Since his summer arrival, Theo Hernandez has been a breath of fresh air for Milan as we look as though we might have finally found a long-term solution at left-back.
The 22-year-old looked brilliant in his brief outing in pre-season, only for an ankle injury to disrupt his first summer in Italy and force him to miss the first three games of the Serie A campaign.
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However, since recovering, he hasn’t looked back as he’s made 25 appearances and in turn has made a significant impression particularly with his attacking play.
Hernandez has bagged six goals and two assists in those 25 outings, giving Milan a new dynamic going forward with his blistering runs down the left flank, with or without the ball at his feet, while also showing that he has a great strike in that left boot to offer a goal threat too.
While he wasn’t able to make a breakthrough at Real Madrid, Milan have given him a platform to showcase his quality, and for the most part, he hasn’t disappointed.
So much so, that La Gazzetta dello Sport note that with doubts over the futures of Gianluigi Donnarumma and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hernandez could become a leading figure in the club’s plans moving forward and a central part of the project.
Key flaw remains in his game
Hernandez’s attacking play and urgency down the left flank has been a much-needed dynamic for Milan, while he plays with passion, commitment and desire, all key attributes for any player.
His form dipped prior to the suspension of fixtures due to the coronavirus crisis, and so that is an area in which he needs to prove himself still in terms of being a consistent performer across an entire campaign rather than having intermittent periods of influence.
However, that isn’t the biggest flaw in his game. While it’s all well and good praising his attacking play, Hernandez has shown vulnerabilities and concerns with his defensive work as he has often been caught out and goals have come from his side of the pitch.
There’s an element of give and take here as if Stefano Pioli is going to ask him to attack so often and get forward at every available opportunity, he can’t be expected to run up and down the flank relentlessly for 90 minutes and do both jobs.
That said, if he wants to be regarded as a leading figure in this Milan side, he needs to learn to develop an ability to juggle both responsibilities and impress in both phases of the game as he needs to shore things up at the back and be a reliable piece in the backline by finding the right balance.
Milan seemingly negated the risk of that being a problem by deploying Franck Kessie to cover that space vacated by Hernandez, but it’s not a long-term fix as evidenced by the fact that we saw less of it as the weeks went by.
In turn, it’s down to Hernandez and the coaching staff to work on that aspect of his game, and if he sorts that out, then we’re certainly looking at a player capable of being a pillar of our future.