AC Milan 2-0 Genoa: Five things we learned – experiment fails again; versatility man shines

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan managed to get back to winning ways on Friday night as they beat Genoa 2-0 at San Siro, but it was far from their best display of the season.

It was a win that was much needed in front of the biggest crowd of the season as goals from Rafael Leão early in the first half and Junior Messias late in the second half secured three valuable points, ensuring the correct response after consecutive goalless draws and after Inter beat Spezia. Here are five things we learned…

1. Master of all trades

News filtered before kick-off that Davide Calabria was unwell and would be replaced by Matteo Gabbia, meaning Pierre Kalulu got a start in the right-back role having played centre-back over the past few weeks.

If there were any concerns about how he might adapt to being shifted back, those were eliminated within 11 minutes. The Frenchman showed that in addition to being reliable, strong and composed on the defensive end, he can add something to the attack too.

He whipped in an inch-perfect ball to the far post where Leao was on hand to finish with a lovely volley to give Milan an early 1-0 lead. No matter where Kalulu plays, it is now obvious that he is a certainty for this defence, and for years to come.

2. Questionable management

There are too many hypotheticals thrown around with regards to narratives in football nowadays, but we find ourselves questioning if this result and performance might have been viewed differently if the score stayed at 1-0.

The Rossoneri got an early goal like they have done many times this season, yet just like they did against Spezia, Empoli and Udinese at home plus Cagliari away, they then really struggled to manage the game and control the pace of the encounter against an opponent who are far inferior on paper.

Milan having their fast, intense setting is fantastic for setting the tone and coming out of the gates quickly, though the team have still not figured out how to effectively manage a one-goal lead. They lost possession in sloppy areas, created very little and just generally looked like a side lacking confidence.

3. Starved of service

Olivier Giroud got the nod to start up front and while he must be cut some slack for having been made to work overtime in the last few weeks, the fact of the matter is that he is not only struggling to score consistently, but he isn’t even getting into the game.

The French striker had one big chance to double the advantage in the second half from Alexis Saelemaekers’ cross, yet aside from that he got very little service. Of course this reflects badly on the wingers, the playmaker and the midfielders, but we are now learning that Giroud is quite static and won’t look to stretch defences or drift into pockets of space.

Simply put, he is quite easy to defend against because he is an old-fashioned No.9. The potential arrival of Divock Origi and/or Gianluca Scamacca should help Milan in that respect because at the moment Giroud is more of a hinderance than a help.

4. Confidence boosters

The build-up to the game was dominated by the fact that Milan have been having a lot of problems scoring goals having netted just four goals in the six games prior to last night’s win, including back-to-back goalless draws against bottom-half teams Bologna and Torino.

While it was hardly the swash-buckling performance we were hoping for after such an early goal, there were at least a couple of positive contributions from two players who are under pressure.

The first came from Leao who had not scored since February and appeared to be struggling with the extra attention he was getting from opposition defences, and the second was no doubt a big relief for Messias who ended a drought in front of goal and did so off the bench.

Pioli needs contributions from all of his attacking players and he simply hasn’t had them in the past few weeks – let’s hope this is the beginning of a resurgence.

5. Experiment fails

Pioli’s decision to play Franck Kessie as a playmaker was first tried during the 4-2 win over Empoli before the Christmas break and he scored a brace which instantly made the move look like a masterstroke.

Then, the Ivorian was again fielded in the same line-up as Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer in the 1-0 win away at Napoli, this time in more of a neutralising move in what resembled more of a 4-3-3 system.

Every other time it has been tried, it hasn’t worked at all. Kessie should have the physicality to cause problems and disrupt the low block – especially when there is minimal space between the lines – but he lacks the technical quality and the natural movements to play the role.

Some things look like they could work on paper and playing Kessie close to Giroud with Leao tucking in, which should give a mix of pace, physicality, finishing and dynamism, but he just isn’t cut out to play the No.10 role. It should now belong to Rade Krunic or Junior Messias, presuming Brahim Diaz hasn’t grown a foot overnight.



Tags AC Milan Milan-Genoa


  1. I would NOT call the Kessie “experiment” a failure because you must compare it to our alternative which is Brahim Diaz and Diaz is TERRIBLE. Kessie doesn’t fall over if someone sneezes next to him like Diaz falls over with a light breeze.

    Also, I think Kessie actually did a nice job dribbling in traffic many times using his big strong body to shield off defenders and his passes were weighted perfectly to teammates. 25 minute mark he dribbled around and between 3 defenders and delivered a nice ball forward to Leao (who promptly lost possession by trying to do something too fancy).

    And OF COURSE, that corner kick around 35th minute, Kessie did a GREAT job dribbling thru traffic again, in the box and delivered A PERFECT rolling ball into the middle of the box, setting up Saelemakers for what should’ve been an EASY shot into the goal and somehow Saele sailed it WAY over the bar. i could’ve scored that goal. If Saele puts that in, then people would say Kessie had a great game with an important assist and the “experiment was a success”.

