Fiorentina 1-2 AC Milan: Five things we learned – top performances save defensive embarrassment

By Ivan Stoev -

Following the international break, AC Milan headed to Florence to face a Fiorentina side who needed to win to keep themselves close to the European spots. Given the Rossoneri also have a lot to play for, the game was a cagey affair.

Milan came into the game filled with confidence after their recent form, having won their last three Serie A games and blowing past Slavia Praha in the Europa League, and the demands were for that form to continue.

The first half had sporadic moments of quality but lacked goals, mainly because of the excellent work of Mike Maignan and Pietro Terracciano.

In the second half, however, things escalated rather quickly, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek opened the scoring in the 47th minute. However, that didn’t last long as Fiorentina equalised three minutes later through Alfred Duncan.

Fortunately for Pioli, his players reacted similarly, as they regained the lead in the 53rd minute after a lovely run and finish by Rafael Leao – adding to a display of the Portuguese winger at his best.

Expectedly, the game gradually calmed after a hectic eight minutes, and whilst both teams had chances, neither side took them – which again can be accredited to the work of both goalkeepers.

You can read our full match report here, and with that in mind, here are five observations we took from the game.

1. Picking up where he left off

The Portuguese winger finally found consistency before the international break after a season full of ups and downs, and this trend continued through the international break as he picked up a goal for his nation. To the Rossoneri’s delight, this form has continued further as we can see Leao near his best again.

Leao potentially looked a bit sluggish at times, but he ended the game with a fantastic assist and an even better goal. That is without mentioning that he easily could have had another assist (or two) if Olivier Giroud had finished the chances presented to him.

The 24-year-old led his side to all three points, which we have seen all too many times before, and he will now hope to continue in the same fashion in the Europa League, where the Rossoneri have a chance to win the competition for the first time.

2. Positive signs from the start

Saturday night was a display from Samuel Chukwueze that the management and the fans expected when he arrived in the summer, as we saw the Nigerian impress consistently throughout the time he was on the pitch.

Perhaps he should have gotten an assist at the very least, but he also was a victim of Giroud’s poor performance. Additionally, he had a few good chances himself but, much to his annoyance, he was denied by La Viola’s goalkeeper.

Whilst the performance might have come later than anticipated in the season, it provides a solid platform for the Nigerian winger to build upon, and it will be hoped he can continue to impress in the upcoming games and beyond.

3. Midfield duo impress

It is worth noting that Ismael Bennacer had a better performance in this game than in his prior appearance. However, we want to highlight the performances of Loftus-Cheek and Tijjani Reijnders.

The Englishman showcased his strengths again, playing in the advanced role which we have become accustomed to this season. He did well to win his duels during the game, and he carried the ball exceptionally, which was fundamental for Milan to take advantage in the middle. The cherry on top, though, is his goal. He was at the right place at the right time and opened up the evening’s scoring.

His partner in the middle – Reijnders – also did very well. Again, he showed his engine, as he was prominent at both ends of the pitch. The Dutchman looked calm on the ball, combined with his teammates well, and found empty spaces on several occasions – look no further than his assist to Leao.

Overall, a solid performance following an impressive display for the Netherlands during the international break.

4. Bailing out the defence

Milan only conceded once, but the hosts had plenty of opportunities to turn the game around. Calabria had a very solid performance, doing well defensively and often winning his duels. However, the same can’t be said for Malick Thiaw, Fikayo Tomori and Alessandro Florenzi.

Thiaw was rather clumsy throughout the game, and Florenzi was shaky in the defensive phase. However, it is worth mentioning that for his defensive struggles, he made up for it when the side progressed. Unfortunately, Tomori was also shaky at times, which may be accredited to his recent return from injury, but it was certainly far from his best.

Fortunately for the trio, though, Maignan was exceptional. The Frenchman made several crucial saves to prevent the hosts from scoring on more than one occasion. This was noted in our player ratings, where he was deemed the Man of the Match.

5. Recognition praise

It is fair to say that this season, Stefano Pioli has had more criticism than praise, but he has steadied the ship as of late, and Milan have done well domestically and in Europe.

