AC Milan 1-0 Fiorentina: Five things we learned – contrasting performances across the pitch

By Ivan Stoev -

It’s been a tough few weeks for Milan in Serie A with their last win coming against Genoa back at the beginning of October. Two losses and two draws followed, making the game against Fiorentina a must-win.

Stefano Pioli had to deal with a lot of injuries and absences, with Rafael Leao, Olivier Giroud and Noah Okafor all not available for the game causing the coach to call up 15-year-old Francesco Camarda to the squad, who has been doing wonders for the Primavera.

Christian Pulisic, Luka Jovic and Samuel Chukwueze were the front three and they were not the most productive since the trio have barely played with each other and the chemistry was just not there. That and the fact that Jovic and Chukwueze are yet to impress meant that Milan did not get plenty of chances and had to be clinical when they did, which has been an issue for them this season.

Fortunately for Pioli, In the dying minutes of the first half Jovic played a lovely ball through to Theo Hernandez, who won a penalty for his team which he converted. While Milan struggled up front, the backline seemed solid enough as they finally got that clean sheet, which they hadn’t had since that Genoa game.

Mike Maignan proved to be crucial as he made a save in the dying minutes of the game to seal the win for his team. Here are five things we learned from the game…

1. Struggles continue despite reinforcements

There was a lot of positivity around the summer transfer window and it was probably justified since Milan brought a lot of players in, especially in the attack where quality was lacking in the starting XI and on the bench.

However, despite the management’s best attempts only one player has really raised the bar and that has to be Pulisic, who has picked up four goals and two assists with some crucial contributions.

On the flip side, Jovic and Chukwueze could well be considered flops since the Nigerian was the most expensive summer signing and is yet to produce a strong performance. Jovic also falls in the same category, but on the plus side he came for a low fee and with low expectations.

And finally, Okafor – who has had some very good moments – but never seemed to get playing time continuity from Pioli and excluding a few games hasn’t really established himself in the team.

So obviously with Leao and Giroud missing we again saw Milan struggling up front and something must change, because this dependence has been there for too long.

2. The hero of the night

If we’re looking objectively at the game, Milan were not the dominant side or the more dangerous side. Fiorentina dominated possession in the second half, especially in the final minutes, and had double the shots compared to their opponent.

The only difference on the pitch was Maignan with the goalkeeper proving why he is one of the best in the world, making a couple of saves before and one huge stop in the dying minutes – with his head – to keep a clean sheet and secure the win.

The Frenchman aside, Milan were struggling to keep up with Fiorentina with a lot of players having underwhelming performances. That is what having one of the elite players in his role means though, and it is no surprise to read about planned renewal talks.

3. Tale of two sides

Theo and Davide Calabria had very contrasting performances on the night. The Frenchman scored the goal which proved to be the match-winning one and also involved himself a lot in the attacking phase, but struggled a lot in the defensive phase of the game.

Calabria, on the other hand, was solid at the back as he has been in recent months, but failed to make the impact going forward he found himself in a dangerous position on a couple of occasions but failed to be precise with his crossing.

The Italian should have picked his head up to assess his options a bit more, and if he had made the right decisions he would’ve helped his team get a much-needed second goal to calm things down. Juxtaposing performances from the full-backs, who must improve for the crucial Champions League clash against Dortmund.

4. Midfield missing in action

With Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Rade Krunic absent from the starting XI, Pioli fielded Yunus Musah, Tijjani Reijnders and Tommaso Pobega which probably wasn’t what he was hoping for and it showed.

Surprisingly Musah started the game very slowly and was sloppy for the whole first half and eventually picked up the pace a bit, but was still an average performance.

Pobega also struggled a lot as he was a tad slow although he had a few good moments including a header which troubled the goalkeeper. He also helped a lot with his physicality in the second half to win some key battles.

Reijnders was probably the only positive out of the three. He also started a bit subdued, but grew into the game and was the best of the trio. Fortunately for Pioli, Loftus-Cheek helped a lot defensively when he came off the bench to add some steel.

5. History was made

There was at least one thing for the Rossoneri fans to look forward to amid all the injury troubles and that being Camarda’s debut. The youngster was called up to the game due to Giroud and Okafor being out, and whilst it wasn’t a given that he would get his debut everybody was anticipating the moment.

