AC MILAN SEASON PREVIEW: CAN STEFANO PIOLI LEAD THE CAPITAL CLUB TO GLORY?

There have been wholesale changes for the managerial spots at the top clubs of the including the defending champions Inter Milan, but their arch-rivals, go into the 2021-22 season with Stefano Pioli as their manager for his second full season at the club that has seen nine managerial changes in seven years after the departure of current Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri in 2014.

After finishing sixth in the league in 2019-20, nobody expected the Rossoneri to secure second place in the 2020-21 season, let alone challenge for the title. They raced into a title lead in the first half of the season but were not able to hold it as a rampant Inter was able to better on their 2nd placed to finish the previous season.

 

 

The rebuild of the club is still going on, but they have faced a massive dent in that process with the departures of European Championship Player of the Tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma and creative force Hakan Calhanoglu, and their transfer business has not portrayed any sense of strengthening the squad for the upcoming campaign.

FootTheBall is set to take you through how the season might pan out for the capital club and whether they can dethrone the Nerazzurri from the top of the Serie A and claim their first title in 11 years.

 

CAN MILAN BRING BACK THEIR GLORY DAYS?

If we think about AC Milan, the players that comes first to the minds are the likes of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso, and many more of the squad that dominated Europe with ease, winning the league and Champions League titles comfortably. That’s not the case with the Rossoneri in the past decade, as they have lost the aura that they once held, mainly due to the Calciopoli scandal, coupled with the mismanagement with the ownership of the club, which saw a change of owners for two times in the past four years.

 

milan-pioliPioli has the backing of the club’s ownership and has been entrusted with a third season in charge. (Image Courtesy: AC Milan / Twitter)

But it looks like the new owners, Elliott Management Corporation, an investment management firm based in New York, is set on the track on reviving the glory days of AC Milan and the first step on that path would be bringing stability that the club has craved for years, which is now visible as they have entrusted Pioli for the third season running, after being appointed in October 2019. In the transfer market too, they have been active and although nothing major has been done yet in terms of the incomings, the outgoings have left a huge gap in the squad which will most likely be filled by the end of the window, but to what quality, it is not known.

 

IS THE SQUAD ENOUGH TO CHALLENGE ON ALL FRONTS?

For the club in 2021-22, the primary target will be the league title win. After 2nd placed finish for AC Milan in the previous campaign, the main objective of Stefano Pioli and his men will be to bring down their eternal rivals from the top of Serie A and reclaim the Italian throne. But the season marks the return of the club to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in seven years and the club is bound to be excited on their return to Europe’s premier competition but realistically, it is a tough ask after seeing their performances in Europa League in the previous seasons.

 

 

One of the major issues they may have to face is the fixture congestion that will take place in the season and its effects on the players. It is quite obvious that the older players are set to suffer more from fixture congestion as they will have a negative effect on their bodies. This could be a major issue for Milan, especially when you consider that their strike force will consist of a 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimović and a newly arrived Olivier Giroud, who will turn 35 three days before the Swede turns 40.

 

 

While much of Milan’s success of finishing second in the league was down to the brilliance of Italy’s hero in the Euro 2020 final, Gianluigi Donnarumma, his departure to Paris Saint-Germain was replaced with ease by the club as they were quick to bring in Mike Maignan from France for just around €13 million. The Frenchman was instrumental in helping Lille become the Ligue 1 champions ahead of PSG, but it will be a question whether the 26-year-old can fill the boots of the player who made his debut for Milan at the age of 16 years.

 

 

The defence is all good for Milan as they have a nice balance of experienced veterans such as Simon Kjaer and captain Alessandro Romagnoli alongside talented youngsters such as Fikayo Tomori and Theo Hernandez. But it is the midfield that can turn out to be an issue in the long run. Although it is filled with an abundance of talent, Franck Kessie is their senior-most player, at 24, after the departure of Hakan Calhanoglu. The lack of experience can be the real difference in some high-profile games, and it will be advantageous for Milan to find an experienced midfielder to replace the Turk as the leader in the middle of the park.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

With Inter Milan having lost some key players and most importantly Antonio Conte, Juventus bringing in Massimiliano Allegri to stabilize the Old Lady, the 2021-22 season will be the biggest opportunity for AC Milan and Stefano Pioli to win the Serie A. But for that, they will have to not only repeat their early season form of 2020-21 but also sustain it until the end.

It is evident that the squad is not optimized to compete on all fronts at the highest level which leaves them with the option of either sacrificing the league or the Champions League like Inter did last season, where they crashed out of the group stage in Europe to give themselves the chance to win the league.

Will the Rossoneri do what the Nerazzurri did? Or will they brave themselves and challenge on all fronts with the squad at hand?

We will have to wait.

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