Against Fiorentina, they continued their upsurge in performances, and there were plenty of interesting tactical moments where the team looked very fluid. This could have been reflected in a more comfortable scoreline if Giroud didn’t have an off day.

Most of the issues on the evening were due to individual mistakes or a collective lack of focus, which can be addressed. Equally, though, this is something that the players are responsible for.

All in all, Pioli now must be praised for his squad’s impressive turn of form, which creates welcomed headaches regarding next season.

Tags AC Milan Fiorentina Milan


    1. Gabbia is our most in form CB and should start every game. He’d be in Almeria by now if he was playing like Thiaw.

    2. This. I don’t understand how/why Thiaw is higher in pecking order. Even yesterday he almost gifted a goal – out of nowhere. He’s the biggest liability of the team. Even bigger than Kalulu. Way bigger.

      1. Pioli said that Tomori is out for the first game against Roma, and he needs to give minutes to the other defenders. If Kjaer is injured, the center pair will be Thiaw – Gabbia

      2. I won’t count out Thiaw just yet as he could recover form he had before his injury. But I do think we need another CB.

        1. The form before his injury? He was absolutely terrible against e.g. Juve & Inter BEFORE his injury. This IS his level.

  1. After 30 games in serie A this season Milan has 65 points, 15w, 5d, 5L.
    57 goals scored and 34 goals given up.
    2nd in the standings.
    After 30 games last season, Milan had 53 points,
    15w, 8d, 7L.
    49 goals scored and 37 goals given up.
    4th in the standings.
    Improved in every category.
    12 more points ,
    5 more wins,
    8 more goals scored,
    and the most interesting stat of them all 3 LESS goals given up.
    Everything that’s been said about the new midfielders and their defensive ability, talk about too much turnover in the squad, totally new midfield, Bennacer injured and poor since his return, all CBs injured by the butchers Pioli & Osti, Maignan being the worst version of himself, and Milan is still better defensively this season than they were last year.
    That’s how bad Milan was last season, but yet you still read some fans complains about the changes the club made over the summer.
    Those changes were necessary.
    Looks to me like selling a starting player and using the money from that sale can improve the team. Imagine where Milan would be now if they didn’t lose 4 other starters for nothing the previous 2 summers.

    1. Pioli deserved praise for taking an overhauled and restructured squad to the position it occupied now, and the apologies of many here, I thought!

      1. Exactly because many of the same people who were oh so excited about last summer are also the same ones calling for Pioli to be sacked now.

      2. Like taking the team backwards then forward after everything’s already lost?! Or despite the overhauling (improving the squad I’ll call it) were you actually expecting this team to finish 3rd or something behind a terrible Juve and co? Team is on a good run which is normal considering Milan were favorite to win in more or less each of the matches played during the period. What was not normal is what was happening before then. To be fair there’s not much to criticize the coach for at the moment ,nor anything to apologize to him for. I’m still convinced he’s not the man for when it matters most. I still see his slow build up football that perhaps could work in Italy ,being insufficient in Europe.

        1. 💯
          With Pioli, the last 2 years have been 2 steps backward, 1 step forward, and he is getting praise for the step forward while the 2 steps backward are forgotten.
          Not to mention getting smacked in every inter.
          Milan needs a new coach.

          1. With Pioli it’s been a step forward, then a step back and now a step forward again. So we haven’t regressed technically.

            Yes, we need a new coach, but a coach that is a proven A-lister and can elevate Milan further. one isn’t currently available.

            So Pioli next year.

          2. First of all Milan has never hired an A lister coach.
            Pioli is definitely not an A lister so why does the coach replacing Pioli has to be an A lister? Who was Pioli before the little success he had with Milan? A nobody. Couldn’t keep a job longer than a year.
            Milan is starting a new project, the new coach can grow into a great coach. You act like Milan is in Liverpool’s situation and are replacing one of the best coaches like Klopp.
            And there are very good coaches available. You might not like them but this summer Conte, Nagellsman, Flick, Lopetegeu, Motta, De Zerbi, even Sarri, etc will be available.
            Who you waiting on, Guardiola, Klopp, Ancelotti? Those are not coming to Milan.
            There are plenty coaches better than Pioli available but most of Milan fans are scared of change and they’ll rather be inter’s little brother under Pioli and be happy with finishing top 4 after falling behind 15,20, 25 points and then have a good run of results to somehow sneak into top 4.

