the _captain_ of that crew.

        Forza Milan. GrazI Davide

  6. We Need A ST like Zirkee or Sesko As Giroud Is Old He is still giving his Best
    Just Imagine
    LW Leao
    ST Zirkee/Sesko (Giroud as sub)
    RW Pulisic
    CAM Okafor
    Just Fire
    And surely need a CB of Tomori s level Kiwior is in talks but I don’t want a lonie tbf
    Love to Milan From India
    Forza Milano

  7. It seems like everyone wants a new RB but is that our biggest need right now? If so who is realistic upgrade? Rico Lewis from City or Fresneda from Sporting? We don’t have the cash to splash 45 million quid on Reece James.

    1. No you’re right we should spend 100m on RB, maybe someone from the Portuguese league with you know a high ‘ceiling’. Definitely rated like 90+ in FIFA.

      Actually better still, maybe do what we did last summer and sign 3 RBs – if we sign 3 then 1 is bound to work out.

      1. I didn’t really see anyone say we need to sign a new right back. It was basically a conversation about Calabria’s limitations as a player.

        We have Florenzi who adds a lot to the team, and it would be really interesting to see Kalulu get a run of a few matches there to see how he settles in.

        I saw ACM1899 say we need an “upgrade”, but that could have meant using one of our current players in that position as the starter.

    2. ^^ This.

      To your point

      I don’t want a new RB. I want a solid deputy to Theo and the cash.

      I want the cash for a striker.
      I want the cash for a solid deputy to Puli. (I’d take Salad to save even more cash)
      I want the cash to keep Giroud as deputy to NewStriker.

      I do think @MH is a bit over the top but at least he is honest about it.

      Calabria will be more consistent now that he has our first choice CBs back in the fold. Or, if not, we reevaluate the position in the summer.

  8. I follow Gary Neville on LinkedIn.

    He posts some really interesting insights about his playing career.

    In one post he explained what gave him his drive.

    He said that for him his main driver as a footballer was to play for Man Utd. Every day he fought for that right. The thought of leaving his boyhood club was too much.

    It’s what drove him to give extra every single day.

    You cannot buy that.

    To win titles you need Gary Neville’s.

    We should remember that before the media, owners, agents and fans start to get itchy feet, and we began the long painful turning on Calabria.

    Mistakes will be pounced on, achievements dismissed, as we gradually, day by day, grind down our captain, and our football team. And wonder why we are going nowhere as a club.

    1. So many of your posts have false logic.. you make statements that people might think make sense if they don’t think about them for more than 1 second.

      You say “to win titles you need Gary Neville’s”. By this, and by your previous comment about him, it seems you’re saying he’s basically a loyal yet sub-par player.

      Why would you “need” these types of players? Who is the Gary Neville of Manchester City?

      1. False logic or basic logic that you’re struggling to follow?

        Now to be clear I am using Gary Neville as a metaphor here because one cannot have a team of Gary Neville’s (ever, especially in 2024).

        No a Gary Neville is a solid player who gives the team an identity and foundation. Mourinho normally identifies a few Gary Neville’s when he joins teams (Terry/Lampard at Chelsea and Cristante/Pellegrino at Roma). These are the anchor around which the team is built.

        I don’t get into rating players because, well, real life is not a computer game and footballers aren’t models who one rates as ‘hot or not’.

        Every player (and we’re talking elite athletes here) has strengths and weaknesses, and at the top, top, top level mental strength in a probably the most defining element (thus some amazingly talented players haven’t won anything).

        And winning my friend is what it’s all about.

        Calabria is a proven as evidenced by all of the winning we’ve done with him in the team (which has helped Pioli go level with Ancelotti on points).

        So we have this guy who has helped us win, is our captain, youth product, one of our leading assist providers, and consistent players, and you don’t ‘rate’ him how?

        1. “one of our leading assist providers?”
          This part is very misleading, he is indeed one of our leading assist providers but he’s also playing for Milan since almost a decade. Do you think it’s fair to compare his cumulative assist to Florenzi and Kalulu who were in Milan since 2021 and 2020 respectively and play generally way less minutes than Calabria ?

          1. Not going for or against both of you, just providing the stats:
            Entire career, domestic.
            Per 90mins

            Goals asts xG xA

            Flo 0.16 0.12 0.10 0.15
            Calab 0.05 0.10 0.06 0.07
            Kalulu 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.04

            Hope the table comes out right.

            Defensively though, Calabria has the better overall stats of the three with Flo coming out the worse in most categories.
            Make what you will of it. I personally don’t have an issue with Calab, he does do an outstanding job against some big name opponents. For me, I’d say play whichever one to the opposition. If we meet up PSG or Napoli, Calab is your guy. For other games Flo might be better

          2. I didn’t say that Florenzi nor Kalulu are better than Calabria, defensively as a RB I think Calabria is the man, what I said it is unfair to say that he has more assists than both of them while he’s been around much longer and generally play more often than them.
            What do I think of Calabria ? He is an OK player. He does have good games and bad games and getting a new RB is certainly not a priority. Perhpas even the last post we should reinforce.

          3. “what I said it is unfair to say that he has more assists than both of them while he’s been around much longer and generally play more often than them.”

            Yes, that’s why I provided the per 90mins stat. So you guys won’t have to judge based on who has more but who has a better rate 🤷‍♂️

          4. Of course it is misleading. Also, you don’t need any stats for this. Anyone with eyes can see the difference between the balls that Florenzi delivers in vs Calabria. It’s not close. If you say they are comparable you are either dishonest or you have no idea what you are looking at. Not to mention Florenzi is the only one on the team that can deliver a decent corner.
            You can argue that Calabria is a better defender, but Florenzi has actually played quite a bit of minutes this season and I can’t really remember him having a bad day defensively or making any big mistakes. Can’t say the same about Calabria.

        2. For the record, I don’t mind having Calabria on the squad, and do respect and appreciate his loyalty to the club and think it is important.

          But if you think he’s a top-tier footballer who belongs in the starting lineup of one of the biggest clubs in the planet, then I don’t think you have a keen eye regarding the quality of players. He gets by with his work rate, but will never help the team jump a level because of his limited footballing abilities.

          The only thing the assist stat shows us is that stats can be misleading. You can’t possibly make an argument that Calabria has either above average vision or above average technique.

        3. Everyone will tell you how average Calabria is and ignore that he is the best RB or LB defender we have. They will point to Flo’s crosses but ignore that he can’t defend and is getting old. Offensively he does things some don’t see, just look at Pulisic goal drought and guess who was back behind him?? My god it was Flo and when Calabria is back, wow Pulisic scores again. Calabria must go he sucks.

    1. I believe it was a discussion about whether or not he is good enough to help Milan get back to the top level of European football.

      Anyways, good chat.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.