Following a big 3-0 win against Monza, AC Milan were looking to clinch another win against the bottom side Salernitana. However, it ended in a frustrating draw for the Rossoneri and the star defender Fikayo Tomori also sustained an injury.
Tomori opened the scoring after 17 minutes with a nice header, showing off good reflexes, and Milan continued to create chances after that. However, instead of a second goal, Salernitana found an equaliser through Federico Fazio.
In the second half, Salernitana grew in confidence and managed to take the lead through Antonio Candreva. It was a big howler by Mike Maignan and the Rossoneri had to be rescued by Luka Jovic, who scored the equaliser in the 90th minute.
Let’s dive into five things we learned from the game.
1. Defensive disaster
Heading into the clash, Salernitana averaged a little more than 0.50 goals per game and with that in mind, it’s certainly worrying for Milan to have conceded twice.
Now, we can go into debates about whether the first goal should have stood and the many injuries in the defensive department, but the reality is that you defend as a team and it’s not just the backline that needs to work hard.
Salernitana were given more space than they should have and on the second goal, a long-range expert player like Candreva was given time to shoot. Of course, Maignan also should have done a lot better on that one.
The goalkeeper made several saves before and after that goal because the players in front of him failed to close the gaps. Unfortunately, this is just a common theme at this point, with similar goals conceded in various other games this season.
2. Former Chelsea duo disappoints
Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek both had an underwhelming night against a side that shouldn’t have troubled them that much.
The Englishman was sluggish throughout the game and offered little going forward. The one time he did find himself in a very good position in the opponent’s penalty box, he wasn’t clinical enough. In short, a really poor display from him and he was partially to blame for the first goal too.
Pulisic was also subpar against a side you’d expect him to shine a bit more, especially given that Salernitana’s left side was in theory the weaker one. The American failed to produce anything on the flank and it’s interesting to see him go from a brilliant game to an underwhelming one.
This brings up the question if he is more useful through the middle rather than down the flank as he lacks the speed that Leao and Chukwueze have and a lot of the wonderful plays the American has been involved in this season have been down the middle.
3. Underwhelming by Leao
It’s been a rollercoaster season for Rafael Leao, who was expected to be the leading man for Milan after the hefty contract renewal before the summer. However, his season has been plagued with ups and downs and a couple of small injuries that have kept him from being fully fit.
Despite these setbacks, the Portuguese winger has indeed done a lot this season to help his team and the expectations were that he could lead the way against Salernitana too. Unfortunately, he was a shadow of himself as he failed to threaten the opposition that much.
The even more worrying sign was the lack of desire and urgency after his team fell behind, as he didn’t look like he wanted the responsibility which is more concerning than the defeat itself.
You would have expected a player like Leao to terrorise the defence which had conceded at least 2 goals per game on average. Instead, we saw a couple of glimpses of his talent and then just wastefulness.
4. Jovic proving a point
The Serbian is gaining momentum with three goals in his last three league appearances, scoring the equaliser against Salernitana after coming off the bench. Despite this recent positive form, the feeling is that Pioli hasn’t given him a proper chance.
At the same time, although Giroud has two assists in the last two games, he has been rather disappointing in his goalscoring duties. The link-up play simply didn’t work yesterday and Pioli should probably give him more rest, giving the hungry Jovic more chances.
Not starting an in-form striker, after all, could backfire for Pioli who is already on his last life ahead of the Sassuolo clash next week. The question is if he will have the guts to start Jovic ahead of the experienced No.9.
5. End of the road?
Pioli has made several questionable decisions this season and we are not even at the halfway mark yet. He does have a lot of excuses, such as the injuries, but we need to look beyond this and also understand that he is partly to blame.
Milan are a predictable side and they appear clueless most of the time, with no proper gameplan while in possession. Tactics and discipline are just not there, and it doesn’t look like Pioli changes much based on the opponents.
Furthermore, there seems to be a mentality issue and this was highlighted against Salerninata, as we just didn’t see a great desire from Milan to turn the result around after conceding the second goal. Injuries are one thing, but the players on the pitch should be hungry for the win and Pioli should act as fuel in that sense, but he doesn’t.
As we said, the game against Sassuolo might just be a do-or-die moment for Pioli. If it ends up being the latter, the question will then be: who will replace him?