5 things we learned from the TIM Trophy 2015


AC Milan claimed their first piece of silverware in the 2015-16 campaign as they saw of Inter and Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium to claim the TIM Trophy on Wednesday evening.

Milan added to their first preseason victory against rivals Inter out in China with a more convincing display, eventually winning 2-1 with ten men after taking a comfortable 2-0 lead.

Sassuolo must have thought they had the trophy sealed, however, when they were 1-0 up with just seconds to play, Nocerino rolled back the years with a stunning equalizer before Donnarumma became a penalty shootout hero; Milan winning 4-3 on penalties.

So, just what did we learn from the two 45 minutes games, and what can we take into Monday’s Coppa Italia match against Perugia?


1. We’ve lost that losing feeling

Excuse the Righteous Brothers/Top Gun reference for the title of the first point, as it doesn’t make it any less valid.

Coming into this pair of games, it is fair to say there was an element of worry cast over the squad due to its imperfections and lack of completeness. The midfield was an area for concern, and the amount that the team was gelling also leading people to believe that progress was slim.

However, Milan and Mihajlovic silenced those critics (myself included) by racing out to a 2-0 lead against Inter thanks to goals from Bertolacci and Bacca, two new signings desperate for confidence. They did this by playing smart football; moving well, not trying to be over complicated with things, and ultimately attacking Inter’s weaknesses.

Less can be taken from the final, ironically, in which Milan fielded a somewhat weaker side that was on the cusp of a defeat, but as aforementioned Antonio Nocerino bailed the team out with a lovely dipping effort.

Through both games, there was evidence of Miha’s work starting to kick in. The players played with high tempo and intensity, looking really up for it from the start, which was encouraging. Add to this the nice shape that was held for the large part (until the red card) and it resulted in an altogether professional performance.


2. Confidence is key

Two players already mentioned for their positive impact were Andrea Bertolacci and Carlos Bacca, both of whom had not had ideal preseason campaigns thus far.

Starting with the latter, it was understandable that the Colombian wasn’t yet at full match fitness, but some were worried when he spurned chances in previous games.

In the game against Inter, Bacca was comfortably the most dynamic player out on the field, and he made the Nerazzurri defence look clueless as he persistently terrorized the left side with runs, cuts and turns. His cross for the first goal was superb, with two potential finishers in line, yet thankfully it fell to Bertolacci who produced an untidy but effective finish that will have done his confidence a world of good.

For the second goal, Bacca received the ball and headed straight for the area with intent, side-stepping Miranda with such ease and grace before catching Handanovic wrong-footed to double the lead.

Everything seen in the second goal is why Carlos Bacca will prove to be a huge threat to every defence in Serie A this season. Pace, power, intelligence and precision.


3. Romagnoli catapulted to instant hero status

As over-dramatic as this point sounds on the face of it, there isn’t really any other way to put it.

With just moments left in the first game against Inter, Marcelo Brozovic looked almost certain to have scored his second goal and the all important equalizer as he swung his boot through the ball, past everyone, but not Romagnoli.

Outstretching a foot, the newly acquired defender turned the ball away, much to the despair of those in blue and black, saving the goal and the game for his new club in the process.

Without the clearance, we could well be reflecting on a first game defeat that would have made things a little harder for the team. The words “awesome”, “fantastic”, “impressive” etc. were all banded around on social media to describe his debut appearance, and the signs are there that he is willing to give his all and become a very important part of the team immediately.

Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

4. Same old question marks remain

Trying to dodge the issues that still remain at this point would be both foolish and detrimental.

Firstly, while Romagnoli has one of the CB spots locked down, who fills the other is a source of mystery and worry at the same time. Rodrigo Ely has been impressive, but whether he can make the big jump is still to be proven in a more competitive environment, while the likes of Mexes and Alex continue to dish out panic attacks to Milan fans like they’re going out of fashion.

The midfield also isn’t sorted, with both a central midfield and central attacking midfield spot still to be decided. The general consensus is that this team is at least a top-quality midfielder away from achieving great things this season, and I find it hard to disagree that a player like Axel Witsel would add so much to this team.

Honda, Bonaventura and Suso all haven’t seized the free spot behind the strikers, and while the Japan international looked bright and lively against Inter, one cannot help but wonder where his future really lies. Bonaventura essentially provided Inter with a route back into the game thanks to a poor pass, obviously something to let slide but worth a mention.


