Sunday was supposed to mark a new beginning for AC Milan. It was Stefano Pioli’s first match in charge of the Rossoneri and the club’s opening game after the short-lived stint of Marco Giampaolo. But the result wasn’t a new occurrence. It was a sign of the old. A sign of what is still wrong, despite having a new manager.
Milan looked sparkling going forward. Rafael Leao started in place of Krzysztof Piatek up front and Hakan Calhanoglu seemed to have been unchained. Theo Hernandez kept bulldozing forward from the left. While Suso lacked the final pass, he was constantly crossing in from the right.
It was Calhanoglu who scored the first goal, before coming close twice. The Turk seemed to have more freedom than anyone else on the pitch. The Rossoneri showed signs of scoring again but failed to find the final pass every single time.
In the second half, things changed. Andrea Conti, who had a horror game, gave a penalty away to Lecce. While this lead to the equalizer, Piatek came on to score his first goal from open play this season. But in stoppage time, Milan slipped up again.
Even though Marco Calderoni’s drive from long way out was unstoppable, the Milan players had given up in the last few minutes.
These losses in concentration and dropping of shoulders have been the story of the season for the side this season.
Against Genoa- in Giampaolo’s last game, Pepe Reina had saved a penalty in stoppage time to help the side win. At home against Fiorentina, it seemed as though the game had ended in the first half. There seemed to be no desire to play in the second half. San Siro fell silent and the players seemed to have lost life.
Against Torino, Milan conceded twice in four minutes to help Il Toro complete a comeback. In the Derby Della Madonnina, they let in two goals in the second half to lose 2-0. Away to Verona, Davide Calabria was sent off in stoppage time. He nearly conceded a penalty with the foul but it was committed just outside the box. That error nearly cost Milan all three points.
At Udinese in the first game of the season, Becao’s header from a Rodrigo de Paul corner had led to Giampaolo’s first defeat of the season.
Clearly, there is a problem there. Eight of Milan’s 11 goals have come in the second-half- 72 percent. That isn’t a pretty side for any club. That clearly shows a lack of leadership in that team, despite the presence of Alessio Romagnoli or Pepe Reina. Lucas Biglia is on the scoresheet, more often than not, but the problem always stands.
It is also worth noting that this Milan side has a very low average age. Giampaolo fielded a side that had an average age of 23.6 this season (as per Transfermarkt). While that is a good sign for a club that is building for the future, it hardly has a vocal character in Reina’s absence.
Biglia has the experience. But the Argentine has never been vocal. Romagnoli is still 24, even though he does don the captain’s armband many times.
In that sense, there seems like a valid reason for why links with Mario Mandzukic came up recently. The Croatian is a battler. He has won trophies in Germany, Italy and Croatia. He has played in the Champions League final and a World Cup final.
That is also the reason why many of Milan fans have been calling out for the club to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
This lack of leaders has now become a rather visible problem now. No matter who the manager is, this issue will always be there. Unless the club signs real characters for the dressing room instead of players whose purpose will be to only play for the club.