AC Milan may have let a two-goal lead slip in their last match against Lecce before the break, but even in times of distress there can be indications of things to take courage from.
As La Gazzetta dello Sport recall, the first half performance from Milan was utterly dominant and it was during that spell that Tijjani Reijnders lifted a huge weight off his back by scoring his first goal for the club.
The Dutchman has been described as a ‘metronome’, a ‘visionary’ and a ‘double phase player’ since his arrival in the summer, having immediately established himself as a starter on the left of the midfield three.
However, before the Lecce game the theme was the same: he would do everything right and then suddenly lose that elegant clarity in the final third, the same clarity that distinguishes him in the creative phase.
The goal against Lecce is therefore a step in the right direction, but it took him 12 matches in the league to score and also highlights a problem regarding the overall lack of contribution from the midfield department.
In 12 Serie A matches and four Champions League games, out of a total of 22 goals scored only two have come from the midfield, which is 9%. Reijnders’ goal in Lecce and Loftus-Cheek’s in Cagliari are all the department has to show.
The Englishman’s injury was a real shame, because he was back to his best and the month out took away an essential pillar for Pioli, while the hope is that Reijnders will take confidence from breaking his duck.
It must be said that last year the contribution of the midfielders was far from excellent. After the same number of matches, the midfield had provided three goals out of a total of 29 goals scored (Bennacer, Tonali, Pobega).
However, a fundamental distinction must be made: in last year’s 4-2-3-1 – wanting to divide the pitch strictly into sectors, and therefore considering the attacking midfielder as part of the attack – there were two midfielders and not three as in the season current.
In this sense, therefore, this year’s dry spell is more serious. Reijnders has sent an important signal, and Loftus-Cheek will be fit to face Fiorentina. Pioli can hope they will lend a further hand to Giroud, Pulisic and Leao (when they are available).