          3. We’re 6 points clear in 2nd after having the squad overhauled last summer and an injury ravaged season.

            But more importantly there’s a really chance Pioli won’t be sacked next season so you have a simple choice as to whether to support Pioli/the club or not.

            And not is a perfectly acceptable option.

    2. Yes we have done very well this season considering but you’re getting ahead of yourself because we haven’t won anything, and many of the players we sold had in fact won the Scudetto.

      Yet the media and fans talk about these players as if they were utter losers. Saelemaekers (now playing for 4th place Bologna) is a Scudetto winner.

      I get accused of living in the past for simply pointing out the historic fact that players who won the Scudetto were by definition capable of winning the Scudetto. And people are given more credibility if they talk about imaginary ceilings that players will reach one day in the future.

      Plus your analysis ignores the fact that Milan were producing title winning form last season until the collapse against Roma in January.

      The dip in form in the second part of the season was in a large part down to Milan focusing on the champions league where we made the semi-finals. Again this historic fact shows that these players were capable of going far in Europe’s top competition as evidenced by the fact that they did in fact go far in Europe’s top competition.

      And of course the current squad didn’t get out of the group stage but it was a tough group.

      So it’s all much of muchness. And the only thing that matters is trophies. If these players do ever win something then they can be remembered (by me at least) in the same vein as the actual Scudetto winners.

      1. Title winning form until the collapse in January?
        Milan went into the break for the WC 8 points behind Napoli on the table. Is that a title form?
        You said the drop of form was because of them focusing on the UCL, but then you talk about collapse in January. UCL games don’t happen in January. Which one is it?
        Milan had the worst January in the history of the club. No UCL games.
        These current players are in the quarter finals of the Europa league, that’s pretty deep.
        Saelemaekers played 140 games for Milan, producing 10 g and 14 assists. How can Milan win another scudetto without his production?! 😂
        Pulisic, the man who took his spot, has played 40 games for Milan so far, producing 12g and 8a. He might beat Saelemaekers 4 year g/a tally in his 1st season.
        How many of your scudetto winning players are actually doing anything at their new clubs?
        Saelemaekers is a part time starter at bologna. 1g, 1a so far.
        Messias bench player at Genoa, 1 goal.
        Rebic, bench player in turkey, 1g.
        Krunic bench player in turkey.
        Tonali banned from football.
        Brahim Diaz is the only scudetto winner performing well but he wasn’t a Milan player.
        None of those players are missed, nor any of them had any winning resumes before they won the only scudetto.

        1. According to MH, Krunic is one of the best Milan midfielders in recent years that should have never been sold despite performing poorly this season because he is a scudetto winner, but Bennacer who is technically much better than Krunic and is also a scudetto winner should be sold. Go figure.

          1. Still struggling to understand when he actually performed poorly.

            I know people on here don’t like when players, especially CBs and DMs, keep things simple, and prefer a bit of Hollywood, but in actual footballing terms Krunic produced text book defensive midfield displays which actually helped us go top at the start of the season and put us in with a shout in the champions league.

            Then Pioli seemed to have bought into the myth and froze out a player that he himself had described as his most important.

            In Pioli’s words:

            “I don’t care if he’s not praised enough, I know he’s important. There are things that cannot be explained through numbers and images. He makes those who play near him play well. He is smart and occupies spaces properly, with and without the ball.”

            That’s the thing that concerns me most, Pioli was swayed by the mythology. That’s like your pension adviser being swayed by the latest Ponzi scheme.

          2. There is no mythology whatsoever. Also you either have to trust Pioli or you don’t. You can’t quote him when he praises Krunic and then says he’s swayed by the the mythology when he benches him.
            Krunic simply had a poor season in 23/24 and eventually lost his place to Adli who is not even that good himself and with Bennacer coming back, playing time was going to be more difficult. Pioli simply thought than Krunic can be the sole defensive midfielder and it didn’t work, simple as that.
            You always seem to justify his poor 23/24 season by how good “according to you”, he was in 21/22 and 22/23 yet somehow this logic doesn’t seem to apply to other players (Bennacer).

