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9 Things: Home Cooking Is Not Always The Best, AC Milan vs Parma Calcio 1913, 2-2

I am not sure how Milan keeps throwing away matches at home.

AC Milan v Parma Calcio - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

1: What the Analytics Said

AC Milan vs Parma Calcio 1913

Team Goals xG Shots (On Target) xG per Shot Possession
Team Goals xG Shots (On Target) xG per Shot Possession
AC Milan 2 1.8 26(6) 0.07 65%
Parma Calcio 1913 2 0.5 4(2) 0.13 35%

This is going to be a short analytics section because of how ridiculous this match was. Parma Calcio 1913 scored twice on one 0.2 xG chance and another 0.1 xG chance. Both moments are generally non-dangerous actions but were finished with unbelievable composure. The Jasmin Kurtić header to double Parma’s lead will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime finish and would be almost unrepeatable for that player. I do not want to discredit Kurtic’s capabilities, but when the mighty Zlatan Ibrahimović scored a similar header I was unbelievably impressed.

If you recreate this match one-thousand times, with the exact same chances, AC Milan would with this match 69% of the time, draw 21% of the time, and lose the remaining 10% (this is based on Between the Posts public model). Unfortunately, the team failed to secure the most likely outcome but luckily avoided the most unlikely outcome.

2: I Still Do Not Know What The Midfield Was Doing, Part 1

This section will be about defense. I am not sure why Franck Kessié and Ismaël Bennacer were so poor in this match, but both goals can be blamed on their play. On the initial goal, Kessié and Bennacer failed to properly track Hernani’s run into the box. The Ivorian midfielder decided to support Alessio Romagnoli and Theo Hernández, who failed to cover Andreas Cornelius. This dragged Kessié deep in the box and out of position. Compounding this problem, Bennacer did not track the late midfielder runner, Hernani, into the box. Bennacer and Kessié failed to communicate and act on the space that Hernani was entering. I am entirely unsure why these two forgot their main assignments, but each of them failed in unison. If I had to assign blame to one of the two midfielders here, I would say Bennacer. Kessié was out of position, but he was covering a positional failure from Romagnoli. Bennacer on the other hand did not cover anyone and never stepped towards one of his assignments.

The second goal, while a brilliant header, was another Bennacer failure. Kessié properly covered his mark, but Bennacer was dragged to the left side of the field. His failure to maintain a central position left Kurtić free from the midfield to the penalty spot. You can see Davide Calabria’s moment of shock when he realizes that Bennacer is not picking up the Parma midfielder. He tried to make up the ground to upset the impending header. Milan’s number four failed to cover the ground and space that he was responsible for and gave up another chance to Parma.

3: I Still Do Not Know What The Midfield Was Doing, Part 2

This part will be about the offense. Kessié took four shots, all incredibly low xG, and wasted multiple attacks by trying ‘hope’ plays that had no real chance of working. Bennacer took two shots from outside the box that were so ghastly I had to walk off my frustration. These long shot plays from the midfield led to the Milan offense stalling for almost twenty-minutes in the second half. If you repeatedly throw away possession then your team’s offense will become ineffectual. Kessié and Bennacer both struggled mightily in this regard and almost sank the comeback effort.

I know these two sections are incredibly negative, but neither player played well. These poor performances have been rare, but this fixture showed how ineffective these two players can be if they are both struggling to generate space or understand their relationship on the field. I do not think this will be a common occurrence, but I want to make sure that we remember this game if it happens again.

