Milan Season Preview: We Will Concede Goals

Milan returned to Milanello July 10th, and in the five weeks since, they have played a total of eight friendlies, including three in the U.S. We have also seen tons of changes in the transfer window, mainly due to contracts ending, but also because of a few players leaving. This has forced Pioli to change tactics. Between the personnel and tactics changes, Milan look to be scoring more goals this season. However, that also comes at a cost, as we have seen the defensive vulnerability caused by all of these changes as well. No one can predict how this season will turn out, but one thing is abundantly clear, at least for the beginning of the season: we will concede goals.

Two of our new midfielders, both who like to play more attacking roles

While the early matches seemed bleak, a penalty shootout win and playing five friendlies against teams well below Milan's level left Milan with a 50% win rate (and an ostentatious trophy) in their preseason. Milan conceded goals in all but two of their friendlies, one against a Serie D side, the other against a Tunisian team against what is basically Pioli's most likely starting 11 right now. Here are all of the friendlies Milan played and their final scores:

Milan 7, Lumezzane 0 

Real Madrid 3, Milan 2 

Juventus 2 (4), Milan 2 (3) 

Milan 0, Barcelona 1 

Monza 1 (5), Milan 1 (6) 

Milan 0, Trento 1  

Milan 4, Étoile Sportive du Sahel 0 

Milan 4, Novara 2 

Pulisic trying to make non-Americans flal in love with him.

American audiences were happy with seeing Pulisic in his natural habitat, while Reijnders made positive early impressions. In the final friendly, Loftus-Cheek bagged a hat trick, and other new players definitely showed promising signs. But aside from the three losses against European competition, these were not rivals. And even against a Tunisian side and two Serie C sides, Milan conceded goals.

Why the hemorrhaging? We saw that Milan were not even defensively solid the second half of last season, which had a lot to do with injuries and mentality, but also the loss of certain players, in particular Kessié. But now, there are new problems. With the sale of Tonali and Bennacer's injury leaving him out until December or January, the only continuing midfielders are Pobega and Krunić. And Krunić may still leave, according to rumors.

Pointing out individual errors does not help if you do not point them out for all the players.

This is a massive turnover that cannot be ignored. Fans are excited to see new players come in, but even the best players still need to adapt to a new country, language, team, and tactics. That cannot be forced, it takes time. Some players adapt more quickly than others, some players never settle in. But the changes also affect the entire team. So, for example, people blaming other continuing players, such as defenders, for example, for these goals conceded, might want to consider a wider perspective. Everyone needs to adapt to the new players and tactics.

Which leads me to the second half of the problem. The change in tactics. Pioli has chosen a 4-3-3 formation, but he is still calling for a very attacking style of play, especially with more attacking players available now. So, he is playing this system by having everyone play up higher, usually pushing at least one defender forward as well, which leaves the defense more exposed to counter attacks. 

Pioli once again has had to deal with what he has been given.

Losing stronger defensive players, bringing in new players, and playing new tactics just makes what was an already existing weakness that much weaker. And don't get me started on set pieces, either. Those also take time to practice over and over and develop understanding amongst teammates. 

Despite bringing in so many new players, the rock that was Kessié has still never been replaced, and now with both Tonali gone and Bennacer out, we have lost the strongest defensive midfielders we have over the past two seasons. Musah is supposed to be more of a defensive midfielder, but he is young, and even if he is amazing, he cannot replace all three of those players. If Krunić also leaves, this leaves our defense completely exposed, forcing a complete rebuild of the midfield. Not even the best defenders in the world are prepared for 90 minutes of this, especially when they are being asked to attack as well.

Krunić has been quite solid, but he cannot make up for 3 players out, either.

The bottom line is, no matter how excited you are or what your expectations are for this season, the probability of conceding goals in a lot of matches is incredibly high. Pioli may be gambling on the fact that with more quality in attack, we will score more goals than we concede, but that is always a very risky strategy. If we are prepared for the reality of our defensive frailty, it may be easier to accept when it happens. A new season always brings hope and anticipation, but if the preseason has taught us anything, we can also be sure this time that we will concede goals.

This post inspired by the music of Garbage's "Even Though Our Love is Doomed"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 1
Bologna vs. Milan
Monday, August 21, 2023 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

Milan Season Preview: We Will Concede Goals Milan Season Preview: We Will Concede Goals Reviewed by Elaine on 3:00 AM Rating: 5
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