Player Ratings: Empoli 2-4 AC Milan – Saelemaekers shines; Kessie sends a signal

By Isak Möller -

AC Milan bounced back with an important 4-2 win away at Empoli this evening, finishing the year in second place. Alexis Saelemaekers and Franck Kessie were two of the standouts for the Rossoneri. 

Starting XI

Maignan (6): He could’ve done better on Empoli’s first goal, although perhaps his sight was a bit blocked. He wasn’t called into action much other than that and couldn’t do anything about the penalty.

Florenzi (7): He had a rocky start to the game but improved as the game went on. Got his first goal for Milan with a lovely curling free-kick and that strike secured the three points for the Rossoneri, pretty much.

Tomori (6.5): To be honest, we didn’t see that much of him in the first half as Romagnoli/Florenzi were targeted the most. However, he did well in the second half, also getting forward on a few occasions.

Romagnoli (7): As said, he had to deal with many tough duels and he did quite well with those. Looked like a leader on the pitch and nearly scored with a wonderful volley effort in the final seconds, hitting the crossbar.

EMPOLI, ITALY - DECEMBER 22: Theo Bernard Hernandez of AC Milan celebrates after scoring a goal during the Serie A match between Empoli FC and AC Milan at Stadio Carlo Castellani on December 22, 2021 in Empoli, Italy. (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

Hernandez (7): Decent display in both phases of the game tonight. His rating is obviously helped by the goal he scored, as the ball fell right into his path. It was the correct judgement call to get forward on that occasion.

Tonali (6): We didn’t see that much of him and perhaps that was because of Bennacer and Kessie starting as well. Got carded and was subbed off in the second half, but when he did have the ball he did enough.

Bennacer (6.5): He very much improved as the game went on, shining the most in the defensive phase with his interceptions. Some risky plays, for sure, but he looked quite good tonight.

Messias (6): He saw a lot more of the ball than Tonali but he wasn’t involved in any of the goals. That didn’t make him bad per se, but he just didn’t have a huge impact on the game this evening.

Kessie (7.5): Scored two very important goals and certainly responded to the recent criticism he has received. Fair play to him for taking on the shot on the second goal, when we all thought the angle was too tight.

Saelemaekers (8 – MOTM): A real difference-maker for Milan tonight. He was involved in all four goals: two assists, one hockey assist and won the free-kick that Florenzi converted. In addition, he looked very good on the ball, stunning at times.

Franck Yannick Kessie of AC Milan celebrates

Giroud (6.5): He got the assist for Kessie’s first goal and his presence ended up being important against a strong Empoli backline. Looked a bit worse than it was, in the end he opened up a lot of space.


Bakayoko (5.5): He didn’t shine in open play and a silly handball resulted in the second goal for Empoli. A 1-4 scoreline would have been much nicer for Milan and he’s lucky the lead was so comfortable.

Kalulu (6.5): Very good performance off the bench as he wasn’t afraid to go forward and also was crucial on a few occasions at the back.

Krunic (N/A): We didn’t see enough of him to give a rating.

Diaz (N/A): We didn’t see enough of him to give a rating.

READ MORE – Empoli 2-4 AC Milan: Rossoneri rack up 17th away win of 2021 to end year in the right way

Tags AC Milan Alexis Saelemaekers Empoli Franck Kessie


  1. Great outcome, the boys took their chances well, when they came. Kessie did well to take the initiative to shooting on sight, nice one. The attack is still lacking the much needed sting, and this is evident in our attacking spells. Messias is clearly not what we need as a starter (Well, that actually goes for a quarter of the starting XI). Mr. Sale-Backpass was at it again, and his stupid backpassing awarded Tonali his yellow card, quite unfair though, but this referee has always had it in for Milan, not the first time. I took time to study the Empoli game flow, and honestly you count how many backpasses were made, and almost none of them where pointless. This shows how clueless half the team is in stringing any attacking strategies.
    I wish our defenses could be less-shaky sometimes, we are going to miss Kjaer for sure, but our CB pairs need to step up and take charge of the situation. Theo was still tired and recovering, it definitely affected his game. The romance between Pioli and Krunic continues, I say this because he was already on the touchline, billed to come on, even before Bennacer got his yellow card, if Bennacer wasn’t carded, what was actually the usefulness bringing Krunic on. Bakayoko is still the most horrible player in the milan team, it’s almost as if he’s on a mission to sabotage whatever Milan has going on, all he did today was to come in and gift Empoli a lifeline. There has not been any game he played well. This is frustrating. I can’t understand the need to bring him on, must the whole team be substituted before we can say we played a football match? Let us just have a great Christmas and hope the team resume next year reinvigorated and stronger, and Maldini and Massara give us some useful late Christmas gifts during the Transfer Window. Merry Christmas. Forza Milan!!!

    1. Are you insane? Saelemaekers finally played a fantastic match. Him starting this on the left was the difference between this match and our recent failures, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have won. He made all those 4 goals happen, and we’re great in the ball.

        1. I think you should ask yourself that question… I didn’t say He didn’t have a good game, he had a great game, albeit against a side we’d always expect Milan to beat…., I pointed out the insistent habit of backpassing when better forward options are available. Our players keep making the most convenient option of backpassing, and it almost always cost us possession…. It was a his backpass that put Tonali in a difficult position and he got penalised with a yellow card. If he had passed the ball forward to a free Kessie, that wouldn’t have happened… Please read well, don’t be too quick to throw insults… We all want the same thing here. Forza Milan!!!

  2. Huge improvements from Salamaekers and Kessie really nice to see them play at this level. Bennacer looked shaky. Giroud was just very frustrated but made some good passes, though it would be nice to see him do more. Diaz still very rusty and not out of his bad spell, unfortunate. Bakayoko, man its just sad at this point how bad he fits in this team.

