After two consecutive draws in Serie A, Milan found the international break at the right time. With a well-rested Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Rossoneri bounced back and won 3-1 at the San Paolo against Napoli in what was a statement to the rest of the league.
After looking fatigued before the break, Zlatan seemingly had gotten his rest and was full of energy and ready for action. The Swede bullied Koulibaly in the air to open the score after a lovely cross from Theo Hernandez. Ibrahimovic’s contribution didn’t stop there as he was a constant threat for the opposition which eventually game him his second goal of the game before being subbed off due to a muscle injury.
Overall it was a close game as Napoli were the team pushing for the bigger part while Milan were protecting their lead. In contrast to the Hellas Verona game, this time around the Rossoneri were more clinical and managed to take advantage of their chances and with the win they made a big statement as they’re back at the top of the table.
Here are five things we learned…
1. Lightning strikes over and over
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the man in focus ahead of the game and he did not disappoint, scoring yet another brace and reaching ten goals in just six Serie A appearances.
While the 39-year-old proved to the world what kind of a player he still is despite his age, he himself and Pioli must take into consideration that dealing with fatigue will not be that easy for the Swede and in easier games in the Europa League or Serie A the coach should consider giving his striker some rest in order to keep him at a 100% for the most important games.
The schedule is tight and the season will be long, but rotating might be harder than it sounds as Rafael Leao is currently injured and Lorenzo Colombo is still not ready to start.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 10 goals in the first eight rounds of Serie A.
Only Gunnar Nordahl (1955-1956) and Marco Van Basten (1992-1993) have scored more in #ACMilan's history.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) November 22, 2020
2. Theo bounced back
It seems though Zlatan wasn’t the only one that needed rest as Theo Hernandez also looked tired before the international break. While Ibra had been given some rest here and there, Theo had barely missed a game and he was not as efficient as we know he can be in the last couple of games.
Against Napoli, however, the Frenchman looked energised and there was nothing stopping him. His defensive work was quite impressive while his attacking was back to what we remember.
Going forward the left-back was a constant threat as he managed to provide the assist for Zlatan’s first goal. In the second half – after a bursting run forward – he drew a second yellow card from Bakayoko after the former Milan player was finding it hard to stop his compatriot. Simply put, a fantastic night for Hernandez.
3. Dynamic duo deliver again
Milan might just have the best midfield pairing in the league in the form of Kessie and Bennacer. The two have been dominant, to say the least, since the start of the season and continued that trend.
The combination between Bennacer’s abilities to dictate the game, his passing and vision combined with Kessie’s strength and defensive contribution has proven to be too much for the majority of Serie A teams since lockdown at the beginning of the year.
While we’re highlighting Bennacer’s elegance and Kessie’s defensive attributes, what makes it even better is that the Algerian is more than capable of getting the dirty work done as well making him a very complete midfielder. The same goes for Kessie as his contribution on the ball has improved immensely and they both deserve all the praise coming their way.
Franck Kessie 🆚 Napoli
— SempreMilan (@1SempreMilan) November 23, 2020
4. Calhanoglu struggles
Hakan Calhanoglu has the amazing ability to divide our fanbase as there is no in between for him. He is either in red-hot form like the second half of last season or he just looks unmotivated and sluggish – and that can probably sum up his entire time with the club.
Against Napoli, he did provide the through ball to Rebic which led to a second goal for Zlatan, but his overall performance looked poor.
His recent performances make life even harder for the management who want to renew his contract, but the player’s agent is demanding a high salary. While the discrepancy between offer and demand is apparently large, the management should think about whether he is worth the money. If you want a world class salary you have to be world class most of the games and not just for a few months.
Hakan was fantastic in the final third of the last season, but he hasn’t been able to continue going into this one and if his struggles continue then the management may turn elsewhere.
5. Taking on the challenge
Jens Petter Hauge has had a rough time finding game time since his arrival as Rafael Leao has been in good form this season, and then when Leao is off injured it’s Rebic that god the nod over the Norwegian, but Hauge did get some minutes to prove a point and he did in a brilliant way.
While the 21-year-old didn’t have much space to showcase his abilities he was really helpful for his team as both his defensive and offensive work rates were high thus helping all over the pitch.
Fortunately, Hauge did get his chance to shine and he did it in style. In a counter-attack towards the end of the gamehe was left against Manolas, but the Greek defender was beaten easily and Hauge finished of the counter with a lovely shot to score his first goal in Serie A.
A lot of bright signs from the former Bodo/Glimt star on the night his old side were crowned champions, and he proved that he means business despite the intense competition.