Five key talking points as Milan fall to defeat at Roma in major step back under Pioli

Pioli-AC-Milan-Roma

After the positives in Stefano Pioli’s debut as Milan coach came the negatives from the trip to Roma as the Rossoneri returned home empty-handed.

In a display filled with mistakes and sloppy play coupled with no real quality going forward, it was a major step back for Milan after impressing last week as they suffered a 2-1 loss.

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Time will tell how we bounce back against SPAL in midweek, but on the basis of this performance, Pioli will now be fully aware of the task ahead of him as we continue to fall further adrift of the top four and slip deeper into mid-table mediocrity.

The hope that kills you

Having impressed in the first half against Lecce with arguably the best and most enjoyable performance we’ve produced in some time, we didn’t get anywhere near replicating that in Rome on Sunday.

Albeit the result last weekend was a bitter blow, there was surely reason for hope and optimism that Pioli’s arrival may give the players the kick needed to change the way we approach games and that in turn could lead to an improvement in results.

Instead, we showed none of the positive signs from that display against Lecce barring a decent start to the encounter with Roma, after which we slipped back into old habits and looked nowhere near good enough.

Sloppy, error-strewn performance punished

While we’ve struggled going forward for a while, the one area in which we’ve been organised, accurate and efficient is in defence, both in terms of avoiding conceding goals and building out from the back.

On Sunday we were horrendously poor in our own third as we continuously took risks and gave possession away cheaply with misplaced passes resulting from poor decision-making.

Lucas Biglia and Franck Kessie even thought it was appropriate to try and dribble their way out of trouble in our own box at times, and we were rightly punished for being so poor in such a basic aspect of the game.

Conti struggles continue

It’s genuinely sad to see but his injury nightmare has arguably taken a great toll on him than any of us feared, as he is struggling to get anywhere near the level he showed previously.

There’s a lack of urgency and belief in what he’s doing when going forward, while he’s getting caught out defensively and is making costly mistakes.

Naturally, the hope is that he is simply struggling with getting rid of the rust and getting his sharpness and full match fitness back. However, with displays like he’s produced over the last two weeks, he could be out of the team for a while before he gets another chance to prove he can still produce at a high level.

Donnarumma, Hernandez setting the standard

From Gianluigi Donnarumma’s saves to Theo Hernandez’s goal, the Milan pair were the top performers in the game and deserve praise while those around them let them down.

Time and time again his defence left him exposed, but Donnarumma did his part in keeping us in the game and his backline has to be better as our awful defending on set-pieces could have been even more costly.

As for Hernandez, he plays with the intensity, urgency and direction that we need across the board from everyone. While the quality isn’t always there, he’s making a huge difference down the left flank and is quickly becoming a fan favourite.

Same names letting us down

No coach has a chance if the players make the kind of mistakes that we saw on Sunday, as there is simply nothing he can do about that no matter how much work goes into training.

However, what he can do is stop relying on the same names to get us moving forward. Hakan Calhanoglu has now provided the right response after coming under intense criticism, but there are many others who are not responding.

It’s difficult to see what Suso, Lucas Biglia, Conti and arguably even Lucas Paqueta are doing to warrant a starting place, as they continuously under-perform and simply don’t do enough. Pioli has to drop that core of players as we’ve been reading the same story for so long it’s becoming tedious looking at the same flaws over and over again with the coach seemingly unable to see the same problems.

Until we take that group out of the XI, the narrative is potentially going to stay the same and we’ll continue to come up short.