Lazio 4-1 AC Milan: Why this new AC Milan side needs time
We sat down with Serie A expert Claudio Perfetto to take a look at how AC Milan's new era has begun......
Q. What were your thoughts on AC Milan's heavy defeat at Lazio?
A. It was a bad performance from Milan. They controlled the game for the first 15 minutes or so, but weren't able to create any good chances. As soon as Lazio had their first chance, Milan completely fell apart. They weren't compact at all, and it was astonishing to see them give up four goals in such a short period. The response after the penalty was terrible because they quickly gave up another goal. The halftime response was especially troubling because you would think they would come out strong and start the second half in control of the game trying to get back in it, but instead they gave up two more goals quickly and fell to 4-0 down. None of the players stood out in a positive way, they all played pretty poorly. Losing to Lazio away would not have been a surprising result, but the manner in which they lost and by that deficit is what is shocking.
Q. Of course it was always going to take this new Milan side time to gel. Although it's early in this season where does this result leave Milan? Is it a reality check?
A. It definitely is a reality check. It doesn't change their objective for the season, though. It was always going to be a difficult game against Lazio. The team itself had seven starters that were new to the team this year (Cutrone was one but he did not feature often last year), they were coming off an international break in which 17 players went on international duty, which is difficult for any team but especially one with all of these new signings. They will need time to gel and form chemistry. Like I said, playing poorly and losing 4-1 is shocking because they should have played more compactly and with hunger, but I don't think game will define their season. They are going to need to find a way to play compactly and get results in the short term while they build up chemistry.
Q. Just to confirm, do you believe their early struggles are solely down to them failing to gel etc or do you believe there may be some weaknesses in the squad that need addressing?
A. They didn't play great against Cagliari either but they were able to get three points because of Suso's great free kick. Yesterday was down to not being able to gel but also just their attitude in general. The players they have on their squad are good enough to compete for fourth place and should be good enough to be competitive against Lazio. If you asked me if they could challenge for the title, then I would say they are missing a couple of players, but we're talking about the 4-1 loss to Lazio. Bonucci, Biglia, Rodriguez, Kessie are all good players. They started a back four that is playing together for the first time so it is going to take games to close gaps and form strong partnership.s I have said before they need depth at midfield, and that is something that will hurt them this season because unless Montolivo's form changes they are going to have a weakness every time he is in the lineup. He scored yesterday but in the first half he could not keep possession and kept losing the ball, and he was too slow to recover in the defensive phase. If they start a midfield of Biglia-Kessie-Bonaventura then they will be in good shape, but once one of those guys goes down or needs a rest they will be in trouble, especially against the top teams.
Q. There was widespread criticism of Bonucci for his part in the Lazio goals. As you pointed out it was the first time they played together in a back four but do you feel that was the only factor? Would maybe a back 3 suit Milan more?
A. He has definitely not played up to his potential so far this season, but he is not a miracle worker. If the team around him is not playing well and giving up a ton of space, you can't expect him to single-handedly stop every goal, but he definitely could play better. Bonucci has always played better in a back three and I think Milan could head there. He should be able to play in a back four as well, but a back three of Musacchio Bonucci and Romagnoli will definitely suit him better. In a back three he can become more of a playmaker from the back as it allows him to step up and make passes down the pitch. Montella mentioned that it is something they are working on, and that they would need Romagnoli to be able to fulfill it because he is the only left footed central defender. His injury and lack of fitness has definitely hindered the move to the back three, but they have the personnel to do it and once he is fully fit and in the lineup I think we will see it and it will probably be their best formation.
Q. I see. In terms of the season ahead then for Milan, at what point do you think we will start to see this Milan team play at its full potential?
A. You probably won't see them at their very best until the new year. They have six games before the next international break in October, with the last game of the six being against Roma, so they will have a chance to play together a lot in the next few weeks and create some chemistry. Of course when you play so many games in a short period of time, you can't train as often which hurts, but at least they will have games together. Their goal should be to try and get as many points as possible in the Europa League and Serie A before the international break. Then after the break they have matches against Inter and Juventus so they should be able to have an identity by those matches.
Q. Just how important is it to the project that Milan get top 4 this season? Also at what point do you think it'll be time to panic?
A. It is critical to their financials that they finish in the top four. If they don't finish in the top four, they will take a major step back by having to sell at least one of their big names. It is also important for the prestige and reputation of the "new" club to finish in the top four because they need to show that they are up there with the best teams in Italy again and playing in the Champions League is where Milan needs to be and it will attract stars to the club again. As far as panicking, it is still very far away. It was a bad defeat, but they are only 3 points behind the leaders and 1 point behind a top four spot, so everything can change in just one weekend. The important thing will be the reaction we see on Thursday in the Europa League and in Serie A. If they start to fall 6-9 points behind a top four spot, then it will be time to panic, but right now it is still very early.
Q. What do you think milan can do if anything to get themselves up to speed as soon as possible?
A. In a time like this, when you need results more than anything and your team might not yet be familiar with each other, the best thing Montella could do is find the formation that presents the most talented 11 and go with that. To me, the 3-5-2 is the answer right now with Donnarumma; Musacchio, Bonucci, Romagnoli; Conti, Kessie, Biglia, Bonaventura, Rodriguez; Suso, Andre Silva/Kalinic. You can plug in Calhanoglu as well at one of the midfield positions, but that lineup is the one that presents the most talent and between Biglia, Bonaventura, Silva, Suso, Kalinic and Calhanoglu, you have players that can be creative and make the difference. The best thing would be to put those players on the field and hope they can build chemistry over time and in the meantime do just enough to get results.
Q. Interesting. Well final question, going to put you on the spot here, in one word will Milan get top 4?