Milan’s winning streak came to a disappointing end on Sunday as we were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Verona in a frustrating game.
Although we remain unbeaten in our last seven outings across all competitions, setbacks like the one this past weekend threaten to derail our hopes of salvaging something from this season.
Having cut the gap to fourth place down to seven points, we can ill-afford such damaging slip-ups moving forward and what Sunday’s performance and result suggested, was that Ismael Bennacer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are going to be fundamental in ensuring we avoid them.
Bennacer’s influence in midfield vital
The 22-year-old still needs to tidy a few things up in his game, namely his tendency to make rash tackles and his habit of getting caught out of position and thus leading to unnecessary cautions.
However, what Sunday showed us was that his tenacity and work ethic off the ball coupled with his technical quality and passing in possession are pivotal attributes in our midfield that we can’t do without at this moment in time.
Bennacer adds an intensity and urgency that was sorely missing in the Verona clash, while Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie couldn’t give us a foothold in the game by winning the all-important midfield battle.
Milan missed Bennacer in a big way on Sunday, and it’s becoming increasingly clear as to how important he is for us as he’s an influential figure in our midfield both on and off the ball.
Further, without an option to come in and offer similar strengths as he does, it’s imperative that he plays as much as possible between now and the end of the season.
Ibrahimovic’s leadership, quality needed
It’s perhaps more than a coincidence that our upturn in form came after Ibrahimovic returned, as aside from his two goals in five games, he has been an influential figure in many other ways.
From his guidance, advice and instructions be it while leading the line or from the bench, he is helping others make the right decisions and improve, while his physical presence and threat takes the pressure off others.
We saw on Sunday how Rafael Leao struggled to be the main man to lead the line for us, and his short bursts of quality aren’t enough at this level if we want to compete with the top teams and put away the supposedly inferior sides.
The youngster needs a player like Ibrahimovic to play off and to get more success in creating dangerous situations, while it’s similar for our midfield too as the Swede brings others into the game and by attracting more attention, is capable of giving others more freedom to make a difference.
As noted by Pianeta Milan, Pioli revealed that he hopes the 38-year-old will recover in time to face Inter, and ultimately if we’re to have a strong chance of sealing all three points, we’ll need our veteran talisman leading the charge.