In our penultimate pre-season outing, Milan secured a 2-0 win over Feronikeli in Pristina on Saturday night with goals from Suso and Fabio Borini sealing the victory.
While it’s fascinating to see how the team is improving and developing an understanding this summer, August 25 against Udinese can’t come quick enough as we await the start of the new Serie A campaign.
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However, coach Marco Giampaolo will have learnt a lot from this latest test, namely with some star performances while others perhaps raised further question marks over their place in the side moving forward.
The Rossoneri picked up their first win of pre-season and played some good football as they continue to improve their fitness levels, and it’s hoped that as the new signings all integrate and settle in, it will lead to a positive start to the new campaign.
Suso playing his way into Giampaolo’s plans
At the start of the summer, the general feeling was that Suso could be sacrificed given doubts over his ability to adapt to a new role in Giampaolo’s preferred 4-3-1-2 system.
Further, speculation is still rife over his future with Calciomercato noting that while the Milan boss wants to keep him, the hierarchy are prepared to sell if the right offer comes in.
His superb free-kick aside, the Spaniard put in another top performance as he pulled the strings in between the lines as the trequartista, and there was a real willingness throughout his time on the pitch to get on the ball and make things happen.
Consistency is still the major doubt though, as while he’s impressing for now, it’s questionable as to whether or not he would be able maintain this level of performance.
Bonaventura showed his quality
Deployed in the No.10 role after replacing Suso, the 29-year-old produced a real eye-catching display as he showed excellent technical quality in possession, while his vision and passing range were spot on.
It’s a case of gradually re-integrating him back into the starting XI, but perhaps Giampaolo has dropped a big hint with his decision on Saturday that Bonaventura will be used as a No.10 to perhaps alternate with Suso.
‘Jack’ also has the versatility and quality to play different roles, but with a chance to use Lucas Paqueta in the hole behind the front two, it’s a telling decision from Giampaolo to put Bonaventura in that role and he wasn’t let down by the performance either.
Lucas Paqueta set for midfield role
“Lucas for me is a mezzala, he’s a very instinctive player that I want to help add discipline.”
With that, Giampaolo has seemingly all-but confirmed that Paqueta will be used in the midfield three, creating competition for places alongside the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu.
The Brazilian adds flair and a touch of class to our build-up play in midfield though, and it was clear in his first appearance in pre-season that he does raise the quality level.
As noted by Giampaolo above, there will be time now to develop his game and help him adapt to the new demands of the system and style of play, but it was a major positive to see Paqueta back involved.
Rafael Leao makes promising debut
Aside from his assist for Borini’s goal, the youngster looked very lively when he came on as he offered a threat in the wide positions with his pace, strength and creativity.
That was evident in his key role in the build-up to our second goal, and although it’s still very early, it’s good to see the 20-year-old pick his head up and try to pick out a player in the box rather than simply try to deliver a decent cross into a dangerous area.
There was one moment where he provided a flashback to Mbaye Niang as he used his pace to break clear of the defence before sending his effort well wide and high over the bar. It’s hoped that we don’t see too many more of those moments, as there were plenty of positives to take away too.
Castillejo could, and perhaps should, face exit this summer
The Spaniard has been poor for the most part through pre-season, as he has struggled to impress as the second striker with a lack of decisiveness and general sloppiness with his first touch and distribution.
He’s still very much a lightweight as he is often pressured off the ball or loses possession due to a lack of physical strength, while there is no end product in key situations.
Time will tell if he manages to squeeze through the transfer window without being sold, but especially with Rafael Leao arriving and possibly Angel Correa, who has long been linked with a move to join us, as initially reported by Gianluca Di Marzio last month, it’s difficult to see Castillejo providing little more than depth, and so he is surely considered expendable by the club.