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Mihajlovic Would Be Insane to Bench Diego Lopez for Gianluigi Donnarumma

With Milan's recent struggles, Sinsia Mihajlovic is reportedly considering dropping the Spanish veteran in favor of a 16-year-old Italian with no first-team experience.

Diego Lopez may be the easy scapegoat, but should Milan really bench him in favor of a 16 year old?
Diego Lopez may be the easy scapegoat, but should Milan really bench him in favor of a 16 year old?
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Through eight matches, Milan has conceded 14 goals. That is as many as Empoli, and only Carpi (19) has conceded more.

Defense is proving to be a glaring hole in Milan's game once again, especially after Torino's second-half equalizer Saturday in a 1-1 draw. Sinisa Mihajlovic may be taking steps to address the defense, but he seems to be looking in the wrong places.

Reports out of Italy suggest Mihajlovic may use Wednesday's Trofeo Berlusconi as a test for young goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Should he pass, the 16-year-old Italian could get the start over Diego Lopez Sunday against Sassuolo.

Granted, Lopez's numbers are far from inspiring this year. He has only saved 15 of opponents' 29 shots. Some of those saves were amazing, like his point-blank stop on Mauro Icardi in the Milan Derby, but the oft-clutch keeper is allowing far too many goals.

It is hard to put all the blame on Lopez, however.

Milan's defensive woes are the result of breakdowns as a unit, not because of the goalkeeper. Alessio Romagnoli has yet to hit his stride after his expensive move from Roma, but having a new center back every other match is not helping his case. He has yet to gel with either Rodrigo Ely or Cristian Zapata, both of whom need to sharpen their own games more. Ignazio Abate is showing signs of age at right back, and Mattia De Sciglio has been caught out multiple times.

None of that is Lopez's fault. With Romagnoli and Ely—maybe even De Sciglio, to an extent—youth can be an issue. Simply, Milan's defense is not good enough right now. That leaves the goalkeeper exposed. Even a solid, veteran keeper like Lopez will break when his defense leaves players unmarked or allows an entire team to run through uncontested.

Naturally, the solution to the problem must be to take Lopez, a veteran and leader for Milan, and plop him on the bench and throw a 16 year old with no professional experience into a raging dumpster fire. What could go wrong?

It bears repeating: Donnarumma is 16. Is Mihajlovic losing his mind?

Play Donnarumma against Inter Wednesday. That is fine. There is no harm in that. But to seriously consider dropping Lopez for him in Serie A, with Milan already lagging behind in 13th place but with plenty of time to recover is utter nonsense.

This is the kind of move that would make more sense in March or April, when Mihajlovic can wave the white flag without as much of a fuss. But to make this move with 30 matches remaining is to quit on the season, which is the last thing a first-year manager wants to be doing eight matches in when dealing with a fanbase like Milan's.

Of course, when looking at Mihajlovic's options, there are few alternatives. He has what he has in terms of players to work with. There is not much he can switch around defensively. In goal, it's Lopez, Donnarumma or the aging, flailing Christian Abbiati.

Maybe Donnarumma comes in, plays a heroic role in the season and his skeptics are made to look like morons. But the far more likely scenario is Donnarumma comes in, his defense leaves him exposed run after run, leading to goal after goal. That is the kind of trouble that can end careers before they even get started. That is not what Donnarumma deserves.