Mike Maignan managed to get himself in the assist column once again after he did so last season, this time finding Christian Pulisic during the 3-1 win over Frosinone.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (seen below) talks about Maignan’s long ball, describing it as ‘the sound of a stone thrown from a slingshot’. Milan won a strange match against Frosinone on Saturday, with 89 minutes of concreteness and one of beauty, that being the fifth minute of the second half.
Maignan put the ball on the ground, which seemed harmless, but he was actually planning what would turn out to be a decisive move. When the Frosinone defence saw that the ball was in flight – and travelling fast – it was already too late.
Pulisic has half a metre of advantage and uses it like a top winger should. He took the ball down superbly with a fantastic first touch, ran away with half the away team chasing him, took three touches while running and calmly finished over Turati.
Two nights ago there was a lot of talk, rightly so, about Pulisic’s play, the best of the match. Yet we need to say a few words about Maignan, who does things other goalkeepers are forbidden to do. The assist brought to mind Milan’s win over Sampdoria in February 2022, the Scudetto season. It ended 1-0, with Rafael Leao finishing after a long ball from Mike.
The one on Saturday might just have been better. The measurements say that the ball flew for 60.7 metres, like the play of a great quarterback, with the difference that Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers make it go with their hands and Maignan uses his feet. The characteristics, after all, are not so different: reading the game, strength and precision, choosing the right moment.
Milan consider him to all intents and purposes an added defender, because he plays with his right and left foot, always gives an option in build-up, knows the right times to leave his usual pocket and makes very few mistakes with his feet.
Not only that, but Maignan travels 6km per game on average, a figure higher than almost all the other goalkeepers in the league. He moves around, offers himself as an option to help in build-up and stays close to his team-mates.
Milan-Frosinone had its aesthetic peak in Pulisic’s goal but Maignan also had a hand on the defensive end, one which might just have been the most important intervention of the game. When Fikayo Tomori gave the ball away, the Frenchman rushed off his line and thwarted the danger with the opponent through on goal.
A week earlier he made a decisive stop to deny Mandragora at the end of Milan-Fiorentina. Let’s assume a draw with Frosinone and look at the standings without those two saves: Milan would be at 25, with just one point ahead of fifth place, and Pioli… who knows.