        2. He’s got some good points MH.
          You can’t blame last year’s January/Feb collapse on a UCL run. Our knock-out run in UCL came as they stabilised that slump.
          Overall that UCL run came on the back of two factors.
          1. Pot 1 draw after the Scudetto win got us out of the group.
          2. Fortunate draw through every stage of the knock-out avoided any giants. From memory we only played teams from Portugal and Serie a.

          And our Scudetto win in 21/22 was fortunate as well. Our points total was only good enough for second in most recent seasons. We had a strong finish from a solid platform but Inter really should have clinched that title from the position they were in.

          Overall I think our squad is stronger now with the exception of not replacing Kessie properly. Although RLC is covering the more advanced role Kessie often played in that final season. In that sense he has been replaced but not his DM role.
          A lot of that improvement is down to the mercato that saw Tonali leave and Pulisic, Reijnders, RLC, Okafor, Chuk and Jovic arrive.

          1. The January collapse was psychological but Z is referring to stats after 30 games and by then we’d dropped many more points after rotating our entire starting eleven to focus on the champions league.

            One of the many terrible things about the overhaul last summer was the sheer lack of respect shown to our Scudetto winners and champions league heroes which really makes the whole thing pointless.

            Why are you as a Milan fan (not an inter fan) downplaying our Scudetto win and champions league run?

            The Scudetto win was not a fluke a) because the league table never lies; and b) because it was in the middle of a 2 year run where we produced Scudetto winning form from the end of Covid to the end of the World Cup (something about that midseason break changed things).

            Meanwhile the champions league run was exemplary as we produced incredible wins against Tottenham (some fans now want Conte as manager) and Napoli (fans would not doubt take Spalletti).

            But this is the issue with the modern fan (and consumer). They’re never satisfied. And they exist in that gap between reality and fantasy. That is why people on here are given more credence when they make bold future predictions and are mocked if they bring up indisputable facts from the past.

          2. Trust me. I enjoyed the Scudetto and UCL run as much as any Milan fan. It had been long time since either had happened.
            Just trying to add a dose of perspective.

            Apologies I had forgotten about the win over Tottenham. We really did do well to get through that tie. You’ve got to admit that we got lucky with our draw from there. The win against Napoli when they were flying was a big achievement but it was still familiar opposition. We almost made a UCL final with having played only one knock-out game outside of Italy.
            It remains that last season when we had a group from pot 1 is the only season we have made the UCL knock-out for a decade. Pot 1 was earned and not luck. It was a key factor though.

            And the table doesn’t lie in our Scudetto. Our winning points tally was the second lowest in the last 10 years. Had any of our rivals had a year like
            – current Inter
            – Napoli last season
            – Juve through many of their 9 consecutive titles
            We could not have kept pace with them.
            Not with the young squad we had.

          3. Agree that some aspects of that squad overhaul were hard to take. I hated the Tonali sale at the time. Still don’t love it but I acknowledge that the reinvestment has gone well.
            I personally would have liked to see Salemakers remain as I saw him as a useful and flexible squad option. Particularly when you have games against strong opposition and want to play a more conservative/defensive option at right wing. Or the option to play 352.
            Messias was always a short term option as an older player.
            Krunic wanted to leave and only stayed because Pioli lobbied for that. In the end he left 6 months later and the club will get a lot less money now.

            Who else would you have liked to stay from 21/22 squad?

        3. 8 points behind a record beating Napoli side (that we had been unlucky to lose to in the first half of the season).

          The fact is up to that point for a sustained period of over 2 years Milan produced title winning form. The Scudetto was not a fluke but in the middle of that incredible run. Then the wheels came off. It was a psychological collapse and some players still haven’t recovered including Maignan and Tomori.

          Your stats are irrelevant. Titles at the only thing that matters. Saelemaekers is inarguably a player capable of winning the Scudetto as evidenced by his…yes….actual Scudetto.

          Of course if I was in charge I’d still have signed Pulisic and RLA and a ‘metaphorical’ 40 goal a season striker.

          And Saelemaekers would’ve provided scudetto and champions league experience off the bench and also given other players space to grow. Who knows maybe even failures like CDK and, dare I say it, the former premier league and champions league winner Origi.

