Rossella Marrai-Ricco has been working in the football media industry for six seasons, covering predominantly Italian and South African football. She has interviewed some of the biggest names in football. Her work can be found in Soccer Laduma's (South Africa) weekly newspaper, Soccer360 or Football Italia.
Milan Starting To Show Signs Of Improvement Under Mihajlovic
It wasn’t too long ago when the Milan Ultras
took to the San Siro Stadium to express their disapproving thoughts on Sinisa
Mihajlovic, but three games later he has swiftly silenced his critics.
The banner, which was displayed ahead of the
home game to Sassuolo, read: “A coach, who with words is a great Sergeant, but
on the pitch and locker room changed nothing.”
Evidently, the fans were angry. The club had
gone on a three-match winless run, which included a shocking 4-0 home defeat to
Napoli, and there were fears that things were going to get worse, and fast.
Week nine meant that the Rossoneri were set
to face their boogey team, Sassuolo, in a match which was tipped to spell the
end of the Serbian coach should things not go their way.
Milan had only previously defeated the
Neroverdi once in six league games, and the build-up to the game unsurprisingly
contained a negative air of criticism angled at the San Siro outfit.
Things needed to change and fast... From the
first minute Mihajlovic made a statement by introducing the 16-year-old
Gianluigi Donnarumma in the line-up ahead of Diego Lopez, while Alessio Cerci
was handed his first start of the season too.
The debuting shot-stopper was the youngest
player to turn out for Milan after Paolo Maldini’s introduction to the squad back
in January 1985, and he didn’t disappoint.
While he may have been caught wrong-footed in
Domenico Berardi’s equalizer in the eighth minute of the second half, he has
proven solid. A first half goal from Carlos Bacca and a last minute header by
Luis Adriano ensured the points went to the Rossoneri.
Since that crucial victory, which likely
extended Mihajlovic’s stay on the Milan bench, the Diavoli have gone on to
claim triumphs over Chievo and, most recently, Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.
There has been a significant manner of
improvement across all three fixtures, and here are a few notable examples:
The Defence Has Tidied Up
Conceding just two goals in their last three
games, the backline seems to have found a bit more stability as opposed to the
team that let in four goals in their opening three fixtures of the season.
Donnarumma looks settled in front of the changing backline, and so far he
hasn’t been prone to any gaffes – unlike Diego Lopez, who let in questionable
goals when he first started at the club.
Giacomo Bonaventura was one of the few
positives last season, playing his heart out in every game he turned out in.
However, his passion and determination wasn’t always enough, as he was easily
taken off the ball, his passing wasn’t always decisive and he lacked composure
when taking shots. Conversely, under the 51-year-old mentor, “Jack” has become
more effective and decisive in his play. Mihajlovic has tightened up the former
Atlanta man’s passing and he has also turned him into a set-piece specialist,
which saw Philippe Mexes nod home Milan’s second goal past Lazio on Sunday
Change Of Attitude
What has long plagued Milan is the team’s
attitude. Under Carlo Ancelotti, the club was ferocious and would fight to the
end of every game regardless if they were winning or losing. Since his exit,
there have been few signs of a strong mentality and that was often the case
last season under Pippo Inzaghi. This year, though, the headstrong Serbian
tactician has tried to improve the thought-process of the team, and they
certainly seemed to struggle less when a goal is conceded.
The Best XI Is Starting To Develop
Inzaghi’s biggest failure last year was that
he did not know his preferred starting XI. Having fielded over 30 different
line-ups in the season, the club and players struggled to form an identity.
This year there seems to be more consistency in the team selection and the
change of formation to a 4-3-3, has undoubtedly been instrumental in the
Sunday night’s triumph over Stefano Pioli’s
men was the first time Milan had won three consecutive games since Clarence
Seedorf’s brief stint on the bench in 2014, indicating that progress has been
Speaking after the Lazio victory, Mihajlovic
told the media: “We won deservedly, I can only say I am happy. If we hadn’t
made the step up in quality before, it was purely our fault, but today we
"It’s no coincidence that with the
change of system we picked up 10 points in four games. I don’t know about
calling this a turning point, we still have to take it one game at a time. We
are on the right track and now must continue.”
It’s still early days in the season, but
after moving to their highest league position - 6th place and five
points off leaders Fiorentina - in two years, the club and the fans finally
have something to smile about.