Although Milan were able to come from behind and seal a 3-1 win over Parma in midweek, our first-half performance followed an all-too familiar script that we’ve seen in recent years.
Having made a bright start, we failed to take our chances and as our tempo and intensity slowed, the opposition grew in confidence and belief as they began to become a threat on the counter attack.
Parma took a lead into the interval, but fortunately we were able to turn things around in the second half. However, falling behind at home against a side below us in the Serie A table in a game we had been dominating has been an issue that has blighted our progress over the past few seasons.
So, did it make a case in favour of a specific strategy and mentality moving forward?
High-tempo approach should be priority
There is no doubt that Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s experience, leadership and quality has had a positive impact on the squad, our performances and results.
The 38-year-old has proven that he can still deliver at this level, and his arrival in January has been a crucial part of our turnaround since the turn of the year.
That said, Milan have also looked convincing in games where we’ve gone with a high-tempo, high press and energetic front three which puts the pressure on the opposition in their own half and ultimately sets the tone for the rest of the team behind them.
Ante Rebic, Samu Castillejo and Hakan Calhanoglu are excellent in playing those roles coupled with the attacking threat that they bring, while we get the same from Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie in midfield with their energy, combativeness and physicality to win back possession as quickly as possible.
Ultimately, it’s a successful formula that we’ve seen other top clubs around Europe adopt, and Stefano Pioli has undoubtedly used elements of that since the restart as we have evolved with the times and avoid relying on individual bits of brilliance to break deadlocks and focus on the collective and forcing errors from our opponents.
On Wednesday night, Ibrahimovic and Rafael Leao started in the final third and we simply weren’t able to adopt such tactics given their lack of desire to put in the hard yards off the ball. That in turn eventually led to Parma getting comfortable in possession in defence and building their counter-attacks from the back as they began to look more threatening.
Don’t forget too, it took a superb strike from Kessie to get us back into the game, and we arguably looked much, much better when we introduced Rebic and Bennacer shortly after taking the lead from a set-piece as the tempo of our play picked up again.
We need depth and different dynamics in attack, especially if we want to compete on multiple fronts next season. With that in mind, this isn’t a piece to suggest that Milan should axe Ibrahimovic this summer, with the club’s official site noting that we have an option to extend his stay for another 12 months, but we should arguably consider the formula that is going to get us back to the top.
The Guardian reported earlier this month that Ralf Rangnick has agreed to become our next coach ahead of next season, and if his previous work in Germany is anything to go by, you can expect to see us press with lots of energy, intensity and urgency to fit his philosophies and his ‘gegenpressing’ ideologies, and it’s surely a winning approach moving forward.
Upgrades are still needed for us to compete at the top level, but we have key individuals in place already who provide us with the option of adopting that style of play, and if we’re planning for long-term success and what is now successful in modern-day football, the stumble in the first half against Parma was arguably a perfect advert as to why we have to evolve and move forward with what has already proven to be a positive identity and approach for us in our great run of form recently.