AC Milan 1-3 Dortmund: Five things we learned – sparks at last and the elephant in the room

By Ivan Stoev -

What could have been a memorable night and a spark for AC Milan instead turned into a nightmare as Borussia Dortmund left San Siro with all three points and knockout stage qualification secured.

In truth the tone for the evening was set when Olivier Giroud missed a penalty in the opening few minutes. When Davide Calabria fouled Jamie Bynoe-Gittens to give the away side a spot kick of their own and Marco Reus thumped it in, it already seemed like one of those nights.

Samuel Chukwueze got his first goal for the club with a lovely solo effort not long before the break, but then the game took a turn again when Malick Thiaw went off in the 51st minute forcing Rade Krunic to play centre-back.

The lively Bynoe-Gittens got the Bundesliga giants back in front after a well-worked team goal that took advantage of Milan’s static defence. Then 10 minutes later and 20 minutes from the end substitute Karim Adeyemi sealed it after cutting inside and just about squeezing it over the line.

The result means that the Rossoneri need to beat Newcastle away to keep their hopes alive, yet they also need Dortmund to beat PSG at home. Here are five things we learned from the game…

1. A spark at last

Despite the poor result, there were still some positives coming out of the game with the biggest one being Chukwueze’s performance.

The Nigerian has struggled, to say the least, since joining Milan in the summer despite being the most expensive purchase made during a summer window that saw 10 new signings arrive.

Against Dortmund, however, finally managed to show us why the management decided to spend on him as he got his first goal to help his side equalise in a delicate situation after some lovely individual play down the right flank. The winger was also involved in winning the penalty for his team, which Giroud unfortunately missed.

In the second half he faded a bit as he still doesn’t quite seem fit enough to play explosively for 90. minutes, but this time out there were plenty of positives to pick out from his performance and he will need to do this consistently from here onwards.

2. A pair of disappointments

Unfortunately, we also must highlight the negatives and there were two particular players that really stood out in a bad way against Dortmund.

The first is captain Davide Calabria. He conceded the penalty in a very clumsy manner, which is unlike the way he has defended in most big games this season, and he kept getting beaten on his side by Bynoe-Gittens and then Adeyemi whilst providing little going forward.

The other culprit is an unusual one in the face of Mike Maignan. The keeper is usually the one to save Milan, but this time out he really wasn’t at his very best as it seemed like he could’ve done a bit more on the second goal, although the defence was beaten after a lovely passage of play by Dortmund.

On the third goal we have to put a lot of blame on him as he seemed well positioned but then ended up off balance, meaning that when he got a hand to Adeyemi’s shot – one from outside the box – he could only punch it behind him and in. He could’ve done much better in the situation given there was no deflection and the shot was close to his body.

Both have been in good form lately and of course there are the added caveats of Calabria having to start every game while Maignan had a heavy fever just a few days ago, but they did struggle.

3. When it rains, it pours

Milan would have taken a 1-1 scoreline going into the break, especially after missing a penalty and going behind then having the better of things after the leveller. Ultimately, after Thiaw’s injury and the second Dortmund goal it seemed all a bit too much for the Rossoneri.

Krunic replaced Thiaw at the back and that’s because Pierre Kalulu, Marco Pellegrino, Simon Kjaer and Mattia Caldara are all injured. Now the German is out, that makes five centre-backs injured all at once and whilst we don’t want to make up excuses this is a very serious problem to have for Pioli.

That’s an in-game change that most managers would struggle to have his side execute, and then there are the other injuries like Rafael Leao – who was the star man against PSG – and Noah Okafor in the forward department.

There are probably various factors at play for such a ridiculous crisis, but we have seen big clubs replacing a lot of their medical staff for this very reason. Milan have been having these issues for many years now without addressing the work of the medical staff – it cannot continue.

4. The elephant in the room

A lot of people have been questioning Pioli for a while now and he hasn’t really done enough to prove them wrong. In fact, the average performances in Europe (excluding the reverse fixture against PSG) have been combined with sub-par performances domestically too.

