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Tale of the tape: AC Milan vs Cagliari

What stood out from Milan’s first home match of the season?

AC Milan v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

In this series, I’ll be going through a post-mortem of each Milan game in the hope that we can find secrets, narratives and stories from the stats and play of each Milan match in Serie A. Using sources like WhoScored, 11Tegen11 and others, I hope to compile a detailed round up of the stories going through each game - much like the stories we make from a boxer’s weight and reach. Also, I’ve got to thank Alex Carson and his xV series at 7500toHolte for providing the inspiration for this. I hope you enjoy

Milan were perhaps lucky to escape their home debut for this season with a draw. Once again, some Suso magic rescued more than one single point, his magical free-kick saved the day on 70 minutes after Patrick Cutrone opened the scoring. João Pedro equalised for the visitors and Cagliari would have had two, as Donnarumma was well beaten at his post, with that same structure coming to the rescue. All in all, it was a pretty tight game. Let’s indulge in it.

Suso’s magic will still save Milan

AC Milan v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Suso had a rather quiet pre-season, and he’s still not extended his contract at Milan. After Milan’s mercato, you can probably be forgiven for forgetting the Spanish playmaker even existed! You won’t now, though. His early assist from the wing set the table for Milan, and once again - he’s doing everything he can to drag Milan to victory. That includes via set pieces. Expect us to rely on him to save Milan some points this season. He cut inside - played the ball in and was a menace throughout the game. Suso was only outshot in this game by Borini and Cutrone - the latter is to be expected - so it’s evident that a lot of our work will come from Milan’s right side.

Milan’s right wing is everything to this team

AC Milan v KF Shkendija 79 - UEFA Europa League Qualifying Play-Offs Round: First Leg Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

To say Suso bossed the game is the truth, but it’d be a lie without the help of Andrea Conti. Conti, was perhaps Milan’s man of the match and Milan’s right side is heavily improved with him in the team. He’s helped boost Suso to another level. He had the most touches of any Milan, he put tackles in across the pitch to cover for his attackers, he came up with some crucial blocks in midfield and the final third - he’s a joy to behold and he makes Milan so much better. He always completed the most passes of anyone in this Milan team, and fed the ball to Suso throughout the game. It’s clear who Milan’s man was in the Cagliari game, and it was Conti.

Leo Bonucci is awesome

AC Milan v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Milan’s captain does so much for Milan right now, and thanks to a really plucky Cagliari side, he’s a big reason why Milan didn’t actually lose the game. Look, if he was replaced by Romagnoli, we’d see much of the same - but only in the Milan box. It’s Bonucci’s roving forward, ball-playing and distribution that doesn’t just make him the iron gates of the Milan defence, but one of their biggest weapons. Leo demanded possession from his teammates at all times and was able to use his position at the back to set-up Milan going forward. He’s a sight to behold, truly and is more than just a defender, he’s a general. He made himself a king of the pitch at the San Siro and long may it continue.

Three at the back is best for Milan

AC Milan v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

You might not like this formation, but Milan need to make the most of their defensive assets. Bringing Romagnoli in alongside Musacchio and Bonucci would give Milan a lot of serious defensive capability and allow Ricardo Rodriguez and Andrea Conti to rove forward. How we fit everyone else into the side is a big question, but it’s one that we can afford to answer. I suggest this formation because Milan are severely unbalanced right now. Rodriguez was wasted as a third centre-back during this match despite being deployed on the left and was unable to get going on the flanks, which would have been a wonder as his counterpart was bossing the game. A lot of defensive passing goes through Rodriguez and if he’s unable to get going and move forward, he’s going to be wasted, and that’s not on him. There is a left-sided gaping hole for Milan right now.

Milan need to make more chances

AC Milan v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

It’s probably a testament to Cagliari that Milan weren’t able to create during this game. 11tegen11 have Milan at 1.32 xG for that match, with it being heavily weighted by Cutrone’s point blank tap-in. Without Patrick Cutrone and Suso, Milan would have been in serious danger - and let’s be honest, these two goals weren’t down to how brilliant Milan are on the pitch. Without that Cutrone chance, we could have propably expected Milan to rock up between 1 or 0.7 xG, which is a pittance at home. That’s bad news and we should be thankful that Cutrone can find these goals and that Suso can bang in those free-kicks. If Cagliari can shut down Hakan and Kessie as much as they did, what happens when we play against the top teams? It makes you wonder.