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Napoli 4, Milan 2: Southern Discomfort

Montella said he was happy with the performance, but he might be the only one. I mean it’s Napoli, I don’t think we’ve won there in like five years or something, but the performance had very few highlights. There were twelve cards, with a coach and two players sent off, and three stitches in Albiol’s face. I’m not even sure if Sarri should be happy with his team’s performance, despite the four goals. It was all a bit of Southern discomfort.

A great goal deserves a one game vacation. Am I right?

Bright spots for Milan: Niang and Suso once again. If you didn’t see their goals, stop reading this now and go and find them. See? They were fantastic. And even better that they were reactionary after the half to Milik’s brace, it showed a lot of heart. For like five minutes. (Niang will also feature for the not-so-bright-spots, too.) Also nice was that Gomez played 90 minutes and Sosa got about ten minutes, Lapadula got about five minutes, too. While none of their performances overwhelmed me, I also don’t recall being underwhelmed. Whether or not any of them are an upgrade to what we already have remains to be seen. Oh, and one last bright spot: Donnarumma. Despite conceding four goals, it would have been much worse, as Napoli took 17 shots and had eight on target. More super saves from the kid. Even if Mertens, fully 10 inches shorter than Gigio, will not have such fond memories of him.

Everything else: We conceded four goals. Four. Two from set pieces, of course, as that is still our specialty. Montella says we were good for the first 20 minutes, but I think that’s generous. And I couldn’t string together ten full minutes in the second half that I felt we did well, either, including the five minutes where we scored our two goals. Last week, he said we played well for 70 minutes. So that’s a pretty drastic step backwards. But hey, at least he finally used the "m-word" in his press conference (mentality.) It's almost two months late, but better addressed late than never. Also the 41% possession. Will we ever dominate possession, ideally taking advantage of said possession? I am less convinced with every match. Also Montolivo.

When the celebration is more understated than the goal

Speaking of Montolivo, Montella said after the match, “I will not accept continual protests against the referee.” This Montolivo as captain thing could work out for us after all, if Montella has the balls to bench him or suspend him from that eternally incessant whining to the referees. I mean Sarri got sent off for his complaining about a single call, why was Montolivo allowed to play? Does Montolivo go tattling to the League and the refs, too?

Much of that whining came when Kucka was sent off for a double yellow in the 75th. Apparently, the second yellow was for cursing at the ref. Good thing that ref didn’t hear what all of us at home were saying about our paper captain. Then Niang, already on a yellow from a dumb foul in the 53rd, tried to block Reina’s goal kick in the 87th, leaving Milan on nine men. 

90 minutes for Gomez. Thanks, Paletta!

So @WhoScored quickly put out a stat that Milan got two red cards in 12 minutes vs. Napoli, whereas they’d only had three red cards all of last season. (And those two cards plus Paletta’s card last week mean that in just two games we’ve equaled last season’s tally.) That made me think: these are mostly the same players as last year. So what’s different? The coaches? Mihajlovic was very strict, and while the players say they are more joyful this season, three red cards in two games never happened with all of those rules in place. Montella, on the other hand, allows them to eat whatever they want and the players say the trainings are easier and more fun. Is that more relaxed atmosphere creating the lapses of focus/discipline that left us on nine men? With two starters suspended for our next match? Because I’m not as worried about the players smiling in training as I am winning matches. And it’s much harder to win on nine men.

The fact that there were five yellow cards per team plus two red cards and Sarri sent off doesn’t say as much about Valeri as you might think. All of them were bookable offenses. When the game is reviewed by all of the refs, he can justify them all. Like Romagnoli’s in the 90th+4, when he was so excited about trying a goal line clearance, he thought he was a goalkeeper and handled the ball. (And the goal stood anyway.) What the cards do say about Valeri is that he didn’t have control of the game. But Montella’s sarcasm afterwards about Niang’s sending off sends a dangerous message to the same players he didn’t want whining constantly to the refs: “What we lack is the kind of sneaky tactics that for example Pepe Reina had in seeking out Niang. We need to be a bit sneakier and to grow in that sense.” Between he and Sarri as examples, it’s hard to imagine a world where twelve cards wouldn’t have been given out in a single match.

With Sosa on, we had two 31 year-old midfielders.

However, at least he had a sense of humor about Milan’s mercato “We knew our finances would be limited. I saw the headlines this morning (Inter spending €70m on 2 players) and thought maybe our Chinese owners sent the check to the wrong address…” Then more seriously,  “The market is still open, so we’ll see what happens over the next few days. I do have a little sadness based on what could’ve been and didn’t happen.” Meanwhile, ahead of the match, Galliani said our mercato was over, unless someone left. But getting players to leave is not his forte, so I am certainly not holding my breath.

The good news is that there were no new injuries that I know of. And the guys have to sit through the entire international break with this match in their heads. Well, that could be good or bad. But hey, we saw two very pretty goals. We had three new players make their Serie A debuts. We have the most incredible keeper in the world (even if he is playing behind one of the worst midfields in the world and a leaky ship of a defense.)  Everything else… well, it’s still early in the season, and we were away to Napoli. And the players learned that they may not whine to the ref constantly (only a little?) but making sarcastic public statements about disciplined events is fine. Also when you only show up for a questionable twenty minutes in a 90 minute match, you’re likely to receive some Southern discomfort.

This post inspired by the music of The Sex Pistols