After a somewhat disappointing performance against Atalanta, which ended up in a 1-1 draw, Milan managed to bounce back with a win against Bologna. In other words, they capitalised on their rivals’ failures.
Charles De Ketelaere and Olivier Giroud both got the chance from start and these decisions paid off for Stefano Pioli. Around the 20th-minute mark, the Belgian picked up his first assist for Milan as he set up Rafael Leao after winning the ball back.
The Rossoneri then had a few more chances to double their lead but failed to be clinical. They did, however, manage to get the second goal through a lovely strike by Giroud in the 58th minute to seal the three points. Here are five things we learned…
1. The long negotiations were worth the effort
De Ketelaere played from the start and managed to make a big impact on the game in the No.10 role, something Milan had been lacking for quite some time. He won the ball himself and then carried it all the way to the penalty box before assisting Leao, and he almost had another assist or two.
The youngster showed a lot of positives as his defensive work also stood out amongst other things. He showed great pace at times which allowed him to beat his man on several occasions, but then he also had the vision and technique to provide the final ball to a teammate.
The only thing we didn’t really see from him on the night was his shooting technique but that will probably happen rather sooner than later. Amazing performance overall as the Belgian looks like the missing piece in that Milan attack.
2. Responding in style
After not being able to involve himself in a goal in the first two games, Rafael Leao seemed determined to turn his fortunes around. The Portuguese looked a bit more focused and energetic against Bologna as he managed to score the opener and then provide Giroud with a lovely assist.
Leao also worked a lot in the first half, helping out the defence and he seemed to click with De Ketelaere as well, which is superb news for coach Pioli. The one concern with the youngster was that towards the end he seemed exhausted and that raised questions about his condition.
It’s potentially an explanation for his not-so-spectacular performances prior to the Bologna game. Fortunately for him, with Rebic and Origi on the bench, Pioli has more than enough depth to give him so off time.
3. Aging like fine wine
And no, we’re not talking about Ibrahimovic. Giroud was back in the starting XI after the underwhelming display by Rebic last week. The Frenchman didn’t have many clear-cut chances but eventually put his name onto the scoresheet after a spectacular scissors kick.
Giroud also helped a lot in the build-up as he dropped deeper on several occasions, shielding the ball and laying it off for his teammates. There was good chemistry between him and De Ketelaere, as both of them took turns to drop deeper with Giroud doing that even more, thus allowing the Belgian to run in behind and use his pace.
A good outing from the Frenchman as he played the full 90 minutes and looked in good physical shape.
4. Good depth and a question mark on the right
After the second goal, Pioli introduced the likes of Ballo-Toure, Adli, Pobega, Gabbia and Saelemaekers which showed the good depth Milan have. Especially if you consider that the likes of Kjaer, Rebic, Origi and Florenzi remained on the bench.
Despite Bologna not being the most demanding opponent, the substitutes did well with Adli finally getting his official debut and looking good after an initially shaky few minutes. Pobega also looked a bit more confident which is good to see heading into this long season.
On the right-hand side, Saelemaekers also played well off the bench as he ran a lot, helping the defence and carrying the ball forward. He was also involved in a couple of good plays. So here comes the question: the Belgian has done well coming off the bench in the first three games, whilst Messias has been the worst player on the pitch for three games straight. It might be the time to give Alexis the nod.
5. First clean sheet of the season
After two shaky games at the back, the Rossoneri managed to keep a clean sheet this time around and while it seemed like an easy job, Bologna is certainly a team that can cause defences trouble so the fact that Maignan barely had to intervene is a really positive sign.
Theo and Calabria did a decent job on both flanks as they gave little to nothing away. Kalulu and Tomori also managed to neutralise Arnautovic despite his big physical presence, which was brilliant work from the two.
After the game, Milan announced that they have a deal struck for Schalke defender Thiaw so it will be interesting to see how is the defence will look moving forward. And above all, if Gabbia will be allowed to leave so he can gain some much-needed experience.