Milan’s pre-season came to an underwhelming end against Cesena on Saturday night, with the focus now switching to our first Serie A game of the season next weekend.
Having written about the positives throughout the pre-season schedule, things ended in disappointing fashion this weekend after the goalless draw.
That said though, it is pre-season and perhaps the level of motivation and intensity wasn’t there with players undoubtedly hoping to avoid any late injury setbacks with the new campaign just seven days away.
In turn, it’s arguably not worth looking too much into it and taking it for what it is. Nevertheless, there are still five key questions that coach Marco Giampaolo will have to answer in the coming days.
Which of the new signings will feature vs Udinese?
The side that started against Cesena was essentially an XI that could have been seen last season, and so in that regard, it was disappointing not to get a proper look at all of our five summer signings.
Leo Duarte made his debut in the second half, while Ismael Bennacer only joined up with the squad this week. Theo Hernandez remains sidelined by injury, while it was suggested that Rafael Leao wasn’t risked after picking up a slight knock.
Rade Krunic is also coming off the back of an injury from last season, and so it seems sensible not to push him too hard in pre-season with the risk of aggravating that problem.
With all that in mind, it’s questionable as to which of our new signings will face Udinese next Sunday evening. Hernandez won’t recover in time, Mateo Musacchio will likely be preferred over Duarte while Bennacer, Krunic and Leao could all be on the bench given their lack of playing time.
Still waiting for ideal second striker
What pre-season has shown us is that Samu Castillejo, and to a smaller degree Andre Silva, aren’t the right options in the second striker role behind Krzysztof Piatek.
The Spaniard in particular has disappointed throughout and hasn’t been able to provide that link between the midfield and Suso to Piatek.
In turn, whether it’s Angel Correa, who La Gazzetta dello Sport note remains the priority, or an alternative solution, it’s vital that situation is resolved sooner rather than later, hopefully with a breakthrough to come this week.
Piatek rediscovering his form
The 24-year-old’s lack of goals in pre-season will be a concern for some, but ultimately he’s still a player who delivered when it mattered for us last season.
There is little doubt that when the real business begins next weekend that the entire team will step their game up, and having sharpened the tools over the past few weeks, Piatek will be decisive.
As noted above though, the situation behind him needs to be sorted as Castillejo should arguably be nothing more than an impact substitute to offer a lift and fresh intensity if required.
Paqueta ready to start?
After an extended break following the Copa America, the Brazilian playmaker has been steadily re-introduced into the side over the past two games.
Whether or not it’s considered enough by Giampaolo to give him the nod against Udinese remains to be seen, as he’ll surely be lacking full match fitness and sharpness to be at his best.
However, with his technical quality and creativity needed in this side, especially if the burden is going to fall solely on Suso’s shoulders in his absence if Hakan Calhanoglu can’t contribute, then pushing Paqueta into the action from the start could be necessary.
Has Giampaolo got his ideas across?
“I’ve trained Leao once, Bennacer never, Duarte three times, they are players who have great value but in the collective they’ve not taken on anything yet, like Paquetà and Kessie.
“It’s a question of time and work together, which I did only with players who give me guarantees today. Others have great value and give me great guarantees too.” – Giampaolo after the Cesena draw, as per MilanNews.
Based on those comments, it’s more than likely that we may well go with a similar line-up against Udinese to the one we saw this weekend.
Those players have had the longest time possible to work with Giampaolo both on and off the pitch, and so it would make sense from that perspective to show faith in them to start the season.
That will be disappointing to an extent, especially with the likes of Fabio Borini and Castillejo being named in the starting XI. Further, time isn’t something that Giampaolo will have too much of as we have to make a positive start to the campaign.
However, perhaps as fans we must temper our expectations in the early stages and remain confident that things will improve with time as the new signings settle and begin to have more of an influence.