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9 Things: And The Wheel’s Keep Turning, AC Milan vs Parma Calcio 1913, 3-1

The Rossoneri do not hit their offensive heights of prior matches, however, they still put up a convincing scoreline.

AC Milan v Parma Calcio - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

1: What The Analytics Said

AC Milan wins this match 67% of the time based on xG and shot locations. The difference between the two teams was how dangerous Milan was in possession. For the first thirty minutes, the Rossoneri absolutely dominated Parma Calcio 1913. The expected possession value (EPV) metric measures how dangerous the build-up play of a team was. I am including Statified Football’s model in this section because of their EPV model. As you can see, Milan was very dangerous in possession. The reason why it did not translate into more shots is that Zlatan Ibrahimović and Rafael Leão struggled to generate shots. The Swedish striker, in my opinion, had a particularly poor game (I will get to this later), but the crosses, passes, and attacks that Milan created were dangerous. In the future, it would be nice to see Milan generate higher-quality shots.

The shots Milan did create were not necessarily the most dangerous, but it was the sheer volume of them that won the day. The team attempted twenty-seven shots, fourteen of which were from inside the box. Milan passed the ball into the Parma last twenty yards fourteen times to Parma’s six. This game was not as close as it felt for long stretches. Milan deserved all three points and they won all three points.

2: Let’s Talk About The Problems First, I Promise To Be Positive Later

Ibrahimović did not shine against Parma. At the beginning of the first half, he played as a more traditional striker, however, once the initial flurry of chances failed, he started to drop deeper. While this did help with ball progression, his play broke down closer to the penalty area. The main issue was that he was selfish. Between his need to shoot and his constant decision to enter duels with no real plan, he stifled Milan attacks. On multiple occasions, a player would make a good run around the Swedish man and he would fail to pick out the correct pass. In these moments, attacks that were slowly growing in danger were ended by a poor play by Zlatan.

The other problem that sprung up a few times was careless play about forty yards away from Donnarumma’s net. On a few occasions, this led to short field counter attacks for Parma. Some of these counters were dangerous, some were mopped up. The Roberto Inglese chance, which Donnarumma closed down with a good save, was a result of this poor play. If Milan had lost this game, it would have been from mistakes in this area of the field.

3: Lucas Biglia Played Fine Going Forward, But Mistakes Popped Up Defensively

It is weird to type his name, it has been so long. The Argentinian Defensive Midfielder played well in possession. He progressed play and recycled possession. His offensive game was completely and totally adequate. However, he failed to track Jasmin Kurtić during Parma’s only goal. Kurtic was his man to track, and while I have other issues with that play, Biglia’s inability to follow his assignment led to Milan’s deficit. This was a fine game to rotate the squad, but Biglia did not take advantage of his appearance. I wonder if we will see him again.

4: The Introduction of Davide Calabria and What It Did

Andrea Conti was noticeably struggling to contain any players on his flank. He was not part of much offensive play and he started fouling late in the half. The discipline of the Italian fullback has been an issue in recent games. He fouls a lot in general. This is always my concern when he plays, but today was one of his least disciplined performances.

I like Davide Calabria, I thought he was truly fantastic last season. However, he has struggled to find his form this year. Today was an example of his strengths as a player. His progressive style of play gave Milan width down the right flank. This had been lacking for most of the game, but with Calabria’s introduction, the Rossoneri immediately spread the field more. Franck Kessié was a benefactor as he would play passes out wide to Calabria to open more space. It also helps that Calabria did not commit any fouls.

5: If You Are Going To Attack, Be Dangerous

Milan was willing to concede slightly more possession in the second half, but the attacking plays were much more dangerous. As you can see on Statified Footballs second chart under the caption ‘Non-Shot Game Flow’, Milan created multiple stretches of dangerous attacking play. While one of Milan’s goals came against the run of play, it was deserved based on the flow of the half. Towards the latter stages of the match, the Rossoneri should have scored again, however, general shooting issues and a continuation of Ibrahimović’s first half struggles failed to convert build-up into shots.