That very moment came in the final 10 minutes when Pioli replaced Jovic with Camarda, making him the youngest Serie A debutant ever at 15 years and 8 months. The game was also far from finished since Fiorentina were pushing and Milan had to defend a narrow 1-0 lead.

This decision arguably highlights how highly Pioli rates the teenager and his mentality and while he had little contact with the ball, it was a great night for him. He couldn’t hide his smile, and his parents were rightly overwhelmed with emotion.

Tags AC Milan Milan-Fiorentina


  1. I just wonder why u have to field wingers on sides they are weak, when a left footer is playing on the left, it’s very easy for him to cross or attack, or on the right, why lacked ideas, the truth is we need a new coach

      1. Furlani and co should have loaned Gonzalez from fiorentina instead of spending big bucks on Samu the 2nd.

        I would like to be optimistic about chukwueze but he’ll never get the starting spot even with a manager, except pulisic dies…

        Pulisic creates more because he is good with both feet and attacks the opponents box especially the gaps towards the center. Pulisic replicated this on the left side against fiorentina.

        Chukwueze on the other hand is a one-footed one trick pony, always screened/isolated outwide then trying to very predictable shot.
        I can only contrast this with Saka’s progression from LM/LW/LB to RW …..smh

  2. Ok first things first.

    I know actual verifiable FACTS are never considered important but last season Calabria provided the EXACT SAME NUMBER of assists as Theo.

    5 assists.

    Look it up.

    And this season?

    Yep the exact same.

    2 assists each.

    Look. It. Up.

    So stop with your absolute nonsense about Calabria somehow not being up to standard when it comes to the attacking phase.

    Not only is he up to standard, he’s been essential part of our attacking going back 4-5 years, and that was without having Leao in front of him.

    The only reason Calabria is continually criticised by the media and therefore some fans is because the media is trying to build a campaign to push more transfers.

    Everything the media does is about pushing more transfers.

    And this is why the media and therefore some fans got oh so excited about this summer. Lots and lots of transfers. And the players who were pushed – mostly verifiable Scudetto winners – were written off to justify all of these transfers.

    And now the media confidently declares that the very same transfers that it lauded are flops (which then fuels more transfers).

    This very same site rated Chukwueze’s transfer as 9/10.

    Now apparently after a couple of starts and a few months in he’s been declared a flop.

    These are not the conditions on which to build long term success. This is a soap opera.

    The win was just that – A WIN. A hard fought one at that where everyone sacrificed and contributed.

    That is what football is actually about.

    Go play FIFA.

    I’m over this site.

    1. God bless you for your observations. You know annoying it is to read all these nonsensical agenda… The grass is always greener on the other side, for a lot of milanisti… until, of course, they recruit the said coach/players, and then they start looking for another scapegoat.

    2. “This very same site rated Chukwueze’s transfer as 9/10.”
      Yea that’s what I don’t get. What is the basis of the rating? YouTube highlights or have they been watching full games that doesn’t include the one Real Madrid game? But then again that’s exactly where all the hype comes from. Those “other games which added to his assists and goals collection are actually as “dull” as the one in Fiorentina but no one see that. All they see are highlights and expect him to perform highlight worthy plays all game when in reality he might try and dribble here and there and fail here and there. The ones we see on YouTube are the successful dribbles, not the dispossessed ones or the boring pass back or his attempted dribbles that don’t work out so he passed off (because that’s diminishes what a highlight reel should be about). What we saw vs Fiorentina is what Moncada scouted and had Furlani paid 28m for

  3. Why is adli still not getting time? At least in the first half he should be starting and then if it’s close and getting physical put in krunic or pobega. But he has the creativity and passing to open up games for us

    1. Because fiorentina have attacking football so instead of attacking, we should focus on defense more, thats why pobega starting

      The general idea of pioli is when the opponent has attacking minded, he will choose more defensive player and rely on counter attack more. But if its still goalless, he will try more offensive player on the 2nd half.

  4. Calabria had a good game. I don’t think he gets a fair assessment for all that he does. I liked how we fought hard and won even though it was not pretty but neither was the PSG win.

  5. 1. “There was a lot of positivity around the summer transfer window and it was probably justified since Milan brought a lot of players in, especially in the attack where quality was lacking in the starting XI and on the bench”

    Genuine question…What is the nature and justification of this positivity? I struggled to find positives in the summer other than the signings were exciting and had potential. But that’s just it. Potential only materializes into success when things go well and its been more of a coin flip than something that had thought put into it. Bringing in all these players created this aura of having bought realistic quality. When really folks were picturing these players all at their best all gelling at the same time and playing like their previous top form or YouTube highlights. And those things almost never turn out that way.

