Following the 2-2 draw against Napoli, the clash against Udinese appeared to be a less intimidating hurdle. However, it ended up being the complete opposite, with AC Milan’s vulnerabilities exposed in the 1-0 defeat.
Milan continued in the same toothless manner throughout the game and it wasn’t until the 90th minute that they actually put some pressure on their opponent. Still, it was too little too late for Pioli’s men who registered another loss and another dreadful performance.
Below are five things we learned from the disappointing defeat against Udine.
1. Injury crisis doesn’t help, but not the main issue
Hernandez, Chukwueze, and Pulisic were all injured and that limited the attacking capacity of the team. Furthermore, Loftus-Cheek wasn’t fully fit either, although he did get some minutes towards the end (which was nice to see ahead of the PSG game).
Having said all of this, there was enough quality on the pitch to beat a struggling side like Udinese, but the performance was just disastrous. The players looked like they couldn’t be bothered throughout the first 90 minutes and only showed some desire to win in stoppage time.
To an extent, the injuries of both Pulisic and Chukwueze affected Leao poorly since the opposition put two or three players on him, knowing that there was no threat on the right flank. Still, the Portuguese winger managed to beat his man on several occasions but couldn’t get the end product, be that a pass or a shot, and was often greedy instead of passing the ball.
The loss aside, it’s more worrying that Milan created zero big chances for 90 minutes and this just proves the lack of quality in the substitutes, as well bigger issue related to motivation, tactics, and Pioli himself.
2. Hole in the middle
The midfield, in truth, was just dreadful. Despite a couple of tackles at the back, Krunic was a liability for his team as he couldn’t make a successful pass unless it was a backward one. The Bosnian continues to highlight what the management got wrong in the summer, failing to bring in quality for the No.6 role.
Reijnders was also disappointing as he struggled, once again, with his finishing at a time when Milan could’ve really done with a goal. His overall performance was also poor excluding a few passes and it’s worrying that he started the season so well, but now is struggling quite a bit.
Taking the whole department into consideration with Musah, Loftus-Cheek, Adli, and Pobega, this Milan midfield is just not good enough. Two seasons ago Pioli had Kessie, Tonali and Bennacer. Although depth was an issue the overall quality of the starting midfield was much better than now, which is another issue the management didn’t really address.
3. Questionable decisions
The loss and the poor display aside, Pioli also managed to make some questionable selections with his starting XI. Krunic looked dreadful and whilst Adli was at fault for the penalty, he played much much better, moving the ball forward with some nice long balls and showcasing his vision as well as passing abilities.
Jovic was also another disappointment on the night and one might ask why Okafor didn’t start the game, given that he can bring some pace and technique to the table. Jovic and Giroud, after all, are quite similar in terms of playing style.
Putting Musah on the right was also a bit questionable, with Romero on the bench. It didn’t really work out with the American looking rather flat, struggling to create anything dangerous on that right flank. Romero, as said, was sitting on the bench and ended up having some good moments during his limited time on the pitch.
4. Leao’s struggles continue
The Portuguese international failed to lead his team yet again as he just couldn’t deliver in the final third. He had some difficulties on the left and Udinese did double or triple down on him on several occasions, which did slow down the winger.
But when he did beat his man it didn’t lead to anything more than sloppy passes and selfish shots. In short, a disappointing display from Leao who is struggling on all fronts at the moment. He needs to improve in the final third if he wants to regain his past form and become one of the best in the world.
5. Only positives are at the back
Despite losing the game, the defence was probably the best-performing department on the pitch for Milan, excluding perhaps Florenzi who was poor defensively but did have some good moments going forward, and to be fair to him he played out of position.
Maignan couldn’t really do much on the goal as it was a penalty, but he did make a save or two to keep Milan in the game. Tomori and Thiaw did their job and even tried helping in the attack, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
Calabria was probably the only Milan player really trying to make things happen for his side, as we saw his desire and passion a lot. The Italian had some good moments going forward and was solid at the back, building on his good performance against Napoli.