          Because that is one of the things I find most fascinating and what you won’t find on Transfermarkt – the psychological aspect.

          That more than anything will determine whether this crop of players will actually win titles. Because again that is the only thing that matters.

          1. “Your stats are irrelevant. Titles at the only thing that matters. Saelemaekers is inarguably a player capable of winning the Scudetto as evidenced by his…yes….actual Scudetto.”
            Leao, Maignan, Theo and Kessie are players capable of winning titles. Saelemakers is a player who is lucky to have a scudetto because he was playing with us in 21/22. Yes he played his part, but in a team everyone has his role whoever limited they are.
            Look a Saelemakers with Bologna, he is not even a regular and has an abysmal 1G+2A, and I don’t see him winning a title anytime soon.
            He could have stayed with us and be a bencher to Pulisic, but he wanted more playing time and eventually had to leave. I did love his warrior mentality, but he is a limited player.
            Each title winning side has 4, 5 or 6 players that are untouchable and for us it was Leao, Theo, Maignan, Kessie and Tonali, and no more. Once Kessie left and wasn’t replaced, the team crumbled.

      2. Try this one on for size. Salad won the scudeto. Pulisic won the CL. Chuky won the LE.

        Krunic won the scudeto, rlc won the eng championship twice and LE once. I’m not even gona talk about all that jovic won. Heh

        1. a) Milan’s legendary Scudetto winner is called Saelemaekers. Show some respect.

          b) I was never against the signing of RLC and Pulisic or indeed transfers full stop. I’m just one of those crazies who prefer quality over quantity.

          c) Chuk was always going to struggle competing with Pulisic for the RW slot.

          d) 20m or whatever we wasted on Chuk (and Luka Romero) is a lot of money in any normal planet.

          e) Saelemaekers (see (a)) would’ve been a perfectly serviceable back up RB, RW or LW (as evidenced by the fact that he played champions league knock out matches in those positions whilst Chuk was playing in the EL).

          f) Krunic was at one stage Pioli’s most important player (see the above quote). Now the question is not what you or I think of the player but how did Pioli change his mind so drastically? And how can we ever hope to build an elite side with such whimsical, media driven decision making???


          f) As fans we celebrate

          1. No. He is Salad. An average player who by some miracle got a lucky shot at Milan and couldn’t get a starting spot in the club even tho his competition for said spot were average players. I mean messias > salad everyday of the week and twice on cl night…

            And what makes you think the media influences the decision of the club.. l0l

            Nostalgia would influence your decisions, obviously. Neevr a good thing

          2. If you can’t respect our Scudetto winners then there isn’t any point to you supporting a football club. That is the essence of being a fan. It’s got nothing to do with nostalgia. It’s fundamental to the success of a team.

            And imagine a Milan fan who doesn’t know about the influence of the media……

          3. Respect, right…

            -a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.-

            Which one of these desrbies Saladmaker?

            Abilities? Meh.

            Qualities? Meh.

            Achievements? Cant name one.

            Pietro Pellegri also won a scudeto at Milan. I guess he should be engraved, in gold, at the Halls and brought back 2 Milan before the whole club implodes from a lack of a scudeto winner such as him…

            And there is no point in supporting a club, for anyone. Its one of the most st*pid ways a person can spend their limited time on this earth.

            If Milan was influenced by the media our lord Pioli would’ve been fired a year ago.

          4. my man Chukwueze is “struggling” at Milan, he played 1012 minutes, has 3 goals and 1 assist.

            Saeledmaker is supposedly having a good season at Bologna. He played 1584 minutes and has 1 goal and 2 assists.

            Now i wonder, how would Chukwueze look if he wasnt “struggling”. Stats wise.. 5 goals? 7? 10?

          5. Re f)
            Because even a man as stubborn as Pioli can eventually see the nose on his face.
            Krunic had a big offer from Turkey for a lot more money than Milan was ever going to pay him and wanted to leave. He understood he was at the last point of his career to be able to get a big pay day.
            Pioli seems to have lobbied hard to keep him over the summer as his security blanket. Not trusting his new or existing young midfielders. With Tonali gone and Benacer injured.
            And by January he realised that he no longer needed him. Once he realised that he could rely on Reijnders, PLC, Musah and even Adli as a midfielder.

