Milan started with Giampaolo’s original formation 4-3-1-2 and Inter started with Conti’s famous 3-5-2. Here is what went down.
In the first 20 minutes, Inter started with high confidence, unlike Milan, and high pressure. Milan’s passing was shaky in the backline and it was obvious which was encouraging for Inter to keep pressing. Milan could not find solutions to break through Inter’s midfield. Best example to give is Ricardo Rodriguez not managing to find an open player to pass for which forced him to pass back to Donnarumma who was under Lautaro’s pressure and almost conceded a goal. Milan’s only solution was long balls to Leao who caused troubles for Godin but this plan got exposed later.
Milan’s Wakeup Call
After 2 possible goal attempts in the first 20 minutes, Inter slowed down the rhythm and that was enough for Milan players to get their heads back in the game. With fast ball movement, the connection between Milan’s backline and midfield got easier. By accurate passing and good positioning, Milan’s 4-man midfield outplayed Inter’s trio and found enough space between Inter’s lines. At this point, Milan started to create chances to score which gave the impression that the game is getting more even rather than leaning towards Inter’s favor with Suso leading and creating. A noticable change happened in the 30th minute where Milan switched to 4-3-3. This change gave less density eliminating the outnumbering factor in the midfield. Biglia was very good controlling and connecting the lines. Unfortunately, defensively he was lost.
Milan started the second half just like how the first half ended. Unfortunately that did not last long. In the 3rd minute, Conti with an unnecessary tackle near the box causing a foul which ended with a goal after a deflection. It is sad to see Conti not improving defensively. At this point, Milan players started to lose concentration. Suso with the his quality and Biglia with experience were not enough to keep the team calm especially Conti and Leao who was marked by the experienced Godin.
High Activity + Low Chemistry = Bad Outcome
In the 64th minute, Giampaolo sensed the chaos and decided to put Paqueta in for Calhanoglu. This change refreshed the left side but it is still messy. Milan gained control but could not break Inter’s 5-man backline. Fast football needs good chemistry which is missing. To increase the activity further, Theo Hernandez comes in for Rodriguez. Milan holds the ball for 15 minutes and still cannot break the solid backline. A simple rule in football says “If you don’t score you will concede”. In the 78th minute Inter scores with a counterattack again from Conti’s side. A late substitution by Giampaolo, Rebic in for Leao. Leao was clearly lost for 20 minutes, he had low chemistry with both leftbacks and Paqueta and on top of that it was his first match. It was a very questionable decision to keep him in for 83 minutes. The game ended the same way. Inter’s solid backline and effective counterattacks could have ended the game with at least 3-0.
Milan, disregarding the first 20 minutes, held the ball because Inter allowed that to happen by clustering in the back and depending on counterattacks “the typical Conte style”. Facing the best backline in Serie A, Milan managed to make only one attempt on goal. On papers the numbers are bad. But in reality, the team was not hopeless. Leao beat Godin in more than one occasion to make good crosses, Theo made his way through the defense to hit the post, and more. The team certainly needs to be improved and here are some of the points that need to be considered:
1- Milan have at least one good player in every position except the right back. Calabria is okay but inconsistent while Conti is below average defensively.
2- Kessie needs to be reconsidered. His potential is clear but his position does not suit his abilities. He is 80% of the time not bad but also 80% of the time not great. Every coach Milan had believed in him but non of them made him shine. It is better to give a chance to another player in this position such as the new player Krunic.
3- Theo Hernandez needs to start more often, he has the abilities but he only needs to gain consistency in the line up. Another thing is that he has to be more careful in collisions. In one of the attempts he ran into Godin and he could have injured himself the same way he did in the pre-season.
4- Leao is great player but he is not as quality as Rebic. Rebic is another player that needs to start more often.
5- Changing formations frequently will not give strength every game. Just like other big teams, Milan needs identity. Clear formation, clear and strong tactics. Testing should have done in pre-season.