While it is often easy to overstate the importance of results in preseason friendlies, there were some concerning signs that emerged during the USA tour.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) this morning have written a piece that starts with how the ‘central axis of the new Milan has yet to find its direction’, speaking specifically about Theo Hernandez, Fikayo Tomori and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Tomori and Loftus-Cheek are expected to offer cover and instead in the USA Stefano Pioli found his side defenceless, with individual errors compromising the good work done in the games against Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona.
Tomori has made a couple of errors, Loftus-Cheek is yet to show any real final product and Theo has been playing ‘with his handbrake on’. There are less than three weeks left until the start of the season and Pioli has to fix things.
If Tomori is the backbone, he cannot make the same individual errors that rendered him inconsistent for large stretches of last season. Support must come from Theo on the left and Loftus-Cheek ahead too, with midfield balance so important.
The paper adds that Tomori become the most ‘vocal’ player, a guide who calls and directs the department with instructions. This implies that he feels he has a leadership role, and as such must lead by example.
With Pioli’s system the full-backs play inside quite a lot, leaving the wing to the real wingers (Rafael Leao and Samuel Chukwueze) to exploit the space wider. Theo knows it well and Tijjani Reijnders – who was excellent in America – will be able to help him.
Thus, there is a triangle to the left with Hernandez, the Dutchman and Leao who will be able to give vivacity to the attack but also more coverage behind.
In this summer of preparation Loftus-Cheek was an undisputed starter. Due to his previous injury issues and his physical mould it will take him longer than Reijnders to get in shape, something which was shown on the field.
Pioli used him as an attacking midfielder at times, while his team-mates looked for him with long balls precisely to take advantage of his size, however he must find a way to be more dangerous in the opposing area.
Pioli will give him confidence, which is as fundamental as consistent playing time, which he has lacked in recent years. He needs to play and to play close to goal: Reijnders can help too.