    Did we have too high expectations of a player from AZ Akmar in a non-stop 5 league? Did we put more weight on his capture because Barca wanted him? After all Barca wanted Arthur too and look how that turned out.
    Or was it a good idea to bet on injury prone players like Okafor, Chuk, Pulisic and RLC not being injured and playing their best with us – a team not really known for its injury record in the first place? Don’t get me wrong, these guys are great on their respective days but those days are few and far between as a whole. Those were gambles that unfortunately don’t seem to be paying off in the near term.

    In a weird twist of irony, bringing in players “especially in the attack, where quality was lacking in the starting XI and on the bench” has led to less goals scored at the current stage of the league after 13 rounds (27 last year compared to 21 this year) with the defence conceding the same amount as last year – the area we didn’t bother much with.

    IMO it’s difficult to judge an improvement in the squad from last year as our formation and tactics changed for the most part. The only part where we had seemingly improved is the RW (in Puli) which we still play this year as well. All the others are basically new acquisitions for new roles due to tactical changes but relative to last year’s formation -which we seem to be playing more of now- then I can’t say it’s an upgrade. And we downgraded our LB as he went from 1 back-up to zero.

    Anyways before this gets too long, I also wanted to talk about 3. Tale of two sides. We don’t really want similar full backs do we? The reason Theo can do what he does is because Calabria stays back. So what if Calabria isn’t as potent on offense. My take is they both complement each other more than we think. Calabria is the reason we have balance in the squad especially when Theo makes his runs that we like so much

    1. As I said above, Calabria’s provided the exact same number of assists (without having Leao in front of him)!

      It’s just more media myth making.

      The sort of media myth making that lead to this summer and the other thousands of transfers involving Milan over the past 10 years.

      1. While you are right to defend Calabria (I also agree that he is better than many people think), the number of assists is not the absolute metric. It shows something for sure but we have to say that Calabria is nowhere near the level of Theo attack-wise. Theo’s contribution in attack is immense and goes far beyond his assists. IKWYDLS’s take is quite true imo.

        1. It is.

          I’m so sick of people ignoring actual things that matter!

          The number of assists (and goals because he also scores) IS what counts.

          As does winning and trophies (two others things he’s achieved).

          Everything else is highly questionable opinions and likes.

          It’s all so superficial.

          Anyway in my OPINION Calabria does better as an inverted full back coming into the middle!

          1. Yes but you have to take into account that this year, Calabria is actually doing an “ok” season, especially since the loss against PSG where he had back to back impressive performances shutting down a very good LW and arguably the greatest forward today.
            Theo, on the other hand, is very criticized (and righfully!) for having a terrible start of the season, both offensively and defensively.
            If we take the scudetto season as a refence, Calabria had 2 goals and 3 assists in all competitions, while Theo had 5 goals and 10 assists in a bit more games. The offensive contribution AT THEIR BEST, is non-comparable.
            Also, while Calabria and Theo have so far the same number of assists, Theo scored 2 goals (albeit one from a PK), so he’s still has a better offensive contribution.
            Now defensively is another story (and rarely shown statistically wise), Calabria is ahead of Theo is this department.
            But again, it’s unreasonable for a team to have 2 offensive minded fullbacks. Like IKWYDLS said, Theo can attack because Calabria is defending.
            Defensive minded fullbacks are generally undervalued despite their importance.

      2. @Maldini’s Heir
        I’m with you bro. So far Calabria has faced probably the best forward on the planet and the other, one of the best wingers in the game currently (not to mention anyone else in top flight he’s had to come up against) and has done so well, that he basically kept people quiet. The act of not having to say anything remotely bad about his performances is enough for me to know he’s done incredibly well. He’s definitely underrated but I’m ok with myself to know he’s underrated and keep doing what he does even though quietly.
        I also get what you’re saying as well with the transfers even though you keep repeating the point. But I think it’s more applicable here. Why would we need two offensive full backs? Who’s going to cover on defence when they’re both upfield. Its things like this that defies logic and basic footballing sensibilities. But it’s used to drive speculation as you say, just dont get frustrated and try to ride it out lol 😂.

