Inter Milan 3-2 AC Milan
We sat down with Serie A expert Claudio Perfetto to discuss the Milan derby.....
Q. Not sure where to start after that! What were your thoughts on the game? Almost a throwback to the Milan derby's of old wasn't it?
A. Oh yes, it was a great game for the neutrals, a spectacle. I thought Inter was much better in the first half, they completely controlled the game and Milan was never really in it. Inter took the lead through a brilliant cross by Candreva and finish by Icardi and Milan couldn’t really create any chances or even control the ball. The second half was completely different, Montella made a great move to bring on Cutrone. The team was much more lively when he came on, his movement and desire causes massive problems for opponents and he was able to help Milan get back into the game. Unfortunately their defense let them down again. Biglia gave the ball away and they somehow lost Icardi who was able to score with a magnificent finish. Then at the end obviously the Rodriguez penalty caused them to lose the match.
Q. Was it a penalty in your opinion? Looked a tad harsh
A. It definitely seemed harsh but his arms were wrapped up around him and with VAR now in Serie A I guess the referees were confident it was a penalty. At the end of the day though it’s on the player for me because in that moment of the match you can’t take any risks whatsoever. Don’t even let the referee have to make a decision there.
Q. Can't argue with that. Icardi very impressive today, what is deal with Icardi? He gets constantly linked with clubs in the PL etc then links die then they return and so on, is he committed to Inter?
A. I didn’t really hear any rumors this past summer about him leaving Inter. In the past he had a little scuffle with the Curva Nord (Inter’s ultras) because of a story he wrote in a book. I don’t think they love him yet but they definitely appreciate and respect what he’s doing. The club won’t sell him voluntarily as they’ve made him their captain so they have a ton of faith in him. He is repaying that faith right now with his goal scoring ability. He was magnificent today both of his finishes were world class and I can see him remaining an Inter symbol for a long time. They are currently second in the table and returning back to the top of Italian football so they will want to keep him as they continue to climb and he seems like he is happy to stay.
Q. I see. What went wrong for AC Milan today? They lost to Roma, it's another big loss for them today. Montella in trouble?
A. In the first half they looked lost as I mentioned earlier. Suso did not look comfortable in his position, the team really couldn’t gather and keep control of the ball. They also didn’t have any chances on goal. Like against Roma, they were much improved in the second half. Today they were even better than they were in the Roma match so whatever Montella is doing at half time is working because they definitely come out and play better. Their organization when they lost the ball let them down today. They give the ball away too easily at times in the middle of the pitch and then from there they are unorganized when tracking back and don’t pick up the opposing runs. Not only did they give up a goal like that but right before the 2nd Icardi goal Vecino also had a brilliant chance but missed wide as no one picked him up in the box. I think Montella has to be in trouble as they slip further down the standings if a top 4 finish is so vital for them. That defensive organization is something that really worries me about them. Today they had a great opportunity to get back into the game and possibly even win it as they were much better than Inter in the second 45, but they weren’t able to due to lapses in concentration.
Q. Why hasn't Montella been able to set the team up in that way from the start of games? Still doesn't know his best team?
A. It’s a great question. Maybe he tries things out and they work in training but they don’t work in actual games. He also had to deal with the international break this week so hasn’t had much time to work with the players after the Roma defeat as 6 of the starters were on international duty. To me though it seems pretty simple. He should have seen Suso and Bonaventura enough by now to know where they need to be on the pitch. Suso was lost in the first half which is unacceptable. Find a formation that plays him on the right because that’s where he is best. It’s also obvious that Cutrone makes a difference for them, so he needs to consider starting him. The organization when they lose the ball is something he must figure out if he is going to stay. It is unacceptable that every time the other team gets the ball in the middle of the field they are given golden opportunities to score. The transition from midfield to defense has to get enormously better.