Whilst we mentioned the injury issues, most fans would agree that Milan have not played attractive football for more than half a season now. They have slipped into various crises under Pioli’s tenure, some more damaging than others.

The head coach shoulders the majority of the blame in the eyes of fans and the media because of the sheer amount of things he can control. He has had plenty of reinforcements in the summer, 10 to be exact, but his tactics still heavily rely on Leao and other individuals.

It might be time for the management to reflect on the situation, but it seems that they want to support the Italian for now so one can just hope that he turns the ship around.

5. Tale of two forwards

As mentioned a couple of times, Giroud missed the penalty failing to give his team the lead. Players can miss penalties and his record with Milan has actually been fantastic, yet the issue is that he then pretty much disappeared from the game, failing to have any impact whatsoever.

On the flip side, Luka Jovic had some positive moments after coming off the bench. The Serbian hit the post after a lovely header from a difficult position and also found himself in dangerous areas repeatedly, even when the team’s ‘tactics’ were chaotic.

Add that to the through ball he played for Theo Hernandez to win the penalty against Fiorentina last weekend and you have some shoots of recovery. There is some hope that he can build up momentum and because he very much is a confidence player, and Giroud needs workload management.

For the sake of balance, we must add that we’re still talking about good moments, not prolonged periods where he’s actually played well. However, after a very slow start, it’s pleasant to see at least something from the striker.

Tags AC Milan Milan Dortmund


  1. Milan’s results in 2023:
    21 victories
    13 draws
    15 defeats
    61 goals scored
    55 goals conceded.
    Look at those numbers.
    Milan might not have the squad to compete with the best of Europe, but outside of inter no other team has better squad than Milan in serie A. What’s the excuse for Milan playing worse football than mid to bottom table teams in serie A?
    Padre Pioli.
    Addition by subtraction.
    Get rid of Pioli and the team will get better even if you put Bonera as a caretaker until the end of the season.
    The players need a different voice and different ideas.
    Have people noticed how the media has been covering Pioli and Rudi Garcia? They called for Garcia to be fired even though he had Napoli 2 points behind and qualified for the knockout stages of the UCL. while Pioli is getting protected.
    Napoli with Mazzari is playing 2-2 at the Bernabeu, while Pioli can’t even get a draw vs Dortmund.

    1. “but outside of inter no other team has better squad than Milan in serie A.”

      I think you’re overrating our squad. Vs many other teams I’d prefer alot of their players. However as a basis, I’ll always prefer Mike,.Tomori and Theo to most out there. The rest is up for grabs.
      Napoli: DiLorenzo over Calabria, Rrahmani over Thiaw, Lobotka definitely over Krunic or any of our DMs, so too Anguissa, Anguissa over RLC just because he’s underrated and RLC is injury prone, Zielinski and Reinjders about even though I prefer Z. Leao vs Kvara is probably a wash but I’d pick the guy who can control the ball wink wink. Oshimen definitely over Giroud (and while we’re at it their back on up St Raspidori too vs our backup) and Puli over Politano. Basically id take more of Napoli players than our own.

      Juve: Keepers are about even as sczeny is underrated. But I’d still take Mike. And I’d take Vlahovic, Loca/Rabiot aka the better Adli, Danilo/Bremer over Thiaw, I’d prefer Leao over Chiesa though. This is close to 5 players. Plus their youth are constantly growing.

      Roma, I’d take Lukaku, Dybala, Pellegrini, Ndcka/Mancini, Zalewski.

      That’s four teams easily (Inter goes without saying) that’s either better or close to. Which makes us sit exactly where we’re at …a 3rd/4th-7th teams.

      1. The conclusion is not far off, but I think as a fan that you’re also likely to be a bit more critical of our squad. For example, Thiaw is 22, would you have taken Bremer at 22? It took Bremer until about 24 to become the Bremer that Juventus bought. Let’s see where Thiaw is at age 26 (Bremer’s age now). What really differentiates us from those other clubs (minus Inter) is depth. All of them have more and better depth than we do. Throw in the injury catastrophe we’re suffering this season and the suspect coaching, and it’s actually an accomplishment to currently be in 3rd place.

