Milan has been on a bit of a run, beating Genoa with a late winner to keep their undefeated streak intact in the Serie A.
The loss against Arsenal in the Europa League was a reminder that the squad is not only lacking experience but also depth. If one were to actually look beyond the starting XI that Gattuso has put together, there are barely any options for the coach on the bench.
Milan has a lot of options in the goalkeeping department with Antonio Donnarumma proving a more-than-able backup for his little brother Gigio. There is also the on-loan Plizzari who is an excellent option for the future alongside Guarnone from the Primavera. However, the defense is mostly made up of makeshift substitutes. Mateo Musacchio is an experienced name in the heart of defense but Gattuso has sacrificed the Argentinian in favor of stability and chemistry between his star duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Alessio Romagnoli. There is also the question of who will pair alongside Musacchio should the starting duo get injured--it is necessary to have at least 4 center-backs competing for 2 positions.
On the flanks, the absence of Andrea Conti has been made up for with the spectacular rise of Davide Calabria. The former starter, Ignazio Abate, is a loyal servant of the club but his time seems up with the Rossoneri. The same, however, cannot be said for Luca Antonelli who plays backup to Ricardo Rodriguez on the left. The Swiss fullback came in with a reputation but has failed to live up to the hype. Not only should Milan look for a backup for him, they should be finding someone who can outright displace him as the starting left-back.
The defense may seem pretty solid at the moment but Milan’s midfield and attack look shallow. Montolivo is well past his prime and Locatelli has barely seen any minutes since the arrival of Lucas Biglia. In front of the destroyer sit Franck Kessié and Jack Bonaventura. This line-up may seem set in stone but beyond the two names, Milan has no options. Montolivo has often been called up in midfield as the first-choice substitute for all three midfield slots. However, Milan could certainly use a better option. Jose Mauri is another name that’s been used to fill the squad-list with little to no contribution on the pitch. Niccolò Zanellato was supposed to fill that void at the start of the season but has moved on since then to greener pastures.
Milan’s attacking depth also has little relevance to the formation deployed by Gennaro Gattuso.
Despite having brought in 11 new players, Milan has let go of several key players from Vincenzo Montella’s time. Under the former coach, Milan had the likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Lucas Ocampos, and M’Baye Niang. All three were wingers capable of filling in on the flanks and offered crucial support to Suso.
At the moment, Milan uses Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Fabio Borini as options out wide. However, Milan has only one inverted winger on the right, which is Suso. Both Borini and Hakan are better suited on the left where they can cut inside on their stronger foot. Even with all three of them fit, none are capable of countering with ridiculous pace, which is a staple in the armory of most wing operators.
Part of the reason why Milan is struggling in the attack is that the team is still imbalanced. Nobody expected Patrick Cutrone’s sudden burst of output which has marginalized both André Silva and Nikola Kalinić. Milan is left with an abundance of striking options with very little depth on the wings, which is suicidal in the long run when playing a 4-3-3.
Milan needs to be vigilant in the market and prepare for another big spend. The squad has a lot of deadwood that needs to be offloaded while several key signings are yet to be made. A backup center-back, a left-back, a central midfielder, and atleast two speedy wingers, preferably one left and one right-footed.
It’s surprising that Milan is flirting with Pepe Reina while there are still several holes in the sporting project that need to be filled. Hopefully, the management will address these issues in the coming window instead of looking at free agents who will have very little to contribute to Milan.