After AC Milan’s summer transfer window came under scrutiny, answers have arrived in recent weeks from a trio of forwards who arrived.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) recalls Milan’s winner against Newcastle United on Wednesday night. Noah Okafor raises his head and accelerates. He passes between two opponents and immediately understands that he has an opportunity. He chooses Luka Jovic and, a few steps on, Jovic returns the favour.
At this point Okafor already knows what to do. Samuel Chukwueze is free on the right and, from the right, finds the opposite corner with his left foot. For Milan, the perfect counter-attack and one that ended up securing third place in the group.
At the same time though, Stefano Pioli has found reliable alternatives in attack. Milan have scored only three goals in the league from the bench: Okafor against Lazio, Pulisic against Genoa and Jovic against Atalanta. In Serie A, only Bologna, Torino, Genoa, Juve, Lazio, Salernitana and Sassuolo have less.
Napoli actually scored eight times via a player coming off the bench. Roma, Lecce and Cagliari, who also don’t have Manchester City’s squad depth, are as high as seven. The moral: Milan must do more. That goal by Chukwueze was the first from the bench in the Champions League. Lazio and Porto are on four, City and Galatasaray at three.
Chukwueze struggled in his first two or three months at Milan, partly due to a hamstring injury sustained on international duty, but he scored in each of the last two group stage games and has begun to repay the faith Milan showed when they paid him more than anyone else in the summer.
The Nigerian has a better chance – in the medium term – of accumulating minutes than Jovic and Okafor. The Serbian striker arrived on deadline day from Fiorentina and took a while to break his duck, but has since netted twice and has an assist too.
The Swiss forward has a history of injuries. At Milan he started well, he was decisive as a starter at Cagliari but has been out three times due to various problems. The key with him is to find consistency and a role: at striker9 he is the third choice, on the right he doesn’t convince Pioli, so he is the deputy to Leao.
Against Monza? Pioli now knows he can count on all three, that he can turn the matches around with one substitution. For example, during the matchday he will decide which attack to deploy against Monza. Pulisic-Giroud-Leao is the logical choice, but Chukwueze could let Pulisic rest, who has started the last five games.