Things don’t always work out as expected… From AC Milan to Everton

Two unrelated stories

by Josif


When AC Milan signed Leonardo Bonucci from their rivals Juventus last summer, it was seen as the final statement of intent from the new owners of the Italian and European giants.

Bonucci, one of the best central defenders in the world and a member of famous BBC-trio in the Juventus and Italy defence (Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini), was supposed to be a cherry on top of major overhaul of the squad that saw 15 new players joining Milan including well-known international players Ricardo Rodriguez, Andre Silva, Nikola Kalinić, Hakan Calhanoglu and Lucas Biglia. Bonucci was immediately named a club captain.

Things were supposed to look like this: Milan have added experienced and quality players to all lines of their team and the Champions League place – maybe even something more – should not be out of the question. Two victories in the opening two matches suggested that they did a good job with their summer recruits.

They didn’t have any problems to qualify for Europa League group stage either with all four victories in the qualifications and a goal-difference 10:0. One of rare players who left them was their star striker Carlos Bacca who has joined Villarreal on loan. Bacca was usually criticized because of his non-existing contribution to other phases of play. He was described as a poacher who does little else apart from scoring goals.

Fast forward to today. Thirteen league games into the season, Milan are seventh but already 14 points away from fourth-placed Roma who also have a game in hand. It turned out that adding so many new players didn’t help as the manager Vincenzo Montella should have known long ago. To rub more salt to their wound, „Rossoneri“ have played against all teams that are currently in Top Six and lost all six of them (Lazio 1:4, Roma 0:2, Sampdoria 0:2, Inter 2:3, Juventus 0:2, Napoli 1:2). Bonucci, who was expected to be a leader in this new rejuvenated Milan line-up, has been awful in big games and got a red card after VAR’s assistance against Genoa in a 0:0 draw at home.

Back in August, The Guardian wrote about how the new owner of the club – Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux based in Luxembourg – had to ask for a huge loan from the American private equity fond Elliott Management.

After one third of the season, it is highly unlikely Milan will be able to bridge the gap to Top Four. There are six clubs in a better shape than Milan – Napoli, Roma, Inter, Juventus, Lazio and Sampdoria – and the gap is already frightening. Of course, we can’t write them off from Europa League as they have a good chance to qualify for Round of 32 as the group winners.

Pos Club P W D L Pts
1 AC Milan 4 2 2 0 8
2 AEK Athens 4 1 3 0 6
3 Austria Wien 4 1 1 2 4
4 Rijeka 4 1 0 3 3


What will happen with Milan if they don’t get into the Champions League next season? Nobody can say for sure. Mind you, they still share the stadium with their city rivals Inter and the equity fund from which they have taken a loan from has, let’s say, a spicy history as The Guardian’s article from August suggested.

Montella – who did a decent job at Fiorentina – is working under a serious pressure which is normal given the fact Milan have won European Cup/Champions League seven times which makes them second only to Real Madrid (12). It’s one thing to work with a club that is quite happy with a stable position in top half of the table where expression „punching above the weight“ is much easier to reach (Fiorentina).

Oh, yes – Milan have scored just 19 goals in 13 games after Bacca’s departure. As a comparison, Ciro Immobile has already scored 15 by himself for Lazio.

Now, let’s move away from Italy and go to the country that said „YES“ to Brexit but still says „NO“ to VAR.

Everton sold their star striker Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United last summer but nobody thought it would be such a great problem. After all, they got their Wayne Rooney back, they spent big money to get Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Gylfi Sigurdsson and many others. „Sell Elvis and buy The Beatles“ is the best name for this transfer strategy. We have seen it quite a few times (Liverpool after the sale of Suarez, Tottenham after the sale of Bale) and it rarely works out. It’s simple to understand why: the more players you buy, more time all of them need to adapt to a new club and to their new team-mates. Farhad Moshiri didn’t care – he gave enough money to his manager to strengthen on lines of the team.

