Is Lucas Biglia really irreplaceable for AC Milan?

“Biglia? It may seem like Lucas is my son, but these are players with precise characteristics. When I say that he is irreplaceable, I say it strongly. I’m not biased, he has the specific qualities I need. He is a fundamental player on a tactical level: he filters, he gives compactness and closes many lines of passing. He can make a few mistakes, but he has characteristics that few in this team have.’’ Those were views of Gennaro Gattuso when quizzed about the performance of Lucas Biglia after the 2-1 defeat of AS Roma.

Not a lot of Rossoneri fans will be enthused by Gattus’s remarks about Lucas Biglia been irreplaceable, because more is expected from the Argentine. Biglia endured a challenging first year at Milan last season as he struggled to influence games from his position. Instead, he was guilty of costly errors either from a back pass or an inability to shield the ball when press by two opposing attackers. Mistakes that opponents used to punish Milan. These miscalculations was once again witnessed when Milan played Napoli at the San Paolo as Piotr Zieliński  pulled one back after Biglia lost control of the ball in front of the 18yard box.

Truth be told the 32 year-old Argentine did creditably well in the first half of that game, it was actually his pass that found Suso on the right before the Spaniards cross was headed down for Bonaventura to volleyed home. But it is worth noting that, Biglia was substituted for Tiémoué Bakayoko in the 58th minute in the second period of the Napoli game.

So has Lucas Biglia suddenly find form, and if so, what does Gattuso’s irreplaceable comment mean?

Certainly, Gattuso has shown Biglia is replaceable if he fails to perform to his expectation and he proved it when he hurled him out of the first game in Naples. Meaning the Argentine must continue to produce a higher consistent performance to enjoy the current found love of his coach. Rino did also issue a warning thatWhen I see players who don’t believe in what I say then I’ll go home.”

Biglia has not failed to show his quality as a player and what he can offer Milan on a good day, but his lack of consistency has become a source of frustration for many Milanisti. The Argentine does not affect games quite like Miralem Pjanić does for Juventus or Jorginho previously for SSC Napoli. At least not with his passes. There is considerable concern about his sideways balls to colleagues, his lack of competence to thread balls through the middle to find a player in open space and his timing to pick a pass.

The position of a deeper lying player maker has been clearly defined by Italian Legend and Midfield Maestro Andrea Pirlo since his days at San Siro, and he has become the paragon by which others are judged. In recent times Jorginho who just joined Chelsea from Napoli has performed in somewhat equal measure, but perhaps, no one may exhibit the class and vision of Andrea Pirlo on the ball, someone who controls the game from behind. And Milan is yet to find someone who would produce anything close to what their former midfielder yielded during his 10years stint with the Diavolo. It never happened with former Captain Riccardo Montolivo.

These days, defenders such as Leonardo Bonucci, Jerome Boateng, Segio Ramos, Kalidou Kolibaly Giorgio Chiellini are showing the quality of driving forward and providing passes from deep to create scoring opportunities in attack. AC Milan is missing that from Biglia. Another downside to his game is the obvious lack of pace he shows when Milan is under siege. He is easily bypassed by attacking opponents, maybe needs more protection from Franck Kessie because he is not a ball winner.

Gattuso remark about Biglia been indispensable could also be looked at from another perspective which could be justified. And that is there is a lack of quality replacement for the Argentine. In the absence of Biglia, the only player capable of playing satisfactorily in that role is Riccardo Montolivo. A player whose name sparks derision from a lot of Rossoneri fans, and that’s partly because just like the current occupant of that position, he failed to meet the demands of that role. Manual Locatteli deputised for Biglia last season, but has been sent on loan to Sassuolo to gather more experience and Andrea Bertolacci will require a leap of faith from Gennaro Gattuso to have a look into the starting eleven.

Despite the visible potential of Tiémoué Bakayoko, the Frenchman is currently finding it difficult to convince fans outside France that his outstanding performance for AS Monaco in the 2016/17 title winning season wasn’t deceptive. Last night, at the Sardegna Arena against Cagliari, Bakayoko came on for Giacomo Bonaventurar, and once again failed to have a telling effect from midfield. The on loan Chelsea midfielder may thrive as the season grows, but he needs a bit of Serie A education during training sessions.

Lucas Biglia may be irreplaceable for Gattuso, but that’s because there is no quality substitute on the bench.

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Game changers could catalyze Milan’s Champions League berth

Prior to the commencement of the season, the area that needed the most improvement for AC Milan was the striking department. As Nikola Kalinic and Andre Silva failed to impress in their debut season for the Rossoneri, the mantle fell to 20 year-old Patrick Cutrone, who produced 18 goals in all completions last season.

