AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria: Five things we learned – more magic, lack of rhythm and impact subs

By Ivan Stoev -

After a big win against Inter and a spectacular 4-0 victory over Lazio in the cup on Wednesday, Milan faced their former management as Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria arrived.

Stefano Pioli’s men did manage to get all three points and in doing so they took back top spot after Inter and Napoli drew, albeit with their city rivals having a game in hand. The game against Sampdoria was no walk in the park though as the Rossoneri struggled to convert their chances, but they did keep it tight at the back.

With that in mind, two more games against sides in the bottom half of the table follow – Salernitana and Udinese – before two crucial games against Inter and Napoli in the Coppa Italia and league respectively. Here are five things we learned…

1.Yet more magic

Words cannot describe how Milan fans feel about Mike Maignan at the moment. The Frenchman has found it extremely easy to erase Donnarumma from the minds of the Rossoneri supporters as he continues to prove that he might just be the best keeper in Serie A and one of the worlds’ best.

Even without mentioning his goalkeeping, Maignan still manages to amaze as his footwork is of the highest level as well. The former Lille man has no struggles when the ball is played back to him and has proven to have a fair amount of vision as well.

That vision and ability provided the assist to Rafael Leao and brought Milan all three points so Mike certainly was a big part of the win, despite not having much goalkeeping to do.

2. Starboy strikes again

We might as well just dedicate a point to Rafael Leao every single week since the Portuguese has found his rhythm and has proven that he can work hard and achieve consistency. His goals and assists speak for himself this season, but probably the most enjoyable thing is the way he glides past players.

The youngster scored the crucial goal and is cementing his elite status, proving to be one of the best in the league and hopefully – if he keeps it up – one of the best in the world.

3. Rusty up front

After a couple of games where most of Milan’s forwards were on the needed level, we didn’t see that efficiency against Sampdoria. In the first half, despite Leao’s goal, there wasn’t really much in terms of opportunities for the hosts aside from Junior Messias seeing a first time effort blocked.

In the second half, there was a bit more creativity and with Alexis Saelemaekers coming off the bench we saw some nice dribbling from the Belgian, but the end result was never there. Milan were lacking that spark and need to be a bit faster on the ball as they just didn’t play fast enough to create clear chances.

When playing against bigger teams, that commit more to attack, the Rossoneri utilised the space in a great manner, against Inter and Lazio for example, but have struggled against a more deep-lying team.

4. Out of rhythm

Speaking of killing the speed, Ante Rebic had a bad outing after coming on in the second half. The Croatian was at the right place at the right time on a couple of occasions, but he failed to capitalise due to a bad first touch or taking the wrong decision in the final third.

It’s probably fair to cut him some slack since he’s been out for quite some time, but if it were the clinical Rebic we all know, the score should’ve been 2-0 or 3-0 in the last third of the game.

5. Fresh energy

As mentioned previously, Saelemaekers came on as a substitute and he provided a lot of energy while his dribbling seems really good, but then the Belgian struggles from the start.

It was no different against Sampdoria as the winger was really involved after coming on and showed great dribbling skills, even creating a couple of chances for himself or his team-mates, but again the problem was in the decision-making as he should’ve gotten more out of the situations he had.

Saelemaekers is in an odd place, as he isn’t the typical winger in terms of speed and taking on players, but then he seems to possess the dribbling to make great runs and beat his man through the middle where he doesn’t rely on his speed. However, he lacks the passing abilities to play behind the striker which makes Pioli’s life a tad harder, but it seems that he makes the biggest impact off the bench at this point of time.

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