Milan put in a sparkling performance on Saturday night, brushing aside Sampdoria 4-1 at the San Siro.
Giacomo Bonaventura opened the scoring with a tap-in, while M’Baye Niang followed up with a brace including one from the penalty spot.
Luiz Adriano hit a sweet strike to make it 4-0, while Andrea Poli gave up a late penalty which Eder converted, but it was a mere consolation.
A night of joy in Milan (for once), but what did we learn from the victory?
1. Where did that come from?
It seems to be purely swings and roundabouts with AC Milan at the moment.
If the Juventus performance was anything to go off, then I would not have put a single penny on the Rossoneri bagging four goals on Saturday night.
The team looked fresh, vibrant and full of ideas. The system worked well and played to the strengths of the team; having two wide men and two front men gave the team a dimension that has been sorely lacking in recent weeks.
Sampdoria, under Montella’s leadership for the first time, had no answer. They looked yards behind the play at times and the creativity of the home side was allowed to shine.
Without going into specifics too early, it is fair to say that every player in the starting XI for Milan did their job. Front to back it was a refreshing performance, and one which needs to become commonplace at San Siro and in general.
2. Niang back with a bang
A huge part of the success on Saturday night was because of one man: M’Baye Niang.
He has, in fairness, come under a fair amount of scrutiny because he hasn’t been developing (in some peoples’ opinions) as quickly as Milan needs him to.
Niang silenced a lot of the doubters by putting in a clinical performance full of effort and energy, with a touch of class.
He provided the opener with a perfect driven cross for Bonaventura, before scoring his first and second goals in the Serie A for Milan. It really was a perfect night for the young starlet, who almost scored with an acrobatic back heel effort as well.
More of the same please, M’Baye. He should keep his starting spot for another week.
3. Building from the back
Another very solid performance from the defence was a factor that helped Milan pick up the three points.
Romagnoli was awesome yet again, and is starting to look more and more like a very wise investment. The team has not let in more than one goal in seven games now, having conceded just four in the last five also.
Alex, as mentioned last week, has been a good partner for Romagnoli. He does the arial work very well and I feel he deserves a lot of praise for somebody who some fans would have happily seen leave on a free transfer.
The full-backs also performed well. Antonelli is one of Milan’s most consistent performers and put in another good showing, while Abate actually played very well contrary to recent form.
It should have been a clean sheet but for Poli’s needless challenge in the closing stages.
The tighter the defence is, the more the team can focus on the other end, and it proved to be very beneficial against Samp.
4. More to come
The wonderful thing about this performance is that there should be even more to come from the team.
Plenty of players were missing for the game, including Bertolacci, Balotelli and Menez, who will be huge added threats once they return.
The beauty of a 4-4-2 is that it doesn’t over-complicate things. Every player in the squad can fit into it and it gives a greater impression of depth.
It is definitely a system I would like to see Mihajlovic stick with. Old school football, nice and simple, but very effective.
Of course it is all about confidence too, so hopefully the players have taken the positives from the game and will push on now.
5. The work has just begun
It was far from a faultless performance and there are some areas to improve.
Firstly, although Bacca didn’t have a terrible game, he didn’t seem his usual self. Perhaps having Niang to run the channels and do the dirty work for him made him sit back a little and that is something he may have to get used to.
He struggled with his dribbling a bit, and missed a couple of chances that he should have buried. It is tough as well when Adriano came on and scored a lovely goal just moments after coming on.
That being said, his movement off the ball helped to create openings and resulted in chances. Even on one of his lesser days, Carlos Bacca still did enough to make me excited.
Also, Poli was awful again. He tries hard and runs himself into the ground at times, but as an actual footballer he is struggling to make the cut. It was a shame to see Mauri sat on the bench while Andrea gave up the clean sheet.
Still, a good performance from the team and lots to be positive about.
So, those are the five things I took from the 4-1 win.
This should be the start of a run of wins that could put the Rossoneri back in European contention and that would be a nice situation heading into January with room to strengthen.
Roll on Tuesday night when the team has a cup match at home to Crotone. A chance to see some younger players get a chance, plus maybe a return for Mario Balotelli.
Article by Oliver Fisher