AC Milan 2-5 Sassuolo: Five things we learned – defensive disgrace and questionable calls

By Ivan Stoev -

AC Milan followed their embarrassing 4-0 loss against Lazio with an even more humiliating 5-2 defeat against Sassuolo on Sunday, a side sitting 16th in Serie A.

The Rossoneri continuing digging their defensive graves as it only took Sassuolo 19 minutes to open the scoring and then a couple of minutes later it was 2-0. Olivier Giroud got one back in the 24th minute to get Milan back into the game, but Sassuolo scored a third through Berardi to make it 3-1 at the break.

In the second half, Davide Calabria foolishly gifted away a penalty which Lauriente tucked away to make it 4-1 as things kept getting worse and worse for Stefano Pioli and his men. A fifth goal came from Henrique before Origi fired in a consolation.

It has gone from a battle to defend the Scudetto to a fight just to get in the top four with the Rossoneri having now slipped to fifth. Here are five things we learned…

1. Disgraceful defence 

The problem seems to become more serious with every game in January as the Milan defence has crumbled. This is utterly disgraceful for the reigning champions of Italy and whilst playing poorly happens from time to time, conceding 18 goals in a month is far from normal.

Tatarusanu was yet again helpless in goal and while his rearguard didn’t help at all, he still failed to make a decisive save and was beaten twice at his near post.

Calabria and Theo Hernandez were both sloppy on the flanks as they were both at fault on the first goal with Calabria conceding a penalty later on and Theo being at fault for the fifth as well.

Kalulu and Gabbia had a clear lack of chemistry that showed in their movements. At times they might as well have not been there as Defrel, Berardi, Lauriente and Frattesi continued to ghost into the box and pretty much have a free reign.

2. Midfield fails to keep up 

With Bennacer suspended Krunic got to start alongside Tonali, but the outcome wasn’t much different compared to the last few games as Milan were dominated in the middle of the park with Tonali misplacing most of his passes and losing his man on a couple of Sassuolo’s goals.

The Bosnian looked a bit better as he won some duels, but ultimately couldn’t do much to change the outcome of the game as again the Rossoneri were overrun in the middle as well as on the flanks.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Pioli has a solution on the bench for the double pivot and it will interesting to see how he solves the issue, especially with Bennacer now injured.

3. Questionable decisions from Pioli 

The Italian opted to drop Rafael Leao from of the starting XI and also gave Ante Rebic and De Ketelaere the chance to shine from the get-go. The Croatian struggled to impose himself on the game and excluding his disallowed goal he was all over the place with his finishing, wasting a couple of half-volley chances.

De Ketelaere on the other hand actually looked decent in the opening exchanges which included a nice turn and dribble to start an attack. He was one of the more positive performers, but Pioli opted to bring him off.

That decision and benching Leao did not work out for Pioli and neither did his overall tactics which raises questions marks as to is he able to come up with a plan to get the team out of this difficult situation or is he out of ideas.

4. Droughts end

On the bright side – individually at least – Giroud got a goal after struggling for form after the World Cup and Pioli will hope that he can continue that trend in the following games so that he can help Milan get back on track.

Divock Origi also scored a lovely goal off the bench to double his tally since arrive, but that did not help his side in any way and was a mere consolation, thought it could be a good morale boost for the Belgian as he looked sharper.

5. Not the right attitude

Leao came off the bench and did not look interested at all, something which became apparent when – at 4-1 to Sassuolo – he did a backhell pass in the middle of the pitch that went five yards backwards and was met with jeers.

The Portuguese winger has still not renewed his contract and is demanding a hefty salary, but his performance after the World Cup has ben subpar as he hasn’t managed to help his team get out of this negative moment.

That does not help his quest to earn the money he is demanding, so he’ll need to put his head down, work harder and lead by example.

Tags AC Milan Milan-Sassuolo


  1. Sell Leao,
    If he don’t renew until summer mercato opens, sell him. Better 2-3 qyality players on 3 positions then 1 player wirlth renew contract saga again and leaving for free. Give the proposal with ultimatum untill summer mercato opens and that’s it.
    Plus sell all players Pioli is not using if he stays as coach, although I will give money for salarybin quality coach. If Roma can afford Mourinho we can afford someone.

    1. The money we MIGHT get from selling Leao won’t get us “2-3 quality players” but perhaps one. No one is willing to pay anywhere near 100M€ for him. I’d say it closer to 40-50M€ that we can get for him. If even that. He’ll probably leave for free.

  2. I actually dont know why Pioli never let Origi plays on the right wing he did it also in Liverpool but he prefers always Saelesmakers or Messias. Let Kalulu play on the right defence and give Thiaw a chance. Should we always buy players that needs 6 Months to get into the Starting line. I better prefer Bakayoko to play in the MF but he never get the chance. Sometimes the descion of Pioli is strange.

    If Leao doesnt want to renew sell him for 100 Mio and buy 2-3 worth players. Im tired of the Mercato. Better have a negative balance for one window then always wanna try to have a positive balance.

    1. “If Leao doesnt want to renew sell him for 100 Mio and buy 2-3 worth players.”

      Like said: The money we MIGHT get from selling Leao won’t get us “2-3 quality players” but perhaps one. No one is willing to pay anywhere near 100M€ for him. I’d say it closer to 40-50M€ that we can get for him. If even that. He’ll probably leave for free.

