Milan 0, Udinese 1: The Nightmare Continues

It was very clear from his prematch press conference that Pioli had hit the panic button and that this was going to be one of those matches. After weeks of hypercriticism from the toxic Italian media, and the Pioli Out hashtag surfacing while Pioli had this team comfortably in first place, as well as an endless stream of injuries, a lot of discipline issues, and a string of poor results, this 1-0 loss to 17th place Udinese was certainly not a shock. Another poor performance, another three points dropped, and another injury. The nightmare continues.

They dedicated this match to Kalulu, then played as if they were anesthetized.

Whether people like to admit it or not, the poor form and worse morale is a growing problem that stems from unresolved issues going back to June, if not further. With this management treating the squad like a makeover from a department store and saying goodbye to 17 players this summer, but bringing in shiny, ready-to-play new players, a lot of people thought this team was stronger than last year's team. But when you remove the foundation of a home, as well as so many supporting beams, shoving some new beams in and slapping some paint on it does not make it stronger. 

Reijnders has been a great addition, but the team has failed to succeed mentally with so many new players.

That is essentially what happened this summer when Cardinale removed the heart and the soul of this team, then spent €134 million trying to "strengthen" the squad. His "Moneyball" data showed that the players he bought would improve the squad. But data doesn't measure things like unity, camaraderie, morale, or even injuries. Also, Moneyball was a movie about baseball, and the actual data about whether the Moneyball-style data is effective in football is still inconclusive.

What is conclusive is that this was Milan's worst performance of the season. While a number of Milan sites met together this week pledging to no longer convey news that could "discourage the fans," challenging the mainstream papers who consistently misrepresent facts and report by making assumptions and false claims, the fans at San Siro booed the team at the end of the match. So I can only imagine what the news reports will look like. Even from those sites.

Florenzi was a warrior in this one, he's just rarely able to win the match.

Another discouraging factor was the referee, Juan Luca Sacchi, who was seemingly allergic to handing out cards or something. That made for an even more physical match, and Udinese players had no problems with that. Amongst the nine players out injured were three key starters for Milan that have been essential to their style of play: Pulisic, Theo Hernández, and Kalulu.

With the injuries and pressure from the media, Pioli changed formations to the 4-4-2 system. I do not know if his intentions were to demonstrate to Cardinale how Jović has had absolutely no impact at the club by using a different set of tactics, but that was certainly the result. Furlani and Moncada seemed to decide in the final 48 hours of the transfer window that they should find a backup for Giroud, and unfortunately for both Milan and Jović, their carelessness has not worked out for either party. Whatever fight Milan had in them at the beginning of the match was quickly worn down by a fearless Udinese and a thoughtless referee.

Jović has not been a good fit for this team, but chosen in the final hour, who would be?

Milan were fallible, with errors like Florenzi's allowing Pereyra an easy shot in the ninth minute that he gratefully sent over. That gave them hope. And Krunić earned Milan's only yellow for a foul on Success in the 18th. Milan were not without chances, but most were from outside the area, like Calabria's missile in the 25th or Musah's shot in the 24th. Leão also had a chance or two, but always had at least two defenders on him, so was always quickly shut down. Florenzi had a golden opportunity in the 38th when he received the ball right in front of goal and then turned, but slipped and fell.

Pioli tried making changes at the half, one forced by a new injury to Krunić, who was replaced by Adli, the other forced by an injury to our sensibilities in the purchase of Jović, who was replaced with a far more dynamic Okafor. But neither brought enough to change the defeat in the hearts of the Milan team, who played like they were drowning in their own sorrows. Even with 72% possession and 14 shots, they could not score. Granted, Silvestri made five amazing saves, but this Milan side should have absolutely crushed Udinese, and even they knew it somewhere deep inside.

Okafor brought more dynamic play, but still was unable to be a difference-maker.

On the outside, they continued to assault the Milan players and take advantage of any opportunity they got. That included a somewhat questionable penalty awarded to them by Sacchi, which was also confirmed by VAR. Pereyra converted the penalty to make it 1-0 Udinese. And that was all they needed. Sure, they continued to fire the ball well over our net. Well, and there was that moment in the 70th where Success had a point blank header that Maignan saved.

