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11 Things: Winning Was Not Fun, 1-0 Milan vs Hellas Verona

A sheer lack of quality in the midfield, coupled with a first-half that saw next to no use of the left side of the field took Milan to a very poor 1-0 win. Hopefully, this is the last of its kind.

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1: The Left Side of the Field Not Used Enough

For long stretches of the game, the left side of the field did not help progress the ball. Hakan Calhanoglu and Lucas Paqueta did not feature much and struggled to generate offense. There was only one shot in the box to the left of the penalty spot either. Losing the entire left side of the field makes the attack very predictable and neither Paqueta nor Hakan were able to help generate more space across the box. More issue stems from deeper in the midfield. Lucas Biglia and Hakan both did not do much to make attack down the left possible. Ricardo Rodriguez was held deep a lot which did not give the left side support. Davide Calabria was able to make overlaps with Suso which allowed the right side of the field generates more attack. The left needs more support or more structure.

Milan is the left side of the field

While Milan put up an extra “goal” in expected goal form, that extra “goal” comes solely from the penalty. Penalties get missed about 20% of the time so that is worth noting. On open play scaling, Milan created about .47 of an expected goal. This game really should have been a draw.

2: Biglia Was on the Field, but Not in the Game

Biglia played a lot like Milan as a whole, slow, idealess, and struggling to progress forward. The biggest issue with Biglia was that he would not recycle attacks quickly. That was the opposite against Brescia, Bennacer would restart attacks very quickly and would force players to progress up the field and exploit space. Biglia was not thinking and acting this same way, with him taking a lot of time to switch the field. He played more similarly to a center back in his passing style. He was a player someone could pass to, but not someone who was going to try to stretch the field. More of the creative passing fell to Suso, which limits the amount the full field could be used. I do think Biglia is a completely fine backup, but today he played well below that level.

3: Donnarumma is Perfect in Every Way

A lot was asked of Gianluigi Donnarumma today, even though Milan controlled the game. The two instances that came into question was the post shot, and the double save he made in the first half. Neither of these plays recorded very high with expected goal totals, that is because bicycle kicks are wildly uneasy to score and the shot off the post was a highly difficult chance because running onto a side-footed volley is hard to control.

Both chances required a lot of ability and contortion from Donnarumma to be able to make or compete for those saves. He shut off crosses into the box well and popped up well to get back to the bicycle attempt. He had a strong game overall.

4: Davide Calabria did a lot Very Well, Then He Got a Red Card

Davide was crucial to Milan’s build-up throughout the game. With Kessie making overlapping runs into the box, Calabria focused more on the crossing aspect of the right side of the field.

His overlaps allowed Suso to have two options with his movement. Franck Kessie pretty much cut in exclusively, and Calabria typically went outside, so Suso was able to play off both effectively. Calabria provided a lot of support and did what was asked of him in defense. The shot he hit that cannoned off the post would have been a goal of the year worthy, but sometimes magic strikes do not come off.

The issue comes with his red card. That was a very dumb play and stiff-arming a player is never intelligent. Hopefully, he learns from this because that play was very boneheaded, even though it should not have counted.

5: The Last-Second Free Kick was Improperly Given

The two Hellas Verona attackers were very offside and even though the initial pass was cut out, it should have been called off for offside. That final free kick should not have happened, and every Milanisti should not have been losing their mind in the last seconds. That was poor refereeing.

6: The Defense Showed Some Poor Signs

This was the first game where late runners proved to be an issue for the defense. They as a unit limited chances, but two crosses with people arriving late proved to be enough to unsettle the solidity. The chance that came off the post happened because Hakan and Kessie both did not cover. Biglia is making a play on the ball, Hakan is nowhere to be seen, and Kessie is standing at the top of the box. There needs to be cover for the late man, and that was not there on that chance. That is an awareness issue, and it broke down in that instance.

There was also an issue of being played over the top. Both center backs will need to be ready for plays of this nature as Lukaku and Lautaro both can latch onto balls played over their head.

7: The Goal and the Disallowed Goal

It was a penalty. Hakan took a shot at the top of the box that got blocked by an arm. We got a penalty, Piatek scored it. This was not particularly impressive and does not deserve a lot of praise. No one made a good run, no one broke down a defense, it was just luck.

The second “goal” was some fine running by Hakan that then turned into a cross body, cross goal shot that Silvestri bobbled and Piatek latched onto. This also is not particularly impressive from a build-up standpoint. Hakan made a good run, then took a dumb shot that the goalie dropped. Piatek did a good job pouncing on it, even if he was too late. The goal did not count, this happens.

Nothing impressive here.

8: The Formation Itself, Part 3

The formation is fine, but the deployment of it was not good today. Paqueta was limited playing as a winger, and the midfield struggled without an inventive passer. The Suso, Calabria, and Kessie connection is very strong, and one that should continue. The left side of the field did not look even decent until Rebic came on, and that was only because Rebic was playing well. Ismael Bennacer should start, Ante Rebic should play left forward, and Paqueta should drop into the midfield. Suso and Calabria can run a side of the field well. Paqueta and Rebic should be able to do so as well, with support of Bennacer. Rotation is important, but not using all three subs, and not trying to understand what the issue was today was dumb. Giampaolo had a bad day.

9: The Substitutes

Rebic did a lot of interesting things today with the ball at his feet. He made intelligent turns, linked up well, and was an assertive central skill that Milan had been missing. He or Leao should platoon in this location. Both will add ability with the ball that Piatek lacks. There is a concern that Giampaolo will only play Leao at striker, and that would be a bit of a waste, he is dynamic and should be played as such.

10: The Guys Who Did Not Play

The more important issue is that only one sub was made. Bennacer, Leao, or Bonaventura could have come on. Hakan needed to be subbed off and taking Paqueta off the field did not solve the issues in the midfield, Giacomo Bonaventura for Hakan would have been smarter. Biglia looked like a man without a plan and putting on Bennacer would have helped open the midfield. He could have facilitated more attack down the left and provided defensive stability in the middle of the field. Paqueta could have also dropped further back the pitch to provide the creativity. Rebic of Leao could have come on to then play left forward with them taking off Hakan.

I know I have used this video clip before but it is still worth repeating how fantastic Bennacer was. This is what is needed to make an offense go. Bennacer needs to start.

If the team looks bad, use all three subs. Giampaolo did not and that was a mistake.

11: Overall Thoughts

Milan looked bad today and looked idea-less. The midfield needs a more creative player, who does it from a deeper position. Bennacer should start versus Inter and there should be thought about dropping Hakan too. Conti will play against Inter, which is concerning. Injuries have derailed a lot of his career. Conti also does not add the offensive ability that Calabria has, and is still questionable defensively. Although, Conti may be less rash than Calabria.

Conti is now 100% going to score five goals just to make me look dumb.

Rebic should also start next weekend with Paqueta where Hakan was today. That lineup will be creative, solid, and score goals.

Get excited for Milan to clone Borini eleven times and start all eleven.