  3. It’s not going to change with this personnel. Calabria needs to be benched immediately. Move Kalulu to RB. I would love to sit Tonali too and give Vranckx a shot, but we know Pioli won’t do that. Can someone explain what Tonali brings to this team? He offers nothing going forward, not creative, not a good passer or dribbler. He doesn’t help out the defense, because he never tracks back and picks up his mark.
    In order to save this season Pioli needs to drastically change tactics. They need to stop with the high line and the over aggressive pressing because it is not working and they are getting exposed every week. They should sit back with a solid compact line and play counter attacking football. It’s the only way to solve this problem Otherwise Inter is going to put up 5 on us.
    Pioli’s system doesn’t work without a Box to Box Beast like Kessie, and Tonali just can’t do it.

    1. Yes, not replacing Kessie, staying on Tata as second GK, and Piolis inability are the main reasons. As coach to lose Kessie and not screaming about real replecament and not knowing that he has not that type of player in the squad is only his fault. He is not aware what he needs so his system will work and never makes pressure about what he needs from the mercato. He is clown.

  4. We have a solution on the bench with our 35 man squad for the double pivot.

    Krunic Tonali Pobega


    Tonali Bennacer Krunic/Pobega


    The above with Vranckx. Or Adli.

    Job done.

    1. So simple. And completely incorrect. I know you don’t watch the games but still like to come on here and defend management, so I’ll explain to you.

      Pobega is too slow for professional football. Period.
      Adli, we know has offensive capabilities, so most likely the reason why he can’t get on the pitch is that Pioli doesn’t trust his defensive capabilities. SO I don’t think throwing him in there in the middle of a defensive emergency is a good idea.
      Krunic might help out defensively although he was in there against Sassuolo and look what happened.
      The real problem that no one wants to talk about is Tonali. He doesn’t do the work that Kessie did and he is constantly losing his mark. I wouldn’t mind seeing Vranckx replace Tonali, but he’s an unknown as well. This is the problem Pioli is faced with. There just aren’t good options in the midfield.

      1. Or there’s not good coaching? I mean why is he just allowing Tonali to roam himself out of position time and time again. Tonali losing his man twice a game is a weekly occurrence. A GD coach should be fixing that or as you said not playing him until he does. Do you really think slowbega or Adli would do worse than giving up two clear chances a game? How the f is Tata still playing if every shot goes in! It literally can’t get worse! How come he keeps starting Diaz at the ten when is hasn’t worked in 2 1/2 seasons, if the midfield lacks quality why hasn’t he made any attempts to adjust his tactics to fit the squads strengths?
        Kessie did not carry Milan by himself and the squad is capable of much more than what we are seeing. As the season has progressed the team has gotten worse. That is solely on the coaching. You can say the players suck all you want but at the end of the day it all starts and ends with the coach and until he realizes that he needs to change Milan will not win another game.

        1. Yes, Pioli needs to take much of the blame. He has been to stubborn to change his style. And he doesn’t have the nerve to bench the Italian players. I don’t blame him that much for Diaz, he has tried CDK and that hasn’t worked. At least Diaz has given them a few moments of real brilliance this season.. It’s not much, but better than CDK.
          It’s hard on Pioli when he keeps losing starters year after year and Maldini replaces them with 19 and 20 year old kids that aren’t ready. The squad is getting weaker each season when it should be getting stronger, and that is on Maldini.

      2. I do watch the games but more to the point I focus on the players we have rather than the players we wished we had.

        Tonali is not Kessie but he has different characteristics and was arguably more central to us winning the title last season.

        He’s not in good form at this precise moment as is the rest of the team. That is what needs to be addressed.

        Pobega has done well this season when he’s played.

        Krunic has also done well and Pioli says that he’s one of our most important players. In fact I reckon we’ll be seeing more of him now he’s fit.

        For your own sake you might want to start liking the players who actually play for the club rather than pining for players who have left. Otherwise just follow Kessie or whoever on Instagram or Facebook.

      3. “Pobega is too slow for professional football. Period.”

        Then why is he able to provide for his family with playing football? He doesn’t have another job so that qualifies as a “professional footballer”.

        Pace isn’t everything as this isn’t a video game. He did well in Torino last season. Was their best or 2nd best midfielder actually.

  5. We learned nothing. And we will continue to learn nothing because the same people are gonna keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

  6. Leao is leaving for free, the writing is on the wall. We are too weak to be definitive. He needed to be signed by now or sold. Sorry, thats it. No middle ground.

  7. Same tactics, Same players expecting different results week in and week out by the coach…looks foolish… disgusting thing is though the players are playing badly, coach wants those players and not open to give chance to the new once, then y the heck did they brought those players in the first players

  8. On a pleasing note Olivier Giroud looked much more up for this game ,and he scored with a wonderful headed goal ,he was also a little unlucky earlier for a goal which was fractionally offside …but he did work hard up front and won so many battles in the air..
    Still very disappointing from rafeol leao ,who does not seem really that interested at all .He has ability no doubt about that ,but I am not sure his heart is really with the club..Must mention Origi ,what a performance he put in from the bench ,and what a goal ..He looked so strong fit and energetic and he had a good understanding with Giroud’s the best I have seen Divok Origi in a AC Milan shirt ..If he stays fit then he could be a huge asset for us .
    I would love him to start up front alongside Olivier ..
    What we have to somehow do is sort our defensive frailties out …Any one got any sensible suggestions.

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