    Huge win. We’re keeping close to the top! Forza Milan and Happy Holidays!

    1. I’m here. And while he performed well against a relegation fodder club, maintaining that momentum will probably not happen.

      Let’s face it, he shines against small teams, in low pressure games. But when it really matters, he just forgets to show up.

      I would love nothing more than him proving me wrong over and over again. But i suspect that if and when that happens he won’ be in Milan anymore.

      1. Relgation fodder you said? Empoli beat Juventus, Napoli, Udinese, and Fiorentina. Which Milan were dropping points against them. I know you dont like the strategy, but please be more objective

        1. Come on we won this playing with 10 players most of the game, Giroud could have stayed home and still would have had the same impact. Granted last few minutes Empoli had 12 on the field and we had 9 when Yoko came in but we still managed to pull through.

          Just imagine what would have happened if we had striker that wasn’t in his prime during Mesozoic. We would have scored in double digits.

      2. Empoli is definitely not a relegation fodder team. Honestly I expected more problems with them rather than Napoli. There’s always a team in league smashing top clubs but still too shaky against the rest. So this season we have two bullies like that: Empoli and Hellas Verona. They just don’t care and always fight till the very end.

    2. You must be a big fan of Kessie who has risen after his one good game this season. You should know that Milan were leading Inter by 7 points and now trailing by 4 points. Were was he all this time ?

  3. Well kudos to Pioli. I was skeptical of his decision to start Kessie at CAM – boy was I wrong. Well done. I thought Bennacer would do well there as he plays that role for Algeria, but hats off to Pioli for making a bold decision. Now we rest and hopefully get healthy with a full team for next year and pray we can bring in a few players in January (Kamara, Faivre). Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. Forza Milan!

  4. Tbh, nothing really special as they fought vs mediocre one. If they can stay consistent till the rest of the season it will be great

  5. Milan needs striker with a base

    Krunic big failure as always even he played little but proves he is little for Milan
    Messias very slow he need to stop wasting the ball when he tries to shot this typical play and to help more for the defender
    Florenzi bad defender poor crossing
    Diaz physically weak
    Giroud difficult to consider him exist in the game neither contributor over 90 minutes nothing except Kessie assist!!
    Bakayoko non stop stupidity and very slow to be proper midfield at this stage

    Kululo, Tamori and Saelemaekers always at the expectation they are both deserve the credit for their real girt and performance with Milan shirt they are milanista more than any other player

    1. Florenzi wasn’t bad Marco, he couldn’t move forward freely because in the first half Mesias was playing too wide . The coach needs to train Saelemekers and Mesias to move with the central so to allow space for the movement of the wingbacks. Theo was able to attack because Saelemekers was giving him that space. Florenze is an intelligent player , you will see him once we have a coach

    1. If you plan on fielding Krunic on the right, i prefer saele all the way. Inverted winger is nowaday thing in football. But if leao and rebic return, i think saele needs to step aside

  6. The only player who is so consistent in our team is Bakayoko. He is consistent in screwing up the whole team in every game… Funny is Maldini and massara brought him on loan to do this…what a clown player and clueless headless chicken…putting the whole team in trouble.

    1. True Caleb, I think with the current management , , ACMILAN will become like Arsenal (play like a big team but win nothing ). With the current players we need to employ a diamond midfield which will exclude Bakayoko and Bennacer. if we want to use Bennacer , let him play away from the centre because he has tendency of loosing the ball around our 18 area box.

  7. I wish we could send back both Diaz and Bakayoko to Madrid and London respectively. And to think we’ll have them for another year and a half …

    We need to sign a starting attacking midfielder, that’s more important than anything else. Faivre will do.

  8. Good play by the boys, but I don’t see this our team playing good without the likes of Bennecer and kessie this coming January cause tonali can’t do it all alone most especially with this bad luck bakayoko or what’s he called..the guy is so sick..I taught when the rating was made the publisher was drunk, how on earth will you give bakayoko such rating..I really wish the management could see all commment on this site..bakayoko must go, at first I was thinking messias was a better salesmaker,the difference btw them was just 0.5..I really wish our management could work hard on the January transfer amd stop brining in trash to table ..kudos to kessie…he really tried today…better days ahead guys..merry Christmas and a prosperous new year ahead

  9. i think we should give kessie cam role for rest of the season. I see he has quality to play there. Even if most of the matches u have seen he tries to stand behind the striker assisting him like he does to ibra. So if leao right wing rebic left wing. Seems good attack tho. Then bennacer if he does good if not get good mid with him tonali then our same back defence. Cool team we have good subs too. So i think we can compete against scudetto.

  10. N get transfers in june like striker, CAM, RW, CDM(tho get this in january) i think this is enough kalulu can be alt of theo. N in the last msg i forgot to include calabria should start instead of florenzi.

    1. He is a professional player not starter and played with Milan before and Napoli beside milan in need for positive results for him he suppose selected according to his performance in the second half of the season when he was with Milan and his strong desire for joining Milan and to replace those who will leave for Africa Cup can you trust him or see him play this role with this way of playing
      It’s Milan dose matter not player mental or physical strength because simply when it come to their renewal will never look back to your or Milan fans patient they will be submissive to their agents

  11. Wow. They really don’t want to give Kessie man of the match. Milan should not be fooled by this game. The score is not an accurate representation. Empoli outplayed Milan for most of this game. Up until Florenzi scores that free kick it looked like Milan could lose this. The defense and midfield still looks very shaky. Empoli was going from one end to the other with very little resistance and could have had a few more goals. Still much needed 3 points.

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