Another game, another disappointment. A loss in a game that was winnable. Mistakes and missed chances proving costly. Costing us three points, to be exact, and if you believe the rumors and the lack of words from management, then it may cost Mihajlovic his job, too. But why we dropped three points in this specific match could be any number of reasons, real or imagined. So today, I’m letting you choose your own review… kind of a multiple choice.
|Captain Neymar to the rescue... oh, wait|
Individual Player Errors
This is the most common thing for a fan to look at. Montolivo played like he thought he was Neymar, while taking wild shots, losing the ball and going to ground easy and staying down often. Abate’s overlooking of the teeny little Giaccherini cost us the game, but he did very well on many other occasions throughout the game. In the 56th, there was a series of at least four players – Bertolacci, Niang, Honda, and Bacca - trying to shoot that became a comedy of errors and obviously did not result in a goal. Cerci came on and despite a much improved haircut, showed that he still cannot pass to save his life, or at least save the game. Most egregious was the two on one situation where Mirante was stranded, but his inability to look up as he was dribbling and his selfish intents cost Milan easily the best chance of the game as Bacca watched in horror. Certainly errors are the most obvious reason for this match.
|Bacca was so unlucky not to score in this one|
The man with the whistle is an easy target. And certainly with a whopping eleven cards in this match, it warrants inspection. But Milan fans were most upset about Bacca’s goal in the 79th that was disallowed for offside. However in this they would be 100% wrong, as not only did Massa’s team get this call 100% correct, the whistle blew before Bacca took the shot, meaning there was actually never a goal to disallow. Additionally, Bacca was offside when the ball was passed, as if any part of the body that can play the ball is offside, then the player is offside. And honestly, I didn’t have a particular problem with Massa. He called a tight game, handed out a lot of cards, but there was very little to dispute about any of them. But hey, if you want to blame Massa, who am I to stop you?
|People want to blame him for playing out of position? He was still better than Cerci, whose position that is naturally|
The manager always shoulders the blame for a performance. And Mihajlovic was reportedly already being blamed ahead of this match, his position in question, despite winning our last league match and Coppa matches back to back. In his press conference before the match, he mentioned a proverb, that the lion does not fear the sheep, he eats him when asked about rumors of his job being on the line. But having made the call earlier in the season to sit our best lion (De Jong,) for a sheep (Montolivo,) that proverb has been twisted into a very, very different in reality for him. De Jong’s style of play may have been less “creative,” but the players played with more heart and determination. As it was, switching those playing styles, formations, and players to suit the sheep has cost us both progress and results this season. Mihajlovic believing in a jester like Cerci, who has had one good game all season long has also cost chances in individual matches as well as results. And yet he was told to play more Italians as starters, so it’s difficult to blame him completely for these choices. You can’t make lemonade with onions, and he has done a pretty good job with the onions he’s been given to work with. Battling three and a half years plus of mentality and squad turnover, I’m not convinced this is the time to let him go. But you know, this is your choice. Go for it. Because the club probably will. What’s four coaches’ salaries when you are already paying three? Who needs continuity when you are trying to rebuild?
|Management don't want to give him a vote of confidence, but burning through coaches hasn't worked so far|
That brings me to the club management choice in this blame game. People keep wondering why Milan can’t get back to Champions League despite having brought in 57 players of varying quality and also sent 71 packing in the last three and a half years. Why we can’t find our footing with transfers like Matri, who we are still paying for and also paid part of his salary to be loaned back to Juve last year so that he could score the winning goal for them in their magic number ten Coppa Italia title. Or why we can’t win on a deal like Cerci, where we took a player who had three good seasons and all kinds of failure and disciplinary problems on loan while paying Torres’ €4m wages for Cerci’s failures. You know that guy Torres, who had won league titles, a world cup, and individual awards? Yeah, that wasn’t even a good deal on paper.
Yeah, people are completely baffled when we sold our two best players back in 2012 and did not reinvest monetarily or with quality. Or how we finally threw away €90m last summer to get three players and then expect everything else to change at the club – all of the players on free transfers or cheap loan deals will surely win the Ballon d’Or this weekend. I mean even Mexes was nominated for a Puskas award initially, so I suppose I could see where management get their delusions. But with four coaches in two short years and all of those players in and out, maybe the problem isn’t with the players or the coach? Just remember that everything else at Milan has changed in the last three and a half years except at the top, so maybe that’s where the problem really lies. But it’s your choice. Go ahead and blame Cerci instead of the incompetent, delusional CEO who brought him into the club in the first place.
|He is only as good as he can be, but was never worth what management have to pay for him|
At the end of the day, all of those reasons factor in to this loss. And don’t forget that Donadoni brought a very well organized team who took full advantage of their opportunities as well as a determined little sprite who eluded his national teammate for the win. Maybe Donadoni will reap the reward of Mihajlovic being sacked? But the reality is that Milan played right about where they should be given all of the changes and factors in recent years. They played attacking football just like Papa Silvio wanted, they took 17 shots with four of those on goal. They managed 59% possession against a team that was very galvanized and determined. Yes, players made errors, but they are making fewer errors now per game than last year or even the beginning of the season. The team are playing more cohesively, now, too. There is a difference, even if it’s not as much as any of us would like or as much as Silvio thinks he should have gotten with his €150m mystery investment.
But is the goal of Champions League football really realistic? Or playing mostly Italians, as Mihajlovic mentioned recently? Perhaps the problem with the mentality at the club isn’t the players as much as it is the expectations of the club and fans. This performance was disappointing, but it was a realistic representation of where the team should be given where they’ve been. So feel free to complain and speculate about any of the above choices, it’s our right as fans. But in reality, there isn’t any one answer. And there is unlikely to be just one answer anytime soon, either.
This post inspired by the music of The Smiths’ “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”
Our next match is
Roma vs. Milan
Saturday, January 9 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)