Everton started well under their highly regarded manager Ronald Koeman. They won their opening match against Stoke and got a big point at Etihad with Rooney scoring in both of those matches. They got into the Europa League group with three victories and a draw against Ruzemberok (Slovakia) and Hajduk Split (Croatia) respectively. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything, as it turned out. Everton have picked just one point in their four Europa League games with Lyon and modest Italian side Atalanta proving to be too much for them. The Toffees are already knocked out of the competition despite being having one of the most valuable teams before the competition started.

What is even more appalling is how Everton have played in the Premier League. They have been thrashed by teams they were supposed to challenge for the Champions League spot. There was even an arithmetic progression in those thrashings: they conceded two against Chelsea, three against Tottenham, four against Manchester United and, in the last match for Ronald Koeman, five against Arsenal.

It’s interesting to mention that one of rare players that turned up for them this season was Oumar Niasse who was almost bullied out of the club by Koeman.

Now, I know that some people were praising Koeman and even suggesting he would be a better choice than Arsene Wenger for an Arsenal manager but let’s be frank: which player would be crazy enough to join a club specifically because of Koeman after Niasse’s experience?

Anyway, Everton have given their sinking ship into the hands of David Unsworth, their former U23 manager, and there are some signs of improvement. Still, Everton look like a poorly balanced team with too many players of the same profile (No. 10s Rooney, Davy Klaasen and Sigurdsson were all signed last summer) and they still haven’t found a striker to replace Lukaku (Olivier Giroud changed his mind after a talk with Wenger and opted to stay as a second-choice striker at Arsenal instead of getting a starting place at Koeman’s Everton which is telling).

The controversy regarding ownership won’t help either as every club needs a quiet environment to work properly. Right now, they sit three points above the relegation zone but it can be changed in a heart-beat. They could have easily lost both of their last two games as Watford had a two-nil lead and missed a penalty deep in the injury time to salvage at least a draw against while Crystal Palace had gone one up twice in their 2:2 draw last weekend.

Now, what these two stories show us? I know that Untold Arsenal editors are hardly fans of „Five things we have learned“ but we have a much bigger pattern here.

1.You can’t buy yourself a place in the Champions League in a single transfer window unless you buy only world-class players.

2.You can’t expect wonders from managers who were punching above the weight in clubs that have been used to NOT winning stuff (Fiorentina, Southampton). Remember this once people get off the Mauricio Pochettino bandwagon.

3.You can’t replace your star player with a truck-load of average players because quantity is not quality per se.

4.It is difficult to replace a world-class player with another one in today’s market. (Think of this every time you say Arsene was wrong to stick with Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil!)

5.North London is red and always will be. (OK, this didn’t have anything to do with Everton and Milan but I had to mention it.)

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18 Replies to “Things don’t always work out as expected… From AC Milan to Everton”

  1. To be fair, it was all over the media, the discussion on wether the failure to replace lukaku would eventually come back to bite Everton

  2. Excellent article Josif. Two good examples that the buy, buy, buy boys should look at and realise it isn’t as simple as it is presented by some in the media. I remember Arsenal fans during the summer praising Everton and Koeman to high heavens for acting like they did. Now that was not dithering and buying cheep as Arsenal and Wenger did…. Oh well….

  3. Sir, I think you are more than correct in your assessment as you have correctly assessed the ills there are in over signing new players by football clubs which doesn’t guarantee for them immediate on the field performance success as being envisioned it will happen by the clubs that have done this kind of signings. For, such mass signings are known to have unsettled and unbalanced the playing of the clubs which negatively impacted on their on the field results to consequently in most cases seen had led to the sacking of managers by the football club hierarchies who had initially backed the managers with money to undertake this insane gamble of over singing players which later turned out to be a hopeless adventure to turnaround the on the field mediocre fortune of a club.

    Of a concern to us the Gooners is will Arsenal have Mesut Oezil and Alexis Sanchez extend their expiring deals at the club and thereafter fortify their first team squad by signing one top quality on the field new player during the next winter window if they succeeded to sell a Gunner in their current 25 man list who maybe arguably surplus to requirements at the club or whose playing standard is below Arsenal PL grade. Or alternatively, recall from the loan market a Gunner they’ve loaned out last summer window who has remarkably recovered his lost playing form while playing at his loan club. In this case, would Le Prof wants to take another look at Lucas Perez to recall him back to the Gunners in January if the loan terms that had him loaned out permit his recall in January?

