AC Milan v. Arsenal: Reaction
The good times came to an end for Milan, as they lost 2-0 at the San Siro to Arsenal. The teams came into this match headed in opposite direction, however, Arsenal proved that they were the side with more quality and experience. The Rossoneri had a few chances, but they were largely very sloppy and disappointing for the full 90 minutes. What went wrong and what does this mean for Milan going forward?
The first problem for Milan was poor play. Putting tactics and lineups aside, they just were not very good on Thursday. They had a tough time controlling simple passes, their dribbling was not up to par and they didn't do any of the little things correctly. Giacomo Bonaventura and Hakan Calhanoglu had been forming a nice partnership on the left side, but yesterday they seemed like they were getting in each other's way more than anything. Ricardo Rodriguez was very sloppy with the ball and had a hard time controlling passes and Suso could not get past Arsenal's tactic of sending two men his way. It would be pointless to keep naming individuals as the whole team in general was very poor. It was a very odd display for a team that had been in great form and didn't play for a full week, therefore, was well rested. The inexperience in the squad may have had something to do with it as the only players with European experience to play were Leonardo Bonucci and Lucas Biglia.
On top of the sloppy play, the tactics did not suit Milan in this match. In the recent run, we have seen a lot of overlapping runs on both the left and right sides of the pitch, as well as runs into the box from midfield from both Franck Kessie and Bonaventura. Against Arsenal, it seemed like those runs were allowing Milan to get caught out on the counterattack because the speed of Ozil, Welbeck and Mkhitarayan were just too much for the Rossoneri to control. Even if the team is not as wasteful in the second leg, Gennaro Gattuso will have to make adjustments to his lineup and tactics as well.
So what should Milan do in the second leg? Well as Gattuso stated after the game, they aren't going to London for a picnic. Although it maybe embarrassing to get routed, the scoreline really doesn't matter at the end of the day if you lose, so Milan should go out and attack as much as possible in order to get back into the tie. An early goal could put a ton of pressure on Arsenal and that will certainly be Gattuso's objective headed into the match.
Milan should put as much speed into the lineup as possible, as they will need it to beat Arsenal on both ends of the pitch. Andre Silva should get the start from the beginning, because this is the type of game that suits him. While he hasn't scored in Serie A, playing against an English side will give him the space he needs to create and convert chances. He also has the dribbling ability Milan were lacking in the first leg. In addition to Andre Silva, Manuel Locatelli should take the spot of Bonaventura in midfield to add more speed and cover, which means that only Bonaventura or Calhanoglu should play on the left wing. You will need one of them in the match for their quality and ability to breakdown the defense.
In defense Gattuso might want to consider playing Ignazio Abate over Ricardo Rodriguez. Abate and Calabria as full-backs would give Milan the necessary quickness they need. In addition to this, Abate is one of the few members of the team with European experience. Finally, as crazy as it may sound, Gattuso must consider playing Fabio Borini on the right wing over Suso. While Borini doesn't have the skill that Suso has, he has plenty of speed and has scored goals in recent matches on the counterattack. Borini would also provide defensive cover when the likes of Calabria or Kessie run deep into the attacking third. Although the changes may seem radical, Milan will need a radical and much different performance if they want any chance of surviving in the competition.
My Milan formation for the second leg:
(4-3-3): Donnarumma; Abate, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Calabria; Kessie, Biglia, Locatelli; Borini, Andre Silva, Bonaventura.