Following a frustrating start to the season, Milan got back to winning ways as they managed to catch three factors in Sardegna against Cagliari. The goals arrived in the second half courtesy of Rafael Leao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic since the Swede scored in his first start in his second spell with the Rossoneri, continuing his instant impact. Coach Stefano Pioli shifted things around now with a brand new creation: a 4-4-2 which enabled both Leao and Zlatan to play up together and eventually found Piatek and Suso dropped from the starting XI. Overall, it was a game for Milan as they looked more inventive compared to the match against Sampdoria, with Ibrahimovic having a goal disallowed and hitting the woodwork. Bennacer and Kessie looked synchronised at the middle as the Ivorian produced a performance that was great this time around, so that there were plenty of positives to take. Here are five things we’ve heard…
1. Problem solved?
A few people were sceptical about the recurrence of Ibrahimovic due to his age and the fact that he played in the MLS for 2 seasons after a severe accident, but the 38-year-old is dead set on proving his doubters wrong. Maldini and Boban looked for someone who could make a difference and possess a role in the locker room and they appear to have found precisely that. The Swede appeared rusty against Sampdoria in the match, but given the fact he had no match time after his spell in America and had trained with his teammates, it was just natural. This time around however, the former PSG striker began from the first whistle and played with the 96 minutes, appearing energised until the very end. His presence is providing an incredible boost for the team, but not just that; we saw him winning aerial duels dropping deep and blending really well with Rafael Leao. Surely the youngster will take notes further and Zlatan develop and — as for the Swede — it’s great to have him back.
2. Leao is the future
Than having one of their strikers within the past two decades because his 22, what more can a striker desire. Since Zlatan’s advent, the set appeared to have clicked, with their chemistry show in both games already. Reports in Sweden have promised that Ibra is nearest to Leao off the field and has taken him under his wing. It is even claimed that the pair have dinner together frequently, and also the Portuguese starlet recently clarified his strike partner as a ‘big brother’. The youngster provides much-desired speed to Milan and his ability will certainly develop with game time and assurance. The Portuguese made a lot of good runs off the ball and created a few opportunities because of his partner as well. With the rumours surrounding Piatek and reports that Leao is fundamental for this project, the stage is set for the 20-year-old to gain experience alongside a world-class strike partner and measure up to be the big factor in this Milan team.
3. Midfield duo impressed
With the change in formation we saw Bennacer and Kessie partnered in the middle of the field. Though his own performances have constantly been improving, the Ivorian was criticised in recent weeks, but he lacked lots of these critics with his performance on Saturday. Bennacer climbed into the match and made dribbles in the second half that meant Kessie needed to return and cover him, which ended up providing quite a wonderful balance as the latter has regularly been unsuccessful in attacking situations. Moreover, the Atalanta guy was not as sloppy in possession, which enabled him to create a couple nice runs that were forward as well — but crucially and recovered a lot of balls. Hopefully that Krunic, Paqueta and Bonaventura are all fighting for the starting spot will even further motivate Kessie to improve, but let us not get overly excited as we have seen excellent screens from him in the past, but then he failed to actually keep and build on the positive performances.
4. On the Ideal path
After some time Pioli chose to drop Suso in the starting eleven and also the arrival of Zlatan he was able to do exactly the very same with Piatek — two changes many fans have been crying out for. Together with the system shifted to a 4-4-2 we watched the Diavolo play a great deal better than the past games. The defence looked focused and did not let opportunities to be created by Cagliari, amassing a third clean sheet. The impact was pretty clear: the addition of the Leao and Castillejo allowed the group to be direct when attacking, as the two of these weren’t afraid to take players on and demonstrate more dash. In the middle the partnership between Bennacer and Kessie worked so we offer credit to Pioli for recognising the weaknesses and strengths of the present group and behaving accordingly to provide the team the best chance of winning.
5. Here to stay
Samu Castillejo got to begin from the first minute in place of compatriot Suso, and that he did not disappoint. He received an assist for the first goal in a display with only general confidence, incisive moves and dribbles coupled with creativity. He offered a lot from possession in terms of pressing, helping Calabria at the trunk. Last time we saw him given there was an opportunity against Lazio although he suffered an injury, but was the man of the match up until he left the field. It might be a good time to give him some playing time and determine what he can do if playing of a regular basis and with rumours surrounding Suso’s exit, the 24-year-old may be a simple solution for the right side. Energy, fighting and speed spirit onto the area: Samu may be like a new signing.