Some hope. This is what Milan supporters got after yet another disappointment, the usual defeat at the Juventus Stadium (where the Devils have never gotten any point in their history). Because yes, Stefano Pioli’s team lost once again, even though they played better than the Bianconeri. However, there was more than a nice performance to give hope to the Rossoneri supporters. It would indeed seem that Pioli is finally succeeding in getting the best out of every player he uses – if only because he is using the best ones he has (not so easy, ask Marco Giampaolo for confirmation…) – putting them in the right condition to perform.
Against Juventus, Ismael Bennacer finally started to rule the midfield, displaying technical qualities and cleverness. In addition, Rade Krunic was put in the condition to play a very useful game, both on the offensive and the defensive phase, to the point that no one cried because of the absence of Frank Kessié. Paquetà, on the other hand, finally seemed like the player every Milan fan was hoping he would become. He still did not give up his usual, mostly pointless Brazilian-style tricks of course. However, he also started to make a physical and technical impact on the game. Even Andrea Conti seemed a good player and probably for the first time since he arrived in Milan put together a convincing performance for the whole 90 minutes. Leo Duarte, who had been destroyed by domestic media after his mistakes with Lazio, was almost perfect against the best Serie A attack. Hakan Calhanoglu and Theo Hernandez confirmed the good impressions they made in the last match. In short, not only did Milan play a good game, but almost every Rossoneri player went off the pitch revaluated.
The exception is, of course, Krzysztof Piatek: The Polish striker is facing a period of total crisis which makes it difficult to understand his real level. Is Piatek the deadly finisher from one year ago or the dead-weight seen in 2019-20? Was 2018-19 just a lucky season or is the current an unlucky one? Not easy to find an answer, but one thing is for sure: Milan would desperately need the Krzysztof Piatek from last year. What the Devil has been missing in the last matches is exactly that extra pass and killer instinct which both Lazio and Juventus showed when recently facing the red-and-blacks.
The main problem for Milan is indeed the almost total absence of decisive strikers, those who could change a match with a pass, a dribble, or a shot. Hakan Calhanoglu, Ante Rebic, Samu Castillejo, Paquetà, Giacomo Bonaventura, and Rafael Leao: Those are all good offensive players, and some of them could also become exceptional in the future. However, none of them have this deadly instinct that could solve a tight situation or a match. Lazio’s Luis Alberto used space and timing in a perfect way to make the best out of a pass by Joaquín Correa and wrap the Biancocelesti‘s win over Milan. Paulo Dybala dribbled Alessio Romagnoli in the space of just two meters to score Juventus’ winner on Sunday. Milan’s forwards, on the other hand, have mostly been lacking effectiveness with their finishing, especially against big teams: An all-star player is the one who is able to decide a match when tension increases and there is little room to finalize your play.
Suso and Piatek are the only ones who showed such qualities in the past, such ability to change a game with one play. The Pole did it against Napoli in Coppa Italia last year, as well as in a campionato away match versus Atalanta in Bergamo. Milan’s most recent win against SPAL was decided by a free-kick by Suso. Such players are fundamental to improve Milan’s status and gain the Rossoneri more victories. Because as much as you can play well and create scoring chances, it all comes down to put the ball in the net in the end. Juventus’ last two games against Lokomotiv Moscow in Champions League and the Rossoneri in Serie A were a clear example of that: badly played, yet killed by a single feat by Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala.
Milan’s future fortunes this season depend much on Krzysztof Piatek and Suso’s performances. Still, coach Stefano Pioli is on the right track, having already created a coordinated game that has given his players back some confidence. Maybe, along the way, he will also manage to “build” in-house that killer striker he needs, the new all-star that could take his side to the next level.