The new season is beginning to take shape, with newmanagement appointments, a new manager is imminent and AC Milan have conducted their first medical of the summer. As we head into 2019/20, here’s a look at the important lessons that we need to learn from:
Defensive Play = Fragility
The ‘Catenaccio’ mentality that Gennaro Gattuso managed the team with burnt us more than once this season. Serie A has been an offensive league for a while now and despite the ability of Juventus to win leagues off 1-0 victories, it does not suit the rest of the teams as well. Gattuso’s Milan often scored very early or very late but what happened in the middle was often an anti-climax where the team squandered possession and often took on pressure when they should have been attacking. This worked against some teams, but the like of Atalanta, Udinese, Napoli and Lazio hit Milan hard due to their stamina, pace and attacking strength leading to a breakdown of the Milanese defence. Hopefully the next manager thinks to score a second goal rather than sit back and defend.
Creative Players are Critical for Goal Scorers in Italy
This sounds like an obvious fact, however, Milan as a club have demonstrated that good strikers are nothing without the necessary support over the past few years. Milan practically buried prolific goal scorers one by one, Sevilla hitman Carlos Bacca faded at Milan, Andre Silva went from a 30+ goal season at FC Portoto less than 5 goals in the Serie A and Gonzalo Higuain struggled for consistency in his 6 months with Milan. The strikers all came to Milan on the back off strong seasons however they all had a hard time due to the criminal lack of service due the lack of quality technical midfielders and delivery from the wingers. Piatek saw a similar fate late on and Milan need to fix their tactics and upgrade their personnel to be able to create more up front.
Strong Leaders Can Rally the Team
Milan in 2018/19 finally got a leader they deserved. Alessio Romagnolitook the reigns as the captain of a young Rossoneri team that was in desperate need for direction. Despite his tender age, Romagnoli stood up and played the role almost to perfection. He was fierce, motivating and steadfast in his approach to direct the team and marshal the defence. Romagnoli won over the fans with some incredible career defining moments such as his last ditch saves against Lazio and Bologna as well as his unbelievable late goals against Genoa and Udinese. Romagnoli, is the leader of this team and he has shown his ability to rally the players. This will be important to keep Milan focused and on task next season.
Concentration over 90 Minutes is Needed
This was Milan’s greatest issue over the course of the season and came as a result of Gattuso’s defensive tactics. Milan more often than not threw away 1-0 and 2-1 leads late on due to short lapses in concentration in the defence. Musacchio and Romagnoli often played well to the very last minute but there were positioning mistakes often when faced with a counterattack that led to the opposition getting a late goal. Worse off were the situations were wingers such as Fabio Borini and Samu Castillejo gave away fouls in dangerous areas leading to dropped points due to lapses in concentration. The next manager needs to ensure that either Milan are 2 or so goals up when there are 30 minutes left or that Milan can hold their defensive nerve to grind out wins.
In-game Tactical Flexibility Can Win Matches
Gattuso was great as a player, he was good as a manager but he was a nightmare with substitutions. His in-game management was a liability that limited his flexibility when he was behind in a game and this was a major reason why resilient teams beat Milan this season. One of the major areas where Gattuso was rightly criticised was the timing and logic of his substitutions. His constant desire to introduce Borini and Castillejo was baffling as well as his constant late introduction of Cutrone as a like for like substitution for Higuain or Piatek. Gattuso should have employed the 4-4-2 alternation more often as it worked well and he should have been bold enough to take off Calhanoglu and Suso when they were underperforming.
Clear Business Management = Growth & Sustainability
Milan was unfortunately been more of a mess off the pitch in the last few years, the transition from Berlusconi to Yonghong to Singer has been messy and wayward. Milan has lacked identity and has not had a clear plan for the future of the club. The club has had 7 managers in 8 years and has switched Technical Directors for the third year running. The club has had a rocky relationship with UEFA over Financial Fair Play and the finances has been recurrent losses. For the 2019/20 season there finally seems to be some continuity and development of the business side as Gazidis has defined the limits of Milan honestly, Maldini has chosen to stick with the program and Zvonimir Boban is joining the club leaving his post as the Deputy Secretary General of FIFA. The club at last has a strong reliable structure with a demonstrated success in football, this will be an important support system for the club as they seek to return to the UCL and to winning.
Which Change Will Impact Milan Most Next Season?
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