AC Milan must regroup and move on after shocking loss to Sassuolo
With Alessio Cerci's signing lifting spirits ahead of the 2015 opener vs. Sassuolo, Milan got off to the perfect start through an early Andrea Poli score. However, what followed after the opening 20 minutes was a bitterly disappointing reminder of how far the Rossoneri still have to go as they fell 2-1 at the San Siro.
Goals from Nicola Sansone and Simone Zaza were deserved for the visitors as they returned home with all three points. They dominated possession and overran Milan in key periods of the game on either side of halftime.
Inzaghi blamed the performance on the fact that when a team "is in the process of renewal, that means going through peaks and troughs." Given his standing with the hierarchy and supporters, the 41-year-old will be afforded more patience than other coaches, but it is certainly a negative start to a pivotal five months for Milan.
Club owner Silvio Berlusconi detailed his hopes for the second half of the campaign last week, and they included a Milan side that dominated possession. While they have shown an ability to do so in certain games, the consistency is still lacking and there is still an underlying vulnerability about this team.
Whether it was the battling Sassuolo midfield or their troublesome attacking trident, Milan were made to look fragile against the so-called mid-table "minnow." That was arguably the most worrying aspect of the game, as Sassuolo deserved their win and looked at home against a Milan side that can so easily have their confidence shattered.
The decision to start Michael Essien raised questions in itself while Inzaghi is still recovering players that have been sidelined through injury in the past month or so. As a result, there is an argument to suggest that they were just caught cold after the winter break and so things will ideally improve ahead of the trip to Torino on Saturday night.
However, a tactical switch which made a noticeable difference was when Cerci came off the bench to play on the right side of the attacking three which in turn allowed Giacomo Bonaventura to move back into midfield.
A midfield trio of Bonaventura, Nigel De Jong and Riccardo Montolivo has looked impressive in the short time they have spent on the field together, and their ability to combine different attributes makes it the ideal lineup moving forward.
As a result, that would allow Cerci to join Jeremy Menez and Stephan El Shaarawy up front in the most effective attacking trident. Inzaghi must now settle in this formation and system in order to allow these players to build chemistry.
Ideally, Ignazio Abate will return to the starting lineup in Turin, but aside from that change and considering the injury troubles that Inzaghi is dealing with, he must avoid tinkering with the side and allow the players to build relationships on the field.
While the result and performance were equally disappointing, Milan must remain calm and not overreact. Instead, Inzaghi must now inspire a reaction from the players and get on with 2015.