Suso can’t be Milan’s hero forever
Milan has lost its identity, and only Suso can save them. Someday, he won’t be able to. The buildup to Suso’s goal and equalizer against Real Betis was a perfect illustration of everything that’s frustrating with Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan. There is a lack of style and few ideas about what their identity is beyond “get the ball to Suso and hope that he does something good.” 13 - #Suso has been directy involved in 13 goals (5 goals, 8 assists) in 14 games played so far in 2018/19 season. Fixed. #BetisMilan— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) November 8, 2018 Before the goal, the ball was switched from left to right, with Mateo Musacchio then passing it back to Franck Kessie in the middle. Kessie then returned the ball to Suso on the right. Suso looked to go upfield but was quickly surrounded by multiple defenders. So, he passed it back to Kessie. Kessie turned to the left, and finding no options on that side, turned back to the right and gave the ball back to Suso. Suso, surrounded again, sent it back to Kessie. Throughout the entire second half, the ball consistently went out to Suso, and while it’s smart to get the ball to your best players, Milan were passing to Suso so much for the same reason that they had in every other game: The team was in danger and needed a savior. No one else has been capable of creating anything this season but him. When Giovani Lo Celso committed a foul a few seconds later that gave Milan a freekick at the right edge of Betis’ box, it was always Suso who took it. Suso’s freekick was supposed to be a cross, but the ball was too high for Tiémoué Bakayoko, who missed it by inches, and it instead dropped perfectly into the bottom left corner of the goal. Lucky goals happen all the time, but this has become commonplace for Milan. They don’t have a plan, and their saving grace this season, as it was in the game, is Suso. It’s no secret that Suso is Milan’s best player. Most of their attacks go through him. But Milan isn’t built as a team to maximize his strengths through a system. Instead, they need Suso to bail them out because no one else seems to be sure of what to do. When this non-plan plan works, it’s not that it was designed to, like Real Madrid was when Cristiano Ronaldo was there. Suso just happens to be good enough to hide the flaws of the team that he has to carry every game. Suso doesn’t often get chances to score because the ball was worked out well to him. He has to create those chances himself, often by making space while being marked by multiple defenders as his teammates stand and watch, hoping that he succeeds. Milan’s ineptitude is made more glaring when they face a team that has an established style of play. The score between Milan and Betis ended 1-1, but Betis, especially in the first half, played around Milan and were able to create numerous scoring opportunities. Not because Betis had the better players, mind you, but because they seemed to have a plan of attack, an idea that they should play a quick, possession style of soccer that moved the ball quickly from defense to attack. Their Midfielders had an almost telepathic understanding of where each other would be, and the ball went out to the wings to be crossed for whoever was filling the space in the middle. The deceptive score line says that Milan and Betis drew, but Betis can look at what they did and justifiably say that they executed their ideas well, and that it took a lucky freekick for them to drop two points. It’s a wonderful thing to be lucky, but having a plan and executing it is much more reliable. Milan can only be thankful that Suso that was able salvage a point for the team on Thursday. He may not deliver next time.