Following their impressive win against PSG, AC Milan faced a less daunting Lecce on Saturday but the outcome was still somehow worse. Once again, the Rossoneri squandered a two-goal lead in the league and there is indeed a lot to work on.
Despite a strong start to the season, Lecce’s recent form has been rather dire. Milan made quite a few changes to the starting XI and were hoping to bounce back with a win. Samuel Chukwueze, for example, got the chance from start.
And it started well for Milan. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring and that was then followed up by Tijjani Reijnders’ first goal (finally) for the club. However, the Rossoneri conceded a very poor goal in the second half and that led to the collapse. In the end, they were lucky to come away with one point.
Below are five things we learned from the game…
1. Giroud’s mixed fortunes
Olivier Giroud’s performance was a rollercoaster: from scoring a pivotal goal to receiving a potentially consequential red card. His absence in upcoming matches could pose a significant challenge for Milan, especially given Luka Jovic’s current form.
With all of his experience, the Frenchman should have never been sent off for dissent. He needs to be a leader for this team and simply cannot act in such a way, even if the referee made a big mistake. It’s even worse that his absence (likely two games) comes when he’s in such good form too.
2. Midfield mishaps with Krunic and Pobega
The midfield duo of Rade Krunic and Tommaso Pobega massively underperformed. The Milan product showed timidity in possession and the Bosnian failed to make a positive impact in any phase of the game. Especially after the first goal, this proved costly.
Head coach Stefano Pioli perhaps needs to reassess Krunic’s role in the team, considering the stark contrast in the team’s performance with and without him. Yacine Adli hasn’t done any wonders either, but he’s been significantly better passing-wise.
Against PSG, we saw a midfield tandem (4-2-3-1) with Reijnders and Yunus Musah, and that might be worth trying again. Especially since Ruben Loftus-Cheek did so well in the No.10 role, dropping deep when needed but mainly occupying the centre of the midfield.
3. Chukwueze’s missed opportunity
Starting in Christian Pulisic’s absence, Chukwueze had a chance to shine but instead delivered a lacklustre performance. Despite assisting the second goal, his overall contribution was minimal, raising concerns about Milan’s priciest summer acquisition.
He lacks confidence in the 1v1 situations, often losing the ball and putting his teammates on the back foot. That’s not to say he never succeeds, but the percentage has been far too low thus far and he really needs to step up. At the moment, it’s tough to see why the Rossoneri decided to invest €28m including bonuses.
4. Musah’s disappointing display
Yunus Musah, replacing Davide Calabria off the bench, played a crucial role in Milan’s downfall. His performance was notably poor, marked by defensive lapses that contributed directly to Lecce’s comeback.
On the first goal, he completely lost his man on the corner and you could see that in his reaction afterwards. Then, on the second, he should have put the ball out of play instead of dribbling, since Theo Hernandez was down.
Pioli deserves some of the blame for the decision, which we will get to, but the errors made by the American were very avoidable indeed.
5. Pioli’s questionable decisions
Stefano Pioli’s tactical choices and game management were major contributors to Milan’s disappointing result. His decisions regarding player selection, particularly in midfield and defence, backfired.
The decision to play Musah as a right-back has been the most criticised one, and everyone understands why. Alessandro Florenzi was on the bench and with all of his experience, it’s possible he wouldn’t have made the same errors.
Furthermore, the team’s inability to maintain control and discipline after gaining a 2-0 lead raises serious questions about Pioli’s strategic acumen. The same exact thing happened against Napoli and one is right to ask why there wasn’t a solution this time out.
In short, it was a game of lost opportunities and tactical missteps. With the Scudetto dream gradually slipping away, Milan must urgently address these issues to regain their winning form. And they will have to start with the injury struggles, in which Pioli is heavily involved.