Milan got back to winning ways in Serie A on Monday after a performance to forget last week against Inter, despite a bright opening half.
Fortunately, the team bounced back straight away with a victory against Torino, which followed the 1-1 draw against Juventus in the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg on Thursday.
Although the 1-0 win against their Turin neighbours would suggest that it was a close game, the Rossoneri didn’t allow almost any chance for Torino but their lack of clinical finishing kept them from extending the lead.
The display was overall a good one despite the team looking a bit tired after clashes with two titans of the division in the last seven days.
Ante Rebic was once again the hero for Pioli’s side scoring the winning goal and that being his fifth in the last five Serie A games. The Croatian feels like a winter signing as he just started to deliver with the beginning of 2020 whilst he was barely getting play time since his arrival in the summer up until December.
Here are five things we learned…
1. A missed opportunity
Hakan Calhanoglu was excluded from the squad list due to injury against Torino and Lucas Paqueta was chosen by Pioli to start from the first whistle in behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the trequartista.
The Brazilian was not necessarily bad, as his pressing was good and intelligent and he did have a few nice moments, being involved in the build-up to the goal as well.
However, he did not actually shine for the Rossoneri and somewhat failed to impress in his judgement, wasting a couple of dangerous opportunities on the break by picking the wrong option with the pass.
That said, the 22-year-old was in starting eleven for only the first time in three months so it would be fair to assume he has lost the rhythm to his game, while the chemistry between him and his teammates did not look perfect as well.
It is also worth mentioning that he was thrown into a new formation and a position he hadn’t played, but for a player that started his life in Milano with great promise showing his amazing abilities he should be doing more to earn a spot in the starting eleven.
2. New fan favourite
Ante Rebic had a bad time up until Christmas, with Marco Giampaolo not putting enough faith in him and Stefano Pioli opting for different players at the beginning of his adventure with Milan.
Nonetheless, the Croatia international has finally found his place in the starting XI after making a big impact off the bench on a couple of occasions. Since then, he hasn’t looked back: the Eintracht Frankfurt loanee has six goals and one assist in his last six games, cup included.
Ante Rebic in 2020 (Serie A)…
⏰ 340 Minutes
7⃣ Key passes
5⃣ Five goals
⚽️ 50% of #ACMilan's goals
9⃣ Points won through his match-winning goals
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) February 18, 2020
Not only that, but Rebic is continuing to improve game after game, having the confidence to be able to take on his opponents and create chances for his team-mates.
At this point it is hard to understand why his was not thrown into the starting line-up from the start of the season as he clearly has the ability to be a game changer. Perhaps it was attitude, and hopefully now the 26-year-old will continue to improve and be a fundamental part of the squad going forward.
3. A grand introduction
With Simon Kjaer suffering an injury early on in the first half a chance was given to Milan academy product Matteo Gabbia off the bench, with Mateo Musacchio also complaining of calf problems on the bench.
The 20-year-old played in the International Champions Cup in the summer and did not look out of place, but he had not yet made a league appearance for the Diavolo until Monday night – and what a Serie A debut it was.
The centre-back showed good awareness, pace and confidence when he needed to make a tackle as well as impressive positioning and judgement. On top of that, Gabbia looked confident on the ball and carrying it forward.
Hopefully the Italy U21 international can follow into the footsteps of his former Primavera team-mates Gigio Donnarumma and Davide Calabria – despite the latter being shaky this season – to establish himself as a part of Milan’s project for years to come.
4. Leading by example
After Alessio Romagnoli was heavily criticised last week for his performance against Inter in the second half, the captain didn’t need much time to react.
Against Torino he was at his very best yet again taking Andrea Belotti out of the game with ease and providing Milan’s backline with solidity. It does demonstrate the standard Romagnoli has established for himself, as the fans are not happy when he makes even one mistake.
Alessio Romagnoli vs. Torino
➤ 6 ball recoveries
➤ 2 interceptions
➤ 6 tackles
➤ 10 clearances
➤ 5/6 defensive aerial duels won
➤ 1 blocked shot
➤ 84.2% pass accuracy
➤ 0 errors leading to shots
Wall. 🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/YVyto4unz7
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) February 17, 2020
Despite him being around for quite some time now, people still forget that he is still only 25 years old and hopefully will be improving even more in the coming years.
5. Big improvement
Another played who drew criticism from fans – particularly up until the January window – was Franck Kessie. The Ivorian has been struggling for form in the past year, but with Pioli’s arrival and the recent change to a 4-2-3-1 formation the former Atalanta man has been constantly improving while playing alongside Ismael Bennacer.
The Algerian does more of the driving forward and carrying the ball, something natural to him because of his role with his national team, meaning Kessie has the task to help in the defensive phase.
The 23-year-old has been doing a good job too as of late too, looking like he has finally found his position. However, the Rossoneri supporters have not been happy with Kessie for a while now and he would need to continue his good form in order to impress them.