AC Milan were well beaten in their final friendly of the winter as they lost 3-0 against PSV Eindhoven at the Philips Stadion.
After losing against Arsenal and Liverpool in the Dubai Super Cup, the hope was that Stefano Pioli’s side would be able to take advantage of having more options available to put in a good performance and secure a positive result against PSV.
What actually happened was arguably the worst performance of the three games as the Dutch side scored twice in the first half to build early momentum and then killed the game with Nordi Mukiele’s second of the night in the second half.
It was a worrying performance and of course an even more worrying result, but what exactly did we learn?
1. Weakness exposed
Milan came into the game hoping that having three of the usual starting back four – Davide Calabria, Pierre Kalulu and Fikayo Tomori – would lead to a more resilient performance at the back than the one we saw against Liverpool.
In actual fact, it started badly and it continued that way throughout. Kalulu’s early error set the tone but went unpunished, while PSV rightly targeted the obvious weakness down the Rossoneri’s left flank by also using their best player.
Unfortunately, it was not a night that any of the back five players will look back at for an example of how to keep goals out. Mirante was arguably easily beaten on all three of them, with Guus Til given the freedom of Eindhoven to nod in the first and Mukiele not tracked inside properly for his two strikes.
The absence of Theo Hernandez was felt as Mukiele time and time again found himself in a position to let fly between the left-back Dest and Tomori who was the left centre-back. The communication and cohesion were not there, which played a big part in a shambolic defensive display.
2. Lively from the off
He may not have been on long, but the man of the match for Milan was very obviously Rafael Leao. If anyone was fearing he might join his team-mates in being sluggish off the mark those concerns were quickly brushed aside.
The Portuguese winger seemed full of life and was the only player to consistently make things happen. He could have had a couple of assists after his usual lung-busting runs past the right-back and cut-backs into dangerous areas, however he – like the team – left empty handed.
It is nonetheless a positive sign that he is in confident form and top condition, because based on the rest of the attack (which we will get to) Pioli will once again have to lean on the former Lille man to keep things ticking.
3. Wasted opportunities
Looking at the starting XI, the key things to look out for were obvious. Firstly, is Dest capable of playing left-back if there is a problem in that role? No. Is Yacine Adli currently guaranteeing enough when it really matters to get a starting spot or even a big role? No. Has a switch flicked for Charles De Ketelaere during/after the World Cup to magically make him unplayable? Sadly, no.
Every player who had a point to prove let Pioli down unfortunately. Each showed very brief glimpses of what they are capable of with some nice flicks and interplay near the edge of the box, without it coming to anything. Adli wasn’t in his usual position admittedly, nor was Dest, but this is the kind of game to show how many strings to your bow there are.
The biggest disappointment of all was Rebic. Having looking rusty – to put it politely – in the other friendlies, he was once again so wasteful in possession and fired a shot wide from a good position. Can he be trusted as a false nine if Giroud isn’t back against Salernitana? On that evidence, not at all.