Milan made a bitterly disappointing start to the new Serie A season on Sunday after falling to a 1-0 defeat away at Udinese.
The Rossoneri failed to even register a single shot on target as they were toothless in attack and switched off to concede the only goal of the game.
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While the result was a huge setback in itself, the manner of the performance is also a major concern given Marco Giampaolo seemingly failed to get the positive responses that he would have been hoping for.
Nevertheless, we can’t afford to dwell on the defeat for long as a response is needed against Brescia next weekend to put this blow behind us.
⚪⚫ Rodrigo Becão scores on his debut for Udinese
It's his first ever senior goal too! 🙌#Serie A pic.twitter.com/hsBlg7NXDM
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) August 25, 2019
Giampaolo influence goes missing
Through the course of pre-season, there have been signs of progression. Giampaolo had a reaction in terms of what wants to see from the team with regards to his preferred style of play and the characteristics of his side on and off the ball.
On Sunday, it looked as though nothing had changed and it was merely a continuation of last season under Gennaro Gattuso, without the grit required to at least hold out for a draw.
Milan showed no quality in possession with a lack of quicker, sharper passing and build-up play, instead reverting back to the slow, predictable approach we saw last year with no flair, inventiveness and movement off the ball to find pockets of space between the lines.
Further, they failed to show any real intensity or urgency off the ball to press Udinese into mistakes, and it was a huge disappointment to essentially see no real sign of improvement.
For Giampaolo to also suggest in his post-match comments that he could ditch his preferred system and plans to find what works best for the players at his disposal is either a sensible bit of management or a desperate early move to avoid further pressure piling on his shoulders.
Giampaolo: “This goes beyond the result, I don't like those offensive solutions, they are sterile. There is nothing to throw away, maybe I’ll have to take care of some different details.”
— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) August 25, 2019
Calhanoglu fails as regista
Before the game, it could have been argued that Calhanoglu was essentially playing for a place in the starting XI, as the likes of Lucas Paqueta, Suso and Giacomo Bonaventura could easily keep him on the bench this season.
Following Lucas Biglia’s injury setback in midweek, he was handed the chance to run the game as the regista, but as has been the case on too many occasions previously, he disappointed.
Milan needed him to drop into the space in front of the defence and build play, just as Ismael Bennacer began to do when he was introduced by Giampaolo. Instead, he was often wondering around a packed midfield and leaving his defenders to play hopeless passes out from the back.
Borini and Castillejo not good enough
Two players who surely will drop out of the starting line-up next weekend are Fabio Borini and Samu Castillejo, with Franck Kessie and Rafael Leao replacing them respectively.
Borini doesn’t have the quality to match his heart and work ethic, while Castillejo has proven to be average for the most part while showing glimpses of quality.
Lightweight and often muscled out of possession and with no real consistent end product, Giampaolo has to look elsewhere and demote the Spaniard to being a depth option as he hasn’t shown an ability to be decisive on a consistent basis.
Suso encounters trequartista troubles
Suso had actually shown signs of being able to impress as the No.10 in pre-season, as he regularly found space between the lines and showed quality on the ball to either set up dangerous scenarios for himself or show creativity in a key area of the pitch to set others up.
There was one moment in the second half where he almost set Krzysztof Piatek in behind the Udinese defence, but beyond that, it’s difficult to remember him showing any quality of note as he eventually drifted into his more natural role on the right side in the latter stages.
Based on Giampaolo’s suggestion after the game that he could start to deploy his players in roles that they are more accustomed to rather than the ones he has tried to assign them since he arrived, Suso may well be pushed back out to the right wing against Brescia.
Piatek dry spell goes on
From the struggles to play out from the back to the lack of quality in midfield to offer any real service, it was always going to be a struggle for Piatek to not only pose a genuine goalscoring threat, but to also be involved in other ways.
It was often a case of hitting a hopeful pass in his direction to see if he could find a way through or pass it off to a teammate to keep possession ticking, and at no point did it look as though Milan had a gameplan to best utilise his attributes.
In pre-season it felt as though he would eventually come good. Now Giampaolo may well have realised that he has to deploy him in a different way to get the free-scoring Pole back that we saw from last season as currently, we’re not finding the link between the creative players and our talisman to enable him to get into dangerous positions.