AC Milan 1-1 Salernitana: Five things we learned – mentality doubts; forwards go missing

By Ivan Stoev -

Following the superb defensive performance against Spurs, AC Milan failed to keep Salernitana at bay and dropped points against them in a 1-1 draw on Monday night.

After the resilient display in the Champions League the expectations were that Milan would not have trouble grabbing all three points against 16th-placed Salernitana at San Siro, especially after rivals for the top four dropped crucial points during the weekend.

However, Milan were lacklustre all night and were lucky to not concede in the first half with Malick Thiaw not having the best of nights, but Mike Maignan bailed him out with a tackle on Boulaye Dia before Olivier Giroud headed in a corner just before half-time.

In the second half, the Rossoneri did not seem in control despite the goal advantage and in the 61st minute Salernitana managed to get back on level terms as Dia got between Kalulu and Thiaw at the near post to fire in his ninth goal of the season. Here are five things we learned…

1. Unexpected flop

Malick Thiaw burst into the starting line-up in the 1-0 win over Torino and has done a great job in the three-man defence, but he was really not up to his usual high level against Salernitana.

The German U21 captain committed a couple of mistakes leading to chances for the away side and he has Maignan to thank that only one of them actually got into the back of the net. It must be said that Tomori was not on the scene at all for the equaliser and Kalulu went wide, leaving Thiaw alone to defend a cross.

The worrying thing for Thiaw is that he wasn’t at his best against Fiorentina either, although he played a much better game overall, so he needs to be more focus as we’ve seen that he can be at a very top level in the game against Spurs.

2. Speaking of flops…

Thiaw’s poor performance was not the worst among the Milan players as the crown for that goes to Rafael Leao, who has a pretty dismal three quarters of the game before being brought off.

His decision making was very poor and he could barely complete a pass against an opponent that haven’t been particularly great throughout the season. These are the games where Leao needs to show he is worth the salary quintupling that he is asking for.

The 23-year-old has really been struggling since the turn of the year and it’s more than obvious that Milan are not the same when he’s not at his best so Pioli will have to work hard with Leao to turn things around going into the final months of the season.

3. Missing in action

Brahim Diaz played a really useful game against Spurs and got the nod over Charles De Ketelaere, yet failed to impress against Salernitana.

However, this was to be expected since most of the games where Brahim shines are against sides that actually press higher which he can then use to his advantage and beat his man and escape the press, sitting between the opposition defence and midfield.

His strength has never been against sides that sit back in a compact block and we saw how De Ketelaere used his physicality to beat his man on a few occasions, which is probably something that Pioli should have tried to use sooner.

4. Continuing to disappoint 

Divock Origi came on in place of Leao in the second half, yet he too was again more of a liability for his team as he failed to make any impact on the game except the chance where he came close to scoring with his chest.

Even on that occasion though the ball seemed to hit him not the other way around, and there have to be question marks about what he can actually offer when he can’t score from two or three yards out.

Excluding that, Origi tried to get on the ball and take on his man, but failed every time and he just seems to be trying too hard to make something happen instead of keeping it simple and helping his team-mates.

5. All in the head

Pioli seemingly turned things around with the formation change in early February, but after a nice run of form his team has again failed to win back-to-back games in Serie A which begs the question about the team’s mentality and why are they not able to play at a high level for more than a game at a time.

Everyone seems more than focused and motivated when it comes to the Champions League, yet the same energy seems missing in Serie A and the reality is that if the Rossoneri keep on dropping points against side in the bottom half of the table there might not be a Champions League night next season.

Tags AC Milan Milan Salernitana


  1. The title should read “Pioli again outsmarted by inferior team” or “Milan try to beat bottom half teams by playing like a bottom half team.” How many years of Diaz failing against the low block does Pioli need to see before he tries something different! That man has no ability to adjust his tactics I’m convinced the only reason for CL success is foreign teams don’t have Milan scouted very well.

    1. Yes 100%, but they learnt another 5 things that they did wrong …. AGAIN?

      They still keep dropping point against bottom teams, but they learn 5 things after every loss?

      When are you going to win games back to back Pioli or is this as good as it gets?

      1. The article say WE learned. We as fans. The coaching staff in Milan never learn from their mistakes though. We’ve seen that too many times already.

  2. Thiaw didn’t flop. If he did then Tomori and Kalulu also flopped. You can’t have it so narrow minded. Kalulu made the ring decision which put Thiaw’s covering decision in jeopardy. AND Tomori was nowhere to be seen.