        There are often odd couples in great footballing successes. Pirlo and Gattuso, Maka and Zidane, Marcelo and Arbeloa/Carvajal, Alves and Maxwell/Abidal, Scholes/Keane and Giggs Becks. In all these cases there’s balance. A beauty for a beast. (It also fascinates me as to why Adli and Krunic don’t both appear together, they literally have each other’s strengths and weaknesses). Maybe we have our own in Calabria – Theo.

    2. Spot on, very well said. The summer positivity (euphemism for hysteria in certain cases) was much more emotional rather than realistic.
      There are certainly several promising moves but they are long shots, it was crazy to believe that there would be an immediate impact.
      Plus, as few of us kept pointing, the big problem was the amount of change, not so much the players we bought (although you’re right that some of them are grumbles). Best example is the RW: we (our management) created the conditions for Chuk to fail.

      1. Yep agreed al83
        All we had to do was decide if to keep Messias or Saele after we got Puli. We went overboard on that wing and now 2 players suffer. I also remember asking where Okafor was getting playing time and true to form Pioli seemed to have requested a striker just days after signing Okafor lol

        You hit the nail on the head in a more general way. We indeed “created the conditions for xx to fail.”

    3. “In a weird twist of irony, bringing in players “especially in the attack, where quality was lacking in the starting XI and on the bench” has led to less goals scored at the current stage of the league after 13 rounds (27 last year compared to 21 this year) with the defence conceding the same amount as last year – the area we didn’t bother much with. ”

      Maybe not so much the change of players but the change of formation which limits Theo’s involvement in the attacking plays.

      1. That I agree with too BB. The formation (really the tactics of the formation – as technically you can let the midfield be very narrow to allow the full backs some space like Barca did with Danny Alves) has limited Theo in many ways..notice he has only come to life as we reverted to the 4231

        The other thing I question is the need to change formation. Did the coach do that so that the comparison from last year is less evident?.. because if he kept the same formation we can compare like for like. Unfortunately the 433 he plays is very basic.

        1. “Did the coach do that so that the comparison from last year is less evident?”

          I don’t think even Pioli knows why he changed the formation to never look back. He could have just put Puli as the old #10 and kept the tactics the same etc. as it seemed to be the “winning formula”. It’s not like Milan ever make any changing to anything and the opponents always know what is coming. Yes, they made the change to 4-3-3 but everyone thought they did it to have options. But with Pioli, that word doesn’t exists.

          1. “I don’t think even Pioli knows why he changed the formation” 😂😂😂
            He’s making Allegri look good. Eeeew can’t believe I just said that. At least Juve we know they can play 3 at the back or 4, without loss of quality. Its just sad that we can’t switch as seamlessly between two formations as the game requires 🤦‍♂️
            Its usually the case when we suffer a couple losses that formation change comes about rather than being proactive

          2. I think the switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 was made to increase the presence in the midfield. The 4-2-3-1 puts a lot of pressure on the double pivot, and against teams with a strong midfield or who use a 3-5-2 we pretty much find ourselves in a 2 vs 5 in the midfield. The 4-2-3-1 also requieres an excellent AM which we never had (Hakan didn’t play that well in that role, Diaz had limited success and Charles had none).
            So I guess the logic was, if we’re gonna get a lot of new players, might as well change the formation completely. Now the 4-3-3 can be used in different ways, counterattacking teams used it, possession based teams used it and pressing types of teams also used it. And pioli seemingly choose the option that corresponded the least to the players at disposition.
            In a 4-3-3, you don’t have to “tuck in” your fullbacks, Real Madrid and Liverpool used a 4-3-3 where the fullbacks stayed wide. We prefered the Guardiola style and it didn’t work well with Theo and Calabria. The 4-3-3 also requires a world-class defensive midfielder which we don’t have, and requires the wingers to track back which Leao doesn’t do (heck even Theo doesn’t do that very well). Pioli also opted to have the lines up high even when Tomori wasn’t available, and the result was a disaster.
            So overall, Pioli decided to switch formation for perhaps a good reason, but didn’t have the type of players for that formation.
            But that’s my theory.

