After a run of 17 consecutive starts, Suso was finally dropped on Thursday night vs SPAL but the Milan ace came off the bench to secure all three points with a superb free-kick.
The Rossoneri were woeful in the opening 45 minutes as they showed no signs of being able to find a breakthrough, but things did improve slightly after the break.
However, it needed a superb Suso free-kick to separate the two sides, with the win moving Milan up to 10th place in the Serie A table and now six points adrift of fourth spot.
Milan fail to make step up in quality
After Stefano Pioli’s first game in charge against Lecce, there was optimism over the style of play and quality shown by the players with more intensity and urgency.
That was a significant difference to what we saw under Marco Giampaolo, and although the result was disappointing that night, the performance was hugely reassuring.
However, similarly to the loss at Roma, Milan simply didn’t get going on Thursday night as they eventually managed just six efforts on target in the game and a 56 percent share of possession against a side sitting in 19th place in the Serie A table.
With Lazio, Juventus and Napoli up next, we have to be much better if we want to take a decent haul of points from those games.
Lucas Paqueta missing final touch
It was a frustrating night for the Brazilian, as he got himself into some good positions in the final third but couldn’t find the accuracy and clinical edge with his finishing.
The promising aspect of his display is that he’s getting in the right areas to be decisive, but he just needs to show that little bit of composure and class in those situations to put his chances away.
As with any player, there is room for improvement across the board. However, if he can start converting these opportunities, it could give him the boost in confidence and belief needed to have a bigger influence.
Failure to provide right service to Piatek
Krzysztof Piatek showed last season that he can score goals. He did so for Genoa before continuing his prolific run with us, but the goals have certainly dried up so far this season.
While the Polish international needs to be better, Milan must start providing him with the right service as they’re arguably not making the most of his qualities.
Piatek loves to play on the shoulder of the defender and make well-timed runs in behind to get free. He doesn’t have the raw pace, technical quality and trickery to beat defenders at will, and yet we continuously delay our passes in the final third, miss chances to put him through and instead resort to hopeful crosses in the box where he is less effective.
Until we get that aspect of our play right, he may well continue to struggle for goals with just three in 10 appearances so far this season.
Suso shows class, now consistency needed
Credit where it’s due, the Spaniard stepped off the bench and delivered the moment of quality needed to secure all three points and provide the ideal response to his critics.
With a lack of goals and assists so far this season, Suso has been facing jeers inside San Siro in recent weeks, and so it was important for him to get back to scoring and being a decisive figure for us.
However, now comes the big challenge as showing a flash of his class isn’t enough. Given the talent that he possesses coupled with the key role he continues to play for us, he now has to deliver week in and week out to ensure that he stays in the starting XI and silences the detractors for good.
First win for Pioli
It took longer than hoped, but Pioli now has his first win as Milan boss under his belt. It will be equally as important for the players, as they now have something to build on and will perhaps be feeling a sense of relief to get over that hurdle.
The crucial thing now is to put together a winning run to close the gap on the top four and apply pressure to our rivals in the battle for a Champions League qualification spot.
As for Pioli though, while the result is the most important aspect, he needs to find answers and solutions to some of the problems that he still faces as Milan didn’t perform well enough in midweek to suggest that they can take on the top teams in the coming weeks and pick up positive results.
Disappointingly, we’ve already lost that edge and intensity that we showed against Lecce. If we can rediscover it, there is arguably reason to be more hopeful for the upcoming outings.