Q. Just to be clear do you believe it's a personal issue for AC Milan? Or are the tactics letting them down?
A. It’s a bit of both. Biglia giving the ball away in the middle of the field (Borini did so as well but wasn’t punished for it) is an issue with the players. Nothing Montella can do about that, but the transition back to defense and picking up runs could be a tactical issue. On his first goal Icardi got right in between Bonucci and Musacchio with neither picking him up. On the second goal again he was near the penalty spot and no one picked him up again. The players seem confused, I can’t believe that they are just too lazy to pick up runs into the box. They are good and experienced players. They might be struggling with the formation change and that’s where the confusion is coming from, but that’s down to the manger for me.
Q. Certainly things for Montella to sort out indeed. How about Inter Milan then? They haven't looked amazing this season but have been getting results. We spoke about AC Milan's potential renaissance are we seeing the other Milan team rise back to prominence?
A. They look very strong this season and they have a great manager in Spalletti. They are certainly in great shape right now, sitting in second place on 22 points. The only team close to Napoli at the moment. They haven’t played beautifully but they have very strong players like Icardi, Perisic, Handanovic, who made a couple of great saves today, and then of course Skriniar who has been a tremendous signing for them. So they have a strong core with a great manager and they look to be a certain top 4 team this season.
Q. Can Inter compete for the title? We discussed what went wrong for AC but what went right for Inter? How did they manage to pull off the victory?
A. I am skeptical that they can be title challengers. They are off to a great start but Napoli looks to be in another world from everyone and Juventus is stronger than Inter as well. Inter will ultimately lose points due to depth through the course of the season and that will be the difference. They can realistically finish in third place. As far as the match, they took advantage of Milan’s mistakes. Icardi buries the two chances he got and also the penalty at the end. They controlled the first half very well and capitalized on poor Milan defending. In the second half even though Milan played better Handanovic was able to make some crucial saves and they took advantage of the Biglia mistake and the Rodriguez penalty. Again it wasn’t a convincing victory for them but they did what they needed to to get the three points.
Q. Perhaps the lack of European football can give Inter an advantage?
A. Yes that’s why I ultimately believe they have an advantage for the third spot. Roma, Lazio and Milan are all playing in Europe. Roma will take the Champions League seriously and Milan will go for the Europa League especially as they keep slipping down the standings. Having that extra game in the middle of the week makes rotation so crucial for those teams, while Inter can send their best eleven out there every week. Spalletti actually said recently that he thought it was a disadvantage as well because it gives players on the bench less opportunity to break through, which can obviously make handling the dressing room tougher, but ultimately having your best players on the field every Serie A match makes a huge difference.
They have a very interesting matchup next week away to Napoli, a top of the table clash. That will be a true test for them and one I am intrigued to see.
Q. Final question where do AC Milan and Montella go from here. Is he close to losing his job?
A. Well they have a Europa League match on Thursday, so they won’t have time to sulk. Especially since that competition is becoming increasingly more important for them. They have matches in Serie A against Genoa and Chievo before they take on Juventus and it’s absolutely crucial they win both of those matches. As far as Montella, the trouble is finding a replacement. They would need someone who is familiar with Serie A because they can’t risk hiring someone who is not familiar with the league and needs an adjustment period. The only person I can think of is Walter Mazzari but I don’t know if the management would want to replace Montella with him. Fassone mentioned after the match that they still have confidence in him so he is safe for now. I think if he drops either of the next two matches he could be in serious trouble but they have beaten the lesser teams so far so they should be able to get 6 points against Genoa and Chievo.
Q. Do you believe Montella should be given time?
A. I don't see an obvious replacement at this time that could guarantee better results than him. All of the great managers are employed with the exception of Ancelotti but it doesn't seem like he has any interest in replacing Montella. If you hire a Mazzari maybe he can do better than Montella but it will also take time. The squad is very new and although it has quality they are still trying to figure out the right combinations. Like I said earlier, the one thing that worries me is the obvious space they give up to opposing attackers. This is something that needs to be shored up immediately, you watch a team like Inter who isn't playing great but they are closing down opponents and making it tough to score on them. That is something that keeps you in games and something Milan must learn immediately if they are to climb back up the table. It is still very early in the season so things can be rectified but this is an issue that Montella and management needs to solve right away.