Milan need to address old mistakes
With a new coach expected to lead a new era at AC Milan this season, the Rossoneri will need to eradicate the same old mistakes from their game if they are to make Pippo Inzaghi's regime a success.
Defensive errors cost the side dearly in a 2-1 preseason friendly defeat in Valencia on Sunday night, and it is clear that one of Inzaghi's men still have much to improve on.
While Cristian Zapata was at fault for the opening goal, newly signed goalkeeper Diego Lopez got off to a shaky start with a fumble that nearly cost Milan again soon after, before being beaten at his near post for the second goal.
The Spaniard's arrival has largely been welcomed, as he is expected to bring solidity to the defensive line as well as his shot-stopping ability, and it is hoped that he is merely getting mistakes out of his system now before the new campaign begins.
Meanwhile, Keisuke Honda's free-kick was undoubtedly the highlight of the game, but there was one particular aspect of Milan's play that was concerning.
During the final few months of Massimiliano Allegri's tenure through to Clarence Seedorf's stint in charge last season, there was a fear that Milan lacked an identity and a style of play that the players were comfortable with.
While Inzaghi has impressed in this respect as preseason preparations have gone on, with both his tactics and system, there seems to be a breakdown or lack of recognition over which players should have which roles in the side.
Ultimately, as Milan's best passer of the ball, youngster Bryan Cristante should arguably be given possession at every available opportunity in order to start build-up play and construct attacking moves.
His passing range is second to none, and as a result it is his biggest strength, therefore the first thought that should cross the minds of the likes of Zapata, Daniele Bonera and Sully Muntari is to find him and use him.
Instead, the majority of the time Milan lost possession via long balls from the defenders. On the rare occasions Cristante was able to get on the ball, he was able to spread play neatly -- as he has done throughout the preseason schedule.
The 19-year-old should share responsibility for this failure, too, in that he perhaps doesn't make himself available in space regularly enough.
However, with encouragement and the faith of his teammates, he will likely continue to grow into that role in the absence of Riccardo Montolivo.
It remains to be seen whether or not he is deployed so deep when Nigel De Jong returns in the coming weeks, but it is clear that from an offensive point of view he is vital to Milan's progression this season if he can be consistent.
While there were some encouraging signs from Milan, Inzaghi still has a significant amount of work to do ahead of the new season. Optimism and belief can get a club only so far, and so it will be up to the coach and the players to deliver on the pitch with the season opener against Lazio creeping ever closer.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.