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Hostile Friendlies


After Sir Pep Guardiola got in a yelling match with De Jong at halftime on Tuesday about the voracity of De Jong’s tackle on Kimmich, Mihajlovic declared “Football isn’t dancing and fouls are part of the sport. This is also why games like this cannot be called friendlies.” After the performances in China at the ICC Tournament, I think many fans were feeling very friendly toward Milan, but the results and performances at the Audi Cup left many feeling quite hostile instead. But all of the matches were friendlies, and Mihajlovic coached them as such. While it would have been nicer to see some consistently good performances, it is still very early to expect that. And Mihajlovic’ lineups were intentionally inconsistent, too. So instead, considering our opponents, our squad, and some probable objectives, we are left to glean from these matches the hostile and the friendly.

The starting 11 that made Real Madrid afraid

Hostile
• Niang broke his foot. Not only will he likely be wearing a boot for six weeks, it could easily take him four weeks to rehab from that. That’s ten weeks. The guy can’t catch a break. And he was our best performing striker, apart from Mexes, the only one to actually score a goal in China or Germany. Also, if rumors are true, expect a classic Galliani panic buy to replace Niang, maybe a 40 year old defender-turned striker playing in Serie B that we give €11m over four years to a rival team for.

• Zapata is injured, as of this writing, we don’t know just how injured or for how long he’ll be out. But since Galliani thinks that we have four other excellent center backs, I’m sure that whatever it is, it won’t be a problem. I’m sure one of the other center backs can score an own goal or two (looking at you, Zaccardo.) And seriously, the second I read Galliani’s comments the other day about how amazing it was that we only had one player injured after training so hard, I knew he had opened up Pandora’s injury box. Don’t tempt fate, oh no-longer-silent-one.

One is a striker, the other one scored the lone goal in four friendlies. Be very afraid.

• Montolivo is also injured, potentially some kind of neck injury, after taking a knee to the back of the head/neck from Bentaleb. Other than the fact that I never wish harm on anyone, I’m still trying to figure out why this is bad for us. More vacation photos for us, more De Jong for us. It’s a win-win. Montolivo has some people (looking at you, Mihajlovic) fooled into thinking he’s a good player, but that he’s just coming back from injury. But I’m onto him. He gets injured, gets to take more vacations with his lovely wife, comes back, then gets injured again. Mihajlovic thinks his performances are poor because he’s not 100% and is coming back from injury. But I’ve got news for you, Mihajlovic: those performances are Montolivo’s 100%. It doesn’t get any better, you should realize this and take the armband back and send him packing. Oh, and get well soon, Montolivo.

• Mexes screaming at the ref and getting right in his face yesterday showed two things: one, that the ref literally had no cards to give (they must have used them all in those fantastic opening ceremonies.) And two, some things never change. Not even attitudes.

• Our strike force is lacking in something… oh yeah, goals. But to be fair, Bacca and Adriano aren’t 100% fit yet, and it takes time to build such partnerships. While it is obvious that Mihajlovic is wanting to build that specific partnership, with Niang’s injury that leaves us with basically Matri and Cerci otherwise. The only time we should see them together is when they are at the spa gossiping and telling themselves how wonderful they are as even the spa staff laugh at the notion.

A missed penalty, but a chance to demonstrate leadership, too

Friendly
• While Mihajlovic’ wise rotation of players to give people time and test our partnerships showed some good things this past two weeks (like the Antonelli-Suso-Niang connection,) it also left us exposed at many positions, and allowed all the world to see where we do and don’t have any depth at. Why is this good? I have to believe that some of his choices were to intentionally showcase certain weaknesses, given the looming date of the transfer deadline. But it may not have been obvious enough for Sir Talks A Lot, we’ll see.

• Calabria and Ely.

• It would be ideal to win every match, indeed, winning is the reason the game is played, even in a friendly. But I liked that Mihajlovic used these matches to try lots of things, even though he undoubtedly knew that starting Matri & Cerci together, for example could cost us a result. There are still two 45 min. non-FIFA sanctioned friendly matches left to further test different lineups and or to try to solidify certain partnerships. And I’m fine with that if it puts us further on the right path for our season, which I do believe is the objective. Well, except the 45 min. vs. Inter. We’d better field our finest in that one.

The wisdom of a world class 30 year old center back in a 21 year-old body

• The first 45 min. of both Inter and especially Real Madrid in China. Never forget. We may not play like that every time, and as previously mentioned, it’s been necessary to change the lineups and test different partnerships. But for 45 min. in each match, there was football. Real football. With tactics and stuff. And I wholeheartedly believe that we will see that again. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but then also more often than not. Also, Donnarumma. Is it any coincidence that he is a young keeper who is also called Gianluigi? (okay, that was heresy, but still…)

• Mihajlovic was forthright and honest and said all of the right things in victory and defeat. He publicly defended his lionheart De Jong against the too effeminate-and-whiny-for-me Guardiola. As for Milan, he called it like it is. He said "Matches can be lost, but you have to play with character." He didn’t make lame excuses for poor performances, and he was spot on with his assessment of the good ones. Not overly congratulatory, but just right. He was cool under pressure, even if his poor shirts were soaked from the humidity. He dressed to impress when the other coaches dressed for golf at the country club. He has a certain steel that makes me feel like he will survive the pressure of trying to resurrect a big club, and an approachable human side that makes me believe he lies awake at night and sees the errors over an over again and won’t sleep until they’re fixed. I am putting my faith firmly in him. If he can’t get us out of this mess, then no one can.

All the right stuff

The team is a work in progress, as it should be. While it was easy to point out the negatives after the Audi Cup performances, it’s also easy to forget the strengths of our opponents, especially in contrast to our many weaknesses and recent history. I know of no other team that has endured anything like we have the past three years, so we need to remember that we are still only just beginning to rebuild. It takes a bit more of scrutiny to find the positives, but they were there. There is absolutely progress in this squad, and I cannot believe for a second that all Milan fans have so soon forgotten the horrors we were privy to, especially in the past two years. While we all want to forget and put that behind us, let’s try to remember just enough to appreciate the progress we’ve made. And maybe not be so hostile, after all, these are just friendlies.


This post inspired by the music of The Cure’s “To Wish Impossible Things”


Our next match is
The Trofeo TIM Tournament
AC Milan vs. Sassuolo vs. Inter
Wednesday, August 12
20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT): AC Milan vs. Inter
21:45 CEST (3:45pm EDT): Sassuolo vs. Loser of the 1st game
22:45CEST (4:45pm EDT): Sassuolo vs. Winner of the 1st game