The Serie A came back on Sunday night for Milanisti across the globe, and unfortunately it was anything but good news as the team was beaten 2-0 away by an impressive Fiorentina side.
It may only be the first game of the season, but every Milan supporter will be disappointed about the result without doubt. Marcos Alonso’s amazing free kick set the tone for the night, while Josip Ilicic added a second from the spot to compound the misery for Mihajlovic.
Still, what can we take from the game looking ahead to Empoli on Saturday evening?
1. Mihajlovic got it wrong?
I saw a lot of social media posts after the game perhaps hinting that coach Mihajlovic got his selection wrong on Sunday, mainly in defence.
The craze in preseason was all about how well Rodrigo Ely had ‘adapted’ and how impressive he had been, almost as if the supporters weren’t expecting much from him.
As such, Miha repaid faith into his defender by starting him alongside the other new recruit Alessio Romagnoli, who had been equally impressive in preseason. However, it couldn’t have gone much worse for the pair of them.
Ely got two yellows and a subsequent red card inside the first 40 minutes for clumsy fouls in which his lack of pace was to blame, while Romagnoli gave away a penalty (albeit harsh) in the second half.
Unfortunately, this leads me to believe that selecting Ely was perhaps a questionable decision, and that perhaps Cristian Zapata with his experience and pace could have been better suited to the high pressure situation.
That may be overly critical, as Miha made a bold choice and one that everyone seemed happy with, but the question has to be asked.
Add to this the fact he chose to remove Honda for Zapata instead of Luiz Adriano, which would have created a far more balanced 4-3-1-1, and you can understand the questions being asked.
In truth though, it was a tough game for any manager to undertake in the first league match.
2. Missing: Milan midfield.
Yet again the majority of concern has to be directed at the midfield, as has been the area of question throughout the mercato and preseason.
Andrea Bertolacci has not started his Milan career well in my opinion, and although it will take time, he hasn’t looked close to a fraction of his €20 million price tag.
There was nobody in midfield who looked comfortable on the ball aside from perhaps Bonaventura, who returned to his more impressive self, but De Jong appeared to be a passenger in the game as he watched Fiorentina pass it around his team with ease and breach the defence at will.
There is now absolutely no question that Milan need a top quality midfielder who is comfortable in possession and will dictate key phases of the game. I personally am not sure that Soriano is the man for this, and Witsel may not be either, but we will see how the mercato develops.
3. Valeri had a nightmare.
The referee Paolo Valeri really struggled in refereeing Sunday’s game, and killed the contest in many ways.
I cannot deny that Ely deserved his red card, however in the minutes leading up to both yellow cards there were several rash challenges and niggling ones all the same and Valeri didn’t keep the game under control in the slightest.
Compound this with the fact that Romagnoli appeared to make a fair challenge for the penalty incident, while denying Milan a stonewall spot kick at the other end, and you have reason to be annoyed at Valeri.
I am not one to blame the referee, especially not for the entire outcome of a match, but today he did get quite a few decisions wrong that influenced the outcome of the match, its as simple as that.
4. Lack of width costing Milan?
One key tactical point I did notice from Sunday night’s game was just how narrow the side looked even leading up to the dismissal of Ely and the resulting shake-up.
Fiorentina were having such joy alongside the right side with Gilberto Jr. because he had simply a full-back to bomb at and a lot of space to operate.
On the other side, Milan lost the ball frequently in midfield, rarely found space, but created their best opportunities when cutting in from wide, whipping in some dangerous deliveries.
Times like this make me question the 4-3-1-2. The midfielders on the right and left side of the three have to be given license to roam and create almost a wide diamond, and while Bonaventura tried his best to cover ten positions at once, it was tough to see any intent from Bertolacci and De Jong.
Also, width needs to come from the full backs, who must overlap at the right opportunities, and with the central defensive partnership Milan had out there today it was easy to understand why De Sciglio and Antonelli somewhat retreated into their shell until the late stages.
By taking off the attacking midfielder after the red card, the link between the midfield (who were sitting deep and inviting pressure) and the forwards was completely lost, and there was no outlet to play through. This led to the midfield being completely bypassed in most cases, creating some ugly football.
5. It is only one game.
Things didn’t go Milan’s way today, without a doubt, and the team will have been expecting to get a result heading into this game.
However, credit must be given to Paulo Sousa and his Fiorentina team, who looked an impressive, well-organised, disciplined and creative opposition and a team who will be striving for Europe this season.
The moment that the fixtures came out I was worried about Milan’s chances of getting a positive outcome from this match because a packed out Artemio Franchi is a tough place to go, especially facing a team that has finished in 4th place the last three seasons.
It is not all doom and gloom, though, as the Rossoneri have a perfect opportunity to bounce back with a game at home against Empoli on Saturday night, one Mihajlovic will definitely be expecting to win.
That will be the perfect opportunity to get into the swing of things; a game that the team should in theory control from start to finish, getting confident in possession and giving the strikers more than just scraps to feed off.
With Napoli, Juventus and Genoa all also losing, it just goes to show you cannot take everything 100% seriously after the first game.
So, those are the five things I took from the opening game of the season.
Mentions must go to Diego Lopez, who had a great game and made two 1-on-1 saves that otherwise could have seen the scoreline be embarrassing, and to Nocerino, who looked actually half decent when he was introduced.
Things can only get better, right?
Article by Oliver Fisher