    4. The joy of the summer transfer quickly became a huge criticizm of it in the span of few weeks. Although in my opinion, our results so far put also question in our coach’s ability to manage all these new players.
      Honestly, quality wise, most of the new players aren’t that bad, and have already played decent quality (or even high quality games) and let’s not forget this is their first season in a new team, with a new formation, in a new league. Injuries aside, Reijnders is good (although inferior to Tonali), Pulisic is pretty much our best right winger in ages, RLC played many good games and even Musah who is a kid, proved that he had a lot of talent. Now on the flip side, Okafor showed bits of quality, but didn’t have the minutes to build up on it, Chukuweze who was the most hyped player we bought is so far a flop, Romero showed quality in the USA tour to then completey dissapear and Jovic well… he is bad but what did you expect.
      The problem with the transfer window is that we pretty much only bought right wingers and central midfielders. We didn’t bring a decent striker even though that was one of our most problematic positions, we still have no defensive midfielders since Kessie and we didn’t properly assess the problem regarding the central defense.
      As far as how much the squad improved, well it’s difficult to assess because of many factors. We started with a 4-3-3 to then get crushed by inter, the confidence was lost in that type of play, pioli experimented with a lot of stuff and some players had to play games in many positions and sometimes they are not used to that (Reijnders in front of the defense, Musah as an AM and wingback and fullback, Pulisic in both wings, Okafor as a striker and left back,…)
      But overall, it’s dissapointing that, after 10 signings or so, we still have a midfield problem, a defense problem, and that our attack is even worse than before.

      1. “But overall, it’s dissapointing that, after 10 signings or so, we still have a midfield problem, a defense problem, and that our attack is even worse than before.”

        Everything looked good on paper when the season started. Well, not the striker situation but still in general, we thought we had taken steps forward. And I still believe the roster has in fact improved but Pioli is the limiting factor here. His inability to get most out of the players is… Damaging. Theo is a shadow of himself. Leao is far from last year’s Leao. I don’t think anyone has improved from last year. Well, maybe Tomori is the only exception here. Not enough. Players should get better – not worse. And that (also) is on the coach.

  6. Midfield missing in action. Of course… but it would be different story if Pioli put Adli. This guy needs more playtime. He made mistakes? Who doesn’t? Krunic often makes mistake. Musah often makes mistakes. Even Tomori and Theo often make mistakes, but they all had their playtime.

    I know you’re all bored to hear Adli again, Adli again… but that guy is the only one who can make the fans excited again.

    Pirlo didn’t have the physicality to be a DM at that time. But Ancelotti trusted him and gave him more playtime so Pirlo could shape his own gameplay. And look where he’s at now, a living legend.

    1. “Midfield missing in action. Of course… but it would be different story if Pioli put Adli. This guy needs more playtime. He made mistakes? Who doesn’t? Krunic often makes mistake. Musah often makes mistakes. Even Tomori and Theo often make mistakes, but they all had their playtime. ”

      Indeed. Musah has made serious mistakes too. And he was awful against Viola. Why different treatment for Adli? At least Adli has shown the potential. Musah? Zero affect in the attacking plays so far.

  7. “the backline seemed solid enough as they finally got that clean sheet”

    LOL. No thanks to defenders though. Viola was abysmally horrible in finishing and pure luck kept the ball going in. The defense was leaking and MM16’s miracle save was needed. How Viola players could score from those 4-5 sitters is beyond comprehension. And I’ll emphasize this one more time. It wasn’t due to Milan’s “solid defense”.

  8. The problem and common denomininator is Pioli.
    A new coach with fresh ideas is what is required and has been for a long time.
    This squad needs to have their confidence and belief reset.
    Saturday proved that they are a team lacking all of the above, even given the injuries and we were lucky to come away with a point, let alone 3!

  9. Musah gets more playing time than he deserves. But, he is American, and so is the owner. Musah has an engine, and some decent skill but is young and raw. Pulisic is better on the right wing where he can cut in and shoot (as he does with USMNT). But Pioli doesn’t like to swap wingers mid game much at all.

    Milan has had a history of picking up aging or injury prone players and rehabilitating them. In the glory days, Milanello was renowned for it. Recall that Gullit and Van Basten had lengthy injuries.

    Until the we start seeing big money back in AC Milan, these are the type of bets management will have to make. (i.e. Injury prone bets and young potential development bets.)

    With injury prone bets, you need numbers to replace them when they go down. With youth bets, they need playing time. So we should not be too surprised to see Milan take on a “youth” theme at different times in the season.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.