Loftus-Cheek's return, subbing on for Reijnders in the 67th, did not even make enough of an impact to help Milan. And I think Pioli bringing on Luka Romero for Musah in the 81st was just an act of desperation, just to say that he had done something. Finally, in the 90th minute, it was as if a switch was flipped, and Milan finally started making shots in the box that mattered. A header from Giroud, a couple of shots from Florenzi, another from Giroud and a shot from Leão, all saved by Silvestri or sent just wide, all in stoppage time.

Not even the return of the giant Loftus-Cheek could lift the team to victory.

The final whistle blew, and Milan's nightmare just became more vivid. Pioli and most of the team headed straight for the dressing room. Nine players were accountable to the fans, who booed them with the same intensity that they have supported them all season. Those players were Calabria, Maignan, Florenzi, Thiaw, Adli, Loftus-Cheek, Luka Romero, Pobega, and Primavera defender Simić. These are the players who were able to stand before the fans and accept their wrath after such a horrible performance.

Funny how quickly Furlani and Moncada ran to the Curva Sud to celebrate with the fans (but not the team) when Milan won vs. Genoa as if they had won the match themselves, but were nowhere to be seen when the players they bought were being held accountable by those same fans. And the irony of the new signage on the Milan tunnel "It's not about who has more talent, it's about who's hungrier," could not have been more appropriate in this match. Udinese were not as talented but were definitely hungrier.

Pioli has been criticized for not playing Adli enough, but Adli's naïveté has cost us more than once.

Pioli was humble and accepted full responsibility for not preparing the team well for this match. He agreed that the boos from the fans were warranted. It seemed that it was not just the team that were emotionally defeated. A loss against a side that had not won a match all season, and had also played 120 minutes on Wednesday, this was not a defeat on the pitch, it was a defeat in the minds, probably before the whistle was ever blown at kickoff. I wonder what Cardinale's Moneyball data has to say about a manager who is completely out of hope? Especially when there is a crucial Champions League match to play on Tuesday. I doubt that I am alone when I say that I am not sure that I have the stomach to watch that one. 

This is already Krunić's second injury of the season, Milan's 21st injury, and it is only the beginning of November. But the injury to Milan's morale may be irreparable. Certainly, it is clear the fan base has lost patience. Since before he was even hired, fans disapproved of Pioli. Every poor performance brings out the psychotic need for them to blame him for everything wrong at the club. But since Cardinale sacked Maldini and Massara, they can no longer blame them (although some still try.) 

Another one bites the dust. (Again.)

And the fans are far too superficial to place blame on a man who spent €134 million on their team this summer. Because why would they blame the man who caused the problem if he is buying their affection and gaslighting them? Cardinale is desperately trying to make amends by reportedly trying to bring Ibrahimović back, but he is unwilling to give the former Milan striker the power to do anything to fix the actual problems.

Yet of each of the seasons in which Milan have struggled with injuries or poor results at this point in the year, there was a sense of confidence that the problems could be overcome (Yes, even with Pioli.) There was a tenacity behind the pain, a sense of purpose and a fighting spirit, a spirit of unity. In years prior, the entire team would have stood before the Curva after a loss like this. And with them would have been one Paolo Maldini. But without him, only nine players had the strength to stand there. The unity is gone, the belief is gone, and the fight seems to be gone. Because Cardinale has extinguished all of those things. Clearly, it is only a matter of time before Pioli and who knows who else will be gone. As long as Cardinale stays, Milan's nightmare will continue.

This post inspired by the music of Garbage's "Not My Idea"

Our next Primavera match is 
UEFA Youth League Group Stage
AC Milan Primavera vs. Paris Saint-Germain FC U19
Tuesday, November 7, 2023 • 14:00 CET (8am EST)
Match available to stream on, free account required

Our next match is 
Champions League Group Stage
AC Milan vs. Paris Saint-Germain FC 
Tuesday, November 7, 2023 • 21:00 CET (3pm EST)
In the U.S., you can use a VPN to access a Champions League provider elsewhere*
(*one that does not also sponsor Inter's kits)

Milan 0, Udinese 1: The Nightmare Continues Milan 0, Udinese 1: The Nightmare Continues Reviewed by Elaine on 11:59 PM Rating: 5
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