If you were at a carnival in the 19th century, you might play a game hoping to win a prize. If you failed to win the prize, you would be told “Close, but no cigar,” as cigars were widely used as prizes at that time. That is what I might say to Milan today, “Close, but no cigar,” having drawn to 14th place Udinese. Which actually is probably just as well, since cigars have been proven to be very unhealthy. But also unhealthy would be any dip in form for this team, as the fans have already gone all Juventus on them, and don’t need an excuse to scatter like cockroaches. But was the game all bad? I am not so sure. Despite not getting a third consecutive win, there are things to be learned from this game.
|Some things to shout about|
1) We have zero depth on our bench. We all knew that Bonaventura missing this match could prove costly, and we were right. We have absolutely no one who can do half of what he does, let alone someone that has half of the grinta. Well, that’s not entirely true. Kuco “the tank” has a whole lot of grinta, and I assume that’s a big part of why Mihajlovic put him on the left in Bonaventura’s place. But that did not go as planned at all, unfortunately.
2) Any change in personnel and we hemorrhage goals. It doesn’t help that we had an ex-Milan player ready to hurt us in Armero, but this goal was meant to be. Donnarumma had an amazing double save, but the third time was a charm. 1-0 Udinese. Of course the first shot was from a failed Montolivo clearance, but had we been playing our attacking football, Udinese never would have had possession so close to goal. It’s like our system is dependent upon every card being just so, and if you pull one card (player) out, it all collapses. That is not a system, it is a gimmick, and we need it to become a system sooner rather than later.
3) Whiteboards will be broken. Whomever thinks football coaches have no power over their players during a game has not watched Milan this year. Mihajlovic saw the problem and at the half subbed Kucka off for Balotelli, who was not perfect, but was a better option. And whatever he said in that dressing room was also powerful, as evidenced by Niang’s goal in the 48th, assisted by Bacca. 1-1. I would like to be a fly on the wall sometime when he gives those speeches. Just not within his reach, he’d certainly smash me.
4) Milan is no longer scared. Despite not managing to get the result (and heaven knows we tried, with 22 shots, but only five on goal,) Milan fought back. It started at the half and built up until by the end of the game, they were playing some pretty good football. So we went from playing poorly to playing better to playing well, instead of caving any time we conceded first. This is actually monumental for this squad, and should not be overlooked. It won’t show up on the stats sheet, you may not even hear anyone talking about it. But the fight they put up, the improvement, the discipline… these are all things that have been missing this past few years.
5) At least we're not Inter. After not having conceded a single header all season long, then Inter conceded Alex's infamous header at the Derby, and now today conceded three more in a single game from 20th place Verona. See? It could be worse.
|I wonder if there were any fans left to thank...|
This wasn’t the match we as fans asked for, and it obviously wasn’t the win we wanted, either. But not only was it at least a point, we learned a lot about how far our team has come in this frustrating draw. And perhaps we’ll learn more about the fans, too. So we don’t get the coveted third win in a row, but we face Genoa next week having learned a lot about ourselves. And maybe with another helping of humility, as well as an increased hunger to win. Unfortunately, both Niang and Kucka are being examined due to possible injuries, and we don’t know if we’ll have Bonaventura back, either. So if we are to conquer i Rossoblu, we may have to learn this week how to play our system with interchangeable players, which may be impossible. But if we don’t learn from this, then once again, we’ll be close, but no cigar.
This post inspired by the music of The Last Shadow Puppets’ “Bad Habits”
Our next match is
Milan vs. Genoa
Sunday, February 14 • 12:30 CET (6:30am EST)