Five key talking points as disappointing Milan draw a blank vs Sassuolo

Pioli Milan Sassuolo

Milan couldn’t find a way past Sassuolo on Sunday as we were held to a goalless draw at San Siro on a disappointing evening as the club celebrated its 120th birthday.

A combination of bad luck and a lack of a cutting edge in the final third ensured that we were unable to find a breakthrough as it turned into a frustrating outing for the Rossoneri.

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It’s a missed opportunity in terms of making it three consecutive wins and continuing to climb the Serie A table, and so Stefano Pioli will no doubt be disappointed not to have wrapped up another crucial victory to continue our momentum.

Milan blighted by bad luck, no cutting edge

Given some of the saves made to deny us and Rafael Leao hitting the woodwork twice, luck clearly wasn’t on our side as we couldn’t get a fortunate break with a goal also ruled out after a VAR check.

At times, you have to force your own luck and it appeared as though Theo Hernandez had done so in the first half to break the deadlock. However, after that goal was ruled out, it became more and more of a struggle for us.

We certainly had our chances though and if we were more clinical, the game could have been killed off. Unfortunately though, we lacked that killer instinct in a game which we should have secured all three points having had 17 shots on goal as per the graphic below, and so those are two disappointing points dropped.

Poor level of refereeing

From constantly breaking up play to producing some questionable decisions, it felt as though Gianluca Manganiello had a negative influence on the game both as a spectacle and as a fair contest.

As noted by MilanNews, that was a criticism shared by Hernandez after the game as he insisted that the official gave too many fouls and was overly harsh with his bookings.

It may well come across as an excuse, but it’s a reasoning rarely offered on this blog. However, the referee was far too noticeable today and that’s never usually a good thing.

Calhanoglu, Suso not effective enough

Milan often seem to encounter the same problems in games like this, and yet rarely there is much change to adapt and pose a different threat to the opposition.

Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu did little to influence the game to add a decisive and creative touch in the final third to unlock the Sassuolo defence, and it certainly wasn’t a sustained level of quality and pressure from either of them.

Leao came off the bench to make an instant impact, and while Ante Rebic has struggled to this point, there is surely more chances ahead for him. It would be interesting to see us play with more pace, directness and width moving forward, particularly away from home.

Caldara, Krunic & Leao knocking on door

Jeremie Boga was a real handful down Sassuolo’s left flank, and Andrea Conti undoubtedly struggled to contain him at times. That said, Mateo Musacchio was often all at sea off the ball and was noticeably dragged out of position on countless occasions but fortunately wasn’t exposed.

The responsibility of dealing with Boga was Conti’s as a priority, but when he’s clearly struggling, adjustments are arguably needed to see Musacchio do more. Milan were certainly vulnerable down that flank during the game.

Elsewhere, Franck Kessie didn’t convince yet again in midfield as he worked hard but didn’t influence the game in a way we need him to, while Leao is surely pushing to replace someone on the flanks if he can show consistency and adopt the same mind-set and approach as seen on Sunday week in and week out.

Costly slip-up after building momentum

After back-to-back wins, it looked as though Milan could potentially build momentum, head into the encounter with Atalanta next weekend full of confidence and try to end the year on a positive note.

Instead, we’ve slipped up at a bad time and now sit 11 points adrift of fourth place as we’ll have it all to do through the second half of the campaign to wipe out that deficit.

Milan simply can’t afford to drop points in games that we’ve ultimately dominated for large periods and created some good chances but made too many mistakes. If we continue to do so and fail to learn from these games, there is little chance, if any at all now, of breaking into the top four this year.