1: The Advanced Stats and What They Mean
This week, and all subsequent weeks, I will be using Between the Posts model to describe what has transpired in the game. The other thing to note is that I will not commonly use their pass maps, but you all should consider using them. It is a cheap subscription and they are incredibly intelligent. This may mean that I will be slightly at the mercy of their model releasing information, but it will mean that these expected goals sections will be better, so fun fun.
Anyways, back to soccer and why Milan were bad.
The most important thing to see from this plot of shots is that Milan was dreadful from open play in creating and were not good at stopping Fiorentina. The Leao goal was the largest chance of the game, hovering right around .2 of an expected goal. The run was impressive, but he still had a lot to do in terms of finishing. He put the ball into the back of the net and Milan was not as embarrassed, even though the goal may not have been deserved. This game does continue a trend of Milan not particularly creating in abundance. There cannot be three shots within the box over ninety minutes.
Fiorentina on the other ran riot against Milan. They created above a goal from open play and had two penalties. Fiorentina’s open play expected goal total could have been higher since both penalties came during incredibly dangerous runs of play. The initial penalty came from a terrible back pass and some great goalkeeping from Gianluigi Donnarumma, with a poor challenge from Bennacer. The second was some poor play from the remaining centerbacks and midfielders. It was a poor day from Milan defensively, and the expected goals show that.
2: The Problem with the Press
Milan has struggled to dominate some games early in this season. The first signs of a possible turn around was the Torino game, where Milan dominated. However, against Fiorentina and Inter, Milan struggled to break down a press and get Piatek involved. This is the same issue that transpired during the Inter game. This is an issue of Giampaolo trying to make Piatek play aerial knockdows to bring the rest of the offense forward. Passing can be abandoned when Milan is being pressed by another side. Fiorentina did a strong job of marking key players in the midfield, namely Bennacer, and then pressing with their wing backs and especially strikers up front. When being pressed so highly, the team runs out of ideas of how to break up the pitch. Milan could have tried to exploit space wide and tried to beat a pressing winger and then broke quickly after that. Instead, Milan went for a long ball approach that did not adequately break down Fiorentina.
The thicker the line is, the more passes happened between those players. Players are also line up at their most common location during the game. Fiorentina is wide and long, which means they played a fuller field game. Milan is compact, which shows how little Milan progressed up the field.
3: A Strange Day of Passing
Creativity after receiving the ball lacked mightily. Suso, Hakan Calhanoglu, and Piatek all seemed idealess and Theo Hernandez struggled to get balls more central. The right side of the field also struggled to get Kessie involved in the game. He took part in a very few passes and did not progress forward. This is worrying because he and Hakan need to be able to link the field. The most important thing to not from this though is that Bennacer must be the focal point for passing and integrating both sides of the field. If the centre defensive midfielder is marked out of the game, then more issues like what happened against Fiorentina will occur.
The other issue is how not involved Piatek is on the map. He is very deep and not passed to at all. Some of this is his own issues in not having enough quality in buildup, the other issue is that no one was playing well enough to get him involved. If the team wants Piatek to score, then he needs to be receiving passes way further up the field.
4: The Defense Continues its Blunders
Matteo Mussachio had a very bad day, but a lot of issues come again from a tactical problem. There are two large issues that have been happening for Milan. Hakan is playing as very high box-to-box midfielder, and Franck Kessie always will try to enter the box. If they both get caught up the field, and Theo presses high up too, then there is not enough defensive solidity, especially if the ball is turned over quickly. The other issue that occurred was that whoever the right sided center back was, and Theo were both bad. Theo struggled to tackle, or track for that matter, and Duarte and Mussachio both could not tackle. More dangerous attacks as the game progressed came from Federico Chiesa attacking Theo and then trying to get Franck Ribery against the center back on the right. This worked well for Fiorentina, and Milan failed to change course. Davide Calabria was fine though.