  4. I dont care…we built emirates to surpass bayern milan real madrid etc etc

    thats what they promised me !! thats why i bought season ticket fam !!@#$%!$%

  5. Swansea set for victory tonight. Final whistle Swans 3 Arsenal 1. Deserved win by a more experienced team. Most of our regular players not involved so I assume will be on the plane to Cologne for Wednesday’s game.

    Referee allowed numerous challenges on Arsenal players that looked like fouls to me but effectively we were out-muscled by older and more experienced players in atrocious conditions in Swansea. We had the frame of the goal to thank on three occasions.

    Chalk this one as a learning experience for the younger players.

  6. Only saw the last 15 minutes ,we shipped 2 goals but on a windy night in a deluge we played too close in the final third and got caught on the break . Not the night for close passing football.

  7. Thank you all.

    The Milan story is a good example what happens when a football giant gets off the winning tracks. Berlusconi brought them as close to Real Madrid as any other club in the history of football was. After 1994 Champions League title, Milan were at five while Real had been stuck at six. In 1995, Milan were the only club that had a chance to spend some time as the joint leaders in terms of European Champion Cup/Champions League trophies but Ajax won in the final. Since 2007 they’ve been going down just like whole Serie A.

    Also, there was time when Everton weren’t just second best team in Liverpool but also the second best in England. Their return to the glory days of Howard Kendall doesn’t go well either.

  8. Totally agree with you Walter. However It’ll be disappointing if in the future you use the spending as a reason why the Manchester clubs and Chelsea etc perform better

  9. @Amos

    The point of the article was not about spending but about spending big in a single transfer window in order to return the glory days immediately. How many times have you heard pundits and bloggers say that Arsenal need a major overhaul and then make six or seven positions in the first team that need strengthening?

    Bridging the gap doesn’t go over night and a truck-load of new players (especially if we talk about average players) won’t mean anything short-term wise. Clubs want to make an instant success and some of Arsenal fans think we should do the same. Even if we had money, it is questionable whether it would take place.

    Manchester United have spent hundreds of millions after Ferguson had retired but they have finished below Arsenal in the league in each of the last four seasons.

    Manchester City have spent hundreds of millions on defenders only in the last three years before they have found the right formula. Mind you, neither Otamendi nor Stones clicked last season despite their enormous price-tag while Mangala has been one of the most expensive flops ever in Premiership. Also, their spending spree has started in 2008 or almost 10 years ago. For all beauty of their offside-free football, City have won 0 trophies in 2017. Arsenal have won 2.

    Chelsea have been successful but let’s not forget their big spending spree has started 13 years ago when they literally had no rivals on the market.

    Given the circumstances, Arsenal have over-achieved, especially since the arrival of Özil in 2013. Compare us with clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham for a more realistic judgement. Unless all that dust from their trophy rooms go into your eyes, that is.

  10. @Josif, and the point of my reply is that every club has it’s strategy, no point crying about another club’s strategy being the reason why yours isn’t getting the desired results. In my own opinion, there’s no one single factor which makes a better team, you need to balance all the factors of money, good technical support, proper motivation, tactical input etc, to create a winning team. The team that wins for me is the one which can best make use of all these resources to strengthen, tackle own weaknesses, nullify the competition’s strength and take advantage of their weaknesses. So, this simple excuse of the other clubs being better because they have spent more doesn’t do it for me

  11. In the four years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United have spent more on transfers than during the entire 26 years of his tenure.

  12. Very nicely put , Josif . Thanks.
    I get sick of hearing the stupid garden variety pundit/ expert saying the same old shite about having to spend more money and buy more players !
    None ever say , invest in youth and blend them in with experience and to be patient .One builds a team slowly and patiently .
    But then again probably no one with even half a brain would hire these fools !

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