    2. “Get rid of Pioli and the team will get better even if you put Bonera as a caretaker until the end of the season.”

      And for the love of god can someone explain to me how Bonera somehow is good enough to coach this team over a log period???. Like what exactly have you and others seen that you drew that conclusion that somehow he would be better than putting this team 3rd in the table?

      1. It baffles me as well how some people think Bonera is the answer. Which teams has he lead as a head coach to success? Which teams have thrived under his coaching? How’s his tactical knowledge?

    1. We have benefited from a strong start and poor start of competition. But look at the trend, it’s very worrying. Should we continue like this, we will out of top 4 before Christmas.

    2. If you see this in different perspective. What is different from start of the season and now that we degrade in performance? INJURY

      start of the season we have complete squad and win 7 from 8 league match, Its how i see. Not how bad the opposition is but how bad we manage injury.

      I think if we didnt solve this injury problem it will be a sure way to be out of top 4. Just imagine only have 1 CB and we hope to pass round 16 UCL and still on the top 4? Even guardiola will only smile to that

      1. Stop making too much sense. That’s just an excuse – Inzaghi would still be on top with Inter with half his squad missing. 😉

        1. Not an excuse just look from different POV. Thats not realistic if lose half squad n still be at the top even for guardiola. The only things i will not have argument is about pioli stupidity when against inzaghi. Even when pioli got manchester city squad, i think pioli will still lose to inzaghi team. I dont know why but inzaghi tactic is like an anti-strategy and complete counter of pioli tactic

      2. Won we did, but they still played poorly. That’s the main issue here. Think out of all the games this season only in two did we really play well.

        1. TBH I think that’s always been our story under Pioli. Every now and then we have a game like the 2-1 v. PSG, but most of our wins are grinds, or someone has an individual moment of brilliance. We rarely totally outperform the opposition. Then there are the stupid losses to small teams, and then some humiliations against quality sides. I’ve never seen a more Jekyll and Hyde Milan.

  2. I get your point but I struggle to see how any coach would cope with the amount of changes we’re being forced make. It’d be so interesting to see where Inter would be with half their team missing, or where we’d be with a full squad to choose from week in week out. Saying that, Pioli is far from perfect so maybe Motta or DeZerbi would be working wonders with a depleted squad, who knows?

    1. Not an excuse just look from different POV. Thats not realistic if lose half squad n still be at the top even for guardiola. The only things i will not have argument is about pioli stupidity when against inzaghi. Even when pioli got manchester city squad, i think pioli will still lose to inzaghi team. I dont know why but inzaghi tactic is like an anti-strategy and complete counter of pioli tactic

    1. Rest please. Even Kamada will be injury prone in this team that is ruining players.

      You are clueless because you are yet to understand what is happening in this AC Milan.
      Just call AC Milan an injury prone club, the back staff are useless they don’t know what they are doing.

      Anyone that comes to AC Milan becomes injury prone and u are still yet to see it and keep on blaming the players.

      Tomorrow Tomori and Reijnders will get injured after overworking and you will still open ur filthy mouth and call them injury prone.

  3. To address the article’s points:

    1. Chukwueze gets a lot of criticism when all he really needs is more consistent playing time. He will come good. We advocated for CDK for a while and should afford the same to Chukwueze in my opinion.

    2. Calabria has always been inconsistent but in the games when we win we tend to overlook it. Calabria only looks good when there’s a second body to team up on whoever he is supposed to mark. BYnoe exposed him for sure. Calabria needs a viable alternative not named Florenzi that is younger, faster and can provide competition to Davide to improve his game.

    Mike had an off night, but he will always get us more points than he will cost us.