Statified Football

The important takeaway was that Milan was not aimlessly passing the ball around. While two of the three goals came from long-range shots, Milan was not struggling to break into the box. While the danger of the individual shots could have been much higher (0.065 per shot against Parma, would be lowest in the top five divisions over the season if held), there was an attacking fervor that created these chances. There was an offensive process in the game that should boast more results and more dangerous shots in the future. It has in the past.

6: My Mom Made Fun Of Me Because of the Kessié Goal

If you have read my articles before, you will know that I bemoan long-distance shots. I bemoan them much more in real life than I do here (some times my bemoaning might include a curse word or two). When Kessié shaped to shoot I certainly complained mightly. However, I was put in my place when I yelled “don’t shoot!’ and then immediately watched the ball hit the post and then the back of the net. My mom was quite entertained by my excellent transatlantic coaching advice. I did not mind too much. The Ivorian Midfielder absolutely caught this strike. It was a jaw-dropping shot and a fun tying goal for Milan. This immediately sprung Pioli’s men into life and the comeback was on.


I am having fun in this article. The Alessio Romagnoli goal was facilitated by a fantastic delivery from Hakan Çalhanoğlu and some poor defending from the Parma defensive line. The ball over the top of the defense was put in a dangerous area that Romagnoli headed into the net perfectly. The end of the Parma line was dragged forward by a run Ibrahimović made (the Swedish man’s game was not all negative) which kept the Milan captain onside and free to score.

Çalhanoğlu’s goal was built off of a fantastic run by Giacomo Bonaventura (who had a good game). Bonaventura progresses and drives play and this goal was an example of that. The shot itself was low and hard. It found the side netting and sealed the three points for Milan.

8: The Centerbacks Were Chaotic While Theo Hernández Thrived

While their play did not necessarily lead to any Parma goals Romagnoli and Simon Kjær both had a handful of utterly chaotic plays. Romagnoli was late reacting to multiple plays and Kjær seems to have a tendency to throw caution to the winds at moments. This led to dangerous Parma chances that could have easily led to goals. Neither player was at their best today defensively and they were bailed out by some dreadful Parma attacks. These defensive lapses are easy to forget given the final score, but in the future, Milan will play better teams and not have the fortune of facing the Parma attack. It will be crucial for Romagnoli and Kjaer to play within themselves and recognize danger faster than they did in this fixture.

In positive news, Theo Hernández had a good day defensively. Theo ranks in the 79th percentile for tackles and in the 68th percentile for interceptions, when adjusted for possession. The typical flaws in the French fullback’s game are his positioning and that when he is beaten by a dribble, he is beaten in astounding fashion. However, Theo controlled Dejan Kulusevski all match. This would be a tough matchup for almost any fullback on the planet, but Theo handled it admirably. His speed was the difference-maker. The Swedish-Macedonian winger could not create any space between himself and Milan’s backline. Theo had much to do with that. It is unusual to write about Theo’s defensive contributions, but he played well against Parma.

9: Overall Thoughts

Milan won this game through possession. The intent and play from the Rossoneri was direct and forceful. Going down a goal in the first half was unfortunate, however, the team rallied and secured a two-goal win. This game was another step towards the Europa League. Now, Milan is tied with SSC Napoli and still four points off of AS Roma. If Milan can continue their form then there is no reason to say that fifth is not within grasp. I cannot stress how important it is to place well enough to avoid multiple play-in games for the group stage of the Europa League. Torino FC was knocked out before the group stage started this season because they were drawn against Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. Bypassing play in games can determine how far a team goes in the competition. Leapfrogging Napoli should be the goal, but fifth guarantees a group stage spot. Winning the Europa League should be the goal if Milan makes the competition. Going out before the group stage even begins would be an even greater disappointment than the last time Milan went to the Europa League.

To remain in the present, Milan pushes forward to play Bologna FC 1909. Do not take this fixture lightly. There are another three points for the taking. Milan has to take them.