    3. Well we prioritized UCL over last year and so we had a bad league campaign 🤷‍♂️ so you’re comparing our worst league campaign to the current performance. I didn’t us failing in the UCL in your write up….playing Napoli and Tottenham is different to playing Slavia and Rennes.
      Don’t worry about the less goals given up until the end of the season as we did finish strong last year and we still have a derby to play this year. We’re just about the same a prior years though but worse defensively….it’s still the problem. Not because we’re better than worst means we’re good.

  2. My problem with Pioli is integration and rotation of players. Once one player works Pioli doesn’t want to know who else is in form, and Gabbia is a victim of this right now.

    1. Totally agree.
      I’m not the total #Pioli out camp. I admire what he has achieved. Lets be honest, we’ve never had the strongest squad in Italy in any of his seasons.
      I don’t have an issue with his tactics generally. They do play to the strengths of our squad. I.e. making space for Leao and Theo. Using Giroud’s (and previously Ibrahimovic) strength to hold the ball and offload to runners.

      Where he really frustrates me is his squad management.
      – Over use of key players.
      – Until they get injured.
      – Limited rotation for players trying to play into form.
      – Then total rotation of nearly all key players for one fixture. So those trying to gain form get just one start in months in a team with no continuity. it almost always fails and sets those players back further.

      His rotation policy leads to injured players all the time. Once some players start getting hurt, the over use gets worse and the injuries just keep piling up.
      He also does not give young players a decent opportunity until there is an injury crisis. Then they get a sink or swim chance. Occasionally players become regulars out of this chaos. Like Kalulu in the scudetto season. Or Thiaw last season. Adli this season.
      But many others have instead had limited opportunities and end up leaving on loan.

      Last season he continually kept playing CDK who just got worse and worse under the pressure. Or Brahim who was not our player never was going to be. And just refused to give Adli any chances as a CAM.

  3. Gabbia is one of the thousands of youth team products being discriminated against in Europe’s top leagues.

    Youth team products aren’t supposed to make the first team. They’re supposed to provide ‘capital gains’ which can then be used not to cover the huge expense of new signings.

    The formula is as follows:

    – Take the top players of their generation;
    – Pay to develop them to 17/18.
    – Loan them out multiple times until their value hits rock bottom.
    – When they’ve lost all their value let them join your rivals for a free.
    – Spend over 100m signing three players for one position.

    It’s the very serious business of modern football.

  4. Expecting immedate results after revamping half of the squad is plain stup!d. That’s why I was so vocal and against the shopping spree in the summer. It was bound to disrupt the ongoing project. And then all the injuries. It was really bad. His only miss this season was CL where we should get at least to knockouts. All in all, Pioli is steering this ship pretty good and players seem to be clicking finally.

    1. Bingo!
      I’d give Pioli all the credit here. The way he stabilized the team with no Ibra/Maldini was nice to see. They’ve done better than I expected them to with alm the new players

  5. For me, Pioli has done well rotating the players. He is giving Thiaw, and, Chukwueze, the chance to improve, rather than wasting away on the bench. Gabbia has improved, no doubt, since his return. The only ones I wouldn’t risk, like Pioli, are the young ones, considering what is at stake. Aside these, the rest feel they are a part of the team. Credit to the coach for the improvement so far. Great game.

  6. The story of the season unfortunately. Prolific attack, plenty of scoring chances, many different scorers.


    NO defensive midfield and and faulty back line…. So Pioli’s defense is his offense. But we know that’s unsustainable, so……

  7. With the youngsters, there’s a different story. While I also want to see the likes of Simić in first team, he has too much of talent to be wasted on the bench. I mean seriously, Tomori, Gabbia, Thiaw, Kalulu are currently all in front of him. Or at least Tomori and Gabbia.

    Problem occurs when you need additional defender for backup but don’t want to waste your own talent. So they loan him out to get experience and if he succeeds he returns. Meanwhile club wastes money on a backup. It’s quite complexed.

    Imo, I’d gladly sell Thiaw and have Simić take its place. Kid is really talented and mentally strong for his age. A leader in the making. Also, homegrown is homegrown afterall.

    But it’s just my opinion so don’t get too triggered.

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