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11 things: Frustrating Defeat from a Solid Display, Milan vs Torino 1-2

A decent showing that was ruined by some poor finishing and some chaotic play out of the backline. Hopefully the good will be repeated.

1: The Advanced Stats and What They Mean

Milan out expected goals Torino 2.30-1.09. Per Understat, the Piatek chance at the end of the game was worth .56 expected goals. The penalty was worth .76 expected goals which is about average. So, from open play, Milan created 1.54 from open play which is significantly above average from Milan, per Wyscout. This is a solid outing from Milan offensively. The Kessie incredible flub from the end of the game does not count because the play was ruled offside incorrectly, if the ball had gone in then the goal would have counted, but alas.

Torino had the most dangerous shot from open play from Belotti at .68 of an expected goal. This is not surprising because the goal was open, he was pretty much alone, and he was on top of the goal line. Belotti’s first goal was listed at .02 expected goals which are brutal. That typically means one of two things, the shooter took a great shot, or the goalie made an absolute hash of the shot (bad job trying to do something). Milan needed a save at this moment and Gianluigi did not deliver.

The most important take away from this game is that Milan either should have drawn this game or won. The fairest outcome would have been a Milan win 2-1. Sometimes you lose these games, just look at Napoli who put up 1.89 expected goals to Cagliari’s .53 and Napoli still lost 1-0. These games happen.

2: Sometimes No One Can Score

Piatek had a bad day in front of goal. This happens sometimes, but this along with poor shooting from Kessie at the end of the game is frustrating. While I have praised Piatek for his work in defense, he needs to be able to finish more. At some points players will finish these shots, but today was not that day. There is an argument to let Piatek sit during Fiorentina and play Rebic and Leao upfront. However, this game was not an issue of the team or the tactics not working. The team simply needed someone to score a goal today and that did not happen. There was a lot to like from an attacking standpoint, but the finishing from open play is a concern.

3: Bennacer Did Exactly What is Needed from His Position

Bennacer had a strong game today. He halted play well and progressed the ball with intelligence. He linked play between each phase of the field and was able to break in between the lines of Torino. Without him in the other three games, the team struggled to control the midfield and could not break forward. Bennacer did well to also incorporate the left side of the field. Leao and Theo were able to break forward, and Hakan had fewer responsibilities so he was able to play more offensively. Bennacer is the correct choice for a central defensive midfielder and subbing him off the pitch did not make any sense. There is a chance that Giampaolo saw him as the closest man to the goal when Belotti scored his bicycle and that is why he was subbed.

Play Bennacer as much as possible and that will help solve many issues in the midfield.

4: The Backline Struggled Mightily

For about sixty-five minutes and then for twelve minutes, it fell apart. On the first goal, Mussachio backs off Belotti to much and backs himself onto the eighteen-yard box. The shot is impressive, but at some point, he needs to take a step at Belotti. Donnarumma handled the shot poorly as well. He has to dive at the ball, but he handles the shot itself poorly.

The second goal was an issue of spacing between Mussachio and Romagnoli. Bennacer is covering space that Kessie left to press a ball carrier. The midfield and backline are improperly spaced because Theo is out of position and Hakan has not begun to trackback yet. The spacing issue allows Aina to pick out a quick pass to Belotti and then the backline has to reform ranks. The two center backs fail to do so and Calabria must cover Remiro on the left. Mussachio gets beaten through the legs, as he backs off and Romagnoli is beaten by Zaza into the gap between both center backs. Because of how Mussachio challenged the pass from Belotti, he is unable to track back on the Torino striker. Bennacer is still recovering and because of the pace of the attack, he is not able to reach Belotti in time.

This is an organizational issue from the Milan backline. That comes from the two centrebacks as the pass reaches Belotti. Kessie also put the backline in a difficult situation because of how he pressed Aina. The first Belotti goal is a bit of misfortune and a very nice shot, but that goal would be hard to repeat for Torino. Hopefully, there will not be any more major issues.

5: Suso has Another Strange Day

He struggled to make runs into the box or be more available during attacks that originated down the left. Suso plays right wing in a very odd and old school way. It works in a 4-4-2 or in something that may need the wingers to sit deeper. In a 4-3-3 he struggles to enter the middle of the field. Leao plays well between the wing and the center of the field, Suso needs to join the attack more as a central player like Leao. If he wants to hang deeper in the field, then he will not work in this system in the future. He needs more flexibility in what he is able to do. Suso has been an issue in the past and hopefully, he can reinvent his game.

This is from the Inter game but shows how little Suso tries to enter the box. Conti could have taken the space that Suso was in and Suso could have entered the box. Instead he hangs out very deep.

6: Rafael Leao is Here

He played fantastically through the middle of the field and was able to make cutting runs into the box. One of Leao’s runs lead to a penalty that Piatek scored. Leao was able to create a chance out of nothing when a cross entered the box and he powered the ball back towards the top of the goal.

He ran in between lines well and helped cause chaos throughout the lines. His initial control also helps open space and causes quick counter-attacks. He, similarly, to Paqueta, breaks a press by his ability to control the ball better than almost any other player on the field. Leao should start every game.

7: The Goal

What a run by Leao. He split the defense well and Suso put a ball in a dangerous area, so the defense had to react to his run. Leao goes down and the penalty is drawn. This was a strong showing from Leao and runs like this will turn into more goals.

Piatek took the penalty well and the goal was scored.

8: The Substitutes

This one is less of an issue of who the substitutes were and more about the utilization of the substitutes. Bonaventura is not a left-winger anymore, he is a mezzala, and he took Leao. Rebic took off Bennacer, which is a support striker for a center defensive midfielder. This move also makes no sense in the timing of it. Giampaolo did not use all three subs as well, which is not smart. Taking off Bennacer was a mistake, not taking off Piatek was not the best decision, and doing the exchanges in this order was a mistake. Rebic or Samu could have taken off Leao. Bonaventura or Krunic could have taken off Hakan or possibly Kessie. Suso could have been the other sub as well because his effect on the game got worse as the game progressed. Using all three subs is always important and in two of the five games Giampaolo has not used all three subs.

9: The Players Who Did Not Play

Krunic was the only player who may have come on and provided positivity. Samu could have possibly done the same, but Krunic could have taken Kessie. Paqueta was unavailable and none of the other players who were unused could have affected the game a ton.

10: Fiorentina

Fiorentina put up 1.95 expected goals against Sampdoria on Wednesday. They seem to have fixed some of their issues from last season. This is concerning, as they seem poised to score more than they have.

I would not mind seeing Leao and Rebic start upfront and giving Piatek a rest. Hakan or Paqueta could play in behind the two and the other plays deeper in the field. Bennacer needs to play again. Piatek and Suso would come off the bench in this scenario.

11: Overall Thoughts

Milan should really consider a Rebic and Leao double striker unit. Matchweek 5 was a very unfortunate set of circumstances. The wrong players had tough games all in unison. This will not happen a lot, but in days like today, the team fails to win. Milan will score chances in the future so do not expect this to be the norm.