    There’s always a problem with a 3 man defence which I’ve been saying for a long time and it’s with covering. It laways has existed and will forever exists if you’ve ever played the game or watched really closely. 3 men defences are worst at defending crosses than 2 man defences. It’s sounds non intuitive but it’s true. The decision making alignment is better with two players than it is for three. And who marks who always gets muddled. It’s always been a problem

    1. Yeah I agree I didn’t think he was bad, not great but the goal was on Tomori who was so far out of position he wasn’t even on the screen. I’m really growing tired of Tomori, he can throw fits, scream and pretend he’s a leader but at the end of the day he’s the one giving away the stupid penalty he’s the one who’s way out of position. I get why Chelsea let him go and Maldini spent so much time recruiting Botman…

    2. As I said in previous ratings article who ever whrites these never played a single game of football on the full pitch. They just blame the closest person to the ball when they score. Do they realise that oposition can choose where to pass and they usually pass to a guy that is not covered woow what a nobel concept? How is Thiaw to be blamed for not being able to cover two freaking people in the box !!!!!!! That goal was on Salad for not closing on his man and Klalulu being to late to cover his man and lets not even mention that stroll back from Tomori but yeah lets blame the only person that was actually in the right spot !! Might as well say that Mike was flop for not stoping that. Those thing really piss me off because the whole article losses it’s credibility by statements like this because I can clearly see that he never acatualy played in a real game past U10.

    3. Only someone who doesn’t understand the game blames Thiaw for the goal. So he’s supposed to mark TWO players at the same time while Tomori is enjoying the views 10 meters back and letting Thiaw do all the work? Yeah, sounds about right… Blame Thiaw for Tomori’s mistake.

  3. How can a player who has played less than 10 games be called “unexpected flop”.
    He can be called Unexpected if he has been consistently good for over a longer period of time and has a rare bad game. Thiaw barely played for the first 6 months (over the last 2 weeks we see why) and has had 4,5 good games and 2 or 3 bad . That’s not unexpected.
    If Maignan has a bad gane, it would be unexpected.
    The same goes with Leao.
    He isn’t in a bad form, but that’s simply who he is. In 4 seasons at Milan, he has played good for about 5 months, but people called him great and say he is in poor form now.
    Look at a bigger sample of work. The man averages 1 g 1 assist per month over the last 2 years, and he is right on que.
    How can he have a drop from last season when, up to this point, he is ahead of his last season production.
    Prior to week 36 of last season, Leao had 10 g 5 assists.
    Week 26 this season, he has the same production 8 g 7 a.
    Most people are disappointed and think he is underperforming because they overrated and overhyped him.
    Just like Thiaw.
    Stop over rating overhyping and overvaluing players because of a short period of good performances.

    1. Dude you need to stop trying to convince us your crackpot Leao analysis is anything but your own arrogance. He’s still first in the league at big chances created and if he played on a team with any finishing ability he’s goal stats would be excellent. He’s not overhyped he’s the reigning MVP. He does more offensively than the rest of Milan’s attack combined. If you’re gonna talk sheet then do it about the right ppl (Diaz, Giroud, the RW, CDK, Fcking Origi). Leao had a terrible game but he still has been the most dangerous player in the league according to the facts…

    2. Leao leads the league in big chances and is the reigning MVP. Leao is also 15th best in key passes, 4th in assists, 9th on goals and 1st in successful dribbles. How is that over hyped? Why not focus to ire at the players who aren’t doing their jobs, Origi, CDK, the RW even Giroud? Those guys are a huge reason Milan are in the position they are in now not Leao.

      1. With great power comes great responsibility.
        You want 7,8 mil a season, you are called the mvp, well to whom much is given much is required.
        Also Leao might be 1st in take ons not in dribbles because he doesn’t dribble he just runs faster than his defender.
        Kvara dribbles and dribbles in tight spaces in the box.
        Leao is only effective when he has plenty of space and he is rarely in the box

        1. Are you really trying to say his elite speed (a trait which matters immensely) means that stat doesn’t count? Did you not watch him put every spurs player on their butt last week? He’s pretty effective and his stats literally say he is the amongst the most effective players in Italy despite his inconsistency. His value is absolutely worth 7 to 8 million, in a couple years he’ll be worth 10-12 million. You watch, some team is gonna offer a lot of money to Napoli and a contract worth similar to what Leao gets this summer.

          1. His elite speed absolutely matters. Shoot. Without that elite speed, there isn’t much else there. The same goes for Theo not just Leao.
            Great athletes

            “Did you not watch him put every spurs player on their butt last week?
            Ha ha ha

            You going to continue exaggerating, overhyping and over rating him no matter what.
            You say he is effective and you defend him but you are taking a shot at Giroud. This season in all competitions Giroud and Leao have basicaly the same number of goals and assists. One of them is 36 and according to many ineffective, the other is 23 and according to his fans effective and deserving of 7,8 mil a season salary.
            The standard of most of our fans base have dropped to an embarrassing low level.
            You say he would be worth 10-12 mil in couple years. Based on what? Him scoring 1 goal a month vs the likes of Lecce and salernitana.
            Also why aren’t there clubs fighting to sign him and pay him that money.
            1 offer of 70 mil from Chelsea. Same Chelsea that the previous year bought the serie A mvp for 115 mil, spent almost a 100 mil for Mudryk (another over rated athlete) and 121 on Enzo Fernandez. Throwing money like they are printing them but only came in with 70 mil offer for the current mvp.
            That’s what other clubs think of Leao

