Welcome back to Milan! We’re having one hell of a season. I haven’t seen a red circle in ages.
Our defensive strength has been joined by an impressively lethal attack, and we have a chance to achieve a special season here.
We remain in all three competitions, and the Serie A title is essentially sealed.
The vast majority of this post will focus on the remaining football and the season review. But first, just a little behind the scenes action…
Behind The Scenes:
The last of our contract stalemates has come to an end:
And with finances booming, we continue to develop the facilities:
I’m going to gloss over the youth intake, because it was absolutely rubbish.
With the title all but mathematically secure already, I won’t dwell too much on the end of the Serie A season. The only questions remaining are; how long can our winning streak continue, and can we finish the season unbeaten…
A 30 match winning streak is incredible, but was eventually brought to an end as our second XI couldn’t build on an early goal at home to Palermo.
But we secured an invincible season pretty comfortably, winning every away match in the process. I’ve run out of synonyms for ridiculous:
Unsurprisingly, we set a couple of records, our winning run a record for Serie A, and an impressive run of ten clean sheets also earning a place in the record books.
But there’s more work to do catch the unbeaten total, and Torino’s team goals record could stand forever!
In the previous post, we had booked our place in the final with a penalty shoot-out victory over Juve. In the final, Palermo awaited:
It took a while for us to make the breakthrough, but once we did, it was easy street. We dominated the game from start to finish, and 4-0 was a fair reflection of the match.
Interestingly, this is only the second Coppa Italia victory for Milan since 1977! Their solitary win since then was in 2003, which seems absolutely bizarre for a team of this stature.
However, judging from the attendance, the fans couldn’t give a damn. At least the board are happy with it, and it’s a new cup to add to my collection.
After the mayhem of the final ten minutes away to Man City in the first leg of our First Knockout Round tie (final score a 3-2 win), I decided to have a slightly more conservative tactic at my fingertips, to keep specifically for the other big clubs we would encounter in the latter stages of the CL:
As usual with my tactical tweaks, nothing too major is changed. The wing backs become full backs, the attacking mentality is reduced to positive and we drop our defensive line and line of engagement to “standard”.
The personnel remain the same, although Frank Kessié drops deeper to provide more of a defensive shield, with Marco Benassi returning to the central station.
Beautiful. A really good all round team performance, and we restricted City to just one good chance in the ninety minutes.
We were rewarded with probably the easiest draw we could’ve got for the Quarter Final, pulling Dortmund out of the hat.
The first leg in Germany was a fairly drab affair. We played poorly, and though Dortmund’s shot count comfortably eclipsed our own, the majority were relatively tame long shots. A 0-0 draw left the second leg wide open:
We played very well, and though the second half was tense due to our profligacy, we thoroughly deserved the win. The boys made me sweat for it though!
Overall I’m very happy with our tactical changes for European football, with only one goal conceded in the last three games we look solid.
An absurd game of football, a game that in reality would surely go down as one of the all-time classics, and one in which we were very fortunate to win.
I don’t think my words can do a better job of describing the game than the above screenshot. I used the word mayhem for the City first leg. Please think of your own suitable word for this one, I’m just going with double mayhem.
In a complete change from the Dortmund games, we were clinical in front of goal and those six away goals put us in the driver’s seat for the second leg.
And what a second leg it was:
A rare game, in the respect that the final score exactly replicated the number of clear cut chances created by either side. We were really impressive and have a great chance at European glory at the first attempt. Giovani Lo Celso has been superb in Europe, his goal here giving him seven in the Champions League so far.
In the other Semi, PSG overcame Man United. I was excited for this as it gave Luca Di Giacomo the opportunity to prove he was better than Rolf Klingenburg, after my traitorous Slack channel members voted that they would prefer Klingy to LDG. Disgusting behaviour. Apart from you Carl, you’re alright.
Unfortunately(?), the day before the final, Klingy went down with a virus and was unable to even make the bench:
Still, a very strong line-up, with world class players in every position.
Speaking of which, we came into the game without a single injury concern to our first XI, and could field our strongest line-up:
The game began as a fairly scrappy affair, but first blood went to PSG. Following a breakdown from a corner, Lo Celso scored an unfortunate own goal for his former employers:
The game continued to be bitty, but in the 37th minute we put together our first decent move of the match, Davide Calabria integral to it by getting forward down the right and delivering a great far post cross for GLC to bag his eighth CL goal of the season:
The half petered out and finished 1-1, a fair reflection of the play.
After a lot of demanding half time team talks during the last couple of months, I went for something a little more reassuring for this tie, trying to keep our self belief up.
We started the second half on top, and in the 58th minute were rewarded with what has become one of our trademark goals, Vignato cutting in from the right, and putting LDG through, who finished for his 28th of the season:
The goal brought PSG out of their shells, and Donnarumma was twice called into action. He really is a superb keeper.
With everyone performing well, I left my substitutions later than usual. One set of fresh legs (Moise Vlad-Paul) stepped straight into Vignato’s boots to provide another of our trademark goals in injury time:
And victory was ours! LDG, what a legend. In your face, doubters!
Not one of our finer performances, but I’d say we edged it and deserved our prize:
Well. We won everything and didn’t lose a game. I’ve not had a season like it since the old, simpler games of Champ.
The squad performed admirably, and even the bit part players made significant contributions:
Our superb defence continued just as last season, but this year our attacking game took a big step. I’ve no doubt in my mind that that largely comes down to the incredible impact of Emanuel Vignato, who finished the season with 23 goals and 21 assists. On the other flank, Angelo Gavazzi grabbed 15 goals and 14 assists of his own.
Luca Di Giacomo had another great season up front, really upping his game in the second half of the season, top scoring with 29 goals.
So many awards this season, I’ve had to put them into two slideshows:
Ricardo Rodriguez had another superb year. Aged 33, he’s starting to slow down a bit, but his defensive abilities coupled with his great crossing make him a formidable left back, and he’s earned another year at Milan.
Ten players in the Serie A team of the year is pretty special, although the formation and lack of Gavazzi and Vignato is bizarre.
Different winners in Europe:
Eight players in the European Team of the Year is some achievement, and no shame in Luca Di Giacomo coming second in Player of the Year.
And of course:
I didn’t anticipate a season this good. Ever. And although I thought we had European success in us either this season or next, the nature of our Serie A dominance leaves me with a decision to make.
There are some youngsters here that I was looking forward to bringing through as some of the old guard at Milan approach the end of their careers, but I’m not sure it’s enough to keep me here.
There are a couple of attractive jobs available:
Barcelona in particular is of personal appeal to me, as over the past ten or so iterations of FM, it’s a role I’ve never managed to get. Every time I’ve applied there was a less qualified Spaniard that got the job. Could this be my time?
There won’t be a post next week, as I’m on holiday. I have very little idea what the next post will look like, but there’s a strong chance I’ll be moving on. As always, thanks for reading!