5. Donnarumma seizes chance to shine

It felt wrong to end on anything but a positive. The real reason that Milan ended up winning the trophy cannot be ignored, either, as 16 year old goalkeeping sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma pulled out the heroics saving two penalties allowing the Rossoneri to capture a 4-3 victory on spot kicks.

The first save, to deny Berardi, really showed how his large frame despite being such a young age is already proving beneficial. Being a big and tall goalkeeper certainly helps when it comes to penalty kicks; the goal seeming almost minute when an almost 2 meter tall man is stood in the way. It was a great save nonetheless, quickly moving low to his left to stop the effort.

Francesco Acerbi was guilty of missing the second penalty as his tame but well placed effort was convincingly stopped, setting up man-of-the-hour Antonio Nocerino to score the decisive kick from twelve yards.

Aside from being a big confidence boost, it will also be a worthwhile experience for Donnarumma, who is destined to be a future show if he continues with showings like that.

Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Those are the five things that I took from the TIM Trophy. Mostly positives; the winning feeling meaning the most by far, plus the way the squad is rapidly transforming into a well-structured version of its former self is pleasing to see.

Competitive football is back now though, so it is a chance to see the improvements conveyed in a competitive situation, starting with Perugia on Monday night.

It has been a long time coming, but preseason is over, so let the games begin.

Article by Oliver Fisher

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The squad is still far too big for next season. We need at least 3-4 players to leave. Nocerino, Zaccardo, Alex, Matri, Honda/Suso…


In how many posts do i need to say Zaccardo, Agazzi and Verdi aren’t on the squad. They have no numbers so even if they stay they won’t play. Now we have 28 and Witsel’s arrival will make it 29 so we need to get rid of 3-4 players. 6 CBs is just too much would have been better if we let Alex and Mexes go too old and they as the article says always give me heart attacks. But Mexes for some reason extended so if we look at the news unfortunately the other CB will be Paletta. Nocerino… Read more »


Dude, just stop. You’re really arrogant, ain’t you kiddo? People are just counting every player under contract, dude. You’re the one who can’t read (or count). Right now, Milan have 32 players under contract, that’s a fact – go check, please. Whether they will play or even be under contract by the start of the season is a whole other story.. Zaccardo, Verdi and Agazzi are most likely gone, I’m right there with you, but they’re just not yet gone, with or without a number they’re still Milan players as we speak. WHEN they go, we’ll be at 29. Then… Read more »


Nice article; good work. I am seeing great improvements from the team thanks to Miha, but like you have mentioned we still need reinforcements in midfield. A world class midfielder like Witsel would really be the cherry on top: Lopez; Abate, Mexes/Ely, Romagnoli, De Sciglio; De Jong, Bertolacci, Witsel; Honda/(Menez?); Bacca, Luiz. This also brings up Menez; where exactly will he fit after he’s back from injury? Behind the attack would be interesting but it’s not really his role. Reports of offers for Honda have been out; so maybe another a good signing to replace him for the window closes!… Read more »


Missed out Bonaventura. I liked the new formation 4-3-2-1 against Inter much more effective than 4-3-1-2. Luiz Adriano should continue playing as CF, he was amazing great, creative passes, helped MDS regain confidence looked just amazing in total. Cerci is staying because of Niang’s injury.
De Jong


Oh, good catch. Bonaventura hopefully will continue to improve. That’s true, and yeah I guess Cerci’s gonna be sticking around. I really thought he’d excel but he has not proven anything.
We’ve got a lot of dead weight to get rid of. Also, I really think Suso’s got great potential. He’s always lively and very technically gifted. Let’s see how Miha will utilize him.

Milan Fandango

Cerci asked for an opportunity to prove himself instead taking the easy way out; and I would say why not. He didn’t excel at Atletico and under Pippo, perhaps he can prove his worth with Miha.

I am not a formation genius like the others, but we should keep him around in case we are changing formation in the middle of the season.

