Following a rather frustrating loss against Juventus, AC Milan headed into the away clash against PSG with the hope of at least sealing a point. However, it was yet another UCL night without a goal and with a disappointing result.
Milan didn’t look particularly good and as has become a common theme this season, they allowed their opponents plenty of space. And with a front three of Kylian Mbappe, Kolo Muani and Ousmane Dembele, that was always going to be an issue.
In the 32nd minute, it was Mbappe who beat Fikayo Tomori with ease and gave the home side the lead. The game continued pretty much in the same fashion, with Milan offering little up front and in the 53rd minute, Kolo Muani also got his goal doubling PSG’s lead.
The Rossoneri couldn’t offer anything meaningful and even managed to allow a third goal in the 89th minute, forming the final score of 3-0. As mentioned, it was also another UCL night without a goal for Stefano Pioli’s men. Here are five things we learned:
1. Major concern
The attacking department has shown some promise against the weaker sides, but after just one in five big games against Inter, Juventus, Newcastle, Dortmund, and PSG it might be fair to say that this is a real concern that needs to be addressed and not a one-off.
Realistically, even with the arrival of Noah Okafor, Christian Pulisic and Samuel Chukwueze, the elephant in the room was always Olivier Giroud and his 38 years of age. Unfortunately, none of those mentioned above arrivals are known for their goalscoring instinct and Milan failed yet again to bring in a top striker who can turn the tables around in a given game.
Whilst the three additions masked the problem for a while and against weaker sides, it’s more than evident now that this department might have improved but not by much.
2. Unrecognisable in the middle
The midfield looked like it could work at the beginning of the season with Tijjani Reijnders and Ruben Loftus-Cheek starting well, then Adli and Musah also stepping up. However, against PSG it was just a horrendous performance.
Musah was arguably the best out of the bunch as he continued to show his talent and solidify a spot in this team, but that’s the only positive.
Reijnders had some good moments but was lacking the finishing touch to make it count and was not all that helpful in the defensive phase either. Two in a row for him where he just lacks an edge and he needs to improve.
The other elephant in the room: Rade Krunic. The Bosnian was probably the worst player on the pitch by far. The positions in front of the defence have been an issue ever since Franck Kessie departed, but was not addressed then and was not addressed this summer either even though Sandro Tonali left the club and Ismael Bennacer is injured.
We have to criticize the management for thinking this could work and whilst Krunic has had some good games, again – only against poorer sides. What’s even more concerning is the apparent desire to give him a massive salary increase to keep him and continue counting on him as the first choice. This is not a move that signals “We want to win trophies” and performances like this should be expected if a quality defensive midfielder isn’t brought in.
3. Lost the solidity
The first two games of the Champions League campaign were marked by great defensive efforts but struggles in the attack. Against PSG, both the attack and defence struggled as the French side’s front three proved too much for Milan to handle.
The backline was exposed way too many times in one-on-one situations against the likes of Mbappe and Dembele which was never going to end well for Milan. The midfield also didn’t help and in general, so much space was given to PSG to work with and they made the most out of it.
This probably also needs to be addressed by Pioli, who gives his players the instructions and choosing to commit that many bodies forward against PSG in France is arguably a dumb decision.
4. Pioli losing the plot
Whilst the coach has done rather well domestically, winning 7 out of the first 9 games, it’s fair to say that Milan haven’t impressed with their game for a while now and are really struggling against the top side.
The games in the Champions League show that clearly. Inter are probably the only Serie A side to have built a solid team that also works in Europe, and the same cannot be said for Milan. Pioli can’t expect the ‘Serie A tactics’ to also work against the top European teams, as highlighted by Inter in the derbies.
The harsh reality is that this team, by the looks of it, haven’t got a proper playing style. They move the ball slowly, they look clueless in the final third and it has only been because of individual quality that they have won this many games in Serie A.
5. Reality check
Finally, this game is certainly a reality check. After selling Tonali, the management invested in quite a few players but that only masked the problems to an extent. Key positions such as centre-forward, defensive midfield, right-back and centre-back were not addressed properly.
A lot of the players that were brought in weren’t anything exciting at the time, but Pioli and Milan hoped to maximise the potential. The whole window was a low-risk, potentially high-reward situation, and whilst there are some rewards, we can’t really bend reality and say that the quality has improved massively.
Unfortunately, Milan need to commit to their current plan of financial sustainability, otherwise it won’t be possible to bring in world-class players and compete with the big dogs in the long run.