GOAL Castrovilli finally. It’s been coming. pic.twitter.com/TRslxfq6sE— Para (@Paracelsus) September 29, 2019
Bennacer was not tracking particularly well, especially on the second goal, and this allowed secondary chances from the top of the box. Because Hakan was also not providing much defensively, then the midfield is lost. Bennacer needed to be much better and he had a terrible game defensively. Hakan must also provide more defense from his passing, a turnover like that cannot happen again. The midfield may need a new set up for it to work better.
5: Suso May Not Fit
Suso had some good games in preseason, but he has been lacking in many of these games in the early going. He either needs more support or a changed role. I do think he would work in a 4-4-2, that shifts him wide in attack, yes Suso would be in the two. However, it has become apparent that he struggles against a press and he needs time to be able to pick apart an opponent. Without this time his impact on a game is limited. There is a chance that he needs to be dropped to be able to implement the 4-3-1-2 again.
6: Donnarumma Made Strong Saves, But Had a Bobble
Donnarumma saved a penalty, made a few very strong saves against Ribery during the lead up to the first goal, but caused Castrovilli to receive the ball on the second goal. His ability to make saves is second to none, but some of the decision making has been flawed. He, hopefully, will stop being used as much in build up play, but his ability to save has improved nicely. He made one error all game, unfortunately he got scored on for it.
Chiesa preserving the 100% 'if you take the penalty instead of the usual penalty taker you’ll miss' record in football. Great effort from Luigi on the save. pic.twitter.com/X4nOdAijqQ— Para (@Paracelsus) September 29, 2019
7: Bennacer was Poor
Bennacer struggled to pass and did not cover well. His tracking on the second goal was poor. He did not cover the area between the centerbacks and the midfield well. This was his first negative game. He was pressed out of the game by the opposing center midfielders. Hakan and Kessie did not provide much support. He needed to stay further back and provide more support to the centerbacks. This was a bad game in general from Bennacer and he failed to adapt during its course.
Castrovilli really doing a number on Bennacer today. Great season he’s having under Montella. pic.twitter.com/SnZaR21389— Para (@Paracelsus) September 29, 2019
8: The Goal, A Rafael Leao Appreciation Section
DID YOU SEE WHAT HE DID!
IT WAS GORGEOUS!
HE IS PERFECT!
That run was beautiful. The finish was great. Playing him more centrally is smart and should be repeated next game. He can beat centerbacks and took on multiple challenges last game. The 4-3-3 limits what he can do. Play him at striker and results will follow.
That’s a great goal from Rafael Leao. Really nicely done. pic.twitter.com/tSkswgc9Ww— Para (@Paracelsus) September 29, 2019
9: The Players Who Did Not Play
The substitutes section is being skipped today because of the red card. It will comeback they matter again.
Giacomo Bonaventura, Rebic, and Lucas Paqueta would have been better used than Hakan, Piatek, and Suso. Rade Krunic is someone who would have been part of this list as well, but he came in for Kessie, which was smart. Hakan struggled to play any defense and move the ball up the field. Piatek was not creative with the ball at his feet and could not beat any centerbacks. Suso struggled to beat the press. The team needed players who can defeat a press with either their movement or more aggressive passing. None of these players were capable of doing so. The three starters that were listed failed to pass effectively and caused the offense to be bogged down.
In the lineup underneath, Milan would be benching Hakan, Kessie, Suso, Theo, and Piatek. Genoa is not good, and Milan needs to rotate. This lineup will also help answer questions about what Krunic and Bonaventura can do for the squad. Duarte needs to play because of the red card. Leao and Rebic can play off each other at the striker location. The two will be able cause havoc for Genoa’s back line. Paqueta can support both strikers and help progress the field. This lineup will also help with defensive responsibilities at the back. Rodriguez should be held back, and Calabria can progress forward. Hopefully, this is the formation, but I have a felling we’ll see more player rotation in the midfield.
11: Overall Thoughts
This game was frustrating and showed the limitations of what Giampaolo’s system is. I do not think that moving on from him would be smart at this juncture. Milan’s general narrative is that he needs to go, but I think a lot of issues for Milan are from the higher ups. Some of the players that Milan plays are not quality enough. Hopefully, purchases, and especially some selling off players, will help solve Milan’s issues. There will be an article about who to buy and sell before the January market opens.