    3. injuries are an ongoing problem at Milan and With Cardinale in charge, I am hoping for an American Sports Medicine overhaul/input. MEANWHILE, Pioli must change his tactics, because the players clearly can not keep up and stay healthy. So we have to switch to defensive & counterattacking playing style to prevent further injuries otherwise what we’re doing is unsustainable no matter how deep our bench is.

    4. “faith in Pioli” loosely translates to “he’s here until the summer until we figure out what to do with him”. Feels like the last season… like it just ran its course here.

    5. Lack of reliable forwards… That’s on Furlani and Moncada. NOthing Pioli can do about having to field Giroud all the time.

    This season we will need to simply take small victories wherever we can and do everything possible to finish Top4.

    1. You’ve said it all. The first is to get rid of our mediacal team and get new one to solve our injury problem.

      Jurgen klopp once said, his medical team will be mad at him if he has uses some players.

    2. Another well measured post by ACM1899. Two points: 1. “MEANWHILE, Pioli must change his tactics…” –This is like hoping the sky will be green instead of blue; 2. ““faith in Pioli” loosely translates to “he’s here until the summer until we figure out what to do with him”. Feels like the last season… like it just ran its course here.” –The club may have made a mistake not to fire Pioli last summer. They had a revolution in almost every way, firing the team of Maldini/Massara, getting rid of a bunch of players and bringing in a bunch of players. They didn’t touch the coach. They should have gone all the way, but I guess winning a title does buy you a reprieve.

  4. Giroud.

    He missed a pen but it’s the least of the problems and as the author said, “He’s been fantastic at pens until this point”.

    He is not the problem!

    The problem is that Milan’s depth of quality players isn’t very deep, and it’s showing now in the CL.

    Loftus Cheek was poor. Chukweze was better but still no where nearly worth his contract at this time. Outside of his brilliant moment on the ball, I think he fluffed every other good situation he was put in. Just like Loftus Cheek, who single handedly botched a 4v2 advantage that should have been a high xG chance at worst and a goal for a good team of attackers!

    And some of these do this consistently, fluff their lines and waste good build up play and no chance comes. The bottom line is, we don’t create enough xG for the style we play! If we were “sit and counter” attacking, it would look better on paper, but we’re not. Our style is dominant and the xG isn’t good enough given this fact. Neither is the level of ball control in the final 1/3.

    Chuk, Loftus, Krunic, and even Theo have been very poor in the attacking half with the ball, and it’s too much waste for our style of play, only to lack the xG numbers that we need to score goals with players like Chuk and Loftus up top in scoring positions, who don’t often score or control well.

    This all puts Pulisic in a position forced to be creative, when we really need him taking more shots and box runs.

    I would move the American to the #10, make Loftus a sub for him, continue with Chuk right wing and allow Theo to overlap in the left wing role, using 3 holding mids to cover because our back line is not healthy.

    Pobega, Adli, Musah, the 3 holders in midfield with pulisic the CAM and Giroud the tip in a 5-3-2

    It’s got to be 5-3-2 or 5-4-1 now, until Leao and a center back comes back at least.


    5-3-2 or 5-4-1

    1. Best analysis yet. In attach Milan needs to be more creative and not depend on 1v1s all the time. I saw a figure that Chuk lost the ball 16xs. You’re not going to win with that. Pulisic is basically playing as a 10 so just put him there.

    2. Your ideas much better than Pioli’s. But isn’t Kajer injured like everyone else? Also, I watched Pulisic play CAM at Chelsea and for USA and he would get fouled a lot contributing to injury prone label but he was fairly successful when not on physio table so perhaps for us in Serie A it might work better. Maybe short term….. or Reijnders and RLC swapping positions with Musah moving to left side. The lack of depth is glaring and huge issue because big drop in ability for subs right now.


