GdS: Normal start, drastic decline, signs of life – Theo’s complicated start to 2023-24

By Oliver Fisher -

Theo Hernandez racked up two assists in his last two games for AC Milan against PSG and Lecce, and Stefano Pioli hopes that it will spark him into life after a difficult start to the season.

La Gazzetta dello Sport outline Theo’s 2023-24 campaign so far as follows: a normal start, a drastic decline and some recent positive signs. However, most would agree that it is his most difficult beginning to a season since his arrival at the club, barring under Marco Giampaolo when he was on the bench with Ricardo Rodriguez preferred.

Against PSG in the Champions League and Lecce in the league, Theo provided two assists. Both were for Olivier Giroud as well, as we have come to expect. The first allowed Milan to get back on track in Europe and the second at the Stadio Via del Mare should have resulted in a much-needed win but for a second half collapse.

Unfortunately there have been more negatives than positives for the former Real Madrid man, such as his inability to stop Matteo Politano when Napoli halved the deficit at the Maradona, or before that being beaten by Lee Kang-In for PSG’s third goal in the French capital without even an attempt at opposition.

The numbers illustrate some problems. In this first part of the season he scored a goal and 2 assists, which is half of what he had compared to last year – again considering the trend up to November – and slightly down compared to the Scudetto year (there was one more assist).

Another useful statistic is that of duels won, 64 in 2019-20, then 101 in 2020-21, 65 in 2021-22 and 96 last season. This year? It has dropped to 54, the lowest figure by some distance.

An indicative figure is also that of the attempted dribbles, which are one of his strong points. He has 26 so far in the current campaign, while last year (at the same point) he had 41. In the 2021-22 season it was 35, in the previous one 43 and before that 39.

Looking at tackles won, he has just 7 which is the lowest registered with the Rossoneri (his first season there were 10, last year 19). In short, a drop that is evident in several aspects and can also be attributed to factors of a tactical nature, with the new construction (the 3+2, with the full-backs moving into midfield) which paradoxically seems to have penalised him, unlike Davide Calabria.

The farewell of Paolo Maldini must also be mentioned, given he was the Frenchman’s idol and the person he spoke to in Ibiza in the summer of 2019. The farewell of Paolo and Massara shocked him, but the relationship with the new management is equally solid.

Then there is another problem: Theo is today the most booked player in the league with six yellow cards in 9 games and a big match against Juventus missed – a 1-0 loss at San Siro – due to suspension.

Above all, the number of cards collected at this start of the season have already exceeded the 5 of the 2021-22 season, which ended with the Scudetto, and are close to the seven collected throughout the entirety of last season.

The Frenchman has so far drawn 13 fouls in nine matches, while last year he drew 57 in 32 total Serie A games and the year before 74 (again in 32 matches).

Tags AC Milan Theo Hernandez

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