          2. Bro you must be confused. None of what you said has anything to do with the fact he’s a top 10 player in serie a no question. That type of player gets paid 7,5ish million a year. I don’t know how Chelsea and their transfer spending has anything to do with that…

      2. I think out all the players Leao does get the most criticism from fans when Milan don’t win! I Will say that Milan are a better team with Leao in the team than when he is not in the team

    3. Excellent point, unexpected is just too much too soon.. happy for Malick and even he needs a break after playing several games in a row. Origi, something is not right – saw him in training and he looked so lazy!?! No different during the games, he’s got it wrong in his head and that must change

      1. He did. After Leao’s shot from 35meters out(!) the ball took a deflection and soon after that Thiaw tried to head the ball back and unintentionally freed Dia to go 1 on 1 with Maignan. That was a serious mistake. But the only one. Blaming Thiaw for the goal is just lack of understanding of how football is supposed to be played.

        1. Oh yes you are 100% right did not know that 1v1 was Thiaw. That goal was clusterfuck from the whole team Thiaw was actually only one that was in position.

  4. The offense has always been a problem under Pioli. They have been bailed out nemerous times by great individual plays but as a collective they have no ideas offensively. No patterns of play, no movement off the ball, terrible passing. When have you seen Milan score a real “team goal” where they put together a series of good passes and broke a team down? It’s almost always waiting for an individual moment of brilliance from Leao or Theo, or they just lob the ball into the box and hope Giroud can get his head on it. Hopefully Ibra will get the start against Udinese. He brings more to the table offensively and creatively, so hopefully that will help the offense. But not if they just leave him stranded up top by himself.
    The 3 CB formation has helped solve the defensive crisis but also hurt the attack a little bit.
    I wouldn’t mind seeing Florenze start on right side instead of Saleamakers. He brings more offensive skill and can at least deliver a good cross.

    1. Pioli’s strategy was always based on high pressing and counterattack.
      If you go and check how Milan played in 2020 and 21, you’d see that offense worked just fine because we had better quality players in the midfield. Our current midfielders Bennacer, Tonali and Brahim are horrendous in passing and moving the ball.
      Hakan and Bonaventura were never replaced.
      Our biggest issue is in the midfield. 2 creative midfielders should be the first signings in the summer, and neither Bennacer nor Tonali place should be guaranteed

      1. Agreed that the midfield is the issue. Especially Tonali. ANd yes, the offense was created out of the pressing and causing turnovers. That’s why they always struggled against the weaker teams who sit back and defend, because they cannot break anyone down with their passing. It’s always been a problem under Pioli, although slightly better when Ibra was starting and Calhagoglu was there.

    2. Agree. IMO the lack of creativity is the biggest issue in Milan’s attacking plays. That could be replaced by proper tactics but that’s not going to happen under Pioli’s command.

      And yes, Florenzi should get more time on the right flank as he might be the only one putting in decent crosses from the right side.

  5. A lot needs to change this summer. Targetted Departures and arrivals. And the position of mister has to be looked at too, unfortunately, as i think he’s reached his limit.
    I Just hope somehow we make top 4.

    1. Yeah. Those 15minutes was a cry for help (ie. substitutions) but Pioli did nothing. Nothing but wait for Salernitana to score.

      IF Pioli had made ANY changes before the 60min mark, Salernitana wouldn’t have equalized. That’s on Pioli. He was begging for it and got what he deserved.

  6. The reality is there isn’t this great difference between the sides and the so called weaker teams have defenders who can defend, midfielders who can pass and attackers who are capable of producing magic.

    Plus the weaker sides have a mental boost when they play the bigger teams but also play with less pressure, AND the teams can drop deeper and play on the counter.

    This makes these marches extraordinarily difficult. And it means that not only can Milan not drop their level, they must raise their level especially in three key areas:

    a) Every. Single. Extra. Touch. Every slowed down play. Every delayed pass. Every indecision makes it almost impossible to break down teams that are behind the ball. Attackers need to be absolutely clinical and not assume they’ll get endless chances against weaker teams.

    b) 50:50 challenges and second balls become absolutely key especially against players who are desperate to prove themselves.

    c) We simply cannot switch off at the back because these teams, who have talented players, will get us on the counter attack.

    Unfortunately we failed at all three against Salernitana. It had nothing to do with luck and if anything we got lucky as they missed some sitters.

    Not good enough. We need to snap out of this complacency and start treating the weaker teams with the respect they deserve.

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