After the win against Bologna, Milan hosted bottom of the table Crotone at the San Siro in a must win game for them to remain top of the standings.
Unlike the game against Bologna, this one was quite comfortable for the Rossoneri as they scored four. Zlatan Ibrahimovic racked up another brace and so did Ante Rebic in what will hopefully will be a stepping stone for the Croat as he looks to build on this performance after having a rather volatile season in terms of form.
For Pioli’s added delight, almost the whole squad was available with only Bennacer and Kjaer out from that perfect starting XI the fans want to see. While the Algerian should be back soon as he had a fever prior to the Crotone game, we can happily say that Tomori has slotted in quite well next to Romagnoli at the back and things are looking good.
Milan have another rather winnable game next week against Spezia before they take on Inter in the Derby della Madonnina in a game that may prove crucial in the title race.
Here are five things we learned…
1. Rebic’s rebuttal
It has been a rather poor season for Rebic overall, which may seem harsh but he set high standards for himself by being last season’s top scorer. Injuries and COVID are also to blame as the Croat has failed to get into form.
In the Crotone game, however, Rebic finally got the performance he wanted as he managed to score two goals. While his first half action wasn’t as flashy his press was on point as he created a lot of trouble for Crotone’s defence.
His brilliant chemistry with Theo Hernandez on the left was also clearly seen as the two were constant threats. The only real problem now comes for Pioli as both Ante and Leao are performing and they both play in the same position with Calhanoglu coming back into the starting XI.
Ante Rebic vs. Crotone:
➤ 77 minutes
➤ 2 goals
➤ 39 touches
➤ 4 key passes
➤ 1 big chance generated
➤ 4 duels won
➤ 4 goals and 1 assist in his last 5 Serie A matches.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) February 7, 2021
2. Energetic performance
Another man benefiting from and in-form Rebic is Theo Hernandez. The Frenchman had a great game as the winger’s work rate allowed him to go bursting forward throughout the whole game.
The left-back picked up an assist to his name and was at his very best showing just how important that Rebic-Hernandez link-up is on the left flank.
.@TheoHernandez 🆚 Crotone
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) February 8, 2021
3. Leao is maturing
While Rebic was on the left, Leao started in the middle behind Ibrahimovic in the absence of Calhanoglu. The Portuguese provided the Swede with a lovely through ball for the opening goal.
Now, Leao didn’t have his most fruitful of afternoons, but he did enough in an unnatural for him position. The youngster worked really hard to recover the ball on several occasions and is showing signs of maturation – signs that we didn’t see throughout last season.
He will have a hard time battling out for the left winger position with Rebic but the attitude is there, and we shouldn’t be surprised if Pioli experiments with one of the two on the right thus fielding a front four of Rebic, Calhanoglu, Leao and Ibrahimovic.
That might shake the balance of the squad so the coach might end up not doing it but one thing is sure, Leao is becoming a player that you wouldn’t want to leave on the bench.
.@RafaeLeao7 🆚 Crotone
🤔 What would you give his performance out of 10?
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) February 8, 2021
4. Excellent early signs
With Simon Kjaer injured there was reason to worry, also considering the not-so-convincing first part of the season for Romagnoli. Fortunately for Pioli, Fikayo Tomori has slotted in straight away after his arrival from Chelsea as it feel like he has already been here for a while.
The Englishman produced yet another solid outing and the chemistry between him and the captain looks impressive.
Moreover it seems that the aggressiveness and pace that Tomori possesses thus allowing him to recover fast, allows Romagnoli to cut the gap between him and the opposition striker. That being said, Alessio may feel that someone fast and aggressive has his back so the captain can step out and play tight with the strikers not being afraid to make a mistake.
Indeed, Romagnoli was quite good against Crotone with brilliant positioning and multiple interceptions.
5. A 10 from No.10
To say Milan missed Calhanoglu would be an understatement. The team has been lacking his creativity as seen the previous couple of games and immediately after coming on he was involved.
.@hakanc10 is among Europe's elite in Shot Creating Actions per 90 minutes across the 'top five' European Leagues.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) February 8, 2021
Hakan contributed to the second goal and then assisted the third and fourth, racking up two assists in a matter of minutes. Moreover, his chance creation didn’t stop there as the Turk could have picked a couple of more assists by the end of the game.
His return showed straight away why Milan have missed him and why they will need him if they want to keep on dreaming for a trophy this season.