    Sometimes I think people want to criticize Kessie because he’s leaving the club (after he of course said he would stay). But we should not let that blind us from seeing that he is a FAR FAR FAR better option that Diaz and he does bring good possession, better than Diaz, and good (not the best) passing in the final third and wins tackles defensively.

    1. Leao’s natural ability is recognized by us football fans, no doubt. His performances almost always get a 6.5 rating. I agree with that rating, I give him a 10 when he lowers his shoulder, dips and glides past a defender and presents a screamer for the goalie to defend, I give him a 3 when he is dispossessed, throws his hands up in the air and mopes around. 10 +3 divided by 2 = 6.5 Last week I watched him do this down in the corner and Bennacer like a bolt of lightning came out of no where and won it back. Sorry he plays lazy.

    2. Of course compared to how totally ineffective Brahim Diaz is in that role, Kessie does look better because even in the toughest of battles he at least gets into the game. However, we haven’t seen enough to suggest that should be the option for the rest of the season either. He should have had an assist in this game admittedly when Saelemaekers skied his shot but overall it would be absolutely fair to say that him playing in that role has not worked since Empoli away. It certainly hasn’t been a successful expirement.

      1. More importantly, playing Kessie behind a static striker like Giroud make things difficult for Kessie. Kessie would perform better playing behind a mobile no. 9 who can run into spaces.

  2. Suggesting Messias play the 10 is ridiculous too.

    Krunic suggestion in this article is OK; but definitely not Messias. His whole (predictable) game is to start on the right and cut inside to his favorite foot and he’s not even so good at that. Rebic should start on RW and Kessie or Krunic at the CAM.

  3. I also think this article is too harsh on Giroud. When he was brought in to Milan, he was never ever expected to be playing this many minutes he’s been playing; but due to Ibra and Rebic injuries, he has had to play WAY too much. He was mostly a super sub at Arsenal and Chelsea for many years; and now at his older age, he’s been forced to play so much more. We can’t expect him to run all over the place… and the article did correctly point out that the service is poor. Saele had one good cross and mostly every other pass from Saele was terrible. Leao is more interested in trying to dribble past 3 or 4 defenders instead of trying to ever cross the ball into the box.

    Kalulu and Theo are good going forward from the outside back positions as least; but service from the attacking LW and RW players has been poor for many weeks now. Leao had a nice finish on the goal; but overall, I thought he was poor in this match.

    1. totally agree ,not Giroud’s fault that he is marked by 2 or 3 packing the box with another predictable header. My strategy would be to leave him in there drawing as many defenders as possible. Then attack more centrally with direct kicks/shots on goal. Tonali had a nice chance last game. Sandro has great vision for openings whether to pass or shoot.

    2. It is mentioned in the Giroud point that he gets a bit off a pass because he’s been working overtime in recent weeks and that he’s not getting much service, but we must acknowledge that he doesn’t seem to be able to find a way to score against the bottom-half teams recently.

      1. Impossible to score with zero chances. The one he had against Genoa was a poor cross from Saelemaekers to be honest. Should have sent the ball in front of Giroud and not behind. It’s a miracle that Giroud even managed to get a decent volley from an awkward position with his weaker foot.

        1. This is true, it wasn’t a good cross and it was a yard behind him, but he got a good hold of it and he was disappointed he didn’t score. It is mostly on Saelemaekers though

    1. The big uproar is because of the lack of goals and the slipping of the Scudetto which is by some act of God still in our hands. Weeks back Pioli explained his discussion with Theo regarding his movement forward and has now encouraged it seeing that his runs centrally have freed Leao from being marked by two. You tailor the game to a players strengths, not try and change the players strengths. Check out Theos stats at the French Nat’l. team under Deschamps, he lets him run. Calabria did this last year as well (runs) but has lost form. Kalulu’s success/surprise performance was not planned, he merely imitated his fellow Frenchman. Leave Kalulu there, Romo. could have his “swansong” performances there with Tomori with Gabbia as backup in his final days as a Rossoneri. Kessie and Benna. in double pivot. Tonali or Rebic at the 10. Diaz is too short to see/distribute the ball and Tonali is great at doing this, last year he played higher on the pitch. He is tired as well this would shorten the field for him, not much but every little bit helps. I have proposed Tonali at the 10 but Stefano has not reached out to me yet. LOL. He would excel there. Rebic is also an option, strong in possession with back to goal, good with both feet and has played there before at Eintracht. As to Giroud, our game has become to predictable, it is football not headball, too many headers. And last game when we replaced him for some reason Rebic decided to play LW, we need more shots directly, narrower angle. With ball pinballing around, this is where Diaz is effective. Please ,there is a time and place for headers. Not every corner kick has to be header service. Right now wholesale changes are dangerous, too much risk, Sandro at the 10 is very feasible and would make Pioli a rockstar but he does not have the balls to attempt that thought. And yes like many mad at Kessie for leading us on at Olympic time off, but his agent is doing his decisions. His dislike ironically comes from the fact he was so well liked. I tip my hat to him, he is playing his heart out when he could be dogging it.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.