After the controversial loss against Spezia last week, Milan were eager to bounce back with a big win against a Juventus side growing in confidence, but neither side were able to find the net in a dull 0-0 draw.
The game started off well for Stefano Pioli’s men as they were the team on top while Juventus looked satisfied to stay back and try their chances on the counter. However, that didn’t quite work out for them as they managed zero shots on target, for which the Milan defence needs to be praised.
Unfortunately for the Rossoneri, the attacking side of things never really clicked for them and despite having a couple of good opportunities to open the scoring, they failed to do so. With the missed opportunity to collect all three points, Milan are now four points behind Inter who have a game in hand, and the Derby della Madonnina on January 6 looks like the biggest game of the season. Here are five things we learned…
1. Back with a bang
Despite the bitter feeling that Milan had to win the game, there were quite a lot of positives to take from the clash. Davide Calabria started on the right side of the defence after fully recovering from an injury he picked up in late November.
While you’d think the Italian might not be fully fit in his first start in a while, Calabria was actually one of the best on the pitch as he was solid defensively and was involved in some of the more dangerous attacks for his team on the right flank.
It’s great to see Calabria back in the lineup and the way he stood out brings a lot of confidence that he is fully fit and eager for success.
2. Holding up well
After a couple of not so convincing games, Rade Krunic had a solid game against Juventus, playing alongside Tonali in the double pivot. The Bosnian has always shown that he can do the job from a tactical point of view, but technically he was a bit limited going forward.
Meanwhile, Sandro Tonali bullied the Bianconeri’s midfielders and was the best player on the pitch as he continues to improve and stand out. The 21-year-old grows in confidence and imposes himself more and more every week as the future looks bright for Sandro and for Milan who are facing problems with Kessie’s renewal, but the Ivorian already looks like a third choice anyway.
Speaking of which, Bennacer – who returned from the AFCON just a couple of days ago – featured in the second half where he brought a lot of composure in the midfield as he managed to carry the ball with ease and was involved in Milan’s final efforts to grab all three points.
Sandro Tonali vs. Juventus:
➤ 95 minutes played
➤ 10.103km covered
➤ 6 fouls drawn
➤ 9 possession recoveries
➤ 82% pass accuracy
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) January 23, 2022
3. One dimensional
It is a point that we have mentioned time and time again, but it feels like every time Milan are too dependant on Rafael Leao on the left with Brahim Diaz and Messias struggling through the middle and on the right.
Whilst Brahim was a bit more involved against Juventus, he still struggled to produce a decent shot on goal or create a chance for the other forwards, leaving Leao to be the only man to really threaten the away side as Messias, Ibrahimovic and later Giroud all had little to no success in doing so.
When Leao was double teamed eventually it also reduced his effectiveness, nullifying the overall threat.
4. An urgent need
On paper Giroud and Ibrahimovic have very good numbers in terms of goals and assists, but the two are 35 and 40 years of age respectively and are struggling to be more involved in the build up or create anything for themselves, appearing very static.
We’ve already mentioned that the whole of the attack is hoping on Rafael Leao to produce something, but it’s time for the management to think further ahead and bring in a striker that is younger and in the peak of his strength and athleticism, who can be a game changer for the team.
If Milan were to finish top four again this year, the management needs to solidify progress by bringing in the missing pieces of the puzzle. Maldini has done well with various decisions on the market and is working on crucial renewals, but the next step has to be that striker position.
5. Back on song
Pierre Kalulu had a bit of a poor performance against Spezia, but has been superb in every other game he has played since the injury of Tomori and Romagnoli’s absence. The Frenchman seems to excel as a centre-back despite originally being a right-back and has proven to be a real gem, full of potential that has a very bright future in the squad if he keeps up developing like this.
This could’ve changed the minds of the management to go out and buy a centre back in January as with Romagnoli being back and Tomori hopefully back soon, Milan have three great centre-backs and they’ve also got Gabbia who has a few positives displays alongside Kalulu in recent weeks.
Florenzi has also improved in the last month or so on the right and looks like a very good second choice if something were to happen to Calabria, so Kalulu could freely play in the centre and with the performances thus far, could probably fight for a starting XI spot.
That being said, this could be an opportunity for the management to bring in reinforcements in the attacking department to solve the issues mentioned above and put up a real fight for the Scudetto.