Jonas Begnigna

Actually when Cerci was best in torino it was in a formation very similar to miha’s 4-3-1-2 as a ‘seconda punta’ :)


I’m not a fan of the Bacca-Adriano duo, just not convinced this experiment will work out. I believe Bacca should start in the CF position, with Adriano as a back-up. In this case Menez would start as the secondary striker, as he can creat for himself and others (when he’s willing to), unlike Adriano who’s much more of a finisher. On another topic, I’m still hopeful Montolive can come back to being a useful player. He’s the brightest player in our midfield when he’s actually fine and good to go. And let’s not forget he missed the pre-season last year… Read more »


Love this comment. Honestly, with an in-form Monto, a midfield consisting of Monto-De jong-Witsel looks fantastic on paper!! I really hope we end up with him and not Soriano. We already have Soriano type of players, we dont need him.


Yep they need to leave . Ibra david silva witsel omg I’ll go crazy if that happens lol silva behind ibra n bacca goals galore


0_o more like you’ve already gone crazy if you think David Silva is coming to Milan.


go back to your play station….


That’s right..

Milan Fandango

Good job writer….a well written article without mentioning the repetitive and boring list of players that should go.
Although I am still skeptical (who doesn’t after the last four disastrous seasons) I have my confidence in Miha to bring this team back. Hopefully, Berlusconi can give Witsel as a gift for the fans.


Both games made, even more unavoidable, the fact that we need a QUALITY mezzala to play with NDJ. I’m hopeful for a good season. Forza Milan!


Bonaventura is aweful, he is not a top quality midfield player.


he is not world class, BUT when in form he is better than: Poli, Mauri, Monty, Honda, Suso (I dont need to mention Nocerino type players…)


I cant agree more, great article Fisher.

Pa ibra

I know was just a friendly game but i like the way romagnoli played his debut with calm after a big money transfer. I think galliani’s next comments will be about how he stopped that goal from being a goal. worths commenting about thou. Just knowing galliani…..




May i ask why fans are in love with witsel and think he is needed? He is another box to box midfielder you guys know this right? We need a creative midfielder guys witsel is not it.


We need Witsel because of how secure he is with the ball. We need a player like him to control and dictate the tempo of the game, the game against Munich showed that. It was a perfect example for why we need him. Montolivo could be the player for it, but he has declined so much, who knows if and when he will come back to his old form.


So you saying if pressed by 3 (three) opposite players (this is what happened against Bavarians) he will be able to cooly control the ball, keep possession and deliver a killer pass? OK, I exaggerated the last one… Just pass to the open player.

Now if he does all that, we shouldn’t wait another second, but run and get the boy.

On the other hand… Why no one else is interested?

PS Do you follow Russian PL diligently to know that Axel Rose Witsel is such a great player? Or just a bandwagoner of Belgian superkids?


What kind of a question is that, even pirlo struggled under that kind of pressure.
But yes, he is that strong and confident on the ball.

Real Shevchenko

How do you know? Did you watch him play?


I like you comment. Coudnt agree more, i always thin some ppl this blog talk about witsel many times. But we dont really need him, his type like ramires, many our player has characteristic close to him if its not close to his quality. BuT remember this! We need more creative midfielder, in 4-3-1-2 creative midfielder is key! I dont think we will get this year, cuz we already spend to much, maybe next year, we only focus to buy one top class quality midfielder.

Real Shevchenko

What’s up with all Witsel love? Or more precisely, who the hell is Witsel?


Witsel will always make his presence felt and we will risk going down to 10men…though he’s a business minded player


business minded? Sooo he is negotiating deals and selling things while playing games??? LOL


Comment: you’ve hit the nail on the head… We need a player that can single handedly orchestrate the game…with amazin ball control and exceptional vision, not another BOX-BOX


@ballen, when I mean business minded, I mean he takes his football quite serious…wake-up

Anthony Milan

Look the truth is we can’t get that kind of player for now . they are scare and we are not in the champions league . even verrati won’t come . so we have to make the best of it . witsel adds another piece in the jigg saw puzzle that is our midfield towards it being world class people like honda, bonnaventura, pioli , montilivo are not world class so we got to make the best of it . forza milan


yes we need witsel then if there is no money am ok with the squad 4 now den January we can still get him let’s just see how our signings will be before adding another one but we really need him because he’s a steel just like dejong.

a fan of milan

Witsel is more of a box to box than a creative player. He does know how to hold the ball but dictating play isn’t really his thing. Would rather a pirlo type player tbh.