GLORY DAYS BACK FOR MILAN? THE WAY BACK TO THE TOP

Eight wins out of eleven matches post lock down with 30 goals scored, including heavyweight wins over Juventus, Lazio and Roma see AC Milan in lethal form having secured a berth in Europe next season.

The scintillating performances Milan have put out since the restart of football in Italy have set tongues wagging and questions brewing of a potential or possible return of Milan to the upper echelons of football in Italy, a position they were once synonymous with till recent times.

With their last league title success coming in the 2010/2011 season, Milan had been on a downward turn with disappointing eighth, tenth and seventh place finishes from the 2013/14 season to the 2015/16 season as well as a seven year absence from the Champions League; abysmal for a team who are the second most successful side in the competition.

A lot of crisis has rocked the Milan team with poor transfer decisions and managerial issues hindering the team’s cause with Milan having had over six managers these past years capped up with the bankruptcy saga the team was involved in with Silvio Berlusconi having to sell the club to a Chinese business outfit to save the club.

Qualification to the Europa League in 2017 marked Milan’s return to Europe after 4 years, last being in the Champions league in the 2012/13 season but a Round of 16 exit against Arsenal told the story of a club in a huge decline. With new owners, Milan went about splashing the cash and landed the trouble with a year ban from Europe despite qualifying for the Europa League in the 2018/19 season.

The story seems to be changing particularly with Milan’s recent performances and a decent season coupled with a seemingly good squad set up, it looks like they could be challenging again for big things and pose a huge threat to Juventus who have been undisputed and unchallenged for the past eight seasons .For Milan to get back to the position it formerly held, it will require loads of efforts.

To push for big things, Milan needs to change their mentality, they have to believe again and see themselves as a big side. They are definitely a team with pedigree and to give Juventus a run, they have to get their mentality and thinking right! They have to be focused and not distracted. The Serie A particularly the past three seasons has witnessed teams start with spark looking like they would be the team to push Juventus all the way at the beginning of the season but midway through the season lose focus and we go back to the old story of the Old Lady dominating again; Napoli, Inter Milan and recently Lazio are culprits here; Milan must avoid this pitfall with the mentality of focus and discipline as well as determination. They must possess not only the “winning mentality” but” the focus and discipline mentality”.

Over the years Milan have not gotten it right with their choice of managers. They have had over 6 managers since the exit of Maxilamo Allegri. Cult hero, Gennaro Gattuso seemed to the man to lead the team back to redemption but a mutual agreement between him and the club to part ways summed up Milan’s managerial woes. Stefano Pioli’s appointment in October looks to have steadied the Milan ship with impressive performances churned out by the team particularly after the lockdown. Pioli’s time at the club looked to have been over after an initial agreement with Ralf Ragnick to take over the reins of the team but a U-turn from the club saw Pioli get a two year contract keeping him in the team till 2022.

With Pioli staying on as manager, Milan look good as the players are used to his system and have been playing really good under him ; it means there would be no need to start afresh or implement any new ideas but to continue or consolidate on what is on ground. However, Pioli would have to look beyond this season which has been pretty decent for the team and aim at making Milan challengers come next season. He has to work on the mentality of the players and get them to play as a top side; the stability he has brought to the team must be complimented with instilling the right mentality into the players getting them to believe that they can challenge for big things and rub shoulders with the top teams. Their impressive wins over Juve, Roma, and Lazio post lockdown show Milan can actually compete favourably with the top teams and Pioli has to motivate this team to believe so.

Milan have played pretty good under Pioli but to challenge, they have to step up their game leaving no room for sloppiness particularly in the top matches and importantly against the lower and mid-table teams; the team over time has been found wanting in matches against lower teams they are expected to win.

Definitely, Pioli has a huge task on his hands to take Milan to the next level and for this to happen, he has to get things correct tactically and psychologically just as he has done at the final games of the season and even better next season.

With money available to spend, Milan could add a few good players to their ranks to propel them to compete favourably. Giants, Juventus over the years have spent well and have gotten the best of players recently adding the lethal Cristiano Ronaldo to their team and if Milan would push, they need to add a few top names to a good team which has Rebic, Bonaventura, Kessie, Zlatan and the likes. Quality additions to this team could just see them rubbing shoulders with Juventus once again.

It looks like the future is bright for the Rossoneris but they need to put the right things in place starting from their mentality, importantly consolidating on their recent performances having retained their manager coupled with quality additions to the side. With all these in place, we could just be celebrating AC Milan dethroning Juventus next season as champions.

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