Frustration = Meltdown
We all knew it would be a tough game going in. The injuries made it worse for us, the CR7 factor would play a role and Juve is always intimidating. The game came down to mental strength or fragility in our circumstance. Overall I felt Milan play well against Juve, when we had the ball we pushed forward well with good runs from Franck Kessie, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Suso. The defense kept Juve at bay for majority of the game even though we conceded early and had little error. The mindset changed after the missed penalty thereafter the second half frustration poured over and Milan bottled the game. The pressure got to Diego Laxalt when he gave away the ball leading to the Ronaldo goal after which Milan began making rash tackles and losing the game. Higuain blew his top out of frustration and may have cost Milan dearly in the upcoming games but that is difference between Milan and Juventus - mental strength.
Szczesny: "I know Higuain and I know how he shoots his penalties. Even he knows that I know. I know he likes to shoot his penalties low, but hard and I got lucky". pic.twitter.com/JauRdKDrdj— TheMilanBible (@TheMilanBible) November 11, 2018
Tactical Error on the Penalty
One of the key moments in the game from Milan’s perspective was the 40th minute where Milan won the penalty after a VAR review. There are three points to note: firstly, Medhi Benatia could have been booked for a second time as it was a handball in the box. Secondly, Gonzalo Higuain probably should have let Kessie take the penalty given the pressure, his history with Juve and his past with Wojciech Szczesny. Thirdly, although penalties are generally based on luck, Milan once again missed an open chance at goal leading to a regretful result. Higuain rightfully stepped up to the plate and took the burden of the penalty on his shoulders but in hindsight this was a mistake and perhaps if anyone else missed it would not have hurt the team’s optimism as much.
As I said yesterday #GdS is also reporting the same, Benatia should’ve received a second yellow and got sent off against Milan. Milan did also deserve another penalty for Chiellini’s pulling of Romagnoli inside the box, instead it was whistled a foul for Juventus. pic.twitter.com/xbitv9LaUW— AC Milan Global (@acmilan_intl) November 12, 2018
Controversy As Usual
The Milan-Juventus fixture is never short of controversy and it always seem to favour Juve. I do not want to spend time mulling over ‘what ifs?’ and I respect Gennaro Gattuso’s choice to not discuss the controversy post-match. But it is important to note the impact this has on the player’s morale during the game. There were three calls in particular that completely changed the course of the game: Benatia’s not getting the second yellow, Giorgio Chiellini’s tackle being passed off as a Alessio Romagnoli foul as opposed to a penalty and Higuain’s getting sent off. All three calls favoured Juventus and Milan suffered as a result. All this demonstrates is that Milan were pushing to create opportunities but often these were closed down by the referee.
Well, at least Bakayoko seems to have found some form.— TheMilanBible (@TheMilanBible) November 11, 2018
His numbers vs. Juve:
4 take-ons completed
3 aerial duels won pic.twitter.com/cfG7wBwnmx
I must say, alongside many I was very critical of Bakayoko every time he came off the bench but he is now beginning to establish himself. The game against Juve saw him demonstrate his true skill in winning the ball, bossing the midfield and releasing players into space. Bakayoko played an incredible role in distributing the ball and dispossessed Juve on key occasions. Although he is still at fault for a number of silly errors it is clear he is growing and will be critical for Milan in the next couple of months with Lucas Biglia sidelined. Overall his performances will be key to unlocking Milan’s transition from defense to attack and his partnership with Kessie will need to dominate the centre of the park for Milan to get back on track to a Champions League spot.
Executive Response Needed
Last week we discussed the injury crisis and now we have a suspended Higuain which will put even more of a strain on the team for the next couple of rounds. The Milan executives will have to be strategic going forward especially in the January window if Milan are to salvage the season. Milan have had a half-decent start to the season sitting in 5th place but seriously risk damaging the course of the season with a stretch of bad results. Milan currently lack options in Central Midfield, Central Attack and Centre Back. Some of the transfer rumours have already been kicking in with the likes of Lucas Paqueta, Leandro Paredes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato, Eric Bailly and Benatia being linked and some of these would be critical additions to Milan in January. Milan lack depth and quality off the bench, this needs to be addressed soon.