  5. I basically mentioned this in another article the other day. What exactly are we expecting of Chukuweze? There’s a disconnect between highlight reels and a 90minute game. Seems we expect him to do what he does in YouTube highlights all game long and that’s not feasible nor fair to him. Those dribbles you see with the tricks and flicks are only a small portion of the 90 minute game. The other parts they don’t show you is him getting dispossessed, backpassing, side passing, bad crosses, bad decision making, running into too many defenders because of course that counter to what a highlight reel is. And fans got excited by that I suppose. But I’m reality a mixture between his Fiorentina and Dortmund games is probably what Moncada scouted and though we’d go for him. What are we to make of the scouting that led them to believe he’s worth 28m, more than any of our transfers in the summer ?

    1. I very much agree with you about Chucky.
      Good to see him show something.
      As you say his style has always been eratic.

      There is a lot of blame going around, with Pioli, Krunic, Giroud, Theo, Musah bearing some of the worst of it and probably deservedly.
      Spare some for the owners & fans miracle man Moncada.
      Don’t get me wrong he has found some good young talent. However when it has come to our big money purchases like CDK and Chucky he has been exposed and clearly didn’t do a good job.
      People blame Maldini for CDK, do we really think Maldini was watching the Belgian league? Of course not, that’s all on Moncada as is the signing of Chucky.
      He may be a decent winger when he finds form but if we had 30m to spend on 1 player was he the right one, NO!

      Look at Openda – signed by Lens in 2022 from Brugge for 7.5m (when we pain 35m for CDK) and they sold him on 1 year later for over 40m!
      That is the kind of player we have been looking for and need desperately, he scored 2 great individual goals v Man City on Tuesday

      The order of problems/blame should be top down

      Medical Team
      Senior players
      Young players

    2. Sad truth is we buy him because PSG will take Leao when Mbappe leaves PSG but if that doesn’t happen we have 3 good options at winger that can rotate to avoid injury, wait that didn’t happen all 3 get injured instead because of medical/fitness staff.

  6. 1. It was always going to be the case that Chuk will get better with more playing time. He didn’t get it because Pulisic was ready to go and those are the kind of signings we needed, not the wait and see type. It’s a step in the right direction for Chuk but he has a long way to go
    2. Unusual culprits in Calabria and Mike but I’m not worried about them. Sometimes you have a terrible night but these two always put in the effort and have bailed out their teammates several times. Unfortunately, nobody could bail them out
    3. Injuries are getting out of hand. This needs to be seriously investigated
    4. Pioli has made a lot of strange decisions this season and his position should be questioned but for me, you have to fix the issue of the poorly constructed midfield first because any coach would struggle with the current bunch.
    5. As with Chuk, Jovic (and Okafor) will do better and score with more playing time. The bigger issue is the lack of service from the midfield. 90% of our chances come from the wings. They are not the kind of strikers that can create for themselves. Unless you fix the midfield, expect any striker we bring in to struggle

    1. I’m not happy with Pioli like everyone else but it’s not all on him.
      The question I have asked on here over and over and over …..

      2 summers of transfer activity that have been an ill-conceived mess!!

  7. What we learned

    This season is over in terms of CL football and challenging for Serie A title.

    Our medical team are incompetent.

    We have major holes in the squad.

    Signing 10 players and letting even more leave is not a good idea.

    How can we move forward with what we have learned?

    Focus on getting the best out of the talent we have by giving minutes to younger players.

    Decide what system we will be playing next season.

    Start scouting and talking to players who will fit the system we intend to play.

    Sign players who we need to fill the holes in the squad, players who can improve our level.

    Do not create more holes in the squad

  8. Also, to point 5 of the article. I was also thinking the same thing right after the game, actually. Clearly Jovic has a long way to go, but in the last couple of games it’s like he’s come back to life. He’s made some good passes and had opportunities in front of goal where only the finishing was lacking (so the positioning was good). If he can start converting we may just be able to get through the season as we are at striker so that whatever funds we have can be used to control the CB emergency in January. December will be critical for him to show improvement. It could begin against Frosinone.

  9. I hate to say this, but Maldini probably predicted this. He had the foresight and wanted to make changes which was not received well by the management.
    I think all we need to do at this point is not lose hope and stay as a team for our beloved Milan.
    Forza Milan and Good bless us.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.