Last season, Gianluigi Donnarumma was heavily relied upon to bail the Rossoneri out on multiple occasions. A struggling defense rarely provided cover for his goal, and the teenager was often left as the last man tasked with making miraculous saves. Although he often did make the seemingly impossible save, it would usually only be a matter of time till the onslaught of attacks by opposing teams got the better of him. A new defense brought together by last summer’s transfer campaign, however, has already proved to aid the young Italian prodigy and has allowed him to improve his all-around game. He can also only expect to get even better as he builds chemistry with the new acquisitions and becomes a better leader through the guidance of a seasoned veteran like Leonardo Bonucci.
Putting the debacle in Rome two weeks ago aside, Donnarumma’s goal has rarely been tested as the season has progressed. Donnarumma has only had to make an average of two saves per game, the most being three in that match versus Lazio (via Squawka Football). This is due in large part to Milan’s improved defense.
Opposing forwards have struggled to get past the likes of Bonucci and Matteo Musacchio, and Alessio Romagnoli returning from injury is only going to make things more difficult for the opposition. The fullbacks have still experienced some growing pains (and this will likely be the case for another few matches due to Andrea Conti’s unfortunate injury), but the defense as a whole has already proved to be much stronger than seasons past.
Although it’s still very early, Donnarumma’s passing ability has already been considerably better. His distribution percentage was a lowly 69 percent in his first year as a starter, rose to 78 percent last season, and has been 83 percent thus far this season (via Squawka Football). The new defenders’ awareness of their positioning on the field is the obvious reason for this, and it has greatly helped Donnarumma. Milan have already experimented with having plays start out in Donnarumma’s own box and surrounding area as he now has reliable outlets such as Bonucci and Ricardo Rodríguez.
Another major facet of Donnarumma’s game that will improve greatly as a result of the new defense, as mentioned earlier, will be his leadership. There are still plenty of Milan fans that have mixed feelings about the shot-stopper stemming from his contract imbroglio this past summer, but none can question the passion he had shown for the team beforehand. Besides, typically being the top performer on the pitch, it was quite clear that Donnarumma played every game wearing his heart on his sleeve. He seemed to be the emotional leader of the team, which was admirable, but at only 18 years of age he simply wasn’t ready to lead one of the biggest names in all of football.
Donnarumma has already made his fair share of phenomenal saves this season, but is now showing signs of developing a more multifaceted game. The Rossoneri may soon boast the finest goalkeeper in all of Italy.