AC Milan suffered a humiliating home defeat in the first game of 2016, going down 1-0 to Bologna at the San Siro.
In a game that seemed to be heading for a goalless draw, Emanuele Giaccherini produced the one moment of composure to with the game with eight minutes left on the clock.
The result was one that saw the Milan supporters in the stadium vent their frustration, with the team booed and jeered off the field.
With that said, just what did we learn from a disappointing start to 2016.
1. Goals win matches
The opportunities to win this game were there for Milan without a doubt.
In the first half, Carlos Bacca played through Keisuke Honda on the right side of the box, and the Japan international took too long to make a decision and the chance was squandered.
Bacca flashed a header into the side netting and Montolivo had a volley saved, while Bonaventura had a zinging close range effort tipped over for a corner thanks to a wonderful save from Mirante.
Then, when Honda played a beautiful pass in behind to Bacca in the closing stages of the first half, it seemed certain to be 1-0. Somehow, he found a way not to score.
Of course the key moments fell to Alessio Cerci. First of all there was a three-on-two break and he left it too long to make a decision, and then there was the two-on-one break where he tried to round the ‘keeper instead of slotting to Bacca for an easy finish.
The result was a bunch of wasted chances and a real smash and grab from Bologna’s point of view. It just goes to show that keeping cool in crucial moments can win matches, especially against a Milan side that is shaky at best.
2. The holes are clear
Despite Galliani’s comments that there would be no incomings without outgoings in this mercato, this performance showed clearly the areas for improvement.
Firstly, a right winger is needed as Cerci and Honda are surplus to requirements in that position. I do still believe Honda may have a role centrally as his passing ability unlocked Bologna at times. Cerci however just needs to go back.
Secondly, a full back is needed as Ignazio Abate has forgotten how to do everything a right back should. He can’t defend, his positioning is wrong, his crossing has gotten a lot worse and he is just generally on borrowed time.
If the 4-4-2 is the formation to stick with, then we should be ok with the midfielders in the squad as long as we add one. Banega would be good to offset the offensive tendencies of Bertolacci, while Witsel seems so tentative that I am losing patience.
If sales of players such as Zapata continue to be blocked, it is an indication of a lack of ambition, something that I fear has plagues the club after the summer spree.
3. Miha must stay
As frustrating and confusing as these results against lower teams have been, sacking Sinisa would serve absolutely no purpose.
The club in recent times has been a symbol of instability and a fallen giant, much of that due to Berlusconi and Galliani. Milan had a great manager with Seedorf but the trigger was pulled too quickly. Inzaghi was a failed experiment. All chances of getting Ancelotti are now gone, so who do people expect to come to the club?
Results wise, it hasn’t been amazing, but there has been glimpses of the football this team can play. As a consequence, Miha cannot be blamed for the failings of his players.
Individual decisions keep costing the team points. Sinisa isn’t on the pitch to make those decisions for the players. His team made enough chances to win the game, yet the points are going to Bologna.
If I was the coach, I’d be demanding sales in order to get the promised incomings. Otherwise, this team does not move forward.
4. Credit the opposition
I feel that Bologna deserve to be praised for a very professional performance.
Milan knew the threat of the team coming into this game, with them having beaten Napoli three games prior proving they can compete with any team.
Defensively, they were very solid in the first half. Rossetini, Maietta (then Oikonomou), Gastaldello and Masina all did their roles well and got a deserved clean sheet.
There were moment when Milan did break through, but most times Bologna recovered well to take advantage of poor judgement from their opposition to clear danger.
Attacking wise, they looked dangerous quite often, perhaps due to the lack of confidence from Abate, Alex, Mexes and De Scilgio.
Emanuele Giaccherini was very dynamic all game, and although wasteful until the closing stages, he produced the moment needed to win the game for his team.
Bologna will be fine this season. They may have flirted with the drop zone early on, but the group of players they have is far too good to be at the bottom end of the league. Expect them to kick on now and finish mid-table.
5. The future of this team
Time for a bleak assessment of the way things are.
This is something I have stated before, but the current squad is not good enough. The summer investment was too concentrated on the wrong areas, and as a result we have an unbalanced team that relies on clicking for 90 minutes to move forward.
There is no project. Although in the table the distance is minuscule, the actual difference between Milan and Juventus, Inter, Napoli, Fiorentina and Roma is that this isn’t a squad that is under performing. It is exactly where it should be.
I don’t think we will see the levels of investment in this mercato to see the team make a second half charge for Europe. More likely is a situation in which Berlusconi waits for the summer to reassess. Also, Bee Taechaubol is a mysterious character and nobody can definitely say how that scenario will work out.
For now, we just have to enjoy the occasional good times, maybe a cup run, and hope the team can over perform to achieve something respectable for this club.
Apologies for the sombre ending, but a dose of reality was needed.
I hope I am proven wrong and this team goes and gets the win in Roma, but I highly doubt it, and that would put us even further away from the target.
I also wish all Milanisti a happy New Year, and here’s to a better 2016!