FK Austria Vienna 1-5 AC Milan
AC Milan bounced back from their disappointing outing against Lazio with an emphatic 5-1 mauling of Austria Vienna. We sat down with Serie A expert Claudio Perfetto to gather his thoughts on the game.
Q. So Claudio, what were your thoughts on today's game?
A. Firstly, it was a great response from the team after the Lazio game. I'm not sure of the level of Austria Wien, but Milan came out and had a professional performance. They looked very comfortable in a 3-5-2. Bonucci was able to play the ball out of the back like we know he is capable and the defense as a whole looked compact. It's unfortunate that they gave up a goal from a corner, but other than that was a very positive performance from them where their individual talent was overwhelming.
Q. You mentioned the formation change. I for one thought Milan looked a completely different proposition in this shape. Do you expect Montella to sick with this formation heading into the Udinese game?
A. I do expect him to stick with it against Udinese and going forward and I completely agree with your assessment. They just looked much more comfortable and compact in that shape. As I mentioned to you in our last chat as well, it really puts the most talent on the field for them, which was key. Tonight we saw brilliant exchanges between Calhanoglu and Andre Silva, as well as great link up play from the back to the midfield. It makes Bonucci more comfortable and more of a playmaker, where he can distribute long passes up the field which is a great strength of his. I love the idea of having two strikers on the field together and was glad to see Montella put Suso, Bonaventura and Calhanoglu on the pitch together. That brings a ton of creativity to the squad and it's what they will need as they work out the kinks. Not every match will be as easy as this but if you put those players in the right positions they can make the difference.
Q. Certainly will be interesting to see how the formation performs against Udinese. As we said after the Lazio game there was no reason to start panicking and likewise after this performance there's no reason to get carried away. But what do you believe we have learned about Milan in this past week?
A. I think we've seen that the 3-5-2 is the right formation for them, especially when Romagnoli is healthy. I also think it shows that Romagnoli needs to be on the pitch because he's a top defender. We've learned that players like Calhanoglu and Andre Silva need to play. They are two of the most gifted players in the squad. Calhanoglu's technical ability is able to break down defenses and Andre Silva looks to be a great finisher. I also love what I saw out of Kalinic, he didn't get many opportunities in attack but he worked very hard for the squad, tracking back on defense and coming back to get the ball and offer link up play between the midfield and attack. His work ethic will be great for young strikers like Silva and Cuttone to follow. The midfield needs Biglia, Kessie and one of Bonaventura or Calhanoglu or Suso out there. I think we've seen that Montolivo is not up to that level anymore and the midfield needs a more creative presence out there and someone who is able to control the ball. They should play with this formation again on Sunday and keep changes to a minimum, and then we can judge the performance against a Serie A side.
Q. 3 positives and 3 negatives(if you can find any) from today?
A. 3 positives - 1. the team looked much more compact and comfortable in the new formation. 2. Their play was much more direct and determined. 3. Individual performance of Andre Silva was impressive
3 negatives - 1. The conceded goal. Zapata gave his man too much space on that corner. 2. After they went up 2-0 their level dropped a little and let Austria Wien control the game until they scored the 3rd goal on the counter. 3. We didn't see any of the young players (Locatelli, Cutrone, etc..) come in as subs. Would have been a good opportunity with the scoreline to get them some time and confidence.
Q. Speaking of Silva. He became the first Milan player to score a European hat-rick since Kaka. Will we see him starting for Milan more?
A. Yes, his movement was great tonight but he also worked for the team, tracking back to win the ball. As long as they stay with the 3-5-2 I think you'll see him as one of the two strikers and if they revert back to 4-3-3 or something similar you will still see him as the lone striker. His talent justifies his playing time and so far he has finished off chances.
Q. Interesting. As a final point then how fair can this Milan side go in the Europa League? Will it be given importance?
A. If they reach at least the quarters I will see it as a success. Depending on the draw they get in the knockout stages, they could go very far. It's still early though and this is just one performance. They will definitely give it importance because they view it as a way to qualify for the Champions League. The goal of this club is also to get back to Europe's elite in the Champions League. In order to do that they have to learn how to play at a high level during the midweek and also compete for the top spots in Italy. This competition gets them back into the routine of playing midweek in Europe and taking two competitions seriously.
Q. Only the quarters? Not many sides above Milan in this competition surely?
A. Remember that there are 32 teams in the knockout stages of this competition. And some of them come directly from the Champions League so we don't know who those squads will be. You have to win two rounds to get to the quarters in this competition and you could face top teams from the champions league. Also, you always need a bit of luck to win these competitions when it gets to the knockout stages.