Wreckage or the ashes of a phoenix ready to rise…


Christopher Penn’s column

The past couple of months has seen AC Milan’s fall from grace well documented in the media, as Stefan Pioli took the helm of the Rossoneri after Marco Giampaolo was sacked after 7 matches.

A trip to Stadio San Siro – booked before the Derby, gave me the chance for me to observe the wreckage first hand – or was I maybe going to see the ashes of phoenix ready to rise again.

SPAL and Lazio both proved tough yet different tests for this stuttering Milan side.

Suso was Thursday night’s hero; but in his absence on Sunday night there was no moment if elation as we succumbed to a 2-1 defeat.

Bennacer the magic man

The stand out individual, to many fan’s delight, was Ismail Bennacer. There was a feeling that we may regret not to outright purchase Tiemoue Bakayoko in the summer.

In came Bennacer from Empoli for 16 million euros, on the back of winning Player of the Tournament at the African Cup of Nations. The Algerian is small built but shows similar characteristics to Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira – who was Milan’s number one transfer target in the summer. He is agile and showing promise at breaking up play. His composure on the ball is erratic, however at the age of 21 he has time to grow and be an important player for Milan.

If we are able to bring someone like Rakitic to the club, I can see Bennacer get even better.

Signing of the summer – easy Theo Hernandez

It is only November and Theo Hernandez has already propelled himself to fan favourite. The left back boasts pace, vision and a knack of scoring – offering much more danger on the attack than the current left winger – Calhanoglu.

There is a real optimism around the stadium when Theo is sprinting down the wing, or getting himself into a good position on the overlap. It is safe to say that Ricardo Rodriguez’s time at Milan may be at an end as I can’t see him breaking back into the first team with Theo tearing it up.

Giampaolo may have been right about Paqueta

I will get lynched for this comment. At the time, I too was flabbergasted at Marco Giampaolo’s claim that Lucas Paqueta was too Brazilian.

However, he has been extremely wasteful over the past two games through trying to be cutesy. Rightly so, he has drawn comparisons to legend Kaka, because the kid’s talent is undeniable. But there is a time and a place for complicated football.

The great thing about Kaka was that, yes he had flair, but he also didn’t mess about when it came to the basics. Paqueta’s one on one miss against Lazio, right in front of me, had be fuming when he tried to tuck it in the corner. This was further compounded when Lazio’s Joaquin Correa scored from a similar position by putting his foot through the ball – football basics 101.

Paqueta will get better though and he is an extremely important part of our puzzle if we are to regain Champions League football any time soon.

Is it too late for Castillejo and Calhanoglu?

Samu Castillejo reborn! He looked sharp on the right wing against SPAL and until injury forced him off versus Lazio.

He was very unlucky to hit the bar in the SPAL match and his deliveries were very clever from his trusted left foot.

The same has been said about Hakan Calhanoglu in recent weeks and again he looked good once reverted back into central midfield.

But the need to clear deadwood out of the team over the next two transfer windows is apparent, it might be too late to save both – who were rumoured to have been bid for in the summer, from leaving Milan.

Stronger without Kessie

I’m not a Kessie fan, let’s get that out of the way. I feel in two and a half seasons we have seen very little progression from the Ivorian.

Thursday vs SPAL he was very clumsy and his passing was too safe. Numerous times, he would pass to Duarte at right back rather than a quick switch to Castillejo ready to break down the wing.

Rade Krunic started ahead of him on Sunday and I was pleasantly surprised of his attacking movement. But I still standby that this position needs to be filled in January by an experienced midfielder.

Leao – the left winger to save Piatek

Lecce reminded us that striker Krzysztof Piatek is a goal poacher, however against SPAL and Lazio I felt he was left isolated and had his back to goal too much.

Against Lazio, Pioli threw on Leao in the second half who added considerable more attacking threat thus freeing up Piatek’s movement. Leao looked imposing running in off the left wing.

In England there is a lot of debate around Marcus Rashford, his strongest position and how playing at number 9 kills his strengths. I see the same in Leao. His pace and quick feet means he needs time and space on the ball allowing him to run at defenses and cause havoc. This in turn enables Krzysztof Piatek to find pockets of spaces for through ball opportunities or tuck away any rebounds – something we saw glimpses of against Lazio.

As much as I want to bang the doldrum of doom. I am still proud to support this club, and fly out to Milan to soak up the iconic San Siro. Realistically I don’t expect anything from this season – however to see some sort of progression would give me hope that one day we can recover from this almighty fall.

Forza Milan.