Milan begin the new Serie A campaign away at Udinese on Sunday evening, and coach Marco Giampaolo has a concern to address ahead of the encounter.
Goals have been hard to come by in pre-season, with the Rossoneri managing to score just four in five outings with Suso accounting for half of those.
Krzysztof Piatek has yet to find his goalscoring touch as he continues to adapt to the new system and style of play under Giampaolo, although given the 24-year-old’s quality in front of goal, it will surely be a matter of time before he rediscovers his form.
The important factor on Sunday will be providing him with the right service, and while La Gazzetta dello Sport note that Angel Correa remains our priority in the transfer market, completing a signing seems unlikely before Sunday.
With that in mind, the solution has to be found within the current squad and the options already at Giampaolo’s disposal, and based on what we saw in pre-season, it’s arguably a fair suggestion that Samu Castillejo can’t be seen as that solution.
The Spaniard has shown glimpses of quality, but from his inability to be a consistent threat in the final third, be it a direct danger or being a creative presence for others, to his lack of physical presence and poor touch which often leads to attacks breaking down, he hasn’t shown enough to suggest that he can be the temporary foil for Piatek.
Further, with just four goals and four assists in 40 appearances for Milan, it’s not a new problem.
Immediate Leao chance or tinker with roles
Rafael Leao arrived this summer but hasn’t played enough to suggest that his fitness and adaptability is where it needs to be. It’s hoped though that he has recovered from the knock which kept him out of the Cesena draw, as he would be a direct switch behind Piatek.
It’s a risk, but immediately integrating his pace and movement to complement the technical quality and passing range offered by those around him could add a crucial different dynamic to the attack while he has the physicality and skill to get past players.
Failing that though, has Giampaolo got other options? Another potential change could be to push Suso into the second striker role and deploy Lucas Paqueta in the trequartista position with Hakan Calhanoglu in the midfield three.
That would give us an option to have our three creative players in the same side while Suso could drift wide as well as through the middle to provide service for Piatek, allowing him to move into spaces on the right side closer to his role from last season. Although, question marks could perhaps be raised over his suitability to that role and whether or not he offers what’s needed off the ball from a defensive perspective and in terms of pressing the opposition.
Elsewhere, Andre Silva has been used sparingly this summer but could be an alternative option, while Giacomo Bonaventura is steadily recovering from his lengthy injury layoff and so shouldn’t be risked early on.
Realistic set-up for first game
The likelihood is that Giampaolo will go with Castillejo behind Piatek and will play Suso as the No.10, as that is ultimately what has been worked on all summer and so the players will be amongst the fittest in the squad and aware of the demands made by the coach in those roles. Further, he will always have the option of bringing impact players off the bench too.
However, given the lack of goals in pre-season, it may well be worthwhile for the Milan boss to consider alternative solutions to avoid being frustrated by Udinese on Sunday as the signs in pre-season would suggest that we may well struggle to break them down.