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Tactical Review: Milan after Week 1

There are key tactical takeaways from the weekend to be addressed before our home debut.

SSC Napoli v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Milan threw away a 2-0 lead against Napoli for an opening day defeat but there are key tactical takeaways from the game.

Most rossoneri fans saw a difficult couple of weeks following the postponement of the game against Genoa as it made Milan’s opening games for the new campaign come against Napoli and Roma. There have been heaps of abuse and criticism dumped on the squad after squandering an unexpected lead against Napoli. Fans are calling out Gattuso, Biglia, Bakayoko, Borini and Calabria more than anyone despite the calibre of the opposition and their one game advantage over us. Here are some takeaways from a tactical perspective where Milan failed and trumped during the game.

Passing Out From The Back

Gattuso seems to be drilling possession football into the team. When it works it is beautiful and dominating such as in the build-up to Calabria’s goal but seemed rushed throughout the rest of the game. Possession football is risky when you do not have players who are strong on the ball and when playing against opposition who press high and fast. The team needs one of Biglia or Bakayoko to really step up and command the centre of the pitch as a distributor.

Musacchio and Decision Making

One big question that game raised is Musacchio vs Caldara. Musacchio defended abysmally but was quite good with his passing until the Biglia mishap. Caldara should be partnering with Romagnoli but might not be the best fit for the intensive passing game. Perhaps the biggest fumble during the game and Gattuso’s biggest challenge is improving decision making as poor choices made quite visible and there was too much indecisiveness on the ball especially from Laxalt, Rodriguez, Calabria and Musacchio.

Clinical on the Counter

Milan are masterful on the counter when they get it right. Over the past two seasons Milan have been devastating on the counter with Suso and Bonaventura driving at defenders. The inclusion of pacey wingers like Castillejo and Laxalt should improve this and Higuain offers much more with his brilliant hold-up play and his presence in the box. Bonaventura’s goal was stunning and proves why he cannot be written out of the team despite the competition.

Defensive Lapses and Positioning

The biggest let down of the game was perhaps the defense falling asleep during the second half. Calabria has taken a lot of stick for his positioning on Mertens' goal but Allan’s pass into the box made the difference as he wasn’t shut down in time. Gattuso needs to work of defensive positioning and maintaining their concentration for 90 minutes. Milan collapsing in the second half is a familiar sight and could be fatal in big games. Moreover the midfield needs to do more to support the backline by working faster to close down play and maintain their line.

Indecisive Donnarumma

Once again, Donnarumma seems to get caught out when he is needed the most. The goal from the corner should not have been allowed through. As the game went on Donnarumma seemed to be nervous when distributing the ball and uneasy when making saving. Donnarumma does not seem to provide the calm that he did when he was 17 years old. This needs to be urgently addressed especially with Reina sitting on the bench ready to pounce on the No. 1 spot.

It is just the first game of the season and there is promise, but Milan need to be more comfortable on the ball and the players more in tune with each other. Gattuso needs to address some tactical issues but I believe Milan are on their way to a solid season.