Three Things We Learned from Milan Loss to Udinese

These are uncertain times for Stefano Pioli as his Milan side slumped to a disheartening 1-0 home defeat to perennial strugglers UdineseRossoneri’s dreadful performance on Saturday night raised more than a few eyebrows, leaving the Scudetto-winning manager with more questions than answers.

Milan performed below their standard and deservedly gifted Udinese their first win of the 2023/24 Serie A season. Pioli’s tactical alterations failed miserably as we look at the three noteworthy takeaways from yesterday’s result.

Milan must never line up in a 4-4-2 again

Not since the legendary Milan president Silvio Berlusconi ‘demanded’ for Rossoneri to play with two strikers had the Italians used what many consider an outdated formation. Injuries to numerous first-team players forced Pioli’s hand on Saturday, but it backfired on his side epically. 

It’s been a while since Milan last looked as clueless and uneventful as they did against Udinese. Pioli’s choice to deploy Rafael Leao and Yunus Musah as external midfielders has proved a terrible mistake since neither could’ve showcased their full potential. Neither player matched the criteria.

Leao was often on an island, left alone to fight two or three markers, while Musah – despite his speed and tenaciousness – is far better versed in breaking the opposition’s play than creating chances for his teammates. And then, Luka Jovic and Noah Okafor suffocated Olivier Giroud, who is not used to having a partner in the box.

Emergency signings often pan out poorly 

Let’s forget about Antonio Nocerino for a moment.

Marco Pellegrino’s forced entry in last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Napoli unequivocally showed that unnecessary signings are no solutions to burning issues. Milan tried to address the shortage of numbers at the back with the youngster’s last-gasp arrival from Platense.

However, he wasn’t ready for such a massive leap a few months ago, and he’s not ready now. Milan made the same mistake down the final stretch of the summer transfer window, bringing Jovic after missing out on other targets, only to pile the stack in the front third.

It’s true that Milan needed a reliable alternative to Giroud, but signing an out-of-sorts ‘has-been’ was a panic call, not a rational choice. Jovic’s performance against Udinese testified to the gravity of their poor judgment. 

One-dimensional attack 

Ever since relying on Leao to guide them to the Scudetto in 2021/22, Milan have grown increasingly dependent on the Portuguese winger. Trusting the 24-year-old to provide the goods on his own every game has made Rossoneri somewhat predictable. 

Christian Pulisic’s flying start to life in Serie A has alleviated some pressure on Leao. But in the USMNT forward’s absence, the latter had to shoulder the burden all by himself again. It made it easier for Udinese to defend, knowing all they had to do to fend Milan off was to keep Leao quiet. 

And so, they placed at least two guards on him, leaving Musah with acres of space on the opposite flank, aware of the American’s offensive limitations. Yesterday’s fixture showed Pulisic’s arrival might have been Milan’s best signing in a while.  

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