The Serie A season started pretty well for most of the title contenders, with Juventus, Napoli and Inter all winning, Atalanta picked up three points too while Roma kicked off with a high-octane 3-3 draw against Genoa.
And then there was Milan. Oh dear.
In Marco Giampaolo’s first competitive game in charge, after a pre-season we can file under ‘not ideal’, they lost 1-0 to Udinese, registering precisely zero shots on target.
On the Totally Football Show’s European edition this week, James Horncastle spoke about their poor start to life under Giampaolo and the problems that could lie ahead.
“It’s only match day one,” said James. “The issue is that Giampaolo has a very specific style of play. He likes to play 4-4-2 with a diamond, and Milan are a team with a lot of wingers – their best player, Suso, is a winger. He’s played well as a No.10 in pre-season, but I still think he’s ill-suited to that role.
“There are the same faces in that Milan team as we saw under Gennaro Gattuso last season, but in different positions. Hasan Calhanoglu played in front of the defence as a deep-lying playmaker, but that didn’t really work out, and I think that was a consequence of Lucas Biglia being out and Ismael Bennacer coming back late from the Africa Cup of Nations.”
Milan’s big success story last season was Kryzsztof Piatek, who scored 11 goals after joining from Genoa in January. But in the new regime, he might not be so successful.
“I think their major issue is Piatek,” said James. “I think he could be a big flop this season. He did so much better than expected last season, he blew everyone away, but can he back it up?
“He’s playing in a very different system and he’s a very different striker to the one Giampaolo had at Sampdoria in Fabio Quagliarella, who loved to come short and link the play, participate with his teammates: Piatek is a fox-in-the-box. That’s it. He was very isolated and the Udinese centre-back Rodrigo Becao had him in his pocket for 90 minutes, but it wasn’t that difficult a job for him.”
Life could improve for Milan though, particularly when they have a full squad to pick from.
“We still have to see these new signings integrated into the team: Theo Hernandez, the full-back from Real Madrid got injured in pre-season, Bennacer was excellent at Empoli last season and at the Africa Cup of Nations, winning the tournament with Algeria, and Rafael Leao [the Portuguese forward signed from Lille this summer], there’s lots of hype around what he can do.
“We haven’t seen what this Milan side can do yet, but the disappointment is they’ve got a very easy run of fixtures going into the derby [against Inter] on match day four: they really needed to build up a head of steam, I think they were hoping to be on maximum points, and it just hasn’t happened for them.”
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