A key issue behind Marco Giampaolo’s struggles to implement his preferred style of play at Milan so far this season has been the lack of time spent with the players.
From the summer signings who arrived at Milanello late to those who were given an extended break after their international exploits over the summer, countless individuals returned to pre-season deep into the schedule.
That in turn has led to a situation in which we see the likes of Samu Castillejo and Fabio Borini still playing significant minutes, despite the quality and competition added to the squad which should eventually force them down the pecking order.
While the international break has seen several players leave again to represent their respective countries, it will undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable period for Giampaolo to work with the players that have remained behind.
With that in mind, there are potentially three changes that he’ll make against Verona on September 15, with La Gazzetta dello Sport suggesting that Ante Rebic, Theo Hernandez and Leo Duarte could all get the nod in the starting XI.
The 23-year-old will have needed time to adapt to life in Italy and he will undoubtedly have spent hours studying the style of play, tempo and challenges of Serie A.
While the hope is that Mattia Caldara overcomes his injury nightmare and eventually takes his place alongside Alessio Romagnoli in the heart of the Milan backline, the Rossoneri didn’t spend €11m on Duarte, as per Goal.com, to sit on the bench.
Mateo Musacchio is a solid option and invariably delivers a 6/10 performance, yet there are still vulnerabilities and weaknesses in his defensive game that can make him a liability at times.
Having had time to work with Duarte over the international break and with the Derby della Madonnina to follow the clash with Verona, this could be an ideal time to give the Brazilian an opportunity to show what he can offer.
We know what we get with Musacchio, and particularly at the top level, viable question marks can be raised as to whether or not he’s good enough. Caldara is still hopefully seen as the long-term partner for Romagnoli, but it would be good to see Duarte in action while we await his return.
There is little doubt that the Frenchman is the ideal fit for Giampaolo at left-back. Given what he offers off the ball with his ability to provide an intense, smothering defensive style coupled with the energy and quality to offer width and a genuine attacking threat down the left flank, he beats Ricardo Rodriguez in most areas.
While he may lack the experience his teammate possesses, Hernandez was an immediate hit after his pre-season debut against Bayern Munich, and few will argue that he wouldn’t have been in the starting XI in our first two games had he not suffered an ankle injury in that outing against the Bavarian giants.
As noted by MilanNews, there is a growing sense that he could even get a starting berth against Verona, and it would come as no surprise if he makes an influential difference to the quality of our performance.
Happy to be back 😃🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/JtwtNRI4Rh
— Theo Hernandez (@TheoHernandez) September 5, 2019
Despite what GdS suggest in their report above, this is perhaps the more unlikely call from Giampaolo. It would be quite contradictory to suggest that he didn’t use his summer signings in the first two games because he didn’t have enough time to work with them to then throw Rebic straight into the mix.
That’s not to say we hope he doesn’t, as the 25-year-old is an experienced individual who has played a key role for club and country for some time, and so he perhaps doesn’t need as long to take on board new ideas and instructions and successfully carry them out on the pitch.
Aside from his goal threat and ability to create for others coupled with pace, skill and a tireless work ethic, Rebic importantly also offers versatility.
With that in mind, whether it’s in a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-3-3 in or out of possession, the Croatian international can adapt and play out on the left wing or in a more central role closer to Krzysztof Piatek.
There is little doubt that he can have a more positive influence than Castillejo given the Spaniard’s struggles through pre-season and during the start of the new campaign, and it would be good to see Rebic come in and make an impact with Rafael Leao also waiting in the wings hoping for a chance to impress.
Possible Milan XI vs Verona