To be fair to Andre Silva, he didn’t see enough minutes on the pitch, and it looked like his first Milan manager Vincenzo Montella, had earmarked him to for the Europa League competition, whiles preferring Kalinic to the league, probably based on his experience in Serie A. To the surprise of many Milan’s attack had the most departures this season. Nicola Kalinic has left for Atletico Madrid, Andrew Silva is currently on loan at Sevilla whiles Carlos Bacca made his loan move to Villareal permanent.

The acquisition of Gonzalo Higuain is a big improvement in the striking department as the Argentine has got a pretty goal scoring record compared to his predecessors. His success will, however depend largely on the framework around him .Cutrone, meanwhile, is set to play an important part of the season as he continues to blossom into a shining star. The young Italian once again proved his value to the Club as he came on in the 84th minute to secure Milan their first win of the season over AS Roma at the San Siro.

Gattuso had previously stated publicly, that he needed a left winger to add to his offensive unit. Someone who could provide a more attacking edge going forward .And more importantly a backup for Suso. Last season, Milan didn’t appear to have much firepower to turn things around in difficult situations, and lacked the composure and maturity to respond when a goal down. There was a lack of confidence on the bench, the likes of Andre Silva, Fabio Borini, and Manuel Locatelli except for one, Patrick Cutrone. The reserve unit failed to impact games.

Now, Fabio Borini, despite his lack of technical proficiency, cannot be questioned when it comes to application and having the right attitude. His ability to track back to help the defense whiles occasionally providing excellent delivery into the box contributed five goals and seven assist in all completion last season. The problem is, he’s not a reliable and consistent performer. Portuguese international Andre Silva was a better player in the few games that he started, as he looked confused as to where to function alongside Cutrone or Kalinic anytime he came on as a substitute. The only moment Silva truly affected a game was his first League and match winning goal away to Genoa after coming off the bench.

This Season, the Rossoneri boast a better quality on the bench. AC MIlan have bolstered their attacking options by signing Diego Laxalt from Genoa and Samu Castijlleo from Vilarreal and Alen Halilovic from Hamburger SV. These are not World class, but an upgrade in the context of their previous campaign. Halilovic who has been purchased to give Suso a bit of a respite may find playing time in the league hard to come by, but could be useful in the Europa League.

Diego Laxalt can play as a left back as we witnessed at the just ended World Cup for his country Uruguay. And compared to Ricardo Rodrigues, the former Genoa left midfielder provides a bit more attacking impetus with his aggression than the Swiss International.

In the 2-1 win over Roma, Milan’s attack came to live in the when Cutrone, Laxalt and Castillejo joined the fray in the second period, as they helped to galvanize the home side’s offensive play. Castillejo could be a hugely significant player for the Diavolo with his trickery and pace on the flanks. Gattuso was effusive of the former Villareal winger in his comments, “Castillejo gives us a different alternative, and he and Laxalt changed things on Friday. Samu came on with a competitive ferocity I had not seen before in training, he seemed a little indifferent to me. Instead, on Friday he showed the qualities that made us sign him. When he wants to win back the ball, he does so with great vehemence.”

The Spanish international could serve as another viable tool in the Italian’s arsenal. Castillejo scored six goals and provided seven assist in La Liga last season in 30 appearances.

Gattuso needs to maximize the talents available to him by assimilating the new players and re-inventing established ones such as Suso,Hakan Calhanoglu and Giacomo Bonaventura, whiles hoping others find top gear. The AC Milan manager has already floated the idea of playing his two strikers, Higuian and Cutrone together as they study and understand each other. Higuain is a better role model for the 20 year-Old Italian.

It is rare for teams to be successful without decent backups, and Milan’s game changers will help to secure qualification for the Champions league football. As Gennaro Gattuso said “Important players have arrived and both Laxalt and Castillejo have shown it. When they play together, Castillejo and Laxalt can break up the game in 15-20 minutes”.

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Sassuolo will provide stern test for Inter on opening weekend

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Since this season’s Serie A fixtures were drawn at the end of July, many Inter fans have made it known that they expect their team to get off to a strong start, perhaps even by winning all of their opening five or six fixtures. On paper at least, Sassuolo (a), Torino (h), Bologna (a), Parma (h) and Sampdoria (a) hardly represent the toughest of tests they will face, but it would be a huge mistake to take these matches lightly. Indeed, the Neroverdi look like being an entirely different proposition under the stewardship of Roberto De Zerbi. Continue reading