AC Milan had been in the driver’s seat for fourth place in Italy for most of this season but, on Sunday, they played probably their worst football at the worst time. They lost 2-0 on the road at Torino, one of their fourth place rivals. Couple that with wins for Roma and Atalanta, and Milan are now on the outside looking in.
It really was quite the drab game. Milan came into this game struggling to create any offence and on Sunday that only continued. Gennaro Gattuso’s side barely had the composure to test Salvatore Sirigu and the Italian keeper ended up having an easy night. Torino are a side that allows shots on goal, playing a more aggressive, defensive style of football.
None of the players for Milan could create anything to break down this defence. Milan’s most creative players, Suso, Lucas Paqueta, and Hakan Calhanoglu, were all terrible. The former two were subbed off in the 60th minute as Gattuso brought on Krzysztof Piatek and Fabio Borini as his secondary option.
Neither of them added the creativity that Milan so desperately needed, but Torino got the creativity that they needed. First, a soft push in the back by Franck Kessie earned them a penalty, that Andrea Belotti dispatched. Then a lovely strike from Alex Berenguer scored their second for their massive three points.
Torino now sit firmly in the hunt for the Champions League. They are just two points behind Roma, and it is no fluke. They have the third-best defence in Serie A, a real credit to coach Walter Mazzarri. This is certainly a team in his image.
Real Milan Problems
Now let’s shift our focus to the bigger issues to come out of this game; Milan. The side have not scored more than two goals in a game since the derby on March 17th, which will likely be the nail in the coffin for Gattuso. He came to the side last season when they needed a boost and a new way of playing.
Over time, that style has grown stale and Gattuso has failed to have the counters that he needs. When faced with a strong defence he routinely switches to a 4-4-2 and plays route-one football. For someone that is supposed to be building his team on possession and playing out from the back, this seems counter-intuitive.
Or is it a sign that Gattuso isn’t as committed to the ideals he preaches as he should be? If you’re going to introduce a possession style to any team, you have to be committed. It’s counterproductive to switch to long-ball football at the first sign of trouble, only to switch back to for the start of the next game.
So for all of these reasons, Gattuso will most likely be looking for new work next season. Many Milan fans are emploring the club to sign a big name, proven manager. They are tired of the steady stream of ex-players struggling in the role. It is time for an Antonio Conte or Maurizio Sarri; a Marco Giampaolo or Gian Piero Gasperini to take over and bring back glory for the AC Milan supporters.
Top Four Update
There were other movers and shakers around the top four besides Milan and Torino. Roma got a huge result this weekend winning 3-0 at home to Cagliari. The biggest takeaway from this game came afterwards when Claudio Ranieri spoke to the media. The caretaker manager was asked if he thinks Antonio Conte should sign with Roma and he pleaded Conte to take over next season.
Ranieri hopes he can deliver Champions League football to whoever takes over when he leaves at the end of the campaign. Getting a two-point lead on both AC Milan and Torino goes a long way towards doing that but in order to do that, his side will have the darlings of Serie A to beat.
Atalanta got another huge win at home against Udinese on Monday night. The three points mean they go one point ahead of Roma in the race for fourth place. Watch this space to see if the third lowest wage bill in Serie A can once again make the Champions League.
Going into the weekend the biggest game by far was always the Derby D’Italia. Even if the game had really nothing but pride riding on it, its always going to be intense. Having wrapped up the title last week Juventus still needed to put on a good display away to one of their biggest rivals. Not least because the Inter fans decided to remind them of their recent Champions League shortcomings.
Those fans got even happier after an old Juventus foe decided to remind them of his past on Saturday. Radja Nainggolan has been pretty awful in an Inter shirt since his move in the summer but he has always killed Juventus, and scores against them with regularity. It only took seven minutes for him to find the back of the net in this game, with a lovely swerving volley.
It was the feather in the cap of an excellent first half for Inter. They pressured Juve, played on the front foot and created the best of the chances, but they did not score another goal, and against Juventus that is suicidal. Juve weathered the Inter advantage into half-time and came out for the second half ready to play.
They came out attacking Inter as the champions that they are. Champions, that have the advantage of one Cristiano Ronaldo to use. He continually comes up clutch for whomever he represents. Like when he fired a left-footed shot into the bottom corner for the equalizer in this game.