4: Offensive Issues

At halftime, Brahim Díaz was leading Milan in xG creation, however, he was almost entirely ineffective and even flattered by the FBref model. His backheel that led to Samu Castillejo’s offside goal was deemed as a dangerous chance, but his play on the ball was unlikely to end up as a goal. Unfortunately, Brahim was not the only Milan player who struggled to generate offense in the first half. This left Hakan Çalhanoğlu to generate offense in spite of his teammates for the first forty-five minutes. At halftime, I thought that the best solution was to bring on Jens Petter Hauge for Brahim and Rafael Leão for Ante Rebić. Instead, Stefano Pioli took Samu Castillejo off for Leão. While the Portuguese attacker was more effective than the Spanish winger, this switch did not change most of the attacking problems. It also hurt Calabria’s play, as his crossing and freedom down the right-wing went away after Castillejo left the pitch. Both Leão and Hauge struggled to integrate with the rest of the team and fell into the trap of trying to win individual battles instead of using teammates to create space. Slowly, the attacking quartet, especially the wingers, became disconnected from the midfield and backline. This made Parma’s job much easier and led to long stretches of ineffective attacks by the Rossoneri.

I wanted Pioli to make changes at the half, but I think the wrong strings were pulled and the team’s offense became flat and predictable. It was a surprising and unfortunate failure.

5: One Post, Two Post, Three Post, Four

Poor Hakan and my blood pressure. It is unbelievably rare to see a player hit three posts in a match and have a team hit four altogether. Hakan was the danger man for Milan throughout the match and his play almost led to a hat trick. His third post hit was his most frustrating one because he decided to use power instead of placement when shooting. Out of all the chances, this was the one that he was the most likely to score. His xG total was not particularly high - 0.3 xG - but he was a shot generating machine and had an assist on Theo’s goal. I hope he was able to have a relaxing night at home after experiencing an incredibly frustrating day of work.

6: Rebić Struggles Mightily

This was a tough and ineffective day for Rebić. He had three miscontrols, was dispossessed once, and completed less than half of his pass attempts. This is always a concern about the Croatian attacker, he can struggle when he is too involved, but this match was one of his most inefficient matches (he functions best as a low involvement, poacher type, winger). He created 0.4 xG - the vast majority from the shot that led to Theo’s second goal - but he halted many attacks through errant crosses or simple miscontrols. He was one of the players that I thought needed to come off the pitch prior to the second half, however, he stayed on and continued to struggle.

7: Fullback Braces

As we all predicted, obviously, Theo scored a brace to save Milan and rescue a point for the team. Both goals came from low xG plays, but if you get hurt by good finishing, maybe good finishing will also save you. On matchday eleven, this occurred and Milan’s undefeated run was saved by a fullback.

Besides his two goals, he generated 708 progressive yards and another 0.5 xA during the match. While his goals will steal the headlines, the Frenchman put together a dominant performance through his facilitating play. I was impressed by him again and his ability to direct play has become more noticeable this season. He was selected on many teams of the week and it was completely deserved.

8: The Play at Home

Milan has played 10 games at home and 10 games on the road across all competitions. The Rossoneri’s home record is currently 6-3-1 for 21 points and the team’s away record is 9-1-0 for 28 points across all competitions. I bring this up because Milan has created 22.4 xG at home and has allowed 10.5 xG against at home and conversely created 17.1 xG while traveling and given up 11.1 xG against. The 7 point difference between Milan’s home and road records is shocking because of how much better the team has played at home. I do think that some of the answers can be found in Milan’s recent apparent need to allow two goals before generating offense. Milan has played three different home games in recent weeks where the team went down by two and then put an onslaught on their opposition. To change the team’s form at home, this has to stop. I am not sure why it has been occurring, but I would expect that finishing luck will start to turn more into the Rossoneri’s path allowing the team to start to control matches at home from the onset. If not, expect Milan to throw away countless points at home.

9: Overall Thoughts

This match was unbelievably frustrating. I could wrap my head around the Hellas Verona FC match more than this one. This match will never fully make sense to me, and with the loss of Bennacer through injury, may leave a bad taste in my mouth for weeks. It is hard to draw too many positives from such a mess, but hopefully, this is a learning moment for this very young team. That would be my greatest hope from this draw. Milan still leads Serie A in every major category, but the gap between the team and the rest of the league has tightened. The midweek match against Genoa CFC should be a standard win, but it is hard to talk in certainties right now.