Alasdair Mackenzie Date: 28th October 2019 at 9:45am
Written by:

You had to feel a bit for AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli.

After the heartache of seeing a debut victory torn from his grasp in stoppage time against Lecce, the new Milan coach was powerless to stop his players from pressing the self-destruct button in their defeat to Roma.

The Rossoneri are a mess this season. There’s no getting around that fact and it is unrealistic and unhelpful to expect Pioli to immediately turn this average squad into one of Serie A’s best.

But if he is to stand any chance of at least making a push for European football this season, he needs his players to help him out by cutting out the individual errors.

The game plan wasn’t to blame at the Stadio Olimpico, but the execution.

After all, both of Roma’s goals could be traced to precise moments of baffling ineptitude by players dressed in black and red stripes.

Edin Dzeko was left completely unmarked at the back post from a corner for the opening goal. Yes, 6ft3in Edin Dzeko. The one who scores all the goals. In fact, the one who, as Opta helpfully pointed out, has scored more headed goals than anyone else in Serie A this season.

At least they will learn from that, you may be thinking. Think again. Roma could’ve easily had a hat-trick of goals just from corners on Sunday, as Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini were also left with the freedom of Rome as deliveries came in, only to head their efforts off target.

Then you had Davide Calabria come off the bench to provide a nice assist for Theo Hernandez’s equaliser, only to then play a hospital pass straight to Dzeko just minutes later, which led to Roma’s second goal.

The list goes on. Milan gave the ball away far too often, frequently in dangerous areas, and were guilty of making the wrong decisions at key moments throughout the game.

Of course, there are areas that Pioli can tighten up as a coach, and there are (presumably) players in his squad who can be relied on more than others when it comes to decision-making.

One way or another, his team simply must learn to cut down these individual mistakes if they are to progress.

Mancini the midfield maestro 

Maybe, just maybe, Roma will find that in crisis comes opportunity.

Something Paulo Fonseca admitted in the post-match press conference was that Gianluca Mancini’s performances in a central midfield role over the last week have taken him by surprise.

The former Atalanta man hasn’t had the easiest time adapting to a new club and role since his summer switch, but his recent displays as a defensive midfielder have been commendable.

Roma’s frankly ridiculous injury crisis forced the coach into the change, but Mancini’s measured and intelligent performances against firstly Borussia Monchengladbach and now Milan are enough to suggest that he can be a genuine option for a midfield starting role in his own right once the squad is back to full strength.