AC Milan suffered a shock defeat at the hands of a struggling Arsenal. Gattuso’s side looked second best from the go and there were several things that caused this problem. So what should the coach have done differently?
André Silva should have started the game:
It seems like the obvious choice to start Patrick Cutrone, who has been in sensational form for Milan this season. He’s a favorite of the Curva Sud and his performances have established him as the first-choice striker ahead of André Silva and Nikola Kalinić. However, this game exposed his weaknesses while belittling his strengths.
Arsenal clearly dominated Milan’s midfield and harassed them on the ball. The likes of Xhaka and Ramsey were technically better than Kessie and Biglia while Bonaventura rarely dropped deep to offer support. This meant that time and again, Milan failed to carry the ball into the final third. This lack of supply neutralized Cutrone who thrives on his poacher’s instinct.
Had André Silva started the game, he could have provided a passing outlet for Milan’s struggling midfield which would, in turn, allow Suso and Çalhanoğlu to cut inside for the build up.
With no men in the middle, a lot of the attack was forced to the wings. This allowed Arsenal to corner any potential runs from Milan with ease.
Silva had an excellent record in the Europa League and the evidence suggests he would have fared well under the circumstances.
Calabria should have been taken off in the first half:
Davide Calabria is easily the best right-back at Milan right now. His goal against Roma was a sneak peek into his potential attacking contributions and to be honest, even I wanted him to start this match. However, when he suffered the double-whammy on his right knee, I already knew he would become a liability.
Throughout the game, Calabria kept getting caught out of position and Mkhitaryan made the most of the space left behind him. Despite being the only natural full-back for the right side, Gattuso should have taken the hard call and substituted Calabria in favor of Borini.
This substitution would have had a major impact on the game and could have prevented the two goals that Milan conceded in the first half. It would also have injected some pace into Milan's slow side.
None of the players in Milan's starting XI are fast and against teams like Arsenal, having pace is crucial.
Not only did Calabria compromise his position, he also compromised Bonucci's who was stuck between a rock and a hard place when confronted with the choice of marking one of Mkhitaryan or Özil.
More often than not, Bonucci would pick Özil and Mkhitaryan would take advantage of the resulting space with an intelligent run into the box.
It was this same modus operandi that led to Arsenal's first goal.
Çalhanoğlu should have stayed on:
What's worse than making a bad decision? Making two bad decisions.
Yes, Milan needed fresh legs. However, taking Çalhanoğlu off for Kalinić was a bad choice on the coach's part.
Kalinić has proven in his brief time with Milan that any agreement to buy the player will be a horrible mistake on the board's part. Kalinić is poor in most aspects of the game and his ability to hold onto the ball does draw a lot of fouls, but it doesn't help Milan in any way.
Hakan, on the other side, could have done a lot of damage from outside the penalty area. Having failed to penetrate Arsenal's box, Milan's best chances were destined to come from long-range efforts. Bonaventura, who skied the ball unnecessarily on numerous occasions, was not supposed to be on the end of those chances--Hakan was.
The Turk is a long-range specialist and his accuracy would have greatly helped Milan. Alas! It wasn't meant to be.