Milan 0, Atalanta 1: Midseason, Midtable, Midlife Crisis

Another loss. At home. To a lower table team. We are halfway through the season, sit in eighth place, and fans are dropping like flies with these results. Inzaghi’s honeymoon is over, and for many, he’s already overstayed his welcome. The mercato is open for 15 more days, so clearly that is where the answer lies. Or does it? We are midseason, midtable, and fans are having a midlife crisis. So how do we “fix” it?

Maybe we're all just trying too hard?

Fans everywhere have seen this coming. Fans everywhere have tons of ideas as to how to fix it. Fans everywhere are angry about the results. Fans everywhere are lashing out at anyone and everyone and trying to find who or what to blame this all on. But fans everywhere are ignoring reality.

The reality is that we have had three coaches in a calendar year. The reality is that we have sent 50 players out of the club and brought in 42 in 2.5 years. The reality is that you get what you pay for, so if our squad are all free loans and transfers, how can we possibly expect them to perform like the squads whose transfers and salaries put us into perpetual debt and are exactly why we have the squad we have now?

What if their best isn't good enough?

I can’t get mad at Inzaghi. There isn’t a coach alive who could realistically take this team to third place this season. Barring a series of miracles, it’s just not possible. He was given a midtable team, a team whose players change clubs faster than the opinions on Twitter. A team who were mentally broken and physically not so well, either. It’s one thing to make lemonade from lemons, but how do you make lemonade from eggplant? How do players perform their best when they are worried about being forced out of their club every six months? How do they play well together when they just met for the first time three days ago?

So my suggestion as to how to “fix” it is this: Don’t. Try this instead, it’s much better for the blood pressure and your aging process in general: Accept reality. Accept that this Milan is actually now a midtable team. There is simply not enough talent in the squad to believe otherwise realistically. Instead of betting your life’s savings on getting a result, watch them play. At their worst, they are still playing better than last season. Well, except for Palermo… that was a disaster.

Improving hair, improving play... has our little Pharaoh returned?

Take for instance, today. Milan had some really nice linkups and some nice shots, too. 15 in all, with four of them on goal. We also did not concede on a set piece. After some poor possession of late, we had our season high possession of 69%. Some may say it was wasted since we didn’t capitalize on it, but it was important to at least hold the ball instead of giving them even more chances.

El Shaarawy had some great shots (even a header… was it the hair?) and played well with both Bonaventura and Bonera on that side, despite having taken a knock. Bonera starting at left back ahead of the actual left back should tell you how far this squad has fallen in quality, and we saw that when Bonera was injured and was subbed off for the Colombian in the 34th. 

Nice to see you back, we've missed you

Menez did his usual drawing of the fouls and taking some shots, but to no avail. Cerci was invisible, and Pazzini was subbed on for him at the beginning of the second half. Pazzini did much better up front, and we had a lot more chances in the las 45 minutes. Montolivo was also subbed off for Niang in the 77th, with the birthday boy particularly disappointing for the first three quarters of the game and his replacement bringing some life to the squad. The subs worked, and it’s nice to see the squad be able to improve within a match. It’s that learning curve we were missing for so long. Bonaventura played well against his former club, Niang came on and was a force to be reckoned with, Abate seems like he’s getting back to his early season form.

But unfortunately, matches are rarely judged on improvements or strengths. The Denis goal conceded in the 33rd started in the middle of the field, when Menez attempted some fancy foot work and lost the ball, then a couple of passes later, he strolled between Mexes and Bonera, the latter who at least had to break a sweat to get there. But those are the kinds of mistakes players on a midtable team make, and just because they are paid better than other midtable players, don’t mistake that for quality. Just because they have the Milan crest on their jersey or shorts, don’t fool yourself into believing they have magical powers beyond their abilities.

Even with a boot to the head, Niang brings a spark like no one else

Another negative is that we lost Rami to suspension for yellow card accumulation, and won’t have him on Saturday away to Lazio. Also, I have yet to hear if Bonera’s injury is serious, but without De Sciglio, he seems to be our best option at left back. Inzaghi was sent off in the 80th for throwing a ball in frustration, it’s his first time with the senior team, but happened at least a couple of times with the youth teams, too. The frustration and pressure has clearly gotten even to him. Those are all justifiable reasons to be upset about this match.

Not that it isn’t justifiable to be angry to watch the quality we have now compared to three or five or eight years ago. Of course it is. It is normal to want different tactics or lineups or to otherwise disapprove of Inzaghi or various players or whatever. That is normal. What isn’t normal is this disconnect with reality that Milan fans are having. As if they didn’t endure the CEO debacle, the myriad transfers, the loss of morale and the way this team played under Allegri, the sacking of Seedorf despite good results, and so many more things. It’s not normal to look at this team, whose best players might not start at a Champions League level team, and expect them to play like that Champions League level team.

There is not another coach who could make this team something that is just simply isn't

We all want to return to greatness, but if we are expecting Inzaghi to make wine from water, then we need to turn social media’s harsh mirror around and take a good look. We are finally making slow but steady progress with the team we have after several years of insanity and turmoil. If we want big changes, the club is going to have to make big changes. Not in quantity, but in quality. And not just on the pitch, either. It is midseason. We are a midtable team. But we can choose individually and collectively whether or not that is worth a midlife crisis. Sadly, there is no quick fix for this Milan side, and nothing looking to change anytime soon.

This post inspired by the music of Ludo’s “You’re Awful, I Love You” album

Our next match is
Lazio vs. Milan
Saturday, January 24 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

Milan 0, Atalanta 1: Midseason, Midtable, Midlife Crisis Milan 0, Atalanta 1: Midseason, Midtable, Midlife Crisis Reviewed by Elaine on 12:44 PM Rating: 5
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