Five key talking points as Milan show positive signs but let win slip vs Lecce

Pioli Calhanogli AC Milan Lecce

Milan impressed in Stefano Pioli’s first game in charge on Sunday night, but they surrendered a lead twice as they slipped up and were held to a 2-2 draw at San Siro.

Goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Krzysztof Piatek put us ahead twice, but the Rossoneri couldn’t hold out at the end to secure all three points after putting in arguably their best performance of the season thus far.

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Particularly in the opening 30 minutes of the game, we looked a completely different side. In turn, Pioli can certainly take the positives from this encounter and try to build on them moving forward.

Positive signs in Pioli debut

It was apparent almost immediately that we were moving the ball quicker, playing a higher tempo and attacking with a more direct approach.

That resulted in a bright start with Rafael Leao having two great early chances, and that continued in the opening half hour as we played with urgency on and off the ball, and that is perhaps to be expected as the players were looking to impress a new coach.

However, it could also be down to Pioli’s ideas and demands getting across and the players responding, and it resulted in arguably the most enjoyable performance in some time. Naturally, the result ultimately ruins the night, but there were building blocks in that display and clear areas in which we know we must improve.

From being more clinical in front of goal to cutting out sloppy individual mistakes which essentially cost us two points, it’s a disappointing night because of the result and there will undoubtedly be more difficult tests to come. That said, there’s reason to be hopeful after that performance.

Calhanoglu finally puts in a performance

For all the stick that the Turkish international has received so far this season, he deserves a huge amount of credit for putting in a brilliant shift on Sunday night.

From his tenacity and desire to battle to win possession back to his general threat in the final third as he was seemingly given a free role to roam, he added a superb goal and a sublime assist to his night’s work.

The big challenge for Calhanoglu now is consistency. That’s the type of performance we need from him on a weekly basis, and while he’s now proven he’s capable of being a driving force in the side, it will only make a difference and win fans over if he can sustain it and deliver week in and week out.

Conti, Biglia liabilities

The Milan duo were arguably two of the bigger disappointments in the line-up, as Andrea Conti was caught out with the handball for the penalty, while Lucas Biglia gave possession away just before the second equaliser.

Neither look as though they have 90 minutes in them, and while Davide Calabria has struggled with his discipline this season, there could be an argument, albeit more in jest, that Fabio Borini could be a ‘safer’ option at right-back at this point.

As for Biglia, given the style of play adopted by Pioli this weekend, it’s difficult to see how Ismael Bennacer isn’t the perfect option in the heart of the midfield to contribute to our high-tempo, high intensity and front-foot brand of football that the new Milan boss appears to be ready to implement.

Suso will struggle to suit this style of play

There were moments of quality, but as ever, they were all too brief from the Spaniard as he floated in and out of the game and didn’t really contribute a great deal.

One key change in his approach appeared to be a desire to get the ball out of his feet quicker, and so he wasn’t caught out in possession as often as usual.

Nevertheless, with the pressing and high-tempo style that we saw from the Milan players as a whole on Sunday night, question marks will surely be raised over whether or not Suso is the best option in that role, especially if he isn’t capable of consistently delivering in the final third.

While we did predominantly look to attack down our left flank, we could certainly do with more of a balance in the side moving forward.

Piatek should start, Leao in support

Leao looked lively and sharp from the first minute, but he let himself down over and over again with his poor finishing as he could have bagged a hat-trick on the night.

It could be argued that Piatek couldn’t have got into the positions that the youngster found himself in given his pace and movement, but the 24-year-old’s superior finishing could have put this game to bed early on.

Having finally ended his drought from open play, that should be a huge confidence-boost for Piatek, and it’s hoped that Pioli brings him back into the starting XI next week, with Leao perhaps deployed in more of a support role.

Calhanoglu looked good roaming across the final third, and so perhaps switching him to the right side of Piatek with Leao down the left could be a solution to balance creativity, pace and finishing.

Notes

  • Theo Hernandez also deserves a special mention for producing an excellent performance of his own, and it’s a refreshing change to see our left-back not only put in a defensive shift but provide us with a real injection of quality and urgency down the left flank in an attacking sense.
  • Lucas Paqueta showed positive signs too, while perhaps keeping Franck Kessie in a more defensive role could be a key solution moving forward too, not only in getting more out of him but to help the team as a whole.