Milan enjoyed a comfortable night’s work on Wednesday as we secured a 3-0 win over SPAL to advance to the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia.
Goals from Krzysztof Piatek, Samu Castillejo and Theo Hernandez set up a tie with Torino in the next round, while we continue to build all-important momentum after the win over Cagliari last weekend.
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The focus will now switch to hosting Udinese on Sunday, but for now, there are reasons to be positive for Stefano Pioli as it was a commanding and assured performance.
Great night for Piatek
While he could, and probably should, have added to his tally on the night, this was a much-improved display from the Polish international as he scored and provided an assist too.
With Piatek, it’s all about the service. If he’s allowed to work off the shoulder of the last defender and find space in behind, he can be lethal as his clinical finish showed.
His movement was good throughout and he was much more of a threat, but he’ll have to be more consistent now especially against much tougher defences moving forward as this will hopefully be a big boost for his confidence.
Hernandez continues to shine
That’s now five goals and two assists in 16 appearances so far this season, as the 22-year-old continues to impress down the left flank.
Defensively improving and always a major threat going forward, he capped it off with a superb strike to wrap the game up and he has now established himself as one of the most important players in the side.
After his lack of playing time at Real Madrid, perhaps it was simply a case of giving him a chance with a more prominent role and he would repay that faith. That certainly seems to be the case so far.
Tidy debut for Kjaer
Drafted in at the start of the week, the loanee was given an immediate start from Pioli as he lined up alongside Alessio Romagnoli in the heart of the backline.
While he will no doubt face much tougher tests in the months to come if he gets the nod again, it was a positive debut for the defensive stalwart as he slotted in well and kept things tight at the back.
Showed good reading of the game and physicality, and while his lack of pace may be exposed moving forward, as a back-up option for Mateo Musacchio for the rest of the season, he looks a safe bet.
Castillejo pushing Suso closer to exit?
As per the Daily Mail, teams are said to be lining up for Suso this month as not only is his place in the Milan XI under threat, but his time at the club seemingly is too.
Jeered by the home faithful after coming on in the second half, he did show flashes of quality in possession, but he was outshone by compatriot Samu Castillejo.
The Spaniard scored with a stunning effort and his work ethic makes him a better fit for Milan if they continue with the 4-4-2 system. In turn, while he is stepping up his game and showing more quality, that could make it an easier decision for Milan to part with Suso this month if the right offer arrives.
System change suiting players
It isn’t just Castillejo who appears to be benefitting from the switch away from the 4-3-3, as Ismael Bennacer and Rade Krunic provided us with a solid foundation in midfield and had a good understanding.
Giacomo Bonaventura came in for Hakan Calhanoglu on the left and while he may not have the legs to match his teammate in terms of defensive work off the ball, he looked comfortable in that role too.
Meanwhile, Ante Rebic blew hot and cold over the course of the game but showed some life. In turn, he could now be an option for Pioli to rotate with Rafael Leao as the second striker, offering more pace and movement off the ball to add a different dynamic alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Piatek.
Milan look defensively sound and more threatening going forward since changing formation, as that’s now five goals in the last two games and back-to-back clean sheets. In turn, Pioli may well have found a crucial solution with his tactical tinkering for the time being, but we’ll hopefully continue to improve and be more effective in the coming weeks.