An unconvincing 3 points delivered by super-sub performances by none other than Theo Hernandez and Alexis Saelemaekers. That’s how Thursday mornings match can best be summarized. Milan's starting 11 featured debutant Fode Ballo-Toure as well as first starts for Alesandro Florenzi, Ismael Bennacer and Pierre Kalulu but failed to create many openings before the second half subs came on and dug us out. Still sitting in 3rd and undefeated, the team must rally together and put their best foot forward ahead of another action-packed week of UCL and Serie A rivals. Spezia wait in our way on Saturday night, and after their narrow defeat against Juventus, they won’t be easy beats.
Last season Spezia managed to get all 3 points from AC Milan’s trip to the Stadio Alberto Picco with goals from Giulio Maggiore and Simone Bastoni inflicting a 2-0 loss on the boys. The defeat didn’t end up costing Milan top 4 but the scares still remain. It was a match where Milan was played off the park in a number of stats including shots, chances created and successful dribbles. But the team will be looking to banish any ghosts of last season and continue their undefeated start to the Serie A. Spezia have had troubles keeping the ball out of the net, conceding 13 goals from the first 4 games (only Salernitana has conceded more (14) and Cagliari has conceded the same amount in their opening fixtures) which should encourage the rossoneri. However, Spezia won’t be a push over team, taking Juventus close in their most recent game, only going down 3-2 courtesy of De Ligt header in the 72 minute. “Le aquile” as they are known have had no troubles scoring this season either, netting 7 times in their first 4 matches. For this reason, Milan will need to be very switched on.
Milan head into the match with an impressive 10 goals from their first 4 games, after Brahim Diaz and Theo Hernandez netted to ensure 3 points in our match up against Venezia. 7 separate goal scorers to start off the season gives hope to many Milanisti that they finally have a squad that is deep enough to challenge for the scudetto. The defence is also going strong, maintaining the equal best defence in the league (now only level with Napoli who have had an arguably easier run to start off the season). A strong defence against Spezia will go a large way to leaving with the 3 points due to their defensive frailties. Milan should also take confidence that they were able to grab 3 points from a performance that was subpar in attack.
Substitutions have been an issue for Pioli in the past with criticism laid at the feet of the Italian tactician for not making changes at the correct time, and not making the correct changes. Thursday showed that Pioli has improved, developing a better sense for what the team needs and when it needs it. Without the substitutions on Thursday, it is hard to see how Milan would’ve broken through.
Milan faces Atletico Madrid midweek in the return of champions league football to San Siro and then travels to Bergamo to tackle Atalanta. A win against Spezia, to successfully navigate 2 of our easier league matches, will be critical for confidence and to maintain the pressure at the top. Can Milan redeem themselves for last season, or will this be the first sign of our young Milan faltering?