With another top performance under his belt this weekend, Matteo Gabbia has shown positive signs that he can be a vital part of the Milan squad moving forward.
It’s been a big year for the 20-year-old as while he made his breakthrough at senior level, it has naturally come with ups and downs which are to be expected for most young players.
From making his Serie A debut as a starter in February and signing a new contract which keeps him at Milan until 2024 just days later, to then losing his place after the lockdown and offering mixed performances as he came in and out of the side in a battle for a starting berth with Simon Kjaer.
Due to captain Alessio Romagnoli’s injury, Gabbia made three consecutive starts to end the Serie A season, and he certainly made a positive impression in those outings to suggest that he’s better off being part of this squad and playing a part.
Mature, classy displays
In the four games he featured in to end the campaign, we conceded just three goals and came away with three wins and a draw. Further, as analysed in a previous post, he has also been an influential part of our style of play and mentality which has brought great results under Stefano Pioli.
Make no mistake, there is undoubtedly still room for improvement and development in Gabbia’s game, and he’ll know that himself as he continues to progress with playing time and gains experience.
However, from his impressive displays way back last summer in pre-season to the way in which he has ended the campaign, he has come through adversity and showcased his talent at a high level.
His defensive style has become a little more no-nonsense too as he takes in more experience. His job has been simplified. Deny the opposition time and space to be a threat, win possession back and offload the ball to one of Franck Kessie or Ismael Bennacer so that they can make the transition from defence to attack.
He did that brilliantly again in the win over Cagliari this past weekend, showing good levels of concentration and focus as he put in a stellar display to give us a solid foundation at the back on which we could go out and win.
Influence of Kjaer
Gabbia arguably looked a little more unsure and rattled at times when playing alongside Romagnoli, and that was even in his favoured position on the right side of the centre-half pairing.
In the last three or so games, he’s stepped into the void left behind by the captain and that has meant partnering Kjaer in the heart of the backline rather than competing with him for a starting spot.
It has to be said that this could be a pivotal turning point for the 20-year-old and his career with Milan, as he has seemingly benefitted from having an experienced, calm-headed stalwart next to him to help guide him and improve his game, as he has looked much more in control and assured in everything he does.
Gabbia will have to show these strengths more consistently across an entire season to really prove that he’s the long-term answer in defence, but with Kjaer excelling and doing a brilliant job since he arrived in January, his understudy is already emerging and Milan should keep him in the squad next season so he continues to learn from his mentor in training and adapts to the mentality, culture and style of play that are all being developed under Pioli.
The Milan boss has shown great faith in him already and he’s only going to get better as he now has something to build on following his impressive form to end the Serie A season.