Two blogs in two days – you are welcome! When we last left off, we were sitting in 2nd place in Serie A after 22 games in our first season at the helm of AC Milan as we attempt to transition the club to a local-only club culture and playing squad within two seasons. The bad news however (in addition to being knocked out of the Champions League Group Stages) is that our star man and Segundo Volante extraordinaire Sandro Tonali has been ruled out for two months with a thigh injury meaning he will miss all of February and March, a crucial period as we look to continue our good form and secure at least a Top 4 finish which would be more than acceptable having already offloaded a number of key players as part of our process in bringing in players who were born/produced within 50km of the city of Milan.
The media are keen to know – who will we look to to fill the void left by Tonali’s absence? Enter 23-year-old Tommaso Pobega, signed by the Milan academy at age 14 and who in FM23 looks to be a solid and versatile midfielder who can hopefully fill Tonali’s boots and continue the positive influence that the Segundo Volante role has offered us so far in this save.
AC Milan vs Salernitana – Sunday 5th March 2023
🗣️ “Milan come into this Serie A fixture having gone unbeaten for the whole month of February, however are without two key players with both Sandro Tonali and Musa Barrow missing through injury. Manager MaddFM has turned to Milan academy graduate to fill the void left by Tonali, while veteran forward Manolo Gabbiadini gets the nod ahead of Charles De Ketelaere on the left of a front-three that has impressed all season for the Rossoneri”.
0′ – Giroud gets us started here at the magnificent San Siro with a flood of red and black surrounding us
4′ – GOAL FOR MILAN! (Bennacer) – lovely work down the right hand side by Calabria who crosses it in for Bennacer to smash home.
7′ – GOAL FOR MILAN!! (Pobega) – Saelemaekers delivers a dangerous cross and it’s Pobega who heads in after a clever run from outside the box.
23′ – GOAL FOR MILAN!! (Giroud) – Pobega intercepts brilliantly in midfield and threads a perfect ball through to the Frenchman who calmly slides it into the bottom left corner past Ochoa in goal.
37′ – GOAL SALERNITANA!! (Candreva) – the ball is hoofed over the top by Vilhena and Candreva is on hand to smash the ball past the helpless Maignan in goal. Game on!
43′ – GOAL MILAN!! (Diaz) – Pobega the architect again! The midfielder spots the run of Brahim Diaz and again threads through a pinpoint pass for Diaz to finish calmly past Ochoa. It’s surely all over now?
And that’s how it finished. We made 5 changes early in the second half and Salernitana did well to keep it at 4-1, a goal and two assists for Pobega gives him a 9.2 Man of the Match rating. Granted our opposition were poor but this gives Pobega a huge boost of confidence for the games ahead. We hoped he would simply cover in Tonali’s absence but we were wrong – the lad seizes the opportunity with both hands and picks up two goals & four assists in 8 games with a 7.36 average rating, and not only is he more than filling in for Tonali, his performances suddenly attract interest from the likes of Man Utd, Inter and Atalanta..NOT ON MY WATCH SON.
It’s hard to tell whether it’s the players (i.e. Tonali and Pobega) who are shining for Milan, or if it is indeed this glorious Segundo Volante role which is proving to be so highly effective in FM23 this year. They are constantly on the ball or involved in breaking up play, recycling possession, making defence-splitting runs and ultimately getting into excellent positions in and around the box, and the results are clearly evident despite it being a “defensive” midfield role. I would love to hear if you have had any similar experiences with it – drop a comment below or hit me up on Twitter, this certainly needs further discussion 🔥.
Death, taxes and the end of season slump..
Unfortunately our league form stutters as we see injuries picked up by Dimarco (3 weeks), Brahim Diaz (2 weeks) and Mike Maignan (3 weeks) which takes its toll as we find ourselves short of quality depth and cover in key positions, a natural yet very much unwanted symptom of the Regionnaire transfer model.
A 6-2 drubbing by Roma (José Mourinho is a tyrant in Football Manager) followed by defeats against Juventus, Atalanta and Fiorentina see us drop back to 4th in the league just a point ahead of Napoli in 5th, and suddenly our Champions League hopes are on the brink with just 4 games remaining as we gear up for 4 tough games against Lazio (h), Inter (a), Udinese (a) and Torino (h). This league is tighter than a duck’s arse and I fear the board may have something to say if we get knocked out of the Champions League and then miss out on qualification in the same season…
We’ve spent quite some time bolstering our scouting and youth backroom teams, filling them with local-born staff members in the hope that this will have a positive influence on our Youth Intake and unearth a true Milan-born Wonderkid for the black and red side of the city….
Wouldn’t you know it – we are told not only of a Golden Generation, but that our star youth prospect is of course…IRISH. Those of you who have following my nonsense for some time will remember that I once spent 9 seasons in Germany in FM20 trying to produce an Irish wonderkid before eventually having one come through, and now while doing everything to focus on local prospects, our so called “diamond” aka Cian Foy hails all the way from the village of Glengoole (pronounced “Glen-gooly”) in the obscurity of rural County Tipperary!! He of course is eligible for our save rules (as a local/academy produce) but f*ck me the Newgen gods have a sick sense of humour 😅.
Not a bad player though..👀
The Final Stretch 🏁
Four games to secure a Top 4 finish and keep the wolves from the door so we can continue our mission and spend the summer finishing the demolition of this squad to fully migrate to a local-only playing squad and backroom team. We are almost back to full-strength which will be badly needed with two of these games against teams currently above us in the league – it’s now or never for the boys in red and black, #SempreMilan.
Game 1 – Lazio (h)
Game 2 – Inter (a)
Game 3 – Udinese (a)
We overturn a 2-0 deficit to go 3-2 up against Lazio (Pobega strikes again) only for my new FM nemesis Ciro Immobile to equalise with 14 mins remaining. We then face arch rivals Inter who know they will be crowned champions with a win, and win they did as we succumbed to a 3-0 defeat and force us to watch them lift the Scudetto trophy for the 20th time in their history. Thankfully we get back to winning ways away to Udinese with Olivier Giroud bagging a hat-trick on what will be his penultimate game for AC Milan with his contract up in the summer.
The outcome of those 3 games is that with just one game remaining, we find ourselves still in 5th place in Serie A and crucially one point behind 4th place Lazio who are of course now managed by Stefano Pioli, the man we replaced at the start of the season. This means we have to pick up all 3 points against Torino on the final day of the season and hope that Lazio drop points away to Empoli who themselves need a win to have any chance of avoiding relegation. It’s possible right?
AC Milan vs Torino – Sunday 6th June 2023
🗣️ “It’s an emotional day in Milan as Olivier Giroud takes to the field in what will be his final game in the black & red of the Rossoneri before leaving as a free agent this summer, along with substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic who also walks out at the San Siro for the last time as an AC Milan player – what a legacy these two leave behind them. Despite Tomasso Pobega’s impressive run of form, Manager MaddFM opts for Sandro Tonali in midfield in what is a full-strength Milan side who know that only 3 points will give them any chance at securing Champions League football next season, whilst relying on Lazio to drop points at relegation-threatened Empoli. If rumours are to be believed, anything but a win and the Milan board may reconsider MaddFM’s future at the club. Torino also have high stakes to play for as they sit in 6th place level with Juventus, just one point clear of Fiorentina with all three sides vying for those two coveted European places. What a day of football we have on our hands here!”