An undermanned Milan lost their first match of the 2015-2016 season 2-0 to a strong Fiorentina side led by Josip Illicic and Marco Alonso. The Viola are a team that Milan just can't seem to beat of late - the Rossoneri have won just one of their last eight meetings with Fiorentina. The match stats, which are utterly one-sided, accurately reflect the level of disparity between the two sides on the pitch. Fiorentina dominated possession with a lion’s share of 59 percent to Milan’s 41. Milan failed to register even a single shot on target for the first time since March 14, 2014.
One thing is certain: if Milan are to remain competitive, they need to become a much more disciplined team. Since the 2014-15 season began, Milan have received more red cards (14) than any other team in Europe's top five leagues. Succinctly stated, Milan's lack of discipline cost them this match. Fiorentina's first goal was a fantastic free kick scored by Alonso in the 38th minute, moments after a second yellow card for Rodrigo Ely and a foul by Bonaventura in the 37th minute. Fiorentina's second goal was a penalty kick scored by Iliicic in the 56th minute after Alessio Romagnoli brought down the Slovenian in the box with an ill-timed tackle.
It is difficult to judge new acquisitions Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano from their performances this past weekend, as they did not have much quality service. Andrea Bertolacci and Giacomo Bonaventura are both solid, serviceable players, but they lack the necessary creativity needed to provide consistent offense for a top Serie A team. Milan's midfield at no point looked like one that was going to help the Rossoneri win games by pure offense. A conservative, more defensive lineup with a lack of creativity in the midfield was one of the main reasons why Bacca and Adriano did not receive the service they sorely needed. Milan will want to get Jeremy Menez and M'Baye Niang to full fitness and back on the pitch as soon as possible.
Althout 20 year old Romagnoli and 21 year old Ely both had matches to forget, there remains much hope this partnership will become the defensive rock for the Rossoneri for the next decade at least. Better these mistakes be made to learn from in the first outing of the season than toward the end when points are up for grabs and every mistake becomes monumental. Patience must be advocated in the development of these players, and matches like these are simply points along the learning curve. It is also no small task for such a young, inexperienced center-back partnership to come into a transition side such as Milan, with a new coach, new players and no set starting 11 or formation in place and be able to perform at an elite level from the beginning. Times have changed since a 16-year-old Paolo Maldini made his 1984 Milan debut in a side led by Franco Baresi and Mauro Tassotti at the back.
If anything, the results from the first round of Serie A matches reinforce the notion this season will be a departure from the foregone conclusion of seasons past. After a weekend of upsets, anything is possible.