After the early setback last weekend in losing to Udinese, a response was needed from Marco Giampaolo and the Milan players at home against Brescia.
That defeat knocked the optimism that had built up over the summer, with many not only expecting good results but also a much talked about style of play with which we would try to obtain them.
SEE MORE: Four changes Giampaolo should make to Milan XI before abandoning 4-3-1-2
Unfortunately, Giampaolo’s influence was non-existent in Udine, but reassuringly we saw signs of it particularly in the first half against Brescia in a 1-0 win.
While there is still undoubtedly huge room for improvement, there were positives to take away from the encounter too.
Giampaolo’s influence shows
Brescia played into our hands to an extent by adopting a more open style of play themselves, and had they focused on the defensive phase a little more and made it difficult for us to break them down, the result could have perhaps been different.
Nevertheless, there were certainly better signs in the opening 45 minutes from Milan, as there was more movement off the ball and quicker passing as well as more effort and pressure off the ball to win possession back or at least to ensure Brescia couldn’t settle.
That didn’t extend into the second half as old habits kicked in, but it’s hoped that the players will be able to maintain that over the course of an entire game moving forward.
Romagnoli quietly brilliant
As has been the case for some time now, our captain has continued to put in steady performances at the back and delivered another top performance this weekend.
Not only in terms of his reading of the game to snuff danger out to his timing of the tackle and physical qualities, the graphic below shows just how efficient he was with the ball at his feet too.
While there wasn’t anything too extravagant involved in his distribution, it kept us ticking and his defensive focus and class ensured we were able to keep a clean sheet too.
100% – Alessio #Romagnoli is the only player to have completed all his passes attempted during the first half of #MilanBrescia (35/35). Accuracy. pic.twitter.com/y733FvPA1M
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) August 31, 2019
Bennacer shows his class already
There was little doubt that the 21-year-old would be an ideal fit and a quality addition to the side, and he certainly didn’t disappoint on his full debut.
Playing as the regista, Bennacer showcased his class immediately, offering both defensive protection in front of the backline while also being the engine of the midfield and making us tick in possession.
That is evident in the highlights package below of his performance. While he does keep it simple to an extent, the crucial difference is that he moves the ball quickly and finds players in space to make things happen with minimal fuss and great accuracy while also being willing to try things.
He doesn’t need three touches to control the ball and he doesn’t take long to pick his head up and deliver the pass needed. As a result, this was an impressive outing and he’ll hope to improve moving forward.
Ismaël Bennacer Vs Bresciapic.twitter.com/QjRqPrZCks
— BNS Comps (@BnsComps) August 31, 2019
Suso looks much more comfortable in familiar role
It was one of the biggest debates of the summer as to whether or not Suso would be able to play as the trequartista. Many were adamant that he wouldn’t be suited to it, while others bought into his good form over the pre-season schedule.
Having struggled against Udinese to have any positive influence on the game, Giampaolo opted to tweak his set-up slightly and at times it looked as though Samu Castillejo was the No.10 with Suso as a second striker who drifted to the right side in a more natural position.
It led to the goal as he produced an excellent delivery for Hakan Calhanoglu to head home, and so the Milan boss will perhaps be pleased that his minor changes worked.
Key changes could lead to more improvement
There are still question marks over some of the players that Giampaolo is using. In defence, Theo Hernandez will undoubtedly make a significant difference when he returns from injury while Mattia Caldara or Leo Duarte could arguably offer a bit more than Mateo Musacchio.
Giampaolo surely has to find a way to keep Lucas Paqueta in the side as he adds much-needed technical quality and flair to help us create chances, and he was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet with an effort that hit the post.
The Andre Silva experiment produced decent results, but not enough to suggest that he should keep Krzysztof Piatek out of the side after the international break. In turn, it’s hoped that our top-choice frontman comes back into the XI next time out while there is surely still a better option in the squad than Castillejo.
Whether it’s giving Rafael Leao a chance or waiting for Giacomo Bonaventura to return to full fitness, having the likes of Paqueta, Bonaventura and Piatek in the same side will surely produce productive results and keep us moving in the right direction.